Notes

January 28, 2012

Why am I so obsessed with giving other people notes?

It comes out in obvious and less obvious ways.

In my improv classes or in film school or even high school, when I knew the answer to the question I would say it, I would raise my hand high up in high school, yearning, aching to answer the question, my one chance to talk and be right in a world where for all other intents and purposes I was wrong or othered. In improv classes and rehearsals I struggle not to note or give advice to my teammates, my classmates, others barreling past my own gentle reminders that not only is it a huge blow to one’s ego to receive an “I’m better than you”-style note from a peer, but that I also supremely do not know what I am doing.

In film school I had no such qualms, acting like an expert and even going to classes to give speeches on the silliest things: what to get out of film school, the importance of script supervisors, the screenwriting process and of course, snarkily talking about who was good or not.

Obviously, engaging in these stupid conversations in film school, I found myself barely involved with the film industry on my way out, because when I found myself rejected from 50 film festivals with my thesis, out of a job and working at a movie theater after a 300,000 dollar education, I realized that the confidence I had formed was some sort of monstrous inverted pyramid, based only on the spark of “voice” I had mistaken for virtuosity, destined unto its own collapse.

You’d think I had learned my lesson out of film school, going into the improv community that had taken me in, like it takes in so many other broken, insecure people. But of course, as humans, we are universally slow to see our own folly and slower still to change. Such is the stuff of Kurosawa and Shakespeare.

But giving notes with conviction and some amount of eloquence (the fruit of my writing) is a powerful position to put yourself in and one that people respect especially if those notes are not delivered with the condescension or silliness of a taunt or even any heavy emotion and are placed instead into an article of faith. In fact, people sometimes desire that because they struggle and are insecure and desperately want help. After all, what they are doing is impossible and demanding and silly. It’s hard to be a clown.

When I have given notes to people either in improv or film school, it is with that scary conviction of that I know what’s right (even though I most certain do not) but also always as an article of faith. In the logic part of my mind, there is never any reason to give a note to someone about their performance or film or writing if they do not show obvious promise or talent. It is only when I think I see that splinter in their foot, that thorn in their side that they cannot see that I attempt to alert them, even if I don’t have the skill to remove it, even if I don’t even know I don’t know whether it actually is a thorn or splinter.

So why do I do this?

When I was a film student I was not an expert on making films. Now that I am an improviser, I am, as my friend Austin Kuras said, “in the high school part of improv, where your friends now might not be your friends later until things settle down”.

Two explanations are forthcoming, both rooted in my psychology.

The first would be the desire to change myself that I so desperately want, a vestigial notion left over from my youth. When I wanted to yell out the answer in high school, it is because I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted in this one area to be cool, to be big, to make myself as such. When I gave notes to my classmates then or later or later, it could because I didn’t like who I was, where I was and so instead of changing or having the strength to address myself, it was easier to see your own faults projected in others, to see that hurdle you thought someone else could cross, et cetera and gain some comfort and strength that at least you could change them.

Similarly, this frequently leads to frustration when people don’t change or refuse to take notes, mine or others, because I see in their intransigence my own inability to conquer the flaws in myself.

Note: this is the same low-self-esteem/victimhood philosophy that lead me to date girls with low self-esteem, because I thought I would show them how great they were and they would in return love the un-loveable: me.

The other, more altruistic reason (if not similarly misguided) is the attempt to correct the past in myself.

The same reason I was once a summer camp councilor for adolescents (a mixed experience in its own right) was because I wanted to tell 14, 15, 16-year olds that life wasn’t so goddam terrible even if it seemed like it now. I remember so vividly in the terrible parts of high school or film school or now comedy the huge mistakes I made, the horrific lows that I could not (and maybe even should not) have avoided but which I wish someone with some sort of authority could have been there effectively to tell me: “I’ve been there, quite recently. And it’s alright.” This is a very juvenile philosophy, a sort of “Catcher in the Rye”-style notion, but that sort of thought process isn’t past me entirely yet.

Having lacked a superhero or a cool magic-user to pop out of my Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels of my youth, I wanted to be the one that popped into these peoples’ lives.

Maybe that is part of the impulse still. Just wanting to be there to let them know that someone sees what they are going through and sympathises. To congratulate them earnestly, without the sugariness of sentimentality, at their successes in their failures. To remind them knowingly of the failures in success. When I do give notes well or am proud of myself, it is in these moments, where it looks like someone could use support, just like in an improv group scene, knowing when to make the move in life.

What do I make of all this?

As I said I know nothing, or know little. I am still vulnerable to those looooooo-ong conversations about comedy or film where I sound like an expert or argue like one. Often I enjoy them. But I am not a fool and in the moment I am trying to attune myself to when I have enough experience to talk about things and when I don’t, looking in to my nice coach Sean Taylor’s eyes and listening to his tone, trying to figure out when I’ve said too much, though I’m still not there yet (Sorry, Sean).

In a way, doing yoga has humbled me more than most things because I am so incredibly, intransigently untalented at it.

Knowing you can’t even do a halfway decent downward-dog is a good reminder of shutting up and just working hard.

Maybe I’ll thank myself for the shutting-up and enjoying myself, working and learning.

That’s good practice, too.

***

There’s something cathartic in being about the nerds.

It is important to define some levels here in what I am talking about before I continue.

Many things I do are defined as nerdy. Improv (as exemplified by this excellent video) is a pretty nerdy thing. Film nerdiness, like seeing a lot of indies and foreign films can be too (which I was reminded of when I met two Arizonans in France whose last movie they saw was The Notebook on DVD). Magic: The Gathering cards are still really nerdy in a way that is socially isolating and the subject of many jokes, but since I still sometimes find myself around them (like any addiction, you never really quit) I won’t cast judgement entirely right now.

But sometimes you head into a movie theater and see a combination of goth/punk overweight late-teenagers of all ethnic varieties at 3pm on a Wednesday and you know you’re going to see some Anime.

Anime was a phase I passed through (and am mostly out of) in the early parts of middle and high school exemplified by that weird gap in time where the internet existed but wasn’t fast enough that anyone could download things instantly. So, my best friend Frank and I would trudge down to Chinatown every weekend or every other weekend into the back of a knickknack store and buy VHS of anime episodes ripped off of non-region DVDs (which were expensive!) or subtitled amateur-ly by fans of the series we were trying to watch.

This was also a little after the time Pokemon (sort-of) and Dragon Ball Z (particularly) had gotten us into these Japanese animated shows with their promise of cool action, people always talking about the “awesome power of friendship” and often weird sexual undertones present in Japanese culture. Adult Swim on Cartoon Network had not yet turned totally into a bastian of college-age haute-comedy and still showed some cool anime shows as a stepping stone forward for us like Cowboy Bebop, which allowed us to continue growing on it as we began to realize how many episodes of our favorite shows were literally just people talking about the big fight that was going to happen stretched over a 9-26 episode arc.

When the internet sped up and Ricky somehow mysteriously disappeared, Frank and I would download the episodes off the internet of our favorite shows and go over to each others houses (mostly me to Frank’s) to watch them on our crappy monitors, hoping this wouldn’t be another episode where everyone was just intimidating each other and hopefully at least a couple people would throw a punch. But we were mostly disappointed, but somehow still hooked enough. We watched shows like Scryed, Yu Yu Hakusho, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece together while Frank delved even nerdier with the DSL connection at his house as we scoured the IRC (Internet Relay Chatrooms) for episodes in those early BitTorrent days, watching GTO (a show about a perv who becomes a teacher to sleep with 17 year-olds), Hajime No Ippo (an infinitely-long boxing anime) and Hikaru No Go (which is literally about people playing fucking checkers. No joke. Look it up.)

But a show we both watched was Fullmetal Alchemist, a silly steam-punk-style show about “alchemists” who have what is essentially a more science-y kind of magic powers. The show is about a big brother who always complains about being short and a little brother who is an animated suit of armor. Silliness ensues as well as some musing on life and death and humanity’s ability to affect those things.

Time has passed since those days.

First Frank became the skinny kid from his fat-bowl-cut-Korean-kid days, working out in college and then improbably becoming a personal trainer talking about being too shy to hit on his clients at the gym. I became chubby, got into movies and faded away from anime (though I still read some manga) since there were so many films to watch that didn’t involve waiting around 26 excruciating weeks to see what happens.

But now I do improv and work as an assistant and Frank trains people at the gym. I’m out late nights doing shows at weird places, Frank is training 6:30am clients. It’s hard to see each other.

So when I saw that the Cinema Village had, for some goddam reason, one of the several released-only-in-Japan Fullmetal Alchemist movies playing there, I knew to invite Frank.

We got some lunch. I joked about how I weigh less than him now (not at all salient, he is ONE-MILLION TIMES more fit than me), we walked around as I tried to decide on a dessert for an hour as I had to answer upset texts from a girl on my improv team. We talked about life and ended up splitting a cupcake.

We sat down in the aforementioned theater for the movie, which was silly with a Face-Off style-twist, though decently-animated. The last line of the film was: “Oh look, we’re leaving the valley.” which was really stupid and self-aware.

But we both for that time were back staring at a big suit of armor and a blond-short-guy fighting a wolf-man on top of a train.

And in the end, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Oh look, we’re leaving the blog post.

***

I had a freakout over squash. That is who I am now.

I haven’t been able to go to Birdbath Bakery around the corner from me for a while now, because the sandwich that I used to get from them, the Chicken Cilantro, was on a white bread that I had sworn off.

But one day, passing by, I decided to just investigate what they had I could eat and found that they had a smoked chicken sandwich on some sort of whole grain sourdough that seemed appetizing.

They had also seemed to have upped their lunch game, importing the famous Macaroni and Cheese from their parent store City Bakery in a hottray, along with another item I didn’t recognize.

“Spaghetti Squash cooked with homemade tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, a bit of cilantro, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.”

“A taste.” I requested.

Yum.

I got the smoked chicken sandwich (which was yummy enough) with the squash that was like crack.

Now, I didn’t know if this was kosher for me to have (not in a kosher sense) in terms of keeping my weight, but when I got upstairs I just ate half of everything, felt great and took a walk with my new couch-crasher New Jersey-an/Southerner Teddy Shivers to show him places to eat in the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, when I got back upstairs from the hour-point-five -long tour, that delicious-ass food was still there and I took a bite of the squash.

And then another.

And then the barrier broke and I ate the whole thing.

Guilt flooded my squash-ridden body.

I ate something light later, but when I got home that night, my weight (on the scale my bos bought me for the new year) had gone up 5 pounds instead of the usual three (how much my weight fluctuates day-to-night).

I hyper-ventillated in my therapist’s office, I wondered if this grand ruse was coming to an end, if chubby Nick was returning, so soon.

She looked at me calmly and we continued our session.

“I figure if this has been working for you.” She said. “Trust it and it will.”

I did and I ate some salads the next day and was fine.

My freak-out, silly.

It was just squash.

And I haven’t had it since.

Because I’ll eat french fries, cupcakes, crepe nutellas, pain au chocolats, shots of Jameson and risotto balls.

But I’m scared as fuck of that yummy squash.

***

BIRDBATH BAKERY

Side of Spaghetti Squash w/Parmesan, Homemade Tomato Sauce and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds- $5.00

Prince St. bet. Thompson St. and W. Broadway.

CE to Spring St. NR to Prince St. BDFM to Broadway-Lafayette.

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Joyeux Noel

December 25, 2011

Lots and nothing to do in Paris at Christmas, by yourself for the holidays.

In some ways, the time has brought reflection, like I talked about in my last post.

As I mentioned, I don’t have the internet on my phone (despite continued efforts) and I also don’t listen to music or podcasts walking around. Instead, I tend to observe, letting my mind wander from arrondisement to arrondisement, trying to take the metro as little as possible, despite my “Navigo” pass (a catchier term for “MetroCard”).

I just try to look, try to place and understand what I’m seeing around me, what I  am taking in. Paris is a starkly beautiful city, the boulevards large (and sometimes unfortunately commercials) and the streets narrow and good for walking. Everything is wonderfully uneven and cobbled in the best way, like the parts of Greenwich Village I admire back home, the parts where you can tell that little thought was put in on a macro-scale, because people were just trying to find ways to exist in these quarters, built up over and over.

The result is streets with stairs, streets with hills, streets too narrow for three people and great doors leading into wide-open plazas off narrow streets with narrower buildings within.

I lost my copy of “From Paris to the Moon” about two-thirds of the way into it at a Starbucks by Cluny, the neighborhood I most prefer.

It was appropriate, since I had been neglecting the book for a couple of days in favor of my Nintendo 3DS and a free copy of an old Zelda game I had gotten to download.

No need to shame me, blog-readers, I assure you I felt enough shame sitting in a Starbucks, staring at my new-fangled Game Boy in the middle of a city yet to be explored. But I was properly chastised and anyway, losing the book finally made me find the English-language bookstore “Shakespeare and Co.”, where I should have gone anyway.

In Cluny, I discovered tons of comic-book and video game stores, a whole street lined with Manga-shops and even a Forbidden Planet-type store with American superhero serials, up-to-date for the weeklies! I was impressed not so much by the titles (as I had my brief flirtation and separation with comics in mid-college) as I was by the idea that there was a community of people in Paris who would want these comic books as well as the Manga and the little video games shops that I found in proximity.

When I discovered a cinema showing reduced-fare matinees of American films on the same block as a Warhammer store I knew I was in the right place.

But with who?

Being in France by myself makes me appreciate the embarrassment of people I have to hang out with back home. It is so much that I need to see someone I know well every day or I feel cold and alone, unpopular, unloved; it’s an addiction and one that I fuel with community and good friends, so in that way, as addictions go, it’s not bad.

But walking around here by myself has led to discoveries, some freedom to go down strange streets, that lack of self-awareness one has around others, that need to present a persona.

In other words, I’ve been detoxing my outer self while I’m here, the person I am with his hyper-kinetic energy, strange attitude and neck-break strange lifestyle.

And of course, as one reflects on new surroundings, one reflects on themselves. Who am I? What path should my life take? What is my life really like back home? These are all important things to think about and in truth I have no answers, but I know I am enjoying not being in them, not taking calls, not worrying for a moment.

Or, at least, letting the thoughts of back home be in lieu of that music I’m not listening to as I explore Paris.

And I’m not totally alone.

Pictured above is my current roommate, a Brit named Brad, a good-looking fellow, 20 out of acting school, only knowing he doesn’t want to do acting. We’re friendly out of the sort of strange arrangement that we don’t seem to particularly annoy each other and that I am very grateful that he doesn’t mind all the times that my water bottle has fallen from my top bunk on to his bed.

Sometimes, I’ll hang out with him or I won’t but he’s a relatively genial (to say neutral presence) whose mind works in ways that mine doesn’t.

“The problem with hostels,” He told me as we walked down Blvd. St. Germain. “Is that there isn’t enough time to seal the deal, enough time to get to know them.”

“I mean what do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean sex.” He replied. “There was this Malaysian girl at breakfast…”

“You told me about the Malaysian girl.” I replied. He had.

“Well, yes, but there was this Japanese girl.”

“Alright.” I said.

“And she was gorgeous I mean she had like a nice face and a perfect ass (pronounce: ah-ss) and she told me she was leaving the next day.”

“Yeah, well I mean it’ll be alright, I’m sure you’ll find someone here. But my friend Ilya says the girls in a hostel don’t come to a Paris hostel to find hostel guys, they come to find French dudes.”

“Makes sense. In college–”

I’ll cut it off there.

Which is not to say I hadn’t had my share of tries while I was there so I didn’t seem so fixed on it happening as I had on my trip to Israel (Birthright) or in college. I guess I’m just a sucker for a girl wanting to talk to me and reading it the wrong way (which about approximates my normal life) and this led me to a Special Ed. teacher from Los Angeles, trying to “figure out what’s next”, who told me she was gay 3 days and about 3-4 bought drinks into it.

“Yah, I definitely thought she was flirting with you.” Brad told me in the lobby. “But it turned out she was a proper lesbian, in the bar she was talking about all the girls she liked and stuff.”

“Glad we solved that one.” I replied.

Then there was the Chinese-Canadian nerd-girl teaching Psych to “Level A” students in London, carrying a copy of Hemmingway’s “A Moveable Feast”  who kept pouring me wine out of her bottle into a hostel mug (“It was only 3 euro!” she kept on exclaiming) who wanted to do lots of things with me but

a. Had a long-distance boyfriend (Upstate New York) who she had met on the online-role-playing game Ragnarok Online.

and

b. Turned out to be annoying as fuck as the three of us walked together through the city as she kept stopping for pictures and being really excited about stupid things.

All-in-all, a pretty typical failure on my part leading to my going to see the subtitled Tree Of Life alone tonight, back in Cluny.

Living the life of an American hostel-dweller in Paris.

Contemplative, romantic and strangely bro-ish.

***

It bears to mention here that I did not get passed in my UCB class.

I had come to some peace earlier about it, about my skill and love of improv and comedy, about the community I was in, that I knew it wouldn’t kill me or wound me so terribly if I didn’t pass.

But still “fuck you”.

I got a nice email from my old teacher, a performer I respect in charge of delivering the news and I appreciated that he was sympathetic, that he told me he knew how much it meant to me, that he was willing to talk. He’s a dry guy, not known for his warmth, so I appreciated even that, even if the news was bad.

I, of course, took my old teacher up on his offer and, of course, wrote too much.

I go back to New York on the second and start another class, another attempt at passing on the third, the next day.

The teacher this time is a performer I really admire, Neil Casey, so I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to worry about passing and just learn.

But if I made a big mistake in my last comedy class at UCB, it was not seeing it as a class. I took the class to pass and go to the upper-level courses. Unlike the first-time I took the class, where I felt I was learning a lot, this time I just thought most of the kids were fucking awful, I was better than them and I already knew everything these people could help me with, now bring on the advanced classes.

But of course, they don’t call it a test, they call it a “class”, even if it is a test as well and that’s a difficult thing to remember.

So I just want to take this time to say, to myself and the improv people at large.

On one hand, fuck you, I had people see my shows whose opinions I trust, I know myself, I was if not the best performer in that class with the most experience, than the second and I should have passed that class.

On the other hand, thank you. Because as much as fuck you, as my teacher, the great Armando Diaz, over at my comedy place The Magnet says (as I’m sure many others have as well), there is more to be learned from success than failure. Or as Dave Pasquesi (of TJ+Dave) said in his Q+A at the Magnet, this is not something you’re supposed to be good at.

If I went into any class thinking I was only there to prove myself and pass the teacher’s test and I had nothing to learn, then I would learn nothing and that, more than anything, would be a great shame.

But if I go into that same class and try and do things I am not sure of and fail and make myself vulnerable, if I allow myself to be “not good”, I also allow myself to be open to becoming “better”, just like a muscle has to tear to rebuild and become stronger.

So, as I walk around Paris, thoughts of profundity come to me as do thoughts of shame. I try to remember the profound thoughts, try to unpack some of the shameful ones and others file away for when I return to my therapist.

I guess what I am saying is I just hope all of this helps me to get laid.

Yeah.

***

As one might expect, when left to structure my days for myself, I often turn to where I want to eat and then leave everything else to chance.

In this way, my friends have not been so helpful (my boss never sent me the email he told me giving me recommendations, though I guess he still has a week), my mother has been, as usual, right about mostly everything and my hostel has proved no use at all just giving me a coupon for some place they’re shilling for.

Instead, I’ve been looking up the France section of the Chowhound message boards and Paris By Mouth, an English-language French-dining blog, both of which have taken me by interesting places.

I am hampered by the fact that when people talk about French dining, they talk about 70 bucks (50 euro or so) an entree. I, on the other hand, was very happy with the Fried Chevre McWrap I got from the Louvre’s McDonald’s outpost.

Also, if I can take a second to mention, McDonald’s in France is fucking awesome. Their McCafe section has glorious cheap cappucinos served in porcelain and GOD DAMN MACARONS. MACARONS! It blew my mind.

But, looking for some place to sit down and eat I heard the words “Very Cheap” associated with a restaurant called Chartier and saw it was on the street that led down from my hostel to the Seine and so there I was, walking back up from Cluny one evening going into one of the many interior courtyards of Paris to a restaurant full-booked at 6:30.

When I raised my finger (“Un seule” I said) I was taken to a table with a French woman probably in her early 60s, a French man in his 70s and later an Australian, of whom there are endless amounts everywhere (including a girl who recognized me from the show. “they watch BEA in aus?” My pops texted me. Reply: “guesso”).

The French woman, Christianne, spoke very little English and I, of course, only speak enough French to make the French feel acknowledged that I tried to speak their language for which they allow themselves to speak English to me. But between us (relying mostly on my French!) we managed to have a nice conversation. One of her snails she got as a pre-theatre treat was alive and when she told the kitchen they brought her another one and decided, seeing my American-ness, to offer it to me.

“Stop.” George said, in French. “The Americans and The French, they do not eat the snails. They will not.”

To be honest I was dubious. I hadn’t tried one in recent memory, only maybe when I was very young. But there she was, instructing me how, fetching the snail for me when I could not get it with the pronged instrument from its shell, showing me how to dip it in the butter and garlic from which it came and how to sop it up with the baguette.

She was very pleased when I managed and I very much enjoyed it, though it was tres riche and not for everyday consumption.

Just the mutual feeling of getting through language and cultural barriers made us feel all happy. She tried to ask me about another food and called up one of her three children (one of whom lives in Toronto as a pilot for Air Canada) to ask the word, which was frog, which I explained to their shock was a “mauvais mot pour les gens francais”. They then went on to have a discussion about the diminishing primacy of French as a language and eventually, my Poulet Roti Frites arrived, over the check which was written directly on my paper tablecloth.

It was cooked in lots of butter and not so great (frozen fries, obviously) but the snail was pretty good and as always, I was amused by how much the waiters seemed to disdain me as much as they seemed to read George’s mind, whose name was probably not George (“L’Americain, il peut m’appeller George.”) and who ended up admitted being a regular there.

I bowed to Christianne and thanked her again so much.

In the unknowing of eating and being alone somewhere, you can find yourself in something of a wonderful time.

Also, I hope I haven’t gained 10 pounds. I was 80 kilos with my clothes on a scale at a department store where I took off my shoes while everyone was shopping the day before christmas.

What?

***

RESTAURANT CHARTIER

Poulet Roti Frites (et un escargot)- 8.70 Euros

7 Rue De Faubourg Montmartre

Metro 8 ou 9 a Station Richelieu-Drouot


Giving

November 29, 2011

I admit as a New Yorker to never having seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, at least in my knowing lifetime.

It is possible that my parents took me before I was aware of things, like probably many struggling infants, fixated on a floating Snoopy in the sky.

But if so, these are memories only accessible through regression hypnosis, or at least a recounting to by my parents.

Yeah.

But I saw, for the first time, the floats coming up 10th avenue the night before Thanksgiving, a cordon mini-parade of sorts, rolling through midnight, police escorting, like some arcane gathering or the book of Where The Wild Things Are (not the shitty hipster-ass movie).

It was something that it was meaningful or wonderful to me (in the “full of wonder” sense of the word) seeing those floats pass by as I headed home from a particularly raucous sandwich-filled episode of The Chris Gethard Show. I felt like I was getting to see something hidden or cool. I felt that dormant, probably non-existent Snoopy-adoring child in me.

Or something like that.

Because as I “grow up”, what impresses me about myself is my non-chalance where before there was only chaos. When I get a 500-word explanation/pitch of why “we should be friends” on OKCupid, I just kind of sigh it off as silly. When I have a not-so great set on stage, I still feel good and goofy (though whiskey helped with that that night). Even my UCB 401 class, something that the last time I did it I was so stressed out on the pages of this blog feels nice and natural to me.

When I walked into my therapist office this morning, I thought about how much I had changed. Even though I’ve constantly thought of myself as relatively sane and well-adjusted, I started out two years ago as an angry, sharply-opinionated kid dealing with personal and professional traumas as well as the unsolved question as to whether anyone could love me.

Now, I’m a mellow still-weirdo, who’s done a decent amount of screwing (especially by former nerd standards) and consistently gets into less fights, less “battles”, less of the “proving himself” crusades I used to throw myself into as a crucible to prove my worth or reveal who I really was.

Two years ago, I went before a board at my school and told them if they didn’t heed my advice they’d have “blood on their hands”. Now, someone made a snide remark to my friend at a show and instead of instantly getting into a fight, I take a moment stare at the guy, ask my friend if he wants me to do something and wait for the asshole to dig his own grave (giving a “pedophilia” suggestion at ASSSSCAT and getting fucking reamed by families of victims at the intermission). For all my opinions and strangeness, I’m a much chiller person. Or maybe just more comfortable with who I am.

Which is not to say opinions or feeling strongly is a bad thing. They’re great under the right circumstance and I’ll still stupidly get into a cause to champion, or get hung up on the wrong girl or say my ex’s name as some freudian slip. These are the things that make us human. It is both full and childish, in a good way, to feel and react deeply. It’s what tells us we’re alive, that we’re capable of action, to do something, potentially stupid, and to see its results. We live by the fruits of our mistakes and the knowledge/nourishment we get from them.

So I guess that’s why I dug seeing those floats after the already silly and fun Chris Gethard Show. I guess that’s why I enjoyed some of The Muppets and all of Hugo. I suppose that’s why I still consistently eat Chicken Parmigiano and am shy about asking girls out on dates and feel this need to spill my guts to everyone here in (slightly) masturbatory fashion.

Because there always needs to be that kid inside us, capable of making mistakes, of taking foolish risks, of trying something.

Something capable of experiencing and creating the wonderful.

***

Looking at this picture shows how tenuous I feel about my sexuality when trying to explain to my friends that I do yoga.

Because they post things like this around and have saunas and an assortment of teas.

But it’s a nice other layer of structure and it kicks my ass.

And what can I say, I guess I like that.

I went out with my friend Frank and his assortment of online gaming friends (a “Korean korean” from Flushing, a waiting-for-deployment Army kid and his marketing-dept girlfriend) to Ichiumi, the fabled “sushi buffet” of my youth, a place where you can go to get an unlimited suply of sushi and Japanese/Korean food, both iffy in its health ramifications and delicious for the hard working-out 5-plate-eating Frank.

“Ha, Yoga’s for pussies, bro. Do some burpies.” He told me, before going on to discuss an online role-playing game they all played called “League of Legends”.

It is a bit, but what can I say?

I am not a flexible person and never have been. I always despised working out and most physical activity given the physical emphasis of my middle and high school, which I hated. I have always been tight and usually slumped over, my back and neck a tilting “C”.

But Yoga just seems so far away from the “machoness” and implicit judgement I felt at the gym. It’s just a bunch of people doing peaceful, but sweaty things. And while I don’t buy into the spirituality aspect, it does clear my mind. It feels like a nice release and more than that, it feels easy for me to continue doing it. I went three times last week and once so far this and intend to go tomorrow. I was disappointed to find out my studio didn’t have an iPhone app, so I could see the times more readily.

With the stress still at my work, I did Yoga yesterday and was much more happy with my free time than I usually am, since free time usually terrifies me.

I just got water at Ichiumi as Frank tossed back plate after plate, rushing against the 3 o’clock deadline when they’d toss us all out to prepare for dinner. We ended up badgering Frank into getting the new Zelda game, which I had been enjoying and while we explored the Saturday-time Manhattan Mall, still swarming from leftover Black Friday sales, Frank turned to me:

“So, uh, how much do you think a class at your place would be?”

“What place?” I asked facetiously.

“You know. Yoga. I just am tight and could use more flexibility.”

“Yeah, ok.” I said. “Pussy.” Under my breath.

And it took a little longer to find out.

Because they didn’t have an iPhone app.

***

Though I have mostly been cured of my hypo-glycemia by way of my diet, I was pushing it on Sunday when I waited till 2 to eat after waking up fairly early. In my defense, I was going to meet my sister to see Hugo at New York City’s greatest movie theatre, The Ziegfeld and I thought to go to the nearby hallowed-food cart, the great 53rd and 6th Halal Guys.

But I had been spoiled on them lately. Not that they weren’t still great (They were/are). Only that based on my routine I now get to have them at least once a week. They’re less of a treat and I’d actually already had a platter on Friday.

I had also been soured because I had tried to defuse the difficult-to-explain subterfuge of a cart that pretends to be the famous cart by isn’t by going over to that cart’s line and explain to the stupid tourists that they were in the wrong place, only to hear from some d-bag that he actually thought Tasty and Delicious was BETTER than Halal Guys!

“Dude, I’m a famous food blogger.” I whipped out. “I’m on TV for this shit.”

“Well, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said refusing to make eye contact.

Now, this is a point of pride for me because I felt as if I was doing a public service. Tasty and Delicious sells fucking HOT DOGS for gods sakes as no self-respecting halal cart should!

Fuck!

Anyway, the whole thing had left a sour taste in my mouth and as I did a nice Sunday three-mile walk to the Ziegfeld, I found a place that caught my eye in Bryant Park called Vegetarian’s Oasis amidst the gift-sellers and bag-handlers.

“Yeah, we mostly do music festivals.” The woven-shirt-ed lady told me. “Nearest one is the Electric. She said.

I got the Falafel Wrap, which of course came on whole-wheat, with tahini, “crushed pepper” sauce, fresh crispy cabbage, romaine and tomatoes. It was delicious and big, burrito sized and relatively inexpensive, especially for the neighborhood.

My sister, the semi-vegan, was somewhat jealous. I told her to try to get the falafel from the Halal cart, but she decided on a Jamba Juice instead.

“What, Juice is a meal.” She expressed when I showed my indignation.

She then proceeded to steal most of my small popcorn that I got at the movie theater.

But maybe I just should have brought her an extra wrap.

We’ll call it, a draw.

***

ICHIUMI

Lunch Buffet (Sushi and Japanese/Korean Hot Food, Dessert)- $22.00

32nd St bet 5th Ave and Madison

NQRBDFM to 34th St Herald Sq. 6 to 33rd St.

VEGETARIAN OASIS

Falafel Wrap w/Cabbage, Crushed Pepper Sauce, Tahini- $7

Inside the Market at Bryant Park near 42nd St and 6th Ave

BDFM7 to 42nd St-Bryant Park


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.


Routines And Otherwise

October 25, 2011

This is a snapshot of what my life looks like right now.

This week I got complimented by the (pictured) man in the body suit who told me, ostensibly in literal Greek, that I was a “beautiful man” who he “wish he saw more”.

I only know this because his (also pictured) friend in the sunglasses translated this for me with a smirk.

This is the place that my choices in life have brought me to.

Getting come-on compliments in Greek from a man in a bodysuit after midnight on a Wednesday at a public access television station.

But hey, I guess: beats a nine-to-five.

This past week was actually a pretty great one for me. I went to this crazy-ass show (where all such pictures derivate), which I am apparently part of the crew of now.

I got the opportunity to stand in for one of my heroes, Armando Diaz, at his show “The Armando Diaz Experience”, telling true stories from my life while amazing performers did improvised scenes off of them (pictures, here courtesy of great man/friend M. Woody Fu).

I even had some fun shows and rehearsals with my indie teams.

Which may not sound like much, but consider that six months ago, I think I was pretty much despairing for my life.

Getting to perform regularly, having the freedom to find things and discover opportunities, to learn and to be a party of wacky, fun stuff, like I’ve described: it’s awesome.

This weekend, I sat a while and talked to Louis Kornfeld, in the lobby of the Magnet’s Training Center, the place where I do most of my shows.

I remember almost a year ago now being in the same class as Louis, the performer who I’d most like to be, a sketch-writing class, coming in off a week of auditioning for commercials (which would be among my last) and looking at Louis, who is the same general “type” as me and asking him:

“Hey man, you’re funny. You have a beard. Why don’t you go out for commercials?”

And he told me: “I don’t know. I have no ambition. I’m happy doing what I do.”

I kinda shrugged and continued the class, where I had Louis perform in one of my sketches and had my friends, family and classmates blown away by his abilities as a performer.

Back then, it seemed so important to “start my life”, that everything was building to something or it wasn’t.

Looking back as well, it was (and maybe still is) the same case with my romantic life: either I am getting more attractive and more successful, more prospects, more possibilities or I’m not and that’s reason to sulk or complain.

But sitting on that extended portion of a Sunday morning that branches into the afternoon, Louis and I talked about film school and that culture of want and narrative, the idea that there was a narrative of success, a path or a story you were a part of that justified people treating you poorly and, more importantly, you accepting the inherent shittiness of your life as some sort of part of a grand scheme.

We talked about nostalgically, in contrast to the way I used to speak about “paths” and “the direction of my life”, as if I was in it.

“You know, any time I’m asked about film things, I still feel like I’m made to feel apologetic about my life,” He told me, one lapsed film student to another. “That people expect me to say I’m taking some detour. That I know I’m going to return. There are still people I just can’t deal with from those film days. That I duck and hope they’ll respect the mutuality of our non-acquaintance.”

As readers of this blog know, I am a fan of applying improv principles to life, which I’d guess Louis is as well.

I was reading the other day a post on a comedy website about moving to L.A., composed of comments from UCB performers. Jason Mantzoukas, a very-talented performer had this to say:

” LA, New York, whatever, it’s all an improv show itself, really. The hardest thing is the internal battle between the knowledge that your audience expects you to be hilarious and brilliant and the awareness you have that you have no idea what’s about to happen, and very little real control over it, an inability to control the inherent panic. So what do you do? You be very good at narrowing the scope of what you’re going to do. The first rule is: don’t ask questions, because everyone else is in the same situation and they don’t know anything either.”

And isn’t that something: to realize that no one has the answers, not you or anyone. That life’s story isn’t written, that there are things that can be done or not done, but there is no narrative, no set path or paths. Just trying to be in the moment, to know who you are and what you want to give. To try to get better and hone your craft or what you love.

As we sat in that building lobby talking, in the intervening months between when we had done our sketch class show together, Louis had been hired to work for the same Second City Touring Company that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Jason Sudeikis and others had done. He’d been promoted to co-Artistic Director of the Magnet. His improv teams had been invited all over the country and to Hawaii (recently) to perform.

Ambition-less.

And here he was, sitting in a building lobby, crouching on his haunches, nervous, hoping he’d be able to give the best he could to his students who were about to mill in.

And sitting in that lobby, an intern at that same theater, who hadn’t been on many commercial auditions lately, or looking to “advance himself” in the industry he went to school for, just sitting and waiting to open some doors on a Sunday morning.

That intern felt good.

But he should have finished his rewrites for his damn sketches.

Fuckin kid.

***

Speaking of kids, I’m pretty sure the guy who sold me my netbook was in 10th grade or younger.

In preparation for going to France, my pops suggested that I get a cheap, crappy netbook instead of taking my (still very nice) 2009 MacBook Pro to the scummy four-person room hostels I’d be staying in and breaking my back like I have been carrying it around, it would be nice to have something both more portable and which I would be less upset about if it got stolen.

But, being me, I didn’t want to have any “crappy” netbook, I didn’t want to crawl back into the vagaries and inconsistencies of Microsoft.

I wanted something that was dependable and real and functional. I wanted a Mac.

Except that Mac laptops start at a thousand bucks and only get more expensive.

So, I turned to what used to be my specialty: turning a certain very specific brand and model of netbook (the Dell Mini 10v) into a 250-dollar Macbook Lite.

It was much harder than the last time I did it (a birthday gift for my ex, while she wasn’t it, to be clear) since the model was older now and more difficult to find.

The place I had the netbook shipped from last time, a factory outlet, no longer had their delightfully “Gak”-soaked Nickolodeon model for kids, the kind I had gotten before.

Places on Amazon even mis-advertised their models in some attempt to put one past people and the “Hackintosh”-able model was the most in-demand.

After a couple of days of looking I turned to Craigslist and started text messaging someone who told me their netbook was quote, “Minty” and “Full-functioned”.

After telling me he lived “way uptown”, we agreed to meet in front of the Central Park Apple Store, appropriately or ironically and tested it out in the lobby of the nearby Plaza Food Hall.

The guy was quite nice and obviously a geek too about computers, but I realized, he wasn’t too careful. His name was still on the computer, first and last, as was, apparently, his homework.

He was a nice kid, looking back on it, and he sent me some tips on how to proceed. He obvious was literate about basic hacking because he had hackintoshed the netbook himself.

He threw in some basic, crappy accessories, which I appreciated even though he tried to jack up the price on me forcing me to haggle.

I haven’t read his assignments or watch his pirated copy of the movie “The Change-Up” he left on my computer.

The netbook runs well, especially with the tweaks I installed on it.

I guess I just wonder about this kid’s life.

And what he spent his 250 dollars on.

He told me that 2006 MacBooks were going for 300 on eBay.

“I’d do that if I were you, man” He told me. “Apples are the best.”

And I guess through all those text messages I wonder what it felt for that kid meeting someone else hack-literate, when you’re in 10th grade.

Who is this kid, Rimu?

My computer won’t remove his name.

***

Ah the pleasures of being on a diet.

Let me tell you, I amaze myself with how I’m still goddam losing weight eating things like this.

I’m 185 today, down from 188 one or two weeks ago.

And I can still have a goddam Faicco’s sandwich.

My “cheat” is that I go next door to Amy’s Bread and buy their double-seeded whole wheat loaf instead of the delicious Italian bread that Faicco’s usually uses. This allows it to not technically constitute a “break” in my diet.

But the catch is, the sandwich is probably about 1.5x the size of an already huge Faicco’s sandwich.

Smothered in the same Sunday-morning hot-fresh chicken-cutlets, fresh mozzarella, garlic-marinated sun-dried tomatoes and oil+vinegar. With that sesame-seeded bread.

I usually have them cut it in hal but after Emmy-nominee and sometimes teacher Russ Armstrong told me “this is three meals!” when I handed a previous, bifurcated version for him to hold, I got it cut in three at Faicco’s.

I could barely resist after the first third nibbling through the second throughout the day. Today it was my lunch.

Multiple meals of greatness.

And still just bragging to the goddam scale.

***

FAICCO’S ITALIAN SPECIALTIES (AND AMY’s BREAD)

Half of a Wheat Double-Seeded Baguette- $2.50

Chicken Cutlet Hero w/Fresh Mozz, Marinated Sundried Tomatoes, Oil and Vinegar- $10.00

Total $12.50

Bleecker St bet Leroy and Cornelia Sts.

1 to Christopher St. ACEBDFM to West 4th St.


On The Chopping Block

October 19, 2011

I found this outside my house the other night and just felt like climbing it.

A stacked pile of sheet-metal, probably once covering the road repair work taking place on perpendicular Prince St, built-up into what would have made a really awesome ramp for some skateboarding (longboarding?) kids in an attempt to jump both a motor-scooter and a car, or maybe just a good excuse to skateboard on top of some cars.

I just walked up it and jumped off in a nice display of something to do on a walk home.

If Matt Chao had been around, he would have referred to it as a display of “ninja-ing”.

But it was just me, so it was just walking up some shit.

Did I say I was feeling happy with my life?

I guess I have some excuses.

Nice things have been happening for me.

A funny sketch (more on this later) that a friend  from my improv team, Charles Rogers, directed went up and I was pretty proud of my performance and how it turned out.

I got put on a mini-sort of sketch team at the Magnet Theater which is actually kind of a big deal to me.

The Magnet Theater is a place I respect that has become sort of a home base for me, a place I go when I’m depressed or have nothing todo, or just to sit or use the bathroom. The little mini-sort-of team I got on is one of the first times I’ve been recognized as somebody sort of “cool” there (other than the generally supportive atmosphere) and it means that I get to put up sketches, I get to write them, have a deadline. The other people on my team are really talented performers most of whom I know and respect. It seems daunting but was fun and Armando Diaz, my teacher, is there directing everything and my sketches I was trying to kill before reading, even got some laughs.

Of course, I can’t feel good about myself without killing it for me and, the way I see it, unlike the other guys who were all invited because they were funny, I kind of emailed Armando on a tip from my friend Teddy (who had been on a team before) and just said kind of :

“Hey need anyone to write sketches? Because, uh, I’ve done that before. Yup.”

And I’m guessing the thought process was something like:

“Sure, I guess. Why not just invite him to this thing I invited everyone else to?”

But it felt good to sit in that room, to know I was on my first sketch team, that somehow I snuck in to this weird pseudo-thing.

I felt back to the place in my life where I was doing things and gaining pleasure from that.

It was nice to feel.

But then again, my romantic life continues to go nowhere.

I tried throwing myself back into online dating, OKCupid or whatever, but it just seems too weird to me still, too much of an emotional commitment. My therapist put it that I lacked the “emotional stamina” for it and that seems about right.

I asked a girl out the other night and she took about 3 minutes before saying no and somehow that period of contemplation still rests on me, somehow seeing that someone actually took the time to think about it before coming to the decision that this (read: me) was probably a bad idea.

I’m seeing my dermatologist tomorrow and I’m going to tell him that I want acutane, the strange, synthetic form of Vitamin A that apparently cures acne forever though there unsure why.

Part of the reason is easy, I’m cursed with acne on my back and shoulders, making it hard to sit in a chair sometimes (you wonder why I don’t get dates) and occasionally I get those big gross pimples (“cystic acne”) on my face and neck and they don’t go away and can’t be easily squeezed as I used to my teenage-brand.

But the other part seems more self-destructive or self-illuminating (self-clarifying?).

Now that I’ve lost a bunch of weight, now that I feel again like I’m doing something with my life, performing and learning (as opposed to just learning), I’ve got a job (still, for now) and a witty disposition, I guess I want to strip away all those venal things that could turn away people until I just get a solid judgement for me.

The acne on my back is invisible (except when I talk about on these blog pages) to everyday people, but the acne on my face sucks. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a real jawline, to be able to shave? Wouldn’t I look nice?

I want to reach that point again where I can look in the mirror and find myself attractive without too many qualifiers, where I can find and appreciate the distance between my perception of myself and how others perceive me. It’s an informational tool, but also some sort of self-destructive request.

That is, I just want to see someone look at me and reject me for all the progress I’ve made. Or accept me.

A reminder: Of course all of this is silly. As I’ve said before, my mantra is there is “No Honor, No Shame” in attraction. Some people like to fuck in Elmo suits. Some people like super-models. Some people have elderly fetishes or role-play. Attraction is a relative thing and you feeling attraction or receiving attraction (or the inverse) has neither honor nor shame to it.

But just as I’ve said before, when you choose to change your appearance, you lose the strength and happiness that comes with not giving a shit and it cannot be regained.

As my friends Jon Bander and Matt B. Weir and I discussed as I distracted them from writing for their new show (“What To Get”), it’s just like learning about movies:

A child or an uneducated adult appreciates a film as an act of magic, feats which they cannot possibly reproduce given unto them.

Someone however who learns about narrative or filmmaking or even just reads a lot, soon loses that magic as they see the craft, the seams, the tricks being played on them, the audience. They can never again experience that same ignorant or innocent magic of filmmaking. But they can see a movie they love and get close, they can see something that takes them away.

An adult’s appreciation vs. a child’s.

I want to get to that place where I can respect myself again. Where I can see myself and think I’m attractive, that there’s nothing wrong with me. That what I have is acceptable.

It’s a difficult place to find or to be.

My doctor’s appointment is tomorrow.

***

So as I said earlier, more on the funny sketch later: My dad didn’t find it funny.

“That was really intense.” My dad said on the phone about my performance. “But it wasn’t supposed to be funny, right?”

“Ok, Dad, I’ll talk to you later.” I replied.

“Why?” He asked. “Wait was it supposed to be funny?”

“It’s fine, talk to to you later Dad.” I replied.

I hung up and then again he called me and eventually I just did have to flat out explain to him that yes, it was supposed to be funny and that no, he did not find it funny, and that it’s okay, it doesn’t make me feel great, but that I’d rather not talk about it or go through the inevitable series of reconsiderations or “Well…” statements that accompany parental recriminations.

Of course this later came in the form of my mother calling me and saying:

“Nick, I just wanted to call to let you know, I saw that video of you and it was REALLY FUNNY. Catch that? I thought it was REALLY FUNNY. I just wanted to make sure you understood that.

“Yes, Mom.” I replied. “I’m actually about to go to class.”

And the point was taken.

Later on that night, I did pretty well in a potentially stressful return to UCB classes, a place where I have a problem feeling judged and saw a fun show with my old teacher (the wonderful Cheslea Clarke) and my new teacher (Brandon Gardner, who seems like a pretty nice guy), where my friend Jeff got to get up and play somehow with Ben Schwartz and Neil Casey, both a pleasure, and I had to stand outside explaining to people I knew from high school the etiquette of OKCupid in front of (but not to) my old high school crush.

“Look, the way it works,” I explained. “Is that you can’t just go and tell someone that you’re not interested that you want to be friends with them. If they just put themselves out there and had that expectation and you rejected them, fine no problem, but to say oh let’s hang out, is to say ‘I’m so awesome that even though I just rejected you and you are probably crushed you want to hang out with me despite that.”

That last part the crowd’s talk just seemed to part so my old crush from high school could hear.

But that’s good, fuck her.

I mean I’m sure she’s a nice person so I’m sorry, world, but really, I’m sick of people acting emotionally oblivious in dating situations.

Just not feeling it any more.

Yeah.

***

Sometimes, I just want to do something nice for myself.

There are those days, you know?

I was up early, I trapsed all the way to NYU, hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours in preparation for a fasted blood test, was wandering the streets woozy having only eaten a post-blood test banana I had been carrying around for an hour.

And I saw Les Halles right there on Park on my way to the train.

And just decided screw it, I’m going.

I don’t care if everything comes with “frites”.

My one concession to my diet was asking for whole-wheat bread for my sandwich, since it tastes great and that isn’t the fun part anyway.

My waiter somehow found it (despite it not being on the menu) and brought out my simple chicken sandwich, deliciously prepared.

As I sat on that Park Avenue sidewalk, my ‘wich was the envy of businessmen, passersby.

I relished my frites dipping them each individually, crunchilly into the waiting ketchup,

The herb mayo even complimented the sweetness of the whole grain bread.

I polished everything off with gusto.

And damnit.

I still weigh the same.

***

BRASSERIE LES HALLES

Sandwich de poulet, Frites: quatorze euros

À Avenue Parc entre les rue vingt-huit et vingt-neuf (28th et 29th)

Prenez le metro sixième (6) à la rue vingt-huit (28th St)

 

 

 

 

 


Adventures in Trying Not To Be a Pseudo-Celebrity Douchebag

June 14, 2011

“I hope she’s a foodie” was one of the comments on Facebook.

The others were comment on my “fly” appearance, how I was “styling” or “killing it” or, from Andy Roehm, always refreshing, wondering “what the fuck’s wrong with you drinking a vodka raspberry?”

When Rob put the picture up on Facebook, I was struck by how “cool” I looked, how “dapper” in my mismatched sport-coat and short-sleeved button-up, how my receding hairline had turned laziness into a sort of hair-do, how my staring ahead at the camera as opposed to the lady next to me, made me look important, or more than it all, or intense.

It was not a person I recognized, but then again, it was not reflective of who I was then, a problem I often have with photographs.

The truth of the matter was that I don’t know the young lady who was on my shoulder just then. She was someone who said the line I’ve heard repeatedly–“You’re that guy from Bethenny!”–and then it was off to the races.

I had to take my picture with her, had to meet her friends. These people didn’t know my name and nor would I expect them too, but I had no way to connect with them. In most ways, the interaction was like something digital, a “like” on Facebook or a retweet, with the lingering effect of having someone still look at you after the acknowledgment.

These people, this pretty lady, the whole open bar scene, they didn’t know me, so how was I supposed to process their blank acknowledgement?

The event was the Webutante Ball, a swanky charity-type thing run by Richard Blakely, a web-honcho whom I met in bar and kept in touch. I had comped passes for the event by Blakely’s kind offer but the only person I could think of for a date was Robert Malone, since a “ball” might be a heavy order for anyone I might have been tentatively pursuing and Rob, much more than I, knew how to have a good time.

We got dressed-up, we hit the party, sweaty and dank from the lingering night humidity outside and took part in the sadly vodka-only limited open bar, the reason for the drink Andy “Roehmed” me for.

As I walked around the event, I just felt crowded and more crowded as people filled it, different rooms, shoving past, trying to find others.

Rob had more of a tolerance for it all, especially with his camera, appointing himself Culture Vulture for the night.

“What’s the matter, babe?” He asked me. “Don’t want to hit up those ladies looking for some hot food-love?”

“Not really.” I told him. “I’m just not that interested.”

It’s not that I’m ball-less or even that intro-verted, I just couldn’t deal with the emotions, the crowded bar, the pressure to respond, the idea that somebody “knows” you, like that and expects that person they know from you.

What if I’m the me that wants to talk about movies, the me that talks about comedy shows, the me that just wants to fall in love?

How do you emerge as a person when to more people than you think, you’re just a character on a screen?

Reality TV just exacerbates the existential philosophy of the shit, as do Vodka Cranberries as did crowds.

Rob was disappointed in me when I told him I was leaving that night, though he came with, like a friend.

Bobby Olsen was disappointed in me a week later, when I left the after-party for Sophia Takal’s “Green” for similar reasons.

Sophia’s a friend and co-conspirator in the Find Rob Malone Love Association, and her movie was felt, honest, great (you can check it out at BAM, via the link above if you’d like).

I had been looking forward to the unexpected “free beer after-party”, but what I thought would be a soiree in an empty bar with a bunch of Brooklyn-y film nerds turned out to be a conglomeration of three different parties in a too-small LES hotspot.

Again, I found myself cornered by drunk people “recognizing me”, asking me questions, asking “what is she like? what are you doing with her? are you on the next season?”, things I don’t know how to answer, things I shouldn’t have to.

I’m not famous enough to deal with this always and the fact knowing that this is all uncontrollable and fleeting only makes it more difficult to deal with. Who knows what will happen to me, who people really are, what someone else’s plans are for me? All I’m interested in is writing and doing comedy and trying to find some sort of creative craft I have some control over.

Another crowded bar, another night, another time I couldn’t escape, until I did.

Bobby hadn’t seen the movie, he’d just biked in to see some friends. He’d been working hard and hoping to get some R+R. He wasn’t there to ask questions, just to see the person he actually knew, among others, of course.

But by the time Bobby got there, I had to apologize and leave and walk home, alone, 1 free beer deep, in the Lower-Manhattan late-time.

A question I ask often in this blog is “who am I?” There’s a certain necessary, but unclear schism between the person writing this and the person appearing in these stories. Another schism between the way I see myself and my friends’ conceptions of me. And then this other person entirely that I don’t know how to respond to, this context-less reality.

I looked at the picture above today and didn’t know necessarily who I was.

Except I wasn’t “with” that girl, I’m with no one. I didn’t have a hair-do, or a fashion sense. And I didn’t feel important.

I was just looking into the camera, seeking escape, feeling uncomfortable, sipping a Vodka Cranberry from a small black straw.

But that’s not the Nick that people saw on Facebook.

And why hurry to correct them when they just assume my success?

***

A friend found this picture online, not taken by anyone I knew and Frank Orio called me to tell me about it.

I had been at the Big Apple BBQ where this picture was taken, this past weekend but, of course, I had no idea who took it.

It’s certainly much less flattering than the other picture.

I was waiting online to get some Turkey Barbecue from Ed Mitchell’s pop-up tent, the only place offering a white-meat option. I was pulled out of line, handed a sandwich and told when I asked why, “you’re the foodie”. To which I glumly nodded and headed out.

The sandwich was fairly awesome, with dark-meat turkey shredded-up on a bun, with a cider-vinegar sauce and something called a “heating agent” sprinkled on top at my server’s behest.

It was sloppy and full of juice, like I like my ‘cue and when they asked me if I could talk with Ed Mitchell, the pitmaster, for a moment on camera, I gave them their bit, if not out of gratitude for the sandwich, then out of respect fr the man.

He talked about raising funds to open in New York (his store’s in Raleigh, NC) and I recommended, somewhat shamefully/passe-ly, that he might open a food truck in NY for less money than a full on restaurant, in order to prove the market for his style of BBQ in NYC. I told him I felt like such a thing would be a slam dunk here, but I conceded that “you know infinitely more about running a restaurant than I do”.

I joined Frank, his friends Charles and Val from college and his mom, an eccentric, lovable schoolteacher named Sophie in line for some ribs they were getting.

“You know, you guys shouldn’t be getting ribs here.” I pointed out as they stood in the Blue Smoke line. “You can get these any time; these guys are NYC-based.”

“Nick, not everyone lives in NY.” Frank said, gesturing to a complimentarily-waving Charles and Val as I conceded and waited with them for their food.

It was Charles who found the picture a few days later.

Later that night, I had a UCB show I thought I was pretty funny in though my teacher didn’t like it much. Rob and Dan Dickerson attended and I made fun of Dan’s moustache. Lorina and Ron, my improv friends came and Ron stuck around after to see the “ASSSSCAT’ show with me.

Now that my 401 class is over, I’ve gotten my notes and I’m waiting to be told I’m not good enough to study “advanced classes” there (an email I check for frequently), it was nice that Rob texted me and said I was the funniest part of the show, along with a girl in my class who’s a vet. It was nice that Ron stuck around to talk with me and hang out after. That they all gave me notes and thanks and were there.

It was nice that Frank called me to tell me about the picture Charles had found, which I used in my blog.

It was nice in a time of feeling not-good-enough, to hear that for the people that knew you well, you were accepted.

***

I’ll admit, I kinda wish that Turkey Sandwich had been enough to end the blog with.

But unfortunately, as far as I know, it will never again exist in New York, unless someone takes a trip to Raleigh and stores some in the back of their car.

So here’s another story.

As part of my current job, which I can’t really talk about except to say that I really, honestly enjoy it (which terrifies me), I find myself in the strange position of being down in the Financial District, which I finally decided to use to blackball one Robert Martin Malone into eating a solid meal with me.

I tried to lure him to Alfanoose, where I so frequently pick up mammoth platters that never last less than two meals, but he chose my alternate, Zaitzeff, a burger joint that had been strenuously recommended by my employer who told me that “if you’re going to eat a real burger at Peter Luger’s, you should do yourself the favor and eat one at Zaitzeff”.

When we arrived, Rob was only a couple minutes late and apologized. We took turns complaining about girl problems (mostly lack-of-girl problems) and ordered some food and drinks, I caught a turkey burger while Rob opted for a regular 1/4lb Sirloin.

Both came standard on a “Portuguese Muffin” which seemed to me very close to an English muffin though Rob said he both preferred to my choice of the sesame-seed bun and to a straight-up EM saying “there’s something roll-y about this I really like”.

My turkey burger was fairly yummy if a bit small and I’m not much one for grilled onions (fried or caramelized please!) but the muffin did take care of containing and sopping the burger juices and providing a nice palatable counter-point to the umami flavors at hand.

The real all-star for me were the “Mixed Fries”, a large paper dish containing a mash-up of sweet-potato and idaho fries in a generous, share-encouraging portion. I told Rob the fries were on me and he obliged in turn by getting the beverages.

“You’ve got a thing for expensive lunches, babe.” Rob added, knocking burger juice out of his beard.

“Alfanoose would have been the same as this.” I replied.

“Yeah, but less burger-y.” Rob replied.

And that was a good note to exit on.

So we did.

***

ZAITZEFF BURGERS

Turkey Burger w/White Cheddar on Portuguese Muffin w/Mixed Fries- $16.82

NE Corner of Nassau and John Sts

AC2345JMZ to Fulton St-Broadway-Nassau. E to World Trade Center. R to Cortlandt St.