Duke’s Midlife Crisis

Duke was the last person in the world one would expect to experience an existential crisis. But there he was, sitting on the edge of his bed night after night, asking the same question that had been plaguing him for months: “Why do people waste money on edible underwear when they can boil their own and drink the broth?”

His marriage was on the rocks. He was sober about love. He knew that even in the best marriage that there comes a point when foreplay goes from tossing clothes on the floor to picking them up. But still, life goes just going by too fast. 

He loved drinking but was nonetheless cautious. Between his non-stop crisscrossing of the country and his fondness for gin, Duke had learned the importance of writing down what city he was in before going to bed each night.

He was, by nature, a humble man. Despite his unparalleled success in his career, he never forgot where he came from: a particularly plush section of Beverly Hills.

A lifetime non-smoker, he had become, during this crisis, to be addicted to nicotine patches. He would apply the patch to his shoulder at every idle moment: during work breaks, stepping off a plane, after making love… He finally weaned himself from the patches completely by smoking three packs of Marlboro reds a day.

He began taking long walks after work and on weekends. Passing through downtown, he noticed that the Occupy Wall Street crowd had apparently disbanded. “Where did they go?” he thought. “Maybe they’re back to being good old-fashioned homeless again” he thought.

During a business trip to Europe Duke had a 6-hour layover in Amsterdam: well within what he called his “trouble window”. His mind racing, he quickly placed his carry-on bag in an airport locker, took the train into the city and did a little window shopping or, as they call it in the red light district, “soliciting a prostitute”.

Duke lay in bed with the tall blonde, starring at the ceiling. “Patch?” he asked. Although he had weaned himself from the patch he nonetheless kept the leftover ones to offer beautiful women in the cafes and bars. “No, thanks” she said with a thick Dutch accent that sounded like German on Heineken.

He tried to crowd out these meaningless thoughts with women and drink but they persisted. “Why does the world ‘lisp’ have to have an ‘s’ in it? It seems so cruel.” He paused on a bridge above the canal as a boat passed beneath him. “For that matter, why does the word ‘titillating’ have to be a little, well, titillating?” He resumed his walk.

Duke’s thoughts turned to his father’s father. His grandfather passed away when he was only seven years old, but he still remembered his “Gramps'” last words: “I’m pretty sure this isn’t a supporting wall”.

Duke decided that what he need was new scenery. He needed to go someplace exotic, a place unlike anywhere or anything he had experienced. Then it hit him resounding clarity: “Bombay”.

Walking the streets of Bombay, now called “Mumbai” for reasons that were clear to no one, Duke was astonished to see entire families living in filth on the streets. He read a tourist guide given to him by the hotel concierge: “Bombay was known under colonial rule as ‘The Queen’s Necklace’.” If that’s the case, thought Duke, then clearly the king did not go to Jared.

He recalled the time he and his wife had read the Kama Sutra. It was so complicated they had to call Bombay to get technical support. “Thank God for speakerphones” he thought.

My Checkered Past

I grew up in the deepest jungles of Brazil. A rebellious teenager, one day I came home from school without the ritualistic bone in my nose. My father was furious and really let me have it: “As long as you’re living in my thatched hut you’ll wear a bone in your nose! We’re having our family picture taken today so take off that ridiculous suit and tie and strap a leaf between your legs. You look ridiculous!”

In college I majored in advertising and soon was able to land a job with a small firm in the heart of the Amazon. It was fun at first, dreaming up winning campaigns for dreamers, mostly smalltime entrepreneurs. But then we landed a big fish – Viagra – and all the creative joy was gone. The couple sitting in bathtubs on the beach sharing a bottle of champagne? That was mine. I was desperate to come up with an idea that would get me fired but nothing seemed beyond the pale as far as Viagra was concerned. I was finally fired after developing a two-page pop-up ad. I exited the building with a severance package that consisted of two weeks’ salary and a piece of biscotti and never looked back.

With my father’s help I landed a job as wine critic for Popular Mechanics magazine. I was utterly unqualified – to this day I am unable to distinguish a red from a white. I did, however, learn to appreciate any wine with possessing notes of buttered toast, an aftertaste of pomegranate and the ability to get me drunk in under 20 minutes.

From there I landed a job at a men’s big-and-tall clothing store. At 5’5″, I was hired, in my bosses’ words, to loiter around the store and “make customers feel big and tall”. A kind and gentle man, he would nonetheless point me out to customers and say “Hey look – Pinoccio is a real boy!” I quit when I realized I was unable to trigger the electronic eye above the urinal in the break room. I tried everything to make that damn thing flush: stand on my toes, wave my arms above my head, jump up and down – the whole shebang. Ultimately I had to ask help from my co-workers: “Hey Bob, would you give me a hand over here? Hey! Where are you going?! Come back – you didn’t wash your hands!”

Most of the jobs I’ve been worth a nickel at tend to exploit my diminutive physique. I’ve been a jockey, a chimney sweep and once, in Cleveland, I was used to prop up the short leg of stool. When times were hard I always found work assembling those sailboats inside the those little bottles.

I was happy just dime dancing around the country. Then I up and married my landlord. That my wife not only continued to charge me rent but refused to replace the squeaky hinge on the screen door was no small source of friction between us. One night, feeling frisky, I was put a move on her in bed and she said “It’s that time of the month”. Given that she was both my landlord and my wife, this was fraught with meaning. But what did it mean? I decided that the safest way to proceed was to give her a thousand bucks in cash and slowly back out of the room. She still writes me every Arbor Day.

It was exhilarating to be single again. For a while there seemed to be sex available around every corner and even, sometimes, at the end of long hallways. In Denver I fell in love with a beautiful prostitute, Helen, whose innate modesty caused her to rebuff my sexual advances “until we’re married”. I thought about paying for it but it was just too degrading. One night we got into a screaming match over the proper use of “suffice” – she insisting that “suffice to say” was correct while I knew from my days in advertising that the correct use is “suffice it to say”. She calls me each year on my birthday, although to this day she stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that I was right.


My Wife Has A Few Days Off

My wife has five days off. She kicked it off by backing the car over my Kindle. I had just put the baby into the car seat then waited outside the garage for her to pull out. When she did, there was my Kindle on the floor of the garage with cartoon-like tire tracks on it. My best guess is that I was holding it under my arm and with my winter coat on I forgot it was there. While haphazardly strapping the baby into the car seat, it probably fell silently (I keep it in a vinyl case) to the ground. In any event, she crushed a couple hundred books.

I couldn’t blame her and felt no impulse to do so. When I removed the Kindle I was kind of surprised to see that the casing was perfectly intact – like new. When I attempted to turn it on, of course, it displayed the Kindle equivalent of a severe neurological problem.

The baby was dressed like a dragon for Karnival this morning. It was a beautiful costume, thoughtfully modified by our friend Annalie who surgically sewed on a tail in such a place that he could sit in perfect comfort. When I think about the thoughtful little things adults do for children I tend to get weepy.

Several Germans asked me this morning if we have Karneval in the U.S. and I said that the closest thing we have is Mardi Gras but that it’s hardly a kid-friendly celebration. It’s not even family-friendly. Who am I kidding: I’d be reluctant to bring my wife to Marci Gras.

It was downright exhilarating to spend the day with Sabine, just she and I. After dropping off Lucas at our friend’s we drove to Marcus who is, I think it’s called, an “Osteopath”. At any rate, he gave Sabine and I treatments which feel great but whose effectiveness I have very little faith.

In his right had Lukey holds a green tube lovingly tacked to nylon ribbons to suggest a fire-breathing dragonSabine explains to me that my lack of faith is what prevents it from being effective. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.

Leaving Marcus’ we headed directly to the Zentrale Cafe. The food was good and we talked about Sabine’s plans to work part-time next year and I expressed my wholehearted support. I felt grateful that a simple trip to a cafe with my wife felt like the adult equivalent of Christmas morning.

Then we went and bought me a new tie and pocket square and a couple of small toys for Lucas.

On the drive home I wrote a joke about my ignorance about wine which then became two jokes about my ignorance about wine and seemed to quickly develop into a full-fledged “bit” about my ignorance about wine. Note to husbands: do not expect your wife to share your enthusiasm about your new bit about your ignorance about wine.

Once home, Sabine and I watched “Julie and Julia”, Nora Ephron’s homage to Julia Child. For this, I figure Sabine now owes me big time. Actually I enjoyed it, at least until one of the two main characters is hauled into her boss’ office, is warned that the success of her new blog is compromising her work and told, in effect, to shape up. The scene concludes with her boss adding, gratuitously, “A Republican would have fired you”. Nora Ephron’s conceit is staggering…

Istanbul, Turkey

My critics say that performing my music while painted in a thick coat of silver is just a gimmick. Where do they get such crazy ideas? After all, if I was merely silver and played no music, would I get any notice? All right, maybe I would. But the truth is, the silver compliments the music, it’s not just there in order to make pedestrians pause long enough to toss a euro into my box (which is also silver). Such a crazy idea would never have occurred to me!