Change of Mind

I bonded with my girlfriend’s dog on Sunday, over our shared love of tortilla chips topped with black beans and salsa and rice.

I asked Eva before I fed the dog the aforementioned chips, but my gut had told me that a dog might like what a human might.

And after all, the only thing I knew dogs couldn’t eat was chocolate and perhaps gum.

I had arrived at my girlfriend’s house in Battery Park City to a veritable litany of barks from the same creature, earlier on.

Eva had tried to introduce me to Audrey, named for Audrey Hepburn, an actress whom I had previously told Eva, with her love of long-neck sweaters, that she somewhat resembled.

For those of you who know me well, you might know that I have a lingering fear of dogs, born from an incident when I was 5 years old and was scratched on the nose by a Yorkie or some other ignominous canine who certainly was smaller than myself but nonetheless, left a lasting scar on my psyche, easily irritated by a well-timed “ruff”.

Luckily my fear had passed mostly from that age of 5, somewhat due to a poodle I liked named Lucy at the age of 13, who was smart and furry, and an incident living with John Weeke over the summer at his ranch in Italy with its 6 dogs, where I ran through the meadows and wrestled them, literally facing down my fears, until I was a lupine king.

And Audrey was a mutt, a strange, brown-spotted creature, with naturally-wagging ears and what seemed like a half-hearted demeanor.

“Don’t worry.” Eva told me, beckoning me in through cacophony. “All bark, no bite.”

We made it through that initial contact though I got the sense that Audrey still didn’t like me. It wasn’t until the Sunday, spent in the parks of Battery Park City, that I finally won Audrey’s heart.

Battery Park City is a foodie’s nightmare and also a West Villagers, with its lack of affordable food and its tall, antiseptic buildings.

It took everything I had, really, not to make fun of Eva on a constant basis for living in such a place, even though it was unfair and I knew she had no choice in it, but at least I could preoccupy myself staring at her or out to in the Hudson and thinking of things better.

Anyway, we wanted to find, that Sunday morning, a place bring Audrey, or at least somewhere for takeout we wouldn’t have to leave her too long.

The dog had calmed to me a bit, instead focusing its energies on a voluminous amount of pooping, a quantity that would have been aggravating if it hadn’t veered eventually toward the impressive.

Either way, I didn’t envy Eva, with her pooper-scooper bags.

What we found eventually was Blockheads Burritos, inside the World Financial Center.

While it put a bad taste in my mouth to go to a corporate-Mex restaurant, the options were that or a more-Mexican version of Chili’s called Chevy’s. To be fair, I tried for Chevy’s but Eva wasn’t having it.

To my surprise though, the food was edible, even decent and actually affordable. Thy had Lunch Specials even on a Sunday and I got a “Mexican Chicken Wrap” that appeared to be a burrito without the rice and beans, but with the good things (guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo) that are really, actually important in a burrito. It even came with rice and beans on the side in case you needed them and chips and salsa and a soda, for 8 bucks.

It was even too much food for me and as I cleaned up, finishing my wrap to the rice and beans with the chips (the salsa was ketchup-y and poor), the idea came to feed Audrey who seemed to enjoy the meal, chewing and swallowing each chip with a satisfying “crunch”.

As I stared at the dog, I petted it behind it’s ears.

“You have good taste for a dog,” I told it, with no small bit of satisfaction that there was justice for both good-eating dogs and humans in this barren part of town.

But perhaps more satisfied than me was Eva who grabbed my shoulders in glee and hugged my bag with a coo as she watched her dog devour.

As we walked down Liberty State Park, on the temperate Sunday morning, it was three of us together, in the New York Fall.

***

Today was a day of good unions, the day of Karaokeing, where all my friends came out to relax and enjoy.

I did some regular songs, nothing too special, some Billy Idol, some Elton John. My specialty was “I’d Do Anything” from Oliver!, a musical I’d been in or at least witnessed as a 12 year-old (I stole my first kiss from Fagin).

Zach Weintraub was there, hairless like a dude on chemo, singing up some Washingtonian metal. So-Cal native and accomplished lurid-storyteller Andy Roehm did a rousing rendition of “God Bless The U.S.A.”, while Ro-Stubble Malone accepted my challenge to do Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind” and really threw himself into it, knocking it out of the park.

“Do you have a song?” I asked Rob.

“Nope. I don’t define myself like that.” Rob answered back with a glib smile.

I meant to suggest that the Disney song should be it, but Colin, the tattooed-and-cool bartender who knows us hairy Karaoke regulars handed me a free shot of the last “Blue Goo” of the summer, a drink he learned in college which he’d never reveal to us how to make.

But even though Karaoke was fun and I managed a few good songs before heading out to my play, something was missing. Or someone, really.

A friend from out of town had come in to visit and I’d hung out with him earlier before rushing off to go help my mom. He was supposed to go out Karaokeing with me, but disappeared when I left my friends to go help her.

We had eaten lunch earlier though and he told me of a dilemma.

An acquaintance of his had asked for a copy of his movie, claiming he’d heard it was good, and wanted to know if he could see it for himself.

My friend, over lunch was uncertain what to do. He’d had a shaky relationship with this acquaintance and didn’t know if he could trust him with his film.

“My good sir,” I informed him, scooping some Venezuelan guacamole onto a plantain chip. “Let me tell you a story.”

And I did.

***

I came into my sophomore year of film school, high on my own fumes.

I had been to Italy with two of my best friends, who both were in love with each other and whom I was going to live with.

I had found friends and a place for myself in the school, overcoming early stumbles to find a good place.

Best of all, I had left with my teacher praising my final assignment, a self-de-nuding poetic look at the street I grew up on and it’s winding, lovely inconsistencies.

I was taking an intro documentary class with the most bad-ass professor imaginable: Sam Pollard, a 6-foot-plus titan of a man with a huge booming voice, who had won multiple Peabodys and Emmys and worked often with Spike Lee.

I had gone into the class with my best friend and some other good people. What could go wrong?

“God laughs most when you have a plan.” A wayward vodka salesman would later tell me in a bar.

The groups were determined randomly, I was separated from my best friend and put into a group of people I didn’t know well and didn’t get along with.

Working with people in a collaborative, artistic manner can be difficult at the best of times in art school: after all, we were chosen for our own unique peculiarities, the same things which alienated us in high school.

But here I was, an unexpected type-A personality by virtue of my puffed-up-ed-ness, clashing against a long-haired d-bag who I had managed to antagonize from the get-go by making my documentary assignment on him (a requirement) about his painful breakup with his girlfriend.

Me and long-hair clashed often and really none of us in the group knew how to make a documentary; we just knew how to be dicks to each other.

But, by the end of it, we all hated each other or, at best, were severely alienated, and were glad to go our separate ways.

I felt deflated from intro to doc and took it as proof that I wasn’t good at documentaries to try to shield myself from the ego-Titanic that was considering that I might be bad at making movie.

I wanted to put it all behind me for my intro to 16-millimeter filmmaking class, so imagine my horror when long-haired d-bag showed up in that very same class with all his friends, staring me down.

When I showed my first movie, a paean to my dorm bed, flat and uncomfortable and full of crumbs and honey, but unquestionably home, I had no idea what to expect from anyone.

Anyone but long-hair, who I knew would attack me, merely based on the same sorts of squabbles we had had as group-mates.

But when he raised his hand, the first up, his face broke into a toothy smile as he described how “awesome” my film was, how irregular and personal and cool.

Other people followed suit and I was emboldened once more.

Intro to 16 millimeter became my best and most defining experience at film school, in no small part because I felt that mandate, that even enemies could be swayed by trusting my own vision.

As for long-hair, I liked his stuff too, which always had a style and verve that my films lacked.

We stayed friends due to our mutual admiration and he ended up shooting my movie, as well as becoming an acclaimed DP and director on his own.

His film was just submitted to Sundance and as I tell all my friends, he’s the closest person I know to making his first feature.

Later he would cut his hair, which a teacher would describe to me admiringly as “a touch of emo”, but it didn’t change anything in terms of how we related.

I love the movie I made with him, a movie I trusted him with, with my poor vision and color-blindness, because I knew where we had disagreed as well agreed, so I had more complete picture of who I knew him to be.

All because I took that compliment and toothy smile and decided that maybe this long-hair wasn’t a d-bag after all.

***

“So, my friend.” I told him, grasping my arepa in both hands. “Give the guy the movie.”

A bite.

“If someone offers you a hand in friendship and you don’t have to give anything, you might as well see where it leads.”

By this point my friend was mostly done with his starter-salad and was snacking on the remains of his arepa.

“What, dude?” He asked.

“Nevermind.” I told him. “Just be cool.”

And I picked up the tab.

And went on.

***

BLOCKHEADS BURRITOS

Mexican Chicken Wrap Lunch Special w/Chips+Salsa AND Rice+Beans or Salad AND Soda– $7.95

4 World Financial Center near Vesey St+North End Ave.

123ACE to Chambers St. (15 minute walk from train)

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One Response to Change of Mind

  1. Lisa says:

    You.are.the.best. I send my love to Pete if you get a chance to convey it to him. xxx. u know who.

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