Just Your Average Guy.

I sometimes wonder how well many of you know me. Oh, you’re probably aware of my myriad successes in any number of fields – for example you’ve no doubt marveled at my ability to write and direct flawless, Oscar-winning films. You’ve also likely seen me on TV winning countless debates with some of politics’ heaviest hitters (George Will actually cried). If you’re lucky you’ve eaten at my four-star restaurants (the words Moules à la crème Normande and Mignonette de poulet Petit Duc ring a bell?), and if you’re really lucky you’ve seen me sell out Madison Square Garden with just a microphone, a Hyperbass Flute and some oven mitts.

And I haven’t even mentioned my parkour videos.

But do you really know me?

Here’s a bio no one has ever asked for: since I started this blog I have been a resident of California. We moved here back in 2006, just months after Sarah was born, spending seven or so years not too far from L.A.  before becoming disillusioned with the area – specifically its complete lack of natural, green habitat, my inability to get even one paycheck in the independent film industry, and the likelihood of dying in a riot. We then moved to the Central Coast, just south of Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay.

That means that we have been Californians for ten years, but before that I was a life-long resident of the Northeast, born in 1971 in a small town in north-central Massachusetts, just near the New Hampshire border. If this sounds to you like an incredibly exciting time and place in our great country’s history to be spending one’s formative years then I feel it’s my obligation to tell you something.

You are absolutely correct.

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Kidding!

I grew up in Townsend, Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston. Population around 9,000. It’s your typical small, leafy, and occasionally spooky New England town wherein nothing too exciting ever occurs other than the daily commute on rte. 119 to Boston, some run-of-the-mill teenage townie antics, and the occasional triple murder. My first job, at age fourteen, was for the Cemetery Department mowing grass, raking leaves, and digging graves. Average stuff.

So average, in fact, that my home town was recently the subject (that is, if you call 2011 recent) of an article in the Boston Globe that ranked Massachusetts’ towns by looking at several typical statistics – population, age, income, crime, sexual deviancy involving quadrupeds, the likelihood of being chased by hoards of high school football players wielding damp towels as weapons – and found that Townsend, more than any other town in Massachusetts, placed pretty much right in the median on just about everything.

In other words the town I grew up in is, statistically speaking, the most average town in the state.

Of course as I said I grew up in the 70’s, which, come to think of it, is a decade that can actually be called above average. That is if you’re looking at metrics like divorce rates, bad governing, soul-destroying home décor, alcohol and cigarette addiction, casseroles, and child molestation. But hey, we got to ride bikes without helmets! Let’s hear it for the seventies!

As a young stripling my elementary school was Spaulding Memorial, a large, brick 1930’s era monolith that for reasons unclear to just about everyone still to this day sports a menacing, black metal bat (the flying mammal, not the baseball thingy) atop its weathervane, looming over the children below. Does that sound sinister? Well take a look and you tell me:

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Nope, not sinister at all.

My High School was North Middlesex Regional High, the population of which included the teenagers of neighboring Ashby (lots of forest, pop. 3,074) and Pepperell (the bad side of the tracks, where I learned to smoke, spit and almost have sex, pop. 11,497). I don’t really recall my teen years at NMRHS as a time in which I was particularly productive and/or successful at anything, but then again, who is (that is, besides lots of people)? As far as I can remember I wasn’t particularly popular, but nor was I unpopular. I didn’t get great grades, but I also didn’t flunk out. Didn’t do sports. I just kind of was.

You know, average.

Anyway, even though Townsend is in many ways a lovely town I left it for good once I hit eighteen, escaping to the big city of Lowell, MA for college and then, after a few years here and there, the Boston area before marrying, spawning, and then coming out West. Being a true New Englander I will always miss the Northeast, but it’s not as if I don’t get plenty of chances to get back there. In fact, I still occasionally visit family, though only when there’s a funeral and I have enough miles.

And hey, so what if it’s a literally average town? It produced me, and as the first paragraph of this post clearly outlines – and if you’ve forgotten it already I strongly recommend that you read it again, it is quite good – I’ve accomplished tons.

If that ain’t above average then I don’t know what is.

 

 

Binge, Lather, Repeat

Here’s a confession: I’m not a fit person. I’m paunchy around the middle and I lack cardiovascular stamina. I couldn’t run a marathon or engage in any of those Iron-Man type competitions wherein the contestant has to crawl through a minefield under two inches of electrified barbed wire. Heck, I couldn’t even complete a half-hour of Svaroopa yoga without collapsing in pain.

And muscles? Put it this way: I’m 45 years old but I have the strength of a slightly larger-than-average nine year old girl. With diphtheria.

Feats of strength just aren’t my thing. My thing? Bingeing. Like, I’ll binge-consume anything. Inhaling a box of Cheez-its in front of Netflix on the couch at midnight, cradling a quart of whiskey is for me just an average Tuesday night, and when you think of it that’s three binges in one sitting. In a sense, isn’t that itself a feat worthy of praise? You’ve got feats of strength, you say? Well I have feats of binging!

On an unrelated subject, another one of my “things” is struggling to keep my weight down.

Oh, believe me, I’ve taken comfort in all the usual excuses: I’m middle aged, my metabolism betrayed me somewhere in my thirties, I’m biologically Samoan – you know, the same excuses you probably use. But if I stopped eating at night and abstained from alcohol consistently then I would be much healthier and, consequently, thinner.

But let’s just say, for arguments sake, that I don’t get around to making those changes. I can still make moderate adjustments to the old lifestyle. I mean, why throw out the baby with the bathwater, as they say.

It is in that spirit that I try to make it to the gym most weekdays. My gym is nothing fancy, just your average low-budget dive with barely enough functioning equipment to support the occurrence –however unlikely – of more than two people wanting to do “quads” or whatever on the same day. I’m sure you’ve seen gyms like this. The carpets are all worn. The lights flicker. Most of the members are in their sixties or seventies, and everyone seems really tired. It’s like an early David Fincher movie.

This is the way I like it. In fact, I like most things about my gym.

But oh, using the locker room – that I can do without. I enter that locker room every day knowing there are numerous perils awaiting me within. It’s bad enough that the floor is basically a large petri dish culturing countless new life forms, or that the hot tub is a potent soup of dead skin cells and short gray hairs, or that no one – and I mean no one – seems to wash their hands after doing lord-knows-what in the bathroom stalls. The worst aspect of the locker room for me, though, is the likelihood that there will be other men in there. They will be old-timers. They will want to chat. And they will not be wearing any clothes.

Now my workouts may not be the most intense, but it’s very difficult for me to maintain an exercise-related endorphin high, particularly after a challenging 15 minutes on the treadmill’s Belly Fat Blaster setting, when upon walking into the locker room I’m faced with several septuagenarians, all of whom seem to really love being naked. They’re not just quietly getting into or out of their clothes, either; these guys are walking around, actively puttering about. Often they’re standing up, face to face and within inches of one another, nudely chatting about things like their recent trip to Alaska or how their doctor told them to quit dairy.

Even their personal grooming at the sinks goes on while au naturel, which I find odd. Think about it – you’ve finished your shower, you’ve toweled off, and now there are two things left to do: get dressed, and spend the next half an hour over the sink plucking your nostril hairs. Which do you do first? Well I’d get dressed, of course, since being stark naked is not a requirement of doing anything other than showering. Not these guys, though. For them getting dressed is apparently the absolute last thing they plan on doing, and even then one gets the impression that they do it only under protest.

Me? I’m in and out of that locker room with zero chatting and a minimum of nudity. In fact, I’ve perfected the skill of positioning my self in such a way while quickly going about my business that to even the keenest eye it would appear I don’t even have any private parts.

And at least I wash my hands after using the restroom, even if it does mean that I’m often sandwiched at the middle sink, flanked at both sides by naked, lathered grandpas.

Now that I think of it, it’s no wonder I seek the comfort of food and drink in the middle of the night. It’s the only thing that will erase the memory of the day’s locker room experience from my brain.

Netflix and Cheez-its, anyone?

 

 

 

 

On Notice.

A month or so ago I received a notice in the mail from the Long Beach Police Department. Unlike the typical parking ticket or traffic violation, though, this letter came in a nondescript white business envelope. Not overtly intimidating, perhaps, but still vaguely threatening, as I guess any unsolicited missive from the Police would be. Now I don’t know if you’re at all like me, but if you are, then any overture from the P.D., whether by mail or in person, would certainly elicit from within your soul no small degree of terror. It’s not that I’ve done anything wrong – well, not too wrong – it’s just that I tend to assume the worst.

What's this? An official letter from the Police Department? How nice!

At the time of its arrival I was puttering in the yard (being one of those outdoorsy types), and Lizzy happened to intercept the mail at the front door. It was she who brought the letter to me, so consequently I had to act pretty damned casual as I took the envelope from her hand.

In the few seconds subsequent to my wife’s words (“Here’s something from the Police!”) I experienced a quick moment of panic. I scanned my memory for any recent offense, but the more I thought about it the more it became clear that this letter could portend punishment for damn near anything. Was I caught on camera failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection? Could a vigilante-inspired coffee shop denizen have witnessed me helping myself to extra java without dropping a quarter in the little cup they put next to the urn? Did my ISP call the cops after learning about the video I downloaded – you know, the one with the dwarf, the bucket of warm mashed potatoes, and all the marmots?

Could they – oh god help me! – could they have found out about the chickens?

But as I say, I tried to remain nonchalant. I opened the letter, and sure enough, I’m told in plain, cold, accusing black lettering that I’m to report to the Long Beach Police Department on the date specified for something very, very serious.

A job interview.

Wait – what?

A bit of history here: a couple of years ago I started the process of interviewing for what was advertised as a municipal job with the Port of Long Beach. It seemed like just the thing for me – one of those clerical spots wherein the applicant need only prove that he or she can type around 10 words per hour, as well as display a proven ability to show up at work with a pulse.

Note the dreaded description "Perm/Full Time."

Having worked for about five years with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue – a job that not only required an absolute minimal amount of brainpower and effort, but also imposed upon its employees several breaks during the day, two or three “personal days” a season, a few sick days, some vacation time, and a nice, fat, holiday off a month even if there wasn’t an actual holiday (“Evacuation Day, anyone?) – I new that this Port thing would be right up my alley.

Long story short, several months of waiting, a background check, two tests, three interviews and one economic disaster later, and I didn’t get the job. It’s okay. I moved on.

But now it’s a couple of years later, and I’m suddenly being told to report for an interview for a completely unrelated government job. The letter was threatening in tone, not unlike a summons to appear in court or an order to pay a decade of back child support because of one little mistake you made in Chinatown during a particularly crazy Qi Xi festival. On reading it I got the impression that if I didn’t respond I would most certainly be physically removed from my home and thrown in prison for an extended stay, the duration of which I would no doubt spend as that prisoner who wheels the book cart around to all the other inmates, passing out copies of Mein Kampf and taking furtive orders for things like cigarettes and Rita Hayworth posters.

You are ordered to respond to this letter!

Now I know all these police officer-types tend to operate on the serious side, but was this really necessary? Frankly, it was damn unsettling. And what if I were to show up for the interview? Can you imagine what that would have been like? I can hear the questioning now: “So, Mr. Miller – have you ever been beaten with a bar of soap and a sock?” or, “It says here on your resume that you were once a Boy Scout. Could you, then, construct a shiv out of an 8-track cassette tape and a kitchen spatula?” or, “Mr. Miller, where do you see yourself incarcerated in five years?”

And whoever wrote this dreadful thing must have felt that it needed an extra dose of intimidation, because a little further down the page I was told in no uncertain terms that I had exactly two weeks to respond, or else there was a chance that I would never be allowed to work in municipal government again.

Scary prospect, I know, and such a tempting offer. But I steeled myself and decided to ignore this warm, welcoming invitation. I figured I’d be better off looking for employment somewhere else – perhaps a job less confrontational in nature. Somewhere where I’d be less likely to have my body and spirit beaten down on a daily basis while enduring humiliating verbal assaults and other indignities from my superiors.

Okay, so that rules out a Hollywood production company – but I’ll keep looking. I’m sure I’ll find something.

Don’t Go Out the Front Door (Or Under the Kitchen Sink)!

It’s funny how being a parent alters the way you look at things. If you’ve been there (or currently are there), you know what I mean – cleaning up traditionally repugnant substances like poop, vomit or any other of the vast variety of sputum becomes, through some reverse transubstantiation, as mundane and ho-hum a task as sweeping up cracker crumbs. The point being, if you’re a parent, then you just don’t get freaked out about the same things you used to.

The same could be said for situations that don’t involve the body’s by-products. For example, a couple of evenings ago while Lizzy and I were getting supper ready, Sarah popped out the front door unattended for a bit of pre-dinner running around. We don’t normally have a problem with this sort of thing, as long as we know where she is and we’re able to check on her every few minutes or so, so we let her do her thing while we went about setting the table.

Upon coming back into the house Sarah proudly informed us that she had made a “garden” on the front step (see picture). We went out to have a look, and, sure enough, she had gathered various flower petals and arranged them in a neat pile, surrounded by carefully chosen twigs, on the stone tiles in front of our door.

Lizzy and I both oohed and aahed accordingly while Sarah bounced into the house, proud of her achievement. And really, who can blame her? Look at her choice of color, the arrangement of the material, her selection of found objects – quite impressive, if you ask me.

“It’s my garden!” Sarah beamed, hopping about in the living room.

“How nice!” Lizzy beamed in response.

“That is beautiful!” I offered enthusiastically, beaming even brighter.

“Yes!” Sarah beamed some more.

If you haven’t noticed, we’re one of those families that tends to beam a lot.

We were just at the point where even the cats were about to start beaming when Sarah, buoyant as ever, added:

“Somebody died there!”

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those movies where the family moves into a new house and the littlest one – usually some dour, brooding type – stands at the top of the stairs and utters an ominous and foreboding non sequitur like “It’s in the cellar,” or “Why is the floor all red, Daddy?” and the parents brush the statement off with a distracted tousle of the kid’s hair and a casual “Aw, how cute…now go play with your new Heretic Necklace, Dakota!”  Well if you have then you know that the child’s announcement would have in actuality portended the demise of both the house and family, most likely at the hands of some ancient daemon or disgruntled Native American’s curse. Additionally, you’ve probably shaken your head incredulously, questioning how any adult could possibly have be so clueless as to have missed the obvious warning.

But there we were, all smiles in the living room as Sarah, skipping over to the dinner table, reiterated her statement that her creation commemorated some poor soul’s demise. Lizzy and I exchanged a chuckle, mused on our daughter’s creativity for a moment, then went back to the dining room.

I mean, are we crazy? Sarah’s flower and stick arrangement turns out to be not just a spontaneous and girlish burst of creativity but instead memorializes some imaginary person’s death and here we are, thinking, “Oh, kids….” Next thing you know walking out back and finding Sarah drawing chalk pentagrams on her Melissa & Doug easel while speaking in tongues will be a common occurrence, as will waking up in the middle of the night after some fitful dream and finding her standing over our bedside in the dark, brooding silently.

Of course, just this morning while getting ready for school Sarah amused herself by opening up the cabinet door under the kitchen sink, happily muttering “Monkeys, monkeys, monkeys…” so maybe the whole death-shrine thing is nothing to worry about. I mean, I’m certainly not going to believe a four year-old’s claim that there are anthropoids under our sink, so why give credence to anything else her healthy imagination feels like producing? Just encourage and move along, right?

I guess the desensitizing aspect of parenthood serves a pretty good purpose. Otherwise we’d be far too grossed out to clean up any of the messes, or too concerned about monsters in the closet – or, say, monkeys under the sink – to function properly. And while I may never know if anyone did ever die on our front door step, I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that there are no monkeys, under-sink residing or otherwise, anywhere in the house.

At least, I don’t think there are.

Aw, crap.

Run, Jason, Run!

I have decided to start jogging again. It’s no secret to those who have actually seen me swell in girth over the years that I’m not the spry, lanky chap I was around the time Lizzy and I were married, and while Lizzy seems unfazed by my appearance I myself am starting to get pretty fed up.

The story: the family and I recently returned from a short-ish trip to the East coast to attend a cousin’s wedding and visit, for five days, with my mother and her husband Neil at their home in New Hampshire. We had a great time, of course, but I’m afraid that while there I perhaps took too advantage of the freedom vacations usually allow the weak-willed. You know what I mean – you eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow, stay up late, rarely shower, that kind of thing.

I also made the mistake of looking over some old photos of myself that my mother had gathered in an old shoebox. Now I know that looking at twenty year-old pictures of oneself is inadvisable to just about anybody, but to say that I was thinner in those old high-school pictures would be a significant understatement, on par with saying that Al Pacino used to be a more nuanced actor or that journalism used to be a more viable career choice.

How thin was I? Well I’ve never been blessed with much muscle, at least none that didn’t require about a decade or so at the gym to develop, and I’m only five and a half feet tall. Add to that what must have been a raging metabolism and lots of bike riding and you get a teenager who graduated High School weighing about a hundred and twenty eight pounds.

Now in college, of course, that changed drastically.  The discovery of an almost unlimited access to all the food and alcohol any eighteen year-old could ever ask for resulted in the rapid addition of about forty – that’s right, forty – pounds onto the Miller frame, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that it was accomplished before December of my freshman year. Consequently I spent much of my ensuing college years in a state of rotundity not unlike that of your average Manatee or pot-bellied pig.

I lost the weight after graduation, and kept it off for years thanks to a better diet and an unshakably peripatetic lifestyle. But then came marriage. Then parenthood. Then a move away from one of the country’s most walking-friendly regions (Boston) to Southern California, where there is hardly any public transit system and where one can’t get anywhere worth going without hopping on a damned freeway and sitting in traffic for nine hours.

Gradually, I’ve seen my weight creep up since arriving in Long Beach, an inexorable and unappealing incline that has, as of this writing, engendered about twenty pounds of me that weren’t extant a mere three years ago.

I had already been contemplating a strict change in lifestyle, and had even, in the past couple of months, gravitated away from eating heavier foods and to a more veggie-centric diet. But apparently no one told my weight, which continued to inch higher. The once-reliable metabolism, it seems, must have decided to check out early.

So all this past week I’ve been running, sometimes with Lizzy and sometimes alone in the early AM. Nothing big, just a couple miles a day, but we plan on working our way up in the mileage department once the limbs and frame get used to the abuse. Also we’ve decided, being the trendy types that we are, to run sans footwear, an endeavor we’ve undertaken not just because the concept is intriguing but because, at least for me, it removes from the process the whole cumbersome business of putting on socks and lacing up shoes. I mean to say, when the act of getting up and jogging is already in a constant battle with the non-act of staying in bed, knowing that you’re going to have to struggle blindly with the footwear might just be enough to tip the scales toward the latter.

I’m still getting used to a couple of aspects of this jogging thing though, one of which is my mental state during the run. Now I know that a couple of miles or so is not nearly long enough to put any runner into an endorphin-induced trance or “zone,” but I had hoped that my thoughts might at least run a bit more strongly toward the positive. Exercise is supposed to help the mood, right?

Sadly, that has not yet been the case, as I have found that while jogging my mind is filled with an unending interior monologue. And what the interior monologue has to say isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s not so much a monologue as it is a diatribe.  If I’m not cursing the sidewalks or grumbling about politics, I’m thinking catty things about a friend’s interior decorating choices or fantasizing about besting the drunk guy who made fun of me at the wedding last week (because I was drinking a white wine and apparently looked “English”) with a barrage of searing insults before raining blows down upon his head.

Once, and I swear this is true, I lurched pass a sign outside of a church that read “Live Simply, Care Deeply” and thought, “Fuck you.” I mean, what’s up with that?

And as if that weren’t bad enough, I’m forced to deal with certain – how should I say it? – anatomical aspects of running. I won’t go into too much detail here, but let me just say that when one has just started jogging and is wearing a brand-new pair of running underwear under his shorts, one finds that after only a few yards or so one’s, um, male thing immediately misplaces itself and winds up pointing, under the force of the underwear’s vice-like grip, in a direction one is not typically accustomed to.

But all in all my new hobby had been a success. That is only if you don’t measure the success of exercise by the number of pounds shed; this morning, after almost a week of running and dieting, I ventured onto the scale to find that, give or take an ounce, I hadn’t lost anything.

Great.

I can’t wait to see what my interior monologue has to say about that one tomorrow morning.

War and Buffet.

A couple of months ago the family and I went out, as is our habit, to the Marriott hotel for their annual Easter Brunch.

Brunch is one of those meals that I can really get behind. For one thing there are an unlimited number of goodies to chose from, most more at home at the dinner table than the breakfast nook.  I’ve always been one of those guys for whom any category of foodstuff would qualify as appropriate A.M. sustenance; in fact, I can say with almost no shame that in the early hours of the day I tend to be more inclined to go for the dinner left-overs than for the traditional eggs/bacon/cereal cuisine anyways. I mean, who, when faced with the choice of either slurping a bowl of Grape Nuts or reheating last night’s Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Haricots Verts wouldn’t chose the latter?

Of course, I wrote “reheating” and “Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Haricots Verts” only to be illustrative; chances are that my breakfasts usually involve me standing in front of the fridge at 5:30 in the morning and inhaling, with my bare fingers, nutriments as varied as meatballs, leftover takeout, shredded cheese, raw hot dogs, innumerable pepperoncini, and even – on more than one occasion – clam chowder.  The point is, unlike my furtive, pre-dawn gastronomical indiscretions, attending the typical well-stocked brunch is a perfect excuse to eat whatever the hell you want – and lots of it – with almost no guilt at all.

And there’s even alcohol – that is, if you want to call champagne alcohol. Me, I prefer to call it Carbonated Headache in a Bottle. I generally avoid imbibing of the stuff, with some possible exceptions being on the occasion of a New Year’s Eve celebration, the rare wedding reception, or the even rarer ascension of a Democrat to higher office. But a brunch, well…when in Rome, right?

But while the experience of gorging myself in one sitting on about twelve pounds of eggs, pasta, meat, shrimp, cheese, and pastry should normally be viewed as without a single drawback, I have to admit that there was one gray cloud that threatened to dampen my otherwise perfect mid-morning: I’m talking about the often excruciating process of Waiting In Line At the Buffet.

Or, as I like to put it for brevity’s sake, WILAB.

WILAB is only one of several trials or ordeals that have recently been testing my outlook on my fellow man. Some other well-known episodes are Waiting In Line To Use the ATM, Waiting In Line For a Shopper To Pay For Her Groceries With A Check, and, perhaps the most egregious, Waiting In Line To Put Sugar and Cream In Your Coffee.

The latter experience has pained me the most over the years, as nothing puts the average person into such a pronounced state of casual languor and meditation, apparently, then doctoring his or her freaking mochaccino. I’m sure you know what I mean – you’re waiting there by the condiment station at the coffee shop while some thirty-something hipster adds his organic turbinado sugar one grain at a time. These people treat the process like something sacred and not to be rushed, on par with some hallowed ceremony like Catholic Communion or Buddhist Pirit. I mean, the Mayans practiced Báalchequicker, and with fewer spices, than these freaks. It’s damn frustrating, and nearly makes one despair of humanity.

I’ve often thought that the main problem here is that the environment surrounding your typical coffee shop is too idyllic. Warm, soothing music lilts inoffensively from unseen speakers, generic and unchallenging artwork line the walls – that sort of thing. It tends to put people into a kind of trance.  If I had my way, I’d set up a t.v. screen at the sugar and milk station that played, on a loop, something horrific and repellent. You know, truly nauseating imagery like World War II battle footage, videos of autopsies, Ethan Hawke Screen tests – anything the average non-sociopath would avert their eyes from. Trust me, people would be in and out of that coffee shop in no time.

But back to brunch. WILAB is its own special thing.  And I don’t mean the part where you linger in line while waiting to approach the buffet; no, I mean the part where you’ve finally made it and you’re standing there in front of a succession of chafing dishes, each one beckoning you to help yourself – yet you have to wait for the guy next to you to finish what he’s doing before you can continue.

Even if what the guy was doing, as was the case when I approached the buffet line displaying traditional savory fare like bacon & eggs, was absolutely nothing.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I never thought of this process as a complicated one. I mean, the food is already paid for, and no one was going to monitor my selections. The way I look at it, all that is required of me is to approach the buffet, pop open the chafing dish, excavate contents within, and move on to the next tray. Not exactly rocket science. Plus, it just so happens that I’m known far and wide for my iron stomach; consequently the contents of the dish are immaterial and I can work the line indiscriminately. But if anything failed to catch my fancy, well then to close the lid on the offending victuals and move on down the line would be for me the work of only a second or two. That’s the way it should be – it’s what they call etiquette.

But on loading my plate with bacon and moving over to the next chafing dish, I was stopped firmly in my tracks by the presence of a fellow bruncher standing motionless in front of said dish. Strangely, he wasn’t doing anything – just standing there, looking straight ahead with a marked expression of vapidity. I gave him a second, of course, assuming that he would come out of his private reverie and either commence with the self-service or move on, but he remained idle.

Well, I wasn’t going to let this go on for long, not with all that unseen food there waiting to reveal itself. So, keeping with my habit of avoiding verbal communication when standing in line for anything, I respectfully reached in front of him – being careful not to encroach on his personal space – and lifted the lid to the chafing dish. The idea being, you know, that if Mr. Silent Reverie wasn’t going to be proactive, then I would quietly help myself and move on.

I opened the lid and was about to go for the goods when from behind me I felt him stir, and before I was able to register surprise he had shifted himself in front of me, taken hold of the serving tongs, and was piling the contents of the dish – breakfast sausage, it turned out – onto his plate.

That’s right – by all appearances the man wasn’t in a silent reverie at all, but was, in fact, waiting for me to open the chafing dish for him. And in case you were wondering, he was not infirm, significantly aged, handicapped or otherwise encumbered; nor was I wearing a name tag, chef’s whites or a funny hat, either.

Okay, so maybe I was wearing a funny hat – but it wasn’t that kind of funny hat.

Needless to say, the experience marred what would have otherwise been the perfect brunch. In fact, the prospect of having to follow this person around, opening chafing dishes the whole morning, handing him plates and cutlery and perhaps even slicing his Roasted Lamb, was enough to induce me to withdraw from that particular buffet line and instead queue up by the waffles and sweets.

Not my first choice, you know, but as I said – when it comes to brunch I don’t discriminate.

Been away for a while…

I know that I’ve been away from this blog for some time now (like, four months!), but I can explain. Around October-ish I started a new job at a nice little Cafe here in Long Beach. Nothing big, just something to get me out of the house and away from all all those idle hours spent waiting for Spielberg to call, my screenplay to become readable or the dishes to do their damned selves. I mean, it’s not as easy as you might think getting things done when there isn’t some boss or deadline hovering over your head. You know what it’s like – you wake up feeling productive, brimming with ideas and the creative impulse. An hour later, though, and you’re back in bed with the computer on your chest, a cacophony of amateur renditions of “Barbie Girl” filling the room, and your t-shirt, face and hair bemired with the remains of the previous night’s leftovers. At least that’s the way it is for me.

Well anyway, as I was saying I wound up getting a job downtown. The hours were initially part-time, in accordance with the laws governing all jobs involving aprons and name-tags, but somewhere along the way something went wrong, and before I knew it I found myself doing the daily grind in a full-time manner. This, naturally, took a big bite out of my free time.

Not that I minded, of course; I’m as eager as the next guy to be a productive part of society – to say nothing of wanting to fulfill my role as an at least partial supporter of my family – it’s just that since removing myself from the Brobdingnagian pool of film types looking for a job in L.A, I’ve had kind of a hard time figuring out where I’d be happy working. I want to act, write, and be generally amusing, not sit at a desk going over spreadsheets and quarterly reports or whatever it is people do in offices. Is that so wrong? Add to this scenario the fact that I possess a nice, shiny, 1993-vintage bachelor’s degree in English, of all things, and you can see how the prospect of full employment in a meaningful field would prove elusive.

As it turned out, the full-time thing was really only temporary; my hours at the cafe are card-carrying members of the under-thirty demographic again, allowing me at least a couple hours a day to try to squeeze some small volume of thin, acrid juice out of the withered, dry husk of this really, really tortured metaphor of, um, creativity fruit (?) I have growing in my head.

So time to start writing! As you might imagine, tons of things have gone on in the Miller family since my last post, each episode wackier than the last and each deserving of at least 1,200 words and every imaginable sequence of punctuation devoted to its documentation. Just you wait – it’ll be grand!