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.


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.


Addendum: “My Internship at [redacted]”

December 15, 2011

One last thing I have been thinking about is this:

When a bad thing happens to me, there are things I can do in order of easiness.

Surprisingly, the easiest thing to do is not repression, as my neuroticism would just guide me towards any attempt at repressed memories, things kept “unremembered”. It’s also an active choice, to choose not to remember something.

The easiest choice then is victimhood, I chose this one for a while with this incident, just saying that I didn’t do anything wrong, how crazy was that guy, everyone comfort and feel sorry for me.

It requires no further self-examination on my part, I can live with the memories and go on, though it’s not a “powerful” choice and so it’s one that stymies you in life later, one that leads you to be a less “real” person.

The next easiest is then the previous discussed repression, an active choice made never to think about something again, to gloss over it. Again, this has the benefit of averting pain, but many studies and fictions have been made on the subject of repressed memories and you’ve probably seen how those end up, just like victimhood, coloring your life through your subconscious.

After is what I still do, often, aversion: knowing those thoughts are in your mind but trying not to think about them. This is difficult, in some ways the worst of all worlds, because you don’t have the comfort of denial afforded by the first two, but you’re still not really dealing with the problem. This gives these things power of my life and subconscious too, see: panic attacks, irrational hatreds, etc.

After that there’s what I’m trying to do: accept responsibility. Try to assess the situation and learn what you can. Attempt to disarm the bomb of shame or weakness, anger or sadness. Explode it and then look at the parts. This is, of course, very difficult, not only to risk exposure to emotionally-damaging memories when the present is difficult enough already, but to even find those moments, to know them, when you could have buried them or glossed over them somewhere along the way. Not to mention, you have to find a way to find distance, which in this last case, took me two years to find. It’s difficult, but healthier than these choices in that it makes the subconscious conscious and disarms these moments’ ability to control your life.

But there’s one things I didn’t mention, a last step to all of this, present even in the first option but gone from the rest and difficult too, indeed.

That is: accepting the good in those moments, recognizing the positive in the negative. Recognizing what you can take from even those awful moments in one’s life.

I was often fake and annoying and made many bad decisions in my time at the show.

But I also was ambitious in my want to learn. I heard everyone’s stories, I made sure I knew what everyone did. I was tenacious in pursuit of my art, applying to festivals every day, mailing DVDs, going on festival message boards. I was holding a writing group every week or every other, writing sketches and shorts and pages from screenplays. I loved the people in my life dearly and showed loyalty to my friends.

When that stupid woman told me that they’d taken the vote and decided they didn’t like me, she asked me if I’d learned anything and I answered without snark: “Yes.”

By the time that internship ended, I knew so much more than 99% of the population about how things worked at a good, well-respected weekly TV show. I knew what the different producers did, the writers did, how the shows were structured, the chain of command.

I fucked up a lot and boy was I dumb about a lot of things.

But I’ll be damned if I didn’t try my hardest, in my own insane way, to get the most out of my internship.

And to some degree, I succeeded.

I guess that’s the last step.

Forgiving yourself, for it all.

That’s it.

-Nick


December 7, 2011

“I’ll use it as my profile picture.” I told Ro-Beardo Malone.

“Actually, I was hoping it would be the first picture on the next Feitelogram.” He replied with his half-cocked beard-smile, a tactic he frequently employed to try to inflame my inability to tell the difference between dry-sarcasm and his occasional earnestness. (e.g.: “Not enough films about the Kennedy assassination” accompanied by half-cocked beard-grin.)

It was 10:55, the hour of the always-breathless lead-up to The Chris Gethard Show, where my role as “The Man Behind The Plant” put me to some degree off-camera, getting ready to retweet people saying things like “Give me some jews 2fuk my boyfriend dumpt me” as well as home-brew images or cartoons having to do with the show. People frequently ask me, in bars or first dates, how I manage seeing my comedy friends with my friends from film school and the lucky thing is that the show is like a nexus of all of them.

Here, in one corner, is comedy-man Keith Haskel getting dressed up in a banana suit while his girlfriend helps him zip up. Over there is once-villain-man Andrew Parrish, warming up the audience and rushing around getting ready to punch Chris for an on-show bit, there getting in to an Evil Knieval costume is Ro-Beardo Malone, jimmying around trying to figure out whether his crotch muscles have healed enough that he can break loose and dance his fullest.

That night, a woman tried to book Rob to play a vuvuzela at her next bar mitzvah or event. That night, a woman called in with notes passed to the host with underlines to accentuate her increasing drunkenness. That night, a waltzing-seniors holiday special took over our studio so we were crammed in to a smaller one. I look forward to the show every week.

This week in improv class, I finished my last session of a 401, the class I was stressed out about enough last time around to write regularly about on this blog. Though I spent most of the class fairly confident, I lost that confidence in my last session and felt like crap going out for obligatory drinks with everyone after the show. That night, I started replaying a Mega Man RPG for the Nintendo DS.

In the haze after college that I am still in, I look for meaning all around me, for structure. When I didn’t feel good about my last 401 class, it made me feel down for two days.

I went in to my therapist asking why and she told me that in the absence of a significant other, my relationship with comedy and performance is the primary one in my life.

To that end, I went on two (unsuccessful) dates this weekend but things are looking, well, as they are.

In truth, I have to remind myself that there’s no control. To my friend’s perturbment, everything is like improv.

You can state your idea, your wants, your desires, but you have no control over where the scene or your life goes. Only where you choose to venture, preferably boldly, and the discoveries you make yourself open to with other people.

Tonight I go back to The Chris Gethard Show.

It’s a dating special.

I’ll be there again,

The man behind the plant.

***

My friend Jon Bander outed me yesterday.

The truth: I had been writing self-strokingly about the weight I had lost and telling people as much when they gave me a nice compliment or conspicuously in conversation (“Good show tonight.” “Yeah it was. I lost 50 lbs.”) but to outpour on social media was something else.

I had someone post on my wall that I was an “inspiration” my friends rag on me and people hold me up as some sort of symbol.

Meanwhile, on the other side, my parents were concerned I had lost too much weight (hovering somewhere around 175) and were wondering if there son was going to waste away. Their plans to have me see a doctor before I left were only foiled by a. A New York practitioners inherent lack of availability and b. them realizing I had been given a clean bill of health by that doctor about a month ago.

In the middle somewhere there was me, still self-conscious, still grabbing my belly at any passing moment, still wondering if I’d gain it back, if I’d added a pound. If now that I’d been “exposed” whether I’d just be another casualty, gaining back all the weight I had lost.

Friends told me it took them 5 years to get it back, others nodded knowingly as if it wouldn’t even do me any good to know.

The phase I’m in of “my new lifestyle” seems the scariest, the one without a plan where I try to find my own boundaries, set my own rules, figure out what works for me, what I’m allowed to do.

In Yoga (which I still think jokes and references to are stupid), my teacher talks about posture, as we stretch a belt across our backs to sit tall. When we arrive at our computers, we hunch over. When we sit on the mats we align our spine.

As I look in the mirror before the TCGS dating game tonight and put on a nicer shirt, now I wonder about my posture and how to fix that, how to get my body right.

Where is the happy medium between these things? My parents concern, my neuroses and the possible benefits of eliminating the things hampering me in my life.

What is the goal I’m trying to achieve (as Bander asked me as a necessary pre-requisite before instructing me on the diet I took to get to this weight)?

If it’s romance, as my friend Jason Chan has said, being skinny or even attractive (don’t think I’m there) doesn’t seem a large part of the equation.

If it’s happiness or self-contentment, isn’t that a state of mind rather than a physical pose? Haven’t I said before I was “happier” at my previous weight?

These are questions without too many answers as the holidays or my nearness to my Paris vacation grow closer.

Well, maybe I’ll figure it out in old gay Paris.

***

Or maybe my parents are concerned about me because they saw me split a cupcake into thirds.

My parents (seen above in soft-focus, head-cut-off form) were enlisted on a Sunday morning after a post-Faicco’s expedition to help me try out my latest point of exploration: Molly’s Cupcakes over in the West Village.

The place seems to have some reality-cred which I didn’t know too much about (not being an avid watcher of “Top Chef”-type shows) but I am fan of your down-home-style cupcake joint and the capacious milieu and swing-like chair seemed to draw me in.

Even though Mom pointed out their award-winning cupcake, a Peach Cobbler-blend with a real-peach slice on top, I was not interested. Such things struck me as being unnecessary, cupcake-wise, when for me the bread-and-butter of a cupcake should be simplicity.

I do like Pichet Ong’s cupcake inventions at Spot, to clarify, which often included Yuzu and berries and stuff, but even there, simplicity is maintained with the relatively small size and modest-icing of a cupcake being paramount. For me the monster-truck style-cakes of Crumbs are anathema and the Baked-by-Melissa tinies, while great, definitely suffer due to portion size on their value quotient.

So, I got the alpha-cake, vanilla base, chocolate-buttercream icing.

And I gotta say, it was pretty good.

The icing was refreshingly (unexpectedly) dark as opposed to milk chocolate and the base was also deceivingly lemony, a fact we interrogated the owner about to no avail.

What seemed simple ended up nuanced but markedly enjoyable, by no means a “perfect” cupcake (I think Blue Ribbon gets the closest to that), but certainly an excellent one.

My parents still looked perturbed though when I only ate my third of the cupcake.

“Too sweet for me.” My dad, the wuss, said eating about a third of his third before retiring. Mom and I tried to say something but well, you can bring a horse to water…

At least I ate half my huge Faicco’s sandwich in front of them.

At least they know I eat.

***

MOLLY’S CUPCAKES

Vanilla Cupcake w/Dark Chocolate Buttercream- $2.50

Bleecker St. bet. 6th Ave and Carmine St.

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


So, I’m Skinny. Now What?

October 10, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I guess around… 170?” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this, of course, is super creepy.

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

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

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

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

Not for at least 20 minutes.

At least.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus the note and the panic.

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

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

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

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

“Sure man.”

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

There. There was the FedEx Man.

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

I was free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here, here.

***

Thursday was a good night.

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

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

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

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

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

“Beard guy over there’s a baller.”

“Yurp.” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

***

MRS. KIM’S

Chicken Caesar Salad- 11 bucks

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

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


Care to Share

September 26, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is why the panel kinda sucked.

First there was a poor set-up.

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

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

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

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

“How’s the pilot?” I asked him.

“We’ll see.” He replied.

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

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

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

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

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

A smattering of applause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw Maron after the show as I walked out.

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

“I’m sure you are.” He replied.

“Well anyway.” I said.

“We cool?” He asked.

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

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

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

Also, that first date just cancelled on me.

That’s Karma, Marc Maron.

You got it.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I played Magic for a day.

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

🙂

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it was settled.

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

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

“Sleepy.” I told Frank.

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

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

***

AMPLE CREAMERY

Dark Chocolate Single Scoop- $4

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

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

 

 

 

 

 


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.