Why Am I Such A Downer?

April 12, 2012

On Monday, 4 separate people came up to me and asked me what the matter was and I didn’t know what to tell them.

More disconcerting than whatever was going on in my heart was the fact that it was so readily apparently, obvious to 4 different people, so urgent that not only did they notice it, they felt the need to come up to me directly in order to have some sort of intervention.

And what was that?

My hairline? A source of easy, venial obsession. I noticed the other day a spot on my frontal scalp hair would not grow and which I keep trying to sweep to the side or not notice, an easy signifier but not something worthy of a massive self-immolating breakdown to the point that people are concerned.

My weight? Still a point of contention for me, so much so that wandering around on Monday I considered talking to a nutritionist, a medical doctor (something suggested by my father after I told him the difficulty I had had opening  tough window) or downloading a fitness app, only to finally just literally google “What should I weigh” only to discover from the rote internet that I was literally at my ideal weight or, said differently by a tipsy girl at the bar last night: “Really, you’ve lost a lot of weight Nick since I first met you, don’t lose anymore or you’ll be too skinny.” Grace here is not imminent because it is something I chose to change about myself (thus a point of vulnerability) but at least validation from a stupid google search proves the insanity of my inadequacy there.

Romantic difficulties? These have tortured me since forever, so there’s no big change there, except maybe sometimes feeling like a dirtbag. Going in to my therapist’s on Tuesday, she posited that the issue regarding my weight and my romantic difficulties were inter-connected and thus feeding each other in terms of worry, that “you were wearing your extra weight as an excuse, a way to protect yourself or not take responsibility for your difficulty in finding someone compatible with you”. After all if I had the excuse that there was something physical I could change about myself, I could let myself off the hook for the more difficult work of maybe just accepting myself more, being more okay with myself, just being a happier person.

I gave a note the other day to the Level One improv class that I Big Brother (read: like a TA in college) that was given to me by Peter McNerney: “A great gift that you can give to your scene partner is being natural, not being worried, not trying to “get it right”. Because when you get yourself in that headspace of ‘getting it right’, you close yourself to the opportunities of what the scene can become.” An easy note, a difficult one to accept. If I want to be more desirable, more fun to play with, find some more balance or okay-ness in myself. Don’t try to blame percentage points of my own weight (“If I lost 1 pound would I be one pound closer to  a girlfriend?” cries flawed and silent logic) but instead just do the work of trying to enjoy myself more, be happier, be more in the moment and ready.

In my yoga classes I take (again Young Nick cries out in douchebaggery at present Nick’s invocation of yoga), the teacher will often tell us in poses, “Don’t look down at the ground. Looking down at the ground may serve you in life, probably not, but maybe. But here, in practice, look up.” Like in yoga, in life, in improv, just trying to stay positive, not seeming worried, being affected but staying up until something important comes along, well, it’s important.

So I went into my therapist and confessed like I would a confessional the different ways I felt like I was undermining myself romantically, the ways I felt inadequate or sad or frustrated. And my teacher Christina Gausas is right that “after a certain while, navel-gazing becomes about ego”, in the way that people have pity-parties as a way to attract attention and receive external validation, but it also felt good just to be explicit about what you feel about your life, to be expressive to say your emotions in a way that they could be exposed and then mastered. In my work with my coach Sean Taylor, one of his most frequent notes to me and my teammates is just to “speak your thoughts”. In life we are frequently coy because we fear the consequences and certainly as I look back on a youth of speaking rawly out of either extremes of speaking out of intense emotionality or saying nothing that that is not the best way to live, but damnit, if you can just talk to another person, birth your thoughts and insecurities into the world, make your unconscious or conscious mind exposed for a moment, what a difference that makes.

To reiterate a note from last week from Neil Casey- “We are that special breed of people who can talk about what they mean on stage”. Or, that way, in life.

People ask why I write this blog, why I write things so personal here and it would be easy to say that it is therapeutic (and it is), but the truth is as it has always been, is that storytelling is a craft which is both a practice and a way of attaining a sort of mastery over the self. In connecting the dots in my own life on paper, I see my own patterns, forgive myself for my own mistakes, make manifest what is only insecurity when it floats around in my brain. When I talked to my friend Matt Weir this morning, who is very handsome and tall and an inveterate improv lady-killer, he was telling me how important it was to have that moment “where you realize you are in the presence of someone or something important”, where you take that time to recognize the importance of the moment and not blow it off, but try not to worry about it.

And then the paradox of yoga, improv, acting, what have you: To care about the things that are important to you. To consider them without worrying about them. To show the appropriate amount of attention to things that drive you without letting them consume your life or become yet too much for you. Yesterday in my groovy friend Emily Shapiro’s “Yoga For Freaks and Geeks”, a cheap yoga class she runs for improvisers and comedians, Emily talked about “Tree Pose”, that classic pose in yoga where you try to put one bent leg high upon the other, balancing on the straight leg: “Maybe today you get high on your leg, maybe you’re just down by your ankle or even toes on the floor. Just try not to push your knee and hurt yourself. Wherever you are, that’s cool!” the last part intoned with her own goofy lilt. Finding balance in your life, your worries, your improv, everything.

And then that difficult part embodied by Emily’s cool-weird-girl lilt- Being in that place then, of “That’s cool!”

So there you are, people who came up to me, worriedly on Monday. My psyche exposed. I’m worried about my weight sometimes, my improv not so much right now (I had three great shows last week, pretty cool!) and my love life, happiness, balance, quite a lot. Sometimes I fall out of that pose, on to the floor and sometimes it gets me down not being where I want to be and I dive into that place of self-criticism, desperation or even the crappy validation-projection that happens looking on online dating sites or into the eyes of another person at a bar.

But even those days are fine, somewhere along the way.

Even those moments are fine as long as they are manifest and talk-able.

Because I think a scumbag is someone who isn’t honest with themselves.

And I think me, I just have a receding hairline.

And that will have to do.

***

It was a feast fit for a blood test.

As I have mentioned on this blog before, I suffer from psoriasis, one of the nerdist things one can suffer from.

Psoriasis makes you covered in terrible like scabs and crap and rough patches, it can be brought about by stress the environment or nothing, be dormant in you forever or make you into a freak of nature, standing around like some 50s Ray Harryhausen creation.

Luckily I take pills that control it for me, just leaving me with something that resembles but isn’t dandruff and a couple weird spots here and there. But, the medicine that I take does have all sorts of side effects causing me to get blood tested every now and then just to make sure that my liver isn’t failing or any of that crap.

And that also means, once in a while, in a while, I can’t eat anything for a full 12ish hours.

This would be easy for most men, but not a hypoglycemic crazy like me, oh no.

Between the waiting, the daze of getting up and the unfriendly people at the NYU Medical Center Pharmacy, by the time I have gotten my extraction given and on gone, band-aid placed, I am in a blur of food-crazed starving and blind anger searching like a sasquatch seeking brains!

But that old conundrum, one that used to plague me!

By the time I get done with these things it is ALWAYS 10:30-11:30am! The nether-zone of eating!

Too late for breakfast with it’s strictures and conventions (see other rants against breakfast on this blog) and too early for the nearby go-to Indian joints of Curry Hill (near to NYU-Med) to be open.

So it was in this way that I found myself trying out for the first time a place on Lexington that I never would have gone to ordinarily, one of the anonymous joints that line that street with adverts for sub-par lunch buffets or hot plate fare, all pale imitations of my beloved Dhaba Lunch Buffet which opened stunningly at noon! Noon! Too late!

Anjappar Chettinad is a South Indian restaurant, a breed that is usually vegetarian (and thus constantly advertised for NYC as being kosher) but this one advertised on the window that they featured “thalis”, the south indian tradition of a meal comprised of several small plates, but with non-vegetarian options as well. I almost opted for the North Indian special off their lunch menu, not knowing what anything really was, before a kind look from my waiter steered me back saying “If you come to a South Indian restaurant, it would make sense to try the South Indian food, no?”

It did.

The plate was deceptively huge with a chicken curry still on the bone, a delicious spicy vegetable curry with cauliflower, the precise makeup with which was unrecognizable to me, some biryani rice (plain) which I tried to have little of even though it was exquisitely spiced, raita and finally the bread.

The bread was the best part, my deepest regret, my greatest pleasure.

It was neither naan nor poori nor any of the indian breads I am used to. It was a heavier, flaky, pull-apart bread soaked with butter that felt rich and full absorbing curry fully with every bite. I was transported.

I ate so much more than I ever though possible.

Luckily Yoga was harder than I thought it would be with Emily Shapiro.

So I felt some sort of atonement.

And also drank some Diet Coke (sorry Emily :P)

***

ANJAPPAR CHETTINAD

South Indian Executive Lunch Special (Non. Veg)- $12.95 (15 w/tax+tip)

Lexington Avenue bet.  27th and 28th Sts.

6 to 28th St.

***

A final addendum, food wise.

I am addicted to those fucking hot wraps from Pret A Manger.

It is embarrassing.

I blame Christina Gausas who, while lovely and amazing and talented, has an unnatural predilection and love for that place that like most of her advice, forced me to follow it.

The Buffalo Chicken Wrap and The Falafel and Red Peppers Wrap are inexplicably excellent and relatively inexpensive (like 6-7 dollars). They are low in calories and (if you give them five or more minutes to digest) very filling, disturbingly so considering their low calorie count.

Now, I should be clear. I should hate Pret A Manger. They are a chain, the enemy of New York City business and innovation. Low calorie foods are stupid and lame and pre-packaged hot wraps? God, why don’t I go to fucking Denny’s?

But I can’t help it now.

I dream of getting fucked up and eating twelve of them, wrap after wrap.

Damn you, Christina Gausas. Damn you, Pret A Manger.

You have turned me in to a corporate shill.

 

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Karaoke, Lap-Lickings, Interviews and… Life?

May 16, 2009

It was a good night.

I met Zach and Rob and Mike over at Two Bros Pizza-their place not mine–the sort of insidious joint where a slice is a buck, insidious and tasteless, but unfortunately suited to cater to the tastes and the expenses of the post-college graduate.

It was early, but we thought to head out–after all, this had been planned.

I wound up with the first one.

“This is embarassing.” I told my audience, my friends. Before grabbing and going.

“A lawng december and there’s reason to be-leave, maybe this year will beeee better, than the last.”

I crooned in my nasal faux-half-country twang.

It was my graduation party, or at least as much of a student (ex-student)-driven one as I was going to get. I knew I loved karaoke and drinking and doing so with friends, especially those who are into karaoke or at least willing not to half-ass their way up to the microphone, an honest effort is key.

As such, I couldn’t have picked a better bunch. Zach Weintraub, newly-moustached (a fact I was not in favor of), pounded out some heavy metal stuff with the appropriate vocal-bending “wows” and “awooooos”. Ro-beardo Malone managed a couple good ones including a Carly Simon song and something I didn’t know but Zach and Rob described as “that song from Jurassic Park. John Beamer showed up, friend-in-tow, at one point and managed to do his standard “Bad Touch” while the friend just marveled in a frozen-mixture of amusement, envy and disgust (Aside: Sounds like a Coffee Coolata).

Jason Lee showed up in time to try to do an amusing pass at “Higher” by Creed and Junior non-graduating animator Blake LaRue showed up but was either unwilling or unable to withstand the rigor of proper song-deliverance. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the night was the bespectacled Mike Sweeny, a one-time English-and-Philosophy major and full-time Ohioan who managed to pick up Karaoke for his first time ever and by his second song (fourth beer) he was grooving like the rest of us.

Even though I describe the Karaoke as such, with the enthusiasm the experience afforded me, I understand that Karaoke is one of those things that defies description through the written word. While it’s one thing for me to tell you that John Beamer, consumate Nor-Cal white dood, got up and did a dead-on Louis Armstrong to close the night, it doesn’t come close to the drunk-skeazy lounge-awesome experience of it, something that can’t be bought.

Speaking of what can’t be bought, the bar definitely under-charged me for the night and even with my promotion intended to encourage first-timers (Do a song and your first beer is on me) and the beers I bought for my friends beyond that, the charge was around a hundred dollars less than what I would have thought. Add to that the bartenders are some nerdy white guys, one of whom did an excellent rendition of “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff, makes this a place I want to come back to. Planet Rose is the name over bet. 14th and 13th on Ave A.

Like I said, my writing didn’t do it justice. But Karaoke is one thing though; having a fuckng-good time with your friends is another. My party was reluctantly advertised on facebook to try to attract whoever wanted to come (more friends/songs=more goodness), but no one who said they were going to come on Facebook came. There were like two maybes and a few who didn’t respond. I guess it meant more to me then, despite the failure of my half-hearted attempts at social networking, that a bunch of people did come and that we had a good-goddam time.

Like I said, it’s difficult to describe, but there’s little like joining in on the chorus of a Sum 41 song, banging into your friends crowded round a wireless microphone trying to belt out something about casualty and society, when you’re approaching too drunk to read the screen.

***

The party also felt good because of the morning I’d had.

My days had been vacillating somewhere between panic that I didn’t have a summer job, to intense self-hatred that I didn’t have a summer job, to general anesthitizing depression about the prospects for my life and general wonderings as to whether I should apply for a job at Starbucks or Pret a Manger (stock options/benfits vs. higher pay), before settling down to the conclusion that the question was moot since as a BFA student neither would hire me and instead I should just go home play video-games and eat month-old Newman-Os.

That said, I got kind of excited for my job interview.

It was for a company, one of those small production companies with cool indie-ish directors, where I’d be reading scripts and writing about them, something I did in fact feel qualified to do and something which it felt like did not take me away from the film-school education that now seemed less like an education and more like an extended game of Candyland.

So I took the interview seriously. I had writted a good cover letter. I wore a nice shirt. I arrived 15 minutes early and took a seat.

I was fine taking a seat. A nice receptionist greeted me. I felt confident. I reclined.

And that’s when the dog started barking.

The space was the sort of unseparated yoga-ball-type loft that some artsy-type places have and in the middle, between these unseparated desks, there was a dog, a toughed-up black lab, who immediately started barking upon my settling in.

I adjusted myself a bit up. Chill out, I thought, maybe there’s like another dog somewhere. Or a bird at the window. Or like someone is testing the dog and said “Speak, doggie!” and I just didn’t hear it.

Bark. Bark, bark.

No, that’s definitely me.

From the midway between the desks, the black lab started advancing on me barking.

The response was fairly quick.

First the production staff yelled from their desks at the dog, then they got up and patted him, then they had to restrain him physically, then they had to bring him into a corner where I was not in sight. Then finally, once they went back to their desk, the dog just ran out towards me again and the whole debacle begun anew.

My strategy throughout was to sit where I was, a strange, uncomfortable and semi-confident smile stapled to my face, like I was going in for an interview at Domino’s.

“Yes, I think I do value punctuality.” I would tell the Domino’s manager, smile-on-face, as he would size me up to be a fat, incompetent Jew and proceed to hire the high-school-dropout behind me.

Back at reality, the dog was settled and the woman I was interviewing with was ready to see me.

I tried to answer her questions honestly and directly–No I hadn’t done coverage before but I’d taken a class on Script Analysis and I had been a film critic for 4 years. Yes, I was from New York. Yes, I’d be around all summer, except for maybe a week for a film shoot. Yes, I’d done a few internships before.

But during this line of questioning, the dog returned.

I saw him from out the corner of my eye as he returned, placid this time and I exhaled my held-in breath.

“C’mere, Doh-gee.” The interviewer intoned and brought the dog over, stroking it’s black-lab head.

I just smiled and look straight forward.

I began to answer questions about my past internships.

“Well, I was more of an office intern at American Teen.” I told her. “I did payroll, some assistant editing stuff, logging and sec–”

A sensation. I stared down.

I have struggled in recounting this story on how to describe this and have come to only this conclusion, through some futzing around.

I was interrupted to find the dog aggressively licking my crotch.

.

I tried to laugh a little. I put on that nervous smile.

Later, my father upon hearing the story had told me: “You should have pushed the dog away. They probably think you’re weirder for not doing that.”

But I wanted to antagonize neither dog nor owner, so I just smiled and continued while the dog licked my crotch.

“Secretarial and office stuff. Really a lot of stuff really.”

The woman said she’d get back to me and send me a script.

But I haven’t heard back yet and I’m skeptical that I even will.

Thus is the world as I’ve come to accept it and I’ll keep on meeting and sending out resumes, looking for somewhere to go.

But I did have to wash those jeans.

***

As I said, I seem to go through these days in a sense of mania–from doldrums to up-moments and back down again into the dead-end-life of video games.

It feels like the summer, even though it’s the spring, which makes me wonder whether the rest of my life will be the summer; a time of waiting for things to happen.

I know that it won’t, that it can’t (I couldn’t eat). But as I contemplate Pret or Starbucks (Pret has better sandwiches, Starbucks better coffee), I wonder “is this the real life, is this just fantasy, caught in a landslide, no escape from reality”.

That would have been a good song to do.

But they’ll be more nights of Karaoke meanwhile.

Of that, at least, I’m somewhat sure.