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Showing posts from September, 2009

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Do you remember Lee Van Cleef?

He was the "Bad" in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ...  one of the old Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns. Great movie.

His daughter was an art student at UGA with me. She worked part time as an artist's model. The first semester I met her was when we were taking photography together.

I introduced myself, "Hi, I'm Joel. We haven't met."
I held out my hand and she just stared at me. My hand looked like some alien object floating out there.
Undaunted I tried again, "Hey is that a Pentax you have?"
"Yes." Still staring at me.
"Do you live on campus?"
"No."
"Really? Me either. I've got a place on ..."
"Hey .... you don't know me?"
"No ...  that's why I indroduced myself."
"Ever see me before?"
"Um ... no ... I don't think so."
 "You draw me naked in Charcoal Studies Class every Thursday."
"Oh my God ... yo…

My First Apartment

Everybody remembers their first apartment. For me ... it was a REALLY BIG thing. I felt like an adult for the first time ... responsible for monthly payments, cooking my own food, cleaning up for myself ...

Well ... the cleaning part really didn't happen.

You see I had two new roommates: Jeff Adair and Bobby Horowitz (everybody called him Horo). None of us were particularly fond of cleaning and we sometimes left a few dirty dishes around. Okay, it was more than a few dishes. We were ... what's the word for it? Pigs. Truth is ... after a while the kitchen looked like a science experiment ... lots of colors and things growing out of the food and stuff that sat out for weeks. We took great pride in sharing it with everyone who dropped by. No girls of course ... at least none that we were truly interested in ... just other pigs in the neighborhood that wanted to take pictures and compete.


Once every couple of  months, even we couldn't stand it anymore so we hired a guy named Wil…

Freaks and Frats

I was torn between two worlds at UGA: The Freaks and The Frats

For most of the day, I was meandering from class to class with my fellow art students, like "The Roach", a Fine Arts painting major who didn't speak. And when I say didn't speak ... I'm not talking about saying a few words every once in a while ... I mean he NEVER said anything. He was really tall, really skinny and had hair and a beard that covered his entire face. No one knew what he really looked like.

His nickname was not derived from what he smoked to get high ... he actually painted abstract roaches on canvasses. The canvasses were huge and there were three roaches on each one. The teachers called him a genius and praised his work daily.  I ran into Roach years later. Still had long hair and a beard ... but he finally spoke. In fact, he was giving a lecture at the Museum of Modern Art about one of his paintings that MOMA had acquired. Go and figure!


At night I'd hang out at the fraternity ho…

Where Y'at, Y'all

After two years at LSU I was ready for a change.

I realized that Architecture was not for me and switched to Landscape Architecture with my roommate Barry. But when I found out it had nothing to do with gardening and that I had to memorize 3000 names of different plant materials, I quickly lost interest.

I found out that I was pretty good at design. I could create great models out of balsa wood and particle board. Problem was ... nobody uses balsa wood or particle board to build real houses. Who would have known that?

So I gravitated to the Arts, and left LSU.

One of my childhood friends, Adam Skorecki, told me about the University of Georgia and the Arts program there. And just like that, I transferred. Because I had total faith in Adam's knowlege base (I knew him when I was 8), I was certain this was my destiny. I only lost about two years worth of credits, but who's counting?


Adam and I knew no one in Athens and wound up joining a fraternity to meet people. We of course ha…

The Family Jewels Part 2

My introduction to neurosis was actually in high school.

Well ... at least, that's when I was old enough to realize that my mom was "different". Before that I thought that everybody's mom didn't allow food to be cooked in the oven (ours was an appliance that was meticulously cleaned daily and was only for "show"). Come to think of it ... so was our living room. No one ever was allowed to sit in there.

Anyway ... my first real neurotic encounter happened at home ... after school. Mom burst into my room grasping her chest and moaning that she was having a heart attack.

I was dumbfounded.

"Please ... take me to the hospital ... now."
"Should I call an ambulance ...?"
"No. I really want you to take me."

I rushed her into the car and sped to Touro Hospital. It was all a blur. I remember pulling up to the Emergency Entrance. I opened the door and she refused to get out. I was confused.

"On second thought, " she said, …

The Family Jewels Part I

While I was at LSU, my family moved to a new house. They forgot to tell me.

You probably think this is unusual. Most families communicate regularly about things like that. Not mine. Actually, I don't think my Dad knew about the house either and he was involved in the decision. I found out when I came home one weekend and met the new owners of our old house. THEY gave me our new address.

When I finally found our new house in Metairie, the conversation went something like this:

Me: "Mom ... why didn't you tell me we moved?"
Esther: " Sam, can you believe this? NOW he wants to communicate. Where was he when WE asked him things about HIS comings and goings?"
Me: "Mom ... I asked about our house."
Esther: "See this Sam ... see how he does this? Now it's OUR fault that he doesn't know."
Me: "It IS your fault. How else ..."
Esther: "Sam, are you going to LET him talk to us this way???"
Sam: "Wait a minute. Did we…

My Son the .... ??

When it came time to declare a major ... I had no idea what I was going to do. Books and Libraries (we called it Books'n baries) was my favorite class. I was crushed when I heard it was only a required freshman course and not a major. What a shame ... I was really good at the Dewey Decimal System.

I always wanted to be that kid who knew exactly what he wanted to be from day one ... so focused ... at 4 years old deciding to be a nuclear physicist or a school teacher or an attorney or a garbage man (okay ... that was me. I guess I did focus on something. I thought hanging on the truck looked like fun).

My roommate, Barry, was that kid. It was always Architecture for him. I thought to myself ... you know, since I couldn't come up with anything that sounded cool ... I'll do it too.

So Barry and I signed up together for our classes and then went shopping for Architecture supplies.

Whoa. In those days, before computers, every thing was designed and measured and modelled by han…

Geau Tigers

I was asked by one of my readers, "What happened to the girl in my last post?"

Well ... I'll tell you. Truth is, I gave her the whole twenty bucks we won on the bet because quite frankly I was afraid not to ... even though she LOOKED sweet and angelic in that picture. We dated a few times after that. For her I'm sure I was just an interesting diversion for a brief time.

Nonetheless ... it was fun while it lasted and I certainly needed fun that year.

Yes ... my social life was just about non-existent. One fact I forgot to mention was that toward the end of my senior year of high school, I developed mononucleosis. Yep ... Mono ... the kissing disease. I was pretty sick. The doctor told me that because I was jaundiced, I shouldn't have any alcohol for about a year. After that I should be fine.

Sure ... easy for him to say. Just don't drink during your first year in college. EVERY party we went to at LSU was a beerfest. But I was good ... refusing to drink ... …

The Dorm Darling

There she was.  I recognized her right away sitting in the student union .... by HERSELF! Oh yeah ... sure I recognized her. Everybody recognized her. She was the most sought after freshman on campus. After all ... she WAS a "Dorm Darling" (voted on by the men's association ... whatever that was). Her picture was everywhere and I was just 20 feet away from her.
One of my roommates Barry punched me in the arm, "Hey! That's .... "
"Yeah, I know ...shhh".
"Isn't she the one you're always ....?"
" .... just keep it down."

The 6 other guys at the table started in on me. They all knew that I was obsessed with her. After months of hanging out with these guys, shaved heads, beanies, freshman slaves to the upperclassmen ... we were all hungry for just one female to pay attention to us. I, of course, had to open my big mouth and talk about wanting to (no GOING to) date this one ... the one that no freshman was ever gonna talk to ... …

Fresh Meat

One day you're on the top of the world. And the next, the world's on top of you.
Senior year of high school was my coming out party. I had finally made it to the rank of cool and accepted. My skin had cleared up (kinda), I could speak a whole sentence without puting my head down and I learned how to spit water between by front teeth. The latter was clearly the most important.
Just when I thought I made it, I began my freshman year at Louisiana State University and slid from hot shot to not-shot.


Freshman hazing was still a ritual at LSU when I was admitted (just my luck ... it was outlawed the very next year). This was the practice of making all freshman feel as though they are the lowest form of life. Apparently it was started in the 1920's by upperclassmen who figured out if the freshmen boys had their head's shaved, the upperclassmen would have an edge on the "Fresh Meat" ... the freshmen girls. So all freshmen went through this ritual when they started clas…

NOLA Lie detector test: So Did You LIVE There or Are you FROM There?

These are my top 20 vocabulary test questions. If you are FROM New Orleans ... these should be easy (Disclaimer: A score of 3 might mean you grew up there but claim LSD flashback status) :

1. Y'at  ..... This is short for "Where y'at?".... the preferred greeting between friends.
2. NOLA ...... Initials for New Orleans Louisiana and a famous restaurant owned by Emril Lagasse

3. Glaudi ....... Last name of the most famous sportscaster in New Orleans history. First name was Hap and he appeared for years on WWL Channel 4. 4. King Cake ......... This should have been one of the easy ones. The cake that is shaped in a circle covered with colored sugar and served at kids' Mardi Gras (or birthday) parties. Inside is a little plastic baby that ... if you are lucky enough to bite down and break your teeth on it or accidentally swallow it ... you have to hold the next party as soon as you are discharged from the hospital. 5. Mc Kenzie's ......... THE bakery in New Orleans …

Mr. Zimmer and the AV War

I was looking through old high school yearbooks last night and noticed that I appear in almost every picture of every organization or club at Fortier. The interesting thing was that I wasn't a member of any of them. Neither were the gang of ten of my friends that were next to me in each picture. We just showed up on picture day to each one  ... The Travel Club, The Chess Club, The Poetry Club, The Spanish Club ... Of course you can spot us right away by the way that we were picking our noses or flipping off the cameraman. My favorite picture was shot in Physics class sitting in a stairstep desk arrangement ... with my middle finger stuck in my ear. My friend Barry Marks is next to me in the same pose. We were SOOO cool. Unfortunately, the one person missing from that picture was one of the most bizarre teachers I ever had ... Mr. Zimmer, the physics teacher.
Mr. Zimmer was definitely a regular consumer of pharmaceuticals and/or alcoholic beverages. By regular ... I mean every day.…

Being Cool At 17

After 16 years of relative anonymity, my hair grew out from the buzz cut I had for years and I somehow stumbled into "the sacred cool group" when I was a senior. I'm not sure how or when this happened but I suddenly had friends with names like Joe Pecot and Bill Hyde and Mark Covert. My former fellow nerd group of Elliot Shushan, Philip Sizeler and David Radasky had moved down the list.

Shallow huh?

Nevertheless ... it was a turning point in my life. I won senior superlatives, student council elections and drank heavily at the Raven on school nights. The latter really brought me closer to my new friends.

The Raven was the neighborhood bar. Percy the bartender never checked an ID and even let us come behind the bar to mix drinks.

I forgot to mention that I had music friends as well. Matt Campbell, Mike Elam and I had a group that played for school events. We called ourselves "The Brothers Two Plus The Jew". Guess who I was? We would do Smothers Brothers routines…

Older Women

At 16, there was something truly magical about older women. Of course when you are 16, older could mean by 6 months. Or in the case of Marci, it was 17 and a half.

Marci was my first older woman.

She was a senior ... and drove a '63 Karmann Ghia. I thought it was the coolest car on the planet. I hadn't started to drive yet. Our "romance" was all after school stuff. I never saw her at night and she would always drop me off a few blocks from my house. I wanted the world to know ... she wanted no one to know. Yes sir ... a match made in heaven.

I have no idea how long we kept this up ... seemed like an eternity but it was probably only a few months. I remember weird stuff like her back seat, her checkered blanket and her girdle. Yes ... most Jewish girls of that era wore girdles. They were long waisted panty girdles that did not come off ... ever. Well maybe with guys named Rocco ... but not guys named Joel.

A year later, I dated an Irish girl named Ann (she was older t…

Ode to Baby Shoes

The summer of my junior year in high school, I started working at Gus Mayer selling children's shoes ... a punishment worse than death. Back to school specials brought in every bratty, whiny, smelly kid from miles around and the last thing they wanted was a pair of new shoes. Oh ... there was the occasional Sally Perfectstudent who couldn't wait to get her new black patent baby dolls. But I never waited on her. Miss Nancy (that's the only name we were allowed to call our boss) was the only one allowed to wait on the well groomed ... apparently well to do ... customers. Because I was the part time kid, I got to wait on anyone that was referred to as "that family".


To check shoe sizes, we used old style wooden measuring sticks (which were even old in 1965) and we had ... believe it or not ... an xray machine in the back for difficult fits. I'm sure we were responsible for causing many future generations of sterility. Come to think of it ... as dumb as I was at t…

Take A Lap ... Make it Wide!

Forier High School had three coaches that ran the sports program: Mook Clavier (Cluh-veah), Coach Didier (Did-e-yay), and Stanley Richard (Reee-shad). For purposes of this writing, I'll focus on Coach Richard. Richard was my coach for the majority of the time I was in school and one of the most colorful characters I have ever known.

He was shorter than the rest ... about 5'8" and built like Mr. Universe (he was actually Mr. New Orleans one year, I believe). He also had a speech impediment that could have been caused by his missing upper dental plate or the apparent head trauma that must have plagued him when he played sports as a youngster.

Every day, before cleass we would have roll call. Coach Richard could not pronounce any names correctly and his ability to maintain information was limited .... so he spelled them out. My friend Wayne's last name was Lassen (which he pronounced "Layyy-Thun"), I was "Mum-boig" and two guys who were named Schmidt a…

Summer jobs

I had a job every summer from the time I was 11 years old. Not like a paper route or lemonade stand ... real retail jobs.

Those familiar with New Orleans know that age doesn't really matter. Child labor laws never applied ... in fact I don't remember Louisiana ever having any real laws for anything. The drinking age was 18 but if your head could reach the bar, you were served. There were pinball machines in the local restaurants that paid off in nickels. They all had TAC Amusement stickers. We used to play the ones at the Frostop. They had a series of holes that moved and created patterns when the ball dropped in them and would pay off when you'd get three across, four across, etc.

I worked for a while at Ernst Food Mart as a stock boy. Loved that job. I had the dog food and pet supplies aisle. I got to carry the price stamper on my belt. It had it's own ink supply and after ripping the box lids off, it was a race to see how fast you could stamp the cans. What a great l…