Ugh, this took so long to make. Also, doing anything with puppets gives me so much respect for those who do it regularly. Their forearm and hand muscles must be incredible.
Finally got the third HR Guy sketch up on the YouTube site. Special thanks to Dave and Sasha!
The HR Guy series has been some of the best rated stuff I’ve done with Hard Left. Getting a great videographer and editor (Sasha) was huge, but I also tried to write this as tight as possible. They’re all about two minutes long, and the philosophy was to a) give no breathing room for the viewer, b) skew the reality of the world, c) actually write an ending (a frequent comment about earlier HLP sketches was that we had no good endings, which is a common thing you hear about sketches in general). People seem to respond to this pace. This is the trend of web sketches these days. We’ll see if I can do any more of these. I really love writing this HR Guy series.
Pay It Foodward rolls on with ginger-headed Natalie Cowell meeting up with me for brunch at historic Rosebud Diner in Davis Square.
Rosebud really is historic; you can read about on their site. The quick hit is that it was “placed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s Multiple Listing of Diners.” How and why Massachusetts has a Historical Commission with a branch specific to diners is a topic for another day, unfortunately, as I have a brunch to recap.
Uncharacteristically, there was no wait for a booth at 11:30 on a Sunday, and Natalie and I were immediately greeted by the quintessential and awesome, no-nonsense yet friendly waitress behind the counter. Everything about the experience in Rosebud is classic, from the handwritten signs detailing the specials, to the shouting of orders to the kitchen, to the lisp of the tall and lanky ostensibly homosexual hipster clad in an Urban Outfitter shirt and skinny jeans that very pleasantly asked us what we’d like to order.
Odd, but a good server. Perhaps he was the rebellious son of one of the waitresses there. Or, more likely, the GAP had lay-offs. Anyway, the food came out quickly and soon both Cowell and I were fork deep in eggs-over-easy and home fries. Natalie opted for eggs, bacon, home fries, and a bagel. Unfortunately, she had to settle for an English Muffin as Rosebud does not carry bagels. I’ll assume it’s too Jewy for such an all-American diner (though that doesn’t really allow for English Muffins either, I guess).
And the self-described ketchup artist had a little message for me on her eggs.
I went with my standard, the Texas Breakfast.
Cowell gave her meal a thumbs up. The bacon was cripsy, the eggs were not runny at all, and the English Muffin (though no bagel) was just fine. She did give a “meh” rating to the home fries, which tasted like “small french fries” to her, and asserted the apple juice she ordered was just Mott’s. You too good for Mott’s, Natalie?? It ain’t no Juicy Juice!! Anyway, mine was all perfect. The coffee was awful, but at a diner, that’s pretty authentic.
I’ve known Cowell for a couple years now, having first met her at auditions a couple years back when she was cast into Friday Night Face-Off at ImprovBoston (partly due to my vote, so she will always owe me). She is an underrated performer at IB, consistently hilarious, and finally starting to get her dues after a fantastic turn in last year’s Gorefest, and having been cast in the Extended Mainstage cast earlier this year. She loves acting, improv, and was “putting on plays before [she] knew what plays were.” Currently getting a license in Theater Education with a Bachelors in Theater Performance, she is putting snot-nosed kids through the ropes at various schools around town.
Now, the five questions.
What is the most useful lesson you’ve learned from the children you teach?
Natalie teaches kids from elementary to middle school and said she has learned a lot of life lessons from them, such as “don’t eat boogers.” However, the one that sticks out to her comes from her older kids: “Don’t write down anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.” Over the years, she’s seen students get burned over and over again, writing down things on notes or Facebook or Google+ or whatever the kids fancy these days, that come back to haunt them. She can speak from experience having been burned by a nasty note she wrote about someone back in her childhood. A good lesson to learn as everyone over-shares these days.
I’m exasperated because I can’t decide what city to move to in order to best follow my dreams. Make up a southern expression that encapsulates a response to this feeling.
After ruminating on this, Cowell hit me with this little nugget delivered in a Oklahoma drawl: “A groundhog can dig his hole anywhere, but his problems are still under the ground.”
Makes sense. You can’t just move to a new city and expect your life to be instantly better. You’d just be repeating the same mistakes, if you don’t take the time to analyze who you are, what you want, and what you need to change. Are you expecting a picture of the movie Groundhog’s Day? It would be entirely appropriate right here, right? Yeah.
What do people usually underestimate about themselves?
How much others will like them, Natalie says. Apparently unfazed with how generally abhorrent most comedians and actors are to general society, she thinks that most people are mistaken in this area. This notion, that you won’t be liked, keeps people in comfort zones, she says, trapped in their shells. Natalie explained that she was hugely unpopular in middle school due to a couple things (re: boobs, and having them when other girls didn’t), and she had to struggle to cast that aside when she got older. After realizing that people did indeed like her now (again, probably due to boobs. Funny how that works), she understands the instinct to feel like you’re unlikable. She then proceeded to tell me some horror stories of being unpopular, which was great since I had much the same stories. I had her beat though, because she still had one friend to each lunch with, but I can recall a full semester of eating lunch by myself next to my only friend: Mr. Locker.
Design me a new ride at Six Flags.
This is the question that really gave Cowell pause, as her brain struggled to reign in all the myriad possibilities. Eventually, she settled on a depressing teaching moment. The ride would start with a hall of mirrors. Not for anything scary, mind you, but as a method of forced self-reflection (which is not scary, but terrifying). The slow pace of this part would give the patron ample time to reexamine his/her life that brought him/her to this point of existence. Next, it would transition into something completely educational, like the history of Edison’s lightbulb. The ride would sort of be like the DNA ride in Jurassic Park, apparently.
Finally, after the forced lesson on filament history, you get a bachelor’s certificate and it immediately exits you from Six Flag’s grounds, basically giving you the boot to the soul you need to go do something with your life. Why this is the direction Cowell wanted to go with a ride, is beyond me, but she did want to call it “The Devil’s Tongue of Fury” or “Uncle Petey’s Bathtub Gin Ride” so I’ll give her a pass for her trickery. But don’t ever hire her to throw a fun kid’s party.
How would you break up with me?
Natalie came prepared for this one. After reading the other responses, she completely dismissed them. “Breaking up with Robert Woo is different that breaking up with other guys,” she said. She’s right. I cry almost as much as Dana Jay Bein. For our breakup, she expects drama and explosions. One day, she would get fed up with all my smarmy, sarcastic comments. It would be triggered when we are watching some “throwaway romantic comedy by Judd Apatow,” and she belly laughs at something, and I scoff at her for doing so. I say “you would think that’s funny,” and this leads to a debate about entertainment, what’s funny, and somehow, someway, I imply that women aren’t funny. (I must have read Vanity Fair that day) This causes her to go apeshit, have a “full on Maury Povich moment,” and she expounds on the bios of Carol Burnett and Gilda Radner at length before tossing me out along with all my belongings. “It would be like a women’s empowerment movie starring J. Lo,” she said.
Then, she’d tell everyone she knew about how awful I was, to the point where everyone would get so sick of hearing it that they would sympathize with me eventually, and it would all backfire on her. And that’s how one drama queen would break up with another, everyone. This might be the most accurate one yet. If I don’t severely piss off a girl by relationship’s end, then what am I even doing here?
Two brunches, an apple juice, a coffee, $18.20. Red heads are a cheap date. We’ll see if she breaks a $20 when she eventually does her Pay It Foodward.
Pay It Foodward’s third installment came in the form of one John Perich, my first ever male participant. Was it gay? Only slightly. Until we decided to eat at Cosi. Then very.
Providing further evidence to the fact that my life is a really cliched and terribly written sitcom, John and I did a little “where are you?” “I’m AT Cosi.” “Wait, which Cosi are you at?” before we finally met up at the right Cosi (let’s say the one that I was at) on Milk Street. This one was fairly crowded, but by the time we were ready to order, there was no line at all. Apparently, while waiting for me at another (wrong) Cosi a few blocks away, John experienced much better customer service. As soon as he entered, he was handed a menu and bread samples. Here, there were no such fringe benefits, so not all Cosi’s are made the same, as would be expected with a franchise.
John opted for a “Taste Two” selection, of half a chicken TBM (Tomato Basil Mozzarella, and not the TBM that I think of), half Cesar salad, and a bag of chips. He expected to get a third taste as well: a cup of soup. White people.
Nevertheless, he seemed pleased with the meal.
He and I both lamented the chicken not being warm, as we expected, but asserted that Cosi bread is quite good. Overall, the sandwich was tasty and the salad was fine but nothing special.
I went with the Cosi Club. Aside from the cold chicken, it was a fine lunch. Again, the bread was the stand out, and all the ingredients tasted fresh. I also got those super-hard-to-open-the-usual-way bag of exotic chips.
It was not a service restaurant, and I think I will try to lean toward sit-down places in the future. Grab and go places just don’t do Pay It Foodward any favors. John didn’t seem to mind. I’ve known Mr. Perich for many years through the IB circles; my earliest memory of him being clad in a lab coat as he played a doctor in some GoreFest of past. A prolific writer both on Overthinkingit.com and Periscopedepth.com, he’s one of those unique people who can write a touching story, then break your hand in three places, being a black belt in Jujitsu. He’s one of the most well-thought person I’ve ever met, and is one of those few people who truly thinks before he speaks/writes. Plus, he’s one of the few people I can talk to about Search Engine Marketing without getting blank stares.
On to the five questions.
Besides being able to beat someone up, what is the most important life lesson learned from Martial Arts?
Perich says that, for his school in particular, it was how to present to a large group. This definitely caught me by surprise as I was expecting him to talk about finding zen or chi or peace or grasshoppers (I’m racist). John explained that to become a black belt, a student not only needed to pass the technical tests, but basically an instruction test. A true master is also a true sensei, and the ability to communicate instruction effectively to your students is instrumental. His instruction test had both a written and oral component judged by other black belts, and he considers his training to become a good and confident teacher the most important lesson.
How true is the saying “if she smokes, she pokes?”
John masticated a bit while pondering this ounce of wisdom that someone once told me. Probably Sesame Street. Then, he began slowly. “…I haven’t met a lot of women who don’t poke.” Well shit, clue me in. He explained that in the city we live in, in the age group we consort with, it is a rare occurrence to find a girl who does not, in fact, poke. I pointed out that the saying is more about degrees. “Oh, so it’s not an on/off binary thing, then.” I let it slide that he used “binary” in a conversation about hooking up with women. In all, John has not personally found this saying to ring true. He has dated both and has been “delightfully mistaken” as well as “disappointingly mistaken.” My take on it? It is a 100% certainty that smokers will get freaky with you. So watch out.
What board game should more people live their lives like?
Without a moment’s hesitation: “Diplomacy.” John explained that in this Risk-without-dice board game, you win by negotiating, colluding, and betraying. He expounded on the skill it takes to make strategic alliances with players, only to deceive them in the end. “And we should live our lives like this?” I asked. He paused, but stuck to his guns. He says people should always be deciphering between stated intent and actual intent. This makes life more realistic. Is it a more guarded way to live life? Sure, he admits, but he got the point across that it’s not about distrusting people, but more about being careful. For the record, John is the oldest of two children. Meanwhile, I’m an only child, as arrogant as you can get, and this is the game I’d want more people to live their lives like:
Invent me a candy bar.
Imagine this: a peanut butter and nougat bar, plain m&ms embedded inside this bar, coated with a milk chocolate shell. John calls it the Sligit. It’s a British candy bar, of course, wrapped in glossy black with gold lettering. Available at Tescos everywhere. I pointed out that it would depend on a relationship with Mars if he wanted m&ms inside his candy bar, and he said that it could be any generic m&m-type candy inside. Deal breaker, Perich. You find me anything nearly as good as a genuine m&m. I dare you. Also, you better get cracking on this before it prices itself out.
How would you break up with me?
The classic question for Pay it Foodward got a classic answer this time around. John said he would grow more and more emotionally distant from me, planting the seeds. Then, on the drive home from a Friday night movie, I would tell him that my parents are coming into town and that we should make plans to see them. He would grunt at this, barely audibly, prompting me to finally ask “do you even care about this relationship anymore?” Which gives him the opening to say “well now that you ask…” This is a classic guy move, pulled by a classic guy, on me, another classic guy who has employed this classic strategy in the past. If John actually did manage to pull this on me, I’d tip my hat. Before crying and demanding couples therapy, like a bitch.
1.5 sandwiches. .5 of a salad. 2 bottles of Diet
Coke Pepsi. 2 bags of chips. $22.85. John will definitely be returning the favor to someone in his circle soon. And probably, expect a better write up than this.
Pay It Foodward round two! Today, I was fortunate enough to have a nice lunch with the effervescent Kristina Smarz. We met on this 90 degree day at some sort of rally about something race-related outside of the Government Center T station (honestly, it wasn’t Asian so I didn’t pay attention) and decided to dine at Cheers in Faneuil Hall.
Weirdly, this completely local bar & grill was packed with tourists, and Smarz and I had to sit at the bar for our meal. On a side note, I asked the family in line before us if they were actually in line, and the father (I’m assuming. He might have been their kidnapper) stumbled through an answer in his foreign accent until his daughter sighed and answered for him. This brought back many memories of my own childhood spent translating for my parents who refused to learn English, and I joined the bored daughter in rolling her eyes.
Smarz settled, after some debate over lobster-stuffed-lobster options, on Coach’s Power Club Sandwich.
The sandwich was large enough to hide the pickle it came with from Smarz until she was already halfway through.
Smarz gave the sandwich a thumbs up, as well as the fries, but did not comment on whether it made her feel like anyone knew her name. Not even the bartender/server Eric with an earring.
I ordered a simple Chicken Caesar Salad, which was good, but the chicken seemed not grilled, but pan fried or something.
As we ate, we talked and caught up. I’ve known Smarz for many years, having performed together in TheaterSports, Boston News Net, and one-off shows like the King of the Mountain competition a few years back (that HLP dominated). She does some of the best character work to have graced ImprovBoston’s stage (her Calypso lady, for one), and though she’s a little too busy for improv right now, it was good to hear that she has been doing more and more stand up lately, and that she is also about to do some video sketches in the near future. The world needs more Smarz.
Now, on to the Pay It Foodward 5 questions.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Probably dead. Otherwise, no realistic plan.” Except that she might be squeezin’ yo’ ass! Literally. Smarz recently started classes at the Cortiva Institute to become a certified masseuse, and as anyone in TheaterSports a few years ago can attest, she’s already pretty damn gifted when it comes to back rubs. I’ve heard a lot of people say “maybe I’ll become a masseuse,” but Smarz is the first to really pursue it. She gave me a little insight into her classes; already she has had to massage her naked classmates. I will also assume that homework will entail her hanging out in Chinatown at two in the morning looking for sailors.
What is the largest animal you could fight and win against?
“Does Bobby Smithney count?” she said, but eventually settled on a manatee, out of the water. I was skeptical that she could take out a 13 foot, 1500lb sea cow even on dry land, but she seemed quite confident that she could “wrap [her] arms around it and squeeze it dead.” The way she ate her club sandwich told me she meant business. Also, Wikipedia says “The main causes of death for the sea cows are human-related issues.” I’m guessing a choke-hold from Smarz qualifies as a human-related issue.
What is something people in general don’t do enough of?
Smarz said smile with eye contact. This led to a short debate whether New England is a less friendly place than other parts of the US because there is so little smiling going on here. Smarz said that she has experimented with smiling to passersby, and was usually met with avoidance or fear. There is also some research that says smiling is healthy, though I am not sure the studies take into account the beat-downs one could receive when smiling at the wrong person in Boston. Also, smiling to myself near the Frog Pond playground got me on the registry. You know which one.
What is a lizzaboof?
I made up the word and asked Smarz to give me the definition. A lizzaboof, was a hairstyle in the Elizabethan Era sported by middle class women. It was a big bouffant-type hairstyle, but with birds and folios inside of it. Women often held fruit in their lizzaboof. The hairstyle died out due to practicality, according to Smarz, and of course was a victim of the great Hair Plague of the time.
How would you break up with me?
Smarz showed her cunning in answering this question. First, she would take me out for a “very salty” meal (we both had no idea why) and then proceed to smother me with so much affection and neediness, that I would actually break up with her. Very sneaky. But that is not the end of her manipulative plan. She said she would also show up in a Harvard shirt to remind me of my failures (similarly, she’d have her computer open to my Hard Left page), a “name plate” on her chest with my ex’s name, and a Live Strong bracelet to remind me of “[my] testicular issues.”
I would be so frustrated, ashamed, depressed, and aggravated that I would break up with her, and Smarz could be smug in knowing that she had dumped my ass while preserving my fragile, but ever-present, ego. Well played.
Two meals, one soda, cost $32 including tip. We were running late, so we had to skip the Cheers gift store which would have probably put this meetup in the thousands. It was a great lunch with Kristina Smarz, and I am excited to see who she will choose to take out for her turn to Pay It Foodward.