Tag Archives: humor

Practicing for the Afterlife

(Some people never learn. My new hobby is submitting to the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs. The following piece was promptly rejected so I’m posting it here. Stay tuned for future rejected “humor.”) 

I. Go to your favorite social media site. Not the one that limits the number of words you can use. Go to the site where you can use all the words. Find a topic that interests you. Write a long heartfelt reply to a post, a reply that will save humanity. Delete it without posting because nothing you say matters, and no one can hear you when you’re dead.

II. At the end of yoga class when everyone is lying down in shavasana and the teacher announces you are all welcome to stay there as long as you’d like, stay there as long as you can. How long? Start with a few minutes a day and work up to forever.

III. Shhhhh. Stay silent at social events and all other opportunities. Do not speak except to avoid “the drama.”  Passively take in what others say.. Make only the slightest nods and gestures, and these only so the person speaking will feel heard and not say, “Dude, are you even listening?”  Do not display emotion. Be like Spock.  You are a tree or better a stone, a slab that people would stare into at a graveyard barely taking in the letters etched in the middle as they ramble to their dear departed.

IV. Declutter: Your stuff is not coming with you.  Burn it, bury it, throw it away, or give it to someone who will use or enjoy it.  Note: The person who will enjoy it is NOT your neighbor, Shirley. She is a hoarder!  Leaving it for her is just cruel. Just put it in the dumpster and maybe on the way, knock on Shirley’s door and ask if she has anything you can take for her. 

V. Move into a small modest dwelling, preferably made of wood or something biodegradable. Do not furnish: Okay, you can get one IKEA cube – no hacks, unless you put fancy boxes in so it looks like above-ground vaults. Sleep on a futon mattress close to the ground.  No pillows! Maybe a little pillow that raises your head at a slight angle as it would in an open casket burial, but only if you are into that sort of thing. 

VI. Live as simply as you can. Eat and drink only enough to survive. No processed foods — and then cut back until you note a look of terror in the eyes of your co-workers. Avoid alcohol but most especially avoid frivolous alcoholic drinks with double-entendre names and frilly umbrellas. There are no “wet pussy shots” on the other side!

VII. Try turning the other cheek. Not in a sectarian way, but because when have you seen a corpse throw a punch?  Don’t just avoid physical confrontation, avoid all confrontation and conflict. You really don’t have to yell at the asshole who is shaking a fist at you for stopping short, so you wouldn’t hit the meth head in the wheelchair pushing a shopping cart followed by a dog on a rope.  You are all meat puppets who will be desiccated bodies soon enough including the dog.  Note: Do not remind the asshole of this or you will be a desiccated body sooner. Besides, God spelled backwards is dog, and you never know, so good on you for not running over a possible deity!  Also you’re the one with the broken tail light.  And why do you still even own a car?

VIII. Move again to an even more modest dwelling or possibly, wander to practice for when your ashes are scattered if that’s your wish.  Leave no forwarding address.  Do this regardless of whether or not the asshole whose car you bumped is still stalking you.  Give your cash away. Cut up your credit cards. Take only what is offered and never ask for anything because the dead ask for nothing.

IX. Make a written account of all the motherfuckers who have screwed you over and you want to tell off. Include everyone from the random lady who wouldn’t move her bag and let you sit on the A train that time you were really tired, to your siblings, exes, and friends. Burn the list without confronting anyone. Be content in the knowledge that they, like you, are going to die.  Really, is there anything you have to say that’s more of a zinger than living under the wrath of a capricious God who could strike anyone down at any moment? Dying is easier when you simply no longer give a fuck, which is the point of these exercises. Cultivating not caring  is the best preparation for a peaceful eternal rest. If you’re still not over your rage at how you were betrayed, abused, lied to, disrespected, and definitely not mom’s favorite,  try ranting in front of a mirror. Don’t you look tough! That was sarcasm. You look like a crazy person. Throw some cold water on your face, shut up about everything forever, and move on. 

X. Now that you have cultivated the nonchalance of a cadaver, turn off the lights (if you still have electricity) and lie down on your futon or directly on the ground.  Rest your hands over your chest, take a deep breath like it was your last, and have a nice nap. If you’re lucky, you won’t ever have to get up! 

My Life as a Welfare Queen

(This was originally posted in 2010. I’m reposting for the 4th of July 2018.)

It’s time for me to come clean and admit how much I scam and rip off the government. Yes, it’s people like me that keep your taxes high (not as high as all the other industrial nations, but still, it’s your money).

First, I should tell you, I’m a third generation grifter. My grandparents arrived on these shores via Ellis Island. They were even given an alias. You think Stein is our real name?

They immediately benefited from soft immigration policies, “give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.“Yeah, baby! They couldn’t wait to come in and start working that system. Soon they were having anchor babies and sending them to public schools on the taxpayers’ dime.They also enjoyed all those freedoms — religion, expression, press.They even got involved in trade unions and collective bargaining!

Then came the Great Depression. That could have set things right, invisible hand of the market and all that, but noooo! They used their vote to get that disabled guy and his commie cronies in and before you could say WPA, tons of people were grifting the government, building roads and dams, even making art — all kinds of nonsense that the feds had no business going near.

The feeling of unity was downright socialistic! Despite the Depression, both my parents got college educations without paying a dime in tuition! They didn’t even have to fake transcripts or forge checks. The local government made it easy, only requiring they do well enough in high school to get a spot in its city university system. Back then the powerful actually believed that educating the masses would help make life better for everyone and prevent political extremism. The naivety is astounding!

Then World War II came and all that touchy-feely propaganda actually helped strengthen the country. I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

My father, always the schemer, joined the army.What did he get out of it?A little something called the GI Bill.That’s right, folks for a couple of years of service, (more like a paid vacation to the exotic Philippines) my father came back to find graduate school paid for AND a rent subsidy.Talk about living high on the hog!

He was then able to grow a business because he hardly paid any rent! Not only did New York come up with a sweet scam called “Rent Control,” but they also had housing projects, which before they were allowed to fall into decay and dangerousness, provided housing to plenty of opportunistic ex-army guys and their baby mommas.

As for my mother, she put her “education” to good use getting herself a cushy job as a “teacher” in one of those public schools. Union benefits! Set up for life. Sweet.

With that government tit to feed us, my father continued to build his business. He didn’t even complain about the “tribute” his Uncle Sam wanted every April 15th. Figured it was his duty or something. Guess he was getting soft.

And even into old age, both my parents kept up their ripping off the government ways, benefiting from those major giveaways — social security and Medicare. They didn’t lose all the money they’d saved when they got old and sick. My mother cleaned up in the end, selling the house, cashing out, and spending her golden years in a swanky assisted living facility. Give me dignity or give me death, baby!

With this kind of background, of course I was heading toward a life of stealing from hard working American taxpayers!

Not only did I attend public universities, I also didn’t have to shell out much for cars because here in New York, we’ve got a little thing called mass transit. There aren’t as many opportunities to feed at the trough as there used to be, but thanks to the “education” I was able to acquire, I found some creative ways to beat the system. There are little things that I hardly even notice most of the time like the fact that I have “protection” in the form of police, fire fighters and even sanitation workers who work for “the public”. Yup, that’s me! Jane Q Public, enjoying those services! Hey, unlike most of “the little people” in those poor countries, I even get safe drinking water and a system that keeps people from selling spoiled and unsafe food. It’s like having a personal food taster or something!

So given that it’s a beautiful Memorial Day, I think I’ll go out and enjoy myself.Maybe head over to a nearby locally supported park like that big one in the middle of Manhattan, or the state park they built over the sewer treatment plant a mile or so north. Sewer treatment! That’s something. My government even cleans my shit! What a country!

Or perhaps I’ll just head a couple of blocks west, pay my respects at the national park which happens to be a government supported mausoleum for some old President who was himself a welfare king who never made a dime at his failed business attempts, but managed to graduate  from a publicly supported military academy and went into politics — that last refuge of the scoundrel — after his army stint.

Please Sign Up for My New Religion

Woe onto us.  The earth was not destroyed, and despite some backtracking on the part of Mr. Camping, judgment does not appear to be upon us.

Yet, verily I say unto you that the entrepreneurial spirit is upon me and I am CALLED to start a new Church.  This will be called the Church of Whatever You Fucking Believe. There will be no ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, gurus or sensei.  The precepts are simple: Believe whatever the fuck you want.  Worship as you choose.

You want a heavenly afterlife?  You got it, baby.  You need the threat of hellfire to stay on the straight and narrow?  Not a problem.  Perhaps you worship a god or two with an elephant’s head or a monkey’s?  Why not?  Maybe dead people can speak through you, or you think God is dead.  Or maybe not dead, just gone out for a pack of cigarettes a couple of millennia ago, and hasn’t been heard from since.

Each week a “service” will be held.  Services will be held on either Saturday or Sunday or Monday evening.  The exact day of that week’s “worship” will be chosen though rock, paper, scissors. Why Saturday or Sunday?  Because most people have off from work, silly.  Why Monday night?  Because it’s pretty dead and a lot of restaurants and shows are closed.   Please note, there has been some feedback:  Services will not be held in America on Monday nights during football season.

Services will be lead  by a random congregant who will be picked through a lottery.  Don’t worry; we know you’ve read that story.  The lottery winner will not be stoned!  Wait a second. You didn’t read the story?  Oops!  Sorry about the spoiler.

The random congregant leading that week’s service gets to give a sermon on whatever topic he or she chooses, and the rest of the congregation is expected to listen politely, unless he or she says something really offensive that pisses them off, in which case they can rattle noisemakers that will be distributed before every service and pelt the leader with Nerf balls.  Paint balls, however, are strictly prohibited by the Church of Whatever You Fucking Believe.

The service itself will consist of reading from religious texts, works of philosophy, blogs, Pride and Prejudice, Pride and Prejudice with Zombies, treatises on Lost, or Lost in Space, song lyrics, words of the prophets written on subway walls or tenement halls, shopping lists, and/or anything else chosen by that week’s lucky congregant.

At the end of the service, there will be a collection plate passed around.  Proceeds will go to feed the hungry, and clothe the poor, or to whatever cause that week’s congregant is pitching, or even into his or her own pocket as long as there’s full disclosure.  That is after a percentage for the use of the hall and a percentage to the founder emeritus of the Church of Whatever You Fucking Believe.  That would be me.


I’m turning 50 and still an aspiring writer which is like running around in a string bikini with a belly ring. At 50 even if you’re Madonna, it’s kinda sad.

Last summer, I enter the 3 Day Novel Contest – it’s Canadian. You start and complete a novel over the labor day weekend. On the honor system. Oh Canada.

The winner gets published. The rest of us shmucks are out 50 bucks.

Now it’s late January and I’m awaiting the results as though it were a biopsy, obsessively monitoring contest updates for hints about when they’ll announce, and meanwhile the brain won’t stop thinking about how my life will change if I win, how I’m destined never to win anything, how the producers of Who Wants to Be Millionaire sense my loserliness and I’ll never sit in the hot seat across from Meredith, how I showed early promise once, but let it slip away and ti-i-i-ime is not on my side, and maybe HRT would be worth it, even with the cancer risk…

And so I turn to the internets for distraction. It’s not surfing. It’s driving. It’s aimless driving with free gas on a highway with infinite exits, attractive rest stops and no reason to hurry home. I type my name, I type Pogo (the name of a story I’d written over 20 years ago – my entire published oeuvre) and I type The Quarterly (the name of the literary journal in which it appeared).

I get the usual: find Marion Stein, irrelevant links. Somewhere on the second or third screen there’s something in a language that’s not English. I click. It’s a course description in Danish with enough English words – titles and names of units for me to get the gist. The authors include Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and William Shakespeare. And there in a unit called Man vs Nature: Marion Stein, Pogo, The Quarterly. There’s my story. All grown up and living in Europe.

It’s a secondary school.

I find my way to the school’s website. There’s a thumbnail of the teacher – graying curly hair, forties at least. I close my eyes and see her young, maybe during her gap year. In Chiang Mai, she stays at a backpackers hotel run by a German – don’t talk about the war – and his unstereotypicaly assertive Thai wife. Her friends are out hiking, but she’s getting over the effects of some bad Ecstasy. There’s a rooftop patio with comfy chairs and an astounding mountain view. Books left by fellow travelers mostly English but she majored in English. She picks up a weather beaten copy of The Quarterly, Issue 9. There are a couple of pieces she likes, so she holds onto it. Years later she’s working on the curriculum, has an idea and remembers reading something that would fit. Where was it again? She goes to her shelf and picks through several Grantas, a couple of Paris Reviews and oh there it is! Oh yes, that will do.

I email the teacher. A week later, I hear back. She first read Pogo in a class she took at the Southern Danish University and has been using it for years as an example of a “postmodern” text.

Okay, this isn’t exactly lunch at Balthazar with Scorcese discussing my screenplay. It’s not winning the 3 Day – which I found out today I’m not even shortlisted for . It’s not getting my shot on Millionaire, but somewhere out there, this story was floating like a note in a bottle and it was found, and miraculously, I found out that it was found, and in a moment of everyday despair, of hopelessness, Denmark sent me a lifeline.

God bless the internets.
God save Queen Margarette..