Finding The Balance

April 17, 2012


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

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

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

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The Apple Of…

April 6, 2012

I eat apples now.

Walking around New York City in the all-encompassing want-to-eat after Yoga, meandering between classes, rehearsals and such, I want something sweet.

The chocolate “bark” I keep in my bag for dessert-y things is quickly depleted through sharing and late-night, mid-day and other cravings. I want something portable and I don’t crave anything sugary due to the calming effects of the dark chocolate.

So I go for apples. A new development in my life.

But I find myself needing one to eat.

As referenced by friends and even in the New Yorker not so long ago, this is not as easy as it might seem. For some reason, between childhood when I ate apples enjoying their simple sweetness and the current moment, skipping over the many years when I did not eat the fruit (who would eat an apple if you could eat a Candy Center Crunch from Good Humor?), apples seem to have either vastly declined in quality (a talked about rumor) or my taste buds have changed significantly (true as well). Now, unlike the daily banana that with a piece of Babybel cheese consists of my breakfast, I cannot just pick up an apple anywhere.

Myst has to be made about finding an organic store, sifting through or discovering the right kind of apple (Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, the list goes on) and then spending the 1,2,3 dollars just to try to get to something that tastes like it’s sweet and edible as opposed to mealy like the Red Delicious or Granny Smith has been reduced to.

It’s a strange task, but one suited to me.

After all, I’m a chaser.

To make the obvious metaphor, I chase around girls, trying to find the balance. For all the roller-coaster highs and lows of comedy, I feel like I’m getting a lot of attention in my small corner of my small community for the work that I am doing (despite how much I still beat myself up for not being good enough or getting it right, in a direct proportion of about 3-4 bad rehearsals shows-to about-2-3 good ones). My therapist continues to compliment me on my looks, as does the old woman Marie who wakes me up every morning grunting up the stairs (“You’re beautiful.” she tells me, when I see her on the doorstep). I had someone text me for a date last week out of the blue that seemed fun and fine. I even have people tell me at the bar come up and say they “like my face” which is pretty cool, but in flirty situations, I still don’t know who I am.

As I try on being mildly aggressive, it’s like putting on a character in a scene. When you touch my arm, are you touching it because that’s the way you are or you want me to touch you back? How much contact is too much? Or how do I even gauge how you feel about me? Now that I’m not so hung up on crushes (or am I?), I can be better about backing off, not hanging my hat on one thing. But then if I’m just flirting, how do I read your mind or confidently make moves when I don’t know how much to put on, how little?

I feel like I get kind of creepy when I talk about this stuff and, of course, I assume it is something I will learn at some point (bringing things back to yoga, I didn’t assume with that I’d be a prodigy over night, much to my aid) but it goes to life and improv and everything. In situations of comfort or elevated status we can be comfortable and otherwise not.

An improv example: this past week I did a rehearsal with my friends Teddy and Sebastian. Both of them are incredibly funny, talented people who have had a lot of opportunities thrown their way because of how good they are, how hard they work. Our coach is Louis Kornfeld, an improviser I have amazing respect for and I get into the room and I just choke and choke repeatedly. My friends are being hilarious, getting tons of laughs, making nice, natural choices. I am talking quickly, unnaturally, sounding worried. Telling people who they are. It takes me all the way until the end of rehearsal to get out of this place of tension.

A counter example: I go into the class where I big brother (read: T.A. the class) and help teach the students exercises and I do great, feel super-natural and when I make mistakes I don’t sweat it. I got to do a show last night on the Magnet mainstage, that I was so tired and burned out for, I had just had a class I had done terribly in right before it and had no rehearsal and destroyed it. Everyone at the bar was talking about how funny I was, coming up to me, shaking my hand. It’s improv so that show is gone forever, but for that night, it was mine.

When I find myself in a place of comfort or not, when a girl stares into my eyes and tells me “you know people really like you around here” or grasps my hand or something, or when I just have no idea who someone is to me and so act naturally, without as much self-regard, I tend to do better. The same as improv, dating, life, job interviews, god… But when I feel that pressure to perform, whether it be on track to team auditions, or just in a room full of people I respect (or a girl I have a crush on) it can be easier to find myself in that place of self-doubt, of instant self-judgement. Crippled.

This happens often. As I’ve said, I’m a chaser of things, formerly dreams (replaced by “doing the work”), sometimes girls, still constantly: approval.

I still seek it out and even in that seeking, find myself lost (a cliche, but…)

In a great speech Michael Delaney gave to my improv class two weeks ago, he talked about people auditioning for Harold Teams at the UCB theater and talked about the priorities of these people in comedy:

“They all want to get on Saturday Night Live, right?” He said. “I think that’s honorable, that’s an honorable goal. But I think it’s a shame when people miss the opportunities they could find along the way while they’re hurtling so quickly towards their goals.”

Because isn’t that the trick of it? Just slowing down and noticing. Seeing what happens, being open, even as you have a want?

In improv, pretending you don’t know you’re funny, that you have no idea what you’re doing, so that you can accept and give laughter?

In acting, “pretending you’re not pretending”.

In dating, seeming like you’re not needy for long enough for you to both admit that you are, in a way that’s hopefully mutually manageable?

I’ve walked around New York City a bunch. I’m less worried about my weight.

I’ve eaten quite a few apples.

Maybe it’s just fun, finding my type.

Or having a show.

Or going with overwrought metaphors.

For one post or two.

***

I feel like for most of my food discoveries, they could just all be chalked up to: “What can I say? I was hungry.”

I had noticed a hole-in-the-wall called “Meatball Obsession” a few times, sticking up near the PATH train on my way/walk up toward the improv ghetto from down near my house.

The proximity to mass-transit along with the specificity and tinyness of the location all contributed to my interest and one semi-hungover morning before class I decided to just sit at a Starbucks waiting, waiting for it to open.

It claimed to be the home of the “meatball-in-a-cup” and indeed it was, with various balls retrieved from crock pots with toppings administrated liberally.

There was a sandwich option which I did not avail myself of, but I was happy to report that the cup was full and nourishing.

I got the turkey meatballs in a “double” which were great (though my mother’s remain the gold standard), filled with bread crumbs and light with thyme for flavoring. I also opted for the Genoa topping at an extra buck which added toasted pine-nuts, shaved parmesan and some nice extra virgin olive oil I saw to the top of my meatballs coated with “sunday sauce”.

The dipping bread was delicious, dangerous, unexpected. Strips of parmesan-coated Foccacia already placed swimming in the sauce. I ate only one before throwing the other one out in a task that took too much willpower and a lot of fear.

Apparently they had opened that week so I felt pretty cool.

“You are.” They told me, looking me in the eyes.

And then I made out with the cashier.

***

MEATBALL OBSESSION

Double Turkey Meatball Cup w/Genoa Toppings (Shaved Parmesan, Pignolis, EV Olive Oil)- $8.71

6th Avenue bet 13th and 14th Sts.

123FL, PATH to 14th St.


Feel The Burn

March 28, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all of this is too vague. Some examples:

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

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

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

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

THAT. IS. FINE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But today, I feel happy and I feel fine.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yoga.

What the fuck have you done to me?

***

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

This is true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all was right in the world.

Until I woke up 2 pounds heavier, this morning.

***

OAXACA TAQUERIA WEST VILLAGE

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

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

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


That’s Me In There

January 23, 2012

“You look beautiful, you lost all this weight, how did you do it?”

These were the comments not of a lovely blond aspiring improviser/actress at the improv theater I attend but the octogenarian Italian woman who grunts up and down my staircase frequently at 9am on Sundays screaming “MARIE!” over and over again.

Typically late-morning around 11, she would be either sitting on the stoop, on the stairs or pre-laid cardboard box. She used to wait at the coffee shop across the street, hanging, her voice creaking, holding parlor about the world it’s issues (and surely Marie, whoever that is) until the coffee shop across the street closed at the New Year to everyone’s sad surprise.

She wasn’t the only one to notice.

If you were wondering why I’m making silly poses in the picture above, it is actually an approximation of the drunken mirror dance I did Saturday night after my improv team had a good show.

It went something like this.

Enter the door. Pivot. Urinate. Zip. Pivot Again. Turn To The Mirror. Notice Yourself.

Start a sing-song chant.

“Oh you. You’re there. You’re skinny. Oh wow. Good job. Good job, good job, good job. Good job. Good job. Alright!”

Fist bump up and then down into the chest.

“Peace out.”

Exit.

I relayed this information to funny effect to my teammates and friends Sebastian and Phoebe and our teacher Alan, whose tolerance for alcohol seemed to exceed particularly ours as he observed us post-several shots of Jameson and assorted drinks do our rounds.

I was of course recounting and making funny incomprehensible jokes to the room. Phoebe, who somehow was both drunker than us while drinking radically less refused to take a shot because she loudly claimed that someone came in it (I volunteered Sebastian as the culprit), while Sebastian, big goofy guy he is, just talked about how good he was at improv while wringing his head in his hands at the rest of us and doing his big Sebastian sigh.

When I informed everyone of the dance, Alan replied sort of neutrally, I guess happy for the show, while Sebastian just laughed quietly.

“What, is that really dumb?” I asked him.

“Yes.” Sebastian repeated. “Yes. You doing a dance in the mirror? Bro, I can safely say that’s pretty dumb.”

“Well I think you look great Nick!” Phoebe said. “I think your sex life is about to improve dramatically.”

“I hope.” I replied wondering somewhere how she knew about the state of my sex life, or whether it was still apparent just looking at me.

Is there some pheromone guys emit when they haven’t been dating in a while?

I thought I must have lost it when I lost the pounds but maybe not.

A girl did hit on me though, for the first time in a while, which felt pretty great and FOR ONCE, FOR ONCE, she was not married or with child.

I was just sitting in an Argo Tea Cafe while my friend Ben tried to convince me about meditation as it relates to improv (I must be this way about yoga, sadly) when a young lady just came up and thought I was a CEO, but I told her she probably recognized me from TV and this time I was right.

She dropped hints about going to try an Indian place with her, turned out we knew some of the same people and gave me her number.

It was more disconcerting than anything to be hit on, kind of like someone handing you 5 bucks on the street. You’d be happy but you’d also be like “OK, why? Thanks, oh wait, thank you!”

Like many things in my life, when personal revelations sweep me up, I may feel the need to share the discovery despite it not being new to everyone (sic).

For instance, Phoebe at the bar told me a story that one of our other teammates tried to pick her up the other night.

A tense glance was thrown around the room, even in our drunken, silly state.

“Uh, what did you do, Pheebs?” I asked, uncomfortably casually.

“I just told him not to lift me up that I didn’t like it.”

A sigh of relief.

“Oh, you mean he literally tried to pick you up.” Sebastian clarified. “Okay.”

“Yeah, I mean I thought you meant that he was flirting with you or something.” I said.

“Probably.” She said, blasé. “I assume you’ll all try to fuck me at some point.”

And then she laughed and knocked down the long-percolating shot, the replacement for the one she thought was dirty.

(As a side note: this sort of behavior makes Phoebe an excellent improviser. When you have a bunch of awkward guys up on stage making stuff up and few women, any attempt at sexual referencing can put women and the audience in a super-bad place super-fast. When Phoebe plays, she loves making fuck-jokes and anytime someone talks all sexy, she’ll go even dirtier than them, or take off her improv pants and say “What are you waiting for?” It’s a very impressive move that both makes us male improvisers look like doofuses in a good way and is refreshing and funny to see on stage.)

The point is that other people have to deal with this stuff too, sometimes more so than not. I probably won’t be hit on all the time, with my psoriasis and my lanky nerdiness now taking over where the chubbiness left off, but when I do I should try to feel it, feel the power of it and give as good as I get.

Just like in improv (sorry Rob), commitment and confidence are cool and important.

After all, I can try to hit on people to.

Instead of just creepily stare at them and kind of try to engage them in conversation, just wondering on and off if they’re interested in me.

Or just be there friend for 6 months (old model of behavior) and try to find some random moment to make out with them.

Skinny Nick doesn’t do those things.

Or if he does he does them skinnier.

And hopefully, with more dancing.

***

A recent obsession of mine has become talking to my phone.

Silly, I know, but I work hard at it.

Part of what got me my current job was my obsession with the minor user-end hacking of iPhones and iPads and how I enjoyed reading about it and customizing it myself.

When I heard it was theoretically possible to put Siri (the voice-assistant service that defines the iPhone 4S) on the iPhone 4, I went through a 30-day quest to find a way, navigating around Paypal scams, free sites and other craziness in pursuit of trying to find something functional.

When I went to France (which I miss more and more now that I am not there) my passion for trying to figure out how to explain a carrier unlock and how it would work never escaped me even as the fervor of it died down as I acceot my iPhone’s limited capacities there.

When I was preparing for my sketch show last night (my sketch was, unsurprisingly, about a man obsessed with Siri), I took time out from a tech-through rehearsal to jailbreak a girl on my team’s iPad 2, just because I could and wanted to. I installed Siri on there, even though it was complicated and unnecessary, just because I wanted to know I could.

Tinkering with these small Apple-locked devices makes me feel like a golden god, even if I don’t know fucking thing one about programming.

There’s only so much to judge here.

Deconstructing my own behavior, my excitement is both natural (I’ve always loved technology and forming a “Power-Rangers Megazord”-style fusion of things) and, like it used to be in mthe last two years of my life, certainly about trying to attain some sort of control, of my life, of something?

Going back into therapy, I recently started talking about film school in my attempt to disarm the psychological bombs I don’t want to deal with inside my head. And looking back on the progress I’ve made in my life since film school, since starting therapy, my life has calmed down a lot, I’ve become a more graceful person, more accepting of the lack of control one has over one’s life and more able to adapt (again, thank you improv and some age/experience).

But I also wonder what in me is “real” in terms of things that I am going through (the desperate-angst of post-collegia I’ve mostly escaped, the brooding-ness of my teens) and what’s there to stay.

Even without the word association of my ex’s name with my own weaknesses, I still miss her sometimes on the other side of my bed when I go to sleep. I still feel that loneliness or need for connection that, while it has lost its desperate edge (I’ve been off OKCupid for a while now) still persists. What is the “human” reaction that one has and what is something psychological that needs to be addressed.

The bas part of self-analysis is the potential for everything to become a complex.

I had a dream four days ago about a Google App called “Appellage” with a little Siri icon in the logo that let you travel in time. It was a confabulation, which is a dream full of things you see every day stitched together. I stare at my phone, talking to Siri. I use a advanced internet browser and look up “apps” for it. Someone in my sketch group had written a time-machine sketch. It was easy to analyze.

I dreamed I took it back in time to see my ex. She was in a diner, but somehow it was after the break-up, we knew what we know now. And she just kept asking me, slightly annoyed: “What do you want to say to me? What do you want to say?” and I didn’t know.

And I woke up.

And I tried saying hello to the Siri on my phone but it was buggy that day.

So I emailed the person who owned the server.

And at 11:35, it was back up.

Like that.

***

When I had a day free, I had lunch with my mother.

This may seem strange to y’all and it still seems strange to me.

I live in proximity of my parents as I have all my life, unlike my college friends, whose move to New York was part-crafty escape, or even my high-school friends who entertained a four-year or so reprieve.

Which is not to say I don’t love my parents, I do very much so and what’s more, enjoy their company.

Is the weir inter-dependence of me conversing with them and them wanting to see me natural, or weird? It’s hard to tell, particularly in New York City.

But it does work out well for lunch dates.

My mother picked on short notice on an off-day from work a place called Buvette which recently opened in the old “Pink Tea Cup” spot on Grove St in the West Village.

Inexpensive and well-reviewed, I quickly agreed, which gives you a sense where I got my restaurant sense from.

We showed up and raced for tables in the cramped Parisian-style bistro (though much nicer really) as the walls closed around us with people trying to sit down for “vienoisseries”.

We managed to grab a seat and I grabbed a cappuccino for recent-times’ sake and a salad full of potatoes and roasted chicken and haricots verts in a mustard dressing.

It was as delicious as it sounded, simple and buttery, with uncomplicated (but present!) spicing and the type of home-made feeling accomplished by your parents digging out the roast chicken from last night and tossing it with some really nice greens and last night’s veggies.

Which makes me remember that I can always go to my parents’ house a couple blocks away and get exactly that.

But maybe it’s nice to engage in false nostalgia sometimes.

And pretend that this is just a lunch date where my mom is in town.

Normal.

***

BUVETTE

Le Salade Poulet (w/haricots verts, pommes de terres)- $14

Grove St. bet Bleecker and Hudson Sts.

1 to Christopher St. PATH to Christopher St.


Dating

September 3, 2011

A lot of annoying things happened to me this week, but the worst was done by someone who didn’t even mean it. Who meant well. I’m sure of that.

Then again, when people make me feel bad, I’m sure they don’t usually mean it. I wrote a tweet coming home drunkenly on Thursday saying “In real life, people can be cruel but they’re rarely mean”.

I then proceeded to vomit up a bunch of red wine, try to shower the puke out of my nose, played another half an hour of video games and went to sleep.

But the point wasn’t lost on me; Not since middle or high school to people just come over and push you or call you a faggot or something like that. People aren’t mean often, in ways that are transparently so, save for a crazy person or an angered pedestrian/driver.

No, more often the people are cruel in doing actions that might seem normal, but that hit the emotional crux of what someone is feeling in a way the person enacting the cruelty doesn’t necessarily know or empathize with.

Being mean is just saying or doing something obvious to effect your feelings on to someone else. Being cruel is making that person hurt while they believe they might deserve it.

This “worst thing” was real bad in that way, in that it seemed so obviously to come from a place of concern.

A fellow improviser had sent me an email telling me that “from reading your blog and your tweets it seems like you’re fixated on the idea of having a girlfriend”. They made it very clear that they didn’t presume to have the knowledge to help me as such, but here was their friend’s blog complete with “dating tips for nerds”, a self-help style odyssey in eight parts. This person now writes for “OverthinkingIt.com”, they told me.

The subject article was “Thought you might want to read this”.

I should specify that on this day, Thursday, I had already gone on a first date with a nice-enough girl, made plans for second date and then had her email me telling me:

a. “I am not available on Saturday, I told a friend I was around that day so she takes priority.”

and

b. “I didn’t feel that spark when I was with you so I’m not interested in continuing things romantically. I am sorry I didn’t express that when I was with you.”

As I walked along that Thursday, everything seemed to pile up on top of each other.

The date seeming good, having to reevaluate as bad. The curt email. The unconnected/connected email suggestion that I needed “dating tips”.

The fact that was the third girl in two months to tell me she wasn’t “interested romantically” in me.

By the end of the day, I was calling my father angry about my job somehow, for some minor shit, enough that he had talk me down and I had to admit that I had had a bad date.

I went to drown my sorrows on Thursday in improv. I went to the Magnet and sat there and watched show after show. Sebastian Conelli, an improv friend from Staten Island, showed up there, with two even more Staten Island-y looking people in tow. Andrew Parrish showed up and caught a show.

I was wrestling with whether or not to drink, but decided on the red wine, not to break my diet and drank about four glasses over 4 hours, enough to make me sleepy and a little more ready to laugh.

The vomiting was unexpected when I got home (probably a result of my relative abstinence and diet), as well as the tweeting, though I guess it shouldn’t be.

When you set your conscious mind at avoiding something, your unconscious, just like a good improv partner, goes straight for, attacking it.

Because as I walked home that night, as I got off the phone with my dad earlier, as I thought about in the spaces between shows, between drinks, or just zoning out into my mind as thoughts took over, I just kept wondering: what’s wrong with me?

That’s that picture, that thought going through my head as I used the Photo Booth feature of my computer to take a picture of me looking at other Photo Booth pictures from my computer.

There it was: I’d lost weight, I could see my face narrower. I had a decent job, in a creative field. I was performing in New York City. I was on television in a bunch of big and small ways. I was a sweet guy and odd and self-conscious. I was present and not looking to fuck a bunch of people behind other people’s backs. I was me. I had these good things. What didn’t I see?

The sadness in my eyes, pretty apparent. I took a few pictures before I was able to weed out ones that at least seemed appropriately sad without being weirdly angled. But it was always the same way, smile or no.

When I was walking around on Thursday, I thought I would write this post and it would be angry, a diatribe against women, singling out all the people who made me feel bad that day, all the women who’ve ever made me feel bad or less than who I am. A giant fuck you to these bitches, these dumb cunts who wouldn’t fucking look at me now, preferring someone more forceful, but once they hit 28 or 9, flocking to me looking for that guy who wouldn’t treat them terribly, victims of their own love-hangover. I was their B plan, I thought, that must be it, a thought only confirmed by the married women who come up to me on the street or in front of bars and flatter me and tell me “Women must throw themselves at you, you’re so handsome” because they want that attention from me that they no longer get from whoever the fuck they’re stuck with. They see the sadness in my eyes. They know I’m easy prey.

But having written that and being unexpectedly taken back to that swell of emotion, I know the fallacy of it. That any such “theories” or “dynamics” about women or anyone really, are just ways of rationalize and making sense of the irrational, the many and countless ways that selves can interact and touch. If someone isn’t attracted to me, that’s great and they should own it. And I too.

These things I talk about, that I’m angry about, not only should I not be angry about them, but they don’t exist.

There is no grand overarching theory, there are no rules or “what women want”.

In short, there is no centralized problem with any of this, which means there’s nothing I can fix, no “thing I shouldn’t say”, “shirt I shouldn’t wear”, no “girls are crazy” or any of that.

Which is both freeing and awful, because it means I’m not doing anything wrong.

It’s just life.

No tips necessary.

Which means, conversely, that all those women have their own reasons, their own world, their own individual natures and specific whatever that ends up as it does to me.

That’s cool.

No apology necessary either.

When I said that the “dating tips” email that I got on Thursday was the worst thing that happened to me that day, it was because it made me think that it must so obvious to people that there’s something wrong with me. That I’m damaged, or crazy, or out of control.

But the truth is like my friend Andrew Parrish told me over GChat the other day, when I asked him how he was coping in the wake of his recent breakup.

“I’m feeling okay.” He said.

“I feel like shit.” I told him. “What’s your secret?”

“Nothing.” He said. “Just don’t feel like that isn’t normal. Because whatever you’re feeling is normal for you.”

***

So how do you get over a day like Thursday, going everywhere bad from bad dates, to unintentional belittling, to throwing up a bunch of red wine and some leaf-like things I didn’t know were in me?

I don’t fucking know, but I feel a bit better.

Sure-fire non-lame-o Matt Chao sent me a text and we got breakfast at the Sullivan Bistro, a Goat Cheese and Spinach Omelette with Wheat toast and Home Fries I ate maybe 5 of, if I’m being honest with myself.

I had a nice iced coffee with milk and splenda.

I did some improv and fooled around with some friends.

And a bunch of us hung out after and ate some food.

And I got good lunch too with Matt, from Pepolino, the place my boss had wanted me to try last week, but I had ditched in favor of a hotel Mexican restaurant (Sorry, Jason).

It was a little pricey for me, and a little cheat-y in terms of my diet (Pollo Milanese is breaded, after all), but it was a nice big meal, on a nice fall day.

Fall, my favorite season, had come to New York City, as we sat outside, in the sidewalk cafe.

And there I was, caffeinated and sleepy.

Sitting across from a great friend, hearing his dating problems and references to web comics and Nathan Fillion from “Serenity”.

And for that meal and for the day that came after it.

Things returned, as they do, to being right with the world.

Thanks guys.

-Nick

And P.S.- Don’t take that lady stuff so seriously. I don’t actually think you’re all cunts.

Alright, just saying.

Thanks.

***

SULLIVAN BISTRO

Goat Cheese and Spinach Omelette w/Home Fries and Toast- $10

Sullivan St. bet Houston and Prince Sts.

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

PEPOLINO

Milanese di Pollo w/Marinated Leeks and Wild Rucola- $17

West Broadway bet. 6th Ave and Canal St.

ACE to Canal St. 1 to Canal St.