It was the Dukes, you pervert

Mortimer’s vet asks how he got his name.

“Trading Places,” I explain. “We named him after one of the Duke brothers who made the bet that set the story in motion.”

Typically, when I give the backstory on how our dog got his name, I get one of two responses. Most people give me a blank look because the film was before their time, which is a lame excuse. Others remember the film fondly, but ask why we named our dog after a racist old man who is obsessed with cornering the frozen concentrated orange juice market and orchestrating unethical nature versus nurture experiments.

As it turns out, Mortimer’s vet knows the movie well. Actually, he knows one scene quite well.

“Jamie Lee Curtis shows her breasts in that movie,” he says. “I hit pause so many times at that scene, I wore out the VHS copy. She had fantastic breasts back then, just magnificent.”

I’d like to say that I had the presence of mind to call the vet out for being such a creeper, but I came up empty. Mortimer, however, is always loaded – a fact he proved by whizzing on the vet’s hand.

Cosmic Banditos

Naturally, the book jacket copy caught my eye:

Mr. Quark is a down-on-his luck pot-smuggler hiding out in the mountains of Colombia with his dog, High Pockets, and a small band of banditos led by the irascible Jose. Only months before, these three and their fearless associates were rolling in millions in cash and high-grade marijuana, eluding prosecution on “ridiculously false” drug and terrorism charges. But times have quickly grown lean, and to liven up their exile, Jose decides to mug a family of American tourists.

Among the spoils are physics texts, which launch Mr. Quark on a side-splitting, boisterous adventure north to California, where he confronts the owner of the books with his own theories on relativity, the nature of the universe, and looking for the meaning of life in all the wrong places…

Cosmic Banditos is a goofy book about heavy topics. Or maybe it’s a heavy book with a goofy narrator. The key to understanding this book, as the narrator tells you, is not to take it too seriously. In fact, it’s probably not even worth summarizing the story in any more detail than what you find in the book jacket; the story is actually pretty simple, but it is by no means the point of the book.

Cosmic Banditos is a weird novel in the best possible sense because it’s the kind of weird that unifies kindred oddballs. Without getting too technical, it’s the kind of story that will tickle your funny bone, speak to your soul, and expand your mind, but only if you happen to be on the same cosmic wavelength as the author. In that sense, Cosmic Banditos is a litmus test, not so much for people to avoid, but as good a sign as any for the kind of people who are worth discussing the meaning of life with over a strong drink or sweet sativa. Will this book explain the meaning of life? Of course not. But it just might illustrate the folly of such an endeavor, even if “life” might just be the probable result of a sub-atomic ballet.

Shirt buddies for life

My shirt buddy spots me before I can spot him.

I am walking around the park. He’s laying on a picnic blanket with a woman who looks to be a special lady friend.

We both wear matching faded red Coca-Cola t-shirts. He tugs at his collar, holding it from his chest to alert me to the match. He lets go only after I’ve mirrored his signal.

On subsequent laps, we nod.

On my final lap, I consider the sartorial consequences of our meeting: he has finally proven to her that “other people really do wear that shirt out in public.”

Martial arts training montage in the park

My evening walk around the park is almost finished, when I notice a man running half speed toward a small tree. At the last possible moment, the man leaps into the air and lands a kick against the tree’s trunk.

My martial arts expertise goes no deeper than the crane technique. Still, I believe this man is training for something because he holds a neon green exercise thing in his hand, and it matches his headband.

I stop to stretch. He delivers a training montage:



A glancing kick, an embarrassing tumble

A quiet moment of doubt, determined to win face

He guts it out

Finishes strong

Takes off running into the sunset…

The tree is stoic, but I like to think the breeze blowing through its branches says, “You better run, mother-trunker!”

Talking about Trump

The only topic of conversation at Pita Kitchen is Trump.

The business guys think he’s a “dumpster fire” and a “disaster” because Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffet say he’s unfit.

The public defender “knows” Trump’s a fascist, and says the American people are “probably” too decent to elect such a man.

The cop says Trump’s an “asshole.” His partner disagrees: “dickhead.”

I find myself nodding along emphatically, which is a dead giveaway when you’re trying to eavesdrop.

80 Hookers

Last night’s Lyft driver has a glowing pink mustache on his dash. He offers water, candy, or gum. He is a pro. We chat and soon I learn that he’s been driving for two years, and that he’s writing a book about LA’s after dark crowd.

“I’ve driven eighty hookers,” he explains.

“Wow! That’s a lot of hookers. And you’re taking notes, yes?”

“Of course.”

Like I said, he’s a pro.

“So… what’s the craziest story?” I ask.

“It’s not about a hooker.”

“That’s ok, not every story has to have a hooker.”

“Well, I had a couple have sex in my car once,” he says.

I swivel to inspect the backseat.

“No offense,” I say, “but your car is kind of small for that.”


He explains how he picked up the couple outside a strip club, but that he knows she wasn’t a stripper because he drives all the strippers. Less than a minute after he started driving, he heard the seat belts come off.

“It was a short ride,” he explains. “So I’m like, they’re going to make out, I don’t want them to take the seat belts off, but we’re just a few minutes away, and I just don’t want to have a confrontation, because sometimes those happen and they’re just… not good.”


“But then I heard moaning and I looked in the mirror, and things were… rhythmic.”


“Yeah. And I’m just thinking, crap, now I gotta go get my car steam cleaned, so my night’s done.”

“So they finished before you got to the destination?”

“No! They just kept going.”

“So you said something?”

“I set the parking break really loud and cleared my throat. Then I put on the dome light.”

“And that stopped them?”



“So then I thought, maybe they just need a minute.”


“And so I waited.”

“How long?”

“I just counted to sixty and then I said something.”

“Like stop fucking in my car?”

“Actually it was, your here!”

“That was probably more diplomatic. And that worked?”


We arrive at my destination. I exit, but before we part, I tell him he has a good story for the book.

“Can’t use it.”

“Why not?”

“Dude, I have 80 stories about hookers. The title is ‘I Drove 80 Hookers.'”

“Not every story has to be about hookers,” I remind him.

Evidence Schawarma

Things are slow at Pita Kitchen, so the man behind the counter has time to go through his pockets. He separates one receipt from the rest and tosses it onto the grill. The paper burns and quickly turns to ash.

“Destroying the evidence,” he explains.

I nod as if I understand, but secretly I wonder if I’ve been implicated in some larger caper, one that may, or may not, involve grilled lamb.

“My wife can’t find out,” he says.

“She won’t,” I say. “You burned the evidence.”

We high-five, but I’m not sure why. I mean, I’m all for winning, but what if his cause is immoral or unjust? I cannot high-five to evil. So I ask about the destroyed evidence.

“I bought a new PS4 controller,” he says. “But I don’t want my wife to know because she will yell at me for spending money on video games.”


“What did you think it was?”

“Another woman’s number, maybe that you were cheating on your wife.”

“No, of course not. Just a new controller, which is bad because I’m not supposed to go to Best Buy.”

“That’s rough, man. But won’t she notice the new controller?”

“No way, Michael. She will be too busy going through my pockets looking for evidence.”

Call (855) 208-8415 For Your Trumper-Sticker

I check my voicemail and hear a message from The Great America PAC, which is the official PAC supporting Donald Trump. They’re giving out bumper stickers, so I call them back.

The call gets off to a rocky start because the woman reading the script is so robotic I actually feel compelled to ask if I’m speaking to a human.


“Really, this is a real human?”


“Oh, sorry about that,” I say. “I’m calling because I want a bumper sticker, or as I like to call it, a Trumper-sticker.”

If she sees what I did there, she is not amused. But if you know anything about the Trump organization, you know it’s all business, so she gets right to it.

“You can have a bumper sticker for a donation of $25 to $100,” she explains.

“What? The message I got was that you’re giving them out, doesn’t that imply free?”

She sticks to her guns.

“Ok, l read The Art of The Deal,” I say. “Let’s negotiate.”

“No. It’s $25.”

“Hear me out. I live in LA. We drive a lot. There’s a lot of traffic. That bumper sticker will reach a wide audience.”

“It’s $25.”

“How about $5?”


“Ok, $10.”


“Don’t you want to make America great again?” I ask.

“Of course.”

“Then work with me,” I say.

And that’s when she hangs up.

What I know about pilates

I am early for my Pilates class, but I have the company of another student who is full of information.

“It’s so great to see a man in Pilates,” she says. “You know a lot of males don’t grasp the importance of a strong core.”

Without prompting, she explains what a core is, why it’s important, and how men are too obsessed with their arms.

I start to make a self-deprecating joke about how my obsessions have nothing to do with exercise, but the lecture continues.

Do I know how the reformer works?

Am I aware that when men do join the class, they tend to “bitch and moan” about how hard it is?

Have I got the breathing down? “It’s vital that you breath.”

Suddenly, the lecture stops. She looks at my feet.

“Shit! I’ve never been here before. This studio requires socks?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Well, I guess you’re the expert.”

Not really. I just read the sign.

The homey discount

Her frozen yogurt is on the house.

“I’m giving you the homey discount,” the cashier explains.

I’m next in line, so naturally I ask him for the homey discount too.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “Your body isn’t as bangin’ as what she’s got.”

“But you concede that my body is somewhat bangin’,” I insist. “That’s got to be worth something.”

He thinks about it for a moment.

“One free topping,” he says. “One.”

So I add some fruit to my froyo because a somewhat bangin’ body does not come without sacrifice.