Finding The Balance

April 17, 2012


This is the video store which I grew up with, well, at least the second or the third.
Previous video stores like Evergreen and Hudson Street Video went out of business in their cavernous depths throughout my West Village upbringing, sings of the changing times even before Netflix, the gentrification of my neighborhood, the transition from VHS to DVD which already then was too much for some places it seems to overcome, the eventual rise of the neighborhood boutiques that would take over the place of my upbringing turning it into yet another mall for tourists, a transmogrification of Bleecker Street from “quaint” to the fetish-izing of that word, just another route to the meat-packing district, the acceptance that the neighborhood I knew is gone in a way.
People have similar complaints about 42nd Street describing its grit, real-ness, it’s trouble pre the early 90s revitalization of it into its current “Disney-fied” incarnation, the place of “bright lights, big city”, but I feel like that must be different as the West Village I knew, transvestite prostitutes or no, was never in need of a “fix”. In all honesty, looking back, we could have still used the video stores.
But this was the last one, World of Video, the place I tried unsuccessfully to maintain a membership at through my film school education and after, which I failed miserably at because I, like so many of the past generation of Americans before me, am epically terrible at returning DVDs, the same reason I no longer take books out from the library (other than the functional illiteracy that comes out of emerging from a world of a structured education).
Going in there, it was full of the type of misanthropes I envied in my youth and feared in the wake of my film school education, people working at a video store, failures of a type in my eyes. Clinging to a past with no foreseeable future, bitter for the sake of what left not to be about.
As I looked over my last entry, I saw (unsurprisingly) how close I feel to the last time I wrote, just in an inverted fashion. As opposed to last week, where I looked back on a week of accomplishments , I look back on this week with the difficulties I’ve faced and as opposed to feeling conquered, I find myself through the looking glass, not worrying, at least initially, about how bad I feel, but how much it’s alright to be ok.
That might sound confusing, I should probably explain. On Friday, I went to a party, got drunk off a flask of Evan Williams I got to avoid the keg provided (finding “alternatives” still a part of my dietary lifestyle) and did what people in such a place are apt to do, I tried drunkenly flirting with people, got upset over stupid things and eventually just got sad walking home (though not crying sad). I felt bad in the moment, but fine the next day, when I had lunch with my family talking about difficult stuff, I took it with grace, being even more “okay” than they were, using my yoga practice for self-kindness and then kindness to others. Saturday, I bombed a show I really cared about, Sunday, I struggled heavily in class and through a sketch show. The only place I could be, I told myself, was where I was, where I am. That is my mantra. We can only be where we are, be in the moment, pay attention, give our all and then forgive ourselves for our shortcomings.
I did a private session with one of my yoga instructors, Sarah Bell, last Friday because I always felt like I was doing things wrong in my practice or at least not as well as I could be. I looked at my downward facing dog, the simple upside-down v-shaped inversion that you see a lot in people who practice yoga and in all of my practice I could never straighten my legs, always bent. I told Sarah my concern and showed her my pose and she asked me, after a moment:
“Alright, would you mind clueing me into what you think is wrong with your downward facing dog?”
“Well,” I replied. “I can never straighten my legs. So I feel like I must be doing something wrong.”
“You’ve been practicing yoga for 6-7 months now. How old are you?”
“24.” I replied.
“24.” She repeated back. “So for 22 of those years you’ve stored tension in your legs and I’ve seen your progress and you’ve improved so much, in what, those 6 or 7 months. Look at yourself in a year, look at yourself in 10 years. Look when others are getting lower back issues. For now, look at yourself with kindness and be proud and be okay.”
And I felt GREAT coming out of that, I felt so happy, just as I felt when after another romantically-blah evening out my friends took me aside to point out how impressed they were.
“Dude,” my friend (who wishes I would refer to him as “my extremely funny friend”) Sebastian told me, looking seriously. “You were just being yourself and goofy. Usually you’re so aggressive, no middle ground, but you were really being chill tonight. Just letting it come to you.”
And it was such a nice gift. Just feeling like I could see myself in my practice, like others could see me. That even in failure, I could notice my improvement, regain balance, see the world and not get bitter.
This morning I was cut from a sketch group I was asked to join, a major accomplishment and opportunity. I had the feeling the cut was coming and voiced that opinion to friends and my roommate Teddy, who didn’t think so, but didn’t deny it either. I did feel terrible as I did this morning, heading to therapy, a process I described to my therapist as the feeling when you get close to your house when needing to use the bathroom: your bowels get tense, your body telling you “Run!” as the discipline with which you held yourself disappears so close to the finish line, as you rush to take an “emotional dump”. My therapist, a less crude person, likened it to getting sick after a big project.
I let out my feelings there in therapy, voiced my concerns, tried to be aware, but my therapist wondered if I was too analytical still. What is the boundary between detachment and self-kindness, what is long enough to be in your emotions?
These are the same questions (as I’ve pointed out repeatedly) that I think we face in improv. There are no “right” moves, but there are moves feel right in the moment, things that are good or bad, ways we learn to trust ourselves and our choices, not second guess ourselves, be more in the moment and less insular. They are things I struggle with, as we all do. But I can only make the choices I can make, which is not for a lack of responsibility (which I think could be alternately called “self-awareness”). So how does one be okay with not being okay?
I feel like that’s what my blog is all about.
I don’t offer an answer. I already was cut from the sketch group I was in. Lots of great things are happening too in my attitude, in the way I look in the world, in the stupid ways that people look or react to me, or even in the opportunities I’m given.
I can think about reasons. I can think about the “whys”. I do in my life try to be mindful and reflective.
But it’s difficult to look critically at self-kindness and be kind when looking at self-criticism, to take the note, make the move, known when to be aggressive with a girl or a job or a group, know when to hang back and wait. A great many people are happy and a great many are not.
It’s confusing this life.
It helps, you know, to talk about it.
***

I don’t much have to say about this except that it was a fun party.
On Saturday, my friends dragged me out to Astoria to my friend Will Quinn’s birthday party at his last-stop apartment shared with a bevy of other comedians from Virginia. It was a “Game of Thrones”-themed party renamed “A Game of Wills” replete with grapes, a cape and some dude holding a foam-core version of Thor’s hammer the Mjolnir, because a more appropriate Game of Thrones reference was not forthcoming.
I, surprisingly to the nerd that I once was/still am, have never seen A Game of Thrones, probably a vestigial grudge left over from when I used to play at the RPG/collectible-card-game store Neutral Ground, where the people who played the Game of Thrones CCG (Collectible Card Game) were even weirder and lamer than the people who played Magic or the incredibly ghetto kids who played “Yu-Gi-
Oh!” an anime-based CCG that somehow tied into a hyper-sexual ancient Egypt.
Anyway, I just showed up in a plaid shirt and got real messed up and silly. Eventually, my friends making fun of me suggested I fight the other kid in our other group of friends (a Fordham contingent), a kid named Adam Twitchell who usually did not party and so was being real goofy out-of-his-mind, while I just sat outside on the patio in a lawn chair, enjoying the late-spring breeze in my anti-social tendencies. What began as me grabbing the foam-core Mjolnir and just randomly hitting Adam eventually devolved into us slow dancing to “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boyz II Men in order to make up for the aggression.
Like I said, this all is a small thing, but I feel like usually on a Saturday Night I’d be out seeing or doing improv shows or at nearby bars talking about improv or thinking about it or even just walking, heading home, as I do so often now.
So, it was nice to just get out to the outer boroughs, drink something and be silly in a crowd of similarly aged people also not knowing what they were doing with their lives, peppered by occasional personal conversations and some extensive chair sitting.
Adam, I’m sure this will be a treasured memory for you, for all time.
***

I’ll make this as brief as possible.
This was a very embarrassing moment for me.
Hanging out with some of my very funny improviser/writer friends in the improv ghetto around 30th-26th Sts bet 6-8th avenues (further if you count rehearsal spaces), everyone seems obsessed with the new Panera.
It’s a throwback to people’s suburban existences. It offers ample seating and bathrooms for an area low on those things. It’s relatively cheap, people bring things to your table, no tip necessary. It can be difficult to spend even 10 dollars there.
Still, it always looked goddam awful to me and I would usually bring in my balled-up Faicco’s sandwich when my friends would go.
This time though, I bit the bullet and ordered a “Thai Chopped Chicken Salad” just hoping it would not be awful fake meat like Au Bon Pain.
It was not fake meat. It was relatively low-calorie. It was very filling.
But man was it average.
I guess guys, if you need something to eat.
Or if you find yourself in a desperate situation.
You make the best of it.
But it’s like when you walk in to Chili’s and you hear about things being “fire-roasted” and stuff, you can at least somewhat imagine that people are doing those things in a Chili’s, even though they are obviously not.
But definitely not in a Beige-clad place like Panera.
It did have real chicken, peppers, edamame and some nut sauce though.
And maybe, for some people that’s enough.
What has my life become?
***
PANERA
Thai Chopped Chicken Salad (w/ “fire-roasted” edamame, red peppers, lettuce, peanut sauce, etc…)- $8.29
7th Avenue bet. 28th and 29th Sts.
1 to 28th St.


Mini-Addendum: A Morning Song

March 30, 2012

Now, to be clear, I don’t want this to turn into a lame fucking Tumblr, where I give off shitty one-off sayings and post animated “gifs” of things.

That said, here’s a song I thought of this morning.

I listen to Pandora in the mornings when taking a shower because it carries with it both familiarity and possibility. You know the genre, so you know you’ll get a certain kind of music, but you don’t know really what you’ll get which leaves open the possibility of discovery, either a re-discovery of something you loved and maybe you had forgotten or didn’t know the name of, an awakening of a memory within yourself, or you’ll find a new song that speaks to you, another kind of magic moment, experienced spontaneously.

I heard this song in the shower one day, “thumbs-upped it” and let it go. I even thought it was by a different artist, a guy named Jens Lekman (who also sings laconically).

But I woke up this morning on around five hours of sleep and two whiskies, feeling not as good as I could about the night punctuated by those drinks, the night coming back to me in yoga practice as we did twist after twist, performed by a sub, as the regular teacher was at a memorial in Cleveland.

As I felt judgmental and sad and self-pitying, I was also overtaken by verses of this song emerging from my memory.

I listened to it a couple times over this free lunch I was given spontaneously on the street by the dudes over at Bongo Bros, sitting in a Starbucks over on Charlton St.

I don’t have any commentary on all this really.

Sometimes those moments of memory overtake us, despite our struggle to be present or no.

There’s some magic in the way our minds work like that, or at least some chemistry.

The lunch was pretty good.

And I thought that was worth sharing with you.

***

BONGO BROS

Chicken Platter w/Platanos, Rice+Beans, Salad, Bongo Aioli – $9.00 (free for me, apparently)

Check @BongoBros for location daily.


Feel The Burn

March 28, 2012

I talk a lot about yoga nowadays, which I still believe firmly makes me into some sort of douchebag but that said:

Often times in my life, it feels like improv, yoga, dating, living, just walking around on the street, is all just a journey towards self-acceptance and the accompanying tension and struggle of that journey.

Put in a different way, by the great improviser David Razowsky (among others), denial is the source of all suffering.

The way we want to be or imagine ourselves versus seeing clearly where we are and are surrounding, being present in the moment, is the tension of existence.

And it’s painful and difficult to notice how aware you are, how present you are, and to try to make yourself more so.

Some of us are tighter than others, I can’t even do a decent downward-facing-dog because my hamstrings are too tight or are decent chair pose, because Frank thinks I’m too weak and my teacher thinks I might have too much tension.

Or, to pull backwards, It can be difficult for me to be confident in improvised scenes because I’m often not confident in life and my choices, it can be difficult for me to “be in the moment” listening to people and absorbing what they have to say (in scenes, life, dating) because it’s not a skill I’ve always used, it’s a “tight” muscle.

All of this is fine, we all have our limitations as humans, our own stretching to do. But not being present, wanting to be somewhere else, being desperate, judging or hating ourselves, is a slippery slope to despair.

And all of this is too vague. Some examples:

This past weekend, I auditioned for Harold teams over at the UCB. Those of you who know me know it is sometimes a place of stress for me (I still get rejected for even classes there all the time, take that reality-star pseudo-fame). I had decided long ago that the Magnet was the place that I loved and getting to work with Christina Gausas in her classes and shows, learning her style. Harold teams weren’t a priority for me, heck I didn’t even like Harold Night for the most part (Neither did they apparently, since they broke up most of the teams while I was writing this). But, the thought is you’d be crazy not to audition, at least to get the experience. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has a lot of exposure and can be a good place to perform and there is much to be learned from any performance opportunity. I decided I would be fine with the auditions, because I didn’t want it, unlike some people in the comedy community, for whom getting on a team there is the be-all end-all next-step for them in their ascendance to greatness. I told myself I was ok.

But I wasn’t. As the audition came up, I got gradually more stressed. I wasn’t too stressed before the audition and even going in felt like I did fairly well. But after the audition as I talked to friends and they seemed overjoyed, I felt overwhelmed by failure. Even if we didn’t know who made teams, I wasn’t as good as them. Who was I here? Why did I care so much when I told myself I didn’t care, when I didn’t even love all of UCB, this stressful place for me? The truth, as my father told me over a turkey burger before the audition, was “that you do care so you should just stop lying to yourself about it”.

And what I realized, walking back down along lower 6th avenue to write this blog post, was that I did care because I wanted their approval BUT even more than that (explain the explanation!) I wanted their approval because still in me there is so much that isn’t ok with myself, so much that isn’t self-confident, that wants someone to tell him that he is great and that everything will be ok.

And what’s more than this and this is the most difficult thing to say of all:

THAT. IS. FINE.

Ultimately, do I want to be an insecure person? No! I would like to be less of one, at least. I have girls constantly telling me how much they hate “weakness” or “men with no balls”, just for instance. But we all have our own places we are tight, our own places to stretch, our own progress that can be made from where we are. If I have a core of insecurity and I know that, guess what?! It’s the fist, million-time-th-better-step to being less insecure! Just knowing where you are and then stretching from that place, trying on more confidence, little by little. Doing the work and being satisfied.

At the end of my Neil Casey Advanced Study class yesterday I had a terrible class where I couldn’t make choices, another player on stage didn’t understand my move and we sat in the shit we had collectively taken on stage and I just performed generally poorly. And yet I knew I had done the work so I tried to feel good, I knew I had identified weaknesses and stretched them.

When we are practicing yoga, or working out or running or whatever physical activity we do to strengthen our bodies, we know we do well because our bodies literally thank us through releasing endorphins telling us that we are helping them, physically MAKING us feel great! But when we work our minds, our souls, there is no accompanying flow of endorphins, no hints to make us be okay with the stretch, the tear, the weakness we have endured, so insted of thanking ourselves, I judge myself and make myself feel bad, or I can.

I walked out of a rehearsal for the show I have that I was cast in that Christina Gausas is directing that I am SO honored to be a part of, that meshes with my values and background and how I love to play and knew I was worse than the other people there, knew I had fucked up repeatedly in rehearsal, knew that only in the very last moment of rehearsal did I begin to grasp myself and my skills and have a breakthrough. I moved already from a place of weakness to a place of strength in such a small time. As my yoga teacher, Chrissy Carter says, do not think of the body you are not in right now or wish you had, thank yourself for the practice you are doing in this body at this time.

But as I walk out, I am consumed with worries. Will I not be good enough and be dismissed from the show? Am I being too weak in scenes, in that struggle to be in the present? What about my habits and quirks that I try to suppress, picking my nose, or scratching my scalp or just my insane gestures from the audience (a fun sight for those of you who know me to behold). It is a struggle to not judge one’s self for one’s mental work because WE CARE. I care! We all care about our lives and our passions and so it is difficult to see them as practice. It’s good to be emotionally invested in things, to feel things. My friend Jon Bander said last night in rehearsal that “it is so wonderful to see people feel things on stage, because frequently as stand-up or sketch comedians, we are not allowed to feel something on stage, only comment”.

But I also have to recognize that note that Ashley Ward gave me over a year ago that, “you are where you need to be”.

I didn’t get on a Harold Team at UCB. I didn’t even get a callback.

I didn’t have a good class with Neil Casey and impress him, so I could get petted and stroked and told how brilliant I am.

I wasn’t up to snuff in my rehearsal with Christina, whom I admire and adore, and it breaks my heart.

But today, I feel happy and I feel fine.

Because wherever I am in my life, I’m doing the work. As my friend Sebastian told me as we were walking down the street, quoting another great improviser and teacher of mine, Michael Delaney: “If you want to do this, see that you are working the hardest out of all of your friends.”

Because today, I look at myself, I see where I am in the present moment, I forgive myself, I love myself and know there is nowhere else that I could be.

Whatever happens, I do not control. I don’t control what others think of me, whether I am cast or not, admired or not, nothing.

Only if I am in the moment, the present and I’m okay with my own weakness.

Which I guess, you could call, a kind of strength.

Oh yoga.

What the fuck have you done to me?

***

My friend Frank, who is now the big brother/probably partial-dad (his pops is in his early 60s) of one Charles Orio, tells me I obsess too much about my weight.

This is true.

When I went into my therapist’s office, I described a night of regret where I got drunk ate two “Kooky Brownies” (Brownies that had a chocolate chip cookie top to them), bought too many drinks and let other people buy me some and woke up 3 pounds heavier.

(I also saw Kiss*Punch*Poem that night, an improv show inspired by and involving poets, which I highly recommend, as it currently is I think the only show that elevates improv to art in New York City that is running right now.)

My response, which calmed her down, was that I just ate normally that day. Had some nuts and coffee for breakfast, chicken salad for lunch, a Fu Man Chew from Better Being Underground (aka my secret sandwich shop) for dinner and this taco for a late-night snack.

My couch-crashing roommate Teddy and I were walking down Greenwich Avenue on the sort of long-stroll from the Magnet back down to Soho we occasionally get to indulge in on a nice night when we noticed a lone taqueria standing open on the late-night street.

We went in to discover it was “Taco Happy Hour” at Oaxaca as exemplified by an open tall-boy of Modelo Especial at the counter and a dude who was willing to talk about why he was not willing to join the co-op in Park Slope.

The taco itself though was fragrant and delicious, mounds of picked onions, spicy salsa verde and a light sprinkling of cotilla cheese on two light corn tortillas with some chewy, salty chicken for an umami core. At 2 bucks, it made me more okay that the taco truck wasn’t out on a weeknight over on 6th Ave.

Teddy and I headed home after he even talked about applying there for a job and our conversation was complete.

The next day I weighed less, I told my therapist.

And all was right in the world.

Until I woke up 2 pounds heavier, this morning.

***

OAXACA TAQUERIA WEST VILLAGE

Pollo Taco- $2.00 (5-7pm or after 10pm)

Greenwich Ave. bet. 6th and 7th Avenues.

123L to 14th St-7th Ave. ACEBDFM to West 4th St.


Status Update

March 15, 2012

Why am I so resentful of other peoples’ happiness?

This is a question that used to have an easy answer, but now it seems more difficult to examine as I go on.

Looking back at myself and how I have changed in the last two, four, six years, the easy answer to why I resented other people for their happiness was that I was miserable.

Even more than being miserable though, I was in denial of being miserable.

Going back to high school, the experience of opening up to people, of sitting in stupid cinder-block dorm-rooms discussing stupid political things and not getting booed out, of sitting in quad-like courtyards, of making movies and writing things and just beginning to find my voice and gain some respect–it was all such a rush.

I have gabbed and bloviated on here many times about how miserable my high school experience was, a sentiment that almost seems cliche to express nowadays (for me or otherwise), but also just how enclosed.

I was an introvert, a person who kept to myself, I’d wear my same leather jacket every day, my same crappy polo. I’d take tentative, painful steps outside of myself calling up friends, maybe trying to have a conversation with someone and the negative outcome of all the already self-worthlessness (and, by compliment, defensive hatred of others) and my inability to connect would others would only reinforce the notion that I was unlikeable, unloveable, that only I could exist with me in a cloistered setting, talking to myself, patting myself on the back.

“It’s alright.” I would tell myself dissociatively, a voice in my head, stepping outside my emotion. “I am here for you, Nick. I love you. I think you’re good and cool.”

And then that voice would pat me on the back as I’d reach my arm over on the long walk uphill toward the 95th St R train onto my black leather jacket and pat myself literally. At least there was that something in me, taking care of me.

It’s sad to admit looking back at it because it was a sad time. That dissociative voice, something I am sure other people have but which people are loathe to admit (schizophrenia, might be the stigma or diagnosis) followed me for a long time as some sort of way of containing myself or handling my depression. The idea that one is so isolated, so unwilling to lean on others or ask for help, or even able to necessarily, that they have to invent something outside themselves to even exist, to deserve to exist. Rough.

But it’s a good context to look at college in, a place where I still was very unhappy in large parts of my life, even while I was opening up, discovering and experiencing greater happiness than I had ever felt, or what felt like it.

After all, how could I be miserable sitting in a dorm room at 19 with a 40 of Colt 45 (It seemed cooler than the ubiquitous Olde English forties everyone was drinking) in my hands getting drunk in a room full of people who found me interesting and engaging, when 2 years earlier I had only myself for consolation/conversation.

I would cry going home to my dorm freshman year when I realized people were happy to see me, when people wanted to hang out, cry on my pillow at night that I had friends, I would ask people if they were “sure that they wanted to hang out with me” trying to make sure that I wasn’t imposing, taking tentative steps into the social world, beating myself up terribly, hating myself when I made a social mistake when I alienated someone, a bad cue or social move, alienating someone or losing a friend was like losing a toe, I’d never be the same again because I’d probably never have another one.

It was the same philosophy I had about growing my hair, fearing that if I cut my hair from it’s then super-long state, I might never have it again.

Looking at that progression to now, the amazing thing wasn’t my transformation into a fuller, realler more socially able person, a more realized person, but that for the time of that transformation, from coming out into the world of the living, through that pain and self-hatred and intense judgement, I culled small successes and called myself happy.

At the camp I taught at in rural Vermont, there was a blind woman who was also an assistant counselor (whom I would later try to hit on, unsuccessfully) who told me that when she opened her eyes in front a bright light source, especially if she was a little tipsy, she could see light: spots, floating in front of her face. She wasn’t born without vision but it had degraded rapidly as a very young child and she thought she might one day get her sight back, she was intent on it. To her, the small campfire we sat in front of on the camping trip where we were supposed to learn how to lead a camping trip (I later ordered pizza on the camping trip I led), was magic because it was light, something she could see. It was a transcendent experience for her but one she recognized as fleeting.

For me, I looked at those fleeting moments of happiness between the poor dating choices, intense internal/external creative pressure and incredible social adjustment and labeled myself as the happiest I’d ever been in my life, because that is what I knew my life to be.

But somewhere in me, that voice knew otherwise and I knew that because it continued to exist all throughout those college days and afterwards, walking me home on drunk sad nights where I never found the opportunity to make out with that girl in the back of Larry Lawrence, through around 50 film festival rejections including my own school’s, through realizing I now hated the place, the film school, which I had so immersed myself in, which I had so loved, in the wake of a terrible accident. Through uncontrollable rage at issues famlial and personal. Through all of that anger and sadness at others, myself.

I called myself happy throughout those times and projected my hatred at the falsehood of that, the denial of my suffering on to others.

My popular poem at the summer arts camp I attended: “I hate couples”.

There’s a reason, I’ve been attracted to some of my friend’s girlfriends throughout college, stupidly (other than their attractiveness) and it’s that somewhere I wanted their happiness, I resented them for it, I wanted whatever it seemed like they had for myself.

And even when I had a solid relationship and romantic fulfillment (still astonishing to me based on who I was), I was working at a movie theater dealing with the fallout of my film school dreams, clinging desperately to that happiness while utterly miserable, replying to questions like how are you with a smile, but a litany of complaints ending in that I still loved my girlfriend, so things were ok.

That struggle to be okay! To be not a burden! To continue one’s tenuous acceptance into the world!

As I’ve said many times before, I’m happier now (isn’t that crazy to say?) With the help of years of therapy, some yoga, some improv, a vacation, loving parents, weight loss and a good, though somewhat rotating cast of friends, people come up to me and tell me how much I’ve changed. There are the obvious things, like frequenting the salad bar at Whole Foods that I used to rail against as satanic and against the spirit of New York, and the less obvious things like the way I saw a girl who turned me down to date me at a bar the other night and was just cool and flirty and not even self-conscious. I made that interaction easy because I didn’t take the sight of seeing her as some sort of reflection of the inadequacy of myself. In the small things like that, I see improvement.

But in other parts of my world, when I see a couple I know talking in that unironic but very nerdy way about each other, when I feel like I’ve disappointed my friends or teachers or people who believe in me, when I see guys I don’t like get opportunities or ladies I don’t like (probably because they’ve rejected me) popping up as “in a relationship” or talking about how great their boyfriends are, something in me still pops up despite progress despite reason, despite, for spite of much of me, just to hate them, to feel resentful.

To just feel like well if I can’t be full and happy, then fuck you.

In this past week, I had a web series go online that I am proud of my performance in that people complimented me on that I didn’t even know, made by my good friend Charles Rogers. I had two shows and two rehearsals I felt great about and got great notes and great compliments, again unsolicited, even from people who weren’t my friends or close to me, telling me how much I’ve improved or changed, not to mention the “you’re so skinny” stuff. Just the fact that I have an ongoing bit with a friend of mine where I try to make out with her is good news.

The other night I tried dipping a friend out of the blue and she cried out happily grinning when only three or four years ago that same move would have elicited a “this is not funny, put me down” from almost anyone I tried that on (at least, in my mind). I’m becoming more of “a man”.

But well, I still get upset over that pop-up.

Which I guess just means, there’s still somewhere else for me to go.

***

One of the benefits of my essential unemployment and light schedule (other than the fact that I can do ANYTHING, or as my dad would put it “How much are you writing?”) is that I get to take long walks.

I’ll have parts of my day I won’t have a commitment for 6-9 hours in the middle of it.

To loop back to the previous segment, this might have paralyzed the old Nick since it would make him remember the feeling of being trapped, friendless inside his parents’ apartment, or make him confront his unhappiness about his life.

But now, I just fill it with blogging and walks to get food.

So, when I saw that Freddy “King of Falafel and Shawarma” was opening up a non-Queens-based cart for his 2010 double-Vendy award coup of a cart, I decided to just walk there all the way from my house.

My unemployment meant that I no longer had the monthly unlimited MetroCard I was used to, but it just was more of an excuse for me to be more of the walker I always was.

Up Thompson St, Through Washington Square Park, Up University Place and the shops, cut diagonal across Union Square Park past the new playground and then up, up, up the hill of Park Ave, down the cavern of Grand Central and back up through the escalators of the Metlife Building with their Snoopy mascot back through all the way to 53rd St.

Now, I will mention, I was heavily bribed.

While I am fairly sure Freddy, a big swarthy dude, does not watch Bravo or is aware of that world, he was very happy to see enthusiastic customers on his first day out in Manhattan and he kept giving me falafel balls as samples to eat. I think I had like three of them unsolicited before I even ate my meal.

The goal was to NOT have something fattening and terrible so I thought I would get a salad.

But instead what I received in addition to my falafel balls were 5 more spread out with a heaping of fresh chicken shawarma, lebanese pickles, pickled turnips, red onion, hot sauce and two different type of white sauces all over some iceberg lettuce and maybe some tomato.

They even gave me some pita chips which, god, dipping in to that mess, were so, frickin, delicious.

It’s a dangerous thing to put yourself on any part of 53rd St if you’re a halal cart owner as the legendary halal cart, The Halal Guys makes their home on 53rd and 6th (also 7th) and to sit yourself there is to invite comparison to the masters who attract block-long lines on a nightly basis.

But Freddy the King in a way is not trying to compete, offering more add ons, a greater emphasis on falafel (mostly neglected by THG which stick to pure Meat/Rice/Salad/Sauce mostly) and daytime clientele. This is a world, I think, where they can coexist and both be great.

I walked back the 3 miles to my house, making it 6 total for the day, but I knew I had still gone wrong when I ate that Turkey Burger later that night, with three kinds of fries.

Ah well, sometimes, you gotta live.

***

KING OF FALAFEL AND SHAWARMA

Chicken Shawafel Platter w/lebanese pickles, pickled turnips, red onion, tahina and more: $7.00

NW Corner of 53rd St and Park Ave. (weekdays/daytime only)

EM6 to 53rd St/Lexington Ave, NQR45 to 59th St-Lexington Ave.


The Sweet Spot

March 8, 2012

I have to say, looking back on this moment this morning on my computer, the thing I was most impressed by was how red my hair looked on TV.

Now, I should point out, what was happening in this picture was that I was getting a move called “The Regal Stretch” performed on me by NWA champion pro-wrestler Colt Cabana, a move that involves being thrown on the ground, grabbed around the neck and stretched upwards while an NWA champion puts his knee into your back, thus causing intense pain.

But I am color-blind and people often tell me that my hair is no longer reddish as it was in my youth, a strange disjunction that I still see it that way, the way memory or nostalgia colors even the reality we perceive.

“Nope.” My couch-crasher Jeff told me, looking at the play-back clip. “It’s just a red light. Everyone’s hair looks that way on TV.”

Thanks.

If you want to know how I got into this situation, I am a strange and marginal character named “The Man Behind The Plant” (because I sit behind a plant) on a strange public-access/internet TV show called “The Chris Gethard Show”. The bit that night was that people could call in to see former NWA world champion Colt Cabana do wrestling moves on Chris or any of the other masochists on the show, but unfortunately for me, my improviser friend Shaun Farrugia is going through a bad breakup and too much free time and as a way “to kill the pain” decided to call in to ask Colt to do a move on me, by name and, well, improvisers don’t say no on stage.

After some intense back-pain and some grumpiness, I hobbled home, walking the 3 miles down 8th avenue to pick up my other couch-crasher Teddy from the improv mixer he was at, before walking and walking home.

In parts of my life, I find myself fearless, shameless and in others, paralyzed.

I speak of this abnormally, but it is normal, I’m sure.

I had my first Advanced Study Harold class with Neil Casey over at UCB and I came in to a class that some people freeze up in, a master class with a top performer and approached it fearlessly, a mile a minute, my heart pumping adrenaline off some sort of in-the-groove high causing me to talk a mile-a-minute after class getting food and in the break. People wanted to hang out with me, sent me messages on Facebook asking me advice, my only note I got was for breaking in my own scene because I was having too much fun. Something in me knew after I got in there, maybe after the initial fear, that there was nothing they could do to me now. I had taken so many level 4s at UCB, been rejected so many times. This class wasn’t an audition for anything, just an opportunity to learn. So I tried having fun and did great, I stunned myself in how great I did. I felt like a million bucks that day.

And then the next day I went to sign up for auditions for the UCB’s house teams and even just waiting in line looking around, confidence abandoned me. Here were all these people, nervous and experienced. I was just a number again and everyone seemed more together more belonging. Who was I? I wondered. What chance did I have in this wide sea?

I have had the honor for the past few weeks of being coached in a small team and a larger show by Christina Gausas, the best teacher and performer I’ve ever had the chance to study with (who is, incidentally, also beautiful), who somehow ended up taking me and my best buddy Sebastian under her wing in some miraculous confluence of events that I can’t even seem to recount now. In her workshops that I took, I did the best work of my life playing way outside my comfort zone, finding characters and confidence inside myself that I never knew I had. But in practice, something happened to me, these past few weeks, that was hard to overcome. I couldn’t say what it was? A fear? A pressure? A sense of not belonging or being unworthy? Or having to live up to something? Of being some sort of disappointment.

“It’s like you’re moving in slow-motion.” She told me. “There is a hesitancy. A half-move. And it’s something new.” She said.

“I don’t know, I feel afraid.” I told her.

“Don’t.” She replied, simply.

Christina is an amazing teacher, in that unlike some teachers giving a philosophy, like my other mentor Armando Diaz, she creates an atmosphere in which people can be true and honest, kind of like the way a catalyst works in chemistry: a catalyst doesn’t add some crazy energy to a reaction, it simply lowers the barrier that it would take for a reaction to happen otherwise.

That practice, I broke my boundaries and returned to that place of confidence and did, again, some of the best work of my life.

But I’m a big fan of believing that improv notes are often life notes.

Neil Casey told our class that improv “is not about not doing bad scenes, it’s about recognizing where you are and finding a way to navigate out of it”. That same not could apply for yoga, could apply for life. Noticing where you are, not judging yourself or giving up, finding a way to have fun even in an unexpected or unwelcome situation.

And Christina’s note to me (her notes that often seem like mind-reading) apply to my life as well.

Somehow, from all the confidence I’ve felt through the weight-loss and the way I’ve toned up my body, the way I’ve been continuing to perform well, the improvement I see in myself and the opportunities I get, there’s still that something inside me that isn’t confident, that feels small and unworthy. That thinks this current happiness a sham.

Sebastian (who often complains about not being represented positively enough on this blog) diagnoses it as my 8 years of high school introversion and also it should be noted, my markedly less-positive than remembered college experience, bubbling through, reminding me who it thinks I am.

Or maybe it’s just my singleness, that emptiness in me there.

A chauvinistic joke among my improv friends is that when a female student starts dating a good male improviser, they seem to improve rapidly as if succubus-like absorbing their power (I apologize for the offensiveness of this). But the truth is, just like my old sketch teacher Adam Conover used to say in his stand-up routine, there’s such a thing as “Girlfriend Confidence” or boyfriend confidence for that matter: the sensation of knowing someone loves you, that evolutionarily you are a winner for now, procreating, safe. I think the truth behind the joke for women in the improv community is that it is very, very difficult to be a woman in a small comedy community full of awkward men, especially when you might be interested in some of them, or even just unsure and that in finding a solid significant other, especially one whom you respect, you gain the confidence of not having to deal with being externally sexualized at the same time as being emotionally vulnerable in your practice. And it shows.

For guys though as well, it’s a difficult path, trying to find the right one, trying not to hang your hat on any failure or rejection. Trying to find grace in a small bar full of people after a show.

As I’ve said, dating in the community is kind of like shitting in a kiddy pool: everyone knows you’ve done it and they’ll probably remember even if some different people step into the pool.

So my therapist told me I should go back to online dating, which I’ve considered.

“How long has it been?” She asked.

“July or August. September?” I offered.

“You’re a much different person now then you were then.” She told me.

“It’s a place I went out of desperation and loneliness.” I told her.

“But it betters your odds.” She replied.

Looking back at my profile, at the questions I answered, how I’ve changed is evident, the intense criticism and self-doubt on display there is evident, so willing to beat myself up. I change answers, write new things as I realize the change in myself.

I worry as I look at my “quiver matches” about having to put myself out there again, talking to these people, taking a chance on something that could beat my confidence, that could make me feel terrible again.

But the note is that confidence breeds confidence. Life is unwritten and all we have is an initiation an attempt at connecting with someone.

No one knows where the scene will go.

So act confidently, knowing that no one has any more idea than you.

As Chris Gethard said:

“When you get up there, what you do could be the greatest thing that’s ever been done, or totally terrible. No one knows.”

Or as my sister said:

“You’re the dude. It’s up to you to initiate. So just be confident like the handsome cardigan-ed man you are.”

Life back into improv.

I did some good scenes yesterday.

Let’s see if I can do some good life.

***

It was a Sunday brunch, I was fighting a two-whiskey hangover (sorry for my pussi-tude) and I was look for something delicious for the day, a treat.

Faicco’s was the obvious choice, that magical oasis where a man can get a three-meal sandwich the size of a long forearm for 10 dollars, somehow located in the yuppified Greenwich Village/West Village boundary.

But Perilla just caught my eye, wandering down Jones St.

It was another morning where I had gotten up early and I had planned to read my backlog of New Yorkers and had yet again failed miserably to do so (I keep one in my mailbox for self-shaming purposes).

I saw the Spicy Duck Burger on the brunch menu, as it was my habit to check out the menus of restaurants I do not know as it is the habit of some people to stare up at blimps in the sky: admiring, with an eye to read their purpose.

As a non-carnivore, I am always interested in burger replacements, especially with alternative meats (most Veg-burgs I’ve had have been mealy or rubber-y) and this one came with fries, a forbidden and sometimes allowed treat for me.

So I waited out that extra time between 11:20 and 12, like I used to in my anti-breakfast days, until I sat at the bar, while a hipster emo-couple in their 30s came in with their hipster-emo baby.

My burger came shortly after the couple and was delicious.

Duck can be a little too fatty for me sometimes, difficult to eat in its dark, veiny-ness. But ground up and liberally spiced, the duck was perfect material for a burger replacement, with thick broadly-cut fries coming out fresh and a generous, sweet-seeded brioche, which I tore off much off, to preserve my weight-sensing sanity.

My only complaint (the price was high but reasonable for the atmosphere/quality) was that all of my burger toppings came on the side. For shame, restaurant. When I enter you I do not want a democracy. I want a tyranny of your choice as chef, deciding my experience.

If necessary, I can say the safe word of “allergies”, but other-wise, give me the stomach-pounding I paid for, no choice, just submission.

Rawr.

***

PERILLA

Spicy Duck Burger w/Pepper Jack Cheese and Spiced Fries- $16

Cornelia St bet. West 4th and Bleecker Sts.

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


Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)

February 29, 2012

This was my morning, this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know what happened to him.

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

It was pretty unprofessional. But it was fun.

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

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

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

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

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

And know that you’re doing it.

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

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

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

These things sound so trite.

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

But inside that, he’s kinda jealous.

Yeah.

***

I’ve grown as a performer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADR happened. I had a show.

And then, full, home.

***

CHELSEA THAI WHOLESALE

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

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

ACE to 14th St-8th Avenue


Tell Me Your Dreams

February 22, 2012

I found this in the waiting room of my therapist’s office perusing when my therapist was 1-2 minutes late for a session, coming down the hallway, a fact that is inconsequential (I have been late and I sometimes run-over), but a fact that I lord over her.

The book was there but the placement was my own.

I frequently noticed it, perusing the shelf of cast-offs and maybe strategically placed therapeutic books, it was hard to know: kismet or misplacement? A thoughtless collection of what people could find, or just a random selection of whatever anyone was too in distress, to distracted to remember to take with them after a 45-minute session of, perhaps, baring their souls.

Anyway, this book seems pretty tragically out of place in a therapist’s office, with all of its intimation of a concept of “womanliness” and strange pandering to a sub-sect of illusory middle-school girls that I imagine do not exist outside of television.

But who knows, maybe that’s what people want. A topic starter, a place of discussion.

I once saw a book in my therapist’s room that said “Lesbian Psychologies” and thought it said “Lesbian Pathologies”. What did that inspire in or say about me that I found that there, just a certainty of a point of view, a subconscious gesture, what? I think I had just been defensive or unsure about how I related to queer culture. What was that moment that happened that would not have otherwise?

Nowadays, when I go to my therapist, half of my time is spent talking about girls. Therapy can feel like some sort of wishful make-out session, some sort of pow-wow in a closet or sleep-over looking out to what might come of my love-life this new-found (somewhat) attractiveness and who’s a good idea or bad idea. These moments are like milk chocolates for me or the Sour Patch Kids that my best friend Frank kept offering me while we watched the Studio Ghibli adaptation of The Borrowers: sweet and quick and empty, fun but requiring self-control.

It is an illusion to think one’s problems are solved or that one cannot improve their psyche or to see progress as itself some sort of pedestal. Back in the depths of earlier depression, I would insist to my friends and others at my happiness and relative fine-ness when I was losing hair at how unhappy I was at my post-production job, when I was crushed after not getting a movie-theater promotion, when I wanted to be okay so desperately in the months following my break-up.

Now looking back at those moments, it’s easy to see how unhappy I was. I didn’t want to be a post-production coordinator but felt obligated to, didn’t want to work in a movie theater, but needed some sense of worth, I wasn’t ready to love someone else, but so desperately wanted the pain of a first love to go away.

My friend Sebastian often accuses me of being maudlin (he also frequently complains about how he is portrayed on this blog) and in this case he is correct, I am being maudlin.

But I am also letting myself experience those emotions from a distance with the fondness of some completion. Like the shows I can look back on, I can either smile or cringe. And if I’m lucky and I think of a moment, some real emotion might be released into me, a gift that no video-game or twitter-feed can bestow.

As I’ve said before here, the great gift I’ve found through therapy, yoga, improv, growing-up, life, what-have-you, were the lessening of expectations; to stop being so hard on myself and just notice where I am. To just treat the journey as the fun thing and to not worry about “the big picture”. Life, I seem to have decided, is pretty great for me right now (despite my relative lack of love or solid career), I guess, I have become a fuller, more self-confident person to the point where I believe that those things will come in time. That as long as I continue to have fun, wherein my fun is self-improvement in writing and comedy, everything else will come or not.

Already, I’ve gotten numerous performance opportunities on New York stages, I’ve gotten cast in my friends sketches and gotten to put up my own. I’ve even gotten to work with performers I idolize like Christina Gausas and learn from them, which was and still is unimaginably great for me, from starting out.

To be all buddhist-y about it, the journey is the goal.

But all my friends and parents say otherwise as they ask me to know what I want to do or be again. In film school, this question was answered for me, which is in one way a relief, but in another way led to a massive meltdown and certain unhappiness as I got rejected from 50 film festivals, the only recourse to which was: “Well if you really wanted to do this, it wouldn’t break you.” But then what if it did?

On his “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast, comedian Todd Glass comes out publicly and talks about the use of the word “gay” as derogatory and why people so cling to wanting to use it, despite the negative effects and connotations on others.

“I don’t think that those are very terrible people or even that they don’t realize it in some part of them.” Glass says. “I think it’s just that it makes them feel uncomfortable, because if they’re wrong, it means they have to change.”

Change is painful, it’s something we avoid. I’ve talked on this blog repeatedly about “homeostasis” the biological process through which our bodies try to preserve order and how this is the same things our minds and natures try to preserve as well. When I had to get out of film school and look at the world, when I had to get out of a relationship and do the same. Another thing I talk about is how the most painful moment for me is the schism in which I understand the reality I thought I perceived was not the one others’ perceive, which could be when a girl isn’t in to me, or when I get fired from a job, or when I realize in a certain situation I  am friend-less and alone and one way to look at these situations is the mental crux of “Am I going crazy?” but another is to look at these as moments where one is forced to confront the necessity of change and that is truly frightening.

So that’s what I worry about as my roommate Teddy hits up famous people on Twitter asking for jobs, because he tells me “[he] wants to make the whole world laugh.” That’s what I worry about when my friend Sebastian talks about Chris Farley, or my father or Frank asks me “what do you want out of this?” meaning comedy or writing or the rest.

I am afraid that the zen or calm that I have found, that I am comfortable in, is just another stalking-horse for a defensiveness, a clinging to the moment that has already past in the guise of a peace about the present.

That having no great dreams is a defense against having any at all.

And that is the difficult thing I suppose, to asses that moment, scary as it is.

Because how ever comfortable I am in my life, lady-less, in-therapy, without an even paycheck:

I like it.

***

I went down to North Carolina this past week to perform in a show that my only bit was standing behind a plant and clicking next on a projector and that too was cut for time.

But I still had a blast.

I was holed up with a bunch of comedians as a part of the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival, sleeping 5-6 to a hotel suite, leaflet-ing downtown Chapel Hill, getting sized up amused-ly by the ladies used to frattier boys in a way that seemed to take some of the pep out of my step.

But I ate boneless wings, found an incredibly comprehensive (and expressly forbidden-by-my-lifestyle) beer store in a close-by strip-mall and shared stories with a bunch of groovy people, screwing around and making friends.

Even though France was amazing and liberating and somewhat lonely, I was doing a lot of work on myself out there, you know? Wandering the streets of Paris, thinking about improv (I am insane, right?) and my friends back home, trying to unpack every moment cross-wired with my old relationship, trying to forgive myself for things I had displaced on to the veneer of strength and confidence you get from co-dependency. I was largely successful at that and it was amazing, but it felt less like a wacky vacation than an immersive experience.

But this was a fun-fuck-around moment, the college trip to Vegas I’d never gotten, loaded with funny comedians who suddenly thought I was cool, whom suddenly I could talk to and hang out with and just shoot the shit.

We searched for BBQ places, I helped pick out a bunch of prizes for a rowdy North Carolinan crowd and I got to hear a really funny dude do a preview of his one-man show for us in the front row. Amazing, the 10-hour ride back may have been the best part of the trip, from something I was once terrified of.

It’s nice finding that dynamic of people, finding some mutual respect, but also just drinking and working and being exhausted and getting wild. It felt like a film set, without all the existential “will my life amount to anything” baggage.

I came back refreshed and ready and happier than ever that I had my life at home as 2 days felt like I had been gone for 2 weeks.

By the way, watch The Chris Gethard Show tonight at 11pm on MNN in Manhattan or at http://www.thechrisgethardshow.com or download the podcast on iTunes.

And look closely for that man behind the plant.

He’s pretty happy, just to be there.

***

Is there such a thing as a Soy Cappucino?

My server at  MUD Coffee seemed confused too.

You see, I am a fan of Cappuccinos over lattes (a trip to Italy in my adolescence solidified this as did my recent trip to France) but I am also, and let’s be honest here, one of the fartiest people in the world.

It’s true! I’m sorry ladies! I’m kind-of-sorry my friends! I cannot help it. I am slightly lactose-intolerant (I think?!) and I don’t really care.

So I do that d-baggy thing and order soy drinks sometimes and this time I did.

It was filled with that weird soy-y foam. But it was light and kind of nice.

I got weird looks from the servers, but no more than someone with half-a-pair-of-pants who might walk in to an east village coffee shop.

It lifted me up after a night of drinking and just getting back from a collective 3-days-12-hours-of-sleep and a big trip down the coast.

I was awake during brunch with my family.

And I didn’t fart…

Well, maybe a few times.

***

MUD COFFEE

Soy Cappucino- $4.00 (in a mug, to stay)

9th St bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.

6 to Astor Pl. R to 8th St-NYU. F to Lower East Side- 2nd Ave.

***

POST SCRIPT-

Oh yeah, I hear I’m back on TV. Here’s a deleted scene brought to my attention by someone, forget who.

I think it is unfortunately called “Nobody Likes A Unibrow”.

Yep.

Enjoy!