It had already been kind of a stressful night.
Not that it should have been. As my mother told me later, I was doing everything that I should be doing, in the sort of way that I myself make checklists for myself, take stock at myself, travel the way my internal compass points however inexplicable or wrong it may end up being.
I blame improv as the enabler: in improv, you make a big choice and then deal with the fallout later.
In life, the big choices are less easy to make and the fallout doesn’t go away when the teacher says “scene”.
Anyway, it shouldn’t have been stressful. It should have been fine.
I found myself on set on a PBS documentary set at the Waldorf, in a situation that itself could have been stressful, I guess.
There was the feeling of a return and the sense of duty or need to succeed that comes with that, the idea that I was returning to a day job in the film industry after my experience running from my last job that had tender-and-brutalized me before sending me into the scuzzy arms of an art-house movie theater, which now seemed mostly filled with coworkers who found me neither funny nor attractive.
There was the sense returning on to set, setting up C-stands awkwardly, curling them on the floor, that I was being watched with everything I was doing. That they would see my inability to wrestle with these steel objects and expel me to movie theater hell.
But none of this happened. Everyone was perfectly nice and supportive of me. The shoot went smoothly. They let me go home early and gave me a bag of cookies to take home, like I had gone to play at a friend’s house.
But it was also not permanent and the truth was, I was back to doing a double at the theater tomorrow.
But nice enough for now.
Still, even with my somewhat dreamy time on set, Firewire download-transfers speed up for no man and I was late to my improv practice group.
Along the way, all day, I had been getting text messages and emails from people in my practice group, jumping like from a boat, while one, sadly deluded, member was sending me Facebook messages about the performances my group could be doing.
“We’ll see if any of them show up.” I told her.
Enough of them did, though the lamest excuse I got was an email from the person who was supposed to be running the group saying he “had to be at a concert”, a sentiment whose earnestness I questioned, given that he didn’t tell me he “had to be at a concert” after any of the last three emails I sent him.
Anyway, I yelled about that to my whole group, wasting more time and then again on the street and then again later when Matt Chao took me out to Hill Country Chicken to calm me down.
“11 minutes in!” I told him. “Who has to be at a concert anyway?”
“Who cares? Isn’t this more your improv group at this point? You’ve been going to more of them?” Matt said with his big Matt grin, staring stoop-down at the sidewalk. “Also, you have a job now. Isn’t that cool?”
Actually, Matt had set me up with the PBS job, a signal of how well he was doing after his two years of slave (intern) labor at PBS; he was now such a public-tv hottie, he could pawn off producers wanting him on his less-attractive friends.
“Maybe, but I’m not much one for the improv coup d’etat.” I replied, before we reached the chicken-bone door.
I had been struggling also at that point to deal with the tweets and the other things that were coming my way as the Bravo episode I wasn’t watching unfolded.
I had gotten into a fight already (and made up) over my mother’s anger at how I was portrayed on the clip from the episode that was online (she was angry B was “snarky” to me), but now I dealt with everything from people asking me for vegan recommendations to Facebook girls telling me “I’m your soulmate let’s meet up immediately” (“Who said that? Can we see this girl? Where does she live?” My quasi-returned quasi-roommate John Beamer asked.)
“I dunno.” I told Matt as I dipped my chicken tender in three different kinds of sauces (Honey Mustard, Hot Sauce, Ketchup) “I guess I appreciate it, but it’s not what I’m looking for.”
“Which is what?” Matt asked me in a dead-pan near un-interest as he picked the chicken out of his “Kickin’ Chicken Salad”.
“Fuck if I know. Someone who meets me to just like me for who I am. I don’t know what to do with virtual affirmations.”
“That’s cool.” Matt replied as I dipped another tender. When I turned around to toss out some empty containers, Matt grabbed my phone and started pining over his crush, looking at her on facebook.
“I’m just logging out!”
“Is she in a Super-Mario costume?”
“THOSE ARE MY PICTURES!”
I logged Matt out as we walked together toward the train, shuffle-stepping like at least, for whatever else, we still didn’t know what, really, to do.
And then for everything else, my ex-girlfriend came strolling into my subway car on the E train back from Grand Central.
And she said “Hi, Nick.”
“In all the subway cars, in all the world…” I thought, making poor-man’s Casablanca references of my life.
My love-life, rarely a topic of jubilance on my behalf, has been going not much better since I got dissed by two girls in a week and realized that I was the sort of guy my taken lady-friends wouldn’t set up someone they knew on a date with (I heard that’s how dating used to work).
But other than the ladies sending me amorous arrows from across the webs, I only had a couple girls say they might be up for meeting me and in all of the discussions the word “creepy” came up though, to be fair, I was the one who used it.
But then there was Eva sitting next to me, wearing lipstick and a dress, looking good.
“Hi Eva. You look good.” I told her. A test. What would she say?
“Thank you.” She replied. She didn’t tell me I looked good. Why did I need that from her, all of then now?
We talked for what could only have been a couple minutes as we sat on that E train, as we talked about stand-up comedians and I told her all the run-ins I’d had, since I last saw her.
It was my stop too soon, or just soon, I had barely looked at her. She had moved to touch me a couple times. There were the spaces where she would have touched me to congratulate me.
Hanging out with Andy Kindler. Having Colin Quinn recognize me on stage.
“Wow,” She exclaimed. “It sounds like your life is going great!.”
And she finally touched me, a punch to the shoulder.
“Yeah.” I replied. “Bye Eva.”
“Bye Nick.” I heard from behind me. But I didn’t turn around.
I exited the station.
Then went back downstairs as I heard the train leaving and took that picture.
Sometimes we want to capture a moment without risking ourselves.
Sometimes it’s just easier to take that picture when the doors closed.
And then the train was just, gone.
Andrew Parrish is a douchebag.
I should just say that up-front.
Now, I have a long standing, really meaning-less beef with the guy, stemming back from a time we both starred in an experimental film made by Ro-bearded Malone (his future roommate), called Our Friend Baldwin where I played Baldwin, a romantic novelist who is writing a pice of historical fiction set between the two Kennedy assassinations and he plays my hot friend who fucks a lot, sometimes while wearing a Richard Nixon mask.
The beef is this: We were both on set, we were sitting in a hallway-staircase and in a burst of spontaneous confession, I told him that I had been crushing on a girl from my playwriting class and asked his advice on how to woo her, which he gave willingly, never revealing that the lady in question and him were hooking up and soon dating.
Flash-forward, the girl’s gone, he apologized profusely and admitted his mistake, I forgave him and was the bigger man.
But now here he is still with a six-pack and a hot-ass haute-theater girlfriend and here I am. writing tweets from my work-place about the cost of water-bottles.
Dick move, amirite?
Anyway, Andrew is still endless sorry for it, or at least he likes hanging out with me, so while usual suspects Rob and Chadd Harbold (who drunkenly/loudly confessed his love for me and my potential as “the next that tour guy whose name sound like Skeet Ulrich, except it isn’t”) were out of town living it up at SXSW, Andrew came out and supported me at my improv show, saw a movie with me on a Sunday morning no one was awake for and even met me at Faicco’s to get some food before the flick.
It was the first time I’d been back there in a while and the first time EVER I’d noticed a “Daily Specials” notice listed on their board.
Faicco’s, for those of you who don’t know, is a wonderful Italian specialties store, like the kind that runs around Bensonhurst and is all but extinct in Little Italy. It is one of a few relics on Bleecker St (Ottomanelli’s Rocco’s) of the old West Village, an Italian WWII-era nabe. As such, it’s real/authentic down to the early close Sunday for mass.
“Chicken Parm!” I exclaimed to Andrew and the bilboard and the sandwich man under the board. “Impossible! You guys don’t have a toaster here! I’ve been told!”
“Actually, we do have a small convection oven.” Sandwich Man said in a wise-guy-movie accent.
“Nuh-uh! I would always ask you guys if you could reheat the Chicken Parms from the display case.”
“Yeah, we don’t do that.” He replied cryptically. And somehow that was the final statement on that.
“I’ll have the other special.” Andrew said, looking up at the board, at an offer of a 9-buck Chicken Cutlet, Pesto and Fresh Mozz Hero.
“Me too! Can we get it toasted?” I asked, eager.
The sandwich man nodded.
“You want a meltdown?” He asked Andrew.
“Uh–” Andrew replied.
“Yes!” I interceded. “His answer is yes.”
The Sandwich Man nodded sagely and in minutes our sandwiches were handed to us warm, foil-wrapped.
“Where do we go to eat these?” Andrew asked as we strolled down Bleecker, sandwich-bound.
“Father Demo.” I replied. “Old as hell.”
I could say that the ‘wich wasn’t as good as my classic (Chic. Cutlet, Fresh Mozz, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Garlicky- Oil from SDT, Vinegar) but it was also damn good as Andrew and I both experienced sitting on that pigeon-nested bench in Father Demo.
The unseen toaster gave it a crunch and a new vitality that would have come too if we had arrived an hour earlier, when the cutlets were fresh-fried off.
“This is great.” Andrew commented.
“Fuck you, Andrew. Your girlfriend’s hot.” I replied food-in-mouth.
“You know, Nick, you’re right,” He replied in his “I’m the professor who fucks my students” kind of way. “That really has a lot to do with the situation at hand and what I said. Also, I don’t know, thanks?”
“No problem.” I replied, food-stil-in-mouth.
At least we got good seats for the movie.
FAICCO’S PORK STORE
Chicken Cutlet w/Homemade Pesto Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella on a Toasted Seeded Semolina Roll (that last part is important)- $9.00
Bleecker St bet. 6th and 7th Aves.
ACEBDFM to West 4th St. 1 to Christopher St.