Monday, March 29, 2004


"Sing us a song, you’re the piano man/Sing us a song tonight/ Cuz we’re all in the mood for a melody and you’ve got us feeling all right."

That Billy Joel CD in your room that you "just happen to have…" You "must have gotten it for free," or "it’s probably [your] brother’s"…or worse, your "dad’s" Well, that album will never inspire Thom Yorke, Wayne Coyne, or Jack White. It will never be appropriated by the hipsteratti like the respective music of Abba, Kiss and Rush. In fact, the only crowd Billy Joel seems to be attracting nowadays are the fans of the Broadway show, Moving Out, a modern dance performance, which are three words as appealing as "triple bypass surgery."

Moreover, on occasion, I find myself hiding my admiration for all things Joel, telling my peers that yes, I used to love him, but I also used to wear diapers. We grow out of some things. It is just part of the maturation process. We aspire to sophistication.

However, unlike the aforementioned artists found in my ever-increasing record collection, Joel will still touch me in ways that Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, or the White Stripes cannot.
Whenever I put his music on, whenever I hear the twinkling ivory keys on the opening of "Piano Man," I am at once at ease. Because Billy Joel is that piano man, the one whose microphone smells like a beer. And despite my place in life, despite how pretentious the files on my iPod may be, Billy Joel will always have me feeling all right.


"Don’t go changing to try and please me. You never let me down before. I don’t imagine you’re too familiar and I don’t see you anymore." –Just The Way You Are, The Stranger

If Billy Joel had not taken writing credits for those lyrics, I would have sworn my mother wrote them. Most see the aforementioned lyrical sample as a sincere love declaration from a man to a woman, to take the good or the bad, whatever she had to offer. I, on the other hand, see it as a mother giving a guilt trip to her son. Surely this is what Joel meant. "I just want someone I can talk to…" But Mom, you might say back, I’m can’t talk now. I have a friend over. OK, she says back, "I love you just the way you are" and then she hangs up. And you feel guilty as hell.

It’s no weird coincidence that despite his unshakeable uncoolness, the Jewish people, en masse, relate so much to Billy Joel. His songs encapsulate just about every character trait of our stereotypical portrayals. From the paranoia that everyone is Anti-Semitic and out to get us ("…everyone is so untrue…all I want is someone to believe" -Honesty) to the self-consciousness of being accepted and assimilating successfully ("whattsa’ matter with the clothes I’m wearing? …whattsa’ matter with the car I’m driving?"-It’s Still Rock N’ Roll To Me). If there was anyone who could understand what it was like to be an adolescent Yeshiva student ("Pressure"), it was Mister William Martin Joel. As I used to sit in the backseat of my father’s car on the way to school, I lived the lyrics. The anxiety in my head coupled with the lyrics of "should I try to be a straight "A" student? If you are, then you think too much." Joel was the Talmud and I was his most fervent student.

Moreover, Billy Joel is a mentsch. He has never alienated his fans with a cutting-edge experimental album. He doesn’t want to be a bother, he doesn’t want you to go out of your way. If you’re coming by, then feel free to say hello for once. Show your face.
Incredibly, throughout my life’s experiences, I have found Billy Joel’s music always appropriate regardless of the scenario. Even at times, when I thought I was "too cool" to listen to The Stranger or rock out to Glass Houses, his music reminded me that I am Jewish-cool, not Goyish-cool and that I should forget about ever being an action hero in the movies (name one…and Leonard Nimoy doesn’t count).

In high school, when frustrated with family members, I reveled in my angst along with "My Life," not with my thrash heavy Iron Maiden tapes. "I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life" – how many times have we felt the need to say that to our parents? Its no wonder Braid, a seminal punk band, covered this song because it truly is a punk song in its sentiments.

How uncanny that the lyrical content of "Only the Good Die Young" captures the complacency in Jewish education: "well, they showed you a statue and told you to pray, built you a temple and locked you away…they didn’t give you quite enough information." Right on! Now this guy really understands you.

Even on occasion, Joel will resolve global issues, standing up and defending the Jews against the finger pointing of Anti-Semitism. As Jonathan Rosen astutely pointed out in a New York Times Magazine article, the subtle persecution is coming around again. Once again, we are being blamed for the world’s woes and nobody is standing up publicly. Well, "we didn’t start the fire. It was always burning as the world was turning." And in response to all the other untruths, Joel, once again steps up to the podium, and responds on the behalf of our nation: "I am an innocent man. Oh, yes I am." I think the ADL has found their spokesman.

But weighty matters aside, when I surveyed my male friends, I found that they loved him because "he’s short and not very good looking but he still gets the hot tall girls every Jewish guy is dreaming of." And one of those hot, tall girls was model Christie Brinkley, to whom Joel was married for nearly ten years. In fact, many of the songs on An Innocent Man were dedicated to her, including the song "Christie Lee" which I remember bringing me great disappointment. In the past, he had sung about "Laura" and "Brenda," two nice girls that I probably went to high school with. Now he had written a paean to a woman, who could never be confused for being Jewish, even if she wore a yarmulke. Had the epitome of shleppers let me down and confirmed that the Semitic persuasion needed to look outside of our tribe for Ms. Right? Before all hope was lost, Joel had redeemed himself and did what a typical Jewish parent from Long Island would have done: he named his daughter "Alexis," a perfectly Waspy name.

Despite his commercial success, Joel remained a regular guy. With tremendous flair, he could play both sides of the coin, identifying with the rebellious child while simultaneously, playing the role of the sage parent. He, like the patriarchs and matriarchs, dispenses his knowledge but wastes no time on explanations. "Don’t wait for answers, don’t talk to strangers. Don’t ask me why." With Joel, it was nothing more that "a matter of trust" and knowing Jewish parents, they pine for the trust of their children. How many times have you heard your parents say, trust me here because "I’ve lived long enough to have learned…"


"And if my silence made you leave, then that will be my worst mistake…so I will choose to be with you/that’s if the choice was mine to make…" – "And So It Goes," Storm Front

It’s been eleven years since Billy Joel has sworn off making pop music. While I can’t say that I am desperate for him to release new material, I feel saddened for today’s generation of eager listeners who are missing out on Joel’s arguable genius.
Some bands or artists are discovered through commercials, soundtracks or name dropping in interviews but Joel will never be that fortunate. Volkswagen will never approach him to sell cars and Cameron Crowe will never consider him for his soundtracks. I sometimes find myself wondering whether in the years to come if Joel will fade away into obscurity. It’s quite possible that he will.

But as far as I am concerned, that will never happen. Because as long as there is cool and uncool, for as long as there is the dismissive smugness and the earnest appreciation of real…for as long as there is the piano, there will always be the man sitting behind it, singing a melody and making me feel all right.

Friday, March 26, 2004


"Wow, won't people at work just go crazy over my vintage ruffled white tuxedo shirt tucked into my stoned-washed jeans...if I don't get the promotion today, I never will."

- the guy I just saw in the elevator; his thought process at 8:33 this morning

I haven't showered today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


"I'll be the grapes fermented,
Bottled and served with the table set in my finest suit
Like a perfect gentlemen
I'll be the fire escape that's bolted to the ancient brick
Where you will sit and contemplate your day

I'll be the phonograph that plays your favorite
Albums back as your lying there drifting off to sleep...
I'll be the platform shoes and undo what heredity's done to you...
You won't have to strain to look into my eyes
I'll be your winter coat buttoned and zippedstraight to the throat
With the collar up so you won't catch a cold

I want to take you far from the cynics in this town
And kiss you on the mouth
We'll cut out bodies free from the tethers of this scene,
Start a brand new colony
Where everything will change,
We'll give ourselves new names (identities erased)
The sun will hear the grounds
Under our bare feet in this brand new colony
Everything will change."

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Check it, peeps. By yours truly.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Today, my job is to respond to reader mail emailed to Real Simple Magazine (will this baseball game of life never cease to throw me curveballs?). Below is a sampling of the responses I have written to actual letters. I am not making any of this up. I swear.

Dear Mike,
Thank you for writing us. Well, Mike, we are proud to produce a magazine that so many women and men can enjoy and use. The idea of simplifying everyday tasks, introducing helpful tips and featuring beautiful photographs appeals to a very general audience. Though we are a women's magazine. Granted we're not like every other one on the newsstand but nevertheless, our readers are concerned about great hair, makeovers and being working mothers. While some of our content is genderless, we still have to appeal to the overwhelming majority of women readers.

We encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions with us, and hope that you keep on giving Real Simple a chance, if you've found something intriguing about it initially.
Your interest and continued support is very much appreciated.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Ashley,
Thanks for taking the time to write us about the Ouija Board photo and the "dangerous implication along with playing this game." We love to hear from our readers on how we're doing and what we can do to make Real Simple better. You can be sure that the Editor takes your opinion seriously. And please keep in mind that it is never the intent of the staff or our writers to offend our readers.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Amy,
Thank you for writing us. You are right to notice that Real Simple as our title is not grammatically correct. Although, we chose to emphasize the magazine's focus on the real and the simple, so we decided to go with the colloquial title over the strictly correct one.

Your comments mean a lot to us and we hope that you enjoy the magazine.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Frank,
We are sorry that you will no longer be reading Real Simple. We understand your complaint on our growing number of ad pages, but it is necessary in order to have sufficient and valuable editorial pages. While you did point out that only 21 pages of our pages (including pictures) were of any informative value, we are still very proud of our content. In fact, we counted 109 pages of informative content that a majority of our subscribers feel very passionately about. We only know this because of the praise that keeps coming in.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Anne,
Thank you for sharing your comments with us regarding "Your Words" (Feb, 2004). We apologize if the comment offended you but we'd like to think Ms. Sullivan's "hideous" was in reference to the "green and red,' and not the "Swiss." We at Real Simple take great pride in our respective heritages and would never do anything to belittle those of others.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Lonnie,
We are sorry if the Ralph Lauren ad may have offended you. We understand your complaint but as you know, advertisers are necessary in order to have sufficient and valuable editorial pages. Even if they are inappropriate advertisers.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Meira,
Thank you for sharing your comments with us regarding O. Henry's 'The Gift of the Magi." It is no doubt a classic.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Dawn,
Thank you for sharing your comments with us regarding "Escape Your Haircut Rut" in the Feb, 2004 issue. We, too, agree that curls are beautiful but in Hillary Hull's specific case, our stylist felt that cutting her curls (and leaving some behind) was the best option for her.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Judy,
Thank you for sharing your comments with us on "What's The Worst Thing That Could Happen If You Eat a Rare Hamburger." We appreciate hearing from our readers, and we are pleased that you took the time to write to us. For the sake of brevity, though, we only referred to the common miscomfort of food poisoning ("...several days in bed"), instead of citing specific cases like the e.coli outbreak of '93.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Sabrina,
Thank you for sharing your comments with us and we're so sorry to hear about the collapsing clementine snowmen (Dec, 2003). How truly disappointing indeed.

All the best,
The Editors

Dear Michelle,
Thank you for your letter regarding the August story “What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen If…” We have received a great number of passionate reader letters about the breast-feeding issue. This came as no surprise to us as it generated strong opinions among the editors as well. Ultimately, everyone on staff agreed that breast-feeding is always better than not breast-feeding (and in the article we clearly outline the benefits) but also recognized that not every mother is capable of nursing for the 12 months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are women who are forced go back to work after 8 weeks of unpaid maternity leave and don’t have private offices or convenient, discreet stations for pumping. There are women who suffer from infections during breastfeeding, making nursing unpleasant and painful, and ultimately interfering with the enjoyment of their babies. This article was for the benefit of those women, who try their hardest to do the right thing, but are defeated by circumstance and subsequently saddled by guilt.

But one thing is for certain: it is never appropriate to breast-feed in public expecially on the subway.

All the best,
The Editors

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Monday, March 08, 2004


There was a girl in high school--let's call her "S."--who I was pretty close with, and she would always say "I love you." To friends. To family. Even casually, to acquaintances. S.'s "I love you" were three words that were neither very selective nor prejudiced. They went where they were told...and in this case, that was everywhere.

I remember once saying to her, how powerful those three words are and if she ever thought about that potency (it's frequency in her vocabulary was almost a joke in our circle of friends). I also asked her if she thought about the friends on the receiving end of her declaration of affection. If she had considered what they thought about it. Did they hear her "I love you" as a "see ya' later," or "you're the best?"
She said that she had not thought about it. After all, they were words that were easy to say, she argued. Why not say just them?
Because, I said back, if we are constantly conjuring love, then perhaps, it will become trite and dull. Perhaps, the more we think we feel it, the harder it will be to actually feel.
She naively responded, well, look, I need to keep in practice.

Its years later. To me, "love" is still a complex and holy topic. It's a heavy something weighed in tons. It's a bully of a word that intimidates, rather than frightens. It's near enough that I can see it if I squint but far enough that I may never catch up to it if I decided to chase.

Love is something I have yet to truly experience. I mean, I love my family and I love the people who are close to me but something tells me that love, in the context of true love, of a significant other, is an incomparable and invaluable experience. Yes, that reeks of cliche but, truly, this emotion, this sentiment, inspires almost everything we do. As artists (eye-roll if you must), we are always inspired by love.
The thing that frustrates me is that most, including myself, are busy seeking it out and we place so much of an intense importance on it...that perhaps we are preventing ourselves from truly finding it. Our expectations are so high. Can we ever meet them?

But years later, I think that my protectiveness of the L word has backfired on me. I don't know. Maybe if I had used it more, it would have been easily accessible. Maybe I wouldn't feel as if this single city was a DMV, of sorts. Way too complicated for no reason.

Oh, and S.? Well, she's married and has two kids.

Friday, March 05, 2004


Me: Hey, Mandy.
Mandy: Hiya, Arye. Good to see you.
Me: Yeah... so, what do you want to do?
Mandy: I don't know. What are you in the mood for?
Me: Chinese? Sushi? Pizza?
Mandy: Hmmm....not pizza. That's for sure.
Me: Mandy, you seem a bit distracted. Is everything ok?
Mandy: Yeah, everything is great.
Me: Are you sure? You know, you didn't break up with Andy not too long ago. I understand if things are still hard....
Mandy: Gosh, Arye, I mean...he is a world renowned tennis star. And you're just a freelance writer. Is it wrong if I still think about him?
Me: No, not at all. You know, I can play tennis well.
Mandy: Can you? Like professional? I can hook you up. Get you into the game. Wow, get you a contract. Your own sneaker. Posters. A Nike endorsement. The works.
Me: Mandy, I would do that for you but I am not Andy. You must accept that. Besides, we haven't chosen a place to eat yet.
Mandy: You're right. I'm being silly. I should accept you for what you are. Heck, I should just probably marry you.
Me: Whoa. Mandy, this is only our third date. We should learn things about each other first. Like our respective favorite movies. What our moms are like...our ice cream toppings preference.
Mandy: Rainbow sprinkles. Now, let's get to a chapel.
Me: How about sushi? I know this great little place in...
Mandy: Do you buy bottled water?
Me: Yeah.
Mandy: Why?
Me: How about hamburgers?
Mandy: Medium rare.
Me: Huh?
Mandy: Oh my gosh. Look who's here!
Britney: Hey MANDY!
Mandy: Britney! What is up, girl?
Me: You guys know each other?
Britney: Hey, Arye.
Mandy: You know Britney?
Me: Yeah.
Britney: We dated for a little while. He broke my heart. You dawg!
Me: know.
Mandy: Oh golly, is he going to do the same to me? I don't think I could handle that after my break-up with Andy.
Britney: Why do you think I got married? To get over Arye.
Me: Ladies, please. C'mon. This sort of talk is so unnecessary. I think you're both amazing.
Mandy: Wait, hold on a second there, Mr. Dworken. Are you dumping me front of Britney?
Me: No, no, no. It's all good. We're cool...I thought you pop stars were like all enemies.
Britney: Nah, we all love one another. We're the only ones that can relate to each other's vacuous personalities.
Mandy: OH GOSH. You will never believe this!
Mandy and Britney: CHRISTINA!
Christina: 'Sup, girls? How my sistas doin'? Awww yeah.
Mandy: Pretty good.
Britney: Chillin.'
Christina: Hey, Arye.
Mandy and Britney: WHA?
Me: Hey, Christina....yes, we dated too.
Mandy: Look at you.
Britney: You dawg!
Christina: Where you guys going? I was just cruisin' around, lookin' for sometin' to do, yo.
Mandy: Christina, your ghetto talk is becoming so much more convincing. Word up, dawg!
Britney: [giggle]
Me: I'm really hungry and Mandy and I are on a date. We're going to get burgers.
Britney: Can we come?
Christina: Yeah, can we?
Mandy: Yes, yes, yes. You must come with us. Oh my, this will be so so so much fun.
Me: Fine. But let's go before we run into anyone else.
[Mandy, Christina, Britney and Arye walk away]
Janet Jackson: Yo! Guys, wait up.

Thursday, March 04, 2004


1 PS - the Books 00:55
2 Things Are Getting Better- N.E.R.D. 04:15
3 Callin' Out - Lyrics Born 03:34
4 A Minor Incident - Badly Drawn Boy 03:44
5 '39 - Queen 03:30
6 Float On - Modest Mouse 03:28
7 The Rat - the Walkmen 04:22
8 Maps- Yeah Yeah Yeahs 03:39
9 Boys, You Won't - the Wrens 04:29
10 Walk Unafraid - R.E.M. 04:30
11 Brand New Colony - the Postal Service 04:12
12 Family Business - Kanye West 04:37
13 Pictures Of You - the Cure 04:44
14 Not A Job - Elbow 04:24
15 If I Ever Feel Better - Pheonix 04:24
16 Good Things - Rival Schools 03:42
17 Dear - Burning Airlines 02:31
18 Beautiful - Clem Snide 03:53
19 Mr. Blue Sky - Electric Light Orchestra 05:05
20 Holding My Own - the Darkness 04:56

If you want a copy, email me.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


I have been thinking about my doormen a great deal.

I imagine that life is not so easy when it is your job to open doors for people that are going places while paradoxically, you are stuck in a hallway, wearing a uniform. The people come and go. You are left there to wonder where they are going.

Recently I have noticed how the inhabitants of my building treat them. I focus a great deal on their human interaction. Some people say "hello." Some ignore them. Some sheepishly walk by knowing that they do not deserve to have someone open the door for them. Some ask a question and actually wait for the answer.

I just spoke to Harry. He is working the 11PM-7AM shift. He told me his name is "Hadjar" in Albanian which means "Lion." I told him that. coincidentally, my name in Hebrew means "Lion." Harry laughed in his distinct modest laugh that begs not to disturb. What a small world, he said.
Indeed. Indeed.
I left him and said, "good night." He said, good night, sir.
I feel silly when he says that. When I was little, I had a hard time calling my parents' friends by their first names. Still do.
But he knows that some people are so petty that they would complain if they did not get the respect that they secretly coveted. I wonder some times how he came from Albania with a law degree to find that his law degree was now only worth the paper it was printed on...if that much. Asa is the door man on Saturday night. He once told me that he was an economist in Albania. His wife was a dentist. Now he is a doorman and she--his wife--is going back to school.

I notice people walking in and out of the building without saying a word to Asa, to Harry. It's quite possible that those people are lawyers and dentists and economists. If only they knew how much they had in common with their doormen...

I'm not sure why interaction has been on my mind so much recently. Maybe it's because we live in a time when so little of it is happening. I sometimes think about what my life would have been like if I had not had a conversation with so-and-so. Everything would be so completely different. It's a pretty incredible concept to grasp--a few sentences that you say can change the course of someone's life forever. Dramatic? Perhaps. Accurate? Very much so.

It's been a little over a year since I have begun this blog. I cannot begin to tell you how meaningful it is to me when people write and give me criticism and feedback. Heck, the fact that people read just blows my mind. But every time I get an email, I fall just a little bit in love with everything. I can't believe how time has passed, how much babble I've contributed to the web. And every day, I still feel progressively more insecure about what I am doing, about my writing. I don't know if it's right or if I am good or many "ifs." But you make me feel better about it.

I was talking to Harry before about how hard it is to be a doorman. He said, though, that people like me made it easier.
I blushed. I was flattered.
He told me that I actually spoke to him, had real conversations with him that surpassed the superficial.
And at that moment, it struck me that there are so many miserable people in life who would be better off if they had just said hello to Harry.