Saturday, April 3, 2010
Hence, the moustache.
I was at the mall in Taunton, Mass, near Newport, where I saw a photography studio with a sign asking for models, any kind.
I was only getting paid $80 a week at the museum, so I thought this would be a great way to make some extra or rather, essential cash.
Not only do I look like a gay biker, but I also ended up paying $200 for the session.
This, is one of my rock bottom moments. I have many. However, looking like the guy who didn't get into The Village People was certainly one of them.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Why do drunk people pick fights?
Theory: When you're at your fattest, odds are you are at your highest tolerance for alcohol. All that extra alcohol you can now tolerate does its best to fill your body's corpulence coffers. I think the aggression that drunks display is partly a result of the frustration of having to spend so much money in order to get drunk, and partly a result of the frustration of being turned into a bloated sloth. But other factors contribute.
February, 2006. I was 23, living in an overpriced fifth-floor walk-up on the Upper East Side, and I owned a surplus of purple (loud grape, really) button-downs from the Gap. And I was way too fat for Gap clothes. I had been doing stand-up comedy for a year, but my act was still as ill-suited to me as my clothes were. Five minutes of my act consisted of impersonations of my opera-singing mother catching me masturbating and my cokehead ex-girlfriend blowing an imaginary line of cocaine off the mic stand (my penis). That should already suffice as my bottom. But one night my roommate, Tal, enlisted this purple people eater as his wing man to Williamsburg.
Tal and I were like Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau in "Swingers," except more emo and Jewy. He managed to sleep with several attractive women, but he still managed to think he was ugly and cry all the time. Did I mention his favorite band was Radiohead? I just didn't go on many dates. When I did, I would either manage to profess my undying love for my new acquaintance the first night, or I would explain why I didn't mind paying for her because it was a tax write-off if I put it on my business credit card. I'm not sure which would make a woman less comfortable with me, being the victim of deluded love at first sight, or being tax-deductible.
Six Jamesons deep at the Laila Lounge that night, I was watching Tal strike out with a punky, hipster bartender who looked like Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Stranger Than Fiction" with 62% more body piercings. No one in the bar spoke to me except Tal, and he did only when the bartender had other customers. Three more Jamesons kept me occupied until she gave him her phone number and told him never to call it.
Watching my friend, who got laid reliably, be rejected so cleverly made my alienation that night seem for naught. Suddenly, I hated her, I hated hipsters, and I hated Williamsburg. Problem was, minus the vital fashion and body-weight components, I was actually quite hipstery. I loved obscure bands and even more obscure political causes, I had what I thought were progressively detached notions about sexuality and human interaction, and I really believed that Wes Anderson was Ingmar Bergman trapped behind a Hollywood camera. On a Williamsburg web forum, I would have held my own.
Inside my drunken mind, my hatred for hipster snobbery and my earnest need for approval duked it out until my stomach intervened with hunger and nausea. We walked toward the Bedford L station, and I managed to eat some pizza despite having the spins.
In the pizza place, surrounded by men dressed like Waldo from Where's Waldo and women dressed like they were ready to act in Elizabethan theater, I decided the only way I was going to make it home awake was to embrace my anger and let it lead me. In my mind, the hipster-wannabe had been curbed, "American History X" -style, by the scorned preppy. I began muttering my way out of the pizza place and onto the train, slurring words with spit that more closely resembled the mozzarella cheese I had just eaten than any normal, watery saliva.
Sitting on the train, Tal leaned against the rail next to the door and tried to fall asleep while I sat to his left, still muttering. When he closed his eyes, I turned to my left and saw a frail white twenty-something sitting by himself. I wanted a fight, and even Drunk Charlie knew that this was one of the few opponents I could handily beat. "Hey Tal, look at this fucking hipster," I slurred to the hipster, elbowing Tal. "Oh, I watch Wes Anderson movies and wear skinny jeans. I watched "Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and just picked out the wardrobe." (It's worth noting that I saw "Steve Zissou" twice in the theaters.) "Look at him, Tal, he's a skinny little hipster pussy. I could kick your ass." While I was offering these provocations, I mistakenly thought I was at least two feet away from the guy. As Tal explained to me later, I was almost touching him and was most certainly spitting/drooling on him.
But rather than react with any defensive maneuver or concern, the guy squinted at me, confused. Then the squint disappeared, signaling that his confusion had gone as well. "Haven't I seen you onstage a few times before? You do stand-up comedy, right? You're pretty funny." If my face hadn't already been beat red, it would have turned so then. It turned out that we both frequented the same music open mic in the East Village, one that I had actually been well received at. I awkwardly bullshat with him about the mic for three more stops, feeling drunker and more embarrassed every minute. I had had every intention of beating him senseless, but I was so drunk that I didn't look serious to him. And because he knew I was a comedian, he assumed I was just being goofy.
There were two firsts in that story. The first stranger I ever picked a fight with happened to be the first stranger to ever recognize me off-stage. As far as drinking goes, that was definitely my bottom. I rarely drink now, and I quit the Gap entirely. I've had many a night since then in which I've been liberal with my saliva, but no more belligerence and no more self-hatred. And no more self-hatred disguised as hipster-hatred. I've since learned to channel all my anger towards whomever trendy political blogs tell me to hate this week.
Friday, February 5, 2010
For me, the lone silver lining of rock bottom times in my life is that I start to resemble a female boxer who is cutting weight for an important match. My response to stress, depression, and rejection is maniacal workouts, recreational anorexia, and furious weight-loss cigarette smoking.
I’ve been in the best shape of my life during the darkest chapters.
After a horrible relationship with a fellow comedian in Boston, during which his belittling made me question my self-worth, I dropped about fifteen pounds and looked fantastic. A few weeks later I ran into an old friend who said that I looked great and asked how I’d lost the weight, what was my secret? I encouraged her to be publicly dumped by a narcissistic comedian in the same clique of friends. That will make the pounds melt off better than any regimen of balanced diet and exercise.
When almost all of my friends turned on me during the spring of my senior year in high school, I dropped weight and looked fantastic in my graduation day photos. I’m seen walking across the platform to accept my diploma wearing a tiny white dress and I’m grinning ear-to-ear both because I’m leaving my hellacious hometown for good... and also because I had spent the prior month on a steady diet of fruit, cigarettes, and self-hatred.
So of course my lowest rock bottom was an experience I endured while possessing D’Angelo-like abdominal muscles (D’Angelo the R & B sensation of the early 1990s; not D’Angelo the Boston-based sandwich chain.)
During 2002-2003 I lived in Chicago (a town where I knew a grand total of 4 people), worked as a paralegal (earning just-above-poverty wages and hating all of my co-workers except the one gay guy who collected kitsch in his cubicle), and went for long runs along the beach next to Lake Shore Drive every evening. These runs were really more like angry sprints set to Christina Aguilera’s anger anthem, “Fighter.”
My year of living in Chicago was like ten straight months of rock bottom experiences. It’s hard to select the absolute worst—the time a creepy old man approached me on Rush & Division (the Chicagoland apex of asswipes and creeps, also where I spent most of my nights, which explains a lot about why I hated Chicago) and tried to speak with me about ejactulation; the time both my debit card and my credit card were rejected when attempting to purchase a $5 Jamba Juice in Union Station; the time I watched my then-boyfriend grab the ass of another girl at a Christmas party where I already hated everyone in attendance for being rich and living in Lincoln Park; the time my boss posed the age-old question, “What the fuck were you thinking?” when I misfiled a client’s documents. So many choices! Which is the worst!? For sheer degradation, embarrassment, and sadness, for this rock bottom story, I think I might have to go with the night I was mistaken for a prostitute.
I moved to Chicago under the false impression that a city’s a city’s a city. I had never heard of Bratwurst or Big 10 Football or deliberately mispronounced French names (Ver-Sales for Versailles, Dez-Planes for Des Plains) but I soon would. I had a degree in English from a small, liberal arts college on the east coast and upon arriving in Chicago I learned two things pretty quickly: (1) If you didn’t go to a Big 10 school and you don’t BLEED their school colors, Chicagoans treat you like an alien; and (2) English degrees won’t do much for you in the real world, but an ethnic-sounding name can land you an interview at a magazine called Sophisticated Black Hairstyles (I didn’t get the job).
One night I went out with an old high school friend who had moved to Chicago and fallen in with a pretty crappy crowd of creeps. We went to her friend’s apartment for some drinks and while her friend absolutely creeped me out, I was just happy to be out of my apartment, as the heat would come on only sporadically and my evening hours that night had been spent fully clothed, huddled under my comforter in a futile attempt to stay warm. So to be in the living room of a mother-of-two who was estranged from her children and already so shitfaced that she could barely stand up in her skintight jeans and tube top was actually an improvement from where I had been a scant two hours before.
We headed to the crossroads of horrible people, dubious motives, and sleeze: the intersection of Rush & Division Streets. The population of this region is an amalgam of suburban bachelorette parties, 30-something tough guys who work in finance (and don’t you forget it!) and high-class hookers.
We first headed to a bar populated by old mafia men, The Grotto. I threw back many drinks that I could neither afford, nor could my liver really digest, as during that time I was drinking hard every night after my run. I would get home from work and put on my “Hamilton College” t-shirt and dream that one day I would be tearing down the running path, singing along about how a terrible time had ultimately made X-Tina stronger and harder (a fighter!) and pray that a normal, not-obsessed-with-Big-10-
After conversing with some senior citizen sleeze bags at The Grotto, we headed to an even worse bar, Tavern on Rush. On the way, my two companions decided to blow some cocaine in an alley and the skeeze factor of the night went through the roof. I opted to have a cigarette alone on the sidewalk and marinate on a question that I asked myself at least once a day while in Chicago: What am I trying to prove? Why am I here? I am completely depressed. My current fantasy is to be hit by a car so that this nightmare will end—why don’t I just go home to Boston with my tail between my legs and pull myself out of this hell?
But before I could actually actively do anything, the drug duo, my “friends” were back from the alley, gnashing teeth and grinning. Onto Tavern on Rush.
Within moments of arriving, the three of us were pulled into a roped-off VIP area where the mother-of-two promptly straddled a businessman and continued writhing on his lap for the remainder of the night. The only conversation that I could manage was with another businessman who launched in on a missive about why he doesn’t wear a wedding ring and how somehow that means he is even more committed to his wife than guys who do wear wedding rings. I was surrounded by terrible people. But my apartment had no heat and was a freezing, lonely bus ride away. So I sat there and just kept drinking. One of the guys asked me to “be a doll” and go up to the bar to get him a drink. He then handed me a hundred dollar bill, winked, and gave me a knowing smile. He thought I was a prostitute.
I was so broke, I was tempted to simply take the hundred dollar bill and walk out. A hundred bucks—that’s a whole lot of hard-boiled eggs and tuna cans (the diet of broke people). But I’m too damn nice, so I went up to the bar (like a doll) and bought the guy his drink, then delivered it to him, and walked out of Tavern on Rush without saying goodbye to my friends. It was late and I had to get home to my unheated apartment so that I could cry myself to sleep on a frozen pillow. After all, the next day was a Saturday, which meant an extra long run.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Anyway, I had a preliminary conversation the day before and I must admit,it wasn't all that promising. There were some definite warning bells a ringin'. In the first place, she was obviously quite troubled, rambling on a bit about some personal problems (the details of which I found more than a tad on the inappropriate side to discuss with a total stranger) and she also sounded pretty wasted. Still, I hate talking on the phone, so I figured I'd meet up with her and see for myself what the score was.
So, we rendezvous at a café the following night, and the first thing I noticed was, she had definitely gained a good 25 pounds since that photo of hers was taken. Additionally, her eyebrows were plucked to death. They looked like 2 little squiggles above her eyes, which were heavy lidded with inebriation I might add. She had obviously knocked back a few before meeting up with me. I will say this, I didn't mind the weight at all, as I like women who've got a bit of meat on their bones, and she had a colossal rack. Overall, I would say in the right light she'd be definitely maybe almost semi-fuckable, especially if I were to get a couple of drinks in me, which I proceeded to do right quick!
Anyway… We talk a bit, and it seemed to be going pretty well, although I can't ever really tell on these things, I'm always so detached. To tell the truth, I wasn’t really giving a rat's ass about the whole night other than a vague interest in fondling her tits... so…
After awhile, we moved on to another bar (at her suggestion) ‘cause she wanted to play pinball and knew of a place that had a good machine. I ordered her a vodka tonic and I took another Dewar’s on the rocks. I was starting to feel a bit better with some alcohol in me, and we got chummier.
After playing a bit, we sat down, and talked some more. I asked her about where she went to school, and she responded, “Athens, GA.”.
I said, 'Mmm. That's a pretty progressive southern town... REM and all that'...
She replied somewhat mysteriously, 'Well, not so much as far as the people I hung out with back then'.
‘Oh yeah, that statement seems a bit ominous…', I answer a tad nervously
'Well they were pretty hard core'
'How so?', I asked, 'Like, they listened to a lot of black flag and stuff?'
'Well no.. more so politically I guess'
I responded half jokingly, 'What? You hung out with a bunch of white supremacists or something?'..
She went, 'well yeah.. but I’m reformed.. and I didn't share all their views'...
After dragging it out of her, I find out she hung with the neo-nazi crowd for 4 years. I guess she dated one of the leaders of the 'cause'. According to her, all her life she'd been seen as 'pretty' and 'delicate' and no one ever took her seriously, so she just wanted to hang out with the most 'bad-ass' people she could find, so people would respect her. I thought, 'jesus. She couldn't find some nice drug dealer, or hell's angel? She had to go straight to the neo-nazi contingent of 'badass'..?
Well at least she didn't share ALL their views, just the hating blacks and Jews part..
By this point my head was swimming a bit. I wasn’t sure if it was the Dewar’s or her story, but I wasn’t feeling all too well. She continued talking about how she campaigned for Bush twice, was a pro-lifer and believed in the bible verbatim.
That’s when I realized how disgusting a human being I am, because If she hadn’t have had those scrumdiddliumptious jugs, I would have been gone like the wind in 60 seconds… no discussion.
Anyway, around this time, she drunkenly slumped in my direction, and all of a sudden had her tongue down my throat. I wasn’t sure how to react. I actually never do that sort of thing, meaning, I don't think I've ever made out with anyone on the first date - let alone a nazi (Ok ‘reformed’ nazi).
I have to admit for a second it felt pretty good!
Of course, almost instantaneously I got the image of that tongue of hers exploring every hole and crevasse on the body of that scabby, inbred, sociopathic, redneck and I sobered up immediately.
I suggested we call it a night.
I walked her home, and interestingly enough, she lived in the exact same building as this awful ex girlfriend of mine, which seemed fitting. She was a nazi and the ex was the anti-christ - a pleasant pairing. Apparently that building was the portal to hell.
When I got home I felt ashamed of myself. I realized, for the briefest of instances, I might have been willing to sacrifice all my principles, everything I stood for, over a pair of bodacious ta tas. I'm truly a horrible human being. A disgusting amoral louse.. A pig.. I mean this girl was a mess… Totally off her rocker, an obvious raging alcoholic, clearly an anti-semite/racist and I really think she might have a serious problem with reality. Jesus…
I wonder if she’ll call...
Monday, February 1, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I guess I realized it might be a problem when one time a friend and I were scraping all of my paraphernalia to gather together one pathetic bowl of weed because we were both out. I had pulled out every utensil I had and finally we gathered a little bowl on a sorting tray. We knew this was pathetic and started to laugh really hard about this terrible situation when one of us laughed so hard we blew all of the weed on the floor into the carpet.
Now, I don't know if you smoke nearly as much as I do, but when you have little flakes of weed land on any surface with fuzzy fabric, like carpet, an angora sweater or a golden retriever, that weed is as good as gone. It just, *poof*, disappears.
But I was desperate and there was no way I was going to let that little pile of weed I worked so hard scraping together be lost to the fuzzy carpet. My friend and I gasped and started to freak out, picking all the little pieces of weed we could find out of the fuzzy carpet and packed them directly into a bowl. We were NOT going to let that sorting tray accident happen again. When we had found as much weed in the carpet as we could, we realized that what we had packed into the bowl was mostly carpet with little flecks of weed here and there.
We said, "Fuck it" and smoked the bowl of carpet anyhow. It tasted awful but I could have sworn that I got a little high.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I am not proud of this story. But I must continue to tell it in the hopes that I will never do crack again. And that it will dissuade you, kind reader, from doing the same.
On a pleasant Brooklyn evening I returned home from happy hour to find a disheveled black dude on the stoop in front of my apartment. Here, on a street leading to the projects, I lived with two girls and three cats in a cramped but decent enough NYC flat. Sure, I heard drive-bys and gang fights and domestic disputes on the street at 4am, but I was proud of my first pad in the big city.
Anyway, the man blocking entry to my place asked if I could spare three dollars. Now, this was curious to me because normally when a person begs for money they low-ball, simply asking for "some change". Needless to say I found the requested amount of $3 to be odd... ahem.
When I asked him why he needed that exact amount, he quickly and unabashedly replied, "Cause I need to get some more crack and that's what I'm short."
Simple enough, right?
Well, being the kinda guy I am, wanting to engage in yet another psycho-social trust experiment, I tell him that if I give him the $3 that he has to come back and smoke his score with me. I had never smoked crack before and I wasn't really interested in getting high with this guy (wink, nudge). I just wanted to see if my "experiment" would work; to see if he really would come back as he promised he would.
Sure as shit this guy comes back ten minutes later with a gleam in his eye that excites and frightens me at the same time. For anyone who has waited for a drug deal to come through, you know the feeling you get when your drugs arrive, regardless of how long you've waited or how much shit-talking you've done about your dealer. When that moment comes all is forgiven.
So he says to me, "We gonna do this?"
With a bit of hesitation and realizing that I had to hold up my end of the bargain now, I said, "Yeah, but let's do it out here on the stoop cause I think my roommates are home and I can't just take some random dude into my apartment to smoke crack."
Here's where he gets upset and uses some not-so-subtle intimidation tactics on me; the kind you find in prison or war that indicate you don't have a choice in the matter. My experiment has flipped on me a bit. I concede, knowing my roommates are in fact not home, and walk him upstairs into my apartment.
Furthermore, who does crack on a stoop in Brooklyn? I should have known better.
What was I an amateur?
We get inside and now I can really see this guy. He's got a scar down the left side of his face, running clean from his eye to jawline. This pit-bull looking motherfucker seems a lot more intimidating in a well lit room, but suddenly the fear dissipates when he sniffles and says, "Hey man, you got any porn?"
"Uh, yeah", I reply.
Luckliy, one of my roommates was seeing a guy who was classy enough to give her a copy of Cheri magazine as a birthday gift. I unearthed it from the pile of Nylon and Vogue magazines on our coffee table and tossed it to my new friend. He disappeared into the bathroom and for the next 5 minutes I sat quietly in amazement, withholding judgment.
When he comes back into the living room after his conjugal visit he sits down and explains to me that he has indeed just gotten out of prison and hasn't seen a woman's body in a long time. He imparts a story about getting busted for stealing cars and serving time for a couple years upstate. I ask him where he got the scar and he turns to me with a disgusted look, saying, "Where you think?"
My fear returns and I thank god I have never been to prison. This JewAmerIndian pearl of a body would be mince meat in minutes.
Quickly I change the subject and focus on the task at hand: getting high!!
But wait, I had never smoked crack before and didn't know what to expect. I know that crack is basically just baking soda mixed with cocaine, but I didn't have a clue as to how long the high would last or what feelings I may experience.
I told my friend, whose name was Lamar, I had never done this before. He flashed a smile and pulled out his broken crack pipe. As he lays out the rocks and packs the pipe he says, "We gon' have a good time."
At this point I'm staring at the broken glass pipe thinking, "Alright! This is authentic!"
Like when you go to Xochimilco in Detroit.
Lamar takes a drag and exhales a thick, white cloud of smoke more dense than any bong rip I've ever seen. He sinks back into the couch and passes me the pipe. I follow suit. For the next ten minutes there's nothing but the hum of electricity and stale smoke lingering in the air. Coming out of our haze we pack it up again and another ten minutes of brain annihilation ensues.
Smoking crack is like taking a combination of a vicodin, weed and nitrous, making for a brief euphoric dance party in your head. Then you snap out of it and clamor for more. I knew my addictive personality was a perfect match for this drug but it's not the sustained high that weed, alcohol, or good cocaine can give you. You have to keep wailing away on that pipe every couple of minutes to keep your buzz worthy of recognition. That kind of effort is too much for me. Drug administration should be quick, and the wave ridden as long as possible.
A half hour passes and, after a few more drags on the pipe, I realize it's time for my friend to leave our little two-man party. But before getting up to leave, Lamar asks what I'm up to tonight. I mistakenly tell him that I'm going to a party (which I'm already late for due to my crack smoking experiment). He smiles and says he's got shit else to do and he likes partying with me (fuck, who doesn't, right?)
Perhaps my brain was mush but I saw no reason why bringing a new friend to the party was such a bad idea. So what if he's a crack head and former convict. Who cares? He had served his time and, at this point, we were both just a couple of crackheads. Who was I to judge him?
I said, "Sure. Let's go".
Our "if the mood is right" crack-using friend is depicted here with a cane.