An Urgent Warning To Parents.

An Urgent Warning To Parents.

Normally I don’t pay attention to what the “kids” are doing these days, but I have to say that lately it’s been hard to avoid all of the unsettling news surrounding the younger generations and their trends. I’ve also spent no small amount of time around young people lately, and consequently have become somewhat of an expert on the subject. You may think you know what’s going on with these people, but trust me–you have no idea.

The average adult barely has enough time to figure out what “planking” is (I’m pretty sure it involves kissing a blind-folded friend while jumping off of a pirate ship), when all of a sudden there’s things like “the Dougie” (a clearly x-rated dance move that usually results in drastic mood swings, teen pregnancy, and paralysis, though not necessarily in that order), and even something called “dabbing,” which apparently has two meanings: karate chopping your own Grandparents (often fatally) while covering your eyes to avoid witnessing the carnage, and, I kid you not, repeatedly dipping your head into a large bowl of fresh Marijuana and whole milk. Yep, you read that right: whole milk. And they do these things for fun.

In fact, it turns out that this “Marijuana” stuff is pretty much the operative factor in all of these shenanigans. Worse still, after doing a little research on the subject I’ve learned that–I hope you’re sitting down for this–this deadly scourge is actually legal in this and many other states, and as a result almost every one of our children is currently “high,” or “baked” (that’s just some of the slang meaning “drunk on Marijuana.” Others include “stoned,” “krilled,” “down-bottomed,” “tinseled,” and “gluten-free.”).

https://i2.wp.com/all-that-is-interesting.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/marijuana-mob.jpg
Your kids.

I know, I know. It’s all pretty scary. But before you lose all hope in the future of this once-great country, please take heart: there are still adults in charge of things, and these adults will rise to the occasion and take whatever measure necessary to stamp this horrible fad out.

One of the first things we can all do, as parents, educators, and casual observers of teenagers in malls, amusement parks, and on beaches, is to recognize the warning signs of someone who has had way too many Marijuanas, or as they say, has “overdosed.” Fortunately for me, my particular employer has provided, via an obviously well-researched and widely forwarded email on the subject, some of the things to look for.

It’s difficult to even imagine, but apparently, when a child has smoked, snorted or even injected too many Marijuanas (and yes, even two or three can be “too many” depending on factors such as the young person’s BMI or whether or not they graduated high school) several terrible things will almost certainly happen. So immediately dial 911 if you observe any of these common symptoms (these are straight from the email):

  • The child will NOT wake up—unconscious and unresponsive
  • Unable to stand, walk, or have control of their bodily functions
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Slow/irregular breathing-gurgled sounding
  • Pale skin
  • Bluish tinge to mouth and fingernails

Not so fun now, is it, kiddos? Kind of makes you wonder why they even make Marijuana.

Additionally, and I find it difficult to even type these next words, they may experience something called “scromiting,” which my email says is “a combination of vomiting and screaming.” I know, right?!? It may seem crazy, but unfortunately the cold, hard truth is that kids these days are doing these kind of things in droves. Apparently they sometimes even “shart,” which is a similar blending of two words that, unless I’m mistaken, describes a potentially deadly game involving both “shaving” and “darts.” In rare occasions the Marijuana user has even been know to literally “scromit” while “sharting.” I dare say, your own teen is probably doing them both, and with great enthusiasm, even as I write this.

So please be vigilant. I know that some of the above information may seem far-fetched, but don’t make the mistake of ignoring the numerous warning signs of recreational Marijuana use. If we can stop the problem before it grows, then perhaps this trend can be reversed. Best to let our children remain children, doing things we know are clean, wholesome, old-fashioned fun. Things like playing stickball, asphyxiating each other against walls, or eating laundry detergent. You know, kid stuff.

Just as long as they’re not “planking.” That thing sounds dreadful.

40 Minutes – A Commercial Script on Spec.

40 Minutes – A Commercial Script on Spec.

INT. HOME OFFICE – DAY

A young man, LAWRENCE, sits quietly reading in a comfortable chair in his home office. There’s a cup of tea on a small table by his side, a decorative lamp emits a warm, soft light nearby, and classical music plays in the background. He’s wearing a comfortable sweater, and the book he is reading is “How The Mind Works,” by Steven Pinker.

Behind him his bookshelf reveals Lawrence’s taste in literature: philosophy, English history, a large volume of Shakespeare’s works. Several tasteful pieces of framed art decorate the walls around him, and a small window overlooks what appears to be a well-groomed garden.

It is the room of a scholar, an academic – a man of refined tastes.

The door opens and Lawrence’s wife SANDRA enters quietly.

SANDRA: Hey hon – sorry to bother you…

Lawrence finishes the sentence he’s reading before responding. He closes his book and smiles.

LAWRENCE: No, you’re not bothering me. I was just taking a bit of a break from all my blasted research.

SANDRA: Oh, poor you. Any breakthroughs?

LAWRENCE:(shakes his head)Not yet. I’ve gone through everyone – Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh…

SANDRA: What about Bacon?

He waves a dismissive hand.

LAWRENCE: Don’t mention that name! He’s old news honey – old news. There are already volumes and volumes –

SANDRA: (interrupting)Um — sorry. I just wanted to tell you that I’m going to meditate now in the sunroom.

LAWRENCE:Oh, fine…that’ll do you some good. Sorry love, here you are trying to break away and I’m just rambling on…

SANDRA: No, really, I love to hear about your work! I just want to start now so that I’ll be done before the duck is finished.

LAWRENCE :(nodding)Sure. So, forty minutes?

SANDRA: Yep. Twice a day!

LAWRENCE: Well you go meditate, and don’t worry about that duck. I’ll check on it – you just enjoy your nirvana!

She chuckles.

SANDRA: Yeah, right. I’m lucky I can remember my own mantra!
They both laugh heartily for a sustained beat. Eventually the laughter trickles off.

LAWRENCE: Alright, go on now. There’s a small chance I may be napping later, but if not I’ll see you in forty minutes.

She blows him a kiss.

SANDRA: (smiling warmly)Thanks, hon.

She closes the door quietly behind her.

Lawrence looks at the door thoughtfully for a beat, smile still on his lips.
Suddenly, in one motion, he loses the smile, tosses the book aside and jumps out of his chair.

He tiptoes excitedly over to the door, holds his breath, and carefully opens it. He peeks out.

INT. LAWRENCE’S HOUSE – DAY

At the end of the hallway and through the house a bit of the sunroom is visible. Sandra, who has just entered the room and is partly visible, puffs up a pillow on the couch by the window, sits down, and settles in for her meditation.

INT. HOME OFFICE – DAY

Lawrence slowly and noiselessly closes the door and exhales. He looks around the room, then rushes over to his desk. He opens a small drawer, digs around inside, and pulls out a hand-held digital stopwatch.

He sets the stopwatch to 40:00.

He pushes START.

CU OF STOPWATCH

It immediately begins to count down: 39:59…39:58…39:57…

He rests the stopwatch on the desk, then opens a different drawer. He quickly tosses its contents onto the floor, winces as the noise, and reaches deep inside, to the back of the drawer.

LAWRENCE: C’mon…

His eyes widen as he pulls an unopened pint of whiskey out of the drawer.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D): Yes!

He turns to the bookshelf and removes the volume of Shakespeare. He reaches into the gap between books and pulls out a large pack of cinnamon gum. He quickly places the gum and whiskey on the small table next to his cup of tea. He picks up the mug, drains it of any remaining tea, cracks open the pint of booze and fills the mug, with the used tea bag still hanging out of it, to the brim.

It’s too full to move without spilling, so Lawrence takes a long, careful slurp from the mug before putting it back down on the table.

He sits down in the chair, rubs his face with both hands, and exhales.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D): Forty minutes.

He takes another swig of his booze.

CUT TO:

INSERT – CU ON STOPWATCH

It reads 36:00

Lawrence is on his chair, laptop obscuring his middle. There’s a large bottle of lube on the table next to his mug of booze. Classical music is still playing softly in the background.His arm is clearly moving in his lap and he appears to be in a state of deep concentration.

CUT TO:

INSERT – CU ON STOPWATCH

33:49…33:48…

Lawrence fidgets with the stereo in the corner of the room while simultaneously wiping his hands with a decorative towel and juggling the stereo remote. After a bit of a struggle, he manages to navigate away from the classical music. He scans over several stations: Country, Jazz, Pop, Mexican Bandas music.

LAWRENCE: (under his breath)Aw, fucking shit…

Finally he finds some speed metal. He winces at the volume, taps it down a couple of notches on the remote, and nods.

He tosses the remote on top of the stereo and it tumbles, unnoticed by Lawrence, onto the floor behind it.

CUT TO:

INSERT – CU ON STOPWATCH

29:00…28:59…

With speed metal in the background, Lawrence is in the middle of finishing his mug. He looks around furtively, pours more booze into it, and drains it.

In the process the old teabag falls out onto his face. He flicks it off his cheek and flies through the air, landing with a SPLOT on a framed picture of Lawrence and Sandra that sits on his desk.

Lawrence looks at the picture.

CUT TO:

INSERT – STOPWATCH

28:00 and counting.

Lawrence, at his desk, does a rail of coke off of the picture.

CUT TO:

INSERT – CU ON STOPWATCH

24:05…24:04…

Lawrence whispers into his cellphone.

LAWRENCE: (slurring) No, no baby…I fucking love you…you know that I fucking love you, Crystal, right? You know I miss you…

He’s suddenly distracted by a restrained RAPPING sound. He looks around, startled.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D): What the fuck…(into the phone)I gotta go babe…yeah, I’ll call you tonight…

He hangs up his cell and struggles to listen over the Metal in the background.

More rapping.

It’s coming from the window.

JUMP CUT TO:

Lawrence helps a man enter his office through the window. They’re both struggling, swearing and laughing under their breath.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D):What the fuck are you doing here, Mickey? This is fucking crazy…

CUT TO:

INSERT – CU ON STOPWATCH

22:00 left.

Lawrence and MICKEY, goateed and scrappy-looking, have pulled up another chair and are playing cards at the small table.

Lawrence pulls from his pint, now nearly empty, and Mickey fishes out a bottle of his own from the pocket of his flannel shirt. They’re both smoking.

CUT TO:

INSERT – STOPWATCH

It reads 16:23…16:22…

Lawrence and Mickey pass a funky, glass-blown pipe between them. Smoke fills the room.

LAWRENCE: (really slurring now)…and I was like, “what the fuck?” I mean, there’s feathers and blood fucking everywhere, right? And I’m supposed to get out of there in time for my 10:30 class? What the fuck?

Mickey exhales with a deep cough, and nods.

MICKEY:I hear you man, I hear you…

JUMP CUT TO:

Lawrence and Mickey, a few moments later and still at the table playing cards, are frozen in their chairs, listening. Lawrence holds the pipe in one hand and the other hand rests over Mickey’s chest, as if to still him.

LAWRENCE: Shhhhh….did You hear something?

They’re both very still for a beat.

JUMP CUT TO:

Lawrence awkwardly shoves Mickey through the window and back outside. Micky is only visible from the waste down, but his voice is audible from the other side of the window.

MICKEY: Alright, alright, I’m fucking going…what the fuck, slow the fuck down, man…

CUT TO:

INSERT – STOPWATCH

12:42…12:41…

Lawrence sits on the floor near the stereo. His eyes are closed and he’s moving his head to the Speed Metal in the background.

On his lap is a plate of greasy duck bones. He has grease all over his face and hands. He’s holding a bone up to his face and chewing breathlessly.

CUT TO:

INSERT – STOPWATCH

10 minutes left.

Lawrence, his face a greasy mess, his hair and shirt disheveled, is back in his chair, laptop on his lap, his arm jerking furiously.

FADE TO:

INT. HOME OFFICE – LATER

Everything about the room is a mess – speed metal plays endlessly, there’s smoke in the air, the table is out of place, there’s a dirty plate of duck bones overturned on the floor near the stereo and the bottle of lube is laying sideways on the floor near Lawrence’s desk, leaking out copious amounts of goo onto the framed picture of Lawrence and his wife. Several of the framed artwork now hangs off-kilter on the walls behind Lawrence. The Tiffany-style shade of the decorative lamp is askew.

There’s a small, torn-up baggy with some coke still visible inside it strewn carelessly over the top of the desk.

The pint of booze, empty save several dirty, crushed cigarette butts at the bottom, sits on the floor near the office door.

Just visible behind the bottle are two feet – the camera pans up to reveal Sandra, a look of utter horror on her face.

Lawrence is in his chair, his eyes closed. His laptop balances precariously over his knee, the screen revealing the homepage of some ghastly porn website. His pants are unzipped widely.

Sandra coughs.

Lawrence opens his eyes with a start. He looks around, disoriented, before settling on Sandra in the doorway.

He stares back.

A beat.

CUT TO:

Black screen

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE: (V.O.)Want to get away?

CUT TO:

INT. HOME OFFICE- CONTINUOUS

Lawrence stares at Sandra, his expression growing more pained.

He opens his mouth to explain.

He’s interrupted by the loud, clear BEEPING of his stopwatch.

Lawrence closes his mouth as the beeping continues.

FADE TO BLACK.

THE END.

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.