MANHATTAN MESSIAH (Pt. II)

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Jeremy had disappeared into the glass and steel canyons of Manhattan. Maybe he was walking across the Hudson River or multiplying fishes and loaves in Little Italy.

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And then, late that night, the “Messiah” returned. He had started out on his pilgrimage to preach love to the President in Washington but got lost in the Bronx where his car broke down and miraculously found his way back to Chelsea. Having lived to tell the tale, maybe he did have the protection of angels. I was relieved that his manic energy had seemed to have subsided a little and even more relieved when he went to bed.

The next morning, while Jeremy slept in, I phoned my therapist (a prerequisite to living in New York) and explained the surreal situation. He informed me that it was probably a psychotic break that could have been triggered by the emotional break-up with his girlfriend, and that age twenty-two is when the adult brain is fully formed and mental problems, like schizophrenia could kick in. My shrink said Jeremy needed medical care – and I needed time to figure out how to get him back to Toronto.

Jeremy was a talented artist, so I figured maybe spending an afternoon at the Met would chill him out if I could avoid paintings of Christ (good luck with that), for fear his hallucinations might make him think they were mirrors.

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We spent the afternoon at the fathomless art gallery where I continued to be fascinated by his bizarre interpretations of paintings. A part of me was envious about where he was, or wasn’t in his mind and to tell the truth, if I was seeing auras and hearing voices I would think I was pretty damn special too. Our outing was blessedly uneventful until we entered the cafeteria for a snack. Jeremy wanted to leap on to the table and preach love to everyone in the vast, echoing space. Needless to say, I got us out of there as fast as possible and into the streets of the Upper East Side.

As we looked for a coffee shop I tried to explain again, that he wasn’t the Messiah. I said, “Watch. The first person we pass, I’ll ask them.” A sophisticated looking woman with Bloomingdales shopping bags was approaching. I stopped her, pointed to my tall, lanky nephew and asked, “Excuse me, do you think this is the Messiah?” She looked up at him and replied, “Yes. Yes, I think he’s the Messiah.” Jeremy grinned. I thought, “Oy. Everybody’s crazy!” Over coffee, I explained to Jeremy a plan that I had hatched while gazing at a Jackson Pollock splatter at the Met. I told him that the note he left with his mother had worked. People do appreciate and miss him. I made up a story that I had a meeting in Toronto and we could fly there together in the morning. He agreed. He wanted to go home. I was tempted to look to the heavens and exclaim, “Thank you, Jesus!” but was afraid he might say, “You’re welcome.”  I booked us a flight to Toronto.

The next morning, just as were about to get a cab to the airport, I told Jeremy we were lucky to get last minute seats together; 13B & C. He became instantly agitated. He had thirteen disciples and this was a sign – and not a good sign. With panic in his eyes, he put his large hands on my shoulders and stared me in the face. I immediately visualized the headline in the Post, “Tall Nephew Strangles Short Uncle in Chelsea Loft.” He insisted he would take the bus home from Port Authority – and fled.

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Again feeling responsible, I phoned Port Authority and gave Security a description of Jeremy to keep an eye out for him and hold him until I got there. They asked, “Is he a danger to himself or anyone else?” “No,” I protested. “He’s a nice Jewish boy.” Come to think of it, so was Jesus. Security explained that there is nothing they can do unless he poses a threat to himself or others. I was quickly learning how frustrating it is for relatives of schizophrenics to try and get help within the system.

I phoned my sister and confessed that I had lost Jeremy again. But hopefully, he was on a bus home to Toronto. He wasn’t. The next phone call was from my sister. Jeremy had been arrested for terrorism and a threat to the President of the United States. (To Be Continued)

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(Excerpt from, “Nut Magnet – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MANHATTAN MESSIAH (Pt. I)

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Three o’clock in the morning in a sleepy Toronto suburb, my sister was awakened by the sound of someone downstairs. She cautiously padded down the stairs into the living room and there, sitting in front of the television was her son, Jeremy watching TV. It wasn’t on.

Three o’clock in the afternoon in the crowded, noisy, hyper metropolis of Manhattan, I was awakened from an afternoon nap by my sister’s phone call. Had I heard from Jeremy? My twenty-one year old nephew was missing – and so was his car.

My sister had been divorced for many years and Jeremy was living with her in the burbs, often sequestered away in his room. Jilted by a girlfriend, he had been acting strangely for weeks, restlessly pacing and chain-smoking in the backyard deep into the night. Maybe he smoked some bad weed or was acting out a late teenage rebellion. But he had also become increasingly withdrawn and emotionally flat. Over the years, my sister and I had grown very close as siblings and best friends. And now, a feeling of helplessness crept over us both as she read a cryptic note that Jeremy left on the kitchen counter. Since I was the wordsmith in the family, she hoped I could interpret what she feared might be a suicide note. “If I ever come back from where I’ve gone, people might appreciate me and the truth.”

Nine o’clock that evening I received another phone call. It was Jeremy. I was relieved to hear his voice but shocked that it was coming from a phone booth in Manhattan. (It was 1987). He had driven into New York City and needed to know how to get to my place at 27th and Tenth Avenue. I gave him directions to the loft that I shared in Chelsea with my friend, Connie. She owned the enormous loft on the sixth floor of a one hundred stair walk-up and we had been roommates since I moved to NYC in 1985.

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A few hours later, the downstairs buzzer announced Jeremy and what was to become a surreal adventure. He made it up all the stairs rather quickly and appeared at the door. I followed as he strode his lanky six-foot frame down our hallway into our vast living room area. “What are you doing here?” I asked. His brown eyes were wide and wired as he launched into, “What do you know? What do you know? Tell me what you know! What do you know? What do you know?” I took a breath and replied, “Tell me what YOU know.” A sense of calm melted over him, “I know that I’m the Messiah. I have twelve disciples. I’m on my way to Washington to tell Bill Clinton about love in the world.”

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His lips curled into a peaceful smile. Behind my desperate smile was a silent, “What the fuck?” Knowing he worked part time at a pharmacy I asked, “Are you on something? Did you take something?” He shook his head and just smiled. And I wondered how the hell he drove into Manhattan in such a manic state. Most people can’t find their way across bridges, through tunnels and the horn-honking streets of New York City in the most lucid frame of mind. I asked him where he parked his car. He pointed out the window, “On the street.” “Well, you’re going to get a ticket or towed,” I warned. He grinned, “Not in my world.” “Well, we’re not in your world,” I replied, “You’re in New York and you’re going to get a ticket.”

I introduced Jeremy to a bewildered Connie and we went to move his car into a parking garage down the block. We trundled back upstairs to the loft and talked and talked into the wee hours of the morning. Being a writer, I was fascinated by his jumbled logic of Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Angels and Fairy lore and the Bible. I almost expected him to turn my water into wine as he ranted on about brotherly love, government, the universe, respect, injustice, friendship, betrayal and the sins of humanity. Something was terribly wrong. But a tiny part of me thought, ‘We’ve all been waiting for the Messiah, why couldn’t it be my nephew, Jeremy?’

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His mind was on speed-dial, his convictions passionate and his rants sincere as I tried to navigate the labyrinth of his scattered thoughts. Little did I know, that it was useless trying to reason with what I would quickly learn was the psychotic break of a young paranoid schizophrenic.

It was now 5AM and the Manhattan skyline was beginning to yawn into pink. Jeremy went into the bathroom to take a shower. In all the commotion of the night, I hadn’t noticed that he had brought with him a small black suitcase. Hearing the shower in the other room, I snapped open the case. No clothing – only a candle, a notebook, a thick soft-cover book on Fairy Lore…and a gun!

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It looked like a starter pistol or a bee-bee gun but I was amazed that he drove across the border with it. I heard the shower stop and not wanting to show alarm, I snapped the case closed as Jeremy wandered back into the room. I made him up a bed on the sofa. Confused, exhausted and mentally spent, I crashed out on my bed. When I woke up late morning, he was gone!

Messiah or not, my nephew was lost in his mind and on the loose in New York City. I got dressed and ran down the street to the parking garage. His car was gone. I had hoped I could track Jeremy’s license number for the police but the morning attendant didn’t have the stub to his parking ticket from the night before. I rummaged through the trash trying to find the ticket with a time stamp but the attendant chased me out of his underground lair. I staggered back up to the loft to call my sister with the news that Jeremy and his car were gone. Since he was in my jurisdiction I felt responsible. But there was nothing we could do but wait for something to happen. And it did. (Pt. II To be continued)

(Excerpt from, “Nut Magnet – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

 

FINDING MY BLISS

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It was the Eighties. It was “snowing” in our noses – especially mine, with a cocaine habit that was turning me into, “Willy Honka And The Nose Candy Factory.” As co-founder, Vice President and head writer of Asterix Productions, a company producing corporate entertainments, I was burnt out of what was left of my mind. For years, I had been writing three proposals a week, corporate shows, sketches, lyrics, speeches and award presentations while maintaining a career as a musical theater writer. Juggling more balls in the air than Cirque Du Soleil, I was often in meetings from 9AM-7PM and the only time I could actually sit down and write was between 9PM-3AM. So it was ‘coke’ that gave me the bump I needed to stay awake and keep on going.

I’d take a toot first thing in the morning just to get out the door and since the kick only lasted a couple of minutes I’d keep on snorting. Writing all those shows, I was making a good living that went up my nose and rationalized that the more I snorted, the more I could write, the more money I could make. My sinuses were clogged. I’m not a grumpy guy but my temper was growing short as I descended from the hamster wheel of artificial highs. I even took to stealing my mother’s sleeping pills to come down at night. Between weed and coke I was up and down like a toilet seat spinning out of control until I became the poster-guy for quitting.

Keeping all those creative plates spinning, the only way I could concentrate on writing my own labors of love was to disappear into the woods for a week or two. I had rented cabins up north for two years and this year, in 1983, I found a place up in the Haliburton Highlands where I rented a cabin in the woods for ten days.

My previous sojourns had been two-hour drives from Toronto, and Haliburton was almost four hours away. But to escape the eyesore of suburban sprawl you had to go that far to find those luxury items called, silence and fresh air. So, with nostrils worth a small fortune, I packed up my IBM Selectric typewriter and headed for the woods to quit coke cold turkey.

After a three and a half-hour drive, I came to a gated dirt road through the woods that lead to a cluster of cabins. The owner of the place greeted me at my car – Ditmar Arff, not a name you easily forget. He had a growling Doberman Pinscher with a spiked collar on a short leash. With a thick German accent, Mr. Arff pointed to my cabin and a homemade sauna with smoke sifting out of a chimney. A German accent, a Doberman on a short leash and a building with smoke curling out of the chimney was enough to make all my Nazi nightmares feel like they were coming true – and here I was to detox. Mein Herr handed me the key to my quaint little pine-paneled, linoleum-floor cabin a few yards away from a beautiful gushing waterfall.

I decided to embark on my rehabilitation while it was still light out. Walking deep into the woods, I stopped at a clearing. There, I put a curse on myself. I touched my nose and vowed out loud, “If you do one more snort of coke you are going to die.” “No! No! Weekends only!” protested the voice in my head. But I prevailed, “One more toot and I wish you death!” “No, no! How about Wednesdays from 6-11?” negotiated the addict voice. “No!” I commanded myself. “One more toot and you die!” It worked. The voice in my head shut the fuck up. My nose thanked my brain and I never touched cocaine again!

I don’t recall any particular withdrawal symptoms; maybe because I didn’t have enough discipline to also give up smoking marijuana that I brought along. But perhaps there was a side effect to my coke withdrawal after all – paranoia. The constant gurgling sound of the waterfall became white noise. But how could I hear branches crackle if someone was going to break in and stab me in my sleep? I decided that the only way to overcome such fear was to scare the shit out of myself, push myself to the limit and anything less than that, would not be scary. That night, I smoked a joint and happened to have the soundtrack of Psycho on my Walkman. (Who doesn’t?)

Stoned out of my mind, I put on my headset, grabbed a sharp kitchen knife and wandered out into the woods in the dead of night. Crazy? Uh-huh. But I thought it was actually a creative way to overcome fear. With Bernard Herrmann’s spooky score playing in my head, I stumbled through the pitch-black woods waving the knife in front of me in case I ran into a Nazi, bear or Sasquatch.

I made it back to the cabin alive and settled in to read at the kitchen table. Around 2AM I glanced over at the window, and there was a fat man with a red beard holding a flashlight under his third chin. But I didn’t jump. I didn’t scream. After walking through the woods, stoned, listening to Psycho, anything less than that, did turn out to warrant no more than a double-take. It so happened that the guy had driven on to the premises and couldn’t find his way in the dark. He saw my light on and wanted directions to his cabin.

I spent the week in exquisite solitude, reading, canoeing, swimming, barbecuing, hiking and writing an ambitious play called, “Kiss Me Goodnight, Eddie” – the history of America through the Ed Sullivan Show.

I’m a sunset fanatic and my cabin was facing east, so I couldn’t see my favorite end-of-day psychedelic spectacle. So every night, I would get into the car and drive to a clearing somewhere, in search of a spectacular sunset. Driving around the lake, I wondered how much a cottage cost. I’d been renting for three years and had no idea of the price of paradise.

Along a wooded country road, I passed a tree with a random For Sale sign on it and the name of the realtor, Dorothy Hewitt. I was inspired to write down the information and would call her tomorrow. As I scribbled down her number and name, a red pickup truck stopped. A skinny white-haired woman in her 60’s stepped out and said, “Hi. I’m Dorothy Hewitt. I was driving by and saw you writing down my name. Are you interested in a place?” I had always had a lot of synchronicity in my life, but this not only took the cake, it took the bakery! “What are you looking for?” Dorothy asked. Being a height and sunset freak I said, “I know it doesn’t exist. But I’m looking for a place on the top of a cliff in a pine forest on the lake facing west so I can watch the sun set.” Dorothy smiled, “Come with me, I want to show you something.” She lived down the road and led me into her living room. Pointing to a cliff across the lake, Dorothy said, “It’s the Rutherford Estate. It’s exactly what you just described. I’ll take you there tomorrow.”

The next evening, as the sun was setting, (she was no fool), Dorothy drove me to the other side of the lake. We rumbled down a mile-long bumpy, twisting, private road. At the very end, in the middle of a pine forest, was a dirt driveway. We passed two small guest cabins and at the end of the driveway, was a forest green structure that looked like Snow White could have lived there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I didn’t want to see the building yet. Instead, I went straight to the cliff. As the sun was setting, the air still smelled like warm pine and the plaintive cry of a loon echoed across the pink-purple lake that reflected the farewell blaze of a sunny day. I had to hold back tears at the serene beauty of this magical spot.

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On a path of pine needles, we crunched our way toward the house. It was an historic large green building that had belonged to a wealthy logging family. This was their dining hall and they stayed in cabins, two of which remained on this property. The enormous room had twelve French windows, a cathedral ceiling, a huge stone fireplace and pine floors. There was a complete bathroom with tub and two sinks. The kitchen with a large pantry had the original stone floor from the 1930’s that had been laid right on the ground and had buckled over fifty winters.  The place would need a lot of work, but I had the imagination to know what could be.

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I hadn’t seen any other cottages to compare. So in the next few days, Dorothy showed me other places, small, dank, claustrophobic cottages slammed up against other similar cottages. They were cheaper, winterized and ready to move in. But none had the land, the view, the privacy, the history and the drama of what was to become Heen Acres! My heart, my soul, my romanticism and appreciation of solitude told me I must have this place. And so I returned for another visit to the enchanted six acres of forested paradise on the lake. I picked up a stone and etched into a rock on the cliff, “I’ll be back.”

As a realtor, of course Dorothy told me there were other people interested in the property and the owner, who lived in Chicago, would not take a penny less than the asking price – which was all the money I had in the bank. I was planning on using my savings to move to New York. But New York would always be there – this opportunity for a piece of peace would not. Amazingly, I didn’t need anybody’s approval except for my accountant who advised that I could not lose buying lakefront property. I took his advice and not wanting to lose my dream to another bidder, I offered cash. Being superstitious, I withheld my secret for weeks while the offer was considered. And then, in early September came Dorothy’s phone call, “Congratulations, you’re a cottage owner!”

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Wanting to surprise my mother and sister, a week later, I invited them to join me for an Autumn drive up north. They thought we were going for a little spin to see the Fall colors. Almost four hours later, I led them on to the property, saying I wanted to show them the beautiful view I discovered while on my trip there last month. The three of us walked the path through the woods to the cliff overlooking Haliburton Lake. My sister spotted a faded wooden sign warning, “Private Property.” She said, “We better go. The owner will kick is out.” “No, I won’t.” I said calmly. And then screamed, “I OWN IT!” Needless to say, they didn’t believe me. But after cracking a small bottle of champagne on the rocks and excitedly giving them a tour of the property, they believed me – although I could hardly believe it myself.

Three decades later, Heen Acres has become part of my life cycle. Having lived in major cities of Toronto, New York and now Los Angeles, I treasure every warble of a loon, every sun-drenched day, each breath of pine scented air and shooting stars that wink across the night sky. Every sunset, I’m perched on my cliff front row center for the best show in town.

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Dorothy Hewitt died recently. But I’m sure she can hear my sighs echo into the skies, grateful for the embrace of fate that stopped me at that tree to jot down her phone number – and thirty-four years of bliss.

 

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PSYCHO-HOTTIE (Pt. III)

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It had been three months since I tumbled down the rabbit hole with my March Hare. In fact, it was the month of March and caught up in a whirlwind of caring and co-dependence, I had unwillingly become the Mad Hatter. I knew my own sanity was at stake and this episode should have been the finale.

Easter. My fellow tenants were throwing their yearly Easter party for the building and friends; a drop-in affair of Easter eggs and champagne. Being Catholic, and estranged from his family, James wanted to spend this Easter Sunday with me. And so, I invited him to join me for the pastel festivities in my building. A few hours later, he pulled up in his Porsche convertible, tanned, handsome with a bouquet of flowers for the hosts.

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I proudly entered the party with my Cuban arm candy. Every head turned and as always, his charm sucked the energy out of the room – until he yanked me into the bathroom and closed the door with a worried look on his face. “Honey,” he purred, “I want to spend today with you but there’s this guy who’s been stalking me on a website and he wants to meet today.” Instead of looking for a toilet plunger to whack him across the head, I suggested he simply not reply to the guy. Due to the mercurial nature of whatever we were, and since our dynamic changed hourly, we weren’t “exclusive.” But James had wanted to spend the day with me and said, “Let’s leave the party and have a nice dinner, just you and me.” I told him, “It’s Easter Sunday and every restaurant will be booked.” But addicted to his smile, I left him alone at the party and went upstairs to phone around for a table for two. I spent a half hour on the phone and finally found a nice romantic restaurant in the neighborhood. When I returned to the party, James had invited 12 people to join us! It was easier to acquiesce than negotiate and so James and a dozen neighbors and strangers walked down the hill to an Italian restaurant in the neighborhood.

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Seated at a large outdoor table on the sidewalk, James ordered a $300 bottle of wine and handed me his American Express Gold Card whispering, “Honey, I’m paying for everybody. Here’s my card.” I refused to take his credit card telling him he was responsible for this latest turn of events. Then, he takes my hand and whispers that he had invited the online date he had never met to join us for dinner. At this point, I really didn’t care if Jesus, risen from the dead, joined us.

We all ordered and by the time my Tortellini arrived, so had James’ phantom date. The man’s eyes bulged at the sight of James with his arm around me and at what must have looked like the first and Last Supper. I actually felt sorry for the guy and removed James’ arm from around my neck. But when the man sat down and joined us, I stopped feeling sorry for him. If it was me, I would have left in a heartbeat. But who was I to judge being in a pseudo-relationship with a psycho-hottie whack-job? I had to pee, but knew if I left the table this guy would leap into my seat. I did. And he did. Next thing I knew, James asked me to step inside the restaurant.

James perched on a barstool and exclaimed, “What did you do? I wanted to be alone with you and you invited all these people to dinner?” My jaw hit the bar. “ME? YOU did this!” “Well get rid of them, I just want to be alone with you, hunnneee.” Then he stopped and said, “Oh. Wait. I like this song.” There wasn’t any music playing. Did Schizophrenia just get added to the list? Then he further charmed me with the words, “You know, I don’t know if this is going to work out. I could never introduce you to my family because you’re Jewish.” I wanted to order a drink just so I could splash it in his face. Instead, I ordered an end to the evening. When we returned to the sidewalk table, everybody was gone; except the tab that rivaled a month’s rent. James paid it with his American Express.

As we walked back up the hill to my apartment he said, “I don’t know how you put up with me.” I agreed and couldn’t wait to send him on his way. But then he said he would like to stay the night. He never stayed the night. And my co-dependent cuddle trigger went off with the chance to wake up with him in the morning. I said, “All right.” He responded, “Never mind. Think I’ll go home.”

As he climbed into his car, I asked, “Are you all right to drive? You’ve been drinking since noon.” “I’ll be fine,” and he hit the road. My exhaling rivaled the Santa Ana winds. But then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t have let him drive home after drinking all day. I phoned James in his car. He was almost home. I told him to call when he arrived. Never heard from him. Worry crept in, since suicide had been on his to-do list. I jumped into my car and drove to West Hollywood. I buzzed the intercom. No answer. Was he busy blow-drying his hair before sticking his head in the oven? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in there with the phantom date. I drove home and went to bed, at least knowing I tried. The next morning brought more insanity….mine!

Easter Monday. I woke up still concerned about James. I phoned. He answered, mad at me for letting him drive home drunk, but he wanted to be held. I had a pitch meeting in the afternoon but offered to stop off at his place on the way. I believe it’s classic for a Borderline to twist things to make you think everything is your fault. It worked. I stopped off to buy an apologetic bouquet of flowers. I pulled up in front of James’ building – it was on fire!

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So there I was running into a burning building with a bouquet of flowers. Now who’s the mental case? Firemen with hoses and axes were appearing and disappearing in the smoke and although the alarm was still dinging, a fireman said it was over and all right to enter.

James’ door was ajar and I entered his apartment where he was puttering around looking more handsome than ever in a tight white tee shirt and grey sweatpants. He started to ramble about last night. I shoved the bouquet in his face and slammed my hand against his mouth insisting, “Don’t talk. Just don’t talk. Don’t talk!” We collapsed into a long clutching hug of caring and confusion. James broke the hug and asked if I wanted to make love. I looked at my watch. I had a pitch meeting in 90 minutes. But one flash of that 100 megawatt smile and  I melted faster than the furniture in the lobby. But with the clock ticking and the alarm bell clanging I had performance anxiety. I secretly popped a Viagra. Pretty soon, the only thing climaxing was anxiety punctuated with, ‘What am I doing?’ I told James I had to go and left. However, I had forgotten that it takes Viagra about an hour to kick in. An hour later, I’m at a pitch meeting standing in front of a couple of producers and…BOING!

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POST-SCRIPT:

A friend reminded me that I’m a dramatist and so I thrive on drama. True, I may be a nut magnet, but as I’ve grown older I’d rather pay to watch a drama than be embroiled in one. I had been aware of my self-inflicted spiral into nuttiness and learned that Borderline Personalities suck you into their drama, project and twist it to make you doubt your own sanity. I had willingly been caught up in the Hollywood fantasy that epitomized beauty and wealth on the outside and a steaming hot mess on the inside. After subsequent episodes of James’ crystal meth relapse, abandonment crises, tender poetry followed by insults and false accusations, plans and arrangements that always turned into chaos, I knew there was an expiry date to the insanity since I was soon leaving for my summer in Canada.

Being a dramatist, I wanted to bookend our “relationship” by taking James out for an expensive dinner. Instead, at the last minute, he changed our plans and our last date was an AA 12-step meeting. I was glad to accompany him and after the meeting I said, “James, I’m proud of you.” He replied, “I don’t need your support.” Taxi!

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(Excerpted from, “Nut Magnet – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

PSYCHO-HOTTIE (Pt.II)

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So this was James. About 5’8” Cuban, coal-black eyes and wavy hair, blinding white perfect teeth that launched a killer smile, half-dressed in a tuxedo and a little manic as he ran around, trying to get dressed. In the middle of this hottie hurricane, he stopped and asked me to do up his tie. I approached my date who could easily have been a soap star, and was glad to see he wasn’t that much taller than me. He even smelled good. As I clipped on his tuxedo bow tie, I hit the reverse button in my imagination, tearing off his tie and ripping open his white perfectly starched shirt. Instead, he whirled around his apartment getting ready, he stopped and said, “This is me relaxed.” Another red flag hoisted up the flagpole. But I quickly tucked it away and scanned his apartment for clues to his personality; minimalist, expensive taste, some classic books and a framed black and white photo of a younger stunning guy. “Who’s this?” To my surprise it was James. He tried to be an actor once-upon-a-time and apparently once-upon-a-new-nose-time too. I could see he’d had some “work done” and although he didn’t look exactly like the man in the photo he was still the best looking date I’d ever landed.

James was finally dressed. Handsome, Hollywood tanned and tuxed, he tossed me his car keys. “You drive. I may want to have a few drinks.” I responded, “Uh, James, I hardly know you but you were just in the hospital for mixing meds with alcohol and you’re going to drink tonight and go into a coma in front of Al Gore?” “I’ll be fine,” he chirped and out the door we flew. Behind the wheel of his BMW, I pulled up to the valet parking at the Century Plaza Hotel and we breezed through the lobby toward the event ballroom. There must have been a thousand handsome black-tie men and I couldn’t take my eyes off my own date. Someone pinch me.

dsc-6298We strolled the Silent Auction tables commenting on items and eventually carved out our own space where James indulged me in conversation about life, death, spirituality, politics, entertainment and advertising. Wow! I really scored. Most of my dates took on the tone of the Jewish Inquisition mumbling answers that never topped one syllable.

We meandered into the banquet hall toward our $500-a-plate plates. It was like a Bar Mitzvah, on a strange planet inhabited by men in formal wear. We were seated at a table with about ten other guys, many of whom were couples. James and I chatted up our fellow guests but mostly got lost in each other, picking at our arugula salads while onstage, Charo serenaded us on guitar.

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Before I could finish my breadstick, James had his hand on my knee and my linen napkin almost rose off my lap. The man next to me leaned over and whispered, “So how long have you two been together?” “An hour,” I replied with an, I-don’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me-but-fuck-do-I-deserve-it” grin. Before the main course, James got up to go to the bathroom and as he returned, I watched him navigate his way back to our table and silently sighed, “This guy is my date,” and checked to see if my glass slippers needed Windexing.

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After dinner, Al Gore, speeches and dessert we decided to have a cocktail in the lobby while hundreds of guests lined up at the valet stand to wait for their cars. James had been drinking, but so far no red flags. We plopped on to a plush sofa. He picked up a cushion and clutched it to his chest. Pointing to a tall tuxedoed man across the lobby he whispered, “That’s my shrink. I don’t want him to see me.” His body language was that of fear and insecurity. But I empathized with him having once seen my New York shrink out of context which had brought back memories of the time I was in fifth grade and saw my teacher in the fresh produce section of the supermarket.

The shrink left and our cocktails arrived. We raised our glasses in a toast and James said, “Honey, if we’re going to have a relationship there’s some things you need to know about me.” ‘Honey?’ I was flattered this Adonis was already calling me ‘honey.’ He held my hand and confessed, “I’m very, very, very, very high maintenance.” I gazed into his fathomless eyes and replied, “Taxi!” Then, in a diatribe of vulnerability and honesty James told me he had severe A.D.D., he was Bi-Polar, a recovering Alcoholic, Crystal Meth Addict, Sex Addict, abandonment issues, low self esteem, agoraphobic with body dysmorphia and addicted to plastic surgery. My date had more issues than a subscription to National Geographic. My glass slippers were fogging up as my Cuban prince had turned into the index of the DSM Psychology Manual. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have waved his shrink over and gotten him drunk enough to tell me that James was also Borderline Personality Disorder. And yet, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt since it had so far, been an enchanting evening and more importantly…he was hot!

It was 2AM when we arrived back at James’ place. I was heading for my Honda when he asked if I wanted to come up to his apartment. Thank you Fairy Godmother. I didn’t want the night to end. And up I went. We weren’t inside more than a minute when he asked me to tear off his tie and I couldn’t believe that my earlier fantasy was coming true.

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James started to strip off his clothes. Had I wandered into Chippendales? Needless to say, he had the body of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue model and I felt like the “before” in an ad for Gold’s gym. But it wasn’t long before I felt like the “after” in a brochure for the Betty Ford Clinic. (Pt. III To be continued)

(Excerpted from, “Nut Magnet. An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

PSYCHO-HOTTIE (Pt. I)

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L.A. has more flakes than a box of Raisin Bran. And once you launch into cyber-space looking for a date, a relationship or anything at all, you’re lucky to find a raisin. I had posted my ad on Match.com, proud to be one of the only ones in orbit who can spell, actually show up and the only one in North America to show up on time.

Being a writer, I give good profile and attracted a plethora of hits. The only lie I told was my age. In La-La Land, Darwin’s theory of evolution has been rewritten as, “Survival of the Youngest.” Luckily, living in L.A. you automatically deduct ten years and with the Canadian exchange I hoped to pass for an embryo. They say, “Love is like a bus. If you wait long enough another one will come along.” But mine always seem to be the Shortbus, attracting those who are either magnanimously boring or clinically insane. As it turned out, “James” fell into the second category…

crazy-d-red-word-insane-silly-wild-idea-craziness-letters-to-illustrate-person-different-unique-unusual-uncommon-58945922 I can’t recall who made first contact. But when someone offers the first dating volley, it gives you a bit of an edge. So let’s just say it was James who responded to my profile and contacted me. I rarely respond without seeing someone’s photo because there are enough surprises in life. But he was 43 and after swimming in uh, younger waters I was trying to up my age range where I didn’t have to censor myself from referencing Doris Day.

I recall that we quickly graduated from cyber-space to Defcon 2; a phone call. I’m not much of a phone person and yet our first conversation must have lasted an hour with no lack of anything to talk about; a good sign. James lived in West Hollywood on his own and he was a lawyer. Over the phone, he had charm, energy, insight, humor and opinions. And in West Hollywood, any one of those qualities will get you a membership to Mensa.

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We spoke on a Monday. We spoke again on Tuesday and wow – more easy conversation. I even liked the sound of his voice, engaging with a bit of a sexy rasp. It was during our second conversation he asked, “What are you doing Saturday night?” Yikes! That’s date night. After living in New York for fifteen years, I rarely went out on weekends due to the obnoxious hordes. And being freelance my whole life, I don’t do line-ups. It could have been embarrassing admitting that I had no plans for Saturday night but one of the perks of being “older” is that I give 79.4% less shits.

When I told James I was available he asked, “Do you have a tuxedo?” I said, “I have a black suit. Why?” He told me, “I have two tickets to the Human Rights Campaign Gala dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel with Al Gore as guest speaker. I was waiting for someone special to go with me and I think that’s you. If you have a tux I’ll pick you up in a limo.” A first date with a stranger is only supposed to be ‘coffee with room’ at Starbucks. And when I learned that each ticket was $500 I gulped, wondering if I was supposed to pay for my own ticket? I wouldn’t spend five hundred bucks on someone I never met. I wouldn’t spend five hundred bucks on someone I had met. Having been in therapy for ambivalence, and having spent too many years cyber-dating, I didn’t trust this to be real. And then I thought, ‘Fuck it! I deserve to be Cinderella for a night,’ and agreed to be his date. In L.A., black tie means ‘don’t wear jeans.’ So I told James I had the proper attire and he said he’d pick me up at seven. Date night, a limo and Al Gore.

Wednesday. I emailed James modal_type_tuxedoMW40_40DP_10_CALVIN_KLEIN_FORMAL_SETUnknownmy  address so he could pick me up in the limo with hopes my neighbors would happen to be looking out their windows. No reply. Thursday. I phoned him. Nothing. Friday, I debated whether or not to polish my black party shoes and iron my white shirt. I called again. Nothing. And here, I thought I’d landed a raisin.

Saturday morning James called filled with apologies, hoping we were still on for the evening. He explained that he couldn’t call because he was in the hospital. “Oh my God. Are you all right?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “I mistakenly mixed my Xanax with my anti-depressants.” A red flag unfurled in front of my ears. But then again, I’m the only one in L.A. who isn’t medicated. James continued, “And then I was drinking and I shouldn’t have.” Up popped another red flag. But I wanted to dine with a salad fork and Al Gore. “And so I couldn’t rent a limo,” he explained. “That’s okay,” I replied, glad he couldn’t see me mouth the word, “Shit!” James thought out loud, “We could take my Jaguar.” A smile curled my lip. “But it’s in the shop. I hit a tree while drinking and driving.” There was beginning to unfurl more red flags than a Chinese May Day Parade.

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I sighed, “Well, if you don’t mind being picked up in a Honda Accord that’s been keyed at Bally’s I can pick you up.” James agreed and I was fine. Big deal. So Cinderella has to drive her own pumpkin.

I spent the afternoon grooming, spiffing and fantasizing with the occasional knot in my stomach anticipating a real live Saturday night first date with someone who may even have relationship potential. On my way over to James’ place I phoned him from the car to ask about parking. He suggested it would be easier if we took his other car, a BMW. I re-considered. If he wants to drive his BMW then I’m up for it. I agreed and drove into West Hollywood to meet my rich, handsome, tuxedoed Saturday night date. James opened the door to his apartment. I grabbed the door jamb to support my swoon and exhaled, “Holy fuck! You’re gorgeous!” (Pt. II To Be Continued)

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(Excerpted from, “Nut Magnet. An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

TONGUE LASHINGS

You may want to file this under Too Much Information. But if you read about my going blind on magic mushrooms (See: Shroom With A View) then you won’t be surprised that I went deaf when someone sucked out my eardrum. Wait. I can explain. %d8%b2%d8%a8%d8%a7%d9%86_tongue

Years ago, I was in the heat of passion and tongues were flying. Now I’m assuming you’ve all had someone’s tongue in your ear and this one was going at it like a pneumatic drill. Needless to say, it was quite wonderful until I felt an explosive WHOOSH and a POP! All that passion pressure had built up and it was as if my ear was a Toyota and an airbag went off. My ears were ringing like Christmas at the Vatican and I could barely hear, “Are you all right?” I smiled and nodded. But when I stood up, my equilibrium didn’t. The room was spinning and the hardest part was pretending to be cool while I walked into a wall.

So, now I was deaf in my right ear and went to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. The doctor examined my ear and told me that I had a perforated eardrum.

ear-infection1He proceeded to clean the wax out of my ears; something I’d never had done. Using a technique not unlike candling, he removed a ball of wax that I could have used for bowling. I imagined tiny wax gondolas floating down my ear canals and couldn’t believe that waxy shmootz was in my head for thirty-one years. Now I know why it’s called, “candling.” He pulled one out of my head.

I thought the procedure was over until he took out a bellows, which I thought was strange since there was no fireplace in his office. Then he said, “This might hurt.” The bellows had two prongs that he stuck up nose, he squeezed – and blew my ears out through my nose! I know everything is connected in there, but I didn’t expect a 60mph gust to enter my nose and exit my ears. I may have been partially deaf when I walked into his office but after having my ears blown out through my nose I was now totally deaf. I couldn’t even hear the birdies chirping around my head.

Somehow I discerned the doctor’s instructions to go down the hall for a hearing test. Deaf and dizzy, I weaved down the hallway to a large pudgy vision in a white lab coat. This stern woman made Nurse Ratched look like Florence Nightingale. She ushered me into a soundproof booth and I felt like I was on a bad game show where the prize was a new eardrum. She explained that she was going to put a headset over my ears and when I heard a series of sounds and pitches I was to push the appropriate buttons on a console. I smiled and nodded, but didn’t hear a word she said.

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She placed the headset with heavy rubber earmuffs on my head. I  barely heard a series of faint muffled tones. Wanting to please my medical master, I randomly started hitting buttons on the console. I must have pushed her buttons too. She whipped open the door and yelled, “Are you fucking deaf?” That I heard.

The prognosis was that my eardrum would heal on its own. Not wanting to ever go through that again, I considered wearing a condom on my ear the next time I was in the throes of passion. Instead, I would just keep turning my head and settle for a case of whiplash.

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IN DEFENSE OF GRUMPINESS

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When my mother was 68 she had asked me to mail a letter. (Remember letters?) It was addressed to the telephone company and it wasn’t a bill. It was a request that they return her 25 cents swallowed by a payphone. (Remember payphones?) This was out of character for my mother because she had never been what you would consider a demanding woman. In fact she once took an Assertiveness Course. The course must have worked. She asserted herself and quit. And now she wanted her measly 25 cents back from the phone company. I thought it was rather petty at the time. But now I get it. It’s cumulative. Because when a payphone eats your quarter for 68 years, dammit you want your quarter back! I don’t know if she ever got her 25 cents because now she was dealing with the post office. Today, alas, many hairlines later, I’ve become the same way with N-O-I-S-E.

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When you’re nineteen, you’ve been exposed to nineteen years of honking horns, thumping car stereos, barking dogs, pneumatic drills and whining speed boats. But add up over fifty years of leaf blowers, helicopters, motors revving, Toyotathon commercials and Celine Dion and you just want the world to shut the fuck up!

The crunching of popcorn in a movie makes my teeth clench. 620x400xbigstock-woman-annoying-man-in-cinema-b-87828788-jpg-pagespeed-ic-t60bbfjuicWhy didn’t marshmallows become the movie snack of choice? The deafening roar of a passing motorcycle. Why would anybody want to ride around with 100 decibels between their legs? Even the sound of high heels clacking along the sidewalk behind me is like being stalked by castanets. And loud music in restaurants? A friend of mine recently did a radio documentary interviewing restaurant managers about how they feel when patrons of a certain age ask them to turn the music down so they can have a conversation. A manager responded, “We don’t want you people here. You have dinner at 6:00 and one glass of wine. We want the Millennials who eat and drink into the wee hours. They don’t know how to have a conversation and text across the table.” My response, “What time does the shuttle leave for another planet?”

I’m especially sensitive to noise having lived over Manhattan’s only scrap metal yard for fifteen years. Every morning my wake-up call was the sound of a crane dropping cars off a magnet. In the street, two forklifts beep-beep-beeped out of sync ten hours a day. Homeless people were paid to bang metal radiators apart and every ten minutes a truck dumped fifty tons of broken glass and aluminum into the street. It was like living to the soundtrack of a Road Runner cartoon. Add to this, the basic New York sounds of sirens, construction, car stereos and it’s no wonder I had to sequester myself in a closet to make a phone call. And living at the corner of Tenth and 27th nighttime brought club traffic. With four of New York’s most popular clubs on my street they might as well have hung a mirror ball at the intersection for the hundreds of horn-honking, bottle-smashing club-going revelers from 1-6AM. It’s no wonder my last nerve had been jammed into a Cuisinart on Puree. More noise!

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The day after Halloween, I was taking my dog out for her morning walk. As soon as I opened the door to the street a beeping forklift belched diesel exhaust into my face. Now, wearing politically incorrect “blackface” I decided to walk my dog a few blocks over to the Hudson River. It had been a heavy club night and three blocks of broken beer bottles left landmines of glass. I picked up my 60-pound shepherd/lab and carried her to the relative serenity of the river. They were building the Chelsea Piers and had re-located the Heliport. A dozen idling helicopters deafened me, blowing more soot into my face. I turned south for refuge just in time for workers to pry open a sewer and the stench of raw sewage blasted into my nose and filled my lungs. I had only been out on the streets for ten minutes and every one of my senses had been raped and pillaged.

With my ears between my legs, I took my dog home and went straight to the McBurney YMCA on 23rd street. I needed peace and quiet. Eureka – the steam room! I was grateful to seek solace in a misty tomb of silence. I sat there alone, naked, wrapped in a towel, eyes closed in blissful gratitude. Then, the steam valve clicked on and through the calming fog I heard a steady seeping, “SSSSsssssssss.” I burst into tears. I want my 25 cents back.

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BRAIN DRAIN

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“With Shaklee!” – that’s the musical tag I had the cast shout out after every musical number when I was writing dozens of Shaklee shows for Asterix Productions, a company I founded with friends that produced corporate entertainments. Years after I sold off my shares and participation, I independently sought out writing jobs with Shaklee, a multi-level marketing company. Like Mary Kay, Amway, Herbal Life etc. these companies used to be called, Pyramid Sales but simply change the name and you can keep doing what you want.

I was at my cottage in Haliburton when, after months of pursuing Shaklee they called me to write comedy sketches introducing two new products in their vitamin line. For input, they flew me to their head office and I world-hopped from the Canadian woods of Ontario to Shaklee’s home office in Pleasanton, California. Within 24 hours I went from shorts, tee shirt and bare feet to being that guy in a jacket and tie at a Best Western surrounded by bland businessmen staring into their morning coffees.

The input meeting with the Shaklee marketing executives was relatively painless and almost interesting regarding their two new vitamin tablets; Mental Acuity and I forget the other one, oh yeah…Memory Optimizer. If I was going to write about these products it would be necessary to sample them and so they gave me a few bottles of each vitamin.
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I flew back to Toronto and drove back up to the cottage. It was the first week of August and summer should have been at its hottest. But it was fucking freezing. A cold wind was howling from the north and instead of shorts, tee shirt and bare feet I was in sweat pants, three sweaters and a scarf.

As a blazing fire roared and snapped away in my cavernous fireplace I settled down to write the sketch on Mental Acuity with its claims that it enhances mental clarity and decision making. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to sample this wondrous brain medicine. So I popped a Mental Acuity tablet. Wanting to be Einstein-For-A-Day, I popped two. While researching the powerful effects of this magical thought pill, the fire needed to be stoked. Being a voracious fireplace it gobbled up wood like an inhaling dragon.

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I put down my pen, took off my reading glasses and approached the fire. Holding my glasses in my left hand, I grabbed a log in my right hand, bent into the fireplace – and threw my glasses into the fire! Whaaat? Stupidity froze my limbs. Incredulity furrowed my brow. I squinted into the fire at my $300 prescription glasses now a bubbling black blob and two scorched lenses. I glanced at my right hand still holding the log. How was this possible? I took two smart pills and did the stupidest thing ever! Maybe I should tell Shaklee that a side effect is questionable hand-eye co-ordination. I phoned my client and told them, “I took two of your Mental Acuity tablets and threw my glasses into the fire – and now I can’t see what I’m writing. I’m afraid I’m going to miss my deadline.”

The next morning, I drove into town and bought a pair of cheap reading glasses off the rack. It’s a good thing I hadn’t taken the Memory Optimizer pill or I might have forgotten how to get home. With Shaklee!

 (Excerpt from, “NUT MAGNET – An Autobiographical Assortment of Fruits and Nuts”)

NORTH NOT BY NORTHWEST

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August 7, 2007

Dear Northwest Airlines,

Air travel being what it is, I realize that you probably get thousands of complaints and that I am just one of many, many, many, many disgruntled passengers. However, my recent flight plight is one for the books so you may be interested in reading on. You may be familiar with the theme song from Gilligan’s Island – “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour, a three hour tour.”

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On Wednesday, June 13, 467 passengers and I hit the skies for what was supposed to be a five-hour trip from Los Angeles to Toronto – and I arrived THREE DAYS later on Friday afternoon!

WEDNESDAY

I left LAX, in Los Angeles the morning of Wednesday, June 13 on Northwest Flight #802 with three months of luggage on a flight to Minneapolis that connected to Toronto on NW Flight #604. It was supposed to be a two-hour layover. And then it began; one hour, two hours, three hours…five-hour delay. I went to the bathroom and came back 90 seconds later, to discover the flight had been cancelled because there was no crew. Excuse me, but I showed up! And this is your hub! 467 passengers scrambled to get on the next flight out. The good news: you have rows of re-booking kiosks. The bad news: you must have so many flights cancelled that you need rows of re-booking kiosks.

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My quick choice was to get into a kiosk line or the long winding line that led to an agent. I chose the kiosk, only to learn that there was nobody on the other end of the phone – and when someone finally answered, they had no clue what to do. I ran for the agent line that was now snaking along the corridor. By the time I got to the desk the frazzled agent told me there were no flights  to Toronto until the next morning and booked me on a 6:50AM Northwest Flight #744 to Toronto via Detroit! He gave us all a, “We sincerely regret any inconvenience” voucher guaranteeing the lowest room rate and then informed us that all airport hotels were booked. We would have to take a cab into the city. It was now midnight. I had to be back at the airport by 5AM. With hotel and cab fare it would cost me over a hundred dollars for four hours of sleep. I ended up sleeping on the floor of the airport with the Minneapolis Star Tribune for a blanket.

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THURSDAY

The next morning, I boarded NW Flight #1410 and arrived in Detroit with a one-hour stopover before connecting to Toronto. In Detroit, we waited and waited and waited and finally boarded – and waited and waited and waited. The pilot announced, “We have a technical problem regarding the emergency light strip along the floor. We are waiting for a replacement part. Should be about fifteen minutes.” Now we all know fifteen minutes in airport language means somewhere between three hours and never. So we waited and waited and waited. We were instructed to de-plane. In the departure lounge we waited and waited and waited. They finally made an announcement, “The replacement part works.” Yay! “Now we just have to refuel.” Boo. We waited and waited and waited. Out of lack of anything else to do, I adopted a hobby of logging Northwest apologies. I was up to number 34 since leaving Los Angeles that seemed like a year ago. Then came apology number 35 as they announced, “There’s a problem with the oxygen masks.” We waited and waited. Two hours later, they announced, “A Supervisor is coming to talk to you.” This did not bode well. But we never found out because after waiting another hour the Supervisor never showed up and the flight was…you guessed it, cancelled! flight-canceled-sign-copy

We were advised to re-book.I now knew your kiosks were useless so I joined the frenzied mob running the mile to the next booking agent at the far end of the terminal. Thankfully, I was fifth in line. The woman in front of me was going ballistic so I waited and waited and waited. I finally got up to the agent. It was survival of the fittest so I lied that I was having a liver transplant in the morning and had to get to Toronto tonight. Without looking up to see if I was yellow she informed me, “There’s an Air Canada flight at 8PM and another one even earlier if you rush over there.” “Will my luggage go through?” I asked skeptically? “Of course.” She replied. I assumed my luggage was probably in Buenos Aires but I raced over to Air Canada which took almost an hour due to the shuttle wait and distance of the terminal.

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I got to Air Canada and was informed, number one: my luggage will NOT go through. I would have to return to Northwest, retrieve my luggage and return to Air Canada for check-in. Number two: it’s useless because the “I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-your-liver agent” had misinformed me. Air Canada would not accept my Northwest ticket because I was on free miles. Free? Those extra miles cost me five hundred dollars! Air Canada said to return to Northwest and get an IVOS stamp. I spent an hour getting back to the Northwest terminal. I was now logging apologies and taking names. I explained my Air Canada misadventure and requested an IVOS stamp. The agent asked me, “What’s an IVOS stamp?” Another agent had actually heard of it and stamped me. She told me I could now return to Air Canada. I explained, “They won’t accept my ticket.” She suddenly agreed and it now occurred to her that I need to stay within Northwest. “When is the next Northwest flight?” “You just missed two of them because you were at Air Canada.” She informed me that I was going to have to spend the night in Detroit and take a Northwest flight to Toronto in the morning.

flight-delay-passengerI asked to see the Supervisor and demanded a free hotel room for the night. The Supervisor did not even pay me the respect of talking to me. Instead, she mumbled something to the agent who handed me a free hotel and meal voucher for a burger and a bag of Fritos. I explained that I stink from two days of travel, “Can I access my luggage? “No problem,” she droned without looking up. She pointed me toward the bowels of the airport where, after two hours lost in a labyrinth of passageways they informed me there’s no way I could have access to my luggage.

Weary and smelly, I headed for the airport hotel. At this point I trusted nobody at any airport. So I attempted to get my Northwest boarding pass from the computer in the hotel lobby. I spent an hour entering my confirmation number. Didn’t work. I spent another hour on the phone with Northwest tech support. Didn’t work for the tech guy either. The hotel desk clerk whispered to me, “I used to work for Northwest. They do that on purpose because they’re overbooked and are going to try to bump you. So get there early.” I actually got to sleep in a real bed and rushed to the airport at 6AM for a 9AM flight to Toronto.

FRIDAY

At 8AM the agent opened the gate. I took her name and told her, “If for any incompetent reason this flight does not take off, I demand to be the first one re-booked on the next flight to Toronto.” She shrugged without looking up.

It appeared that we were actually leaving on time. Boarding the aircraft, I poked my head into the open door of the cockpit and asked the pilots, “Hey fellas! Are we actually taking off today?” The pilot responded, “Are you Witkin in 8A?” By now my three-day plight was legendary. We strapped in and waited and waited and waited and waited. The pilot announced, “Sorry folks, the delay is due to ground crew incompetency.”

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I finally arrived in Toronto on Friday, June 15th. Even though I was determined never to fly Northwest Airlines again, I was even more determined not to leave the terminal without some sort of compensation for my nightmare. I knew that if I wrote a letter such as this one, I would probably receive another apology and a voucher for a bag of Fritos. So I dragged my three months of luggage (a miracle that it arrived!) to the Northwest counter. I was still taking names, counting apologies and insisted on speaking to the Supervisor. A polite and understanding woman arrived. She gave me apology number 63 and explained that the lack of ground crew in Minneapolis was the trickle-down effect of wild storms that hit the east coast weeks earlier. She retrieved a 7-foot computer printout of my journey and explained they would only compensate me because they neglected to give me a free room in Minneapolis – not because it took me three days to fly across the country. She asked if I would like points or a free ticket. I asked, “Which way will you screw me less?” She didn’t deny they would try to screw me and suggested I take the points. And now I hope you take my point..

I realize that moving millions of people around the world is no easy feat and I have compassion for the poor agents who bear the brunt of passenger frustration. Perhaps this litany of misinformation, excuses, chaos, confusion, incompetency and disrespect that I experienced can help to make the travel of your passengers a more pleasant and shorter journey than mine. In the meantime, after spending three days with…

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I would rather be trapped on…

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Your Disgruntled Passenger,

Stephen Witkin