By Seth Kushner
I spent Christmas alone and sick. Alberto was out of town with his family and I was bedridden with fever. It made my Jewish Christmas Envy even worse than usual. I was miserable.
The only thing this Grinchenstein hates more than Christmas is New Year’s Eve, or more specifically the pressure surrounding it.
“What are you doing for New Years?”
People start asking that loaded question earlier every year. I swear some douche once asked me at a July 4th barbeque one year.
I had no New Year’s plans. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Bupkus. I knew I didn’t want to spend New Year’s alone on my couch, watching the Twilight Zone marathon, but so far, no better offers had come my way. Until, that is, I received a call from my friend and radio personality, Anthony Screwy, (who everyone just calls Screwy because of the large number of Anthony’s in Brooklyn) who was hosting a party at a bar in Hoboken, NJ.
“Dude, there’s going to be at least 70% women there, maybe even 80,” Screwy said confidentially as if he had taken a census.
“How much to get in?” I asked.
“$110, all inclusive.”
“I don’t know man, that’s a lot, and you always say there’ll be tons of women and then it turns out to be a room fulla’ guys and like 10 women.
“Not this time, I handled the guest list, and Jennifer will be there.”
“Jennifer who?” I asked taking the bait like a loser guppy.
“Kevin’s friend, and she’s single.”
He knew how to hook me. Jennifer had been around for years, always invited to things by Kevin. She’s an Upper East Side Jewish girl, who some might call a “JAP”-a Jewish American Princess. You know, those usually pretty but often spoiled, superficial, Juicy Couture wearing, pedicure getting, Tast-D Delight eating yenta types. I’d always found her attractive and had an interest in her, but she rarely gave me the time of day. In fact, we had barely spoken. Though I’ve tried.
Months earlier, I was at Stan’s Memorial Day barbeque, and decided I was going to try to have my first real conversation with Jennifer. I was quite sloppy drunk, which was probably the reason for my boldness. I was on Stan’s front lawn out in suburban Jersey. Stan was at the grill while Kevin supervised. The smell of tasty meats filled the air. I sat myself down at the picnic table next to Jennifer.
“Let’s talk…tell me something interesting about yourself,” I demanded, fueled with Coronas.
Apparently I was being loud because Kevin’s wife Angela tried to put a stop to my attempt.
“Oh my God, he’s hitting on her…Adam leave her alone!” She said.
“Jennifer can speak for herself,” I replied.
I was too drunk to be embarrassed, even though everyone was looking at me.
“So what have you got?” She looked uncomfortable but responded anyway.
“Well, my birthday’s on September 11” she said.
“Interesting, so is Moby’s,” I said.
“Yeah, I just read that. He wrote a song about it.”
There are a few more awkward exchanges, some drooling, and then she got up and moved far away from me, to the other side of the lawn. To top it all off, when we were all saying good-bye later, I told Jennifer it was nice seeing her, then leaned in to kiss her on the cheek, but instead of putting my hand on her arm, I accidentally copped a feel of her left breast. I felt like Homer Simpson. I might have touched her boob, but I was the only real boob in attendance. At least I got some, though.
It was New Year’s Eve and Alberto and Jeanine agreed to go with me. My roommate and his girlfriend were annoying together with their constant fighting and making up, but at least I wouldn’t be going alone.
We took the R train into the city, then the PATH train across the Hudson to Hoboken, then a cab from the station to the bar. Saturn could’ve been reached more easily. The bar was crowded, and there weren’t too many people I knew there. I was walking around surveying the scene, while holding a very girly Gummy Bear Martini, (the signature “cocktail”) when I ran into Jennifer. Like I said, she usually never talked to me, but this night she sauntered my way. She was wearing a slinky black dress and looked sexy. I wanted to see that dress lying on my bedroom floor. She put her hand on my arm and told me it was good to see me. She made some made some small talk, all the while she was rubbing my arm. I have no idea what she was saying. She batted her eyelashes at me and like a dame from a film noir and said:
“I’ll be in the other room; why don’t you come find me later.” With that, she glided away.
I was confused but quite erect: this girl who usually never even paid attention to me was now indicating to me that I could possibly take her home for a private New Year’s celebration…at least that was how I was interpreting it. I turned to Alberto and Jeanine, who were a few feet behind me but had seen the whole thing.
What the hell was that?” I asked.
“I think she’s looking to get some tonight, Kessler,” Alberto said and high fived me
“Yeah, looks like it!” I said excitedly.
“Be careful,” Jeanine said, “She may just be looking for someone to kiss at midnight…I know girls like her.”
Meanwhile, I was slurping on my second Gummy Bear martini by the bar when Screwy showed up. He was wearing a dumb plastic top hat. Dude, I got a girl I want you to meet. He ushered me to a group of girls and introduced me to Elena, or as I thought of her as at that moment, “Door Number Two.” She was small and cute with wavy dark hair. She wasn’t incredible, but cute. Sometimes cute is enough. Things were looking up.
“Adam, this chick really likes Superman, and even has the “S” logo tattooed on her lower back” Screwy said into my ear as my eyes lit up.
“So I heard you like a certain Man of Steel?” I said to Elena as my opening line.
“Yeah, I like Superman.” she replied.
I told her I knew plenty about Superman. Her friend then butted in and asked me a series of questions about Superman, apparently to test my worthiness. I easily answered them all. Of course I knew Krypton, Jor-El, and Jimmy Olson. I could have been a dick and have asked her at least 20 questions that would have stumped them both. I could have asked about Kandor, Lori Lemaris and Metallo. This girl may have had Superman above her ass, but I had him embedded into my brain.
I guess I passed because I then had the privilege to engage Elena in conversation. We chatted and we had a lot in common, but I really didn’t sense an interest on her part. I didn’t get it. I was being charming and witty. She should have liked me. I felt banished to the Phantom Zone.
Dejected, I went into the other room to find Jennifer. Why was I wasting time chatting up other girls when I already had one on the hook? I started working on witty things to say when I found her. Maybe something like, “What’s all this fuss about New Year’s about anyway?’ I spotted her through the crowd and did my best cool guy walk over. She was dancing with a pretty boy, but surely when she saw me she’d switch partners, I thought. I walked right over to her, and she never even looked at me. In fact, she never even looked at me again that whole night. I may be witty, but I knew the joke was on me.
I caught a glimpse of Screwey by the DJ booth, still wearing that dumb plastic top hat. He was chatting with a young-ish girl who was undoubtedly very impressed by his status as an on-air personality at a popular local radio station. I imagine he was making plans for later that night. Sly bastard. I was feeling like I would have been better off at home watching the ‘Zone.
I downed another Gummy Bear Martini as I watched a group of sexy girls in tight clothes dance provocatively and drunkenly. Alberto and Jeanine came up behind me.
“Having fun, Kessler?” My friend asked.
“I’m thinking of putting a gun to my head.”
“That’s the spirit!” Alberto said, as he popped an ecstasy tablet and floated into the crowd, pulling Jeanine with him.
Then, somehow it was almost midnight and countdown to the New Year began–Ten, nine, eight…I wanted this crappy year to end already…three, two…maybe I’ll die…one—
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Dammit, I’m still here, I thought.
Balloons dropped from the ceiling. To my left, Alberto and Jeanine were kissing. To my right, Jennifer was making out with pretty boy. Screwey was over by the DJ booth, dancing around with a group of girls. All around me, people were kissing. I chugged the last of my fifth Gummy Bear Martini. I was in a crowd of people, but I never felt more alone.
Read past installments of SCHMUCK
Whenever Seth Kushner did anything foolish growing up, his mother would call him a “Schmuck,” that beloved Yiddish term of not-so-endearment. So, of course, it’s the title of his new comix semi-autobio on TRIP CITY, an online multimedia arts salon. Renowned for his books The Brooklynites (with Anthony LaSala) and Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics (With Chris Irving) and the webseries CulturePOP Photocomix, photographer and author Seth Kushner now throws his hat into the comics arena. SCHMUCK chronicles the period after his being dumped by a girlfriend, and the ensuing cascade of blind dates, Internet hook-ups, and comically tragic situations he endured with the hopes of finding “true love.”
SCHMUCK sheds a brutally honest light on 20-something relationships. Adam Kessler, our “hero,” is based on Kushner, ten years ago – a pop-culture-obsessed photographer torn between pleasing Mom by finding a “nice Jewish girl,” and figuring out what he really wants. His internal monologue is filled with the standard inane, perverted and self-deprecating thoughts we all have but are ashamed to admit. Meanwhile, his shit-talking, sex-obsessed Brooklyn boys stand by with their own, often wacky, advice.
Chapter One “Beer, Babes and Bowel Movements,” illustrated by Kevin Colden, (with “Photocomix” by Seth) debuted on Monday, January 9. From there, a new chapter will appear on TripCity.net every second Monday for one year. Every fourth Monday will see the release of a prose piece, “THE SCHMUCK DIARIES,” which will act as supplements to the comics. 2012 will see the release of 12 SCHMUCK comix and 12 SCHMUCK DIARIES.
SCHMUCK is an anthology series with different artists illustrating short “schmucky stories,” which can be read individually, or together to tell the complete narrative. SCHMUCK artists include; Sean Pryor (Pekar Project), Bobby Timony (Night Owls), Omar Angulo (Hurricane Wilma), Shamus Beyale (The Grimm Fairy Tales), Ryan Alexander-Tanner (To Teach), George Schall, (Dark Horse Presents) Nathan Schreiber (Power-Out), Leland Purvis (Resistance), Stephen DeStefano (‘MAZING MAN) and more TBA.
What to expect: heartbreak, diarrhea, painful STD removal, rejection, Kung-Fu, Natalie Portman, vomit, boobs, self-loathing, unkempt genital regions, sex with an ex, drunkenness, sexual dysfunction, depression, misogyny, and somehow, hope.
Influences on SCHMUCK include; Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison, Bob Fingerman’s Beg The Question, Dean Haspiel’s Street Code, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Curb Your Enthusiasm, works by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Ames, Woody Allen, Adrian Tomine, Jeffrey Brown, Chester Brown and Joe Matt.