Summer is upon New York City, even though it’s only somewhere in May still, if only for a few fleeting hours.
With this realization, this acceptance comes the fact that when the heat comes up, it doesn’t go much down, that the paradigm has shifted, that when it’s 87 and humid in New York (pronounced “YOO-mid”), that this is the new reality, not a heat wave, but a fact of city life.
I, for one, never want to accept the onset of summer in New York City. It’s the city’s worst season in many ways, the one where the garbage and piss smells rise up from the sidewalk, burning and sizzling into all of our noses, leaving us standing in stifling subway stations, waiting for our cars to arrive, less for expedience than air conditioning.
Every time I meet a new group of people, I end up acting like a tour guide to them.
“This is what will happen,” I explain to them, summing up the last few lines. “It’s going be pretty awful, especially during the day. But the nights…”
Nights in New York City during the summer can be hot and awful, sticky too.
But mostly it cools off and the light lasts and lasts so 9pm could feel like 6pm and the warm weather, feeling tropical, could lead you out all night.
It was a night like on Sunday, after seeing improv, after seeing the Hangover II, after sitting in my house, seeing different kinds of friends.
I was strung out, come down on two nights previous of drinking and the two iced coffees and king-sized “small” soda I’d drank at the theater.
But damn, if that night wasn’t pretty.
As the crew of people I was with disbanded and went home after the UCB, I stuck around with Tara, an engaged Canadian high-school drama teacher, and Jeff, a Texan-by-way-of-Delaware engineer, who both had come to New York for this improv intensive and both were just trying to see the city one more night.
We walked around looking to see is Shake Shack was open (it wasn’t), talking about our lives “back home”, our present adventures and leaving out purposefully the somewhat-sad contrast of what we were doing now, versus what our lives would return to.
In a way, this improv class we were taking was summer camp again, a block of your life divided, where your adult responsibilities could hold for a while, suspended in the face of the people you were with.
That is, of course, unless you were someone with a night job like our “big brother” Sean, the singing waiter, who got on shift after taking notes for all of us to be sent out at the end of every day. Or Ray, who worked an afternoon-to-late reception gig. Or Natalie, who acted for scale and took tips at night, from a corner of the West Village.
Or if you were me and didn’t have much of “adult responsibilities” to begin with, with a job so occasional that you hoped you were still employed, so you could tell everyone how cool it is.
All of us still were “holding” for that time, for those shows, for those classes with different teachers. Like campers we bonded quickly, free to hug, free to touch.
We clapped for each other, called each other pet-names, laughed when we picked on each other.
“Juvenile”, my inner critic calls out and some friends would agree, but college is some form of that too, as is grad school.
A place where nerds hover and function, in suspension of real life.
But that time was now coming to an end. I’d told my boss my class was over on Friday. I’d told my new-found “intense people” about shows that were happening after they’d already left.
Camp was always interesting growing up because in some ways it represented an alternative reality. When you appeared magically in Vermont, you were context-less, separated from your environment. Even if you portrayed high status or low status through your bearing or gait, you were judged relatively, you were a person anew.
And then, after 3 or 6 or even 8 weeks, it was over. You might not see these people again. Life resumed.
Now I live a life without summer breaks from school or work or what have you. There is no “return to reality”, only the different phases, jobs, locations you live in, in your life, moving from crowd to crowd.
As I walked with Jeff and Tara, from out of town, it was Memorial Day, in New York City, the official start of summer.
And as I told them about how New York would be in the days to come, I only realized later they wouldn’t see them.
And I wouldn’t see them either.
But I kept on giving them the tour.
Because that’s what you do at camp; you pretend, for the moment, it won’t end.
“Excuse me, uh sir. I was, uh, just wondering, uh, if I could, um, get a… signature. Autograph, you know? Big fan.”
This is what I mimed to Rob Malone when we went to go see “The Hangover II” and he showed up in Galifinakis-style shaved-head-and-beard, claiming it had nothing to do with it.
“It has nothing to do with seeing the movie.” Rob claimed from his seat. “It’s just hot out. Also, sit the fuck down.”
I was standing in front of Rob in the awkward aisles of the 19th St East theater, where a group of us had been drafted to see the film on a slow Memorial day weekend.
I was just getting over an improv-prom I had attended, stag (actually with a non-date of the nice, but clearly engaged school teacher) which left me crying in bed over my loneliness at approximately 11:07pm, passing out in my clothes and waking up due to heartburn unable to go back to sleep at 4.
In these ways, the improv prom greatly resembled my real prom.
Plus I had someone tell me I was “adequately creepy” in a dead-pan and my enchiladas arrived cold on the table.
Rob and Chadd, who had met me for coffees earlier, helped me nurse through my stomach upset, my lack of togetherness and my generally weird improv-absorption by providing me some paths back to real life.
“I’m thinking of growing out my beard for the summer.” Rob claimed, during a conversation gap, causing all to jump on refute.
These were the moments friendships were made of.
Chadd for his own part was getting ready to shoot new projects in his exciting life as an “actual filmmaker” out of NYU-Film school and his enthusiasm and pluck in his progress, caused me to mention when we discussed some of our former classmates:
“Not ends up making movies and not everyone wants to.”
Chadd took a moment to take that in, with an Ohioan “I guess…” as if anyone who didn’t want to were crazy, in the face of his own refreshing certainty and commitment.
Andrew Parrish brought along his hot girlfriend, Kelly Hires, like a kidnapped Lois Lane, we imagined bound, gagged and saying something like “You’ll never get away with this, Luthor.”
But really they seemed pretty happy, away from their office jobs, on a warm afternoon.
Buddies Blake LaRue and Sean Dunn showed up just to look like each other, or like Blake was a 17 year-old impersonating Sean, and they mostly kept quiet except berating for peeing so often, a product of all of the caffeinated beverages.
The movie was terrible, we barely laughed. As another friend pointed out to me, “at some point it just became a weird drama and I just felt really bad for them.”
But on the street corner with Rob and his camera and his beard. With Chadd’s toothy smile, the Parrishes kidnap-y aesthetic and the LaRue/Dunn change-up, I felt surrounded in something worth while.
“Cheese.” Rob said as he took my picture.
And “Cheese” I replied when I took his.
If I’ve said it once on this blog, I’ve said it often: I hate breakfast.
But there are those times when you wake up too early on a weekend, bound by earlier awakenings and it’s 10:30 and you know you don’t want to wait until 11:25 or whenever the fuck these places start serving real food and you cave and you just go for something.
And sometimes, really, really rarely: It turns out good.
This is one of those times.
I ended up on a hypoglycemic Saturday morning at Bareburger, a spot near me in the South Central Village.
They just happened to have a 3-dollar egg sandwich, an early opening and an advertisement of a brioche and jack-cheese.
What I got was all the advertised above, along with the best tasting turkey bacon (something I usually avoid) I’ve ever had, “french fry hash” cooked with peppers and onions, and some pretty raw-dog organic ketchup.
When I was done it was sunny out. My stomach was full. I didn’t feel bloated or like I wouldn’t eat lunch.
I just felt like there was food in me that I didn’t mind eating.
At a table on a weekend afternoon.
Breakfast; that’s the highest praise I’ll give you.
Egg Sandwich w/Colby Jack, Turkey Bacon, French Fry Hash and Organic Ketchup- $8.95
LaGuardia Place between Bleecker and West 3rd Sts.
BDFM to Broadway-Lafayette Sts. ACE to West 4th St.