Friday, November 23, 2012

Mr. Smith Goes to Wall-shington

Well, I hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving. I'm doing okay, just literally laying in pain, recovering from "my week of eating", as I've been oh-so playfully referring to this disgusting week of shame. Seriously, I've been majorly taking advantage of the fact that unlike the fridge at my apartment, my parents' fridge is always stuffed full of food. Delicious food that will make me fat again. And for the first time in my memory, this Thanksgiving I ate so much that I had to go lie down because I felt like I was going to be sick.


Speaking of classy - TRANSITION ALERT! - I believe last week I promised that I was going to share a story of drunken embarrassment? One that would hopefully be unlike any you'd ever heard - one with major photo evidence? Well I was lying. Peace out, homies!

I'm just kidding. Let's do this.

While we just celebrated Thanksgiving, there are other national holidays that need tending to as well.* One of those is Fourth of July. It's not a particularly notable one, as far as holidays go. It's not as fun or sexy as Halloween, and it lacks the nostalgic, magical feeling of the winter holidays. But, I mean, it's not as bad as, say, Memorial Day. Like, bummer much?

*I am just NAILING these transitions! CRUSHING IT.

But I suppose there's something to be said for being able to take a time out and enjoy a nice summer day with your friends. And enjoy it I did, a couple years ago. My friend Andrew graciously invited the gang to the apartment he was renting for the summer at his University.* What he neglected to mention, however, was that his little place had no air conditioning. In July. With like thirty people inside. Of course, there wasn't actually anything he could've done about this, but it was one of those things that we all decided to get half-faux upset about anyway. "Did you know he doesn't have air conditioning?" "No, he didn't say anything!" "He's RIDICULOUS." The bottom line is that everyone was sweaty to begin with, so combined with the copious drinking that is a staple of the holiday, the yield was SWEATY SWEAT MONSTERS.

*And when I say 'his university', I of course mean the one that he OWNS.

Look at how these pretty people glisten. You can practically smell them from here. 
Sweaty sweat monsters was the technical term that night. By that I mean that one person shouted "SWEATY SWEAT MONSTERS!" and then everyone else was shouting that the rest of the night. So now that I've set the hot, crowded scene, let's get to the point. I know you're dying to. As established, while I'm not much of a drinker, when I do drink, four different possible personalities emerge. One of those fellas was named Smith. Let's look back at my description of him, shall we? 
"Smith lives life pretty hardcore. Not really, but Smith doesn't like the idea that he's perceived as boring - he HATES the idea that he's predictable. So he wants to shock or surprise people by doing things you'd never expect. He's a rebel, man! He likes playing games that involve dares because SMITH FREAKING LOVES DARES."
So now that we've got the scene set and the personality established, here's what happened. Smith and several of his pals were sitting in the skinny little hallway of the apartment, chatting. One of Smith's friends said to him, "I bet you can't climb up this wall using just your back and your legs." "IS THAT A DARE?" Smith asked. "No, it's just a suggestion." Said the friend. Smith was PRETTY FUCKIN' SURE IT WAS A DARE, AND SMITH LOVES DARES. "You totally don't think I'll do it, do you??? Well guess what, I'll totally do it." And so he did, shimmying up the wall until he could touch the ceiling. He sat up there, legs stretched over the hall like a little bridge that people walked under. Occasionally people at the party would look down the hall, confused as to how he got up there or what he was doing, and Smith would be like, "Yeah I climbed up the wall, so what?" After sitting comfortably for quite a while, Smith suddenly felt a little push. Just a tiny thing, a slight lurch backwards. He was confident it was nothing, but decided to get down and check. When he turned to look at the wall, this is what he saw:

YOU GUYS, I PUT MY ASS THROUGH THE WALL. My ass made a hole in the wall. A literal asshole. I made an asshole in the wall. It's ass-shaped. And yeah Smith did it but SMITH IS ALSO ME.

Let's take a look at a side view

I was horrified. Smith had fled the scene of the crime, and it was just me standing there left holding the bag. I actually know exactly what my face looked like, because someone was thoughtful enough to snap a photo:

See, look how bad I feel! Also, note: long hair and sweat do not mix. Lesson learned, keep it short in the summer. Also how white are my teeth?

If you're asking how Andrew - whose wall I had ruined - reacted, there's even a photo of that too!

...mostly with exhaustion. Also note how high up on the wall it is and be impressed.

Everyone who wasn't me or Andrew enjoyed the sheer ridiculousness of the fact that I had left an ass-print on the wall and loved walking by it for the rest of the party. To make me feel better - I feel guilty for things I don't do, so when I actually do something wrong it ain't pretty - we came up with other, less damning backstories for how it had gotten there. Like someone who had planned on putting their butt in cement, but wanted to do a test run. Or a thief who robbed apartments and always left his signature calling card - his ass-print. The cops would have to make suspects put their butt into the hole to see if it fit, like a way less romantic or child-appropriate version of Cinderella and her slipper.

And yes, I had to pay to fix the wall. I was employed and making good money (unlike now), so it wasn't so bad. And now I have a great story - now at parties, as a joke, if someone fake-makes me mad, I'll back my butt up to the wall and yell like I'm a hostage-taker, "I'll do it! I'll put my ass right through this wall!" I just love the idea of being pissed at someone and yelling, "screw you!", then immediately ramming your rump through their wall and being like, "I'll be leaving now - enjoy your asshole, asshole!"

It is my dream that someone somewhere will do this. If anyone out there in the internet can do this and prove that they did this, I will pay you 5,000 dollars.*

*Prize money to be distributed at the writer's discretion - in this case over the course of the writer's entire lifetime.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Update: I'm Still Friends With Sean Maher

So first thing's first - BIG NEWS y'all - remember how last week I wrote about my relationship with my close, personal friend, actor Sean Maher. Well, imagine my extreme delight when, after tweeting the blog out*, my iPhone sounded with the e-mail tone. My inbox had an e-mail from Twitter.

Sean Maher (@Sean_M_Maher) mentioned you on Twitter!**

Holy snap, crackle and pop - Sean saw my post! Sean read my blog. 


I was quite excited, mostly because it reaffirmed the deep bonds of our friendship. But in all sincerity, it was super cool knowing that Sean had as much hanging out as I did. Additionally, a bonus side-effect that I didn't anticipate was that suddenly the Blogspot site started getting a ton hits - Sean has 45,718 followers and counting. This is cool, because as someone with aspirations of being a writer of some kind (TV, please) it can only be a good thing to have people reading your work! However, as discussed, my brain tends to turn even the best, happiest things into occasions for anxiety, because I am the worst. This would be no exception.

*The fact that I just said the phrase "tweeting the blog out" makes me die a little inside.
**If you can somehow get this e-mailed to you, I recommend it - it's SUPER fun.

This blog runs both on Blogspot and Tumblr because I was too anxious to choose just one, as is my wont. To summarize the distinction for those who don't understand technology (hi, Mom!), Blogspot is more of a standard blog-writing site while Tumblr is a site that posts all kinds of stuff, but has the nice added feature of allowing people to follow your updates with a simple click. So unlike the blog, you don't have to visit it hoping for an update. My updates will just appear on your Tumblr if you choose to follow me.

Suddenly, because I am my own worst enemy, I turned this awesome thing into a bad thing - "oh, no - why didn't I tweet the TUMBLR link instead! Now anyone who might want to follow me will end up at the Blogspot! MY CHANCE AT INTERNET BLOGGER SUCCESS IS DEAD, I TELL YOU! And it's all my own doing! WOE IS ME, I SAY!" I started to get antsy.

Trying to make myself feel better, I started saying out loud to my roommate Caitlin, "It's not so bad, right? If someone comes to the blog, there's a link to the Tumblr, if they really want to they can find me, right?" Caitlin: "I mean, it's a lot nicer to have people following you on Tumblr." "I KNOW, Caitlin, you're supposed to be making me feel better!" "Well... I mean you're right, it was a bad decision."

After placing Caitlin on friend probation - "you are on the THINNEST of ice" - I decided to tweet the link to my Tumblr as well. And wouldn't you know it - because we have the kind of friendship where one person just knows what the other needs, y'know? - Sean re-tweeted my Tumblr link. My anxiety was calmed, and I felt secure knowing that the problem I had created completely in my own head had been solved. So, welcome new followers! I promise my next blog will be a fun one, it's about me doing something really dumb while drinking. You're thinking, "I'm sure I've heard it all", but I promise, this one is special! It's exceptionally weird and is accompanied by photo evidence! I wanted to bring out the big guns for my new internet readers.

One last thing: it should be noted as well that in my initial blog, I mentioned how people, upon hearing about me meeting Sean, asked if he could get me into the business. I found this odd, because while hanging out with him that thought didn't even cross my mind. My mother had been one of them, and when I told her during a phone call that Sean had seen my blog, her immediate first response was, "Can he get you a job?!" Listen, we're both handling my unemployment in different ways. It's the five stages of unemployment grief. She's clearly at bargaining. I'm slightly more advanced, since I'm at depression.

Besides, a year from now when my lease is up and I move to L.A. to break into TV, Sean and I are going to have lunch, and I don't want it to be weird or awkward because I once tried to use his global fame to my advantage or something. I've learned that you need to keep business and friendship separate. It's why you don't loan your friends large sums of money - that stuff can really tear a relationship apart. And when you've gone through as much as Sean and I - hanging out once and then having a couple Twitter exchanges - you don't want to lose a friendship that meaningful over something so trivial.

You guys, I think I'm really growing as a person. Take notes everyone, you're witnessing some super meaningful self-discovery right before your very eyes. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I Have Inside Jokes With Sean Maher and You (Probably) Don't

To see today's other post click here

Normally I would never write two posts in one day - mostly because I feel my tiny brain has a limited number of good ideas and stories, and should therefore out drag the ones I have, making them last as many weeks as humanly possible. But this is a special occasion - I realized it's the 10th anniversary of Firefly.

If you're asking what Firefly is, we probably need to spend more time together. Starring the guy from Castle and created by Joss Whedon, who made Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's a beautiful gem of a sci-fi show. And if you don't like sci-fi, it doesn't matter - it's a show about people and relationships. Every episode is gold, and the ensemble is perfect - it's one of those shows that it's impossible to have a favorite character on, because everyone is so great. There's only fourteen episodes, so since eighth grade when I first saw the show, I've watched the series maybe dozens of times. It's lived with me. When they made the show into a movie, Serenity, my friend Brian and I to a special fan screening that was several months before the actual movie came out. Bottom line: go watch it.

Last Septemer, my friend Caitlin asked if I wanted to see Contagion - I had been an extra on it and was curious to see if I made the cut. But honestly, the movie looked so unbelievably depressing and upsetting - I wasn't really in the mood to see a bunch of nice people die horribly.* I asked her if there was a comedy, and she told me Our Idiot Brother was playing. Not only did it look way less depressing, but since it was at 3:45 and not at 4:15 like Contagion, we would get to pay the matinee price! I'm sorry, but I'm living on a freaking budget over here, okay? So, thinking I would only see Caitlin, I threw on a ratty Shy Ronnie t-shirt and left my apartment without showering.

*This same reasoning is why I avoid Coen Brothers films.

After purchasing our tickets, we walked through the lobby and towards the escalators, passing the concession stand. A man was coming off the escalators as we were stepping on - I made eye contact and he gave the obligatory smile you do when you make eye contact with a stranger. I couldn't stop staring at him - he looked familiar... the face traveled from my eyes to my brain, where finally it clicked. At the top of the escalator, I stopped. "Caitlin, I'm pretty sure that was Simon from Firefly." I knew Simon Tam's real name was Sean Maher, but I wasn't sure if Caitlin would so I knew this was how I needed to explain. She'd watched Firefly once before, but wasn't into it the way I was. I also knew, since I have an IMDBrain* and know everything about what all actors are in, that Sean was in the upcoming series The Playboy Club, which I knew filmed in Chicago. So I realized it really could be him. Normally I'd probably be too nervous to say something, but Caitlin had recently taught me a lesson when she had run into Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon at iO (the improv theater). She told me how even though she'd been really nervous and a little jittery she had just gone right up to him and been like, "Are you Michael Shannon?" he said he was, and they had a cool little conversation. "You just went up to him?!" I asked. "Yeah, um, was I going to miss the opportunity to talk to Michael Shannon?" That combined with my regret at not saying something to Amy Poehler when I saw her one time - long story for a later post - lit a fire under me. I explained the situation to Caitlin. "Can we go say hi?"

*Copyright me. I came up with this. 

We came right back down the escalator where the man who was maybe Sean was waiting in line for concessions. Incredibly nervous, I mustered an "excuse me?" he turned and looked at me. "Can I ask you a question?" He smiled really big. This was a good sign. "Sure". "Um..." I stuttered, "um... uh..." and behind me Caitlin was laughing, saying to possibleSean, "You know. You know." I felt like it would be weird to call someone by their name who I'd never met, like it would be creepy to know someone's name, so I just said, "'re Simon." "Yes", he said, "Nice to meet you, I'm Sean." He extended his hand, which I shook. "I knew that", I said. Way to not be creepy, dude. I introduced myself, and then went on a long, rambling monologue about how much I loved the show and how many times I watched it and how amazing it was and how I went to a preview screening of the movie and blah blah blah I was a sweaty mess and I think I was breathing really heavily because at one point Caitlin went, "um, do you need me to get your inhaler, pal?" I think it was a good thing she was there, because seeing I had a normal, funny friend probably made Sean aware that on a regular basis I wasn't this much of a weirdo. Although when we asked what he was doing here, and he explained he was on The Playboy Club, and Caitlin said to him, re: me "he knew that" I wanted to be like, "SHUT UP, GIRL!" We had some more chit-chat and Sean - who was incredibly sweet and yes, his eyes really are that blue and his jaw is that chiseled, this is clearly why he belongs on TV and I don't - asked what movie we were seeing. It turned out we were seeing the same one! "I'm just going to get a drink, do you guys want anything?" "Well, actually", I thought to myself, "I could use a diet coke- ALEX I KNOW YOU'RE CHEAP BUT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE SIMON FREAKING TAM BUY YOU A SODA." "I'm fine!" I said. As he was in line, I asked Caitlin if we should go up without him, I didn't want to crowd him or creep him out - "oh no", she said, "we are waiting right here and we are going to walk up with him. Get yo' shit together, son."

We went up the escalator, talking more. I asked Sean if he moved here for the show, but he explained that while some of the cast moved, his family was in LA, so he flies back and forth. He had filmed on Friday and also was set to film on Monday, so he decided to just stay the weekend and in his off-time occasionally goes to a movie. "I almost didn't come today" he said, "Now I'm really glad I did!" "ME TOO", I didn't scream like a crazy person. Now here's where things get kind of unbelievable - we got to the theater, and again not wanting to crowd or pressure Sean, we walked in ahead of him. Caitlin sat down in a seat, then me. AND THEN SEAN CAME AND SAT NEXT TO ME.

Can you even believe this? When does this happen? You run into someone you're a fan of, gush for ten minutes, and then go to a movie and hang out with them? Insane. Also, this was pretty ballsy on his part as well, because although we all know I'm actually SUPER COOL, Sean had no way of being sure of this. "I hope you don't mind if I crash your date!" he said, sweetly. "Oh, this is SO not a date!" I said. "And even if it was, it would be SO fine!" Just like that, I sold out my fake-girlfriend Caitlin. She'll get over it. The trailers came, one for Jack and Jill, and when I laughed at the single joke where Jill crushes the horse she's sitting on, I asked if it made me a terrible person for laughing at this awful-looking movie - Sean said no, he laughed at it too. Hashtag #seanapproval.

I was too nervous to talk to him very much during the movie - and people have different feelings on how much chatter should take place in the theater; some people want absolute silence or they get ornery. So I didn't want to bother him. But the benefit of having a whole entire movie is that by the time it was over, I had decompressed and calmed down; I was a normal person again. I think once you've said something to a famous person once you're sort of inoculated - Caitlin had no worries since she'd talked to Michael Shannon, and I could probably now go up to someone I'm a fan of without gushing and hyperventilating. So as we left, I said to him, "I'm sorry I nerded out on you so hard before... I think I was just really surprised." He said it was totally fine, that everyone involved with the show loved it so much that they just genuinely enjoy hearing about it. Now that I was a normal person again came what I think was the best part of all - Sean, Caitlin and I hung out for like a half hour, just talking about random stuff. Not about Firefly, not about the business* - but about what movies we liked in the last year, or about how terrible the last Oscar hosts were (he thought Anne Hathaway was worse, I thought James Franco was worse, but we all agreed it was a mess). When my friend Caitlin mentioned she was a nanny, Sean took out his phone and showed us pictures his kids had drawn. We talked a little bit about things he could do in Chicago. We discussed our dislike of pushy canvassers. We just chilled out like we were real-life amigos, and it was really cool. Basically now we're best friends.

*Which, by the way, many people asked me "oh my god, did you tell him you were an actor, can you help you get a job working on the show, etc." I was like, absolutely not. I wasn't going to besmirch the sanctity of the supercool bestfriend hangout funtime sesh by trying to like, parlay this into some weird desperate attempt to use him! Come on, people. We were having fun. T'was not the time nor place.

Oh, and of course, as I always say: "pixar it didn't happen."

Good god, I look terrible. Especially next to his handsome TV face - my face is relatively average, but next to his face my average face looks like a gnome-troll face. 

After a little while it was time to go - we each got a photo with Sean AND A HUG - during which all I could think was, "WHY didn't I take a shower today, dammit!" - and we said goodbye. As we walked back to the bus, I was high as a kite - I couldn't believe we had just hung out for the afternoon with Sean Maher. I had so many questions - had I dreamed it? Would anyone believe me? Why didn't Sean invite us to have dinner with him?* In order to prove it had actually happened, Caitlin and I tweeted him. We live in the twitter age, after all. A little while later, we got this back:

If you'd like to tweet Sean and badger him suggest he get lunch with me read this post, you can tweet him at this name above

Guess what? Parker Posey wasn't in Our Idiot Brother. I'm not even going to explain it, you probably wouldn't get it cause it's an inside joke between me and Sean, y'know. So the big takeaway from this post is that me and my close personal friend Sean Maher have inside jokes and you don't. That's all.

*This is a joke.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tears of a Clown

DISCLAIMER: This post stops being political two paragraphs in, I promise.

My relief at Barack Obama winning a second term as president is only slightly less than my relief that election season is over. The spiting, the sniping, the punditry, and the political ads - GOOD LORD, the political ads - it can all cool down for a little while. I'm also happy it's over because my tolerance for people saying inane and stupid things is low. Especially because the people saying dumb things will never understand how incorrect they are, so you can't even have the satisfaction of shoving their face in how wrong they are.  

For example: my sister is in eighth grade, and a kid in her class told her Obama was a "baby-killer". This is insane on several levels - first of all, calling abortion "baby-killing" is a gross oversimplification of a very complicated issue. But even if it was "baby-killing", Obama didn't invent abortion. He also didn't make it legal - the supreme court did. And if Obama is a baby-killer for being president in a country where abortion is legal, then Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush were all baby-killers too.

But kids don't understand, they don't know any better, and they say things without thinking or understanding. I've already discussed this. And when my sister told me this exchange, I remembered the way middle schoolers have this sense of privilege and unearned bravado to say whatever the hell they want. 

And how I was totally one of them.

Yeah, upon greater reflection I think I was in middle school what teachers would professionally refer to as a little shit class clown. I relished cracking the perfect joke - and the sound of the whole class laughing.* Combine that with the fact that I loved talking to just about everyone - a regular chatter bug - and this made me somewhat of a nightmare for middle school teachers. 

*I honestly remember once that after the class laughed particularly hard at something I'd said I kept replaying the sound in my head so that I wouldn't forget how awesome it was. Since I don't seem to be able to recall the sound it would appear I failed.

It was just odd to me that they felt they could interrupt my social time. School is where I saw all my friends every day, and if I needed to discuss weekend plans, the drama going on with Stacy and Brent, how annoying the gym teacher was today, or last night's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the classroom was where I was going to do it. And I remember feeling pretty confident that what I had to say was infinitely more interesting than anything my teacher was going to say.

My talking got me sent out to the hall very frequently. There were some classes where it was second nature - just a look from the teacher, and I'd say, "I got it, I'm going..." and make my way outside. I've had only one detention ever in my life, and it was for talking in class. But let me just say this - from my memory of my middle-school aged perspective, my problems were only with teachers who were mean and joyless. There were teachers who found my incredible volume charming and funny with an occasional need to be reigned in or tapered. The ones who had problems with me I remember as being complete jerks. I remember one exasperated teacher pulling sixth-grade me out into the hall and saying, "you're just really desperate for attention, aren't you?" "Um, I don't know." I said. At the end of class, I was walking out with my friends and was not even out the door as I told them, "she says I'm desperate for attention - god, she's so annoying!"

My favorite instance was in health class. Remember how in middle school, we all had to buy insanely expensive graphing calculators? And remember how those graphing calculators had really cool games on them? Well, I was playing them in class because class was not interesting. The teacher - again, not a cool guy, a very dreary sort - told me to turn it off. I kept playing. A couple minutes later, he came over, asking me why I was still playing it. I told him (with that sense of entitlement middle schoolers have that makes them right all the time) that he told me to turn it off, so how could I turn it off without hitting buttons? I was just doing what he said! "Give me the calculator", he said. "No." I replied. "Give it to me". "No, it's really expensive, and you can't have it", I snarled. "Wow, you've really got a chip on your shoulder, don't you?" he said. Now I had no idea what that expression meant at the time, so I just shrugged non-commitally in a way that could have been saying yes or no.

The craziest thing about that story is that I ever had the balls to speak to a teacher that way. High school me, college me - they would never dare to do so. So where did that little firecracker go? He vanished without a trace - honestly, I don't recognize that wiseass as me. How did he molt away into a people-pleaser who never wanted to get in trouble, who always wanted to be liked? Does that come with age? Because I'm pretty sure there are people who stay that way as grown-ups.

Let's compare with the way I dealt with teachers in high school, shall we? I think maybe a major difference was that in high school I was so worried about all my grades - sure if they weren't good enough that I wouldn't get into college - that I didn't have the time to be snarky. Physics was particularly hard for me... it never quite clicked. So on my tests, I would write PAGES of notes to my teacher, thinking that if I could explain my line of thinking, how I got to my answer, that it couldn't be so wrong, or that if she could see how hard I was trying I'd get the points anyway. My teacher told me that she cried grading/reading my tests. Yikes. My anxiety was pouring through my writing into other people.*

*Although I did learn later that she was going through a divorce at the time. So maybe it wasn't all my fault. Also apparently teachers have outside lives. And first names. 

Though now that I think about it, maybe my ballsy self is still in there somewhere. In my junior year of high school, my friend and I wrote and directed a play that was produced by the school. The theatre teacher/department director hated it. The show was our sort of oddball, quirky sense of humor, and he didn't get it because he was sixty years old and the show wasn't written by Neil Simon. Most people can understand that when something is not to their particular taste, it doesn't mean that other people can't enjoy it. The director did not. He assumed that because he didn't like it, the play was inherently bad. He came in to sit in on rehearsals during the final week, and he tore the show a new asshole - in front of the entire cast. In a comedy, it's all about committing to the absurd, so if the actors are doubtful - if they half-ass it - it isn't going to work. So the director was driving the show into the ground by freaking out the cast. Not to mention the simple fact that having your work blithely insulted doesn't feel super great. Finally, in one of our last rehearsals, a joke that he didn't find funny - a joke that, by the way, killed with every audience - came up. "I don't get it - it's not funny." He said. It had been a very long week dealing with him. I was very stressed. I had had enough.

Me: "Yes, it is."
D: "No, it isn't,"
Me: "Yes, it is."
D, with incredible condescension: "No, it really isn't."
Me: "Yes, it is."
D: "It doesn't make any sense."
Me: "It doesn't have to make sense, OKAY? Some things are JUST FUNNY BECAUSE THEY ARE, you don't have to explain them."

And he shrugged with the tone of, "it's your funeral." But it's true - little ol' me yelled at the big bad teacher. And that was that. 

Maybe I've still got balls after all. But that was five or so years ago - we need to test me out again. Quick, somebody bring me someone with authority over me to yell at!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Jewish Thing, Part 2: The Wrath of Bubbe

I told you I'd come back to it. With no new exciting life developments a'happenin' (a.k.a. no job) I'm dipping into that old yamica of tricks* and continuing on with the Jewish thing. My mother's friend Eve gave only one note about my blog - "be kind to the Jews". Um... uh... this part might be rough going for you, Eve. But it all wraps up nicely in Part 3 after I go to Israel and learn a bunch, so don't get too upset. Whoops - did I just give away the ending? I have so much to learn about story structure...

*I refuse to spell it 'yarmulke', because my brain reads it YAR-MULL-KEY, which is gross.

So if we recall, Part 1 came from me trying to explain how it was that I stopped going to temple. I talked a lot about how it was fairly difficult being a lone Jew in a conservative Christian suburb - it made me - what's a nice word? - disenchanted with organized religion, to say the least. I saw firsthand the way it divided people, made people treat others poorly. But y'know what else made disenchanted with my religion? My religion. Yup, that's right. Judaism is just as much to blame for driving me away from religion as close-minded Christians are. Sorry, Judaism. I love you dawg but you know it's true! See, as much as I was the token Jew in my hometown, the funny thing is that I was never actually all that Jewish really. My family was reform, which is the Jewish equivalent of threat level green - it's as low-down on the totem pole as you can go. We weren't super religious - we never celebrated shabbat, which I only realized on my recent Israel-trip is quite abnormal for Jews. It was mostly high holidays, which meant services. Services were hours long and painfully boring - I never liked going. And OH YEAH: Hebrew school.

I hated Hebrew school. HATED it. For one thing, it was more school after school. What kid would like that? With no Jews in the area, we had to drive twenty minutes to get to the temple - to a kid whose age was in the single-digits it felt like an hour. All of the other kids there knew each other from regular school, so for them it was like extra hang-out time - for me it was more like, "who are all of you?" or perhaps, "Do any of you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" I remember week after week screaming and begging and crying, running out of my house and taking off down the street in a refusal to go. A couple weeks it worked, but most of the time my mother would pull up in the car and bribe me by promising a McDonalds run (fat kid kryptonite).*

*Let's be honest though - she could have bribed better. If she had offered to take me to Taco Bell instead I probably would've converted to Orthodoxy. 

And the teachers... well, we didn't have the best of relationships. I was not happy to be there, and I guess I could be occasionally... surly. Yeah, surly. I remember gleefully telling one teacher that I was going to miss the next class because I had family in town. Then, in the pick-up line*, this teacher approached my car and asked my mother if I was indeed missing class. My mother said no (though I had thought we had reached an agreement on this point), and with god my mother, my aunt, and my cousin as my witness, this teacher - a grown-ass, middle aged woman - looked at me, an eight or nine-year old - and shouted "HA HA, HA HA, HA HA..." in my face. As my mother pulled away in the car, we could still hear her yelling. So not the most healthiest of environments for anyone involved, it seems.

*You want to see sheer inanity? Go to a Hebrew school pick-up and watch how it takes cars tens of minutes to simply get their kid and leave.

All of this might have been fine if I had been way into the religion itself or something... but you'll be shocked to hear this wasn't the case. I found the logic of religion... specious. My questions were given trite, patronizing answers - I think people felt because they were talking to a child, they didn't have to earn my beliefs in a real way. They were wrong with this kid. To this day, whenever he sees my mother, the president of the temple asks her, "How's Alex? Is he a lawyer yet?" because I argued so much. I just never liked being told what to do and not being as good reason as to why. "Just because" didn't cut it for me. There were silly rules and silly traditions that made no sense - any organized religion has them. And I didn't like being told that I had some sort of obligation to some greater thing that other people insisted was important, even if it meant nothing to me. I thought Yom Kippur was the worst. One of the high holidays, Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, where you apologize to god for all the bad stuff you've done all year. I remember thinking, "I'm not going to apologize to some supposed deity. If I wronged another person, I can apologize to the person, but I don't owe some anyone else an explanation. and I can police my own morals thankyouverymuch, I don't need fear of a sky bully to make me be a good person."

The point is, after my Bar Mitzvah*, which I did for my parents, I was out. They were all like, "we want you to do confirmation" and I was all like, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" Okay, I didn't really say that. I would never swear in front of my parents. But hopefully the harshness of that sentence indicates just how flabbergasted and not-agreeable - putting it lightly, here - I was to the idea of continuing my Hebrew studies.

*I still maintain that people should have their Bar Mitzvah when they're 18 or 21. A party that expensive, that nice was wasted on me - I didn't have any fun. I didn't get to eat any food, almost none of the people who became my best friends were there, and most importantly, at that age I refused to dance. And we all know that now I love dancing. I would kill to have that party now.

But honestly, the straw that broke the camel's back probably happened way earlier - this camel was walking around with a broken back for years before he quit. In the mid/late 90's, right after the Lewinsky scandal broke, I was at my Bubbe's house in Michigan. I was seven or eight years old. Bubbe had recently gotten e-mail - remember when internet was new? remember when WiFi wasn't a thing? - and like all old Jewish ladies, used her screechy, insane dial-up mostly to send chain joke e-mails. I was sitting next to her, staring at her weird fake plants while she was reading an e-mail. Suddenly she laughed uproariously. I read the joke - "If a Jew was president, all the secretaries would be shiksas!" I asked her why this was funny, and she explained that Jewish people didn't marry people who weren't Jewish. At the time, I was convinced that I was going to marry the pretty blonde girl in our neighborhood who had become my best friend, so I said - and this is verbatim - "Well, if I loved somebody who wasn't Jewish, I would marry them?"

"Aw, how sweet!" You're thinking - you'd be mostly right, this was before I got fat and I was a pretty cute kid. Bubbe disagreed. She began screaming at me. Screaming, at a child. Screaming that I should never say that, that Jews married Jews - the finite details of what she said are a little lost to me, but I remember two feelings very well. First, I remember feeling how wrong she was, and how mad I was that she thought she could tell me how to live my life based on her rules - "I'll marry whoever the hell I want!" Secondly, I remember the feeling of, "It is completely inappropriate for you to be screaming at me when you're an adult and I'm a child". Honestly, even at such a young age, I was feeling "how dare you scream at me like this! Just because we have differing opinions doesn't give you the right to bully me, Bubbe!" I wasn't then speaking in those grown-up words but the feeling translates.

The irony that Bubbe couldn't see is how badly her bullying (Bubbying?) backfired. Instead of shaming me into feeling I had to stick to the Jewish conventions, I instead - chip on my shoulder - became more determined that no person, no religion, no ridiculous rules would tell me how to live my life. I life my life on my terms.

This got suuuuuuper serious, didn't it? Yee-ikes. Sorry, this is just sort of how my Jewish journey continues, I guess, and I'm trying to write it all out, warts n'all. But remember, Part 3 is way more upbeat. Falafel is involved.