The Minivan Diaries

Dan’s daily flu-fighting tips (day 4)

correct breathing apparatus

correct breathing apparatus

Breathing: All mouth-breathing should be conducted through snorkels. In areas where snorkels are in short supply, the Consortium of Respiratory Pulmonologists recommends inserting a plastic drinking straw between the lips, and bending the flexible, “ridged” tip upwards. Individuals who live or work indoors should attach a generous length of rubber tubing to the open end of the straw, and vent all breath to a nearby window in the manner of a clothes dryer. Due to the severity of this season’s flu, some states have reported shortages of flexible, ridge-style straws and rubber tubing ventilation apparatus. Surgical tape affixed to the lips may be used as a secondary means of prevention.

Great Quotes About Being a Dad

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/12/quotes-for-fathers_n_3424179.html

Please scroll immediately to #22, then backtrack to #21. That guy at #22 is in good company, right?

Zig Zigler: Gone But Preserved on MP3

The legendary motivational speaker Zig Zigler died yesterday, causing me to look back and reflect upon the possibility that I once met him a million  years ago (well maybe not a million,  because the obituary said he was only 86 when he died). Finally, at approximately 3 o’clock in the morning, I remembered where and how our paths did cross. It was at Boston Garden, during a sold-out show called The Success Seminar. He was the featured speaker, and I was sent by the local NPR station to interview him using my trademark brand of hardball journalism. I will never forget Zig (since approximately 3 o’clock yesterday morning). In his memory, I would now like to share with you a memento of that fateful day when he and I first met.

Listen »

A New Jersey Pilgrim’s Progress (a special holiday excerpt from my book)

                                                                  Let’s just get a pizza.

It wasn’t until I attended my first New England Thanksgiving that I discovered cranberries are not a canned good. I was spending the holiday with my girlfriend’s family outside of Boston, where the two of us had been happily living in sin. Having grown up in a New Jersey household where Thanksgiving entailed a Butterball and a can of cranberry sauce (and maybe an extra-special side dish, like a defrosted brick of Bird’s Eye string beans with built-in flavor flecks), I was ill-prepared for the colossal significance New Englanders place upon the holiday they proudly claim as their own.

The members of her family took weeks to prepare a five-course fete. They did not dart up from the table, wildly waving a turkey leg, to see who was winning the Lions game. They even seemed to know what the hell it was that they were celebrating, which was very impressive to a Jersey boy whose primary knowledge of Plymouth Rock came from a cameo as “Ear of Corn” in a fourth-grade production of Mayflower Power!  (To the best of my recollection, I had no speaking lines.)

Many years later, that girlfriend is my spouse, and the two of us will be hosting our own family Thanksgiving this year. Much has changed since the two of us turned into the four of us, yet I shall never forget those seminal turkey years we spent in New England. I invite you to come along now as I turn back the clock, and share the secrets I discovered in the November of my youth.

How to Acquire the Main Course

First of all, you’re not looking for a turkey. Turkey is something eaten in New Jersey. In the birthplace of Thanksgiving, I learned to look for “the Bird.” It was a moniker of respect and status, not unlike “the Queen,” “the Pope,” or “the Fonz.” Anyone who acquired “the Bird” at a supermarket was considered a cheater (or from New Jersey). In Boston, the bird was to be acquired at one of a select sampling of appropriate farms, preferably an outfit in Lexington called Wilson Farms, which was referred to by insiders (i.e., not me) as simply “the Farms.”

The first time I went in search of “the Bird” at “the Farms,” I was really into it. It made me feel like one of those rugged New England guys, maybe one who actually grew up in Plymouth, who was only at the Farms in the first place because his annual wild turkey hunt was canceled due to fog. This romantic notion vanished as soon as I pulled into the second of the Farms’ vast parking lots, only to find that it was harder to find a spot here than on trendy Newbury Street—from where, incidentally, it looked like many of my fellow Thanksgivers had just come. At one point, I was in line next to an extremely perfumed lady with the type of bosom that suggested silicone and the type of strangely swollen features that suggested Botox.

“Are you certain that this Bird hasn’t been injected with any chemicals or growth stimulants?” she was yelling at a terrified teenage employee. Ten minutes later, she cut me off in the produce aisle and swiped the last sweet potato. But, hey, at least she left with a Bird in her basket. I myself left empty-handed. Unbeknownst to me, you were supposed to reserve your Bird weeks in advance, as if you were trying to book a table at the Ritz-Carlton downtown.

On the drive back to my apartment in Somerville (then known as Slummerville), I stopped at a Star Market and bought a mere “turkey.” I cheated. But I learned from the error of my ways.

Proper Bird Preparation

No one likes a dry bird. Back in New Jersey, we simply accepted the fact that turkey is, on the scale of arid-to-damp foodstuffs, you know, on the dryish side. So we’d just pour a bunch of cranberry sauce over it to moisten things up a little. If you want wet food, the thinking went, you wouldn’t serve turkey. You’d serve soup.

In the home of Thanksgiving, however, your very dignity is at stake if you became associated with a dry Bird. You learn that a dry Bird is a sign of weakness. “If I serve a dry Bird,” you believe, “I will be ostracized from the community and probably stoned to death.”

Everyone in Boston seemed to have their own theory about the best way to prevent dry Bird. The year we got married, my wife and I were persuaded to try a meshuga technique called  “brining.” Brining entailed submerging the Bird in salt water for several days prior to cooking, presumably so it got waterlogged enough to stay moist even after spending the rest of the day in a Radar Range.

If I’m not mistaken (and I usually am), we discovered this procedure in Cook’s Illustrated, the kind of fetish publication that publishes 47-page think pieces on spatulas. It makes perfect sense that this magazine was published in Boston. It appeared to be produced by lots of individuals with Ph.D.s.

I am not in possession of a Ph.D., which may explain why, after brining the bird for 48 hours in a jumbo plastic pail normally reserved for mopping, my recollection of the Bird’s texture is that it was: dry.

It took a few more New England Thanksgivings to learn what you really need to do is baste, not brine. Baste, baste, baste. That is my advice. It is also my advice to stay away from those “self-basting” turkeys we used to get in New Jersey. Real New Englanders never went in for the self-basters. They were the self-basters! From their point of view, basting built not only character, but also muscle. And you want to know something? They were right. You should have seen me this past November when Megan and I hosted Thanksgiving in Brooklyn. I powerlifted the whole hulking pan approximately every ten seconds, tilted it on its side, and maintained this position in an isometric fashion long enough for my wife to make sure everything got fully squirted.  Maybe I’m not the rugged New England guy I once was, but I can still eat as much pumpkin pie as I please, thanks to the calorie-burning basting regime I’ve stuck with all these years. I am going to request that a Baste class be added to the roster of Spin classes and Step classes at my local health club.

Presenting the Bird to Others

Back in New Jersey, we never actually saw the whole cooked turkey prior to eating it. We heard it. We’d all be sitting in the dining room, yelling and interrupting each other (the standard Zevin mode of communication), when suddenly, from the kitchen, we’d be drowned out by the roar of a chainsaw. It was, of course, my mother, revving up her trusty electric knife.

That first Thanksgiving in New England, I understood that poultry should be seen, not heard. My future mother-in-law glided from the kitchen with the most magnificent display of fowl I’d ever laid eyes on–a whole Bird big enough to obstruct the view of the guest across from me. It sat regally on a sterling platter, and a hush fell over the room. When I think about it today, I imagine it dressed in a wedding gown, with a tiara perched atop its…leg.

Then my future father-in-law swiftly ushered the Bird back into the kitchen, and set forth to carve it with the precision of a woodworker. I don’t know exactly what when on back there, but, when he returned with our carvings, I wasn’t sure whether to eat them or submit them to the Museum of Fine Arts.

“Would you like some cranberries with that?” I was asked. I scanned the table for a cylinder of Jell-O-like “sauce,” but was handed a porcelain bowl of warm berries instead. No one was more excited than I to hear they came from a bog on the Cape.

“How about some beans?” Green beans, white beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, Mexican jumping beans, for all I know–and not one was prepared in a microwave set on “defrost.”

“Bread?” Un-sliced. Brown, not white. Served with a personal side dish of olive oil, not a family-sized tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

The first time we hosted Thanksgiving at our old house in Brooklyn, my wife and I toiled to follow in the footsteps of her parents. Much like the Puritans, we applied our work ethic to acquiring, preparing, and presenting the Bird the hard way. The New England way. And this year, we’ll be introducing our kids to a new Thanksgiving tradition. Here in New Amsterdam, it is known as the Caterer.

Pay or Play? The Politics The Allowance

 

With the school year over, my wife and I pulled the trigger on a custom we hope will keep our kids motivated and productive all summer long. We put them on the payroll. Giving them an allowance at this juncture in their earning years–Josie just finished kindergarten and Leo wrapped up third grade–was yet another decision we made without thinking it through. We didn’t think about what each kid was supposed to do to earn their allowance. Or how much they were going to get. Or what might happen when they started comparing their allowances to their friends’ allowances, particularly Scotty (not his real name) over on Tulip Lane (not his real lane), who supposedly gets TWENTY DOLLARS A WEEK (for real).

Leo shared this salary information with me as I was driving him home from Scotty’s ninth birthday party. “Everyone gets an allowance,” he told me. “Why don’t I get an allowance?”

Before I became a dad, I never cared about keeping up with the Jones’. But keeping up with the Jones’ kids? Different story.

On the plus side, my kids don’t always remind me to pay up. I don’t think it’s because they forget, though. I think it’s because they have to clean up their crap if they want to collect. When you put your children on the payroll, there are still just two business models: parents who make their kids do stuff, and parents who don’t.

I was just talking about this with another dad, this guy John I met at little league. Like me, he’s trying to teach his kids the value of a dollar by paying them to do chores. A quarter for every Leggo they pick up off the floor, a buck for every stray Nerf gun bullet. “But now they’re trying to hustle us,” John said. “My wife asked them to get ready for bed last night, and my five-year-old goes, ‘If I put on my pajamas, how much will you pay me?’”

It’s all about the bottom line when you go from parent to employer. Personally, I thought two bucks plus room and board sounded like a sweet deal, but that was before Leo started researching the competition. As I forked over his two bucks last Sunday, he issued this reminder:

“Remember my friend Scotty, dad? He gets–“

“Yeah, I remember, 20 bucks. That’s insane. What does he have to do for that kind of money?”

“He doesn’t have to do anything,” Leo said. “Except SAVE it. If he saves up five hundred dollars, his parents are gonna let him buy a stock.”

    Oh, so Scotty’s dad is teaching his kid about INVESTING, and…I don’t know, DIVIDENDS, I’m thinking to myself. And I’m over here shelling out a couple’a bucks if my kids put their socks in the hamper.

“Alright. I’ll give you nine bucks a week,” I told Leo. It was a 78 percent pay hike, but, according to my sister, who accused me of unfair labor practices, the rule of thumb is one dollar for every year of their age. This was also good news for my daughter, who recently turned six.

“Yay!” she said. “Now I can buy an iTouch!”

“An iTouch? You’re in kindergarten. What are you gonna do with an iTouch?”

“Text messages,” Josie said.

It was then that I understood the real issue with an allowance. It’s not  how you give it, it’s how they spend it.

“Who are YOU gonna text?” I asked Josie.

“You,” she said.

“Oh really, and what are you gonna text to me?”

“Hi daddy,” she said. “I love you.”

Ah what the hell , kid wants an iTouch, let her have an iTouch. After all, it’s her money.

Killer Griller

Avoid barbecuing your right hand by wearing a crazy blue glove. The left hand is optional (as shown).

There are two types of men in this world: Those who love to grill and those who don’t. I used to fall into that second category, and I will tell you why. Because I had shitty grills.  Tiny table-top Hibachis.  Rusty black orbs on unbalanced wheels. As sweat dripped off my nose and onto the food, I churned out Chicken Breasts with Salmonella Sauce, and hotdogs marinated in lighter fluid.

I am pleased to report those days are over. In my latest advance from dude to dad, I have relieved myself of twelve hundred bucks on a completely kickass Weber Genesis. Did you know it is possible to create fire without a sack of charcoal bricketts? I, for one, did not know. But now I am wise. I have two tanks of propane, just in case I run out before the peppers get those cool black skidmarks on their skin.  Yes, I know how to do that now.

On Father’s Day, I would like to invite the world’s population to my deck to show off my new grill. My only request is that you leave me alone while I do my magic on your meal. I may be a rock star on my Weber, but a multi-tasker I am not. For me, it’s distracting enough to have my kids around during the course of a normal day. Imagine what your food is going to taste like if you stand there talking to me while I’m  trying to grill it.  Please just stay inside until I tell you to come out. You’ll thank me when you taste your steak. Unless you want shrimp. I’m on a shrimp trip this week because my in-laws got me a special shrimp tray you’re supposed to put on the grill so no stray shrimps fall through the bars. It doesn’t prevent the occasional shrimp from falling on the ground, though.

This exact incident occurred when my friend Paul visited from the city to see our grill (and our kids) (in that order). When I dropped his shrimp on the deck, it led to a lively discussion about that “five second rule” we have in our house. You know, if your kid drops food on the floor, they’re allowed to eat it as long as it was only on the floor for five seconds.

Tell me, blog buds, do you subscribe to that rule in your house? You can  even Tweet me on this one because I need some answers pronto. I’m asking you is because on the morning of the shrimp-dropping incident, I happened to have put a little tin of ant poison on the deck. And some of the ant poison crumbs fell on the floor as I was I was putting it down. I was the only one who knew these were ant poison crumbs as opposed to regular, non-poison crumbs. But when the shrimp hit the deck, I suddenly realized there’s got to be ant poison crumbs on floors all over the place. The whole world, really. So. When it comes to grilling, this is the main lesson I want to leave you with: Just because your shrimp has only been on the floor for five seconds doesn’t mean it’s okay to eat it. It means you’re about to eat a shrimp with five-second-old ant poison on it.

And now, a recipe.

Dan Zevin’s Grilled Shrimp On The Special Shrimp Tray His In-laws Gave Him

Step one: Take the bowl of raw, marinated Costco shrimp outside.

Step two: Use the crazy, giant tongs from your in-laws to place them on your special shrimp tray.

Step three: Grill them for like, hardly any time. Just until they turn orange.

Step four: Eat the ones that didn’t fall in the poison ant crumbs.

It’s Passover! Break Out The Easter Eggs!

What do you get when you cross a Jew with a Gentile?

Here in the Zevin household, April ushers in both Passover and Easter, reminding us that another year has gone by without my wife and I getting our act together and deciding what religion our children are.

I am a non-practicing  Jew and she is a non-practicing shiksa. It wasn’t an issue before we had kids, since both of us were fans of any activity that didn’t require practicing.  This doesn’t mean I don’t feel culturally Jewish, or that she doesn’t feel culturally gentile. On second thought, she doesn’t feel culturally gentile.  I’d describe her as a culturally Jewish girl trapped in a culturally gentile woman’s body. Especially the nose. It’s no wonder she loves teaching our kids Yiddish words, yet tends to teach them the wrong ones. “It’s so hot in here,” she’ll tell the kids. “I’m  fapitzing!”

Religion-wise, she’s just a little mixed up. We both are. Which is pretty surprising, since we both have fathers who were raised in strict religious households. Mine is the son of an Orthodox cantor, and hers is the grandson of a Baptist minister.  Listening to our dads reminisce about their childhoods–those lazy weekends spent panicking about what God would do once He found out about The Sabbath Light Switch Incident (Papa Zevin), or The Using His Name In Vain Digression (Papa Tingley)–it’s easy to see why they’d want to raise their own kids free of guilt and fear. (Well, at least “fear,” speaking for myself. Let’s not forget I’m the one who also got the Jewish mother.) In the process, they also raised us pretty much free of religion.

Our early religious identities were shaped not by whether we went to temple or church, but by whether we celebrated Passover or Easter, Christmas or Chanukah, that one where you eat the cookies or that one where you give up eating cookies. I’m a holiday Jew and she’s a holiday shiksa. Where does that leave our children? Simple. They’re Holiday Both.

Only recently have our kids become aware that Holiday Both is not a recognized denomination by the people who organize these things. Who can blame them? They’re six and nine. Developmentally, these are the years children spend defining their own personal brands. Mets or Yankees. Barbie or American Girl.  Mezuzah or crucifix.  Our son could barely ride a two-wheeler when he proudly declared himself “eggnogstic.” But that was before so many of his friends started going to church on Sundays or Hebrew School on Saturdays. Our daughter, meanwhile, hasn’t seen the inside of a synagogue since the day she blew out of nursery school. It’s my fault.  Two years ago, when we first left Brooklyn for the ‘burbs, I decided Josie should go to the nursery school in the temple. The reason I decided she should go to the nursery school in the temple is that it’s really close to our new house. Granted, the nursery school in the church is even closer to our new house. But the problem with the nursery school in the church is, it’s in a church.

I may only be Holiday Jewish, but there’s no way in hell I’d ever be comfortable sending my daughter to school in a church. Wait. Do Jews believe in hell? I don’t even know. See how messed up these kids are going to be? You should have seen us trying to explain to Josie why it wasn’t a good idea to wear her Mrs. Santa shirt to temple nursery school last winter.

“But I thought I’m both,” she protested.

“You are both, honey,” I replied. “It’s just that Mrs. Santa over here isn’t.”

Josie’s in kindergarten now. Thanks to her, we light the Sabbath candles every Friday night that she remembers to remind us.  Okay, they’re not really Sabbath candles. They’re votive candles from Pottery Barn. Megan’s mother gave them to us for Christmas last year.

Also thanks to Josie, we still  get the emails from her temple nursery school’s interfaith committee. I save them all, thinking one day we’ll find time to get ourselves to an interfaith meeting, and this meeting will be enlightening, and soon we will be season ticket holders at Friday night services, and thus our children will develop a strong sense of identity because they will be official interfaith children, as opposed to Holiday Both.

Then I remember something Leo said on Christmas when he was just three. “It’s impossible for reindeer to fly,” he said. “They’re quadrupeds.“ Six years later, let’s just say it’s hard to imagine dragging him to temple and expecting him to buy the one about the dude who parted the Red Sea. Or, for that matter, dragging Josie to church in her Mrs. Santa Sunday best, so she can learn the significance of that sparkly rhinestone cross necklace she put on her Chanukah list last year.

So it’s one more year of being Holiday Both. I’d like the kids to be more Holiday Jewish, but seriously, who can compete with the Christians? They’re so much more sensible with their holidays. Look at Easter. The Christians are like, “Okay, every year, we’re doing it on a Sunday. Egg hunt, chocolate bunny, bonnets, baskets, boom, we’re done.” But with Passover, it’s never the same day of the year, it always has to start at sundown (or maybe it’s sunrise), then it goes on and on for eight days and nights, then you have to blow the shofar, build a sukkah, and find costumes so your kids can dress up like Queen Esther and King Hamentashen.

Or maybe that’s Purim.  Which I’m glad I’m bringing up, because what parent’s religious identity crisis would be complete without an amusing little Purim anecdote? This year, I found out it was Purim at five p.m. in Grand Central Station. On the way to my train, I passed a Zaro’s bakery, where a guy in a baker’s hat (Zaro, I assume) was giving out free samples of hamentashen. Hamentashen, for those of you who are not Holiday Jewish, are dry little triangle cookies. But at least they’re cookies. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’re filled with prunes or apricots instead of some sensible Christian substance, like icing.  Still, I was determined. If I bring these hamentashen home to my children,  I convinced myself, they will develop a strong sense of their religious identity.

My problem was that Zaro wanted 20 bucks for a box of 12 hamentashen. I’m not here to embody negative Jewish stereotypes or anything, but that’s 19 more bucks than I was willing to spend (and 11 more hamentashen than my children would be willing to eat). Zaro refused to sell me just two, one for each kid not to eat.  But he did tip me off to a nearby tray of rugelach, which were available in single size servings. That’s the good news. The bad news is that your average rugelach looks more like a dog treat than a human cookie, not to mention how it somehow manages to be dry and soggy at the same time.  The other bad news is that rugelach are Chanukah cookies, not Passover cookies. Or possibly they’re Rosh Hashanah cookies. Or Tu Bishvat. Whatever kind of cookies they are, I bought some for Leo and Josie. They wouldn’t know the difference, I figured. After all, they’re just Holiday Both.

Long story short, they took a bite each, then spit it out into the sink. I put the rest in the freezer. I plan to defrost them in time for our fried chicken Seder. Or maybe we’ll just stuff them into their Easter baskets

Are You Suffering From Post Vacation Re-Entry Syndrome?

Take two dolphins and call me in the morning.

For parents of school-aged spawn throughout the land, this will be the second week of reality following mid-winter recess. We recessed in Florida. At least that’s where I think we recessed. As any vacation-going individual knows, once you’ve been home for two weeks, you’ve forgotten that you ever left. Your rosy vacation glow gets blotchy and scaly. And you know that laid-back, spread-the-good-energy-all-around vacation voice you had in the back of your head two weeks ago? That soothing voice that said, “Dan, you should really try taking an introductory yoga class at that place around the block when you get home?” (Well, your vacation voice probably didn’t call you Dan. That would be a coincidence though). Once you hit the two-week point of the re-entry process, that honey-toned vacation voice starts saying stuff like, “When did all this crap pile up like this?!” And, “Why is everyone in my office acting so swamped and crazy?!” And, “Can someone please explain to me how this inflatable toy dolphin got into the playroom?!”

In an effort to get our vacation groove back, I gathered the fam together last night and we did something to remind us all that, yes, we did in fact go to Florida on vacation two weeks ago. We watched the video of us at the dolphin place. Where we swam with dolphins. No shit. They came right up to us, politely extended a friendly fin, and the next thing we knew, we were holding on for a high speed ride through their dolphiny waters. It was like Wave Runners, except dolphins.

And that’s not all we did with these dolphins. When we held our arms out in a circle like the dolphin lady taught us, the dolphins swam into them so we could give them a hug. Or, more accurately, a head-hug. The heads on these things are huge. I know this for a fact because I hugged one of these dolphin heads during mid-winter recess in Florida, where I was on vacation with my family two weeks ago. At least it looked like my family on the video last night. Now I’m starting to wonder if it was really us. See what I’m talking about? Post Vacation Re-Entry Syndrome. That was my PVRS talking right there.

It wasn’t my idea to swim with the dolphins on the mid-winter break that we absolutely spent in Florida two weeks ago. It was my wife’s. When it comes to family vacations, Megan has an annoying tendency to think about what will be fun for the kids (swimming with the dolphins) instead of what will be fun for the father (room service). No disrespect to the dolphins. I have no problem with the dolphins. Some of my best friends are dolphins. You’re talking to a guy who actually makes his kids watch old school Flipper episodes on Hulu because it was my favorite show when I was their age. I also make them watch The Partridge Family on Boomerang Channel. Now stop making me talk about topics I should be saving for another blog. My point is that I like dolphins. But I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Megan on vacation two weeks ago: “I also like monkeys, but that doesn’t mean I want to climb into their cage at the Bronx Zoo and swing around the branches with them.”

Megan was right, as it turned out (for the past 20 years). Dolphins are the single most fun vacation activity ever invented. And our children liked them, too. But enough about them. Come on, little kids get to experience thrilling “firsts” every day of their lives. Riding a bike, skiing down the bunny slope, eating at Benihana of Tokyo, the list goes on. What the hell do they need vacations for? As far as I’m concerned, the number one selling point of being a kid is you get to do something brand new every day of your life. And the number one selling point of being a parent is you get to help your kids learn how to do all this new stuff, especially at Benihana of Tokyo. The number two selling point, at least for me, is re-living all this new stuff through their eyes.

When we went swimming with the dolphins two weeks ago (which we did in fact do), there was nothing my wife and I could teach them about it, and there was nothing we were re-living through their eyes. As I watched our retrospective footage last night, I suddenly realized that it was probably the first fun thing we’ve ever done as a family that was as new to us as it was to them. It was a family first.

But believe me, it’s not going to be a family last. Next year at this time, you will very likely find this family of Zevins skiing with the dolphins, or perhaps going to Disney — and/or Legoland with the dolphins, or — who knows? — maybe even inviting the dolphins to come visit our house for a change. We’ll fold down the back row of seats so they can fit their giant heads into the minivan, and we’ll road-trip with the dolphins into the city, maybe take them to see a Broadway show and have dinner. The only trick will be finding a restaurant that the dolphins and the kids can agree on. Legal Seafoods would probably work.

Or maybe we’ll just go back to Florida again. Because, thanks to the dolphins, that vacation was unforgettable. Even two weeks into my PVRS.

Look Who Andy Borowitz Chose as The 50 Funniest American Writers!

LOL!

This month, the brilliant humorist Andy Borowitz released a new book entitled The 50 Funniest American Writers According To Andy Borowitz, and guess who made the list?! Did you guess David Sedaris? You’re correct. How about Dave Barry? Right again! But guess who else Andy Borowitz included in his “anthology of humor from Mark Twain to The Onion?” It gives me great pleasure to report that Fran Lebowitz, Woody Allen, Sloan Crosley and 45 other side-splitting scribes were selected. I myself was not one of them. Though I’m sure this was simply a matter of space limitations (normally I like to blame anti-semitism but it seems like a long shot in this particular instance),  I couldn’t help but feel deflated and glum when I found out the news. “Come on, Andy Borowitz,” I deflatedly and glumly thought to myself. “You’re like my role model. Don’t you think I’m funnier than this James Thurber guy you picked? Or Dorothy Parker? I mean, what has she written lately that’s so hilarious?”

And then, I stopped beating myself up just because I am not one of the 50 funniest American writers according to Andy Borowitz.  Instead, I wiped the tears from my eye (the tears of a clown, it goes without saying), and I transformed my pain into comic gold. If there was ever a doubt in anyone’s mind that I am not one of the 50 funniest American  according to Andy Borowitz, they need to look no further than the cavalcade of comedy I have prepared below.

1). Knock knock.

“Who’s there?”

Dan.

“Dan Who?”

That’s what Andy Borowitz said.

 

2).  Why did Andy Borowitz cross the road?

To get away from Dan Zevin.

3).  “Dan who?”

       That’s what Andy Borowitz said.

 

4).   So it seems a rabbi, a nun, and a Chinaman walked into a bar.

“Read any good books lately?” the bartender asked.

The rabbi said, “ The 50 Funniest American Writers According to Andy Borowitz.” The nun said, “The 50 Funniest American Writers According to Andy Borowitz.” When it was the Chinaman’s turn, he said: “The 50 Fifty Funniest American Writers According to Andy Borowitz.”

The bartender looked surprised. “How is it that such different people from such different backgrounds can all agree on the same book?” he asked.

“Because Dan Zevin isn’t in it,” they answered in unison.

5).   When Dan Zevin sits around the house because he’s not one of the 50 funniest American writers according to Andy Borowitz, he really sits around the house because he’s not one of the 50 funniest American writers according to Andy Borowitz!

6).   Take Dan Zevin. Please!

7).  There once was a writer named Dan

       He wasn’t a humorous man

His jokes were not funny

He never made money

From the Borowitz book, he was banned.

8).  A straight man/funny man schtick:

       Straight man (played by Dan Zevin): A funny thing happened to me on the way to theater tonight!

     Funny man (played by Andy Borrowitz): That’s not funny.

9).  I just flew in from America, which is the country where I am not one of the 50 funniest writers according to Andy Borowitz, and boy are my arms tired!

10).   Q: What do you call a person with a sense of smell, a sense of taste, a sense of sight, a sense of hearing, but not a sense of humor?

A: Dan Zevin.

 

 

 

 

Why It’s Wrong For Jews to Have Christmas Trees

It’s wrong for Jews to have Christmas trees because they will be punished by God when they drive to the mall with the tree strapped to the top of their minivan.  Trust me, I know what I’m talking about here.

I committed the sin of the Christmas tree this weekend, just as I have every December since marrying my lovely shiksa decades ago. For the first few years, it was all fun and games. I’d put a bagel on top instead of a star, or a star of David instead of a star of…what is the gentile star called? Do gentile stars even have a name? I’m just going to call it the star of Christ for our purposes. One year before we had kids, not only did I remove the Star of Christ from our tree, but I replaced it with a decorative bagel upon which I inscribed an inspirational holiday message: “Jews Kick Ass.” Back then, I was all ha-ha-ha about ho-ho-ho. Now I know the truth. For Jews, getting a Christmas tree is like cheating on your taxes. Year after year, it’s possible there will be no repercussions. Then, boom, one day you get audited.

I got audited this weekend. What happened was, the whole family drove over to the VFW parking lot and picked out a tree. One of the many veterans (I’m guessing they were veterans) working there strapped it to the roof of the minivan. We all got back into the car, and just as I was about to drive us home to decorate the tree with all the ornaments (and bagels) we’ve collected through the years, Megan leaned over and whispered to me,  “Lets go get the rug.”

She is very obsessed with getting a rug for the living room by the time her parents come for Christmas. Her parents’ visits always provide a furniture deadline for her. It’s good and bad. Good because if her parents never visited, we’d probably still be using milk crates as tables (and chairs).  Bad, because going rug shopping at the Westchester Mall with two kids who thought they were about to decorate a Christmas tree is just a very, very bad plan.

“Hey kids! Wanna watch Kung Fu Panda?” I asked.

Keeping a portable DVD player in the minivan is the smartest thing I ever did that I promised myself I’d never do. By the time we got to the mall, they’d completely forgotten we bought a Christmas tree only 25 minutes earlier.

And so did I. Which is why I say this to all  Christmas Tree Jews: When you least expect it, expect to punished by God. Upon entering the Westchester Mall’s serpentine indoor parking lot, we spent the next 15 to 1,000 minutes driving further and further up the never-ending spiral ramp in search of a parking spot. As we drove higher and higher, the ceilings got lower and lower. And as the ceilings got lower and lower, the scraping sound got louder and louder.

“Do you hear a scraping sound?” I asked Megan.

“Oh my God, it must be the Christmas tree scraping against the ceiling,” she replied, accurately. We’d forgotten it was there. And as I tried to make a U-Turn and head back down the ramp to a low-altitude, high-ceiling zone in which to park the minivan, the next sound we would be hearing was an alarm. Followed by a massive, gushing torrent of water shooting straight down onto the roof of the minivan (i.e., onto the Christmas tree). The tree hit an emergency fire sprinkler.

I pulled into a small  spot in the parking lot reserved for handicapped plates, setting off another sprinkler or two on the way. Now the kids were getting nervous, proving that even the portable DVD player in the car can not keep them completely detached and silent forever. Which is why I’m totally getting the built-in kind next week.

“Don’t panic! Just watch Kung Fu Panda!,” I screamed at them. Do not panic! STOP PANICKING!”

Megan calmed them down as I exited the vehicle and crawled on the roof of the car to drag the Christmas tree off of it. Wedged between the tree and the ceiling, I’d estimate that there was about one inch of head-space before I would become decapitated. I used my car key to cut the string. The tree was pretty well stuck between the roof of the car and the ceiling, but I finally managed to drag it off the car. Then it fell onto the soaking wet floor of the lot. Did you know that the water that shoots out of emergency ceiling sprinklers is rusty and brown? Observe:

 

Figure A: Minivan roof after being punished by God

Then a Lexus started honking at me because I was now blocking traffic. Asshole.

After moving the kids’ car seats up as far as they could possibly go before their faces would be flattened against the back of the driver’s and passenger’s seat, Megan and I hoisted the tree inside the minivan. I shut the trunk, taking off a few branches in the process, and we got the hell out of there before the security staff ever had time to show up and arrest us.

“But we’re still going inside to look for rugs, though, right?” Megan asked.

“Are you serious? Look at us, we’re soaking wet.”

“But we’re here.”

Yes, we went rug shopping. No, we didn’t find a rug. But the tree looked pretty good once we got home and decorated it. Until it came crashing down. You think I’m kidding? I have half a glass snowman embedded in my palm. It’s like a shrapnel wound. When it heals, I will have a scar; a permanent reminder that Christmas trees are not meant for my people.

Next year, we get a fake one, like any real Jew would have done in the first place.