I don’t watch TV much any more–TV meaning live TV and not TV on my computer or Netflix DVDs/On Demand.
In fact, as the price of cable TV continues to seem prohibitively expensive, I’ve been considering just screwing cable and getting a Mac Mini to hook up to my TV.
I really do wish I had the balls to do it and, if I keep failing to get a job that pays me a living wage, I might just have to. (Also you should probably read the article attached to that link, it’s pretty cool.)
But the time that I do watch live TV is often when I’ve gotten home, probably late, from work, exhausted, or bored, or burnt.
I’ll just feel a need to tune out, to be in a pleasant place, to just put my brain down and leave it somewhere that I can come get it when I wake up tomorrow.
I imagine this is one of those reason why people smoke.
Me? I just turn on King of the Hill.
KOTH, as it is known by its fans, was a show (much like Family Guy) which I never warmed to when it was on. Sunday nights in my family were TV-structured, with 60 Minutes always leading in to whatever the animation block was on FOX.
The real meat of those family Sunday evenings was The Simpsons, a show so addictively and uncomplicated-ly good that it, in fact, functioned much like KOTH does for me now. It was just a way that everyone in the family, no matter what else was going on, could come sit down and agree for at least 30 minutes that this was quality. In those times, KOTH was just an afterthought, a show barely tolerated or often ignored. It wasn’t The Simpsons and thus suffered by comparison. If Dad wanted to watch a football or a baseball game, the channel would be changed during the time it was on, without the kind of brawl-like fight that would occur if he would try those shenanigans during our Matt Groening half-hour.
Times do change though and The Simpsons, on schedule with my adolescence and eventual departure for college, declined steeply in quality, which eventually let the spotlight go to Family Guy and KOTH, which resulted in fame and fortune for Seth MacFarlane and gave Mike Judge the opportunity he always wanted to just focus on making movies.
Watching old episodes of KOTH at nighttime does not then result in a sense of nostalgia, but rather a sense of new appreciation, a sort of watered-down deja vu, for storylines and characters once glossed over, rediscovered in a different point in one’s life.
It’s like figuring out that that show The Wire which you kept on wanting to be another episode of The Sopranos actually was doing something pretty cool.
In other words, it makes me feel like a grown-up, without making me feel old.
Which might be worth the cable fees.
I usually avoid 5th Avenue like crazy.
Walking home from school or Union Square, 5th would be a good choice nominally, as it leads on the other side of the park to LaGuardia Place which becomes West Broadway which is only a block east of home.
But nothing ever happens on 5th Avenue.
Yeah, there’s the usual parades and street fairs.
There’s Bryant Park and the Mid-Manhattan Library.
City Bakery is even pretty close to 5th, though that point is mostly moot now that City Bakery has franchised itself into “Birdbaths” across the city.
But other than that: NOTHING.
5th Avenue, in some ways the Main or Center St of Manhattan is also the most developed, the msot corporate and the most boring of the avenues.
The high real-estate prices preclude small ethnic restaurants from popping up there, there are never any cool small shops or independent business, for the same reasons, and most of the buildings are big, gray, characterless behemoths.
Even the people who walk it are either tourists or businessmen, until you get to the upper-east side, where there aren’t even business, just houses, which is if anything, more boring.
But what can I say?
Sometimes you find yourselves with hours to kill and places to walk to.
I had signed up for Skype in anticipation of attempting to help my boss contact his producer, who was currently on a mountain in Africa which, by his own admission, is “much different than NYC”.
(Un)fortunately for me, my boss required neither my computer nor face time and what I thought would be an hour-or-two’s work troubleshooting satellite phone calls, ended up being sitting in a hallway waiting for my boss to open the door, before he called me to say he was taking a walk and could I “set up his computer” for Skype, my boss being technologically illiterate.
This meant, for better-or-worse, that I was out-and-about in midtown some two hours before I thought I would be,
So what to do in said situation?
One word: Pizzacone
It was a lark, sort of.
I knew I had to have “lunch” with my grandma later, but when someone like me wanders around an area, what’s he really going to do but eat.
But even the non-foodies among us might have pause to be skeptical of anything called a “pizzacone”, especially with the tradition of NYC pizza being so strong already.
Who was this gaudy chain-like newcomer?
Normally, who cares? But, with time to kill, I gave it a try.
I did what I normally did in these sorts of situations, going up against unknown odds. I told them “Chicken” and let them figure out everything else.
Here’s what I got:
The lady later told me it was a “classic”, a cone with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, with some grilled chicken tossed in.
When I saw them gathering up the materials, they whisked it away to some unknown machine (a fryer?, an oven with a cone-shaped divot?)
But ultimately, the result was surprisingly delicious.
While I admit a predisposition towards “chicken pizza” of sorts, this was just pretty good.
All of the gooey, cheesy, chicken-y mess was concentrated in the center, so you could just eat the “meat” of the pizza, while only eating the crust when you chose.
In fact, the idea of the cone bore much in common with the New York-born technique of folding one’s pizza before eating it.
The sauce and the cheese were nothing special, and the chicken was bland (but thankfully real). But somehow the combination of all these things in their jumbled cone form was good enough that I finished the whole thing before reaching the end of the block.
A compliment indeed.
For all its store-bought-ness, it passed the test for deliciousness.
But I don’t think it’s the sort of food I’d go on a quest for.
Just the sort of thing it’s nice to find on 5th Avenue.
The next food I ate in my self-sabotaging walk to eat “lunch” with my Grandma had the siren call of being flashy and also, being free.
The first question I asked when I went in to the thoroughly futuristic-looking Kyochon Chicken Store on 5th was:
“Are you guys Korean?”
The question, posed to an ostensibly caucasian looking pretty-boy elicited a simultaneous look of confusion and a nod.
For a foodie or a chowhound, this question would be a perfectly innocent one (while to others it might seems like a bizarre prying into one’s genealogy, as in the counter-boy replying: “Yes, adopted.”)
This is because Kyochon’s wing selection and choice of sauces reflected another popular Korean chicken joint down-town, the impressive Bon-Chon Chicken, on Chambers and Church.
Korean chicken is kind of like Belgian french fries and they seem to be, again similarly, the new boom-craze of food joints.
The culinary similarities come from a double-frying that both Belgian fries and Korean chicken take on. A first, light frying to give flavor, followed by a second frying to make crispy and burn off the fat.
The result in both cases is thoroughly enjoyable, to the degree that you wonder why these techniques are just country-specific and why doesn’t the whole world just get on top of it already.
And while I can’t necessarily compare Bon-Chon to Kyochon in terms of quality (I didn’t eat enough at Kyochon), they both shared another key similarity which I enjoyed:
I knew that Bon-Chon advertised its “sample wing” policy, so once the counter-boy told me that they were both Korean, I figured it was a good enough leap to ask if they had samples too.
“Whaddaya want?” He asked me.
“What’s good.” I replied, using the same logic I had applied to the pizzacone.
What I got were a Soy Garlic wing (foreground), which is the equivalent of the standard wing at both Bon-Chon and Kyochon, and a “sweet n’ spicy” wing (sitting there in the back).
They were both crunchy and delicious and free, gloriously free.
The Soy Garlic was sweet and salty and crunchy with juicy meat that you had to find, flavorful on its own, its “umami” contrasting with the flavors of the soy-garlic brush on the outside.
The sweet-and spicy wasn’t fuckin’ kidding around; it was spicy. Enough that I had to get my water bottle refilled and started to think about what kind of money I would have to give for some bread.
But I kept the experience free.
And walked, slightly fuller, to “lunch”.
I was late for lunch with my Grandma at the Whitney museum.
Part of it was that it was Sunday and the trains were running poorly. But certainly it mattered that I had made so many pit-stops.
After the two food joints, I had stopped in at MoMA to see the Marina Abramovic exhibit, unusual for me, as I avoid art and musuems. But I had read an article about the artist in the new yorker that made her sound pretty cool and, what’s more, it was performance art, with the offer of sitting across from Abramovic and staring in to her eyes (The exhibit’s title “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” is a play on words).
Unfortunately it would seem in the non-line-ness of MoMA that people were taking their time sitting and staring at her. Ah well. Next time I guess.
But I had over-estimated my time and was late for my Grandma.
We had chosen to meet at the Whitney, not for artistic purposes, but because Danny Meyer (of Union Square Cafe, Tabla, also MoMA’s restaurant) had designed a sandwich joint in the basement there.
My Grandma was very nice even though I was late. After all, she’s my Grandma.
But the sandwich that I had wanted, the “Bombay Pita Panino” was sold out when we got there and the two sandwiches we split to replace it, were generally unremarkable, a disappointment.
The only think that really was remarkable at Sandwiched (the name of the restaurant, another play on words) was a consolation prize I got for my Grandma and I to split since the lunch hadn’t been so stellar.
A chocolate mint-patty brownie.
Somewhere between a Moon Pie and York Peppermint Patty, the brownie featured the best qualities of both, with the intense, thin chocolate of the York patty beefed up into brownie form, with the same intensity (as opposed to a Moon Pie’s wan chocolate, but ample size) and the minty interior was intense and flavorful, while keeping the welcome creaminess of the Moon Pie.
In other words: it was the best sandwich I had there.
It’s been a tough week.
I struggled with not hearing back from interviews, from film fesitval rejections (which I thought I no longer cared about), and with First Run and my film’s first public screening, under somewhat inauspicious circumstances.
When I went back last night to the Cantor Film Center, where I had had my first Intro to Film classes with Lamar Sanders and Nick Tanis, in the big theater/classrooms there, I was faced with remembering my legacy at NYU and wondering what it had amounted to.
Before the screening block I came for of short films, eager young graduates, people I knew, mounted the stage and were showered with awards, praise and applause from the faculty and the audience.
And all I felt was resentment and self-pity.
I thought of my dreams for my film:
Of getting in to Cannes or Sundance.
Of being the talk, the valedictorian of sorts of my NYU year.
To get a prize at First Run, to be recognized.
To take the support I had cultivated at my time at NYU and to see it there given to me, a formal acknowledgment, that I was embraced, a success.
Instead, here I was watching my peers get awards that I knew I never would.
In a way I had beat a success. If I and other students hadn’t unleashed a torrent of protest, my film wouldn’t even be playing in the festival.
That was changed. Now I would.
But as I saw the directors take the stage, all I felt was dread in anticipation that soon I would be on stage and people would clap as I was introduced, people are nice.
But there would be no awards for me, nor even chance of awards.
I would get up, stand on stage and sit down.
And there was nothing I could do about it.
As I’ve talked to my therapist, to my professors, to Eva, to my friends, the one thing that keeps coming out is my fear of a lack of control.
This was not the way I planned it. This was not how it was supposed to be.
But even in a difficult week, with some real bad stuff going on. Even with a mixed feeling about returning to NYU, not as bad as returning to high school, but not nearly good, I’ll go up there. I’ll stand. They’ll clap. I’ll sit down.
Last night, after the students had accepted their awards and the people clapped and they all sat, the lights went out and I watched some movies.
And Eva was next to me. And Ro-beardo was on the other side.
And Prof. Benson and his wife were in front of me.
And we talked before the films. And we talked after.
I don’t want to say I’m not disappointed. I am. Often I hate myself, I wonder what I am doing in my life, whether I have any creative merit, whether everything I’ve believed about myself is just insanity and that I’m a laughing stock, or worse, nothing at all.
But there in the theater, watching movies, surrounded by friends and people who care about me, I knew these were the same thoughts I had was in school.
That awards might make feel you better for a while, but they don’t change self-doubt.
But the people who were gathered around me, the people I could watch movies with and then talk to.
Well, they were worth something, too.
Also, here’s a fake Nic Cage.
Grilled Chicken Pizzacone w/Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella Cheese- $5.90
5th Avenue between 33rd and 32nd St
BDFVNQRW+PATH to 34th St-Herald Square
KYOCHON CHICKEN STORE
2 Sample Wings (Soy Garlic, Sweet N’ Spicy)- Free
5th Avenue between 33rd and 34th St
BDFVNQRW+PATH to 34th St-Herald Square
Chocolate Mint Patty Brownie- $3.50
Basement of the Whitney Museum (no admission necessary)
SE corner of Madison Ave and 75th St
6 to 77th St