The Adventures of Coolie Coolstein: Episode 67

Coolie loves Thanksgiving. It’s his favorite holiday. He’s a thankful kind of guy but he really embraces gratitude on this day. Here’s how he puts it:

I’m so grateful for the known universe. Sure, there are the occasional issues or challenges…

Finding a look…and then a new one

Dealing with the parental units

Accidentally doing mushrooms

Neutralizing rednecks

Whether to hat or not to hat

Pondering what is this thing called “cool”

Going molten

Doing acid on purpose

Surviving the uncooling

Encounters with Shtew/The Oracle

Becoming a radish and considering immortality

Flying Jet Green

Ruining Rome

Gardening with Chauncey

Watching out for armadillos

Opening the Shop

Enduring the intercosmic cracker

Escaping the Chillsteins

Doing The Next Thing

Getting too hungry and losing his cool

Managing Mickey Mental in a jellyfish deficit

Defeating The Evil One (Yukky Yukstein)

Hurtling through time and space with Samuella Stuckup

Being the President of the US of A


Giving up the White House and living through Blue’s hissy fit

Interacting with the Ganglifavinoids and his father, DaddythebigDaddywhoseyourDaddy

Meeting the Relatives

Being “swooped”

The Book Tour

Boinging around Plaxinatinoni

Coming to terms with guilt

Whooshing to a galaxy far far away

Playing the stock market (with Brownstein’s help)

Maintaining not-knowing

Navigating a full-on identity crisis and coming out

Resorting to brown

But I’m having as much fun as the son of Mothership and DaddythebigDaddywhoseyourDaddy could possibly have. There’s Blue, she’s gorgeous and I think she’s wise too. Who really knows about that? Who am I to judge, right?

I’m thankful for Mickey. He’s my best friend and when the jellyfish are running – no one can out-think him. He’s game for everything. What a pal!

How can I begin to tell you how thankful I am for Brownstein? She’s a genuine wizard, you know! She’s magic and a total sweetheart, too. And how cute is she?

Well, I’ve got it really good. I’m thankful for my adventures. I’ve never been bored. Well, just once, and that led to him finding some time travel tea, which I am very thankful for – it’s a global unifier and a really zippy ride.

I’m grateful for Sylvie and Morris – their mishigos has added spice to life. It’s added other things too, but this is not the time to complain.

I’m thankful for horse drawn carriages. I just thought I’d throw that in. Glad that hasn’t ended. I mean, what’s more New York than a carriage ride through Central Park?

I’m thankful for the Macy’s Parade. I know I can’t speak for you, but isn’t it THE COOLEST THING EVER? I’m leaving in a few minutes to go watch them blow up the balloons. Someone told me this year there’s a Coolie Coolstein float. Could that be true?

I’m thankful cause I just heard that there’s a singer named Carrie Brownstein. Doesn’t that prove that everything is connected? And that’s really really what I’m thankful for – connection. Without that, I wouldn’t be cool – I’d be cold. Really cold.



After wishing for an end to the unseasonably warm weather for weeks, yesterday I finally got my wish. Guess what? You guessed it. I don’t like the cold. Now that’s not entirely true. What I don’t like is being encumbered. Hats, gloves, scarves, warm bulky jacket over sweater. It’s a pain in the ass, especially if subway riding is on the schedule.

Because it is unfailingly hot on the subway itself, and the platform is a crapshoot: cold in pockets and tropical in others. So, for those of us who want to operate at a regulated temperature, what is required is an endless dance of taking off and putting on.

Maybe, after six decades on the planet, I could remember this when I’m bopping around in tee shirts and flip-flops. Yeah, that’s gonna happen. The big seasonally adjusted eraser will wipe my otherwise good mind clean and I will bitch anew.



On the subway (same one). As the train pulled into the station, a totally blind woman asked aloud: “Is this West 66th Street?” A couple of people answered that it was. And then the woman asked, “Do I go right or left for the exit?” A couple more answers.

A tall, stately African American woman spoke to us all, in a voice full of righteous disdain. “Can someone guide her to the exit? You people are just rude!”

I think it’s worse than rude. As New Yorkers, we tend to be so walled off as to be inured to the real needs of the other. Blindness, which is a condition requiring continual support from the community, barely registers as a blip on most screens. This leaves us effectively heartless; we are too engaged in self-protection to let ourselves feel the natural response of compassion and brotherhood.


Once again, I must address this ongoing gender-linked issue (see: RUDE!!! Jan.26, 1015 ).

There is nothing manly about the egregious and narcissistic overuse of seating space on the subway. A rather smallish, fiftyish grey-haired man was seated on the uptown #2 train with legs akimbo. He was reading a hard-covered book, which justified (no doubt – in his mind) his equally akimbo elbows. A slender woman was standing. Rather than push her way into the three-quarters of available space to his right, she asked him politely if he would consolidate (not her word). Exuding only a profound sense of entitlement, he barely moved, as if she hadn’t spoken; as if a subject had had the audacity to ask for a favor from the king.

She sat down, unnecessarily squished. She and I and she and the woman next to me exchanged “the look” – the universal non-verbal communication from woman to woman. Loosely translated, it says: “Of course. He’s an asshole. What else would you expect?”

To change the world for the better, there would need to be some mass reverse-lobotomization for all those “boys” who are trying to compensate for their lack of maturity by being overly loud, aggressive, territorial and just plain obnoxious.

Can I get an Amen, sisters? (And you enlightened brothers, too.)


As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I always make eye contact with the dogs I encounter walking in the street. It is a rare occasion when a pooch averts their eyes. That happened yesterday. She was a limpid-eyed, brown mutt of medium size with short fur and floppy ears.

Oh, no, I thought. What’s that about? What has happened to this sweet-looking girl to shut her down, to make her averse to spontaneous contact?

Her owner was non-descript: male, youngish 30’s, unkempt hair under a knit cap, and not exuding any good cheer that I could detect. There was, in fact, a definite, “I’m a weak person who can only feel strong when I abuse those who are dependent on me” vibe.

Dogs, like people, are resilient. You have to be fairly committed – as a “master” or parent – to breaking their spirit in order to succeed. I concluded that someone had been unflaggingly cruel and unresponsive to my sad friend. As we passed each other, I felt like leaping upon the owner and giving him a few sharp smacks. I contained myself, but I’m not so sure I should be proud of that.


Observed: a German-speaking mother and a three-year-old. Mother: walking full throttle; child: short legs running/skidding; mother: not giving the child any attention beyond semi-dragging her by the hand. Would an American parent do this? Most, not on your life. And, if one did, our child-centered culture would crucify them.

What is the impact on the little minds and bodies of these divergent child-rearing approaches? I’m not reporting the results of a scientific study, but that won’t stop me from assertions of fact.

Being excessively catered to as children has a deleterious effect. Why wouldn’t a child come to expect to be carried – actually and metaphorically. This morphs into adults who are soft. Underbelly soft. Brainmush soft. Irresoluteness soft. Sure, we’ll rally in the face of something extreme. (God, I hope that’s still true.) But on an everyday basis, we tend to just let it all slide. We let El Presidente rule like a dictator in a banana republic. (Oops,I just lost half my audience…c’est la vie!) We bitch to each other, but no action accompanies that. As a matter of fact, I think our propensity for complaining – interpersonally, in any available forum: print, on air, Internet – dilutes our will to action. We settle for the loud whine and then turn on our TV or have another cocktail.

Rome burns.

Oh, just to put some specifics to this rant…

It looks like there will be a massive influx of unvetted, potentially destructive refugees from Syria in the not too distant future. Barak has “made it so.” I want to be wrong and to see the people’s representatives actually go the full distance to block this either incredibly stupid or intentionally compromising act.

But I’m not terribly hopeful.


Am I the only one with a really heightened yuk reflex? I mean, I’m on a bus and someone who appears less than freshly scrubbed gets up from a seat. I am likely to pass on the opportunity to take a load off; I’d rather stand and shift my heavy packages from hand to hand than risk the dreaded contamination of cooties.

I’m not actually talking about a genuine fear of picking up live bugs. It’s just an overdeveloped feeling of grossed-outedness at the thought of putting my cheeks where some scrofulous cheeks have dwelt. Where did this fastidiousness come from? Certainly not from my family of origin. To say there was a casual approach to housekeeping would be coming close to the truth. But I do recall always having intensified sensory responses: covering my ears or eyes when there was a loud noise or a bright light. I was always feeling it, even from a young age. This is both the gift and the curse (as most things are). I really am in touch with what’s going on in my environment. But I would often trade that knowing for some time off from being “on the job.”

Back in the good old seventies, people used to go into the sensory deprivation tank: float in a big pool of highly salted water in a dim and quiet room. There is apparently a resurgence of this extreme form of relaxing; (do the words “extreme” and “relaxing” really belong in the same sentence?) I must confess to a certain terror of turning off the see/hear/feel/smell switch. Who would I be if I weren’t hyper-aware? I think I’ll just maintain…and complain.


Let’s not get the PC police all riled up here. I am most assuredly not dissing my grandmother or anyone’s grandmother. This is a philosophical statement delivered with some raised-in-Brooklyn homespun wisdom.

The entire statement is: If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolley car. Do I have to explain what a trolley car is? Now, that just makes me feel old. Okay – here goes. Used to be, there were trains that ran on the streets of Brooklyn and elsewhere. (Everyplace other than Brooklyn can be easily reduced to “elsewhere.”) There were rails embedded in the gutters (that’s the streets – for you folks who think gutters are things that collect water or leaves around the perimeter of your roof).

Whew. This digression is making me thirsty. (Anyone get that Kramer reference?)

So, here it is. A statement of ultimate truth. You are what you are. I am what I am. We are what we are. And, especially, we are not what we are not. Most of the “ifs” and the vast majority of the “woulda’s” are just a big ole waste of mind and jaw energy.

Let’s embrace the truth of what makes us who we are, and – in that way – we will have greater access to our authentic strengths. The fantasizing, the aspiring to superhero-hood, the blowing of smoke up the skirts of anyone who will even pretend to listen…all non-productive.

This is another approach to the valuable but extremely uncomfortable issue of taking responsibility.

Sadly, in the service of our individual and collective fantasies, we retire to the inner workings of our minds and live “as if.” The actual universe doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we think; it just goes on chugging out the challenges and the opportunities and some really dastardly stuff. Let’s stop the pretense and pay attention. We are quite capable, but first, we have to tell the truth.


The Adventures of Coolie Coolstein: Episode 66

We all have been. But this is a time (he believes) to stop being sad and get angry. Coolie says: Now is not the time to be cool!

He’s been talking to the powers that be – and by that I mean his real parents, Mothership and DaddythebigDaddywhoseyourDaddy. Might they offer any help or guidance so that the good guys can have a little edge in this game (I mean war)?

Here’s what they said…

Mothership: You have to step back out onto the world stage, son. You’ve had some fun with your look. I get it. I’ve had a look myself – back in the day. But there are more important things for you to do, and you’ll be more able to do them if you put on some flat shoes and take your color palette down a notch or two.

Coolie looked chagrined and resistant simultaneously (not an easy chord to strike). But, he heaved a sigh and slipped into the space she had identified.

Okay. I’m ready. I’m gonna do whatever I have to do to make my corner of the known universe user-friendly.

DaddythebigDaddywhoseyourDaddy: I’m proud of you, my boy. As I have done on a galactic plane, so you shall do on a planetary one. Follow in my light beams and sweep away the darkness which fights to extinguish the good of your human brothers and sisters. And remember all the useful lessons Sylvie and Morris taught you, too (except the one about acting like a cat up a tree under duress); especially: “Don’t put too much salt in the chicken soup.”

Having lived through eons of change (both the progressive and regressive kinds) the parental units were in a position to offer perspective. Here’s what they recommended:

Make up the biggest batch of time warp tea you’ve ever prepared. Crank out about two million tee-shirts. You need to go out into the field, press the flesh, talk to the folks, give them some tea and a tee shirt. (That will create a global connectivity.) Take your crew along; they can be trusted and, really, who can resist Blue? Brownstein will bring the magic and Mickey will access the deep craziness that each person tries to deny (but which only festers when it’s not acknowledged).

You’re on a mission from…well, we’d like to say God, but that would just sound braggadocious.

There was the blur and the swirl and then the mist. Out of which came a new beginning. Coolie was ready and he had the goods. Boy did we all need some goods.


Alors! Civilized People of the World

Saturday, in the wake of Friday’s terror in Paris, I attended the Metropolitan Opera. It was to have been a lovely cultural event, to be shared with my daughter and grandson. And, in truth, it was that – but that was not the most salient part of the experience.

As soon as we all were seated, a hush came over the sold-out crowd. It was apparent that all the singers had quietly assembled on stage and, without any announcement (none was necessary), the audience joined some of the best voices in the world, led by Placido Domingo – who was also leading the orchestra. Together we sang La Marseillaise. We all stood. Those who did not know the words were assisted by an insert into the program. As one we sang, our hearts full, tears streaming down cheeks. When it was done, shouts of VIVE LA FRANCE! catapulted across the great Met space.

These were moments of the true spirit of humanity, in contrast to the heart-rending moments of the previous day’s descent into bestiality. We must be our better selves. And we must fight and do whatever we are called upon to do, in order to insure that the forces of evil do not prevail.

Allons! Vive l’humanité.


The Adventures of Coolie Coolstein: Episode 65

Sometimes there’s nowhere to go but up; sometimes there’s nowhere to go but down. Occasionally, there’s nowhere to go but sideways.

Coolie had done it all and then some. He was famous, he was beloved, he was powerful, he was a man of the people. He was bored. And bored was brown, very brown. And (just like the title says) Coolie doesn’t do brown. He was at a loss. And there was quite a fuss in the interval around him. What I mean by that is there was a disturbance in the force.

He began to roam. Aimlessly at first – which made Mickey Mental’s stomach hurt. Then Brownstein, ever the philosopher, was…well, philosophical.

“He just going through something,” said the sage one.

“But-t-t-t-t-t!!???” sputtered Coolie’s friend (who was a little short on jellyfish – it always happens in the Autumn).

Brownstein did a bit of psycho-management (that is, keeping Mickey from going psycho). Then he mused (he was a world-class muser), “I wonder if Brown….”

“Yes! What? Huh? OMG.” Mickey was the very definition of discombobulated.

“He’s done it all, as we know. And he’s resisting the brown. Which may very well be all that’s left.”

“Oh, no! What should we do?”

“I think we need to get Blue’s input. She is, after all, the colorist.”

As luck would have it, Blue was having her nails done, so she was easy to find. When she entered a salon, everyone fell all over her; she was startling in her extreme prettiness and she would tolerate nothing less. She operated out of a deep sense of entitlement and more than a soupçon of self-indulgence. Okay, she was a natural born narcissist. So, you want to make something out of that?

Mickey flanked Brownstein as they entered “The No Chip Zone,” (formerly called: “Nail Me To The Cross But Make Sure The Manicure Is Fresh.” For some reason, there had been a strong reaction to that name in the neighborhood – if the throwing of a pipe bomb is your definition of “strong.”}

Even Brownstein, the great savoir and wisedog, did “kiss-kiss” with Blue. (She would have been deeply hurt, had she failed to do so.)

“We have come to consult with you about Coolie.”

Blue turned just a smidge from the magazine she was leafing through with one hand, and said, “Of course, you have my full attention.”

The nature of the conundrum was made clear. She paused in her page turning and put a shapely finger to her lips. She closed her eyes. She wasn’t thinking, but she knew how to play to the audience. She heard the manicurist saying something to one of the other girls. What she actually said was “do you see the silly girl” in Korean, but Blue believed she was being admired. That narcissism does come in handy.

“Well,” Blue offered, using the look she had perfected. She actually de-focused her eyes, but it was always interpreted as deep thought. She waited. She never had to wait long. The anxiety her silence created caused others to fill in the blanks.

Mickey, unable to handle the stress, begged Brownstein to “tell us what to do.”

Pulling herself up to her full hind-legs height of eighteen inches, she ahem-ed and snortled a bit.

“It is often the case that the very thing we want the least is the thing we need the most.” (She was sooooo wise.)

“Coolie must wear brown. It is his bridge to the next chapter.”

Blue and Mickey took a beat and then locked eyes.

“Brown,” she said.

“Shoes,” he said.

And so the cobbler was sent for. (Don’t you have a cobbler?) And the three powwowed for about an hour and a half. Finally, plans were in place for the perfect pair of brown shoes. Shoes that would complete the Coolstein sensibility – not to mention, look.

Soon the next chapter would be upon them.