Monday, September 23, 2013

Me, Again, But...

So, I've been giving you a blow-by-blow of my successes in gaining publication. Here's a recap of recent events.

I have a piece in the latest issue of Funny Times.

I had a column in Saturday's Boston Herald.

Here's where you can find some more of me: The M Street Softball League website.

This last isn't something I wrote for pay. It was a labor of love. And I can understand if some of you don't give a rat's ass. Fast-pitch softball, played by men, isn't everyone's cup of tea. So, go read it if you want to, but if you want something else to do, instead, here's something that MY WIFE and I both have found highly entertaining. It is the Abbey Road crossing cam.

You all remember the iconic album cover by The Beatles, right?

Well, if you go HERE, you'll find a live camera trained on that road crossing, 24/7. And, if you have the patience to wait a minute or two (possibly less) you'll see all manner of idiots walking into the middle of this busy street and trying to replicate that photo in one way or another.

We think it's hilarious, especially when one of the dopes finishes posing, forgets that it's a live street crossing, and almost gets run over by a lorry.

And, if that doesn't float your boat, how about some Canadian gangsta rap?

My friend, Sean Flaherty, somehow stumbled onto this. Sean is oddly constructed mentally (which is why we have been friends since high school) and he likes to explore the weirder things in life. He decided to go to You Tube and put in the words "Canadian Gangsta Rap", just to see if anything at all came up. He found out there was a Canadian gangsta rap subculture of sorts. Who knew? Personally, one dose of that will last me about two lifetimes, but if you don't like fast-pitch softball or The Beatles, maybe it's just what you need.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

More About Me

And now, the next chapter in the continuing saga of the world's most loveable egomaniac - ME.

I have a column in the Boston Herald this morning, on the op-ed page.

Old Guy Gets Stuff For Free!

The usual applies: Go there, read, leave comments which would lead them to believe I have talent. Thanks!

And now, I shall go stand in front of a mirror for a couple of hours, look at a published writer, and await the call from the Pulitzer committee.

Soon, with more free stuff.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Am Still Dave Barry's Contemporary

Last time we spoke...

(Except for a select few of you who are deranged and actually went out of your way to have dinner with me at some point, we haven't actually spoken. I've typed and you've read. Just getting that out of the way for the literalists in the crowd.)

... I told you about my upcoming publications. In that extremely self-serving bit of flummery, I promised I'd tell you about each actual print edition as it became available. I'm a man of my word (the word, in this case, is "vain") so here I am telling you about the first one to reach the newsstands. It is a piece entitled I Split My Head Open and it appears in the current issue of Funny Times.

(Those of you with subscriptions, which should be all of you, knew this already. If you don't have a subscription, click on the link and get one, damn it. When I win my Pulitzer, anyone who can prove loyalty, by walking up to me and pulling out a weathered copy of this issue and saying "Hey, Bub, I supported you back when you were living on spoons of peanut butter straight from the jar!", will be my guest for dinner at the nearest KFC. I won't be chintzy about it, either - all white meat.)

You may remember how I wrote about being Dave Barry's contemporary back when my first appearance in Funny Times happened. I am delighted to report that we are still contemporaries. He is also in this issue.

(Back then, I actually wrote to Dave Barry and told him we were contemporaries. The reason I did so was because, many years back, I had written to him asking his advice on how to become a humor columnist. True story. This was way before e-mail, so I had actually stuffed my letter into an envelope, along with one or two samples of what was probably some wholly execrable writing, and imposed upon him to read my stuff and be overwhelmed with my nascent genius. He was kind enough to write back. He gave me all kinds of good advice which I ignored for about thirty years. So, when I was actually published in the same monthly as him, I thought it only fair to thank him for his previous kindness. The lesson here is that if you do me a favor, I'll thank you thirty years later, so if you think I've stiffed you lately, don't give up hope.)

(He replied to my recent e-mail, also, and signed it "Your Contemporary, Dave Barry". He's a nice guy, no joke at all. And how have I repaid his kindness? By basically telling every wanna-be writer in Christendom that he'll answer their letters personally. I'm a peach.)

Anyway, that's today's good news. Buy Funny Times! Think of it as an investment in future fried chicken.

Soon, with more battered stuff.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I Am On The Cover Of A National Magazine

Well, not me personally, but my writing.

The due-to-hit-the-newsstands-in-two-weeks November issue of Discover includes a piece I wrote. I was given a preview of the cover of that upcoming issue, and my piece is touted there as a come-on to potential readers. Need I tell you that I am thrilled? If so, I just did.

This marvelous news comes on the heels of selling a piece to the Boston Herald yesterday (publication some time next week, tentatively.) Combined with having another piece scheduled for Discover in December, and two pieces either scheduled or currently in Funny Times (including the October issue, now on sale), I am having freelance mini-orgasms.

I mention these because so many of you wondered, in comments, who had been silly enough to buy my scribblings (well, OK, you were polite and didn't put it that way, but I know what some of you were thinking.). Now you know. If you wish to reward the editors and publishers for making such bad decisions, you could go to the following websites and subscribe to the publications in question.

Discover magazine

Funny Times (If you go there and scroll down just a bit, you'll see me mentioned by name, the fools.)

The Boston Herald

Being the self-absorbed sort of idiot I am, you can rest assured I'll be back to tell you about each piece in detail as the actual print editions reach my sweaty hands. In the meantime, if you'd say a prayer for the folks who bought them from me, I'd appreciate it. It's obvious they need some help. In return, I'll say a prayer for you, because without your faithful reading and encouragement, I never would have had the balls to send stuff out to any editors in the first place.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

How To Become Infinitesimally Richer And Entirely Not Famous In Only 56 Years

That's going to be the title of my self-published autobiography unless I suddenly begin receiving all sorts of wonderful letters from editors telling me that they love my stuff and want to shower me with gold coin.

This writing gig is such a drag at times. I'm as grateful as I could possibly be regarding those editors who have already bought some of my stuff. Those sales have kept me from throwing myself under a train. Little compares with looking at the mail and finding an acceptance. It's like being a virgin teenage boy and having a girl you've been feeling up give you a signal that it's OK to keep going when you slip your hand under her waistband; an incomparable thrill.

[Unless you're a writer, you probably have no idea how wonderful these nonsensical words made me feel.]

I find the utter lack of response from some editors puzzling, though. Receiving a rejection is one thing, but never hearing at all from someone to whom you've bared your literary soul is so damned disheartening (and confusing, considering the fact that I've been published elsewhere) that I begin to believe that perhaps my talent is entirely polarizing, thrilling some and disgusting others, like John Holmes or Miley Cyrus. In any case, it makes a fellow doubt his own existence, as though I said a cheery "Hello!" to someone, with a big smile on my face, and had the person walk by without a glance. I've come to the belief that being told "You suck!" is preferable to being ignored, which is not a fun way to approach life.

I'll soldier on, though. I have 18 pieces out there for which I'm awaiting replies. I'm currently looking forward to the publication of four other pieces (and to receiving the checks for three of those. One is in the bank, thank you very much.) Whenever I see an actual hard copy of my stuff, it bolsters my spirit for four or five days and spurs me to become creative again. It also gives me a chance to brag on myself here, so rest assured I'll let you know where and when it next happens.

In news you might actually care about, MY WIFE enjoyed Jaws.

It was great fun sitting next to her and hearing her sharply draw in her breath when the shark made an appearance or whatever. Neither of us will be going swimming at the beach anytime soon, but neither of us has been swimming at the beach the entire time we've been married, so no big deal.

What else can I tell you? Oh, yeah. Sorry about the imagery I put in your head of naughty bits being snipped off. It was just so damn disturbing to me I had to talk about it. Thanks for listening.

Finally, how about some nice softball news?

We began our playoffs at M Street with a corker of a game.

SOUTHSIDE TAVERN - 1  The Warehouse - 0  (9 innings)

The living legend, John Gregorio - 33 years in the league as of this season - tossed an extra-inning three-hit shutout for us. We scratched out a run in the top of the ninth.

 Johnny G delivering one of his nasty filthy pitches. Notice the position of the arm and the strain on his face. This ain't slowpitch.

Oddity of the game? John threw to four different catchers during his masterpiece. I was number three. Due to injury and other unusual circumstances - pinch hitters, etc. -  I had to make three switches to the man behind the plate. I caught four innings (the 5th through the 8th) and didn't record an at-bat for myself because of pinch hitting for myself twice (in fast-pitch softball, unlike baseball, there's a re-entry rule, and I was able to pinch-hit for myself in the 7th and then reinsert myself as catcher in the bottom of the inning. I pinch-hit for myself again in the top of the ninth, but that made it impossible for me to re-enter, so a 4th man was behind the plate for the final three outs.)

The series (best two out of three) continues this coming Tuesday at 8:10. If you're in the area, come on down. If past performance means anything, it promises to be a great game to watch.

Finally, here's a photo of my teammate's dog trying to pick up what sort of pitch is being thrown to me as I make an appearance at the plate earlier in the season. If the pooch had somehow been able to relay to me that it was going to be a slider, I probably wouldn't have popped up to the second baseman.

Soon, with more better stuff. Woof!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Body Parts

MY WIFE and I are going to the movies tonight. We're going to see Jaws, which is playing in a revival theater near us. I saw it ages ago, when it first came out, but MY WIFE has somehow managed to reach 2013 without ever having seen it. It will be fun to sit in an actual theater and watch her reactions.

Anyway, since that movie has much of its plot revolve around people losing limbs, I figured I might as well do a whole post devoted to stories about missing body parts.

First up, I'll tell you about the book I just finished reading. It is entitled Iron Man, and it is the autobiography of Tony Iommi, guitar player for Black Sabbath.

Iommi is a hero of mine. I've enjoyed his music, but it goes beyond that. His resolve, in the face of long odds, has always been an inspiration to me. And the section of his book, detailing that resolve, was more of a revelation than I thought it would be. I'll give the quick story.

While on the last day at his job, just prior to quitting and going on tour in Europe with his band, he lost the ends of two fingers in an industrial accident. He was despondent, of course. They were two of the fingers on his right hand. Iommi, being left-handed, used his right hand as his fretting hand, the hand that made chords and so forth on the guitar. He, and others, assumed his career as a musician was over. Iommi is a man not easily defeated, however, and he - on his own, with no help from anyone in the medical community - fashioned prosthetic fingertips for himself. He persevered, taught himself some new techniques, tuned his guitar differently to make playing less painful, and more-or-less invented a new genre of rock (heavy metal) along the way.

I knew about the fingers, prior to reading his book, but I didn't know to what extent it has tested him. Obviously, it would be a trial, but I had no idea it was such an ongoing one. I figured once he solved the problem, that was about it. It turns out Iommi has had to battle that handicap continually for forty years, replacing the fingertips every month or so, still occasionally having one slip off and causing him severe pain when his finger contacts the fretboard, and so on. Utterly heroic, for a musician.

The rest of the book is a fun read, if you're a fan. If not, it probably won't hold the same charm for you as it did for me. It contains multiple stories of on-the-road hedonism, drug abuse, and the usual sorts of tales one would expect from a life lived as a heavy metal entertainer. The repetition is a bit wearying, but that's what non-fans say about heavy metal itself, so... After reading all the stories, one would expect that the man who lived through them all would NOT have survived, so - taken together with the lost fingers - "Iron Man" is certainly an apropos title.

Next, I'll tell you about my pedicure.

[Not me. I'm hairier in some places, not so hairy in others, and I did not have a frou-frou drink]
 [Photo from HERE]

MY WIFE suggested we go for a mani-pedi. I was initially a bit less-than-eager, being a he-man type, but then I figured, why not? I like massage, I like being treated like a king, so why not go someplace where someone will be at my feet doing my bidding?

We went to a place call Jess Nails, in Watertown on Mount Auburn Street. If they had a website, I'd link there. I can't find one, though. If you want to read some reviews, put the name into Google or Yelp. But never mind that. I'll tell you it's a wonderful place. Very friendly staff, extremely professional, low prices... what more can one ask for from folks willing to trim your big manly toenails? The folks who work there do not speak English as well as one might like - I believe they are from Vietnam originally - but they try very hard and all it takes is a little bit of patience if you aren't understood the first time. They are such pleasant people, in any case, all smiles and good nature, so the slight work of being sure one is understood is well worth it. And, never having been able to master a second language myself, who am I to look down on people who have taken the great pain to learn my language?

MY WIFE has been there multiple times for a mani-pedi. She suggested I might like one myself, so I went. I enjoyed it greatly, and I especially liked the people who run the place, both male and female. The price was much less than I would have imagined, and the entire experience was one I will definitely repeat. So there.

So far, this tale doesn't have much to do with a missing body part, unless one counts toenails, so why am I telling you about it? Because of what happened on our way there. We left the house and walked a half-block, me complaining about it because I thought we might take a car there, not walk. My not-completely-broken-in new sneakers were a bit uncomfortable. MY WIFE suggested I go back and change into more comfortable sneakers. I said I didn't want to wear ratty old sneakers to the spa. I didn't want to look like a bum walking in there. I wanted to look decent. It was at this point that MY WIFE said, "Do you have your teeth?"


There I was, concerned with what impression I was likely to make with my footwear, but I was walking around with half a mouthful of gums. I immediately turned around, went back to the house, changed into comfortable sneakers, and put in my damn teeth. Needless to say, MY WIFE was amused, and this incident will no doubt come back to haunt me someday in future when she feels the need for ammunition.

Finally, we come to something entirely non-humorous and gruesome - labiaplasty.

(I can't find an illustration that isn't either somehow prurient or way too gory.)

I'll begin by saying what should be obvious. I am not a woman. I don't have the body parts I'll be talking about. Also, I have no right to tell another person what to do with her body. If she wants to hack something off, that's her business.

Having said that, I find the concept of doing so for aesthetic purposes entirely bizarre.

Certainly, there are sometimes medical reasons necessitating the removal of all or part of the labia minora. I have heard there can be discomfort associated with retention of the inner lips of the vagina when they are a bit outsized in comparison to the outer lips. If there is some sort of physical reason for removal, I can certainly see having the procedure done. What I don't understand, in any way, is going through such painful surgery strictly because the person undergoing the surgery believes her genitals are not as good-looking as another woman's genitals.

What brought this to the forefront of my mind was a film I caught part of while flipping through channels the other night. The documentary was mainly concerned with how today's easy access to sexual imagery has changed young female attitudes toward dress, sexual mores, and their own body image. One of the people in it, a young woman perhaps in her early twenties, felt that her labia were ugly. She had come to this conclusion after seeing photos and films of other women's labia in pornography and such. She decided to have plastic surgery done on her vagina, specifically a labiaplasty.

I would rather not have seen what was shown, but once seen, something cannot be unseen. And there I sat, like one watching an auto accident, unable not to look, as a doctor took the same sort of tool that had been used to clip my toenails during my pedicure and snipped away this woman's labia. They blurred the image of her vagina, so thankfully I did not see the actual removal in total, but they showed the detached lips sitting on the surgical tray next to the doctor, following their removal. It was a sight that made me involuntarily clench my legs together, despite not having those parts myself. It was horrifying.

After the surgery, they had some film of the young woman at home. They showed her taking a pee - side shot, as tasteful as such a tasteless shot could be - and her pain was extreme. Then a shot of her laying in bed, her crying mother at the bedside, as she was still in pain, etc.

Can I be allowed to say something here, as a man who loves women? If you're thinking of doing something like this, in order to be more physically pleasing to a man, please don't.

I have enjoyed naked women for many years. I have seen thousands vaginas; live, on film, in photos. I can count on the fingers of one hand the vaginas I have found truly unattractive. And from what I've seen on the internet, in exploring articles about labiaplasty following my viewing of that hideous film, what most labiaplasty procedures accomplish is to take a perfectly fine and lovely natural vagina and make it look less attractive. Perhaps it's just my personal taste speaking, but I found many of the "before" photos preferable to the "after".

As I said before, it's your body. It's not my place to tell you what you can and cannot do with it. But I think there are more men in this world who like women, and want them as they naturally are, than there are those who are so selfish that they would have you remove body parts in an effort to become what they deem as a norm for beautiful. And if you're comparing yourself to porn stars for genital beauty or whatever, keep in mind that they are in that business for a reason, same as the well-endowed men. They are NOT the norm.

(Also, in reading personal testimonies of women who have undergone the procedure, some would go back in time and never have had it done. Some have lost sensation, become less orgasmic and so on. Others say it was a great thing, so it's not a blanket judgment. It's definitely worth long thought, though, and not something to be rushed into without considering the permanent ramifications.)

OK, that's it from here for today. I'll bet some of you are now pining for me to write about softball.

Soon, with more.