A Whole New Me


A Whole New Me

A whole new me? That’s how I see this phase of my life. For so many years I felt that if anyone really got to know me, they would know what a horrible person I am. And so I hid. I hid behind the character I played on stage, that tough New Yorker. I attacked from the microphone because if I let my guard down they would see the real me and no one would like that. Then, I started a blog, which later became my book, and the whole world changed. Why? I let me guard down. I let you in to see the real me. And what you saw you liked. I don’t understand it, I don’t get it, I’m simply trying to grasp what it is that you see that I don’t.
It takes a lot of years of being told you are no good to have this kind of self-image. Being told you are a horrible person while being told you are loved can fuck you up big time. That’s what happened to me. There is a story that I didn’t tell in either book. But I’ll share it now. Because my parents were divorced I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s. She was not a warm fuzzy kind of person. She was a bitch on wheels and I got the full brunt of her hatred. My mother was her favorite child and she hate my father for not being the kind of husband SHE thought her favorite deserved. My grandmother then lumped my father and I in one big pile of shite. She reminded me that I wasn’t as good as the other kids, that my father wasn’t as good as her other son-in-laws, that I should worship the ground my mother walks on for being such a good mother. And she reminded me that as often as she could.
On this one particular Friday night my mother had to work late and I was alone with my grandmother at her house. She was screaming at me because my mother was working and I was not. I think I was 14 at the time. I was fighting back…fighting for my own existence…. Fighting to be heard as a person… Fighting for my dignity. I couldn’t take it any longer and I ran out of the house, down the street to the corner. I looked back and saw my mother entering my grandmother’s house and so I turned around and went back. She would make me feel better. She was my mother. As I entered the foyer of my grandmother’s house I heard my mother yelling to my grandmother, “I know, Ma, he’s a son of a bitch, what do you want from me? He’s Ben’s son.” It was like someone had taken a knife and shoved it into my heart. I turned around and left the house to walk the street for hours. My grandmother acted as if she hated me, my mother agreed with her and my father was nowhere to be found. Unless you know what loneliness is, you won’t know how I felt as I walked those streets. After a couple of hours I walked back to my grandmother’s house and met my mother… “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” Is all I got. But the damage had already been done, the internal damage. I think it took 45 years to get over that night. I still haven’t gotten over it to some extent. I mean, the pain is less than it used to be but the memory lingers.
That brings me back to the blog. I started writing my blog LIFE SUCKS WHY NOT SHARE IT… and suddenly, I was surrounded by the arms of strangers. Stories that I kept hidden deep in my psyche for decades I trotted out like I was at the Nuremburg Trial. I emptied that well of self-hate and loathing that I carried around with me my entire life and I shared it with others. And what did I get; unconditional love and support. And the support kept growing… it grew exponentially. The more I shared, the more love and support I got.
Do you know why I never had a web site? I never felt I deserved one. What could I put on a web site that anyone would care about? But a wonderful lady was put in my life, Marilyn Johnson, and I told her I had no materials. And I told her I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. And I told her and I told he and I told her and all she said to me was, “Let me see what I can do.” And what she did was bring me back into the world again. I remember the first day the web site came on line. I looked at it and said, “I’m back.”
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel like a new person, because I AM a new person…. a little stronger, a little wiser, a little more self-confident. And I wanted to say it now because I wanted you to all know I couldn’t have done it without you. I wanted to tell you my grandmother was wrong. I wanted to tell you that some day I’ll able to say that with conviction…and… I wanted to tell you…. THAT THE NEW RALPHS IN THE VALLEY IS FUCKING INCREDIBLE.

Just call me Moses of the Desert Hot Springs

I’m exhausted. You’d think I just fought the Six Day War. I don’t understand it. My people did so well in the desert… they wandered for 40 years. I only went for four hours and I think I need a blood transfusion. Jews and the Desert, it’s supposed to be a match made in heaven… all I did was go to Palm Springs and I think I want to kill myself.
I’m old. I don’t look old. But I’m old. How do I know? The people I went to high school with are moving into nursing homes. That’s an indication I shouldn’t go skate boarding. It’s time for me to find a place to retire to and possibly die in my sleep . Have you looked at California real estate… if you want to live by the ocean you had better be a seagull… not a Siegel cause properties are so god damn expensive you’d think the ocean was made of gold. So I looked for an alternative…the anti-ocean…the desert.
I had heard from several people that Palm Springs is very reasonable… sure it is… it’s an oven with a toll road. Who wants to live where it’s 120 degrees in August? No one… so it’s reasonable. However, I looked on line and found some wonderful places… big spacious places… three story townhouses with two car garages and exterior spaces… 20 foot ceilings… fireplaces… 3 bathrooms… and they are in my price range, entry level poverty. So I called a real estate broker and I drove the two hours to the desert. We went to my dream home. I opened the door and I looked at her and said, “Are you kidding me?” It was like Barbie’s Dream House and just about as big. I said to her, “Who was the architect, Billy Barty?” It was literally the smallest home I had ever been in. I walked up the stairs, my elbows rubbed both walls. I took out my iPhone and looked at the website. Yes, this is the same unit but in the picture the living room looked like a bowling alley. In reality it was a little larger than the box they give you at J. Crew for your socks. (Yes, that’s right I buy my socks at J. Crew..wanna do something about it?)
It was then I learned that they shoot these places with a fisheye lens. It make them look larger. What it actually does is false advertise them. It Bait and Switches you… it makes you drive two hours. I was furious. But I had been warned by the real estate broker that the places were bad… but I poo-poo’d that… after all I had seen the website…these place are huge. “What does she know.”, I said to myself. Turns out…she knows a lot.
We were walking back to the car like we had just buried a relative when we were approached by, how can I put this… Belle Barth in a muumuu. And in a cigarette graveled voice said, “Want to see my unit?” The very thought brought my lunch up to the back of my throat. “Oh wait… she means her house.” So we went inside where I just don’t know how to describe this place to give it the right amount of disrespect. It was sort of a cross between THE GOLDEN GIRLS meets MIAMI VICE meets NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Everything was power blue and pink. EVERYTHING!!! It looked like a flamingo had thrown up in there. And just as you couldn’t believe how horrific this room was there was that room… a room that had been sand blasted so the walls looked like they had been in a nuclear explosion. It’s at this point the owner points out the white Formica built-ins. “There are sixty thousand dollars in built-ins in this place.” To which I whisper to no one, “How unfortunate for you. It’ll take eighty thousand to jack hammer them out.”
We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I was getting seasick. We thanked the owner and with a straight face the real estate broker says, “You have a lovely home.” This negated everything she ever said to me.
We look at eight homes in two hours. I’m wearing long denim jeans, which are heating up like a ceramic kiln. The last house we saw had lots of potential… I’m interested but the complex keeps screaming, “assisted living”. I’m not sure that I should buy this one and I have to think it over. I have to ask my friends. I have to get out of the desert and into my air-conditioned car.
I head back to LA… the drive is uneventful until I make a wrong turn and am taken to downtown LA where the freeway is literally at a stand still. Three hours later I make it into my home. I am exhausted. I have never been this exhausted in my life. I crawl into bed at 8 p.m. and open my eyes at 8 the following morning. I am drained, like someone has taken my blood and given it to the Red Cross. I take two more naps… and have a tuna sandwich. As I write this I’m still feeling woozy… it’s like all the energy has been sucked from my body. But I have to go back… how can I? How can I face the Golden Girl Suite? I’ve been back and forth with the broker all day. I’m coming back to Palm Springs in a week or so. I’m going to put myself through this again… or… I could just come out of retirement, go back on the road, pretend I never had to retire…. And live out of suitcases for the rest of my life.
No, that won’t happen. So… in a week or so, I’ll go back to Palm Springs and find a place I can call my home away from home, my place where the dish washer doesn’t work, where the ants have set up an express lane from the outside through my kitchen into my freezer, where lizards sit on rocks going, “Fuck it’s hot.” Yes, I will return to the desert and find my retirement villa…. I will… and when I do… you all have to come and visit me…and bring furniture because who can furnish two whole houses?????
Goodnight my Tesla Dream where ever you are!

Remembering Linda

Sat down to check my schedule for the week. 14th, nothing. 15th, taxes…done and filed months ago. 16th. My eyes froze on the date… all it said was “Linda 2008”. How could it be six years already? How could someone I loved so dearly be gone six whole years? Yet, she is and as I write this my heart feels a little heavier, a little sadder, a little less full. But it’s a little happier because I carry her memory with me where ever I go.
She wasn’t a girlfriend. She was older than I. She wasn’t a relative but I’ve since learned that blood does not make a relative. She wasn’t someone I would usually be friends with. Yet, when we first met, on that first night, over 60 years ago, I can remember laughing and loving her instantly. She was like a pair of old slippers that had curled to the bumps in your feet. She was that old pair of pj’s with the hole in the crotch that is the only pair that let’s you sleep soundly. She was kittens and puppies and good drugs… she was My Linda.
I feel guilty calling her “My Linda” she had a real brother, she had friends who would cut off limbs for her. But to me, she was mine alone. She was the one I ran to the night I found out my child was not mine. She was the one who held me as I cried for hours. I was the one who she went to when her life was falling apart. We were the cog and wheel in each other’s lives. And when she lived out here, there was not a day that went by when we did not pick up the phone and just touch base. You see, when Linda was in my world it was a better place, a warmer place, a safer place. When Linda was around there was always smile to be had, a laugh to laughed, a joke to be told. I guess I am describing a soul mate.
She had not had an easy life. It was one illness after another. It was one bad relationship after another. It was torture and pain and saddness and near the end a little joy. Her son. How she loved her son. How she wanted her son… when we spoke it was all she talked about. I was his Uncle. I celebrated the birth of the extension of her. And on the morning I got the email, two words… “Linda Passed” it was her son that I was thinking about and how would he survive.
This next bit I don’t know how to even begin to tell you. So I guess I’ll just tell you exactly like it happened. About two weeks after Linda passed I got an email. “I saw your message in the memory book about Linda. I would like to talk to you about her.” And there was a phone number. I called it. A woman answered. “Um… you don’t know me… but… my name is… and I was wondering… how… um…” And without even knowing where it came from and without her saying another word I said, “Oh My God… you’re her daughter.” And the woman said, “Yes”. My head began to spin. She was a twin. And…there was an older daughter as well. Three children. I spoke to the woman for half an hour… I asked her to send me photos… proof… something I could believe in. We hung up and I immediately called Marlene, Linda’s close enough to be sister. “Sit down.” Is all I said. I then told her what had been told to me… “Holy shit.”, is all Marlene said. There was a moment of complete silence. And then she and I began to laugh. We laughed long and hard over the little surprise that Linda had planned for us.
Must have been three days later when the photos arrived. I looked at it and there was no doubt in my mind. None at all. She was a clone of Linda. It was like having Linda back again. It was a piece of my friend that I had lost that was now close enough to hold. I immediately called her. “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY!!!!” is all I said. She wanted to know everything she could about Linda and I told her. I tried to take the memories in my mind and somehow telapahtically send them to her so she could remember her mother the way I did.
Funny how life is. About four months later I was driving down the San Diego Freeway and out of nowhere a bolt of memory hit me. I was sitting next to Linda’s hospital bed, it was one of her many trips to the emergency room. She turned to me and said, “I’m such a bad person. I gave up my children.” And I said, “What are you talking about.” And it was then she told me about the twins. My love for her was so complete… so unconditional that I said, “You did what you had to do… and I’m sure it was the right thing.” And then, I put it out of my mind, never to think of it again until that moment on the San Diego Freeway when Linda came to me and refreshed my memory.
And so I celebrate another anniversary of Linda’s passing. Although celebrate is the wrong word. You don’t celebrate the moment that your loved one is taken from you. But I can’t say I grieve my Linda’s anniversary either. Why? Cause she left me a little gift with purchase. She left me her daughter and when I need a little Linda I send a little email and I get a little Linda love back.
My only wish for Linda is that she is resting in peace…if anyone deserved to have a quiet eternity, it’s that girl I met a the “Y” who changed my life, who taught me what love is, who made me laugh and at this moment….is making me cry.


It’s every American’s duty to serve on a jury. It is our civic pride which gives us the honor to sit in judgment of another citizen. And I am here to tell you… do everything in your power to get out of it… it’s a fucking nightmare.
Here’s how it starts. You’re having a wonderful day, the sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, a cool breeze is blowing through your garden and the postman drives up to your house. He’s got an evil grin on his face… it’s “Ha HA!!!!! This is for not tipping me last Christmas.” And he shoves the summons into your mailbox. You open it, suddenly there are clouds in the sky, your flowers are being eaten by a herd of snails and a tornado just took out your house garden…. YOU HAVE JURY DUTY.
This is how it begins. You fill out of the form and if you opt to go through early orientation via the Internet you don’t have to arrive at 7 a.m. So I sit through seven of the most mundane, boring, idiotic videos I have ever seen. “Dress code for court is business casual… no flip flops, not tank tops, please wear shoes.” Who the fuck goes to court barefoot? So after you watch the 7 videos you have to take a test. I flunked it. I had to watch the videos again… take the test again…it was the SAT’s all over again. I finally pass and am told when to call to see if I was needed on a particular day. Are you ready for this? They expect you to clear out your calendar for one week, to give you the honor of driving downtown in rush hour traffic, to sit in a room to then be told you would be picked to be on a jury. This is a dream come true… couldn’t they just attach electrodes to my testicles.
Monday at 5 p.m. I drop to my knees and ask God to get me out of Jury Duty. I call. I am not needed. Tuesday, same routine. Not needed. Wednesday… come on God, you’ve been doing great so far…. I call. THERE IS NO GOD… I need to show up Thursday at 9:30 or as I see it… at the height of rush hour.
This is what you have to know about me. When I have something to do I cannot sleep. I went to bed at 10 p.m. I slept the entire night, opened my eyes refreshed and ready to go.. I look at the clock. It’s 3:30 a.m. I lie in bed with my eyes wide open until 6:30 a.m. when I jump out and take a shower. I leave the house at 8 a.m. bumper to bumper from my front door to the first major intersection. I reprogram my GPS for the shortest route to the courthouse. It takes me through villages in Guatemala.
I finally arrive downtown where I’m instructed to park at the Disney Concert Hall. I enter the building and am sent so low in the basement Satan got the last space. I then have to walk to the courthouse. Now if this were New York City I wouldn’t think anything of it… it’s only six blocks. But this is LA. The last time I walked six blocks in LA Eisenhower was in office.
I get to the court building where I am frisked and sent through a metal detector. I head for the bank of elevators. Ten elevators… 500 people. Ding. The light goes off at elevator one. 500 people stampede to that elevator… ten get in. Ding. The light goes on at elevator six. The stampede rushes to that elevator. And that’s how it went for ½ an hour until I won the elevator lotto and an elevator arrived at a door I was standing in front of.
I arrive at my floor and check in with the court clerk. I walk into the room of 400 chairs or as I call it purgatory. You could hear a pin drop. 400 people not a sound, it was something I had never seen before… group shock. I find a seat and it’s then I start looking over the crowd. OMG… it’s a Cinco D’ Mayo festival. All around me people are speaking Spanish. And those who weren’t speaking Spanish were speaking Mandarin. America really is a melting pot. There were a few valley people there… and an assortment of freaks. A guy with a pentagram on his hat… a 400 pound guy carrying a lunch pail… the Unabomber.
And so this melting pot of humanity sits there 9 a.m. 10 a.m. 11 a.m. Noon… the quiet room has now got this low murmur going. AND THEN… “We are ready to pick our first panel.” And the names are being announced over the loud speaker: “Mario Gonzalez… Victor Consualo, Arturo Hernadez… Maria Ortez…” With every name there is a sense of relief that your name has not been called. I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, “Now I know how Anne Frank felt.” HUGE LAUGH.
We break for lunch. However, same game at the elevators. I give up and go back to purgatory where I begin posting on Facebook… all I need is a little inspiration and I’m off and running. The posts are funny and furious. Now I’m posting photos. Now I’m Facebooking with Marsha Posner Williams. We are laughing so hard that others are looking at me like I’ve lost my mind…which I am about to.
We come back after lunch… it’s 1:30. We hear the announcement that sends shivers down our spines. “We are ready to pick our next panel.” I am not picked. 2:30 3:00 3:30.. I know we are let go at 4 pm. If I can just make it till 4 I am free for a year. At 3:45 a woman approaches the podium. “May I have your attention?” 200 people’s hearts stop. “The courts have called down and we don’t need any more panels for today.” An audible “YES” is heard through the room. They call out our names…we give back our juror badge… and we head for the elevators to wait for the elevator lotto game again. Not a word is being spoken but as we pass through the front door heading for the street a woman says to no one… “What a monumental waste of time.” To which a second woman says, “And this is the four time they’ve done this to me.” To which another woman says, “And they don’t care.” I am silent. I am the observer and reporter of human emotions. I am watching and listening. But I will tell you this. There has to be a better system than the one I just experienced. With all the technology of today, there has to be a better way to find a jury than to hold hundreds of people captive for a week…force them to do something they don’t want to do… take them out of their lives and their jobs to pass judgment on another human being. And if I were a felon and saw who the jury pool was… I would plea bargain immediately because I would NOT want any of THOSE people deciding my fate. I now see how George Zimmer walked. I now see how our prisons are filled with innocent people. This is no way to run a court system. And I wish I had a better answer… but I don’t. Sad. No?

There are good days and bad…

wild-for-color-11.jpgGOOD DAYS AND BAD

It started at 8 a.m. The phone rang, it was Roz Kind. “Your joke got a huge laugh.” And then she goes on to tell me how the joke that I gave her for her act worked and how wonderful her gig in New York City is going and that she got rave reviews and that everyone has been so wonderful to her. And my response was, “it’s about time.” So that started the day off beautifully… was so happy for her. (And for me, love it when a joke I write gets a huge laugh.)

Later in the day I went to the mailbox and there were the contracts for my play. No fuss, no fighting, no long drawn out “the attorneys need to look a this”; just “I’ll send you the contracts and the check” …and it arrives. And while I’m making out the deposit slip… rule one in show business deposit the check immediately… while I’m filling out the deposit slip The Jon Lovitz Club calls me. “Steve would you…” and inside my fear and anxiety meter go through the roof. Me? You want me? You want me to do what, host? HOST? Be charming and introduce someone else? I don’t know how to do that. I’m too shy. I’m not charming enough. I’m charming challenged. But they were so nice and they seemed to think that I could do it…. So I said yes. Why? For the first time in my life a little voice in my head said, “What have you got to lose?” And I said, “Yes” I agreed to do something that has me petrified for decades, stand on stage as myself and let the world in. Because we all know that if they world sees the real me, they will not like me… old tapes…these tapes are so old they are 8 track. So I said yes!

What the hell is going on with me? Could this be change? Could this be a little self- confidence coming to the surface? I don’t know… all I know is that I, who never wanted to do stand up again, is now doing stand up on May 20th and May 22nd. 20th at the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal City and the 22nd at the Catalina Club for the birthday fund raiser for David Zimmerman. Wait… they’re not raising funds for David Zimmerman, he’s raising funds for a very worthy cause. And when I get there that night I will find out what that cause is.

Ok, so Roz called, the check arrived and I’m doing stand up again. I went to the gym and worked out. One of the trainers came up to me… “I went to your website. It’s gorgeous. The colors, the videos…it was like I was getting to meet you all over again.” And then she went on to say, “I remember you. I saw you in Vegas… I hung out at the Comedy Store. I wondered what happened to you.” And I said, “I was on the treadmill” She laughed and I said a little “thank you God” for putting Marilyn Johnson in my life. She single handedly directed the creation of the website. She and Bryant are bringing me into the computer age kicking and screaming. And I’m so glad they are because when that trainer said that to me, I felt a part of something I have not felt a part of in a long time.

Then John Fungelsang asked to be my friend on Facebook. I didn’t ask to be HIS friend…HE asked to be MY friend. Ya know, it’s days like this that make we wonder if tomorrow I’ll have that massive heart attack that will leave me pale and pasty and unable to walk the steps of my house. So far, so good… not even chest pains.

Yep, there are good days and bad days… today was one of the good ones. Kinda makes me feel that light at the end of the tunnel is NOT a train.