“New York Experience Required”

Over the span of this decade-long project, I’ve held 15 different jobs, not counting the odd jobs/side projects I’ve taken on to make a little extra money in lean times. Of those 15 jobs, more than half of them were found using the most infamous of search engines, Craigslist.

There is a lot to be wary of when using CL for goods and/or services. When looking for places to live, you may discover that the pictures in the ad do not match the actual apartment. That “Used but like new” furniture may include an extra helping of bedbugs. Or the limo service you looked into but never signed a contract with might still arrive on your wedding night in a duct-taped POS and expect you to do business with them. Anything can happen.

So, why, you might ask, would a person still do any business on Craigslist if there are so many scam artists, shysters and loons on the site?

The simple reason is that, despite all the noise, if you know how to look, you can still find better deals and job opportunities on CL then on any other site, all without signing up for extra services or junk email. There might be better sites for 1 or 2 specific things, but there is no better place for doing everything.

Now: I’m looking for work again. I’ve had a job for about a month and a half and I very much enjoy it. But I’m not getting enough hours, and New York City is way too expensive to try to get by on $300 a week. If I was still in New Orleans, I’d be set, but Brooklyn is decidedly not the Big Easy (though they share some of the same grooming habits).

With as much restaurant experience as I have, I should be able to find work easily. I received job offers from both of the first 2 restaurants I interviewed at in Boston. I had a job in a week. It was actually kind of disappointing because I generally enjoy luxuriating in the unoccupied time off for a few weeks while I explore my new city.

Alas, New York is a bit harder. Obviously.

Most of the ads for restaurants in both Manhattan and Brooklyn include this caveat: “New York experience required.”

Why, you might ask? I can’t really say for sure. I’ve been into numerous bars and restaurants throughout the city, and none of them strike me as any busier, any wilder, any more Herculean places to work than those I’ve worked in the other major cities. I suppose it might be a way to keep out the country bumpkins who served 6 years in their papa’s Iowa truck stop diner. I’ve never even lived in Iowa. Put me in, coach!

But I guess it really isn’t that bad. I do have restaurant experience and I’m getting called in for interviews (I have 1 today). It could be worse.

I mean, look what this person is looking for:

Cock With Experience

I know everyone wants a hard worker, but that’s ridiculous. Also, I don’t think it’s acceptable to call a woman a “dish” anymore. Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but there are better places to post this kind of filth. Like Tinder.

I still applied, though. I mean, I need a job dammit!

Wish me luck.

~L

 

 

We’ve Been Having A Mouse Problem

I am a month away from my final move and still looking to lock down an apartment somewhere in Brooklyn, but until then I remain here in student-invested housing in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. As with most areas heavily populated by people of the college persuasion, this neighborhood sacrifices cleanliness and basic adult courtesy for late-night pizza and a plethora of bars. Pros and cons.

Because of the slovenly living habits of the post-adolescent/pre-adulthood human, the nooks and crannies tend to become inhabited by unwanted creatures, and I’m not just talking about ex-girlfriends. We’ve had mice. Lots of them.

From pretty much our arrival here in Allston, my three roommates and I have had to deal with an invasion of rodents. Initially, we were alerted to their presence because of the holes in our food. We put our edibles on higher shelves, they still came. Then, we started to see them. We’d be sitting in the kitchen and one of us would catch a glimpse of a little fur ball flashing by underneath a counter or behind the stove. Sometimes we’d search and no trace could be found, but still the original eyewitness swore they had seen Mickey scurrying across the floor, sometimes disappearing into a hole behind the dishwasher, or into a corner, and even into a burner on our stove. Eventually, all four of us had at least one sighting.

We took action.

Mouse-proofing your apartment requires many steps, the first obviously being traps. Though the mental image of a wooden slab with a spring-loaded metal bar is what comes to mind when one thinks ‘mousetrap,’ the variations on a theme are numerous. We’ve put down sticky pads for non-lethal capture, and black boxes holding bricks of green poison for decidedly non-non-lethal capture. Then there’s the white, semi-circular contraptions that work like your traditional mousetraps but with a concealed container so you don’t have to see the dead mouse. All the rage with the ladies.

Of course, we’ve got traditional mousetraps, too. After everything, they’re the only ones that had any success.

Our mouse infestation began in the fall when the proliferation of new students and their resulting trash heaps made Allston the Times Square of Rodent City. It was not unusual to step over a flattened rat in the streets or to see them racing under cars as you walked back to your apartment in the evening. Luckily, those nasty bastards stayed outside, but that only meant that their smaller, twitchier cousins stayed inside with us.

When we alerted our landlord of the problem, we received a nicely worded reminder that ‘this is the city, so deal with it.’ So we did. We bought traps and spray foam and steel-wool to fill in the many, many (many) holes in the walls. We also bought electronic mice repellents that emit a high-pitched noise to deter rodents. For a few weeks, we even seriously discussed getting a cat for the apartment. In other words, we weren’t kidding around.

(At some point, someone must have reminded our landlord that Boston law requires them to provide a rodent-free living environment, because they sent someone to fill holes and leave behind even more traps, months after we had already done it.)

By winter time, our mice infestation seemed to be under control. We didn’t know if this was due to our vigilant mouse-proofing or because mother nature is just fickle like that. Either way, our mouse problem seemed to be solved. Until…

FADE IN

INT. APARTMENT – LATE NIGHT

On a warm spring night, a tall WOMAN cleans in the kitchen, all alone. She washes her dishes, then wipes the counter. Opening the cabinet under the sink, she pulls out the trash can.

CLOSE ON a small mouse walking along the edge of the can. Startled, it scuttles up the WOMAN’s arm.

WIDE-SHOT: WOMAN screams. The trash can falls, scattering its content across the floor. The mouse escapes beneath the stove.

CUT TO:

INT. APARTMENT HALLWAY – CLOSED DOOR

WOMAN knocks on the door. A few seconds pass, then it opens, revealing a tired-looking LYTTLETON.

LYTTLETON
What’s up?

WOMAN
They’re back.

LYTTLETON’s eyes narrow. An ominous song plays.

CUE TITLE CARD

Thus began the ‘2nd Great Mouse Hunt.’

We’ve doubled down on our efforts to capture or expel the sunovabitch, but despite a tireless effort and a thorough cleaning of the entire apartment, the mouse keeps popping in to say ‘Hi’. Mostly from the trash. And usually when my roommate is in the kitchen by herself. Apparently he’s fond of her.

This past Monday night, though, I had the good fortune of getting a trash can visit of my very own. It was like spotting a celebrity in a nightclub, except, not like that at all.

More traps have been set. Our determination to get this guy (or girl; don’t want to be rodent-sexist) is unwavering. In fact, around two in the morning, hours after having seen the creature for myself, my curiosity got the better of me and I checked under the sink. And, lo, what did mine eyes behold: a four-legged garbage disposal, its hind leg stuck under the metal arm of our trap.

This clever girl had managed to eat the cheese off of two traps without setting them off, and it would have gotten away with it, too, if I hadn’t scared its furry little ass when I opened the door. I heard the trap snap. Jerry was lodged behind a copper pipe in the back of the cabinet, too awkwardly situated for me to reach with my hands. Should I leave him there to undoubtedly cry in abject terror all night, or should I attempt to pull it out and toss him into the street like DJ Jazzy Jeff?

The thought of the Tell-Tale Squeak echoing through the apartment all night felt a little creepy, so I opted for the latter. My efforts to pull the trap towards me, however, only loosened the mouse, and as swiftly as he had been caught, Speedy Gonzalez was up the wall and in a crevice that up until that moment I didn’t even realize existed.

The animal’s leg is probably broken and its access route to our trash has been blocked with steel-wool, so with any luck, our persistent invader will find some other apartment to squat in. That is, if a larger predator doesn’t pick it off first. I realize even typing that sentence will mean I’ll likely never receive another Christmas card from Morrissey, but I can live with that.

It’s been over 24-hours since the last mouse sighting, so perhaps we have finally won. I will admit, though, I have to feel some admiration for the little beast. It’s avoided traps, chewed through pounds of foam, and lived off the most miniscule of kitchen scraps, all so it can repeatedly scare the holy living crap out of my roommate. That’s some dedication.

I hope that nod of respect fills his tiny heart with pride when he’s burning in mouse hell.

A Better Mousetrap

 

 

 

"There is no humor in heaven" tattoo in black ink

There Is No Humor In Heaven

“Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.”
~ Mark Twain, Following The Equator
THERE IS NO HUMOR IN HEAVEN

Starting in college, I began getting tattoos that represented various facets of my personal philosophy. Considering the direction of my life, it seems rather prescient that my first tat was “the Road is Life” from Kerouac’s On The Road.

Now, 15 tattoos into my inkification, I have added one more literary icon to my chest plate: Mark Twain. I have always been a fan of the great American satirist, even taking a course in college devoted entirely to him (taught by the incomparable Susan K. Harris), but this was the first quote of his that struck me not as more than just a pithy insight, but also a universal truism.

In fact, I didn’t come across this quote through reading Twain. Instead, this phrase was brought to my attention while reading Touched With Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison, a masterful investigation of the link between bipolar disorder (or manic depression) and the artistic genius. I cannot recommend highly enough this scholarly exploration of mental illness and creation. So rarely does a book tickle both the right and left hemispheres of the brain like this work does.

So why did this quote stick out so much that it would earn valuable (and ever dwindling) skin on my chest?

Over the years of this blog, I have written about both my personal struggle with mental illness as well as my adoration for the art of stand-up comedy. If you have any familiarity with comedy, you’ll immediately know why those two are linked. Stand-up comedians are generally known as miserable people in real life, the type who will turn their personal misery into comedy gold for an audience. With the uptick of popularity for the form in the last couple decades, that is by no means a rule anymore, but the great comedians from George Carlin to Louis CK, from Don Rickles to Maria Bamford have always pulled their best material from personal darkness.

Humor doesn’t come from the perfect peace of heaven, it is formed in the stark despair of hell.

Twain’s quote could be limited to the art of humor and it would still be profound (especially considering that he remains the greatest American humorist of all time), but I believe that he meant to convey even more in those simple words. It’s not just humor that is forged out of hurt. The basic creative spark is birthed there, too. Are there musicians and writers who have created great works without suffering from mental illness or facing horrific life events? I’m sure. But they’re the minority.

Any study of artistic achievement and mental illness will reveal that the two are intrinsically linked.* A creative mind will create regardless of circumstances, but creativity spurred on by the dark nights of the soul will almost always produce works of grander, more universal elegance. As technology advances and our ability to predict the genetically preordained occurrence of depression grows stronger, our society will face the challenge of whether we should pre-select for healthier, non-inflicted offspring.

If I were to be a potential parent, I could understand the instinct to protect my child from the pain of mental illness, especially that of depression and its many variants. As someone wholly devoted to the creative longevity of the species, though, I find the idea that we could selectively eliminate mental illness quite terrifying. What great works of art would be lost if such possibilities had been available to us centuries ago? (A fair rebuttal to that concern is to ask, “What great works of art would we have had if the mentally ill had not succumbed to their disease before their time?”)

There is no simple answer.

The question of whether or not mental illness in general (and depression, specifically) has its benefits in human society and art is one that we will likely never satisfactorily resolve. But, as long as such ailments still exist, we can take solace from the truth that the erstwhile Samuel Clemens articulated so many years ago: There is no humor in heaven.

THERE IS NO HUMOR IN HEAVEN Context
*This is also likely true of important scientists, but I haven’t studied that enough to make a definitive statement.

An Alternate Query Letter For My Novel (Should All The Others Get Rejected)

Dear Mr. or Ms. Editor,

Sorry. I know it’s bad form to start out with an apology, but I must admit some mistakes I made in the process of writing my novel.

My novel does not have any zombies in it. This was my first mistake, I realized months too late. The living dead are metaphors for many things, and my novel is sadly lacking in this regard. There are no vampires, either, for the record, which is another mistake, but a much less egregious one. Vampires are really only a metaphor for one thing: sex.

There is sex in my novel, but mostly it’s just for the purpose of procreation. That was my third mistake, if you are keeping track. There should be much more sex. All kinds of sex. Somebody should have woken up some morning next to a stranger and stumbled through this unknown apartment, being reminded of the previous night’s activities by items strewn about. “Oh God, the stuffed penguin! I’ll never think of Teddy Roosevelt in the same way.”

That has potential. Alas.

There is a death in my novel. I do not consider this a mistake. Just a choice. We should not be judged so harshly for every little choice we make. This is life and we’re all just making it up as we go. We all have regrets. You do. Lord knows I have mine. There was this girl, once… but she has very little to do with my novel.

The characters in my novel are writers and atheists, which is probably another mistake, because people want to read about characters like themselves, and there aren’t that many atheists in the world. Or maybe there are more than we think. Maybe the atheists are just afraid to speak up. Maybe the president is secretly an atheist, but he knows this country would never vote for a nonbeliever. Who does an atheist talk to in his dark night of the soul? The country wants to know that in moments of doubt, the president does the same thing we all do: Guess.

I bet the president has regrets, too.

My novel also involves a very dysfunctional family. I’m supposed to talk about my credentials and why I’m the only person who could have written this novel. Well, we all have dysfunctional families. Yours was dysfunctional too, even if you don’t know it. (I hope I’m not being too presumptuous.) My family was dysfunctional. Boy howdy, were we dysfunctional. I don’t want to go into all that here because it’s kind of personal, but trust me. Life is my credentials.

I also have a degree in Creative Writing, but don’t hold that against me. Sorry, bad joke.

I hope you will look past all my mistakes and request to read my novel. It’s 75,000 words and explores a lot of big questions. The Big Questions. But there are no zombies. Again, sorry.

Sincerely,

Lyttleton

“So You’re Offended, So Fucking What?”

~ Stephen Fry

Let’s skip the foreplay: Once again, a comedian has gotten themselves into trouble for a bit he did in his stand-up. This pretty much happens every other week. Offense was taken, the internet has thoughts. Here are mine.

Daniel Tosh (of Tosh.0 fame, though he was doing far better stuff before that) was making some rape jokes at a show, a woman got offended and interrupted his set, and then Tosh started aiming the jokes at her. You can read her account (or really, a friend’s transcript of her account) here.

This woman’s personal experience is her own, and I have no ill will towards her. I just don’t happen to agree with her assertion that, “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!”  Because, actually, sometimes they are. I mean, I laugh at rape jokes. Not every one. A rape joke is like any other kind of joke: If it makes me laugh, I consider that funny.

(Edit – For the record, even though I don’t believe this should have to be said, I’m going to say it: I don’t think rape is funny.  I think it’s horrific and should be punished.  But humor helps take away the power of horrible things. It’s a common refrain among Jewish comedians that they are so prevalent because, in their culture, they used humor to help get through the atrocities they faced. Humor is good. Dark humor is healing.)

I laugh at racists jokes. I laugh at dead baby jokes. I laugh at “The Aristocrats” (like, a lot). Louis C.K. has called his 3-year-old daughter an asshole and I have laughed uproariously. You know what all of those items have in common? They’re jokes. If they don’t make you laugh, it almost certainly says more about you than it does about the joke or the comedian telling it.

Comedy is a hard thing to talk about intelligently (even though I’ve attempted it in the past) because perhaps more than any other art form, it really does stretch the limit of subjectivity. Laughter is so involuntary and so powerful that it’s pretty much impossible to share or explain. If you’ve ever tried to retell a joke or explain one of those “You had to be there” moments, you know what I mean.

This woman’s response to Tosh’s material was her raw emotions, and that’s just as real as laughter. She has every right to feel that way. But, while I can’t defend Tosh’s response to her (though I’d have to have been there to form a real opinion), I still find what this woman did to be annoying because her actions were pointless (if people are laughing at a joke, you saying the joke isn’t funny is clearly incorrect) and basically just a way for her to act morally superior. If she was truly offended, the best thing she could have done was stand up and leave. Lecturing the comedian, and by extension the crowd who was there to see him, is ridiculous.

But what I find most obnoxious about this whole kerfuffle is that a site like Boing Boing picked up the story and is using it to seethe with moral indignation.

Take your offense and shove it

Here’s what bothers me: Taking offense. Taking offense and expecting other people to share your offense. Taking offense and expecting other people to share your offense, and if they don’t pretty much labeling them reprobates.

I will not be offended. Not for you, not for myself, not for anyone. Offense is a meaningless reaction. It’s completely reactive, never proactive. It says nothing about the offender and everything about the offended. 

What really grinds my gears is that people who get offended rarely care about other people’s offenses. The people who are offended by Gay Pride parades cares little about who their religious protests offend. People offended by graphic anti-abortion signs have no problem with overtly sexual works of art in public. If you’re offended, it’s the end of the world, but if your ideological opponent is offended, they’re just too sensitive.

Hypocrisy, offense be thy name.

I’ve seen Boing Boing stand up on behalf of groups and belief systems that other people would find offensive. For the most part, the site tends to lean pretty liberal, which means that by the very nature of having an opinion on anything, they are going to offend someone. Do they apologize every time one of their articles ruffles feathers? I hope not. If you’re going to take a stance, don’t be a chickenshit about it. But at the same time, if you’re going to be someone who is willing to offend, don’t expect people to care when you’re offended.

This goes for religion, politics or personal beliefs as well. If you’re offended, so fucking what?*

Get over yourselves. Get over your offense.

Offensive Comedy

The best comedy offends. At least, that’s my opinion. You might not agree if you find Reader’s Digest’s “Laughter, The Best Medicine” section to be the height of comedy, but otherwise let’s just all accept that comedy is largely about making light of real life which is, for the most part, miserable. We joke to feel better, and much of the humor comes from taking a serious subject and undercutting it with humor.

It’s understandable if a rape victim doesn’t find a rape joke funny. I wouldn’t expect a 9/11 widow to guffaw at a 9/11 joke (although, maybe she would).  Individuals for personal reasons may find certain types of jokes distasteful. I get that. At the same time, there are people who face their horrific past with humor. I had a generally fucked up childhood, so what do my siblings do when we get together (other than drink and fight)?  We joke about it.

There is no one-size-fits-all for comedy, and I’m tired of self-righteous bloggers and pundits trying to make it so.

If you don’t want to hear rape jokes, don’t go to a comedy show without checking out the comedian ahead of time.  Because I hate to break it to your virgin ears, but rape jokes are pretty popular. Off-color is the new black. Perverse humor sales, and for good reason: perversity offers a unique and enlightening perspective on life. Stand-up comedians don’t tell knock knock jokes, get used to it.

There are genuinely funny comedians who do pretty safe material, but even the nicest comedian will offend someone.  Because people are pussies. You, you are a pussy.

So stop telling me what jokes are funny.

P.S. I know a lot of Tosh’s fan-base are annoying frat boys and Bros, but for all you people claiming he isn’t funny, keep in mind he has at least one pretty solid supporter:

*Only one thing offends me: Willful stupidity.

Not With A Bang, But A ‘Whoomp’

This weekend in Seattle, the clouds broke for the first time in what seems like ages.  Sunlight blanketed the city and friends drank sangria on rooftops as boats passed through the Sound.

But not all scenes were so idyllic.  On one grassy field, in some fiery hearts, a war was brewing.

Here, in the shadow of the rapier form of the Space Needle, a small but fevered crowd of combatants arrived, summoned by the demiurgic will of Ares, and possibly their Facebook feeds.

They came dressed for battle, faces painted, pillows fluffed.  Teeth bared.

The fight began.  One minute there was peace, the next war.  No one could say who struck first, but if you were to ask each individual who was there, they would tell you that war does not begin.  It just is.

At times it seemed if it was every man for himself, every woman for herself, brother against brother, father against child, feathers indiscriminate in their cutting arcs.

But then, out of chaos arose form.  An alliance, a tenuous and certainly uneasy truce to solder power into a single striking force.

For a moment it seemed the war could end at the hands of the behemoth.  But brute strength proved no match for the furious onslaught of the swarming hive.

The battle raged, the feathers flew and the sky, at times, looked as if the very clouds had broken like glass across the verdant field, only to blow away moments later.

Crowds watched from every corner and at times innocent bystanders would feel the sting of an errant blow.  Within the hour, it was hard to distinguish between the soldiers and the onlookers, the wounded and the relaxing comfortably in the grass on a nice spring day.  There was no wall.  Humans.  We were all humans on the field of battle, and those of us who believed we could watch the fight with impartial distance would only see our childish fantasy break apart like a cheap Wal-Mart pillow.

Even I have tasted the bitter blade.

The battle ended, as they all do, not with a bang, but a ‘whoomp.’  Whether because of exhaustion or depleted forces, or because the pillow fight was only scheduled to last an hour.

The field cleared of feathers, but not memories.

The battle is over, but the war continues, from one day to the next, from one generation to the next.

If we cannot resolve our differences, should we be surprised when our children rise and take up pillows against each other?

We live today, to fight again tomorrow.