Zach’s new weekly series “NBA RAPDATE” turns it up a notch this week… check it!
I could have fucked one of my teachers back in high school. I didn’t. But I could have. She was into me… She told me I made her ‘quiver…’ She said I looked like a movie star. She tried to kiss me. This was 25 years ago… I still think about it.
Nowadays these stories are everywhere. Open any internet browser and you are greeted by a photo of a young teacher who was recently arrested for seducing their 16-year-old Biology student with marijuana and booze and throwing group sex parties and shit. Their mug shots get splashed all over websites and people everywhere shame these women for fucking underage boys…
Back in the day you never heard about this type of shit. If you did, it was always a creepy male Phys Ed. teacher who wore New Balance sneakers and sported a filthy Don Mattingly moustache. Now it seems these sex-starved teachers are women who look like Charlize Theron with John and Kate Plus Eight haircuts.
In the early 90’s, these women didn’t exist.
Except in my high school.
During my senior year, a really cute teacher’s assistant/college student named Debbie joined my AP English class. She was responsible for grading our shitty essays about the “Grapes of Wrath,” and helped with our teacher Mrs. Kelly’s syllabus… and she also happened to give me ‘fuck me eyes’ nearly every single day.
One day after school in the parking lot, Debbie caught me by my Dodge Lancer as I was preparing to roll a Mexi-shwag joint to smoke with my boy Adam.
“Zach, can I talk to you for a second?” She asked.
At first I thought she was going to criticize my schoolwork or something, but instead she ended up asking me on a date.
“Look, Zach – so I know you mentioned that you want to be an actor when you are older… and uhmm… Well, Les Miz is coming to the U of A next Saturday and I actually have an extra ticket – so if you want to go…?”
She smiled at me. The ‘U of A’ was the University of Arizona… and I had been hanging around the campus since I was a kid. I had always noticed the frat guys and the cute girls, but here was one of them actually… hitting on me. Or at least I thought she was. She was confident and she certainly had something none of the high school
girls I had been dating had… a MAJOR.
I wasn’t sure if this invite was a come on, but I liked it. I felt invincible and dominant. Typical 17-year-old shit. I nodded my head, told her, ‘sure’ and we made plans to meet around seven at Centennial Hall on the Arizona campus to see the show. She even gave me her phone number just in case I got lost. Cell-phones weren’t a thing yet, but she promised to check her answering machine from a payphone.
I went back to see Adam.
“What was that all about, dude?”
“Dude, I think I might fuck the English T.A.”
I went home and told my mom that I had plans to go out on Saturday night. My mom went ballistic. My mom can read anybody. Especially back then. She immediately began getting suspicious of this woman’s intentions.
She wanted to know who she was, how old she was, what exactly this teacher wanted with me, etc.
“Mom, don’t worry, she’s like, 22, and she just knows I want to be an
actor – that’s it!”
“Don’t kid yourself, Zach, this woman has ulterior motives… don’t be so naïve.”
Amazingly, I somehow convinced my mom that this could be my only chance to see Les Miserables, and since my mother is a Broadway Theater geek, she relented at the last minute and let me go. But with a warning…
“Keep in mind, Zach, you have way too much going for you to
impregnate a teacher.”
I ignored her and drove off to meet Debbie at the show.
Debbie was waiting in front of Centennial Hall as I walked up from the free parking spot I found six blocks away. I had no interest in dropping $4.00 on the valet… although today, that seems completely reasonable. Meanwhile, Debbie had dressed up for the occasion, much differently than her usual school jeans and sweater. She was wearing an above-the-knee dress and a leather tank top with fringes angling from them. This was no high school girl…
Meanwhile, I wore Banana Republic jeans and my favorite striped shirt from a long extinct mall fashion store called Structure.
During the show, Debbie ‘accidentally’ grabbed my arm a few times as if we were watching a horror film like Nightmare on Elm Street. The thing was, the show wasn’t that scary… It also wasn’t that good.
It may have been the touring company, or the Centennial Hall acoustics, but I was lost for most of the performance. About the only thing I remember about it was that I was hiding a massive chubby in my pants and that New York Yankees pitcher Tommy John had a kid who was performing in the show… I thought that was pretty cool. (Taylor John RIP).
After it wrapped and we stood and applauded, Debbie suggested we walk around the university for a little bit. She actually asked me if I would be interested in getting a beer. I was 17. I rarely drank in high school, but I did have my stepbrother’s fake I.D. He was 5’9”. I was 6’2”. It only worked at one liquor store on Columbus Avenue where the clerk actually believed me when I told him I had, “A big growth spurt last summer.
“I could have one, I guess,” I said.
Debbie smiled and we walked over to U of A Liquors and she bought a six-pack of this relatively new beer called Icehouse.
Growing up in Tucson, you spend a lot of time drinking beer in the washes and deserts hidden off the sides of the streets. She found her little familiar spot where she liked to drink with her college friends and we drank and talked for quite a while… about my Hollywood dreams, our English class and movies we liked. Eventually, near the end of beer number two, she told me that she thought I have “it” and told me that she was confident that I will absolutely make it as a huge movie star.
She then leaned in and began kissing the side of my neck for roughly four seconds.
“Woah,” I said, pulling away and hiding my awkwardness behind a weird laugh.
“I…I…I’m so sorry!” She blurted out. “I thought you wanted this!”
Debbie turned deep red. My stomach twisted. That sinking feeling in the stomach where you just don’t know what the right words are.
“Look, I’m only 17, ya know?” I said.
She wasn’t comfortable. She began rocking back and forth.
“I’m so stupid, this was – this was so stupid,” she said.
“No, no, it’s fine – I just – I’m not sure it’s… right,” I said.
“You’re really sexy, Zach, you know that, right?”
“Uhmm, Thanks,” I said. “I mean, you’re sexy too but…”
And then we sat there in silence for close to ten minutes. Those awkward high school silences…
“Listen,” she said sometime later. “Can we please never tell anybody about this – especially Mrs. Kelly?” She said.
“I will never tell anybody,” I promised. Another five minutes of silence followed before I suggested it was time to call it a night.
As we made the walk back to my car, I began to feel somewhat guilty. I was sort of one of those high school make-out kings – the guy who always loved kissing almost more than anything else… I thought, that when we got to my car, I would grab her and kiss her – just to lift our self-esteem and make the night less disappointing and more epic… But when we got back to my Dodge… I just couldn’t do it.
I looked at her. She seemed confused. She seemed lost, most likely feeling guilty. I told her that Monday morning would be no different than any other day. I told her she shouldn’t worry and that I wouldn’t tell a soul. I thanked her for the ticket to Les Miz and I drove home and masturbated into my pillow.
25-years later, a big part of me wishes I would’ve had sex with her… This was the pre-internet world. Nobody would have cared. She would have not been able to ‘friend me’ on Facebook or post pictures of us in that wash posing with beers in the Tucson night… There would have been no mug shot… She probably had an apartment nearby the campus and life would have just rolled along so easily back then… My God, it would have been so simple to get away with it and I would have a killer story for my friends when I got to college…
Alas, the moment faded, much like my movie star dreams… and my adolescent fantasies. That following Monday morning in class was far less awkward for me than it was for her, although we never seemed to even acknowledge one another.
I recently typed Debbie’s name into Google and found out that she was newly divorced and a mother of three… She was in Scottsdale. She looked old.
It’s funny how life speeds up and people come and go from your lives – I often think back… What if we had fucked? Maybe she gets pregnant and I have a 26-year-old son in Scottsdale right now? Luckily, I don’t. Life is pretty fucking crazy.
I never saw Les Miz again.
I’m not sure if they still make Icehouse beer.
I haven’t smoked Mexi-shwag in decades.
But you’re God damned right I got an ‘A’ in Mrs. Kelly’s AP English class…
Please watch Zach’s NBA2k Vlog from New York City!
I spent 30 minutes yesterday explaining to my brother that a deep part of me believes in the theory that our entire human race is the result of aliens coming down and impregnating chimpanzees with alien DNA.
“Oh my God you’re an idiot,” he told me.
“What? Why?” I responded.
He took a deep breath and went into a perfectly believable explanation about how we we’re once all neanderthals, apes, chimpanzees, et al. and how we have evolved over thousands of years. He cited scientific evidence, showed me websites of evolution and perfectly explained Darwin’s theory.
“But” I said, “What if were all wrong?”
Nervously, my brother laughed, even going as far as to point out that we once produced, wrote and directed a parody song about creationism vs. evolutionism for Comedy Central years ago… It was a burn on the actor Kirk Cameron who had recently gone on a TV show and produced a banana – which he claimed was “an Athiest’s nightmare – and proof that we were all created by a higher being.”
The video went viral and Kirk Cameron sent us hate mail.
My brother was confused at how I went from evolutionary hippie evolutionist to alien-worshipping creationist.
“Look man,”” I said. “I’m not saying I’m anti-religious, or that I even believe what I’m saying – I just really have started to think that aliens founded our planet and possibly created humans out of the lifeforms that were here before us… dig?”
My only explanation for these new beliefs is that I watch WAY too much of the TV show Ancient Aliens on the History Channel. Ever see this show? It’s the most convincing TV program of all time. It will have you convinced that the Pyramids are intergalactic phone booths, the spiritual symbols of Peru are prayerbooks to “those who came from above” and that Fenway Park was originally designed as an “Alien Toilet.”
Plus, once you see how many “flying discs from the sky” are featured in Renaissance art pieces, you are forced to start to think a little differently… And I wasn’t saying I believed in creationism, I was simply quoting the self-proclaimed “Ancient Astronaut Theorists” from Ancient Aliens.
My brother demanded that I join him on a walk with his dog. I tried once again to explain myself, using the dog as an example of an entirely different creature that we do not know where it came from. He shook his head in disappointment. We changed the subject to the next morning’s Total Solar Eclipse, which was scheduled to mesmerize Americans and clog Instagram feeds the following day, August 21, 2017.
“So what’s your plan for the eclipse?” He asked. “Are you planning on making a cardboard sign that says ‘Take me With You?’”
I laughed and we called it a night.
The following morning we awoke and went to Hermosa Beach. Avid Boogie-boarders, we decided to ride some waves before the solar eclipse began – which was approximately at 9:08 a.m. with the sun being totally obscured at 10:18 a.m. It was in the water that morning when we noticed a few other local swimmers paddling around watching us ride a few waves. Then a few more came. Eventually, over 20 swimmers had gathered in the early morning ocean. Funny, we thought. It’s never this crowded…
“These are total eclipse waves, am I right?” A heavy-set woman paddling nearby muttered to a long-haired surfer a few feet over.
“Fully,” the surfer responded. “Crazy sets all morning… best waves of my life.”
“I’m Artemis,” she offered.
“I’m Jonas… I wonder if the eclipse will freak out the dolphins.”
My brother and I looked at each other.
“Excuse me,” I yelled over in Artemis’ direction. “Do you really think that the eclipse will affect the waves?”
It was then that Artemis turned towards us and revealed that she was wearing a pair of “eclipse glasses.” Yeah, the ones your friends bought online for $300 to stare at the sun safely for ten minutes. I had mistook them for goggles.
“Absolutely,” she said. “In ancient Germanic text, the Moon God ‘Mani’ claims that a total solar eclipse will affect everything it controls, from the waves of the sea to the female menstraul cycle…. In fact, I’m heavily menstruating right now.”
“We gotta get out of the ocean,” I told my brother.
We walked back to our spot on the beach and watched as my kids ran around chasing sand crabs.
As the eclipse came and went, and our social media feeds were overrun with kids looking into cereal boxes, people posting photos of themselves looking at the sky and our President staring directly into the fucking thing itself, it dawned on me that everybody was hoping to see something amazing. Of course, most people were underwhelmed, but some folks were hoping for a sign – a symbol from another world, perhaps. A trans-galactic message from space. Everybody was looking for an explanation…
“Look,” I told my brother. “Can you just maybe give me the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maaaaybe, we don’t know how we got here and that human experimentation by extra-terrestrials is a possibility?”
As he uploaded a picture of the eclipse that he somehow took through a set of binoculars, he shook his head.
“Haven’t you ever seen that TV special about aliens abducting pregnant women and creating ‘hybrids?’ You know, my kids could be half Pleiadian or even half Reptilian!”
“Haven’t you ever heard of the ‘Humanzee’ experiment?”
“Zach,” he said. “When you come back to planet Earth, let me know. Until then, why don’t you go talk to Artemis in the ocean, maybe she’ll have some answers.”
He left on a run, and I stood on the beach alone, staring out into the sea.
Artemis had long left for the day, but Jonas was still out there, riding some of the best waves of his life…
COME SEE ZACH TAPE HIS PODCAST LIVE! THIS SUNDAY at 7pm!
Like most of us, I have Googled ex-girlfriends from high school and college to see what they look like now. I’ve found most of them online, to no immediate fanfare – (Other than finding out one girl I made out with in high school is now a grandmother…) – but nobody has captured my social media imagination more than a girl I once dated in 1991 named Jenny Herren.
I have spent the better part of two decades wondering what happened to this girl. I have hunted Linked in, Google images, Myspace and Facebook hoping to see if Jenny was still beautiful, single and yes, even alive. (When I came across an obituary of a Jenny Herren in Houston last year, I was relieved to see that the woman was 89-years-old).
In today’s world, where the Government can track you every time you visit collegeorgy.com, it might seem impossible, but I was convinced that Jenny Herren had no digital footprint.
And then my sister alerted me that she had found her.
Jenny truly blossomed into my boner jam around 1991 when we randomly sat next to each other at a movie theater, watching the film If Looks Could Kill starring Richard Grieco. The film was so terrible, we mocked and heckled it together like we were boyfriend and girlfriend on a regular date. I was sprung, and within a week I had made her a romantic mixtape featuring my “closer songs” (Chris Isaak, Sting, Dire Straits) and had asked her out to the mall the following weekend.
The mall was fun, but I couldn’t get a read on her, so I took it as a sign to not present her the mixtape just yet. It burned a hole in my pocket. I dropped her off without so much as a kiss and went home and scribbled three pages into my journal about her sense of humor, her laugh and – well – her incredible tits.
A week later at a high school football game, I carefully planned a casual interaction with Jenny by the snack bar. When I saw her, I dreamed we’d be heavy petting beneath the bleachers by the end of the third quarter. Instead, our mutual friend Tanya Brightly cock-blocked me by taking Jenny away and leaving me with my hands dug way deep into the pockets of my Guess jeans.
Finally, I got the second date I was looking for. It was a month later and I had it all planned. I would get some weed from my stepbrother, take her to see Hot Shots at the $1.00 theater and then close the deal in the abandoned church parking lot at the top of Swan Road – a notorious make-out spot overlooking the city where horny teenagers tried to get past second base.
The movie was hilarious, and things were going great. We stopped and got ice cream bars at a Circle K and made our way to the church. I lit the pipe and passed it. I became horribly paranoid. We looked out at the city. Silence. There was that perfect awkward teenage feeling arising between us… I lightly brushed my hand against hers and grabbed it. I pulled her in and we kissed… Soft and beautiful, alone beneath the Tucson sky, awash in the possibilities of what lay out in the real world ahead… I was 16 and in heaven… And then a hesher dude named Paul Humphries shined a flashlight on us from his pick-up truck.
“GET SOME, SELWYN!” He yelled, blinding both of us in the process.
“Fuck you, Paul,” I screamed back. When I turned back around, I noticed that Jenny had walked away.
“I think you should take me home,” she said. “It’s getting late.”
On the ride home, Jenny said she didn’t think we should hang out anymore. She said she wasn’t sure why, but that something didn’t feel right. I tried every move in the book to get her to reconsider, but when I finally dropped her off, she took off running inside and I have not seen her since our high school graduation night… Until my sister found her Facebook page.
“Her name is now Jennifer Klein,” my sister informed me. “Married a guy named Mark Klein. Air Force instructor. They live in San Diego and don’t have any kids as far as I can tell.”
My sister should have been a private investigator.
I immediately began cyberstalking Jennifer Klein like a tween looking for “Shirtless Zayn Malik” pictures. I wanted to know everything. I was hoping she’d be open to a conversation – and maybe she could shed some light on our night together all those years ago.
Meanwhile, my wife was in the other room asking me what I was doing.
“Writing,” I responded, feeling guilty that I was busy looking up a girl I had made out with 25- years prior.
Many of my friends have spent hours digging into online profiles of exes, looking for something that proves that there was a reason it never worked out between them. My buddy’s wife found her ex-boyfriend on Facebook, posting about how great it felt to “finally be out of prison.” My other friend’s ex had nine children and was divorced twice. In fact, the majority of people I know have revealed how stoked they were to find their exes all out of shape, full of grey hair and still living in their hometowns.
Amazingly, Jennifer hadn’t aged at all. Her profile picture was taken in a bikini in Mexico, where she posted that she had been “marlin fishing” for a week straight. She posed holding a Corona. She was tan, supple and looked terrific. I added her as a friend and awaited a response.
When she did not accept my friend request a week later, I wondered why. I felt as nervous as I did the night I had watched her running into her house. I felt like a fucking teenager again.
Meanwhile, I got out my old high school journal. The one that I had kept since I was 14. I re-read the page from my date with Jenny – and I felt like a complete horny moron. I had written the following:
October 16, 1991 – I kissed her! After packing a bowl of dirty Mexi-schwag that my stepbrother traded me for a Van Halen CD, we made out at the church. (My old hookup spot – where I macked on Marni Thomas last year in my dad’s Jeep!) My hair looked good… like Luke Perry! But then that dumb hesher Paul ruined everything. Shit. I hope she calls me back I really want to feel those heaving melons.
October 23, 1991 – I have called Jenny 15 times and she has not returned my calls. I don’t know why. Do I suck? Am I ugly? Maybe she just hasn’t been getting my phone calls?
November 3rd, 1991 – I heard she told Tanya to tell me to back off and that she might get a restraining order. What the hell did I do? I feel like a creep… I just wish she’d give me a chance… Man. I’m so pissed. Luckily, this weekend is Adam’s party and there is some freshman girl named Daisy who said she thought I was cute. Shit, I’m almost 17 – ! I’m so old!!!
After three weeks or not hearing a response from Jenny, I re-checked her page. She had been there, alright, obviously ignoring my friend request. I reached out one last time, this time just posting something on her wall – something that I thought would be funny. I wrote:
Hey – I still have a mix tape I made you in 1991 – Any chance you want it?
Jennifer Klein never responded. But, the next day, a familiar person did. It was Tanya Brightly, who had commented on my post. She added the following: Unbelievable… 25 years later and Zach still doesn’t get the hint.
I was mortified. I had been lusting after this girl for a quarter century, and Tanya Brightly was STILL cock-blocking me.
I issued a response, including a photo of me and my family – saying that I was not a stalker – but just reaching out as an old friend who was trying to hold on to whatever memories I retained from my youth. I also asked Jenny if she remembered our night at the church.
Finally, Jennifer Klein wrote me a message.
Hi Zach – long time – I’m married to a guy in the Air Force – no kids to speak of – congratulations your family looks beautiful. Re: that night at the church… I have no memory of it. Sorry! Oh, I’d love to hear that mixtape!
I haven’t sent her the mixtape yet. I think I’ll let her wait around for me this time…
Ed. Note: Zach has since been blocked from Jennifer Klein’s Facebook feed.
WATCH ZACH’S MUSIC VIDEO “DONG ON THE WHITEBOARD!”
At a bar near my house a few nights ago, I met an interesting man. He was very handsome, sporting a cool undercut hair-do and rocking a massive, manly thick beard. A bearded man myself these days, I inquired about how he achieved such unbridled thickness and shape.
“I grew it,” he said.
“Oh,” I said. “Right.”
After a few more lagers, I got to asking what this guy did for a living – as he was constantly tapping his phone for the duration of our hang.
“I’m a beard model bro,” he exclaimed “On Instagram.”
“What? Really?” I inquired.
“Yeah man – you got a pretty thick beard, you should try it.”
“Maybe I will.”
“You gotta get that beard money son!” He said.
Beard money? Instagram? Paid for just having facial hair? Yes, believe it. The man, whose name I forget – but may have been Rylance, told me he made over 100 thousand dollars last year hash-tagging and re-posting snaps of him rocking his beard. He also mentioned that he had turned down money to shave it from Gillette for a commercial.
“They offered me 25 grand, but my beard ‘shave rate’ is 40K,” he explained.
“Shave rate?” Dude. I tested as an actor for a TV pilot last year and my acting rate was 1/10th of that. I was blown away.
When Rylance finally turned his phone around to show me his pictures – it became abundantly clear that I might not have the “beard earning potential” that he currently had. Mainly because the majority of his Instagram phots were of him posing shirtless, with rippling abs and a diary of chest tattoos scrawled all over his torso.
Instagram would probably pay me to put my shirt back on.
Still, he passed me the email of his “social media manager” and I emailed her the next day. Her name was Tracy. Here is our conversation:
Zach: Hi. Rylance gave me your information, I’m interested in Instagram beard modeling.
Tracy: Great. Can you post a photo of your beard doing something cool and we’ll see what kind of traffic you get?
Zach: My beard doing something cool? Like what – shopping for albums?
Tracy: Or standing in front of an old shipyard or a train or a barn or something.
Zach: Copy that. Will share later this week.
And just like that, it was on. Being that I made a grand total of 2600 dollars as a writer the previous year, I figured a quick move to Instagram beard modeling might be a nice career change. I took a road trip up north and decided I was going to shoot some killer beard photos and get myself an agent.
My first stop was in from of a barn, as requested. Then I took my shirt off and did my best “suck-it-in pose” while staring off into the distance at nothing in particular. Finally, I snapped some pics of me standing in front of a record player holding a guitar case. Boom. I had my entire beard modeling portfolio.
I decided to post the barn photo first.
I emailed Tracy and told her to look out for the coming revolution. With any luck, I’d be getting offers from worldwide companies to pose while holding a Kit-Kat or something for 10 large. She quickly emailed me back after looking at my Instagram page.
Tracy: Is this a joke? You have way too many clothes on.
Zach: Too many clothes on?
Tracy: Show off your tats.
Uh-oh. Tats? One thing I am not ashamed to admit, is that I am tattoo-less. Sure, I almost got a Pearl Jam “stick figure” in high school on my ankle – but I chickened out at the last minute. Still, I decided I could doodle something on my chest in Photoshop and try to pass it off as cool.
When I looked at the other models currently killing it on Instagram, however, it became clear that one tattoo would not be enough. Apparently the current trend is to get ridiculous tattoos all over yourself. Your chest, your neck and more recently, on your face. I slowly felt my beard modeling career slipping away, but I still took a chance.
I took a few more pictures and added some tattoos. Knowing this was my last chance to pull off a modeling contract, I sent them off to Tracy before I posted them – asking her if she felt these might generate some serious beard traffic.
I waited for what seemed like hours for a response. When she finally got back to me, it wasn’t the response I had expected.
Tracy: So, I don’t think I’m going to pursue you as a beard model any further.
Zach: Can you tell me why?
Tracy: Well, for one – you’re what, 37?
Tracy: But, I was looking through your other Instagram photos and it looks like you have two kids? If you want I can submit you to another trending site – Have you heard of the Instagram account, “Hot Dads With Babies?”
Hot Dads With Babies? Yep. It’s a real thing. I went and looked it up and was immediately horrified. Even though they only had a few posts, I was fairly convinced I might be able to sneak myself up on that page someday, so I asked Tracy what the average “dad with baby rate” was for a guy selected for the account.
Tracy: It’s not as popular as anything with beards, so it’s only like 7 dollars per post.
Zach: Oh. OK, well I’ll think about it.
And with that, Tracy was off to help Rylance clock another 50 grand for posing shirtless with a Clif energy bar, secretly dreading the day his beard went grey and his tattoos started to fade.
I went home to see my kids and brought them into the kitchen, where I asked them a simple question…
“How’d you guys like to make 7 dollars an Instagram post?”
*Watch Zach’s new comedic acting reel!*
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/177500428″>Zach Selwyn Comedy Reel – August 2016</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user3121417″>Zach Selwyn</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
When I was 16, it Took Me Two Weeks to Figure Out Who Sang Nights in White Satin…
By Zach Selwyn
It was early summer 1991. I was driving around Tucson on another hot day listening to the classic rock station 96.1 KLPX in my ’88 Dodge Lancer when I first heard the tail end of the song Nights in White Satin. The melody was haunting and seemed like the kind of ghostly and sexy voice I could put on a future mix tape for some girl. I didn’t know what a “night in white satin” was or who the band was or why it grabbed me like it did, but when the song finally ended, the radio DJ moaned into the microphone that that song always took him back to “a magical time when love was free and gas was cheap.” (Gas was .99 cents a gallon in 1991, BTW.)
Sadly, the DJ did not finish his tag. He never mentioned who sang the song or what it was called. I assumed it was titled Nights in White Satin. But I had no way of confirming this. There was no space age device or Shazam app in my hand that I could hit and get instant answers from a satellite above that had every solution to every question man has ever pondered. I actually had to do some research.
I wrote the song title down on a Jack-in-the-Box napkin I had in my car and sped home as fast as I could to call the radio station… From my mother’s landline.
Since that was during the “96.1 Days of Summer” promotion when Tucsonans were feverishly competing to win tickets to a Joe Satriani concert taking place at Tucson Raceway Park in July – the line was constantly busy. I could NOT get through. I even called the pop radio station 93.7 to ask the 25-year-old DJ if he knew the answer. His response?
“We don’t have that song, bro.”
I was dying to figure out who sang it. Since my music-obsessed stepfather was at one of his countless rehab centers that did not allow human contact from behind sober walls, I had to ask my friends at school, who were only interested in Nirvana, Digital Underground and the Black Crowes at the time. Nobody knew. Only one buddy had even heard the song.
And he swore it was Rush. I knew it wasn’t Rush.
Finally, on my weekly sleepover at my father’s house, I had to ask my dad – who, although he is truly one of the smartest men I have ever known – is not much for rock-n-roll trivia.
“Pretty sure it’s a Neil Diamond song,” he exclaimed.
That did it. I spent the next week saving up my bread and thinking Neil Diamond sang Nights in White Satin. Finally I took $20 from my job bussing tables – and went to the local record store called Zips. I acted nonchalant and cool – like all record store shoppers used to act when they would walk into a place with so many options… You wanted to appear focused. If you have ever been to an Amoeba Records in LA or San Francisco, you know the swagger you want to have when you walk in. You want to impress the clerks. You can’t look lost around the other customers. You want to appear as if you know exactly what you are looking for.
I headed towards the rock section. I started thumbing through Neil Diamond CDs. The big cardboard box ones. The CD packaging that was soon banned by the Environmental Protection Agency – although they somehow let the plastic that now pollutes half of our oceans remain as the primary packaging for compact discs. If I ever come across that massive plastic floating island in the middle of the Pacific, I’m gonna be amazed at just how many CD jewel cases compose the island’s largest volcano.
Anyway, I rifled away through Neil Diamond. I could not find Nights in White Satin. I looked at the Neil Young section as well, just in case my dad had simply “mixed up his Neil’s.” No luck. Finally, I realized I had to do what every young music loving record shopper dreads the most at a retail store: I had to interact with an actual employee.
After fooling around with some buttons and stickers near the register, I eventually mustered up the courage to raise my voice above the din of the shitty hair band that was playing from the speakers in the ceiling.
“Hey man, do you know which Neil Diamond album Nights in White Satin is on?”
The dude momentarily stopped filling out the plastic rack card he was illustrating in red Sharpie for Alice in Chains.
“Neil Diamond?” He chortled. “That’s not Neil Diamond. That’s the Moody Blues.”
What? The Moody Blues? That shitty band that sang Ride My See-Saw? Impossible.
“Yeah, look in the prog rock section,” he explained.
Fuck me. I was going to the prog rock section? I never went to the prog rock section. I hated bands like Yes and early Genesis and what?!? I refused to go to the prog rock section and gasp! Buy a prog rock CD??
Listen. In 1991 broke teenagers didn’t have illegal or easy 99 cent download services. Or streaming. Or YouTube. Or any cassette singles that were made in 1967 when Nights in White Satin was recorded. I had but two really expensive choices… I could to plunk down the 16.99 for the actual album the song first appeared on, which was called Days of Future Passed… Or, I could play it a little safer and spend 18.99 on Voices in the Sky: The Best of the Moody Blues.
Either way, I was throwing my money blindly at 13 unknown songs. I decided to go with Voices in the Sky because it just sounded trippy and like something I might “get high to” someday. I brought it up towards the front where the clerk informed me that if I bought two “same artist” CD’s I would get a coupon for three dollars off. Luckily I passed on that amazing offer.
So, I was roughly twenty dollars invested into the Moody fucking Blues. I had recently dropped $195 on a sweet Blaupunkt Pull-out tape deck for my ride at the local stereo shop, and I had also scored a Sony Discman-cassette adapter so that I could have CD-quality sound in my car at all times. Assuming my batteries weren’t low, of course… So, I loaded up the Discman and rolled my windows down and began a very brief relationship with the Moody Blues.
The first song was Ride My See Saw. Skip. Then another clunker. Skip. Soon, however, the songs got a tad more interesting… Never Comes the Day was soaring and anthemic, and Question had some Stones-y undertones… but the sheer annoyance of Talking out of Turn or I’m Just a Singer in a Rock-N-Roll Band was so hard for this kid from the lowest corner of the desert to accept that I had to move ahead to Nights in White Satin for the remainder of my drive home.
My stepfather returned from rehab two weeks later and I showed him my recent musical purchases. He approved highly of the Byrds and the Doors Greatest Hits, but he scoffed immediately when he saw the Voices in the Sky CD I had purchased. His complaint was simple… And was very understood.
“You’re such a stooge, man – you didn’t buy a Moody Blues CD with Tuesday Afternoon on it?” He scoffed. “That’s like, their best song ever!”
Two weeks later, I had saved up enough money to buy a second Moody Blues Greatest Hits CD. One that had Tuesday Afternoon on it. I swear to God. This collection, called Legend of a Band ran me $14.99 and introduced me to a trippier longer version of Nights in White Satin as well as the poppy foppishness of the hit Your Wildest Dreams.
(For the record, my stepfather could have changed my life if he had just said, “Screw the Moody Blues, go listen to the Kinks.”)
To this day, Voices in the Sky and Legend of a Band both sit in gargantuan CD cases in my office that have been collecting dust since around 1994. In the same case are thousands of CD’s that set me back 14.99 here and 17.99 there. From Phil Collins to 3rd Bass to that fucking Oasis album that came out after …What’s the Story Morning Glory. We all have them. Resting in our garages and attics, taunting us like medals of adolescence that will forever brand us as the parents who tell our kids that they need to do some research once in awhile because “nobody’s going to do it for you.”
Well, we better be careful. This new generation’s problem is that everybody is doing it for them.
As I paid my bills this month, and looked over the CD collection I have amassing in my house that is worth nothing but fond memories, I thought back to that hard earned $18.99 and $14.99 I had dropped on those CD’s back in 1991. That’s a lot of money for a kid. That’s a lot of money for a lot of people. The music industry sure did take advantage of us, didn’t they? Then again, without them, we wouldn’t have what we have. As I sent off another online bill to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at that very moment, I thought to myself that all that disposable high school income sure would be really helpful right now.
And then I pulled out that CD case, got stoned and listened to Nights in White Satin…
Download and hear ZACH and MISSI PYLE on the latest ep. of “Anna Faris is Unqualified”
I am uncomfortably straddling a white folding chair with 40 other people, ages ranging from 21-60 on a 103-degree day in Alta Dena waiting to work as an extra on a network TV show for the day. The pay isn’t terrible – $142.37 – or something like that, plus whatever gargantuan amounts of Craft Service snacks, candy, sodas and mini sandwiches I can shove into my shoulder bag to take home, but the overall feeling is grim. There is some old Greek food suffering beneath a sneeze guard nearby, a lot of discarded banana peels and a large fan blowing cool air towards us to keep us comfortable – like we’re NFL running backs playing a September game in Phoenix.
The scene has a prison-like feel to it. There are the lifers, the newbies and the guys who are only here for a few days trying to get their health insurance. I fall into that last category, but the fear of getting sexually assaulted by one of the older “inmates” is very real. Only problem is I can’t kick anyone’s ass to prove that I’m “tough.” Instead, I choose to bury myself into my iphone and hope the 45% charge lasts another 8 hours.
A year ago I was in New York City promoting my own TV show in Times Square for Tru TV. Now I am listening to a 22-year-old kid talk about how Hot Tub Time Machine is the main reason he dropped out of college to try to make it as an actor. You gotta love this business.
The majority of chatter amongst these “background players” or “atmosphere” is about the world of extras. Many relay the legendary scene in Ben Hur where an extra forgot to take his watch off during the chariot race. (Look it up – it’s hilarious). Others talk about how Ricky Gervais ripped off their idea when he did his Extras TV show. However, the subject that keeps coming up time and time again is the “bump up.” A “bump up” is when an extra is promoted from an extra to a principal role. Suddenly, the lucky bloke can go from zero to hero and earn Screen Actors Guild daily rate. However, according to everyone, incidents like that are more rare than finding a piece of sushi that hasn’t been in the sun for six hours beneath the cast and crew food canopy.
I am here today because I need to make $6300 before the end of the year as a way to qualify for Screen Actors Guild health insurance, a plan I have somehow managed to attain for the past twelve years. This year, however, the jobs dried up, a ton of work went non-union and I have finally aged out of the commercial actor category of “young, shaggy haired beer-drinking party guy.”
At this pay rate, it will take me working nearly every day for three months to earn the necessary SAG income to keep my family on the health plan. Alternative options – Obamacare and Cobra – basically guarantee that I will be paying 75% more money for lesser benefits. It has long been noted that SAG has terrific health care. The problem is that you need to earn an outrageous amount of money to qualify for it, and this year has been an ice bath as far as SAG work has been going.
“My dad was Jimmy Smits’ stand-in on LA Law,” a man named Sonny who was dressed as a Native American jewelry salesman bragged to the lot of us huddled beneath the blue pop-up tent. “He told me to find a niche as an extra. When I started out I only played Latino, only roles were for prisoners or a gang members. Now that I play Native American, I work all the time.”
I suddenly found myself wishing I had some Native American cheekbones.
As the day rolled along, I began to hear everybody’s story. You coop someone up for long enough, they will eventually tell you their life’s narrative. Every extra on set seemed to have a tale about the one legendary time they were “bumped up” to a principal role. One woman claimed she was bumped on Two and a Half Men because Charlie Sheen fired the original woman who had been cast for her one line of “Suck it, Charlie.” A guy who often plays blue-collar types said he got his bump on Dharma and Greg and had his career-defining moment in a bar fight scene when he raised his fists and said, “Meet my two friends… Mary-Kate and Ashley.”
And then there was Sonny, who said he specifically learned the extinct Native American language Kiowa to nab a line in a Civil War series. His line was “D’on T’ap Piii.” Which translates roughly to “See deer eating.”
I stared at Sonny for a long while. He did look familiar, as that Native American guy you sort of see in films, but I wasn’t sure. Which meant he was a great extra. One who blended in. He bragged of his work on The Alamo, Oz, The Longest Yard, Texas Rising, Hatfields and McCoys. Dances With Wolves and of course, That 70’s Show. The way he saw it, he was an integral part of these films. A guy who went uncredited – but felt he deserved all the success.
“There should be an extras lifetime achievement award,” he offered.
As a young actor, I did some extra work at age 22. At the time, like most young dreamers, I thought I was a small break away from my own series and I treated the other kids in the high school dance scene like castaways and future failures. When I started booking some jobs and enjoying the confines of an air-conditioned trailer with a private bathroom, I swore I’d never go back to the extras holding again. Yet, here I was. A 15-year TV veteran with a decent resume that I was too embarrassed to share with the other inmates. I decided to shut up and do my time and maybe get out of there with a few Clif bars and some coconut water.
Then, there was a call to action.
“Peter, Mike, Donna, Marla, Zach – party scene, now!” An Assistant Director yelled at us, directing us towards the makeup department to get touched up.
I put down my phone and walked over to the area, when Donna, one of the younger extras, mentioned that she often worked on the show. She then proceeded to refer to one of the makeup artists as her “glam squad.”
A short, effeminate man named Ty erupted in her face.
“Don’t call me ‘glam,’ don’t call me ‘glam squad’ or I’ll shove this hairbrush up your ass,” he screamed.
Emily, another makeup artist stopped him before any penetration took place. It was surreal. Never in my life had I seen a fight between an extra and a makeup artist. It was like the Cubs-Pirates bench clearing brawl in the National League Wild Card this season. You couldn’t believe it was happening.
It was a major altercation. Apparently, Ty was sent home and Donna was threatening to sue the show for harassment. It didn’t make sense. In my opinion, being called the “glam squad” wasn’t nearly as bad as being referred to as “background” or “ambience.”
My scene was fairly easy. I had to drink some iced tea and mouth the words “peas and carrots” to another extra. The entire time I was placed in the corner of the party and they shot about 9 angles and we let the main actress do six takes before she was happy. As the director stood merely three feet from me, I tried to convince him that a line would be appropriate for my character. I pitched him ““D’on T’ap Piii.”
He didn’t respond. Apparently he didn’t speak Kiowa.
Lunch was at 1:00 and the extras were told to not touch or come near any food until the entire cast and crew had eaten. I was actually quite full from snacking – so I didn’t need to rush, but a lot of the extras bitched and moaned about the lack of respect. I turned to a fellow extra named Tony, who was about my age.
“Why can’t everyone just relax?” I asked him.
“Welcome to the Screen Extras Guild,” he responded.
An hour later, following one of those naps when you fall asleep with your chin in your hand, there was a small rumbling about a potential bump up for one of the extras. Apparently, a producer had seen one of us and wanted to add a line. The bit was that the lucky person would confront the female star of the show – who was wearing a fur jacket – with an uncomfortable long hug and then said, “you feel like a plushie.” All the extras began rehearsing their lines as if this was an audition for the next Coen Brothers film and we all got excited. I even took a walk around the tent and worked on my delivery.
Eventually, the female star and the director came to the extras tent and started looking around at all of us as if we were cattle being sold at a livestock auction. The female actress passed the first few folks, skipped the youngsters and then whispered to her director, “I need a middle-aged schlub.”
I am certainly creeping up on middle age, but I don’t feel like I look that way. I’m in great shape and still have hair and my skin has been hiding from the sun throughout the years as I write my life away. However, I was chosen as one of the three finalists to play “middle-aged schlub.”
We all went and had a private audition with the actress and director. I immediately messed up my hair, raised my jeans to mom-jean height and did my best to look like a total Midwestern chump who would give a hot girl a “long hug” and make her uncomfortable.
“Mmm, you feel like a fluff – wait, what’s the line?” The first guy said, immediately messing up his chances.
“You feel like a plushie,” said the next guy who was 40 pounds heavier and 100% balder than me.
When my turn came, I looked deeply into the actress’ eyes. She stared back at me for about five seconds. I knew this was my job to lose… so I did my best to “eye-bang” her and get the job on the spot. Instead, before I could get my line out, she interrupted me.
“You look like that guy from that Tru TV show,” she said.
“I am that guy!”
“What are you doing in the extras tent?” She replied.
“Trying to get my health insurance,” I said, hoping she would feel my pain and give me the bump up on the spot. I dug deeper into my plea, mentioning that my family had been sick a lot the past year and I was a huge fan of the show.
“You might be too recognizable,” she blurted. “Second guy, you got the job.”
And with that, the fat, bald guy went off to his own folding chair, better food and a holding area behind the video village where the producers and directors hung out.
I returned to my spot in the tent. All the other extras wanted to know what had happened and I told them I relayed the story as best I could. When I mentioned that the female star had said I was “too recognizable” the tent wanted to know why. After all, not one of these folks had any idea who I was. I told them. Nobody had even heard of my show.
“I get recognized all the time,” said Sonny. “People stop me when I walk down the street.”
The rest of the day I watched my phone dwindle down towards the 3% range and eventually die. In a way, I felt like that iphone charge… A year back I was flying high at 100%. Now, I was hanging onto 3.
Before I left, I managed to fill my bag with enough high fructose corn syrup snacks to kill a small village and I hopped into the first awaiting white van that would shuttle us back to the parking lot. Luckily, I ended up in the same row as the female lead actress from earlier.
“Hey,” she said. “I’m sorry about that moment back there… I just recognized you from that other show – I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”
“Amazingly, you’re the first person to know me from that like, ever,” I said.
“I’ll tell you what. Give me your manager’s name and I’ll make sure we get you in for a small role this season,” she offered.
I couldn’t believe it. Here she was telling me that she would go out of her way to get me a speaking part on her show. I got her personal email and said I’d be sending my demo reel and headshot over immediately. We exchanged good-byes and I returned my mom jeans to the costume department and signed out for the day.
As I walked to my car, the lead actress shook my hand and said I would be hearing from the production office very soon.
As of today, I’m still waiting for that call…
Watch Zach’s new video, “Nirvana T-Shirt”
It was two-o-clock in the morning and I was standing on the street outside the Dream Hotel in New York City when a slick looking hustler in a Panama hat sided up to me.
“You looking for girls tonight?” He said.
“Naah man, I’m just trying to get some air.”
“You sure? Just up those stairs across the street is all kinds of hoes… I’m talking Thai girls, Russians, Mamis… You ever bang a bad bitch?”
“What exactly is a bad bitch?” I asked.
“If you don’t know, then you’ve never banged one…”
I have been in New York City for roughly 36 hours. In that time, I have averaged 4 hours of sleep a night, eaten 7 street hot dogs and drank close to 19 cups of bad deli coffee. I have also realized that I am the most out of touch loser in the city. The average Manhattan man around my age is sporting a hundred dollar undercut and a long beard – which is eerily similar to L.A. (With only a few less Man-Buns). The difference is, these guys are also rocking 3,000 dollar Ted Baker suits and wingtips. As for me, I am wearing a 1970’s – era Wrangler cowboy shirt, some Lee Riders from the early 80’s and a pair of ¾ boots I scored from a TV show wardrobe department about 4 years ago. My hair is pretty tame and I still have Beverly Hills 90210-era sideburns. I’m also wearing a trucker cap that reads “Roy Clark” on it, bellbottoms and a belt buckle that features Chester the Cheetah riding a Harley motorcycle beneath the inscription “Cheesy Rider.”
I feel a little like Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy because NOBODY is dressed like me. Funny thing is, this is how I have been dressing for 15 years. A few years back, in the early 00’s, everybody started dressing like this. Now, those days are long gone and I’m the only guy on 8th Avenue wearing a shirt that unsnaps when you tear it apart and a turquoise ring.
And apparently, I have no idea what a “bad bitch” is.
I realized I was grossly under-dressed when I attended the first business dinner with the company I am working for. I figured it would be a quick bite at a local bar, but it turned into the type of place where they asked me to remove my hat as I sat down. The next day, at the company’s request, I made my way to a J. Crew to try and find something respectable that I would feel comfortable wearing. I settled on a checkered red, white and blue button-down and some horrendously skinny jeans. The price? $254.
When the sales associate asked me “how my sock game” was, I told him, “Fine. I buy all my socks at Ross: Dress for Less.”
“How’s your shoe game?” He asked.
“I have these nice ¾ boots,” I said.
“Uggh, please – nobody is wearing ¾ boots anymore,” he retorted. “You need some wings!”
I walked out of the store.
I couldn’t place my finger on it, but Manhattan had begun to seem too cookie cutter. I guess I was aware of the Duane Reade explosion and the Starbucks on every corner, but I was not prepared for the fashion clones that had sprouted up everywhere. Sure I was ten years older than the average guy out on a Wednesday night, but even I could sense a lack of originality. New York City, which was once full of punk street kids, trendsetters and Mapplethorpe-worshipping leather daddies sticking whips in their asses and walking into a Saks Fifth Avenue, had become somewhat tame.
I recently read an interview with AdRock of the Beastie Boys talking about how the “New York of his youth had disappeared.” I was beginning to understand what he was talking about. Manhattan in the 70’s and 80’s – before the crackdowns and the $8200 a month rent – was an artistic and fantastic place to be. These were the days before the smelly Times Square Jack Sparrows. Before Hell’s Kitchen was a gentrified hipster paradise. In the late 80’s I would visit my second cousin and roll down Canal Street to buy fake Gucci jackets, leather African medallion necklaces and a bootleg cassette of LL Cool J’s Walking With a Panther. The tape-dealers would offer me “smoke,” which scared the crap out of me. At one point, my mom dragged me away from a couple of black guys who were standing around Washington Square Park discussing the new Bobby Brown On Our Own song from Ghostbusters II. I tried to inject some white boy wisdom by saying I thought Bobby should’ve written a second rap verse instead of repeating the “Too hot to handle, too cold to hold” line and they ignored me as if I was “Chester the Terrier” following around the bigger “Spike the Bulldog” in the Looney Tunes cartoons.
The only exception I could find was in the Dream Hotel. The first couple of nights I was in town, I took it easy, stayed in my room, watched TV and had sex with the full-length pillow. However, a hotel room can only hold you captive for so long and eventually I came downstairs to find out where the notorious dark side of this fantastic city had wound up. I now believe it all centers around the Dream Hotel. Within an hour of hanging in the lobby, I was propositioned by more pimps, hustlers, hoes and drug dealers than I have seen in 20 years in Los Angeles. Methy looking skinny teenagers were offering me weed, cocaine and what they claim is “Government pure MDMA.” The lobby was crawling with hookers and late night denizens of the rooftop nightclub, which is named “PDH.” An acronym for what I can only imagine is “Pimps, Drugs and Hoes” based on the army of thick women standing around comparing 9 inch Indian weaves and elastic black twat-length skirts that barely cover their clitori. (Is that the plural for “clitoris?”)
The new Manhattan underbelly had become what Jay-Z sang about in Empire State of Mind. “Ballplayers, rap stars, addicted to that limelight…” Everywhere I went folks were talking about money, cars and rap music. If Los Angeles is supposedly a vapid, material city full of superficial idiots, New York City has embraced a lifestyle full of flashy watches, bottle service, velvet ropes and hangers on… So much so that when I tried to get access to the PDH nightclub on the top floor, the bouncer looked at my “shoe game” and instructed me to “please wait in the other bar.”
I didn’t really want to go up to PDH, but it did seem like it had to be part of my Dream Hotel adventure. So I waited in the bar drinking 17 dollar glasses of shoddy tempranillo wondering how anyone can listen to this much house and trap music in one day. The hotel sort of felt like Miami, but it was 40 degrees cooler and Pitbull wasn’t here singing some shitty song about how “white girl got some ass.”
Finally a large Puerto Rican man came over and told me that since I was a guest of the hotel, all I needed to do was show my room key and I could gain access to the club. I sauntered up towards the door, bypassing the line of desperate gold diggers and club kids and flashed my hotel room key. It was the first time in my entire trip that I had felt somewhat cool.
The nightclub was everything I always hated about nightclubs. Expensive drinks, a DJ mixing Calvin Harris with Blondie, hairy men pouring vodka-cranberry drinks for girls who were most likely being paid to hang around them and intimidating looking security guards who mad-dogged anybody ordering a single beer instead of a 2500 dollar bottle of Grey Goose.
I stayed for 8 minutes.
On my way downstairs, I decided I had to get outside and just see the street. I was sick of the lines, the attitude and the fact that a cast member from Real Housewives of Atlanta had demanded to cut the line… and was placated with a free bottle of vodka. I had to walk to a deli and buy some water and eat a sandwich and try to get some sleep before my work event the following day.
I came back to the hotel with my snacks and drinks – which, by the way, were shoved into about 11 plastic bags by the deli owner as if the plastic problem doesn’t exist in New York – and stopped to listen to the sidewalk pimps do their thing. They were like the dude selling Eddie Murphy’s gold hair dryer in Coming to America. I heard some remarkable stuff:
“You wanna table shower my man?”
“I got one tranny but she visiting her brother at Riker’s right now.”
“Playa, I can get you three at once, but you gotta wear three rubbers.”
I guess Manhattan hadn’t changed that much. Instead of bootleg tapes, men were looking for the booty. These hipster hotels had become infidelity dens and the cops just seemed to look the other way. And as for the falling crime rate – well – as this night was coming to a close, NBA player Chris Copeland was actually stabbed in an altercation outside of 1OAK nightclub just a few streets away from where I was staying.
As I strolled towards the entrance, I passed by my friend in the Panama hat one last time.
“Yo, son – I got you. I know you wanna find out what a bad bitch is,” he propositioned.
“I’m good, man,” I said. “I gotta get to bed.”
I went up to my room and had sex with the full-length pillow.
There was something scampering behind my washing machine. Something rodential. Something with chattery little teeth that sounded like it could nibble the toenail off of a homeless man if there was a promised slice of cheese beneath it. A real man would have stood up, tore back the machine and smashed the skull of whatever creature was frolicking around his lint catcher. Not me, I heard it nibble something and screamed so loudly, my wife ran downstairs and asked me if I had accidentally cut off my finger.
I hate mice, rats, squirrels, possums, raccoons, boll weevils… whatever. They disgust me, not only for their collection of diseases, but because they have no bowel control and they love cropdusting the bowl of avocados in my house with fetid urine samples and freakish teeth marks.
I’ve never been an animal person. Ever since my dog ‘Buffy’ shook my pet kitty to death in front of me when I was a quiet, sensitive 5th grader, I have despised all pets. Maybe I’m afraid to get close to them… maybe I’m afraid one might attack me. Maybe the fact that Buffy was the subject of nearly six separate lawsuits from 1985-1989 involving other 5th and 6th graders who claimed to have been mauled by him while waiting for our local ice cream truck has something to do with it… I don’t know. I just don’t love them. Nor do I love miniscule vermin who invade my kitchen at 9 o’clock at night when I’m trying to have a glass of Malbec and watch college basketball.
I heard the scratching again. My guess was that he made his way in through the side of the house like an imprisoned Andy Dufresne before nestling near the laundry machine searching for any disgusting amount of dried food that might fall out of my kids pockets following a day at school. There was a chance that the invaders gathering behind my Kenmore were harmless and small. But I doubted it. I was guessing they were quite large. The type Westley from The Princess Bride would refer to as R.O.U.S.’. (Rodents of Unusual Size). I wanted nothing to do with these cheese-nibbling tick factories.
I was torn on what to do. Should I set a trap? Bait him? Call the exterminator? Not like they ever really help… First, they come and charge $100 to spray coyote urine all around my back yard. Two weeks later new turd droppings line the closets, the “safety screens” they installed become metallic snacks and eventually, a horrendous smell that resembles what I imagine the a rotting corpse of a tauntaun to smell like breezes through my house. I wanted to kill these little shits, but as you may have devised, I lack the courage to kill anything besides a bottle of wine. In college, I killed a few moths, spiders and cockroaches, but that was a long time ago – and these massacres took place while drunkenly squealing with my eyes shut and frantically whapping a rolled up Rolling Stone magazine against a nest of invaders who had settled into my Futon. “Bastard son of a bitch slut sons of WHORES,”
I yelled at the noisy bunch gathering in numbers behind the aforementioned washing machine. “I’ll kill all you fucks.” They didn’t listen. They just seemed to slog me off like the guys trying to get me to take a “StarLine Bus Tour” of Hollywood every time I pass through Highland.
I watched the rest of the Arizona Wildcats game admiring TJ McConnell’s presence and smiling with every play drawn up by coach Sean Miller… But every time the applause died down, I heard the little Ratatouille party happening a few feet away. God-damn disease-ridden little whiskered gargoyles. Why wouldn’t they leave? I finally had the courage to take a hand towel and smack the washing machine a few times trying to get them to scamper and disappear. Instead, what I heard was the following:
Squeakity squeak. Squeak. OoohOoh. Squeetz Sysqweek.
SQUIIZZIIZIZIIZIZIZIZI . SQUEAK! SQWZZIZIZTTZYZYZYYT.
CHRIST. At this point, they were mocking me. Laughing. Squeaking their way through my house like furry rabies-riddled bastard hobo squatters. I finally decided there was only one thing to do. I had to KILL. These beastly gargantuan monsters had to go. I was going to go all Chris Kyle on these little pricks. I was about to assassinate.
Using all my strength – no doubt brought on by the wine and some anxious anger – I ripped that Sears Model Top Load Elite away from the back wall and prepared to face the dragon I knew I had to slay. Armed with an iphone flashlight and a paper bag, I was ready to battle these medieval beasts with all my timorous might – hoping to get it done in one schmack. A kill shot on the first swing. In my mind, I was the house-husband American Sniper. I was a silent assassin. In football terms, I would have chanted “I Must Protect This House.”
When the snarling creature and I came face-to-face, I was immediately humiliated. Sitting on the floor, behind my washing machine, was the tiniest most timid, miniature little mouse I had ever seen. The type of mouse they feed to snakes in terrariums at desert museums. A little guy who was just trying to find his next meal and a nice comfy tube sock to sleep in. I stared him down. He stared back at me. His head tilted left. Mine went right. He squeaked. I smiled…
And then he screamed and ran away as if I was the John Wayne Gacy of homeowners. After he left, I went to the mirror and took a look at myself. My lips were purple. My teeth were dressed in the stains of the evening’s red-wine. My hair shot forth in a bundle of curls. The bags under my eyes spoke of a few too many late evenings. In reality, I did somewhat resemble a serial killer. If anyone was scared, it was that little mouse. He was just a cute little thing. I looked like I was about to go on a Manson-like mass murder.
I decided to drag myself to bed. Around the same time the next night, I heard similar chattering coming from behind my washing machine. More nibbling, more squeaking… more odd noises that made me think I was 90 seconds away from having a honey badger tear through my kitchen and rip my scrotem off. However, instead of panicking and dropping rat poison behind the Kenmore, I took a moment and tilted my cap to my cute new friend behind the major appliance. After all… he was more scared of me than I was of him.
In prison, that would mean I was in control.
After a few minutes, I explained to my wife that I was totally cool with having a few rats and mice run around our house. As far as I was concerned, if they don’t bother us, let’s not bother them, right?
She looked me in the eye and shook her head ‘no.’
The exterminator came the next morning.
WHY THE F*#% DO I OWN A HOUSE? By Zach Selwyn*Author’s Note: If you don’t like to read white people complaining about stupid shit, do not read this rant.
It used to be the America dream. Three or four bedrooms, a yard, a dog, two kids, a mortgage and a slice of property that you tell strangers you meet while sipping drinks that you “own.” But do we really own these brick piles and stucco standings? Or are we merely temporary renters for a brief time on this planet? Over-paying our way through each month so that someday we might be able to pass our structure onto our children, who will most likely sell it the first chance they get so they can snort the profits?
My house is very nice. People tell me I am very lucky. But fuck owning a house. Why have I done this to myself? Every time I think I’m finally getting ahead with my finances, a clay pipe from 1929 explodes beneath the concrete walkway in my front lawn. 240 volts of electricity spring loose from a patched heater cable on the roof and threatens to electrocute my entire family if we plug in a toaster while my wife is using a hair-dryer. A feral squirrel eats an electric filament that connects the natural gas line and we have no hot water for 5 days. (I hope that stupid squirrel dies).
Repairs, property taxes, renter fees, water, power, gas and sewer charges… Basically I work my ass off to not be able to do anything but tell people I own a house. It’s a term Investipedia describes as being “house poor.” Basically, you become a prisoner to the bank and you flush all the money you had saved for things you always dreamed of down the clogged toilet every month.
For instance… I always wanted to buy season tickets to a baseball team. The Dodgers play three miles away. Ready to pounce on a package two years ago, I was shit-sided by the water pump in my basement exploding. BAM. Bye bye Yasiel Puig, hello All Valley Heating and Appliances.
Example number two: A best friend from college gets married in Italy last year. Plane tickets and lodging look affordable. My wife and I plan the most amazing trip. We even set up grandma to watch the kids while we’re away sipping limoncello beneath some Italian moon and devouring plates of Taglietelle Bolognese. And then? BOOM, a tree falls in our yard and smashes three windows. This, in turn, makes us have to “earthquake-proof” the entire fucking house and instead of dining beneath an Italian moon, we order take out from Olive Garden and eat it while watching Peaky Blinders.
Alright, I understand that most of you are reading this and saying, “Fuck you Zach, you own a house? Kiss my ass you lucky bastard asshole son-of-a-bitch.”
I will trade places with you right now. Give me a condo with a landlord who fixes stuff when it happens, and I’ll be a happier man. Bring me a community pool in the center of an apartment building and some shitty underground parking, and I am IN. For crying out loud, I pay a gardener $100 a month to mow our dead lawn – which we were told to stop watering during the California drought… I pay a cleaning lady more money than my mother makes a year to make sure the loose blueberries that sneak beneath the couches get swept up in an orderly manner. I pay a handyman to fix shit like a broken kitchen drawer when too many can openers and wine keys weigh it down and snap the wood.
This is not what I planned on spending all my money on in my life. However, these little incidents are why I have to do shit like pimp myself out as the ribbon-cutting host at the opening of an Artisanal pickle store in Alta Dena to make $150.
The other thing is, that there is about a 3 percent chance that I will ever pay this house off. It will keep going and going until I die and then my grandchildren will look at what I was paying and mumble to themselves, “Grandpa Zach was an idiot.” Of course, by then, the Hollywood neighborhood I live in will be full of Wal-Marts and Dave N’ Busters and my house will look like the house in the Disney film Up – The lone remaining house in a forest of corporate shit. My family will probably argue at my funeral over who gets to keep the ASCAP royalty checks from songs I have placed in film and TV shows and then sell the entire pile of shit-bricks for millions of dollars to a company that will build a Marshall’s Discount Store on our property. Then, when they look back at my books and past taxes, they will see how much money I threw into the trash trying to keep my house afloat, and how many wonderful opportunities I missed out on because I was busy paying gardeners and handymen and the city of Los Angeles to guarantee that my trash gets picked up every Friday… Hopefully then, they will realize that owning a house isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and they will continue living with roommates or in cheap studio apartments with sleazy landlords or even – if they’re lucky – in hotels with turn-down service.
I used to think that someday I might be able to retire. Yeah, right. THAT’S happening. Screen Actor’s Guild recently sent me a notice of my past earnings and told me that by the time I hit age 65, I will be receiving social security from them at the rate of… wait for it… $236 a month. BOOM. That’s about what I pay the city to guarantee we get a phone book every year. WHY? Fuck the phone book!
Then again, if all goes well, when I am 65 I will be living in a cardboard box with no lawn to mow, no heater to fix and no sewer to fill. My showers will be happily taken at the Hollywood YMCA and I will pass the day slurping watered-down coffee at the 7-11, pilfering my ASCAP checks for just enough money to buy a couple of 40 ounce beers so that I can sleep in peace knowing I don’t have to replace the fucking water filter in my refrigerator for $195 every May.
Of course, homelessness isn’t a joke and I’m not saying I’d rather be homeless, but sometimes when I see a young dude in a knitted cap with black soot on his face looking like he just swept a chimney – walking a pit bull on a leash made of chains – while smoking a half of a cigarette he found on the ground a few minutes beforehand, I wonder if in some way, he is better off. He doesn’t have any bills, no roof to patch and no yard to maintain. His house is the freeway underpass, which is power-washed and swept every week… The CITY takes care of his shit FOR him! And who pays the city to do that? I DO! It’s in my property taxes! Upkeep of the neighborhood!
Then again, he does need to eat. And when I thought about this earlier today, looking at a fellow around my age trying to sleep on an abandoned Futon frame, I understood that yes, I AM a lucky person. This poor guy probably had an awful childhood and he may never know the pleasures I have tasted or the comfort of a warm bed and I can’t help but feel guilty for griping about my white people problems while this unfortunate man eats Chick-Fil-A from a garbage can.
I slowly pulled my car over the side of the freeway and dug deep into my pants pocket for a few bills. I took out my wallet, searching… Realizing that it is my responsibility to help those in need. If you have a little – share a little. The young man saw me stop and began walking over to my car window for his handout. I kept poking around in the glove box for some money. Nothing. Center console? Cash-free.
“Shit man,” I say. “I thought I had some money on me, but I had to pay my handyman 100 bucks to fix the broken hatches on my garage door this morning.”
“Go fuck yourself,” he yelled into my window.
And I drove back to my house, embarrassed…
READ Zach’s collection of short stories “Talent Will Get You Nowhere“ – !
White People Problems – http://youtu.be/-MQrEwYxZW4
War Stories, My Stepfather and a Sony Discman. (Part 1)
The first time I got caught drinking, my mother thought that my stepfather, a man named Steven Fishco, should have a talk with me. After all, at the time, he had been sober for eight years and was one of Tucson, Arizona’s leading drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselors, working for recovery places like Sierra Tucson where rich people would spend ungodly amounts of money to send their troubled kids. Celebrities showed up as well, along with spoiled debutantes, trust-fund babies and occasionally, politicians. In the circles of rehab, Fishco was simply known as “the Fish” and he treasured the moniker as if he was a member of some secret Government Navy S.E.A.L.S. operation and that was his codename.
Always wanting to know who had a serious drinking and alcohol problem, I would probe Fish for information on whatever ex-Major League baseball player or fading Hollywood star was enrolled in his rehab program. Unfortunately, he was a stickler for the rules and he never revealed his counselor-patient confidentiality agreement. Considering that Sierra Tucson cost roughly $45,000 a month, I’m sure many rock stars and celebrities were happy that some 14-year-old wasn’t running around junior high telling his friends about the time everybody’s favorite singer mainlined a jug of gasoline and copulated with a stuffed giraffe. Therefore, when Fish would tell us some funny stories about troubled Hollywood types and celebrities, he would mask their identities and I was always left guessing who the “serious dope fiend singer from that one band you like” was.
Because of the alcoholic horror stories, and the fact that Fish’s own mind was ruined from years of intravenous drug use and cocaine, I avoided drinking and smoking for most of high school. My friends accepted it and I occasionally lied to people to seem like I had been caught drinking and couldn’t afford to be grounded again, etc. Most everybody accepted this as my way in life. I would often quote Fish and his unique sayings that kept me away from drugs over the years. My favorite being, “Cocaine is an expensive way to get nervous.”
In the spring of 1992, At 16, I skipped school with some buddies and some cute girls to go wander around Sabino Canyon. Now that I’m much older and more environmentally aware, I recognize the canyon as a natural, beautiful Tucson national park and quite possibly the most serene place I can think of on earth. However, back in high school, it was simply a secluded place to drink, meet girls and bury empty cases of Budweiser cans in the desert as to not leave any evidence behind. (Sorry National Park Service.)
The day we skipped school was known on campus as “Senior Ditch Day,” and even though I wasn’t quite yet a senior, I knew that they were somewhat cool with me tagging along because I not only owned a Sony Discman, but because I liked to DJ parties with tapes, CD’s and my boom box. So, I loaded up the 50 CD’s I owned at the time along with my 75 cassingles and drove to go drink in the desert with a bunch of turtle-necked mullet-heads who listened to MC Hammer and loved Minitruckin’ Magazine. (For a rare few years in my high school, lowered mini trucks, turtlenecks and tight Z. Cavaricci pants were the only things that mattered to a select group of cool kids. “Minitruckin” was the art of buying a shitty truck, lowering it to the ground and spending thousands of dollars on paint, rims and 12-inch woofers to blast DJ Quik while spinning your ride around a parking lot.)
Of course, one of the seniors immediately took over my system. As soon as I loaded up the music in the desert and set up my stereo to play an endless mix of Naughty by Nature and Metallica, a guy named Adam Lancer decided that he was going to DJ and that I was going to be forced fed beer while teaching him how to seamlessly mix songs. Never wanting anybody to touch my equipment, I was reluctant at first but eventually gave in to him because, well, he was a cool senior with a killer set of Oakley sunglasses and the hottest girlfriend on campus. Admittedly, trying to feel cool, I tried to match him drink for drink. Needless to say, I soon found myself giggling and slurring, while confidently trying to brush my hand up against senior girl Heather Tyrtanna’s butt in her tight, stonewashed Guess Jeans. When she didn’t seem to mind, I kept doing it and eventually let Adam Lancer have full control of my boom box. As one beer turned into six, I suddenly developed an insane confidence to convince Heather to take a private walk with me in the desert where we made out (and dry-humped) for 15 minutes. That beautiful moment was all I needed to realize that all those years I avoided drinking were a complete waste of time.
The party was broken up about an hour later when two cops ran up on the desert gathering and the kids scattered like roadrunners. As the dozen or so lowered 1991 Isuzu pick ups high-tailed it out of the parking lot, I was left gathering my CD’s and tapes and watching Heather Tyrtanna run off with senior Miguel Arroyo in his 1990 Honda CRX. A bit drunk and confused, I was able to pull off a decent straight man when the cops asked me what I was doing in the middle of the desert on a school day. After a few questions and a lot of probing, I told them I was 22 years old.
“You don’t look 22, you got ID on you?” One cop asked.
“I don’t have it right now,” I slurred.
When they asked me what I was doing with a bunch of stereo equipment, I thought of the best lie I could possibly come up with.
“I’m actually an employee of Desert DJ’s,” I said. “A bunch of kids hired me to play this party… for 50 bucks.”
Desert DJ’s was the company that had DJ’d my Bar Mitzvah.
“Young man, are you intoxicated?” The cop prodded.
“Of course not,” I said.
I then proceeded to knock all of my music into the sand and fall down.
Having a patrol car escort you home at age 16 is a pretty traumatic experience for a high school kid. Especially since I had a backpack full of CD’s and severe penile chaffing from grinding my crotch up against Heather’s jeans for 15 minutes. When they pulled up into the driveway, my mother ran outside hysterically screaming. Once the cops calmed her down, she watched as I slumped my way inside the house and proceeded to projectile vomit all over the bathroom. Amazingly, my mother tried to convince the policemen that I was an Ivy-League bound honor student and that a “Minor in Possession” ticket would ruin my future. Somehow, they believed her.
20 minutes later, my mom brought me some water and told me to go to bed before warning me that we would have a serious talk when I woke up. The policeman left and the last thing I remember my mom saying before I drifted off into the dark abyss of my first ever drinking hangover was, “Where the fuck is your car?”
When I woke up at 6:00 that night, Fish was standing in my room.
“Yo Z!” He exclaimed. “Tied one on this morning, hey baby?”
As I scrambled my throbbing thoughts and felt the dry contact lenses cracking in my bloodshot eyes, I asked him what had happened. He simply dangled my car keys in my face and said, “Get up, mom wants me to take you to get your car.”
The ride back towards Sabino Canyon only took about 15 minutes from my house. As I became increasingly aware of the rawness I had inflected on my private parts attempting to grind Heather’s zipper open, Fish tried in his own unique way to scare me away from the perils of drugs and alcohol.
“So, how many beers did you slam this morning?” He asked, sounding like a one of my buddies and less than a parental figure.
“I think 5 or six,” I said.
“What a PUSSY, man! What are you a lightweight?”
As I opened the window for some fresh air, I was suddenly aware that Fish was not going to lecture me on the perils of drinking. Instead, he began relaying to me story after story about his 20 years in the trenches of inebriation. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they call these tales “War Stories.” Apparently Fish was the KING. He told me that every single patient at Sierra Tucson loved him and his war stories.
Like how in college when he took three consecutive spring breaks to Colombia. Not the District of Colombia, but Colombia, South America.
“Bought three grams of coke and two ‘party girls’ for me and my buddy Larry Goldbeer… Man, first time I had a semi automatic rifle pulled on me!”
“The first time?” I asked, gingerly.
Another great story involved seeing Jimi Hendrix on LSD n 1967. And then there was the drinking with Jim Morrison, the spliff rolling with Bob Marley and the three straight days he spent shooting junk with James Taylor on Martha’s Vineyard. I suddenly came to the conclusion that this wiry-haired man-child from New Jersey, who I had lived with for ten years and only bonded with over baseball and reggae music, was the coolest person I had ever met.
“Now listen Z,” he said, suddenly getting serious. “The key is moderation. Now me? I got no way to control myself. Once the bottle cap is twisted off, you might as well consider the bottle finished – once I won a rum drinking contest at Club Hedonism in Jamaica and fell asleep in the ocean.”
“How did you survive?”
“Some native chick I was banging saved my life man… Threw me in my hotel room and I woke up 3 days later.”
Although the threat of upsetting my mother and father was still the top priority on why I would probably never drink again, the stories Fish was churning out made it seem that the only way I was ever going to have any adventures at all was to begin a lifelong relationship with drugs and alcohol. I mean, at 16, my life was pretty simple. Go to school. Go to basketball practice. Masturbate. Go to Jewish youth group. Masturbate again. Watch Beverly Hills 90210. Maybe masturbate during Beverly Hills 90210… I needed some new escapades.
As we pulled into the parking lot of Sabino Canyon, I noticed my 1988 Dodge still parked by the entrance of the park. Fish pulled his car next to it and we talked for a minute about what drugs I had seen at school. Truth was, I had only seen a few hesher kids smoke pot once or twice. I heard that other kids did it, but in early 1992, weed wasn’t exactly everyone’s drug of choice. Of course, six weeks later The Chronic by Dr. Dre came out and everybody I knew suddenly began smoking dirt brown Mexican mota and fastening wooden pipes during Shop Class.
“Let me tell you one last story,” Fish said, solemnly looking out towards the Santa Catalina Mountains.
“1980, man, I went to visit my buddy Gary Guccinelli in Houston. We decided to do some coke and go to the Astrodome with his dad who had season tix… Of course we drank in the car before the game and then when we got there, we started smoking reefer up in the upper deck because the place was fucking EMPTY, man.”
All I could envision was the horrible Houston Astros uniforms on my 1980 Topps Nolan Ryan baseball card. He pressed on.
“Anyway, we went down to his dad’s seats man and then we just started drinking whatever we could find… Mainly beer, but you know it was a combo platter for me with all the dope and the blow and whatever… Anyway, Gary’s dad was kinda senile, so he gets up and starts walking up the row of seats, so Gary goes to follow him. I stayed in the seats because I was waaaay too sayonara baby, you know? Next thing I know, I’m yelling out at Cesar Cedeno (The Astros talented multi-tooled player who was at the end of his career in 1980) about when he killed his girlfriend when they were fucking blotto drunk, man. So Cedeno keeps looking back at me, and finally points his finger at me and next thing I know, two cops have me around the neck and are escorting me out of the stadium.”
“Wait, who killed Cesar Cedeno’s girlfriend?” I asked.
“In like 1973 he and some chick he was screwing were playing Russian Roulette and the girl was shot and killed and Cedeno got off,” he explained.
“So what happened after you were taken out of the stadium?”
“Bottom line was, I WASN’T taken out of the stadium, man… I got thrown in Astrodome Jail!”
Apparently, the Houston Astrodome had a jail for drunk and disorderly fans during the 1970’s. Fish was taken there and thrown into a cell with 3 other rowdy men who had been detained for various reasons. I asked him who the other prisoners were.
“2 drunken Indians and some 70-year-old guy who pissed on himself during the 3rd inning,” he said. “Anyway, Gary and his dad ended up leaving the game and I had to take a taxi back to their house 5 hours later and when I got there Gary had called my mom in New Jersey and told her that I was missing. Of course my mother told him it was the 5th time I had been reported missing that year so she didn’t get too worried. Meanwhile, Gary’s dad went to sleep and I told Gary my story about being locked up for five innings in the Astrodome.”
“Wow,” I said. “Was that when you decided to get sober?”
“Are you kidding me? Gary and I took his dad’s car and went to a bar until six in the morning!”
I decided to show Fish where the party had taken place, but Sabino Canyon was closed for the evening and we were asked to leave by the Park Ranger. I got in my car and followed Fish home, doing my best to not go even one mile above the speed limit. When we got back, my mom asked me if we had spoken about the incident. She said she hoped I had learned my lesson and I told her that I had before thanking her for getting the cops to not issue me a MIP ticket. We hugged and I crawled into bed to sleep the rest of my hangover off. After slathering my genitalia with gobs of Neosporin.
The next morning, I went to gather a few CD’s for my drive to school. It was then that I first realized that not only was my Sony Discman missing, but so were at least 5 of my perfectly alphabetized and organized CD’s. I could not find “OPP” by Naughty by Nature, LL COOL J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” “Nevermind” by Nirvana, Color Me Badd’s “CMB” and, oddly enough, “The Soul Cages” by Sting.
Later at school, I noticed that Adam Lancer was walking around the hallway with my Discman. Assuming that he had my CD’s as well, I knew I would have to confront him and get my stuff back. Of course, when I approached him in between 2nd and 3rd period and asked for my Discman back, he said, “Don’t you remember giving this to me when you were wasted?”
I didn’t. However, based on my minor blackout, I couldn’t be sure if he was lying. Still, I knew I had to get my stuff back. What would follow over the next week were some of the most humiliating events of my life. However, at the end of it all, through a carefully calculated game plan that included falsifying Government documents, blackmail and a web of deceit, I would suddenly have the reputation as the craziest partier in my junior class…
…TO BE CONTINUED
*Zach’s First Collection of Short Stories and Essays, “Talent Will Get You Nowhere” will be published in Early 2014 by DIRT CITY PRESS!*
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