Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)

This was my morning, this morning.

I read an article recently on the eccentricities of those who live by themselves, how it’s freeing, but also promotes strange and/or anti-social habits in those who do so since, free from external judgement, they are both free to be themselves and free to indulge in the baser parts of their personalities.

I have many living quirks of my own, which is one reason living with equal-pay roommates has worked generally poorly for me, but among the less-gross ones is just listening to music every morning in the shower and, yes, sometimes singing along.

Now, that there are two other guys staying with me, crashing on my couch and in a little coffin-like structure carved out of my ceiling; doesn’t matter, fuck them.

This is my house, broski. I enjoy my music in the morning. It warms me up somehow, reminds me of words, clears my mind to a place where it’s not focussing on the dopamine still retreating from my skin or the last night’s dinner (or booze) in my mouth or any of those terrible things.

You move to it, you have your reaction. You rise from yourself.

And if my couch-crashers don’t like it, they can wake up earlier.

Which is of course, moot, because they don’t complain about it at all and it isn’t even that loud.

Maybe I just need to feel competitive with someone, early enough, or whenever. Maybe I need to gain a little status sometime, get a little edge.

My sophomore roommate and former best friend John Weeke, who was tall and beardy and contemplative and a total goddam mooch would tell me that he thought the universe would be organized like baseball eventually, wherein humanity bonds together around a common team, itself and its preservation and nationalities and squabbles are forgotten by the binding pressure of an external threat, like New Yorkers in the street after a World Series win,

He believed in the necessity of the adversary as a bonding force.

I don’t know what happened to him.

I believe in singing in the shower in the morning or, at least, letting Pandora take me where it does.

Today, it took me to the above-mentioned song, which was part of a funny sketch, my peer and funny lady Kelly Buttermore wrote as a satire of the esotericism of Time-Life song collections. It was a funny sketch and a funny moment, which leads me to mention two things in rapid succession:

1. As readers of this blog may know, I am frequently lost within the tangle of my own tangents, inspired at any moment to go off and wanting to talk about something else, delicious that is mention that I want to explore but at the same time wanting to cling or tether myself back to where I was to finish my thought–OH if I could ONLY finish my thought!–an arduous journey made even sillier by the fact that conversation is more about the connection between people than it is any one brilliant idea. So I’ll try to finish what I’m saying, but no promises.

2. This moment of seeing/hearing this song on my iPhone in the morning, the crux of Kelly’s funny sketch, brings to mind the idea of provenance, coincidence, a cosmic/divine realization or memory that may seem like a personal intervention by something greater than you. Coincidences do happen, frequently, and the math is always there, if unattractive, to look in to the chances of even the things we think unlikely. It is possible to believe in fate or lady luck or omnipresence or whatever force you want to see guided in the world. But it is also interesting and I think rarely discussed, to think about the kind of people we are, I am, that we/I allow things to bang up against our subconscious and stir something, engaging in a journey of reminiscence and thought. If you’re walking about to get a scoop of ice cream and the Beatles come on, telling you to “get back to where you once belonged”, do you take it as a sign? Are they reminding you to mind your diet through some omnipresence or is your subconscious trying to guide you, manifesting in your world like it would through a dream, in fragments of your experience? Or both provenance and consciousness, meeting somewhere in the middle like the Sistene Chapel?

Anyway.

In this moment, I was struck by the song, thought of Kelly’s sketch and flashed to my life and a show I had had on Sunday. Armando Diaz, my teacher and a man I greatly respect, says that every sketch show is a train wreck putting it together up until the last minute, from Saturday Night Live onward. My sketch group “Fish Reynolds” was no different, standing in the lobby of the Magnet Theater trying silently to rehearse our lines as another sketch group filmed bits inside the theater and all of us also tried to drink seltzer and do the sort of silly bits and in-jokes to each other that is the enjoyable-comedian version of procrastination. By the time we got in the theater it was 45 until our show, trying to run fully our frist rehearsal, few people were off book and we were figuring out tech, desperately-strung as we went along.

The show was silly. It was on Oscar night. There were 6 people in the audience and the biggest laugh I got in the show was in pointing out that most of those audience members were performing in the show after ours.

It was pretty unprofessional. But it was fun.

It seems strange to say over and over again, but there’s so much power in knowing that whatever happens, the people who get on stage won’t hate each other when they’re off it.

My team for it’s silly name and sillier people are a bunch of people who seem to like and respect each other. I feel happy and relaxed to be a part of them. Even though Armando directs us, which is a great honor in itself and should be pressure-filled, I feel loose and silly with my friends, capable of making bigger funnier choices, capable of bringing in sketches when I can and not feeling too hard on myself when I don’t. I think he’s a great teacher, a great director, for this reason. That he seems genial and relaxed about things, so everyone else tends to be too. He’s self-effacing and so you feel that need to be something gradually fall away.

As my very good yoga teacher mentioned today, even she checks, physically looks when she’s doing poses to see that she’s doing them right and my class is full of other teachers from the studio who just want to learn from her (I obviously am sweating to keep up).

Knowing that there’s humor there, that we’re having fun, that you’re reaching a place of balance or enjoyment. That’s easy to lose in the pressure to perform, to be immediately great, et cetera.

Knowing to ease up on yourself, to not seek perfection but to enjoy the work and treat yourself with some humor.

And know that you’re doing it.

Just like writing, performance, sex or art, it can easy to forget that: It’s supposed to be fun, so enjoy.

Which is to say I’m screwing all of my sketch group Fish Reynolds.

Or to say otherwise that a great teacher or director can remind you to relax, to be yourself, not to judge, or to bring you back to that place. But that’s always a gift I can give myself. Forgiveness, compassion, excitement.

These things sound so trite.

And inside me, a 17 year-old ponytailed high-school is kind of sneering about how lame it is.

But inside that, he’s kinda jealous.

Yeah.

***

I’ve grown as a performer.

I knew this when I went into an ADR session, which is something where you have to try to match your own dialogue because the sound people were not able to get a good enough quality on set, so you go back and try to speak the way you did in the best takes of something.

I watched myself in a web series I acted in for my friend Charles Rogers and was really impressed. I was making fun, silly choices and branching outside my normal shell-shocked character to weird places of engagement with another actor. I felt free to make choices. A teacher told me that “acting is highly controlled improvisation” and it just clicked with me, along with remembering Jay O. Sanders when he acted in my thesis film and seeing him try to make a different choice for every take so that the director had a range of choices to work with.

It was nice and I was actually able to take Charles’s compliment when it was given to me. I’m still not my friend Sebastian’s idol Chris Farley (“Bro, I just watch the best-of DVD just to remember what I’m reaching for.” he has told me more than once, walking down the homeless-filled stretch of 8th Avenue by Penn Station), but I’m getting better.

ADR is still hard though, trying to recapture a performance while matching your mouth, sitting in a small square booth. In these moments, an actor-ish person gets to see their idiosyncrasies in full light, trying to match their “ums”, their pauses and the strange way they twisted the words in the nonsensical heat of that moment.

Before it happened though, I went to Chelsea Market to sit, buy a caramel brownie (imagine me saying that with the weight that a fat-kid character in my sketch show said the phrase “meat-ball meat-za” and you’ll get the longing, shame and desire in my voice for those things) and eat some delicious dinner. I went to Chelsea Thai Wholesale because, even though Chelsea Market has rapidly yuppified from its initial gentrified standpoint, Chelsea Thai Wholesale seems blessedly untouched with their racks of Sriracha, lack of lunch specials and actual Thai people hanging around making fun of your dithering.

When I kept trying to choose items, trying to shy away from the General Tso’s knockoff they had which I knew would hang badly with the broken-promise brownie I had promised myself I’d only eat half of (I failed), the woman behind the counter kept pointing out that if it was her she’d eat spicier and so I ordered the Pad Gra Prow with brown rice, which came, the sumptuous visual to my table.

“Your number is number one.” She told me as I placed my order, then a smile– “Yes, you can feel good about that.”

It was spicy indeed with basil and toothy jalapenos, fresh stir-fried red peppers and brown rice, oh the brown rice! Usually it’s the same anonymous small coffee+cream-colored beads that adorn my chinese food or my extra-dollar lunch specials, but here the brown rice is sticky, grain out, together in clumps, flavorful and real and unlike regular brown rice, which maintains its flavor inside of sauces, the brown rice let itself be seasoned by all the bold vegetables and mix and intermingle with them. In the end I was left with a small stack of jalapenos, along with a neat pile of some of my manhood, and a full and contented belly.

ADR happened. I had a show.

And then, full, home.

***

CHELSEA THAI WHOLESALE

Pad Gra Prow (w/Thai Brown Rice)- $8.95 (w/tax)

Inside Chelsea Market (9th Avenue bet. 15th and 16th Sts)

ACE to 14th St-8th Avenue

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