Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Three! Three! Three!

I hide from confrontation. I might even hide from any interaction in public. If someone's walking in my opposite direction on the street, I usually try to find something interesting in my pocket or in the sky right above my head. I don't know why I do this. I hate that I do. I feel like I'm contributing to the downfall of decency and giving a career to value-mongers like Bill Bennett. But since I've committed myself to this blog and putting myself in uncomfortable positions, I'm making an effort to look people in the eye, or say hello to strangers...

...or agreeing to a Pop-A-Shot challenge against a hooky-playing high school student in a Tilt arcade in a San Diego mall...

...for $20.

Readers, I was thinking of you when I accepted the challenge. That's definitely out of my comfort zone. I don't think it's unreasonable of me to cower from a crowd of teenagers. Especially those that linger in arcades during school hours. I did have a laptop and several pawn-able items in my shoulder bag. For the record, they came to me. I was playing a casual game of Pop-A-Shot when the one in the straight-billed hat with rhinestones told me he wanted to play me. As soon as he asked, I of course looked for an authority figure--take the quarter jockey behind the ticket-redemption booth. He didn't have issue with some illegal gambling in his establishment. I knew this because even though he heard the proposition, he didn't lift his head from his copy of Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Indeed.

Now I'd played one game prior (the one the kiddies saw) and shot a lousy 32. We played head-to-head, meaning we shot at the same time. Although I focused on the front of my own rim, I knew that we were going shot-for-shot because of the "awww"s and "DAY-m"s I heard at every bucket. And I was on fire. Seriously, I'd never played a better game of Pop-A-Shot in my life and the idea of this kid playing just as well scared me. Maybe the ticket-booth guy even started to watch. Ten seconds left and the rim pushed back to the 3-pointer range. The buzzer sounded just as my last shot went in, but it didn't register. We were tied at 61. Then that last one counted to push me up to 64. Day-m!

I had missed probably 3 shots in the whole game. It was fucking awesome. I took the $20 and ran out of there before I took a double-or-nothing gamble.

Last movie I watched: Be Kind Rewind. There's about 20 minutes of good stuff, and I think it's worth bearing the other hour-plus of horrible, horrible plot and sappy, saccharine love story.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Five for Fighting

Last weekend at our yard sale I put myself into an uncomfortable position by haggling with a shrewd, non-English speaking woman and her 8-year-old daughter. The item was a PS2 game--two of them actually. The prices were clearly marked, $5 a piece. Yet these two people insisted on paying, get this, THREE DOLLARS for TWO.

My parents never told me that you could haggle at a garage sale. Back when I was growing up, we bought everything from the front lawns of people better off than us. My mom still has the brown snowsuit that kept me warm from ages 2-5. Think about that. The appearance of a two-year-old and a five-year-old in that brown snowsuit is like examining the difference between a lumpy bag of Sugar Babies and a lean stick of Sugar Daddy. My mom is a meek, polite person when she's not alone with me. In public, she won't stir the pot and in yard sales, she will simply pay the sticker price. I honestly didn't know they were negotiable. Think of all the money we could have saved had we not paid original prices on all those Hasbro toys! So when we were pricing our items for this big yard sale, Kristina made it clear that we should price them high because yard sale patrons are bastards who don't see the inherent discount in a $5 PS2 game.

And they weren't even mine! I was defending an absentee seller's old videogames. She pulled out one dollar, then two, and then four quarters LIKE IT WAS ALL SHE HAD. She'd saved her change so she could purchase Gran Turismo 4 and Grand Theft Auto 3 for her poor daughter. I stood firm. "No, that's not enough," I said in English and in firm finger gestures. Of course, she walked away, tearing the games from her daughter's greedy fingers. You don't need a common language to tell someone to fuck off.

Woo, I got such a high standing my ground. Come on, she had more than three dollars. I mean, she's wealthy from years of undercutting weaker yard sale hosts. She's probably furnished her whole townhouse with second-hand Ikea furniture she paid for in nickels and threatening looks. Whadaya know, ladies and gentlemen? I discovered that she DID have more money because she came BACK. She marched straight to me and said "Five dollars for two." And I said "Sold!"

Now that I think about it, I still got really ripped off.

I'll be performing at an open mic for the second time a week from Wednesday. I don't mention this as a way of inviting you (note how I didn't give you the place), but to only publish that I intend to do it. This way, I have the pressure of keeping my promises to you guys. I need you to judge me.

Last movie I watched: "You Can Count on Me" Cute, nice moments. I'm glad that Mark Ruffalo has that kind of range. I still don't like Laura Linney.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Stand Up? Sit Down! Fight, Fight, Fight.

Last night I debuted a slushy, premature set of stand-up jokes at an open-mic in a cafe that is decorated like a 19th-Century general store. After delivering an impromptu riff on the similarities between this place and the computer-generated store at the beginning of MECC's "Oregon Trail," I jumped into my act. (Thank you, comedy-buddy-on-probation Marc for shouting "15 axles! Hire an Indian guide!" by the way.)

I knew I wasn't prepared. I had actually written the whole act during my ten days of solitude, but it wasn't until 9 hours prior to the show that I realized I needed to read it out loud. I hadn't memorized it, hadn't timed it, didn't even know how I was going to hold the microphone in my hand. I was preparing for total comic catastrophe. Half an hour before I left for the show, I drank a Red Bull like a nerve tonic and was still so melancholy that I took a 10-minute nap. And when I got to the venue, I did what any nervous 13-year-old would d0: I got a bottle of Mountain Dew and chugged it. Then the Red Bull started working.

After the Oregon Trail joke, I reached some hyperconscious neverland where silence is actually laughter and breathing is unnecessary. I had a case of caffeine overload, shrinking six minutes of material into three. Now, I didn't use my notes. Hooray for me, I remembered everywhere that I wanted to go. I just forgot all the punchlines. So I made them up on the spot. And transitions? They're for lightweights. One second I'm talking about eating green beans from a can and the next second everyone's mother is a fucking asshole. I remember saying what I thought was a joke, not getting a laugh, and then repeating the joke in case they missed it. I stammered. I looked into the bright lights. I shoveled my act with one scoop and flung it at the audience. The last thing I said was, "OK,IthinkI'mdonehereThank..." cut off by polite applause and the horrible low-frequency rumble of an amateur returning a microphone to its stand.

Today when I prematurely woke up with the sun, I didn't want to stay in bed. I actually wanted to go back and try it again. And do it much better. Maybe even make 'em laugh. I guess that's the best place to be mentally. So next week, let's do it again. Maybe this time I can even keep your mother out of it.

Last movie I watched: "Big Night" Really fun, sweet movie. Great characters. Stanley Tucci should get more respect. Five stars.