David Sedaris has asked Off-Ramp commentator Dylan Brody to join him on stage at the Pasadena Civic Center Nov. 15 and perform one of his stories. Dylan has accepted. And with any luck, Dylan will soon be telling "Morning Edition" listeners how he worked as an elf at Macy's. To celebrate, we present a story in which Dylan torments his innocent neighbor.
I live at the confluence of the mighty 118 and the majestic 210. It’s not a crap neighborhood, but I think of it as crap neighborhood adjacent. I own a small townhouse that I share with Sir Corwin, the Beautiful Dog-faced Dog; Lord Buckley Sweetlips, Greatest of All Dane Mutts (The Dinosaur Slaying Dog); and my lovely wife, whose name escapes me at the moment.
I walk the dogs outside the complex where my neighbors have actual houses with lawns. I’m a good guy, so I clean up after them when they relieve themselves. The dogs; not the neighbors. I’m not THAT good a guy. The house next door to our complex recently changed owners. As I walked on the lawn, the new owner stepped out and said, “That’s my lawn.”
I don’t like the passive-aggressive guess-my-intent game. Also, my dog has loved that lawn far longer than this guy has lived there, so I feel precedent has been set. We have, as it were, squatter’s rights. So I simply replied, “This is my dog.”
The man repeated his assertion. “That’s MY lawn.”
I repeated my claim. “This is MY dog.”
The man stepped forward and raised his voice, saying again, “That’s. My. Lawn.”
I considered reasserting ownership of the dog, but I was afraid he would start to think something was actually wrong with me, so I took a different tack.
(Let me say, parenthetically, that “tack” is the right word. It’s an idiomatic sailing term that refers to adjusting the position of the sail and the course of the boat relative to the wind direction. If you’ve been saying, “Take a different tact,” people like me have been judging you harshly).
In any case, I went a different way. I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak English.”
The man said, “You gotta be kidding me.”
I said, “No. Seriously. I don’t speak any English. At all.”
He blinked slowly and said, “You – we’re speaking English right now.”
I said, “I know it can be confusing. I’ve learned a few words phonetically, and I’m told my accent is pretty good, so it seems as though I’m conversant, fluent, even. But the fact of the matter is, I have no idea what either of has been saying throughout this entire exchange.”
While I said this, Lord Buckley Sweetlips, Greatest of All Dane Mutts (The Dinosaur-Slaying Dog), hunched up like a tiny kangaroo and relieved himself on the man’s lawn. I bent down and collected the droppings in a plastic bag because I’m a good guy. I tied off the bag and extended it toward the man, saying, “If you want this, I won’t have it bronzed.”
The man appeared appropriately baffled and gestured toward his trash cans.
I said, “I’ll just put it in the trash over there, then.”
He raised a finger at me and shouted triumphantly, as though he actually believed he had somehow won something in the interaction, “There! You see? I knew you spoke English! I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!”
I matched his tone and pointed back at him, shouting a list of English words that should be Yiddish but aren’t. I said, “Hasten facile! Fashion kettle mint! Spatula, spatula, spatula!”
I discarded the bag in the trash and went home.
Later that afternoon, Sir Corwin the Beautiful Dog-faced Dog, Brindled Beast of Sylmar, asked for a walk and led me straight to the most-favored lawn. Sir Corwin is a striking dog; we’re fairly certain that his father was a Great Dane and his mother was the world’s most satisfied pug. Seeing an unknown dog, the man emerged from his house, presumably to lay claim to the lawn. Then he realized I was the same guy. He froze in his tracks.
While he hesitated, I grinned at him and waved as if we were old friends. I pointed at Sir Corwin and said, “That’s my dog!”
The man said, “There is really something wrong with you!” and slammed back into the house, leaving me alone. So apparently, I should have just let him think that to begin with.
Editor’s note: This commentary from Dylan Brody contains material with strong similarities to a c. 1990 Kids in the Hall sketch. Dylan’s joke about not speaking English is essentially the same as the main joke in the Kids in the Hall sketch “Directions (I speak no English),” from Season 2, Episode 19. When asked about the similarity, Dylan responded, in an email, “I am … fairly confident that I never saw the sketch … as I tend to have a pretty good memory for jokes that I like and who uttered them. If I heard it and internalized it, it was wholly unintentional and unconscious.”