I was going to start this post differently, but instead I’ll start by pointing out that I have one guy I know who writes a blog about going on a hundred dates with beautiful women who are all attracted to him and a girl I know who writes a blog about why do all men suck and I don’t have a boyfriend, etc.
Part of me feels like the two should just fuck and get it over with (or their blogs should fuck at least) and part of me just feels like it’s 1:45 in the morning and I’m just making connections that don’t bear relation to the world.
That said, welcome to the blog somewhere in between those two, in which I am a young man (guy) who goes on not so many dates and less wonders why he doesn’t have a mate than spends an awful lot of time bemoaning how ramblingly pathetic he may be.
Attractive, I know.
But you’re here reading.
Point for me.
Why I’m up this late is the 13th Annual Del Close Marathon (and my first), in which I volunteered to stand around and see shows as a festival volunteer, in order to get a pass to see more shows, not as a volunteer.
Oh yeah, I also get admitted to the party space where I can drink “free beer and alcoholic punch” all weekend, which is actually a pretty damn good perk, a near–infinite open-bar, except oh yeah, I’m on a diet and I can drink neither beer nor “alcoholic punch”/ In fact, up till yesterday, I couldn’t drink anything at all.
Which is to say, I graduated the first phase of my low-carb diet on Wednesday, having shed 11 pounds and made it to the second stage, which is to last a couple months, until I reach my target weight, the big two-oh-oh.
But having graduated to that second stage, I find myself saddened by how much it resembles the first. I can’t even eat a whole grain sandwich, but merely one slice of whole grain bread until several weeks in. I can’t drink but for red wine in moderation. Shit, I can’t even find anyone to drink with.
I stood in the back of the UCB Theatre for around 8 hours watching show after show, stone-dead-sober as bad improv piled up in my sinuses like pollen, needing to be cleansed by air and space, by lack of exposure to more improv, but I was there watching and watching. After all, even if it rains of a spring day, you still have your allergies. The only thing that keeps them out is some time inside with the air conditioning or some medicine, which booze-wise was not available.
I had had a conversation with my friend Jon Bander the other day and later with the vet-funny-man Kevin Cragg about the same thing: Improvised comedy works on the subversion of tension and expectations that comes from you, the viewer, thinking that the people you are seeing cannot succeed in making you laugh, since they are making things up on the spot. But as you learn the craft of improv and see more and more professionals, doesn’t that tension change or slacken? Don’t improv comedians become just like stand-up comedians: people who you have an expectation of to make you laugh? Does improv, in a sense, stop working after a while?
Bander gave a conditional yes to this point of view, explaining his own estrangement from seeing shows, from being there, from his younger days of waiting 4 hours in that Sunday-night line in front of the UCB. He was burnt in a way and it took more to get him there, like a writer, or an addict. Kevin on the other hand, another improviser I admire, and a man of his own subversive funniness, compared it to the adult appreciation of filmmaking one gets through studying film, where some things fall away, but:
“You still love the things you really love, don’t you?” He asked me. “That’s how it is.”
I said good night to Kevin in the awkward way I say good night to people who I think are obviously cooler than me and I said good night to Bander, that same way, when he told me couldn’t see any shows.
The next night there I was seeing show after show, burning out, until I saw “Horatio Sanz and the Kings of Improv” at the end of the night, optionally. It was fun and funny and unforced, in a well-lit non-basement, for a change. I talked with people who I knew who I hadn’t had a good conversation with before. A friend, Ritch, saved me a seat and a place in line for an hour. A friend, Mishu, gave me his extra ticket. A friend, TJ, told me how he thought I “got it” in a class I’d been struggling hard with. I felt good.
With this diet I’m doing, I’ve had a lot of feelings. My grandmother sent me an email tonight (something that happens now) saying that “you have set quite a goal for yourself” and te more I wonder about that, the more I believe it to be true.
I’ve strung together classes, improv and sketch, packing my schedule, attempting project after project, jobs and side-jobs. I’ve started performing in theaters and organizing groups. I even had someone I don’t know well, but respect as a performer, tell me I was “FANTASTIC” in caps like that in a show she saw me in. And I squeeze my belly and worry about food and wonder if I’ll wake up with all the weight back, all my effort in vain.
If all of this sounds like some sort of crazy metaphor or symbolism, maybe it is. Maybe it means I’m trying too hard, even as I always feel I’m not trying hard enough. I look at my friend Zac Amico who has an open mic he hosts on Tuesdays at CB’s now, who sells tickets at night, goes to open mics on his off time and interns a thankless job at Troma during the day and I wonder why I’m not doing as much. I wonder what my efforts add up to. I find excuses not to like myself.
And so I fill the time I would come to those realizations with things to do, with trying, so I don’t have to think about trying harder or why I’m trying harder or anything at all. I can think about rules, like improv, or a diet.
But the thing is, with both of those things, it isn’t about the rules. It’s just about being present and making better choices.
And knowing when to shut up and go home.
I started off this blog post, somewhat irrelevantly talking about the guy with his date-blog and the girl with her date-blog and how they should just fuck (or their blogs at least) and let the world get over it.
But the truth is (for whatever it means to say “but the truth is”) is that I wish I had that point of view. That certainty.
Because right now, what I have is not drinking in a room full of people.
And wondering what my life is about.
A quick addendum.
This used to be the playground attached to McDonalds I’d go to as a kid.
It was ugly and in fact it was part-owned by the city, though somewhat maintained by McDonalds.
I also remember it as some sort of hang out for druggies if I recall (my sister not withstanding).
It was torn down, bulldozers rest there and I’m not sure what it’s going to be.
I’ve become a more self-conscious person through all this everything.
And I don’t go to that McDonalds anymore.
Though I wish I could revisit that park.
Instead of looking at an empty lot, as I walk home, down 6th Avenue.
Just a thought, I guess.
I was invited by a comment on my blog to try this place and it was somewhat of a fiasco.
The woman asked if I could come there and that I should tell her when and I emailed back to her comment saying I’d be there in 20-25 minutes.
She wasn’t there in time (forgiveable) but I tried to go in there, on a slow morning, and order a Chicken Shawarma platter with no rice, only to be informed I could not do that, I had to order a salad and get the chicken on top of that.
I didn’t know why this had to happen, but I accepted it and grabbed the only salad I could eat on my diet and saw it topped with chicken, only to be charged extra when I asked for tzatziki.
“But tzatziki comes with the platter.” I told the kid behind the counter.
“Yeah but you got the salad.” He said.
Jesus Christ. You should just be able to get fucking tzatziki as a condiment at a greek fast food place.
Also, I wanted to bust out “Listen kid, I’m a food critic who was sent to review this place now give me the fucking tzatziki.”
But I said “You know what? I’m not going to argue.” and paid and ate some of the salad.
It was huge and good and I couldn’t nearly finish half, burgeoning with shawarma and “greek cheese” and shredded red onion and leafy greens.
I brought the other half down for my mom and she thanked me with email subject line “The salad was great!!!” later that day.
Also later that day I got an email back from the woman who invited me apologizing for not being there and asking how I liked the food.
“It was good.” I told her. “But you should tell your guy not to charge for tzatziki. It was kind of a hassle.”
I got an email back soon after saying:
“Nicholas. Glad you enjoyed the food. You switched from a platter to a a salad though and that’s why your tzatziki was extra.”
And I said to myself: “You know what? I’m not gonna argue.”
And wrote this post.
Chicken Shawarma over Chopped Salad- approx 9 bucks.
Lexington Ave bet. 77th and 78th Sts.
6 to 77th St.