Adventures in Trying Not To Be a Pseudo-Celebrity Douchebag

“I hope she’s a foodie” was one of the comments on Facebook.

The others were comment on my “fly” appearance, how I was “styling” or “killing it” or, from Andy Roehm, always refreshing, wondering “what the fuck’s wrong with you drinking a vodka raspberry?”

When Rob put the picture up on Facebook, I was struck by how “cool” I looked, how “dapper” in my mismatched sport-coat and short-sleeved button-up, how my receding hairline had turned laziness into a sort of hair-do, how my staring ahead at the camera as opposed to the lady next to me, made me look important, or more than it all, or intense.

It was not a person I recognized, but then again, it was not reflective of who I was then, a problem I often have with photographs.

The truth of the matter was that I don’t know the young lady who was on my shoulder just then. She was someone who said the line I’ve heard repeatedly–“You’re that guy from Bethenny!”–and then it was off to the races.

I had to take my picture with her, had to meet her friends. These people didn’t know my name and nor would I expect them too, but I had no way to connect with them. In most ways, the interaction was like something digital, a “like” on Facebook or a retweet, with the lingering effect of having someone still look at you after the acknowledgment.

These people, this pretty lady, the whole open bar scene, they didn’t know me, so how was I supposed to process their blank acknowledgement?

The event was the Webutante Ball, a swanky charity-type thing run by Richard Blakely, a web-honcho whom I met in bar and kept in touch. I had comped passes for the event by Blakely’s kind offer but the only person I could think of for a date was Robert Malone, since a “ball” might be a heavy order for anyone I might have been tentatively pursuing and Rob, much more than I, knew how to have a good time.

We got dressed-up, we hit the party, sweaty and dank from the lingering night humidity outside and took part in the sadly vodka-only limited open bar, the reason for the drink Andy “Roehmed” me for.

As I walked around the event, I just felt crowded and more crowded as people filled it, different rooms, shoving past, trying to find others.

Rob had more of a tolerance for it all, especially with his camera, appointing himself Culture Vulture for the night.

“What’s the matter, babe?” He asked me. “Don’t want to hit up those ladies looking for some hot food-love?”

“Not really.” I told him. “I’m just not that interested.”

It’s not that I’m ball-less or even that intro-verted, I just couldn’t deal with the emotions, the crowded bar, the pressure to respond, the idea that somebody “knows” you, like that and expects that person they know from you.

What if I’m the me that wants to talk about movies, the me that talks about comedy shows, the me that just wants to fall in love?

How do you emerge as a person when to more people than you think, you’re just a character on a screen?

Reality TV just exacerbates the existential philosophy of the shit, as do Vodka Cranberries as did crowds.

Rob was disappointed in me when I told him I was leaving that night, though he came with, like a friend.

Bobby Olsen was disappointed in me a week later, when I left the after-party for Sophia Takal’s “Green” for similar reasons.

Sophia’s a friend and co-conspirator in the Find Rob Malone Love Association, and her movie was felt, honest, great (you can check it out at BAM, via the link above if you’d like).

I had been looking forward to the unexpected “free beer after-party”, but what I thought would be a soiree in an empty bar with a bunch of Brooklyn-y film nerds turned out to be a conglomeration of three different parties in a too-small LES hotspot.

Again, I found myself cornered by drunk people “recognizing me”, asking me questions, asking “what is she like? what are you doing with her? are you on the next season?”, things I don’t know how to answer, things I shouldn’t have to.

I’m not famous enough to deal with this always and the fact knowing that this is all uncontrollable and fleeting only makes it more difficult to deal with. Who knows what will happen to me, who people really are, what someone else’s plans are for me? All I’m interested in is writing and doing comedy and trying to find some sort of creative craft I have some control over.

Another crowded bar, another night, another time I couldn’t escape, until I did.

Bobby hadn’t seen the movie, he’d just biked in to see some friends. He’d been working hard and hoping to get some R+R. He wasn’t there to ask questions, just to see the person he actually knew, among others, of course.

But by the time Bobby got there, I had to apologize and leave and walk home, alone, 1 free beer deep, in the Lower-Manhattan late-time.

A question I ask often in this blog is “who am I?” There’s a certain necessary, but unclear schism between the person writing this and the person appearing in these stories. Another schism between the way I see myself and my friends’ conceptions of me. And then this other person entirely that I don’t know how to respond to, this context-less reality.

I looked at the picture above today and didn’t know necessarily who I was.

Except I wasn’t “with” that girl, I’m with no one. I didn’t have a hair-do, or a fashion sense. And I didn’t feel important.

I was just looking into the camera, seeking escape, feeling uncomfortable, sipping a Vodka Cranberry from a small black straw.

But that’s not the Nick that people saw on Facebook.

And why hurry to correct them when they just assume my success?

***

A friend found this picture online, not taken by anyone I knew and Frank Orio called me to tell me about it.

I had been at the Big Apple BBQ where this picture was taken, this past weekend but, of course, I had no idea who took it.

It’s certainly much less flattering than the other picture.

I was waiting online to get some Turkey Barbecue from Ed Mitchell’s pop-up tent, the only place offering a white-meat option. I was pulled out of line, handed a sandwich and told when I asked why, “you’re the foodie”. To which I glumly nodded and headed out.

The sandwich was fairly awesome, with dark-meat turkey shredded-up on a bun, with a cider-vinegar sauce and something called a “heating agent” sprinkled on top at my server’s behest.

It was sloppy and full of juice, like I like my ‘cue and when they asked me if I could talk with Ed Mitchell, the pitmaster, for a moment on camera, I gave them their bit, if not out of gratitude for the sandwich, then out of respect fr the man.

He talked about raising funds to open in New York (his store’s in Raleigh, NC) and I recommended, somewhat shamefully/passe-ly, that he might open a food truck in NY for less money than a full on restaurant, in order to prove the market for his style of BBQ in NYC. I told him I felt like such a thing would be a slam dunk here, but I conceded that “you know infinitely more about running a restaurant than I do”.

I joined Frank, his friends Charles and Val from college and his mom, an eccentric, lovable schoolteacher named Sophie in line for some ribs they were getting.

“You know, you guys shouldn’t be getting ribs here.” I pointed out as they stood in the Blue Smoke line. “You can get these any time; these guys are NYC-based.”

“Nick, not everyone lives in NY.” Frank said, gesturing to a complimentarily-waving Charles and Val as I conceded and waited with them for their food.

It was Charles who found the picture a few days later.

Later that night, I had a UCB show I thought I was pretty funny in though my teacher didn’t like it much. Rob and Dan Dickerson attended and I made fun of Dan’s moustache. Lorina and Ron, my improv friends came and Ron stuck around after to see the “ASSSSCAT’ show with me.

Now that my 401 class is over, I’ve gotten my notes and I’m waiting to be told I’m not good enough to study “advanced classes” there (an email I check for frequently), it was nice that Rob texted me and said I was the funniest part of the show, along with a girl in my class who’s a vet. It was nice that Ron stuck around to talk with me and hang out after. That they all gave me notes and thanks and were there.

It was nice that Frank called me to tell me about the picture Charles had found, which I used in my blog.

It was nice in a time of feeling not-good-enough, to hear that for the people that knew you well, you were accepted.

***

I’ll admit, I kinda wish that Turkey Sandwich had been enough to end the blog with.

But unfortunately, as far as I know, it will never again exist in New York, unless someone takes a trip to Raleigh and stores some in the back of their car.

So here’s another story.

As part of my current job, which I can’t really talk about except to say that I really, honestly enjoy it (which terrifies me), I find myself in the strange position of being down in the Financial District, which I finally decided to use to blackball one Robert Martin Malone into eating a solid meal with me.

I tried to lure him to Alfanoose, where I so frequently pick up mammoth platters that never last less than two meals, but he chose my alternate, Zaitzeff, a burger joint that had been strenuously recommended by my employer who told me that “if you’re going to eat a real burger at Peter Luger’s, you should do yourself the favor and eat one at Zaitzeff”.

When we arrived, Rob was only a couple minutes late and apologized. We took turns complaining about girl problems (mostly lack-of-girl problems) and ordered some food and drinks, I caught a turkey burger while Rob opted for a regular 1/4lb Sirloin.

Both came standard on a “Portuguese Muffin” which seemed to me very close to an English muffin though Rob said he both preferred to my choice of the sesame-seed bun and to a straight-up EM saying “there’s something roll-y about this I really like”.

My turkey burger was fairly yummy if a bit small and I’m not much one for grilled onions (fried or caramelized please!) but the muffin did take care of containing and sopping the burger juices and providing a nice palatable counter-point to the umami flavors at hand.

The real all-star for me were the “Mixed Fries”, a large paper dish containing a mash-up of sweet-potato and idaho fries in a generous, share-encouraging portion. I told Rob the fries were on me and he obliged in turn by getting the beverages.

“You’ve got a thing for expensive lunches, babe.” Rob added, knocking burger juice out of his beard.

“Alfanoose would have been the same as this.” I replied.

“Yeah, but less burger-y.” Rob replied.

And that was a good note to exit on.

So we did.

***

ZAITZEFF BURGERS

Turkey Burger w/White Cheddar on Portuguese Muffin w/Mixed Fries- $16.82

NE Corner of Nassau and John Sts

AC2345JMZ to Fulton St-Broadway-Nassau. E to World Trade Center. R to Cortlandt St.

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8 Responses to Adventures in Trying Not To Be a Pseudo-Celebrity Douchebag

  1. Julie Brown says:

    Food sounds wonderful – especially the fry mixture, something to try here at home. Don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking of you, of how you are dressed, or how your hair looks. Let yourself go…as much as you can, be relaxed, just be yourself. You have a wonderful way with words in your writings, so I’m sure you could talk in the same vernacular. You would, too me, seem to be a very interesting person to speak with – albeit about Bethanny or your life. Bethanny is fun, but you are the one that counts. Keep that in mind…..if someone wants a pic of you with them, so be it. If that gives them their two minutes of fame in their heads, then satisfy that need. Keep on writing (and eating), I’ll be here to read on.

  2. Lisa says:

    Great and mouthwateringly well-written post, Nick. The t-burger sounds like something I might like. Hope you can enjoy yourself a little more in coming days, and as you remarked, savor the friends who know and really do like you.

  3. girlwonder01 says:

    First of all thanks alot for the wonderful experiences. I sure feels nice to be able to envision life as a “normal” in NYC, you may disagree. Nick, I guess New Yorkers are not hearing the news of our Stanley Cup Playoffs in hockey? Anyways, our city has a BIG buzz on tomorrows game, Vancouver versus Boston. Well, if your curious , just google it. Here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada there were up wards to 150,000 Vancouver fans past Friday. Crazy, crazy! We have to bring home the Cup, it is going to make history. Nick, have you ever bin to Vancouver, Canada? Well, better sign off, I seem to overlook the fact that this is your blog.

  4. Carol in Calgary says:

    Hi Nick. Further to previous post, just wanted to inform you that all Canadians are not illiterate. Love your blog.

  5. No matter if you were trying or not you are really cute in that picture, dare I say modelesque.

  6. rita says:

    I am an “older person” and surprisingly was delighted with your blog – you’re funny, cute a—and -d perspicacious –rita

  7. Megan says:

    Actually had a side of mixed fries about a month ago here in Idaho…amazing 🙂 just wanted to say I look forward to your blog every week…keep up the great work 🙂

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