Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Bathroom Attendant At Chickie And Pete's

My mother-in-law stayed with us for a few days this week. She had never been to Philly before, so we took her to as many unique Philly attractions as possible. Last night, our dinner took us to Chickie and Pete's. (The one in South Philly, not either of their two NE Philly locations.)

Chickie and Pete's is a divey sports bar/restaurant focusing on crab fries, crabs and mussels. It's the type of place where they give you water in a plastic cup and you have to ask your server for utensils which are, naturally, plastic. I thoroughly enjoy the Chickie and Pete's experience -- any restaurant that sells a T-Shirt that reads "Got Crabs?" or sells giant 6-foot towers of domestic beer is fine by me.

Before we left, I had to go to the bathroom. I walked into the bathroom and a man in the Chickie and Pete's "Got Crabs" T-Shirt was resting against the sink. We made eye contact and he gave me a head nod. This was awful enough when I looked around the bathroom and saw near the sink bottles of Listerine, breath mints, and other acoutrements.

This is when it hit me.

He is a bathroom attendant.

At Chickie and Pete's.

I was thinking about this man's job as I started to urinate. How many times in a given evening does he hear the urine stream of a stranger? What are his mornings like? How does he answer the question "What do you do for a living?" He probably answers "I work at Chickie and Pete's." But then how does he respond to "Oh, are you a waiter?" Does he then clarify that he hangs out in the bathroom all night?

I was done urinating and I washed my hands. (Something that is required when a man is staring at you.)

"Hey man, what does Shalo mean? On your shirt?"

I was wearing a goofy T-Shirt I bought at a comic book convention a few years ago featuring the image of "Shalomman," an Israeli anti-Palestinian superhero.

"Oh, it's Shalom. It's Hebrew."

"Oh, aight. I feel you."

He then handed me a paper towel.

I only had a $10 bill. It didn't look like he had any change, so I didn't tip him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit wasn't my favorite professional wrestler, but anyone who knew anything about the sport knew he was absolutely awesome. Most hardcore wrestling dorks consider him to have been the best wrestler in the world, some would even say of all time. Plus, in every interview ever done by him "out-of-character," he seemed like a good guy.

There is absolutely nothing anymore that can shock me with professional wrestling. The Benoit murders didn't faze me in the least. The "wrestlers who die young" list is so fucking insane, and the amount of wrestlers whom appear outright insane is nearly as long. If I were to see a headline tomorrow that read "Hulk Hogan Joins Al-Qaeda," I would not even bat an eye.

The only industry more fucked up than professional wrestling is West African diamond milling. Anyone who watches pro wrestling on television can tell how brutal and demeaning it can be. But away from the cameras, there are hundreds of non-televised matches. The wrestlers are on the road constantly, getting beat up. There's only a handful of guys at any time who aren't completely replaceable with one of the thousands of indy wrestlers out there, so the only way to keep the income flowing is by constantly performing, the only way to constantly perform is to pop dozens of Vicadin or other painkillers at a time, and the only way to get the chance to perform is to look like a superhuman freak from years of steroid abuse.

This is all disgusting enough, but making it all revolting is the WWE's business structure. They're considered as independent contractors. The WWE doesn't give them health insurance. (But office workers in the company do.) Even though they have to travel all over the world for their job, they have to pay the travel costs out of their own pockets. There's no vacation time.

Even sadder, not too many of them have the strength to step away from the "fame" of being a pro wrestler. It's completely delusional -- they aren't actually famous, but to a few nerds (such as myself) and a bunch of socially retarded people, they're next to gods. These guys are broken down wrecks physically and emotionally.

It all makes me feel like I probably won't watch wrestling for a really long time, probably ever again.

Monday, June 25, 2007

610 WIP: America's Most Introspective Sports Radio Station

I have been addicted to sports radio ever since I have been a pre-teen. I wish I knew why this was, since sports radio is arguably the lowest form of human communication. I've spent hours driving in my car listen to an overweight failed sportswriter get into arguments with stimulant-addicted unemployables about Peyton Manning's legacy.

I guess I do this for the sublime moments in sports radio, such as when a caller opined on the Kobe Bryant rape allegation: "You know, sometimes when you're with a girl you just can't say no anymore, like you're past the point of no return and she wants you to stop but you just can't" only to have the host agree with his statement until after a commercial break when he came back and "clarified" his remarks. Or who in the WFAN radio market does not enjoy it when Jerone from Manhattan calls up and talks about his mother's dialysis treatments?

But this weekend, I heard the greatest conversation in sports radio history.

The WIP 610 weekend overnight show hosted by Paul "Jolly" Jolowitz is usually a night of drunks and scoial reprobates calling to yell about Phillies manager Charlie Manuel while host Paul Jolowitz argues with them with the skill of the "alternate" of a failing public high school's debate team. It's a lot like an episode of the Real World -- it's amsuing for a few minutes, then it gets depressing, and then you have to stop caring before you think about investing in a cyanide pill.

In his pre-amble on Saturday night, Jolly told the audience that he did not want to discuss sports this night. Instead, he asked his audience to answer the question "Who fascinates you the most in this world?" Jolly said the audience could also guess who HIS was, since it was someone they probably would not expect.

The first caller calls up and is asked to guess Jolly's most fascinating person. He asks for a hint. Jolly tells him he is successful in all walks of life, but most notably business. The caller immediately answers "Warren Buffett." Jolly pauses. "The first caller got it right. That NEVER happens. But isn't Warren Buffett fascinating? He's the second richest man in the country!"

Another caller said that he thought that Bono was the most fascinating person in the world, because he'll have a concert and u2 will be done playing a song and then he'll stop to talk to the audience about African debt relief. They chatted about that for a while and then Jolly asked the caller how fascinating he thought Warren Buffett was. The caller didn't know who he was.

There was a huge break between callers. Jolly said he guessed it was because his audience felt challenged, but in this day of technology -- what, with the iPod's and the Internet and everything -- people no longer thought about people. It was very introspective.

Another caller said he thought John McCain was the most fascinating person in the world. Then Jolly asked him who he thought was the second most fascinating.

"I... you know, this isn't a question you ponder all the time."

"How about Warren Buffett? How fascinating do you find him?"

The next night, Jolly returned to talking about sports. His subject was the upcoming NBA Draft. I decided to chime in.

"I think the Sixers are in a good position, Jolly, with all their draft picks. But they have to be careful with them. Let me use a metaphor. In 1978, my father purchased a rare, jewel-encrusted Faberge egg for $2,000. Today, that same Faberge egg costs $48,000."

"What are you talking about?"

"You have to look at the draft like a growth stock. I think the Sixers should go after Jared Jordan from Marist."

Jolly then hung up on me and called me a moron.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Economics, Zimbabwe and Me

I know my blog is usually just very goofy, but the very first efforts I undertook in this project were actually economics and international relations based. For those who don't know, I have a MA in European Studies where I largely focused on studying economics, poli sci and the international relations. My thesis was on Russia using Gazprom and its natural resources as a foreign policy tool and how it affected the emerging new EU states of Eastern Europe.

I kind of shut my brain down from studying those issues the past year. I wanted to shift away after I finished my thesis, I had some distance from my past life as a journalist, I started a new academic program in fraud investigation and forensic accounting, and I started to devote a lot of my spare time to my comedy projects.

But the past few weeks, I've once again reclaimed an interest in the world of macroeconomics and politics. The main reason is because I had nothing to read at lunch and the campus bookstore actually sold The Economist that week.

This blog was a great tool for when I was in school because it was a release from the seriousness of my schoolwork. Not that I was in this demanding, rigorous program or anything like that. But I did work hard and I spent a lot of time writing and researching. Getting away from that to write about poop, getting farted on, relationships gone awry and the usual chaos of my social life was a great escape. But now that I spend a lot of time seriously thinking about writing comedy, I'm going to shift in a new direction. I love the people I perform with to death -- they've seriously been, aside from my wife and brother, the best friends I've had this year. But it is a group dynamic and there are stressful situations which emerge. I think I need a diversion from my hobby, so maybe my blog is going to enter a new phase where I'll talk about "serious" issues which I haven't talked or written about in a long time. I'll try not to be boring about it and who knows, maybe I can actually somehow put something together like P.J. O'Rourke, who is a master at taking serious (and boring) topics and somehow mining them for comedy gold.

Now that's out of the way, I want to link to a story I'm absolutely obsessed with the past two days. GUARDIAN This is The Guardian. I'm more center-right/libertarian so The Guardian isn't usually my cup of tea, but they still have great international coverage. Yesterday, their main story was on a prediction made by the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, who said that he estimates, conservatively, that the inflation rate in Zimbabwe will approach 1,000,000% this coming year.

This number is fucking incredible to think about. Prices across the whole consumer index in Zimbabwe will rise by 1,000,000% in one year. To put that in perspective, imagine if the American inflation measures were 100% in one year and doubled, how much of a fucking burden that would be on everything in your life. Gas would be $6 a gallon. A new car would be out of question. Orange Juice would be about $8 a carton.
The American Fed freaks out if our inflation measures go over 3% for a year and fiddles with the interest rate constantly to prevent that from happening.

The article gives all of this great information about how this affects life in Zimbabwe. The currency is worthless and the Mugabe government is doing its best to keep foreign currency from entering the nation. As a result, the economy is essentially now a barter economy.

My favorite passage: "Hyperinflation is spreading poverty, as even basic goods become unaffordable. Supermarket trollies lie idle as few can afford to buy more than a handful of goods. Government regulations only permit the withdrawals from banks of Z$1.5m a day, which is not enough to buy a week's worth of groceries. Golfers pay for drinks before they set off on their round, because the price will have gone up by the time they have finished the 18th hole. One Zimbabwean was recently told by a pension company that it would no longer send him statements as his fund was worth less than the price of a stamp."

As fascinating as this is to watch, this is just absolutely brutal for the Zimbabwe nation, which already have had to endure an insane amount of hardships directly related to government misrule. The one positive from this is that no government has ever been able to withstand this kind of hyperinflation, it's probably only a matter of weeks before the Mugabe regime crumbles and hopefully, the UN or the US/UK get involved quickly to prevent the country from spiraling into a civil war in the inevitable power vaccum.


Hey everyone. Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I wish there was a reason for this but there really isn't any. I usually write on here while I'm at work. I'm a little busier at work but not much so.

When I first started this little experiment, I tried to come up with a story a day to write for the hell of it. This blog really took my life in an interesting new direction. If I didn't start to write these silly things down (or without my brother), I wouldn't be able to read and perform a story at the UCB Theater in New York, which got the ball rolling for me down here. One year ago, I never would have guessed that I would be a writer and an actor in a sketch comedy group, or that I'd have hosted my own comedy nights, or that I'd have done any of this stuff.

Most of my creative energies are focused towards The Sixth Borough and other related gigs. But I've put this down as a result, and that's not something that I want to do, either. Luckily, we're moving quickly towards our second show. There isn't too much writing to do for it, just a lot of rehearsing and fine tuning.

So it's time to start re-focusing on this. This, afterall, is what got the ball rolling for me. In otherwords...

I'm back, baby.
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