Monday, October 20, 2014

"Conversation Number One - Interview With A Giraffe"

As previously mentioned, as a result of my lengthy departure, I have decided to supplement my original blog posts with some selected oldies from the past.  I have pinpointed a particular sub-genre for this week's re-offerings (or unread offerings if you have not been here since the beginning.)  

I hope you enjoy them.  

Without question, my most enjoyable form of blog writing is "The Conversation" - two or three characters simply talking to each other, like regular people, only they're made up, or at least their dialogue is made up, and occasionally, they're animals.

One of the earliest incarnations of these conversation is my "Interview With A Giraffe"  I first  performed a version this piece on a Canadian television variety show back in the mid-seventies.  I played the giraffe. Without costume, and without makeup.  When I was asked where my spots were, I replied, "I'm on my day off."

Before "Madagascar" and its sequels, I portrayed an animal who was terrified of the "wild."

The following is his only recorded interview.

Imagine a radio station where they interview human beings, but sometimes they don’t.  The following is an interview conducted at that station.

INTERVIEWER: Today, as a change of pace from interviewing human beings, I have as my guest a giraffe, direct from the wildest plains of Africa.  Mr. Giraffe, welcome.

GIRAFFE:  Hello, hi.  It’s good to be here.  And you can forget the ‘Mister.’  We animals don’t stand on ceremony.  Except for lions.  You know lions.  They got a mane, they think it’s a crown.  On the other hand, horses have manes and they’re fine, so go figure.

INTERVIEWER:  Uh-huh. 

GIRAFFE:  Am I jabbering?  I’m jabbering, aren’t I?

INTERVIEWER:  That’s all right.

GIRAFFE:  It’s just so good to open up.  In the wild, we’re not allowed to talk.

INTERVIEWER:   For safety reasons, I suppose.

GIRAFFE:  A lot of good that does us.  Okay, so we’re quiet giraffes.  The predators can’t hear us.  But, please, we’re twenty feet tall.  They can SEE US!  Being quiet only protects us from blind predators.  Like they’re a big problem.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, you can relax.  You’re quite safe here.

GIRAFFE:  Yes, I can sense that.  Speaking of ‘safe’, can you get me into a zoo?

INTERVIEWER:  You want to live in a zoo?

GIRAFFE:  I’d prefer it greatly, yes.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s kind of surprising.  A lot of people think animals shouldn’t be in zoos.

GIRAFFE:  Has anyone asked the animals?  Let’s see.  Zoos.  They feed you, they clean up your ‘habitat’, you get first class medical care, including dental, and you’re completely protected from predators who want to rip you to pieces and eat you.  Oh, yeah. Zoos are the worst.  The Circle of Life, that’s good.  It’s good in Disney movies!

INTERVIEWER:  You wouldn’t miss your freedom?

GIRAFFE:  In the wilds of Africa, we have this saying: “Freedom’s just another word for running for your life.”  Which reminds me, do we have time for a quick story?

INTERVIEWER:  Sure.

GIRAFFE:  This goes way back.  I’m a baby, six, maybe, seven feet tall.  I’m standing in the river with a bunch of other giraffes and we’re slaking our thirst, which is a fancy way of saying we’re drinking some water.  Suddenly, giraffe ears prick up, noses start to twitch – something’s going on.

INTERVIEWER:  Something dangerous.

GIRAFFE:  No, the ice cream truck is coming.  Of course, dangerous.

INTERVIEWER:  What’s the strategy in these situations?

GIRAFFE:  Our strategy is you run like crazy and, I know this isn’t nice, but you hope that they catch a different giraffe.

INTERVIEWER:  So you ran.

GIRAFFE:  They ran.  The other giraffes.  I was young and thirsty and I missed the signals.  I look up, everyone’s gone.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, dear.

GIRAFFE:  ‘Oh dear’ is right.  ‘What’s going on?’, I’m thinking.  Then I look around, and there he is.  A lion.  It was the first one I’d ever seen, but you know, just looking at him, you know it’s not good.

INTERVIEWER:  You must have been terrified.

GIRAFFE:  To put it delicately, a lot of water went back into the river.

INTERVIEWER:  What did you do?

GIRAFFE:   Okay.  At this point, I have to reveal a confidence.  A secret no animal has ever revealed on the radio or anywhere else.  Are you interested in a ‘scoop’?

INTERVIEWER:  Of course. 

GIRAFFE:  You got it.  And I’m hoping – no quid pro quo, or anything – but, you know, if you want to be nice, in exchange for the ‘scoop’, that maybe you can help me…

INTERVIEWER:  …get into a zoo.

GIRAFFE:  Enough said – wink-wink.  Okay, here’s the ‘scoop,’ the fact that animals have kept to themselves since the beginning of time.  Are you ready?

INTERVIEWER:  I’m all ears.

GIRAFFE:  Okay.  In the jungle, every animal has, secreted, somewhere on his or her person, a book.

INTERVIEWER:  A book.

GIRAFFE:  It’s very small.  We have excellent eyesight.

INTERVIEWER:  I’ve never heard this before.

GIRAFFE:  Of course not, it’s a secret!  Were you not listening?

INTERVIEWER:  I’m sorry.  How have you kept it a secret so long?

GIRAFFE:  Animals are extremely disciplined.  Also, just before they die, animals are instructed to swallow the book.  Look in their mouths.  Tiny pages.

INTERVIEWER:  Does the book have a name?

GIRAFFE:  Yes.  The book is called Who Eats Who?  It’s a picture book, because, you know…

INTERVIEWER:  Animals can’t read.

GIRAFFE:  And don’t think it hasn’t held us back.  Here’s how it works.  You’re in the wild, and you spot an animal skulking in your proximity.  Strange animal, you’ve never seen it before.  Right away, you pull out your Who Eats Who? and you locate the picture in the book that matches the animal you’re looking at.  Now, underneath that picture, below the identifying name, you will find one of two arrows – an arrow pointing toward the animal, which means you run after him and eat him; or an arrow pointing away from the animal, which means, ‘Get the heck out of there before he eats you.’ 

INTERVIEWER:  Sounds like a very important book.

GIRAFFE:  It’s essential!  You lose that book, and before you know it, you’re a sandwich without the bread.  Okay, back to the story.  The lion starts heading my way.  I don’t know what he is, so I whip out my Who Eats Who?, I match him with the picture.

INTERVIEWER:  And you run away.

GIRAFFE:  That’s what I should have done.  But at that moment, I was so nervous, I misread the arrow and I thought that we ate them.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, no.  So you…

GIRAFFE:  I a\ttacked the lion.  Was he surprised!  I mean, I get there and I start chewing on his leg with my leaf-eating teeth, and he’s just standing there.  Staring at me.  I mean, the guy couldn’t believe his eyes.  A giraffe is eating a lion.

INTERVIEWER:  Whoa.

GIRAFFE:  ‘Whoa’ is right!  The guy’s standing there in shock.  And before you know it, I ate him all up!

INTERVIEWER:  Incredible.

GIRAFFE:  But true.  I’ll never forget the last thing he said just before I ate his mouth.

INTERVIEWER:  What did he say?

GIRAFFE:  We eat you!’ 

INTERVIEWER:  Well.  That is truly an unforgettable story.

GIRAFFE:  Isn’t it?

INTERVIEWER:  Thank you for telling it.

GIRAFFE:  My absolute pleasure.  So you’ll get me into a zoo?

INTERVIEWER:  I’m sorry, I can’t.

GIRAFFE:  But we had an agreement.

INTERVIEWER:  I don’t believe we did.

GIRAFFE:  There was an unspoken assumption.  I’m certain of it.

INTERVIEWER:  Thank you for being with us. 

GIRAFFE:  This is so unfair!

INTERVIEWER:  Our guest today has been a giraffe, who will now go back where he came from.

GIRAFFE:  I have joint problems.  I’m not going to last.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Hanging By A Thread"



When I was working, there was a surfeit of drama in my life (hoping that “surfeit” means an overwhelming amount.)  Even so, there were times when I imagined even more. 

“What’s more than a ‘surfeit’?”

I have no idea.

Once, years ago, on a Sunday evening, I decided to walk to the ocean from my West Los Angeles apartment, along a boulevarded street called San Vicente, a walk of approximately two miles – each way – in distance.  (This may be the definition of having “a lot of time on my hands.”)

When I got to the Pacific, having no particular reason to be there, I immediately turned around and I started back home.  Only to discover, on my return journey that I had walked too far for my abilities, and I was now entirely out of gas.  And not halfway back either.  I was, like, two blocks from the ocean.  And I was barely able to proceed.

Suddenly, I found myself thrust into a drama.  A “Desert Drama”, to be exact.  I now imagined myself trudging – every step an effort – uphill in the endless Sahara – alone, lost, exhausted and entirely out of water. 

Except that I was actually walking on a sidewalk beside a busy street, and there were cars passing by.  In a way, this reality, made things even worse.  People could see me.  But they did not know what I was going through.  (Dangerously sunburned, with a mouth full of sand.)

I was not sure I could make it.  It was Sunday.  No buses on San Vicente.  And you do not hail cabs in Los Angeles.  They just hide somewhere until they’re dispatched.

The situation seemed hopeless.  (Although I did purchase an ice cream at the half-way point in my desperate journey, which I mention in parentheses, so as not to undermine the scenario.  Besides, when I continued my trek, I could still barely move.  I just had some “Pistachio” in me, that’s all.)

Spoiler Alert:  I made it.  (Which you already know because I am writing this.  So you can forget about looking for my ‘remains’ on San Vicente, which, for some reason is pronounced, “San Vicenny.”)

FAST FORWARD TO LAST TUESDAY.

But first…

I do not trust… drawstring pants.  (Which, without mentioning it, includes drawstring shorts.)

For me to feel entirely secure, I need to have the strings that you pull tight and tie in a bow, plus an additional elastic waistband.  Otherwise, I have little to no faith that those drawstrings will stay up.

An unfounded paranoia? 

Not so fast.

I am entering our kitchen, wearing drawstring shorts.  Our magnificent housekeeper Connie (of more than thirty years impeccable service) is washing the dishes, her back to my arrival.  Suddenly, I let out a surprised “Oh!”

My drawstring shorts have just dropped to the floor.  (Revealing some colorful boxers beneath.)  This was no gradual, “sliding drop” situation.  The descending drawstrings zipped straight to the hardwood.

I do not know if my exclamation of surprise caused Connie to turn around.  I was too busy retrieving my drawstring shorts and returning them to their appropriate position.  It was admittedly quite a noisy “Oh!”  But when I looked back, she was still washing the dishes. 

My guess is she saw.  But, to allow things to remain comfortable, she simply turned back to the sink and pretended she didn’t.  I think, is what happened.

Anyway, the next morning, I am preparing for my Wednesday mile or so walk to Groundwork for some “Venice Blend” coffee and some accompanying exercise. 

For no reason, other than to inject some deliberate drama into my life,

I determine to wear those same drawstring shorts.  Outside.  Risking their falling down – as they once already had – but this time, in public.

I know.  I’m a daredevil.

I am determined to take all precautions.  To conscientiously lighten the load, I take a single five-dollar bill – for payment at Groundwork – instead of my entire wallet.  And instead of three keys and a keychain, I slip the house key alone off of the chain, and I insert it into my pocket.  I consider a single sheet of Kleenex in case of a sneeze, but I decide not to chance it.  Don’t want to weigh down the drawstrings.

I depart the house.  Concerned, but inwardly excited.  And justifiably so.  I am leaving with loose pants.

As I proceed, like a gunslinger practicing his fast draw, I simulate a series of lightning-quick moves towards my midsection, hoping to manually intervene at the first sign of a problem.  Lord knows what the people passing me on the street were thinking.  But I didn’t care.  I wanted to be ready.  To avoid embarrassment and a possible uncomfortable visit from an L.A.-based SVU unit, the “U”, in this case, standing for underpants.

I find myself behind a man walking his poodle.  You know how they say that animals can anticipate natural disasters, like an earthquake.  Well, this poodle kept turning around and staring at me, as if the dog were somehow prescient and it could already visualize the drawstrings around my ankles.

The poodle gives me the creeps.  So I cross to the other side of the street.

I make it to Groundwork without incident, although I did sense some worrisome “movement” from time to time, leading me to preemptively adjust my gait – slower, and with my legs pressed closer together, so, should an “accident” occur, I can clamp them together, intercepting the dropping drawstrings on their way to the ground.

The “return trip” offers a unique difficulty.  I am now holding a cup of coffee.  Leaving me but one hand at my disposal. 

I begin to experience disturbing feelings of “déjà vu.”  It was on the “return trip” that my San Vicente stroll nightmared into a Kalahari Death March.  (From a disaster standpoint, all deserts are the same.)  Perhaps, once again, the big trouble will occur on the way back home.  Still, inexplicably, I momentarily lose focus, composing elements of this blog post rather than staying ever vigilant to the telltale indicators of imminent pants droppage.

Fortunately, however,

I made it. 

I do not know why my pants “went south” in the kitchen but remained securely in place throughout my walk; I had tied the same kind of knot both times.  Not that I wanted my pants to fall down in a public area.  I am not an exhibitionist.  Other, perhaps, than a verbal one.

So why did I do it?  I guess I just needed the excitement. 

Some people turn to bullfighting.

I wear unreliable drawstrings on the street.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Measure Of A Man"


One committed objective of this blog is to correct egregious misperceptions, one of which I am about to rectify today.

Vanity is not the exclusive monopoly of “The Beautiful People.”  Sorry, “Beautiful People”, but you do not control everything.  “Regular People” can be as vain as anyone.  In fact, “Regular People” have the incentive to be more vain, owing to the reality of a considerably narrower “Margin for error.”  “Regular People” are precariously “closer to the line.”  Making their behavior, on second thought, less “vanity” perhaps than “necessity.”

My overall point is:  Vanity is not confined to the “Runway Circuit.” 

It belongs to everyone.

I did not have to frame this post that way.  I could have instead taken a less personality embarrassing perspective, that being my discovery of an ingenious marketing strategy in the “Menswear” arena which I shall forthwith delineate. 

Feel free to go with either option.  Or, as I just did, with both.

I do not generally like “Brand Names.”  “Brand Names” invariably make items cost more without necessarily delivering a superior product for the money.  There are, however, also brand named products that cost more but turn out actually to be better, a situation leaving me irretrievably confused. 

I know there are unquestionably “Brand Names” out there that are cheesy and cheaply made, the result being that I am frustratingly confused about what to do – purchase “Brand Names” because they are worth the money, or avoid them because they’re a rip-off. 

Allow me to preempt you on this matter.  The most annoying answer in the world in such cases is,

“It depends.”

Anyway, there I am,0 in a shop specializing in a line of imported French sportswear, in search of a bathing suit, which I shall require for our trip to Turkey, as our tour itinerary has seemingly scheduled an inordinate amount of time during the proceedings for “Swimming.”  In the Aegean.  In the Bosporus.  Or the Sea of Marmara.  Or somewhere else I never swam before and probably don’t want to, even if I am informed that Alexander the Great took a dip in those waters in 334 B.C.

I select an overpriced bathing suit.  (And I have to say – although confining it to parentheses – that that bathing suit looks sensational on me.  However this blog post, thankfully, is not about bathing suits.  So – moving on.)

I also notice – wait, I have to tell you, this French sportswear shop is situated in a nearby hotel, and while I was waiting for Dr. M to try on a bathing suit, I made my way to an across-the-hall restaurant/bar and I ordered an iced tea… And they gave it to me for nothing! 

So, even though I had outrageously overspent on the bathing suit – hey, free iced tea!  The good mood from which sent me straight back to the French sportswear shop, where I bought something else that cost too much. 

I don’t know, you get free iced tea, and you kind of sometimes lose your mind.  Or at least I do.

I purchase a blue, short-sleeved sport shirt that I can not only take along to Turkey, I can also wear it to synagogue for the upcoming High Holidays.  (At the synagogue I attend, the dress code is “Casual” and the air conditioning non-existent.)  (Note:  This blog post was written before the High Holidays.)

And here, we somewhat belatedly reach the point.

The blue, short-sleeved sport shirt – that fits me perfectly – is an “Extra Large.” 

I am sorry, people, but I am not, nor have I ever been,

An “Extra Large.” 

(I am being journalistically accurate here, not vain.  Well, maybe a little vain, as well.) 

There was no “talking my way out of it.”  The “Large” in that shirt was undeniably too small.  I am quickly assured that this line of French sportswear habitually “runs small.”  But how small could it run?  I traditionally wear a “Medium!

And now I’m a frickin’ “Extra Large!

I felt crushed.  Which is perhaps exactly what those insidious French sportswear manufacturers were shooting for.

“We will overcharge zem outrageously and we will in the same transaction make zem feel ter-ree-ble about zer bodies.  (FOLLOWED BY AN MANIACAL FRENCH CACKLE)  ‘Freedom Fries’, mon derriere!

Okay.

FLASH FORWARD – A WEEK OR SO LATER.

With my reliably tasteful daughter Anna as company (and for assistance), I am shopping at a trendy Venice clothing store for Dr. M’s impending birthday present.  I decide on a beautiful, I-could-not-tell-you-the-name-of-the-color-but-Anna-could sweater. 

While the sweater’s being gift-wrapped, Anna encourages to check out a place called Rag and Bone, the local outlet of which had only recently opened next door.  (So recently, we are offered celebrational chocolate bars.  Imagine! – free iced tea and  free chocolate bars in the same week.  What a country!)  (I won’t tell you what it cost me to acquire them.  It would tarnish “What a country!”)

Anna insists that I try on some casual pants.  I select a color I like in my size – a “36” waist, my unvarying “Waist Size” for decades – and I retreat to the Dressing Room to try them on. 

And they don’t fit!

Are they too small?

No.

They are too big!

I have to hold them up with my hand!

I take back the “36’s”, and, with substantial resistance because I have been a size “36” forever, I exchange them for – “LOL” - a “34.”

And they fit perfectly.

I cannot believe it!  I have tried on a size “34” pair of pants and I can actually get into them?   For the first time since my Bar Mitzvah!

Something bizarre was going on. In a single, miraculous week, I am suddenly, and without warning,   

Bigger in shirts.   And smaller in pants.

Or, as I realized when the cooler portion of my head prevailed,

Am I the same size I have always been, but the French sportswear manufacturers made their shirts smaller, while, in a magnificent marketing coup, the Rag and Bone manufacturers made their pants deliberately bigger.

I mean, think about it.  Which store would you rather patronize – one that insists that your upper body has expanded to linebacker proportions?  Or one that, through its manipulative sizing scheme, steadfastly insists that you’ve lost weight?


(I mean, does anyone ever purchase an item and actually double-check the “Waist Size” with a tape measure when they get home?)

I am unlikely to ever return to that French sportswear shop.  But Rag and Bone,

Keep making those oversized pantalones,

And you will have me for life!