Tag Archives: New York

Story of the Day: 3-7-2011


We interrupt this episode of Professor Blowjob to bring you another true-life tale from the life of your host, Jeffrey Dinsmore.

The Potato Bug

I am no stranger to insects. Growing up in Michigan, I encountered my fair share of creepy-crawlers. I can’t say I’ve ever been into insects, but I’ve managed to peacefully coexist with them for much of my life. It helps that Michigan insects are small and unremarkable. The biggest insect I saw growing up was a grasshopper, and who doesn’t love grasshoppers? Earwigs are pretty nasty-looking, but still not enough to make me run screaming.

When I moved to New York, cockroaches became a daily part of my life. We didn’t have cockroaches in Michigan, at least none that I ever saw. The cockroach segment of Creepshow had prepared me to be terrified of cockroaches, but I didn’t have much of a problem with them once they actually became part of my life. They’re disgusting beasts, no question, but at least they’re still relatively small. And they’re polite, too: as soon as you see one, it scurries away and hides.

That’s what I thought, anyway, until the night I first encountered the Palmetto Bug. I remember the night vividly; Don and I were hanging out in the living room of 21-20, watching a movie, when we heard the flap of wings and saw a big, ominous shadow darting across the ceiling. We immediately leapt to our feet in terror. When we finally found the cause of the shadow, we flipped out. A Palmetto Bug, for those of you who have never seen one, is a giant, flying cockroach. They’re about 3 inches long and smarter than kittens and they’re horrible and ugly and pretty much the worst thing God has ever put on the earth. When we first saw it, we assumed it was the result of some kind of industrial accident. Like imagine you’re sitting around watching television and a fish walks through your living room. That’s how strange this thing seemed to us.

Don and I scurried to put our shoes on for fear that the hideous thing graze our bare feet. We each got a weapon – he grabbed a hammer and I grabbed a broomstick – and gathered up our courage to rid our lives of this menace. We knew there was no way we were going to sleep until it was dead. It was us or the bug.

For most of the battle, the bug was firmly in the lead. Palmetto Bugs can fly, but only in short bursts; their preferred method of movement is the speedy run. Seconds after we saw the shadow, the beast dropped behind the television. I stamped my broomstick around behind the TV maniacally while Don waited with his hammer poised. We finally got the creature to abandon its post, but it was too fast for us … it tore ass across the carpet and under the couch.

Neither of us was about to get down on his hands and knees with that thing poised to attack, so we decided to lift the couch and try to flush it out. This was a dangerous business, because the chances of it scurrying out and jumping on one of us were strong. I could only hope it wouldn’t be me, A) because I had no interest in being attacked by a giant cockroach and B) because the beast was so terrifying I have no doubt Don would have smashed my skull in with the hammer and called me collateral damage.

We eventually managed to get the creature out in the open and get a good crack at him. Before we flushed him down the toilet, we took some pictures to send to the cryptozoology magazines. We put him next to a Lando Calrissian figure so you could get the perspective. Like most pictures of mysterious, possibly mythical animals, our picture was quite blurry.

When I learned that Palmetto Bugs were an explained phenomenon and relatively common in New York, I felt no comfort. I still encounter them from time to time in LA, and they continue to be hideous and terrifying. In fact, I would say they were the most hideous and terrifying insects in the world, if I hadn’t encountered something even more hideous and terrifying just two nights ago.

It’s called a Potato Bug, and it looks like this:

The Potato Bug - Actual Size

How horrible is that thing? I stepped out onto my porch to see that awful, murderous beast crawling slowly down the wall, a mere six inches from my head. The only way I can describe the texture of its skin is “gelatinous.” If that information makes you want to vomit, you’re not the only one. I got a pit in my stomach looking at it, as if I was seeing something man was not meant to see. It was like looking into the face of Hell.

I quietly closed the door so as not to alarm it and ran to the Internet. In this case, the Internet did its job, giving me the context I so desperately needed. If I hadn’t been able to track down the Potato Bug, I would have surely gone to bed thinking the Apocalypse was coming. Luckily, a simple search of “hideous giant ant California” led me to pages of information about the Potato Bug. According to potatobugs.com, this is the “most universally feared, hated, and disgusting creatures on the planet.” So at least I’m not alone.

The Potato Bug, I learned, lives in gardens and dark places and does not come out during the day. Which explains why I have not seen one until now; I don’t often garden at midnight. And now that I know this thing exists, I will likely never garden again. To be honest, the chances of me going outside again, period, are about 50/50.

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Story of the Day: 2-26-11


“Brooklyn” Abdul Harris

My first real job in New York was working for a company called Rysher Entertainment that made and sold unwatchable syndicated television programs. These were the kind of TV shows that air at 2:00 in the morning on local television stations, when they have nothing else to run. Our shows did not have a network affiliation; we sold them market by market. Meaning one of our shows could air on an ABC station in Boston and a CBS station in Newark. In this respect, my department could make or break a show, depending on what kind of stations they convinced to carry it.

I started out as the assistant to the sales department. The guys I worked for were a wacky bunch of old salesmen whose job it was to fly around the country and convince station managers to buy our shows. No one expected huge ratings out of these programs; our primary competition was infomercials. We were going for that audience that was just smart enough to know the difference between a scripted television show and an infomercial, but not quite smart enough to know that their best option was turning off the television.

Which is not to say that the entire field of syndicated entertainment was a wasteland. Some syndicated shows were huge hits; Judge Judy, for example, or Oprah. We’d had some major hits when the company first started — Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and Star Search were both Rysher shows — but by the time I got there we mainly produced bottom-feeder programs that turned a profit by keeping their budgets small and relying on my crack team of salespeople to put them on big stations in big markets.

Part of my job was to read the mail that came into our department. It was mostly boring sales stuff that I passed along to the appropriate salesperson, but from time to time we’d get something interesting. Sometimes we’d get letters from superfans of our programs; I’m not sure how they came across our address, but when they landed on my desk, I always made sure to send them a cordial personal response.

Once, and only once, we received a resume and headshot from an aspiring actor. His name was “Brooklyn Abdul” Harris. Yes, both the “Brooklyn” and the “Abdul” were in quotes. How this gentleman decided that the station sales department was the best place to send his resume, I’ll never know, but I’m glad he did, because it was one of the most accidentally beautiful things I’ve ever encountered. Typos, weird descriptions, bad formatting; this thing was brilliant in its ineptitude. It was the Troll 2 of resumes, and it was wonderful.

After staring at it for a few days, I decided the best thing to do was to send it along to Rob, the head of casting in LA. Rob didn’t know me from Adam, but I thought he might appreciate the absurdity of this resume. Here’s what I wrote to him.

November 4, 1998

Dear Rob:

Enclosed please find “Brooklyn Abdul” Harris’s headshot and resume, which Mr. Abdul was kind enough to send to our offices here in New York. Mr. Harris (any relation to Star Search graduate Sam?) lives in the Bronx, so how he acquired the moniker “Brooklyn Abdul” is anyone’s guess. If you find it easier, you may simply call him “Bro.”

If you’ll take a good, hard look at this young “Sir Larry” Olivier, you’ll see his extensive credits include such memorable roles as “chorus member” from the long-running presentation of The Birds at the recently renovated Dixie’s Gym theater, and the kangaroo in Peter Pan. Other credits include the role of “no one” in a radical dramatic reinterpretation of the British stage smash Noises Off entitled Noise Is Off.

While Mr. Harris is of ordinary stature, he can play 5’11” depending on the height of the floor. Skills include speaking fluent “Forgien,” proper “hand stance,” the ability to play doubles tennis all by himself, conning others into hiring him, convencing, costoming, thinking, and in case you weren’t convinced by his flawless list of credits, some damn good acting.

Although Mr. Harris’s busy schedule takes him all over the world, he is currently between jobs and would be more than happy to fly out to L.A. to show his skills were Rysher to provide the airfare. Here in New York, we’ve all taken quite a shine to this peppy youngster; for the love of Brooklyn, won’t you please give him a chance?

Sincerely,
Jeffrey Dinsmore
Station Sales Assistant

Rob never wrote back, which is maybe poignant … I was his “Brooklyn Abdul” Harris. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m just happy this resume managed to find its way into my life. It’s posted below; please take the time to sit with it and enjoy its brilliance as I have for the last 13 years. The skills are of particular interest, as are the weirdly noncommital age and height declarations. If you know anything about theater, you might appreciate a few of the unintentional jokes in that section. I still have a photocopy of his headshot, but I’ll leave that one up to your imagination. (Double-click the resume to enlarge.)

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Story of the Day: 2-19-11


The Beast in the Hall

When Don and I moved into 21-20, we were given explicit orders from our landlady, Mrs. Talgot.

“No guest,” she said. “No party.”

“No guests?” we asked. “We’re from Michigan. Our relatives don’t live around here. We’ll definitely have guests.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “No long stay.”

Okay, we agreed. No parties. No guests for long stays. Should be easy enough.

The week after we moved in, our friend Rion from high school came out to visit. He was planning on moving to New York and he needed a place to crash while he looked for an apartment. We were not real excited to break one of our two rules in our first week living there, but we thought as long as we kept it quiet, no one would ever know. Rion would hang out with us for a few days, find a place, go off on his own, and no one would be the wiser.

We really should have known better. Mrs. Talgot lived in the apartment next door, and no one who lived in our building ever left. With Scary Gary patrolling out in the front and his mom rooting around in the garbage all the time, it was impossible to go in or out of our building without everyone knowing you were there.

The second day Rion was there, Mrs. Talgot knocked on our door.

“I see man. He leaving. Who he?” she asked, suspiciously.

“Oh, that’s our friend Rion,” we said. “He’s just here for a few days.”

“I don’t like. He leave,” she said. God knows what Rion had done to upset her. He did have blue hair, but then, so did she.

“Well, he’s looking for an apartment,” we said. “He’ll be gone in a few days.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “Few days. After that, gone.”

The few days stretched into a week. Rion was having no luck finding an apartment and in our estimation was not trying particularly hard. We told him about our predicament, but he didn’t seem to grasp the difficulty of the situation.

“She’ll be fine,” he said. “Who ever heard of an apartment where you weren’t allowed to have guests?”

Which, in retrospect, is absolutely true. It was our apartment, we were fully grown adults, and if we wanted to let our friend crash on our couch for two years it was nobody’s business but ours. But we were fresh off the boat; we didn’t know how things worked in New York, and we didn’t think it was advisable to piss off our landlady who lived right next door in our first week in the apartment.

Everything came to a head after about ten days. Rion went out for the night and for whatever reason, we neglected to give him our keys. He got home early in the morning, around four o’ clock, when Don and I were both dead asleep. He rang our buzzer repeatedly with no response. Somehow, he managed to get in the building … I’m still not sure how that happened, ’cause that place was locked down tighter than Al Capone’s vault.

We woke up around 7 to find Rion and Mrs. Talgot engaged in a screaming match in the hall outside our door. I went out in the hall to find out what was going on.

“He sleeping!” she screamed. “He sleeping in hall!”

“I had to!” he shouted back. “They wouldn’t let me in!”

“I want him out!” she said to me.

“You get out, you old bitch!” Rion screamed back.

That was the last straw. Rion had no money, so Don and I gave him $100 to find a hotel for the night. He begged us to stay, but we felt like we didn’t have an option. We sent him out into the streets, and I didn’t hear from him again for almost eight years.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I still regret it. Yes, he probably could have been a more conscientious guest. If I’d been in his position, I would’ve found an all-night diner to go to instead of sleeping in the hall of our building, right outside the door of the woman I knew was gunning for me. But hindsight is 20/20, and as one of his close friends, it was a pretty shitty thing for me to do.

The next time I saw him was at my going-away party, when Sarah and I were leaving New York. He had gained about 30 pounds in muscle mass and he was now a renowned hairdresser who operated under the name Orion. Things had turned out well for him, it seemed, which eased my conscious a bit. I don’t know where he is today. But Rion, if you read this and you ever need a place to crash in LA, please know that you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. Just try not to call my wife an old bitch.

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Story of the Day: 2-15-11


Hot Dogs

I’ve only lied once to get a job, and it was a total disaster. It was in 1999, and I was in the middle of a long period of unemployment. I was getting desperate for a job, so I started thinking about waiting tables. The only problem was that I didn’t have any table-waiting experience, and in New York, it’s pretty hard to leap right into a waiter job unless you have previous experience. I needed a job quick, though, so I asked Don to tell me everything he knew in the hopes that I could fake my way through an interview and figure out the waitering part on the job.

My first and only interview was at the Fashion Cafe in Times Square. The Fashion Cafe was a short-lived restaurant chain owned by Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Naomi Campbell. The tables in the restaurant were centered around a runway, down which models would walk while around them the restaurant’s patrons scarfed down chicken wings and hamburgers. It’s not hard to see the folly behind this business plan; if you are deciding what to eat while surrounded by skinny, gorgeous women, you are probably not going to order the porterhouse.

As soon as I walked into the Fashion Cafe, I knew my chances of getting a job were close to nil. The restaurant’s modeling theme apparently extended to the waitstaff. Waiters and waitresses in Manhattan are almost always attractive, but this waitstaff was culled from the master race. I didn’t stand a chance.

Before my interview, I had to fill out a 12 page application/questionnaire, filled with super intense questions about the intricacies of table-waiting. Things about what kind of wine goes with what kind of meat and how to slice a breadstick properly. I bluffed my way through the pop quiz as best I could and rose to leave. Before I could sneak out, though, the manager came over and sat down with me.

“Okay,” he said, “I see here that you’ve waited tables before.”

“Oh yes,” I said. “Two-tops and upselling and what not.”

“Right,” he said, giving me the hairy eyeball. “What is your best experience waiting tables?”

I’d prepared some fake answers to common questions ahead of time, but that one caught me completely off-guard. The only thing I could think to tell him was a story that had been told to me by one of my punk roommates in Ann Arbor.

“I was working at the Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor,” I lied, “and a woman and two of her friends came in with their young kids. One of the woman’s friends pulled me aside at the beginning of the meal and told me that her friend had just gotten her divorce finalized and was feeling a little down, but if I showed her a little extra attention, they’d make sure to give me a big tip. So I laid on the charm, complimenting the woman at every turn.

“When it came time to order I asked the table if they had any questions. One of the kids, he was about six, asked me, ‘how big are your hot dogs?’ I said, ‘Oh, normal size, I guess … eight inches, maybe?’ So then the woman who I’d been flirting with turned to me and said, ‘No, really … how big is your hot dog?'”

A cold sweat trickled down my back as the last few words came out of my mouth. I had been so intent on remembering a story, any story, that I completely forgot this one had a highly inappropriate ending. The manager glanced around nervously, making sure he wasn’t alone should I have to be restrained. And I hadn’t even gotten to the punchline yet.

“And … um,” I continued, helplessly, “And I said, ‘well, I suppose it’s bun length.'”

The manager let out a deep sigh of disapproval.

“And what did you like about this experience?” he asked.

“Um …” I answered, “it made me feel important?”

“We’ll call you,” he said.

They never called.

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Story of the Day: 2-14-11


Stranded in Brooklyn

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also my parents’ anniversary. So it is as good a time as any to pay tribute to three of my favorite people in the world: my parents and my wife Sarah. My other favorite people, in case you were wondering, are my daughter Hazel, my sister Mandy and her family, and Bristol Palin.

My parents were great about visiting me in New York, even though it was almost always a miserable experience. My dad came to visit by himself once during the greatest heat wave in New York history. He ended up having to rent a hotel room because he couldn’t handle staying in my un-air conditioned Brooklyn apartment and I didn’t know how to tell my girlfriend at the time that she wasn’t welcome so she stayed over on the fold-out couch, making all of us somewhat uncomfortable. The hotel he rented was my suggestion; it was incredibly cheap for Manhattan but it was essentially a youth hostel. His room was about four feet by four feet and he had to go down the hall to use the bathroom. It was an incredibly sad state of affairs for all involved.

On another trip, my dad and I went out to a bar in Manhattan with some of my friends and he left earlier than I did. The train he needed was out of commission, but he only found this out after waiting an hour for it to arrive. He figured out how to take another route, but by that time it was after midnight, and I lived in a sketchy part of Brooklyn where even bums were afraid to walk around after dark. He managed to get home without getting mugged, but I’m sure the trip did not exactly take place within what he would call his comfort zone.

Another time, back when I was still living at 21-20, the whole family came to visit. The morning my sister was leaving she woke up to find Scary Gary’s horrible snarling monster of a dog trapped in our foyer. We called the police, but right before they arrived, Mr. Talgot returned from his morning frut run and took the dog into his apartment. My sister missed her plane and the dog missed his one chance to escape from under Gary’s iron fist, so again, lose-lose.

I don’t think it was mere coincidence that things always went off the rails when my parents visited. When my parents are around I magically transform into the image they’ve had of me since I was a small child. For instance, I used to lose things when I was a kid. I don’t really do that anymore. I am mature now, and responsible. But every time they come to visit, I lose things. So they will always see me as the kid who loses things, because when they’re around, that’s who I am. And there’s something about my parents being around that negates all my responsibility and self-discipline. When they come to LA, we always get lost. I try so hard to not get lost that I end up second-guessing myself and getting lost. I have no explanation for this phenomenon, but I am sure it is real and it is full of science.

Maybe the worst example of things spiraling out of control in New York occurred the day they met my wife Sarah for the first time. She wasn’t my wife at the time, of course. I wouldn’t get married without inviting my parents. They raised me better than that.

The night before the out-of-control day, I had spent the night at Sarah’s apartment in Park Slope. I’m not sure where my parents were staying, but it was far enough away from Brooklyn that once they got there, they weren’t about to leave. I lived in Greenpoint, which is a good 1/2 hour train ride from Park Slope on a good day. The day in question was not a good day. We had told my parents to meet us at a restaurant in Greenpoint for brunch at 11:00. We hopped on the F train with plenty of time to spare. The F train went blazing past our stop. We got out at the next stop and took an F in the opposite direction. Then we waited 1/2 an hour for the G to arrive, and had to transfer to another train, which took us to a bus, which took us to Greenpoint. All told, we were about 45 minutes late.

When we arrived, we apologized up and down. My parents were very nice about it, still eager to meet this girl I’d been raving about for the past few months. The three of them got along famously, because, of course they would. I would never marry a girl my parents did not approve of. They raised me better than that.

After brunch, we parted ways with Sarah at the subway entrance and my parents and I headed back to my apartment. She was on her way down to her friend Rosten’s apartment to practice with her band. Oh, which, now that I’m remembering, was why we couldn’t leave Brooklyn … because we were going to see Sarah’s band play in Park Slope at 7:00 that night. That’s how New York works; when you’re in Brooklyn at 12:30 and you have a show to go to at 7:00, you have to find a way to kill 6 1/2 hours. If you try to go back into Manhattan, something’s bound to go pear-shaped.

A few blocks away from my apartment, I realized that my only set of keys was in Sarah’s purse. I called her. No answer, of course, because she was on the subway, underground. I did not know where Rosten’s apartment was located. Thinking quickly, I decided that our best option was to get on the subway and head in a general southerly direction in the hopes that she would realize what had happened and get off the train at exactly the right station and miraculously find the car we were in and hand off the keys to us.

This didn’t happen. Attempts to contact one another by cell phone were met with dead signals. What we did was go to her apartment, where she wasn’t, and wait in the park until she called us. We waited for about 1/2 an hour. It started to sprinkle. Things were not looking positive. Finally, she called and gave us a somewhat central location where we could meet. We didn’t want to get all the way back on the train and head up to our place, only to head back down to see her band later that night, so we decided she would give us the keys to her apartment and we would hang out there until it was time to go to her show.

We all hopped back on the train. Fifteen minutes later, we arrived at the station near the coffee shop where I was to meet Sarah. The rain was coming down in buckets, so I told my parents to wait at the subway and I’d brave the storm myself. I found the coffee shop, met up with Sarah, got her keys, and returned to the subway with three $4.99 umbrellas in hand. It’s always raining in New York, but the rain often catches you unawares while you’re out on the street, far from your home. The solution is to always carry an umbrella with you, no matter what the sky looks like in the morning, or buy a street umbrella. Street umbrellas are a flimsy, one-time use item that you buy only under the direst of circumstances. You use your street umbrella to get to wherever you’re going and then you throw it in the trash or the back of your closet. You don’t carry a street umbrella with you as your umbrella of choice. The next time it rains, you just buy another street umbrella.

We then got back on the subway and took the train back to where we’d just come from, walked to Sarah’s apartment in the pouring rain, geting soaked even though we had umbrellas because the umbrellas we had were truly abysmal. There was a moment of panic when I couldn’t get the front door to Sarah’s building open, but I banged furiously until one of the neighbors let us in. Neighbors always let you in in New York, even if they’ve never seen you before.

The adventure was pretty much over at that point. It was now 4:00. We hung out at Sarah’s apartment for 2 more hours then got back on the train and headed to her gig. Where she was brilliant, of course, and my parents were suitably impressed. To their credit, they rolled with the punches, even though I’m sure the minute they finally got some time alone they banged their heads against the wall for raising such an irresponsible child. Ah well. In the end, in all worked out for the best. I got the girl, and they … I’m not really sure what they got out of it. A wonderful daughter-in-law, a brand new granddaughter, and a couple of useless umbrellas.

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Story of the Day: 2-7-11


The Legend of Scary Gary Part 8

The Day of the Dude

I went through some rough times in that apartment. I lived there a little over three years. During that time, Don’s acting career started taking off. Every few months he’d bag a national tour or a regional production and leave the city. The first time he left he sublet his bedroom to Jill, which worked out way better than I expected. (Sublet is the past tense of sublet, BTW. There is no such word as subletted. English!) I hadn’t developed much of a relationship with Jill before Don left; they had an on-again, off-again sort of relationship and I was sort of on the onskirts of it all. Gary was as confused as I was.

“Is that his girlfriend, meh?” he’d ask me when Don wasn’t around.

“Not really,” I’d say.

“Phhh,” he’d say. “Not really. I know, meh. I know.” And he’d give me a look that told me he knew.

“Really, I think they’re just friends.”

“Friends!” he’d roar, shaking his head in wonder at my naivete. “Just friends! Come on, meh. Just friends.” I was a little hurt that he didn’t ever ask if Jill was my girlfriend. He seemed to have no problem believing I would just be friends with a girl. But with Don, he was suspicious.

Once Don was gone, Jill and I got along famously. Most nights we’d get stoned and make craft projects. We turned a bunch of boxes into Robot Don and set him in the chair next to the window in tribute to our absent friend. We drew pictures and wrote songs and listened to music and watched movies and had a hell of a time. She took me to her office Christmas party, a black tie affair. We got super drunk on free alcohol and had a purposely awful picture taken that was printed out and inserted into a souvenir snow globe.

Don soon returned and Jill went off to live with her future husband and everything was status quo for another year or so. I got a great job working at a company that made and sold awful syndicated TV shows. Truly abysmal shows like The Highlander and Special Ops Force starring Dennis Rodman. Special Ops Force was funny because it aired for an entire season under the name Soldier of Fortune. It got dismal ratings even though it was Jerry Bruckheimer’s first foray into television, and he is now the most successful human in the television universe. He could pee into a box and some network would put it on as a mid-season replacement. The soldiers of fortune did not quite smile on him on the first go round, though, so the producers stuck Dennis Rodman in it and renamed it Special Ops Force for the second season. And the funny thing about this is that the creators were convinced the SOF was working; they just needed to change what the letters stood for.

Also during this time, I started dating the girl that I’d secretly been pining for since she was in high school and I was in college and I knew it was not kosher for me to like her as much as I did. She was in school at Michigan State at the time. I was making good money at work, so I’d fly back to Michigan or fly her out to New York at least once a month. It was the kind of ridiculous relationship one gets embroiled in when one is young and making more money than a young person should and thinking that’s just how the world works, that it is just that easy to make money.

Things were going great for awhile, but I soon learned a valuable lesson about life: it sucks and if you have any faith that things are going to work out, you’re a dick. In quick succession, my girlfriend dumped me, my company folded, and Don went away on another tour. He couldn’t find anyone to sublet the apartment this time around, so I spent the next three months unemployed and hanging out by myself in a lonely apartment above a man who beat his dog and (allegedly) his mother and had regularly threatened to shoot a machine gun into the ceiling, just for kicks. I had two friends in the world and I almost never saw them, because I was too busy slinking around in my apartment by myself, feeling depressed.

The most Dude-like moment of my life occurred during these months, when I got into an argument on the telephone with an unhelpful employee at the unemployment office who made me so angry I hung up and threw the telephone through a glass table. I watched the table shatter all over the living room and gingerly stepped over the glass and loaded up a bong and sat on the couch in my bathrobe and unshaven face and watched Leave It to Beaver for 6 hours straight before looking for a dustpan.

When I finally cleaned the glass up and took it down to the garbage can, Gary was standing on the stoop waiting for me like a fat snake coiled to flop.

“Hey meh,” he said, “what was that noise I heard?”

“What noise?” I asked, impatiently.

“That noise! In your apartment!”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I broke a glass table.”

“You put it in there?” he asked, pointing to the garbage bag.

“Yes.”

“Phhh,” he said, “you don’t put it in the garbage, meh! That goes in recycling!” Gary sometimes took over recycling watch when his mom wasn’t around. I don’t think he gave a shit about saving the planet; he just loved finding new ways to be an asshole.

“I don’t care,” I said, defiantly. “I’m throwing it away.”

“No!” he bellowed. “We’re gonna get a ticket, meh! Take it out and put it in the recycling!”

I was a man on the edge. For a brief, shining moment, I didn’t give a shit if he shot me with his machine guns or sicced his snakes on me or ordered his dog to snack on my neck. I just couldn’t fucking take it anymore. “Goddammit, Gary!” I shouted. “I don’t give a shit about the recycling right now, okay? If you want to pick the shards of glass out of my garbage and move it to the right can, you can do it. If not, then shut the fuck up and leave me alone.” I slammed the lid down on the garbage can defiantly.

To my shock, the look in Gary’s eyes was not one of anger, but one of hurt. I realized then that I’m a terrible bully. For years, Gary had screamed at us, mocked us, cajoled us into doing his bidding, and gotten under our skin in myriad unique and indescribable ways. Yet the minute he displayed the faintest sign of anguish, I felt nothing but guilt, like I’d just punched a baby in the face.

“Hey, Gary, man …” I began.

“Don’t worry about it, meh,” he said.

“No, you know, I just …”

“Don’t worry about it!” he shouted.

I nodded.

“All right, well, I’m just gonna go …”

“Go, meh,” he said quietly. “Go.”

By the next day, he was back to his old tricks. I will say this: after I exploded on him, he never disrespected me again. If it were anyone else, I might have felt like we had finally come to some kind of understanding. But this was Gary, and Gary understood nothing. Just because he displayed an emotion other than anger doesn’t mean I’d suddenly gotten a glimpse of the complex humanity beneath his gruff exterior. Fuck that guy. He might have been a softer piece of shit than I’d always thought, but he was still a piece of shit.

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Story of the Day: 2-6-11


The Legend of Scary Gary Part 7

Getting High with Gary

At some point, Gary started turning to Don and me to fulfill all of his life’s needs. He couldn’t really do anything on his own. I have no idea how he accomplished anything before we came along. He had no car, I’m not sure if he could read, and he refused to take the subway. He claimed to own a bunch of Cadillacs that he had hidden around the neighborhood, but we could never really figure out why he would hide them and not drive them.

One night when Don was gone I heard a knock on the door. Any time I got a knock on the door I knew it was bad news. Because no one knocked on our door except for Gary, and Gary was always bad news. I opened the door to find him clutching a zip-up lady’s wallet.

“Hey meh,” he said. “I need you to fill something out for me.”

“Um, okay,” I said. I was kind of looking forward to smoking a joint and playing Playstation, but what Gary wanted, Gary got.

We sat down at the kitchen table. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a crumpled up piece of paper, and handed it to me. I unfolded it; it was an application for public assistance.

“Gary, man,” I said, “I can’t fill this out for you. There’s a lot of personal information on this form.”

“Yeah, yeah, meh,” he said, “it’s all here.”

He handed me the wallet. I unzipped it. Inside was Gary’s life. Every official document, every picture, everything. Everything was not much. His entire life fit inside a women’s zip wallet.

He rifled through the wallet, found a tax form, and handed it to me. I filled out as much information as I could, but the form was still about 3/4 blank.

“Okay, Gary,” I said. “I need to ask you some questions.”

“Phhh,” he said. “You don’t need no questions, meh. Forget about it. You’re smart, meh. Just fill it out.”

“Okay, but like, how much did you make last year?” I asked.

“Phhh,” he said. “Don’t worry about it, meh! Just fill it out!”

“Um, okay,” I said. I filled the form out to the best of my abilities and handed it back to him. “Here you go, man,” I said. “I don’t know if this is right.”

“Phhh, right. Of course it’s right! You filled it out, meh!” To Gary, there was no difference between a form filled out and a form filled out correctly. As long as there were letters and numbers in the blanks, I had done a good job.

“All right, man,” I said. Hoping he’d take the hint and leave.

Gary never took a hint. “Hey, meh,” he said, his face widening into a crocodile grin, “I’m gonna get you high.”

I weighed my options. I could A) tell him I was tired and send him on his way, or B) smoke a joint with the craziest motherfucker I’d ever encountered. I know choice A seems like the most logical option. But somewhere in the back of my head a voice was telling me, “if you do not take this opportunity, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

We moved into the living room. Gary pulled a dirty-looking sack of weed out of his pocket. I handed him a pipe.

“Phhh!” he said. “Pipe! Who needs a pipe? I don’t need no pipe, meh! Gimme some papers!”

Luckily, Don and I were prepared to handle a wide variety of weed-smoking emergencies. If the weed apocalypse were to visit Astoria, we were ready. I opened a drawer on the side table and pulled out a pack of rolling papers. Gary threw the sack in my lap.

“You roll it, meh,” he instructed.

I didn’t want to argue; after all, it was his weed. I sprinkled some of the weed in a sheet of rolling paper and started rolling it up.

“No, meh!” he said. “That’s too skinny! Roll a fatty!”

I took some more weed and sprinkled it on the paper. Gary nodded his head in affirmation.

“That’s a good joint, meh,” he said, approvingly. “You can hit it first.”

I took a hit off the joint and handed it over to him.

“I got hit on the head with a baseball bat ten years ago,” he said, “and now I got the seizure disorder.” He took a toke.

“Does weed help with the seizures?” I asked.

“Phhh, does it help. No!” he yelled, startling me. “I got hit on the head and I got seizures, meh! What do you know about it?” He gave me a cold stare. I was starting to feel like this was maybe not such a good idea.

“Nothing, man,” I said. “I don’t know anything about it.”

He broke into laughter. “Oh meh,” he said. “You don’t know nothing about it.” I became terrified that he was playing with me like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, that any second he was going to pull out one of his machine guns and make me dance.

He took a few more hits of the joint and handed it to me. In for a penny, in for a pound. I took a massive toke and leaned back on the couch. It was really, really good weed. I handed the joint to Gary. He looked at the joint, and then at me. Suddenly, his eyes rolled back in his head. “Gah!” he shouted, and started twitching.

“Jesus!” I screamed. “Gary!”

He opened his eyes and laughed.

“That’s what it looks like when I get the seizure disorders, meh!” he chortled.

I don’t remember how I got him out of the apartment, but he eventually left, taking his forms and his weed and his life wallet with him. Before he left, he showed me a picture from the wallet. In it, a young Gary with long, flowing hair sat on a beautiful beach next to a blond woman. “That’s me, in Armenia, meh,” he said. “I was a hairdresser. That was my girlfriend.”

“Wow,” I said. For a brief moment, I realized that Gary wasn’t always the fat, obnoxious, dog- and mother-beating piece of shit he was today. Before he’d landed in his depressing, snake-filled Astoria apartment he’d been a regular person, with hopes and dreams and a beautiful young girlfriend who he thought he’d be with forever. “Thanks for showing that to me, Gary,” I said, sincerely. “She’s really pretty.”

“Yeah, meh,” he said sadly. “I used to fuck her all the time. All the time, meh.”

“I’m sure you did, Gary,” I said, patting him on the shoulder sympathetically. “I’m sure you did.”

— To be continued —

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