Archive for the 'Dialogue' Category

Keeping Me On My Toes

So…I’m in the airport right now, ready to fly to visit my family and friends back east. My flight should’ve left 20 minutes ago, but we have yet to board, due to a delay. So I figured I’d blog. It seems I’ve broken out of my 1.5-year-long posting slump lately. Let’s hope it lasts.

To get to the airport, I took a cab. I call up the taxi company, order a cab, and try to figure out why the receptionist keeps calling me “honey.” (It may have been a reference to how some of my friends in college called me Hunny, but that would be odd, since none of those friends work at the All-State Taxicab company.) So after a half day at work, I go home, gather and pack the last few things, and catch the cab waiting outside. The cabbie is nice and jovial and figures out without me telling him that I’m going to the airport. Nice.
We set off at a nice clip, and almost hit another car, but that’s ok, since my motto in driving is “a near miss is still a miss.” (This being my second driving motto, my first being “The brake is on the left, stupid.”) And then as we’re going along, the car hiccups, like we ran over something, or the engine is coming down with the black lung. I raise my eyebrows.
“What was that?” I ask.
“Oh, the air conditioning isn’t working.” He rolls down the windows. Hmmm. Kind of confused here.
“What was that?” I ask again.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t…?”
“Yeah, I don’t know. I am surprised too.” This would’ve been an ok thing to say if he had said it in an adult-being-concerned voice. But no, he said it with a kind of wonderment, as if the car had just started dispensing free candy out of the broken air conditioning vents, and we were just reaping the benefits.

Note to self: Design candy-dispensing air conditioning system for cars. Make millions and get a tummy ache.

“Oh,” I say, unable to properly respond to this. Then he offers some new information.
“The check engine light is on….like always.”

Great. I am going to die.

UPDATE: I did not die after all.

I’ll tell you my in-the-airport story soon, but I think we may be boarding now.

Yes, But Where Do I Find the Lawn Ornaments?

Want to have some fun? Walk into Bed Bath and Beyond and have the following conversation:

YOU: Excuse me, where is the Bedding Department?
BED BATH AND BEYONDER: (pointing) Over there.
YOU: And where are the bath items?
BED BATH AND BEYONDER: (pointing) Right there.
YOU: Thank you. And, uh, where can I purchase the beyond?
BED BATH AND BEYONDER: I hate you and everything you stand for.
YOU: So…you’re all out of beyond?
BED BATH AND BEYONDER: There is not enough fire in hell to express the rage I am barely containing.
YOU: Hmmm…I guess I’ll just look around then. I heard they have the best beyond in town in this place.

Tabernacles

I wasn’t planning on posting. I didn’t have anything to post on that I could think of. But then I happened across this post about Sukkot found on the Lansey Brothers’ Blog. I just had to leave a comment to that post. Hilarity ensued. Or rather will ensue, I hope. Or maybe despair will ensue. I just want some ensuing to happen, ok?

As I recall (and I am not making this up), according to the halachot of sukkah, you can use a person as part of a wall of a sukkah, provided that 1) the person doesn’t move and 2) the person is unaware that he/she is part of a sukkah. So just invite some friends over:

Eli: Hey, guys, come over my house for dinner!

Guys: Great!

Later that evening…

Guys: Can we come inside?

Eli: No, we’re eating out here, because it’s Sukkot.

Guys: Oh, right. But where’s the sukkah?

Eli: Um…I don’t…know. Can you guys stand in lines forming a rectangle? Here, let me arrange you. Now don’t move, ok?

Guys: What’s going on? Why can’t we move?

Eli: It’s, it’s a game! the, um, the “don’t move till we’re done dinner game!”

Guys: Dinner? So we can eat now?

Eli: No, not so much.

Guys: Why not?

Eli: Because you’re not in a sukkah.

The Guys spontaneously combust due to the volatile combination of frustration and absurdity.

The Rabbinic Sages roll in their graves. Some may even weep.

So there you have it – a simple solution, all laid out. All you have to figure out now is what to do about schach. (Eli: Ok, now wear these branches as hats…)

By the way, women are not excluded from this. Even though the mitzvah of being part of a sukkah is a time-bound positive mitzvah, a woman can be a sukkah wall as much as a man can. However, it may be wise to adopt the custom of not having a sukkah made of both men and women, as it may lead to mixed dancing.

Comment Cards Rock

Hello all. I haven’t posted lately because I’ve been busy/ignoring you/trying to take over the world, or at least my roommate’s half of the room. So there.

But I have been doing some other literary work.

You guessed it – I’ve been filling out comment cards at the local kosher dining hall (it’s called 104 West!1) in order to make this a better and more amusing world, for me at least. I now present to you a few of my more beloved comments:

Can you please use Duncan Hines’ brownie mix for making your brownies? I may renounce Judaism if you do not.

Please stop putting nuts in your cookies! I have a severe fear of nuts and toddlers.

I’m lonely. Can 104 West! (formerly Kosher Dining Hall) provide me with a friend? Can I have a (preferrably magical) pony?

Can you please provide decaf tea OR give me control of an underappreciated third-world country? (Not one of the landlocked ones, please.)

Ok, that’s it. I’m out like the soap.

  1. Yes, the exclamation mark is part of the name, and presumably, one mentioning the name of this institution must properly inflect the words to show excitement or exclamation. It can cause confusion when depression and hunger coincide. For example:
    PERSON 1: Hey Bob! How’s it going?
    BOB: Hello, Person 1. It’s going poorly. My cat just got run over my the tow truck that was towing away my uninsured car that sponatneously crashed into a tree while I was in bed, having cried myself to sleep upon being dumped by my girlfriend.
    PERSON 1: Oh, bummer.
    BOB: Yeah. I’m going to kill myself now. First, maybe I’ll grab a bite to eat at 104 West!
    PERSON 1: That’s the spirit!^

Yet Another Chicken Post

Today, boys and girls, we’re going to learn about Jews and their wacky Oral Tradition. In a disussion of Hilchot Shabbat (the Laws of the Sabbath), the gemara (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 75a) brings up an interesting case.

Let’s say you own a chicken. You know, the tasty fowl with an IQ lower than its shoe size1,2. Well, your son wants to play with the chicken. Or more accurately, he wants to play with the chicken’s head. Why? I don’t know. Maybe Toys ‘R’ Us was out of Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls. Maybe he drank some of Daddy’s “special juice.” In any case, he’s crying for the chicken’s head, and as luck would have it, the chicken’s head is (get this!) attached to the chicken, and the chicken is quite fond of its head and unlikely to enjoy your son playing with it. (“Come here little chicken, I just want to- OUCH! My eye!”) So you intend to remove the head to better facilitate its use as a plaything, but it’s the Sabbath, and it’s forbidden on the Sabbath to kill an animal.

“Well, that’s ok,” you say to yourself, “I don’t want to kill it. I just want to neatly remove the bird’s head so I can shut up my kid. Though he’ll probably lose interest in a matter of hours, like he did with the dog3 and the nuclear reactor4 I got for his birthday. The ungrateful little brat.”

Enter the Rabbis.

They say, “hold on, big fella. First of all, stop talking to yourself. People are staring. And also, can’t you tell that this is the classic case of pesik raisha?”

“Pe-what?”

Pesik raisha. Can’t you understand ancient Aramaic? Sheesh. The full phrase is ‘pesik raisha v’lo yamut,’ meaning ‘can you cut off the head and it won’t die,’ a rhetorical question. You see, were you to cut off the chicken’s head, it would become what is technically known as a Decapitated Chicken. As you may know, Decapitated Chickens5and in fact, decapitated fowl of all varieties, are wont to die, a condition which greatly impedes being alive. Thus, although your action wasn’t meant to kill the chicken, and you may even want the chicken to survive, it will definitely end up dead anyway, so killing it is forbidden. So go tell your brat to shut up because you can’t give him the chicken’s head until after the Sabbath. Though if you ask us, after the Sabbath you should take him to a therapist, because, frankly, this whole ‘playing with a chicken’s head’ thing is pretty darn messed up right here.”

“Oh boy! Thank you, Rabbis!” you exult. “Now can you please explain this whole ‘kosher’ thing to me? Why do we need to wait for hours between eating meat and milk? Why do we have to use separate dishes for milk and meat?”

“Beats us. You modern Jews are just plain crazy. Back in our day, we could eat Chicken Parmesan.”

“Golly.”

“Golly indeed. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got some threshing and winnowing to do.”

And like that (poof), they’re gone.6

  1. Yeah, I know. Chickens don’t wear shoes. Not yet, anyhow.
  2. Chickens are royally stupid. I’m not making this one up. Sometimes, when it rains, chickens will tip back their heads and try to drink, and in the process, they will drown themselves. Did you catch that? They are the only animal on God’s green earth that I know of that drown themselves while on solid ground. Even my cousin Melvin who will likely have “That boy just ain’t right” carved on his headstone, and who has eaten enough Play-Doh to support Slovakia for a year, generally keeps water out of his trachea.
  3. “Come here, little doggy, I just want to light you on fi- OUCH! My leg!”
  4. “Come here, little atom, I just want to pet- OUCH! I’m glowing!”
  5. Another great band name.
  6. Bonus points if you can correctly name the movie that that last line was referencing.

Waiting for Godot

Another page from the “Conversations with Roommate” file:

ME: Did you ever read “Waiting for Godot?”

ELIE: Yeah.

ME: What did you think of it?

ELIE: “Waiting for Godot”…hmmmm…makes me want to shoot myself.

ME: So you didn’t like it, then.

ELIE: (Completely seriously) No, it was great.

I’m speechless.

Stanford Favorite & Damn Communist Space Dogs

I know, I know. A new post was long overdue. So sue me. Not for real.

I suppose I should break this into two posts, but I doubt that most people will realize that there are two new ones at once. So, first is this: My brother Noam is a grad student in English literature at Stanford University, and somehow, he finds me funny. So he showed a post or two to his friends out in Palo Alto, CA. He recently told me:

Noam: everyone i know loved the albert thing
Noam: the english department at stanford university now acknowledges you as one of the funniest people they’ve ever read

(These are direct quotes, with only his screenname changed to protect him from stalkers and the Mafia.)

So while I’m not sure what this says about the impending downfall of Western civilization, it does give me a huge ego trip. And when you come right down to it, that’s what really matters, right?

And here’s post number two:

I would like to share a brief snippet of my oh-so-interesting life with you lesser mortals. I hope you can handle it. A couple nights ago, I was talking to my roommate Elie about, um, I actually think it was interior design. Anyway, the conversation went, more or less, like this:

ME: We should put up paper on the walls so we can write on them.

ELIE: No. It’s a good idea in theory, but it won’t work. Like Communism.

ME: Well, Communism had eighty years before it failed. Can’t you give this a chance, too?

ELIE: Communism had eighty years, and look at what happened!

ME: What do you mean? They sent a dog into space. That’s one less dog we have to worry about here.

ELIE: I don’t like dogs either, but-

ME: Then again, if the space dogs come back and attack, it might be bad. So we aren’t putting up the paper, then?

ELIE: Damn Communist space dogs.

Albert, you are my hero!

Hey there, to all those out in fan-land,

As many of you may know, I have a job. It’s here in beautiful Norwalk (Motto: “Getting stuck on I-95 since 1847.”) working at a company, which, for reasons that will soon become clear, shall remain nameless. It’s convenient, since it’s pretty close to Stamford (Motto: “Hey, at least we’re not Norwalk.”) Other than that, though, the job doesn’t have much going for it. My local taskmasters call it an “internship”, from the Latin roots int, meaning “a job,” and ernship, meaning “in which you are given a series of mind-numbing tasks, each worse than the last, by cruel, heartless, and balding men, who likely had troubled childhoods and choose to take it out on you rather than on fellow motorists, the way any NORMAL person would, and you are paid next-to-nothing. And circus clowns regularly laugh at you.” Believe me, there is nothing on God’s green earth that is more humiliating than clowns laughing at you. Nothing. Except maybe turtleneck sweaters laughing at you. So, as the name implies, for my internship, I am paid a grand total of (drumroll please) ten dollars a day. Why do they pay us at all, you ask? Good question. I did some pondering, and came up with this: “Cornhusker’s delight.” Then I sobered up, and came up with the following scenario. Imagine a boardroom where executives are meeting:

[Note: all names have been changed (to Albert) to protect the guilty]

ALBERT: So, Albert, how’s that unpaid internship project coming along?
ALBERT: Just swimmingly, sir. (He holds up a report. In one of those shiny covers that impress executive-type people so much.)
ALBERT: Let me see that (Grabs the shiny report, a scans through it, stopping to admire each pie chart for at least 2 seconds. Murmurs to himself.) Hmmm…slavery…troubled childhoods…menial labor… clowns… turtlenecks. (Looks up.) I like it, Johnson.
ALBERT: You’re supposed to call me Albert in this story, sir.
ALBERT: Oh, right. I like it, Albert.
ALBERT: Thank you sir.
ALBERT: But..
ALBERT: But what sir?
ALBERT: It’s just not humiliating enough. What can we add?
ALBERT: Monkeys, sir?
ALBERT: How are monkeys going to help us?
ALBERT: I don’t know sir. I just like monkeys.
ALBERT: (Leans back in his chair wistfully.) So do I, son. So do I. But that doesn’t make them effective.
ALBERT: (Forlorn.) No, I suppose not.
ALBERT: (Jumps up from his seat.) I’ve got it! When you go to a restaurant and the waiter is bad, what do you do to REALLY let him know that you’re upset?
ALBERT: I rip out a few of his less vital internal organs with a fishhook, strap his ragged still-living body to the underside of my car, drive over really rocky terrain, then tie him to an anthill full of fire-ants to let them finish off the job, sir?
ALBERT: No, I mean, what would I do to let him know that I’m angry.
ALBERT: Oh, that’s simple. You give him a penny as a tip. That way he knows that you haven’t forgotten a tip, but that he isn’t worth more than a cent.
ALBERT: Exactly. Let’s give these snot-nosed college interns just enough money so that they know we have calculated their value to us at lower than minimum wage.
ALBERT: Brilliant, sir. Just brilliant.
ALBERT: Thank you Johnson.
ALBERT: Albert, sir.
ALBERT: Whatever. (Pours himself a martini.)

So there you have it. I’ll just let you ponder that one for a while.

Carl, Nancy, and a Belligerent Dairy Product

Hello all.
Why does this intense feeling of guilt wash over me whenever I finally sit down (or prance about, often) to write after a long hiatus? It’s like I owe someone something. (Well, Fred claims I owe him $20 for that bet the other day, but I stand by my position. Donald Rumsfeld resembles a rutabaga more than Donald Trump does.) On a side note, I’ve noticed that I’ve been regularly getting at least two hits a day over the past month, despite having not a single update in that whole time. I must just be that cool. So I had this quasi promise-thing to fulfill, and I blew it. My “Over the next week or so” became “over the next month or so,” and the child I was babysitting the other day became a savage cowbell-wielding sasquatch, with a penchant for expensive chocolate. Boy, were his parents upset when they came home! I’m sure they’ll drop the charges soon enough. But until then, please refer to me as “Sir Commodore.” In fact, please do so until further notice. It makes me feel all warm and squishy inside. So…right. Where was I? Oh, I remember. Making fun of you. No, not you – the other one. All your limbs are abarticular and your lugubrious face looks like the underside of a dung beetle, which makes me wonder if dung beetles are born with innate inferiority complexes due to their unfortunate name, that is to say, would a praying mantis make fun of the dung beetles – well not a whole gang of them, maybe just one, since a whole gang of dung beetles could be downright dangerous – and by all this, what I mean to say is you’re a big jerk with way too much experience in nanolithography than is reasonable and healthy. Yeah.

Now that I’ve dealt with the gobs of guilt welling up around me like
cream soda, I can get around to the task at hand. Which is, of course to present my new script for either a screenplay for a romantic comedy or a deodorant commercial. I’m not sure yet:

CARL: Oh, Nancy!

NANCY: What Carl, what is it? Why do you insist on eating soap? Must you hurt me so?

CARL: Yes! (Carl cackles.)
Yes I must! (Carl pulls off a mask. He loses an eye in the process. He now looks like a man without his left eye.)

NANCY: (Screams in fear.)

CARL: (Screams in pain.)

CHEESE: (Stands alone.)

And, cut! I may have to fire the cheese. He’s been trashing his trailer nightly and I won’t put up with it for one more minute.

Juggling in Tibet

I made a promise (see the end of the previous post), and I shall deliver.
But first a little background:

First of all, everything that follows in this post is, believe it or not, 100% true. Anyway, my childhood friend, for various reasons, has ended up in Tibet. With Buddhist monks. I talked to him about it a few months ago, and, naturally, I was curious about – well, everything. Upon discovering the facts, I felt that the old adage was reaffirmed:
The more things change, the more they become completely bizarre:

[Note: I present here, the conversation, unaltered, except to correct spelling and some grammar, to protect the innocent, and to exclude sections that are unnecessary.]

Me: Anyway, so what’re your days like?
Me: I mean, what do you do?
Ben: Wake up, go to language lesson at 9:30, attend local event/lecture until about 1 w/lunch, and then, specifically for me, hang out at a monastery for the rest of the day with my 12 year old American monk friend.
Ben: Today I have to write a paper on it.
Me: “12 year old American monk friend”?
Ben: his name is T. Gyatso
Ben: or Brenden.
Me: Is the monastery hang-out session by choice or requirement?
Ben: he’s been a Tibetan Buddhist monk since he was 8
Ben: choice, we all have to focus on something.
Ben: one person’s doing Tibetan writing, another interviewing refugees
Ben: I
Ben: ‘m teaching monks to juggle
Me: Oh, yeah – we all go through a Buddhist monk stage at one point or another.
Me: I’m just a late bloomer.
Me: (Am I being offensive? I hope not.)
Ben: Depends on who you say it to
Ben: its kind of hard to offend me.
Ben: I told my group leader it was my goal to find the Dalai Lama and beat him up to see if he would still smile.
Ben: She didn’t like that,
Ben: so its a subjective concept
….
Ben: and I’m proud to say that I’m only half kidding about the monk juggling thing
Ben: like, its not my main focus
Me: Nice.
Me: I got it.
Ben: but I really am doing it
Ben: already taught T.
Me: I wouldn’t expect anything less of you, Ben.
Ben: He’s got the 3 ball cascade up to about 50 catches.

Wow. This conversation left me speechless. I hope it has a similar effect on you, dear reader.
Or that it induces you to send me large sums of money.
Either way.