An Act of God

monsters maple street

God and monsters laugh.

Act  I. Scene I.

Me and Him walk into a bar …

me: (angrily) Are you fucking kidding me with this Sandy shit?

Him: (casually) What can I say? I was bored. (He downs a shot of whiskey)

me: (very loud) Bored!? There are millions of people without power! (Larry takes a pull on beer)

Him: Now they all feel what it’s like NOT to be me! HA! I crack myself up.

me: (getting more perturbed) You destroyed homes! You killed people!

Him: I guess that Geico lizard is going to be a busy beaver, excuse the mixed metaphor.

me: You really suck, you know that?

Him: Why are you getting all Erin Brockovich/Norma Rae on me? You still have cable and wi-fi, right? (He takes another shot)

me: (meekly) Um…yes. Thank God.

Him: You’re welcome.

me: What about screwing up mass transit? People can’t go to work and kids can’t go to school? (Larry nurses beer while slowly peeling off label)

Him: Like I said, you’re welcome.

me: (Waits a beat, thinking) Don’t you usually save this armageddon shit for Florida or the Panhandle? Isn’t it enough that New York gets the terrorist shaft every time you read a Tom Clancy novel?

Him: (laughs) Oh, don’t worry. I have something extra fun planned for Florida, especially if they wind up going for that idiot Romney.

me: (deep sigh) My closest friends in Manhattan and Long Island are sitting in the dark, finishing the last of their ice cream and eating mayonnaise out of those disgusting little squeeze packets. Do something!

Him: (pleasantly) This is me doing something. I’m watching! You know the famous Twilight Zone episode when the alien monsters fuck with the Maple Street people by turning the lights off and on, and they get all paranoid and panic-stricken? Who do you think gave Serling that idea?

me: (angry) This is the Devil’s work! How are people supposed to believe in you when you do horrible stuff like this? (Larry finishes rest of beer, rips off remainder of  label)

Him: Hey, it’s just nature! It’s not like I’m sitting up here judging you. Um, wait. And the devil’s work? You offend me, sir. Did you see the satellite-view of that hurricane? It was a thing of beauty. The Devil is an amateur. I’m an artist. (He takes another shot but the glass is empty) Hit me one more time, will ya!

me: (softly) You know, I was supposed to go for a sonogram tomorrow and now it’s been postponed.

Him: Dude, I’m doing you a favor. Unless you were really looking forward to having a probe stuck up your ass. And I may be wrong about this, but I don’t remember making you gay. (He downs another shot) Mmm. Nectar of the Gods. No, no, wait! Nectar of me! That’s good.

me: (almost whispering, eyes shut) I just want to get it over with already. That’s all.

Him: (puts his arm around Larry’s shoulder and looks him in the eye) Lemme hit you with a newsflash: You don’t have cancer! (pauses) Or maybe you do! Who knows? HAHA! This is like a private Twilight Zone screening just for you! I love fucking with you people! (to bartender) One more for the road! I’m feeling no pain. HA! I never feel pain!

me: What ever happened to your famous compassion?

Him: You should’ve seen me last night. None of those Muslim virgins were complaining, I’ll tell you what.

me: (exasperated) I thought God is love.

Him: Like I just said. (pauses and leans in close, speaking conspiratorially) Look, Lar, here’s the deal: Sometimes I do unspeakably horrible things and sometimes I do unimaginably beautiful things and sometimes I truly fuck up and you read all about it in UsWeekly, but mainly I’m a good guy just trying to get by. Like you. (hiccups and then sings) “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?” I fucking love that song! (He puts on his leather jacket) You got this, right?

God exits stage right into the cold, dark night.


Nature Calls

prospect park

A day in the park.

I’m sitting on a bench in Prospect Park on one of those killer fall days that we never seem to get enough of and thought this would be as good a time as any to say a few words about the spiritual nature of nature.

But first I’m just going to close my eyes. And listen. It’s so peaceful today, which is really saying a lot because this is, after all, Brooklyn. There’s almost a sense of holiness here and I feel like I’m connected to everything that’s going on around me.

OMG! The hottest black chick wearing yellow compression shorts just jogged by!

Did I mention the sky? It’s that perfect cerulean blue etched with billowy clouds right out of a Maxfield Parrish illustration and the trees swaying in the breeze look as if they’re breathing and it’s almost impossible not to believe that there’s a higher power at work here, one who created …

Holy shit! A MILF just strolled by with her little boy and I swear to God, she was wearing stiletto heels!

And the colors! Let’s talk about the colors. I’ve never liked the word “foliage” as it always struck me as a bullshit way of saying “leaves” but to be honest, neither word does today’s scene justice. The autumn leaves look like they’ve been meticulously colored in with the fancy Crayola crayons from the 64-pack (I’m talking to you, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber) and those yellowish green, twirly maple seed things shaped like a dragonfly’s wings (we used to call them “helicopters” and put them on our nose), are swirling in the wind and the beauty of it all is so overwhelming that …

Jeez! That young Asian woman in the black hipster glasses is definitely checking me out!

Look! There goes a squirrel skittering up a tree and two little kids are rolling down a hill in the long meadow while an elderly couple walk hand in hand, and no one seems to be noticing the amazing world around them but everyone looks so happy and I guess that’s what nature is really all about, in all of its exquisite diversity, and everywhere you look, you can see God’s fingerprints and …

Oh my lord! That skinny blonde walking her miniature bulldog has legs that just go on forever.

I am extremely moved by nature.

The Other Side of No Tomorrow

Big Sur scenic view

Every word we sang I knew was true.

If you’re looking for some kind of a spiritual experience, driving on Route 1 through Big Sur on the way to San Francisco is a good place to start. It also helps if you’re with an old friend who you adore and are listening to just the right music.

For those of you who’ve made this awesome run before, you know exactly what I’m talking about and for those who haven’t, there are no words to do it justice. I don’t believe in God, but this place is certainly one of the best arguments that He exists. Every twisting turn reveals another breathtaking view of mountains plunging into the ocean. It’s one of those fucked-up-nature-things that makes you feel small and insignificant and at the same time, more alive than you’ve ever felt in your life.

I was riding shotgun and playing DJ all afternoon and promised my friend Pamela that I wouldn’t torture her by playing Steely Dan (which, you should know, is my all-time favorite band).

I lied (and that phrase would’ve been so perfect if my name was Katy).

“Doctor Wu” has always been the song I play when I’m very happy or very sad. It somehow amplifies whatever I’m feeling and I can’t really explain it any more than that. Like most Steely Dan songs, the lyrics are romantic and enigmatic (and also about drugs), and the opening lines have given me chills since the first time I heard it more than 35 years ago:

Katy tried

I was halfway crucified

I was on the other side of no tomorrow

You walked in and my life began again

Just when I spent the last piaster I could borrow

Now I’ve always associated those words with the women in my life – for a long time, my ex-wife, as well as with any number of fantasy girls, but when I heard it this time and looked out the window at the ocean below and the cliffs above, it meant something entirely different.

I felt a deep connection — maybe for the first time — to myself, and was overcome with a sense of hopefulness that I’ve only ever experienced on the days my sons were born. And if that’s not spiritual, I don’t know what is.

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