Friday, September 21, 2007

Matt Cutting Back

Not much is happening in my life right now. I’ve cut back on all the exciting things I could be doing (like buying new Matt Damon DVDs) because I just don’t have the money. Sad, isn’t it? Matt has cut back on a few things too, but I suspect money isn’t his issue. He’s recently dropped two movie roles from his plans and will be taking a couple of months off to spend time with his family. I’m sure Luciana will be happy about that. She knew when she married him that she’d have to share him with the world, but even things for which we prepare ourselves can still be quite difficult.

Originally, Matt had planned to do a movie called Brothers, in which the black sheep of the family is left behind to care for his sibling’s wife and child when the younger boy is sent off to war in Afghanistan. Variety now reports, however, that the brothers in question will be played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire.

He was working with Mark Wahlberg on a deal to bring another brother movie to the screen as well. The Fighter is about boxer Mickey Ward (to be played by Wahlberg), whose half-brother, Dicky Eklund, helped train him for championship fights. Mickey’s Dicky will now be played by Brad Pitt. I wish Pitt would play (with) my dicky!

So Matt’s life is just too animated these days. He’s been flying all over the world to support The Bourne Ultimatum, and his wife and daughters are getting tired of being Mattless. I’m pretty sure, as well, his wife wants to see him again on the mattress. But if you’re looking for some Damon animation in your life, look for the guest appearance he made on the PBS series Arthur. He provides the voice for an animated version of himself (with bear ears) in an episode which originally aired September 3 (but surely will be repeated – it’s PBS, after all!). It’s part of an initiative called Postcards from You, whose purpose is to encourage viewers (presumably the young kind the series regularly draws) to make their own videos. Why they would want to encourage such a thing, I don’t really know. Children already have too much of that “look at me!” thing going on, for my taste. Matt will also be animated next year in episode 15 of The Simpsons, TV’s longest-running comedy. The episode is called Lost Verizon.

And to wrap up, apropos of absolutely nothing, when Matt was interviewed on radio station B105 in Brisbane, Australia, they asked him a question that’s cute enough to mention here. I don’t know how the topic came up (or why I didn’t mention it until now), but Matt was asked what it looks like when he stands next to Hugh Jackman. Matt said: "It looks like we’re brothers but one of us was left in the oven longer. He’s about six inches taller than me." Six inches, hee hee. That gives a guy a lot of dirty thoughts. Well, this guy, anyway. But I know my friend Melissa will be verklempt just to see a mention of her beloved Hugh. We saw him on Broadway together when he did The Boy From Oz. Now when is Matt coming to Broadway, hm?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Britney Stumbles, Where’s Matt?

Well, it looks like O.J. will finally do some time, Mrs. Rodham Clinton may finally get to roll out her health care plan and Britney’s finally on the skids…or is she?

She’s being talked about everywhere (and cried over on YouTube). Entertainment Weekly just ran a cover story wondering if this is the end for her, after a long series of bizarre and highly publicized events. But in the article, they also point out her forthcoming album has at least four songs which are “pretty good” and may have her feverishly downloading fans screaming Gimme More! What is all this furor?

You see, Britney gave what many consider to be a train wreck of a performance on the MTV Video Music Awards on September 9. She seemed to stumble as she danced (and as she walked), her hair weave wasn’t particularly flattering, her mouth seemed out of synch with the lyrics the audience was hearing and her abs seemed to support the findings of mothers everywhere after giving birth – it’s hard to get that figure back! But was it really the worst performance ever? I don’t think I’d go that far. I don’t even think it was the worst performance ever by Britney. I’ve read about her 15 minute min-concerts where she barely bothered lip synching and some where she even left the stage while the music still played. If you ask me, Britney seems tired. Tired of performing, tired of dealing with the press, tired of rehearsing. The one thing she doesn’t seem too tired to do is party. She’s not a girl, not yet a woman, but she’s a real party monster! She was seen doing shots with Puff Daddy, drinking champagne with P. Diddy and dancing ‘til dawn with Sean Combs.

Not everyone wants to slam the former parochial school girl impersonator, though. Some have taken her side. There’s a “blond” boy who’s become famous on YouTube for crying over Ms. Brit’s misfortunes. He wants us to leave her alone. And you know, I’m quite prepared to do just that. Whether Britney makes a comeback or backs herself into a corner isn’t of any interest to me. But something this small town crier said did give me pause. MSNBC’s Netiquette column, by Helen A.S. Popkin, quotes this guy in an interview saying “To be honest, Britney’s a national treasure. Everyone has an opinion. Believe it or not, for my generation, it’s just as big of a topic as 9/11.” Wow! Britney’s performance on the VMAs is as big a topic as 9/11! I had no idea. Isn’t that akin to John Lennon once claiming the Beatles were bigger than Jesus?

Directly following Brit’s VMA appearance, insult comic Sarah Silverman took the stage and said some terribly disturbing things about the Toxic girl, referring to her children as mistakes, and saying they were just as adorable as the hairless vagina from which they came, which is ridiculous! How does she know if it was hairless or not when those kids were born? Really, Sarah! D-Lister Kathy Griffin backed Ms. Silverman up, stating that she had no choice. “As a comedian, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to walk out and say, ‘Britney sure was great, everybody!’? Your hands are tied. You have to go there.” I disagree. Maybe you can’t say “Britney was great,” but is it really necessary to attack her 1- and 2-year-old children?

I say all this to say that it’s hard to be in the public eye. One minute they love you, the next they’re tearing you down like the Berlin Wall. Matt, of course, is having a very good year. Ocean’s 13 and that other little movie, what was it, something about being Bourne again, oh yes, The Bourne Ultimatum, have done very well at the box office and Matt has been seen pushing the baby buggy all over the world with his adorable little Isabella (by the way, no one is asking for your opinion of this, Sarah Silverman). But for some reason, Variety columnist Peter Bart put out word in his September 14 column to ask where Matt has gone. That he seems to be press shy and never wants to talk about himself. He said he felt Matt must have concluded “The safest path for a movie star is to remain totally remote from the media, and to be utterly secretive about your personal tastes and beliefs -- in short, to disappear as a person.” Wow, do Peter Bart and I see two entirely different realities! A quick scan of the excellent Matt Damon Column ( shows Matt did press for The Bourne Ultimatum in Mexico City, Deauville, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Málaga, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, LA, Oklahoma City and Boise!

He has spoken out publicly about various charities, including the Greendimes Campaign (which reduces the amount of junk mail you receive, thereby saving millions of trees), DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa, an advocacy organization dedicated to eradicating AIDS and extreme poverty in Africa), OneXOne (committed to supporting, preserving and improving the lives of children around the world) and the ONE Campaign (Americans united as one to help make poverty history). He and producer Frank Marshall lent themselves to a benefit premiere of The Bourne Ultimatum in Oklahoma City and raised $192,000 for The Children’s Center. He also appeared at his friends’ premieres: at Michael Clayton for George Clooney and at The Assassination of Jesse James… for Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. He was also on hand to introduce the documentary Running the Sahara, for which he serves as narrator, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

His guest spot on PBS’ ArthurOn top of all that, he found the time to do voiceovers for two popular animated series. aired September 3, and his appearance on The Simpsons will be the 15th episode in next season’s schedule.

Hardly a recluse, eh Mr. Bart? But as long as Britney grabs all the headlines, I guess we'll just never know what little ol' Matt is up to, will we?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Grammatical Life in the Subliminable City

I read recently that Matt gave his five favorite books of 2006 as Christmas presents last year. The books were Imperial Life in the Emerald City (Rajiv Chandrasekaran), Freakonomics (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner), The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Jeffrey Sachs), Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates) and The Men Who Stare at Goats (Jon Ronson). From this, I gather that Matt is quite literate, which gives me a warm feeling deep inside. Language is important to me. It’s how we communicate, after all.

So I’d like to shine a light on something that makes me crazy, in the vain hope that someone who regularly commits one (or all) of these crimes may learn from his mistake(s) and become more skilled in the art of communication. The English language is difficult, to be sure. There are words that sound alike but mean completely different things (like fair and fare) and words that are spelled similarly but not pronounced the same (like rough, cough and though). If it’s your second language and you’re struggling with it, I certainly feel your pain. But if you were taught the language in your early youth and given the opportunity to study it throughout your educational process, I can’t forgive you for your total disregard of certain simple grammatical rules.

Of course, it’s not entirely your fault. Participation in the internet’s chat rooms, forums and email services, as well as the practice of texting via cell phones and Blackberries all seems to promote abbreviation. As does Prince, come to think of it. Maybe it started with him? His liner notes used to drive me nuts with the lyrics printed out as “U say u want a leader, but u can’t seem 2 make up your mind” and “This is 4 the cab u have 2 drive 4 no money at all.” So we’re all getting and sending messages like “ur str8, rnt u?” and “y cant ne1 tell me wut I did rong?”

And then rap singers with names like Schoolly D, Eminem, 2pac and Ludacris came along and we were all sentenced to a couple of decades of mispronunciations, misspellings and misusage. The horror, the horror! Of course, I can’t forget the current resident in the White House whose Good Ol’ Boyisms include phrases like “smoke ‘em out of their holes,” “we’re turnin’ a corner” and “I know how to put food on my family.” Also, I can’t forget the early days, when a GOP attack ad aimed at Democratic candidate Al Gore allegedly flashed the word RATS across the screen for a microsecond as a suggestive appeal to voters’ subconscious minds. In response, Mr. Bush said “The idea of putting subliminable (sic) messages into ads is – it’s ridiculous. You know, we need to be debating the issues.” Actually, we need to be debating his credentials for holding office. Twice!

So who are we now? A nation that abbreviates, misspells and generally mangles the English language. I’ve got a few all–time pet peeves in this department, and if you’re American and proud of your mother tongue, perhaps you’ve got a few of your own.

I feel if I read the word “loose” as a substitution for the word “lose” one more time, I may loose my mind. And by that I mean, allow it to roam freely in the ionosphere where it will do me less damage. The latest instance of this unfortunate swap was on a forum where Broadway shows are discussed. The person in question was making a reference to the Stephen Sondheim song Losing My Mind (from Follies). Now I ask you, don’t you think it’s reasonable of me to believe a fan of that particular song - someone who’s actually involved in musical theater, and who likely sang or perhaps at least played through the song - should know how it’s spelled?

Another maddening switch for me is when “lead” is typed in place of “led.” It’s true when you’re talking about toys that came from China and were recalled due to lead-based paint, the word is pronounced the same as “led.” But it doesn’t mean the same thing at all. “Led,” you see, is a past tense form of the word “lead.” So when you write “he lead me downstairs,” it would only be correct if it were written as a phrase spoken by a character whose education is unfinished…or perhaps by a rap artist. But it would still be ludacris, wouldn’t you agree?

My last pet peeve regarding the misuse of words has to do with possession. I don’t mean possession by the devil, although it’s tempting to think that may be the cause of the errors and not simple laziness or apathy. Here’s a little tip that might help you in your writing: It’s always true that “it’s” is a contraction for “it is.” Its use in any other way would be incorrect. If there are any other contractions you need help with, I’m sure they’re on the tip of your tongue and I’d be happy to help you with their spellings and usage. Just let me know. And don’t feel embarrassed to have to ask for assistance. There, there, we all need help sometimes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Well, How Is It?

Ultimatum has opened at last, and to the best reviews of Matt’s career! It brought in $70.1 million in its first weekend, which turned out to be the biggest August opening of any film, ever (also outperforming the debut of any James Bond flick). Ratings of the movie broke down to 80% Excellent or Very Good, 40% Excellent and 55% Definitely Recommend. That’s 175% by my count, but that’s what Deadline Hollywood Daily says, and I wouldn’t argue with Nikki Finke – she’s written the Deadline Hollywood column for LA Weekly since 2002.

The reviews are great, the box office is great and Universal is one very happy studio. But how is it, really? Well, the film buffs I saw it with didn’t really buy the chemistry between Julia Stiles (Nikki Parsons) and Matt (Jason Bourne) this time around. In one truck stop scene in Spain, Bourne asks Nikki: “Why are you helping me?” and Nikki replies: “It was difficult for me, with you” before gazing thoughtfully into his rugged face and adding, “you really don’t remember, do you?” Duh! That’s only the point of like, all three films, Einstein! No, he doesn’t remember. And you seem to be implying there was something between the two of you that perhaps he should be remembering. But here’s the thing – if there were something to remember, shouldn’t Julia Stiles have had the opportunity to have played that as an underlying motivation in The Bourne Supremacy? But she didn’t. Do you know why? ‘Cause it wasn’t in the script! Was it in the Ultimatum script? I don’t think so, considering the script was still being written during filming. Matt said in Entertainment Weekly: “In any given scene I didn’t know where I’d just come from or where I was going. Which, as an actor, you kind of need!” He added “There wasn’t a single day where we didn’t have new pages!”

So it says a lot to me that the movie is as good as it is when it was being written and filmed simultaneously during a 140-day shooting schedule. If you don’t generally read about Hollywood stuff, let me just fill you in – that’s longer than most shooting schedules. And they never left well enough alone. They kept calling everyone back for reshoots (Edgar Ramirez, who plays Blackbriar assassin Paz, joked that the filming took so long they should have called the movie The Bourne Eternity). Julia Stiles admitted on Late Night with David Letterman that the truckstop scene was filmed multiple times, and yes, reshot later. So, was Nikki feeling a deep sense of loyalty to a former lover, or was she feeling extremely tired and ready for bed? Of course, when I look into Matt’s eyes, I’m ready for bed too, but that’s another kind of shooting schedule altogether.

Does the idea of The Bourne Improvisation bother me? No, not really, but I do wish they had been a bit more careful about continuity. The and boards are filled with thread after thread of people questioning whether the conversation between Bourne and Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) in Supremacy was the same as the one in Ultimatum. I believe it was intended to be the same scene, as the dialog is so similar. But I’m at a loss for why they bothered to shoot the scene again, thereby risking the continuity errors they succeeded in making. For example, Landy’s cell phone rang in Supremacy, but it vibrated in Ultimatum. And the weather was somewhat warmer in Supremacy than it was in Ultimatum, as evidenced by the lack of snow on the ground.

Still, without a script and filmed over a five-year period (I kid because I love), Paul Greengrass brought Ultimatum in on time and on budget, and since the film’s reviews were pretty much the kind of thing that happens in fairy tales (“the slipper fit and they had a 94% positive rating on”), it’s likely Universal will be asking Mr. Greengrass and Mr. Damon to try to repeat this success. Will they want to sign on again? Hard to say. Matt was using words like “the story we set out to tell has now been told” and “from the creative side, this is definitely the end of the story of this guy’s search for his identity” during early interviews. But recently, his stance hasn’t been quite so clear cut. What does that mean? It all comes down to money, kids. If they offer enough money to Greengrass and Damon, there’s likely to be a Bourne Redundancy.

But first, there are other projects vying for Matt’s attention. One is The Fighter, about Boston Irish fighter Mickey Ward and his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Matt), who gets strung out on crack, goes to prison and redeems himself as Mickey’s boxing coach. Jude Law played against Matt as a character named Dicky in The Talented Mr. Ripley, so I think it would be nice if he played a character with Matt’s Ripley name (Tom) in this film. I like symmetry. Another film Matt signed onto is Imperial Life in the Emerald City, matching him up again with director Paul Greengrass. That one concerns another Dicky (Cheney, this time) making some mistakes during the installation of a new administration in Iraq in May 2003, until, as one former staffer put it, “it all blew up in our faces.” Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post), wrote the book on which it's based.

Here's one more point of interest I can leave you with from recent press clippings. Matt, it turns out, is not like Paris Hilton. I think that goes without saying, but an interviewer in Entertainment Weekly thought it worth mentioning. He clarifies the analogy: “I don’t go on the internet and see grainy images of your crotch as you’re getting out of a car.” Matt replies “Maybe you’re not looking hard enough.” Well, Matt, I know that was a joke, but all I can say is, yes, I am looking hard enough, and no, it simply isn’t out there.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Bourne Comeback

Did ya miss me? I feel just like Dolly Levi coming back to Harmonia Gardens. If you don't get the reference, chances are you haven't arrived here from a link at Talkin' Broadway. But however you got here, you'd better hang onto something, 'cause I've got great news!

The Bourne Ultimatum opens in two days!! Well, depending on when you read this. It could be sooner. Or it could already be open. It could even already be up for the Oscar! Oh, who am I kidding, they don't nominate action thrillers for Oscars. But they ought to, right? Especially when they're as fantabulistically birlliant as this one. Or so I hear...

There's lots and lots of good stuff being spread around about Matt's latest Bourne epic. James Berardinelli of Reelviews says Ultimatum's stunts are "no less preposterous" than those in Live Free or Die Hard (what a ride that was, by the way), but what Ultimatum ultimately offers is "grittier and more visceral." Victoria Alexander in says Matt "doesn't talk, eat or sleep and goes around the world on a fake passport and ten bucks! He beats a guy to death! (um, spoiler alert?) It's non-stop excitement." David Denby in New Yorker says "you come out of the movie both excited and soothed, as if your body had been worked on by felt-covered drumsticks." Remind me not to invite Denby to give me a massage. David...drumsticks? Really? Who's been working on you? Nathan Lee in the Village Voice goes so far as to say it's "simply put, some of the most accomplished filmmaking being done anywhere for any purpose."

Cool stuff, huh? And it's gets cooler. Matt and producer Frank Marshall travelled to Oklahoma City for a premiere of the film to benefit The Children's Center, raising $192,000 for the hospital. They also visited Boise, Idaho for the premiere at the Egyptian theater. Why? Well, it's become a little good luck ritual. It seems to have worked quite well for The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, so why mess with a good thing?

Am I the only one who's completely gaga for Matt? That's a big negative. The fans in Boise and Oklahoma City naturally went crazy when they caught a glimpse of the Damonator, but get this: Joan Allen (co-star in Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum - tell me you didn't know that!) said recently "When I look at some of the moments that he has, I can't believe the number of things he has going on simultaneously. Here's a character that has these super powers, he's very smart, he doesn't really understand, he's confused and he's tortured. And sometimes, I see all that in Matt in just a look..." High praise indeed, no? But wait, that's not all! Joan added "I think he's also very sexy as he does it. Even though there's very little overt sexuality, these are very sexy films, and he is very sexy in them." Well, tell me something I don't know, Joan! Of course Matt is very sexy! He was very sexy in The Brothers Grimm with a really bad wig and he's very, very sexy in The Rainmaker (due out any day now on a special 10th anniversary edition DVD!), so why shouldn't he be sexy as an amnesiac assassin who gets the girl, loses the girl and beats most of the world's spy citizenry to a bloody pulp?

By the way, have you been playing the Google Search for Bourne game? It's great fun and it gets us all ready for the big day (this Friday, August 3rd!!!) as you learn to use Google's stuff like You Tube and Image searches and what have you. Am I a Google shill? No, I swear it! I'm just having fun playing a little game. In preparation for a very big film!

Hey, have I told you The Bourne Ultimatum opens this Friday? Here's to a brilliant opening weekend, Matt! Break a leg!

We're bringing Jason ba-ack...yeah...them other movies don't know what they la-ack...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Stroking the Egos of Men

I’m a little behind on this. That’s because I wasn’t going to say anything about it but it’s built to a point in me that I can’t let it go, just like my love for Matt.

There was this football game in 2004 where Janet Jackson performed a concert during the part where the players take a break from trying to beat each other to a bloody pulp, return to the locker room and slap each other with towels. At the end of this concert, Justin Timberlake brought sexy back by ripping off a piece of Janet’s corset, allegedly to reveal her red lace bra underneath. But somehow, poor Justin must have accidentally ripped off more than he should have, for there was Janet’s right breast (with the nipple covered by a kind of brooch that looked like a silver star) exposed for all the world to see. Well, maybe not all the world, but a reported audience of 140 million, who were apparently so offended by the horrific turn of events that the second-and-a-half mishap was declared the most-searched-for event in internet history, with 60 times as many search requests as the Paris Hilton sex tape and 80 times as many as Britney Spears, who my brother claims is “hotter than a two-dollar pistol on a Saturday night.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell was watching the game with his two children and reportedly found the incident “outrageous.” CBS, who aired the event, and MTV, who promoted it, both issued apologies, but the stock price of Viacom, CBS’ parent company, rose more than 1 percent the following day. Janet was badgered to make an apology of her own, but Timberlake didn’t need to be asked, as he immediately distanced himself from Janet and issued this little press release: “I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable.” Why, even the White House got into the spirit of renouncing Janet as a sex fiend on a mission to corrupt minors, putting out this statement: “Our view is that it’s important for families to be able to expect a high standard when it comes to programming.” What, Janet’s boobies are subpar?

There are several problems I have with all this. The first is, if MTV wasn’t aware of what was going to go down, why was their website in the week leading up to the event broadcasting this little tease: “Janet Jackson's Super Bowl show promises shocking moments.” Hmmm? Also, there seems to be a great deal of concern for the sensibilities of minors who may have been watching this “game.” American football is not exactly a peaceful, Scrabble-like contest where opponents match their wits with one another using highly-practiced brain power. In fact, there were three fatalities in 2005 alone from football-related brain injuries. Two of the deaths were high-school students and one a professional player. So I’m given to understand that deadly violence is okay for children to witness, but human anatomy is off limits. Thank you for explaining that to me, I shall try to keep it in mind.

But wait – this year, the little sporting spectacle took place again, but with a halftime concert performance by Prince, the former slave of Warner Bros. (that’s what he scrawled on his cheek during 1994 negotiations with the entertainment giant). He played four songs and then launched into his signature tune, Purple Rain, during which his shadow was projected onto an enormous sheet – a shadow that highlighted the phallic nature of his specially-crafted guitar. And the diminutive performer took it one step further by simulating a bit of self love on his, er, instrument. The reaction to this was a bit of good-natured teasing from late show hosts Craig Ferguson and Stephen Colbert, and a slap-on-the-wrist mention on

Greg Aiello, spokesman for the NFL, who produced this year’s halftime show, commented: “…it takes quite a leap of the imagination to make a controversy of his performance. It’s a guitar.” Okay, I can’t argue with that, it was indeed a guitar. But Gavin Edwards, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, remembers during Prince’s Purple Rain tour in the mid-1980s, he performed with a guitar that would ejaculate, that is, spurt water out of its end during the, uh, climax of the song Let’s Go Crazy. So what were Prince’s intentions when he stroked his long-neck guitar in larger-than-life silhouette in front of the sensitive Super Bowl viewing audience? We may never know. But this is the man who prompted Tipper Gore to begin her campaign to include warning labels on CDs after she heard the song Darling Nikki, in which the elfin musician sang “I knew a girl named Nikki, I guess you could say she was a sex fiend/I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine.”

So my question is: why was there so little commotion raised over this bout of sexual expression, when the entire country went crazy after viewing Janet Jackson’s right breast covered only by a nipple-brooch? I’m guessing it’s because Prince is a man, football games are watched by men and all men understand what Prince is referring to when he strokes his musical euphemism. But hold on a minute, why should American men, who seem to be fascinated by breasts (note the existence of Jugs magazine), be so outraged by the display of such a common piece of flesh? Ah, therein lays the mystery. But it would seem to me, if men celebrated Janet’s breasts, they might just be endowing them with the power they actually have, whereas, if they feign shock and rush to lock up the wives and children to prevent them from viewing such offensive matter, they are successfully keeping the woman in her place. Maybe Janet’s album 20 YO didn’t sell as well as her previous offerings because she isn’t currently barefoot and pregnant? But perhaps Janet can stroke Prince’s guitar on the cover of her next disc and that will make everything right again?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I Guess Not

This morning, I came up from a hole in the ground, paid too much for caffeine in a cup that burned my hand and headed toward my office. On the corner, every day, is a man handing out free local newspapers. Most days, when I walk past, he shouts out the name of the paper, kind of like those cute little London street vendors in the movie Oliver! (“Who will buy my sweet red roses, two blooms for a penny”). But today, as I completely ignored his outstretched hand, which, by the way, was totally in my face, he said “Have a nice day.” Since I don’t know him, I have no concern for his paper, and I’m not really a morning person, I said nothing. I’m not interested in a conversation in the morning, I’m interested in getting to my desk where I can take the lid off my overpriced and overheated coffee. As I passed by, since I made no response to his “Have a nice day” comment, he added “I guess not!” Well that was uncalled for, I thought.

This man has decided to call into judgment my morning demeanor. And to comment on it as if he were Simon Cowell and had ratings to uphold. I could understand this need he had to let me know of his dissatisfaction with my attitude had I, say, been kicking puppies to the curb and swinging kittens around by their tail over my head, but no, I was just walking. I did nothing to him, said nothing to him, indeed, failed to bring him into focus at all, and yet, I seem to have touched a nerve in the poor guy.

Kind of reminds me of the time I answered a man’s plea for “spare change” on the Avenue of the Americas with a sympathetic “I’m sorry,” to which he responded “You ain’t sorry!” Well, yes, actually, I am. I’m sorry you feel urged on by something great inside you to approach strangers in the street for assistance. I’m sorry you don’t understand that although all men are brothers, not all men have an abundance of “spare change.” And I’m sorry you’ve become disillusioned to the ways of the world to the extent you feel people you don’t know have some obligation toward you.

In this country we have community outreach programs to help disenfranchised individuals, as well as many social services that can be accessed through local religious centers and government offices. Although I am someone the current White House resident might call a “bleeding heart liberal,” I don’t actually have any spare change at this time. I have pressing concerns of my own which demand every bit of my change, so as empathetic as I may be toward the unfortunate plight of those who have less funding than I, I’m afraid I can’t act as payroll administrator for them.

The act of depending on the kindness of strangers is not new. In NYC, it’s grown so prevalent that a few years ago, it was deemed inappropriate in a legal kind of way for people to ask for money on the subway. This was great news for me, as I never could stomach being a captive audience for those who were homeless, sick, just out of prison or somehow maimed in a war someone other than I sent them to fight. The fact that it’s now illegal to ask strangers to contribute toward one’s cost of living doesn’t really act as a deterrent. Some still come on the train and make an impassioned speech to those of us just trying to focus on our romantic fiction while being jostled about with 1,427 people we don’t really have any interest in spending time with. Others, however, have become even more resourceful. One older blind man sings for his spare change. He taps out a rhythm with his cane and belts out his medley of hits from the late 70’s, Always and Forever followed by Do Ya Think I’m Sexy, in a tenor voice that sounds to me like a cross between Billie Holiday and Macy Gray. There’s also a Mariachi band and a group of five men who sing doo wop. This is all on the R train. Well, as nice as it is to be entertained, it’s also very distracting when you’re trying to read. But does that matter to these entrepreneurial gentlemen? I guess not.

What I suppose I’m trying to say is, if Matt Damon
were sitting next to me on the train ride either to or from my office, I would indeed think he’s sexy, but I wouldn’t want him to pose that question to me in song. And if he were handing out free local newspapers on the street corner, I would request that he understand his position. He accepted the job of distributing the news for whatever they’re paying him. That would mean that, as beautiful as he would be thrusting his hand into people’s faces, no one is actually required to speak to him or to accept his free litter box liner. Now, do you suppose Mr. Free Press can grasp that concept? I guess not!