My Trip To Poly Prep

November 15, 2011

 


I was awake at 6am.

It wasn’t easy.

I had had an episode of The Chris Gethard Show the night before, one where I got dubbed my official show-name “The Man Behind The Plant”, which oddly brought me some pride. Everyone always goes out after the show and I have to admit feeling the slight temptation, even now that drinking isn’t too fun for me anymore, just to celebrate my renaming.

But I still had to be up at 6am.

And so I went home and left Keith Haskel in his Banana Suit and Ro-Beardo Malone in his Evil Kneivel costume to get drinks with the rest of the crew and headed home.

The alarm got me up, groggily, as I wandered over to the Prince St NR Station preparing to take my trip, forever, to the end of the R line, Bay Ridge-95th St.

It was a misnomer, really. That area was on the border of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, a fact noted in Poly Prep’s school song which begins:

“Far down on the heights called Dyker…”

The song I memorized which would now never leave me, except by Alzheimer’s or death.

I had invited back to Poly Prep out of the blue, by my old 7th grade teacher, a bright spot in my loathed history of attending the school, Mr. Khan.

Mr. Khan had encouraged 7th grade Nicholas to write poetry, to find his voice, to begin to speak to his situation just when he started to have a situation to speak to. He didn’t coach any sports (unlike most of the teachers), he just loved his students and gave them all his energy. I would look forward to his class eagerly the 3-4 days a week I would have it.

The rest of my history at Poly Prep was not too happy as those who know me or read the blog know. In fact, I feel like it’s something now I bring up pretty early in conversations or in dates, how unhappy my high school experience was. When I gave monologues for “The Armando Diaz Experience” roughly half my stories were about how unhappy I was in high/middle school.

Poly Prep, for those who don’t know it, is a huge Ivy League private school in New York City, situated on the tip of Brooklyn on a palatial estate, looking like something out of “The Rules Of The Game” or “Gosford Park”. It has 2 duck ponds, 3 tennis courts, 2 soccer fields, 3 baseball fields, 1 full-size football field and a quarter-mile track. I’m sure I’m forgetting many things but so be it.

Suffice it to say, the focus is on sports and academics, with some minor interest in theater. Everyone else was marginalized to various degrees or left to fend for themselves. When I was there, class boundaries were the biggest “cliques”, with partying Manhattan Kids (“MKs”) making up one sect, Park Slope hippie sons-and-daughters making up another, the middle-class Italian Staten Islanders and then the kids brought in on sports scholarships, a large section of the population, but one that kept to itself.

Why not? If you have some kids talking about vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard and some kids seeing their single mother kill themselves working nights, you’re going to have some disjunction.

But still, I was invited there, a none-of-the-above, spending my time growing a pony-tail and sitting in abandoned corners of the library or the newspaper office trying to avoid people.

The first thing I noticed when I was back was that they now had Ronnybrook Chocolate Milk in their milk dispensers. It used to be “GAF E. SEELIG” whatever that meant. It still didn’t taste that good, but then again, I put it in some bad coffee.

After a couple of announcements, I was put on stage with three other alumni who had had various experience, including a girl who had struggled with coming out at the school (no easy task) an upper-middle-class West Indian woman who mostly enjoyed her time at the school and a kid from my year who had ended up an investment banker, but who had been expelled for a year or two from the school for stealing a laptop from someone’s locker. I look forward to hearing him talk.

I had warned Mr. Khan and my other old mentor there, Mr. Cox, that I would speak my mind on stage and “try not to curse”. They laughed and said it was fine. I mostly marveled on how normal the other people on the panel seemed as they went down and listed where they went to college and what they did now.

“Hi, I’m Nicholas Feitel.” I told them. “Uh, I’m not really sure what I want to do with my life, but that’s cool. For now, by day I’m an assistant to a producer and by night I do comedy and stuff. Uh, I’ve been on TV a bunch of times.”

Pause.

“Uh, check me out on Youtube?” I offered quizzically.

The crowd roared.

I felt good saying what was on my mind. I told students who didn’t like the school to get some perspective and find interests outside it. To know that “this is not it”, even if knowing that doesn’t help because “you are in it”. I told them that Poly conditioned me to hate myself, which is why I didn’t leave. I told them that they should know that “the people who were d-bags to me in school are now fat and have bad jobs.”

Not really values looking back that I want to associate with comeuppance, but it got a lot of applause.

It ended up fine with a mostly positive response, though when asked if I wanted to stick around I told them no and they called me a car which I took reluctantly after my hour-twenty on the R train getting there. It was still just a lot to be there and think and feel that all again.

The only thing that surprised me was the student who had been expelled, who stayed silent about it his whole time on the panel. When I talked about how Poly had conditioned me to hate myself, he said when he got the mic:

“Oh Nick, I’m so sorry to hear that. I wish I had known that when I was there so I could have pulled you on to the happy train I was on.”

My therapist noted that an earlier Nick would have outed him there on stage. Would have made him bring it up.It wouldn’t have been right. It would have been patently wrong.

But I just left it and left the school and went home.

I got an email earlier this week from Mr. Khan.

“My man Nick!” he typed exuberantly. “One of our superstar seniors has to do an interview with a working adult for her project. After hearing your speech she has abandoned her previous choice in favor of talking to you. Would you be willing?”

I’m meeting her at 5:15.

I hope the whole conversation won’t be about Bethenny Frankel.

***

I’ve been feeling less creepy lately.

It’s nice.

I’m still losing weight (yes, I know my personal weight loss is my readers’ favorite topic of discussion) and I’ve recently found a weird phenomenon which is that my stomach folds into itself when I’m reclining. It feels weird, but I’ll take it as a good sign I think.

As my therapist said, maybe there’s less there so there’s more room to fold.

As usual, I still have young ladies sending me subtle signals I’m better at reading that they’re not interested in me. Though now I get to hear these stories of people online dating in my improv classes where young ladies are like “Well, we messaged back in forth for two months and I kept telling him I didn’t want to meet and I wasn’t interested in him and fast forward we’ve been together for four months. He’s a personal trainer.”

When I head that story, I literally said “That’s creepy, I would have just stopped if you told me you weren’t interested in me.” But both the girl telling the story and the teacher of the class (who had done a one-woman show apparently about online dating) both looked at me and said something along the lines of “Well you’ve got a lot to learn.”

Sigh.

I’ve been working hard on feeling more confident and trying to put myself out there unembarrassed. I asked someone on online dating the other day to get a drink to me, something which I never had the confidence (as stupid as that is) to do before. Coffee, lunch, or, MAYBE, dinner, I would think. A drink I’m just telling them that I’m flirting, that I’m DTF, that I’m some confident jerk.

Or just confident.

But as stupid and simple that is, I noticed it and it felt cool.

But then there are still things that hit me, even if they hit me less now that I have some built-up self-confidence or built-up lack-of-creepiness.

Like a girl in my improv class last night thinking that I was going to hit her with a chair.

It’s sounds stupid and it’s a stupid story, one involving stupid improv.

I was in a scene where my game was to prove my courage against this girl who was playing a menacing groundskeeper. So I walked over to her and gently karate-chopped her and she laughed it off and pushed me to the ground and shot me with an improv gun, so I improv died.

But I needed to prove my courage, so I came back as an improv ghost and tried to karate chop her again.

“Hah, you’re a ghost!” She said. “You can’t do anything to me!”

“Oh yeah?” I replied and used my improv-poltergeist powers to pick up a chair and loom it menacingly towards her.

And the scene was edited.

Except after the class when I went to ask the teacher about some notes he’d given me, the young lady from the scene approached our teacher to ask him something and I walked away as I’d have other times to ask.

Except she said, “Actually I wanted to talk to both of you” and talked about how “uncomfortable” I had made her feel, that she “was like What the Fuck is he going to do, hit me with a chair” and again “how uncomfortable it made [her] feel.”

Again, I handled the situation well. I apologized profusely as did Brandon saying that she should never feel endangered and that I would never hit anyone with a chair and that I apologize if I made her feel uncomfortable.

But as I walked home I felt both how annoyed it made me feel now and how awful it would have made previous incarnations of me feel.

I know it was all about her and who knows what this girl’s issues are, but someone thinking I would hit them with a chair? What the fuck do I seem like to them? How terrible or creepy must I seem?

And even remembering how I would have internalized it made me very upset. I didn’t see any shows. I just walked home, the two miles, that heavy backpack on my back, full of half-a-dinner, back-issues of the New Yorkers and my newly-beloved mini-laptop.

Not to use a tired metaphor, but I carry around a lot of baggage when dealing with my romantic life and the way I’m perceived by people.

There’s still that Nick from Poly Prep who is conditioned to hate himself, to feel unworthy, or creepy, defensive or “other”. And as much as I fade away from him, I still carry him somewhere.

And he rests heavy there on my back.

But also, what the fuck?

Even he wouldn’t hit someone with a fucking chair.

***

I still get to have nice things.

After seeing Melancholia with my grams and feeling bummed out (more by the movie and less by naked Kirsten Dunst, which is pretty sweet, what, I’m a guy) I wanted to find something sweet to take my mind off it all.

Luckily, even though there was nothing to kiss, there was at least a good cookie in my pocket.

Although my Grandma and I ultimately ended up going to a secret ‘Wichcraft inside the Lincoln Center Annex on 63rd St, we did pass by Epicerie Boulud, the new “Pret”-type place by Daniel Boulud (DBGB, Daniel, etc…). While the “Amish Chicken” salad didn’t really seem my style, they had a smallish chocolate-chip cookie that looked pretty good.

Now, I have my qualms.

Firstly and importantly, it’s made with milk-chocolate, which isn’t usually my style. I think dark or semi-sweet works better for artisinal cookies with the sugary surrounding batter providing the contrasting sweetness to the intensity of the chocolate. It’s just like drawing, chiarroscurro.

But what this does provide is an intense sugar rush experience, the confectionary equivalent of being 5 again, with all sweetness and buttery flavors coalescing into adolescent glee.

It was small (which is good for me, not necessarily for others) but felt like a welcome thing to small ones or to those who wish to be so.

And that’s fine.

***

EPICERIE BOULUD

Chocolate Chip Cookie- $2.50

SE Corner of 64th St and Broadway.

1 to 66th St.

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So, I’m Skinny. Now What?

October 10, 2011

An overstatement to be sure, but one that’s nice to make in the other direction than I usually do.

“Looking good, Feitel.” My friend Bobby Olsen told me. “Looking like girls are going to start just eating you up.”

“Well, ya know.” I replied. “I’m feeling pretty good actually. I’m worried, but feeling ok.”

And I was. It feels good to lose weight, to feel like you are lighter than a month or a week before. The opposite worry comes from feeling heavy or guilty that you ate something, assured that your one transgression will cause those 20, 30, 40 pounds to reappear instantly, waiting for the sin to push you over the edge.

In some ways, this diet is as close as I will ever get to being a Catholic.

“Alright,” I told Bobby, revved on myself. “It’s time to start playing that game. Am I skinnier than my friends? What you got bro?”

“Well what do you guess?” Bobby asked jokingly.

I guess around… 170?” I said.

“Yeah, sure.” Bobby said blowing this off and I contemplated my 188 weight as if I had a ways to go.

Then again, Bobby could just have been sick of standing in front of the ATM I wasn’t using in order to ask him such a question.

But nevertheless, I had been getting comments. Frequent invocations of “you look great”, or “you look buffer”, or “slimmer” or whatever. I tend to blow off compliments and internalize criticism as many people I think do (especially those with depressive tendencies), but just as criticism can chip away even at a guarded defense, if repeated over-and-over, compliments can too, eventually even enlivening the glummest of us grouches.

When I went to tape another episode of the TV show I am on, I got even more compliments, questions about “how did I do it?”, asking again if girls were “throwing themselves at [me]”.

Which I keep on looking at in some sort of strange view.

I didn’t get in to this diet to get girls, necessarily (though the spark was a bad dating experience) but while I’ve managed some amount of discipline and serenity about maintaining my eating habits, I’m not really sure how or if it’s supposed to change my life, particularly my dating life.

I still had two girls I dug express in (appreciably awkward) ways that they weren’t in to me, either by not responding to messages or erratic behavior, but that feels just like normal anyway.

I’ve stayed away from OKCupid for about a month now and when I went back to look it today, I first wondered if I should update my pictures, then if I should take a look at my profile, then how this could in any way be representative of me at all.

I almost called this post “My Inevitable Return To The World Of Online Dating” only to realize in going there that it didn’t appeal to me anymore.

Something has changed in me it seems like, a lack of immediate neediness, I guess. Or maybe just an unwillingness to search.

This weekend I found myself acting in my friend’s grad-film project for NYU in an improvised scene where I had to kiss a young lady for 6 or 7 takes, after terribly demeaning her on a badly-gone OKCupid date (The phrase we found through improvisation that I repeated over-and-over to make her break down was “You are an emotionally void person”). As I did it, in character of course, it made me realize how easy it was to just kiss someone. How, with some confidence or just the expectation that you will, it was possible to just sweep someone up and kiss them.

Now, of course, this does not disrupt the Solondzian fantasies of me and my fellow nerdy or once-nerdy brethren, who imagine a comical resistance and a slap from any lady we might try to kiss, as well as some sort of expression of disgust (such as “Ewww!” or “Gross!”) for good measure.

But it just makes a self-conscious guy think, huh, well, what if I just did it? Of course, self-conscious or awkward guys are often told “be confident” or “confidence is sexy”, but since there is a lack of experience to found that in (unlike compliments or insults which reinforce or dissolve self-created ideas and boundaries), it’s a difficult note to take.

But as I said, as I gave what I kissed a girl a bunch of times, as I gave a funny performance, as I got on stage 3 times this weekend (and later tonight!) for shows, with some confidence and poise, I felt my general confidence rising. Experience seemed foundational and just like doing improv, the more you do it, generally, the more you feel you can.

All of this, of course, is super creepy.

I kissed a girl in the context of a weird improvised comedic grad-film acting project, not in any sort of real sense. And it’s super creepy to take from that, agreed upon experience, that I could kiss more girls.

But maybe this is how people get to be creeps: they get skinny, they get some false confidence and they start kissing people for some reason.

I guess we’ll have to see if this happens and the (inevitably disastrous) results.

For now though, I don’t want to go back to online dating, to something strange and unrepresentative.

Not for at least 20 minutes.

At least.

***

This was the note I tried to tape to the exterior of my building in the mad rush surrounding my experiment with CLEAR mobile internet.

I had decided (or was conned or convinced) on a cool fall evening to try CLEAR 4G internet, a mobile version of WiMax (which is really interesting and runs on the wavelength that old antenna-era TV used to) which took little convincing since I am a hater of Time Warner Cable and how it seems to represent “the man” in general.

Growing up over in the West Village, I lived in a building littered with Time Warner outages, from expensive “on-demand” services that rarely worked to internet that I, as the designated “techie” (I’m not just a “foodie”, guys) of my family was forced to constantly attempt to fix and reset. I actually memorized the number for Time Warner from the old daytime commercial jingles to begin with (TV growing up), but then just out of use (it’s still 212-674-9100).

My usage of them in my apartment gradually degraded as I read an NYTimes article about cutting your cable and purchased my outstandingly cool Mac Mini-home TV system (which I feel like I could do a whole self-congratulatory blog post about) which has been saving me money ever since and has made me virtually nauseated when I am forced to watch cable at the houses of others with its commercials and its non-optimized programs. We can see whichever movies we want when we want and Netflix is on more devices than ever (not to mention Hulu), so why do we have to endure commercials and reruns and millions of channels of crap? Why can’t cable look more like Hulu Desktop with interspersed commercials and a slick shopping-mall style interface of what we might want to watch, along with commercials targeted towards our demographics?

End diatribe, but don’t think this is over TV. Don’t think this is over at all.

Anyway, when I cancelled my cable, I kept my internet, but ever since I read about WiMax I imagined getting rid of that too, shedding their cable-bound internet and ethernet cables and reducing my invasive attachments to a simple black box that I could just take around with me wherever I went. CLEAR offered me a month to try their service, contract-less, and I took them up on it, with their “Apollo” 4G Hotspot shipping to me the next day.

Thus the note and the panic.

I had to go to work finally and I wasn’t going to be at my apartment. The peril of ordering things online in a door-man-less building! You have to take a little sticky note they may or may not leave at the exterior of your apartment (and wait for it to arrive), call them, ask them to hold it at their facility, go to their facility in the evening (but not TOO LATE in the evening), bring some government ID and then hope that the driver didn’t just lose it or the guy behind the counter waiting to get off cares enough to look those two extra minutes to find your bo in a pile.

This would not happen to me. I would not allow my wireless liberation to happen one-three days and a lot more hassle later.

I tried knocking on my neighbors across the hall who had been leeching my internet (another NY social-tech phenomenon I found out about through an NYTimes article) but the woman there was leaving in 30 minutes! Too much of a risk! I tried calling up friends before realizing the folly of it; they wouldn’t wait for my router! I even considered knocking on the door of the cancer patient on the first floor and asking her but I just didn’t have it in me to bother her, hear about the chemo and then ask her to hold my package.

Desperately I darted around before realizing what people do–yes! The Coffee Shop across the street where I got my morning imbibe-able! I ran in and begged Lucas (who I used to call Tats for his tattoos, punk demeanor, i.e: “What up, tats?”) if he could do me a huge-huge favor and hold my package for me if the FedEx guys came after explaining to him the depths of my conundrum and my quest to free myself from cable as I did here and he said:

“Sure man.”

And I raced outside to place the note on my door, grabbed tape from my apartment came outside and–

There. There was the FedEx Man.

I signed in gratitude as he looked at me with the raw look of a man witnessing a tech-crazed man-child on the verge of salvation and allowed me to sign after some cursory questions.

I was free.

In the time since, I have taken around my square-shaped router on adventures in New York City, testing out the internet. It’s uneven, less consistent than my earth-bound modem. But it’s more wide-ranging and portable and, most importantly, at home it offers me roughly the same speed as my current Apple router does (Ethernet would be faster but that would mean more wires!!).

I am still embroiled in my month, still carrying around my router-puck sharing wi-fi and offering it like chocolate in the ASSSSCAT line and coffee shops trying to make friends and conduct social experiments, as well as testing the puck’s limits.

There’s still that last cord of resistance to get through that worry that I’ll wake up one morning and my internet will be out and it’ll be a huge mistake and I will search in vain for my cable, just as I felt like I’d lost a friend for a while after I cut my TV channels and HBO.

But just like my worry that my pounds’ll come back, it’s a fear to be overcome, not acceded to.

I should point out that friends Rob-Bearded-Still Malone and sometimes-villain Andrew Parrish fear this transformation. They want me to stay tethered fearing this will accelerate my transition from man into hyphenated man-machine.

“Or just make you into a lamer person, bro.” Rob offered.

But in that direction, I hurtle, un-Maloned.

Here’s to a wireless liberation, frantic SoHo packing problems, and geeking out, for sometimes, man.

Here, here.

***

Thursday was a good night.

I did a genuinely good show on two Whiskey-Diet Coke’s out of a house that looked dim, packed with no one but a few performers, assorted girlfriends and a particularly beardy Rob Malone, who generously came out to support and fulfill the two-drink minimum (of which he still owes me for one drink, I’m reminding him now).

(Also Sean Taylor and Shawn Amaro who were our great hosts, http://www.varietyunderground.com)

But somehow my group–full of a brit, a fiancee, a depressive writer type, and an Actor–all really gelled and we did a crazy set about late-30s romance involving S+M gunplay, gay-hate-speech against robots and even a meta bit that went over well. My good friends Shaun Farrugia and Woody Fu were also there, playing with their team Honey and gave me punches and pictures after.

We all took a cab to Greenpoint on Rob’s decision to meet a girl, Shaun’s desire to get home and my lack of sobriety/high off having a good show. It ended up being fun as we ragged on each other in the cab, talked lady issues and improv and Rob did his best to add beardy comments.

We ended up at a Korean joint called Mrs. Kim’s on the beautiful fall evening as we all had the sort of “giving each other shit” conversations that I love having with my friends. When Rob’s lady friend arrived Shaun took me aside, between our attempts to use my 4G modem (to Rob’s chagrin) to stream “The Princess and the Frog” on Netflix.

“Beard guy over there’s a baller.”

“Yurp.” I replied.

We ended up ordering the restaurants Brunch-meets-Korean fair and while my friends got  a chorizo-based “Kim-Dog”, I got myself the Chicken Caesar, which arrived pleasantly at the table, an unexpected treat.

The chicken was cooked in a soy-glaze, happily, which it made it more tender and less dry than “salad-variety” chicken and the caesar dressing had the fishy tang of a highlight of sardines, again adding nice touches to the “still-asian” part of the item.

And for a “fourth-meal” I felt happy that it conformed to my diet and didn’t feel too-guilty sopping up my stomach-whiskey with it.

Eventually Rob left and Shaun went home and I hopped own cab back to the Magnet for a Thursday night Inspirado.

When I got home, I was full of funny and food.

***

MRS. KIM’S

Chicken Caesar Salad- 11 bucks

Corner of Franklin and Kent Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY.

G to Greenpoint Av, or really, just when you’re in the neighborhood.


What I Talk About When I Talk About ASSSSCAT

October 3, 2011

This picture was taken as I walked home last night, in the 54-degree weather, in my hoodie, zipped up for the cold, somewhat satisfied that fall had finally descended even if I liked the sensation of wearing my hoodie open, though the seasons had apparently decided to skip that this year, jumping from 80 to 58 in a single day, as, really, New York weather is prone to do.

The late-night walk home feels cathartic when I can do it. A way of getting in touch with the city, of feeling people and places around me, of feeling that nice, reciprocal energy that I’ve spoken of in the past, the feeling that New York City surrounds you pleasantly, a sort of mastery, the feelings someone gets knowing their conscious mind doesn’t have to walk them home.

I didn’t have anything to do that Sunday evening before I went to ASSSSCAT (people have pointed out to me that there are four “S”es). I had said good night to my friend Frank (more on that later) and he had asked me “What are you doing tonight, bro?” and I had no real response.

“ASSSSCAT, I guess.”

It’s worth mentioning before I get into this, a few things.

The first is my reluctance to do things non-social on a weekend evening. As I’ve mention before in these pages, weekends for me growing up were a time of terror, the period of social judgment. If I had a friend to see, to hang out with, I could escape my house. But if I didn’t I was trapped inside my parents’ apartment, with the cat I was allergic to, the room that belonged to me that I spent no time in after the age of 13, the books I stopped reading around that time–I was paralyzed in my own emotions, sitting in somewhere that seemed to have no place for me, just feeling on display as unwanted on a weekend night.

I’ve carried this feeling, irrational rejection, around with me since then and it has affected my life in all sorts of ways making me a more social person, for better or worse, following such times. It also means that I try to find something to do on weekend evenings very diligently.

It’s also worth noting the specifics of ASSSSCAT, also mentioned in these pages before.

A Sunday show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, it features two showtimes of a rotating cast of improvisers and a special guest monologist. The first show is 10 dollar at 7:30 and is mostly filled with toursits and people on dates and such, while the second show is free at 9:30, but requires waiting in line for some period of time between 1-4 hours, a sprawling block party of an experience, filled with the young and reckless, people un-considerate of their jobs (or lack of jobs) on the Monday morning to follow. It is always a wilder crowd and, touted, a better show.

Finally, the UCB itself is usually somewhere I associate mixed feelings with, a place of rejection and acceptance for me. As I continue to throw myself at-and-into improv comedy (as my friends probably patiently wait for me to emerge), it’s strange to think that something that has you saying yes and accepting each other by nature could also be a place of profound no’s and judgment. I’ve been rejected from almost as many classes as I’ve signed up for at the UCB, or at least it feels that way. And within the strange world of my blogging and strange social presence, I am never sure in that strange place who thinks what about me, who I am to these people: a reality-show novelty? another depressed/creepy improv nerd? just some guy? What does it mean that the office staff chanted “UCB” on the street to get me to notice them? I think too much about these things.

Enough, enough with this self-reference.

The point is that I go to ASSSSCAT at 9:30, more often than not on these Sunday evenings of my partial employment and uncertainty.

There, I see improvisers I know who may be friends of mine, or acquaintances. There, I see girls I’ve tried to flirt with, girls who’ve flirted with me, girls who’ve tried nicely to reject me, and girls who aren’t sure what they want. There, I wait in line and talk to people, in the cold or other weather.

There, I see an improv show and then go home. And if I have enough energy, I have a walk, in the 11:30 hour.

I don’t know how to judge the importance of all this to me.

I wish I could say it’s a place I think of sentimentally like The Magnet, where I go when I am feeling sad, for comfort and fun, but it really isn’t. Neither is it some sort of partially-stifled addiction like my forays to Magic: The Gathering venues, where I feel dirty and stupid afterwards.

It’s a pace of some tension and strife, some comedy that breaks that tension. A place of tenuous community, almost like a mixer or a party for those waiting in line.

It’s aspirational for me. How many times I’ve wanted to be up on that stage as a special guest monologist, or wanting to be good enough to play with people I respect.

It’s strange, is what it is.

In it, is wrapped up all those things, my anxiety from my youth, my complicated relationship (mostly in my head) with UCB, the possibility of meeting someone friend or otherwise.

And, of course, the tension of the suspension of adulthood. The feeling that everyone going to that 9:30 show is somehow making a conscious choice to say “fuck it”.

An improviser called the audience “cretins” last night and they cheered raucously, even when pointed out that they were called so.

In going to ASSSSCAT, I acknowledge my life’s incompleteness in it’s various ways: social, emotional, structural, professional.

And then, if I’m lucky:

I take that nice, long walk home.

***

In my preparations for my trip to Paris, I started a French class at “FIAF” or the Alliance Francaise.

I took notes on my phone the first class, feeling cool as I held down “e” on my iPhone for accents egues et graves.

My teacher, a nice woman who looked like she could be sitting at Les Deux Magots reading “L’Etranger”, was amazed at my note-taking but demanded paper for next week.

I couldn’t blame her. Usually, I use my phone in classes as an excuse to not be present, to check my email or otherwise.

However, in this class I felt energized as if rummaging through my French class past in all earnestness. I gave myself a fist pump when I remembered the past participle of an irregular verb (“j’ai… voulu?” I asked tenuously) but was horrified when I couldn’t even remember how to say “2012”, my numbers having left me, fallen out of my brain somewhere between the not-giving-a-fuck of high school and the film-shoot-wrap-parties of college.

The class itself was interesting, a mix of people ranging from 40-year old civil servants with a passion to escape their lives (a la improv), to nascent art appraisers, to a businessman who kept taking calls during class and who I felt was going to get a long string of French expletives toward the end of our class.

Lots of pretty girls, as could be expected. A couple photographers, looking to brush up their skills in case French Vogue called.

A sense that everyone was there for fun.

Being in a classroom like that felt good. Reliving that sense of achievement of being called on by the teacher, of being recognized. Of having a structure in which one could be deemed “good” in their lives. In improv and sketch writing, all that is relative, and funny one day could be passe the next.  It felt nice to get back to sentence structure and some certainty.

I ate Babybel cheeses wrapped up in wax and French Vanilla coffee from the deli across the street during my break.

I asked a question about “donc” v. “alors”.

I strolled down Fifth Avenue as I walked down after class.

Is this the beginning of my life Parisien?

Or je ne sais… quois.

Nous allons decouvrir, mais oui?

***

…And that birthday dinner with Frank.

Frank’s father, Michael Orio, was a constantly presence in my childhood. I would sleep on the Orio’s couch nearly every or every other weekend, during our LAN parties playing Counterstrike at the local Microchip Cafe followed by our Sunday-day excursions to Chinatown for 69 Bayard Restaurant and DDR at Chinatown Fair (now closed).

As I slept on his couch (as I would at my own home, unbeknownst to him), Mike would descend from his room at 7 or 8am to the living room where I was to read The Economist and when he saw me stirring (or sometimes at random) he would rail off a string of nicknames for me, seeming disconnected from reality.

“It’s Nick the Greek!” He would announce. (I am Jewish.) “Nick the Greek! The Greekus! Nickus the Greekus! He’ll kick your ass!”

All of this without looking up from his Economist as I rolled around on the couch.

Frank, his son, when he’d come down would be “The Big Man”.

“The Big Man! It’s the Big Man. Watch out, he’ll kick your ass.”

These memories from my childhood and adolescence are vivid even to this day, as much as I would say, “Goddamit, Mike” when he’d wake me up.

He and Sophie, Frank’s mother, were the only adults I was comfortable enough around to call them by their first names for a long time.

We went for his birthday out to Two Boots brooklyn, invited by Frank. Everyone ate pizzas, much to my chagrin as Frank managed to eat both accumulatively an entire pie and a full entree with two sides.

That bastard still loses weight eating all that and complains about how he “can’t get higher than 165”.

What I ate, despite my inital skepticism that a pizzeria would have anything to offer, was the strangely named by delicious “Dixie Chicken” w/ julienned vegetables and sauteed broccoli.

The dish became much better at the end, when, caving to pressure, I put pizza cheese on top of my remaining chicken to absorb some of the experience.

I miss pizza, sometimes. Maybe soon I’ll allow myself to have it.

It was nice to see Mike, with his shock of grey-white hair, the family gathered round.

And Frank and I walked out as I ate a piece of dark chocolate bark from my bag as a sort of cross/charm to ward off the eating of more birthday cake.

And I didn’t stay on his couch because Frank was getting up at 5am to train clients at Crunch.

“I guess I’ll go to ASSSSCAT.” I told him.

And there I was.

***

TWO BOOTS OF BROOKLYN

“Dixie Chicken” w/Julienned Mixed Vegetables + Broccoli w/Garlic- $12.95

2nd st bet 7th and 8th Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

R to 4th Ave-9th St, FG to 7th Ave-9th St.

 


Care to Share

September 26, 2011

Now that most of my portable video games are exhausted, I’ve taken to finally catching up with my backpack-stored New Yorkers.

Sometimes, I just discover why I wasn’t inspired to read them in the first place, with articles on bullet-proof fashion-wear and extremely depressing things.

But at least I’ll usually glean a good cartoon, sitting on a blue subway-car bench. And snap a picture. And feel good about that.

Lately, I’ve had moments of needing that reassurance (surprised?).

As my vacation approaches, I gird myself with classes taken to bring myself to a sort of crescendo of experience before I leave for Paris, where all my classes and shows end a week or days before I leave and I am left with some sort of sense of finality, of completeness, of accomplishment if you will, before heading off to a foreign land.

This also means just putting myself out there. Going to see shows, doing more improv, seeing my friends. Trying to take opportunities, or just not be in my house. The usual, really.

But this sort of chain has been yielding fruit for me, as going out to ASSSSCATs at UCB led to going out to Chris Gethard Shows, led to going on a date, led somehow to being called a douchebag by comedian (and definite person I think is cool) Marc Maron.

To give some background, I was on a date with a nice young lady (whom, for once, I don’t wish to embarrass here), sitting at a bar having one of those long “we’re connecting!” talks over drinks I was drinking more quickly than she was, when a stand-up fresh from an open mic wandered out and heard me invoke the name of Marc Maron.

“Marc Maron?” the stand-up asked. “His podcast is great.”

And thus began the 15-minute long conversation that took place in front of my date, mostly not involving her, that looking back was both mortifying and somewhat unavoidable.

At least I can probably assume that she learned about Marc Maron and the WTF podcast that night, if also not to date comedy-nerd douchebags.

But the conversation ended strangely with the stand-up telling me he was actually moderating a panel that Marc Maron was going to be at tomorrow night and that he had free passes he had forgotten to give away and did I want them.

“Yeah, uh, sure.” I said, completely unbelieving that some dude I just met would give me tickets to see a sold-out Marc Maron panel.

But he asked me to tweet at him and lo-and-behold the next day I received a tweet-back saying that my tickets were reserved under my name with a plus-one.

Thus began the scurry to try to find someone to go with.

I should probably pause at this point and explain a little bit for those of you who don’t know about who Marc Maron is.

Maron is a comedian who came up with the class of Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Todd Barry, Louis C.K. and more in the 90s mostly and was well-known back then both for his acerbic honesty on stage as his drug and alcohol problems. In that era he both won acclaim for being funny and some respect from his fellow comics and also managed to alienate nearly all of his friends with his self-destructive behavior. By the mid 2000s he had hit something of bottom having failed to land the big movie parts (a bit in “Almost Famous” was his break) or good TV gigs that contemporaries like David Cross or Dave Attell had landed (he did a few shows that were short-lived) and was unsure what to do with his life following a string of firings from liberal-talk radio Air America. It was around this time that, conscious or not, he started up a podcast called “WTF” which was possibly intended to be a show examining life’s “WTF moments” but ended up being both a series of intimate interviews with talented comedians (Cross and Barry were some early guests) and his own personal quest for redemption, talking frankly about his life and where he was in it, his feelings of despair and self-loathing and romantic unfulfillment. He would often start an interview by apologizing to his guest for any wrongs he had committed towards them, kind of a 12-step amend, since he was now sober. As the podcast continued, it became more and more influential as bigger names stepped up and people became more involved in the show. Suddenly Ben Stiller, Judd Apatow, Robin Williams, Louis C.K., many greats appeared and even solicited appearances on Marc’s podcast. It became a place where people went to see the truth, the back-room of comedy. What these opaque performers were like behind their masks interested us and Marc’s own struggle and frankness made us root for and identify with him. His was a no-bullshit zone in which his audience was his confidant and support, a dangerous, but typically stand-up comedian move. Here’s an article from the Times if anyone needs more info.

I got into the podcast through my ex, who was a big stand-up fan before I had even really gotten into stand-up, and through me it went virally to my father and my friends and it expanded through other channels until at least 30 percent of the people I knew listened to the show, those in or out of comedy. As someone who writes about himself and his life in sometimes awkward, sometimes funny, sometimes sad ways, it was obviously a good fit for me and I was and am a big fan of the podcast and Marc’s comedy.

Which is why the panel kinda sucked.

First there was a poor set-up.

I hadn’t listened to the guy offering me tickets so I didn’t realize when he tweeted me back that the show was the next night. I tried in vain to get the girl who I’d gone on a date with to come with me but understandably she was busy. My friend Bander who’d invited me to a different WTF event was also busy as was my improv buddy Sebastian. So I did what I thought was the right thing and invited my ex to come along, considering she’s the biggest Maron fan I knew and she gratefully accepted.

I was worried about some awkwardness there but there wasn’t much. We had sort of settled things the last time we’d seen each other and I had come to the realization that the person I missed was the one who loved me. a person who no longer exists. So it was just like seeing a friend, just a little more awkward.

Then we got there and sat down, I had a drink of wine from the free bar (always nice) and sat down to watch the “Maron”, the Denis Leary-produced pilot that Marc Maron was there to world-premiere to the onlooking audience of (I could only assume) rabid fans.

I saw him before the show standing outside the theater sizing up people as he has before every show I’ve seen him at.

“How’s the pilot?” I asked him.

“We’ll see.” He replied.

The pilot was… lacking in my opinion. Coming from a fan perspective, I wasn’t sure how a TV-version of Marc’s podcast would work considering that the whole show is premised on his “outsider” status looking in, talking to people more outwardly successful than him. The pilot seemed to be similar to “Louie”, Louis C.K.’s superb show on FX, with a similar typeface, a similar title and a similar single-camera shooting style, lit like a short film (It was directed by the 2010 Academy Award Winner for Best Short, an NYU alum). My main problem with it was that it seemed like what it was: a “sitcom-ed” version of Marc’s life, but the very nature of his life and podcast (as well as Louie’s show) is to eschew such bullshit. People don’t speak in epithets, people are messy, but in the sitcom Marc had made, he had written it (as he described on the panel) by hiring a sitcom writer and just taking him around his house and telling him stories from his life which the sitcom writer turned into sitcom dialogue. It’s not rewarding to see something you expect truth from and have it regurgitated in that form.

So when the Q+A came around I asked a question, as I’m always a question-asker at Q+As out of–curiosity? need for attention? need to connect with people? No matter, I asked my question, which was something along the lines of?

“Hi, so it seems like this clearly references Louie in some of it’s choices, the typeface, the title, the single-camera shooting style. I wondered, I know that in Louie, they made those aesthetic choices based on Louis C.K.’s style of rough-hewn comedy, an attempt to tacke uncomfortable truths in a messy aesthetic type of way, reflecting it. So I just wanted to know, what influenced your aesthetic decisions on this show?”

Which of course, Marc Maron, with his epic insecurities must have treated like “You’re ripping off Louie” and that’s what he replied to.

“Well, obviously that comment is meant to be provocative and you must feel very smart.” He started. “But let me just say this isn’t like Louie, you said single-camera and Louis is shot like a short film, we just have a similar title because WTF was a weird title, but other than that there aren’t any similarities.”

A smattering of applause.

“But no, this guy over here, it’s OK, it’s OK, I see myself in him. It’s fine.” He continued to laughter.

Another comedian asked another question, a softball, an obvious attempt to defuse the situation asking “How does it feel to go from wanting to kill yourself in your garage two year ago to being in front of a crowd laughing hysterically at your pilot?” to which Marc replied:

“It would be great but now I just feel bad about what I did to this guy over here [gesture at me] even though he’s obviously the douchebag in the situation.”

They cut the Q+A there, if I recall correctly.

Last night, I met someone who was also there and confirmed both the general responses, the strangeness of Marc’s lashing out of me but said that his tone toward the end was more conciliatory.

My ex was amused, though I apologized to her for putting her on the spot, sitting to next to me.

“No, it was awesome.” She said. “Marc Maron said he saw himself in you.”

Most of the crowd I felt glaring at me as I got up to go to the bathroom at the end of the show, or waited in the line to pee.

The funniest reaction came from an old film professor of mine from NYU who happened to have been sitting next to me who the second the panel ended said “Well Nick, pleasure seeing you” and fucking darted for the door as quickly as possible shoving her way past everyone else.

I saw Maron after the show as I walked out.

“I’m a big fan, actually.” I told him.

“I’m sure you are.” He replied.

“Well anyway.” I said.

“We cool?” He asked.

“Sure, of course.” I said and shook his hand and left.

I felt fine about it all and obviously even for its length the version I give you is abridged. I knew it was more about Marc and his insecurities than about me, which my friends confirmed.

But still I went home and felt a little bad, until I had someone to talk to.

Also, that first date just cancelled on me.

That’s Karma, Marc Maron.

You got it.

***

There are many shameful things I share here on the pages of this blog:

Stuff about my sex life, addiction issues, feelings of inadequacy, terrible things I do to people, my private relationships.

But I have to say there are few things I have more trepidation about sharing than my occasional Magic: The Gathering relapses.

In fact, it was pretty much the only thing for years that I lied to my parents about, going to the store and playing with my friends when I was supposed to be at high-school newspaper (called “The Polygon”) meetings.

I just want to take this moment to say, ironically at my school newspaper, I was the “People” editor. Enough said.

Anyway, I quit Magic a few years ago, but no one ever quits Magic, like other things I’m sure and every now and then I’m lured in again, to play a card game and exorcise all of the adrenaline and competitiveness that I never got out (nor will ever get out) through sports.

It was nice that the “Magicians” at the store I’d never been to in Williamsburg (Twenty-Sided Store) noticed that I had lost weight as they in their infinite lacks-of-finesse would always tell me when I looked fatter.

Aside: Opening up a gaming store in hipster Williamsburg=smartest idea ever. What do you think all those douchebags who make iPhone apps and work for Tumblr used to do in high school and college? Settlers of Catan, motherfucker.

“Gay” was the thing Chadd Harbold told me when I told him where I was before getting brunch with him and I felt that to be, in spirit, a pretty accurate reaction.

What can I say? It’s enjoyable, it hearkens back to what fun parts of my youth there are, it’s a nice way to let off steam when I get so involved in the other nerdy community I’m in of improv comedy.

I don’t do it all the time. But it was pre-release event and it was a Saturday morning and I thought it would just be fun to go.

Dangerous I know and dangerous to admit! I posted on here a while ago a whole article/bonanza about a woman outing and dumping and dissing a date she’d been on because he was someone who was a Magic virtuoso, someone I looked up to when I was a kid.

What can I say except that person sucked who dissed Jon Finkel and the internet all agreed, that I am who I am and don’t try to hide that very often, that sometimes I do things that might be counter-productive or not in my best interest. Sometimes I might go to a smelly, crowded gaming store, sit in a crowd of people who seem like stereotypes (I as well) and sweat it out through 3-4 hours of competitive “spell-casting”.

But some people snort Adderall and I find that much fucking weirder.

So, there I am. I did ok. I played in two events going 3-0 and 1-2, somewhat even. I felt good and reconnected people I hadn’t seen in years.

I played Magic for a day.

And as much as I would seek to self-deprecate through that statement, if you don’t like that, fuck you.

🙂

***

I’ll never get over that my best friend Frank is in such goddam good shape when he used to be the chubby kid back in middle school. It’s just one of those things that will make me eternally insecure.

We hung out in Park Slope going to a new meatball shop (not worth mentioning) and just walking while I drank a huge bottle of Raspberry-flavored seltzer down the Park Slope avenues.

I called him on one of his excited mentions now that we were both looking ok (I still am constantly worried about my weight, despite not owning a scale) of going to some place that was dangerously named “Ample Creamery”.

Frank for his part was phobic. As a personal trainer, if he is seen at any point walking near his gym, he can be conscripted to hang out doing what’s called a “floor shift”, having to walk around the gym pitching packages of training sessions to customers.

So we took a round-about route that Frank complained about that was actually just a straight L that led us right there, much to Frank’s Brooklyn-native consternation.

“What, who cares if  I live here?” Frank said. “Doesn’t mean I need to know how to get places.”

“You said this was way out of the way.” I told him.

“Meh!” Frank exclaimed in his usual exclamation of indifferent defiance.

And it was settled.

When we got to the Ample Creamery, we were given an ice-crema tour by samples from a nice attendant through crazy flavors involving everything from gummy bears to jam and Frank got a cone full of breakfast cereals and cereal-milk flavored ice-cream while I opted for a 70% dark chocolate scoop.

The ice cream was rich and gelato-like and enough that I shamefully ate all of it, though such things are not forbidden to me even on my weight worrying.

“Sleepy.” I told Frank.

“Man up,” He replied as we walked out of the store. “Crunch time.”

And I was reminded why Frank looks so much goddam better than I do.

***

AMPLE CREAMERY

Dark Chocolate Single Scoop- $4

Corner of Vanderbilt Aves and St. Marks Pl. Brooklyn, NY

Q to 7th Ave. 23 to Grand Army Plaza.

 

 

 

 

 


No Sleep Till…

August 23, 2011

So.

This is the corner where I get pseudo-mugged.

It’s a stupid story, full of stupid decisions, that somehow turned out ok.

But as it’s vaguely more dramatic than the usual me just complaining about my life, I’ll tell it here.

It was a sad night, to begin with.

I hadn’t just gotten out from my class show, having done two crappy sets with a talented group of people, the sort of show where nobody even really attempts to drink with each other afterwards. Everyone just scatters their separate ways to try to pretend that this didn’t just happen.

Except I had nobody to scatter with.

I didn’t have any close friends in that particular improv class. I hadn’t invited my friends because I knew that this was not going to be a good class show.

And, perhaps more saliently, I had been disconnected with my main group of people, due to my intense dive into the world of comedy, I had not seen the Robert Malone or John Beamers–

Or even the Andrew Parrishes of the world for a while.

The people who I had known for the longest and was closest too were now all distant from me, not in their friendship, but just in our worlds. My diet had taken me mostly off drinking and partying, leaving me not wanting to go out to Brooklyn late at night for adventures and not seeing movies as often, because I was seeing so many improv shows.

So when I walked out of my class show on a Saturday night, with no one to talk to or drink with or commiserate over how crappy that just was, I felt bad.

And Andrew Parrish, to his credit, told me he wasn’t doing anything when I asked “How Parrishes” and he walked over to meet me down on 7th Avenue as we marched slowly downtown.

***

I’m sorry to tease y’all or break up the (still non-existant) action, but this was the point in the evening where we to Dirty Bird to Go, where I found out, happily, that the chopped-fried chicken wrap there was whole wheat and thus I could eat it for my diet.

It was huge and full of pieces torn off the bone, with hearts of palm and tomatoes and romaine lettuce and a mix of buttermilk ranch and hot sauce that was recommended to me the first time I ever went there, taken by my ‘rents.

I could only finish half with my sadly and strangely newly-diminished appetite, but it filled me up, was more delicious than Andrew’s roasted version and, quite importantly, reheated well the next day, with all the hot sauce and buttermilk evaporating into pure flavor.

It was comfort food, on a night I wanted it.

***

Anyway.

Over chicken wraps, Andrew and I began to discuss the crappiness of the shows I’d just been in and how I felt so weird about my love life. I’d been seeing my ex in mostly fun situations, but I had invited to a show she really wanted to see and I wondered that she had chosen to reconnect with me, if that meant anything more than wanting to hang out and watch movies.

It’s dumb, I know. and I’ve been there before.

But sometimes, you just wanna know.

As I walked, Andrew, who recently had experienced a break-up of his own, did not act villain-ly, or goob-ish, or any of the other ways I’ve described in my blog, jokingly.

He just walked with me and listened to my spout of uncertainty and self-loathing and rationalization and talked with me for a long while as we walked down 7th Avenue, just offering his best advice and giving me an ear of someone who knew me.

I appreciated it.

And then we got psuedo-mugged.

We had reached the corner of Spring and West Broadway near my house but Andrew wasn’t going there and if I went home the conversation was over.

So we stood on the corner, leaning on a building as Europeans passed us by sometime before 11, just shooting shit about getting over exes and being ok with one’s self and the Chester Brown book that we had all read at this point.

When some guy asked us if we were dealing drugs and we said no, obviously.

“Well there has been that sort of activity here and there’s an ongoing investigation. I’m an undercover cop and I’m going to need you two to open your bags.”

So we did, dumbly. Neither of us were drunk, it just sounded like a cop-like request.

“What are all those wires?” He asked.

“It’s a solar-powered backpack.” I explained expertly. “That’s a battery and my PSP.”

“Let me see your phones.” He said and I, of course, gave him my phone.

My first realization that something wasn’t right was when the dude didn’t take Andrew’s shitty flip phone.

“Wait a second,” I asked. “Can we see your badge?”

Of course, this would have been smart to ask when he did not have my phone already, but I asked.

“This is getting really uncomfortable.” Andrew said.

Which prompted me to repeat: “Wait a second, where’s your badge?”

“I have a badge.” He said backing off a bit.

“No.” I said. “This is not happening.”

And I got on the other side of the guy slowly and deliberately, using my improv skills (laugh) and just took my phone from his hand.

“Snatching something from the hand of an officer. You guys are in trouble. Stay here while I get backup.”

And the dude just walked away.

“Want to get out of here?” I asked Parrish.

“Yeah.” He replied and we zipped up our bags and left.

Leaving my first thought was, was that guy really a cop?

10 minutes later, my thoughts ranged from “Why didn’t I  get stabbed or punch trying to take my phone from somebody?” to “Why didn’t I ask to see a badge earlier?” to “Was he just doing some sort of weird drunk game?”

It was all very confusing but it shook Andrew and I up and I went home and Andrew to a party.

Full of strange and unresolved emotions.

***

The next day was mostly anti-climax.

The nice thing was that I saw Parrish and Malone and Beamer and Alex Hilhorst. And we all had fun seeing stupid Conan and bitching. And Beamer even said he missed living with me which I told him was sweet.

The show with my ex was fine, I drank too much, but did nothing stupid to my ex, except feel weird (though not awful) seeing some dude hit on her.

I found myself drinking more to keep the buzz going through another show and then some time spent mutually rapping with an improv friend about our lack of romantic prospects, back to regular life.

The only thing was that through the combination of 3-or-so too-many drinks, a stomach bug I was fighting, and spending too much time in depressive-commiseration, I didn’t get to bed till 5 and woke up at 9, held together by leftovers and the 65-cent coffee refills I could get with the cup I smartly saved from nearby Porto Rico.

I ended up talking it out with my ex after seeing Out Of Sight, her choice which I dug actually and appreciated that we both thought J-Lo reminded us of a young Barbara Streisand in that movie.

After the mostly-fine, surprisingly, after-math of that (the worst torture is in lack of clarity, or wondering, or second-guessing) I ended up drawn in to:

a. A beautiful dinner with my Grandma.

and

b. An event called Punderdome.

I had a good reason to be there. A cute girl had invited me. End good reason.

But my friend J-Sam had shown up too and we ended up dragged in from me, a falling-apart on four hours of sleep spectator, to a full-on balls-to-the-wall competitor.

The competition, which turned out to be extremely fun, involved making up puns on the spor based on prompt with 90 seconds to think on it, multiple rounds of competition and a human applause-o-meter.

“A pun competition?” My dad said when I told him about it this morning. “That reminds me of a story. A British dude said that he could make a pun about any subject. A crass American asked him, OK, make a joke about the Queen. To which he curtly replied, the Queen is not a subject.”

To which my Dad laughed over the phone for several minutes.

But J-Sam and I competed yelled and mugged for the crowd for our puns. I was even called up to the stage to sing, improbably, “Copacabana” during another group’s 90-second interlude. I knew about a sixth of the words.

Our first two puns were pretty impressive. The first prompt was “That’s What She Said” and I came up with the non-sensical but slick:

“What did Ulysses S. Grant say to the South after banging their Mom? That’s What Lee Said.” J-Sam was real impressed and we made it to the next round.

But it was Sam in all of his Jew-fro-y-ness that got the next round for us when the prompt was “The 31 Flavors of Baskin Robbins.”

He came up with:

“I watched the Shawshank Redemption last night, because I wanted to Bask In Robbins.”

I thought that was pretty cool.

In the interlude we got some cheers and jeers. Some old dude in front of us called us “Slimon and Garfunkel.”

“Are you Garfunkel?” I asked J. Sam.

“I’m always Garfunkel.” He said.

“Well I think it’s better to be Garfunkel than Slimon.” I told him. “I mean, you can knock Garfunkel, but he’s calling me Slimon.”

“Yeah, glad I’m not Slimon.” He replied.

We got knocked out of the competition in the semi-finals when the prompt was “Great Works of Literature” and all we had was me saying “James Joyce” and collapsing to the floor, while J-Sam told the crowd I was having a “Ulys-seizure”. Weak, I know. The pun we came up with later was not much better in it’s cheapness which was:

“Fans of electro-pop despair! Terrible news! Moby’s Sick!”

Might have gotten a laugh but wasn’t as good.

The finals was “uses of ketchup” and both guys did real well with super-slick punny stories and won lame prizes like a bucket of cheese-balls and waffle-iron.

But when I got home I thought to myself, that if we had made the finals, we would have elected to go second and after one of those punny long stories, I would have just said:

“There’s no topping that.”

And walked off stage, killing.

A man can dream, can’t he?

***

DIRTY BIRD TO GO

Fried Chicken Whole Wheat Wrap w/Hot-Buttermilk Dressing- $7.75

14th St bet 7th and 8th Avenues.

123FML to 14th St-7th Ave, ACEL to 14th St-8th Ave.

***

PORTO RICO COFFEE

Refill of your saved cup (You’re smart!), with Splenda and Milk, if you’re me- $.65

Thompson bet. Prince and Spring Sts.

CE to Spring St. 1 to Houston St.

 


Two Days

July 5, 2011

I knew on my birthday that I wouldn’t be alone.

This may be strange to say, but remember, my last birthday was spent staring into the arms of someone who loved me, swaddled in some sort of lovey-dovey haze.

Even though I’ve managed (as of very recently) to de-romanticize some of that romance, the part of my birthday which ends in kisses and eventually sex was one I knew would be conspicuously absent from this particular day.

Instead, we would be bowling.

24 didn’t feel like a very significant number to me and still doesn’t.

When I turned 23, I thought about what in my life I should be accomplishing now that I was out of college, my joblessness, my depression. It was probably when I really started leaning on my relationship to get me through the day.

When I turned 24, I guess, I had a job I liked, I wasn’t in love, but I was trying and I had friends and some sense of peace in not knowing.

I felt settled in my mind. Unhurried. Who the fuck knew what they were doing anyway? And if they did, namaste, fine. There was something nice in that acceptance.

On my birthday, I was surrounded by friends.

Frank Orio, who I’d only seen rarely over the past few months, my best friend from middle school, stayed with me most of the day, with lunch with my parents, Super Smash Brothers with Matt Chao on my dusty Wii, the movie “Terri” at the Angelika and bowling at Brooklyn Bowl.

The last part, though, almost didn’t happen. We almost left, but I smooth-talked our way in, trying to be nice to the manager, who afforded us our lane for two hours.

My dad bowled the first round and beat us all, leaving his credit card, incredibly, in my hands to pay for it all as he headed home to search for parking spots.

Matt Chao hobbled on one crutch or hopped to throw the ball exuding great delight that we received as I yelled manically over more and more beer: “Cripple Bowling!”

I for my part, was and still am terrible at bowling, bowling even less than Matt Chao the last round we played, much to my friend’s taunts and jeers.

Pitcher upon pitcher was laden in as more people showed up: my comedian friend Jon Bander, sometimes-“goob” Blake LaRue and Andrew Parrish and his unduly hot girlfriend Kelly, among others.

We drank and ate and ate fried chicken and macaroni cheese, for which Brooklyn Bowl (a division of the Bromberg Brothers “Blue Ribbon” empire) was famous for.

It looked like this:

Cheesy and gooey, covered in breadcrumbs, with salty skin-on fried chicken, reminiscent of the “Combo Meals” I used to get at Fresh Farm grocery as an elementary school student. We feasted and feated.

We danced a bit, Brooklyn Bowl is a hip venue and finally we went to the Soft-Spot, a bar down the street where you drink free if it’s your birthday.

And that day it was.

I drank more than I should have of course and nearly bit my friend Ashna’s ear when she showed up to the party, in a drunken, amorous, stupor.

I remember towards the end of night, sitting by myself surrounded by people, introspective with a Whiskey-Ginger Ale in hand.

I realized what I had at the beginning of this post, that no one was coming home with me. That there would be no loving arms, no sense of “I love you”, no neck to nuzzle when you awaken.

I got sad, is what I’m saying.

But in the end, ol’ crutchy Matt Chao ended up missing his train and staying at my place.

And don’t worry, I didn’t moves on him.

But we did get brunch afterwards.

And I did appreciate, for that night, not being alone.

***

I woke up the next morning, realizing there was the bleach from my bathroom where my water bottle should be and, soon after, staring into a coffee that looked like this.

I can’t really explain either one of those phenomena.

For all the drunken sadness at the end of it (predictable) it had been an excellent birthday.

My birthdays (July 3rds) are usually marked by the absence of friends, of a big party, because usually everyone’s gone for 4th of July and even if they’re back, they’re back on July 4th Eve to see the fireworks and it’s not longer my birthday when they’re there, just the nation’s and my belated.

In this way had been a good birthday, surrounded by friends and food and movies and family, the things I love.

But I still had a hangover, that I tried to combat with food and Excedrin and coffee.

Matt Chao hung around crutching a while, through my barely-coherent phase in the morning, trying to forestall my hangover into oblivion, with a mix of time, video games and episodes of “Community”.

“Chris and I used to quote this episode.” Matt mentioned, naming his female best friend. “It features LeVar Burton in various strange positions.”

Matt left eventually though and the sort of ennui that comes post hangover on a day with nothing to do combined well in me, sending me towards reading a book.

Well that and this article I spied on the Times’ most emailed, a review of the book by the interesting “sex-ologist” Annie Sprinkle.

The book was called “Paying For It” by the cartoonist Chester Brown and I went down to Barnes and Noble and read it in the Starbucks next door all in one sitting.

The book is nominally about a man who becomes a “john”, a  patron of prostitutes in Canada, after being dumped by his live-in girlfriend.

This could be a straight story of “breaking bad”, or someone going on a bender of self-destruction after their break-up (his is kind of a doozy) but he is instead as R. Crumb names him “an advanced human”, an introverted intellectual who sees the failure of his relationships as a sign that romantic love isn’t for him and thus tries to engage an alternative.

The book is interesting (especially given it’s graphic novel or “comic-strip” format) but it’s not as much about a “john” and “whores” as it is about one man’s search for love and meaning in the world.

In particular, he rejects monogamous love as something for “people with fragile egos who need to be told the words ‘I love you’ in order to feel ok.”

This, I admit, hurt.

I wondered about this as I wandered the street and ended up, upon my plan to give the book to fellow graphic-novel enthusiast Blake LaRue.

But I ended up, with my lack of 4th of July plans, partial hangover and severe doubt about my capacity/reasons for love, I found myself snuck into a pier full of food trucks, surrounded by my food-truck vending friends, a beautiful view of the fireworks and one pretty amused-by-it-all Blake LaRue

I worked when I could there, somehow snuck in to a paid event, trading items between food trucks and skimming a taco or a souvlaki off the top before bringing the rest back to Blake’s immobile food truck co-workers.

I was stopped by people for pictures (it was a food event), I found some pretty good port-a-potties and I had lots of different cuisines in one and shared them with friends.

Doug Quint of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck grabbed me at one point and kissed me on the cheek in front of his customers when I kept talking him up.

“Well, in case you wondering about the name…” I told the on-lookers.

We had front-row seats to the fireworks on the pier in front of our parked truck.

We had a left-over pizza, some Greek Fries covered in Feta, some Smart Waters provided by Coke, we were there, sitting together, through the sunset, the terrible stylings of Nick Lachey and the impressive-looking fireworks.

At some point in the day, my friend Mark Zhurovsky told me in response to my worries about love that it’s “fine to not be whole when you seek it” as long as it isn’t “the answer to your problem”, which at least made sense to me.

“Or you could just pay for sex.” Blake suggested as we sat towards the edge of the pier.

“No thanks.” I told him. “Guy’s an interesting case, but I think everyone needs some sort of romantic love in their life. Keeps us interesting at least.”

I hopped a ride in the truck towards home or at least off the pier, wending out way through bumps.

For the time, I felt a part of something.

And now that I’m home, even with that sad stuff in the middle, I look back on it all with some pride and happiness.

So I haven’t found love. So I didn’t have anyone to stare at in the morning other than my 3DS and a comatose and entirely-clothed Matt Chao.

I know what I want. I feel like I’m struggling towards truth, asking questions and finding, well, some answers.

I have friends out there, people who care about me. I’m inherently valuable to them, worthy of something.

I can feel ensconced by that, I can feel good.

“There’s a difference between feeling happy where you are in trying to find romance and feeling happy in your romantic life.” I once told my ex-quasi-roomie John Beamer.

I can count on that, I guess, some goobs and some fireworks, some cripple bowling, some chicken.

Some time together.

Was nice.

***

BROOKLYN BOWL

12 Piece Fried Chicken- $23.00 (Mac and Cheese Extra)

Wythe Avenue between N. 12 and N. 11th Sts. Williamsburg, BK

L to Bedford Ave.


Bag.

June 23, 2011

 

It should come as no surprise to my friends that I have a new backpack, but still, I thought I should just share it with the world.

The saga of my bags goes something like this:

Since last summer, when I worked as an over-paid but sadly honest worker for the U.S. Census, I had been using their cool messenger bags as a way to finally not wear a hoodie with pockets full of useless shit.

Literally, I was a man who didn’t know how to wear a bag. Napkins, cell-phones, gaming devices, umbrellas, you name it; I would try to fit it into my pockets.

Things that were too big, like my New Yorker, I’d carry sweat-soaked under my arm or butt-sweat-soaked in my back jeans-pocket.

But that came to an end with the era of the census bags, two because I snagged an extra one at a meeting at the World Financial Center where they asked if anyone wanted another.

They both ended up ripping in the same places, diagonally through the dyed nylon that said “U.S. Census Bureau” and then horizontally right next to the zipper.

Oddly though, I still kept using them for a really long time.

A New Yorker could be placed along the side of my bag to internally cover the widening gash and the bag didn’t ever really need to close as long as I didn’t tip it or anything.

All in all those census bags were useful, they had a pouch for water bottles and they were relatively capacious and good and not bending pieces of paper, which is why they attracted so many errant sketches, script pages, other writing bric-a-brac from errant projects and classes that I never cleaned out, filled them to bursting, until, well, they did.

I carried the bag around all through winter, getting snow on my stuff when the “snowpocalypse” happened, finally capitualting and returning to the man who carried his stuff around crammed inside his jacket.

But then spring came, but then summer and it was too hot again and I couldn’t wear a jacket, it’d exacerbate my already profuse sweating condition.

So I carried my stuff around in errant plastic bags left in my apartment by me and my then quasi-roommate (now moved-out for good) John Beamer. The problems with that were:

1. John would throw stuff out in my carry-things plastic bag, because we also used plastic bags for trash and he’d get confused

and

2. My parents kept thinking I looked like a hobo, which I guess I somewhat did with my non-changing pants, broken-buttoned shirts and plastic bag full of slightly trashed-on crap.

So finally, my dad just said “order some bag on Amazon and I’ll pay for it” and there it was.

The Voltaic Off The Grid Solar Backpack.

It slices, it dices, it charges my phone or my PSP or my 3DS or friends’ phones or appliances as I walk around the city.

It’s capacious and can fit my big-bootied laptop, my various rechargeable batteries and hard drives, my New Yorkers, a brownie sometimes if I want one.

It’s powered by the sun and can charge anything fully even if there aren’t any power sources around.

I don’t have to go to strange Starbucks-es any more quibbling for that table nearest to the outlet, or begging someone I don’t know to let me plug in to their computer, like some weird sexual-innuendo’d joke.

Nope, I’m a self-sufficient man, with my water-bottle on one pouch and my small umbrella in the other, my devices, my panel.

Maybe the best part is, now, when people stop me on the street, it’s not always about a TV show, but sometimes about how fucking cool my backpack is.

Maybe this is just some vain transition out of pseudo-fame, maybe it’s compensating.

Either way, that long-haired nerd in me, once skulking around high-school. He’s nodding inside. He’s proud.

Not to say that the regular me isn’t also there, carrying my bag.

Coming home, plugging in batteries.

And looking at my broken census bags and missing the memories and the times that came with them.

Not that I’d want to use them again.

It’s bag nostalgia, if you will, not nostalgia for a bag.

***

Matt Chao got a splint last week, but he actually broke his foot the week before.

“Yeah there’s like a part that’s black.” Matt said over G-Chat as I asked him about it.

“What the fuck,Matt, go to the hospital.” I told him, with certainly worse punctuation.

“Yeah I was going to but my parents just said to rest it.” Matt replied.

“The fuck?” I asked.

“Asian Parents.” Matt said in about that punctuation.

“What?”

“If you had them, you’d understand.”

I didn’t. I had Jewish parents and Jews believe in (and largely are) doctors. If you got the sniffles you go to one, if you got cramps or rashes or allergies or anything, you don’t sleep it off, you make an appointment with your internist.

But Matt Chao, who had had a 15-20 pound stage fall on his foot on the set of a commercial was such a fucking–I don’t want to say “good” but–good PA that he didn’t opt to go to the hospital, nor did he the next few days.

“Just go Matt.” I told him still. “I’ll go with you. Just call me. We’ll hit up Beth Israel. I’m good with the Jews. It’ll be cool.”

Matt had never been to a hospital before as a patient, he told me proudly after he “proudly” opted to take the subway, hopping up stairs to the hospital. He had been born in front of the intake-doors to the emergency room and delivered there, according to his lore, which he followed with a signature staccato Matt Chao laugh.

When the Physician’s Assistant, a nice seeming Orthodox Jewish dude saw Matt he seemed pissed that Matt had walked on his foot for 5 days before seeking a doctor, stating that he had broken foot not in one but 3 places in fractures and prescribing him Codeine for if he needed it.

“Nope.” Matt Chao said blithely, proudly, though the PA insisted he take the prescription.

“That stuff can be useful to have around.” I told Matt, but he seemed unconcerned.

I spent the next while trying to convince him to stay at my parents’ house while he got a splint for his legs that the doctor told him would last 4-6 weeks, not terrible.

He was back to doing intern (read: slave) labor for PBS in a lull between gigs and the commute into the city from Jersey on the trains left him without money for cabs.

I kept arguing with him, even getting my mom on the phone to convince him, trying to tell him he’d be better off in the city living my ‘rents. But not even my mom, who’s always right, could convince him to get in there.

I think, honestly, he enjoyed the challenge, the game of swinging around on crutches through people, around people, to take them up on the offer.

“I’m going to jacked.” He told me on the way out of the hospital, swinging. “But fuck, I might not be ready in time for Christine’s paintball birthday.”

“23rd, 24th, 25th… Should be at the end of the fourth week.” Matt counted to himself.

“I don’t think you should be playing paintball for a while after you get out of that thing.” I told him.

“Nick, it’s paintball.” He said, as if that was all the explanation needed.

We hopped in a cab up to PBS, for this time at least.

He was supposed to stay with my ‘rents tonight, one night, for an early orthopedists appointment but missed that by accident.

“Oh well.” He said after I g-chatted him reminding him, too late, he’d gone home. “Your parents are really nice.”

“Obv.” I replied thinking how much fun Matt Chao and only Matt Chao would have tomorrow at 6am, navigating Penn Station rush hour on crutches.

***

I feel like it’s weird to do this, but I really liked this iced tea.

I was meeting up for a rehearsal (for a show this weekend) in mid-Brooklyn at Blue Marble Ice Cream, where a friend’s ex used to work and where I still feel jittery.

I had to sit there though, it was the meeting place for a rehearsal in a weird mid 90s-style church basement where we’d go after meeting up.

And I had to get something, well, because.

I had discovered in the last few months my somewhat lactose-intolerance and I knew that if I ate ice-cream I would feel like crud when trying to be the weird magician character I was to play.

So I asked if they had any iced tea and they said yes.

And I asked as I often do if the mid-20s hippy lady behind the counter had a suggestion for which kind I should guess and she said yes.

“I defer to your experience then.” I said and let her pour me some.

It was an herbal Hibiscus iced tea, slightly sweetened with Stevia, which I discovered after asking.

It was just really, really good and refreshing and didn’t need anything.

I find myself getting Arnold Palmers (half tea/half lemonade) when I’d be in the mood for tea, just because it’s a less artificial way to add that necessary bit of sweetness to iced tea, that is usually just over-killed with shots of syrup at Starbucks.

Here, on the other hand, the Stevia wasn’t sugar or a syrup, just a slightly sweet tasting thing.

I remembered it once from going to a weird coffee shop across from the McKibben Lofts and pouring in my coffee and thinking it distinctly tasted like soap.

But this time it was just right and it didn’t feel heavy and it just felt light and a little bit sweet.

I drank it and was happy and commented so to my theater director.

Who thought it was weird that I was talking about how much I liked my iced tea in character.

And noted me on it after the rehearsal was done.

***

BLUE MARBLE ICE CREAM

Hibiscus Iced Tea w/a touch of Stevia- $2.35

Underhill Avenue between St. John and Sterling, Brooklyn

23 to Grand Army Plaza, BQ to 7th Avenue-Brooklyn

***

P.S.- Happy Birthday to “goob” Blake LaRue and honorary “goob” Simon Robinson, who will soon be embarking for Japan to go wife-hunting/teach English or something.

Blake just sells coffee-infused frozen yogurt out of a truck and refs lo-rent B-ball games between comedians.

Actually that’s not bad.

Happy berfsdays.

Luff,

Nic