Sunday, October 25, 2009

Feeling Swine

I'm not sure if you watch the news but there is a small illness going around they are calling the Swine Flu. Apparently this disease is really taking off and it could possibly get serious.

Naturally, I am convinced I am going to get it.

I haven't gotten a flu shot in a very long time. But after battling a rather lengthy germ fest last year, and considering there are 2 different flus to choose from this year, I decided this year I was going to get the shot.

So I signed up for the flu shots they were giving at my job. How easy was that? They come right to the office, I go see them, I roll up my sleeve, and BOOM, inoculated!

But then this "swine flu" really started spooking people and there was a rush and our flu shots were pushed back 2 weeks. And then they were pushed back another month. And I still haven't gotten it yet. By the time I finally do get my flu shot we will probably have moved on to the next great flu like Reptile Flu or Yak Flu.

In an effort to prevent the flu, my office building has installed automatic hand sanitizer dispensers next to the elevators in our lobby. This I think is a noble gesture but one that I believe will ultimately prove useless.

You see, after I get my free sanitizer, I still have to touch an elevator button and 2 different door handles before I am safely within the confines of my completely open half-cubicle. So to avoid touching things I have started getting creative.

Really creative.

Since the flu often gets transferred from hands, I have been careful not to put my hands on my face, and instead will rub my face with the back of my hand or my knuckles. But then I started using my knuckles or my fist to push the elevator button and push down the door handles. So now I am still wiping germs on my face, I am just using a different part of my hand.

So I moved on to using my elbow to push the elevator buttons. This was a good idea considering I can't touch my elbow to my face.

I know, I tried.

It is easy to hit the up button for the elevators the way Fonzie hits a jukebox. There is only one button and it is pretty high on the wall. Hard to screw up.

But once inside the elevator, there are like 20 different buttons. And it is slightly more difficult to bend over to hit the button for my floor with my elbow without also hitting 4 other floors, the door close button, and the fire alarm.

Especially if there are other people in the elevator and I am still trying to make like Fonzie.

It seems being suave and germ free is a tough thing to do.

Then once out of the elevator, I still have to touch door handles to get to my desk. Granted these doors push in but I still have to get that handle down... and I've already disinfected my hands. And god knows what nose picking cretin touched that door handle before me.

So when nobody is looking, I get creative.

Since I am rather tall, and when I am feeling particularly swine paranoid, I have been lifting my knee to waist height to depress the door handle and then shoulder my way into the door. Sometimes my knee slips off the handle, and my face hits the door, which from behind probably looks like I am trying to hump the door.

But even if I make it through that first door, then I have to get through the inner door. Now the inner door has a big window in it which I can see through, but the door is in a tight corner so I can't see people coming, they are just all off a sudden there on the other side.

So if they time it just right, they will probably see eye to eye with me as I thrust my crotch at the window, while trying to get my knee to a height appropriate for pushing down a door handle.

One day someone is going to catch me at just the right time and I am going to end up in a sexual harassment seminar.

But if I do get the swine flu, the train is where it will probably happen. The train is the perfect flu incubator. Plus there are so many cooties to be had.

The other day I saw a baby who was sitting on her mother's lap, put her ENTIRE MOUTH, not just her face mind you, but her whole toothless, gummy, wide mouth around a subway pole.

I almost screamed.

I wanted to say something to the mother as she let this happen, but I'm not sure what the protocol is for recommending to someone that they bleach their baby.

Winter is coming which means that I will soon be wearing gloves. This makes me a lot more comfortable touching the subway poles seeing as I have a boundary.

When I don't have gloves I avoid touching the poles at all costs. In fact, I try to make it the whole ride without my hands touching anything.

Subway surfing is the technical term for this, but with the back and forth, jumpy motion of the subway it looks more like I'm doing the hokey pokey. The only one doing the hokey pokey.

And almost nobody does the hokey pokey on the way to work.

The paranoia for the swine flu is also unbearable. Nowhere more so than in enclosed spaces like the train.

Every time I cough or even clear my throat the other passengers swing their heads toward me and look at me as though I had a bio hazard stamp on my forehead. I kind of don't blame them because I think the same thing when someone near me has a suspicious cough;


But even more than all of that, even with the inoculations, and the Purelifications, and the warning, I am sure someone I know is going to get swine flu. Do you know how I know?

Because people don't wash their hands in the bathroom! And they will be the ones to get it, and spread it.

Damn carrier monkeys.

To Be Continued...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tearful Thank Yous

Accepting a compliment from another human being in person is quite possibly one of the most difficult things to do in this life.

It's not because we don't want compliments. Quite the contrary actually. We really want them.

It seems we spend most of our lives chasing compliments, wanting people to tell us how good we are, how pretty we look, or what a wonderful job we've done. The funny thing is, once we actually do get those compliments, the compliments we've thirsted for like water in the desert, we dismiss them as though they are no big deal.

"Don't be silly" we say, or "It was nothing." We do this because the actual act of receiving an honest compliment is way more difficult than any of us are willing to admit.

I think the hardest part about a compliment is the eye contact. Having to look someone deep in the eye while they express to you how they feel about you and the work that you did without looking away... wow. I mean many of us can't do that with the people closest to us, but even strangers? That can be intense.

It is certainly something most of us are not used to. Nor do we actually know how to react. It is incredibly disconcerting. That connection is strange. But if you can find a way to embrace it, it really is electric. It will make you feel unlike any way you've ever felt before.

Or if you are like me... you will cry.

Not little sissy tears either. Nope. Big, huge, waterworks, man baby tears that don't stop.

The plays I had been working on for the past 3 months finally went up last week. Thursday and Friday night saw the end result of weeks and weeks of intense preparation. Everything that had been an idea, a possibility, or a thought since July became a reality twice over the course of 48 hours.

And shortly thereafter, it was merely a memory.

After the lights went out the first night, I felt kind of strange. The shows has been great and everything had gone off without a hitch. And yet, I did not feel like I expected to feel.

I did feel good about what had just transpired. I felt proud, and slightly accomplished. But I didn't feel an overwhelming rush crash over me like the wave of joy I had hoped for. One moment the shows were about to start, and slowly but surely they slipped away from me, like sand through my fingers.

Friday however, was different. The air in the room even felt different before the shows started. People seemed more excited than they did the night before. There was an energy in the room that added something to the performances that I could not have planned for.

And when the lights went out on the final scene of Friday's show I felt excited, I felt slightly relieved, but I was energized. And I was lucky enough to have many of my friends and loved ones come up to me and congratulate me and say such wonderful things.

I did my best not to dismiss the compliments. I, my cast, and my crew (Andrea) had worked hard for this. And if people had good things to say, I really wanted to appreciate the fruits of our labor. I wanted to take in their compliments, digest them, and squeeze every last drop of goodness from them.

Wishing my actors good luck before they went on I got a little teary, and the same when saying some personal thank yous to my friends after. But I was pretty much able to keep my emotions at bay. The tears sat patiently locked up in their cages behind my eyes.

The after party happened, many hugs occurred, and eventually the night came to a close. I went home and went to sleep.

The next morning when I woke up I was feeling pretty great. Exhausted from everything, and a little surprised that I hadn't had a complete emotional breakdown immediately following the applause.

The catalyst that triggered my breakdown actually would come in the form of a compliment from a person I didn't even know.

You see I had a good friend fly in from California on Friday just to see my shows and hang out in the city for a short weekend. She came with a friend of hers whom I had never met. But I was anticipating liking her since she was flying 3,000 miles to see my $12 dollar show.

We all got together for brunch on Saturday and spent the day having drinks and walking around the neighborhoods. We ended our day with a fabulous dinner at a great restaurant, a lovely place with low lighting and delicious food.

And sometime after dinner, in the middle of a low lit dining room, in the west village in Manhattan this stranger told me what she thought of my plays... and I cried like a little kid lost in the woods.

Not big whaling cries with sobbing and huff huff huffing. No it was just a very wet, can't turn off the faucets kind of cry.

We so often take for granted the support we get from our loved ones. And that is not a good thing, but yet it still happens. Yet there is still something so heavy about the compliments given to you by the people you do not know. You realize they may not be as concerned with protecting and nurturing you, they don't owe you anything, and when they say it, well, you have no choice but to pay attention.

Perhaps there was more involved. Maybe it had something to do with having had a full day to process what had actually occurred the night before. Or maybe it was the 2 bottles of wine we had with dinner. I mean that probably helped.

But who knows if I would have cried like this had this fine human not said what she said to me. Maybe my emotional connection to my work would have faded with each passing day. And maybe I would have found myself bawling in my bed one night as the exhaustion got the better of me.

But I am glad it happened when it did, because it felt right. It put a definitive end on my emotional connection to my work. It signified completion. It put a soggy exclamation point on an incredible mini journey.

And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


My body breaks down once in a while.

Whether because of sickness or otherwise, it almost always coincides with major events in my life. This will be an event that is usually preceded by a long period of anticipation and heightened excitement, followed by a very intense, exciting day or week, which immediately is followed by the complete and total collapse of my body.

Some might call this being stressed out.

I went through a short period in college where I convinced myself that stress didn't exist. I read some magazine article that said stress was only another word for fear. I decided it was the gospel truth. I started proselytizing to anybody who would listen that stress doesn't exist.

Like so many other times in my life, I was wrong.

It was perhaps because the word gets so overused that I tried to limit my reliance on it. Everybody is always stressed. This is stressful, that is stressful. I was so fed up I just didn't want to listen to it anymore. I wanted to prove to people that stress didn't exist. I could prove to them stress doesn't exist.

It did not work. And years later things have changed a lot. In fact, I have been feeling stressed lately. But in all fairness it's actually kind of a good stress.

Kind of.

Through my own personal stroke of brilliance, I made a decision this summer that I had way too much free time and I wanted a project. So, as a direct result of that thought, in exactly 3 days from now, a 2 night run of short plays that I wrote and directed will be performed at a small off, off, off, take a left and keep going, off, Broadway theater in New York City.

The plays, presented in collaboration with my friend Andrea, are pretty much self-everything'd.

And by that I mean we have rented the theater, found the actors, set up the ticketing, arranged the rehearsals etc. I started writing the 2 plays in July. And then there were multiple drafts, and editing, and reworkings and discussions before we picked and booked a theater and a date for the performance to be held, thereby giving using a deadline we could not miss.

A deadline that has been increasing my heart rate the closer it comes.

Since then we have put a tremendous amount of time into getting all the different aspects of the show together that will be necessary to make it a success. And while I feel very much that I am on the eve of the thrill of my life, my body is well aware that the end is near, and is not handling the stress too well.

In fact, a hive or pimple (we are not sure yet) the size of a hobbit house has appeared on the side of my face.

Awesome, I know.

This is not exactly a normal occurrence for me, but I can't say I'm completely surprised either. My body has a history of reacting poorly to stressful times.

When I was in high school I spent 4 days at a convention in Orlando as part of my involvement in a student organization. I was running for the highest elected office in this organization. Every day was an early morning followed by a jam packed schedule and ending with a late night.

It was crazy, it was amazing, and it was exhausting. I was so sleep deprived, and nervous, and excited, and stressed that 2 Armageddon sized zits appeared on my forehead instantaneously.

I mean I went to bed looking like snow white and I woke up looking like, well, a stoplight.

We are talking very obvious red marks. So big that it looked like I was in the sights of a pair of snipers getting ready to shoot me in the forehead.

The following year was my senior year and was capped off by the last convention I would ever attend. Emotions ran high that weekend. It wasn't stressful in the same way it had been the year before, but still there was a familiar feeling there. Again nerves, and sleep deprivation crept up on me.

That last morning I had to give an introduction speech at the closing session for a distinguished guest who had become a good friend of mine. My speech was only 2 minutes, but my body just couldn't hold it together.

My left eye, not both eyes mind you, but my left eye ONLY, decided it needed to blink by itself. Frequently.

So for the next 120 seconds, my left eye closed by itself seemingly every 3 seconds. It looked like I was trying to flirt with every single person in the audience.

Perhaps it wouldn't have been so embarrassing if my introduction wasn't being projected on a 50 foot high screen behind me... in front of an audience of over 2,000 people.

In college stress got the better of me as well. My junior year I was on the homecoming committee and after a week of sleep deprivation and late night events full of intense physical activity requiring mental alertness, my body broke down. And I got shingles.

Yes I know it is an old man disease. That didn't make it any less worse for me.

In fact, I realize that staying up late and not sleeping has caused most of these horrid outbreaks and reactions. In high school and college I was never able to pull an all nighter. My body refused to do so.

I mean I tried. I made valiant efforts to work very late into the 1 am hour, but I would put my head down on my arm for a second and then boom! Next thing I know it was morning and I had a page full of derivatives stuck to my face.

In the recent weeks people keep asking me if I am excited for the plays to get put on. And I am. A little bit. But mainly I'm terrified.

Sure it is an exciting thing, and it will probably be a very unique experience to see the words that I wrote coming out of other people's mouths on a stage in front of of dozens of friends that I had to convince, coerce, and cajole to come to my show.

And I have a feeling the end will justify the means. But I have something else to worry about.


And let me assure you, when I cry it is never a pretty sight.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Bavarian Buff

Like many New Yorkers, I get a fair amount of my random knowledge and news blurbs from small televisions in the elevators in my building. They flash a series of headlines, stock quotes, and other current event updates throughout the day. I am in the elevator about a half dozen times over the course of the day and I will catch 1 or 2 stories each time that I am in there.

While leaving work one day last week I was preoccupied with something but glanced up for a second to catch this headline.

German Nudist Hiking Trail

Whatever I was thinking about before, was quickly forgotten as my mind tried to wrap itself around the ridiculousness of this news story. I did a little more research to find out the details. This is what I found:

Germany is launching a new hiking trail for tourists who like to walk in the nude. The 18km (11-mile) route runs through the Harz mountains in central Germany, between Dankerode and the Wippertalsperre, near Leipzig and is receiving praise for giving nudists an opportunity to express themselves more freely.

Now, I am not a hiker. In fact, I know very little about hiking. But I am of German lineage. And I would now like to take this time to make fun of my people. For the sake of this post, I will be taking the side opposing the German Nudist Hiking Trail.

I will start with the obvious. Hiking usually involves being out in the wilderness with bugs and critters and other things. There are places on your body you should never NEED to put sunscreen, never mind bug spray. These are the parts of my body I do not want to expose to mosquitoes or poison ivy. And ALL of those parts get exposed during nude hiking.

I mean, can you imagine trying to explain that to your dermatologist?

Oh yea, I was hiking in Germany. What's that you say? No, no I was not wearing pants. What? No, no underwear either.

I would also like to point out that from what i do know about hiking, it is not something you should do barefoot. Good socks and hiking boots seem to be necessary equipment. So if you are wearing shoes and sock you are not technically naked. I know I'm splitting hairs here, but I just want to point that out.

Being German I know that when I am outside I should stay as covered up as humanly possible. There are many kinds of sunscreen available but the only kind appropriate for me is SPF Poncho.

Germans take good things to the height of ridiculousness. I mean... just look what they did to dancing.

Some things are good in extremes. Giant beer? Good. Giant bratwurst? Very good. But this latest spin on hiking just doesn't seem to be an improvement at all.

Also shouldn't the possibility of chafing along turn them off the naked hike? And again, does backpack = naked?

I just don't think it's necessary for a nude trail. I mean, even the animals on this trail aren't naked. They at least wear fur!

What also scares me is Germans affinity for travel. in my travels around the world I have noticed they travel more than almost any other country. This naked hiking thing is something that could possibly spread to other trails in other countries!

What if I DO decide to take up hiking? I don't want to have to worry about being accosted by Frau Hatenmypantz. But in fairness to the trail itself, the proper authorities (be they naked or otherwise) have put up a sign warning people that says;

If you don't want to see people with nothing on them, you should refrain from moving on.

But if I saw that sign, I would probably just think it was a joke. I wouldn't honestly believe there was a chance I would see some naked people!

It is also understood that some kinds of naked are hilarious. Like watching somebody streak across a baseball field from hundreds of feet away. That is hilarious.

Watching somebody streak towards you in the middle of the woods? That is terrifying.

As I understand it, undergarments were made to enable us to move quickly with ease, thereby streamlining the transportation of ourselves. So what happens if a bear made his appearance in the woods and you had to run? I can't imagine running naked feels (or looks) good.

Also I am curious as to when it is that these naked hikers remove their clothes. Is it before they even leave the house? Do they gear up that way? or do they arrive at the trail head and somebody just fires a gun and yells STRIP!

Is the park ranger for this particular trail naked? Shouldn't he or she be? Because if they park ranger isn't naked, I can only imagine the kind of perverts you'd get applying for that job.

And also can clothed folks be on the same trail? If you have committed to an 11 mile naked hike you have probably also committed yourself to not taking any sit down breaks. I know I am not crazy about putting my bare butt on public toilet seats, so, putting my bare butt on the world of nature? I mean jeez.

Plus I don't like animals seeing me naked. I think they judge me. A cat saw me naked once and I might be exaggerating here, but I am pretty sure it was judging me. It cocked its head as if to say; "You disgust me pale boy. Cloak yourself."

And then the cat walked into a closet and tried to dig a hole.

My point is this whole naked trail thing can only be a harbinger of bad things to come. I know this might seem like a momentous occasion to some. And there is a probably a swell of enthusiasm for would-be nude hikers around the globe.

So for all you who are exited about what this trail means, and the opportunities it presents, I will say to you what my parents said to me when I got too excited about things as a kid.

Keep your pants on.