I like my name. My Dad told me it means “Mankind”, which is weighty and cool. It’s also fairly unique. The only other Carl I knew growing up was on my Babe Ruth baseball team. It’s where I started referring to myself as Carl D.. Our team won the town series, with very little help from me or the other Carl, and we got jackets. Mine read Carl D., and his read Carl C., in cursive stitching and I wore that jacket everyday ’til about a year ago.
My mother was wary of names that could be shortened to a nickname, can you imagine being Dick for the rest of your life? Or Gordo? Carl is Carl and not much else can be done to it, other than adding a vowel at the end to try and mock me for being a girl — but even kids on a playground know that’s a hack insult.
Where my name takes a bad rap is in film and television. Carl is usually the name for a dullard, criminal, or a convenience store cashier. There are myriad examples, Sling Blade’s hero is Carl Childers, Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack is named Carl. The guy who killed Patrick Swayze in Ghost is Carl, there’s a goofy Carl in an Adam Sandler film, and the list continues. There is also a recent sketch on SNL, that I haven’t seen, that causes people to warble my name loudly at the side of my head over and over again.
The only time you feel really bad is in a gift shop when you scan through the small license plates looking for your name. Carl is a 70% proposition, and it feels good when I see it, even to this day. We like seeing our names in print. I don’t know the number, but monograming must be a multi-thousand dollar industry. What does it say about us that we want to put our names on everything we can? Carl D. wonders.
Clicking through my morning ritual of websites I saw a headline talking about 5 things not to do at a company holiday party. If you aren’t already half way to number four on that list without having to read the story I guess I found the one person who has never read a story like that, annually.
I don’t mean to bag on the writer, whom I don’t recall by name, or the exact media source, but let’s say it’s the type of site you might have as a homepage. I’m sure some assignment editor said, “we need you to dust off the office party story,” like the ornaments that come down from the attic every year, “and get cracking.”
Without the benefit of having read the actual article I am going to attempt to guess the 5 things not to do at an office party.
1. Don’t get hammered.
2. Don’t try to tongue kiss a co-worker.
3. Don’t bad-mouth the boss.
4. Don’t try to tongue kiss the boss.
5. Keep your pants on.
You might be able to argue a few points to varying degree, but I think you get the gist. Having attended and having worked many company parties, I can’t argue the advice, but are we really saying something new? Here are 5 things to avoid at a company party, that have occurred to me or around me at aforementioned parties. I mean, if we’re doing lists.
1. Don’t switch to liquor, if you only drink beer, just because it’s an open bar.
2. Don’t encourage bar top dancing, and try to Tarzan Swing from the lights.
3. Don’t get too competitive with the inflatable Sumo Wrestler Suits.
4. Don’t listen to the bartender when he says you don’t need to tip. Tip the bartender.
5. Keep your pants on.
There are a million sports analogies and cliches about momentum and building on a small positive step. A yard here, a first down, a bunt single, a 2 out walk, the first win of the year, and too many to count. My father was a sports writer and I grew up with sports references and cliches as parables and guidelines for life.
When I became an avowed man of the theater I found that cliches were abundant and often espoused the same spirit of teamwork and pulling together. Stuff like, bad dress rehearsal, good opening night. The first day off-book is always brutal, the show must go on, and enough superstition to rival a minor league dug-out.
As I found myself recently on-set for a small role in an upcoming TV series both world’s cliches and quotables ran through my mind. While in the grand scheme of things I was barely moving the needle, for a day last week, on this great planet, I was an actor going to work, even if the naked eye would miss my screen time or if the scene were cut, I was there taking my cuts in the batter’s box. I was there, even if I was straining the boundaries of the “no small parts, only small actors” adage. I was there.
The quote that ran through my head was one I have heard from my girlfriend as she tried to contain her glee over my tiny part, or any time I had a good set in front of 9 people, a quote that is echoed in the single step of any journey,”forsake not the days of small beginnings.” Cliches aren’t always hackneyed when they speak the truth, they revert back to their original form — a condensed statement of wisdom. Now, go out there and take it one game at a time.
When was the last time you were at a house party? Not a party where house music was playing, but a bona fide push the couches to the walls, set up a table for the DJ, and pile beers into a cooler house party? It’s probably been a while. Now throw in a pajama jammy jam theme and see if you can’t almost literally blow the roof off the apartment.
That happened to me not too long ago. A friend was having a birthday party and was soon vacating a house that was the site of some epic parties over the years. This was the last one.
For no other reason than to make the point that we all get along, I will mention that the party was a mixed crowd, but a predominately African American crowd. I also mention the point because I was in the minority, a situation I find myself in often and have no issues with.
My buddy was the DJ and had the task of keeping the party going, but also adhering to the desires of the birthday girl and host. I was hanging out in the yard where a game of dominoes was in constant motion. I don’t know the game, I knocked over dominoes as a kid, but never learned the rules. As I tried to perpetrate an urban attitude in my 20’s I wanted to learn the game that is a fixture in black films and black culture, kind of like gin rummy for white people during hurricanes, blackouts, and vacation cottages with no cable TV.
I had tired of trying to figure out the rules on the fly and went inside where the music was bumping. The DJ had a steady group of people moving to mostly hip hop and R & B, the hostess had a wireless microphone and was hyping the crowd and rhyming over the music. As per her request the DJ worked in some 80’s songs, and I was taken aback when Cyndi Lauper’s “Girl’s Just Wanna Have Fun” rocked the crowd, it got even more heated when he transitioned into Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” and the mostly black crowd was feeling it.
I took it upon myself to rant and rave about how cool it was to see this cultural overlap. I ran out to the yard and started shouting, “This story is never told, there’s Bon Jovi inside, and dominoes on the outside, we’ve been sold a bill a goods, this is what really goes on, but people say it doesn’t.” I heard a few people saying I was crazy and others laughed, but as the music cut back and forth from genres the domino game shut down and the whole living room was bugging out to Nirvana and Lunix, and Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth and Metallica, and it was a Top 10 party of my life.
Free your mind and your ass will follow.
Wrestling is real. That’s right, it’s real. It means a lot to a lot of people, maybe it even means too much to too many people, but it is real. Like the girl who wrote a letter to a newspaper, asking if Santa Claus was real — yes, Virginia, wrestling is real.
If you ever saw Andre the Giant in person and wondered if the guy he flung across the ring was faking, you just don’t get it.
I was a bright kid, precocious, liked to read, went to a great college, but for a time my parents were worried that I was preoccupied with the low-rent-not-ready-for-prime-time world of professional wrestling. They mumbled to themselves, “he has to know it’s fake, right?” as I borrowed money to buy magazines detailing Texas Chain Matches, and Battle Royales where 50 guys entered the ring and only 1 was standing at the end.
The veil was lifted a long time ago, the presenters admitted the outcomes were scripted, but that changes nothing. I don’t keep up like I should, and I aspire to loftier forms of communicating my artistic vision, but if you get around some old school wrestling fans and start jawing about the classic fights, you’ll be hard pressed to have a better time reminiscing about anything. Keep it real guys. Talk to you soon.
Grief can make you do crazy things, silly things. Grief feels like your whole psyche is seizing, like an athlete dehydrating during a race. It can also, in hindsight, make you see something in yourself that you might not be too proud of.
My father passed away two years ago. And it took every day of those two years for me to be able to type those words, say those words, and not tear-up thinking those words. That’s the grieving process, or so I’m told. Part of the process that I was most resistant to, was the idea that things would get better. I didn’t want them to get better, I wanted to honor my dad by being unable to smile and laugh and to miss him with every tick of the clock.
During the two weeks of planning services and walking around my hometown like a zombie, I had a melt-down with my family that I was powerless to stop. If a transcript existed it would be hilarious. I was having a reaction to the mention of a group of poets who might want to share their words during my father’s viewing.
After retiring from the New York Times, my dad found it tough to adjust, and was in some ways rescued by a local group of poets who met and called themselves The Red Wheelbarrow, in honor of the famous doctor poet William Carlos Williams, who lived and practiced in my hometown of Rutherford, New Jersey. My dad became a leader in many ways and found an up-tick of productivity in his writing when most people settle down. He published poems in their annual release and published his own book of poems, Zerilda’s Chair.
“You know, maybe they could say a few things.” my brother said.
“WHAT? NO FUCKIN’ WAY. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR SOMEBODY’S POEM ABOUT THEIR GENITALS. THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS DON’T KNOW HOW TO EDIT AND IT’LL TURN INTO A COFFEE HOUSE AT MY DAD’S WAKE. NO FUCKING WAY.”
Or something to that affect. I was reeling and sad, I wanted to cast myself as the person to bring the house to tears with my eulogy. Our local catholic church would not allow lay people to speak and only scripture could be read. I was angry that no one from the family would be able to use their own words.
The truth is, that, I, the professional public speaker, would not have been able to compose myself, and it was really a moot point. But, the idea that these poets would get the floor made me crazy. It was misplaced emotion to say the least.
I’m not much of a poetry fan. I love Shakespeare and I like the quotes people post from famous poets, but I don’t wrap myself in verse very often. I liked my dad’s poetry, because it was free verse and sounded like talking. I had never read anyone else’s poems in their anthologies. For that I’m sorry.
I’m also sorry that I had ill will for a group of people who helped my father find a place in the world after retirement. A group that still invites my mother to their functions and treat her like a first lady of poetry, since he’s been gone. I want to thank them all. I want to thank them for, in the words of my brother, saving my father’s life, giving him a purpose, an audience, and a community.
Long Live The Rutherford Wheelbarrow Poets. Thank you for being there for my family, and thank you for your words. For what are we without our words? We are silent, and poets don’t go out like that, they have something to say and they leave behind their words to help us navigate the rough waters of life. A lesson I am grateful to have learned.
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