When this was first put up in the smaller of the two men’s room stalls of the Angelika Film Center, it read “She’s Allergic To Cats”, over and over, a few times.
I had seen the sticker around the city, occasionally, in the way one notices graffiti on the bottom of lampposts, or faces drawn on a sidewalk.
It was only recently that someone had come in and colored away half the sentences.
When I looked at it, I was almost surprised it wasn’t me.
I’ve been better lately I guess, if these things come from better to worse and back again, repeating.
Dull pains as opposed to sharp ones, infrequent memories as opposed to on the edge of my thoughts, symptomatic like allergies, not ever-present like asthma.
I’ll still think and get teary on a drunk walk home from dinner with a friend, or sitting in a chair waiting to see “The Evil Dead”, or getting up and doing something good and reveling, and then falling down a little to wish I could have shared it.
But that’s neither here nor there.
“You’re writing a depressing Valentine’s Day blog post?” Rob-virtually-bearded-Malone asked me over G-chat as I sat down to write this. “That’s pretty gay.”
“You pegged me.” I told him and kept writing.
Really, I’m better than I have been and this week was a good one.
A rewrite of a sketch that had tanked the first time over in class got big laughs and was pronounced “good to go” by our teacher Armando. A funny-guy classmate of mine, a guy named Jon Bander, even volunteered to be in it and provide the bear costume necessary (any more information, you’ll have to come see the show…)
One of the good things about writing and performing comedy is that the days that you do well at it, everyone wants to be your friend, or at least that’s how you feel. I think I’ve felt the same thing every time I’ve presented good writing to people, that sense of gratification that may not so much come from them, but changes your attitude, gives you some swag, or the ability to put yourself out there, your work as your shield.
Saturday, after the sketch went over well, I walked with Bander, as he goes by, and Matt Chao, who I had secretly drafted to come do some free improv with me, unbeknownst to him.
Bander was a funny guy, on a house team at the Magnet, where I took classes and I knew he did stand-up and was just getting into sketch like I was. I asked him about stand-up, since I kept feeling it’s what I should be doing as it was yet another way to put myself out there, to be a writer, to be a part of a community, not alone.
“It’s addicitve, but in a specific way. It’s kind of like heroin.” He said. “Wait, that’s not write. It’s kind of like having an opium plant, and you go out there and you get a little twinge and you think, great, I felt kind of good and that just with an opium plant. So you go back home and you refine it and you turn it into heroin and you go out there with heroin and it doesn’t go well and you wonder why you do so bad with that, but you just keep going back home and refining, but bringing back out whatever you have even if it’s 25%, 30% written, because you just want that feeling, it feels great to be you and get a laugh.”
Bander stressed the importance of going to more open-mics to me, which everyone told me, before he doubled back from Matt and I’s trip to get Bubble Tea to go steal internet from the Holiday Inn and try to write.
“Not much of a Holiday Inn, then.” I told him. “More like a working, trying to get stuff accomplished type of an inn.”
“Do yourself a favor,” He replied. “Don’t use that in the act.”
Matt and I ended up doing some decent improv and Matt, who hadn’t done it in forever, was particularly impressive with his blend of resolute nerdy-ness and sincerity.
It was bittersweet, because it was the last meeting of those free improv sessions, which for a long time, had been necessary after my writing classes, to shake out the bad stuff, I’d done and felt good about it.
I wondered how I’d do that now.
I ended up going to an open mic, after getting out of work early, just to see.
“Hi, I’m Nicholas, it’s nice to meet you.” I said, going on stage, after being called up by the ebullient host.
“And I just want to let you know, contrary to my appearance, I am employed, I do have a place of residence.”
The set went on-and-off, with some bits getting more laughs than others and particularly my last joke, which I went full throttle on, going off dead-on-arrival, but I came off the stage satisfied, having beaten back my fear and having a couple people compliment me on my act.
One of them was Zac Amico, the man I’d always admired, who was about a year ahead of me, stand-up wise and got on stage near last for the open mic, dressed in a too-long time and some baggy cut-off cargo shorts. He seemed locked in his persona, no nerves, moving quickly from jokes that worked less to jokes that worked more and not even sweating when he had to cut off a joke for the time limit.
Was that craft? I wondered. Was that what I would get if I kept working at it?
Chadd also came out and bought me a beer and sat with me and laughed when others wouldn’t laugh at my jokes. We sat and hung out, before and after, ate some dinner and drank a bottle of wine that made me self-conscious in its ordinariness, given my bacchanal upbringing.
“Dad,” I said, getting on the phone with my father at the restaurant. “I’m not sure what you’ll think of me after I tell you the name of this bottle.”
“Tell him Chadd wants to get drunk!” Chadd yelled into the phone and my dad laughed across the line.
It was the night before Valentine’s Day, that night and over dinner and as we walked down 6th Avenue, we argued about love and our place in relationships and what lessons can be taken from getting smacked for being a nice guy in this world.
It was a fun argument, the kind I like to have with Chadd, where we’re yelling at each other like maniacs, but never because we wanna kill each other, only each other’s ideals.
As I packed Chadd into a cab off Spring St, he told me “Thanks, buddy. You’re a good friend.” which was funny, cause he was the one who came out to see me perform at a basement on Bleecker St, who’d bought me a beer and who’d put up with my self-deprecating drunken whining all night.
I’d bet the label’d better apply to him.
Since I’ve been taking improv and writing classes, it’s arguable to say that my life has improved, feeling more fulfilled, more like I’m doing something, rather than just dicking around serving popcorn or meeting every other week to write stories about how I’m not doing anything with my life.
One aspect of my life that hasn’t improved though, has been my eating habits.
Since most of my classes are at 7 o’clock, I’ve had to try to rush into me whatever I could between class and the morning shift at work, maybe throwing in a little writing in that space as well, if I could handle it.
It’s a tricky balance since if I eat too early, I get hungry again and if I eat too late, well, I’m missing fucking class.
I usually try to handle this by going to Hale and Hearty and grabbing a soup and a salad so at least if I’m going to eat something later, I won’t be completely devastating my body.
But this past week Hale+Hearty did me dirty by not having my Cream of Tomato w/Chicken+Orzo soup ready for me and so I had to go somewhere else.
The place I found was incongruous, an out-of-the-way joint, stuck on a side street, over-looked by FIT, mid-block.
What it offered, however, was both rare and delicious: NYC soul food below 125th St.
What I got, from the familiar combination of steam trays, was the Fried Chicken combo with Mac and Cheese and stirred buttered cabbage, a meal I’ve been having in one form or another since I was 7 and would demand my mother take me to the Korean bodega “Fresh Farm” to obtain their version.
What I got were huge portions of juicy food, bricks of cheese and fried chicken skin entering my stomach, with hot sauce handy to be squirted over everything.
Hungry comedians take note: their lunch special is 6 dollars.
I missed it that day.
But return for it, I will.
I usually end my blog posts here, after the food section, but I thought I should just take a moment, given the day, to talk about it for a second.
For most of my adolescent and adult life, I never had a Valentine for Valentine’s Day. When I would, it would be some girl accepting out of pity in middle school, or some girl accepting out of pity in college, or the one girl who actually wanted to be with me, for a time.
So I’ve had a lot of bitter Valentine’s Days, as readers of this blog could probably surmise without me saying.
Today I feel spite, I feel anger, I feel depressed over my lack of OKCupid messages.
Most of all, I feel normal as this is my state on Valentine’s Day, going about my day alone, and then going to sleep.
But now that I can appreciate it, I guess what I have to say is this:
My friends who are in a relationship, who have a valentine, or just have someone they’re with today.
Take a moment before you hand over those flowers. Take a moment before you spring your surprise. Take a moment before you put on your elaborate or not-so-elaborate plan to woo and placate your partner.
At this moment in your life, for whatever it is, you have something, good or not-so-good, but it’s there and it means something.
Feel that, for all the bad shit for once, and let it soak.
As for everyone else, let’s beat those people up while they’re sitting there thinking like assholes.
And by the way, I’m Nick, do you have a Valentine yet?
Fried Chicken w/Macaroni and Cheese, Stirred Cabbage, Copious Hot Sauce- $11.00
28th St bet 7th and 8th Avenues.
1 to 28th St. CE to 23rd St.