Friday, October 31, 2008

CHAPTER 6 AUTISM SHMAUTISM of WHY WE SUCK by Denis Leary

OK, Denis is really a warped individual.

CHAPTER 6 AUTISM SHMAUTISM

In my day self-esteem came from actual performance and a clear understanding of your place in the world. The facts were laid out almost from the get-go-if you wanted to be a model and you were a girl you had to be tall and thin. If you wanted to play baseball there was no god dam wiffle ball or a special "soft" pretend, fakey baseball set up on top of a standing tee­-- you had to learn how to hit an actual pitched HARD baseball. Which sometimes would hit you in the face if you didn't get out of the way fast enough. Which would break your face. Which would hurt like hell. If you wanted to be in a rock band you had to learn how to sing and actually pay an instrument. While on drugs. Lots of drugs. If you were ugly then you were ugly and there was very little hope you were going to change the way you looked unless the baseball that crushed your face rearranged the bones and let you come out the other end looking like George Fucking Clooney. These were the cold, hard facts of life and your parents were in charge of supplying you with every single one of them.

There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumbass kids can't compete academically so they throw money into the happy laps of shinks and psychotherapists to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a shit what these crackerjack whackjobs tell you---yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.

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I know a couple of autistic children and let me tell you something they both have in common-they are extremely bright and attentive and­ much like Rain Man-have individual talents and abilities that would lay your empty little tyke's video game-addled soul to waste. A truly au­tistic child may be able to reproduce music he or she hears with perfect pitch-entire classical pieces, the rock opera Tommy, the latest hit Broad­way musical-over and over again. OR tell you instantly upon hearing what your birthday is-what day it has fallen on every year for the last four decades. What the weather was on those days. Who the president was at the time. What the number one song on the radio was just before singing it note for note and word for word. THAT'S an autistic child. Not some fat-assed simpleton whose brain has been fried by television and the Xbox and no proper daily attention from his or her supposedly caring parents.

Maybe your kid is not autistic. Maybe he's just a dolt. And thank your lucky stars for that. Face the facts. Autism is up and who knows why--parents who wasted time, their brain cells and a lot of healthy DNA on way too many recreational drugs is this doctor's guess---but I refuse to sit here and believe that half the idiotic offspring I come across even amongst my own friends and family are a part of that problem.

I recently heard an interview with the brother of acclaimed author Au­gusten Burroughs. This brother guy invented the gizmo that allows smoke and a small fireworks display to spazz out of electric guitars on­stage. He did it while working as a roadie/techie for the band Kiss. Ace Frehley turned to him one day and said Hey, can you make smoke 'n shit fly outta my Axe while I'm playin' it? So this guy did so. Not a huge con­tribution to society but hey---it is what it is and he made a good living at it.

The reason I bring this up is: the interview was about a book this brother had written because when he was about fifty years old he almost completely self-diagnosed himself as having Asperger's syndrome. In the interview he said that all of his life people thought he was odd. He would talk to people but had trouble making eye contact with them and he knew---somehow, somewhere deep down inside---he was different. Because they wouldn't talk back. They would usually just nod and walk away.

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Uh-huh.

Here's the textbook definition of the disease: Asperger's syndrome is one of several autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Characterized by difficulty in social interaction and restricted, stereo­typed interests and activities. People with Asperger's are not usually withdrawn around others, they simply approach others by engaging in a one-sided, long-winded speech about one of their own favorite topics. Where I come from, we don't call a guy like that a victim of Asperger's. We just call him an Asshole Who Won't Shut The Fuck Up. You wanna find people who don't think it strange or boring or mind­numbing to listen to you ramble on and on and on about what it takes to plug electronic boxes into electro converters and then into tubeless amplifiers THROUGH a remote-access special effects board and blap blappety blap until shit shoots out of a guitar played by a guy wearing fourteen-inch-high platform-heeled leather boots and a girdle? Here's the list:

1. The guy in the girdle

2. You

3. People with Kiss T-shirts on That's it.

You don't belong in the spectrum of autism disorders. You belong backstage with a shitload of AA batteries and a suitcase full of roman candles. Long-winded and one-sided.

I heard the guy on the radio and believe me, folks, long-winded ain't the least of it. This guy had his head so far up inside his own ass he could be interviewed about his memoir and perform his own colonoscopy at the same time. Odd? Yeah-you became a roadie for a rock band that dresses up in superhero costumes and wears twenty-seven pounds of makeup? Where and when is that considered normal. AND you made money at it? Sorry, pal. You don't get to make guitars blow up for a living and then stake a claim as some kind of social retard. Lucky? Yes. Rain Man? No. Not on my planet.

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Two days later I hear another person on the same show-a chick who made a documentary about her brother---another Asperger's victim. This guy was incredibly smart and socially adept but for some reason couldn't keep a job or cook or clean or do his own laundry and therefore was still living with his parents at age forty-two. My cousin has this version of As­perger's. It's called Mikey Ain't Moving Away From Home syndrome. It's a disease that makes you suddenly realize-hey, I gotta good thing goin' here-rent-free-so my ass ain't goin' anywhere. Some guy tried it in Italy a few years ago and his parents kicked him to the curb. He actually took his parents to court-at the same age, forty-two-and the courts told him to grow up and move out.

I know a ton of Irish and Italian guys who would still be living at home being waited on hand and foot by their dot­ing mothers if their dads didn't one day decide to lay down the law. But in America? It's not pure, unadulterated sloth or taking advantage of a good thing until it goes dry. No---here it's been coddled and studied and written about and fully vetted into a sickness. It can't be that your kid is just a lazy, potheaded, beer-bellied slob. No. He must be "special." I think the parents don't wanna face the cold hard facts that their joining of the loins has produced a semi-retard with a nervous twitch so they jump on any available train---in this case the autism express---and blame good old Mother Nature.

And of course they find a doctor more than will­ing to tell them what they want to hear for close to seven hundred dollars an hour---not to mention the special pills and potions. This doctor don't work that way. You bought this book so I'll consider that my fee and here is the answer to the questions about your kid: give up. The next Steve Jobs he ain't. Matter a fact---he ain't even gonna be the guy who goes to get Steve Jobs his coffee in the morning. If he keeps himself on the straight and narrow and doesn't get run over by a bus or go to jail---he MIGHT be the guy who cleans up Steve Jobs's office after Steve goes home to his mansion every night.

Now I know how hard it may be to face the truth when it comes to your kids. If it was easy to be objective about your own progeny don't you think Paris Hilton's parents would have hired a short bus and special security to transport their daughter/whore/celebutard out of the public spotlight? Damn right they would have. Instead---they pimped their second daughter out into the marketplace to try and juice more money. Because---I'm sure----they thought she was "special." Just like Paris is so "special."

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Listen up, America-odds are, your kid is NOT special. Einstein? Special. Hitler? Very special. Your little jackass? Not so much. Will your child leave his mark on the world? Probably not. A stain, maybe. A mark-that's probably a reach. Jeffrey Dahmer left his mark. So did Jesus. And Babe Ruth. Your kid--­ c’mon. Let's get real. Unless he kills and eats twenty-five people or on walks water or hits eight hundred absolutely steroid-free home runs, he will more than likely live a boring, fat, stupid and uneventful life and then die from some horrible form of cancer. If he's a boy-ass cancer. If she's a girl---cancer of the tits or vagina. Them's the facts.

There will be another Adolf one day as well as another Albert and there are plenty of Osamas and Kennedys to go around, but you should really take a good long look in the mirror. Odds are against your kid being smart or talented or good-looking unless AND your husband/boyfriend/sperm donor are BOTH smart and talented and good-looking. If yer both morons-yer kids're gonna be morons. It's the old apple-not-falling-too-far-from-the-tree theory. If yer both fat-asses-yer kids're gonna be fat-asses. If you happen to be one of those couples they base shitty network sitcoms on-pretty, smart chick with dumb fat husband-more than likely you'll have two kids and hopefu­lly-one will be cute and smart and the other a lumpen chunk of meat. And all the government-approved, good American know-how kid­-fixing-drugs imported in dangerous plastic bottles from China won't help one bit.

Take a look around. Better yet---just drive down to your local mall. Grab a seventeen-dollar cup of ice cream dressed-up-like-coffee from Starbucks and watch all the hunchbacked, pasty-faced, acne-scarred, backfat-bearing, arms-too-short -to-box-with-the-God-who-supposedly-made-them creatures dithering and doddering along in their two-sizes too small all designer jeans and hot blue spandex tube tops: these are not just your neighbors. This is what most of this country looks like. What makes you think your kids will be any different?

If you are white trash your kids will be white trash. Believe me-I know - I'm talking about. Just ask my wife. I may live in a beautiful coun­try home with rolling meadows full of gorgeous horses and grass and indidgineous rock formations, but right here in my office as I sit writing

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these words? I am surrounded by framed photos of Bobby Orr and Cam Neely and Derek Sanderson and Carl Yastrzemski and numerous other baseball and hockey heroes. And I may have used the term "indidgineous rock formations" but only because a guy who did some work here once mentioned it and-hang on a second - - - - I just looked it up in the dic­tionary and indidgineous is spelled indigenous. See? Whaddaya expect from a guy who---right this second---is wearing a Red Sox T-shirt with mustard stains from a Fenway Frank eaten on the Green Monster seats at Fenway Park during the championship season of 2007 AND a pair a Boston Bruin sweatpants that are so old the drawstring has fallen out at its seam---it don't get much more white trash than me.

Want more cred? When I was a kid we got ice out of a machine eight blocks away from our apartment. We put ketchup on spaghetti. When you outgrew your pants your little brother wore them. When he outgrew them they got mailed over to Ireland. I never had my own room till I moved out on my own. Now my wife and I have spent a lot of time trying to educate and manner our kids so that they don't turn out like me. My daughter is smart and funny and gorgeous-just like her mom. She's also very embarrassed by her father most of the time---just like her mom. My son? Well-he’s funny and smart and tall and---wears the same sweatpants I do. 0nly they have a Boston Celtics logo on them. And his Red Sox T-shirt has ketchup stain.

Give up the dream of rearing someone who is going to cure any major disease or invent the next groundbreaking electronic doodad or even sing a number one song. Dial it down a notch. Aim for goals that may actually be within your child's grasp: the paper-hat-wearing manager at McDonald's. A driver for UPS. Secretary. Wet-nurse. Welder. Then when things don't work out with union jobs---teach them how to count they can always fall back on the safety net of crystal meth manufacturing. You can do it in your own home. Sure---there may not be a dental plan, but in the world of crystal meth-Iack of teeth is not a detriment. It's actually a badge of honor.

For girls without a college education-the lap dance never goes out style. All you need---believe me---is two tits, an ass and a vagina. Literally. If you didn't even have a head some guys might get a little skeeved out, but I'm telling you---a lot of other guys would be lined up around block to get some lap action from the dancer who didn't talk. I'm not

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exactly the strip club type but I'll tell you this much-I've seen more than a few who had fantastic bodies and not so great faces and the exact oppo­site as well. Guys aren't in strip clubs to meet the next Miss America. The type of guys who spend money in strip clubs are the ones who don't have the balls or high enough self-esteem to talk to the pretty girls at work but just enough self-esteem to keep them from hiring a hooker. The girls are usually the type lacking the self-esteem needed to keep them from peeling off in front of strangers, but somehow holding on to just enough pride not to fall into the fucking-guys-for-money trap. PLUS they've all been sexually molested at some point. As have most prosti­tutes. Usually by drunken male family members. Still interested, guys?

My advice to men who are thinking of going into a strip club would be this: don't. On second thought, go to the club. Just don't go in. Stand out­side, remove all the cash in your wallet and light it on fire. Watch it burn until it's just a smoking pile of ashes. Then bang your head against the wall of the club several times---hard. Get in your car. Drive home. When you wake up the next morning, you will have achieved the same effect as if you had spent the night inside the club: no money, giant headache.

What did you miss? Nothing. Smelly armpits, seven useless hard-ons and eighty-five horrible tattoos.

That's another lesson kids today should learn-tattoos may have been cool five decades ago when the only people who had them were sailors, inmates and lead guitar players. Now? Not so much. You wanna be a rebel nowadays? DON'T get a tattoo. Or a nose ring. Or a pierced anything. Everyone will wonder: what the fuck is up with that guy? He actually has nothing painted on or attached to his body except his limbs and his real kin. What a freak. Plus-for girls? You know what that insane snaky flower or some bullshit Chinese symbol or a set of angel wings above your ass or your pussy makes you look like? A stripper. Ask a drunk uncle to grab your tit and you'll be ready to roll.

Hey- The Drunk Uncles. Good name for a band.

Strip clubs---as a matter of fact---are basically live laboratories for low if-esteem. The dancers, the customers, the bartenders-everyone in there would rather be somewhere else. The dancers would rather be living normal healthy lives, the guys would rather be in a cheap hotel room with the dancers and the bartenders and bouncer would rather be actors or professional athletes. In expensive hotel rooms with the dancers. Will performing in a strip club or selling drugs damage your child's self- esteem? You bet your ass it will. But low self-esteem is a disease every single kid in this country could use a little bit more of.

When I was a kid one day in grammar school one of the nuns was teaching us about what it took to become the president of the United States. After all the typical bullshit about hard work and dedication and blah blubbedy blah-she took a left turn into the Constitution and spiced it up with a little extra info---that as long as you were born in these United States and had all the other qualifications in place---ANYONE could be­come the commander in chief once elected.

Hey---that was news to me. Up to that point the only things I had spent time dreaming of becoming were a Boston Bruin, a Boston Red Sock or the newest/youngest member of the Rolling Stones.

I walked home from school that day doing the political math in my head: I was born in America / I could---ostensibly---start working hard in school/John F. Kennedy had been the president and HE was Irish and Catholic. Not to mention the fact that he was FROM where I lived---­Massachusetts. Not only that----when he was president he had one time driven through our neighborhood on his way to deliver a speech at Holy Cross---a college not more than twelve blocks from where our apart­ment was.

Needless to say, I arrived home with flashes of my future success illumi­nating my brain: people waving at me as I drove through their neighbor­hoods in MY motorcade; my mom yelling at the White House staff about leaving all their supposedly important papers lying around everywhere; me passing laws that would make huge differences in our society, for in­stance---declaring free candy and no more school for kids everywhere.

When my dad got home from work I ran right up to him.

What's up? he said. I could barely wait to get the words out: Sister So And So said that anyone who was born in this country has the God-given right to become the president of the United States.

That's absolutely one hundred percent true, he said.

And then she said that all you had to do was work hard in school and a college education and get good grades and want to help people a change things and make this world a better safer place. 94 That’s true too he said. And then you just get people to vote for you?

And then if they do-you get to be president?

Yup.

(Wow. A rush of dreamy blood flooded my tiny blond head. I went in for ultimate okay.)

"So does that mean that I could become---one day---if I did all that stuff­ the president of the United States? There was a long pause. My dad looked down at me with a warm smile friendly face. Then, he said: Hell no! Whaddayou-crazy? Then he started to laugh as he gave me a big hug. Hey Nars! hcalled out (that was my dad's nickname for my mom, whose real name is Nora)---Dinzo thought he was gonna be the president one day!

I could hear my mom's laughter bouncing off the dark brown paneling in aside the kitchen. Then my dad leaned down and said: You ain’t never gonna be the president, son. Because you gotta be born here, you gotta work hard in school AND---you gotta be rich. And we ain't rich. Now go get ready for supper.

And that was the end of that dream. Crushed like a bug under the immi­grant boot of my no-nonsense old man.

Did it Make Me sad?

Yes. Did it knock my adolescent self-esteem down a heavy notch or two? Yup.

Did it lessen my faith in The Great American Dream?

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You bet your patriotic balls it did.

But he was right. There wasn't a chance in hell I was ever going to have even a sliver of a micro-ounce of an atom's testicle of EVER getting elected to the highest office in the land where I lived. I had a better shot at grow­ing TITS than I did living in the White House. Shit-speaking of shots­ given my place in American society I was more likely to fire a weapon AT a presidential motorcade than I was to ride IN one.

So I sucked up that fact and started dreaming of being a Bruin or a Red Sock or a Rolling Stone once again. My precious tiny self-esteem was dealt a severe blow that it desperately needed-a dose of hard-ass reality that more and more parents in this country need to drop on their own offspring: get a grip.

Life sucks and is unfair and there are certain facts that will always remain hard, fast and true: pretty, thin chicks with small tits, minuscule brain waves and long long legs will become supermodels---all other chicks will demean and ab­hor and hate them even as they try to starve/binge/drug their way into the same set of shoes; the fastest, smallest little guy and the biggest dumbest angry guy will both make it into the same professional team sport---no matter what it is---because you can't hit what you can't catch.

My dad taught me in eight seconds what kids nowadays don't know even as they hit their late thirties: not everyone gets to do everything. My dad and my mom worked their asses off just to get to New York City and begin to live and work as illegal immigrants and they adjusted their dream as they went along because they had a family to feed. My dad was a talented musician---he played the accordion in Irish bands on the side when I was growing up. I've always had it easy with music as does my son Jack and I believe the talent comes from my father's side of the family and I'm sure Dad would have loved to make his moolah on the stage but it didn't work out that way so he became a mechanic. He loved working on engines too. He fed his kids. He bought a house. My mom stayed home and made sure we did as we were told. They both made sure we had our priorities all set straight but even more importantly they made our options crystal clear: that's why my dad cut right to the chase when it came to questions about what we could or couldn't "become."

When I decided to give acting a try as a senior in high school, much to his credit my dad's response was to say it was known to be a rough road but that I should give it a try. He also told me we had no money for me to go to college and if the acting or

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college thing didn't work out he could always get me a job down at his com­pany and that he could easily get me into his union.

He then showed up at almost every play or show I did in college and as many as he could after I graduated---always coming backstage with a big smile on his face. When I was playing ice or street hockey in leagues as a kid he would show up for a whole game or part of the game almost every time and if I had a bitch about the coach he'd always give me the same response---HE'S the coach, not your father. Shut up and listen.

I'd say when it comes to self-esteem my mother said it best and way more than once to me, my sister Ann Marie, my brother Johnny, my baby sis­ter Betsy, and any and all cousins from this side of the ocean or the other who tried to get above their station in this life. Pick one: Just who the hell died and left you in charge, huh? Well, now---there's another county heard from. Why can't you be more like (insert smart faggy kid from school's name here)? Why don't you learn a lesson or two from (insert faggy cousin's name here)? No one asked you for your opinion mister/missy/smartass. Shut up, cut the cadology and go to bed!

You wanted self-esteem when I grew up? You had to earn it. The only rights you had were to eat whatever it was they put on the table and sleep in a warm bed and get free clothing as long as you showed up on time.

And after you hit eighteen? Time to go out into the real world. You want some self-esteem? Then get up off your lazy ass and DO something. Invent something, make a great catch, learn how to play the piano, cut the goddam lawn, shovel the fucking sidewalk, paint an interesting picture-anything except sit there whining about how no one pays any attention to you.

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You know what kids learn when parents insist on making s everyone gets a trophy and everyone wins and nobody loses? They that losing doesn't suck. Which it does. Which is why no one wants to lose and be called a fucking loser. Jesus. You fall down you get up. That’s how you learn how much falling down hurts and how much you never wanna fall down ever again. Christ. Modern moms are desperate to sure their kids never lose, never get beat up, never get called fat, never get anything negative ever ever ever. It's okay for the kids to do whatever they FEEL like doing---never say no---just yes yes yes. Another little story about seIf-esteem and all its iterations-confidence wherewithal, ingenuity and advancement:

HOW I LEARNED TO ACT

When I was a freshman at Emerson College several of my best buddies and I were told we had to wait in line for the best parts because juniors and seniors needed to play leading roles before they graduated, basically that meant not getting onstage on a regular basis in a major role for at least two or three years. Being an understudy, standing in the ­wings, hoping wishing praying plotting dreaming that one of stars might maybe perhaps if possible suffer a broken ankle or a pinched neck nerve or a bout of laryngitis or just a full-blown onset of basic-ass stage ­fright. But instead of cursing the darkness we lit it up-using the advice of one Dr. James Randall we formed The Emerson Comedy Workshop.

Dr. Randall forced the Student Government Association to recognize the Workshop as a legitimate theater group and fund it, thereby allowing us to write all of our own one-act plays, variety shows, mini·musical parodies-whatever came to mind. We even ended up getting credit for all the creative work as well as the set design, lighting design, tech work, et al. We did three to four shows a year. We were almost always last on the list for available theater space, but we would take whatever we were given-lecture halls, raw square spaces, even--in my favorite turn of events-a former church-and have to outfit it with a stage, lighting, stage area and seating.

Our limitations always became a plus. Our shows were funny, exciting and always on the cutting edge and what began as what some people thought of as an impossibility became the hardest ticket in town---we sold out every single production for every show three theater seasons

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a year for three seasons running.

The Workshop still ex­ists a full thirty-two years later. I'm not telling you this as a form of brag­gadocio---I'm informing you how our generation of kids refused to accept the status quo. We rebelled and it paid off-big-time. That's an example of the power of not taking no for an answer. As a mat­ter of fact-taking no and turning it into a giant gleaming Yes. learned everything I know about experimental original theater and comedy­ ---from acting to writing to painting and building goddam sets---by not taking no for an answer. Now-part two of the same story. Kind of:

HOW I BECAME A PUBLISHED POET

During the summer certain members of the workshop would travel and perform at other colleges and theaters in and around New England. In order to do so, we had to take jobs that kept us close to Emerson during the summer months. At the end of our junior year, a guy named Eagle---He was bald at age twenty, got hit with the nickname and nobody ever called him anything else but Eagle ever again-said he had a job as the assistant head janitor at the Atlantic Monthly Building.

The Atlantic Monthly was and still is a well-respected magazine zoned in on intellec­tual discussions of cultural and political matters and its offices were located in several brownstones built side by side half a block from the Emerson campus. Eagle needed four guys to work the night shift as jani­tors during June, July and August. Adam Roth, Chris Phillips, Reagan Kennedy and I volunteered immediately. We'd never been janitors before but between the four of us there had been plenty of experience cleanin­g up odd puddles of beer, vomit, cheap vodka and just general leftover after-party ooze in the various hellholes we lived in---some of which Eagle had witnessed firsthand, which is to say we were well qualified. So Eagle hired us on the spot.

The pay was good but the best part was yet to come: our first night on thejob, Sully The Head Janitor---classic Boston Irish guy, fifty-something, barrel-chested, redfaced with a nose that doubled as a Bushmill's bottle---­ explained that we were to be on time every evening at five o'clock and were supposed to clean all four buildings in the following eight hours. However, he said as he handed each of us our own official Atlantic

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Janitorial Staff short-sleeve button-down shirt (think basic bowling league red and blue), if we chose to work our balls off like slaves on co­caine, we could leave whenever the hell we got the work done. After Sully split, Eagle said he guessed we could get through all four buildings in less than five hours if we worked like slaves on cocaine and didn't take cigarette breaks. And that's just what we did. Every night at five Sully would list off the areas where there may have been a large coffee spill or a water leak or an ink explosion and we would don our bowling shirts, grab our mops and buckets and run a full tornado sweep so swift and thorough it would have made Mr. Clean crap his tidy whitey pants. We were out on the town chasing tail and downing booze by ten-thirty almost every night. It was a dream gig.

After a few weeks we got so good we COULD take cigarette breaks-dur­ing which we started to take notice of all the office-type swag there was just piled up and lying around. It's amazing what you can convince your­self you absolutely need to have in order to survive---especially when it's stuff you have survived without up until that particular point in your life. Staplers, number two pencils, paperweights, letter openers, boxes of number two pencils, plastic coffee cups, paper clips, boxes of boxes of number two pencils, toner bottles, Sanka packets, Cremora jars, big boxes of boxes with boxes of number two pencils in them---you name it we took it. Hey-they were the big corporate giants and we were the struggling artists.

We needed to write and draw and staple and sip Sanka with fake cream powder in it. At one point Reagan actually stole a rolling steel chair with some great swivel action in its legs. The rest of us decided that might be pushing the envelope a bit---although we had already pushed the envelope literally and figuratively by stealing thousands of envelopes over the course of our first month on the job. One night during week five, Adam and I were in the editor in chief's office when he noticed something on top of the big guy's desk-a neat pile of typed pages.

Lookit this, he said. What? I replied as I speed-polished a bookcase. I

t's a bunch a poems.

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What kinda poems? I said, waxing a coffee table by wrapping two towels around my forearms, spraying a shitload of Lemon Pledge on the table - flailing back and forth like a wounded trout in an Igloo cooler.

John Ashbery, he said. (Now let me take a second to explain who John Ashbery was and is-an incredibly celebrated American poet who has won every available award, including the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and, well---name one more important award and he probably has two of them. His work is dense with intellect and verbal dexterity. He will go down as one of the greatest poets in the history of the written word.)

He sucks, Adam said.

Yeah--- I know, I agreed.

This must be some stuff this editor guy's thinking of puttin' in the magazine.

Yeah, I mumbled.

So.

So what? We should get rid of this shit and put some of your stuff here instead, Adam said without even a hint of doubt.

Whaddaya nuts? Listen ta me---this guy comes in tomorrow'n reads yer stuff---yer stuff is revolutionary, man---this editor guy's gonna read it and he's gonna flip out'n he's gonna publish it'n yer gonna be famous'n we're gonna be bangin' chicks from Harvard'n shit. (Now, as dumb as that plan sounds please remember---we were both nineteen years old. We WERE dumb. Young, dumb and full of come. And bad poetry. I had been writing it for only about a year and a half and at the time, of course, I thought it was Groundbreaking and Important and Needed To Be Heard. Needless to say---I took the bait.)

You know two or three of your poems by heart? Adam asked. Of course I did. I couldn't remember the Our Father or The Latin Mass or any part of The Declaration of Independence or The Gettysburg Address

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beyond their titles, we the people and four score and seven years ago ­but my own poems and Rolling Stone lyrics and the starting lineup of every Boston Bruin or Boston Red Sox team since I was about five years old? Those were all on the tip of my tongue.)

Let's go, I said assertively. So Adam and I tore up John Ashbery's poems and tossed them into the trash and sat down at the desk of the editor's secretary and typed up two of my poems.

This is what they were:

ONOMATOPOEM

Bang.

Bang bang. Bang

bang bang bang.

Boom. Crack. Barn. Boom.

Shicka shicka shicka.

Poof.

FUCK This.

Them.

That.

Us.

Is.

As.

Was.

Will.

Be.

And.

You.

We decided not to put my name on them---just to make the whole pro­cess an even bigger mystery. Then we tenderly stapled them together and placed them gingerly in the center of the editor's desk. Stared down at

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them for a long, long beat---imagining the great fortune they were about to bring our way. We literally shook hands and smiled at each other. Then, as a fitting gesture of trust and solidarity---we left the stapler behind.

Returning to our tornado sweep cleaning, we finished by ten-fifteen, hit the bars at ten-thirty and chased tail and planned plans and laughed and smoked and dreamed and laughed and went to bed and got up to rehearse with The Workshop and eagerly returned to work the following after­noon at five p.m.

It was almost five past five when the editor in chief of The Atlantic Monthly pulled me aside as I was once again donning my bowling slash janitor shirt down in the working-class bowels of the building. He said Adam had pointed me out as the source of the poems left atop his desk. He then congratulated me on owning-and I quote---"the most original young raw voice in poetry I have come across in almost a decade."

Wow.

Adam and I smiled beaming broad smiles as the editor and his posse of publishing elites led me upstairs where we shared flutes full of cham­pagne and plans for my first book.

One month later "Onomatopoem" and "Puck" made their debut in the magazine and three weeks after that I signed the deal to publish my first book of poetry with Harper Collins. It was called Slap and was nominated for Best New Book by The American Poetry Bank.

Which doesn't exist. Because I just made up that happy ending to this little story of how I be­came a published poet.

What really happened was: As I tugged on my shirt the day after we planted my poems, Sully entered the locker room for our daily dose of spills, blotches, wet patches and stains to clean up. The first words out of his mouth were "Who's the ge­nius who left the crazy poems on the editor in chief's desk?" He looked around for half a second before spotting my upraised arm, which had been eagerly in the air since he had uttered the word "genius." I was more than ready for my moment in the spotlight.

"Okay, asshole-turn in yer shirt. Yer officially shitcanned."

Then he immediately continued reading

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off various dirty locations that needed special attention from the rest of the crew that night.

The dream was over so quickly I didn't even have a chance to ask a follow up question. Sully headed out the back door and the guys all said how sucky my situation was and then they went off in search of dust and filth. Within a few days I was working the switchboard of a swanky downtown hotel on the night shift and furiously spending the overnight hours writing more poetry.

Why? So I could get better at it.

I was always one of those people who never took no for an answer. Whether it was girls or work or sports or acting, when someone told me I wasn't good enough I found another way to prove them wrong.

About three months after Sully made me turn in my bowling shirt, things happened-out of pure spite I'd become a much better poet ended up getting two poems published in another, more cutting-edge, poetry magazine called Ploughshares. I was the youngest writer in that particular issue and one of the youngest they ever featured.

The other thing that happened was Adam, Chris and Reagan got canned after Sully caught them trying to smuggle a whole desk brownstone side door. I never tried to get my poems published again after that-I'd proved I could pull it off.

I still write them for my wife and most of the time for my private files and I love doing so, but in my heart of hearts I know the only reason I can claim to be a published poet today is because Sully With The Bushmill's Bottle Nose.

And the reason I became a successful comic is because of all the club owners who told me I was too edgy and the reason I became a working actor is due to all the acting teachers who said I didn't do what they told me to do and all of the casting directors who wouldn't cast me. Every time I hear the word "no" I think "yes."

Every time someone says it's against the rules I wonder why the exist. I don't run home with my tail between my legs- I bang down the d find out what's on the other side.

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And that comes from growing up with parents who made it clear that­---within reason-you can be whatever you want to be in America but no one is just going to hand you anything, you have to go out and get it. The harder you work, the luckier you get-that's one of the things my dad taught me. You learn more with your mouth shut and your ears open than you do the - other way around-he said that too. Most people who are older than you are also a helluva lot smarter. That was another one of his faves.

No one owes you anything and being born into a free society means you get to say whatever the hell you want but it doesn't mean anyone has to listen.

Which is why I walk around now just wishing I could grab every other mouthy, misbehaved, spoiled and rotten little urchin I come across in airports and restaurants and just when I'm walking down the street---kids who are throwing snit fits in public as their disinterested or seem­ingly powerless parents stand off to the side and let the rest of us listen to the whining-I just once wanna grab them HARD by the flesh on their twiggy upper arms, that soft flesh that really really hurts-and I mean grab them bruise-inducing, five-finger-indentation-Ieft-behind hard­---and whisper Clint Eastwood-style right in their dirty little ear: Listen up and listen fast, punk, 'cause I'm only sayin' this one goddam time: yer gonuna shut the fuck up right now and start doing what yer dumbass mom and dad say from here on in or a special van is gonna pull up one day and just pluck you right off the goddam street and drop your ass on a plane to Iraq where you will be dropped out of the sky with nuthin' but a para­chute and a bag of white rice---no cash, no toys, no more SpongeBob SquareAss---ya follow? I’d like to see how far their overinflated self-esteem plummets after that.

Hopefully? Like a big rock in a backyard kiddie pool.


1 comment:

  1. He does go off on a tangent and could do a better job communicating what he wants to say, not to mention that some of the language wasn't necessary, but too much stuff is being pathologized as autism. He's kind of right about American parents. Some parents like their kids labeled and doped up and do hold them back and keep them around too long. My mom didn't know what was age-appropriate and kept me doped into a state of confusion, which kept me from having the brains to get out, not to mention that she threatened to cut off my college funding if I moved out. (If I had known what that garbage really was I'd have dumped it where it belonged, regardless of consequences.) While I was doped and impaired I married a guy who believed in living with extended family. You guessed it: she never took the opportunity to kick us out or urge us to find our own place. There are actually more details to the story and it's a LOT worse than that.
    One parenting mistake I won't make is having my kids pathologized. If I had a kid with real autism or something, then I'd acknowledge it, defend the kid, and get the best help I could find, but I don't consider personality quirks to be autism.
    My mom pathologizes everything I do and that's part of the reason for my post-traumatic stress. I had so much going for me. Please let your quirky kids be who they are and don't pathologize them if they're mean and nasty, either.
    As for genuine autism, it must be a challenge. I respect that and I don't want to create any misunderstandings the way Denis Leary did.

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