Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Can You Top This?"

I’m living in a condo near the beach. It’s stiflingly hot. Santa Anas, they call them, a rare but excruciating weather pattern. Instead of a cooling breeze feathering in off the ocean, the situation is temporarily reversed, bringing searing winds from the desert, leaving anyone with an ocean-facing condo and no air conditioning, as we Jew people say, chalushing from the heat.

I’m chalushing from the heat. Which explains why I’m watching a ballgame on my living room couch, wearing – uncharacteristically – nothing. That’s how hot I am. I’m naked in my condo. It’s a heat thing. Read nothing more into it.

Suddenly, I hear feverish knocking on my glass-paned kitchen door, facing in the easterly (away from the ocean) direction. It’s the middle-aged couple who live three condos down. I know them to say hello, but that’s about it. I’m not sure I even know their names.

The couple can’t see me. My condo is constructed so that the living room is a few steps lower than the kitchen. Let me amend, “The couple can’t see me.” They can’t see I’m naked. But they can see my head. So they know I’m home.

The feverish knocking continues. Having no alternative, I quickly wrap a blanket, kept handy for couch naps, around my unclothed body, and I get up and answer the door.

It turns out, the wife has been involved with some serious but successful cancer treatment. The condition has, however, cost her an eye. As I quickly learn, the couple has just returned from the prosthetic eye store, or whatever you call them, and they’re absolutely thrilled with the outcome. This results in their “barely contain themselves” question to a fellow condo dweller, standing naked under loosely wrapped blanket, tightly tucked under his left armpit.

The question is this:

“Guess which eye is the real one?”

“Guess which eye is the real one?” This is not a question one is commonly asked. It may actually have been my first time. To be honest, I didn’t really want to look. But when I finally did,

I had absolutely no idea.

Which speaks highly of the work they’re doing in that area.

It seemed to me saying, “I really can’t tell” would make them ecstatically happy. Which, after an appropriate waiting period, is exactly what I said.

“You know, guys. I really can’t tell.”

I said that, not just to make them ecstatically happy. I really couldn’t tell which eye was the real one. More importantly, however, I said it because, standing at the door, naked under a loosely wrapped blanket,

I desperately wanted them to go away.

For some reason, however, they weren’t satisfied with “I really can’t tell.” They insisted that I guess. Refusing to leave until I did. What they wanted, I suppose, was for me to mistake the artificial eye for the real one, so they could scream,

“Wrong! Isn’t it wonderful!”

Hard as I tried, I just couldn’t tell the eyes apart.

The couple refused to let me off the hook.

I stood at that door

For twenty minutes

Naked under a loosely wrapped blanket

Unable to tell them

Which of this poor woman’s eyes

Was actually

The real eye.

Am I wrong, or is that not the most embarrassing story you’ve ever heard?

If you have an even more embarrassing story, bring it on.

I don’t need the title.

Top me.


You don’t have to use your real names.

If this weren’t my blog, I wouldn’t use my real name either.


growingupartists said...

All of my embarrassing stories have to do with being humiliated by teachers in grade school. Not going there.

Anonymous said...

Once, in Chicopee, MA, back in the mid-1970's when streaking was still considered a sport and Schlitz was still considered a beer, my friends and I heard that Bob Hope was staying in a hotel for some personal appearance. After having just a bit more than my share of Schlitz that evening, I streaked through the hotel and went up to the desk clerk and asked to see Bob Hope. He told me that Mr. Hope wasn't accepting visitors so I streaked on out to my friends in the waiting car to make my getaway... but of course, my friends, who had also had a bit more than their share of Schlitz, thought it would be hilarious to take off. That was my second-most embarassing moment in life... the first still being having worked with Jason Alexander on "Bob Patterson".
Anonymous Brian

A. Buck Short said...

Earl, emanating from Canada, you may be unaware that our first president, George Washington, also had a prosthetic eye. It was made out of wood. I know this to be a fact, because I read it in something by Arthur Miller. (Yes, I’m aware you already know where this is going, but something like that has never stopped me before, so why start now.)

Washington lost his eye in a freak mishap during a duel, when Aaron Burr tossed a silver dollar at him from the other side of the Potomac River. You may have heard the story some other way, but, as you are well aware, history belongs to the victors.

In those primitive times, at least a decade before LASIK surgery, your typical prosthetic peeper was crafted out of fine cherry wood. Washington searched Mt. Vernon high and low for an appropriate specimen but without success -- because, when struck by Mr. Burr’s silver dollar, in addition to losing an eye, he also lost his memory, and had completely blocked out that earlier incident involving the hatchet.

Alas there was no specimen to be found, because to this day, even though Columbus was first to reach the New World, the Italians have yet to send anybody any farther into the firmament than you can get with one of those fire crackers brought back by Marco Polo.

However those did serendipitously play a role in the discovery of America, because it allowed Columbus to know when he was getting close. When the great explorer sailed to these shores on his three ships, the Anna, the Maria, and the Alberghetti, he passed a number of Caribbean islands. The first bore a sign that read, “Fireworks.” The next, “Fireworks. Buy one, get one free.” The third, “Fireworks. Buy one get TWO free.” The next “Fireworks. Buy one, get THREE free.” When he finally saw a sign that simply said, “FREE FIREWORKS,” he knew they had finally reached India.

Now, where was I? Oh. So Washington scoured the land for weeks, looking high and low for an appropriate arboreal cherry donor, but to no avail. Actually there was one avail, but it had been severely damaged by an infestation of beatles that had arrived the year before in something called the British Invasion. So as a precaution against insects, Washington had his replacement eye fashioned out of cedar; which explains why, to this day, you never see a moth in any portrait of our first president.

It would have been simpler to order the thing in oak, which was abundant throughout Virginia in those days, but the young Washington was a perfectionist and said that went against his grain.

Nobody wanted to take a chance making anything out of weak wood since that unfortunate situation several years earlier when a bough broke, tossing a cradle to the ground, baby and all. The head of the family couldn’t understand how something like that could happen, until his wife started hectoring, “Dimwit,” you used all the strong boughs to make the cradle.”

So where is the best place to go for a mothproof ocular implant? Of course, Cedars Sinai Hospital. It was by far the right choice. Wherever Washington went – and you know he got around – people would come up to him and say things like, “Hey George, that’s a mighty fine looking fake eye you got there. Hardly a mark on it.” Washington explained he dusted it every morning with Pledge of allegiance – or snuff or something.

Still the president-to-be remained extremely self-conscious about his eye and avoided going out in public. Actually he was self-conscious about pretty much everything. When Washington told people, “I cannot tell a lie,” it had nothing to do with veracity, just that he wasn’t good with words. Later he became our first president named George afflicted with that disability.

Eventually everybody got tired of him sitting around the house. His mom, a caring woman, kept saying, “George you can’t just stay cooped up inside all day. Go out and meet people. Get out and go to a social function. What’s the matter with you?”

Self-conscious though he was, the future president mustered the courage to hall himself down to the local tavern in Williamsburg, where a college mixer was in progress. When he got there, the frat guys from William were all trying to hook up with the coeds from Mary (in those days they were two separate schools, much like Harvard and Radcliff).

At first George didn’t want to go, but wingman Tom Jefferson was very persuasive, saying that in the course of human events, sometimes it becomes necessary to just get out of the house. So off they went. Tom, a gregarious sort, was having the time of his life. The women were all over him. Later some were under him; but as you know, Tommy took his chances.

Washington, on the other hand, still self-conscious about his disability, remained glued to the wall until given the old pep talk. Tom eventually persuaded Washington that, uni-eyed or no, all men were created equal and entitled to a shot at the babes.

Sternly, he related the story of a nasally-challenged cousin, Tristam Shandy, whose life had been turned around only after he had been presented with a very early draft of Pinocchio. Plus, Tom reminded that Washington had been especially well endowed by his creator, which afforded certain inalienable rights. That settled it.

With his good eye, George spotted a comely lass across the room, being hit upon by a Philadelphia lawyer. The young woman, who would later become known to have been Martha Custis, cut quite a figure. In fact she cut quite a few figures – pretending to be engaged making paper dolls, so no one would ask her to dance and discover her wooden leg.

As a teenager, Martha had fallen in with a rough crowd of Barbary pirates. One cold December evening, a timber shivered and collapsed on her without warning, as Martha was attempting to organize everyone into a sewing circle. For her prosthetic limb, she chose a little something in maple, because as Martha put it, she didn’t want to make an ash of herself. Crafted at sea, the thing was nothing much to look at, but serviceable.

At these colonial mixers, as Martha's self-esteem grew, she longed to get up and cut a rug (having long since graduated from conjoined paper figures), but upon spotting her disability, no guy would ever ask her. She hoped this evening could be different.

Seizing the opportunity to free said damsel from the clutches of the Philadelphia lawyer, Washington made his way across the room. In the bow of a row boat – it was quite an entrance. A little incongruous, but still, as we said, quite an entrance. He took a seat next to the object of his desire. Unfortunately the object of his desire was the keg of rum he required to build up the Dutch courage to ask Martha to dance, even after calculating that the wooden leg sort of evened things out.

George, self-conscious about his cedar eye, and Martha, equally so with regard to her own ersatz appendage, spent the next several hours doing rum shots until both became groggy. At that point George, figuring what the hey, mustered the courage to ask his new acquaintance if she would care to trip the light fantastic – not thinking how difficult it would be to get up again with only one leg.

Ecstatic at the invitation she had been awaiting for years, Martha looked George in the eye -- literally -- and exclaimed, “Would I! Would I!”Hurt and offended, Washington responded in kind, “Peg leg! Peg leg!”Eventually the misunderstanding was resolved by Pinkney’s Treaty of 1795, which not only formalized the border with Spanish Florida, but declared once and for all that, as long as you at least still had a knee, it didn’t really matter how tan it was.

(Yes it is an old joke, shamelessly embellished and thereby rendered even more embarrassing. But it’s all I got, already two hours late for the office. But, as you know, those who are unprepared to take time to distort history are doomed to just simply repeat it.)

Gary Mugford said...

While in high school, my partner Blake Edwards (obviously NOT the famous one) and I drove to Hamilton for a bridge tournament. We left late and didn't have the best of directions to the tournament site, which was on top of the mountain. We did finally manage to find the place and literally went from the car to the seats for our first round match. After concluding the first round somewhat successfully, I gathered my various bits of stuff in my arms and got up to move to the next table for the second match. "Don't forget your coat," Blake said over his shoulder. I HAD forgotten. It was there wrapped around the vack of the chair I had just vacated. I pulled at it ... and the chair came with it.

JUST as one of the largest ladies alive playing bridge was just about to sit on it. KERPLOP! The thud was loud enough to be heard over the din that accompanies a round change. EVERYBODY'S head turned. There was a lady on the floor, a high school punk standing over her with a chair in hand. A Mugford mugging so to speak.

I apologized profusely to no avail. Instant enemy. But wait. The embarrassment grew.

After a supper where Blake and our teammates enjoyed themselves immensely at my expense, who do you think comes to our table for the first round of the evening session? Yep, the still angry large lady. I pulled my ballcap lower, slunk down in my chair and didn't say an unnecessary word for the whole round. In which, we beat up the opponents pretty badly. We were, afterall, one of the better junior pairs in the country.

She still hates me to this day. I think I keep her living just so she can hate me. It's been 30 years and she still calls me that young punk. I'm 52 and avoid her whenever possible at tournaments.