My sister has one job. When I die she must stand up in front of the funeral congregation, assuming she won’t be the only person in attendance, and say the following:
“My brother would like to say, ‘You’re welcome.’ (Theatrical pause) He knows how lucky you are for getting off from work today.”
Followed by: uproarious laughter from the congregation or silence from the lack thereof.
As I envision the events perfectly unfolding, my sister will then strut over to the boom box, which she previously placed on top of my pine casket, and from the speakers will blast Billy Joel’s, “I Go to Extremes.” The room will initially sit in silence as Billy’s words saturate the bewildered air. Then, slowly, idyllic smiles will begin to surface on the congregants’ faces. Their dendritic spines will be unable to do anything but welcome the abundance of neurotransmitters, each boogying to the sound of Long Island’s mouth. And then, from a distant corner, my Great Aunt Harriet, who may be the oldest lady alive at the time, will rise forcefully from her seat, elevating a fist in the air and proclaim, “Ahhh, now this is some funny shit!”
I know it’s contrived to request a song at your funeral, but I’m not concerned about how others will judge my antics post-mortem. It may be selfish, but I’ll sleep well for eternity knowing that Billy Joel’s voice echoed in the hollow carcass that once served as the portal for my peculiar heart. Nonetheless, I am not planning on checking out anytime soon. Though I do know a few people who wish death upon me, a valid and rational desire.
I once took a shit in a trough. Though necessary and pleasurable at the time, in hindsight I now feel awful for the man whose occupation it was to disinfect the bathroom…I am pretty certain that I may run into him again at a very important juncture.
I imagine my soul, arrogantly strutting toward the Pearly Gates when a diminutive, yet recognizable, man approaches. Although I do not know the man, he is the kind of person who stimulates the desire to hug one another. The type of hug that is distributed as a means for reciprocal pleasure. Though unsure of his identity, I extend my arms benevolently proposing a Man Hug, but my offer is declined. The infinitesimal man takes a step back and passionately, informs me about the ramifications of my irrational act of shitting and how it caused him grief which greatly altered the lives of his family and his co-workers. In my vision, I reply the way my mother taught me to speak to foreigners. I speak slowly and stridently. But no matter what I say, I could not expunge his sadness…
The evening of the trough incident began as a joyous occasion, a reunion of sorts. Convening in Syracuse, New York from our respective colleges were my associates, Gentle Ben, his twin brother Zack (a modern day version of Romelus and Remus), Bman and me. The motivation for the reunion was to celebrate our fervor for laughter and to hear the Gregorian chanting of Billy Joel in the infamous Dome of Central New York.
I made the hour-long drive to Syracuse around 6:30 PM with Gentle Ben riding shotgun. After negligently parking in a space that required the car’s removal by 8:00 AM, we entered the sorority house in which Bman had arranged for us to stay. Though close friends for many years and daily communicators, we remain fascinated by each other’s presence when distance and time are erased. Some people may find it incongruous, but we spent the greater part of the early evening sipping adult beverages and sharing stories while concurrently ignoring the women by whom we were surrounded. However, the great paradox of our lives is that we’d take a blowjob over a good laugh any day of the week.
As we occupied the sorority living room, Gentle Ben discussed his lingering bitter sentiments toward Zack regarding the time he “pantsed” him on the monkey bars in elementary school, displaying his wee bit of a penis for all the playgrounds delight. Zack, still refusing to apologize for the act, informed the group about his recent trip to Mexico where he paid a stripper to serenade him with the classic tune, “La Cuckarocha.” And Bman insisted that he had been three weeks sober… from Sprite that was. And I told the guys about my newest odd job.
In order to make some extra money, I took a job working three nights a week at the front desk of a Holiday Inn. “It’s a lovely day at the Holiday Inn, this is J.E.W. speaking, how may help you?…Oh you need a room to have sex with your mistress, I’d love to help support your extra marital affair…hmm sorry we don’t have hourly rates, but I can give you two free drinks at the hotel bar!”
I learned a lot on the job, especially about the amount of power front desk workers have and how important it is to become friends with those who run the kitchen. From 3:00-11:00 PM, I worked beside Glen–the mute who I slowly got to open up regarding his enjoyment for video editing, Raul–the Latino playboy whose eldest daughter I mistook for his wife and a nymph named Stephanie–who could have come in handy if she didn’t emit a stench reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor at half time. (A reference to Lawrence Taylor seemed most appropriate due to the dangling gold cross earring worn by both individuals.)
At the time of the concert I had only been employed for approximately one week. I had neither met nor developed personal relationships with the majority of my co-workers, especially the accountants who spent their days crunching numbers in the basement and left at precisely 5:00 each evening. [You’ll understand why I say this later on].
Back in the living room, following several laughs and beverages, we developed a brilliant challenge for the evening. We were only allowed to speak in Billy Joel lyrics. Although it seemed difficult, with our useless bank of knowledge and reckless abandonment of rational thought, the challenge was not overly daunting. Within moments we were telling the sorority girls, probably due to the liquid-induced confidence, “[they] had a way about [them].” Upon noticing a cross around one of their necks, Zack notified the lady, “you Catholic girls start much too late.” I then turned to Zack, telling him “he may be right [and] I may be crazy” but goddamn he was just “the lunatic I [was] looking for.” We raised our drinks and cheered to the fact that “the night [was] still young” and headed out to enjoy an evening with one another.
Once inside the venue, I was accosted by a Subaru Outback driving, female officer of the law, for neglecting to believe that the sale of alcohol had been “terminated.” “Terminated?” I repeated in a disgruntled tone. But the bureaucrat did not respond to my argumentative inquiry. Vexed by her silence I proclaimed, “I’ve been waiting on this line for twenty minutes, watching people buy their source of happiness and now that it’s my turn you decide to terminate.”
I proceeded to vociferously complain until the lady dangled her handcuffs in the air, displaying her supreme authority, baiting me to continue my ridiculous banter. As a person who suffers from congenital Mama’s boy syndrome, the sight of the dangling silver caused me to profusely apologize and then awkwardly leave the scene.
The boys were not thrilled when I returned beerless.
Within a few songs it became evident that Syracuse locals did not appreciate Billy Joel as much as we Long Islanders. I take that back, they may, but they chose to display their affection in a more conservative and reticent manner. Throughout the concert we were asked several times to “sit down,” “stop dancing” and the most insane request, “will you put out that fire,” as we swayed with one another to the heart wrenching song, “Goodnight Saigon.” (I’ll admit I am one of those frauds who borrows a lighter during a concert. But at least I don’t hold my cell phone up or bring a lighter with me even though I don’t smoke!)
Zack could not take this shit any longer. He pointed forward like a young Napoleon ready to conquer a vulnerable country and led us down the steps, refusing to stop until we made it four rows from the stage. Though his leadership was remarkable, I have always been able to reach inaccessible locations unaided, a combination of my persistent nature and my inability to acknowledge a tangible, higher authority figure than me (well…most of the time).
So there we were, Zack, Gentle Ben, Bman and I, linking our arms together as if we had actually met on “Paris Island,” “like Brother to Brother.” At one point during the song, Bman leaned close and whispered in my ear, “promise Barbara you’ll write.” I smiled and promised I would.
Following the show’s conclusion, we exited the stadium unsure of our next destination. As a result of our level of toxicity and the mass exodus of lame concert attendees, our foursome split into pairs. Gentle Ben and I randomly entered a surfer themed bar called “Lucy’s” where I thought it would be funny if we bought an exotic colored drink served in a fishbowl. I’ve witnessed people drink such concoctions at other college establishments and secretly admired them for bashfully enjoying themselves. So fuck it, why not get a fishbowl. I have no problem imbibing a flamboyantly colored beverage with my associate Gentle Ben, from separate straws of course. To be candid, I enjoy drinking out of straws and often do, although my mother reminds me how “faggy” I am for doing so.
As we sat together giggling and sipping from our straws, I felt a swift surge of discomfort in my abdomen. I got up from the table and walked toward the bathroom. Once inside, I found myself faced with both a moral and physical dilemma. The bathroom did not have a single toilet. Instead it had one long, aluminum trough. Since when did surfers or drinkers not take shits? I pondered my next move as the cramps and the throbbing intensified. It was then that my irrationality conquered my so-called ethics. Without wondering if there was a lock on the door, I dropped my pants and purged my misery. I had removed waste in odd locations before, but never had I done something as asinine as this. Subsequent to the excretion, I was washing my hands when I caught a glance of my reflection in the mirror. As I stared at myself, I couldn’t help but smile at my repulsive, yet arresting look, the one that allows me to enjoy the melancholy of day-to-day life.
After exiting the bathroom, I told Gentle Ben that we should probably leave for the evening. He did not question my reasoning and agreed. We then befriended a man who offered to drive us in his “Mercedes” to Hanover Square where we would meet up with our favorite twosome. We accepted his offer and followed him to his automobile. It turned out he wasn’t lying about the brand of car that he owned, but it was nearly half a century old and he lived out of it. I barely fit in the backseat, as a light fixture and a broken down desk took up the majority of tush space. I don’t recall exactly what it was that the driver said that scared the shit out of Gentle Ben, (note I did not say scared the shit out of “us” because I was shit-free at that time), but Gentle Ben requested that the driver pull over, then motioned to me in the backseat that it was “time to go.” Upon coming to a halt, we hopped out of the car and sprinted a few blocks in search of a new, safer method of transportation. After hailing down a taxi, we made it to the bar and the celebration continued with Zack and Bman.
The next morning Gentle Ben and I walked back to my car and, to my surprise, there was no ticket on the windshield! I laughed out loud and raised my mighty middle finger to all the traffic violation officers who had fucked me in the past. Aside from having to pull over on Route 81 to vomit, we made it home safely from our journey to Syracuse.
I was standing behind the front desk on Monday evening when a woman approached me. I greeted her with respect, like I do with all guests, but she quickly informed me that we were co-workers. She sardonically smiled and asked, “How did you like the show Saturday night?” “The show?” I replied. “Yes, the Billy Joel show! I saw you and your friend sharing a drink at Lucy’s.” Ohhhh shit. I just giggled internally and told her that I had a nice time. She flashed me a wink and took off for the evening. Maybe my mom was correct about using straws…
At least I got away with parking illegally, right? Wrong. A few weeks later I received a phone call from my mother. When I get a call from “Home” on a Saturday morning before 10:00 AM, I know I did something wrong. Especially when the voicemail sounds something like, “Son…I hope you are sleeping well…can you please call me back when you get this message…there are a few things I got in the mail this morning that I’d like to discuss with you.”
When I finally got the courage to return the call, my mother notified me that, upon opening the mail, she received four tickets from four separate locations throughout the country. Including a parking ticket from Syracuse, a parking ticket from Long Island, a noise violation from Ithaca and an absurd jaywalking ticket from Beverly Hills for a whopping $400.
If you can read this, Mr. Foreigner: I, am, sorry, for, my, poor, decision, to, shit, in, the, trough. I, hope, you, can, forgive, me.