One Good Thing About a Hurricane

hurricane sandy

Sandy, the aurora is rising behind us.

One good thing about a hurricane is that it forces you to connect with the people you love.

My sons, who are up in Binghamton and down in Tampa, both texted me the other night to see “what was what” (which is the way guys tell each other we’re concerned) in Brooklyn. I also texted with my ex-wife, who lost power in Long Island, and we joked about all of the times we were snowbound together and ended up telling each other to stay safe. I did the same with my last girlfriend, who lives in Queens, and was entertaining her small children while the lights flickered on and off.

I emailed and texted the woman I’m currently dating to see how she and her teenage daughter were faring on the Upper West Side, and checked in with my friends Tony and John, who both live downtown and lost power sometime Monday night. My old pal Steve in Boca Raton emailed to make sure that I wasn’t drowning in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel — and I even heard from someone I was briefly involved with a few years ago, who was also sleep- and powerless in Manhattan and just wanted to say a quick hi in the dark.

My sister Patti, who lives in Scottsdale, texted to see how Sandy was treating me. And even though we were just in a big fight and weren’t speaking with each other, we were able to put that shit aside. Worrying always becomes the first priority.

When bad things happen, we instinctively need to hear from those closest to us –especially if they’re not physically near — so we know that everything will be all right. And maybe I need it more than most. Maybe I’m just a big mama’s boy (read: pussy) whose mom has been dead for more than 30 years, but the reassurance of connecting with a loved one during the bad craziness going on right outside my window makes me feel warm and safe inside. And I’m not just talking about my apartment.

Obviously, texting, emailing, and social media bring us together so much easier and faster, which led me to post the following question on Facebook yesterday:

How did we all ride out a storm before Facebook and Twitter?

An old friend answered “Drugs!” but the real answer is that we didn’t have so many choices back in the dark days before the Interwebs and simply picked up our phones. Don’t get me wrong: It was great to hear from family and friends, but I dearly missed the sound of their voices. All of our back and forth was online or texting, and I’m pretty OK with it because that’s the way we all live in the world these days. But part of me really isn’t so OK at all.

Which is why I called my sister yesterday.

“Hi,” I said. “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

“I’m so glad you called. I really am,” Patti said. “I wanted to call you on Monday, but didn’t know how you’d feel so I texted instead.”

“I know. That’s why I called you,” I said. “I just wanted to tell you that I love you.”

“I love you, too,” she said.

And that was the one good thing.

A Fool’s Journey


Holy crap! That’s me!

I haven’t told you much about my recent palm and tarot card readings, mainly because there’s not a lot to reveal just yet.

That’s true but not completely. I’ve been procrastinating like crazy and should’ve written about the experience two months ago and because I didn’t, I’ve forgotten some important details, which is why this will be fuzzier than usual.

So …

As soon as I walked into Diane Gerber’s Brooklyn Heights apartment on a sunny September afternoon, I knew she was the real deal because the first thing I noticed was a series of small feng shui mirrors in her kitchen. Apparently, she’s also a psychologist and has been doing readings for more than 20 years.

I sat down at her dining room table and after a few minutes of idle chitchat (did you know that prehistoric men left prints of their palms in caves? I didn’t!), she asked me to hold up both of my hands as if she was about to rob me at gunpoint. We started with my left hand and she explained that the left shows what you’ve inherited from your parents as well as serving as your personality’s blueprint, while the right is about your present life and future. Diane then said something about how much I had loved my father so I checked to see if it was really my hand and then told her that she was off-base on that particular insight, so we immediately switched to my right.

I admitted that I was scared for her to look at my life line because it’s kind of short and I didn’t wanna hear that I should’ve kicked the bucket in the mid-nineties. She assured me that length (and why are women forever reassuring dudes like me on that subject?) had nothing to do with longevity and that it’s really more about the quality of your life, which I took as the kind of thing she says to everyone with a relatively short-ass line.

“It looks like you’ve had a few bumps in the road,” she said after studying it for a moment. “There are a few breaks in the line and from what I can tell, you had a really rough time in your forties.”

I nodded in agreement and told her that was when my marriage began to go south and then we moved on to my heart line, which represents your emotional life.

“You’re very sensitive,” she said two seconds after examining it.

“That’s what all the girls say,” I lamely joked.

Diane went on to tell me that I’m also very creative and talked about how each finger represents a different planet (specifically, Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) and how each planet represents a different aspect of your life. She also talked about different “mounts” on my hand, which are like little warehouses of energy.

The Mount of Venus (located at the base of your thumb) shows how passionate you are and the good news is that I’m an off-the-charts hottie. On the other hand (horrible pun intended), my Saturn finger (which is, not coincidentally, the same finger I use to give the finger with) seems to be dominant and shows a tendency towards depression. Finally, she noticed that my marriage lines (on the side of the palm near the pinky) were fading and far apart. This was enough for me to ball up my hand into a sad fist and ask to move along to the tarot portion of our program.

Here’s how a tarot reading works: As the cards are dealt, they land in positions that supposedly represent your past, present and future and the meaning of any card can be interpreted differently depending on where exactly they land in the spread. This sounded all well and good, just as long as I didn’t see a Death card or find out that I was going to marry a Kardashian.

We only had time for three questions and my first was about my older son Rob’s future employment. I shuffled the deck a few times and then cut the cards into three piles, which Diane picked up and began to lay out. She saw that Rob had gone through some of his own crap and may continue to have ups and downs but will ultimately be okay. The cards also showed that he has a strong work ethic, but is easily led astray. Diane added that Rob has a good heart and that was the precise moment I fully bought into this tarot nonsense.

The next two questions were about me, specifically about my work and love life. I first asked if I was ever going to get rich from writing, and the cards suggested that if I just kept my head down and worked hard, I’d eventually be successful (note to self: don’t bail on this stupid blog just yet).

The read on my love life was far more engrossing. The first card that came up was the Queen of Swords and Diane asked if there had been a strong, independent woman in my life recently.

“That sounds exactly like my last girlfriend,” I readily admitted.

The next card (brought to us by the goddamn Universe) was the Fool.

“Well, I’ve been called worse,” I cracked. “Lately by the Queen of Swords.”

“The Fool represents someone who’s in search of new experiences,” Diane explained. “Someone who is at the beginning of a journey and seeks a fresh start.”

“Holy crap!” I muttered to myself. “That’s me!”

The card that reared its ugly head after that was the Devil.

“What’s my father doing here?” I sarcastically asked. Diane explained that the Devil in this context meant that I’d be having lots and lots of sex.

“It doesn’t look like you’re going to find love so quickly,” she said finally, “but you’re definitely going to have lots of fun and interesting romantic adventures this next year.”

OMG! Tarot is even better than feng shui!

I Think, Therefore IM (With Zach)


Promise that you will sing about me.

Z: Ackerman’s dad passed away. Shits crazy!

L: That sucks. Knew he was really sick.

Z: Yeah, I feel so bad. His sister is my age.

L: I know. His dad must’ve been about my age, right?

Z: Don’t die please!

L: Not intending on it anytime soon. Would like to be a very old man so you guys can change my dirty diapers.

Z: I’d be happy to.

L: That’s what you say now. BTW, I’m going for stupid sonogram in a few days. And will let you know if I’m dying or not.

Z: Sounds good.

L: What freaks you out most about death? And, in particular, mine?

Z: Mostly not having someone to go to when I have problems or any type of questions, especially the person I’ve gone to for the past 20 years.

L: Won’t you miss my sense of humor?

Z: Yeah, but I’ll continue the legacy.

L: No doubt. Do you ever think about your own death? Most kids your age don’t.

Z: No. I think about my friends that have passed away and it makes me more inclined to make better decisions. Like driving-wise and drinking-and-driving-type of shit.

L: That’s interesting, that it actually made an impact.

Z: Yeah, one of my best friends choked on his own vomit and died freshman year. It was horrible.

L: I remember you telling me about it. I was just thinking: that new Kendrick Lamar song that we both love so much? It’s all about death!

Z: The whole hook is asking for a promise that you’ll sing about him when he’s gone.

L: Will you sing about me?

Z: You’re so gay.

L: What scares you the most about dying?

Z: I have big plans for the future so I can’t be taken off this earth too soon.

L: That’s an excellent answer and why I love you so much.

Z: I love you too.

L: And that’s the end of today’s story.

Beginnings and Endings


You say “goodbye” and I say “hell no.”

I’ve always been good at writing beginnings and endings because nobody really cares much about the middle. I slave over the first sentence (called “the lede”) and the last (“the kicker”) of a story until they sound completely tossed off the top of my head while, at the same time, knocking you on your ass.

The way I deal with beginnings and endings in real life is a different story. The beginning of most anything ­­– going to a new school, starting a new job, beginning a new relationship, even becoming a new dad – always filled me with anxiety. I guess it makes sense as you really don’t know what you’re doing or exactly how and where you fit in. You’re stumbling around in the dark until one day when you see the light and officially enter the middle – the part, in real life, that everybody cares about the most.

Beginnings can also be great fun, especially in the relationship department. There are few things better in life than when you first feel that magical spark that connects you with someone special. Anxiety quiets down and stumbling straightens out and all you’re left with is an incredible feeling of light. And that alone makes beginnings about a million times better than those dreaded ends.

Other than in the movies, endings kinda suck. And I’m not just talking about death. Endings are painful because they make you face certain truths about yourself – the kind of truths that can rock you to your core – and there’s really no way to run away from them. Although, God knows, I’ve tried. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ducked out of someone’s going-away party at work because I couldn’t tolerate the feeling of saying goodbye. Maybe it’s just a classic abandonment issue or maybe it’s that I don’t like to feel the pain of losing someone. And that goes double (times a million) for saying goodbye to someone I’ve loved.

When my mom was dying of cancer, I tried my best to run away and escaped into the loving arms of the woman who would become my wife, hoping that I could somehow dodge the pain bullet. And even though I didn’t cry at my mom’s funeral, the heartbreak eventually barged in and knocked me on my ass.

And speaking of heartbreak and crying, I’ve called it quits with three women in my life who’ve I’ve loved and it was like facing my own death each and every time. There was no dodging of bullets. On the contrary, they ripped through my heart until it felt like it was no longer there.

But that’s not to say that all endings are final. After some time, an interesting thing happens when you get back to the middle of your life. The part that you thought was dead and gone – all of the reasons why you loved someone in the first place – miraculously heals and comes back to life and when you think of that person, it no longer feels sad and painful.

In fact, that part lives on in your heart until the day you die.

A Literal Panic Attack

panic attack

Panic not at the disco.

I’m going to get that sonogram a week from today and have been praying to what’s-His-face, usually first thing in the morning and sometimes late at night when I can’t shut off the caffeinated monkey voices in my head. Here’s what I’ve been saying:

Please don’t let me have cancer! Please don’t let me have cancer! Please don’t let me have cancer! Please don’t let me have cancer! Please don’t let me have cancer! Please don’t let me have cancer! Please don’t let me have cancer!

After a few minutes, I start singing it to the tune of the old Animals song “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” It’s become my new mantra and the truth is, I’m not really even asking Him (and not even sure why I keep capitalizing the H either, although I’m told He’s kind of into it), I’m really just trying to convince myself that I’ll be okay.

By simply putting the words out there to the Universe (cap U intended), maybe whoever’s in charge or even some Twilight Zone-looking aliens or, you know, really anyone who is kind enough to listen will listen, and when I go for the sonogram next week, the doctor will tell me that I’m clean and I’ll start crying like a baby, you watch.

I didn’t plan to write this. I was working on another post about beginnings and endings, and as soon as I started to riff about how I’ve always hated all kinds of endings and how I usually handle (read: don’t handle) goodbyes, the “Please don’t let me have cancer” refrain came spewing out, and even as I write this now, I have no idea what’s coming next.

It’s the opposite of writer’s block — a literal panic attack — and the only way I know to calm myself down. I don’t know where it will lead but hope/pray that I arrive at a place where I feel like my old self (sans cancer), and that it’s not my time just yet.

That’s exactly what my friend Ralph said the other day and Ralph is never wrong and right now, that’s good enough for me. 

The Hunger Game Too

ippudo pork buns

Sublimely ridiculous.

Eating has always been a deeply spiritual experience for me. Which is the fake-profound way of saying that I’ve always been a fat fucking pig.

I’ve seen God in a slice of Ray’s Pizza (the Original on W. 11th Street, and okay, okay, I was high at the time, but still), in a still-hot Everything bagel from H&H at dawn, in the sublime pork buns at Ippudo (it’s in the East Village and you’ll have to wait at least an hour for a table and it’s so worth it), in the middle of the night at Wo-Hop in Chinatown (order the spare ribs and Chicken Kew) and innumerable other times. If Jesus really wanted to save my ass, all he’d have to do is hand me a Nathan’s hot dog with mustard.

For a lot of us, food is right up there with sex as life’s most sublime pleasure (and if you’ve never combined the two, you’re really missing out). A wonderful bite can truly be transformative. If you close your eyes, the real world fades away and you’re lost inside of a dream, and yes, I’m talking about food here, so get your mind out of the gutter for a minute. The better something tastes, the better it makes you feel. It warms your heart and feeds your soul and nourishes things inside of you that you didn’t even know needed sustenance, and if that’s not a type of religion, I don’t know what is.

And just like happiness, food is best savored when shared. I used to make the Ray’s run with my old pal Steve, had that Everything bagel with my ex-wife before we were married, go to Ippudo religiously with my best friend Tony and would visit Wo-Hop (and sometimes Nathan’s) in the middle of the night with my brother Mike. And I’m positive that none of it would’ve tasted nearly as transcendent if these people who I love weren’t there stuffing their faces alongside of me.

Of course, love is what this whole thing is about (and if you haven’t caught on by now, the subject of almost every other post on this blog). God is love (or so I’ve heard) and food is love and speaking of the L word, you can pretty much tell everything you need to know about somebody just by the way they eat.

Zach and I were out to dinner one night and he was telling me how he hates eating with the girls at school because all they do is play Tetris with the food on their plate and hardly ever take a single bite.

“Dude, are you fucking kidding me? It’s all about appetite!” I said, so quick to dispense this important fatherly advice. “If a woman digs in and truly loves to eat … do I really need to draw you a picture?”

“I never really thought about it that way,” said the dumbass.

“But all bets are off,” I said, “if she’s eating vegetables.”

The Hunger Game


I was told there’d be cake.

Although it has rarely given me much pleasure, happiness has been one of my favorite subjects to write about. I’ve always felt like I was looking at it through the window of a dream bakery at night (and for some reason, it’s always snowing), hungering to stuff my fat face with the sweetness of the world. And the more I write about it, the more elusive it seems to be.

I’ve tweeted about it incessantly:

Happiness isn’t always the best way to be happy.

For a lot of us, happiness is the scariest thing.

I don’t think I’d know happiness if it bit me in the ass. OWWW! Something just bit me in the ass!

And still, nothing!

I’ve wasted a lot of time searching for happiness on what has seemed to be an unending snipe hunt, knowing perfectly well that the sneaky fucker has been hiding inside of me all along. The realization that it comes from within, however, has still left me without.

If you’ve endured enough therapy, you understand that you’re the only one who can make yourself happy (despite countless hours talking about your mom, and, in my case, Penélope Cruz) and yet I continue to seek it elsewhere. Part of my pointless quest is a silly notion that sharing happiness with another happy person would make all of that happiness even happier, but mostly it’s my fantasy that someone will come along and feed my fat face with the sweetness of her world.

It was my last girlfriend who asked me one night if it were possible to be content without someone to share it with. She said that she wasn’t sure.

“For me, I think the answer is a definite no,” I told her.

Whenever I think about the instances I’ve truly been happy, it has invariably involved other people (Sartre can go to Hell!) – my kids and friends, followed by my ex-wife and various other women. And the time I met Steve Martin in his hotel room.

Of course, music, movies, TV, books, art and all of that cultural crap have also done the trick, but that brand of happiness still doesn’t compare to the feeling of sharing any of those fun things with someone you love.

I know that I’ve been rambling and contradicting myself here and think that’s also part of the problem, if you could even call this a problem. There I go again. I’ve always been confused about how to find happiness, and often didn’t appreciate it on the occasions when it has opened its door and let me come inside for a taste.

Oh look! There goes happiness now!

Are you gonna eat that?

V Isn’t for Vendetta



So I haven’t done any traditional blogging yet because I’d rather tell my own little stories here and really don’t give a crap about what’s going on in the non-secular worlds of religion and spirituality, but when I read this post, I said to myself, “Finally, an opening! The perfect opportunity to talk about vaginas!”

In a nutshell (and talk about mixing your metaphors): some Christian writer lady used the word “vagina” (twice!) in her book about trying to follow the laws of the Bible for a year and some Christian conservative bookstore chain refused to carry it. The HuffPo dude (to say nothing of the razor-sharp women of Jezebel) makes an impassioned and intelligent case against the stupid bookstore and the stupid conservative Christians and I agree with him 100 percent, and the whole thing makes me very happy to be a Jew. For fucking once.

Because here’s the thing about Jews and vaginas: We love them! A shit-ton!

And would never ban them from anywhere — least of all bookstores! Could you imagine a Barnes & Noble without Philip Roth? In fact, vaginas are to Jews as … I can’t even think of a comparison because there’s nothing that compares. Vaginas rule! Ask any of my pornographer relatives!

Jews and vaginas have always been besties. It’s right there in the Bible! I’m pretty sure that whole Sodom and Gomorrah mess had more than a few ladyparts in it. And Jesus’ conception may have been immaculate, but I’m also pretty sure he didn’t pop out of Mary’s ass (and I don’t mean the donkey).

So my main question is: What the hell is wrong with these holier-than-thou-rollers? Do they not ever have sex? Or do they have sex without vaginas? Or do they have a special safe word for it like cooter or Oprah’s minge?

Don’t get me wrong, I know this isn’t the majority view for all Christianity. For chrissakes, who (other than us chosen people) likes vaginas more than those freaky-ass Mormons? I just don’t understand how any group of God-fearing — and apparently, vajayjay-fearing — people can disrespect women as much as these pious idiots obviously do.

Newsflash: God loves Him some vagina! That’s why He (or She) invented people!

And fucking!

Big Sighs

penelope cruz

More bruisin than Cruz-in.

As you get older, you’re forced to face some of the realities of life.

Mainly, death.

But there are others, too. For example:

I will never sleep with Penélope Cruz.

Javier Bardem’s wife never returns any of my texts and my calls go straight to voicemail. I’ve joked about this before, but when I really think about it, it saddens me in such a profound way that can only be mollified by a few minutes on Netflix or YouPorn.

I will never be famous.

I’m not exactly sure why I wanted to be famous, but I know it had to do with that whole wanting to be adored thing, or the potentially sleeping with Penélope Cruz thing (I mean, look at her!) and, of course, my mom. When I was a kid, I used to watch the Academy Awards with her and she’d get all excited when they presented the Oscar for best screenwriter because the winner would invariably thank their folks. “That’ll be you up there one day,” she’d say while blowing Marlboro smoke in my face. “Don’t forget to thank me!” Believe it or not, I always thought that it would be me up there one day. But since it won’t, here’s the end of my fantasy acceptance speech: “And finally, I’d like to thank my mom who loved me in a way that I’m still trying to figure out.”

I will never be too rich or thin.

I’ve never had a lot of money. I grew up unreasonably poor and have done way better than my parents did as an adult, but we were never swimming in cash, although we did, for a time, have a pool. Aboveground. But still. The truth is that if I ever had a lot of money, I’d only have half of it now. And I love bread and butter way too much to ever fit into my skinny jeans.

I will never believe in God.

I’ve tried. God, I’ve tried. And I’m still trying. If only He gave me a sign … GODDAMNIT! My chest! It feels … vise around … heart. ARGHH! Okay! Okay! I give! I give! Jeez! You are such a fucking showoff!

I will never be happy.

I’ve been wrestling with this one for so long that I’m not even sure what it means anymore. I’ve certainly known happiness in my life, and hope to Hell I can squeeze in a little more of it before the inescapable realities really start to bite. But I don’t think I’ve ever been an especially happy person and that’s with and without meds. Which is not to say that I’m not a lot of fun to be around. Or don’t know how to have a good time. It’s just who I am and who I’ve always been and likely, who I’ll always be. Unless I sleep with … oh, nevermind.

I will never find the woman of my dreams.

The Stupid Game of Life


Where the hell is Millionaire’s Mansion?

My last girlfriend believed that if you really wanted something in life, all you had to do was ask the universe for it. I’m not talking about fantasies of winning the Powerball jackpot or having a three-way with Penélope Cruz (um, wait, that one was mine) but rather, asking for things that were somehow attainable. She’s one of the most diligent people I’ve ever known and has certainly reaped the benefits of her hard work. She just believes in her heart that it also doesn’t hurt to get a little help from the great beyond. “If you put it out there,” she’d say, double-bubbling with optimism, “it will come back to you.”

Now whenever I’ve tried to put it out there, the universe generally stomped on it with its stiletto heels (I see Eddie Izzard as the universe) and it hurt like a motherfucker. Maybe that was because I’m one of those people who believe that everything happens for a reason, and that reason is — everything is totally random.

A year or so after we met, either because of the cosmos or randomly, we broke up. We’re still friends and were talking recently about her theory of asking the universe for relative shit, or as I like to call it “playing the stupid game of life.”

She made a few interesting observations. We were chatting about my father-in-law, Marty, who I wrote about the other day, and she asserted that maybe he was the father who I always wanted (because God knows, I certainly didn’t want my own), and here was the universe giving me something that I desperately needed without me even asking for it (except for that one niggling detail of Marty now being dead – thanks for nothing, idiot universe!)

Not only was she right, but the truth is that I had always asked for it, maybe not out loud, but certainly in my thoughts and whatever passed for bedtime prayers, ever since my father went to prison when I was four years old. Twenty-five years later when I married, Marty came into my life and filled the hole in my heart.

I had always wanted to be a writer, she further affirmed, and had put it out there ever since I was in kindergarten and it has unmistakably come back to me. And it’s not at all random because it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do with my life and the universe listened and that’s why you’re reading this now instead of me yanking out your appendix or embezzling your 401k.

“You also always wanted a hot writer girlfriend. And the universe came through for you again. Big time!” she finally reminded me. “If you think about it, the universe has really given you everything you’ve ever asked for.”

She was right.

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