Thursday, June 11, 2015

On Being a Focus Groupie

Focus Groupie

Perhaps it started when I was a kid at the mall with my mom and grandparents, pleading to let me sit on Santa’s lap.  So Santa leans in with his “Hey little boy what do you want for Christmas?”  Programmed to truth by hardworking Midwestern parents, I whisper, “but Santa, I’m Jewish.” “It’s ok, so am I” hushed the big red fake gentile.  

The takeaway: JewSanta got paid and thousands of children enjoyed Christmas.  Was this a turning point in my life suggesting that lying is ok?  Perhaps.  Bigger picture: role-playing has its advantages.  Since 2001, I’ve slid into over 100 focus groups in several cities.  I’ve been an alleged consumer of alcohol, banking products, jeans, laptops, watches, websites, cars, cellphones, cameras and condoms.  I usually say I’m an attorney when a market research company asks what I do for a living but I’ve diversified professions to keep it interesting and stay on the lam.  I’ve played a High School Gym Teacher, Investment Banker, Masseuse, Senior Housing Developer, Solar Panel Salesman, Sommelier,  and of course a typical New York Actor / Waiter.  I’ve feigned professions, exaggerated salaries, bragged about ownership of multiple vacation homes.  My mom calls me a focus groupie.

Initially I did focus groups because I needed more going-out money when I lived in New York yet they quickly became part of my starving artist’s variety hour.  It’s common knowledge that people lie in focus groups and some make a living this way.  For me these groups became the closest I could get to being someone else, without the jail-time or community service.  This was safe, compensated thrill-seeking during unemployment stints.  Focus groups are the Wild West for any gunslinger with an overactive imagination.  A friend called it “guerilla theatre” and asked if I ever considered acting.  I said stage fright and my intense fear of public speaking precludes me from acting – yet nobody knows you in a focus group.  They’re an unscripted playground, they’re real life - I’m the actor / writer / director all in one.  The part-time megalomaniac in me thinks perhaps I’m the greatest character-actor ever.   Step aside Giamatti.  

In one of my first groups in New York, I walked into a room where seven men in collared shirts and pleated khakis sat starring at my jeans and black t-shirt.  So I said, “Some putz at Starbucks spilled his coffee on my khaks and he didn’t even offer to pay for dry cleaning!”  A chorus of khaki-ed men harrumphed in commiseration.  Calling them “khaks” fortified my lie.  I deep-fried that lie by saying I rescheduled a job interview that day because without my favorite khaks I’m shit outta luck, followed by my diatribe about how the ubiquity of jeans and “informal-wear” as a major reason for the inevitable decline of the American empire.  It was a Dockers group about men who love khaks. I haven’t worn khakis since 5th grade when my mom said this is what the smart kids wear.

My therapist insists we explore the psychological roots of my “fetish“ as she calls it.  She lovingly scolds me for being a liar and manipulating people for my own personal amusement.  She’s partly right, but I never lie to family, friends, or lovers.  Sure, it’s admittedly self-indulgent, but I tell her it’s like being a prize fighter - I only battle in the ring.  Do I feel guilty that I’m knowingly polluting the results of a marketing enterprise designed to improve consumer products?  Certainly.  But it’s complicated.  Whoever I claim to be in these groups, I never lie about my opinions and I genuinely intend to better the product.  Do I need to own an electric car, the newest HDTV, or a pair of khakis to know what’s best for the product?  Not entirely.  The caveat is that I’m speaking as someone else.  Who said that someone else has to be a liar?

There’s a sense of power in duping a company into thinking I’m someone else.  A clandestine coup.  But let’s be honest, no one is locking me up for embezzlement or insider trading.  We’re talking petty larceny at best.  Though I’m no early adapter of every new consumer item, I enjoy seeing products in their gestational stages before the rest of the world.  I take pride in feeling I somehow contributed to their greatness. Perhaps it was a critique I made, an insight into a slogan, a question I asked or the bungled joke I made about how one cellphone looked so phallic and vibrated so effectively that my girlfriend might just let it ring for awhile then go to voicemail.

Sometimes I feel like a consumer warrior fighting back at a system that ultimately persuades the public into purchasing often unnecessary products or appealing to consumers’ inadequacies to lure them into an acquisition.  Advertising agencies and market research groups are hired by companies that manufacture products to find smart, clever, effective ways to get the public to say “YES I need that in my life.”   We’ve seen Mad Men, we know how it works.  Sure, it’s a laughable paradox that I’m in these groups helping them improve the product yet still feel like I pulled one over on the system.  Either way, I have fun and get paid.  Jury is still out whether Don Draper would hire me immediately or put cyanide in my scotch.

In these groups, creating the backstory is key.  Who am I when I walk in the door?  If it’s a group on high-end banking products, my pastel-colored sweater is wrapped over my Yale-educated shoulders and I shan’t forget boasting of my glory days as a kickass coxswain on the rowing team. 

Although backstories often involve bowing to stereotypes, inverting them is more thrilling.  In an all-male group about beer, the moderator showed a poster-board depicting two men drinking in a bar.  One participant said he would “never be get caught dead in a fag bar” as another participant added “homos drink appletinis or something fruity like that.”  I’m heterosexual, but my hand shot up.  “I’m a fag.  I love beer, rock’ n’ roll, kicked ass as a strong safety in high school football and could probably drink both you pricks under the table anytime!”  They felt so uncomfortable that the moderator had to awkwardly switch topics.  After the group, the shmucks apologized and told me they each had a gay friend.

In real life I tend to be a soft-talker, but in focus groups I can transform into an opinionated lion.  So when moderators tell participants to ignore the one-way mirror where company sponsors sit and observe, out comes my signature move as I lean back in my chair, fold my hands over my head and look into the mirror with a well-oiled smile & wink combo and declare what I believe is the company’s next brilliant slogan.  Seating so comfortable why move to the bedroom” for Volvo’s new luxury sedan however wasn’t such a hit when I got reprimanded by the moderator for needing too much attention.

With the ladies I can be a bit shy occasionally, but once this adorable brunette with a face I wanted for my new alarm clock sat next to me in a group on flavored vodkas.  We tasted several vodkas and my “trying to get me wasted on our first date?” joke somehow landed.  During the tasting I stood up and toasted “to new beginnings and first dates.”  After a perfect first kiss hours later at a bar down the street, she predicted our glorious future together but first she has to dump her 6’8” bodyguard for a famous rap star boyfriend.

Sometimes creating a temporary fake identity brings responsibility and unexpected guilt.  I still owe Diane a call from a year ago because she thinks her 23 year-old daughter would be a great fit for an internship at my successful civil rights boutique law firm.  She approached me after the group about her daughter and then again in the elevator on the way out and I felt awful lying / denying the opportunity saying that civil rights just aren’t the hot legal market they used to be.

I’ve also learned that despite the fun of lying for sport, honesty has unexpected benefits. I once got into a group on smartphones when I owned the beta-max of flip-phones.  This sexy female moderator asked our all-male group what we want in life.  Most of us said a great family, wife, job, money.  Standard.  The last guy said, “duh, a threesome.”  Everyone laughed.  He got the moderator’s number when the group ended.

And the food, oh the food.   It’s nothing Sam Sifton or Thomas Keller need to know about but I love anything complimentary.  Some people are shy about accepting the food in focus groups.  I shamelessly feast.  I’m a big fan of continuing to eat throughout the discussion, often getting up a couple times to get another sandwich or something.   I interrupt the discussion to ask if I can get anyone anything.  Another cookie?  Top off your coffee? 

There is some crossover as I run focus groups in my personal life.  I poll friends and family about decisions big and small.   I recently purchased a pair of man-boots with the creative assistance of some females.  So much to learn just by asking.  Who knew that Anna thinks men who wear heels are effeminate but flip-flops are manly? Erika threw me for a loop when she suggested something red or purple because men who take risks are more desirable.  But thanks to my mom who validated my ultimate man-boot selection when she confirmed that with the Wallin Bros. Amsterdam boot, I could easily go Friday night fancy restaurant, dive bar, or last minute Bar Mitzvah.  Well done ladies.  

The truth is I still enjoy lying for sport - only when it’s a victimless crime.  It’s the getting away with something that gets me off.  Through the years my addiction has grown stronger, but unlike most junkies, there is no methadone in the land to quash my fix.  It’s much more difficult to qualify for groups these days, every focus group is a new experience, a bump in my wallet, another reason to thank JewSanta.  Having recently moved to Los Angeles as a single guy, it’s possible I could meet the love of my life at the next co-ed group for small business owners who use energy-efficient light bulbs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ready To Die

Recently I heard a few stories of friends’ friends’ friends, all men in their 30s and 40s, who died instantly from aneurysms.  Fucking awful.  Freaked me out. 

I was driving home one night on the 405 thinking if I get an aneurysm and cause a major crash and delay traffic I’d feel so shitty.  LA traffic is bad enough without my aneurysm. 

Later that night around 2am, I had a pounding headache on the left side of my brain and I tossed & turned like a cold-spot addict searching for more cold spots in bed.

Then a sharp tightening in my upper thigh / groin region started up.  Nothing penile thank God, just the femoral artery.   But I’ve seen enough shitty horror movies and my brother is a doctor so I felt confident that if something severs the femoral artery it’s Kaddish. 

Then I thought what if I have an aneurysm and die in my sleep?  Nobody will find me for weeks and I’ll sit there rotting away and they’ll have to put together the pieces of my life like a Law & Order episode, the Criminal Intent one with Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe. Fucking loved them.
Detectives Eames and Goren enter the one-bedroom apartment. 

Two female Paramedics are waiting inside.  They’re gorgeous brunettes, one looks like Emmanuelle Chriqui and the other like Rashida Jones, maybe it’s actually just them because I think they’re shooting something together some cool Indie thing in Silver Lake so they totally have time for this. 

Rashida tells the Detectives “this cute guy talked to his mother twice a day and she called 911 after he didn’t call the next day.  The property manager opened the apartment and we found the body an hour ago.  Why can’t I find a guy like this who doesn’t have to die?” 

Emmanuelle makes a sad face to Rashida, “Me too.”

Detectives Goren and Eames head straight for the bedroom, where the body lays.

EAMES:  For the apartment of a corpse it sure smells like lavender and fresh lilies. 

Paramedic Girls are heard off-screen, “Lilies are my favorite.”

Goren stands bedside, inspecting.

GOREN:  No signs of struggle, no strangulation, no entry wounds.  No evidence of a homicide and there’s no sleeping pills so doesn’t seem like a suicide.  He died in his sleep.  Probably an aneurysm. 

EAMES: What makes you say that? 

GOREN: One hand is clutching the left side of his head and the other his femoral artery.  Classic aneurysm.

Eames opens the closet and goes through a chest of drawers and opens a closet.

EAMES:  Everything is perfectly folded and organized.  His dress-shirts are color-coordinated.  And no wire hangers.

GOREN:  Clean linens.  Puffed pillows.  Trimmed nails.  He’s perfectly shaved and looks like he recently showered or is just the type of guy that’s always freshly clean.  (Intense) The aneurysm was the least organized thing in his life.  And his death.

Eames and Goren move from the bedroom to the living room.

Eames looks impressed, even inspired by the way everything seems to have its place in the apartment.

EAMESI’m impressed, even inspired by the way everything seems to have its place in the apartment. 

GOREN(Perusing bookshelf, picks up a book or two) Interesting.  Quite a diverse interest in literature.  Looks like he only read the 1st chapter in each book.  Probably had ADD but compensated best he could. It’s alphabetized by first letter of the title disregarding articles A, And and The.

Rashida sadly sighs to Emmanuelle, “Awww, I love readers.”

EAMES:  Any books on depression or anything?

GOREN No.  A few of the freshmen year existential must-haves and a truly Semitic collection on this shelf.  Not exactly the mind of a psychopath. 

Goren tilts his head toward the shelf of Jewish books.

GORENMaybe the guilt got him. 

Eames smirks.  Goren is funny when he wants to be, because he knows stereotypes.

GOREN:  Did you check the laptop for search history?

Eames opens a plugged-in, perfectly charged open laptop on the table.   

EAMES Nothing bad here.  No porn at all.  The last websites he visited are,, and   And the only other history before that is researching charity websites about orphans in Jersey.  This guy was a saint.  

Goren removes a sharpened pencil from his coat pocket and uses it to pick up a tissue from the garbage and inspects it.

GOREN: Or was he?  Looks like some type of glandular secretion.  Could be evidence of a depraved sex act?

EAMES: It’s probably just a tissue from when this guy wipes stray kitten’s noses.

Eames points to a framed photo on the wall of a stray kitten in an alley and the deceased bending down with a tissue.

Goren tosses the tissues towards the trash as Emmanuelle and Rashida both quickly dash to catch it.  They each snag a side and engage in a sexy tug-of-war over the kitten-sneeze tissue.

Eames walks to the bathroom and opens the cabinets.

EAMES: Ritalin, lots of floss, and a few too many bottles of sunscreen, SPF 290.  Everything is perfectly arranged and this bathroom is so clean for a man.

Eames pokes her head behind the toilet.

EAMES:  It’s spotless.  Who is this guy? 

Eames walks to the living room and runs her finger over the table and bookshelf. 

EAMES:   No dust anywhere.  Marry me.   

GOREN(Intense, sooo Goren) It’s as if he stayed awake for hours and cleaned his entire apartment, knowing he was ready for death.  Like he foresaw the aneurysm.

Goren grabs a notebook from the kitchen table and gently tosses it to Eames.

GOREN:  Eames, look at this. 

Eames reads aloud:

Fuck all you hoes. Get a grip motherfucker. Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me I'd never amount to nothin', to all the people that lived above the buildings that I was hustlin' in front of that called the police on me when I was just tryin' to make some money to feed my daughters, and all the niggaz in the struggle, you know what I'm sayin'?  Uh-ha, it's all good baby baby uh…

EAMES:  Quite a poet.  Such struggle he experienced in his life.  Might be the beginning of a suicide note he never finished. 

EAMES:  Or a letter he was writing to his mother. 

Emmanuelle and Rashida stand at the window, arms around each other’s waists.  They peer out longingly and together they sing:

You know very well who you are.  Don’t let em hold you down, reach for the stars.  You had a goal, but not that many.  ‘Cause you’re the only I’ll give you good and plenty.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Education of Jasper Goldberg


DANNY (37) stands next to BRADY (38) as they enter and ascend a staircase in a Brooklyn brownstone.

DANNY: Who lives here again?

BRADY: Ali’s friend Sarah and her wife Heather. They’re on vacation in Greece and we’re checking on Jasper twice a day since we live so close.

DANNY: They can afford a trip to Greece but not a dog-sitter?

BRADY: Guess they prefer Jasper to stay in their home rather than tear up someone else’s furniture.

Brady opens a 2nd floor apartment door and they enter. 


Danny looks around at framed pictures of Heather and Sarah that fill the apartment.

DANNY: I’ve never seen more photos of a happy couple.

BRADY: They met in college and been togetherever since. They’re so happy it’s insane.

DANNY: Seriously though every photo is the two of them either kissing or smiling or floating on a cloud somewhere.

BRADY: Ali and I joke we want their relationship, but keep my penis.

DANNY: I think couples put up happy photos as reminders that they were once happy and when the shit gets worse which it always does they look at the photos during arguments to say “hey stop yelling at me fuckface look how happy we were on vacation 3 years ago before all this shit happened.”

BRADY: Whoa that’s some deep cynicism there buddyboy.

Dog barks in the background. Brady and Danny walk through the apartment to the kitchen.

BRADY: Hey Jasper!

JASPER (adorable 1 year old brown Cockapoo) is thrilled to see humans. Brady and Danny take turns petting Jasper as he jumps up and down and up and down and...

DANNY: What’s up little guy!

Brady refills Jasper’s food / water bowls as Danny looks on the fridge and sees more photo magnets of the happy couple.

DANNY: They don’t like look Goldbergs.

BRADY: Not all Jews look--

DANNY (interrupting): --YES WE DO!

BRADY: But you semites all smoke weeeeeeeed.

Last word lingers on as Brady reaches into a cabinet and pulls out a joint from a box that is clearly a marijuana paraphernalia box.

DANNY: Heeeellll yeeeaaaa. What kind is it? If it’s indica I’ll quickly transform into a couch.

BRADY: They usually have sativa.

Danny inspects the label on the pot container.

DANNY: Ha! It’s called Bruce Jenner. Guess it makes you rethink everything in your life.

Brady & Danny getting high, blowing smoke in Jasper’s ears, being high and playing with Jasper.

DANNY: This is really good stuff. Who lives here again?

BRADY: Ali’s friends Sarah and Rachel. No Sarah and Beth. No, Sarah and Heather. (BEAT) Shit, if Ali finds out I got zonked in the middle of the day she’ll give me the 3rd degree for not cleaning our apartment or doing anything other than getting zonked in the middle of the day.

DANNY: Everyone always gets the third degree. What’s the 3rd degree anyway? Can you imagine how much worse the second degree is? gets worse right, like a burn, or murder charge?

BRADY: 3rd degree murder is chill like you probably killed a rodent or something.

DANNY: 2nd degree murder that’s real murder. Blood and death and you’re going to Sing Sing or Rikers but not long enough, like enough to get raped a couple times but not commit to Islam.

BRADY: 1st degree murder is definitely the worst, like you killed someone with your bare hands in front of a kindergarten class during show’n’tell.

DANNY: So third degree ain’t that bad. (BEAT) Nature calls where’s the bathroom?

BRADY: Down the hall second door on the left.

Danny walks off-camera.

Brady is sitting on the ground starring off in silence - then takes a spoon from the counter and stares at his reflection in it and moves it up and down and around.


Danny opens the bathroom door and enters but forgetfully leaves the door open. He walks to the toilet and unzips. CAMERA to his back - as he pees he looks around. Stack of New Yorkers on a shelf, feminine beauty products, framed pictures of Heather and Sarah on vacation in several places.

Jasper runs into the bathroom and stands near Danny, looking at him.

DANNY: Jasper what are you doing in here? I’m pissing go on get outta here. 

Jasper doesn’t budge.

DANNY (waving his hand): Jasper go on.

Jasper turns and walks out of scene.

Danny keeps peeing as he looks around and sees a framed photograph of Heather and Sarah. He muses at it for a second.

DANNY (calling out): Jasper buddy come back. Come here! 

Jasper comes running back and stands near Danny.

DANNY: Good boy! Sit.

Jasper sits, eagerly looking at Danny. Danny continues peeing and starts to shake - his head is turned talking to Jasper.

DANNY: Jasper let’s be real here dude. You live with two lesbians so I’m doing you a favor here. Maybe you’ve seen a dildo before if they’re into that but most likely you didn’t connect the dots.

Danny does a final shake then turns around and faces Jasper, dick dangling and exposed.

DANNY: Here you go little guy, this is a dick. The first you’ve ever seen and very likely the last you’ll ever see.

Jasper cocks his head (pardon the pun) and looks curiously at Danny’s dick.

Jasper barks.

                                                                FADE OUT.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Water Works

August in New York. The city drips off itself. 
SAM (31) and JESSIE (30), both drunk, kiss outside Sam’s apartment door.

JESSIE: You were so good tonight with my friends. They loved you. I got hot watching you make them laugh.

Jessie kisses Sam then puts her hand to his forehead.

JESSIE: Oh no, you feel warm.

Jessie backs up and looks at Sam.

JESSIE: I think this little boy needs a visit from the nurse he’s been waiting for.

Sam is ecstatic. He can't open the door fast enough.

They enter Sam’s TINY studio apartment. Sam grabs Jessie’s ass but she sways his hand away.

JESSIE: Ah ah ah, sick patients can’t touch until the nurse says so.

SAM: I’m a naughty naughty rule-breaker.

Sam puts iPhone on a dock. Marvin Gaye’s "Sexual Healing" plays. 
They look at each other and laugh.

JESSIE: Now get ready for your exam while I slip into something more, nurse-able.

Jessie gives him a sexy look as he walks into the bathroom. 

Sam peels off his sweat-soaked shirt and jumps out of his shorts. 
Mid-pee, he sings in a thick Yiddish accent:

SAM: And when I get that feeling I want sexual healing, sexual healing oh baby...

Sam rinses with mouthwash. Whilst gurgling, he wets his hands and puts them in his pants and washes his balls. He sniffs his armpits, applies deodorant, then spits out mouthwash.

SAM (loud, but into the mirror): The patient is ready!

Sam exits the bathroom and sees Jessie passed out, in her SEXY NURSE COSTUME. 
He sighs in defeat, shrugs his shoulders, then puts a blanket on her and kisses her cheek. 
Sam changes music to RELAXING OCEAN SOUNDS then lays next to Jessie.

Sam is lying face-down, spread eagle, taking up most of the bed. He peacefully sleeps, then groggily opens his eyes. He quickly turns on his back, panicked. He feels downward to his underwear. His hand and eyes reach his crotch at the same time. He covers his mouth to stifle a mortified gasp. His boxers are soaked.

Deep breaths, then he carefully turns Jessie over and tries to remove a bedsheet under her but it won’t budge. He slips out of bed and runs to the bathroom and quietly closes the door. Sam peels off his soaking boxers and throws them in the sink and rinses them off. He stands, naked, STILL DRUNK.

He exits the bathroom, puts on a new pair of boxers, then looks at Jessie. He’s fucked. 
Sam grabs his laptop and sits in a kitchen chair. He Googles “24-Hour laundromat, Park Slope”.

NUGGET (adorable small orange kitten) walks over and MEOWS as he rubs against Sam’s leg. Sam ignores Nugget and is now Googling “adult bedwetting”, “male incontinence”, “unemployed guy in his 30s who wets the bed”. Nugget brushes Sam’s leg again. Sam closes his laptop then does a ‘face in hands I’m hopeless slouch’. Nugget meows.

SAM: Shhh, you’re gonna wake her.

BAM! He grabs Nugget’s TWO water bowls and empties both in a sink. He wets his hands and pats water near Nugget’s privates.

Sam then unplugs the stereo, TV, and DVD player and hides the chords deep behind the cabinet.

SAM: (excited whisper) Genius!

He unplugs the fan aimed at Jessie, then carefully gets into bed and unplugs / replugs the clock radio. Sam softly nudges Jessie.

SAM: Hey gorgeous wake up. Nugsy Wugsy had an accident. 

Jessie doesn’t move. Sam nudges her again.

SAM: Hey beautiful, Nugsy Wugsy peed the bed.

JESSIE (one eye open): No he didn’t.

SAM: Yes he did.

JESSIE: I’m a veterinarian. Cats don’t pee in beds they have litter boxes.

SAM: Baby, the sheets are wet let me get new ones so you can be comfortable.

JESSIE: I WAS comfortable.

Jessie feels around the bed.

JESSIE: Holy shit they’re soaked.

SAM: Told you, Nugget had an accident.

JESSIE: Kittens aren’t puppies they don’t have accidents. (Beat) It’s blazing in here why is the fan off?

SAM: Heat blackout. All the electronics went out. 

Sam points to the alarm clock BLINKING 12:00.

SAM (sadface): Sorry about the fan. Wish I could afford air conditioning.

JESSIE (sympathetic): I know baby, you’ll get a job soon.

Jessie looks around. 

JESSIE: Where is Nugget?

SAM: Maybe hiding. Probably ashamed.

JESSIE: Cats don’t get ashamed.

SAM: I’d be if I were him. Truth is, we don’t really know the guy. You found him alone, abandoned on a dark street in Jersey and I adopted him because I love cats.

JESSIE: He was your first cat.

SAM: I love him like a son. Maybe he had a rough street-life and can’t deal.

JESSIE Sammy, cats are my specialty. I’m telling you cats don’t pee in beds.

SAM: All due respect baby, you just graduated from vet school and it’s possible you haven’t seen everything there is in the infinitely beautiful feline universe. Look, both his water bowls are empty.

Sam points to Nugget’s water bowls as Nugget walks over. Jessie picks him up for an impromptu exam: presses his stomach, inspects his anus, squeezes his nuts, all the fun stuff. 
Nugget looks confused, like the suspect of a crime he didn’t commit.

Sam removes the wet sheet and puts on a clean one.

SAM: Is he wet near his Nugget parts?

JESSIE: Yea. But that’s not unusual because cats clean themselves so much.

SAM: Seems weird, but you’re the vet.

JESSIE: I don’t see anything wrong with him but I’ll bring him to the clinic later and run some tests.

SAM: What kind of tests?

JESSIE: Full blood and urine work-up. Best case it’s nothing. Or could be a kidney stone which is rare for kittens but happens. Worst cast it’s an urethral tumor and we’ll surgically remove it and that can cure his incontinence.

Jessie puts Nugget on the floor.

SAM (trying to keep his cool): Maybe we should let it slide the first time.
(Sam now in a baby voice) He’s a wittle scawred Nuggetface. Maybe I’ll give him some extra wovin’ and he’ll be fine.

Sam picks up Nugget and brings him to bed. They mingle awkwardly like forced gym class partners on the rope climb. Jessie gets into bed and they both pet Nugget.

JESSIE: Awww. You’re the sweetest boyfriend in the whole world and Nuggetface is the luckiest kitten to have you as his dad.

Sam leans over and touches Jessie’s ass in her Nurse Costume.

SAM: There’s another patient in this bed that needs an exam...

                                                                                  FADE OUT.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Double Jeopardy

"I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.”
--Lily Tomlin

My 4th grade girlfriend recently moved to Los Angeles. We’re more akin to siblings now than anything and I’m thrilled she’s living only 2 minutes away, 4 with traffic.  She moved in with the love of her life, her new amazing girlfriend.

Last week 4th grade girlfriend and I had drinks.  After an hour of repeatedly interrupting each other to ask the other more questions about their life, out she burst “there’s something serious we need to discuss.” 

My crime - I made a rape joke during a recent Passover seder and offended her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s younger sister visiting from the Midwest.  Bright red and sweating, I threw up my hands in the air.  What can I do to make this better?  Send an email, write a letter, make a phone call, stop by the house, send a truckload of flowers, buy a pony? 

4th grade girlfriend said “I know you’re a hopeless romantic and you worship women and would never intend to say anything mean but you made a rape joke that didn’t land well.” 

What percentage of rape jokes land well?  Since July 2012 when Daniel Tosh bungled a gang-rape joke to a heckler, hundreds of diagnostic articles arose about what’s permissible rape humor.  This isn’t one of those pieces.  Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Sarah Silverman, Louis CK, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Peretti, some of the greatest comics have made rape jokes that land perfectly.  Naturally, I’m not them. 

I asked what the joke was but she said neither of them could remember but of course recalled its offensiveness.  I scoured my brain, nothing.  Was it a joke about raping a woman or using rape as a verb in the context of something else?  4th grade girlfriend questioned why I was asking.  Because I’m in the longest drought of my life and occasionally masturbation feels like rape, like the authorities have been notified, like my dick already filed a temporary restraining order against my hands and it’s all downhill from here.  To self-pacify, I tell myself chances are it was a self-rape joke.  Fortunately 4th grade girlfriend laughed, sympathized about the drought, but nonetheless and allthemoreso reprimanded me about why the concept of rape is sufficiently offensive in any context. 

She said it’s fixable with an apology email and by telling her girlfriend that she tore me a new asshole about my behavior.  Being torn a new asshole was the last phrase I’d use in a missive apologizing for a failed rape-joke. 

Then I learned that 4th grade girlfriend’s girlfriend is super protective of her younger sister and younger sister is a 30 year-old virgin hypersensitive about anything sexual. 

I sent an apology email later that night and hardly slept because the guilt was overwhelming.  I confessed to myself that my humor sprints from the sacred to the profane in nanoseconds, but my intention is never ever to make someone feel shitty about their life or offend anyone.  I tossed and turned and felt so guilty I couldn’t even masturbate.  Ok, I tried, unsuccessfully - but it felt like every woman there knew about the rape joke.  They all talk.

I slipped into a deep abyss of contemplating what sex meant to me.   I re-made my list of every woman I’ve ever been with.  Did I treat them well?  Was I as obsessively generous a lover as I think I am?  Did I ever make a rape joke to any of them?  Have I ever had a rape fantasy?  How do I treat animals?  When was the last time I cried during a romantic comedy?  How’s my relationship with my mother?  It went deep, and pathetic, and I ate pretty much everything in my house to stave off slipping even deeper into a shame spiral.  A chocolate bar, leftover pizza, half a piece of salmon, popcorn, spoonfuls of peanut butter and a tall glass of vodka DO NOT REDUCE SHAME SPIRALS.

4th grade girlfriend’s girlfriend accepted my apology but still doesn’t know what the joke was. It’s not like I can ask her.  What if it’s some of my best material? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Need Lasik

Had to break up with my Optometrist today.  I've been going there for about 7 months to order contacts and every month the same thing happens:

NOTE: It’s all Russian workers with THICK Russian accents and the company has an old school manilla-folder filing system

SALES CLERK (Early 30s, female): Hello ‘Modern Optometry’ can I help you?

ME: Hi, I'd like to order another box of contacts please.  I’ve ordered with you guys before.

SALES CLERK: Yes, what is your name please?

ME: Nathan Firer, F as in Fox, I-R-E-R.  

SALES CLERK: What is first name again?

ME: Nathan.  N-A-T-H-A-N.  


ME: No, it's Nathan. N-A-T-H-A-N.


ME:  No, it’s Nathan, N-A-T-H-A-N.  N as in nonsense, nobody, nothing. Nathan, N-A-T-H-A-N.

SALES CLERK: Ok Mason, what is last name?

ME: It's NATHAN not Mason.  N as in negligee, neonatal, Narnia, none of your business, N-AT-H-A-N.  My last name is Firer.  F as in fox, I-R-E-R.

SALES CLERK:  Ok, sorry, Nathan what is last name?  

ME: My last name is Firer.  F as in fox, I-R-E-R.  

SALES CLERK:  Nathan Sear?

ME:  Firer.  F as in fox, I-R-E-R.  F as in fox, fish, fat, fornicate, fire as in your building is on fire unless you get my name right.

She totally doesn't get the joke.

SALES CLERK:  Ok Nathan hold one second please.

She puts me on hold for 20 seconds then returns.

SALES CLERK:  I cannot find your file have you been here before?

ME:  YES I'VE BEEN BUYING CONTACTS FROM YOU THE PAST 8 MONTHS AND THIS CONVERSATION HAPPENS EVERY TIME.  You've met me probably 7 or 8 times before.  I know what your jewelry looks like and that you have blonde hair and great teeth and the TV on the right side of the store is hung up on the wall and it’s always on the same channel and there are 4 chairs in the waiting room all with red covers.  Yes I’d be an amazing detective and YES I AM IN YOUR FILES.

SALES CLERK:  Ok hold one second please.

She keeps saying please but it matters less and less each time.   
She puts me on hold for 20 seconds then returns again.

SALES CLERK:  Are you sure you’ve been here before I cannot find file.  How do you spell last name again please?

ME: (laughing but annoyed) You’re very polite but the pleases aren’t helping find my files.  I’VE BEEN THERE BEFORE.  This might be my 9th time if you find my file.  My last name is…

Same routine above but more hysterical, with a feeling like I’m being recorded for an audio-version of Candid Camera. 

SALES CLERK: Ok hold one second please…

NOTE: There are 2 female Sales Clerks.  I’ve spoken with BOTH the past 7 or 8 times this happened, then eventually they find my file and order my contacts.  I go to the store days later, SHOW THEM MY NAME ON MY ORDER FORM, laughingly pointing to the name then to my face then again to my name then my face again.  It’s always a sweetly comical moment between us and they laugh and say sorry this won’t happen next time. 

Then today - this SAME conversation happened.  So I told her (nicely, laughing through my teeth) that I'd like to take my business elsewhere and can they fax over my prescription.  

The Owner got on the phone and this happened:

OWNER (Russian male, late 50s, thicker accent):  Hello who is this?

ME: Nathan Firer.

OWNER: What is your name we will find file?

Same condensed version of above conversation happens with first and last names.  Owner comes back on the phone 20 seconds after I’m on hold.

OWNER: We cannot find file.  How do you spell last name?  Have you been here before?

ME: Listen, no offense, but I’d like to take my business elsewhere.  Can you please fax over my prescription. 

OWNER:  It is not my fault you don’t know how to spell your last name.  How can I help you if you spell last name wrong.  You say S as in Sea but you should say F as in Fox. 

ME: So that means you DO KNOW my last name then?

OWNER: You spell with an F or an S?

ME: An F as in….can you just fax my prescription over please?

OWNER: Sure, no problem, you can take business elsewhere.  I will fax over.  Not my fault if you don’t know how to spell last name.  Life difficult if you can’t do that.  Good luck. 

Moments later I got my prescription faxed over. 
Sad thing is I’ll miss the hilarity, kinda.