It started with a gap in time between work and class.
I had gotten off another shift making popcorn and needed somewhere to go in the time between, so I wandered down St. Marks, aiming for “Cheep’s”, an inexpensive falafel/shawarma joint that had popped up overo n 2nd Ave and promised at least the homonym of it’s title, as well as some saucy satisfaction.
I ended up sucked in to Spot by a sign on the sidewalk, near my walk back to the subway, with an offer of Bubble Tea and a cupcake for 5 dollars.
I came for cupcake, but it was the Bubble Tea that took me.
Bubble Tea, for the uninitiated, is something like a milkshake or a “frappucino”: a milk-heavy beverage made with tea and other flavors, with small balls of tapioca floating around its base, lingering there to be sucked up and chewed upon while one drinks their tea.
When Asian nerd-friend Matt Chao (who else?) first introduced me to this product, I was unsure how to drink it an tentative about its uses. If I wanted a milkshake, wasn’t I better off getting one of those? Did those “bubbles” even taste good? How would I avoid not just swallowing them?
So I didn’t drink it for a long time, but then, on the off time I went to Spot, I became enchanted.
Spot, it turned out, was a venture undertaken by a former favorite of mine, a man named Pichet Ong, who used to own the gayest bakery in the West Village, a place called “Batch”, that my mom and I would go to sometimes for “stir-in” chocolate-spoon hot chocolates. It was an inventive place, part of the dessert bar craze that petered about a year ago and closed right when its sit-down attached restaurant “P*ong” closed with it. Thus, I was happy to find Spot, even though it didn’t have Mr. Ong and his charming mother there, who used to minister to me and mine.
I sat down for my special, a “Thai Iced Bubble Tea” and a lemon-yuzu vanilla cupcake and suddenly it clicked in me.
I already loved Thai Iced Teas, with their condensed milk sweetness, but Bubble Tea was the drink of the bored, the loungers, the in-betweens. It was not cloying sweet, but tastefully so. The bubbles were there for consideration; something to ruminate on, literally, during breaks in conversation, or while listening. It was something to do, a combination drink/activity. Something to take your mind off, with sweetness, to relax.
I left Spot happy that day and returned other days, with cravings.
I went to St. Alp’s Teahouse in the East Village and a place named Crazy Bananas in Koreatown. I frequented these places a few times, soliciting advice from the aforementioned Matt for the best places to get it, the best flavors, et cetera.
After an improv class, or a sketch class, before, as a reward, or an incentive.
I became an addict, for a couple days, I admitted to Matt.
And then I got a cold.
I haven’t talked here for a while, save for a top 10 list, which was understandably attacked by my friends, but at least a read a few times.
One girl even subscribed to my blog and it notified me. That made me feel good.
When I wrote my first episode of the web-series adaptation of this blog, the running theme was the cathartic experience of writing it; the idea that I was somehow redeemed by clicks or views, by having “peeps out on the internet”. I remember when my friend Chadd Harbold read that one, it was soundly criticized, not just for the idea of that character having that experience be unrealistic, but as a critique potentially of my own life. It’s hard to tell when you blur the line between yourself and your art-work so much.
I went in this past week to a show called “Watch What Happens: Live” with a fellow I’d never met named Andy Cohen, who I later found out had a NYTimes feature article written about him, who nonetheless knew me and introduced himself as though I was the part of the media empire he oversees, which of course, to some degree, I am. Regardless of whether the stuff I shot for one of his shows ends up on the air, there’s bound to more representations, more versions of me out there than I know how to handle.
At work today, I was threatened with firing for a customer complaint of rudeness to someone trying to exchange a ticket. I remember in that moment sympathizing with my boss, who was trying to handle it gracefully, not just firing me but continuing to tell me to “change”. But when I sit in that box office and greet those customers, it’s hard for me to tell which me to give, which me I am, which me they’re seeing. I try to be polite to people, but it weighs on me in a way that recalls my mother’s self -proclamation of “thin-skinnedness”, in describing her depression, without her indefatigable resilience or grace. As people are mean to me, or callous, or just wave their Prada bags or Lacoste items, it’s hard to judge them, or more accurately, feel like you’re being judged. It’s difficult to interact, to know what to give them. You could call it me being a method actor, or just not knowing how to fake it: there’s only a limited amount of “nice” I can be, without anything to play on. It’s scary though to see the disconnection between this realization and the ability to figure out how change it.
I went on a date, this past weekend, while I was getting my cold, with a girl I met online. It went pretty well, I thought just then, but I haven’t heard from her since. We sang karaoke songs at Planet Rose (she was pretty good) and got kinda drunk and walked to the train and ate tacos. My “game” as it is, online, (spoiler alert) isn’t much game at all, but just trying to offer some questions and accept some and to see if I could “swap truths” with someone and see if I like what I get, or if they do mine. When we talked online, this online girl and I, there was a lot of talk of back-sliding, in this time after college, feeling like you weren’t making progress, feeling like you were going to become someone you didn’t want or someone you used to be. It’s the same thing I talked about, if they use it, on the TV show I shot.
I also talked to Eva, sometime and worked some things out, without closing things. I’m left feeling better, that some part of her is still interested in me, if not in the way I need, but it’s painful too to revisit what you tried to move on from.
I hung out with Dan Pleck last night, who gave me some good advice about my meeting with Eva and seems, scarily enough, in a better place than me nowadays, emotions-wise. Dan used to be a parable for what I might become in my post-break-up situation, a fellow off-the-rails, and our interactions would be fraught with fear on my part along with frustration, in a way I now know also echoes my lack of control over other downward spirals in my life (including my sister’s, who is once again on the lam). Yesterday he came out with me to School Night, one of the several free shows at UCB that no one goes too, but that anybody interested in a career in comedy should, since they’re free showcases of good performances testing their limits and trying new material. Last night, Louis C.K. materialized at the show I was at to do a set, like something out of his own T.V. show, trolling open-mics late night, to just do it.
Dan got to shake his hand after his set, though he was eviscerated by the comedian on stage (who later said he wish he could have snuck out on his own set to do the same) and was ecstatic, wanting to celebrate after the luck of our free discovery.
“The thing is, I just got into him recently.” Dan said. “The stuff he talks about, feeling old and divorced and needing to feel manly: well, that’s pretty much how I feel nowadays.”
I was happy too, happy more that I could make Dan happy, but the problem was is that the person who introduced me to Louis C.K., as well as many of the cool things in my life, was Eva Dougherty.
The way we left things, when we talked, well, it meant we could talk, I guess.
So I told her she wouldn’t believe who I saw and sent her the picture I took from the theater.
She thanked me for telling her, in a text with many exclamation points and told me she was jealous.
The text I didn’t send said “Wish you were there.”
I woke up this morning sicker than I’d been.
Since it was cold I just kept expecting to get better and it got worse, I made a doctor’s appointment to be safe.
I didn’t get bubble tea much, recently, though I’ve craved it on occasion.
Like video games, it’s a distraction and a comfort; a sweet place to be.
I took some Zyrtec-D and some Motrin I had in my over-sized wallet to deal with the headache that didn’t go away when my nose cleared up, from my sinuses.
I felt floaty, sitting their in the box-office, like everything going on with me was still there, but I was just shifted, three inches above it.
The email and the firing stuff came at the end of the day and unsettled me, as they would most people I guess.
When I went to go change, a coworker of mine sat in the changing room staring at his phone, getting ready to get out.
For all intents and purposes, I should be friends with this man, who owns the same gaming systems as me, enjoys the same nerdy humor, has the same blaze attitude and occasional self-seriousness that I have.
But as I stand there, changing my clothes, I say nothing to him and he says nothing back.
I heard sometime that I offended him, that he thought I was talking shit about him (which I wasn’t), that I did slight to him that I didn’t know how to undo.
I offered to lend him I game I had he’d be interested in, but by that point he was wary of greeks bearing gifts.
Standing their in the locker room, changing, I didn’t know how to be or who.
So I said nothing and he said “later” and I said, “good night”.
And we all went on awkwardly, a little floaty, but still there.
Now I’m at home here sitting, on the end of pills and comfort.
Not knowing how to be, or who.
Lemon-Yuzu Vanilla Cupcake with Thai Iced Bubble Tea- $5 (available 11-6 only)
St. Mark’s Place between 3rd and 2nd Avenues.
NR to 8th St-NYU. 6 to Astor Pl.