Friday, July 08, 2005

"I Know My Clients": My first trip to New York City almost results in my sodomization

As interesting as West Orange was, any suburban town could get a little bit boring. Also making life in the 'burbs a little bit meandering was the looming presence of New York City in our lives. Manhattan, a mere nine miles away, was clear and present from several dozen different locations in town -- especially at the lookout at the Eagle Rock Reservation, three blocks away from my house.

(I would go to the Res on 9/11 and would be joined by a few thousand people there. It was pretty haunting to say the least, to go to a park you've been to a few thousand times in your life to watch lower Manhattan burn. But enough with 9/11 sentimentality.)

Sophomore year, I had lunch with Mike I., who in his Eddie Haskell way, had an idea -- that Saturday, the two of us, along with his buddy Cheeze, would go to Manhattan. I immediately said yes, came up with an excuse why I would be hanging out with friends at 9:30 on a Saturday (it was October -- do early Christmas shopping), and we were on our way.

On the way over to the City, I began wondering what we were going to do in this Promised Land. Thoughts of Greenwich Village beat poets and street philosophizers were running through my uppitty 15-year-old brain. Or a trip to the Empire State Building. Or something like that. But on the way over, I was told by Mike I. of the real reason for our mission -- a quest for porn.

According to the meathead guido scumbags of our school, fake ID's in New York City were as easy to obtain as herpes from their girlfriends. By all accounts, Fake ID's cost $10. Mike I. and Cheese wanted to get two fake ID's and use these ID's to get porn. They forgot to include me in on this venture, and I did not have enough money, and a snoop mom to worry about, to get a Fake ID.

Upon leaving Port Authority, we stepped foot in the world of pre-Guliani Times Square -- which was then the worst, scummiest, filthiest area of the known universe, heavenly to horny teenage boys. We immediately went to one of the lost treasures of the urban 90's, a Starter Jacket/beeper/Fake ID emporium, operated by aggressive sales clerks of undecipherable national origin.

Mike I. and Cheese paid their $10 and had their photos taken. Within seconds, they were handed their ticket to adulthood -- a one-sided, unlaminated New York University ID. They might as well have etched their faces on a piece of plywood with a screwdriver.

But off we went. We went down 42nd street and into one of the many sketchy porn shops in the Times Square area. And once inside, we were met with an explosion of tits. Hundreds of magazines, all of which had girls showing their naked tits. And some also were showing what I think were vaginas. It was more than what my mind could handle, all of those photographed breasts in one spot.

Within seconds of entering the store, the neck-bearded creep behind the counter ordered us to leave. For some reason, Mike I. and Cheese blamed this on my not having a one-sided, non-laminated ID.

We walked six feet to the next porn/pawn shop. Mike I. and Cheese were going to go in, purchase some j/o magazines, and leave while I waited outside. As soon as they stepped foot in the store, I was surrounded by a gang of street urchins, yelling a variety of obscenities and offers at me. One man, this rather large black homeless dude reeking of gin, grabbed me by my arm and said he could "show me something" in the back alley. Luckily, before my rectum was probed by a scabby penis, Mike I. and Cheese came out and saved my anal virginity.

We decided to walk around Midtown for a little bit. On the way back to Port Authority, we ended up going back down 42nd Street. When walking, out of nowhere I felt like I needed a shower. I then caught out of the corner of my eye another shady street dude approaching us. I walked away from him, telling Mike I. and Cheese to hurry up. This man parted between them and put his arms around them.

"How you fellows doin' today? Ya'll lookin' for a little business?" They both eagerly said they were. He smiled.

"Well... I know my clients." We stopped. "What you fellows lookin' for today? A little bit of beer? Some weed? Maybe some co-cayne? Oh wait, I know what ya'll want... ya'll want some pussy! Ya'll want to get yo dicks sucked! Just follow me, I can get ya'lls dicks sucked nooooooo problem."

He turned, trying to lure us to god knows where. We started to flee in the other direction. And this guy started chasing us.

"Oh, lookit the faggots running back to Jersey! Lookit the faggots afraid to get their dicks sucked! Faggots afraid of a dick sucking!"

We then got on our bus and went back to West Orange, home of the best view of the New York City skyline.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Action Park: World's Most Threatening Waterslide Park

If all goes well, above you will see first-hand one of the greatest myths of a North Jersey childhood: the infamous and legendary loop-de-loop waterslide of Action Park.

Action Park was located in Vernon, NJ -- considered "the mountains" by us kids from the more urbanized area outside Newark.

I have gone to Action Park twice, escaping injury both times, considered by most to be a miracle. (The second time was for one of the first Warped Tour concerts. Ick.) It was sued countless times for the dazzling amount of bloodshed and carnage it caused (which can be verified at this webpage detailing a list of deaths at amusement parks Deaths At Action Park and, unfortunately, went under and later was re-opened as Mountain Creek.

For a brief period in my childhood, I was an altar boy. (I left this un-molested.) The annual Our Lady of Lourdes Altar Boy was to Action Park, annually I would ask my mom to go, annually she would resoundingly say no, having heard of the legendary rumors of the perhaps dozens killed.

The upside-down waterslide posted above is a shrine to a North Jersey childhood -- it's a totem pole of sorts. Anyone who truly knew what it was like to be ALIVE knew of its existence. No one has actually ever gone down that thing, as it was never open. The two popular myths surrounding it a) the first person who came down the waterslide drowned when he was stuck at the bottom and b) an alleged "test dummy" was sent down and came out decapitated. No matter -- it is just a true testament to the human spirit of what man is capable of doing. The people at Action Park actually believed -- to the point where they spent thousands of dollars in fiberglass costs -- they could defy every known rule of gravity and physics.

Other great Action Park memories:

1) State Road 94 ran through the middle of the park. Meaning there were only two ways to get to either side of Action Park -- either by running across a major state highway or by taking a train over a bridge to get to the other side. On an altar boy trip I wasn't allowed to go on, childhood friends Kevin Gallagher and Dave Kearns were riding the train on the bridge when it suddenly burst into flames. Dave escaped unharmed, Kevin was caught on the bridge, suffered a 1st degree burn and then fractured an ankle leaping off the bridge to safety.

2) The Alpine Slides. The alpine slides are essentially go-karts that go down the side of a mountain. To get to the top of the mountain, you have to take a ski-lift. Once at the top of the lift, the pothead teenagers working at Action Park would show you graphic pictures of Alpine Slide victims missing entire sections of their stomachs. However, there was no way down the mountain once off the ski-lift -- you HAD to go down the Alpine Slides. Many were injured on these rickety vehicles equipped with rusty braking systems.

3)The park was laid out on a mountain, meaning that no matter what direction you went, you had to walk up a hill at 70 degree angles.

4) Being a waterpark, many go shoeless at Action Park. However, the walking grounds at Action Park were laid out with black, rocky asphalt -- in summer months, the heat would blister your feet if you stood flat-foot more than 3 seconds.

5) The ride where nine people ride in a single tube had tree branches and sharp ledges throughout it, causing many bloody noses and concussions along the way.

6) The undertow of the wave pool was so fierce, it was like a scene out of Indiana Jones.

7) French-Canadian men in speedos.

God, I miss that place.

Friday, July 01, 2005

My interview with Gallagher

EDIT: I wrote this for a newspaper in Plymouth, Mass. They fired me on my next-to-last day so I think I can re-publish the article without asking for permission.

A man, a mission, a mellon
Political prop comic comes to Plymouth.

PLYMOUTH-- “I think we’re all pawns in a great, big game,” Gallagher, a little-known presidential candidate and very famous stand-up comic, said.

Best known for using the “Sledge-O-Matic” to pepper tarp-wearing audiences with watermelons and other assorted food items he smashes at the end of his shows, Gallagher will perform Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.And he’s dead serious about running for president. His biggest gripe is with NAFTA, which he blames for job losses throughout the country.

“I said this in one of my videotapes. Never Allow Foreigners To Achieve. That’s what NAFTA really stands for,” Gallagher said. “It’s treason to export jobs out of the country because we’re a team. America is a team. If your neighbor loses his job, you’re not unaffected. It can cause a lack of taxes, a lack of services, crime.”
Gallagher has other views outside the mainstream of American politics.

On the war on terror: “I think the war on terror is about insurance. Insurance companies didn’t know how much to charge for a building that might be blown up. They told the president’s father to say something to his son and get him to do something.”

On American foreign policy: “They want a tighter involvement with India, China and Malaysia. They’re allowing companies to hire them so they get involved and tied in with us. They’re using the economy for foreign policy. I think that’s what’s going on.”

On American morality: “We’re losing our definition of morality. Why be upset about Janet Jackson when most girls walk around without a bra on anyway? Why be upset with Kobe Bryant when the president has sex with an intern? You can’t figure America out. That’s why Arabs attacked the World Trade Center. No one seemed upset that our embassies got bombed in Africa or they attacked a ship tied up in Yemen. We give out mixed signals or no signals at all.”

On parents: “It all goes back to parents being afraid to say anything. Kids today have tattoos or purple hair or holes in their body. The things kids do, if their parents did it ten years ago, they would have lost custody of the kid. Or it would be done to get prisoners of war to talk. Of course, piercing someone’s tongue to get them to talk doesn’t make much sense.”

Gallagher started in politics last year when he ran for governor of California.During his gubenatorial campaign, Gallagher ended up in Iowa and Illinois where he discovered a Maytag factory closing in the small town of Galesburg, Ill. The factory jobs moved elsewhere.

Gallagher says he attempted to drum up interest about the factory in the local media, then inundated with Iowa primary news. Desperate to get someone to notice the plight of a small, middle-American town, Gallagher thought up a stunt for attention.

“I couldn’t get anyone’s attention,” Gallagher said. “The media wants a story that is happening quick that has a pitch to it. I said to the guys at a labor union, ‘let’s blow up a bomb in the town square for Labor Day.’ They’ll come cover it, and we’ll tell the story of what Maytag is doing. But the fire marshal hated it, the police hated the idea and finally, I said, ‘what am I doing here?’ I can’t get the media interested in this story. The local authorities don’t want me to help the people here. Instead, they had a Labor Day parade, kind of celebrating the fact that they do not have any more labor in town. It was almost like a comedy routine, some sort of ironic stupid story that doesn’t make sense.”

Gallagher returned to California, surrounded by the wealthy and the fabulous.“No one seems to care,” he said. “I can’t continue to believe the world is so stupid.”

He also realizes the struggling economy affects his business.
“The reason you’re talking to me is that I am not selling that many tickets in Plymouth,” Gallagher said. “It all gets down to economics. I rent the theater. I buy the ads. I pick the ticket price but people who do not have jobs can’t come to a comedy show. I can’t really stand by and watch America be mismanaged and misled. But I don’t know what to do about it. I put my ideas on the Internet. I've mentioned them in interviews but people don’t jump on them. People don’t talk them up and change things.”

And without change, Gallagher thinks his career could come to an end.

“I’m in a desperate battle to save my way of life as a touring comedian,” Gallagher said. “I’m being threatened. As my market is losing its money, we’re losing facilities and the audience is taking over my job of being outrageous. Everything is wrong with my business.”

Gallagher said he continues to fight on, slightly edgier than before. He said he does his own promotion and has no interest in land a role on a sit-com or working as a talk show host.

“I’m just like Lenny Bruce,” Gallagher said. “I’m saying and doing things nobody else is. I don’t have a network. I don’t have a national sponsor. I’m what people are fighting for, the freedom of speech. Everybody else is compromised and not going to speak freely.”

Gallagher said he’s changed the way he performs over the years. Instead of merely just telling jokes and smashing watermelons, Gallagher now brings people up on stage with him and incorporates the audience into his bits.

“You have to stay ahead of the audience,” he said. “I still am giving them more than they thought and they’re having more fun then they thought.”

Gallagher also took credit for interactivity between performers and an audience.

“I was talking to my friend about Universal (amusement park),” he said. “They have so many things that splash you. They owe that to me. They would be too chicken to splash people on their own if I didn’t show them the way. The Blue Man Group. The Insane Clown Posse. There are now innumerable acts that are coming off of the stage and involving the audience.”

“I think the mosh pit is due to me,” he added. “What I’m showing people is that the audience wanted to do more than just sit in their chair.”

However, while Gallagher takes credit for that kind of interaction, he freely admits that his popularity has waned from his peak period.

He is, perhaps, a pawn in a great, big game that no longer sees him in control.

“People say to me, I’ve watched you my whole life,” Gallagher. “I started cable. Cable was the only place a person could speak freely in America. I started Showtime. Showtime should be there for me now. They should be offering me new specials and my own talk show instead of sticking all the old shows on Comedy Central and having no interest in me. You just get thrown away in America for what’s the next, new thing.”
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