What I Wrote On a Flight to L.A.

heart on love seat

Sitting pretty.

When it comes to sitting next to interesting people on airplanes (read: women), I’ve always had pretty good luck. I had one of the great conversations of my life a few years ago with a fascinating older woman on a flight to Las Vegas. She was married to a semi-famous actor who was on one of those doctor shows in the mid-sixties and I don’t remember what it was called, but we spent the entire flight talking about how her husband had cheated on her and how my ex-wife had cheated on me.

And speaking of luck and interesting people, today’s another perfect example. The woman sitting in the window seat looks to be a few years younger than me and is extremely cute. But that’s not the thing. The thing is that I saw her even before we boarded. We were both hanging out near the gate at one of those counters where you can plug in your phone or computer, and I kept glancing her way because she looked so damn familiar.

And the thought that keeps running through my head is something that my friend Laura, who believes in all of that woo-woo, spiritual mumbo jumbo crap, told me about noticing the little things around you, and how the smallest detail can be significant, and how that’s the way the stupid universe works. And here I am thinking — the motherfucking universe, you sly dog, you!

Hold on a second. I’m gonna talk to her.

“I can’t believe there’s no one in the middle seat,” I say. “That never happens anymore.”

“I know, right?” she says. “Remember in the old days when you’d take the red-eye and you could just lay out across all three seats?”

That was just her!

Cute, right?

We’re about to take off and how come no matter what time of day or night you’re flying, something like a roofie kicks in and you just pass out and begin to drool like a zombie baby? I’ve always been the world’s worst sleeper, but it’s lights out for me on every trip.

And look! It’s the same for her! Which is my cue to wake the hell up and check her out a little bit more. (And how pervy did that just sound?) The first thing I noticed was the ring on her left hand. On her middle finger. Hmm, what’s the universe trying to tell me here?

She’s very much my type — tall and thin, long dark hair, pretty in a natural way; she could be Mary-Louise Parker’s Jewish sister. I was watching her eat potato chips before and she was crunching so loudly and, of course, I registered that as flirting.

Wait! I’m gonna talk to her again.

No, no, wait! I have a better idea. I’m writing this on my iPad and I’m just gonna hand it to her to read.*

Here goes nothing.

*Update: Her name was Sara, a fifth-grade teacher from Bed-Stuy, who was on her way to visit her “one true love” for a long weekend.

That Lucky Fuck

the dude

The Dude abides.

My best friend, Tony, lives a charmed life. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s been a lucky bastard. He married one of the world’s greatest women, lives in a beautiful apartment in the West Village, has a plum job and plenty of cool, smart friends. He’s the goddamn poster boy for When Good Things Happen to Good People.

We always talk about this. “How the hell did you do all of this?” I’ll ask. “And more importantly, where did I go wrong?”

“I have no idea,” he’ll answer, and then we’ll just sip our beers and continue to talk about women.

But I’ve been thinking about it lately. Why does one person seemingly have it all (him!) while another (moi, the Jew) struggles to keep his head above water? Is it merely dumb luck? Fate? Believing in God? Does he deserve to be happy any more than I do? Or is everything completely random?

We both come from similar blue-collar backgrounds, have both worked hard over the years, share the same worldview and emotional sensibilities, and we’re both known as nice guys … jeez, we’re even the same goddamn height! And yet I’m the one the Coen Brothers based A Serious Man on, while Tony, of course, is The Dude. 

Case in point: Tony DMed me on Twitter the other night on the way home from Minneapolis after watching the Vikings beat the Jaguars in overtime:

Vikings game was way too much fun. We sat in the front row and the cheerleaders hi-fived us on TDs. I was also on the jumbotron.

You really have a charmed life. I think I’m gonna write a blog post about this. Your life vs. mine.

No you are not. Keep my charmed life out of there, other than an oblique reference to “that lucky fuck.”

Um … sorry, man.

On second thought, I guess I’ve been lucky in other ways. I have two wonderful children, I’m in good health, … er … did I mention my kids?

But maybe I’ve been looking at this whole destiny thing wrong. Maybe I’ll end up finding true love. Maybe I’ll find the one important thing that will finally fulfill me. Maybe I’ll live out the rest of my life in peace.


*With apologies to Steve Martin

Carlat Luck 2

Not so hidden treasure

Fortune hunting.

Zach and I went out to P.F. Chang’s the other night and after waiting for about an hour, we were finally seated in what looked like the best table in the house.

We ordered a bunch of appetizers and eyed several other dishes, including a group of hot, young women wearing ridiculously short skirts in the booth next to us. I don’t get to spend all that much time with Zach these days and had almost forgotten what a sweet, funny and amazing kid he is.

Add to that list: starving. You know you’re eating good food when there’s no talking at the table and Zach and I happily stuffed our faces in what seemed like deep space. Our silent revelry was soon interrupted by our waiter, who placed another order of dumplings on our table.

“Did you guys enjoy those dumplings?” he asked, pointing to our already demolished plates.

“Yeah, they were awesome!” we both answered in between bites.

“Well, they were vegetable and you guys asked for pork,” he said. “So here’s the correct order and, of course, it’s on the house.”

“Dad,” Zach said, smiling hard, “that’s Carlat luck.”

We both laughed and continued to shovel in spicy chicken and shrimp lo mein until we couldn’t breathe. You know you’ve eaten a lot of good food when it leaves you gasping for air.

We did, however, save just enough room for fortune cookies. Zach’s read: Endurance and persistence will be rewarded. We both agreed that this prophecy seemed pretty right on for a college student.

Mine was even more on the money:

Treasure what you have.

Carlat Luck


Good lick.

I was taking Zach back to school in Tampa a few days ago and as we were waiting to board our flight, I showed him this blog.

“That’s cool,” he said, glancing at it for a microsecond while checking Facebook on his iPhone.

“You know what?” I asked. “How about I interview you for it?”

“Cool,” he said, while texting with his girlfriend.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this question before,” I began, “which is really incredible and I have no idea what you’re gonna answer.”

“Nobody told me there was gonna be a test,” he cracked. “Okay, shoot.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“I don’t know if I’d call him God or anything,” he answered. “But yeah, I believe that there’s something bigger than us.”

“That’s interesting because you know your mom and I don’t believe, which is why we never forced Hebrew school on you,” I explained. “Why do you believe?”

“I don’t know, I just kinda do. Never really thought about it and can’t really explain it. It’s like I feel that we all need to believe in something, you know?” he said, warming to the subject. “It’s kinda nice knowing you have something to hold on to when times are shitty, and when you can’t always look to the people around you for help, that’s when you can turn to whatever it is you believe in.”

As he was talking, I couldn’t help but think that even though I’m somewhere between agnostic and atheist, Zach’s pretty much the best evidence I’ve ever seen of God’s existence.

“I definitely believe in karma, though,” he continued. “I think if you’re a good person, good shit will happen to you. My friends call it Carlat luck.”

“Gimme some examples.”

“Well, I remember going to Dairy Queen this one time and I forgot my wallet and told them that it was my birthday, and they gave me a free sundae. And like whenever I go to a concert, I somehow always manage to make my way to the front row,” he said. “And my roommate Matt says that it doesn’t make a difference who our new roommate will be and how he’ll definitely be cool ’cause I have Carlat luck.”

I’ve had Carlat luck too, I thought. My father did two stints in prison, my mother died from breast cancer when she was 51, I had testicular cancer when I was in my early thirties, I got divorced when I found out that my wife was having an affair…when it comes to luck, I’m right up there with Lou Gehrig.

Zach has a tattoo on his right shoulder that says “The World Is Yours” (from the Nas song), and underneath it is an illustration of a hand gripping the globe.

“Your tat really says it all, dude,” I told him.

“I know, right?”

“You really are a lucky guy.”

Zach smiled. “Oh”, he said, “and I also have a friendly face.”

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