Monday, December 26, 2011

2012 – A Fear of Things to Come

As I sit here, blogging for the first time in weeks, I find myself admitting why I have been neglecting my literary proclivities. The year is drawing to a close and I am irrefutably petrified of what 2012 will bring. Be it political, pop-cultural or miscellaneous, I am scared shitless. And justifiably so. 

Will Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney be our next president? Either possibility is equally terrifying. Or maybe Sarah Palin will jump in late in the race, put lipstick on this pig of a Republican field and pull off the political upset of the century. Would that be better or worse than four years of Mormon jokes? Hard to say.

If Obama wins, what will his second term look like? Will he become the messiah we all thought he would be or at the very least grow a stronger backbone when dealing with Republican recalcitrance? Will his Health Care bill stand up in the Supreme Court? Or will the ruling passed down by a Roberts-led court serve as another spanking to an American populace that re-elected George W. Bush?  

Will the Democrats re-take the House or will things stay more or less the same with obstructionism and gridlock running rampant on Capital Hill? Can a recession-riddled middle class survive the latter? And can I fucking stomach it? Will John Boehner be stricken with a fatal case of bird, swine or goat flu? If not, does that serve as sufficient evidence that there is no God?

Are you there God? It's me Michael.
And speaking of God, will the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva finally succeed in locating evidence of the elusive God Particle, a.k.a. the Higgs Boson? And if it does, will that prove that God is not a man who lives in the sky and controls all our fates but is in fact merely a subatomic particle with a mass of roughly 121 billion electron volts that can only be measured, let alone worshipped, within the confines of a six billion dollar particle accelerator?

A scientific discovery of this magnitude would send shockwaves through the Vatican that would reverberate in the Bible Belt but would they be substantial enough to divert Newt Gingrinch from his crusade to unify, NOT SEPARATE, church and state? You know how immune to science and facts those damn God-mongers can be…especially when they are pandering to the Tea Party voting block.    

Will the Knicks somehow put together a complete roster to go along with their formidable frontcourt and can they accomplish the unthinkable by actually bringing an NBA championship to New York in my lifetime? If so, I might consider that to be evidence of a higher power, regardless of what the physicists in Geneva discover.

And why is God on my mind so much to begin with? Is it because Rick, Mitt and Newt are duking it out to see who can appear the godliest to cater to a right-wing base that would never vote for that Muslim black guy in the Oval Office anyway?

Or is it because in this economy, many on both sides of the aisle are saying that it would take a miracle for Obama to be re-elected. And even though I don’t believe in miracles, in this case I really want to.

And there are so many other unknowns that lie ahead.

Will America get its fiscal house in order? Doubtful.

Will Europe? Possibly.

Will I recover from the end of the Oprah Winfrey Show? No.

Will I recover from the cancellation of Lopez Tonight? Probably.

Will America complete its withdrawal from Iraq? Or will conditions destabilize and force the Joint Chiefs to rethink their strategy? Will Pakistan finally end this dysfunctional love triangle with Washington and the Taliban and choose once and for all who they want to commit to? Probably not. So does that mean that bombs will fall and predator drones will soar? I don’t know. But like I said, I’m quite scared.

In 2012, what is more likely…that Egypt will build a healthy democracy? Or that Simon Cowell will get assassinated by an X-Factor reject? My money is on a Cowell obituary. And while we’re on the topic of newspapers, which would get more headlines? A Kardashian wedding or a Kashmir genocide? It makes me furious that I am actually asking these questions and more so, anxious that I can’t answer them.

Iran appears to be buckling under the latest batch of sanctions. Will that deter their nuclear shenanigans or just piss Ahmadinejad off enough to do something terrible? 

I don’t know and part of me doesn’t care because he’s just so goddamn adorable! I know he’s a fascist who denied that the Holocaust ever happened but look at him! Don’t you just wanna cuddle up with him on a rainy afternoon and watch Lifetime Channel movies?

Will Tim Tebow finally admit that he and Jesus Christ are one and the same?

Will Casey Anthony admit that she and the Antichrist are one and the same?

What will happen in 2012?

Will these questions ever cease?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough. But whatever happens, always remember to ask questions. Happy Holidays y’all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

One Year From Election Night…And it’s Anybody’s Ballgame!

So here we are, roughly a year from the elections of 2012. The Republican Primaries have not even begun and The New York Times Magazine is already handicapping the elections based on the hodgepodge of misfits the GOP has put forth thus far.

Media pundits from both sides of the aisle are already slinging hyperbolic last rights for our president. he a lame duck? A dead duck? The Chosen One Begotten? Or the latest incarnation of The Come Back Kid?

So much to discuss.

Let’s start with this shape-shifting GOP field that gets blurrier the more it comes into focus and the current frontrunner just might be, hold the laughter please, Herman ‘9-9-9, ummm, make that 9-0-9, or was it 9 pies for $9.99 or 9 women for $99,999’ Cain.

Where the white bitches at?
Oh Herman, my brutha from anotha mutha. You ornery little rascal with a trail of shredded sexual harassment suits in your wake. How can I even attempt to take you seriously?

You’re right, I can’t. 

So I won’t. Moving on.

Will that highest of glass ceilings finally be smashed after Hillary put “eighteen million cracks” in it? If so, is Michelle Bachman the one to do it? You know, there are moments where I contemplate that…and whether such a victory would be a victory for women around the world and a victory for America. And maybe that victory is worth celebrating. But then I remember all that she stands for. And if that’s not enough…all I have to do is look at this.

WARNING!  If you stare at this picture for 66.6 seconds straight without blinking, you will either explode, turn to stone or be sent to an inter-dimensional netherworld where you will become the middle of a human centipede, book-ended by Miss Bachman in the front and Jesus Christ in the rear. You will spend eternity there.

Okay, we all know that the crazy-eyed baby-collector has no chance in hell so I’ll ask an important question. Is America ready for another moron from Texas? Was eight years of Texan idiocy enough? I look at Rick Perry and I have two thought; one – fuck, that guy is really handsome. And two – fuck, that guy is really stupid.

So does America want stupidity back in the White House? Does America want shit-brained swagger back in the Oval Office? I don’t think so. And judging by the worst of his consistently pitiful debate performances, that swagger is not likely to return. So I’ll ask another question because, like I say, it’s important to ask questions.

Is America ready for a Mormon President?

I didn’t believe America was ready for a black president before Obama changed history but this is different. At least I know what black people are. I see them every day and nothing about them confuses or scares me. Excluding the possibility of a Herman Cain presidency which, let’s be honest, isn’t much of a possibility at all. Just thinking about it makes me giggle.

But…Mormons. I don’t really know how I feel about them. I put them somewhere between born-again Christians and Scientologists and, like many, I have a few small problems with the whole ‘magic panty onesie’ thing they wear.

Mormon Magic Panties - Sure to annihilate any
semblance of evil, sexuality or political conviction.
Call me simple but I just can’t look at Mitt and not wonder if he is wearing one of these fuckers under his very expensive suit.

Poor Mitt. No matter how consistently and flip-floppingly he goes about his business, the GOP is still resisting embracing him. And he is, by far, the most viable of the front-running candidates…which is somewhat remarkable considering the fact that he is a political cyborg with no convictions, opinions, heart, backbone or personality.

So which of these candidates poses the greatest threat to Obama? According to the article I referenced earlier, it’s actually John Huntsman.

But, if we are to predict the future based on the present political climate, Huntsman is far too sane and centrist to be taken seriously by this Tea Party-fueled GOP. Which is good news for the Democrats and bad news for Republicans.

The article was not very optimistic about Obama’s odds. But I cannot help but believe in his chances for a second term. The alternative is too unsettling. So what does Barry have to do to get himself another four years?

Well, for starters, he has to have a great fucking year. A great fucking year. And so does the American economy. Will it rebound or at least show modest signs of improvement? Obama better hope so.

Can Obama refine his message? If not, Bill Clinton is trying to do it for him. Just read his latest book and, if you buy the reviews, you will hear the message loud and clear that Obama has failed to project.

And what is his message exactly? That’s the problem. If he has one, he has not explained it to the American people. He has not adequately sold it…and henceforth Americans have not bought it. 

So I’m gonna help you out Mr. Obama…because I know you read my blog. And I know you value the highly informed advice of a bartender with a Communications degree.

But seriously, here’s what you’ve got to do in the next year.

The Republicans in Congress will never pass any jobs bill, as they have already illustrated. They will not give you or Democrats any legislative victory so you need to make America understand that the Republican would sooner see American workers whither if it helps their party rise. You need to remind us that not only are Republicans responsible for driving us into this economic shitstorm, they are also doing everything in their power to prevent us from steering out of it and they are doing it for political gain.

Your Foreign Policy victories are numerous and impressive. You responsibly intervened in Libya. You are bringing our troupes home from Iraq. And you killed the motherfucker that Bush couldn’t. Our economy sucks but our country is safer because of you. Make us feel the safety you have provided and make us appreciate it.

Moving along.

Have you noticed all these little Occupy movements? Well, they may not be able to articulate what they want buy I can. They want policies that favor the working American, not corporations and rich people. This is a clear message and although your policy agenda has reflected this, you have not clearly drawn this comparison. So do it. Use their energy to feed the values you champion.

You are trying to create jobs by having rich people and corporations foot the bill. This is a worthy cause that should be an easy sell to the public. But you’re not fucking selling it! So sell it!

The GOP candidates don’t want to raise one single tax ever again. They are extreme, they are unreasonable, they are crazy. Make people realize this. It is as clear as day that their  obstructionism, extremism and unprecedented rigidity is not what America needs right now. Make us see it.

Remember that fire you had in you when you delivered your speech about the Jobs Bill that had no chance of passing Congress? You need that fire to burn for the next year. America thinks your soft Barry. So get hard. Get angry, get hard and get serious.

Because the Republican are not serious. But they can still whip your ass a year from now if you don’t raise your game.

Do you hear me Mr. President? Probably not. But I thought I’d say it anyway.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is ‘Occupy Wall Street’ a Political Movement or a Circus? The answer is…Yes.

When penning the lead for this blog post, I was torn between two options:

Option 1 – For a good time, drop acid and run around Liberty Plaza naked, armed with a bongo drum and a dime bag, and see how many hugs you can collect.

Option 2 – An enthusiastic liberal response to the Tea Part has finally begun; born in lower Manhattan, its message is spreading across America like an air-born pandemic.

I really don’t know which lead to go with…and therein lies the problem. Having spent some time down in Liberty Plaza today, I am not sure whether to celebrate the ‘occupation’s’ many virtues or chastise its many flaws.

So I’ll attempt to do both. 

Occupy Wall Street, a populist movement that has been gaining momentum since 2,000 protesters assembled there on September 27th, has a lot to say. But as the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets have, to an extent, accurately conveyed, it is not exactly sure how to say it.

As I strolled through Liberty Street Park today, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know if I should watch the interpretive dance show on my left or stare at the topless woman on my right. I tried to  read a leaflet on how the bank bail-outs were allocated but I couldn’t concentrate because the topless woman kept shouting “I am the first amendment.”

And as I attempted to hold a conversation with one of the protesters about whether or not the police had been harassing him, I found myself reflecting on why the topless protester did not have nicer breasts. This bothered me.

Because there is something undeniably inspiring about this ‘occupation’ that contains, among countless other things, a fully stocked and staffed First Aid station, mountains of donated food and water and free legal advice for the 700 people that were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge October 1st.

And as I walked around in a daze, I felt a populist energy I have not felt since I worked for Obama’s campaign back in 2008. It was a feeling I enjoyed. And one that I missed. 

Now I am remiss to do this because I do not want to diminish the value in what is transpiring here, but I think a little ridicule is called for if it serves as an attempted wake-up call. Because some of what is happening is jeopardizing the integrity of most of what is happening down at Liberty Plaza.

Exhibit A – This man’s sign says “Tax the Rich. Shitcan the Tea Party, America’s doucebags.” Now these are all valid points and truths I agree with. However, I cannot see the truth because it is blinded by the kaleidoscopic visual clusterfuck that is his outfit. I would have clobbered him in the head to knock some sense into him but, as you can see, he was wearing a helmet.

The Tea Party is fairly easy to de-legitimize because their racism, homophobia and other fairly transparent sources of hatred are not difficult to spot. But the Occupy Wall Street movement, if it is to accomplish anything, will never approach legitimacy if nimrods like this are representing it.

Just looking at that guy makes me want to vote for whatever political party he does NOT represent. And if I were a Democratic politician, I would be terrified to even remotely endorse a movement that this man supported.   

I love my city. It is unparalleled. George Carlin once said that New York was the best city in the world because when you walked down the street, you had to make a decision every ten seconds of whether you would stare at the most beautiful woman on the planet…or the craziest asshole on it.

In this case, the beautiful woman is the litany of valid socio-political agendas being championed by O.W.S. and the crazy asshole is…well…all the crazy assholes championing them.

The central message here is that Washington’s elected officials should more pro-actively defend the economic interests of the average working American, not those of millionaires and corporations.

I agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. But if I was on the fence about it, I doubt this person would sway me. What the fuck is this creature? Seriously...this thing scares me. 

There are so many secondary and tertiary agendas on parade in so many vibrant colors that the 50/50 balance of political activism and theater of the absurd that has manifested here threatens to cancel itself out; imploding in a blurry fog of pepper spray, tits, tie-dye and recycled leaflets.

An essay in an ‘Occupied Wall Street Journal’ newsletter that is being distributed downtown, lauds the diversity of issues being forwarded. And although Americans sounding off about the policies they disapprove of is noble, it is also counterproductive.

If ‘we the people’ oppose everything today, we will accomplish nothing tomorrow.

Is this the time to express our outrage with Republican opposition to the Buffet Rule that would raise taxes on the rich? Yes! Is this the time to attach provisions to that argument that address climate change, health care and nuclear waste? No.

If we oppose everything, we will accomplish nothing. 

And to all those people in Liberty Plaza, trust me, I’m with you. I’m unemployed, the government does not seem to be doing anything to get me back to work and I am furious about it. Every day, I walk the streets of Manhattan, handing out resumes as I wander in the shadows of towering skyscrapers; omnipresent reminders of how good corporate America has it and how grim my future looks. Sometimes I feel like, well, like the walking dead. Kinda like this guy.

This is one of the many zombies that has participated in O.W.S. He is angry about Washinton’s turning a blind eye on the plight of the average working zombie. But he is also lost and confused and ambivalent about what to do with all this outrage.

So I would like to volunteer myself to be the voice of the undead.

Here is what we want, here is what we need and here is what the people we elected into office have to give us.

We need money to stimulate job creation and Obama’s Jobs Bill, though flawed in many ways, is still a step in the right direction and a lot better than the Republican ‘cut taxes and hope for some trickle down magic’ antidote to this plague of unemployment.

Where should that money come from? Well, since the Tea Party insists that it should come exclusively from spending cuts, the O.W.S. movement should insist that it come entirely from increasing tax revenue. And whenever someone objects, direct them to the video below from one of America’s most beloved fiscal messiahs.

But that is only the start. We also need to adjust (I said ADJUST, not ABOLISH!) financial regulations so that they do not stifle small businesses but do eliminate corporate tax loophole exploitation and prevent little things like mark-to-market shenanigans (Do you remember Enron? If not, you’re parents do), sub-prime mortgages, predatory lending and all the other cute little gimmicks that creative capitalists come up with to stuff their wallets while fist-fucking the average working American.

So what should they do to pursue these goals here on Wall Street? Well, for starters, take off the zombie make-up, put on a fucking shirt, get serious and get specific about what we want and what we can actually accomplish. If the message gets honed and targeted at something tangible like the Jobs Bill, perhaps that message will be heard by the mainstream media, not mocked and/or ignored.

We need to harness all this crazy and transmute it into progressive fuel the same way the Tea Party has harnessed racism. Take all that hippy, all that zombie, all that lunacy and transform it into viable political activism and hopefully, political capital.

And we need to do it now because the movement is spreading. Today, Unions and college students marched in support of it. People with higher political profiles are coming out in favor of it and thanks to social media and the many organizations involved, it has  spread to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and nearly fifty other cities.

If it continues to spread, soon the whole world will be listening to what this movement has to say. So people need to get specific about what they want to say and they need to get serious on how they go about saying it. 

For more info on Occupy Wall Street, visit or

Join the movement. But please, for the love of God, keep your shirt on!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 - From THEN to NOW

I have spent the last two weeks wondering how I was going to write a post with an angle or approach that I deemed worthy of commemorating the tenth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history.

So here I am, listening to CNN regurgitate the murky details of a new terrorist threat we may or may not have to contend with…and I’ve still got nothing. So I think I will just write about that day and how it changed my experience of living in this large and once indestructible city. Admittedly, I am not sure if I am writing this post for you or for me. Maybe both.

Ten years ago I was a struggling writer and actor, much as I am today, and I was at a bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at 8:00 AM. No I was not on a round-the-clock bender, I was actually in ‘holding’ for an independent film I was shooting that day. So there I was with about twenty other actors and ten crew people, eating breakfast, chatting cordially.

As an actor, a general rule to follow is ‘the smaller the film, the more you will be sitting on your ass waiting for the production team to get their shit together and shoot.’ I was still sitting on my ass at roughly 8:53 when my cell phone rang.

I remember that piece of shit phone; I’d only had it for a month or two, a Sprint phone, probably the same size that a landline phone is today. My best friend is on the other line relaying that minutes earlier, a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

Since we are in a bar, I turn on the television and surely enough, there it was. I was not watching some shitty Michael Bay atrocity that may or may not be in my DVD library, I was watching real life.

We discuss what kind of a plane it was and how it could possibly fly into the tallest structure in New York. We don’t have any answers and suddenly a Production Assistant hands me an updated script. My lines have changed. Fuck. I have to learn them because, well, I’m a professional and I was getting paid $100 dollars for my thespianic expertise so national crisis or not, I would learn my lines.

I sit at the bar and try to ignore the unfathomable images on the TV but my eyes keep drifting upward. ‘Learn your lines asshole’, I tell myself. This piece of shit film might just be the break that launches your career. The film was about a world where white people were the minority and blacks were the majority…interesting concept. I was playing the leader of The White Panthers.

I am trying to memorize some poorly written racial epithets when I glance up at the TV and see a plane fly into the Twin Towers. There is an explosion and the image cuts out for a nano-second. In that nano-second, my brain tries to decipher whether or not the image was some sort of replay of the earlier incident superimposed over the present image and in the several seconds that followed my mind tries to reconcile how NBC News could commit such a technically complex blunder while reporting live. My mind goes everywhere, except to the reality that it has happened again.

What they were. 
Finally, the brain-chatter is drowned out by the sounds emitted by the thirty people in the bar that had just witnessed United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower.

I call back my friend and the call goes through. This would be the last call I could make on that phone until I woke up the next morning. What the fuck? That is all I can say? Is their some sort of fluctuation in the electro-magnetic field that is fucking up the radars of every plane in the metropolitan area? Did the smoke from the first tower obscure the usual approach to LaGuardia Airport that southbound planes take?

My mind races…employing preposterous scenarios to explain how two planes had flown into such immense buildings. My brain goes everywhere except to the inescapable truth. My mind simply will not go there. Or maybe it just doesn’t want to.

Maybe I don’t want to believe I live in a city where skyscrapers were not places of commerce but targets on a battlefield in a war I am incapable of understanding at the moment. Maybe I just liked the security I have always taken for granted and I am not quite ready to relinquish it.

The girl next to me is crying but I don’t know what to tell her. Some guy at the other end of the bar is talking about his brother who works in one of the buildings. He says something about his cell phone not working but I can’t really make it out.

I pick up my script and look at it. I can’t make out any words but in a very strange way, I can see the page with a preternatural clarity…every pixel, every textured imperfection in the paper. But my eyes can’t focus on a single word, let alone memorize sentences and assign emotions to them.

They say we are still shooting my scenes today but the exteriors they are shooting before mine are taking longer because the constant cacophony of passing sirens is wreaking havoc on their ability to record sound.

I go outside for the first time since it happened and I realize what a beautiful day it is. I can’t say for sure but it might just be the prettiest, bluest fucking sky I have ever seen and the temperature is perfect. It is the perfect day for the perfect fucking nightmare.

I can hear the sirens except they don’t drift in and out of earshot like they normally do. They are constant, like the rain machine that puts me to sleep every night…except the people in the cars with the sirens are on their way to an unimaginable hell that has somehow descended on lower Manhattan.

I suddenly think about my mother. She knows I work in the city every day but probably doesn’t know that actors never go to the Financial District unless it is to score blow. She is undoubtedly petrified so I call her. At least, I try to. The call is not going through and my phone is telling me that the network is busy. I try my dad. Nothing. I finally realize that there are ten other people around me unsuccessfully trying to make phone calls.

Someone runs outside and says the Pentagon just got hit. Those were his exact words. I don’t know how to translate that at first but then through some frantic back and forth, I learn that once again a plane was used as a missile.

I pace back and forth on the sidewalk and I don’t care about the film anymore. I look around at these people and our eyes meet but we say nothing. We don’t have to. We are all scared and confused and addressing it would be redundant.

Here is where things get hazy for me. I am simply ill equipped to handle all this information and I lose my general bearings. Time, space, feelings, thoughts…they all kind of get lost together, blending into a fog.

Now, the notion of terrorism is well beyond indisputable but I still won’t go there.  Terrorism was just some exotic concept that other countries had to deal with. It was nothing tangible and it certainly couldn’t happen here. Oklahoma City, the previous bombing at the WTC…those were just crazy people doing crazy things. Not international terrorists who had executed a complex attack that took months if not years of planning, doing so with military precision.

Someone finally tells me that the shoot is postponed because of the sirens and I am free to go. The sirens…they canceled the shoot, not the horror and death that was in progress ten miles downtown. 

The only thing I can think of is finding a phone because my piece of shit with the retractable antenna is malfunctioning. So I start walking…walking because mass transit has been shut down. So have all the tunnels and bridges leading into Manhattan. Nobody can come in and nobody can leave. We are all trapped on this island and I live in Queens.

Every phone I pass has ten people waiting to use it. Every restaurant and bar I see is mobbed with people glued to the TV. Yet the city is oddly quiet.

I stop at a bar and stare at the TV, just gazing through the window at the horror. I am having some sort of thought; I can’t remember what it was…when suddenly the South Tower collapses. 

The bar erupts in motion and sound but I can’t move. I just stare. I am somewhere around Lincoln Center right now, which is miles from Ground Zero, a term that does not even exist yet in the New Yorker vernacular.

Unable to offer a response, I walk away and continue ambling downtown, deciding that I will make my way to Queens, somehow. At some point in my trek, the North Tower also collapses.

I am on the West Side and the Queensboro Bridge is about two miles across town. As I cross midtown, I stop on Sixth Avenue and there is a clear view down to the bowels of Manhattan. All I see is the plume of smoke that satellites would later photograph from space. I am sweating from walking several miles so I take off my shirt and drop it in a garbage can. I don’t want it any more.

I eventually reach the bridge and it seems that the moment I get there, they open it to pedestrians so I start walking. There are throngs of people walking but no one talks. Minutes later, the bridge is opened only to cars leaving the city. They drive slowly, as if they were afraid that driving too fast might incite the anger of whoever it is that has been flying planes into American buildings.

I spot a U-Haul truck creeping along and see that it has bars on the back that could be grasped the same way sanitation workers hang on to the back of a garbage truck. I break into a jog and hop on the back of the truck, grabbing on the bar.

We pick up speed, passing by the hordes of people inching their way into Queens. I look at them and they look back. Some guy pumps his fist at me in approval but I cannot muster a response through my fog.

Then I look out at what is happening on the other side of the East River.

And I see what looks like the aftermath of Mt. Saint Helen’s eruption of 1980 emanating from the island of Manhattan. Here I am, shirtless, holding on the back of a U-Haul truck passing thousands of pedestrians, watching New York City burn.

There are no words, no thoughts, no feelings. Just smoke…and the lingering probability that things will never be the same.

I make it into Queens and walk back to my apartment. It is empty and I have no idea where my roommate is. He works in Rockefeller Center so chances are he’s fine.

I grab my phone and I have twelve voicemails. As I listen to them, the gravity of the day registers and finally, for the first time…emotions. As I listen to messages from my mother, my girlfriend, my college girlfriend, my friends, my acquaintances, my co-workers…I find that I am sobbing. This is at a time in my life where I had not quite learned how to feel so the outpouring of emotion is unprecedented and frightening.

As I sob, I call my parents. Then my girlfriend. And then my ex-girlfriend. And then my shrink. And my friends. I call everyone just to connect, just so I know they are still there, a part of my world that did not go up in the enormous cloud of smoke blanketing lower Manhattan. 

An hour later, my roommate comes home to find me watching the looping of footage that is recycling on every channel. We speak briefly but I feel like I have nothing to say to him. I don’t know how to communicate with him in this horrible new world.  

I watch news coverage for six hours and then I pass out on the couch, with my roommate watching TV beside me. I wake up at four in the morning. I walk into my bedroom and cry myself back to sleep.

What they are. 
The next day, I have a life to get back to, which is good because it leaves me with no time to languish in the aftermath. I have an audition and an appointment with my shrink that I really, really fucking need to go to.

I catch my subway, which arrives in seconds. The train is not atypically at about a quarter capacity, some people are dressed for work, others not. But the mood is solemn; a post-funeral cloud hovering over the subway car denser than the one hanging over Ground Zero.

I look at the other passengers and they look back. We actually take each other in, which never happens on the subway…or anywhere in the five boroughs. Some grin. Others nod. Whatever the response, there is an unspoken understanding that we were all going through this together; which is inexplicably comforting.

My shrink is on Sixth Avenue, which had the same view down to the Financial District and the Avenue is closed to cars. People stand briefly in the street, staring at the cloud of smoke, before continuing on with their lives.

Offices and restaurants are open for business as are casting offices like the one that held my commercial audition. The city is alive but dead; functioning but altered. The towering skyscrapers are different now; vulnerable, mortal.

There are men in full military fatigues with machine guns in subway stations, at the Port Authority, at Penn Station, on the streets. This may be a common site in some countries but not on the sidewalks of Manhattan. Soldiers ask to check my bag and I decide to let them. They are holding machine guns so it does not seem like the time or place for a debate on civil liberties.

The next day I see that people are wearing American flags of varying sizes on their person. I buy one and wrap it around my belt. I’m not sure why, I have never been patriotic. Something made me do it though and I would not take off that flag for a month, maybe two, I can’t remember. Crime rates were surprisingly low in the weeks that followed and box office revenues were incredibly high. 

As people toiled in the rubble, looking for thousands of survivors, only to find several, the city and country struggled to redefine themselves. Osama bin Laden started popping up on T-Shirts that said “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” People, myself included, started shuddering every time they heard an airplane flying overhead.

Rudy Giuliani became an international hero and George W. Bush proved himself an adept cheerleader in ushering the country through unprecedented times. But as the weeks and months passed, the sense of common loss that united the city gradually dissipated. Eventually, the atrocities at Ground Zero devolved from something you could not escape to something you only thought about every few hours…to several times a day…to once in a while.

Beautiful phantom lights were installed at the sight that shone like the Twin Towers’ ghosts into the stratosphere. City planners wrestled with Port Authority diplomats over what building and memorials should be erected at the site while dump trucks hauled the remains of the building and the thousands of victims that perished to various landfills in the tri-state area.

It has been ten years and I don’t think it is necessary to ruminate on how many ways the world has changed. Augmentations to Airport security, increased Islamophobia, underwear bombs, the War on Terror, the death of bin Laden, there is too much to reflect on and this post is too long as it is.

New York City changed because of that day. Everything is different now. I am different. We all are. Knowing that is enough. Mourning that fact will not bring back the 2,977 victims that died that day but it is important to remember. As I look up at the flag I wore ten years ago that adorns my work desk, I remember. That is all I can really do to honor them. 

What it will be. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How I Made Irene My Bitch - A Hurricane Survival Story

You cannot fear Mother Nature. You simply must make a choice. Will you or won’t you be a victim? It was around mid-day Friday that I made that choice for myself. Here is the epic, inspiring tale of how it all went down.

Friday 2:24 PM
I go to the grocery store. Not because I believe that civilization will soon devolve into some sort of post-apocalyptic Mad Max wasteland. I go simply because I am out of food and homo sapiens require food to survive.

I buy my usual groceries and then I stop to think. A hurricane is bearing down on us and the city will be shutting down. Should I be planning for the worst? Maybe. So I buy one candle and two six packs of beer. I buy some cookies too because, you know, I like cookies. Fuck Irene. I will conquer her. And I will conquer her with beer and cookies.

Friday 3:36 PM
I learn that all mass transit will stop running at noon on Saturday even though the bulk of the storm’s wrath will not arrive until around midnight. This angers me considerably because not only will I be missing the Mets game on Sunday, I also have tickets to the Giants/Jets game on Saturday…a game in a stadium I will now be unable to reach.

Friday 3:52 PM
I decide that twelve beers might not be enough for a one-man hurricane party, especially if I am locked in my apartment for several days. I also might be in the mood for a more sophisticated party so I go out and buy a bottle of Sancerre.

Friday 8:41 PM
I speak to a friend on the phone about how the excessive hurricane preparations are probably just Mayor Bloomberg overcompensating for the last blizzard that sodomized the city of New York on his watch. After such a politically damaging fiasco, here he was, flexing his muscles with mandatory evacuations and an unprecedented full-scale shutdown of all forms of public transportation.

Friday 9:02 PM
I learn that the Giants game is rescheduled for Monday evening. I smile and hop on Facebook, advising several people to get their canoe out of storage, put on their water-wings, find their snorkel or whatever other fairly obvious jokes I can muster. People typically respond with an ‘LOL’ followed by a clever retort of their own.

Saturday 9:42 AM
I put my air conditioner inside my apartment; more because of the annoying sound torrential rains makes on it than as a safety precaution. I eat breakfast and then sit down with a cup of coffee to start revising my latest screenplay.

Saturday 12:17 PM – 3:36PM
As I write, I bounce around the networks; NY1, CNN, FOX, and watch as the coverage becomes increasingly sensationalist. Reporters can no longer just report on the storm. They have to stand in the rain in the middle of a deserted highway while lamenting on how much rain the deserted neighborhood is getting. They have to wade waste-deep in the ocean to report on how much the ocean will rise when the storm hits. And every network has cutting-edge graphics; their own “Storm Watch” or “Eye on Irene” logo accompanied by ominous theme music.

Some people are refusing to evacuate and after several hours, I realize that all these subversive characters have two thing in common. They are all from Queens and they are all douchebags. They say things like “I built this castle so I gotta make sure it doesn’t float away” or “My house is a fortress, trust me.” Then I wonder if anyone would actually miss these knuckleheads were they to be swept away by a tsunami-esque storm surge.

Bloomberg comes on the air again, encouraging people to evacuate because, yes, the storm is going to be devastating and if we don’t follow directions, we will all surely die. Probably. Maybe.

Saturday 7:01 PM
I hear rain falling for the first time. I look outside and the tree in the courtyard is swaying with some zeal but nothing to get too worried about. I have a beer. Then I debate whether I should get drunk or get some work done. I decide to do both. But I won’t get too drunk because when my entire borough goes under water, I will need my wits. And I hear elevated BAC levels are found in most drownings…especially those that occur on the sidewalks of Queens.

Saturday 8:10 PM
Obama orders a State of Emergency for the Jersey Shore. I briefly consider how happy I would be if the entire cast of the Jersey Shore drowned and what an uplifting and climactic series finale that would make. Then I hear that a Tornado Warning was just issued. Yippeeee! 

Saturday 9:37 PM
I open my bottle of Sancerre and it is yummy. Sancerre never lets me down. Like tacos and masturbating, I always know it will leave me at least moderately satisfied. The rain and wind pick up but I remain, steadfast. Can you hear me Irene? Can you sense how unafraid of you I am? I continue blogging because…well, I am trapped here without many other options. 

Saturday 10:26 PM
Bloomberg makes another televised appearance. He tells me to stay in my apartment and move away from my window but when he starts giving instructions in his abysmal Spanish, I nod out. I come to when he recounts a cautionary tale about two nimrods that were kayaking in the East River. I briefly ponder natural selection and those that might not deserve the gift of life and then I pour myself another glass of wine. 

I decide to watch a movie and settle on some highbrow art house cinema, a film called   The Human Centipede.

To view the trailer, visit

Sunday 12:16 AM
Cabin fever, booze and the trauma of having just seen a really weird fucking movie prove too much for me. So I grab my camera, put on my bathing suit and go outside. I will meet Irene head on, with love and courage in my heart.

Sunday 2:21 AM
Two hours later, I am home. But…a breakthrough. As I wandered down a desolate Queens Blvd., I saw that my trusted bodega was open and I immediately glimpsed my destiny. After snapping a few shots with my camera, I bought a six-pack of Heineken cans (much safer than the bottles in my fridge) and set my sites on wining and dining Irene.

I opened a beer, shed my slicker, stored it and the rest of my beers on the steps of a nearby Temple and head out to begin wooing this tropical temptress. Vulnerability and intimacy would be key so I lied down in the eastbound express lane of Queens Blvd., where a fierce river was flowing. I slugged from my beer, inviting her to join me. She gusted at first; resisting my charms as her raindrops battered my topless torseau.

So I dialed it up a notch. I splashed around and, dare I say, I frolicked; seducing her with every childlike gesture. Before I knew it, the raindrops that moments before were stinging my face, were now caressing it, peppering my lips and cheeks with velveteen kisses. The wind had shifted from violent to purposeful.

She was spreading her legs for me, inviting me to enter her. Is it a coincidence that moments after I got home, they officially downgraded her from a Hurricane to a Tropical Storm? Hardly. I had broken her. By loving her.

Sunday 3:14 AM
Having subdued her, I kiss her goodnight and drift into REM sleep. Good night New York. Take care of my girl Irene for me.  

Sunday 9:30 AM
I wake up to hints of sunlight seeping through my window. The winds have subsided; only a breeze remains. Parts of Long Island, Staten Island, the Rockaways and Battery Park are flooded.

Property damage is sure to be high. Nobody knows when the transit will be operational again and roughly 72,000 New Yorkers are without power. 

Although I still have electricity, the damage in my neighborhood is cataclysmic. The tree that lost this twig may recover, it may not. Only time will tell. 

But every network is saying the same thing. It could have been a lot worse. Many will accredit this to meteorological factors but I think it’s clear what happened here.

Michael – 1     Irene – 0   

You’re welcome eastern seaboard. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What if the Tea Party was Black? Would Washington Still Bow to Their Fury?

I will never understand the rise of the Tea Party.

Ron Paul is, well, kind of a douche, Sarah Palin is a moron and Michelle Bachman is a fucking fruitcake that collects foster children the same way lonely seniors collect cats or knick-knacks. So why were so many people getting behind them?

Being opposed to tax increases is valid. Yet, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush raised taxes, it was not met with calls for violence or the fanatical anti-government outrage presently corroding our congressional process. But when a black guy has the audacity to even suggest raising taxes on rich people…whooooaaa boy.
So what gives? Are people really just that pissed off that a young black dude beat out an old white geyser for the top job in the country? Are some Americans really that simple? Is Red State America that primitive? All these questions lead me to another question.

What if the Tea Party movement was black?

Can you feel the terror quivering down your spine? You know you can. Public Enemy wasn’t kidding when they named one of their albums “Fear of a Black Planet.” The very notion scares the shit out of any white, homegrown Protestant.

But how would we feel about a black Tea Party?

If the movement, which is overwhelmingly white, were instead comprised of predominantly black members, would it have the same political impact?

Let’s take this piecemeal shall we?

What if after an unfavorable election outcome, Al Sharpton were to suggest to his many followers, that they “Don’t retreat…reload!” Would he be accused of encouraging violence? I think it’s safe to say he would. And if he were to angrily fan the flames of anti-government sentiment, would he be linked to the Black Panthers or even terrorists? You betcha! (wink, wink) 

But not Ron Paul. Or Sarah Palin who is just too darn folksy to be threatening. Or Michelle Bachman is too Christian and weird to be dangerous.

And what if a bunch of black guys were to show up at a political rally with GATs on full display? Would the NRA adamantly support this celebration of Second Amendment rights? Probably not. Those carrying guns would be arrested on site by the riot police and maybe subsequently asked if they had the permits required to carry firearms. Maybe. It is safe to say that not many white people would stick around though because the only thing scarier than a horde of angry black people is a horde of angry black people with guns. 

Last year, a University of Washington poll found that 74% of Tea Party supporters agreed with the following statement, “While equal opportunity for blacks and minorities to succeed is important, it’s not really the government’s job to guarantee it.”

What if, in this alternate universe, 74% of black Tea Partiers thought this way about white people? Well, they wouldn’t really be able to do anything about it because white people already have a pretty firm grasp on most of the best jobs around. Except that ONE…and they are piping mad about it.

Because they want their country back…their white, Christian, heterosexual, tax-free country. And the Tea Party is comprised of predominantly old, white, rich men; roughly half of who identify themselves as born-again-Christians.

Blogger’s side note – if you like scary movies, watch ‘Jesus Camp.’ These children are the next generation of the Tea Party and yes, you should be very afraid.

What makes the Tea Party so dangerous is that they are advancing a radical agenda that is far to the right of the average Republican and they are already exacting influence over legislation. Their flagrant intolerance of tax increases torpedoed what would have been a groundbreaking deficit reduction plan that even House Speaker John Boehner supported. It would have more efficiently reduced the deficit while raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and closing corporate loopholes while also cutting more spending than the deal that was eventually reached.

But their influence forced Boehner to recant…resulting in an inferior deal. If the Tea Party were black and they lashed out against government policies, Congress would probably, well, they would probably do what they do now…ignore them completely. Republicans in Congress are apathetic to silent minorities, let alone loud, angry ones.

So what would a black Tea Party look like? Let’s be honest. It would frighten the bejesus out of us. The scary black stigma that has been pumped into the media from the Black Panthers to the Bloods and the Crips already has us petrified of angry African-Americans, especially those residing in the inner city. So if they were toting guns at rallies, shouting extremist rhetoric and advocating the reversal of long-standing court decisions, Republicans would not exploit their enthusiasm, they would ignore it or probably use it as political amunition.

If a prominent black political figure or group questioned the citizenship of a white president while calling him a Satanist (which is comparable to white people calling Obama Muslim)…we would probably perceive them as crazy, ignorant fucks who did not deserve a voice in the political arena.

If this behavior were coming from the black population, Republican lawmakers would use it as justification to further eradicate any semblance of Affirmative Action from all existing laws, they would make an even harsher case to eliminate Medicaid and welfare, they would do everything in their power to suppress this vocal and occasionally violent voice.

And Democrats sure as fuck would not endorse it or ride its’ coattails to political profit. They would know better. They would discourage, not enable, racism, xenophobia and an extremism that puts political gain over the health of a nation. 

And that is exactly what the Tea Party has been doing. So why doesn’t the Republican Party chastise its most extreme elements? Because it needs them. Republicans have nothing to be excited about (Exhibit A – Mitt Romney) and everything to be angry about (Exhibit B – Obama). The only reason the GOP has a pulse these days is because Tea Party fury has given them one.

But it is a toxic pulse and the American public is starting to recognize that. A year ago only 18% of Americans had an unfavorable view of the Tea Party. A few weeks ago, that number climbed to 40% and is rising by the day.

And I hope that number continues to rise. Because extremism wrapped in an American flag should not be allowed to flourish. Prejudice masquerading as politics should be eliminated, not perpetuated. And if my pontificating rant does not persuade you, maybe a rap video will. So check out the link below!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obama - A Laim Duck Messiah?

From both sides of the mainstream media aisle, the insinuations are flooding the airwaves and saturating the blogosphere. So could it be true? Is the messiah of the Democratic Party dead? Has he already lost his re-election campaign? The Op-Eds are already echoing affirmations of this possibility.

Why the Tea Party Lord? Why?
How the fuck did we get here? And are we really here? Is this rhetoric half-assed hyperbole or should I really be worried?

Perhaps to answer this question, we first must retrace our steps over the last three years…maybe then we can figure out how we got here. And I will attempt to offer my assessment without the left-leaning bias that permeates my worldview. I will genuinely try to be objective and keep my acerbic commentary minimized and perhaps even muted. This should be an interesting experiment and one I will undoubtedly fail but here goes.

The year was 2008 and in a response to predatory lending and sub prime mortgage exploitation, the financial universe was on the brink of complete annihilation and in an attempt to avert this impending disaster, George W. Bush championed and congress then passed the $700 billion dollar Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, better known as the bank bailout. I find it noteworthy to mention that Jesus, umm I mean Obama, was over a month away from getting elected at the time.

This spending measure sucked but it was necessary. Sure we could have let the banking industry sink into oblivion but Bush acted responsibly and spent the money he had to. Wait…did I just compliment W?

Bbllluurrgghhh. Sorry, I just vomited all over my keyboard. Excuse me for a moment.

Okay. All clean, pressing on. Four months after this spending measure and several weeks after his miffed inauguration speech, Obama took the next painful but necessary step when he passed the $787 billion dollar American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. This stimulus package was meant to do two things…prevent the implosion of our economy and then get it back to where it had been before W. and his two terms of destruction took a budget surplus and turned it into the largest deficit an American president would ever inherit.

Does ‘two terms of destruction’ qualify as acerbic commentary?

Anyway, here’s what we have so far. Bush, with brilliant economic brainstorms like cutting taxes for the rich during war time and doing everything in his power to deregulate the market, paving the way for Enron, Ponzi schemes, sub prime mortgages, etc., managed to bequeath to Obama the largest deficit ever. And then, with the economy on the brink of collapse, Obama had no choice but to pass the stimulus package.

Dude, where's your hope?
The only problem was that, according to many economists, the stimulus package wasn’t big enough. Some economists speculated that any economic growth would level off or retreat once the money ran out. And they were right.

So what do you get when you take the first black guy to become president and saddle him with crippling debt in a dogshit economy that lacks the capital necessary to jumpstart itself? You get the Tea Party and a toxic Republican Congress hell-bent on cutting the deficit they handed Obama while refusing to increase tax revenue as part of the equation for doing so.

So amidst this climate, here is what Obama has accomplished, in case you missed it.

He passed a historic healthcare bill. It was a flawed bill but it was by far the most ambitious legislation to ever tackle the stratospheric costs of healthcare that has left tens of millions of Americans without coverage. But it did not contain a public option because such a bill would not pass the Senate so the liberals chided Obama for not sticking to his guns and getting every single element that their base wanted.

So he was not a pragmatist in this legislative triumph, he was a pussy.

Soon after, he tiptoed into hostilities with Libya but took a back seat, allowing other nations to shoulder the burden of another conflict that was not our war to wage. This move was cautious and politically calculated though an appropriate position to take because, I don’t know, we were already involved in two other fucking wars at the time. So we kind of had a full plate already.

But just before the GOP could completely castrate his national security credentials, he went and did what W. never could, he killed Osama bin Laden. But this celebration was short lived because of a pesky little problem called joblessness that just wouldn’t go away.

And unfortunately, the Republicans’ only response to the unemployment crisis was regurgitating the same ineffectual talking points…cut spending and cut taxes. Hhhhmmm. Can someone explain to me exactly how that creates jobs? And if you say one word about ‘trickle down’ economics, I will dropkick you in your tits or balls, depending on your gender. There is more evidence supporting the existence of the Loch Ness Monster than there is for ‘trickle down’ economic growth.

But the GOP stood by their principles, enabled and abetted by a growing contingent of Tea Party zealots (so much for objectivity), holding Congress hostage at every opportunity. They held it hostage for the budget negotiations and in the last hour, reached a deal that cut $38.5 billion dollars from the budget and created ZERO jobs.

They held it hostage once again in the Debt Ceiling Showdown of 2011 and once again, Obama compromised and conceded to a party that almost joyfully announced that they would rather allow a Government default than raise taxes on wealthy Americans and close corporate loopholes. The deal reduced long-term spending by $2 trillion dollars and thus far has created ZERO jobs.

And once again, the GOP cried victory and both parties pointed at Obama and screamed ‘Pussy’ as the Standard & Poor’s downgraded our economy to AA+, citing Congressional discord and lack of functionality as its reason for doing so. 

So as stock markets plummet, so do Americans’ faith in our government. The approval ratings for Congress are the lowest ever. EVER. Obama’s approval ratings have gone from its high of 69% to its present 42%, one point less than Regan’s at this stage of his presidency.

So how do I feel about this president that I spent six months campaigning for? I am both disappointed and sympathetic. I like to fancy myself as a little more informed than the average voter about the nuances of the Beltway cage fight that Obama and the GOP are presently embroiled in. So I find it easier to justify the decisions he has made.

But I have to ask myself if I am just rationalizing… employing a reliable defense mechanism to conceal the fact that our messiah has not saved us…that this black Jesus may have a good jump shot and a great smile but he’s got a shitty golf game and provides worse leadership.

But how does one define leadership? Is it standing up to the opposing party even if the consequences are a government shutdown or default? Or is it making compromises that avoid worsening a financial crisis even if it diminishes his chances for a second term? Did John Boehner display leadership when he gave into Tea Party demands to strike any and all tax hikes from the debt ceiling deal? Or did Obama display leadership when he acquiesced in the wake of this reversal? You could make a case either way. 

But as the New York Times cited yesterday, Obama told Diane Sawyer about a year ago that he would rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. Right now, it’s hard to say how future generations will remember him. But if he cannot find a way to create jobs, stifle the radical right and inspire this country as he did on the campaign trail, it is quite feasible that despite his accomplishments, his presidency may go down in history as being neither good nor mediocre.

And that would be tragic…considering all the things that he has indeed accomplished.