This is the sight of me walking down 7th Avenue after a midnight show, semi-successfully executed, in the post 1am hours, going down past the bar from 57th St.
I had been flirty at the bar, an easy enough affair. I had tried it on like a coat, or like the clothes at that American Apparel warehouse sale I go to, seeing if things make me look good.
An apt analogy actually. I have commented to people that never before when I weighed much more did I ever comment on or want to shop for clothing. It was outside the realm of my expectations as I knew I didn’t look good, so my defenses shut me off to the possibility of shopping, of having to see myself, or accept the way I was.
Now, I shop endlessly on the cheap, mismatched racks of the American Apparel Warehouse Sale on 26th St, looking for things that make me feel good, asking for opinions on what works and what doesn’t, what colors, what styles, looking for shirts that fit me tight, that show me off.
That’s how I try flirting on in that bar after the Gethard show, my friend Andrew Parrish (who met his current girlfriend this way) had recommended it to me previously, actually, but I’m usually too tired after the show, too wanting to do Yoga the next morning, too scared to put myself out there and fail or, worse, fuck up a good situation for me.
So in that mix of defensiveness, self-doubt and common sense, I usually end up walking home down that 7th Avenue, either all the way down or far enough to pick up my locked-out couch-crasher Teddy, who is at a different bar, before completing my 3 miles and being home.
But I try on flirting that night. Complimenting, finding ways to be assertive without being intrusive, seeing opportunities to connect, making sure, as I try to with all people now, that I am looking them in the eyes confidently, with a smile or the receptiveness of listening.
Like clothes, it’s not a natural fit for me, a thing out of the past. Like clothes, I still don’t really know what I am doing, throwing on a slapdash approach, sometimes not seeing how silly I look.
But Michael Delaney pointed out to us in a class that the difference between writing a sketch and doing improvisational work (being in the moment), is that a sketch is like working with clay where it can be formed and reformed, changed and shifted before being presented. With improv though, he said, we are working in marble and every move we make, mistake or not, is visible.
I don’t know what I am doing in marble right now.
Flirting or performing, though I’ve gotten better about being okay about life.
Christina Gausas (an amazing performer and improviser who I am lucky enough to get to work with) noted me a few weeks ago that when I made moves in my scenes it was like I was moving through water, making half-moves, unconfident. A non-improviser or even one might be confused by the terminology, I’ll explain. Instead of grabbing someone by the hand and giving a firm handshake, you reach out in slow motion waiting for their acceptance. Instead of brushing a girl’s hair back, you touch her lightly on the arm, uncertainly. When my old friend Jonny-Jon-Jon told me I needed to “take more leaps, not just from sinking in the mud to a rescue helicopter, more uncertain ones”, he was right too.
And life, improv, writing everything, they all tie together and seem to intermesh, though my life is full of them, so that may just be it.
Another moment learning from Christina was an exercise she does where we draw a trait from a piece of paper in her hand and have to play it subtly, or to put it differently, like a real, normal person. I nailed “gay” apparently (I talked about taking some time off from work to explore the world and a collection of Portuguese spun-glass), but when I drew “sexually aggressive”, I stumbled into creepy or timid, struggling like balance in yoga, to find a middle ground.
“When I think about being flirty or aggressive, ” she told me. “I think about a male improviser who would always be at the bar, just making super sexual jokes and it was always cool because that was just who he was, but if you ever took it seriously, he’d be down in an instant.”
I think my version of that was someone telling me my voice was hoarse it was and saying it sounded super-masculine.
“Yeah, I have huge balls.” I replied.
I think that got a laugh.
But in the end I walked home by myself again. I didn’t want to stay out late (I did), didn’t want to feel like shit again (did), wanted to get up in time for yoga, which I did.
But what am I looking for?
Playing my gameboy (a term, Nintendo DSi is the more accurate one) is often a troubling sign, something of a detachment from reality for me. Playing it while walking, an even greater one, especially now that I am aware of the work I do on my posture in yoga and how I fuck that up looking at my screen.
In improv and in life, the work I do is essentially to listen better, which is what I’ve told my friends, listen to myself (which I have gotten better at), but listen to others, be vulnerable, be in the moment and be confident not knowing ever what you are going to do.
Think about it, the amount of times in life we pre-plan what we are going to say, the times we judge a conversation or muscle past it just to make our point. If our points are so great, let’s make them, but as a talker I am almost exclusively defined by my propensity to talk about myself to the exclusion of others. Thus the blog you are reading right now.
So to listen, to not pre-plan, to be in the moment and vulnerable is practice in life as well as an improv. It makes you into a better, more responsive person. Know what you want in life and have that somewhere and how you feel, but I think that’s all you get to take for things.
When I go into a bar, or a classroom, when I hang around the Gethard show, or the different comedy theaters, who knows what will happen? It’s painful to be there, frightening to be confident.
So the “safe choices” are either detachment or self-abuse, detachment by not trying to connect with other/yourself (video games) or just judging yourself for your inadequacies as a way of not absorbing them, by viewing your perceived weakness as an external force, itself a kind of detachment as well.
All of this seems rambling and it is late. No apologies.
On Tuesday I had a great show and a great class and felt on top of the world. I got asked to be in a sketch group the next day out of the blue with people I respect, again people much more talented than me.
And yet, for all my practice not judging, for all my work, I still find myself slipping into judgement after a bad class, beating myself up over not being good enough or confident enough to really connect or hook up, wondering what I am doing or who am I, looking for external approval, because somewhere within me still lives vivid my own sense of worthlessness birthed from years of insecurity.
I’ve said here many times on this blog, I’m happy to return to yoga as much as I do because it reminds me when I am exerting myself that staying calm in the moment is how I stay calm in the face of adversity of life, that when I am not good at a pose it only means that I have self-awareness and I am doing the work, that when the teacher comes over to adjust me (which is very frequently, even now), it is a help because it means I am learning and getting closer to my own self-sufficiency, put succinctly by my friend Amy Hellman: “Think of everything as practice and you’ll get a lot more of a kick out of it.”
I spent time with my friend Frank today, a new big brother to his 62 year-old father’s son with his wife, Karen, a sort of slightly removed half-brother for Frank as he’s adopted. I knew though talking to him, as I went to Park Slope and to New York Methodist Hospital to see little Charlie in the NICU and saw Frank’s pride and wonder at his little brother’s cuteness, at his little brother’s being.
Well, some shit’s real.
And sometimes it’s good to remind one’s self of that.
And have more fun, if you can, and be more “practical” with the stuff that’s not.
And maybe that’s called “being a man” which is a note I got once, and maybe that’s called being confident.
Or maybe, it’s just something I’ll just have to be okay not knowing how it looks on me, until I do.
I am addicted to Mediterranean food.
It’s just delicious and healthy and flavorful. It’s adjustably spicy. It has great textures and vegetables. Hummus and falafel are so good that it’s just silly that they even exist.
So I apologize for how much I cover them, it’s just that I love to eat them and so I write what I eat.
In this case, it was The Hummus and Pita Co., a new joint over on 6th Avenue that, like Meze Grill before it, attempts to be a sort of Chipotle for mediterannian food.
Unlike Meze though, which I have not been to in a long time (I’m not often in the 50s during dining hours), THPC seems to be put on a little fanciness with a wider range of stuffings (fried eggplant, shawarma or a sort of tandoori chicken/steak as well as falafel) and different kinds of hummus.
All of it of course seems a little strange when you can get a 4 buck chicken kabab sandwich on many street corners.
But everything was really fresh and delicious. The salad bar of toppings (the mark of any great Mediterranean take out place) was ample with different kinds of cabbage and pickles and the shawarma I got was greasy and great and I even found some whole wheat.
The result was a yummy journey from crunch of cabbage to soft plyant chicken thighs rounding through to savory hummus and tahini, with dabs of hot sauce flecking in a mess that fell apart only to be scooped up, finger food, the dirty work covered up with napkins.
Maybe not for every day with the amount of good halal carts, but if I need some primo-shit, I know just where to look.
THE HUMMUS AND PITA CO.
Chicken Shawarma Whole Wheat Pita w/Fried Eggplant, Pickles, Red+White Cabbage, Hummus, Tahini, Hot Sauce- $8.11
6th Ave. bet 16th and 17th Sts
1 to 18th St. FLM-PATH to 14th St-6th Ave.