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March 15, 2011

It had already been kind of a stressful night.

Not that it should have been. As my mother told me later, I was doing everything that I should be doing, in the sort of way that I myself make checklists for myself, take stock at myself, travel the way my internal compass points however inexplicable or wrong it may end up being.

I blame improv as the enabler: in improv, you make a big choice and then deal with the fallout later.

In life, the big choices are less easy to make and the fallout doesn’t go away when the teacher says “scene”.

Anyway, it shouldn’t have been stressful. It should have been fine.

I found myself on set on a PBS documentary set at the Waldorf, in a situation that itself could have been stressful, I guess.

There was the feeling of a return and the sense of duty or need to succeed that comes with that, the idea that I was returning to a day job in the film industry after my experience running from my last job that had tender-and-brutalized me before sending me into the scuzzy arms of an art-house movie theater, which now seemed mostly filled with coworkers who found me neither funny nor attractive.

There was the sense returning on to set, setting up C-stands awkwardly, curling them on the floor, that I was being watched with everything I was doing. That they would see my inability to wrestle with these steel objects and expel me to movie theater hell.

But none of this happened. Everyone was perfectly nice and supportive of me. The shoot went smoothly. They let me go home early and gave me a bag of cookies to take home, like I had gone to play at a friend’s house.

But it was also not permanent and the truth was, I was back to doing a double at the theater tomorrow.

Results: inconclusive.

But nice enough for now.

Still, even with my somewhat dreamy time on set, Firewire download-transfers speed up for no man and I was late to my improv practice group.

Along the way, all day, I had been getting text messages and emails from people in my practice group, jumping like from a boat, while  one, sadly deluded, member was sending me Facebook messages about the performances my group could be doing.

“We’ll see if any of them show up.” I told her.

Enough of them did, though the lamest excuse I got was an email from the person who was supposed to be running the group saying he “had to be at a concert”, a sentiment whose earnestness I questioned, given that he didn’t tell me he “had to be at a concert” after any of the last three emails I sent him.

Anyway, I yelled about that to my whole group, wasting more time and then again on the street and then again later when Matt Chao took me out to Hill Country Chicken to calm me down.

“11 minutes in!” I told him. “Who has to be at a concert anyway?”

“Who cares? Isn’t this more your improv group at this point? You’ve been going to more of them?” Matt said with his big Matt grin, staring stoop-down at the sidewalk. “Also, you have a job now. Isn’t that cool?”

Actually, Matt had set me up with the PBS job, a signal of how well he was doing after his two years of slave (intern) labor at PBS; he was now such a public-tv hottie, he could pawn off producers wanting him on his less-attractive friends.

“Maybe, but I’m not much one for the improv coup d’etat.” I replied, before we reached the chicken-bone door.

I had been struggling also at that point to deal with the tweets and the other things that were coming my way as the Bravo episode I wasn’t watching unfolded.

I had gotten into a fight already (and made up) over my mother’s anger at how I was portrayed on the clip from the episode that was online (she was angry B was “snarky” to me), but now I dealt with everything from people asking me for vegan recommendations to Facebook girls telling me “I’m your soulmate let’s meet up immediately” (“Who said that? Can we see this girl? Where does she live?” My quasi-returned quasi-roommate John Beamer asked.)

“I dunno.” I told Matt as I dipped my chicken tender in three different kinds of sauces (Honey Mustard, Hot Sauce, Ketchup) “I guess I appreciate it, but it’s not what I’m looking for.”

“Which is what?” Matt asked me in a dead-pan near un-interest as he picked the chicken out of his “Kickin’ Chicken Salad”.

“Fuck if I know. Someone who meets me to just like me for who I am. I don’t know what to do with virtual affirmations.”

“That’s cool.” Matt replied as I dipped another tender. When I turned around to toss out some empty containers, Matt grabbed my phone and started pining over his crush, looking at her on facebook.

“Stop that.”

“I’m just logging out!”

“Is she in a Super-Mario costume?”

“THOSE ARE MY PICTURES!”

I logged Matt out as we walked together toward the train, shuffle-stepping like at least, for whatever else, we still didn’t know what, really, to do.

***

And then for everything else, my ex-girlfriend came strolling into my subway car on the E train back from Grand Central.

And she said “Hi, Nick.”

“In all the subway cars, in all the world…” I thought, making poor-man’s Casablanca references of my life.

My love-life, rarely a topic of jubilance on my behalf, has been going not much better since I got dissed by two girls in a week and realized that I was the sort of guy my taken lady-friends wouldn’t set up someone they knew on a date with (I heard that’s how dating used to work).

But other than the ladies sending me amorous arrows from across the webs, I only had a couple girls say they might be up for meeting me and in all of the discussions the word “creepy” came up though, to be fair, I was the one who used it.

But then there was Eva sitting next to me, wearing lipstick and a dress, looking good.

“Hi Eva. You look good.” I told her. A test. What would she say?

“Thank you.” She replied. She didn’t tell me I looked good. Why did I need that from her, all of then now?

We talked for what could only have been a couple minutes as we sat on that E train, as we talked about stand-up comedians and I told her all the run-ins I’d had, since I last saw her.

It was my stop too soon, or just soon, I had barely looked at her. She had moved to touch me a couple times. There were the spaces where she would have touched me to congratulate me.

Hanging out with Andy Kindler. Having Colin Quinn recognize me on stage.

“Wow,” She exclaimed. “It sounds like your life is going great!.”

And she finally touched me, a punch to the shoulder.

“Yeah.” I replied. “Bye Eva.”

“Bye Nick.” I heard from behind me. But I didn’t turn around.

I exited the station.

Then went back downstairs as I heard the train leaving and took that picture.

Sometimes we want to capture a moment without risking ourselves.

Sometimes it’s just easier to take that picture when the doors closed.

And then the train was just, gone.

***

Andrew Parrish is a douchebag.

I should just say that up-front.

Now, I have a long standing, really meaning-less beef with the guy, stemming back from a time we both starred in an experimental film made by Ro-bearded Malone (his future roommate), called Our Friend Baldwin where I played Baldwin, a romantic novelist who is writing a pice of historical fiction set between the two Kennedy assassinations and he plays my hot friend who fucks a lot, sometimes while wearing a Richard Nixon mask.

The beef is this: We were both on set, we were sitting in a hallway-staircase and in a burst of spontaneous confession, I told him that I had been crushing on a girl from my playwriting class and asked his advice on how to woo her, which he gave willingly, never revealing that the lady in question and him were hooking up and soon dating.

Flash-forward, the girl’s gone, he apologized profusely and admitted his mistake, I forgave him and was the bigger man.

But now here he is still with a six-pack and a hot-ass haute-theater girlfriend and here I am. writing tweets from my work-place about the cost of water-bottles.

Dick move, amirite?

Anyway, Andrew is still endless sorry for it, or at least he likes hanging out with me, so while usual suspects Rob and Chadd Harbold (who drunkenly/loudly confessed his love for me and my potential as “the next that tour guy whose name sound like Skeet Ulrich, except it isn’t”) were out of town living it up at SXSW, Andrew came out and supported me at my improv show, saw a movie with me on a Sunday morning no one was awake for and even met me at Faicco’s to get some food before the flick.

It was the first time I’d been back there in a while and the first time EVER I’d noticed a “Daily Specials” notice listed on their board.

Faicco’s, for those of you who don’t know, is a wonderful Italian specialties store, like the kind that runs around Bensonhurst and is all but extinct in Little Italy. It is one of a few relics on Bleecker St (Ottomanelli’s Rocco’s) of the old West Village, an Italian WWII-era nabe. As such, it’s real/authentic down to the early close Sunday for mass.

“Chicken Parm!” I exclaimed to Andrew and the bilboard and the sandwich man under the board. “Impossible! You guys don’t have a toaster here! I’ve been told!”

“Actually, we do have a small convection oven.” Sandwich Man said in a wise-guy-movie accent.

“Nuh-uh! I would always ask you guys if you could reheat the Chicken Parms from the display case.”

“Yeah, we don’t do that.” He replied cryptically. And somehow that was the final statement on that.

“I’ll have the other special.” Andrew said, looking up at the board, at an offer of a 9-buck Chicken Cutlet, Pesto and Fresh Mozz Hero.

“Me too! Can we get it toasted?” I asked, eager.

The sandwich man nodded.

“You want a meltdown?” He asked Andrew.

“Uh–” Andrew replied.

“Yes!” I interceded. “His answer is yes.”

The Sandwich Man nodded sagely and in minutes our sandwiches were handed to us warm, foil-wrapped.

“Where do we go to eat these?” Andrew asked as we strolled down Bleecker, sandwich-bound.

“Father Demo.” I replied. “Old as hell.”

I could say that the ‘wich wasn’t as good as my classic (Chic. Cutlet, Fresh Mozz, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Garlicky- Oil from SDT, Vinegar) but it was also damn good as Andrew and I both experienced sitting on that pigeon-nested bench in Father Demo.

The unseen toaster gave it a crunch and a new vitality that would have come too if we had arrived an hour earlier, when the cutlets were fresh-fried off.

“This is great.” Andrew commented.

“Fuck you, Andrew. Your girlfriend’s hot.” I replied food-in-mouth.

“You know, Nick, you’re right,” He replied in his “I’m the professor who fucks my students” kind of way. “That really has a lot to do with the situation at hand and what I said. Also, I don’t know, thanks?”

“No problem.” I replied, food-stil-in-mouth.

At least we got good seats for the movie.

***

FAICCO’S PORK STORE

Chicken Cutlet w/Homemade Pesto Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella on a Toasted Seeded Semolina Roll (that last part is important)- $9.00

Bleecker St bet. 6th and 7th Aves.

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

 

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Little Blue Pill

February 8, 2011

“Alright, don’t get angry at me.” My father told me.

“What?” I replied.

It was a weekend day, my dad was dropping off a sandwich as he sometimes did, when I was too tired or hungover from the previous night, or just missed the experience of breakfast in bed.

Except I didn’t like breakfast, I like lunch.

There was half-a-grin on his face and some concept of embarrassment and some nervous humor. Why not? I’d been making fun of him for this for most of my juvenile-into-adolescent career.

“By the way,” He said. “This is not bloggable material.”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” I told him. “What is this some dark family secret? I was adopted or something? I don’t think so, I look pretty much like you.”

“The hair on the top of your head is getting thinner.” He told me. “It’s not very noticeable right now, but it’s there. It’s started.”

I guess I was kind of taken aback. One thing I had never really had to deal with was a deficit of hair.

In high school, I wore my hair back in a pony-tail, reaching half-way down past my shoulders and when it rained, I’d let my hair out get it drenched and feel like a viking and when it was windy, I’d let it out too, and feel like I was facing into an airplane engine, blowing back.

After that, after my ex-roommate, ex-best friend threatened not to invite girls over, I cut it off, but I’ve still rocked something of a “fro” for most times since, pausing only for summers and maternal admonishments.

“I’ve talked to some friends.” My dad continues. “You can take a pill and it grows back thicker. That’s what I’ve heard. It’s probably as simple as that. I wouldn’t say anything, but if you’re looking for a life as a performer, it’s something you should consider.”

That conversation was about a month ago and my dad checked in with me, every week after, to make sure I still had that dermatologist appointment, still knew what I was going to say, ask.

His answer was the same as my father’s: I was going bald.

“You can fight it, or you can not fight it, but the genes are somewhere there.” He told me.

“And what should I do?” I asked, a question more loaded psychologically than dermatologically.

“Philosophically, you’re going to have come to terms with going bald.” He told me and prescribed me the pill.

I had a lot of reactions that day.

I had a date immediately after my doctor’s appointment, which in retrospect was not such a good idea.

I picked up my pill, it was ready immediately.

I took it before I went to sleep.

I worried about the side effects, which my dermatologist had said were “none”, but the internet said otherwise.

I worried about the extra blood tests my doctor ordered to make sure my pimples and my early “Androgenic Alopecia” weren’t caused by hormonal imbalances, a tumor, or something else, in my brain or my balls.

I thought about how my life would have to change again, like it did with my psoriasis, taking a pill every day, rubbing something in my hair.

Would it be trying to hide the inevitable or just fooling myself?

Or would no one even know?

When I  went to write this, I wasn’t even sure if I could or should, because I don’t see the issue discussed much. Baldness is something I made fun of my dad for (even though he isn’t) and was the subject of recurring jokes on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.

When I talked to my therapist about it, she told me it was “yet another thing you cannot change”.

I would suggest, it’s the stigma of an old person, when I don’t feel that I’ve come into my own.

Sure, there’s the usual questions of attractiveness, of getting parts or women. I could say it was worse to hear now that I’m not with anyone, as opposed to when I was.

All I can say is that, it seems like some other things, to be somewhat shameful. To be something not discussed in public. To be something ignored or shelved until it’s obvious.

I talked to my dad and a friend or two about it, one of whom had been going bald since he was 19.

But though my mom offered me from sympathy, I knew she couldn’t understand.

Who could now?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this: whether I take my medicine, or I rub whatever gels or ointments or solutions in my hair, it’s a clock, like many others. It’s the same process of looking or acting older. Of accepting some sort of change in your life that comes with age.

And if it’s private, well, I’ve shared more private things on my blog than that here.

At my writing group last night, that always seems to lull and start between members working, or sleeping, or drinking or out of town, I told my fellows about “WTF with Marc Maron” , hyping it as I could, for a recent episode with character actor and Rob Malone-favorite, Stephen Tobolowsky. A gifted storyteller, Tobolowsky ousts even the talkative Marc Maron, known for his interrogative skill at drawing out the hurt from his interviewees. It’s not necessary in Tobolowsky’s case, a character actor whose many credits are tempered by his relative anonymity in them. From the background of movie sets, rock groups and growing up as a funny-named Jew in a Texas town, Tobolowsky offers everything from stories praising Mel Gibson to near-death experiences involving a life-saving case of arthritis.

What he also offers is the tale of his hair first falling out, when he was in college and the realization that his life might never be the same. A ham who got on stage in middle school and seized the “beima” while a pre-schooler in synagogue, Tobolowsky dreamed of fame as an actor, of Matinee idol parts, he’d now never get. It was change in his life and a disappointment he had nothing for. But he followed where his life took him, to a wife and two children, to a life in the theatre and film. To serious parts and quirky parts and many, many, many good stories and some bad ones. “The two sides of a miracle” Tobolowsky and Maron describe it.

It was fortuitous timing, that podcast, that no one at the writer’s group had listened to.

“I don’t know, think I’d still rather listen to music.” One of the writing group members said.

And the drinking and the laughter resumed.

***

“When are you going to get out of here?” Schuyler asked me, from somewhere behind where customers could see, down at the Angelika Film Center.

He was contemplating his own future, as he often does, especially now that he’s gone back to school, for filmmaking, no less.

“I don’t know.” I told him. “I don’t care about this job like I used to, feeling annoyed about my lack of promotions. I mostly just try to get through every day, without going nuts in some sort of visible fashion.”

Schuyler went to the same college that Eva, my ex goes to and I made a point of asking him if he was in the same section of the class he shared with her (“No.” He replied.)

But he wondered, as some of the employees there sometimes did, what my life was going to do, which way I was going and all that jazz.

“I’m here because it fits my life.” I told Schuyler.

And that’s pretty much all I got.

When I tell my father I’m “getting tired of serving people”, he always replies “I’m sure you are”, in an amused voice.

Mostly, I just spend my time reading, or trolling around, or trying to dissolve into work or motion.

Conversations tend to be one-sided with co-workers saying “How was your date?” or “You’ll find a pretty great lady soon.” and me just returning grunts.

I jump by my dating profile, checking it like my facebook, seeing who’s looking, who’s rated me high, who I can talk to.

I ran across a blog today called “It’s Not a Match”, which basically informed me that everything I was doing was bullshit.

This entertainingly written, personal, but annoyingly semi-anonymous account of one actor/writers foray into online dating includes such witticisms as “If you think you’re not desperate by going on these sites, spoiler alert, you are.”

It made me wonder about the time I’ve devoted so far and whether there was any secret to meeting someone, which of couse, sent me back thinking about how I met Eva and then, invariably, into sadness.

I while away days there at the Angelika, waiting, thinking, staring, being.

It’s somewhere to go and read things.

And live things.

And stuff.

***

Super Bowl Sunday was a downer, for a while.

A midshift I picked up at work left me there later than I thought and my friends had all already gone off to parties and bars, without invites or places to be for me.

When you’re a socially inter-dependent person, it’s tough to realize people aren’t that socially dependent on you.

I ended up at my parents’ home, a few minutes past a bad half-time I watched streaming on my phone, walking in the cold.

My parents were there sitting with clean plates and left-over salad and some chili and home made corn-muffins that my mom made, re-heated.

I sat there watching, talking, checking my dating profile and being in the warm with others.

I thought about last year, I thought about previous ones.

In some ways, as I’ve explained to people, Super Bowl Sunday was more of a holiday for my family then many other official ones, a time when we would get together as a family and with whatever friends would come along, to sit and relax and mingle and get kinda drunk and eat great food and be together.

This year, my friends weren’t there. This year, my father’s best friend and something like an uncle to me, had passed away and was sitting by the TV calling me “Nicky” with a grin. This year I didn’t have a girlfriend, or a fake girlfriend, or a friend’s girlfriend loaned, to provide some sense of hetero-normative adulthood.

No, this year it was just my parents and chili. And some good corn-muffins my mom made from scratch.

I felt warm in that living room.

And when I went home, it was enough.

***

Turkey Chili w/Sour Cream + Home-made Corn Muffins- free w/Super Bowl Sunday parental visit.

See your progenitors for details.


Periods of Frustration

January 24, 2011

What are you supposed to do when you no longer know why you’re at a place?

Me, I go try to find food.

I’ve been at this “internship” for quite a few months now, hooked up by my mom, as a bulwark I guess, to doing nothing.

My dad keeps on insisting it’s for the best, that these people are “connected” and that somehow, they’ll find some way to “hook you up”.

My experience has been though, that internships never “hook you up”, they use all they can out of you until they use no more, or failing that, hire you out of desperation for everyone else quitting.

One might call this cynical, but considering that a woman I worked a year for, for free, didn’t cast me as “Sleeping Roommate”, a part which would have gotten me signed to my agency, you’ll forgive me for having a dim view of internships.

At this current one, I don’t even know what I’m doing or why I’m there, failing even the pretense of “advancement in my industry” which appeals to so many people who seek these things out.

At some point, I just wanted to get away.

So I went to Buffalo Wild Wings.

It’s true, I didn’t mean to. I wanted to go to the Empanada cart, staged over by Atlantic Terminal, that gives good-fried-packets for just around 2 dollars, but they were gone, maybe driven away by whatever frost there was that day and so I tried the place I’d heard about, thinking that if they advertised Chicken, they might not be so objectionable.

I was pretty wrong.

The nuggets I brought back (“boneless wings”) to the office, were crispy, sickly-sweet and over-spiced. Frank, my best friend, a Brooklynite, had tried them before and mocked me for thinking they’d be anything else.

“McDonalds is better.” Frank tossed around harshly.

I told him I thought they were better than the McDonald Chicken Nuggets (which now contain no chicken), but not by much.

I was excited for some celery that came with it, which I dipped a little in the bleu cheese dressing.

I did some research that day at the internship.

But I don’t know what for.

***

When I went to Union Hall last night to meet Eva to see a comedy show, she sent me a text message that I got when I was two blocks away and I sent one back in reply.

Just checking in with each other, seeing where we were.

The comedy was good, some funny people. Eugene Mirman, A.D. Miles and Mike DeStefano, whose fame from his recent “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast seems to have given him a worthy boost in a career that seemed doomed to pigeon-holing, playing wise-guys.

I kept looking over at Eva though, checking to see that she found the same things funny as me, seeing that she liked her drink, or the atmosphere.

Wanting to know that she liked being with me.

“Sure, I saw my ex plenty of times after we broke up.” Andy told me, changing in the locker room. He had gotten off to a bad start that day, combating the hangover he seemed ever-locked in struggle with.

“It’s the same sort of thing every time. They dance around the decision they made. ‘Did I do the right thing? Was I right? Is this better?’ Until they realize: ‘Oh wait, I guess I did make the right decision. Cool then.”

“I’m worried.” I told Andy, “I’m worried I’m not ready for this.”

“Well, you already said you do it.” said Andy, straightening his shirt. “Just be aware of it. See if you’re getting in to the same routine. Realize she’s not that for you anymore. She’s just an acquaintance.”

I wanted to say when Andy said this that I couldn’t do that, but he was out, gone to fresh air, to feel better, away from work.

And of course I couldn’t feel like Eva was acquaintance, just another friend. How do you look at someone who you shared so much of your life with, taste and trust, someone who accepted you fully and you helped them– how do you look at that person and see them as anything else?

In the end I couldn’t. I made jokes and enjoyed the comedy and drank too much and bought her a few.

I told A.D. Miles “a toast to red-heads”, when Eva told me he was pretty sure his hair was blond, a testament to my color-blindness.

We talked and took the same train and played the same games as she kept trying to pay me for drinks and I kept trying to hide the money in her bag and down her dress.

Yeah, she wore a nice dress and looked very pretty.

We talked for a bit about the dating websites we were on and looking for other people and she told me her “headless body” had gotten a lot of messages, while I told her I hadn’t been too happy with what I’d found.

I gave her my stand-up set, I laughed at her jokes, I admonished her when she self-deprecated, or said people didn’t think she was pretty.

“Well, they’re going to see your face eventually.” I told her. And she agreed.

We sat together on the train and talked some more and right before her stop, I had already started crying, though I don’t think she noticed.

The whole night had gone through and there I was with her about to leave, still not loving me.

It’s hard to see someone’s face, their same face, their same expressions and know that their happiness is no longer for you.

I cried home, on the subway and in bed. To the public, I blame the whiskey.

In bed, Dan Pleck got on the phone with me, texting fast, telling me that trying to recapture first love is like “chasing the dragon”, a high that never comes again.

Mostly, I just felt like a junkie.

I woke up and watched the second-to-last episode of Deadwood and was fine.

***

When I introduced myself in my Writing for SNL class, I blew myself up a little bit.

“Well, I’ve interned for The Colbert Report, pitched some web videos and acted in one, have done some web comedy, was on Letterman, made a short film, that kind of stuff.”

I then followed that up with: “All of this might sound like I’m a pretty good sketch writer, which unfortunately is not the case.”

In fact, I’m a terrible sketch writer, much worse at it than I am even at improv, which I once also felt terrible at.

In my Writing for SNL class, people have started to come around to me, but in my arguably more important Sketch Level 2 class at The Magnet, where some of our sketches will end up in a show, I’ve written something new every week and brought it in, only for it to die.

In some ways, I’m grateful for this. I understand the necessity of learning a craft and, particularly, learning from failures, as early successes can bolster you towards levels of confidence unearned.

It also afforded me chances to run away from class during breaks, where I found a nice Italian deli for a low-cost Chicken Parm, some consolation.

When I went out this past week, with some co-workers after a long shift, I told a beautiful young lady I work with, still in college, not to be so hard on herself, as she told me of her depression and her art.

“What’s there to feel sorry about?” I asked her. “What you do now might not be what you do later, might not even be what you want. As you change, so do your desires, naturally. And there is no shame in that. So for now, take the gift that’s offered you and experiment and try and work hard, as you can and enjoy yourself. The stakes are low, or only as high as you set them, so live with the passion you have.”

Or at least what I hope I said. I had drunk a couple beers at that point.

Anyway, I was ok with dying in that class every week, though I felt like I let my teacher down, Armando, who said he saw in potential in me: “the funny midi-chlorians”, as he put it.

So I wrote him an email, which I got a reply to last night on my… I don’t want to call it a “not-date”, with Eva.

I had acknowledged that I had much to learn about writing sketches and that it was frustrating, given that I felt more confident about my other forms of writing. I told him I knew I had to learn, but that I was worried about the upcoming show and writing something that was good enough.

“Isn’t there anything I can do,” I asked him. “To learn this faster, to be better at this, in time?”

“Nicholas,” He replied. “There is a time in any learning process where there is a period of frustration. The key is to keep plugging away. Eventually comes the day when you wake up and it comes together. But all you can do is keep at it and have faith. There is no special step, just persistence.”

Not to make a metaphor out of a molehill, but I think you see what I mean.

***

SALUMERIA BIELESE

“Small” Chicken Parm- $6.50

SE Corner of 29th St and 8th Ave. (near The Magnet Theater)

ACE to 34th St- Penn Station. 1 to 28th St.


How I Got Addicted to Bubble Tea (and back again…)

January 14, 2011

It started with a gap in time between work and class.

I had gotten off another shift making popcorn and needed somewhere to go in the time between, so I wandered down St. Marks, aiming for “Cheep’s”, an inexpensive falafel/shawarma joint that had popped up overo n 2nd Ave and promised at least the homonym of it’s title, as well as some saucy satisfaction.

I ended up sucked in to Spot by a sign on the sidewalk, near my walk back to the subway, with an offer of Bubble Tea and a cupcake for 5 dollars.

I came for cupcake, but it was the Bubble Tea that took me.

Bubble Tea, for the uninitiated, is something like a milkshake or a “frappucino”: a milk-heavy beverage made with tea and other flavors, with small balls of tapioca floating around its base, lingering there to be sucked up and chewed upon while one drinks their tea.

When Asian nerd-friend Matt Chao (who else?) first introduced me to this product, I was unsure how to drink it an tentative about its uses. If I wanted a milkshake, wasn’t I better off getting one of those? Did those “bubbles” even taste good? How would I avoid not just swallowing them?

So I didn’t drink it for a long time, but then, on the off time I went to Spot, I became enchanted.

Spot, it turned out, was a venture undertaken by a former favorite of mine, a man named Pichet Ong, who used to own the gayest bakery in the West Village, a place called “Batch”, that my mom and I would go to sometimes for “stir-in” chocolate-spoon hot chocolates. It was an inventive place, part of the dessert bar craze that petered about a year ago and closed right when its sit-down attached restaurant “P*ong” closed with it. Thus, I was happy to find Spot, even though it didn’t have Mr. Ong and his charming mother there, who used to minister to me and mine.

I sat down for my special, a “Thai Iced Bubble Tea” and a lemon-yuzu vanilla cupcake and suddenly it clicked in me.

I already loved Thai Iced Teas, with their condensed milk sweetness, but Bubble Tea was the drink of the bored, the loungers, the in-betweens. It was not cloying sweet, but tastefully so. The bubbles were there for consideration; something to ruminate on, literally, during breaks in conversation, or while listening. It was something to do, a combination drink/activity. Something to take your mind off, with sweetness, to relax.

I left Spot happy that day and returned other days, with cravings.

I went to St. Alp’s Teahouse in the East Village and a place named Crazy Bananas in Koreatown. I frequented these places a few times, soliciting advice from the aforementioned Matt for the best places to get it, the best flavors, et cetera.

After an improv class, or a sketch class, before, as a reward, or an incentive.

I became an addict, for a couple days, I admitted to Matt.

And then I got a cold.

***

I haven’t talked here for a while, save for a top 10 list, which was understandably attacked by my friends, but at least a read a few times.

One girl even subscribed to my blog and it notified me. That made me feel good.

When I wrote my first episode of the web-series adaptation of this blog, the running theme was the cathartic experience of writing it; the idea that I was somehow redeemed by clicks or views, by having “peeps out on the internet”. I remember when my friend Chadd Harbold read that one, it was soundly criticized, not just for the idea of that character having that experience be unrealistic, but as a critique potentially of my own life. It’s hard to tell when you blur the line between yourself and your art-work so much.

I went in this past week to a show called “Watch What Happens: Live” with a fellow I’d never met named Andy Cohen, who I later found out had a NYTimes feature article written about him, who nonetheless knew me and introduced himself as though I was the part of the media empire he oversees, which of course, to some degree, I am. Regardless of whether the stuff I shot for one of his shows ends up on the air, there’s bound to more representations, more versions of me out there than I know how to handle.

At work today, I was threatened with firing for a customer complaint of rudeness to someone trying to exchange a ticket. I remember in that moment sympathizing with my boss, who was trying to handle it gracefully, not just firing me but continuing to tell me to “change”. But when I sit in that box office and greet those customers, it’s hard for me to tell which me to give, which me I am, which me they’re seeing. I try to be polite to people, but it weighs on me in a way that recalls my mother’s self -proclamation of “thin-skinnedness”, in describing her depression, without her indefatigable resilience or grace. As people are mean to me, or callous, or just wave their Prada bags or Lacoste items, it’s hard to judge them, or more accurately, feel like you’re being judged. It’s difficult to interact, to know what to give them. You could call it me being a method actor, or just not knowing how to fake it: there’s only a limited amount of “nice” I can be, without anything to play on. It’s scary though to see the disconnection between this realization and the ability to figure out how change it.

I went on a date, this past weekend, while I was getting my cold, with a girl I met online. It went pretty well, I thought just then, but I haven’t heard from her since. We sang karaoke songs at Planet Rose (she was pretty good) and got kinda drunk and walked to the train and ate tacos. My “game” as it is, online, (spoiler alert) isn’t much game at all, but  just trying to offer some questions and accept some and to see if I could “swap truths” with someone and see if I like what I get, or if they do mine. When we talked online, this online girl and I, there was a lot of talk of back-sliding, in this time after college, feeling like you weren’t making progress, feeling like you were going to become someone you didn’t want or someone you used to be. It’s the same thing I talked about, if they use it, on the TV show I shot.

I also talked to Eva, sometime and worked some things out, without closing things. I’m left feeling better, that some part of her is still interested in me, if not in the way I need, but it’s painful too to revisit what you tried to move on from.

I hung out with Dan Pleck last night, who gave me some good advice about my meeting with Eva and seems, scarily enough, in a better place than me nowadays, emotions-wise. Dan used to be a parable for what I might become in my post-break-up situation, a fellow off-the-rails, and our interactions would be fraught with fear on my part along with frustration, in a way I now know also echoes my lack of control over other downward spirals in my life (including my sister’s, who is once again on the lam). Yesterday he came out with me to School Night, one of the several free shows at UCB that no one goes too, but that anybody interested in a career in comedy should, since they’re free showcases of good performances testing their limits and trying new material. Last night, Louis C.K. materialized at the show I was at to do a set, like something out of his own T.V. show, trolling open-mics late night, to just do it.

Dan got to shake his hand after his set, though he was eviscerated by the comedian on stage (who later said he wish he could have snuck out on his own set to do the same) and was ecstatic, wanting to celebrate after the luck of our free discovery.

“The thing is, I just got into him recently.” Dan said. “The stuff he talks about, feeling old and divorced and needing to feel manly: well, that’s pretty much how I feel nowadays.”

I was happy too, happy more that I could make Dan happy, but the problem was is that the person who introduced me to Louis C.K., as well as many of the cool things in my life, was Eva Dougherty.

The way we left things, when we talked, well, it meant we could talk, I guess.

So I told her she wouldn’t believe who I saw and sent her the picture I took from the theater.

She thanked me for telling her, in a text with many exclamation points and told me she was jealous.

The text I didn’t send said “Wish you were there.”

***

I woke up this morning sicker than I’d been.

Since it was cold I just kept expecting to get better and it got worse, I made a doctor’s appointment to be safe.

I didn’t get bubble tea much, recently, though I’ve craved it on occasion.

Like video games, it’s a distraction and a comfort; a sweet place to be.

I took some Zyrtec-D and some Motrin I had in my over-sized wallet to deal with the headache that didn’t go away when my nose cleared up, from my sinuses.

I felt floaty, sitting their in the box-office, like everything going on with me was still there, but I was just shifted, three inches above it.

The email and the firing stuff came at the end of the day and unsettled me, as they would most people I guess.

When I went to go change, a coworker of mine sat in the changing room staring at his phone, getting ready to get out.

For all intents and purposes, I should be friends with this man, who owns the same gaming systems as me, enjoys the same nerdy humor, has the same blaze attitude and occasional self-seriousness that I have.

But as I stand there, changing my clothes, I say nothing to him and he says nothing back.

I heard sometime that I offended him, that he thought I was talking shit about him (which I wasn’t), that I did slight to him that I didn’t know how to undo.

I offered to lend him I game I had he’d be interested in, but by that point he was wary of greeks bearing gifts.

Standing their in the locker room, changing, I didn’t know how to be or who.

So I said nothing and he said “later” and I said, “good night”.

And we all went on awkwardly, a little floaty, but still there.

Now I’m at home here sitting, on the end of pills and comfort.

Not knowing how to be, or who.

***

SPOT

Lemon-Yuzu Vanilla Cupcake with Thai Iced Bubble Tea- $5 (available 11-6 only)

St. Mark’s Place between 3rd and 2nd Avenues.

NR to 8th St-NYU. 6 to Astor Pl.


Before/After

December 31, 2010

It wasn’t much to look at, but it was there at night time and when I woke up and I guess it needed to go.

I had talked to my therapist about it in the sort of guilty way that one admits an illicit attraction or nighttime bedwetting; with shame and a sense of self-protection.

When we broke up, Eva had agreed to come and pick it up in “like two weeks”, a modifier which let her off the hook for the month it had been.

She mentioned having a sweater of mine back then, but I didn’t really care, I wasn’t coming to get it, or cold but for a lack of sweaters.

But I guess it was just that it was a memento. Something that reminded me of particularly her, her tastes, her being.

A Mrs. Potato Head she brought to my place and left there to keep me company, not originally, but that’s what it became for nights that I missed her.

“I guess I’ll just have to stare at her and think of you.” I would tell her, less grammatically, in text messages, those increasing nights I did not see her.

After the break-up, I almost thought it would disappear, that it would fade along with the other things that were supposed to be getting better.

But, of course, it was tangible, it was there and something had to be done with it.

After a few nights of procrastinating, of doing other things, “not finding time”, I wrapped in her father’s t-shirt I had been given for modesty and brought home with me to put in my “nice t-shirt” drawer, away from my faded youthful ones and brought the bundle down on the train to Battery Park City.

As I walked through the World Financial Center, where I used to go visit my father too many years ago, I gamed out as I often did what could happen.

I would see her, maybe walking her dog. And she would see me, her beautiful eyes enlarged by her big black glasses and… and then what would happen?

She would ask for me back? Would she think I was stalking her? Would she run to my arms crying? What would be in her eyes?

I didn’t dwell. I walked through but remembered as I passed through looking at the stores. The coffee shop where we’d get coffee when I’d visit her.

The gelato place where I introduced her to her first Valhrona Chocolate gelato and her happy nods at its goodness.

And her smile.

I didn’t want to see her, it wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was just to drop off the stuff at her apartment building with her doorman. I’d give her apartment number to him and the bag and leave.

Maybe I’d reassure him it wasn’t a terrorist thing or anything scary.

I succeeded. I got there. I trudged through the snow.

I jumped every time I saw someone walking their dog, half hoping/wanting.

I stared through the window at the cigarette shop near her at a girl with blond hair tied back, her back to me, who wasn’t her. But I wanted right then for it to be, before I turned my back away.

This trip was about freeing myself, about eliminating the illusions. If I no longer had her things at my apartment, I wouldn’t be reminded as much. And she wouldn’t have to come to the house, to fear that, to deal with the awkwardness, of wanting her things but not me, of experiencing her own remembrance trip.

I dropped it off with the doorman, gave him the back.

“Are they expecting it?” He asked me.

“No, it’s just a t-shirt and a toy.” I replied.

And then.

“Do you know the people I’m trying to drop this off for??”

“I think I might be familiar.” He said, in a way that meant that our business was done and I took off and crossed the highway for the train.

That windowsill’s empty now.

I can see a little more of the air conditioning unit outside.

And that’s about it.

***

I got a haircut for New Year’s and when I went to take the picture, I saw this back in my Photo Booth.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a picture of her up here, but there she is, we are, branding our beverages.

She looks so happy in that picture. I was trying to figure out what I was doing, but I think what it was looking at her face in the screen as the picture was shot.

I’m sorry both to you all for getting all sappy and to her if she didn’t want that picture shown.

I realized after I took my new picture that it was from the same angle with a lot of the same lighting too.

Haircut for the Holidays, eh?

I fretted about it for a while, not knowing how it’d hurt me, some friends noticing a decrease in hair quality with my long hair.

I always wonder when I cut it off if it’ll ever grow back.

But so far it has, every time I’ve cut it, and I admit to a rare liking for this haircut, obtained from the old-school Italian barber down the street.

“I have the same anxieties about my beard.” Rob Malone told me. And there it is. If Rob could have beard-fears and overcome them, I should feel the same about a haircut.

I worried about auditions and my image and sticking out in a crowd, but I figured that if Stephen Colbert congratulated me the last time I got a haircut, it was probably worth periodically checking in to.

As New Year’s has drawn closer, I’ve been asked about my plans. I used to be the coordinator of these sorts of things for my friends, the man in the know about parties, or at least the man who knew someone in the know.

But last New Year’s, I spent cuddled up with Eva, watching TV and lying in bed, sleepy. We fell asleep holding each other and never felt the worse for missing something outside, with what we had there.

Or at least that’s my version and I’m sticking to it.

This year, for the first time ever, I’m working, a fact which caused me to contemplate whether I should call out sick or just tell my job to go fuck itself (as they’ve scheduled me for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day/Eve AND New Year’s Day/Eve all thanklessly/depsite my requests), but decided on my father’s advice, to just grin-and-bear it, since I’d be off by 11 and “New Year’s is overrated”.

It’s a lonely holiday, I guess, at least for those unprepared for it.

The time you think about the year and wonder what you’ve accomplished.

A night you want someone else to hold and know, for at least that moment, that you have something; a rock in the river of time.

A time, I know, I’ll probably be out doing what I’ve done in past non-cuddly years, trying to smile and talk to girls in a crowd of mind-altered lonely people, probably on a roof somewhere in Brooklyn.

It’s sad to be going back there.

But, with a haircut, it feels like a start.

***

I’ve been getting more morning shifts at work, which is good, since they involve less work, less customers and, usually, more hours, but they’ve also necessitated something I thought eliminated from my lifestyle: breakfast.

My rails against breakfast are known to my friends and they usually go something like this:

Imagine you went to a restaurant and all they had was pizza. You weren’t in the mood for that, so you left and you went somewhere else. But that place and the next place, everywhere you went only had pizza. Maybe some of them had pizza-related items also, like garlic knots or stromboli, but nowhere could you find sushi or Indian food or Thai or anything else varied, only pizza.

It would seem like some arbitrary or cruel mass decision, no?

This is what breakfast is in America. A time when we arbitrarily limit our palettes to eggs and “breakfast” related foods, as opposed to the other times of the day, when we can eat anything.

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you, one worthy of some Rob Malone/Dan Pleck investigation, though I know both of them are still too wrapped up in “who killed Kennedy”.

Anyway, the whole thing has led me to some egg hatred and a general skipping of that time of day, usually through sleep or toughing it out, eating a snack if necessary.

But the tide might have been turned on me, by this one egg sandwich.

Bite, on Bleecker and Lafayette, was previously one of my work-around places: the sort of place you could order a regular non-Breakfast-y panini at 9am.

But when I heard their customers raving about their egg sandwiches at that hour, I decided to try.

Bite, an Israeli-style hybrid joint, makes their egg omelette-style, throws some sharp Swiss (no substitutions!) in there and puts it with some REAL plum tomato on a toasted brioche with (yes!) some hot sauce (!!!) to give it some actual flavor. It’s a 5-bite affair, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get me to my 3pm lunch break at work in one non-hypo-glycemic piece.

The last day I had it, I felt a glow about me all day long, the sort of thing I used to get from love, or a really good Indian lunch buffet.

When I recognized comic-improv actor Zach Woods at a late show at the theater, I brought him too mini-bags of popcorn, in a classy showing of that good-food feeling.

Later, I’m pretty sure he ignored my Facebok friend request.

But at least the sandwich was good.

***

BITE

Egg Sandwich w/Swiss Cheese, Plum Tomato and Homemade Special Hot Sauce on a Toasted Brioche- $3.50

SE Corner of Bleecker and Lafayette Sts.

BDFM6 to Bleecker/Broadway-Lafayette Sts. NR to Prince St.


Weekend Time

November 22, 2010

Saturday was a bad day for me, even if I didn’t know it from the start.

Perhaps this was because Friday had worked itself out so well.

Even though Friday I found out that I had food poisoning from a wrap I’d gotten nearby, the people at my work had been sympathetic, I’d gone home early and, best of all, I’d gotten to spend the night with Eva, lying in bed, ordering Chinese food and watching epsiodes of “The Walking Dead” and “Ugly Americans” we hadn’t seen.

The first show was one my friends had been raving about but neither Eva nor I had seen (it was fun).

The second was a show I felt Eva liked more than I did, a sort of hipster low-rent Futurama, which I was nonetheless drawn to, as it seemed wrapped up in this whole world of New York Comedy (from where it derives it writers/stars/setting) and thus a tome from which I could drawn some sort of wisdom/insight for whatever the fuck it was that I was doing with all these improv/sketch classes.

But anyway.

Friday night was nice.

Saturday I woke up to realize:

a. Perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten all of those water chestnuts out of my chinese food as I fucking hate the things, but felt like I was just giving them yet another chance, which is a bad idea when you might still be food-poisoned.

and

b. I had a sketch to write for my class.

My Saturday morning sketch writing class had been started on a whim, glimpsed on a website with a teacher whom I had seen around and who had been referred by many others. And though sketch is not my natural form (I’ve taken a class on it before at NYU), I felt that it couldn’t be far from all of these Improv skills I was supposedly learning and that the two went hand-in-hand.

To that end, my class was super-supportive. A mixed bag of people ranging from stand-up comedians to construction workers, to disgruntled Google employees, they tended to give people the benefit of the laugh out of their own insecurities or perhaps a general feeling of good humor, perpetuated by the teacher, who resembled (to me) a giant nesting owl.

My previous attempt to write a sketch the morning of the class had gone off fairly well, especially for how poorly I had felt about it and leaving last week, I felt that glow about me temporarily I felt in film school, the glow of feeling like you’re “getting it” like you’re “going somewhere”, like you “have promise”. It’s a hard thing to describe, but it’s bad, it makes you cocky.

But it gives you hope, where none should reasonably exist.

Anyway, I tried again this week, brought mine in, volunteered my sketch comfortably second and the crowd was dead.

My teacher, normally supportive, suggesting other jokes that could be added to the sketch, instead suggested other directions I could have gone off for the subject material.

I even asked the class if they’d seen the source material (it was a movie parody) in a mix of fear and indignation and they confusedly nodded.

It was sad and it’s sad looking back upon.

The rest of the sketches got laughs and when I left I felt shoddy.

Yes, I knew, I’d take this as a lesson. I hadn’t watched enough sketch comedy, hadn’t written enough sketches. It was a hard thing to learn that didn’t come naturally to many people. I would look back from this and learn and be glad I didn’t end up as  the sort of self-satisfied writer that made the sort of mistakes I made in that sketch. I would grow.

But that means fuck-all when you’ve just had a bad weekend sketch class and the rest of your life is working at a movie theater.

Eva wasn’t around on Saturday.

So I spent the rest of the day eating and watching Mr. Show, as an attempt at ritual sketch-purification.

It would only be later that I would realize that eating heavily the day after you’ve been food-poisoned isn’t the best way to go.

I guess that was the other part of Saturday.

***

Sunday wasn’t much better, though I guess after Saturday, it could be forgiven.

I had a rare day shift at the theatre and helped trained a nice, new girl at the theater, at least in all of my pet-peeves and foibles.

I still felt bad (lit/fig) from Saturday, but at least down at the concession stand, on shift, I was nearby the bathroom.

By the time it was nearing the end of my shift, I had been lectured by a crotchety old lady on customer service and had at least one woman walk away in disgust at the price of a water bottle.

But I had also had an old Jewish-Catskills comedian, Van Harris, come up and talk to me and tell me his life story and tales of comedy, in a way that felt somewhat meaningful.

Other than the usual, “it’s not what you know but who”, he gave me that the most important thing in comedy “is that your mind work quick” and he told me about his grandson, a BU-FIlm grad who reviews movies in Las Vegas and does stand-up on the side.

“It’s a hard life for him, his late twenties.” He told me. “It’s working right now. But if he stays in it, who knows what he’ll do.”

I wondered if my grandmother feels the same about me.

In my on-going quest to gain some kind of come-uppance at my movie-theater place of business (which Eva described as “what are you going to do, force them to respect you at a minimum wage job?” and my father described as “who the fuck cares?”), I managed to express my frustration to the managers succinctly about not being trained as a projectionist when I had been led to believe otherwise and my request seemed to have some traction.

“Alright, come in tomorrow. We’ll get you started.” The manager told me. “Just go make sure it’s ok with the projectionist.”

Unexpected victory in hand, I marched out of the manager’s office, called out the projectionist’s name and then gamely tripped on a running 35-millimeter print of “Four Lions” that was playing, causing alarms in the booth, inches from the aforementioned manager and stopping it almost at once.

“Wheruohohrah.” The projector went.

And I went silent.

It was okay, I guess. The projectionist was right there. He fixed it quickly and no one complained. He told me sympathetically, that there had been worse first outings in the projection booth. I agreed toc ome back on Monday and see if I could “cause less harm”.

On Saturday, I’d sent my sketches over to John Beamer who had decamped from my apartment, first for a full-floor of a family friend’s Cobble Hill apartment, then back to Palo Alto for family time/Thanksgiving. John had been someone I’d always respected for his comedy chops and his bluntness and when he’d told me a web-episode I was having trouble with for the writing group “worked”, I went from stuck-and-abandoned to finished real fast. I’d sent him both the one the class liked and the one they didn’t, seeing if he would come to the same conclusions.

After I’d left work on Sunday, I resumed by hedonistic sketch-cleansing with an interlude dinner with “frequent blog-guest” Chadd Harbold, who was gamely there to chill after my shift and hear my stories.

Of course, all this stress and eating and stress-eating just reignited my food poisoning which woke me up at 2am last night, from what was supposed to be an early bedtime.

There on my phone, in the bathroom, was John’s reply.

He hated both of them, which I guess I should have expected, in a several-paragraph deconstructed email.

For some reason this comforted me, knowing I hadn’t gotten from “getting it” to not, but rather just from “terrible at sketch comedy” to “terrible, yet again.”

After the bathroom, I went back and got some sleep.

***

As I said, on Saturday, I made some poor decisions, gastro-intestinally for  post-food-poisoned body.

This does not, however, extend to poor culinary decisions.

Because on Saturday, I ate well.

In my haste to erase my previous class, I fled from Midtown to the overcrowded streets of Broadway/SoHo, where Twitter had told me my love/hate the Mexicue truck was hanging out.

I had actually been there earlier in the morning before my class, in an attempt to gain some decent lunch before heading over to nigh-on Penn Station, but they’d done their usual tease, telling me they’d open at 11:15 and then not starting till after 11:40. By the time they were open I was gone and resentful.

But after a bad foray into the outside world, like a good abused spouse, I was back.

However, both times on my way to the truck, I was hijacked by another rival Mexican truck on the same block as Mexicue: the Tribeca Taco Truck.

I’d never heard of them and were amazed they were going up so brazenly against Mexicue, a truck known for their inciting of office-worker flash mobs in midtown over who’ll get the last short rib taco, but here they were.

And even though at first glance they looked like the sort of half-hearted breakfast/taco truck that haunts Christopher St. like a dull joke, a quick glance at the menu revealed unexpected items like “Tofu Chipotle” and “Nopales” or grilled cactus, which I couldn’t recall seeing other places at all.

The prices too were incredibly cheap, 2.50 taco (good) but 5 dollars (insane!) for a burrito with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, guac, a meat of your choice and even their specialty sauces which ranged from the Calexico-known “Avocado Crema” to the outlandish such as “Barbequed Pineapple” and “Sweet Mango (Habanero)”, which burned my tongue when I dipped in my pinky to taste a small sampling of it.

I got the chicken taco both times I went there, in the morning and when I returned later with foodie-accomplice Emmeline Wilks-Dupoise, trying both the Peruvian-Style Salsa Verde and the Chipotle Crema. Both were excellent experiences, though as a semi-purist I preferred the Salsa Verde, which reminded me slightly (and anachronistically) of Caracas Arepa Bar. If the chicken was a little closer to street meat, than the supple pulled-smoked chicken of Mexicue sliders, it underscored the sheer plain-spoken-ness of the smiling semi-bearded truck-proprietor and his enthusiasm due his own food.

This was “real Mexican truck food, not Mexicali” as Emmeline reported to her own foodie-boyfriend over her smart-phone, walking down Prince St. Her Grilled Cactus taco was topped with pineapple salsa and some of my purloined spicy mango as well, which didn’t even make her blink.

“I eat spicy food all the time.” Emmeline said non-chalantly.

“You got hours?” I asked the truck-proprietor, in mid-taco.

“For you, I’ll be here every day!” He announced grandly.

And soon my taco was handed to me, complete.

***

TRIBECA TACO TRUCK

Pollo Asado Taco w/Salsa Verde (Peruvian Style)- $2.50

Broadway bet. Prince and Spring St (hours uncertain, try Zagat FoodTruck Tracker or ask a friend in-the-know)

R to Prince St, 6 to Spring St, BDFM to Bway-Laffayete Sts.


Virtually Defriended

November 3, 2010

“So I guess I can never write you anything again.” Chadd told me. “Otherwise it’ll just appear on your blog.”

It was the night before Halloween and Chadd was dressed up snazzily as The Invisible Man, with gauze, a suit and a trench-coat, while I was wearing a quickly splintering beard as a Hasidic Jew.

“I guess you should probably be careful what you say then.” I told him. “I’ve got a good memory for these sorts of things.”

And he laughed.

After opening last week with a mixed-critique, Chadd clarified that he didn’t want to get me down with his criticism of my script, something I knew well. The point was it just sucked to hear bad news, even though I had rather hear the truth than lies or nothing (or at least, what I can accept).

The party we were at (actually the disused fire escape of the party) was one of the big, expensive-ish open bars I was surprised to hear about on Halloween, but which apparently existed universally for that date.

My costume had gotten me some looks up-and-down the street and later a man in an inflatable stripper suit would try to rub up on me, presumably to make my costumed character uncomfortable. For all my discomfort growing up in New York, dealing with my own perceiving and perceived judgment by the ultra-Orthodox community here in NY, my Halloween costume ended up being a strange lesson in “walking a mile in their shoes.”

After all, when I came into work my co-workers couldn’t recognize me for a while. They look puzzled or stunned, or as if they didn’t know how to react. I felt uncomfortable thinking I was the source of such emotions until they were broken with laughter, recognition.

I ended up missing out on a hangover from that pre-Halloween night (though I had one for Halloween, later), heading home early and not taking full advantage of my open-bar privileges.

Eva wasn’t there and, without her, I mostly don’t see the point of parties, anymore.

I awoke Halloween morning to John Beamer in his now continuously-labeled John-Cave (my laddered sleeping-loft), who at least had a decent story.

***

For one of the first times my therapist asked me: “What are you talking about?”

I should explain.

I’m not sure what sort of relationships people have with their therapists (if any), but mine amounts to somewhere between a Jewish confessional and a conversation.

My talk with her usually has to deal with things I am uncomfortable about, things I want to change, but also whatever is on my mind, to which she replies.

She is obviously a warm, intelligent woman, of around my mother’s age, who shares at least some of my interests. We could discuss politics, or film, or the merits of the book Holes (many).

Our talks are not usually a cryptograph, in my mind at least, where I recount my vivid dreams seeking to explore past trauma, though to be truthful I don’t know where my therapy is going.

Rather, our talks are usually processing how I am feeling and how I can most accurately portray what’s on my mind to her, so she can take it in, so she can see it.

I remember when I read a review of In Treatment, the show I like especially because of how it contrasts/compares with my own experience, I was made uncomfortable by the assertion that “therapy, on the part of the patient, is often a series of defensive lies”. (Which I guess I could see as being some of the play of the show.)

That’s not what I want to do, what I am doing, I thought with less than certainty.

Which brings me back to the explanation that I tried to give to my therapist to understand:

“Dealing with people that are being guarded makes me uncomfortable. It just makes me feel uneasy. I have been told or accused in the past of having some mild form of Asperger’s, a convenient excuse for some of my less social behaviors, but one quality I have is that it can be difficult for me to tell whether someone is being serious or not. So I guess when I talk to people, in social situations, and they seem guarded, they seem not present, not there, it feels like a trick. Like they’re deceiving me. It makes me feel uncomfortable, as if someone was calling me stupid. And worse, it makes me unsure of myself and the world around me and how to judge it.”

When my therapist asked for more, I tried giving it. I talked about “a wall” I felt around some people, I talked about meeting people at the UCB, after classes or a show, telling them a story and seeing the disconnect on their face. I guess the context of the lack of connection/understanding mattered almost as much as the situation itself. If this was going to be my life, how would I get people to deal with me on my level.

At film school it was easy, since there was more time to feel around an angsty crowd, to grab friends and leave friends and adjust socially to a place that was comfortable. But maybe the added context of my life is what adds the pressure and not just the “wall”.

At home, John Beamer tried to tell me that if I followed comedy, this would be the way of the rest of my life. People would be guarded, people would be fake.

“People leave themselves for on-stage.” John said. “Anything that’s unsavory or strange they leave there, to use in their comedy. Because in real life, off-stage, you can’t be that jerk you were just lampooning, you have to be a winner.”

“A winner”.

After I voted yesterday, I broadcast my vote for a local NY politican and internet-meme Jimmy McMillan and defending my vote, I managed to offend an ex-co-worker so badly that she de-friended me on Facebook.

I said the wrong thing at the wrong time I guess, but I was shocked when it happened. I had just talked to this woman, a talented up-and-comer, a few weeks ago at her request. We’d had a nice long conversation that had gone amicably and well.

And that was enough that she absented herself from my life. I couldn’t see it, but I just felt bad.

That night, I couldn’t sleep, until I did.

***

When heading home from the aforementioned, mind-bending therapy session, I had another mind-bending thing happen to me: free food.

I actually did a double take to stop on the street. A truck called Malaysian Kitcken had pulled up and was offering samples (in 45 minutes) of Malaysian food, in order to promote it as a viable NYC take-out option.

Free food that has the word “asian” in it you say?

I was there.

For 45 minutes.

Waiting in line for a small plate.

Which this was not.

Because those Malaysians (actually white PR guys repping Malaysian food) did their job and right after my sample, I went barreling over to Laut, the much lauded super-stealthy Malaysian joint on the side of Union Square which recently (and to me, totally unexpectedly) received a Michelin star, despite offering Thai-style take-out lunch specials!

Which is in fact, the sumptuous picture you see before you, a Malaysian Chicken Curry lunch special stuffed full of string beans, sauteed okra and savory bits of chicken.

My stomach rumbled for it as I gulped it down, licking the box after completion.

The curry was neither the gulpy-creaminess of a “Tikka Masala” nor the dry mild-spicyness of a “Massaman” curry, nor even a doubly hot “Vindaloo”. Instead it was peppery, probably influenced by the advertised “fried chiles” and bound together by coconut milk, which made it light and cut the spice while keeping the flavor.

In the end at home, I was kicking myself for not going to this place when I lived, for almost a year, a block away from it.

But what can I say: Chipotle was new then.

Ah, what a time.

***

LAUT

Malaysian Chicken Curry Lunch Special w/Brown Rice- $10

17th St bet. Broadway and 5th Ave

NQR456L to 14th St.-Union Sq.