HATE

As an exercise for the standup class, I had to compile a list of things I hate. Here’s what I came up with:

I hate people who do bad things in the name of religion, like molest children or launch jihads.

I hate people who do annoying things in the name of religion, like distribute pamphlets or condemn masturbation.

I hate religious conservatives who are always telling other people they’re going to Hell. You know what, for me Heaven is wherever you’re not. That’s where I’m going when I die. See ya.

I hate people who try to make me feel guilty about what I’m eating. Yeah, it’s a hamburger. And it’s none of your business if I’m going to the gym later to work it off. Eat your rice cake and watch the juice drip down my face, you fucking food nazi.

I hate cancer. I hate when people die of cancer. I hate people who say “get cancer” to somebody they don’t like. I hope all those people get cancer.

I hate guns.

I hate people who wear sunglasses all the time. Even Stevie Wonder. Seriously, is he really afraid of damaging his eyes?

I hate “How are you doing?” and “What’s up?” They’re meaningless and interchangeable. “I’m fine. How are you?” “Not much. What’s up with you?” I hate how some people don’t know the rules. Like you’ll ask them how they’re doing and they won’t respond. “How are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” [Silence...] “How? How! Answer me! I need to know!” I feel tricked, like they bamboozled me into giving away some personal information that they weren’t prepared to share themselves. The only thing worse is when you ask someone how they’re doing and they actually tell you. I went to the kitchen in the office where I work and saw a woman from down the hall. I asked her how she was doing, and she said, “Oh, my Mom died.” I’m like, “I really just came in to get a Coke.”

I hate people who pierce their newborn baby’s ears. Yeah, it’s cute. Cute like prison. That’s where you belong for mutilating your child.

I hate how every pair of conjoined twins becomes a news event. I’m sorry. I just don’t like looking at two newborns rolling around on a SpongeBob blanket with their skulls fused together. Does that make me a bad person?

I hate people who tell me to “cheer up”. They don’t know what kind of day I’m having. And sorry, but “cheer up” isn’t going to do it. If you want me to cheer up, don’t say, “Cheer up”. Find me a new job. Clean my apartment. End world hunger. That’ll cheer me up. When someone tells me to cheer up, it always makes me feel worse. I think, Man, am I that mopey that someone would be so rude as to comment on it just out of concern for my well-being, or are they that much of an self-deluded asshole that they need everyone around them to be happy all the time? You know what cheers me up? The thought of those people getting cancer.

STANDUP

My friend Michael and I are taking a standup comedy class at Santa Monica College Extension. It’s full of the kind of people you’d expect to find taking a class in the continuing education wing of a community college, which is to say the class itself is probably the best source of material I’ve had in a long time.

We meet at the John Adams Middle School, in a classroom that’s used by a fifth grade math class during the day. I’ve never seen Mr. Hart, the math teacher, but I can tell he fosters a kind of Glengarry Glen Ross atmosphere by posting a bunch of alternately motivational and disciplinary signs around the room. One is titled “Questions Mr. Hart Will Not Answer” and includes entries such as “What time is it?” (Answer: “Who cares?”), “Can I sharpen my pencil?” (“No, you should’ve done that before class!”), “What is the date?” (“Look at the board!”) and “What does my grade mean?” (“It means what it means!”) Mr. Hart seems to be fond of exclamation points.

If you want to know what time it is in Mr. Hart’s classroom, you’d better wear a watch. That’s because he has a piece of paper taped over the clock in order to prevent students from watching the seconds tick away. The paper reads, “Life is too short. Never wish time away!” There are several reminders of September 11th taped up as well.

Our standup teacher is decidedly less disciplined than Mr. Hart, especially when it comes to the Lebanese Sisters, Lyla and Sophia. They appear to be in their late 50s, although if they’ve prematurely aged, it’s definitely from talking too much. They find each other very amusing, which is good for them, because nobody else does. Our teacher never stops them from talking, which in my mind makes him a bad teacher. If he wanted to teach these women how to be funny, he could start with two words: “Shut up”.

The teacher is even older than they are. Most of his comedy references are to names like Joey Bishop or Rodney Dangerfield or Andy Rooney. He also happens to be in the new Jamie Kennedy movie, Malibu’s Most Wanted.

The class also includes a Belgian woman named Sabine. Sabine seems like she’s trying very hard to copy what she thinks is the delivery of American standup comics. Most of her jokes start with “Did ya ever notice…?” or “What’s the deal with…?” Last week, she couldn’t think of a joke to tell, so Michael had to whisper one in her ear. This week, she read some material which she later admitted she had copied from Wanda Sykes. It makes me wonder if Wanda started in a class like this, reading Elaine Boosler’s material. Probably not.

Then there’s Amy. Last week we had to write a list of our weaknesses to use as jumping-off points for material. One of Amy’s began “I drink too much.”

One guy, whose name I don’t remember, brought a lot of material this week, almost all of it consisting of observations about fast food restaurants. There was a bit about El Pollo Loco (“How come they never give you a knife with your meal?”), one about Panda Express (“How come they never give you napkins?”) and one about McDonald’s (“Why do they ask if it’s for here to go? Why is that any of their business?”) I feel like all of his questions could be answered if he spent an afternoon working behind the counter of a Burger King. (Hey, if I know where the customer is eating, I’ll know whether to give them some napkins and a knife!)

Another girl ranted at length this week about the fashion faux pas that bug her. It would’ve been much better if any of us knew what the hell she was talking about (“Don’t people know there’s a difference between floods and capris?” … There is?!) and if she herself wasn’t wearing a zippered sweatshirt over a t-shirt. Mr. Blackwell’s a jerk, but he’s not a hypocrite. He DOES dress nice.

It doesn’t really matter that most of the material people bring in isn’t quite ready for the Laugh Shack. I don’t think any of these people really aspires to a standup comedy career, nor do I. We’re just there to have fun and meet interesting people.

At this point, we’ve definitely got that last one covered.

APPRECIATION

Today is Staff Appreciation Day. Or Administrative Professional’s Day. It’s not Secretary’s Day.

I’m glad. I don’t like to think of myself as a secretary, but I definitely want my boss to give me stuff.

Of course, he doesn’t give me stuff. I did get a crisp $50 bill from the firm itself, which was nice, but this firm is very big, and everyone got that. I doubt my boss even knew they gave them out. Most people also got something from their boss. But not me. I felt appreciated by the firm, but not by my boss.

The only time he gave me anything — I got zilch for my birthday and zilch for the last Staff Appreciation Day — was for Christmas. He gave me one of those travel toiletry kits you put your toothbrush in when you go on a trip. It was leather and it was from Coach, so it was probably expensive, and since I’m such a nice guy, I pretended to like it.

I didn’t like it, of course. Who wants a damn toiletry kit? And who wants a leather one? The rest of my luggage isn’t leather. That damn toothbrush bag cost more than any other suitcase I own. And if you’re going to spend that much money on something, why not on something cool, like an MP3 player?

The a friend told me that Coach gives those toiletry bags away for free when you make a large purchase. Lo and behold, my boss gives me his receipts for his expense reports. He spent over $1,000 at Coach buying gifts for clients.

The toiletry bag wasn’t on the receipt.

I assume that’s because he didn’t have to pay for it.

WACKO

Well, it happened to Michael Jackson, it happened to Prince, now it looks like Terence Trent D’Arby’s gone wacko, too.

According to his official website, he’s changed his name to Sananda Maitreya. Here is how he puts it:

“I took the name Sananda, which I will not use professionally for awhile yet, however, my friends and fellow servants reply to me as that. It was suggested that I take the name Sananda in a series of dreams . I resisted at first, which is usually our first reaction to change; but once I surrendered, however, I noticed how very familiar it felt; now, Sananda is much closer to who I really am and Terence Trent D’Arby is the vehicle through which Sananda will let his light shine. I don’t know what Sananda means and I have not allowed myself to find out. I accepted it on faith, but I know it’s positive and I know it’s good. In conclusion, I would like to finish by saying I consider it a tremendous blessing to be on the planet Earth at the same time as all of you.”

For the record, I think the guy’s a gifted artist, and I really like a lot of his music, especially INTRODUCING THE HARDLINE… and SYMPHONY OR DAMN. And I’m sure I’ll be buying the new album, too.

But man, can’t that guy do ANYTHING original?

FAXES

Apparently, my boss doesn’t understand faxes.

You know how when a fax machine calls your phone number by mistake, it’s the worst kind of hell, because it’s just going to keep redialing every two minutes for an hour? Well, in case you didn’t know, the solution (if you’re at work, at least) is to transfer the call to your company’s fax machine. Then the fax will print out and you won’t get any more annoying beep calls. Months ago when my boss was having this problem, I told him to try this trick, and he was very grateful.

So, today, he’s out of the office, and a little while ago, he called in to check his voice mail. One of his messages was an annoying fax beep call.

So he forwards me THE MESSAGE and asks, “Jerry, can you forward this to our fax machine?”

As if forwarding the voicemail with the beep tone would make the fax print out.

This is not a smart man.

GREGG

This weekend, I finally met Gregg.

Gregg is Drew’s ex-boyfriend, with whom he spent five and a half legendarily tumultuous years. Their relationship ended last summer, and Drew has tried to stay friends with him since then. Why, I’m not sure.

Usually when Gregg’s name comes up among Drew and his friends, it’s followed by the words “is very messed up”. This is a bit strange from people, including Drew, who claim to still be his friends. When I’m describing a friend of mine to someone who has never met them, I might use some negative or critical words, but only to prepare the person for my friend’s misleading surface traits. I might say, “She comes across a bit abrasive at first, but she’s really very nice underneath.” Or “he tends to make some off-color jokes, but he’s just kidding around”. These are my friends, after all. They might not be perfect, but there’s always a “but”. With Gregg, on the other hand, there never seemed to be a “but”. “Greg is very messed up” was usually the beginning and end of the description.

All of that made me very curious to meet Gregg. Clearly, his personality quirks were too numerous and/or bizarre to list in detail. “Messed up” was a sign of a person who was very, well, messed up. But the fact that all these people were friends with him anyway, let alone that Drew spent the better part of his 20′s dating him, made me think there must be a “but”. I was sure Gregg had a sparkling sense of humor or a soft spot for helping the less fortunate. And now that I’ve met him, I can say with certainty:

Gregg is very messed up.

I like to think I’m a pretty good judge of people, that I can see through their facades to the real them fairly quickly. But Gregg is extremely complex. With or without my personality x-ray specs, Gregg is going to take some work. So far, though, there are a few things I can say about him:

1. He wears sunglasses all the time, even indoors. I have no idea what his eyes look like.

2. Gregg goes for shock value with his humor. He thinks it’s easiest to score with off-color jokes.

3. He thinks he’s extremely funny.

4. He’s somewhat funny.

5. He’s EXTREMELY gay.

Gregg was clearly very nervous to meet me. But he picked up fast on the fact that I was just as nervous, and that put him a little bit at ease. When we were first introduced, there was a long, uncomfortable silence. After that, Gregg got a little chattier. Gregg’s first icebreaker was to point out how weird it was to be a childless gay friend at a pool party for four-year-olds. Everyone stares at you like you’re a child molestor, he observed.

I checked around. Nobody was staring at either of us.

Gregg nonetheless repeated this observation to every new person who came over to talk to us. It was his idea of a joke, and apparently, of a good joke. I realized this was Gregg’s schtick. He found something to say that he thought would make people uncomfortable, then repeated it to everyone he could find. At one point, a woman came up to us and said something that sounded like, “Is this where the young Jews are hanging out?” (Neither of us is Jewish.) I assumed I misheard her, but when she walked away, Gregg had heard the same thing, and he couldn’t wait to play up his “outrage”. “Did she call us Jews?” Within ten minutes, he had told the story at least five times, railing about the anti-Semitism pervading the party.

Once I had talked to Gregg for what seemed like an appropriate amount of time, I was anxious to move on. Drew stayed with Gregg for five and a half years. I was ready to leave him after five and a half minutes.

When the cake came out, Gregg turned to me, in front of Drew, and said, as if to prepare me for an indescribable horror, “Uh-oh, Jerry. Have you seen Drew eat cake yet?” Drew quietly laughed off the jab at his eating habits. It explained a lot about how their relationship must’ve worked.

After the party was over and Gregg had left, everyone wanted to know my impressions of him. Not wanting to seem like the jealous boyfriend, I think I said something along the lines of, “He seemed okay.” The general concensus among everyone was that Gregg was on his “best behavior” all day.

That horrified me.

That was his best behavior? What I had seen was a passive-aggressive, insecure, hostile, obnoxious, unfunny, self-loathing, messed-up jerk.

But he did have nice sunglasses.

MUFFIN

I went to Noah’s Bagels this morning to get a muffin.

It was Tuesday morning, and business was pretty slow. I placed my order with the cashier, gave my name, then took three steps backward to wait.

A minute later, the woman who prepares the orders placed a bag on the counter. She looked at the name on the slip. “Terry!” she called out.

Although I was the only one waiting, I didn’t move. I’m not Terry.

The order lady walked back to her workstation and started wiping off the counter with a rag. She had no more orders to prepare. By this point, I should’ve realized that the bag on the counter probably contained my muffin.

A minute later, the order lady saw that the bag was still sitting there, and I was still standing there, waiting. One bag, one customer, no pending orders. She took another look at the order slip.

Serry?” she said. “Ferry?”

I still didn’t move.

Then, the cashier walked over and took a look at her own handwriting. “Jerry!” she said.

I took three steps forward and picked up the bag.

Inside was my muffin.

HICKEY

I gave Drew a hickey.

I know that sounds totally Happy Days, like instead of writing that, I should’ve just sung, “I found my thri-ill… on Blueberry Hill…” Anyway, it wasn’t something I intended to do. It’s not like we parked at Inspiration Point and started “necking”. To be honest, I’m not even sure just when or how it happened.

Well, “how”, maybe.

The thing is, we’ve been really good about being tasteful with our shows of affection. We don’t kiss in front of our friends, we don’t sit on the same side of the booth at restaurants and we don’t hold hands at the movies until the lights go down (and even then, we’ll sometimes drape something over our hands for privacy, which is as moronic as it sounds and we know that, or hold them down low out of sight, which is just mildly uncomfortable). For the most part, this is because we know that outside of Europe or West Hollywood, signs of affection between men are often frowned upon. Sometimes they’re frowned upon with lead pipes. We might be a bit more bold kissing each other goodbye outside my apartment, for example, if we didn’t have to worry about getting our asses kicked by one of my thuggish Russian neighbors.

Straight people take a lot of things for granted, but when you’re gay, there’s a complex forumla involved in deciding something as simple as whether to hold hands at a movie. It’s risky at Anger Management, safe at What a Girl Wants, and mandatory at Chicago. Not a good move in the Valley, necessary at Laemmle’s Sunset 5.

So when I saw the hickey on Drew’s neck Sunday morning, we went into spin mode. Did Drew own any turtlenecks? (No.) Was it really that noticeable? (Yes.) Could we come up with any other explanation for it? Uh… birthmark? (Maybe if all of Drew’s friends were retarded.)

We decided to play it off with humor. If anyone pointed it out, we had a schtick prepared.

“Oh, that? Yeah, I saw that, too. But it’s not a hickey,” I’d say. “It can’t be. I haven’t seen Drew in days.”

Drew would act really nervous and say, “That’s right. It’s just a birthmark, Jerry. Just a birthmark…” Fake laugh.

… because there’s nothing funnier than making your friends think you’re cheating on each other.

Have you ever come up with a fun scheme and then never had a chance to implement it? Well, no one said anything about the hickey. Maybe they were just being polite, maybe it wasn’t as noticeable as we thought, or maybe Drew’s friends really are retarded.

Or it’s possible they just suspected we wouldn’t be comfortable with it. After all, we’ve been very good about being tasteful about our shows of affection. Maybe they think we’re being ultra-discreet not for their benefit but for our own. Maybe they’ve always wondered if we were ever affectionate with each other at all.

The hickey outed us.

There was no denying it. It was concrete evidence right there on Drew’s neck for everyone to see. The hickey outed us as the normal couple we secretly always were, and for that, I had to be a little bit grateful.

Of course, I’m still glad it’s on his neck, not mine.

And now I’ve got a new plan. If anybody teases us about it, I’m just going to tell them to “sit on it”.

STORY

This is a good story.

Last night, I went to Drew’s apartment with my friend David to watch “Survivor”. Afterwards, I went to give David a ride home, after which I was going to come back and hang out with Drew some more. As we left, we were talking about Deena’s surprise expulsion, Jenna’s equally surprising rise to power and Matthew’s enormous nipples and general creepiness.

We were not paying attention to where we were going.

It was David’s first time in Drew’s building, and he took a wrong turn. Thinking he was entering a staircase, David attempted to open the door of Drew’s neighbors’ apartment.

Thankfully, the door was locked.

All the neighbors heard was a loud THUD as David banged himself into the door and realized his mistake. Oops.

Poor David, I thought. That must be so embarrassing. Didn’t he see the apartment number on the door? Didn’t he see the EXIT sign over the other door, around the corner? Didn’t he remember we came up in the elevator?

I didn’t make a big deal about it. I was just quietly thankful that that door wasn’t open. If David had walked into a stranger’s apartment unannounced, who knows what we might’ve seen, what awful humiliations would’ve been in store for them and us alike.

So we went back to talking about Survivor as we rode the elevator down and walked outside to my car.

When we were a few feet away from my car, I hit my key remote unlocker thing and pulled the handle on the driver’s side door. And as I started to get into the car, a man looked up at me from the back seat.

He was lying on top of a woman, having sex.

In my back seat.

And about half a second later, I realized something: THIS WAS NOT MY CAR.

Yes, it was parked near my car, but as I took a step back, I realized that it didn’t even look very much like my car. This car was a dark blue Toyota. My car is a black Nissan.

And the look of shock and panic on that man’s face as he looked up at me from the middle of his girlfriend’s chest is something I will never forget.

I must’ve shouted, “Sorry!” at least six times in the next two seconds.

But it got worse.

David, still talking about “Survivor”, apparently misread my string of “Sorry”s as — well, who knows what he was thinking, but I realized he was still headed for the passenger door. “It’s not my car!” I screamed. “IT’S NOT MY CAR!!!!!!”

But it was too late. David opened the door and ended up seeing exactly what I saw, only from another angle.

And then he said “Sorry” a few times. I threw in a few more “Sorry”s myself for good measure.

I’ve never climbed in my car and driven off so fast from anywhere.

David and I talked about it for a few minutes as I drove him home. David said he no longer felt so foolish for mistaking an apartment for a stairwell. I observed how that was probably the first time in my life I had opened the wrong car door, and it just happened to be the time that people were having sex inside. We both wondered why anyone would have sex in their car in a residential street and NOT EVEN LOCK THE DOOR.

And then David changed the subject back to “Survivor”.

This, I realized, is a fundamental difference between me and David. When I open the wrong car and discover people having sex inside, it warrants more than a three-minute conversation.

I dropped David off and turned around to go back to Drew’s apartment, wondering where I was going to park.

It was less than ten minutes later, and that Toyota had been parked directly in front of Drew’s building. If it was still there, I’d have to walk right past it to get to Drew’s. The horny kids would probably see me, and then they’d think of me not only as the perv who burst in on their intimate moment but as the perv who, ten minutes later, came back for more.

Sure enough, when I drove up, the car was still there, parked in the exact same spot.

I parked a block away.

I can’t imagine they were still inside getting their groove on, but I really can’t tell you. I kept my head down as I went past their windows so I wouldn’t be caught peeking in.

I just walked up to Drew’s front door and hit the buzzer, then waited the longest three seconds of my life for him to buzz me in.