Cheeseburger in Paradise

The Penélope Cruz of cheeseburgers.

The Penélope Cruz of cheeseburgers.

I was in the West Village around lunchtime the other day and there are so many great choices in that neck of the woods, but for me there was only one – Corner Bistro.

I originally wrote about this transcendent dining experience more than a decade ago and the only thing that has changed over the years is my taste in women (this will make more sense once you read the story below).


I love hamburgers more than you do. Yeah, I know, you love them too, but I love them more. Maybe you grew up with McDonald’s and Burger King, but I have burgers in my blood. (My grandfather was a butcher.) And no amount of cholesterol can keep me from my life’s mission of finding the best ones in town.

When I’m in L.A., it’s Cassell’s two-thirds of a pound, double-broiled, do-it-yourself landmass of ground beef. When I visit Chicago, I head straight to the burbs for a juicy Hackneyburger on dark rye. But homeboy that I am, I’m here to tell you that neither can touch New York City’s Corner Bistro, where you’ll encounter the Angelina Jolie of burgers. (Editor’s note: I’m sorry, Penélope!) It’s stunning, moist, messy and meaty in all the right places, and here’s the added beauty part — it costs less than five bucks.

When I duck inside this classic West Village tavern, it’s like being transported into a Tom Waits song. It’s cool, dark and funky and the regulars seated at the mahogany bar watching the Mets game look like they haven’t moved from their spots in 50 years.

“Whaddya want?” asks the joint’s only waiter, throwing napkins at me as I settle in a booth.

“Whaddya think?” I answer, although I don’t have anything to throw back. There’s a small menu (nothing costs more than six bucks on it) hanging above the far end of the bar, featuring a few other dishes (chili, BLT, grilled chicken sandwich), but I get the feeling that if I didn’t order a cheeseburger in this paradise, the waiter would stab me with a fork. Not to worry, though. There’s no sign of utensils.

In other words, this is my kind of place. While I wait, I’m struck by how much this hole-in-the-wall smells — and I mean that in a good way. It has that sizzling-meat, is-the-house-on-fire aroma seeping from its pores and it’s making my saliva glands kick into overdrive. As the jukebox is playing ’50s jazz, Van Morrison and other cool blasts from the past, I get all caught up examining the tabletop, which is carved with the names and initials of thousands of hungry carnivores that walked the earth here many years ago.

Practically half an hour later, I snap out of it when Mr. Congeniality places my order in front of me. A great burger, for the uninitiated and vegans alike, is like a beautiful woman — before anything else, you have to devour it with your eyes. I do just that, checking it out from top (crispy lettuce and fresh tomato) to bottom (a thick slice of raw onion) to middle (gooey American cheese), served unadorned, save for a few pickle slices, on a small paper plate.

In the movie version of this story, U2 launches into “Desire” right around now. I open my mouth as wide as I can, trying to cram a taste of everything in the first bite, and as the warm juices explode and pour down my chin, I’m thinking how is this succulent torrent sneaking past my smile? This is truly a great burger — eight ounces or so of flame-broiled, finely-seasoned, ground chuck — prepared the only way a burger should ever be prepared — nicely-charred on the outside, medium rare on the inside. And it tastes the only way a burger should ever taste — hot, juicy, almost sensuous — as plump and inviting as Angelina’s lips. (Editor’s note: Forgive me, Pen!)

Each delectable bite feels like it may give me a heart attack and if it does, it will have been worth it. (The fries, which are two bucks extra, are the thin-cut, salty variety and are on par with Mickey Ds.) Is this the killer burger of all time? Right now, it is! And that’s the best thing about burger greatness — wherever you happen to be is where you’ll likely find it.

And then, from out of nowhere, my heart sinks. In what seems like the blink of an eye, I’m done. An empty paper plate, now stained with the tears of burger juice, is all that remains. How the hell did I let this happen? It was as if I entered the burger Matrix, where time stops and nothing else exists except for my meat and me. (Editor’s note: Oh, nevermind.)

There’s only one thing to do, what any self-respecting burger lover would do in this situation: I order another one — to go.

Friend of the Devil

Her Satanic Majesty.

Her Satanic Majesty.

I was sitting in a neighborhood bar the other night, waiting for God to swing by for some holiday cheer and I’m waiting and waiting because He tends to run late (like the whole world revolves around Him), and finally I get a text saying that He’s sorry, but He can’t make it because He needs to do some last-minute Christmas shopping, which, of course, is just His way of telling me that He met some hot new babe. “Goddamn it!” I texted back, but before I could type another word, a beautiful woman in a blue Prada dress sat down right next to me.

Her: Looks like you got stood up. So did I. Buy me a drink?

Me: Do I know you? You look so familiar. Are you an actress? Have I seen you on TV? BTW, I’m Larry.

Her: Please to meet you. Can you guess my name?

Me: OMG! I knew you looked familiar! I thought you were a man … you know, wealth and taste

Her: Sometimes I’m a man, sometimes I’m a woman and sometimes I’m a scary monster. That reminds me, I need to send a Christmas card to Linda Blair.

Me: Well, whatever you are, you’re smokin’ hot!

Her: Duh! Remember where I live?

Me: What are you doing here anyway? I was supposed to meet God.

Her: He’s so unreliable, isn’t He? Speaking of which, He’s also a total dud in the sack, especially for a guy who’s supposed to be omnipotent. More like rearrange those letters around a bit, if you know what I mean …

Me: You slept with Him?

Her: That’s pretty much all we did. And He snores. Like thunder. So annoying. How about you, Lar? Are you, um, reliable?

Me: I’m really flattered but to be honest, I’m not available. I have a girlfriend.

Her: Ha! I know! I’m just fucking with you! That’s what I do! Temptation is my thing. And just so you know, I was the one who didn’t give you prostate cancer.

Me: That was you? I thought for sure it was Him!

Her: Nope, all me. I think you’re kind of cute. In fact, I’ll make you a little deal.

Me: Are we gonna play chess or something?

Her: That’s my homeboy Death, silly! I’m far more charming. Haven’t you ever seen me in the details?

Me: Yes, yes, I know. I’ve heard about your deals. I grew up on The Twilight Zone and Damn Yankees.

Her: HA! Isn’t it funny how you could now pretty much substitute any New York team? Tebow? That was me! And don’t get all hot and bothered about the Knicks either. Spike’s time is just about up.

Me: So what kind of a deal are we talking about?

Her: What if I told you that I could make you happy for the rest of your life?

Me: Yeah, yeah, yeah and all I need to do is give you my eternal soul, sign in blood and then you give me a massive heart attack or I get hit by a truck, is that about right?

Her: Something like that.

Me: Does this tired routine actually work on people?

Her: Are you kidding? Have you ever been to Hollywood?

Me: You know what? I’m pretty happy with my life right now. No deal.

Her: Honey, do I look like Howie Mandel?

Me: You actually look a lot like Penélope Cruz.

Her: I did that just for you, sweetie. I like you, Larry. We could totally be friends. Let’s stay in touch.

Until Bacon Strips

Going back to my old school.

Going back to my old school.

It was a blue rainy Sunday and ordinarily I’d be feeling slightly depressed because the rain has always been the soundtrack to my sadness, but I wasn’t depressed at all because TWIKARA was coming over in the afternoon and there was absolutely nothing to be depressed about. And I can’t even tell you how one thing led to another, but I wound up looking at my sixth-grade autograph album, which, according to my distressing calculations, has to be more than 40 years old.

The first few pages were filled with black & white pictures of my school, the pledge of allegiance, names of teachers and also something called My Favorites, which included:

Chum: Mark Bogen

Athlete: Lew Alcindor

Book: Of Mice and Men

Song: Hello Goodbye

Profession: Writer

Motto: Silence is golden, so shut up!

Hey, whaddya want? I was 12! The rest of the book was dedicated to what reads like a cross between Emily Dickinson wannabes and a retarded Dean Martin roast. Each kid in my class had an entire page to wish me luck in junior high or recall a fond memory, but most took the low road and wrote something stupid in it like, “Remember Grant, remember Lee, the heck with them, remember me!” They would then fold the page diagonally in half and you weren’t supposed to open it again until “toilet bowls,” “soda pops,” “bed spreads” or, my personal fave, “bacon strips.”

Some entries were exactly what you’d expect from a 12-year-old:


When you’re old and your shirts are all purple,

Remember me who wrote in a circle.


Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

So what?


When you get old and have 49,

Call your first Frankenstein.


Some were surprisingly profound (and most likely, cribbed from somewhere else):


It takes half of our lives to learn who are friends are, and the other half to keep them.


Count your blessings real fast,

Because your sins are coming up the track.


Chicken when you’re hungry,

Water when you’re dry,

A nice gal when you’re twenty,

Heaven when you die.


Some were prophetic:


When you’re old and out of shape,

You’re in big trouble.


2 in a car,

2 little kisses,

2 weeks later,

Mr. and Mrs.


When you fall in a river,

There is a boat.

When you fall in a well,

There is a rope.

When you fall in love,

There is no hope.


And finally, there was one from my mom:


There’ve been worries and joys through the years,

There were times of laughter and times of tears.

You’ve grown to be tall and strong,

Learning each day, right from wrong.

You’re honest and true, bright and kind,

You can feel with your heart as well as your mind.

The milestone you’re passing is just the beginning,

To the battles ahead I know you’ll be winning.

And with this first battle won,

I’m proud to say, you’re my son.


I never thought I’d be crying when bacon finally stripped.

The Best Way to Handle a Compliment

"Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Carlat. I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for young Theodore to read one of your stories."

“Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Carlat. I was just telling Wallace how pleasant it would be for young Theodore to read one of your stories.”

I was having dinner last night with the woman I kissed at Rite-Aid and, suffice it to say, I like her very much and was telling her just that. I’m generally not the gushy type except when I am. All through the evening, I was going on about how beautiful, intelligent, sensitive and interesting she is, and as I did, she nervously laughed.

“I just can’t take compliments,” she said.

“I’m the same exact way,” I admitted.

For as long as I can remember, I could never graciously accept a compliment. Whenever I received high praise, I thought the person praising me must be high. If someone said something nice about, say, my writing, I’d automatically deflect it with a negative response. (“Eh, it was sort of a Woody Allen rip-off and the kicker could’ve been way stronger.”) I just couldn’t stand to hear anybody saying anything good about me, which is pretty ironic because, for as long as I can remember, I lived for everyone’s approval. I wanted nothing more than to be liked/admired/adored/loved and then whenever I got the slightest taste of it, I’d spit it out like sour milk.

Whenever I was commended (and don’t get the wrong idea, it’s not like this happened all that often; geez, there I go again!), I’d feel sick to my stomach. I refused to allow good feelings to sink in. I never fully trusted them (thanks, Eddie Haskell!) and, to be totally honest, didn’t feel like I deserved them. Accepting a compliment meant that I’d have to like myself, which I struggled with for a long time. It also meant that maybe I wasn’t such a fake after all, which I struggled with even longer.

So I’d joke and diminish whatever kind words were being said until they dissipated like smoke, and I undoubtedly sounded unappreciative even though I thought I was being humble and self-deprecating. This went on well into my forties. Then one day my father-in-law, Marty, pulled me aside and gave me the following piece of advice:

“Lar, the best way to handle a compliment,” he said, “is to simply say ‘Thank you.’”

And that’s exactly what I’ve done ever since.

Saying those simple words somehow unlocked the iron gate around my heart and allowed me to trust the genuine affection being bestowed on me. It even led me to finally feel like I may have actually deserved the compliment. In short, I found grace.

Although that’s not her name, I related this little story to the woman I kissed at Rite-Aid (henceforth to be known as TWIKARA) and she smiled her killer smile.

“Your beautiful face lights up when you smile,” I said.

“Thank you,” she said.

Sex, Love and Schmucks, 17 Syllables at a Time


No idea what this means either.

My friend Tony and I wrote a ridiculous, little book a few years ago called “Guyku: Sex, Love and Schmucks — 17 Syllables at a Time.”

Here’s a tiny bit of how we pitched it:

Guyku contains everything you need to know about men from the first magical moment when you drunkenly meet them to the even more magical moment when you get them into bed to the penultimate magical moment in your life when you marry them to the all-time greatest moment of your life when you have children with them to the moment literally right after that when you begin to feel sick to your stomach about them and wish they were dead. We’re kidding, we’re kidding! But not really.

Unfortunately (and perhaps not surprisingly), no one was crazy enough to publish this nonsense.

Until today.



When the sun descends

Your dreams come into focus

Just show more cleavage


A small compliment

Melts the heart of frozen ice

He touches your thigh


On a warm spring night

Loneliness evaporates

Poke him on Facebook


The sensitive guy

Waterfalls of emotion

Also wants to get laid


In a secret room

A dark truth beneath his smile

He likes Taylor Swift


Guys and drugs don’t mix

Unless you’re both on the drugs

Then, oh boy, they do


Warmness of his touch

Gazing deep into your eyes

Hope he’s not a schmuck


Tell him that he’s smart

Even if he’s not that smart

He won’t guess the truth


Secrets you’ve told him

About you and your roommate

Delete those photos


The phone doesn’t ring

He’s just not that into you

Try sexting instead


He likes to stay home

You love to go out dancing

That’s why God made gays


Before you met him

Unbearable loneliness

Now just bearable


When do you confess

That he would finish second

To chocolate pudding



The men are from Mars

And the women from Venus

Uranus is closed


All men are babies

Thinking about the same thing

Just don’t change him … yet


Real intimacy

Requires both love and trust

Good luck with all that


He opens slowly

Revealing his fears and dreams

Then he drops his pants


Softly kiss his eyes

Rub his legs and tired feet

Or pass on the feet


Listen with your heart

That is all you need to know

And a Brazilian


His body language

Expresses hidden desires

And not so hidden


Two souls embrace

A new heartbeat between them

It feels really big


Face of an angel

Lost in your heavenly arms

Wake him in an hour


If you’re done with him

Be nice, let him down gently

Mock him on your blog



Love is just a word

Until someone gives it meaning

You know what we mean


Love is not blind, no

It just helps you see clearly

What others can’t see


Partner and soul mate

Your hearts complete each other

Especially naked


First ask yourself this

Are you with him just because

He does what you ask?


Love vs. “in” love

Two different kinds of things

Little word, big deal


Tattoo with your name

Forever under his skin

Nice visual pun


Your heart beats faster

Whenever you’re around him

Are you doing coke?


How to know for sure

If it’s the right decision?

One way to find out



Scared of commitment

Make it easier on him

Just do everything


Til death do you part

Sounds like sex with one person

Ad infinitum


Love, honor, respect

All sound so good in theory

They are first to go


No bed of roses

In fact, no bed or roses

Where are the roses?


Sometimes wondering

Did I marry the right one?

That is your answer


You had a bad dream

He was sleeping with someone

Turned out to be you


If he’d die for you

It’s not such a good idea

To ask just yet


If he asks the same

If you’d die for him

Change the subject fast


You don’t want children

He dotes on his sisters’ kids

Oh my God — You’re late!



Miracle of birth

Cherish and nurture for life

Your husband is toast


Baby is crying

It’s the middle of the night

Touch his dick; he’s up!


Babies are like crack

You can’t get enough of them

Soon enough, you will


Sex after children?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Ha ha ha ha ha


The babysitter

In her half-shirt and short-shorts

Will not be asked back


A sudden howling

In the corner of your dream

Next time, Ambien!


Alone time is crucial

Safely in each other’s arms

He makes your teeth itch


It’s a short walk from

Faithful, devoted spouse to

Desperate housewife



Guys will sometimes lie

Sure you know nothing about

This subject yourselves


He is working late

He is working still later

Who does he work with?


You trust him plenty

Her you have a problem with

You used to be her


Do not blame yourself

Unless you’re also to blame

Then knock yourself out


Divine forgiveness

Begins in a jewelry store

And ends on the couch


Two dying flowers

Shriveling in the noon day sun

Talking through lawyers


Just sign the papers

You’ll feel like a million bucks

Just sign the papers


Separation sucks

All anger and loneliness

But freeze joint accounts


You keep the children

No, you can keep the children

You keep the children


Time will heal the wound

Annoying when friends say this

Still, they went with you


Don’t let fear scare you

Things will get much better

He was such a schmuck



When all’s said and done

There’s no more need for talking

Wow, what a relief!


Welcome, twilight years!

Vampires without sucking

You are without teeth


The children are gone

Breathe in that freedom again

Oh my God! They’re back!


Geriatric sex

A near-death experience

Every time you try


Bodies not the same

Things don’t work like they used to

Who cares? Keep rubbing!


The hair in his nose

Seems to be growing a beard

Don’t look at his ears


No fool like old fool

Love’s not only thing that’s blind

Also deaf and dumb


What? What did you say?

I didn’t say anything!

Who? Who was that? What?

Days Like This

Another self-portrait taken with Instagram.

Another self-portrait taken with Instagram.

It’s an “all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray” kind of day and I’m always amazed how the weather seems to magically mirror my mood or maybe I get into a mood because of the weather, who knows? Maybe I should ask Sam Champion.

I’m sitting here in my apartment thinking that I should be a whole lot happier for a guy who just learned that he doesn’t have cancer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly thankful and relieved, but instead of turning cartwheels, I’ve been pondering the precariousness of life because that’s what happens when you grow up watching Woody Allen films. You know, fun stuff like how it can all be gone in the blink of an eye, whether it’s your health or your job or someone you love, and all of the other clinically depressing things that pharmaceutical companies have been exploiting and making billions of dollars on.

For the most part, I try not to dwell on these existential matters too often because – duh! – it’s miserable, scary and counterproductive (and I’m also not French), and even thought about not posting this ode to gloominess because god knows why anyone would want to read it? But then I thought that we all have days like this (Mama said).

I used to try to fight my way out of my own head by employing all of the handy antidotes and distractions that we’ve come to know and love such as food, the Internet, TV, music, buying unnecessary crap and, if lucky, sex, but they all proved to be momentary bliss that inexorably wore off like Novocain. There’s no amount of sunshine that can fill the black hole when you’re sitting at the bottom of it.

Then I tried the opposite approach and embraced the sadness. I’d jump into the cold waters of the shadow sea while listening to Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Radiohead and helplessly descend like a drowning man who has given up all hope. I’d just float there holding my breath and let the nothingness envelop me and wouldn’t come up for air until the darkness finally passed.

And that’s what I ultimately learned. That no matter what it was that triggered my malaise, the darkness always gave way to the light of a new morning.

Which is why I now do nothing at all. I just go about my business, thinking that this too shall pass, life goes on, the sun will come out tomorrow (I hate that song too!) and all of the other clichés that have turned out to be true. You can’t run away from days like this and you can’t hold on to it; you just have to accept it and go through it by living your life the best way you know how.

It feels like snow, but I don’t care. It’s time to go outside and face the day.

The Crying Game


If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m sort of a big pussy. Which is to say that I’ve been to known to cry on occasion.

A bunch of my friends like to goof on me about this, but that’s only because they’re even bigger pussies who are pretty much dead inside. Which is to say that they’re just regular guys.

I haven’t always been such a pussy (although I’ve always been big). In fact, one of the reasons I originally went into therapy 25 years ago was because I couldn’t cry. Men didn’t squirt, I learned from my father, who was sort of a dick. Which is to say that I inherited my pussy-osity from my mom.

Although she was the one I couldn’t cry for. I didn’t shed a tear when she died and thought I was also just being a regular guy at the time, keeping my emotions bottled up, but the truth was that I was petrified to feel the excruciating pain of her loss. Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars later, the floodgates finally opened up and have never fully closed.

I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m scared. I cry when I’m relieved. I cry when I’m alone. I cry when I’m with women. In fact, women have always been able to make me cry and once or twice, it was even for joy.

My kids, of course, still lead the league in the crying game. It’s a happy cry these days like when they say, “I love you, Dad.” I’ve also cried with them when things weren’t so happy. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that the people in your heart will make you cry — that’s just the way it works.

Music and movies will also flip the switch, especially when you’ve just found out that you don’t have cancer. I mentioned Kendrick Lamar yesterday and was listening to a Steely Dan playlist last night and totally lost it when I heard these classic lines from “Deacon Blues”:

I cried when I wrote this song

Sue me if I play too long

This brother is free

I’ll be what I want to be

It’s one of my favorite songs and I’ve heard it thousands of times and have never cried once before. How do I explain it? Two words and the first is “big.”

That’s not even the worst of it. The worst of it was when I was watching We Bought a Zoo last night. It’s certainly not Cameron Crowe’s best work, and it also wasn’t Scarlett who made me blubber like a little girl (and why are little girls the go-to metaphor for crying?). There’s one scene where Matt Damon is sitting on the kitchen floor while looking at photos of his dead wife on his laptop that completely set off my sprinkler system. And the ending when he finally takes his children to the place where he first met their beautiful, beloved mother, and Sigur Rós is playing in the background … um, excuse me, I need a moment.

I guess I’ve always been in touch with my feminine side (read: BP), you know, the whole sensitive writer bit, and I’ve always been pretty good at conveying my emotions with words, but sometimes there’s just nothing that compares to a good long cry (and attention all women reading this: I know that you know this well).

And no, Ralph, I don’t have my period.

Happy Endings

It's a wonderful life


You know the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life when Jimmy Stewart is back on the bridge and says, “Help me, Clarence, I want to live again, please God let me live again!” and then Bert the cop calls out his name and Jimmy’s like completely wide-eyed that Bert knows who he is and then he finds Zuzu’s petals in his pocket (“There they are! What do you know about that!”) and starts running in the snow through the streets of Bedford Falls yelling “Merry Christmas” to the old buildings and screaming “Mary, Mary” and that scumbag Lionel Barrymore wishes him a happy new year — in jail — and then Jimmy bursts into his wonderful old drafty house and runs upstairs to see his kids (after kissing the loose ball on the newel post at the foot of the stairs) and there’s Zuzu and Janie doesn’t have a smidge of temperature anymore, and then Donna Reed comes into the house and Jimmy kisses the shit out of her and she drags him back downstairs, and the whole fucking town comes streaming in to bail Jimmy/George out of his trouble with the bank examiner and there’s Uncle Billy and Mr. Martini and that hot slut Violet Bick and then Ernie reads the telegram from London (“Oh!) and it’s from Sam Wainwright, who offers a $25,000 advance, “He-haw and Merry Christmas,” and then Harry Bailey makes the toast to his big brother George, the richest man in town, and everybody sings “Auld Lang Syne” and all of that other super, corny stuff with “teacher says …” and angels getting their wings and “Attaboy, Clarence” … and the ending of A Christmas Carol, the good version with Alistair Sims, when Scrooge wakes up from the visits with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come and he’s half-dazed and mumbling “I’m not the man I was” over and over, and he realizes that he’s alive and not dead and buried in the creepy graveyard, and he skips to the window and is as giddy as a drunken angel and yells downstairs to a young boy who just happens to be walking by and asks him if he knows of the prize turkey hanging in the butcher shop and the kid says, “You mean the one as big as me?” and Scrooge laughs and tells him to go and buy it and he throws the kid a shilling or a half-crown and tells him to have the giant-ass turkey sent to Bob Cratchit’s family, and then Scrooge goes over to his nephew’s house for Christmas dinner and asks the nephew’s wife to forgive him for being such an old Humbug dickhead, and then he’s carrying Tiny Tim on his shoulders and they all sing about razzleberry dressing and woofle jelly cake in the Mr. Magoo cartoon version … and the ending of Hannah and Her Sisters when Woody has hit rock bottom and doesn’t want to go on living and he’s ready to blow his brains out with a rifle, and then it misfires and breaks a mirror, which gets him out of the house to clear his head and he ducks into an old movie theater and he’s sitting in the dark watching the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup playing the helmets of soldiers like a xylophone and they’re singing “Hidee-hidee-hidee-hidee-hidee-hidee-ho” and dancing around like lunatics, and Woody says something about how he needs to stop ruining his life searching for answers he’s never gonna get and just enjoy life while it lasts, and then he sits back and begins to laugh, and as long as we’re on the subject, how great is the last shot when Dianne Wiest tells him that she’s pregnant?

That’s what I imagine it will feel like when the doctor calls and tells me that I don’t have cancer.

The Last Dance

disco ball

Dim all the lights.

I’ve spent too much of my life waiting. I’ve waited for something good to happen, for someone to come along and rescue me, for the phone to ring, for love, happiness, peace of mind, for transcendence. Tom Petty couldn’t have been more wrong – waiting is the easiest part.

Also the stupidest. I watched my mom wait until it was too late. I never understood why she didn’t leave my father. He went to prison when I was four and came home when I was twelve and for those eight years, she waited. We were one big happy family for about a week. He was always scamming and never held a steady job, and my mom worked like a dog to support us and believed my father would eventually hit it big with one of his wild schemes, so she waited some more.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer some years later, she told my father that he needed to find regular work and for more than a year after that she waited again. She finally kicked him out of the house, but they were back together after two months. She waited for my father to become the man she thought he was capable of becoming and she waited and waited and waited until she died at 51.

I was once my mother’s son, especially when it came to love. My first crack at the waiting game came when I was 12 years old (that was some fucking year for me). I was in sleepaway camp, and we had a social with the girls camp from down the road, and I know, this is right out of every cheesy teen movie, but I still wince recalling how I waited the whole night before I finally asked a pretty, little, blond girl if she would dance with me.

A bunch of the other guys went right at it as soon as we got there, but I stayed pretty much all by myself in a corner, trying desperately to look cool on the outside because I was terrified on the inside. It’s really all a blur except for the punch line: the DJ announced that it was time for the last dance of the night. I went into a complete panic and my heart was beating louder than the music as I feebly edged my way to the pretty, little girl and I don’t have a clue what I said except it ended with me retardedly blurting out, “Wanna dance?”

To which she emphatically said, “NO!”

Now forty or so years later, it’s time for the last dance again and I’ll be damned if I wait more than two seconds before asking the pretty, little girl to step out on the floor.

Dumb Luck

Still luckier than this guy.

My teams never win. I’ve always been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cards and love have both proved hapless. And for a Jew, I might as well be Irish.

Unlike my younger son Zach and best friend Tony, I’ve never been especially lucky. I’m not sure why exactly, but it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. Some people (read: non-Jews) believe that we make our own luck and if that’s true, I definitely took a wrong turn somewhere when I lost a testicle. Hell, I can’t even get into Serendipity.

The closest I’ve ever come to winning the lottery was finishing the Shirley Jackson short story and I’m usually drowning at the bottom of Super Bowl and March Madness pools. Although, believe it or not, I have won two contests!

The first one was nearly 25 years ago. My ex-wife Caryn handed me a page from Esquire that invited readers to submit an essay in 100 words or less called “Why You Would Marry Her All Over Again.”

“You should enter this!” she insisted.

“I’ll win,” I said, matter-of-factly.

And I did! I wrote some corny stuff about her laugh and how we watched Knicks games together, but the kicker was what presumably put me over the top: “And we still haven’t had our first child.”

The prizes were a $5,000 diamond ring and a trip to anywhere in the country to eat at the fancy restaurant of our choice. Instead, some cool guy in the magazine’s promotions department agreed to pay for a trip to Joplin, Missouri where we went to court in order to officially adopt Robbie, our first child.

The second contest was several years later when I was the editor of a sports business magazine and was at a trade show in Atlanta. A manufacturer of one of those big-ass, portable basketball backboard and hoop things was giving one away to anyone who could sink an NBA three-pointer.

And again, I did! We were living in an apartment in Forest Hills at the time and had to store it in its original giant box in the basement. We left it there unopened when we moved to Long Island a few years later.

I’m telling you these stories because luck had nothing to do with either of them. It was pure skill, my friends (full disclosure: the trey banked in), and I’ve always prided myself on that. But I think my luck may be changing.

I’d tell you more about her, but I don’t want to jinx it.

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