Mar 292012

So as I detailed earlier this week, my daytime gig Connecticut Magazine has moved its offices to the New Haven Register building at Long Wharf in New Haven. As such, we arrived on Monday morning to a whole new world …

Speaking of which, we should’ve made this kind of entrance when arrived …

Or better yet, we could’ve gone for what this clip was based on, the grand entrance of Cleopatra coming into Rome. (I would’ve embedded the clip, but it’s nine minutes long. You get the picture, though …)

Too subtle?

People who know me now often don’t remember, but I am painfully shy at first. Sure, once you get to know me (or read my blog, where I don’t have to stare you in the eye), I open up, but from a cold “start,” not so much. My first year at Connecticut Magazine, I made one “friend,” and she left for a new job after six months. I didn’t even start talking to my work wife Marisa until I had been there for two years. I’ve tried to get better at introducing myself to new people, but it’s still a tough struggle for me.

I remember when I moved to Connecticut from Brooklyn, New York. Talk about culture shock! I had only been here once before—to my aunt’s house, which was on the far side of Milford—and all I knew for sure was that there was a lot more trees and grass. I knew absolutely no one, and the first few days at the new house on Linwood Street were lonely. I sort of wandered down the street, and then just scurried back to the yard. I was the new kid on the block, and it would still be over a decade before that might even be considered cool. I was hangin’ tough at that point.

As you can imagine, the first day of school was tough, although I totally lucked out. I don’t think I talked to anyone until later in the afternoon when the kid sitting next to me in Mrs. Morrison’s class looked over, took pity and said, “Hey, my name is Kenny. Want to come over after school and play?” “YES!” I think I probably shouted. Turns out he lived on Sassacus Drive, which is right off of Linwood. From there, he introduced to me most of the other kids in the neighborhood, and I took it from there.

[Before you ask: Kenny and I were friendly until high school, when life took us in other directions. Haven’t seen or heard from him since, but I still owe him a huge thanks!]

Anyway, as we start in the new office, I do have a benefit in that I have my old friends from Trumbull with me, but we are still totally the new kids on the playground and stand out like a sore thumbs, if I can mix my metaphors. People have recognized us as strangers and introduced themselves, but it’s been awkward at times.

As such, I’ve been brainstorming a few ideas that we could use as icebreakers to make new friends …

An introductory PowerPoint presentation

Parking lot barbeque cookout – The quickest way to make friends is to share food, and nothing says “hey, you!” like smoked hunks of animal flesh slathered with messy sauces, right? Throw in some corn on the cob, and you can have a fun, conversation-starting corn race the next day in the bathroom stalls.

Random pranks – “Who lit off a stink bomb in the publisher’s office?” “Another rubber chicken in the cafeteria microwave?” “Who sent the letter with the mysterious white powder to the mail room? Awww, must’ve been the wacky new people. Those madcaps!”

Impromptu playground games – Nothing will force an introduction like running into the random cubicle of someone you haven’t met yet, hitting them in the face with a banana cream pie, yelling “Tag! You’re IT!” and scampering away.

Midday movie club – Set up a screen in the cafeteria, pop some popcorn, whip up some strawberry slurpees and you have an event that might be conducive to social interactive. Of course, it depends on the movie, and I don’t think there’s anything that would make for a better icebreaker than this award-winning flick.

Panty raid! – All right, it may not be the most politically correct activity in the work place, but I have to think that an orchestrated surprise snatching of the undergarments of your new co-workers is a great way to learn more about them in the most fun way possible. Besides, who wouldn’t want to instantly make friends with the person running around the office with a pair of boxer shorts on their head?

Honey badger time – Releasing the “m0st fearless animal” on the planet [NSFW language] in a new workplace may sound “dangerous” to some, but it will quickly bring people together and force new relationships against a common, angry foe. Also, a crisis will help identify the cliques you want to get into, be it animal lovers or problem solvers, and obviously, you will make friends with someone while you’re cowering together in a broom closet until the SWAT team arrives.

Improv @ The Caf – Sure, taking your tray and trying to slide into the empty seat at the cool kids table is always an option, but why go that route when you know all it well get you is a dumped lunch and an old school pantsing? Here’s a chance to serve up a heaping helping of ha-ha—and who doesn’t instantly want to become friends with the funniest guy in the room? Start out with some simple insult comedy (“Hey, do you get a free bowl of soup with that prosthetic leg?”), maybe work into some observational humor (“What’s the deal with all these stupid sexual harassment laws? Takes all the fun out of making copies of your butt, am I right?!”), and then finish it with some topical jokes (“What’s the difference between Rick Santorum’s political views and those of a cave man’s? The cave man isn’t running for the most important job on the planet!”). They’ll all be begging for seconds, and they’ll be lapping the funny—and friendship—straight out of your palm.

Two words: Keg party – Let’s be honest: Liquor is quicker when you want to make friends. Bars are where people meet, but why wait and hope you get invited to a Happy Hour when you can just make it party time any time in the office. A few rounds of beer pong, flip cup or quarters is a sure-fire way to lower inhibitions, break down social barriers and seem more attractive—in a “hey there new friend” sense—to others. When you think about it, it’s probably the only fool (100) proof method on this list. What could possibly go wrong?

So I guess that’s what we should plan—a raging kegger in the parking lot. Now who’s doing the first funnel?

Mar 252012

Last week was the last week for my daytime gig at our old offices. After 15 years or so in Trumbull, Connecticut Magazine has been moved to New Haven, where we have been absorbed into the New Haven Register building at Long Wharf, which is owned by the company that owns us. This in itself may be a prelude to another move as it was also announced last week that there are plans to sell that building to move downtown New Haven.

I think we’re along for the ride, but I learned a long time ago not to assume anything. One day at a time. What happens happens. It is what it is. Insert whatever other cliche you can think of that implies it’s a situation over which I have zero control so I won’t worry about it. Que sera, sera

Anyway, as you can imagine, the last few weeks have been crazy as we have been packing up years of work while still trying to put together the next issue. Like during any moving process, we discovered things we thought were long lost (like a poster-sized staff photo from 1997!), didn’t have nearly enough boxes for all of our files and, ultimately, threw out tons of crap—literally. Stacks of old magazines are heavy. One batch weighed so much that it made the elevator sink before we even hit the “down” button—we sent that one by itself and took the stairs!

It was weird arriving at work on Friday, the last day in the office where I’ve spent the majority of my 40-hour weeks for the past decade or so. As I walked across the parking lot, I sort of took it in, the surroundings to which I’ve become accustomed, the building and all. I wasn’t wistful or sad, but I guess I was feeling a bit nostalgic, and started reminiscing about some of the good times.

Of course, I thought of all the weird and wonderful people with whom I’ve directly worked, like the one woman who would get overly excited from time to time and slap the butts of various co-workers. Yeah, you read that right, but before anyone goes all human resources, you truly had to be there to be appreciate the way she went about it, her targets and her timing, how it was done in a loving and tension-breaking way—nothing will loosen up a stressed office like a resounding *SMACK* and the faux hysteria that follows it. Like the old “Friends” episode, getting struck became a badge of honor. For the record, I was spared in the reign of terror; apparently, my dimpled posterior wasn’t an enticing enough target. Go figure.

I also remembered the various characters who worked in other offices in the building, not associated with us, you know, like the NASDAQ security guards who would often nap at their posts in the hallways—nothing keeps you alert like being well-rested, right?

Memorable also were some of the extracurricular things that went on in the office—specifically, the fun I had with my co-workers. Or at the expense of my co-workers, on occasion.

I think of one long-time employee of the magazine who was obsessed with the store room, and spent an inordinate amount of time in there, straightening and organizing. He would be in there first thing almost every morning, which seemed extraordinarily excessive considering the relatively small size of the room and of our operation. After a while I decided to help out: being a good co-worker, each afternoon before I left I would go in the store room and randomly take a few heavy boxes off the shelves and place them on the floor.

The next morning when I arrived, they’d always be back on the shelves, all neat again.

This continued on and off for a few years—I’d leave boxes on the floor, he’d clean them up by the next morning. I never heard him complain about it, so I assumed we were playing some sort of game he enjoyed. Of course, he may have never noticed anything was out of the ordinary, either. Still, I was amused. Oh well.

Speaking of cleaning things up, there was one member of the building’s cleaning service by the name of Miguel, who was an excellent worker and incredibly polite, even if he went a bit heavy on the cologne. English was not his first language, so he tended to be a bit shy when he came to empty our trash cans at the end of the day.

One afternoon, while I was talking to my work wife Marisa in her office, Miguel came in to get the garbage. Marisa, trying to help him out, went to hand him the can, but it slipped and landed between them, spilling out. They both immediately started apologizing to each other and bent down to get the trash, almost knocking heads together. It was like a scene out of a teen rom-com, where the couple meets after one drops the books in the hall and they both scramble to pick them up. Love at first sight!

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite love, but it was close enough for us to joke about her “crush” for a while afterward. Marisa is as twisted (read: immature) as I am, so we would often have each other in stitches trying to top each other about potential Miguel “fantasies.” Her husband’s name was Mike—the English version of Miguel—so there was a lot of fun to have there too, you know, talking about accidentally calling out the “wrong” name at the wrong time.

Well, December rolled around, and with it, a golden opportunity. When it came time to draw names out of a hat for “Secret Santa,” I pulled Marisa’s name and a terrific prank immediately sprung to mind.

After work day had ended on the afternoon before the event, I went through the building in search of Miguel. Of course, I couldn’t find him anywhere and returned to my office dejected, but a Festivus miracle occurred. As soon as I reached for my coat to call it a day, he appeared to empty my trash can! I took advantage …

Cut to the next day at the Christm—er, “holiday luncheon.” (By company rules, we were not allowed to have either a “Christmas” event or any sort of “party.”) I was sitting across the table from Marisa when her Secret Santa gifts were placed before her. I pretended to be absorbed in my own gift as she tore the paper off the first package—a CD of Latin music, which ironically had been on her Amazon gift list. I could see she was a little perplexed, but she gamely moved on to the next package.

She slowly pulled the wrap off the gift, and then stared at it for a few seconds …. and then burst into laughter so hard she couldn’t even talk for a while. The other people seated around her started to notice she was in hysterics and asked what was wrong. All she could do was just hand them her special gift …

A framed photograph from her unsuspecting “crush,” addressed to “Mamacita” and signed “Besitos, Miguel.”

Apologies to Miguel (who the night before had reluctantly allowed me to “test” the “new” camera I brought to work), but I hope there’s a little harmless fun to have in the brave new world that awaits us this week!


Mar 232012

So as I’m wont to do, last night I started watching the two-part series “Are We Alone: Alien Encounters” on Science Channel. Unlike many of the alien- and UFO-related shows on Discovery, History, TLC, OWN, Biography, ID, Nickelodeon and The Food Channel, this one takes a more practical tack on the subject.

From Science Channel’s website:

Alien Encounters lays out a plausible hypothetical scenario for a first contact event. What would really happen if we got a message from space? How will humans react when we learn a spacecraft is on its way to Earth? Will humans learn from aliens, or become colonial subjects?

Some of the world’s leading astrophysicists, astrobiologists, sci-fi writers and and futurists help unravel the scientific, cultural and psychological impact of this world-changing global event.

Alien Encounters is made in cooperation with SETI Institute (the highly respected organization devoted to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which was founded in the early 1960s by renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan.

Sure, not the hardcore science behind a show like “Finding Bigfoot,” but a cut above, I’d say. (Oh, and if you haven’t seen the “season finale” of “Finding Bigfoot” via “The Soup,” I highly recommend it—laughing out loud, as the kids say …)

Anyway, as we know from my other website, life on other planets has long been a subject by which I’m fascinated. Now am I talking about little gray beings who are intelligent enough to have solved the complex challenges involved with intergalactic travel just so they could just traverse hundreds of light years to Earth to surreptitiously cut our cows in half and shove probes up the unremarkable anuses of trailer park denizens named Cooter?


But with the trillions of stars and billions of planets, I think it’s safe to assume that there’s other life out there somewhere in the cosmos. Perhaps not sentient, intelligent life as we know it, but considering that there’s life in some harshest conditions on this planet—like extremophiles that exist along thermal vents miles under the ocean or in Courtney Love’s undergarments—it’s reasonable to say there’s SOMETHING out there.

Now, I know that in addition to our television and radio waves, various space agencies have been beaming messages into the vast reaches of space for decades. If there is an intelligent alien civilization out there monitoring the smorgasbord of communications we’ve unleashed on the universe—and they’re not hell bent on destroying or enslaving us, like Stephen Hawking suggests—then it’s entirely possible that they’re scratching their six heads in confusion.

As always, when humanity needs it, I’m here to help!

Here’s a message that I think needs to be sent across the black void of space. (Obviously, it may need to be sent in a few different languages and codes, but I’ll leave the nerds at NASA and SETI to work that out.)

“Dear Friends on The Other Side of All the Twinkly Things,

Hope all is well and that civilization is working out a little better for you than it is for us. As you may have noticed if you’ve been watching and listening to what’s going on here on the shiny blue speck near the yellowish dot, we’re having … challenges, as a few of us like to say.

Oh sure, if you’re monitoring us by our entertainment and news programming, it looks like all we’re doing is killing or procreating with one another, but that’s not really the whole story. (Although the procreating thing is big here.) The large majority of us who you will never see or hear about in “reality” don’t do things like mindlessly slaughter innocent others, wantonly engage in drunken fisticuffs or eagerly hunt for aquatic nourishment with nothing other than our unaided appendages. We’re actually pretty friendly and decent on the whole, once you get past our propensity for occasionally doing inexplicable things.

Unlike many others, I do not believe that you’ve been here already and left behind spurious things like pyramids, crop circles or the House of Windsor. As such, Earth may be a nice place for you to come visit—we have great beaches, some excellent tourist attractions and really, the gelato in Florence is out of this world. So to speak.

Of course, I understand that if you can understand this and are interested in coming here, you might be much more advanced than us, which might mean you have other motives for making the trip.

If you are coming across the galaxy for a snack, I would like to say that we don’t make good eating, but given our high fat content that’s probably a lie. If you do arrive here hungry, I have it on good advice that these are the finest of human delicacies, as you can tell by their fancy packaging—


Please make sure to enjoy your fill and ingest every bit of them, especially the females! They are finger-licking good, to use an old Earth motto.

If you are instead looking to enslave us, these are among the most ready to work as they have yet to do anything productive of which I’m aware.


Again, work them hard, work them often. Work them to death, if you deem it necessary—they owe it to the rest of us. (The little orange one also may make for good eating when you’re done working her, although that’s just an educated guess.)

Finally, if you are coming to pick out one of us for a inter-species breeding program, may I recommend this sturdy, fertile young female—


Although you might think that by her luxurious locks and soft features she’s a fragile flower, I assure you that she is not. Look at those broad shoulders and square jaw! Please feel free to repeatedly use your barbed genitalia in vigorous efforts at reproduction—she may protest a bit at first, but that’s only because she is shy. Don’t let that deter you, and keep at it until conception is achieved . . .

Okay, that’s what we call here on Earth “humor”—attempting to entertain or amuse with the goal of inducing laughter. Many of us here enjoy it from time to time as it helps us deal with the stress of our lives and prevents us from constantly wanting to kill each other. (The aforementioned attempts at procreation, if done correctly, can also bring about the same effect.) I hope you can appreciate my attempt at it as an effort to engender your appreciation.

Anyway, here is the proper young female you should choose for your breeding program.


I hope that clears up a few things about which you may have had questions.

I look forward to meeting you some day—you know, on pleasant, friendly terms, not while you’re feeding me to one of your young.




Mar 192012

Here in Connecticut, Sunday was one of the best weather days of 2012 so far—sunny and clear, temps in the high 60s and it’s not even the first day of spring yet …

Yay, global warming!

So as I was running around the house doing my normal Sunday chores—laundry, ironing, dishes, writing—I couldn’t help but notice the sunshine from outside streaming through the windows and on the four young boys (two of whom were my own) who were sitting on my living room furniture, heads buried in laptops, cell phones, iPod touches and other sundry electronic devices.

“Hey guys,” I said, putting my neatly folded laundry down for a moment. “I think you all need to take a break from games and go outside for a little while. It’s a gorgeous day!”

Well, that’s what I thought I said. By the reaction I received, it apparently sounded a lot more like, “I think you all need to go out through the monsoon to the salt mine out back and break rocks for a while. And don’t come back until you’re dead from exhaustion.”


[*hikes up pants, takes a deep breath*]

Ahem. Back in my day—

[Hold on a sec. Before I go too far off on this Old Man rant, I’d just like to point out that I told the kids to get ON my lawn, rather then get off of it. Just sayin’.

Okay, back to my rant, already in progress…]


Anyway, I guess them days are gone. Between so many electronic distractions and helicopter parents who don’t let kids go next door without a signed permission slip and a certified lifeguard on duty to monitor the sandbox, the majority of kids just aren’t into spending their days outside roaming around the neighborhood and exploring the world beyond the sheltered end of their cul-de-sac.

I’m sort of torn on this. Part of me wants to go off on a rant about how my friends and I used to spend hours playing baseball and football without (gasp!) coaches, running around in the woods, going unsupervised into abandoned construction sites and other moderately dangerous mischief we used to find, and how we turned out okay. By the same token, I realize that it’s a new world now, that kids are smarter, more savvy and mature, and still playing together, just in digital domains. Of course, they are a bit fatter than they used to be …

Maybe I need to do a list featuring the pros and cons of each. Let’s give it a shot:



  • Climate controlled
  • Access to electronics, the internet and all the pleasures associated with them
  • Fewer bugs that will sting you
  • Low chance of sunburn
  • General absence of clowns


  • Recycled air keeps circulating other people’s germs until they can finally latch on to you
  • Too much electronics = brain cancer (I think Rick Santorum said that, although that could be a lie)
  • Higher chance of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Unless you’re on Team Edward, no one likes pasty skin
  • If clown appears, fewer opportunities to escape



  • Plenty of fresh air
  • Many opportunities for physical activity and recreation
  • Better appreciation of nature and the beautiful world around us
  • Bright sunshine is good psychologically
  • More places to hide dead clowns


  • Snow, rain and cold, as well as the constant threat of locust
  • Less likely to stumble across celebrity flesh surfing at the beach as opposed to surfing the web
  • Ticks, mosquitoes, bears and rabid goats don’t usually live in houses, you know
  • Too much sunshine = skin cancer
  • More places for zombie clowns to hide

Well, I’m not sure that really solved anything.

[*glances out window, notices abundant sunshine*]

Oh well, I think it’s time to accept the wisdom of our greatest American actor (pound for pound). (Clip contains some NSFW language.)



Mar 152012

So this past week, I got back from the copy editor the manuscript for my upcoming book Speaking Ill of the Dead: Connecticut Jerks—due out from Globe Pequot Press on September 4. (Mark you calendars now, although I may mention it again before then.) The good news is that there aren’t a whole lot of corrections that need to be made, doubly good considering my daytime gig is as an editor.

I also got some positive feedback from my faithful project editor Lauren (although as I’ve known her for a few years prior to her position at GPP, she’s hardly objective). Apparently, those who have read it so far have enjoyed it, always a good sign. Now the key is to get the general public to willingly part with their hard-earned cash in order to read it—always a challenge.

Anyway, since this book is about Connecticut jerks—a title for which I’m clearly overqualified—and that it may not completely suck, it seems apropos that I start acting like a true jerk now in anticipation for when I’m rich and famous and stuff.

To that end, I feel as though I should be thinking about some outrageous demands, you know, such as the ones rock stars and pop divas make.

So, here are:

My Top 14 Writing Demands

1. I’ll only read and edit manuscripts transcribed by Tibetan monks on albino tiger skin. You know, so the text will really pop.

2. When editing I require a 2-quart bowl of M&Ms, but rather than the brown ones picked out, I’d like the candy shells cracked.

3. Also when editing: A single can of Coke Classic per day, to be served at precisely 2 p.m. by Elizabeth Banks in a Princess Leia metal slave girl bikini. (Salma Hayek, Amy Adams, Tina Fey and Kaitlin Olson are all acceptable substitutes, although I’d prefer for the last one to give birth first.) [Side note: Just another reason to love The Man in Black.]

4. No clowns within a 25-mile radius of my work space … well, for lots of reasons.

5. No television evangelists, either. See previous.

6. My grandmother’s chicken francaise—but since she’s gone, I’ll settle for fried chicken from Drum-Stik BBQ in Bridgeport, with a side of the green coleslaw.

7. Colin Mochrie on 24-hour call so I can be entertained whenever whimsy beckons.

8. A Blu-Ray version of Dodgeball because nothing relieves stress like watching a dodgeball coach get crushed by two tons of irony. (“Cram it up your cramhole, LaFleur.”)

9. Every night, I want a single red rose left on the grave of Mindy Cohn. (Sweet, misunderstood Natalie …)

10. A cat o’ nine tails fashioned from the hair of Mary Roach, Lucinda Williams and Christopher Moore … you know, for inspiration.

11. A button attached to a truck battery with jumper cables hooked to the genitals of Tony Danza … you know, for inspiration.

12. The outdoor temperature in Connecticut should be kept at a comfortable 75 degrees during the day and 55 at night, with zero humidity. Rain, when necessary, may fall between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. EST.

13. No one may make eye contact with me while working, visiting or during book signings, nor may they speak directly or indirectly to me.

14. Like Mary J. Blige, I demand a brand-new toilet seat every time I need to use the bathroom. Blue or white preferred, absolutely no orange.

Let’s just hope the toilet paper isn’t the pages of my book …

Mar 122012

You know, I don’t know how to really start this other than showing you this: a concert performance by Japanese pop superstar Hatsune Miku

As you may have noticed, everyone at this real performance is an actual person—the guitarist, the drummer, the thousands of screaming fans—with the key exception of Hatsune Miku herself, who is a completely computer-generated creation.

Actually, to be technical, she is (as gleaned from Wikipedia) “a singing synthesizer application with a female persona,” developed by Crypton Future Media using Yamaha Corporation’s Vocaloid 2 synthesizing technology. Her name is taken from Hatsu (初, first), Ne (音, sound), and Miku (未来, future) thus meaning “the first sound from the future,” while her physical representation is typical Japanese anime—you know, stylized borderline pedo school girl art. Her voice was sampled from a real Japanese voice actress, but what gets done with it is up to the person using the program. Anyone can write music for the Hatsune Miku program, as there are over 100,000 songs out there, and her concerts feature tunes written by at least 20 different people.

Oh, speaking of which, “she” just sold out all four of her Tokyo shows—10,000 tickets—in hours at about $76 a pop.

Not a bad job for something that doesn’t actually exist. Then again, organized religions have been successfully peddling a non-existent product—pick your favorite god—for centuries, so is this really any different?

Some of you may already know of Hatsune Miku, and with my vast capacity for worthless pop culture and other unusual things, I’m trying to figure out how I never heard of her until the other day. Frankly, I’m embarrassed that this wasn’t even a blip on my raydar.

I didn’t realize that I was looking for one, but then I started thinking that Hatsune Miku might make the perfect mascot for rayality—a virtual, pop culture-friendly icon for representing a place that really doesn’t exist anywhere except in the ether of the intrawebz. But then I realized something very important:


Really, I tried listening to a few different songs, and you would think with that many there’d be at least one decent tune in there, but no, it’s complete and utter crap to me. Crap! (And for the record, I do enjoy some modern pop music, but this is just sounds like auto-tuned dreck. Now get off of my lawn!)

Thus, I realize that if I want a mascot for rayality—and really, I think it might help with my branding and marketing efforts as well as provide an opportunity to create synergy in market shares in key demographics and whatever other douchebaggy faux business speak that no one understands but sounds impressive to potential investors blah blah profit margin blah—I need to search elsewhere.

A few obvious choices come to mind, among them:

A Melon Head Let’s see if they are a match for me: Misunderstood creatures with potentially large brains? Check. Preference to live away from people in a Unabomber-like shack. Check. Tendency to abduct unsuspecting strangers for bizarre and possibly horrific purposes. Uh …. hmm … let’s see … I guess for the most part, no check. Next.


Bigfoot – A ‘squatch might be a good physical match—you know, aside from the big feet, height and purported strength. I also share the same “shyness” as the reclusive creature, i.e. we both don’t care for being captured on film, nor do we like people all that much. Now that I’m making those trips to the salon, however, the hirsute part of the equation is now lacking. And although I enjoy bacon, I’m not a fan of beef jerky. Next.

Nessie – The mystery creature that ignited my interest in everything curious and weird. I just don’t like sea food. Next.



Mr. Met – Okay, he’s already the mascot for another organization, but he does bring instant recognition and, and he also takes on outside gigs from time to time, such as ESPN SportsCenter commercials, “30 Rock” and even the occasional wedding. Actually, he might be too high profile for me. Next.


Perry the Platypus – Well, he is a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal of action, and probably one of the coolest characters out there, you know, just like me. But he is also owned by Disney—there’s a good chance I could be getting a cease-and-desist letter from Mickey’s legal team for just even mentioning the idea. Next. Quickly.


Alien gray – I’ve been told that my brain is probably not of this world, and I’ve been probed at least once. I definitely love all things space—I’ve been reading Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that although space travel sounds cool, there’s a lot of things that sort of suck about it: no showers, and no normal toilets, which is a problem if you’re as regular as I am. Next.


Zane’s “You Are Not” “YAY!” character – An obvious choice as it would make sense to take something from my most popular post ever—and by “most popular,” I mean I went viral and about 14 people saw it. The problem is that Zane is talking about a “substantial” rights fee for the future use of his characters, and that he knows an excellent attorney who would take his case against me. Next.


Senior Smoke – Hmm … no known pictures of my biggest fan/critic exists, and at this point, he hasn’t dared to show his face around here, so that might be the choice. A non-entity of a mascot for a place that doesn’t really exist. Winner winner chicken dinner?!

Of course, like Wisconsin, this is a pseudo democracy, so please feel free to vote for your favorite (in the comments), or to share any ideas, and I will pretend to consider them!


Mar 072012

So I was talking to the legendary Senior Smoke the other day, and we got onto his most favoritest subject in the world: children.

I was talking about how amusing my kids are, and he said, “Look, everyone thinks their kids are great kids. Everyone. And that’s just not the case. It’s just not.”

I started to protest and say, “Yeah, but my kids really are great,” but then I stopped.

He’s absolutely right, I realized.

We constantly tell our kids how great and special they are, and we all believe it, but the truth is that it’s impossible. We say everyone is special, but as Dash says in The Incredibles, that’s just “another way of saying no one is.” Words of wisdom and truth that I think it’s high time we share with our children.

Okay, to facilitate that, I’ve decided to write my very own children’s book … except you know, without the actual book, which is pretty much the way we’re going anyway. But that’s okay, I got the rest of it, including the illustrations, created by my not-special son, Zane.

As you can tell by the title of this post, it’s called—

“You Are Not”


All your life, people have been telling you that “You are special!”

You are not.

I mean, you’re probably a very nice person and good to others, but that describes about 95 percent of the world. Welcome to the “Just Like Everyone Else” Club!

They will tell you that if you work real hard, you can achieve your dreams, no matter what!

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Mar 042012

In case you hadn’t already figured it out, I’m an inveterate people watcher.

I mean, I guess we all are to some extent, but over the years, I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy watching others just going about their lives—and not like a creeper, just an offshoot of my curiosity. (I do have a track record in that regard.) And there’s no better place to creep … er, watch folks that than in a coffee house, especially if you’re stuck there for a few hours on a rainy Saturday morning.

As I’m typing this sentence, it’s Saturday, March 3, 2012, at 11:13 a.m., and I’m sitting in Koffee in New Haven, Connecticut …

[Before I go too far—one of the things I love about writing is that no matter when that previous sentence is read, be it tomorrow, next week, next year or a century from now by the beings from Zeta Reticuli, it will always be March 3, Koffee will always be open, and I will always be alive and sitting here pecking away at my keyboard. It’s an amazing state of existence. If something from a book bothers you, say like [spoiler alert!] how Snape kills Dumbledore, all you have to do is go back to page one of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Dumbledore lives again. Every fiction book on every shelf is packed with characters in suspended animation, and all you have to do is pick up the book and start reading to bring them to life. Just cool!]

… and I’m surreptitiously watching the world go by.

Koffee is one of my favorite spots, ironic since I don’t drink coffee under any circumstances—I sate my caffeine addiction with Coke, the most healthy way of going about it. [*lalalalalala I can’t hear you*] Nonetheless, I have ruined the Koffee experience a bit for myself in another way.

For the past few years, I’ve whiled away many Saturday mornings here, waiting as my son has attended his theater class down the street. Aside from being a nice two-hour block of reasonably quiet time to enjoy my own thoughts (a rarity, as anyone with children knows), and a wonderful people-watching perch, I like to treat myself to one of their ginormous chocolate chip muffins, which are decadently loaded with chips.

It’s become one of my guiltiest pleasures—trying not to consume a muffin in under five minutes, but always failing miserably. In my appreciation, during one of our “Best of Connecticut” meetings at Connecticut Magazine, I suggested that Koffee’s muffins be considered best in the state. The editorial staff agreed and Koffee was awarded “Best Muffin” for 2011.

And I screwed myself.

I used to drool just standing in line, looking at a bunch of them sitting in the glass case, wondering which one was going to be picked for my ravenous consumption. But once they were proclaimed “best” by a magazine that reaches over 300,000 state residents a month, a (not-so-) funny thing happened: People started eating them. Which meant by the time I showed up on Saturday mornings, the case was almost always devoid of them.

The cruelest cut happened about a month ago—after weeks of going without, I got to Koffee and saw there was a single chocolate chip muffin sitting there. I looked at the line in front of me—one woman, who had already ordered, and one guy. I started to smile. I was going to score!

The guy in front of me gets to the register. “Give me a large coffee, black,” he says, and I start to exhale—

“… Oh, and that last chocolate chip muffin.


My wife remedied this for me on Valentines Day, going to Koffee early and buying every chocolate chip muffin in the place. She brought them home, and even though we froze them, they were gone quickly—what I get for sharing with the kids!

Stupid kids, always eating and growing and stuff …

Anyway, after the muffins, my next enjoyment is to just sit here and observe while I write. As New Haven is a college town and college students enjoy the java, there’s always a lot of them here. Even though I’m about three times their age, I almost fit in with my shiny MacBook Pro—a quick glance around and it seems as though everyone under the age of 30 has one. And an iPhone, of course.

[*insert harp version of the marimba tone as Steve Jobs looks down from iHeaven*]

There’s a distinguished looking gentleman and his tween son that I’ve seen in here numerous times over the past few years, and I always try to imagine their lives at home. I picture them sitting around, sipping iced tea, playing chess and enjoying intellectually stimulating discussions—you know, the direct opposite of my relationship with my sons, which involves lots of bodily noises, chaos and smart alecky comments. “Hey Dad, how long was it before your family finally got fire?”


I also often see two scholarly looking gentlemen whom I assume are professors—they doodle what look to be complex formulas on notebooks, and students approach them respectfully from time to time to chat. I would bet these guys have been going to coffee houses since Bob Dylan used to play them, and I would also bet their students have no idea who Bob Dylan is, other than maybe “the father of that guy who used to sing ‘One Headlight.'”

Around are also parents of other children who are in the same theater class as my son. If I wasn’t so shy, I’d try to strike up a conversation; instead I sort of give a smile and nod when we make eye contact. You know, which isn’t any more creepy than the average middle-aged white guy trying to give candy to kids at the playground….

Speaking of eye contact, I really try to avoid it while people watching—I’ve sort of mastered the art of looking at someone, and if they look up, pretending that I was lost in thought and looking off in another direction….

Yeah, smooooooth. Like gravel.

Obviously, a lot of the students here are doing homework, something that would have never worked for me back in the day. Not that I had ADD, but I was easily distracted back in the day and it was amazing that I was even able to earn a degree (although it was in communications, the basket-weaving of academia). Even now, I can barely concentrate on my laptop long enough to string together three—

Sorry, had to check on The Bloggess. And Twitter. And Facebook. And the Jets Blog. What was I typing about again?

Oh yeah, watching people. I guess some might think it’s an invasion of privacy, but is it my fault that that they’re sitting right out here in public? Fair game, I say. You know, like those who leave their curtains open at night practically begging you to look in …

Okay, that’s more than borderline creeper. But I learned the hard way to be careful what you ask for.

Like every single heterosexual adolescent boy—from the kids in Porky’s to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window—I always dreamed of “accidentally” catching a glimpse of a sultry female neighbor in the act of getting changed. Of course, I never actively pursued it, just thought it’d be cool if I ever got to see it somehow. The details were vague, just a fantasy, right?

It was a cold winter night a few years ago. I was crunching through the snow down the darkened street to retrieve my young sons from their friends’ house, when suddenly I was bathed in light from the house I was passing. I turned to look at the source, which was my neighbor’s bedroom window, and there, standing completely nekkid, was my neighbor!

I froze for a second, and in that second, my damned eyes recorded much more detail than I wanted. Although I know she couldn’t see me (it was still much darker outside than it was inside, and the window was closed, so all she would’ve seen was a reflection of herself) and I know I was doing nothing wrong—I was standing in a public street, the window was unfettered and the light was on—I nonetheless turned and ran before I saw anything else.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with the neighbor, it’s just for my personal fantasy to be fulfilled, she would have been about 40 years younger and about 100 pounds lighter. Simply, I dreamed of Phoebe Cates, and instead got Kathy Bates. The perils of people watching.

The universe isn’t completely capricious, however. I did snag the last chocolate chip muffin at Koffee this morning.

Mar 012012

So the other day I was at Shadowland in Wallingford, a “very unique store” filled with oddities and curiosities, as well as unusual music and books. This was my second trip to the shop; at Eric the owner’s behest, I had returned to drop off a few signed copies of Connecticut Curiosities: 3rd Edition for him to sell there.

As I was chatting with Eric and browsing around the shop, admiring the unusual artworks, taxidermy critters and other assorted weird items, I started having flashbacks to my college days when I used to regularly house sit for one of my professors.

I’ll never forget the first time Dr. Hawkins asked me to come to his office after class to discuss “a job opportunity.” On the desk of his windowless office in the basement of Engleman Hall was proudly displayed a baseball autographed by Pete Gray. I took one look at it and immediately asked, “How the heck did he sign it?” Dr. Hawkins’ delighted smile instantly told me that he knew I was the right man to watch his house and the cache of unusual items contained within. (You know, because it was back before the interwebz were a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, and I didn’t need Google to know who Pete Gray was.)

The “Hawk’s Nest,” as my buddies Steve and CC dubbed it, was the closest thing I’ve seen to a real-life Addams Family house. It was a dusty, musty Victorian throwback, a three-story edifice with long uneven hallways, period fixtures and ornate wallpaper. The cramped rooms were chocked full of vintage furniture, old paintings and pictures, unusual memorabilia, marble busts, taxidermy and other odd baseball-related items that the eccentric Dr. Hawkins—an antiques dealer and huge baseball fan—had collected over the years. Like many old homes, there were constant creaks and cracks, and it even had a giant grandfather clock would even bong loudly on the hour.

Zoinks, right?! I would’ve liked to have a box of Scooby Snacks the first night I stayed. I “slept” with the TV on—really, turned and tossed until dawn is more like it. On another occasion, I was awakened in the middle of the night to find Dr. Hawkins’ cat at the side of the bed, bathed in the electronic glow of the TV, tail and hackles raised, staring intently at a nondescript spot on the wall. It didn’t move for about 10 minutes. Like, totally freaky.

Of course, there were other “charms” of the place. I had probably house sat for a half dozen times before one night I found myself staring at the red velvet curtain hanging on the wall behind the TV at the end of the king-sized bed. “Hey, that’s an inside wall!” it finally dawned on me. “Why does it need a curtain?”

I got up and pulled back the velvet …. and discovered the entire wall was covered with Victorian-era pin-ups and other vintage (although fairly tame) girlie pictures. Ah, the bachelor life!

Still, even though it was a bit creepy at time, it was still a good deal for me—within walking distance of campus and a great place to crash after hanging out with my friends who lived on campus (Dr. Hawkins went away to public speaking tournaments many weekends). And I was being paid!

Of course, I always welcomed company when house-sitting at the Hawk’s Nest. A number of friends stayed with me on different occasions, which didn’t seem to bother Dr. Hawkins, except once.

On the Monday after he returned, I went to check in with him in his office. When I arrived, there members of his public speaking team there, but when he saw me at the door, he stopped talking to them and said, “Well, well, hello Ray! Did you have a good weekend?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said, immediately uncomfortable as I noticed that the guys and gals assembled seemed to be giggling a bit. “Any problems with the house?”

“No, not at all,” he said, handing me a brown paper bag. “Although you left these behind on the nightstand.”

Quizzically, I took the bag and reached into it. Without thinking about what I was doing, I pulled out a pair of obviously feminine earrings. My face went bright red as the laughter burst out around the room.

“Uh, wow,” I stammered, desperately wishing to disappear on the spot. “My favorites! Thanks.”

Good times, good times. Still, I watched the house for years, and was very comfortable to the weirdness of it all—maybe a sign of curiosities to come.

Oddly enough, the last time I saw Dr. Hawkins was at his wedding, held at the oldest Quaker meetinghouse in New York City and where he was marrying a woman half his age and seemingly twice his height. He sold the old house and moved to Minnesota (without the new wife, apparently), where he’s found a new home and may possibly never read this as he apparently eschews everything electronic.

Still, this wasn’t my only experience with the bizarre and freakish in my college days. I used to work at a grocery store in Milford, and there used to be a … “family” who came in regularly, seemingly just to torture me.

They can be described vividly in many terms, but I’ll just go with inbred mutant unwashed white trash freaks. People joke about the Melon Heads comin’ to get them, but these … folk … were Deliverance incarnate …..

Or so they seemed to me. In retrospect, they were probably a poor, uneducated bunch who meant well, but over the years, my overly imaginative brain has added a bit of hyperbole to the memories. Let’s just say they were a bit “unusual.”

Regardless, for reasons I’ll never quite understand, they “loved” me. They had one wild-eyed daughter who especially smitten and would stalk me though the aisles of the store, sharing cringeworthy stories of her sexual awakenings. The father would make comments to the effect that he couldn’t wait for me to … “join their clan.”


Their old Buick LeSabre (with the snow tires on year round) is burned vividly into my mind’s eye—I still get a little queasy when I think about the day they almost ran me over in the parking lot while I was gathering shopping carts, how they had all the windows down, were bangin’ on the doors, hootin’ ‘n hollerin’ about how they almost got me that time. Like baggin’ me was worth big points on some sort of hillbilly bingo card.

Or maybe they were just glad to see me and they were just trying to be nice in their own, sorta weird, way. Who knows?

You know, in all my imaginings about my end, to this day, I still think it somehow ultimately involves them.

In my fevered nightmares, I’m walking along an abandoned road when that old LeSabre comes whizzing past me, then pulls around to a screeching halt. The whole clan is in the car still, hootin’ ‘n hollerin’, the little freak girl now all growed up, bouncing up and down in the backseat and ready to take a mate. The door flies open, and the father’s grizzled cackle fills my ears as I get in. The door slams shut and they take me to their dilapidated trailer-filled compound deep in the woods on Melon Head Road, where they chain me to a radiator and make their brood queen. And I’m never seen or heard from again …

A fitting odd end for an oddity magnet.