Highway to the Danger Zone

November 14, 2009

I don’t know why I chose that title.

I’m not sure it even makes sense.

I was interviewed this morning. The interviewer was Austin, a handy/capable (not handi-capable) grip and actor from my short-film shoot. I was obliged to work on it, by the law of film-school-favors, wherein if he works on my film for free I am obliged to work on his. What he in turn needed me for was to ask me about life after film school for a documentary project he was doing on recent film alums for his documentary class, ironically the same one I had taken in the same semester he had taken it, with the same teacher.

It was raining, the sporadic, tantrum-style rain of recent New York City days–brief, in intense and varying spurts–and I huddled across the street on the bench in front of the old-fashioned coffee shop, after an early morning wake-up that consisted of leftover sitcoms and an over-dose of repetitive, concurrent video-gaming.

Austin was late by a couple minutes, but staring in to the faces of his crew was like looking in a funhouse mirror into all the ways you might be reflected. One of them was Israeli talking on the phone to his mom in Hebrew and comparing how our recently cut Jew-fros might have matched up had they been present. One of them was talking about an introductory film class disdainfully, since he was unsure he would be able to make a “serious” movie in it, as he said so with a “serious” face. A final one was ministerial, overseeing the others as he picked out restaurants around the street he might take his crew out to, in exchange for their willingness for a film-school school-project schlep.

“Was there any point when you realized that you weren’t going to have a job when you got out?”

Austin came and the interview began. I sat on the same bench facing Austin trying to chose between playing my bravado to him or the camera, knowing my old teacher Sam Pollard would be seeing this and trying to figure out, somewhere in my head, how to make him laugh.

“You know, I’m optimistic.” I told Austin as he assumed the squinting stare of the nouveau-documentarian. “I’ve only been out of school for 6 months. It’s true I used to think that I would have a job when I got out of college, that the people who didn’t have jobs were losers. But I work somewhere I like, even if I don’t get paid and I’m part of something I believe in. Now you can talk to me in another six months when I’m unemployed and my film’s been rejected and I still don’t know what to do with my life. But I live my life in horizons and when this job ends I’ll have one. And I’ll try to find the next one from there.”

The questions continued, but I’m a bad/good interview and every time Austin gave me a question, it was another excuse for me to tell a story, to give a viewpoint. Talking for me, conversation, sometimes feels like a theater in which I can relive the best moments of my life, revive the confidence and energy that I’ve felt previously, or just even articulate and work out what’s in my head, like a shower or a good BM. In any case the kiddos looked on enraptured and I felt like I had a job well-done. I told them whatever success stories I could think of, from my friend Zach Weintraub who had shot a good feature for nothing on a digital-picture-camera, to my friend Chadd, whose star-studded-celebrity-event I was attending the next day. But as they left, I realized the stories I told them, I told myself and that it was time for a self-revival.

***

The truth is, denizens of Feitelogram: I haven’t been writing enough.

Or even more than that, more simply, I haven’t been doing.

When I met with Antonio Campos, he told me to make another short film. There’s nothing stopping me from doing that except for me and my own head. If I wrote something, I could gather friends, shoot on weekends, ask my parents for money probably and they’d probably shell out.

I could sit at home and finish a screenplay I haven’t touched in three weeks, or at least begin the process of beginning.

The truth is, having a job, an internship, some structure, has both stabilized me and squelched me.

Since I have structure to my life, times that I am busy for much of the week, I have less need to write, less emotional, desperate lashing (though I still seem to do much of that here). At the same time, I have less energy to write, less drive, since my job has made it so I can’t attend or even schedule my writer’s group, meaning that I’m not even around anyone who is writing.

In short, I need to work harder or smarter or both to carve out a niche for myself if I want to continue to be creative. When I think of the people who I told stories about to that film crew this morning, it was people that decide to do something, to only worry so much about how good it would be and just get it done. To be creative in the literal meaning of the word.

That’s what I need in my life and that’s where my blog comes in. Where y’all help.

As I once told Jason Lee, whose blogposts have now returned to a consistent diet of job hunting and Nicholas Cage film-blogging after a queasy experience as an Asian-food-deliveryman, blogging is writing, it’s working out your muscles, it’s keeping in shape. It’s a lifeline back to the world of your mind, the world it is easy to get out of touch with when you are forced to explore the questionable territory of your own value by a job or an internship.

It’s good just to keep it out, keep it going.

And if I’m posing, I’ll be damned if I ain’t posing here.

***

If there’s a reason if I gotta self-analyze that I chose this title for this post, it might be an unconscious need for Karaoke.

Much like my lapsed writer’s group, Karaoke has been something missing in my life as I face challenges to schedule it that I did not face in my grand summer of after-school unemployment. It’s become so distant that I often can’t even think of singing my own songs, like I once did, when I spent a whole couple afternoons listening to “Thunder Road” on repeat so I’d get the cadences right as to not embarass myself, which I’m sure I still did.

Instead I think of my friend Rob Returning-Beardo Malone and think of songs for him to do. As a gesture, when we went together, I’d often write his name down for a song I’d thought for him to do, something I had anxious anticipated. As I’ve written before, Rob has a crooner, eccentric-PA style that often goes well with campy songs sung un-ironically like “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris or “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates.

I feel like he could do a good rendition of “Highway to the Danger Zone” if he tried, but recently, while brushing my teeth, my Pandora Radio put on “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day, an iconic song of 90s teen angst which seems anathema to Rob, but which I pondered what his spin would be like. Would he croon it, or go for a straight-up Billy Joe-impression? Or would he simply pass and give me a withering “come on, Bro-ham-amus!” kind of look? I couldn’t say honestly and I smiled through my brushing teeth.

“You know,” I told Austin playing this one to the camera. “Last night I had a friend invite me to see 2012 at midnight. And most people when they would do that, they’d do it with excitement or not at all, dismissing the movie, rightly, as trash. But my friends I made in film school can do it someway where it’s ironic and it’s genuine and it’s a fun time for both of it all at once.”

I paused.

“Doesn’t mean I fucking went, 2012 looks awful.” I said. “But if I hadn’t gone to film school, where would I have ever met people like that?”


Topic of the Day

February 20, 2009

Currently, a bunch of random people are in the dining hall of my college doing stupid things.

This is the easiest way for me to describe what’s going at NYU right now, where a group called “Take Back NYU” is attempting a… something.

I first was alerted to this last night, not by the group or any of its actions directly, but rather by someone putting as their facebook status- “fuck those dudes who are taking over kimmel.”

This prompted me to consult that tome of social change, the “Group Description” page on Facebook, to find out who these people are.

When I read their page, their demands seemed somewhat understandable.

-NYU claims to be a “private college in the public service”, as their motto, but that seems to breaking down quickly with its effects on the city around it in terms of gentrification.

-NYU does not disclose its finances, not even to its students, which considering things like “NYU Singapore” and “NYU Abu Dhabi” might make one wonder where their tuition money goes.

-Perhaps most importantly, NYU is raising their tuition in a year of serious recession, while simultaneously instituting pay freezes on their faculty–once again, makes you wonder where the money is going.

When I got into class this morning, incidentally in that very same Kimmel, I was interested enough by all this to suggest that we spend the first part of class talking about, a suggestion my teacher actually followed.

However, when I read the “new” list of demands, it contained what seemed like obviously spurious changes-

-Now, of all things, Independence in Gaza was lumped in with making NYU “transparent”. This seemed like an insane conflation of two things with nothing to do with each other.

Now, to disclose, I’ve talked on this blog before about how I feel about Israel and that whole situation. Anyone who wants to check it out can click on the “Israel” category at the end of this post. It’s a complicated issue. But one thing’s for certain in my mind: It has NOTHING the fuck to do with trying to make NYU transparent, unless you’re going along with the vague notion of “Israeli war profiteering” suggested by their list.

For me, this lack of focus and particular willingness to lump in an extremely heated issue with a rather matter-of-fact set of demands goes a long way to de-legitimizing whatever these people might have had.

-They also listed that they want NYU to send aid to Islamic University in Gaza and to give Palestinians scholarships.

One word. Why? NYU is not the fucking Israeli government, nor is it Hamas or whoever the fuck. Nor is it the American government. It’s just a fucking over-priced college and not one that’s trying to get into the business model of Amnesty International.

-Finally and stupidly, they want to make Bobst Library open to the public.

Now, it’s a sign of the retardedness of this group that they would lump THIS in with their new demands about Gaza, when it’s so clearly unnecessary.

NEWSFLASH- We pay for Bobst Library. It is a service that we pay for. Now, while it would make sense to allow ALUMNI (a category which I will soon fall into) to go to Bobst, something which they currently can only do with significant charges, there is something out there for the rest of everyone in New York–it’s called the NEW YORK FUCKING PUBLIC LIBRARY and as someone who used to work there I can tell you they have fucking everything! They’re better than Bobst if perhaps a little less spic-and-span. Just because NYU recieves public funding doesn’t mean we should let random people into our private college library.

When I talked to my teacher about all this, they told me that they thought the group had added these spurious demands just so they could drop them. Might I suggest something?

Listen, I was a Hilary supporter, but I’ll give credit where credit’s due.

When Obama was talking about passing the stimulus and how it became somewhat weakened due to his attempts at bipartisanship, he said something along the lines of “Well, I could have filled with more demands that I knew I’d be ready to drop, but I didn’t want to play that game.”

Ladie and Gentleman of “Take Back NYU”, take some heart from our president. He might change this country or he might fucking not. But at least he’s trying to cut out the bullshit and get passed the things that actually need to get passed. Maybe if you had shown some focus, you might have earned more laughs and less sneers for your Cafeteria-stan.


How to Leave a Trail of Vomit Running Down Charlton St.

January 10, 2009

I thought that was a pretty provocative title. Yeah.

So I knew, like I said that I had to go back to my old high school/middle school what have you. This wasn’t one of those 10-year reunion type deals. It was just me as someone who looks he shouldn’t be there wandering the halls with my actor, a sensitive beat-up-able kid and a former student of mine, who essentially was a female proxy for me when I was at the school.

It was time to face my demons. Time to return defenseless to the place which had tormented me for years. So what do I do?

I get drunk as fuck the night before, almost trip on the sidewalk several times and wake up drunk to go there.

To be fair, I didn’t intend to get that drunk.

It’s just I was visiting my alcoholic friend, Jonny-Jon-Jon.

Now, a couple things to clear up, I suppose. first of all, when I say I’m visiting my “alcoholic friend Jonny-Jon-Jon”, that’s not like some sort of male-pre-menopausal “Aunt Flo”, nor is it some sort of “Fight Club” alter ego that a film student might imagine himself to have. Rather, my alcoholic friend Jonny-Jon-Jon is just that, an alcoholic and a young man particularly adept at the art of getting drunk and then, immediately or not-so-immediately following, getting laid.

He’s also tries to get into a fight most time I see him, something certainly associated with his drink of choice (whiskey), but not particularly a great idea, as he less resembles a brawler than the type of women he tries to fuck/lets try to fuck him.

A visit to him was usually boozy but to varying extents based on time spent and how quickly the fuck would ditch me for some girl.

This particular evening was spent as a catch-up, as we hadn’t seen each other in several months. I had a 22-ounce Asahi beer I had gotten from the Korean market down the street, he had about a fifth of a bottle of Glennfiditch he had lifted from the discount liquor store in town. We discussed Israel-Palestine and Midwestern girls until both of our drinks were gone and we headed in search of a whiskey bar Jon had read about online.

The bartender was cute, older, short black hair. She gave us tastes of the rye she told us she’d just gotten in. Jon tasted it and when he recoiled from its strength we ordered our Jack and Wild Turkey respectively and got down to the business of the night.

I often wondered how Jon met so many girls. When I came to his apartment that night, Jon had told me he couldn’t remember the last three months but he knew that he had slept with three different women in December. However, I just found sitting down with him and getting drunker in a grubby Bushwick bar that we were soon talking to two girls who could have been 20s’ flappers and moving closer. As Jon recalls it, “we were charming young gents”. About 3-x drinks later, I was out of the bathroom and the blonde I was talking to, a recently arrived schoolteacher, was nowhere to be found. John was sitting noodling with the brunette he had been chatting with when he yelled “She went outside!” to me.

So naturally, I went outside to… nothing. a Bushwick sidewalk.

I took out my phone and text messaged a big Bushwick fuck you to Jon as the whiskey had me certain of sabotage as I trudged drunkenly to the L train.

I woke up at 8:38. I had set my alarm clock for 8:30 but  I guess in the throes of liquor I put PM instead of AM, or maybe just slept through. I felt ok, sure that that Vitamin Water I had chugged on the train ride home would ward off the oncoming awfulness deserving a night of such Bushwick trashiness. Instead what I got was an apology that I had to give to my actor as I took him on the long ride to my school, groaning, admitting every other minute as one might be prone to do– “Sorry, I have a hangover.”

I’m sure hangover goggles couldn’t make my old school seem any worse though. Things were the same as I remember them: Lunch at 10:45, gaggles of girls congregated on a half-stairway, Canadian Geese shit all around campus. I even had a seventh grader call “Hey ginger kid, cut your hair” as I walked through the locker room.

It is the greatest injustice that when you return to your old school, you can’t just beat the shit out of all the kids who yell stupid shit in the locker room.

We left. Eventually. Upon leaving I had two things to be thankful for: that as an alumni, I could now use the men’s room at my high school and that I didn’t eat the KFC I wanted before getting on the train.

Convinced, as I had been all day, that my hangover was going to go away I drank more Vitamin Water on the train and tried to relax. My actor, a good kid, kept trying to ask me questions about drugs and alcohol. While I was happy to give advice, the talk just made me think more about the night previous. When I got off the train, I walked deliberately home.

The first part of you knowing you’re going to vomit is you start thinking about it. You start thinking: Well what if I vomited? Would I feel better? Then you go through denial. No, I don’t want to vomit. It’ll come out my nose. I’ll feel shitty and shakey. Then you finally figure out, yes I’m going to vomit and try to get to somewhere you can do it respectfully. Then you do it wherever you are.

For me it was a two-step. Two-steps, vomit, two-steps, vomit, two-steps, vomit. Shed tissues, sleeves, whatever got it out of me and then back down Charlton St home to stripping to the shower and steam and sleep.

It was a few more hours then, maybe 4-6 before my hangover was finally gone, though I didn’t vomit any.

I forced down some BBQ and once I kept that down I felt better. I built up from TV to Video Games to watching Cat Dancers with my friends Dan and Najia.

Cat Dancers is a documentary about people who dance with tigers and lygers and shit.

They all fuck each other and then at the end of two of them die.

Yeah.