Stood Up

I posted this picture to my dating profile the other day.

I had only recently gotten back this sweater, one given back to me when Eva had come over for our talk a couple weeks back now.

I hadn’t had occasion to wear it, in the morning tussle that usually started with either writing or pulling myself together for work and ended, largely, with wearing the same clothes I did yesterday.

But it was a Sunday night and I felt like maybe going out and my green sweater smelled like beer anyway, which is the peril of going out in sweaters to bars in the wintertime.

I had always thought I looked good in this sweater though, a real cashmere affair that was given to me by either my mom or my grandma. Somehow, I felt skinnier in it, felt I looked cooler in it, somehow felt like it made me more attractive or more put together. I’d imagine that much of that is the belief as opposed to the wear, “the man not the clothes”, but whatever gives you confidence is probably worth taking some note of.

My online dating profile got this picture because I still had big hair on the picture I had there and I hadn’t heard back from the girl I’d gone on one good karaoke date with, so I figured, “on to the next one”, as it was and that I’d have to be looking my best to try to attract the ladies.

I wrote a bad sketch which I was proud of writing (since I wrote anything at all) for my Saturday sketch class and it died rightfully in the class, but the sketch in my Wednesday class went over well, which was almost harder to take. It was a fake commercial for a pill called “Ex-static” which “triggers off that unique blend of sadness and arousal” brought about by thinking of your ex to provide a shock to one’s testicles, as a sort of Pavlovian method for break-up redemption. The premise, which we are required to read at the end of all of our sketches, was that “guys who talk about their exes all the times bring everyone else down and should be treated like dogs or goats or something”. I believe that was it, verbatim.

I’d like to say I’m not sure where that leaves me, but I’m pretty sure I do know: in a puddle of barely disguised self-disgust.

“Shouldn’t I not be feeling this way, 2 months out?” I asked my therapist, in the increasingly interrogative tone of our sessions.

“A year out, I might say that’s a very extended bereavement period.” She replied. “For now, I’d just say, you really loved her. How you feel is how you should, for that.”

I find myself reaching every day towards Eva, her popping into my mind, in the blank moments of walking or waiting where I would reach for the comfort of her love, of my love for her, confirmed or returned. It’s when I shunt these thoughts away that I go online to try to find people, that I feel compelled to make a connection.

I need something to fill that gap, so I’m not just reaching for what’s not there.

I felt good wearing that sweater and good about the picture. My hair’s looking ok on a day-to-day basis.

I’m not smiling there, but I don’t know if that’s ok. It’s hard to put yourself out there like that, talking to people you don’t know, pitching you.

Why should I be smiling, for the thought of that?

***

I tried stand-up for the first time last night and I wish I’d had someone take a picture.

They put me on second and I think I did pretty well.

I’d been seeing stand-up shows for a while now, the free ones at the UCB and people had often told me I had the right personality for it, a thought only countervailed by the many “wannabe-stand-ups” I had seen in my time and at open mikes. It was a profession that seemed, if possible, more painful than “wannabe actor” a position I found myself somewhat in the role of, after mocking it for my whole film-school career.

I texted a few people to come out and support me, the opposite of few-times quasi-roommate John Beamer, who shied away from anyone but me coming, so as to not have that social pressure.

I, on the other hand, am a multi-dependent mess and I appreciated the company.

Zach Weintraub, Andy Roehm and a surprisingly supportive Jonny-Jon-Jon Fostar all came out to see me and sat through my 3-minute set and everyone else’s at the PIT’s Tuesday open mike.

Robert Malone and his beard were notably absent, later telling me they was too busy “watching Snake Eyes on the couch with roommates”.

It was nice to see Andy there, since I felt like the more I worked with him at the Angelika the less time I had to be friends with him and Zach, who one of my coworkers hit on the last time he came by my work, was notable for showing up after a series of “maybe-no”s to other plans I’d had for weeks.

Jonny-Jon-Jon though came early, talked through a bit of my set with me and kept giving me reassurance, even laughed at all my jokes from the back.

“Would it be better if I fake laughed or just tried to laugh anonymously along with other people?” He asked.

“Just do what’s in your heart.” I told him.

To which he replied: “Right, nothing!”

“Hello, everyone. I’m Nicholas Feitel, it’s nice to meet you.” I said up there on stage.

“I should just say, I’m not a stand-up. I’ve never done this before. My girlfriend was an aspiring stand-up. And, uh. Then she dumped me. So. Here I am then. Good for you guys, I think.”

That got a good laugh, which was nice because I thought it was funny, practicing it that morning in the movie theater box office, but I couldn’t really figure out why.

My set was only 3 minutes, but I had a fair amount of laughs and I beat my “1 solid laugh” expectation that I had been holding. By the end of the night, I was trying to not to be pissed I didn’t get nominated for the “best joke” award that came with a free beer, just trying to remind myself it was my first time.

“I was solidly depressed by it!” was Jonny-Jon-Jon’s review as we walked out of the PIT. But my friends all backed me up and said it was good.

We all ended up walking for a while as Jonny-Jon-Jon turned off first, to undisclosed locations, Andy talking about projecting at the movie theater, before hopping on to the L. I had the longest time with Zach, while we discussed his own girlfriend, a Michig-onian named Jenny, who was pretty cool, but was now in Kalamazoo for two more years, while Zach was bound to Argentina in three weeks.

“I’m a little hesitant to say this, given past accusations.” I said. “But did you guys discuss this?

“No.” He said, but in the sort of optimistic way I couldn’t help but admire while judging it for stupid.

In the end, the last stretch. I walked home alone, trudging in boots, video-game system in hand.

The decision to try stand-up hadn’t come with much pre-meditation, or long thought or a career choice.

It was more just feeling like I wanted more to happen in my life.

It’s nice to know when you feel that way, that they’ll be more people onboard.

***

I had lunch with J-Sam Bakken the other day, whose been dating on-and-off with more success than I have.

After all, he plays the guitar and teaches children.

He’s a regular Raffi or Mr. Rodgers or something.

We met at Torrisi Italian Specialties, a place I’d been before, but was suitable for an inexpensive lunch with sit-down elements and no tip required.

J-Sam was excited to try the place, but he also was grilling me for tips on an improv comedy mini-curriculum he was planning for his inner-city 6th grade class he was going to teach.

“It’s pretty simple.” I told him. “It’s just like conversation, agreeing with people and adding what you have to say. That’s what improv is, the same way.”

While I didn’t know if I was the best person to explain it to him, I at least went through some of the structure of the things I’d done in shows and classes before with him, while waiting fo our meals to come.

J-Sam got, at my recommendation, the house-roasted turkey, the shop’s specialty, which is probably the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had, beating even Katz’s. I tried the Eggplant Parm, alone, no bun, since they only had it in the winter and I’d already had the Chicken Parm and the aforementioned turkey sandwich.

We both got a side of brussel sprouts.

The eggplant parm was surprisingly excellent. “Surprisingly, you say?” a reader might ask, but I don’t look to eggplant parms as a real solid meal, more like a delicious appetizer before a bowl of pasta, as I’d had it in Italy.

But this eggplant parm was made like lasagna, layered with delicious fried eggplant and mozz and sauce, and doled out in hefty slices, that gave it a textural interest, like a casserole.

J-Sam was jealous. “I’ll get more of that next time.” He said enviously, as we swapped small bites of our food as I’m oft liable to do with fellow eaters.

The brussels sprouts were good, with red onion and a parmesan-like cheese, but lacked the toasty warmth that would have made them excellent.

“It’s all about getting people to agree, to not be self-conscious.” I told J-Sam. “To just let loose and accept what they’re going to do, without self-criticism.”

“And look how well that’s worked for you.” J-Sam said, un-ironically.

“Yeah.” I replied and finished my food.

***

TORRISI ITALIAN SPECIALTIES

Eggplant Parm w/side of Brussels Sprouts- $14 (Winter months only)

Mulberry St. bet Prince and Spring Sts.

NR to Prince St. 6 to Spring St.

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2 Responses to Stood Up

  1. Lisa says:

    Your writing is getting better and better, imho. Keep it up!

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