10. My blood feud with Michael Cera
For years, the very sight of actor Michael Cera has launched me into a blind rage. When I see him in commercials or in magazines, I immediately want to bully him. I’m compelled to give him a wedgie and steal his lunch money. I’m filled with an irrepressible urge to stuff him into a locker. My entire being burns with a desire to grab his arm, keep slapping it into his face, and ask him why he keeps hitting himself.
The thing is, I’ve read enough interviews to feel fairly comfortable that he’s not the same person he seems to play in every movie. And I actually have no problem with his most famous role, as lovestruck George Michael Bluth on Arrested Development.
I think it was Juno that sent me over the edge. The idea that a chirpy young high school girl who looks like Ellen Page would willingly surrender her virginity to Cera’s Paulie Bleeker enraged me to a degree that’s usually reserved for the genocidal atrocities inflicted by tribal warlords in third world hellholes. Which probably says more about me, and the simmering mixture of regret and self-loathing I carry around about my own awkward high-school misadventures with the opposite sex, than it does about Michael Cera.
But man, do I just want to give him a purple nurple something fierce.
9. My grammar elitism
Sometimes I do cringe a little when I hear myself say things like, “Oh, you’re one of those poor souls who says ‘towards’ instead of ‘toward.’ Don’t worry, it’s not your fault you weren’t raised properly. Bless your heart.”
But only sometimes.
8. My literal bias
On a somewhat related note: I have a tendency to pick apart perfectly innocent things my friends say. For instance, when someone says something like, “He flew off the proverbial handle,” I find myself smugly, passive-aggressively asking, “Oh, what proverb is that saying from, exactly?” This kind of activity once caused my good friend Jason Mallory to dub me “Mr. Literal.”
It wasn’t meant as a compliment.
I like to think my musical preferences are above reproach. I’ve logged a fair amount of time as a music journalist and critic, and my tastes are broad and deep enough that I can usually find common ground with almost anyone. I don’t apologize for the things I appreciate; I believe that we like what we like, and it cheapens us to be ashamed of the things we enjoy (with the exception of torture, pedophilia and Pauly Shore movies). So I don’t subscribe to the notion of guilty pleasures. Although if I did, my abiding fondness for Blink-182 might qualify.
As a man in my 40s, I sometimes worry that my affection for Blink’s breakthrough 1999 album Enema of the State, filled as it is with odes to adolescent immaturity and post-pubescent romance, heralds an impending midlife crisis. But I don’t care. I’m kind of iffy on Tom DeLonge, who dominates the band’s more recent albums and picked up an annoying British accent on 2011’s spotty Neighborhoods, but Mark Hoppus is an underrated songwriter who knows his way around a catchy three-minute pop-rock tune (check out “Going Away to College,” “Shut Up,” “Roller Coaster” and my favorite, “Wendy Clear”); “What’s My Age Again?” never fails to strike a chord in me matched only by certain songs by Too Much Joy. And there are some days I think Travis Barker may even be a better drummer than Neil Peart.
That alarming sound you hear is the collective gasp of several of my Rush-idolizing friends going into cardiac arrest. So let’s quickly move on to …
6. This story about my music snobbery
Several years ago, when I was working at a weekly newspaper, I once didn’t hire an intern simply because her email address proclaimed her love for the band Maroon 5. Nothing about her interview stood out in a negative way or raised any red flags—at least any more so than any other college intern. . There was nothing wrong with her writing, she didn’t smell bad, and she seemed perfectly pleasant to be around. No, her only crime was that all of her email correspondence with me originated from a personal account whose name was something along the lines of email@example.com (that wasn’t the actual address, but it may as well have been). And I just didn’t want to work with someone who was that enamored of Adam Levine and company. I should probably be a little bit ashamed about that.
Like most straight men, when a nice-looking woman walks by, I like to cast a discreet glance of appreciation. Unlike most men, however, I don’t do a very good job with the “discreet” part. Maybe it’s the way my eyes pop out of my skull, or my head spins around 360 degrees like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Or it might be the annoying bleat of an old-fashioned “ooga” air horn that accompanies said moves, like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon.
Whatever the tipoff, I can’t (OK—won’t) tell you the number of times someone I’ve been checking out from across the room (or restaurant, or hotel lobby, or parking lot, or … you get the idea) makes eye contact, purses her lips into a frowny face and quickly turns away. I usually try to play it off legit: give the girl a nod and my best “Hey, girl, how YOU doin’?” Despite being measurably more handsome than Ryan Gosling, however, this tactic rarely makes things better. (And by rarely, of course, I mean never.)
4. This Doctor Who dream
Last weekend, I dreamed I auditioned for the role of the new Doctor on Doctor Who. I wore a long, flowing scarf a la Tom Baker, puzzlingly paired with a cool black leather jacket like Christopher Eccleston’s. And when the producers asked me why I thought I was right for the part, I told them that it was because I had my own time machine as a kid (true story). And that I’d once wanted to film a Doctor Who takeoff with my Super 8 camera in which I was a mysterious time-traveler known as The Captain who traversed the galaxy in a device that, on the outside, resembled a port-a-potty (also a true story, although thankfully that particular home movie never came to pass). I woke up confused and bitter that I didn’t get the part.
I mean, sure, leaning on your horn and flipping the one-finger salute to someone who committed the unpardonable sin of moving too slow seems like a classless dick move when other people do it. But it always seems justified in my case.
2. This personal anecdote
There’s a diner down the street from my house where I have breakfast several times a week. One of the other regular customers is an elderly gentleman who sits alone, his white hair swept back and feathered in an immaculate mane, and quietly reads the paper. When he’s finished, he gets up, pays his bill at the cash register, and then shuffles over to the kitchen to find whoever his waitress was that day so that he can hand-deliver his tip into her hands.
For some reason, this really irks me. It’s not as if the diner is in a high-crime area known to be terrorized by roving gangs of tip thieves. Most of the customers, at least in the morning, either know each other personally or have a passing familiarity with one another, enough to exchange a friendly nod in passing. In five years, I’ve never once had reason to suspect that the tip I leave on the table on my way out is in any danger of being pilfered—and I’m a paranoid bastard.
Anyway, it’s gotten to the point that whenever I see this gentleman, I have to fight an impish urge to walk over to his booth, lean menacingly over him and mutter “All right, pops, fork over the tip and no one gets hurt, capisce?” It’s not actually that I want to steal his buck-fifty; it’s that if he’s so convinced his tip is in danger, well then, I ought to give him a reason to feel that way.
In other words, I’m a terrible, terrible person.
Back in the mid-1990s, I was working the weekend graveyard shift at my local copy center. After a long weekend of sleeping all day and spending my nights either doing absolutely nothing or busting my hump catering to the needs of bratty college kids who’d put off their assignments until the very last minute, I’d come home around 9:30 on a Monday morning looking forward to a few days of relative normalcy. Despite being dead tired, I wouldn’t want to go to bed right away; I wanted to experience some of this daylight I’d heard so much about. So I’d stay up and watch a little mindless TV. My tolerance for Jerry Springer and the glut of TV shows with judges dispensing crotchety justice in fake courtrooms was pretty low, so that left me with syndication reruns of the early-90s teen-soap sensation 90210. One of the local stations started showing it every weekday in two-hour blocks starting at 10 a.m. … and thus began my descent into madness.
And I didn’t stop with syndication. Oh, no. Soon I began watching the show in prime time every week. It helped that this was around the time Tiffani Amber Thiessen joined the cast, after the characters had graduated from West Beverly High and implausibly matriculated nearby at fictional California University (oddly enough, also the name of the school where Will Smith went to college on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I’m still disappointed there was never a crossover).
These actually turned out to be my favorite episodes. I don’t much care about the high school years—except of course for the world-shaking summer when Dylan hooked up with Kelly while Brenda was studying abroad (I mean, c’mon, I’m only human). In point of fact, I couldn’t get enough of the college years. Even after Luke Perry left, long after I ceased being fascinated by Tori Spelling’s gradual plastic-surgery evolution into something resembling an alien life form’s idea of a stripper. Even as I began to objectively realize that the quality of the scripts was plunging downhill faster than a runaway roller coaster, sometime during junior year. Maybe it was because that scenario mirrored my own college years (not the sex and the ridiculous intrigue—the way it cratered during my third year).
I have seen every episode of Beverly Hills 90210. Every. Single. One. Many more than once. Yes, even after the gang graduated from college. (Did you know the show ran in prime time for 10 years? I do. Because I watched every. Single. Episode.) I should probably be a little ashamed about that last part—I mean, they were pretty much phoning it in by that point, especially after Jason Priestley left the cast, which, like Steve Carell leaving The Office, should have been the end of the ride. But for some reason, I just couldn’t quit 90210, man.
Side note No. 1: If not ashamed, I am at least a little uneasy about this: Somewhere along the way, I’ve discovered that I am a fan of Brian Austin Green. I hated David Silver during the show’s initial high-school run, but once he went to college, lost his dorky look and started having sex, I began to warm to him. I’ve actually enjoyed Green’s acting in subsequent roles, like the recently canceled TBS series Wedding Band, or his improbable but effective turn as a gritty freedom fighter on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And I’m told by a source I trust that his hip-hop album still brings the funky-fresh flava, almost 20 years after its release.
Side note No. 2: Just because I burned off countless brain cells following the tangled romantic webs of Brandon and Brenda and Dylan and Kelly and David and Donna and Steve and Valerie and The Guy Who Ran The Peach Pit, don’t assume that I hold a similar fondness for the misguided train wreck that was Saved By the Bell: The College Years. To this day, the memory of the half-hours I wasted watching this contrived and painfully unfunny cash-grab sends me spiraling into a pit of existential horror not even H.P. Lovecraft could emulate.
For that, at least, I am ashamed.