A Conversation Between Angels LVIV

“Ted, what are you doing?”

“Well, Bill, crossing people off my list.”

“Really, what kind of list?”

“It’s a list of the people that I wanted to tell off but I never did.”

“And how can that come in handy now?”

“Because they’re all here. I told my Aunt Prudence that she was wrong to call me a slacker.”

“Excellent.”

“Yep and I told Mr. Thomas, my seventh grade teacher that he was wrong for telling me I’d never grow up. I turned into an adult just fine.”

“Right on.”

“Yep. Got ’em all except for my sister.”

“Yeah but Ted your sister’s still alive.”

“I know. I can wait.”

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On This Day in History

For my mom on her birthday.

Something something years ago an Italian and a Pollack got together. Who knew? Back then that combination was about as rare and reviled by each ethnicity as say, a Republican getting together with one of those Middle East chicks that can’t uncover their face.

Anyways, these two touched fingers, same way my parents conceived me, and 42 minutes later out popped mom. That wasn’t her first name it just gives me the willies to call her by her first name; seems disrespectful at my something age. I’m not afraid of my age I’m just afraid that you’ll do the math and the aforementioned mom will get mad that I told her age.

So she did the things most kids do: the dishes, the laundry and all the cleaning. Her mom wasn’t super nice. But her Dad was cool and he taught her how to eat a big hunk of Italian bread with a stick of butter and not throw up.

Eventually she married this Norwegian dude who got lost skiing or whatever they do in that cold ass country. Then they did that finger thing – twice – and had two kids.

Then blah blah blah, they grew up, disappointed their parents by not touching fingers with another woman cause she would make an awesome grandmother. There’s still time. But mom was pacified by her ever planning of parties and the daunting task of topping last Year’s Halloween and Christmas decorations.

Meantime the present is when it matters and she’s a vibrant something something year old woman with an inquisitive mind, the cooking skills that would make Julia Child lose her silly accent and your mouth water and the love for her family and friends Gandhi would be jealous of.

So here’s to my mom. You rock.

Hey Bro

Jeff and Kevin-Toddler Cowboys

My brother’s birthday was Saturday the 23rd. This is my favorite photo of us, Kevin’s on the right. I had wanted to post this excerpt on that day but I realized I’ve become a better writer since I’ve started this blog and I wanted to clean it up a bit. I started the blog in the hopes of attracting an audience and then an agent, the purpose being to eventually get this book published. It’s my love letter to my brother and I just hope that the re-write I’m working on results in a tribute to his memory. And something he would have laughed at, because I always used to be able to make him laugh and I miss that tons.  So here it is, the short beginning of the book:

Borrowed From Heaven

I scrubbed as hard as I could to get the stench of powder blue tuxedo out of my skin.   All I got were bruised elbows from the tiny shower and the stain of embarrassment from wearing that suit for the second time in my life.  I didn’t know until a year later how ridiculous I looked at the high school prom but now, as a forty year old, I could totally appreciate the lameness of the outfit.   I had to wear it for my twenty-seventh attempt at doing something to get noticed in Hollywood and my reward was another spec commercial that would never be aired. Mostly because it was just so stupid.

“Cut, cut,” the director had yelled.  “Jed come here.”

“That’s Jeff.”

“It needs to be more magical.  When you make the dove appear, I need it to flap its wings immediately, as if it materialized in flight.  It has to represent the airline’s slogan, ‘We’re ready to fly anytime!’”

“I can’t train the dove.  They’re dumb.  Doves are just pretty pigeons,” I said.  “Underneath they’re the same, disgusting birds that back in Chicago would make you walk around them.

“I didn’t hire a comedian, I hired a magician. Let’s get this shot before it starts to get light out.  Can I get another espresso please?”  The director walked back to his chair but the brain that knew it was smarter than this film school dropout wasn’t finished yet.

“Why aren’t we shooting this during the day, if it’s about flight? You know blue skies and all?” I said.

He turned toward me so that the greased point of his hair looked like it was giving me the finger.  “Because it is supposed to show that even in the dark of night, they take you up into the sky.  Which is represented by your tuxedo.  Now if you’d like to get paid, let’s get the shot.”

They hadn’t told me about the tux or the idea or that the payment was deferred when I called, I had merely answered another ad hoping this would be my big break. After the late night shoot, I just tried to buff the memory away with my towel as I exited the bathroom into my living room slash kitchen slash office and looked into the mirror.  Staring back at me was a man who looked very confused.  Why had I left my family, friends and a career in this bad economy?  Has the economy ever been good?  Why do women in L.A. wear Ugg boots when it’s eighty-eight degrees?  Why are there no medium-sized dogs here?  My brain has restless synapse syndrome.  Maybe that was just to distract it from the real thoughts:  I’m scared, my money was nearly gone and I wasn’t the famous magician I’d dreamt of being since I was ten.

I reached into my dresser and applied deodorant. As I looked at my empty calendar I realized there really wasn’t any reason to smell good, and since not a lot of women past thirty liked going dutch to 7-11, I was going to be alone to fill out a dozen more job applications online. I knew that people had endured really crappy jobs before they realized their dream in Hollywood, I just needed to find one before I joined the homeless bidding war.

“Frickadoodle.”

“What the-“ I spun around looking for the source of the sound.  When the toaster oven, laptop and cell phone didn’t speak up, I turned back to the mirror.

“Great, now you’re hearing things,” I said as I rubbed my bald head.   “And it’s your brother’s nonsense word that you’re hearing.”  Suddenly my brother’s face appeared in the mirror.

“Frickadoodle.”

This time when I spun, I lost my balance and hit the dresser, then the wall, and ended up on the floor facing nothing but futon and floor lamp.  My heart was racing, my breathing crazy loud and I thought my mind was about to thumb a ride from the crazy train.

“Hey Bro.”

I slammed my head against the wall as I looked up, and standing there was my brother Kevin.  And oh yeah, he’s dead.

A Conversation with Angels 4

“Did you see that?”

“Yeah. If I would have ever talked to my Dad like that-”

“I know. But that’s what makes him The Almighty. Patience.”

“But still, how many times does he have to bring up the cross?”

“Well…it had to hurt.”

“Oh no doubt. But what’s it been, 2000 years? Aren’t they supposed to be big on forgiveness up here?”

“So I thought. And we are all God’s children so he is kind of busy.”

“Exactly.”

“Still, that’s got to be really hard to get over. And the way he says it, Daddy-”

“No, he doesn’t use Daddy then. He makes sure to use Father because that’s how everyone remembers it. And I’m going to be telling it at parties. It’s Father, why didn’t you hear the whole thing. I said ‘they know not what they’re doing’, but I also said ‘so get me out of here.'”

 

Spit Sells

In 2010, I participated in a UCLA study called Y2K. Don’t ask me why it was called that and hadn’t started until ten years later, I didn’t go to college so it must be stuff that smarter people understand.

The study consisted of ten hours of tests to amass data on the brain, cognitive thinking and reaction times. I finished the tests in seven hours and still got paid for ten. Take that, high school guidance counselor who thought that my wanting to be a magician was a waste of my math skills!

Two years later I received a follow up email that offered some more tests, this time just online from the convenience of your home, in exchange for a $15 Amazon gift card. I liked the cash better but I also like books, it was quick and easy and I read Nick Hornsby’s A Long Way Down. If you like my blog and haven’t read any of his novels, you should. My fellow writer’s group writers compared me to him and I was infinitely flattered.

Then there was another email about a few more tests, a little bit longer, and you got a $30 Amazon gift card. But you had to send in a sample of your saliva for some kind of genetic study.

So the package arrived. A small tube with a small funnel attached that you were to spit into until you reached a certain line. Now I’m not a spitter. I can’t hock a lugie, I can only spray a bit. So it took me a good fifteen minutes to fill up to the appropriate amount; which an average guy could do in one take. Then I sealed it up and sent it on its way.

But now I’m nervous. What if they’re able to tell all my shortcomings from my saliva and the difficulty I have with spitting. What if they know I still drool on my pillow? What if they know that I’m afraid of girls with too many tattoos? What if they discover that I cheated on my DMV test?

Oh well, the books are here. Perhaps Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance will calm my fears.

How to Eat Pizza

My father is Norwegian, which means he married an Italian woman because he wanted better food! I have grown up eating Italian food and my brother and I were always grateful for lent, because in our house that meant Friday=pizza! I’m sure my mom would tell you that’s because we were picky eaters and didn’t want to eat fish, but as an adult I know that she prefers pizza over fish, especially mine.

I learned how to make pizza as a young man and my folks love my pizza, so I make it for them every time I visit. My retired, gentle, polite parents become 7 years old again, asking from the comfort of the television set if it’s ready yet.

“I only got two hands here! Oh!”

Being from Chicago, everyone asks, and assumes, that I would like Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Funny, they never assume that I’m a gangster, that I vote twice, or do I have scars from being blown about by the Windy City; the other stereotypes Chicagoans have faced.

I don’t really like Chicago-style; it’s too thick and packed and I like being able to walk after I eat. My pizza is somewhere in between-not quite that thick but not quite New York thin. Which is fine, what’s up with that whole folding thing? I can see why because of the size, but I like looking at my pizza when I eat it. I think it’s beautiful, especially when the cheese is golden brown. And there’s nothing more fun than the cheese stretching out from your mouth to the slice in a long string. That don’t happened when it’s folded.

But let’s get to one of my pet peeves and the title of this edition of Amusingz: Pizza should not be eaten with a fork! That’s why the crust is there. You grab it with your hand, the other end is pointy so it goes in your mouth easily. Come on!

Now deep dish is sometimes eaten with a fork due to the weight, that is when a pound of mozzarella (pronounced mootz-a-rella, not matz-arella) cheese and two pounds of sausage (pronounced sausage) top each slice. Then, if you’re a wuss, you’re allowed to slice the first 5/6 off, so that it doesn’t just fall off onto the plate. But once it’s stabilized, grab it and go! That’s the thickest crust of all and therefore the best handle.

So, please, eat your pizza with your hands, and I’m off. I’m hungry.

A Conversation Between Angels 3

“God’s kind of old.”

“I know. I figured people that were around forever got to pick their age. What’s with the long hair and the beard, I mean he looks like Jesus.”

“How about that omni-presents thing?”

“That/ is/ annoying! Hello. I’m trying to make my pearly whites look like the pearly gates and he’s all perving on me, staring at me in the mirror asking me if I’ve like atoned for my sins and stuff.”

“Totally. These gowns are so not flattering.”

“I know, does everyone have to wear white? I mean come on, it’s like Summer, can’t we have some color.”

“Yeah. I wish I was alive still, I want a Frappucino.”

“Oh My God, why’d you have to say that?  They have no Starbuck’s here and that’s just so wrong.”

“I’m gonna tweet that.”

“Um, don’t you remember, they like took away our phones.”

“Oh right. This place blows.”