A Decent (Wedding) Proposal

Here’s another story I wrote for my friend Rachel Rosenthal’s fabulous blog Bridesmaiding (which you can visit here).

I’ve never actually successfully beaten my brother at a game of Monopoly. I’ve never attempted (nor even considered) a government coupe. And I’ve certainly never attempted a heist. I’m telling you all of this because I think that I am like most men in that I have neither the skills nor the intellect to devise a strategic plan that seems impossible, but through careful planning, is ultimately triumphant.

Most men of my generation — raised on Rube Goldberg devices, Tom & Jerry and numerous episodes of MacGuyver and The A-Team – really, really, really want to get the money, the girl and thwart the bad guy just like George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven. But in reality most of us are just trying to get by on the limited skills and talent that we’ve amassed over time. In short: we aspire to be Danny Ocean, but in reality we are all just Billy Ocean (Google it, Millenials). Which is why most marriage proposals are a goddamn mess.

The brilliance of a wedding proposal is that the odds are greatly in your favor–you know (mostly) that the woman you’re proposing to wants to be married. But we also know that the “Yes!” is only half the battle. She will also want a story to tell her friends and family, and that is the loot in the vault that every man tries so desperately to nab.  Sure the woman will not really care about the lengths with which her man will go to in order to pop the question. I knew of a woman that was lured to her rose-and-candle-filled apartment for her proposal by her boyfriend’s request that he needed to get home immediately so that he could take a shit (I’m paraphrasing of course).  She still said yes.

But we want to do better. The gentleman I just mentioned only used his faux-defecation (or de-faux-cation if you will) when his initial plan with lure her home backfired. His first plan to get her home was to tell her he was tired and call it night. This was met with, “Have a coffee and nut up” (although again, I am paraphrasing). This is the difference between real life and the movie.  In the movies, nobody zigs when they’re supposed to zag. Everything works out. There is no “I gotta take a shit” moment in Ocean’s Eleven.

Credit: ShutterLife Productions

(This is not Luke and Michelle.) Another happy couple!  Credit: ShutterLife Productions

I am a married man, and yes, I was responsible for proposing to my (now) wife, and yes, it was a goddamn mess. It was a little over 5 years ago, and at the time Michelle and I were living together on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  She had arranged a 30th birthday party for herself* and I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to stage our engagement.  I’d propose, she’d say yes, we’d have dinner with her awaiting family and then we’d go off to drink and celebrate with friends. It was the perfect opportunity to hide my intentions behind a veil of birthday celebration. It was Fight Night at the MGM Grand.

We had developed an interest in HGTV which led to an interest in purchasing an apartment, which led to the two of us spending hours window shopping in front of local realtors. I’m not sure what it’s like in the rest of the country, but in New York most realtors post 8 x 10 listings of available apartments in large display windows of their offices. I thought that this could work as a great setting to begin our life together (it worked on so many levels, right?) so I called a realtor near both the dinner venue and the party venue to see if I could post a fake listing in the window (i.e. “Cute male available for the rest of your life. Michelle would you marry me? blah blah blah”). They told me that they could do me one better: If I sent them the copy and an image, they would mock up a couple of slides for the Powerpoint presentation that is on a constant loop on big-screen TVs in their office windows. I said that would be great and sure enough, within a day or two they had slides ready for me. The only caveat was that the loop was 15 minutes long and my slides would only run in the loop between 7 and 8pm the night of the proposal, which meant that I would have to time it so that we arrived at exactly 7:00, 7:15, 7:30, 7:45 or 8:00, depending on when the loop began. I said fine, and came up with a lie to get Michelle in front of that screen at just the right time: I told her that we’d need to meet a friend to drop off a DVD! It was genius! Everyone needs DVDs at 7pm on a Saturday night, right? And did I mention it was outside in the middle of January? It was perfect!

So that was the plan. Get Michelle in front of the realty company just before the slide appears. While she’s reading the slide, get down on one knee and as she turns around improvise a few words about how she’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me and blah, blah, blah… why plan out what I’m going to say when clearly my superior intellect has created this flawless plan within a matter of days? Pssh, did Matt Damon think about what he was going to wear before the big heist?

Anyway, that was what was supposed to happen. Here is a rundown of what actually happened:

6:30 – With plenty of time to spare, I start pressuring Michelle to get out of the house. That’s when she asks if I’ve prepared the photo DVD that she asked me to make a week ago that I haven’t even started. Frantically (and covered in flop-sweat) I start making the DVD. My computer decides that this would be a perfect time to overheat and need restarting at least twice.

6:40 – Michelle sees that I’m covered in sweat and panic and says, “It’s just a dumb photo DVD. It really doesn’t matter.” to which I reply, “NO! THIS IS IMPORTANT AND EVERYTHING MUST BE PERFECT!”

6:50 – The DVD will not work and I finally accept this. We have 10 minutes to get 16 blocks and two avenues over, so we leave the apartment and hail a cab. I stress to her that it is VERY important to meet my friend John because he is very busy. She says, “Why don’t you just call him and say we’ll be late?” I reply, “NO! HE IS VERY BUSY AND THIS IS IMPORTANT AND EVERYTHING MUST BE PERFECT!” She may be starting to suspect something.

7:00 – We arrive at the realtor by cab. We are across the street from the realtor and I can see the TV and I’m praying that my slide won’t appear while we’re paying for the cab even though they’ve already told me that the slide show will start at 7pm and it’s exactly 7pm. The cab ride costs about $4. I hand him a ten-dollar bill and ask for a dollar back in change. Michelle looks at me quizzically, wondering why I’m giving him a 125% tip. I realize the error of my ways and hand him another two dollars and say, “Sorry, just give me $3 back.” Michelle just takes all the money and gives the cabbie $6. We exit the cab and I run through traffic across the street, leaving my (future) blushing bride behind me.  Alone.  Across the street.  With cars buzzing past. She, of course, waits for the light to change and casually saunters across 79th street.

7:04 – We’ve been waiting for 3 minutes in the cold and I soon realize that we’re at the very beginning of the presentation, which I would have realized long ago had I the common sense to understand the concept of time. I have also lost the ability to do any sort of math in my brain, because otherwise I would have realized that I have 11 minutes with which to stall. I also see a photographer and an executive standing in the darkened realty office, waiting for my cue. It now dawns on me that I have three people relying on the fact that I know what I’m doing instead of just the one. The flop-sweat will not stop.

7:06 – Michelle (who although having been born in the middle of winter) HATES being cold, and has not brought anything to cover her head or ears because she (logically) thinks that we will be on a 2-minute errand and doesn’t wish to alter her hair in any way. She is starting to get upset. “Just call him and ask where he is,” she says. “HE IS VERY BUSY AND THIS IS IMPORTANT AND EVERYTHING MUST BE PERFECT!” I reply. I think she thinks I have joined a cult and this is our mantra.

7:08 – I’ve come up with a great stall tactic that if I time perfectly will be remembered throughout the ages. I’ll point out an apartment listing on the wall and we’ll talk about that for at least 7 minutes. Then I’ll say, “What about this listing?” and my slide will appear. I point to a $2.5M brownstone in Harlem. “Look at this! Isn’t it amazing?” and guide her over to the listing.

7:09 – Michelle viewed the listing and replied, “We can’t afford that” and walked away from wall.

7:12 – “I’M FREEZING! PLEASE JUST CALL HIM!” she begs. “NO! HE’S VERY BUSY AND THIS IS IMPORTANT AND EVERYTHING MUST BE PERFECT!” Why wasn’t there a “Just call him!” scene in Ocean’s Eleven?

7:14 – The first slide appears. As stated earlier I had thought I would improvise a speech expressing the depths to which I love and care for this beautiful creature before me. Instead I yell out, “LOOK AT THE SCREEN! LOOK AT THE SCREEN!” She does and I get down on one knee. She looks back at me. “NOT AT ME, THE SCREEN! THE SCREEN!”

7:15 – The second slide appears. It simply says, “Michelle, will you marry me?” I’ve opened the little blue box displaying a princess cut diamond ring (please don’t ask me anything else about it; all the information I made space for in my brain on the topic of diamond rings was immediately replaced with the elaborate plan you’ve just read).

“So, will you marry me?” is the most eloquent speech I can improvise. She says yes and I place the ring on her finger and give her a very passionate kiss. I then whisper in her ear, “I had planned to give you a whole speech but I got too nervous.” This is met with another kiss that is immediately interrupted by a photographer and a robotic (although very, very kind) executive who says to us, “On behalf of Halstead Realty, we present you this bottle of champagne and wish you many years of happiness in your future together.” At least I think that’s what he said, I was in a bit of a daze. But either way, she said yes and we were married 9 months later.

Luke and Michelle and the Realty Executive post-proposal!

Luke and Michelle and the Realty Executive post-proposal!

Like I said earlier, the odds really are in your favor. With all the pomp and circumstance of the proposal, the heart of what really matters is that one person says to the other, “You’re the one I want to spend the rest of my life with,” and the other person agrees. That’s it. Or to put it in Danny Ocean terms, “When that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big. Then you take the house.”

Or to put it in Billy Ocean terms, “Get out of my dreams and into my car.” (Danny wins again.)

Luke at his own wedding, with his beautiful bride. Credit: Kate Leigh

Luke and Michelle at their wedding. Credit: Kate Leigh

*Please note that Michelle had arranged her own birthday party long before I even had the opportunity. When I had asked what she wanted to do for her birthday she said, “Oh I booked a room at a bar already. I just wanted to get it out of the way.” After reading this proposal story, I leave it to you to decide if she did so out of convenience or out of fear of my planning.

Down on One Knee Photo Credit: ShutterLife Productions

Luke & Michelle Wedding Photo: Kate Leigh Photography

Reprinted with permission.

Half-Jewish Groomsman Walks Into a Full Catholic Wedding…

Here’s a story I wrote for my friend Rachel Rosenthal’s amazing blog Bridesmaiding (which you can see here).

When I was 10 or 11, they showed us a movie in school about a little Polish immigrant named Ivan who moved to 1930′s New York when he was 10. The only scene I remember is one where all the other little boys on the playground play a joke on Ivan by giving him a banana (you know the ole’ give the immigrant a banana prank, right?). He’s never seen a banana before and has no idea what to do with it so he just starts biting the banana peel and the other little children laugh at him. Of course Ivan could have easily shot back with “I just survived the holocaust. Do you really think I give a shit about your fruit boomerang?” but Ivan wasn’t that witty and that wasn’t the point of the movie (I think).

This is a story about the time I bit the banana.

One of my dearest and closest friends in the whole wide world is my friend, Becky. We’ve been friends since freshman year of college and I think the reason we became such good friends is because neither one of us had ever met someone like the other one before–Becky was a popular girl on the high school basketball team of her preppy, New England town and I was a sarcastic, neurotic half-Jew who was in the high school drama club of my economically-depressed upstate New York town. She would marvel at my complete lack of understanding of fleece-based clothing and I was fascinated by her inability to get any references to the musical “Oklahoma.”

So when Becky got engaged to her college sweetheart Jesse, I was both honored and terrified to be a member of the wedding party. I was 25 and I had never attended a wedding before and any knowledge I had of weddings usually ended with Ross saying the wrong name, or a lavish musical number with Kermit and Miss Piggy. But hey, weddings happen everyday and I knew there’d be a rehearsal the night before and years of theater had taught me that the key to a performance was the rehearsal. That and reading the script beforehand.

The wedding was on a Saturday and so the wedding party had to attend the rehearsal on Friday night before the big day. This rehearsal consisted of a woman telling us, “Boys, you’re the ushers so you’ll be helping people to their seats. Then, the wedding will start. We’ll do all the wedding stuff and then everyone goes to the trolley out front. Everybody got it? Great.” And with that, we left. I figured, “Hey, that was easy” and went on with my night not realizing that I was mentally planting the seed for a major Staples campaign.

It’s hard to know that you don’t know what you don’t know, and if I knew then what I know now (namely that it was going to be a strict Irish Catholic wedding) I would have asked many, many, many, many questions. But then again I’m sure that Ivan’s parents didn’t have the all-important “banana” talk with him before he got to the playground because who knows that that’s going to come up?

The more we talked about the wedding that night, the more anxious I was becoming and I must have had a good deal of uncertainty on my face because Jesse came over to me and another Jewish groomsmen and said, “Hey guys, don’t sweat it. Just follow the guy in front of you and if you have any questions during the ceremony, just look my way.” Jesse is great like that. He’s the guy that’ll tell you what a nickel defense is in a quiet voice so no one can hear but you. He’s the guy that’ll say it’s ok to wear khakis to a dinner outing when Becky is telling you otherwise. He’s the guy that’ll tell you to peel the banana. But again, if I had known that I didn’t know what I didn’t know…

Luke at his own wedding, with his beautiful bride. Credit: Kate Leigh Photography

Luke at his own wedding, with his beautiful bride. Credit: Kate Leigh Photography

The wedding day arrives and it is indeed a FULL Irish Catholic wedding complete with readings, singings and a full-fledged mass. I followed Jesse’s advice to the letter; standing when the guy next to me stood, head down when the guy next to me did the same, and repeating the words the guy next to me said.

But then came… the Communion.

Now I don’t know much about Catholicism, and I knew even less then, but I did know that as offenses against Catholics go, eating the Communion wafer is in the top 3, somewhere behind Pope jokes and bringing up the whole torturing of infidels during the Spanish Inquisition thing (how did Mel Brooks get away with that?). The problem was that all of the groomsmen and bridesmaids, including the guy next to me, got up when the priest brought out the wine and the wafer. I freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully the other Jew was on my right so I asked him, “Do we have to go do this?” and he sensibly replied, “I guess so.” So I got up.

Now I should mention at this point that I am something of an amateur magician–I know 3 card tricks and I had a magic set when I was a kid. Actually, I should mention that I think of myself as an amateur magician and I know a little sleight of hand and in the 5 seconds I have to come up with a plan, I decide that I’m going to take the wafer with my right hand, pass it across my mouth, palm it and place it in my pocket. Clearly this is the most sensible approach to the situation. I turn to the Jew to suggest the same plan and see that he has decided to hang back in the pew. See, he had smartly looked at Jesse and asked him with his eyes if he needed to go, and Jesse had said, “No.” I, of course, went for the banana.

Now in my mind’s eye, here’s what happened: I took the wafer, passed it smoothly across my mouth, gave a swallow with a hint of a David Copperfield-ian smirk and walked casually back to my place at the pew, with none the wiser. In reality, and in full view of the camera taping the wedding which was placed directly beside the priest passing out the wafers I, ashen-faced and sweaty, snatch the wafer from the priest with my right hand, ram it into my rented-tuxedo jacket pocket, take a quick swig of the wine (I had forgotten to plan for the wine!) and shuttle back to my spot at the pew, hoping God and the rest of the wedding completely missed my smooth moves. [I have since watched the footage of the wedding and it was painfully obvious to everyone in the church that I do not have smooth moves.]

The ceremony is only a few minutes longer and with a, “I now pronounce you man and wife” we file out of the church and into the trolley en route to the reception. Becky and Jesse board first so when I get on I run to the back, take the wafer out of my jacket pocket and plead with Becky, “YOU HAVE TO EAT THIS OR I’LL GET IN TROUBLE WITH GOD!” She laughed hysterically and pleasantly swallowed the wafer.

The thing about biting the banana is that it wasn’t that Ivan was dumb and it certainly wasn’t that he was confused. He just didn’t know that he didn’t know what he didn’t know. He tried and failed, and the lesson we were supposed to learn was not to laugh at him for being different and we all have a Coke. I learned that every once in a while you’re gonna try to bite the banana, so try not to do it in front of God, a video camera or 150 Catholics. And if you do bite the banana, make sure you’ve got friends who love you nearby to peel it for you. Who then laugh at you.

Photo Credit: Kate Leigh Photography

Reprinted with permission.

2012 – A look BackWARD

Hello my friends. As the end of the year draws nigh (it is drawing nigh, yes? I’m never sure if nigh is a thing and why one would draw it), I cannot help but reminisce about all that Michelle and I have been through these past 12 months. After all, this was a year that saw our first hurricane, our first Zucchini Festival (not a euphemism) and our first Fantasy Football team (well, by “our” I mean “my”). It was quite the year of firsts. Oh, and Michelle did some sort of marathon thing, which I guess is an accomplishment if you count in her numerous surgeries and procedures from the past year. But really, in comparison to Arian Foster rushing 1,328 yards so far this year it’s ok (btw, I have no idea if that’s a lot of yards. I’m just impressed I remember that a yard is 3 feet). More on Michelle later.

Since we’re discussing the realm of firsts and beginnings, Michelle and I were honored to be invited to the wedding of our friends John Deely and Genevieve Echever—Genevieve Deely. It was a lavish affair that gave Michelle and I the excuse to dance with old friends, ride a tractor and wear an actual bow-tie. So yeah, I know how to tie a bow-tie now and two very wonderful people shared their special day with us, so it was win-win all around.

This year also so me spend my birthday in LA. Now before you west coast friends chime in with “What, no call?” please be aware that this trip lasted a total of 36 hours, 30 of which were work-related. The highlight of the trip included an unsupervised tour of the Warner Bros lot. My intern-guide showed me where they filmed the Paris scenes for “Casablanca,” where Ross played rugby to impress Emily on Friends (spoiler alert: it’s just a small patch of grass and it’s the same spot where Phoebe and Rachel went running) and most exciting of all: a visit to my favorite fictional TV locale of all time, Star’s Hollow. I surprised/frightened my guide when she began the tour by asking, “Ok, if you’re really a Gilmore Girls fan, what’s this building?” to which I immediately replied “Oh my god it’s Miss Patty’s School of Dance.” To understand what my guide looked like after hearing this response you’d have to go to a mirror and look at your face–that blend of shock and disappointment you see now was all over her face then.

“I got to be Kirk. KIRK!”

I’ve mentioned it already, but this year was the first year I participated in a Fantasy Football team. The Tepid Waters completed the year 6-7 with an overall score of 1348.88 (a league high), and placed 4th. The league was created by the lovely Ms. Heidi Waldusky who finished the year in 1st place (COLLUSION!), and was meant to be a league for beginners like me to partake in Fantasy Football without the fear of extreme competition or loss of money. Which means it was me and 8 other women, including Heidi’s mom. All in all though, a good season despite my failing to take home the Shiva (everyone calls it The Shiva, right?)

Michelle and I spent our first vacation in the Berkshires this summer with the ever-hospitable Lester clan up at Lesterwood. We were fortunate enough to arrive just in time for the annual Zucchini Festival, and despite a touch of bad weather, were able to watch an actual Zucchini Catapult. Unless you’ve seen a Zucchini Catapult up close and personal, you have not truly lived. I realize that most of you may think I’m being sarcastic, but I assure you dear reader, the Zucchini Festival is truly a sight to behold, and not just because the celebrity zucchini judge was Gene Shalit.

“He placed third.”

This year was the premiere of a brief web series I began earlier in the year called “Skyping with Sheils” in which I record Skype sessions with my mother. If you haven’t viewed this yet, feel free to do so (youtube.com/thelukeward). We only recorded 11 episodes my therapist recommended we “ease up on production” but should a public outcry for more arise, well, who am I to argue with the public?

On that note, I’d be remiss not to mention my new improv team Ragalta. There are some amazingly funny, smart and talented people including and limited to Pat Swearingen, Rachel Rosenthal, Bill DiPiero and Kaitlin Fontana and somehow I’ve fooled them into letting me be a part of the team. I’d also be remiss not to mention that we have a show at the PIT this Saturday 12/29 at 8pm but I’ve been remiss before. It’s no biggie.

I mentioned Michelle’s marathon walk earlier, and as much as I want to avoid this, I can’t help talk a little bit about the elephant in the room (As a half-Jew I revel in entertaining and storytelling and as a half-WASP I can’t understand why we’re still talking about this in front of company). Most of you, if not all, are aware that this was the year that Michelle battled breast cancer. It was a tumultuous battle and as a side note,  I cannot express  how incredible the outpouring of support was from everyone. Michelle wanted to give back and almost immediately after learning of her treatment regimen signed up for the Avon 40-mile Walk Against Breast Cancer. I tried to convince her that this was 39.5 miles too many, but she was having none of it. After 4 rounds of chemo, 4 surgeries, 60+ cold caps, 12 weeks of recovery and numerous episodes of the show Revenge, Michelle participated in the walk (I participated in a fantastically delicious pastrami sandwich at Junior’s with Chuck Cain, but to each his own). Despite all that I just listed, and the emotional toll that this year has brought upon her, Michelle completed 24 miles and raised over $17,000! The only downside of the walk being that Michelle was so inspired by her experience that she signed up for next year’s walk 3 days later. I still say it’s 39.5 miles too many.

“If you’re not tearing up, you have no soul.”

Lastly but certainly not leasty, the clan got a little bit bigger this year with the birth of my nephew Kash Timothy Hendrickson. Both sister Katie and her husband Karl are doing great (wouldn’t you be with a little extra Kash? The jokes never get old), and Grandma Sheils and Uncle Zak are doing pretty well too.

“We call his car-seat, ‘The Wallet'”

Well, that about does it for 2012 and I must say that despite everything that I’ve listed this year, it was a really, really tough fucking year. I know I only devoted one paragraph to it, but the whole cancer thing can really take over your life and not in a good way. And there was certainly a lot of support from family and friends (I’m looking at you Linda Cain), but 2012 can really let the door hit it where the good lord split it, if you know what I mean. Well, except for the Zucchini Festival. And the Warner Bros trip was a lot of fun. And of course the birth of Kash was miraculous. And of course, after all is said and done, Michelle is healthy, happy and beside me every day. So there’s that.

Still, 2012 can kiss my ass.

I need more apples

I am not an open person. Yes, I see the irony, but it’s true. I don’t like to ask for help, I don’t like to reveal too much about my personality to strangers and I don’t like to get too personal, even to my doctor.

Such was the case recently, when I forced myself to go for an office visit after having some difficulty urinating (even writing this story down is causing me a great deal of stress. However, since I know the ending and find it amusing, I’m going to continue). I had never had urination problems prior to this point, so I knew that something was wrong that required medical attention.

Now my doctor is great. I call him a “conveyor-belt” doctor because you’re in, he sees you, you’re diagnosed and you’re out. Fantastic. I love this because I don’t have to talk to him, I don’t have to feel guilty for being sick, and most importantly, I don’t have to reveal too much. In fact, in the past when I’ve given him too much information (“I started getting sick on Saturday. I had a hamburger for lunch that may have been undercooked. Then I went to the movies and saw “Fight Club” and the guy next to me kept coughing.”), my doctor will look at me and say, “It’s ok. Take this pill.”

I tell him I’m having troubles, and he tells me to pee in a cup and we’ll have an answer within a few minutes—neither one of us really looking each other in the eye. We leave his office, I comply with his request, leave the cup in the bathroom and wait in his office. A few moments later he returns and says pretty much the most frightening thing that I can ever hear from a doctor:

“Are you doing anything weird sexually?”

This bothered me for a number of reasons. One, I’d have to get into a conversation of what qualified as “weird sexually”, and with a medical doctor, I imagine what I envision as “kinky” is probably a 2 on his “weird things I’ve had to discuss & remove from patients” meter. Two, I couldn’t imagine any of my behavior that would result in my getting an illness that is brought about by something that is considered “weird sexually”, but whatever it was scared the hell out of me. Think about it, when it comes to things that really mess you up, STDs rank right up there with brass knuckles, jetlag and seeing your parents have sex.

“No. Not that I can think of,” was my response. And what a shitty responses that is. “Not that I can think of”? What sort of weird sexual activity would get placed in the back corners of your mind? Oh wait, I do like to melt wax on my nipples while watching reruns of “Alf” during intercourse, but it slipped my mind. I bet if someone asked you to name the 5 strangest sexual encounters you’ve had in your life, you could probably name them faster than all of your elementary school teachers. And hopefully those two lists don’t overlap.

“Well, you’ve got a urinary tract infection. It’s somewhat rare for a man to get, but it does happen.” And just like that, we had moved past whatever strange locations I was placing my penis to the heart of the matter. He outlined my drug regimen for the next few days and told me to call if it didn’t go away in a few days. With that wrapped up, he got up and began to leave. But I did something odd. I asked a question.

“How does a man get a urinary tract infection?” It took all of my courage to ask him this, but there was a part of me that had to make sure that I wasn’t partaking in any dangerous behavior or activity and that outweighed to stay quiet.

Without missing a beat, this man who has maybe spoken 30 sentences to me over the past ten years looked me dead in the eye and said,

“Fecal matter in the urinary tract. Hey, you asked.” With that, he smiled and left the office. I sat there for a moment, reeling in what had just happened. And then it dawned on me.

HE THINKS I’M STICKING MY DICK IN MY OWN ASS.

Now I apologize for the graphic nature of that last sentence, but I swear to you faithful reader, that was the first thought that popped into my little neurotic head. Not, oh he considers anal sex “weird sex” or “that’s strange, I haven’t engaged in any activity that would place fecal matter in my urinary tract.” No, I immediately get anxiety that my doctor thinks less of me because I know believe that he believes I’m some sort of weirdo sexual contortionist.

This is why I’m not an open person.

NOTE: It turned out that I had a kidney stone, not a UTI. So fecal matter never played into it.

I’m re-choice

As a married man in his thirties, it is an unavoidable fact that the idea of creating a child will come up periodically in your life. And while I won’t comment on my views on the subject nor of my spouse’s, it is fair to say that I’ve done minimal research in the area of reproduction just so that I know what’s involved.

Here’s what I’ve learned: Basically sex goes from recreational to pro-creational. That’s the difference. Here’s what I’ve also learned: no one enjoys going from recreational to pro-creational anything. In fact, anytime you go from a “re” to a “pro”, it can be more work than you bargained for.

Think about it. It’s always easier to destroy than to create; Spock told us that in Star Trek II. So that’s why no one finds it easy to be productive after being reductive. And who wants to attend a rally or pass out flyers or cold call people on election day? That’s proactive. I’d rather sit at home and bitch—reactive.

The only time “re” and “pro” are interchangeable? In the ass. Look up “Rectology” online and they’ll send you right to “Proctology.” I guess when you someone’s sticking cameras, medical equipment and their hands up your bum, you really don’t to get into a semantic argument.

Wording aside, going from recreational to pro-creational is no picnic. Think of it like this. Imagine you’re a kid and someone says to you, “You sure do love playing with your Transformers. But if you want to get your hands on a limited-edition Omega Supreme, I’m going to have to ask you to limit the time you currently spend with your Transformers to one day a month. When is this day you ask? You know, I’m not really sure, but it’ll be the day after the wind blows a little bit less than normal.” This may actually work as the child will spend that month staring at you trying to figure out this horrible riddle you’ve presented before him.

The bottom line? When I think about it, life is a series of moments that go from practice to reality. High school and college paved the way for my careers, video games prepared me for driving a car, Monopoly prepared me for homeownership. At some point in your life many things go from being for fun to being for real. Why should sex be any different?

Because I like my posts in list form

There isn’t anything in particular that made me think of this, but it popped into my head anyway, so here is:

Top 5 things I miss about being a Teenager

1. Lamenting
I wasn’t a drama queen or anything, but man, I could sit and wallow about some of the most meaningless topics in the world (and I secretly loved every minute of it). Whether it was, “Why doesn’t she like me?” or “Why does my hair poof so much?”, spent many depressive hours searching for the answers and praying for rain.

2. Yelling while sober
I’m a yeller. But I also have the utmost respect for the well-being of my fellow man, so I do try to restrain myself—although after a few beers, I’ve been known to damage some eardrums. That being said, when I was younger the world of my peripheral vision didn’t matter, and I was as loud as I wanted to be.

3. Aggressively caring about one side of an argument
High school debate is something of an oxymoron, as teenagers will not be reasoned with. I certainly couldn’t be bogged down with facts and figures—I knew in my gut what was the right thing to do and what was wrong (Democrats were ALWAYS right and Republicans were ALWAYS wrong). While I still enjoy debating a topic and exploring the particulars, I must admit I don’t have the passion that comes out of instinctually believing in what you’re saying, rather than relying on the facts.

4. The Music
I know it’s Old Man of me to say, but music was phenomenal when I was 14. Gangsta rap was in its infancy, as was grunge, and even shitty pop music had a heart to it—En Vogue beats Destiny’s Child any day of the week, even if Beyonce can sing rings around those ladies. This was the time when Guns N’ Roses put out two albums at once because one disc just couldn’t contain their awesomeness. Beat that Plain White T’s.

5. Saturday Night Live
I know it’s cliché, and I know that the folks that work at SNL now are really trying to be funny (that sounded sarcastic which is truly not my intent), but no one made me laugh like the combined forces of Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks, Kevin Nealon, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Ellen Cleghorne and even Melanie Huntsell. I haven’t had a good belly laugh over a sketch since Hans and Frans.

Get to know me

Luke’s Top Five Guilty Pleasures

5. The Spin Doctors – I’d like to admit that this entry is here for some nostalgia reasons, but I can’t. I love these guys. They’re the first concert I saw without my parents and they rocked my socks off. I won’t convince you to enjoy them, but I do own their live album (“Homebelly Groove: Live!”) and it’s pretty goddamn good.*

4. The Nanny – Much to my lovely wife’s dismay, I make a point to put on The Nanny and keep it there. The jokes are predictable (VERY predictable), and that voice gets more nasally as the series progresses, but I can’t not watch it when it’s on. Even this one I don’t entirely understand.

3. Denny’s – There’s nothing nutritionally beneficial to ANY food found at Denny’s and pre-packaged, idiot-chef-proof meals ensure that I can’t alter the meal to my preference but I still find my mouth watering every time I drive by one. I think it’s the smell. It smells of failure and home all at the same time and I just love that.

2. The work of Josh Duhamel – In my defense, I have not seen a lot of pieces in his acting portfolio, but what I have surmised is that he’s aware he’s submerged in crap and he’s along for the ride. Don’t believe me? Watch any episode of the show “Las Vegas”. Granted everyone is in on it (except for that woman who used to be married to Corey Feldman), but Mr Duhamel seems to wink at the camera without you ever noticing and for that I tip my hat.

1. The Harry Potter Series (books only) – What began as a way to kill time during an awful day at the Denver Airport turned into a full-fledged relationship with the entire Hogwarts graduating class. I would also love to admit that this is some sort of kitschy/hipster/bandwagon type fascination with these books, but kitsch doesn’t make you tear up at the last five pages of The Deathly Hallows, and I certainly did.

There you have it. Five reasons why I will never be able to fake my way onto the guest list at any club.

*Author’s note: all references to things being “good” are purely perceptual.

The Blunder Years

I have been in a few fights. Nothing major. Mostly just a couple of blows thrown at each other.  In my junior high school, fights were an everyday occurrence. I mean, it was like part of the daily curriculum—math, lunch, gym, fight. Some kids fought to vent their aggression, Some fought to showcase their only marketable skill, and some kids, like Tom, just wanted to a slightly higher assignment on the popularity ladder by showing that they had the ability to defend themselves.

Tom and I began as friends. Well, friends of friends. He was friends with a couple of good friends of mine and on occasion we would all hang out. I thought things between us were pretty good. Well, pretty ambivalent on both ends. I didn’t care about him, and he didn’t care about me. Or so I thought.

One day a good friend came up to me and said, “Tom wants to fight you.” “Why?” I asked. “No idea. But he wants to meet up after school to fight.” Now I’m not saying this to sound like a tough guy, but I could handle Tom. If I was five feet even at the time, then Tom was four foot six at best. I had some weight on him, so even if I couldn’t take him in speed, I had him in reach and mass.

“Ok, I’ll meet him after school to fight.” It was on.

Even then I knew why he wanted to fight. He wanted to put on a show and he thought that I could oblige. Fine I thought, if he wants to put on a show, I’ll put on a show. Only he won’t end like he wants. I’m going to beat up Tom. And I’m not going to cry.*

The school day ended, and the show would begin soon. I wouldn’t run; I’d take on Tom, no matter who watched. I walked out of the side exit, and I could already see him. Tom was across the street, standing on the corner, waiting. He was smart, because officially that corner was off of school grounds. So there would be no reprimanding if any school officials saw us mixing it up.

Seeing him standing there, I was uncertain about my fighting prowess. Could I truly beat up Tom? If I feel no animosity towards him, would I gather the strength I needed to take him on? And it being so close to the close of school, would the audience be too large for me to comfortably take the stage? I then did what many generations of men have done before him.

“Come here and fight me then Tom”. I challenged him to meet me on my turf knowing full well he wouldn’t cross the street. Or at least, hoping he wouldn’t. But at least this way, I could try to come across that I wasn’t agreeing to battle because we couldn’t come to a consensus on location.

“No, you come over here and fight me.” Point Luke. He wasn’t budging and neither was I. We yelled back and forth for a while, but eventually both of us could see that neither would move, and frankly, the three other students who came for the fight got bored and left within minutes. The fight was over…at least for now.

Two or three weeks later Tom was at it again. He wanted to fight. And he wanted it badly. Seeing his true colors that last round made me realize that I could probably take him on and suffer minimal damage. So I agreed to the fight, and even agreed on the location. I honestly don’t remember how the terms of this arrangement were reached, but I do remember agreeing to them.

Fast forward to the fight. Tom and I are there, as are three other students. Three. 3. The Roman Coliseum that Tom had been hoping for was in fact more of a Dinner Theater in Pensacola. The first begins with the first act: the circling. Each opponent moves in a clockwise movement, keeping equal distance between each other, preparing for one or the other to increase or decrease speed and begin the attack. This lasts for ten minutes.

Act Two: The first strike. In many boxing matches this is a quick jab or smack to the jaw, to get a sense your opponent’s position. IN our case, I dropped my guard and Tom gave me a sweet bitch-slap to the cheek. Well played Tom.

Act Three: The finale. Now while you may not believe what I’m about to tell you, it is the truth. I dropped my guard on purpose. I let Tom hit me. I was tired of circling, I was tired of fighting and frankly I was tired of Tom. I figured I’d let him get in a quick lick and then I’d return the favor and the whole damn thing would be over. So after he hits me, and ran at him, and threw him into some nearby bushes. I began pummeling his stomach, hoping to put an end to this goddamn thing, but Tom keeps struggling. So I continue to hit him—nothing too powerful, just enough to show the crowd of three what I’m capable of, and to remind Tom that I’m not as easy of a mark as he made me out to be. And while hitting him in the abdomen did little to stop him, it did bore the crowd—apparently watching two pre-teens wrestle in a bush isn’t exciting enough to eat into their Contra time, so with a “Man, this is lame”, they left. Leaving me on top of Tom in the middle of a bush.

As soon as they left, Tom saw that his plan had failed. He hadn’t beaten me, he hadn’t drawn a crowd, and the next day at school, no one would care about our fight. And even though I was 12, I could see the anger, hatred and frustration in his eyes—and I could see that it was directed at himself. I got up, helped Tom to his feet and never spoke to him again.

In fact, after graduation, I have no idea what became of Tom. I’ve searched Facebook and Googled him, but nothing. I guess if you can’t move up the social ladder, the next best thing to do is abandon it.

*Were I not to beat up Tom, I probably would have cried. Were I to beat up Tom, I probably would have also cried.

Stop spreading the news

There are many many times in my life here in New York that I often think to myself, why am I here? Why don’t I leave? Why do I put up with all of the crap that we as New Yorkers have to put up with? Let’s face it, to have 9 million people residing in just over 10 square miles is a bit crowded.

I was thinking of this a few months ago during a lunch break from work. I was walking down the street, lost in my own thoughts when a young man approached me.

“Excuse me. You seem like a smart man.” This is actually what he said, I’m not exaggerating. I blame the fair skin and glasses for this remark.

“What do you call a…I mean…what is a…what is it when…” he stammers at me, as if he’s nervous to ask this question. I have two thoughts as he’s saying this; the first being maybe he’s lost and doesn’t know how to properly pronounce Houston, and the second being this guy is distracting me while someone else is one their way to steal my belongings. Being a New Yorker, my assumption is that it’s more the latter than the former, so I look at him, and then walk away.

“No no wait!” he yells, “I really have a question for you.” Well how can I argue with this logic? If he really has a question for me, and he really wants to get my attention, and as I scan the street from end to end and see that there is no one else around but the two of us, I acquiesce. “What would you like to know?”

“What do you call it when a lady farts out of her vagina?”

“No.” I say “You’re done here.” And I walk away, a bit more hurriedly this time as again he either legitimately wants to know this information or this is the last thing I’ll hear before waking up in a bathtub with two scars where my kidneys used to be.

Why am I here? Why don’t I leave? Stories like this invoke thesse questions within my inner monologue. But there’s also one more question that arises that a story like this also begs for: How can I even think of leaving when there’s such an amazing world outside of my door?

To pay the bills

I am not the most athletic person. I’m not the least athletic person either. I run occasionally, and I’ve been known to kick a soccer ball properly (top/side of the foot, not the toe). However, there are specific skills to certain games that I just don’t possess. I cannot hit a fastball. I can’t dribble without staring at the basketball. I cannot hackey-sack at all (although, I don’t wear patchouli oil, dreadlocks or a goatee, so that may be part of it).

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be good at sports. I like playing sports, and I can safely say that I was one of the few band kids that actually liked gym class. But we’ll get to more of that later.

In high school, my best friend Blads shared my enthusiasm for sport, as well as my lack of skill (Although he was a bowling pro. He was on the bowling team, and his nickname was “Flintstone” because he bowled as well as the cartoon caveman, which was actually quite good. Though on The Flintstones, Fred’s bowling nickname was “Twinkle Toes”, so maybe the nickname was more in reference to his closeted sexuality than his bowling prowess. Nah, we’ll go with bowling acumen).

Blads and I wanted to be more athletic not only because we wanted to have our enthusiasm match our abilities, but at the time, it wouldn’t have hurt us to lose a few pouns. So in an attempt to embrace physical activity, we tried jogging to get in shape. Niagara Falls, or to be more precise, Goat Island, is a prime location for taking a run. It’s a little less than two miles around, fairly well paved, and has plenty to look at. For our first run, we decided to take a spin around. We drove down, parked the car, got out, stretched (because you always must stretch), and began to run. After twenty yards or so, enthusiasm fell by the wayside as we began to die from lack of oxygen, so headed back to the car to crank up the AC and suck down Gatorade. This ended the jogging experiment.

We next tried tennis, with a bit more success. We could hit the ball fairly consistently, and aside from referencing the handball court as the “play with yourself wall”, we had fun. But again, after 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise, we hurried back to Doug’s car to crank up the AC and suck down Gatorade. Clearly we lost no weight and gained no athletic ability. And we were really straining Blads’s AC in his Monte Carlo (man, I miss that car).

But of all the sports we tried, quite possibly the saddest attempt at athletic expertise was seen during basketball drills in gym class. Now, as I said earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed the gym class experience. For whatever reason, our gym class consisted of honors students mixed in with a handful of students who had recently returned to finish high school after having finished giving birth to their 2nd or 3rd child. So in essence, gym class provided me with dinner and a show.

Like every other high school class, each week or so provided a new topic or sport to learn. And with each sport came a series of drills, which consisted of a day for learning/practicing, and a day of testing your skills. Larger sports would require more time; volleyball consisted of two days for serving practice & tests, two days for bump practice & tests, and two days for trash talk (this may not be true, but I do remember a LOT of trash talking when we played volleyball in gym class).

For basketball, we had to learn lay-ups. For those that don’t know, lay-ups are quite possibly the simplest of basketball shots there are. You basically approach the net, jump, and let the ball roll off your hand (or rather lay-up) and into the net. We learned how to get the roll of the ball right so that it rolled properly into the net. We also learned how to dribble and approach the net to get your momentum right for proper jump height. Some students even used the opportunity to dunk–but for Blads and I we felt we should crawl before we walked. When it came time to practice, I swear to you, Blads and I were like the Harlem Globetrotters. Each ball rolled perfectly into the net. Our height, speed and direction were all exactly right. I’m not saying we could have signed with the NBA there and then, but possibly an Italian league or somewhere in Turkey. We had skills and come test time, we would show them off.

The testing day was just a few days later. The gym teacher gave us 5 attempts to score 5 lay-ups. Armed with only our confidence, Blads and I began our tests.

I have seen war footage that looked better than what the two of us did in that gymnasium. We only had to sink 5 lay-ups, and each attempt was worse than the previous. Blads accidentally kicked the ball on one attempt. I actually got the ball in from under the net up through (which didn’t count apparently). Blads dribbled the ball with his face at one point. And I think I may have even slammed into the wall behind the net; the wall being 10 feet behind the net. It was a disgrace in athleticism if there ever was one. We both got a pity “C” for the test, mostly I think because the gym teacher was so entertained by our performance. One of the baby mamas in our class offered to hug me. It was not a pretty sight.

We never went back to basketball after that day. Nor did we focus much effort on any other sport really. But we did learn a valuable lesson that day. We learned that we were meant for a greater calling — air hockey.