In the span of two weeks, the New York Times magazines has printed stories about how people once they become fat will stay fat forever and how Yoga can leave you paralyzed, thus effectively ruining my two hopeful outlooks on life.
Well, not really.
We take everything with a grain of sand that we here dramatized, or at least I try to, as myself a writer not just prone, but living by grandiose exaggerations.
For instance, the first article “The Fat Trap”, restated a lot of what we already know, that diets don’t necessarily work or work in the long term, that our bodies like to preserve homeostasis and that once we reach a certain weight, they don’t like us to burn that all off.
But it also meant the same thing that I already knew, though not stated so downer-ly: that if I want to maintain my weight, it will have to be something I monitor and am vigilant about for the rest of my life.
The same thing with the Yoga article that pointed out that people can hurt them selves badly doing it. This is true, but even by the articles own admission it only makes up a very little percent and usually people who are working themselves too hard or trying to show off, not chumps like me showing up 3 times a week and trying to figure at a way to balance for tree pose.
Speaking of Yoga, the part I enjoy most is that restful time at the end of the session, after you’ve sweated and stretched and held poses for longer than you would have liked to. That part where after that work, you’re just lying down, your body at peace, not sleeping, or even in danger of it really, adrenaline and endorphins running through your body.
Your mind wanders back and forth, daydreams, thoughts of being in the ocean, past experiences, life washes over you. In this state it is impossible to make decisions or to be conscious, only to just let yourself be.
Returning to New York City, this is something I struggle with, the idea of just letting go and being.
I tell myself when I go to my improv class I’m very excited about that I’ll just let myself learn and I do. But when friends ask me how the class is, I tell them it’s good, but I’m not the funniest person in it.
When I dig out my old Wii Balance Board to take my weight it gives me my BMI and tells me that though I’m “Normal” I can see myself teetering on the top edge as it playfully suggests that I lose 15 pounds (preferably through WiiFit).
It’s really easy to judge and get down on yourself for any number of failings (including the most pressing things on my mind: “what I’m going to do with my life” and “loneliness”) but yet those things floated freely on my vacation, they bounced in and out of my head in a way that produces worry.
New York is a city where I feel home frequently, where I feel “in my element” or with people that I care about, but it’s also a city of right ways and wrong ways, instantly identifiable tropes that anger the world.
Swiping a Metrocard poorly, parking six-inches from the curb, standing on the corner with a map or in the middle of sidewalk.
I feel now that I’m back here, the judgement return of it all, though perhaps I’m better armed to meet it.
My therapist says I seem “kinder to [my]self”, I don’t seem to be getting upset about my job or my life.
But the pressure still looms on the horizon even if I can still take it with some grace.
I am taking Neil Casey’s class right now at UCB and taking notes, trying to take it seriously (though I cannot seem to let go of the need to want to be funny, to look good) and one of the things he said to us was:
“I want a nail a sign to that center pillar of the Upright Citizens Brigade’ Theatre that says ‘You are in your late twenties.’ People believe when they get up there that the we can’t believe they’re performing, but we can, we payed 5 bucks for it, it’s not cute anymore.”
If I’m not obsessed anymore (or at least can view from a distance my previous obsession) with my career or my “path” or what am I doing with my life, it’s only that it’s still just warring inside me something I continually need to accept.
When I told my father I looked up to a performer who told me had no ambition, my father looked at me like I was crazy.
“Nick, you need ambition.” He said.
Just as I’m unpacking and unpacked here the thing that are difficult in my past, how do I reconcile the Nick who was driven, who wanted to get better, to find something, who took big risks, with the newer Nick who is mellower and more accepting. Old Nick in some ways was more willing to make a change on a small scale, while clinging to certain things, New Nick is well, new and just trying to get his bearings.
One of the things I thought over in Paris was that idea from improv (my coach looked at me like I was insane, justly, when I told her that I was thinking about improv in Paris) that you can’t write life. That you can have a want and try things and try to put yourself in good situations, but there’s no telling if you’ll get what you’ll want, or even if that was ever important, since the strongest place to be is now.
And then the other part of me kicks in saying, as many of my teachers have, that talking about improv is bullshit, just be.
Is talking about life bullshit then? No, I don’t think so. Reflection or creation is a fun part of the mind, that has its moments, especially when tempered.
I met a sociology student in Paris named Steve, from London, Ontario, who had never been outside of London, Ontario and was taking a trip by himself around Europe for vacation. To give the extent of isolation, I will give you a snippet of the conversation:
NICK: So I mean, what’s London like?
STEVE: It’s a big city, biggish. Not as big as Toronto, but geez. It’s kind of a tester city. Kind of isolated. Companies will test their products there before they go to other places. Just cause it’s isolated.
NICK: What kind of products? What kind of cities?
STEVE: (pause) I don’t know. It was just something someone said.
Steve was on two hockey teams, but we couldn’t talk about hockey. I got Indian food with him, his first time ever trying, he talked about some girl taking him home in Amsterdam (not a hooker, a teacher apparently) and then the next morning he was gone never to be seen again.
NICK: What did you study in school?
STEVE: Sociology. And then Engineering. You know my dad’s an engineer, his dad’s an engineer, my mom’s dad’s an engineer. I took one of those Job IQ tests in high school, it told me to be an engineer. I just was like fuck that. But then was like fuck that also. Then decided to study engineering. But now I’m out here, you know? In between. In studying, sociology, I don’t remember much, you know pounding and stuff, but what I do remember is this: it takes 3 weeks to make a habit and three weeks to break one. So that’s why I’m here.
NICK: I’m only here for two weeks, ya know.
STEVE: Well, yeah, a little more a little less.
That was the thing about Paris, those sorts of interactions, those people you meet who say things and then they’re gone, not even a facebook add and you’ll never see them again.
Is that life too?
The moment, eh?
Didn’t even think of that one.
And now, a small story.
I made in good time to the airport, Charles De Gaulle, in Paris, the most confusing airport in the world. One terminal is just for charter-flights (who knew there were so many), another one just for regional and then the main one (Terminal 2) is divided into 7 parts, one of which is only accessible by an unclearly marked shuttle bus and none of which indicate clearly where what airlines are.
Going through security I had wisely packed my scissors in my check-in (a great idea, but one that then forced me to shave when I got home, a different story) but I did have to take off my belt, my “weight-loss” belt, which was tattered and bare-threaded from all of my shamed attempts to get that next notch closer dropping 50 lbs. It survived being taken off, but as soon as I got through security (with a prolonged discussion with the french security guard at the marvel of a solar-powered backpack) it tore in two, which was a problem indeed.
Because as you see, this was a French airport and so the boutiques were, well, boutiques and though they had belts, they were all 85 euro and up.
The helpful French-lay security guards decided to do some strange knot-knitting of latex gloves on my size 35 (stolen from my father, now woefully big) jeans which made me feel like I had a tumor but prevented people, if I walked bow-legged, from seeing the probable skid-marks on my green-polka-dotted boxers.
I had a connection in Amsterdam, which was less fun than it could have been (disclaimer: no smoking in airports) and was the second weirdest airport I had ever been to, or maybe the first, since it had a casino, a museum, a meditation center and something at McDonald’s called a McCroquet, which turned out to be a mix of mashed potatoes and ground beef deep-fried for 2 euro, no thanks. The snack wrap was fine though.
But it was fun to show that weird knotted-glove thing on my jeans.
My parents picked me up and my mom brought me a belt.
And my pants were fine once more.
The last day in Paris, I hung out with the only actual friend I had made there, a cool and very nerdy dude named Hocine who was obsessed with Clint Eastwood movies and American cinema and general and had a hard time when I tried to explain to him why Moneyball sucked as he thought it was an Oscar lock.
We saw Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore at the Club Salle Henri Langlois Cinema, one of the reparatory theaters kept alive by Paris’s arcane anti-video store laws, which was very fine and in fact I wish Scorsese would make more movies like it.
I finished From Paris To The Moon at the Cafe De Flore, or rather I almost did. I saved the last part of it for the train leaving in the morning.
I got a Chocolat Chaud at the Cafe De Flore, the rival to Les Deux Magots. It was underlined and bolded and highlighted even though I don’t eat sugary things like that much anymore, except as a dessert.
I drank it and the carafe next to it with more in it.
It was delicious and bittersweet.
Good for chocolate.
And leaving Paris.
Oh la la, un cliche.
CAFE DE FLORE
Chocolat Chaud Chez Cafe De Flore- 6,70 Euro (way overpriced)
Rue St. Germain near Rue St. Michel
4 to St. Germain De Pres.