May 272013

So I had a dream the other night—my hands were splitting open and cake was coming out of them. Yellow cake, as a matter of fact, and I don’t mean that it was uranium yellow cake and I was turning into a really cool super hero with the mutant ability to melt brains, but actual yellow cake.

Out of my hands. I don’t think there was frosting, unfortunately.

Obviously, this is the first thing that went through my mind. Followed by the affirmation that I do, indeed, dream in color.

But I’ve known for years that I dream in color—I always remember one dream that I had when I was a teenager. I was sitting on a porch with my family and a bunch of other people, and all of a sudden, these bright purple and red balls starting falling from the sky, and as they hit someone, the person would disintegrate. I turned and started to run when a ball landed on on my left wrist, and I felt a tingling sensation spread out from it as everything started to get fuzzy. I even recall that as it was all happening, I started thinking, “Wow, I’m dying—I wonder what’s going to happen next.”

As it turns out what happened next is that I woke up … to find my left wrist was wedged between my knees and had “fallen asleep,” which explains the tingling. Fun, right?

But yeah, my dreams have always been a little off, although maybe not much more than anyone else’s, I guess. I also tend to have a lot of nightmares where I wake up screaming (and scaring the crap out of my wife) … but we’ll save that for another post, I think. Or not.

Anyway, I don’t know if I’m lucky or not that I tend to remember the majority of my dreams … I can think of a few that I’d rather forget, especially those involving the deaths of family members. Recently, I had an exceptionally vivid dream that my sister the whore had died, and it was so freakishly real that when I got out of bed in the morning, I texted her … you know, to just make sure she was okay. I didn’t hear from her for a few hours, so I texted my other sister (because I’m paranoid like that), who finally was able to make contact, and I finally heard from the whore after freaking out for about 12 hours or so. Whore.

I guess I have a tough time because more than a few times, my dreams have been on the prescient side. I’m not saying I’m psychic or anything; more like my brain never really stops working and when I’m unconscious and it’s not occupied with the immediate tasks of being awake and running my life, it’s able to do some sort of comatose logic puzzles and arrive at interesting—and often—accurate conclusions before I’ve even thought of them consciously.

I remember one dream when I was like 13—my mother had lost an earring, and she gave me the other one and asked me to “dream” about where the lost one might be. I thought she was crazy, but that night I dreamed that it had fallen off the back of her dresser and was underneath it in the blue pile carpet. When I woke up, I checked but didn’t see it; my mother said after I told her she went and checked—and found it.

Again, it wasn’t really anything in the Nostradamus neighborhood—looking under the dresser seems like it should’ve been her first guess—but it was still odd to be right like that.

Of course, I’ve had plenty of dreams where I was absolutely wrong. For years, I dreamed I was going to have a daughter—

As I was writing this, I pulled out an old “dream” notebook that I kept in 1993 (back before I was married). Here’s one entry, verbatim: “A dream projection—three kids! First, a daughter, eventually a tall girl with long, straight brown hair. A round face, small brown eyes, light skin. Then two sons, one with very short brown hair, the other definitely a boy, but looks unclear.”

Well, as Meatloaf says, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

I’ve been flipping through that notebook, where I was writing down lots of dreams, which had everything from aliens and President Clinton to riding inside of a blue whale and scoring the winning goal for the New York Rangers (I can’t even skate!). Lots of odd stuff, although what’s even odder is how little I’ve dreamed about sex. I mean, considering the unbridled freedom that is my subconscious, you’d think I’d have a few Salma Hayek-fueled ramblings from time to time—maybe even the occasional Debbie Gibson “Only In My Dreams” fantasy—but really, if I’ve had more than 50 sex dreams in my entire life, I’d be shocked. And absolutely none that I could ever recall involving celebrities. Weird.

Okay, for brain bleach, here are two dreams from my notebook that I had somewhat close together involving my two grandfathers, who died less than two years apart. Both dreams are from after they died.

Dream One, about my mother’s father “Clem.”

I am on 62nd Street in Brooklyn, being taunted by a gang of thugs. I climb the steps of the [family] home when the front door opens. Out steps Clem, in a Superman outfit, to scare off the thugs.

We go back into the house, upstairs, to discuss religion. “You can’t be an angel,” I tell him. “I don’t believe in God.”

He smiles—”I can’t say that I agree with you.”

My sister and grandmother are there in the kitchen with us, but only I can see him, and continue to talk to him. I know they can’t see him, but I can, clearly, and try to make him visible.

They can feel him, and he starts to fade from the chair that he’s sitting in. I tell him I love him as I wake up in tears.

Dream Two, about my father’s father “Johnny Boy.”

I’m standing next to a fountain, talking to someone, when I feel a tap on my shoulder—it’s him. I tell the person I’m with that I have to talk to him (because I know, even in the dream, that this is my chance to say goodbye to him).

He doesn’t say a word to me—like when he had on the oxygen mask, post-stroke—but he doesn’t have to. He’s wearing his yellow sweater and light brown pants, just like in the picture in Grandma’s collage.

He gives me a nod—”Yeah, all right, Raymond”—and then a hug. I tell him that I love him and wish him luck. He turns to go as I wake up.

As for tonight’s dream—I hope instead of yellow cake, they involve chocolate pudding …


May 232013

So like most of you, I’ve heard about Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing website dedicated to helping people raise funds for creative arts-type projects. I’ve even donated to a short animated film being produced by my pal Jac entitled  One Per Person, that I’m happy to say quickly reached its goal and is well on its way to being completed. (Yay Jac!)

However, unlike Zach Braff, who recently has come under fire for using the site to raise private money to help fund a vanity project that apparently is already being supported by a production company, I have some other ideas for creative endeavors that no one is yet behind but really should be funded. I mean, if people are willing to give money to see Sonic the Hedgehog with boobs, I don’t why people wouldn’t want to throw their cash at me!

As a matter of fact, get out your checkbooks and Visa cards, here are:

Ten Great “Art” Projects That I Really Want Money to Produce

1. The Tar and Feathering of Mark Sanchez – I see this as more of performance piece, with heavy audience participation.

2. Steve and Kate Get Irate – A reality-tv project, where I have cameras just follow around my Damned Connecticut partners, and watch them navigate marriage, parenthood and life. I’m telling you, this is a winner—their fights on Twitter are some of the most entertaining things I see on any given day.

The random texts I get from Steve are hysterical. A few weeks ago he asked (out of the blue) if I my kids were serious about being Mets fans because he assumed that if something happened to my wife and me, he and Kate would be raising our kids, and “I’m not having any Mets fans sleeping in my shed.” Nice.

3. The Colin Mochrie Project – For this, I just give Colin Mochrie money and let him improv and I just record it and it’s comedy gold. Probably comedy platinum.

Yeah, definitely comedy platinum.

4. Celebrity Cannon Ball – A game/prank show, where irritating reality stars (redundant, I know) such as Honey Boo Boo, the Housewives of East Bumblefrack and every manner of swamp person, gypsy and dog groomer are shot out of a cannon, and whoever goes the farthest is the winner. Except unbeknownst to them, we just shoot them all into the same brick wall! Everyone’s a winner here.

5. Morgan Freeman Reads Aloud Speaking Ill of the Dead: Jerks in Connecticut History – You know, because it’d be cool.

6. Shaming Butt Heads – A public service piece where I would follow idiots who like to flick their still-lit cigarette butts out of the car windows, and then broadcast it for all to see what self-absorbed douches they are.

Seriously though—this happened to me twice last week alone! And it’s the same thing every time: A driver is flicking his ashes out the window as he drives, and when they get to the end of the cigarette, they just flip it out the window because the world is their f’n ashtray. I truly want to run them off the road, drag them out of the car and after smacking their head off the hood a couple of times, explain that areas the size of Connecticut burn out West each summer. Douches!

7. Quantum Leap: Dr. Sam Beckett *DOES* Finally Leap Home – Because the worst wrong in television history needs to be righted.

8. The Giant Squid & Octopi Channel – I figured there should be something educational in my offerings, and if there is anything more amazing—and absolutely more terrifying—than cephalopods, I’m not sure what it would be.

9. My Dinner With Salma – A documentary of sorts, I suppose you could call it. Starts with a casual meal between two amazing individuals (Salma and … me, of course) and … well, I guess we’ll see where it goes from there. Or I’ll see where it goes … (she is on The List, after all).

10. Sketches in the Life of William Stuart, The First and Most Celebrated Counterfeiter of Connecticut, As Given By Himself: The Movie – As I’ve repeatedly stated, this guy is my favorite jerk from my book, and my dream would be to turn his autobiography into a screenplay and then a movie. Trust me when I say that it’ll be brilliant—not because of my writing but because this guy is one of the most entertaining characters I’ve ever run across anywhere.


May 192013

So the other day while I was doing my bi-monthly ironing (why yes, I iron two weeks worth of shirts in one shot), I was flipping through the channels and I happened to stumble across “Doomsday Bunkers: A Prepper’s Paradise.”


(Hmmm … can’t believe that spellcheck says that’s not a word!)

Anyway, this show is about Deep Earth Bunker, a Texas company that builds super-fortified shelters—safe rooms, underground bunkers and tsunami pods (yes, really)—and the clients they service. As you can see, it’s trying to cash in on the prepper phenomenon that seems to be the latest trend invading reality TV.

In the episode I saw, they were testing a prototype door—because “any bunker is only as strong as its door!”—by having four police SWAT team members shoot it with AR-15s and other assault weapons, and then after surviving that, by attaching 3 pounds of TNT to the door and detonating it. The door survived both tests, so the door’s engineers and preppers were all giddy, and I assume retired to their respective bunkers to whack off.

Seriously though, I have to call “overkill” on this one. Or “crazy.” I’ll let you make the choice.

First off, I’m a former boy scout, so I’m definitely down with “Be Prepared,” and after the last few big storms/blizzards/cicada plagues we’ve experienced, I definitely have increased the amount of dried goods and bottled water that we keep around the house. Heck, I’ve even priced generators. Even in the fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” I fall a lot closer to “ant” and laugh at the grasshoppers I see around me every day, imagining the days that they will be freezing to death in the snow outside the window of my toasty warm living room … metaphorically, of course.

So I get it the concept, and to me, stocking up a little, having extra batteries on hand, making sure we have enough bread and milk, etc., seems like a sensible response to the possibility of more severe storms.

Next, as someone who deeply appreciates organization—I’ve actually photographed my sister-in-law’s closet …

… because it’s a thing of beauty that makes me question whether I married the right Nofi sister (I did!)—I also understand the obssessive joy of neatly storing and labeling lots of stuff.

Thirdly, if you live in a remote area or one that’s susceptible to regular catastrophic weather events like tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes, I really do understand why you may even have a storm cellar and an overly stocked pantry. Your concern is legitimate.

However, building an entire underground steel-reinforced, energy-independent, bomb-proof bunker stocked with enough food, water, guns and ammo to last your family indefinitely in case civilization completely disintegrates? That’s not survival, that’s just lunacy.

Now I know that some prepper-friendly folk out there might say the preppers are doing it to protect their loved ones, trying to ensure that they will survive in the face of severe events, but as my wife pointed out, if you spend every waking moment planning and prepping for that marginally possible eventuality, and then just anxiously wait for “THE END” to come so that you can start living—that’s not living, my friend.

But let’s give preppers the benefit of the doubt here. Say some sort of cataclysmic event befalls us all, and the preppers manage to survive it in their bunkers. Great! They outwit, outplay and outlast us all, and they get the sweet smug self-satisfaction of being right. But then what?

If it’s the end of the society as we know it, and you can’t venture out because of pillaging rapists,  nuclear devastation or flesh-hungry melon-headed mutants, how long are you going to really last? Weeks? Months? Years? Whatever the time frame, it’s probably not “the rest of your life,” so then what? As soon as you open that bomb-proof hatch and let in the new world order, whatever it be, all your prepping is for naught.

In short, you *have* to keep the door closed. Ooopsie!

Bottom line: You’re stuck “living” in your bunker until you die, go insane or are killed and eaten by those locked inside with you who have gone insane. Again, not really “living.”

In “Doomsday Bunkers,” the preppers set up their survival spaces with all the comforts of their regular homes, complete with computers and TVs, which I find especially amusing, you know, because if society collapses, the intrawebz will still work and you’ll still be able to watch Honey Boo Boo. How come none of these preppers are lining the bunker walls with the complete works of Plato, Dickens and Shakespeare? Heck, even the complete works of Stephen King would be a step in the right direction of trying to preserve human culture for future (most likely, inbred) generations. Seasons 1-5 of “The Real Housewives of West Bumblefrack” should not be the record left by homo sapiens for whomever or whatever comes next.

Speaking of human—and inhuman—culture: If you’re one of those legitimately prepping to survive the zombie apocalypse, here’s a tip that might save you some time and effort: Close the book or turn off your TV BECAUSE THEY ARE FICTIONAL CREATIONS!! Really, citing them as an excuse for such preparation is like sleeping with a garlic necklace on and a wooden stake by your bed in the event that sparkly vampires show up—an exercise in futility (because they don’t exist, either!). Sorry.

Still, Darwin tells us the strong shall survive, so if this all plays out to the worst doomsday scenario, does this mean the slightly disillusioned are the strongest of all? I guess they may laugh last, but I’m not sure they’ll really be laughing best.


May 122013

After 248 years or so, it was bound to happen—I finally got a pair of reading glasses.

Just like Superman, right? Right? *sigh*

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of denying the inevitable for the past year or two—squinting, cranking up light sources, holding books and magazine about three feet away—but considering presbyopia affects over 95 percent of the people over 45, I was CLEARLY WAAAYYYY* overdue.

[*might be a slight overcompensation]

But yeah, after enjoying 20/20 vision for my entire life, it was time. For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty busy at work, and with all the heavy reading, I could really feel the strain on my peepers—I was getting headaches and my eyes were actually twitching, which isn’t good, right? Don’t need to be an ophthalmologist (or play one on TV) to see what’s going on, so to speak.

So I did a few eye tests, figured out what power of magnification I needed (*only* 1.5) and headed over to CVS to get a pair. I found a pair that I like (actually, the first pair I tried on, although I did try others), and tested them out by reading the fine print on the aspirin bottles in the next aisle. (Apparently, you’re not supposed to wash pain-relief medication down with shots of tequila—who knew?) To not make it so obvious, I grabbed a few other things—dental floss, Breathsavers, Citrucel (oops, put that one back)—and headed to the front of the store.

The jaded teenager manning the cash register was wearing glasses, so I didn’t have to endure any raised eyebrows or snarky comments that would’ve added to my already heightened self-consciousness. Fortunately, I got plenty of those when I got home, courtesy of my own jaded teenager (who has 20/20 vision—bastard!) and a few of my “friends” like my ex-buddy Steve who sent me a few “helpful” suggestions like a big-button phone. Oh. so. funny.

Anyway, although I’m still getting used to wearing them, it’s been nice to be able to read again without all the effort. So there’s that.

But why did I wait so long? Obviously, vanity and pride played a big part, as like everyone else on the planet, I’m loathe to admit that I’m getting older and am going to eventually drop dead.

All right, just because I’m finally growing into my curmudgeon’s skin, it doesn’t mean that I have to fully embrace the archetype. Yet.

With all due respect to my *older* friends and family, here are a few of my rules to help me avoid fully falling into the inevitable … you know, because if I fall too hard into it, I can break my hip.

No spare change in my pockets. Because there’s some weird compulsion that we all have to start jingling it, and nothing’s quite as unintentionally creepy than an elderly guy with his hand vigorously working the inside of his pants pocket.

No “Matlock,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Golden Girls” or “Antiques Roadshow.” That also goes for “NCIS,” which seems to continually dominate the ratings in the 65+ demographic. (Normally, I’d put “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” on here, but … uh … the kids like it.)

No ribbon or hard candy in the house. Only fresh chocolate, thanks. One of my grandmothers kept ribbon candy in the house as a treat for us, and it really was not anything that any self-respecting child would want.

No suspenders. Unless you’re a fireman, fisherman, lumberjack, Santa Claus, Fred “Rerun” Barry or Robin Williams in the 1970s or a guy who feels comfortable enough to jauntily stuff a handkerchief in your back pocket and call your ensemble “complete,” no one should be wearing them.

The corollary to all this is keep my belt looser and my pants closer my waist than my chest.

• Speaking of—no handkerchiefs. Snot rags from a bygone day—we have Puffs Plus with lotion now, and they are all anyone needs to properly dispose of their extraneous bodily fluids and secretions.

No “dagnabbit,” “tarnation” or “by cracky” in my daily vernacular. “You damn punk kids, get off my lawn!” however, is still in play.

No lanyards to hold the new glasses around my neck. I may be old, but until I get a sensible perm, a purple pantsuit and a gig as a librarian, that is not a look I can embrace, now or ever.

No complaining about age-related ailments such as rheumatism, arthritis or my lumbago. As my gastrointestinal issues have long provided much amusement, I’ll keep whinging about them. I will also refrain from going on about how doctors nowadays all want to use new-fangled technology like fire and leeches to fix me.

Always have a sensible haircut. Because nothing is quite as sad as a gray mullet or ponytail on an old, balding dude.

No “puttering” in the garden. I cut the grass and work in the yard. Period.

No knickknacks, tchotchkes, framed needlepoint or other cutesy home-decorating items. I’ve always prided myself on avoiding a house full of doilies or potpourri or crap, so I’m not going the dust-collecting decor route now.

No Early Bird specials. I can still pay full price for my meals and prefer to eat my supper in the evening, by craccc …. kers. Crackers. You know. For soup.

Normally, I’d throw something in here about being early for everything, but I’ve been hardwired like that since birth, so that’s no sign of anything other than consistency.

Stay up until at least past 10 p.m. Granted, this is getting tougher to do, but I’m giving it the good fight. As they say, there’ll be plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead …

…. and I’m not quite there. Yet.


May 082013

So we went to see Iron Man 3 the other night—a very fun summer blockbuster (make sure to stay through the credits)—and it got me to thinking, as most films tend to do.

Don’t worry—no real spoilers ahead.

If you saw the first two movies (or even the commercials for the new one), you know that Tony Stark (the character that Robert Downey Jr. plays) is an inveterate inventor, and as such, likes to make multiple versions of his Iron Man suits, such as War Machine, which is used by his buddy Col. James Rhodes (brought to life the last two times by Don Cheadle) or robotic ones he just keeps around for convenient plot purposes …

Wait, that wasn't a spoiler, right?

So you can already see where this is going—I need to make multiple versions of myself, although not to fight off comic book villains. (Although I do reserve the right to do so if I’m attacked by some unforeseen nemesis—say like Cannibal J. Clown and his Fright-Wigged Gang of Grease Paint Goons.) No, what I need is more of me to try and do all the things I want to do in my life.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog—or even an irregular one—you may have noticed it’s been a few weeks since I last posted. The culprit is a simple lack of time as I’ve been extraordinarily busy with the myriad tasks involved with being a father, husband, homeowner, friend, neighbor, magazine editor and all-around swell guy. Obviously, if there were more versions of me, I could keep up with all the demands on my time, right? Of course.

And let’s be honest—cloning me really sounds like the GREATEST. IDEA. EVER. Really. I’m pretty sure more of me is the answer to most of the world’s problems.

But I’d like to do something other than simply making more carbon copies of me. What would be great would be if somehow I could split out the various aspects of Original Ray into different versions of me, but then somehow merge them back together so I can actually experience everything. Because I really don’t want to miss anything—I just want the opportunity to Do It All.

So based on my calculations, what I’d need is:

Writer Ray – This version of me would be doing the heavy lifting in terms of keeping my various blogs updated and working on that brilliant manuscript of mine that I started last year and that will make me a household name (like Charmin or Cottenelle) as well as a bajillion dollars. He’d also get cracking on that screenplay based on the life of my all-time favorite jerk.

Now that I think about it, I might need two of these guys—one dedicated to futzing about on the intrawebs and the other who handles the quasi-professional long-term projects.

Worker Ray – Hey, someone has to go out and make the big bucks, right? Actually, that person is my wife, so this version will at least try to bring home enough pay to cover groceries.

Home Improvement Ray – Although I have two groundskeepers-in-training to help me out now, there are a few shrubs in the yard that … uh, let’s say, “have gotten away from me.” Also plenty of little projects around the house that apparently won’t take care of themselves—no matter how many times I walk past the attic door, apparently it won’t replace its own doorknob.

Social Ray – Obviously, I want to participate in the fun stuff (like going to see Iron Man 3 or roller derby), but there’s plenty of other more mundane [*cough cough* boring *cough*] events—back-to-school nights, funerals, recitals, doctor’s appointments, shopping mall openings, cat-naming parties, etc.—that it would be great to send a proper representative.

This version of me would also be a trophy piece/eye candy for my wife for all her social functions. (Might have to polish that one up *a bit* more than the others.)

Romantic Ray – To be used by my lovely wife as she sees fit.

X Ray – You know, the superhero version of me who fights for right, justice and the American way!

Altruistic Ray – This one will be in charge of helping friends move, driving family to the airport and covering volunteer activities like feeding the homeless and giving blood. Or bleeding the homeless, if necessary.

Fit Ray – This poor sucker has to be the one who gets in shape for the rest of us—he doesn’t have to run triathlons or work out with such enthusiasm that it’d make for an awesome Rocky montage (although it would be cool), but if he could keep our cardio up and our weight down, that’d be acceptable.

This version would also get be charged with fixing the slice in our golf swing, getting our 5K time under 24 minutes and learning to shred the half pipe.

Medical Bag Ray – In addition to taking all inoculations and medications, this one gets to have our teeth cleaned, vision checked (I think we need reading glasses, by the way) and our colons scoped. Also, enjoys the privilege of passing any remaining kidney stones.

This one would also probably be the one subjected to the medical tests and cell harvesting required to create the other ones.

Dad Ray – Actually, the true me will take this gig full time (along with the romantic one) if I can get the other versions to do their parts.

Soo …. now that I have that all sorted out, all I need to do is somehow make it happen.

Hmmm …. maybe I need a Brainstorm Ray, too.