Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No Thank You For Your Donation

Weeks later, I remain grateful that a charity accepted my donation of generic-brand toilet paper. It really was the worst toilet paper I've ever used. I can't stress that enough. My quality of life improved dramatically once it was out of my life.

I've made other donations to other organizations since then, none as urgent as that one was, but donations that were also necessary. I recently moved, and to make the transition as easy on myself as I could I decided to part with some stuff I'd owned for a long time and had outlived its usefulness to me.

A couple of the items weren't popular with the local charities. How any non-profit could turn down my used VHS copy of Jerry Maguire is beyond me. Cuba Gooding, Jr. won an Oscar for that movie. You're telling me that not one person in New York City would want to relive his performance as it was intended to be watched, on a VCR? Highly doubtful.

This tape can cost up to $2.99 on eBay, and I was giving it away for free.
How can anyone reject such an amazing offer?

Or how about my copy of Street Fighter II for the PC? Arguably the greatest fighting game of all time. And anyone can play it. All you need is a CD-ROM, six megabytes of hard drive space and DOS 3.3 or higher.

I had an especially difficult time finding an organization willing to take my TV. It was one of those tube sets that are wide and heavy. Having carried that TV around my old apartment, I can say I know exactly how the athletes in the World's Strongest Man events must feel when they're competing. You should've seen my facial expression. It was not unlike the expression I made when I was using the generic-brand toilet paper.

I should've hired him to take away my TV.

I eventually found a thrift shop that accepted these items. I was relieved, partly because it was one less thing to worry about before the move, and partly because I still feel a little dejected from this one time when I offered to make a generous donation to charity and was turned down.

Years ago, I published a book titled Shaneanigans. It's no longer available in print, so, fortunately for you, you won't find any cheap plugs for it here. (Though if you are interested, you can read this post about Scantron tests and doctor visits, which is loosely adapted from a chapter in the book.)

My intention was to donate the proceeds from the sales of Shaneanigans to charity. I'd poured years of effort into the book, and I wanted to see something positive come of it, beyond the personal satisfaction I'd feel as a newly published author. Why couldn't it entertain readers and raise money for a worthy cause? That was my goal. That is what I wanted to happen.

There was one small problem I did not foresee: the non-profit I contacted wanted nothing to do with me. I reached out to a charity that I've long supported to gauge its interest in my idea. All I asked was that I be able to openly advertise to readers that all profits from the sales of Shaneanigans would go directly to the organization.

I followed its instructions to submit a formal marketing plan and eagerly awaited a response. Days later, I received an answer: No.

Let me say that the representative who emailed me was very nice about it, explaining that my book did not fit the organization's strategy. Which made perfect sense: I was just a blogger sharing my weird life experiences. What about that says "charity"?

Still, I was caught off-guard. Here I was, offering to raise money and seeking no assistance in return, aside from the use of the non-profit's name and perhaps its logo. And that was strictly forbidden, under threat of legal action. Legal action! If being charitable with my book meant the possibility of being sued, I wanted no part of it.

I heard the organization's message loud and clear: Yes, we could really use money to help those in need and make the world a better place...but we're not that desperate.

Still, the experience obviously hasn't deterred me from being a giving person. While I haven't made a financial donation to charity since then, I am more than happy to hand over the rest of my VHS collection to any thrift shop.

(I'm just kidding. I've made plenty of financial donations to charity since then. But I really do have VHS tapes that are available.)

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter at @myemptythoughts for more of my comedy.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The 2017 Golden Globes Opening Monologue You Won't See

With the Golden Globe Awards just a couple of days away, I've brushed off my joke-writing skills and my knowledge of pop culture to write an opening monologue for the ceremony.

A pretend opening monologue, of course. I'm certain the host for the evening, Jimmy Fallon, has much better material to work with than what you'll read below.

Regardless, creating an award-show monologue -- just me and my keyboard, both lying on the couch -- and sharing it with all of you has become one of my favorite things about this blog. I'm excited to be able to do it for the fourth consecutive year. (You can read my monologues for 2014, 2015 and 2016 here, here and here.)

So, without further adieu, I proudly present to you, live from the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, me:

"Hello, and welcome to the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Tonight we honor the best in movies and television, as voted on by the Russian government.

"It's no secret that 2016 was a challenging year for all of us. We were divided as a nation. So much tension in this country. We were presented with two polarizing figures and forced to choose. Who could we most trust to lead us going forward? Were you Team Captain America or Team Iron Man? Difficult decision.

"Captain America: Civil War was a great superhero movie. Without question. But I still can't shake the feeling that it was just an elaborate setup for the sequel, 'Captain America: Reconstruction.'

"Lot of conflict in the entertainment world lately. Captain America v. Iron Man. Batman v. Superman. The People v. O.J. Simpson. The People v. The New Ben-Hur. Not a good idea to remake a classic movie that won 11 Oscars, as it turns out.

"But this was the year for superhero comebacks. Ben Affleck, who was Daredevil in a critically panned movie nearly 15 years ago, is now Batman. Ryan Reynolds, former Green Lantern, a nominee tonight for Deadpool. So there's hope yet for all 10 members of the Suicide Squad.

"Will Smith was in Suicide Squad. He played Deadshot, the assassin with a deadly and accurate aim.

"You may not have realized this, but this was his inspiration for the character.

"Meryl Streep is here. She's a nominee for Florence Foster Jenkins. This is her 30th Golden Globe nomination. This is a real comeback story. Prior to this year she hadn't been nominated for a Golden Globe since 2015. She took off 2016 to find herself. And now here she is. Welcome back, Meryl.

"Earlier today I was looking at a list of the highest-grossing movies of the year. Did you know that three of the top five films featured a cast of CGI-animated animals? It really goes to show how dispensable all of you are. And yet you're the ones getting awards, not the animals! It's not right.

"I don't want to shortchange the TV shows represented here tonight. Stranger Things is up for some awards. Very scary show. Didn't turn out the way I thought it would. Every time a wall broke I'd get nervous that the Kool-Aid Man would kidnap one of the kids. Don't let his wide smile fool you. Oh yeah!

"Let's start the show. We have such an exciting night ahead. A select few of you will have the honor of taking home a Golden Globe, having your IMDb page updated, and seeing your name placed in bold on winners' lists published on hundreds of websites around the world. The rest of you will leave here with full knowledge that the next three hours will have been a complete and utter waste of your time. I'm ready."

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter at @myemptythoughts for more of my comedy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Story Of The Worst Toilet Paper I've Ever Used

Never buy generic-brand toilet paper. That is the one lesson I'm carrying with me into the new year.

In mid-November, I was shopping at a nearby drugstore that was advertising a sale on toilet paper. It was the store's brand, and it was significantly cheaper than the mainstream names we're all familiar with: Charmin, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Cottonelle, Scott. You've used those brands. I've used those brands. We're all comfortable with those brands. 

This time, I chose differently. I chose the store brand. It was generic in so many ways. The name on the packaging wasn't in a large, friendly font. The plastic wrapping wasn't especially colorful. It didn't have illustrations of an infant or a brown bear cuddling with toilet paper.

If you ever come face to face with a bear, toss it a roll of Charmin and it will leave you alone.

But it was cost-effective, which, in that moment, was good enough for me. I picked up a package of 12 rolls and carried it to my apartment. (Carrying toilet paper in New York City is nearly as challenging as carrying boxes of cereal.) I ripped open the wrapping, removed one of the rolls, inserted it into the dispenser in my bathroom, and stored the remaining rolls in my closet.

As it happened, my first opportunity to test out my new toilet paper came rather quickly. Let me tell you, it was the most harrowing toilet paper experience of my life. I say that without the slightest hint of exaggeration. I've used public bathrooms at bus stations. I've used public bathrooms at rest stops. I've used a portable toilet in the middle of a field at an outdoor music festival. This toilet paper was the worst.

It wasn't soft. It wasn't absorbent. It wasn't durable. It was torture. There's no way a bear would cuddle with this brand of toilet paper. 

It was a struggle, but somehow, someway I was able to make it off the toilet. To be stranded in a bathroom, with a worthless roll of toilet paper and little else, really tested my resolve. I felt a little like Bear Grylls. Who, I am certain, would also never cuddle with this brand of toilet paper.

A bear and a Bear. No sign of drugstore-brand toilet paper. 

The toilet paper could not stay in my home. I had to get rid of it, all of it: the roll on the dispenser and the 11 rolls in the closet. One thousand sheets per unused roll. That's an awful lot of awful toilet paper.

What exactly was I supposed to do with the rolls, though? Return them? I couldn't; the packaging was torn. Throw them out? That wasn't my preference. I didn't want to waste them. I first wanted to see if there was anyone who could make use of the toilet paper, even toilet paper as shoddy as this one was.

I had an idea. I brought the package to the office of a non-profit located around the corner from me. I knew it accepted monetary donations, but I wasn't sure if it accepted goods, like, say, thousands and thousands of sheets of low-grade TP. It was worth checking out.

Turns out, the organization does accept thousands and thousands of sheets of low-grade TP. I handed over all of the rolls to a volunteer, who seemed grateful for the donation. I have to say, it was very rewarding to help out a non-profit by giving it toilet paper, just as I'm sure it was very rewarding for the non-profit to help me out by taking my toilet paper.

The donation, by the way, took place on my birthday. I turned 36 and I celebrated the occasion by delivering 11 rolls of generic-brand toilet paper. It was the most memorable birthday I've had in a while. 

It won't happen again this year, though. For my 37th birthday, I'm sticking with bear-approved toilet paper.

Like what you read? Follow me on Twitter at @myemptythoughts for more of my comedy.