Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Play Premieres

Dear Diary,

After seeing me on Oprah, the media rushed to the opening of my play this past Thursday. Reporters, photographers and cameramen crowded the alleyway where someone left the door to that building garbage room unlocked a few weeks ago. The door was still unlocked so that's where I staged my play in which I act out every year of my life and I play all the characters. I let everyone through the unlocked door and charged everyone eighty bucks. It is a sixteen hour play after all.

My parents were in attendance so I was nervous since in my autobiographical piece, I modify the accuracy of a few events for dramatic cohesiveness. Basically, in my play, my parents donate me to NASA, fidgety and obsessive that NASA might still be sending "those poor monkeys" into space. I also play my father with a limp and an eye-patch, with the uncovered eye being a false eye that keeps rolling to the back of my head. It's excruciating to play. Especially as I keep falling off the stage.

After five minutes, the entire audience left in one big group. I assume it's because the first seven years of my life are performed in a baby language that only I understand. Of course, I had no clue everyone had walked out; I only discovered the empty chairs when, after sixteen hours of playing over one thousand and four characters (and two space monkeys), the expected standing ovation never came. I stood there in the spotlight, sweat drenched, for over an hour before I exclaimed, "Come on, that deserves a bit of an applause!" I finally decided to walk down from the stage into the audience.

ME: Are you guys hiding?

It was already one in the afternoon the day after the play began. I had to get some sleep since my next show was at eight that night.

I got home at one thirty and devoured a huge lunch (I hadn't eaten in over seventeen hours). I turned on my computer and noticed that my junk mail folder was full from not being checked for seventeen hours so I read every e-mail message carefully before deleting it just to make sure they weren't from a close friend who had recently decided to change their name to Viagra.

I then read my regular e-mail and sent out commentary on all the forwarded jokes I received. I critiqued whether I liked the tone of the humor, if the joke was appropriate for children, and how I would end the joke if I had written it myself, with some of my self-created endings / punchlines lasting over two pages. Afterward, I went to Facebook and poked back all my six hundred and thirty-eight friends. I also harvested my crops on Farm Ville. I was shocked by how much work there was to be done after being away for so many hours. I also had plenty to do on Café World and Rabbi Ville.

That’s when my wife walked in at seven in the evening after picking our two-year-old daughter from daycare.

MY WIFE: What are you doing? You’re supposed to be getting ready for your play. It starts in an hour.

ME: Oh man...

MY WIFE: My parents are coming to see it tonight and my sisters and my brother. You better be on time. They paid a lot of money to see you.

ME: I still haven’t had any sleep yet. I’m just going to have a disco nap.

MY WIFE: You get yourself on the bus now.

ME: I’m just going to put my head on this desk and I’m going to close my eyes.

MY WIFE: My family paid eighty dollars each. Get going!

ME: I haven’t slept in thirty-six hours and I just performed in a sixteen hour play!

MY WIFE: I don’t care! That’s not my fault! You get going!

ME: Man, I hate this! I hate being a star!

MY WIFE: That’s the showbiz life you chose. Now get!

I sulked out the door. It was raining. When I arrived to the alley with the unlocked door, more than fifty people holding umbrellas were already lined up for my show, including all my in-laws with my wife.

ME: Why didn’t you give me a ride?

MY WIFE: Secretly, tonight, I'd like to pretend that I'm not married to you. Please, just tonight, let me have this. Please...

I turned the knob on the unlocked door. The door was locked. I slammed the door with my fists.

ONE PERSON: Can I buy my ticket? I heard about this show from Oprah.

ME: Just everybody hold their horses. I can’t get in. I’m locked out.

MY FATHER-IN-LAW: Well, Eric, did you pay your bills? Why are you locked out?

ME: Can everyone just shut their mouths for a minute while I try and get in here?

I banged even louder on the door.

ME: Let me in! I’m begging you! Please! Please!

The door opened.


ME: Yes. I have a show in here tonight.

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: A show? Are you the guy who left tarp and crap everywhere?

ME: Yes, that’s my stage.

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: All that stuff went out with the garbage this afternoon.

ME: What about my props?

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: It’s the garbage room; everything’s gone.

ME: You get my stuff back! You hear me!

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: What are all these people doing out here?

ME: I’m going to call the cops.

BUILDING SUPERINTENDENT: I’m the one who’s going to call the cops. You broke in here. Scram before I kick your ass.

The superintendent shut the door in my face. I turned to everyone. The rain continued, but harder than before. I heard thunder.

ME: Well, a show is what you came to see and a show is what you’ll get.

I started my show, and my wife and her family left after two minutes, shaking their heads to themselves. Some people stayed. I had to stop the show a few times because of passersby who paused to gawk but refused to pay for a ticket. I chased them away and then came back to perform. I continued for sixteen hours, every now and then chasing passersby away. I was so tired; I was forgetting lines and making stuff up as I went. I made one of the space monkeys die so I wouldn't have to play him anymore. I may have even chased paying customers away, threatening them. I had no clue what I was doing.

I ended up curled up in the corner of the alleyway, rain soaked, hugging my shivering body, and unable to control my chattering teeth.

ME (to whoever was still there): If anyone has access to Facebook and Farm Ville, I think my strawberries might be spoiling. And little Jeff Lowenstein has a bris today.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Interview with Oprah

Oprah, moments before she introduced me.
Dear Diary,

I was on Oprah for a few moments yesterday as part of a show about innovators and inventors. Oprah interviewed me regarding my part in the creation of the new Starbucks logo. She introduced me from an armchair on stage.

OPRAH: We have with us today the man who designed the new Starbucks logo! Come on out, Eric!

The audience applauded and cheered as I walked out onto the stage toward the armchair across from Oprah's.

ME (to Oprah): I'm sorry. I'm not here to talk about the Starbucks logo. My people very specifically told your producers not to even mention the logo or Starbucks.

OPRAH: I'm not sure...

ME: I was led to believe that this interview was about the play I wrote. I feel really betrayed.

I looked around, incensed.

OPRAH: Please have a seat.

ME (still angry): Gayle... where the hell are you?

OPRAH: Sit down. Please. Let's just talk. It's fine. You can tell us about your play.

I sat down across Oprah.

ME: I'm sorry, Oprah. It's not you. It's just that I had an agreement. I can't believe how unprofessional this whole show is. Anyway, I'm sorry about those nasty things I told Gayle backstage. Gayle, I'm sorry. That was truly revolting. I should be ashamed. And I would be right now if I didn't want to rip this entire set apart.

OPRAH: Eric... Eric... just tell us what this play is about?

ME: The play stars myself as myself as I explore every year of my life. It's a one-man show and it's sixteen hours.

OPRAH: And it ends with you creating the new Starbucks logo and becoming a success?

ME: No, it ends at the end of my life. It ends with me dying.

OPRAH: Dying?

ME: That scene lasts for two hours. It's just me on my deathbed. No movement, no sound.

OPRAH: But you haven't died in real life yet.

ME: There's lots in the play that hasn't happened yet. Trust me, as the scenes unfold on stage, they are as much of a revelation to me as they are to you all.

OPRAH: Where is this play playing?

ME: Well, right now, it's playing in the basement of a building. I was just walking down this alley one day, chasing a cat I wanted to be friends with...

OPRAH: You mean a person when you say a cat, right?

ME: No, I mean a kitty. Like with fleas. Anyway, I was trying out all these doors, seeing if they were locked or not.


ME: I don't know. Just to see if they're locked or not. Anyway, one door opened and it was a stairway to an empty basement with garbage and stuff. For all I know, that door's still opened so that's where we'll have the play. Anyway, I've set up a stage with some wood and tarp and I'll just sell tickets at the door.

OPRAH: When are you doing all this?

ME: The play is running indefinitely as long as people don't mind garbage falling from chutes around them. It doesn't bother me none.

OPRAH: What is your play called?

ME: Oprah.

OPRAH: Really?

ME: Yes, my name is Oprah on my birth certificate. You're not the only person in the world named Oprah, you know. I know lots of Oprahs. My play is called Oprah, but the full name is The Oprah Winfrey Show.

OPRAH: Eric… thank you…. for being here today to tell us about your play.

ME: Winfrey is my middle name.

OPRAH: Thank you, Eric.

ME: You can call me O.

The camera began moving away from my face as I swiped some crumpled loose leaf paper from under my shirt.

ME: Oprah, I have your next book pick from your book club. I know you're going to love it because I wrote it. I only have one paragraph but that's only because I couldn't come up with anything more.

OPRAH: We'll have to talk about that another time.

ME: Let me read you the first sentence.

I read my handwriting from the sheet of paper.

ME (reading): The year I become lovers with Oprah is the year she shot a man in cold blood. I could tell she had murdered before. Why? Because she told me she planned to kill more people, and would have taken out Mother Theresa if she were still alive…

OPRAH (to the camera): We'll be right back after these messages…

ME (still reading): I told Oprah, "Please stop this killing spree. I think you should at least stop stalking that family from Little People, Big World." That's when Oprah broke up with me because I didn't have room to stash two hundred and seventy-six "free" cars.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The New Starbucks Logo

Introducing the brand new Starbucks Logo for 2011 which I designed.

Dear Diary,

I'm still at the temp agency, wishing I had a job at Starbucks. After I'm done a shift, I usually end up standing on the sidewalk, staring into the window at the King Street Starbucks, watching all those lucky people working inside, sometimes with a tear dripping down my cheek. I usually end up banging my fists on the glass and then running away into the street, making cars screech their tires to avoid me as I trip and roll across the pavement.

Sometimes, through the window, I even watch other blessed souls getting interviewed, wishing that was me at the little round table, talking about how exceptional I am and how much I'd love to have a job where I could drink coffee all day and eat pastries and chat up the customers and put on one-man plays about my childhood and adulthood and my future old age with a two hour death scene of me in bed, just lying there, saying nothing. But no one could talk or order anything during my deathbed scene; it would only ruin the atmosphere. The play itself would run eight hours, playing daily, and twice on weekends.

Since my job interview, no one's called me, and that was almost four months ago. I've been furious so I've refused to walk into a Starbucks and give them my business.

Yesterday, after a few minutes of staring, I stepped inside. Slowly… I just couldn't help myself. I couldn't believe what I was allowing myself to do. I walked up to the lineup at one of the counters. When it was finally my turn to order, I slowly permitted myself to look up at the menu. I had tears in my eyes; The Prodigal Son returned. There, up high, were all the things I adored and obsessed about but had been doing without for four months.

CASHIER: Sir, what can I get for you?

I didn't respond. I looked down at the glass display cases with all the treats and pastries my desperate, wanting mouth had denied itself since October.


I yelped like a puppy finally adopted. I gulped hard.

ME (barely audible): I'll have a panini.

CASHIER: Pardon me?

ME (still barely audible): A panini.

CASHIER: Anything else? Something to drink?

ME (almost under my breath): I think so… I'll have two of those bagels, toasted, five scones, half that cake, some more paninis…

The cashier listened as I continued to order and sob.

ME: Please hurry. Please…

Everyone on staff behind the counter worked on my order. I had bagels toasting, sandwiches pressing, beverages steaming. The line-up of fidgety customers behind me burgeoned as my order was being set up on the counter like a buffet. I couldn't believe I was finally going to have this dream Starbucks feast all to myself. At last… It took an eternity for the staff to put it all together.

CASHIER: That'll be two hundred, twenty, and fifty-two cents.

I reached into my pocket as I grinned happily.

ME: No problem. It'll be worth every penny.

My pocket was empty.

ME: Hold up. Where's my wallet?

I pulled my hand out of my pocket and stared at it. It was bare.

ME: Oh God, I just remembered. I didn't bring my wallet today. I just didn't need it because I wasn't going to buy anything. I mean, I haven't been going to Starbucks lately so why would I need any money?

I walked away. Some male, shift manager raced after me.

SHIFT MANAGER: Who's going to drink all these drinks? And eat all this food?

ME: Not me. I don't have that kind of money.

The shift manager turned back toward his staff.

SHIFT MANAGER: Who okayed this ridiculous order?

As the staff were accusing and pointing at one another, and the line-up of anxious, angry customers continued to bloat, I slipped away toward the tables.

A large group of suits was seated at a table with Keith, the store manager, and Allison, the assistant manager, both of whom had led my interview four months ago.

I hovered a few inches away, listening in.

KEITH (to me): Sir, can we help you?

Allison took a good look at me.

ALLISON: You seem familiar.

ME: You interviewed me a few months ago and never called back, so you'll have to excuse me but this is awkward for me. Just being back in here is weird for me.

I lingered, wondering when they were going to start up their conversation again.

KEITH: What can we do for you? We're in the middle of an important meeting here.

ME: Don't mind me. I won't snicker or do fart noises or do something stupid like that.

A man in his sixties spoke up.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: We're from head office in Seattle, traveling the world to all the largest Starbucks, and talking to managers about developing our new logo coming out this Spring.

ME: New logo? This is the first I've heard…

KEITH: This isn't the time…

ME: My entire life I have been craving something. I don't know what it's been. It's just that an emptiness lives inside me. I know I felt it from the minute I was born because I don't ever remember not feeling it: the emptiness. I don't ever remember what it felt like not to have it, deep down in the pit of me. Just this big, vast vat of empty. And nothing could fill it up. Lord knows my mother and father tried. With love, with toys, with outfits and hats. In school, my teachers were at a lost as to how to proceed. I was despondent, depressed, the colors of my pants and tops rarely matched. I had no interests. I didn't love anything. My entire life, I just didn't care. Christmas meant nothing to me. Birthdays meant nothing to me. My first kiss, who cares? I didn't even know what Chanukah was. Nothing ever meant anything to me. Then in the nineties, something happened…

WOMAN SUIT: You filled the emptiness…

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: With a cup of Starbucks…

ME: No, I saw the Starbucks logo and I laughed my head off. Who the hell wants a coffee from Battlestar Galatica? That's so tacky.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: What are you suggesting?

ME: Lose the name Starbucks. It sucks, but leave the mermaid. She speaks to me.

WOMAN SUIT: In what way?

ME: She literally talks to me. Especially after fourteen double-shot espressos. She sings to me like Lady Gaga and then I wake up beside a sewer grate at four in the morning.

WOMAN SUIT (as an epiphany): That's it. Just the siren. We just need the siren. It's bolder. Iconic. Why didn't we think of that?

ME: You mean that crazy, opera singing, fish chick, right? The one who lies to me with promises of spiritual salvation? She brings me back here every time.

The suit in his sixties slammed his hand on the table.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: The search is finally over.

He turned to me.

SUIT IN HIS SIXTIES: Son, you've just made yourself a whole lot of money.

ME: Can someone buy me a coffee?