Brooklyn Weirdos

The dogs in my Brooklyn neighborhood have it good. Birdie, Phoebe, Izzy, Charlie, Shady, Bluey, Ricky, Lacey, and even the dogs with names that don’t have an “e” sound at the end, are all treated like royalty.

They are free to roam off-leash almost every morning. Their perfectly groomed coats glisten in the sun as they accept fancy treats that their owner’s produce out of elaborate fanny packs.  They are even talked to like they have human-level intelligence. 

“Do you think you’ll want more water in a few minutes, Phoebe? Should we circle back to the water fountain later, after we play with your friend Charlie? Just let me know.” 

If these dogs are to be treated like they have critical thinking skills, fine. If they are going to have more expensive haircuts, better dental care, and wear nicer clothes than me, that’s cool, too. They just can’t also be allowed to pee on me. 

That’s what I found myself thinking one morning, sitting under a tree in the park, as a terrier named Bentley marked his territory at my feet. The stream didn’t make direct contact with my body, but my left leg caught some splatter. Was it cat urine or dog urine that carried that deadly disease that kills pregnant women? I couldn’t remember, but I was sure to look it up after going home and taking a Silkwood Shower.

I let out a “hey!” and gently shoved Bentley away. I turned my head and searched for his owner.

A tall woman with a visor power walked by, flashing a smile: “So sorry about that! Come on, Bentley! Come on!” 

She sped past, and in a few seconds, she was around the bend in the walking path. 

I thought she might rush over and put Bentley on a leash. I figured she’d at least chastise him for urinating on a fellow park goer. Perhaps a punishment was in store later, and he would be forced to dry dog food that night instead of filet mignon. 

Bentley and I glared at each other for a few more seconds, neither wanting to give up what we rightfully believed was our territory. Me, because I was there first, and finders keepers. Bentley, because he had peed on me, so why on earth would I not move? He had a point, but I was stubborn. I had paper towels to wipe my leg. I wasn’t going anywhere. 

Eventually, he tottered away. At the pace he was moving, he’d catch up to his owner in about an hour. Who knows what kind of terror he would wreak along the way.

Watching him leave, I imagined what would have happened to my childhood dog if he had peed on a random person. 

When I was around 11, our golden retriever, Calvin,  pooped in the house.

My dad was gardening in the back yard. I was slinking around the kitchen, hoping I wouldn’t be asked to help. I noticed a little turd near the kitchen window, but before I could clean it up, my dad noticed too. 

My Dad is one of the kindest, most gentle humans I’ve ever met. That all went out the window when walked by the sliding glass door and saw the feces. He turned into a Guantanamo Bay interrogator, quickly leaning down to swat Calvin’s nose with the full force of his open hand. 

“Why did you do that! Bad! No! You do not do that!”

He shoved Calvin’s nose toward the poop. Calvin stared at his movement with a scared, but curious, expression. He wasn’t the smartest dog.

“What is this substance?” he seemed to be thinking. “It smells interesting. Better have a taste.”

He extended his tongue, and thwack! Another slap to the snout. 

“Now you want to eat it?!”

My dad lifted Calvin straight off the ground and pinned him up against the wall, holding him by the front paws. He screamed into his face.

“You poop outside! Bad dog! You. Do Not. Shit. In the house!”

Calvin took this in stride. He wore a bemused, quizzical look. It’s like he knew something was off, but he was also getting a nice release in his lower back due to the way his legs were dangling. He wasn’t stressing it too hard.

I, on the other hand, was unsettled. Who was this man, who so rarely raised his voice, and never swore,  treating the dog like a criminal he caught reaching into his back pocket on a crowded train?

“Dad, you’re hurting him!”

While still pinning Calvin to the wall, he chastised me from over his shoulder.

“This is how they learn. You’ve got to show them who the alpha male is!”

If my dad owned Bentley, and he caught him peeing on someone in the park, it would have been on.

The incident occurred near the lake in Prospect Park. I could see my dad heaving the little dog into the water. With a yelp, Bentley would emerge, gasping for breath, while my father taught him a lesson from the shore. 

“You got that person wet, and now you’re wet! Eye for an eye, you mangy piece of shit! How does it feel? You’re lucky it’s not winter!”

My dad is not cruel. He always loved our pets and treated them well. He just thought that tough discipline was the only way to maintain the hierarchy between man and beast. That’s how I thought everyone dealt with their animals. I had clearly never been to Brooklyn.

These dogs don’t suffer beatings. It actually doesn’t seem like they suffer, period. I think half of the household spending in my neighborhood goes toward canine healthcare. 

There is one regular park goer, a German Shepard, who marches around using only her two front legs. Her injured hind legs are cradled in form fitting sockets, part of a wheeled contraption that appears to have been custom made at great expense. She always looks quite pleased with her setup, and she plays with the other dogs like she has four healthy legs. 

Better yet is Roger, a Chocolate Lab who coasts through the park while sitting in a tricked out wagon, looking like an emperor in a chariot. His ride is outfitted with a cushy blanket and a water bowl. He sits upright and dignified as his servants  owners labor to pull him from place to place, which looks like it takes no small amount of muscle power. 

One day, as Roger entered the park, I heard a neighbor check in on him. 

“Hey! How’s old Roger doing with his arthritis?”

“Pretty good. We take him swimming at the pool every day, so he’s maintaining his strength.”

Swimming! At a pool! Pools are hard to come by in NYC. I saw a “pop up” pool one time this summer, near the Brooklyn Pier. About 75 people were crammed into a 15 by 20 pool, holding their children and elbowing for room so that their little ones could bob with their floaties. This was a quickly constructed above ground pool, with rusty aluminum siding. It sat directly below a massive highway. Such is the appetite for pool going in New York. 

Overhearing this, I was surprised. How do you even find a pool that accepts dogs? And who were these people, so focused on providing physical therapy for a pet? Don’t they have anything better to do? 

Then, I took stock of my situation. I was shirtless, wearing toe shoes, and hanging from a tree branch. I was taking loud breaths and craning my neck back and forth so as to better mobilize my shoulder muscles. It was 11 AM on a Tuesday. Kids at summer camp were giving me weird looks, but I hardly noticed them as I eavesdropped on the conversations people were having about their dogs. 

Maybe Roger’s owners aren’t so odd. Maybe we all have our quirks.

“Can you believe that grown man who’s always out in the middle of the day, topless, swinging from tree branches and grunting?” the owners probably say, sitting poolside and giving Roger his afternoon deep tissue massage. 

“Doesn’t he have anything better to do?”


Russell Westbrook is not THAT Good

The NBA media can’t shut up about Russell Westbrook’s recent run of play, and for good reason. He’s a beast. His body parts keep exploding, yet he keeps coming back stronger. The basketball gods said “we’re going to ruin Derrick Rose and Westbrook. They’re too good. And we’re assholes.” Rose went down, but Westbrook threw up two middle fingers and continued to rampage through the league. He’s a monster. One of the best players in the league. Yet, he still makes plays like this:

There he is, throwing up an airball. It happens, even to the greats. Thankfully for the Thunder, Enes Kanter grabbed the rebound and put it back in. OR DID HE.


Continue reading “Russell Westbrook is not THAT Good”

21 Steps To Get Through an Agency Workday

How to get through the day when you work at Hollywood talent agency:

  1. Show up to your desk in the morning. Realize you forgot to do something the night before. Endure some scolding from your boss.
  2. Blame your bosses previous assistant for the error, no matter what went wrong. “I’m sorry, I guess _____ never filed that. Some people just don’t respect the job.” (Harder to pull off after you’ve established yourself as average and the previous assistant was amazing. But, as the great Wayne Gretzky said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.)
  3. Start feeling a little down, because it’s only 10:30 and you’ve already shown your boss how to copy and paste four different times.
  4. Cheer up, because while you don’t drive a Maserati and own a purebred labradoodle, at least you know how to fucking copy and paste.
  5. Massage your feet on a golf ball. Don’t worry about the looks you get for being in your socks. Your feet smell great!
  6. Roll your glutes on a lacrosse ball. Again, discard the wayward looks. Tell them to enjoy having limited mobility their whole life and that you hope medicare pays for their knee replacements. Or, something less mean.
  7. Tear the right side of your dress pants with the lacrosse ball. Feel foolish. Let a call go to voicemail while you try to fix your pants.
  8. 45 minutes later, rip the left side of your pants with the lacrosse ball. It’s minor. Shrug it off!
  9. Stand up. Do full, deep, toe-touch stretches.
  10. Go to the big bathroom stall for 10 minutes. Do a series of one legged squats and hip stretches. Pause when someone enters to use the stall next to you. Be grateful you can’t smell very well.
  11. Nervously laugh when you return to your desk and your co-workers start making fun of an “agent” they saw doing squats in the handicap stall. Cover yourself by chiming in about how weird that guy must be.
  12. See an online advertisement for a car racing game. Feel smug for not playing video games. Then, remember how many hours of your youth were spent playing Cruis’n USA on Nintendo 64.
  13. Think about Cruis’n USA for a while. Let another call go to voicemail. Contemplate why they chose to spell “Cruis’n” the way they did. Question the sanity of those fans who would stand right behind the finish line while Ferraris skidded toward them at 147 miles per hour.
Just watch from the side!
At least two of those people are about to get badly injured.

Continue reading “21 Steps To Get Through an Agency Workday”

Why Eurobasket Sucks is the largest website in the world that exclusively reports on overseas basketball. Most people have never heard of it, but it is required viewing for anyone playing abroad. It actually does a decent job of aggregating the scores and stats from leagues all over the world, but it does so using the ugliest, clunkiest website known to man.

The site is, quite frankly, hard to look at. The layout is hopelessly cluttered, there is no intuitive way to locate old posts, and it is chock full of obnoxious advertisements. Also, the main page is extra awkward because they shoehorn video clips into the middle of the headlines.

One of the front page video clips you can access is a 2 minute highlight of Yugoslavia vs South Korea from the 1996 Olympic games. It has 5 views on youtube, and I think I account for 3 of them.

Timely! At least can’t accuse them of chasing trends.

Continue reading “Why Eurobasket Sucks”

Neighbors – Not What They Appear

A couple of months ago I was at home to recover from my foot surgery. My afternoon routine involved small amounts of rehab and a lot of lying spread eagle on my front driveway. Don’t judge, zoning out and getting natural Vitamin D is integral to healing.

About 20 minutes into my sun session I heard something that snapped me out of my zen state. It was the unmistakable hum of my neighbor Belle’s tan Honda sedan. Melvin, her husband, was probably with her. (Names changed to protect the innocent.) They are both small and stout and approximately 72. More importantly, they were pulling into their driveway. I had to think fast.

My brain went into overdrive cycling through possibilities. Can I get up and hobble into the house? Impossible. Otis the family dog was wagging his tail and walking toward their car, a sure tell that a human is in the vicinity. Lie perfectly still and pretend to be in some unalterable meditative trance? It would not deter them from walking over anyway. Start moaning in pain, make them think I am in grave danger, crawl inside after convincing them to call an ambulance, then say I am recovered by the time the medical personnel show up? A tad dramatic, and it still had the chance of ending in a conversation with them. Sit up, wave, and brace myself for the inevitable? Sadly, this was my only real option. They had seen me. I was caught.

Seeing a Housman in the driveway has long been a huge conversation trigger for Melvin and Belle. Ever since we moved in back in ’95, they have taken every opportunity to engage with our family. In my memory these exchanges always took the form of a couple of neighbors sharing a few pleasantries. Perfectly friendly behavior. It was only as I grew older that I realized M&B were playing the long game.

I have no doubt that they understood the ramifications of having brisk, concise conversations with the boys next door. Surely they were thinking “Make them believe we merely want to say a quick hi and bye. Appear to be all business. If we do that for the first 8 years or so they will never see it coming when we decide to turn every conversation into a one act play, starring us. We can wax poetic about politics, travel, our son, our many and various adult education classes, basically whatever we want! They will feel rude if they cut us off because we are old! We will ignore all hints that they want to terminate the chat. If all goes well we can talk with them uninterrupted for hours. It’s the perfect plan!” And it has worked marvelously. They continue to hone their craft, and in order to do so the seek out interactions.

I guess it is possible that we just happen to be outside at a lot of the same times, but I doubt it. I swear they keep a watch over our front door. If I so much as turn the knob one of them will causally saunter outside to “garden”, “get their mail” or “get in their car and drive away.” They are such good actors that sometimes they make it seem like they actually want to be doing those things. Ha! Surely they only feign interest in leading a life that doesn’t revolve around speaking with me.

So imagine their joy when they not only saw a Housman exposed on the driveway, but lying down with a cast on his foot and no crutches in sight. I could not even stand and face them eye to eye. They would loom over me.  I was like an infant in his high chair who is done eating and wants to leave but has no choice but to sit there. Add in the fact that my brother had successfully avoided them for his most recent visit and the effect was like a herd of African hunting dogs stumbling upon an incapacitated impala. The icing on the cake was a happy looking Otis standing beside me. It was almost too easy for them.

Otis’ presence is often the flimsy excuse M&B use for coming over and starting the marathon chat sessions. They do a phenomenal job of feigning that they enjoy his company. Oftentimes they bring him treats and play with him for long stretches. The whole thing can look adorable to the untrained eye. Most people would never suspect that their elderly neighbors would pretend to like a dog as a means of furthering their own narcissistic agendas. Thankfully I am able to see through their ruse. I now use my knowledge of their true motives to better protect myself.

It really is about protection, because a few minutes into their story about how their cruise ship ran out of iceberg lettuce you begin to lose your will to live. Some might say “Drew, what were you really going to do for that 5 minutes? Have you not recently spent 5 minutes literally staring at a wall?” To which I say it’s about personal freedom. I had a choice to stare at that wall. They leave me no easy way to get out of the talks. If I have to sacrifice making them feel a little better in order to maintain complete autonomy over my actions than that’s what I will do.

Did I live by that creed on this particular day? Of course not. I readied myself to nod, smile, and ride out the storm.

They ambled over with their seemingly warm hellos, but I knew what was lying beneath. They sensed that they had a captive audience. It took them about 30 seconds to get past the initial pleasantries and start the real conversation. The one that, as if by fiat, revolved around me asking them questions and then patiently waiting as they told horrifically boring stories.

I got a 5 minute discourse on every injury they have ever sustained and how one of them has an impending knee surgery. Next was a story about their visit to a museum in Israel, an anti-riveting 10 minute saga that somehow became about family values. Are they teaching me now? Do I need to pretend they are wise because they remember a time when you could say that cigarettes treated asthma?

What makes everything worse is that the situations the stories derive from usually contain a hint of something I might be curious to hear about. The problem is that their delivery is unfathomably monotonous and plodding. The words start to lose meaning. The tiresome anecdotes and unnecessarily long pauses pile up until any last vestige of interest has been mashed into a fine dust.

M&B can usually recognize when that point has come, and I think they consider their work done. They retreat back to their home, successful in having made someone listen to them. I can’t hate them for it. In fact, I admire their persistence and the way they were able to execute their decades long plan. All I can do is work on ways to avoid the talks. I also hope to warn other young people of what can happen if they fail to recognize the signs of a neighbor who is out to cannibalize their mind, spirit and time to fuel their own deep rooted needs. Stay strong out there.

Water Heater, Texting, Team Meetings

I was sitting in my underwear on the computer, as you are going to find me pretty much every afternoon, when my landlord and another guy busted through my front door.
Me “Dude, you need to knock!”
Land Lord “What? I try calling you but your phone is off!”
Me “My phone is right next to me! You can’t come barreling into people’s houses without knocking!”
LL “We thought no one home.”
Me “Well maybe knock next time to be sure.”
LL “I try calling you.” Continue reading “Water Heater, Texting, Team Meetings”