What it is

What I’m reading: John Crowley’s The Solitudes (first in his 4-book Aegypt cycle) and Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha series

What I’m listening to: Angela McCluskey’s The Things We Do

What I’m watching: the first season of The Wire

What I’m drinking: Miller’s gin

What I’m happy about: the Giants reached the Super Bowl

What I’m sad about: the Giants will likely get destroyed in the Super Bowl, similar to their 2000 experience against Baltimore, which Jay Mohr characterized as “like when a white high school team from the suburbs faces a black inner-city school”

What I’m pondering: how to finish writing a post about Charles Schulz that really doesn’t support my initial thesis (that is, how Schulz and Andy Warhol exemplify certain trends in postwar American views of celebrity and art)

Unrequired Reading: Jan. 11, 2008

It’s my birthday, dear readers! So I’m taking today off to celebrate!

Still, you deserve some Unrequired Reading, so here’s a neat article detailing the history of the development of the iPhone, because

a) it’s a really neat story about how the wireless industry works and how Apple has tried to shake it up with this device, and

b) my wife just got me one for my birthday!

Thanks for enabling my geekiness, darling! (more Unrequired Reading after the break)

Continue reading “Unrequired Reading: Jan. 11, 2008”

Jingle blorch

Well, I didn’t embarrass myself at the office Christmas party (or “holiday party,” if that’s your preference) yesterday. However, our office drunk managed to deliver, getting positively RIPPED within the first two hours. The party started around noon, and by 2pm, he had mistaken me for a coworker’s spouse to tell me a joke. Now, that guy and I are both tall and gangly, but the other guy has a big bushy moustache, in contrast to my whiskerless face.

And since our office drunk spent almost 30 seconds trying to tell me how much I resemble Borat before he realized that I don’t have big bushy moustache, I was convinced he was headed toward Top Three status for his drunken office party escapades.

Certainly he would rival the year he loudly (and drunkenly) rambled over the address from our company’s founder and the editor emeritus (#2 all time). I doubt he’ll ever top the year he accidentally (and drunkenly) broke a small serving table by leaning on it. That one became the stuff of legend because of the George-&-Gracie aspect of his wife pointing at him on the floor and cackling (drunkenly).

But just when he was getting ready to make 2007 a party to remember, something funny happened: he disappeared.

No one can recall seeing him after 3pm, shortly before the beginning of our annual state-of-the-company jokefest, new employee Jingle Bells singalong, and Carnac routine (known as Rodnac). I was amazed that an obese drunk in a pink dress-shirt could vanish right before the very eyes of a room full of people who were waiting for him to make an ass of himself, but he somehow pulled it off. Our search parties came up blank, even after checking the floors of all three men’s rooms in the restaurant.

I went all CSI: Miami and tried to reconstruct the scene. Even doing my best David Caruso impression, all I could come up with was that he kept asking coworkers at his table to go up to the free bar and get him his fifth martini, but was turned down. One witness said that he saw the guy stumble out of the dining room around 2:45, which would’ve put him in proximity of the restaurant’s main bar.

I assumed he was looking to continue getting himself loaded, but in the privacy of a room full of people who weren’t waiting for him to make an ass of himself. However, the bartender had no recollection of him, so we had to conclude that he either

  1. got his car from the valet and drove home early enough not to put the rest of our lives at risk,
  2. got his car from the valet and drove to another bar,
  3. passed out face-down in a snowbank behind the restaurant, or
  4. decided to head back to the office and work on some of his sales accounts before the holiday break.

Maybe I’m being charitable with #4, but it’s the giving season or something.

In true cliffhanger style, we won’t find out the answer to this one till we get back to the office in the new year, but I promise to find the truth, dear readers!

VM bonus! The owner of our company in his Rodnac regalia:

Rodnac, with jokes written by me, the guy in the dark suit, and another guy

Martini madness

More pictures from the show. These are from a post-conference reception, which featured an innovative way to make martinis. Since vodka is my kryptonite, and gin doesn’t go well with raspberry or apple, I decided to stick with beer.

rose-colored (and other) glasses

mixmixmix

Voila!

The Sopranos Never Ended

Friday night, I was a man on a mission, and that mission led me into the purple-, blue- and green-tinted world of Clifton, NJ’s Bliss Lounge to meet the world’s most devout atheist.

On April 13, 2007, retired boxer Bobby Czyz was involved in a terrible car wreck, one that left him in a coma for around four weeks. I’d been friends with his brother Vince since 1988, so when I read about Bobby’s injuries in the New York Post a month after the accident, I checked to see if there was anything I could do to help out. Vince, living in Turkey, had some stories about the accident and its aftermath, but I’m not one to gossip about a person who made a living out of beating people into submission.

My boss had known Bobby Czyz a lot longer than I knew Vince; he used to go see the fights at the Ice World in Totowa, NJ (where the Duvas started their Main Events promotion) back in the early 1980’s. I had filled him in on what I knew about Bobby’s injuries, which wasn’t much. Last Thursday, he was reading a local paper’s sports section when he came across an article about Bobby’s travails and the upcoming benefit for his hospital fund. The article has a lot about the accident, injuries and recovery, so you can check that out for the gory details (and some examples of Bobby’s sense of humor).

I considered going to the event, at least so I could report back to Vince about his brother’s general condition. Then I checked out the website for the venue, and developed a new Gil Roth Guideline: If I look at a club’s website for more than 60 seconds and still can’t tell if it’s a stripclub, I shouldn’t go there.

I joked with my boss about this new rule, until he reread the article and said, “Larry Holmes is gonna be there? You have to go! He has the third-biggest head I’ve ever seen in my life! You gotta get a picture of him around a normal-sized person!” I wondered if the other listed guests, Chuck Wepner and “Goumba Johnny” had similar claims to fame.

I checked with my wife; I was hoping she’d offer to come along, even if just to stay in the car with the engine running, in case I needed to make a quick escape. She decided I could fly solo on this mission to the heart of Goumbaville, NJ. So I drove down Rt. 3, paid the $20 cover (all proceeds go to the health fund), took a seat at an oval bar with a shifting-color light above it, and ordered the worst gin they had. I figured this would ensure that I barely drank it, as the last thing I wanted was to get pulled over for a DUI in Clifton, NJ on a Friday night.

The lounge’s site contends that it’s “the Northeast’s sleekest and most futuristic venue.” I’ll leave you to decide how futuristic the place is; here’s a collection of pictures from the venue, including security. If the future is going to look like this, color me retro.

I surveyed the club. At only 8:45, it was pretty laid-back; only two dozen or so people were in the place, a few of whom were checking out the sports memorabilia that would be silent-auctioned off later in the night. I figured it would get busier as the night progressed, but I was only planning on being there for a few minutes, enough time for 20% of a drink and a little conversation with Bobby. I’d have to get back home soon, lest my wife fear that I was getting ready to swap my Honda Element for a Camaro and switch allegiances from Springsteen to Bon Jovi.

But if there’s one defining aspect of NJ Italian “culture” more important than the Camaro and Bon Jovi, it would have to be the Sopranos, and one glance around this club told me that David Chase wasn’t making things up. There were a few skinny, dweebish boxing aficionados in attendance, but there were a bunch of men who seemed ready for a casting call for a Sopranos roadshow revival. They were bulky (but not huge) middle-aged men, balding, talking with their hands, chewing unlit cigars and wearing Cuban or Hawaiian shirts. I sat at the bar, about as out of place as ever, thinking, “Ooh! That guy wants to be Silvio! And there’s Paulie!”

Living in a quieter, more rural section of northern NJ, and never having been a clubgoer, I guess I hadn’t realized how closely reality and art hewed, when it comes to Italian-American stereotypes. A few years ago, Amy & I were wandering through an Italian furniture store up here — “I didn’t know you can actually make an entire piece of furniture out of shellac!” — when a salesman got a call on his cell-phone. The ringtone? The theme to The Godfather.

I was disappointed to find that Larry Holmes wasn’t present. There was only one black guy in attendance, and he was around a foot shorter than Holmes, with a normal-sized head. I figured Larry would arrive later, especially since the benefit was scheduled from 8pm to 2am. Of course, we all know that nothing good happens after midnight (Gil Roth Guideline), so I wasn’t going to stick around for him. Or “Goumba Johnny” and Chuck Wepner.

I headed across the room to introduce myself to Bobby. I have to say, the guy gave no visible indication of having been through the ordeal he went through. He told me that he dropped 35 lbs. in the hospital, and put about 15 or 16 back on since getting out.

Bobby and I had met once before at the publication party for Vince’s collection of short stories, but I wasn’t banking on the memory of a guy who’d been in a 4-week coma a few months earlier. I said, “I’m friends with your brother Vince. Published his book about 10 years ago.” He smiled, shook my hand, and proceeded to tell me how well he’s recovering.

It was a brief conversation, but he was energetic and happy to talk about his family (again, no gossip about people who can beat me to a pulp), Vince’s latest writing, and his experiences in the hospital. He told me that his conversation with God (according to the aforementioned World’s Most Devout Atheist) occurred when he was in a coma, but wouldn’t go into details about that.

The two times he flatlined, on the other hand, were alright. He said, “I found out that it’s okay when you die. Nothing happens, but at least you’re not getting punished or judged.”

We shook hands again, and I took his picture. Then I walked past the enormous bouncers, headed out to a parking lot of sportscars and Escalades, got into my Blue Toaster, and drove home.

Bobby Czyz

Physical Humor

I’m in my mid-30s and have a family history of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, so I figure it’s best that I start getting some expert opinion on my health. I’m not diligent enough to see a doctor regularly, but I did manage to have my nowhere-near-annual physical this morning.

I had to fill out a general medical info form when I got to the office. Near the top of the form was a line for ‘Chief complaint,’ which I responded to with “high taxes.” I know I should’ve gone with “incivility on the internet,” but that’s what you get for writing in ink.

Anyway, the doctor was happy with pretty much everydarnthing. My LDL’s a little high, but it’s down 30 points from my last checkup in September 2005, so no statins for me! Blood pressure, heart-rate and EKG were also just fine. He even praised my moderate drinking, though he admitted that there wasn’t a ton of research on the benefits of gin.

I was actually a little worried about that EKG, given a family member’s recent episode of SVT, but the doctor assuaged my fears on that one. He mentioned that the EKG showed no basic signs of it and, “When you hit 50, we’ll do a stress test and all the other regular exams.”

“When I’m 50,” I said, “we’ll have nanobots to take care of that stuff.”

Then I thought, I’m gonna be 50?

The final frontier

When asked what I drink, I usually respond, “Gin! Gin is my rocket fuel! Vodka, on the other hand, makes me explode on the launch pad.”

In that spirit, I’m pleased that Charles Krauthammer has joined me in celebrating astronauts who tip a few back before liftoff:

Have you ever been to the shuttle launch pad? Have you ever seen that beautiful and preposterous thing the astronauts ride? Imagine it’s you sitting on top of a 12-story winged tube bolted to a gigantic canister filled with 2 million liters of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Then picture your own buddies — the “closeout crew” — who met you at the pad, fastened your emergency chute, strapped you into your launch seat, sealed the hatch and waved smiling to you through the window. Having left you lashed to what is the largest bomb on planet Earth, they then proceed 200 feet down the elevator and drive not one, not two, but three miles away to watch as the button is pressed that lights the candle that ignites the fuel that blows you into space.

Three miles! That’s how far they calculate they must go to be beyond the radius of incineration should anything go awry on the launch pad on which, I remind you, these insanely brave people are sitting. Would you not want to be a bit soused?

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