The Survivalist, Chapter One: “The Fever”

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Below is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Survivalist, available this fall on Amazon and Audible.  Previously, I posted the Prologue online.

Here, is a preview of Chapter 1.

May 2012

Ten minutes into the second date, Warren could not stop looking at Tracy Moyer’s breasts. He tried hard – extremely hard; unbelievably hard – to not be so obvious after they sat down to dinner. But the plunging neckline on her red halter dress had him wishing for other plans that night.

It was early May in New York City. Summer had arrived, and everyone was finding an excuse to get half-naked. After 16 long weeks of snow, cold, and Saturday night Netflix, people wanted to get laid again. There was always something about the rising humidity. Dating in New York experienced a seasonal uptick. And though no horny New Yorker would say it: many wanted to meet the person who would make their life perfect. Behind a million OKCupid profiles were a million little spoons and big spoons. But even if romance seemed perilous: at least summer in New York City offered endless options.

It had been a little over a year since Melissa Chase told Warren Eves, “I don’t want to marry you.” In the 13 months since that fateful night, she was gone and sitting in front of him was Tracy – a 26 year-old woman whom he barely knew. Tonight, her jet-black hair was up in a bun, exposing the light complexion of her neckline. Her blue eyes pierced through the haze. Her lips wore a dark red lipstick. They matched her dress and the wedges on her feet. Warren wore a black button-down shirt, straight leg jeans, and his Frye boots. The clothes were aged; second-hand or “vintage” – depending on your interpretation. He had been at a loss since he caught sight of her. Arriving early, he stood outside Café Habana, at the corner of Prince and Elizabeth Street, listening to Bruce Springsteen on his iPhone. Night was coming, and he turned his head east only to melt through the pavement. As the sun set that warm Saturday night, and the sky turned a dark purple, while cars honked, sandals clapped the pavement, and fireflies flitted in and out tree leaves, Tracy walked down Prince from the downtown N/R train, centered in the frame of a Billy Wilder black and white romance. She was beautiful. That was all Warren could fathom as she met him, and flashed her smile, “Hello, Mr. Eves.”

Warren led her into the crowded restaurant. Café Habana was a madhouse – a cramped, noisy diner that had survived since the late ‘90s. The food was always excellent; it was getting a table that was murder. They ducked and weaved hot plates and hipster platitudes to reach the back of the restaurant, where a hostess seated them at a half-booth, near an open window to Elizabeth. Tracy brought a menu to her face, and Warren brought his eyes to her cleavage. A whole litany of thoughts ran through his head:

She’s gorgeous. She loves Joni Mitchell – remember that. Why did she agree to go out with me again? Jesus, Eves…

Part of him wanted to fall in love with her tonight. Part of him hoped that this was the start of something long-term, something he could get invested in, something that would give his life meaning. But that part of him ignored what Warren really wanted: despite the sum of all her parts, Warren really only wanted to see her naked.
He had been nervous leading up to tonight. Their first date – bowling at Brooklyn Bowl – ended in them each nailing 6 gutter balls, and getting drunk together on tequila.

Since his break-up, Warren had had sex with two women. The first one he met after work, on the 7 train back to Queens: a pretty legal assistant who made eyes at him until he finally worked-up the nerve to say “Hello.” A week later, over drinks, she would tell Warren that she had been in New York for 10 years, and hated the bar scene – that’s why she loved meeting guys on the subway, especially on the morning commute. Later that night: Warren noticed her orgasms sounded as if she was loudly pushing a watermelon through her vagina. The second was a shy bartender at a friend’s birthday party in Greenpoint. She was happy to go home with him, since it meant getting away from her roommate and her latest cuckold. Following a very self-conscious sexual performance (still nervous from the watermelon chorus), he made the morning after more awkward when – at the train – they exchanged numbers and he stupidly offered, “I be down to hang out again!” She texted him for a week, demanding to know why a proper date never occurred, and if her body disgusted him.

Tracy – without question – was the most attractive girlfriend candidate he had dated since Melissa. Not just physically, but her confidence floored him. Like him, she loved music – citing Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, Elliot Smith, and the guilty pleasure of the Backstreet Boys as her favorites. She talked about the impact of Kanye West relative to OK Computer. She had real opinions about structure, orchestration, production. Warren – in turn – “really liked Springsteen.” It was evident that she was smart, and he was “nice.” He wanted to show her that he thought about the world, too, and was terrified of blowing it.

She had, however, given him a vote of confidence. Their first date ended with a grope-y make-out session on the Bedford Avenue platform of the L train. When he left her a voicemail for a second date, she called him back in 10 minutes. It was obvious that Tracy liked Warren. There was a strong physical connection between them. But for all the green lights she might have flashed, Warren’s confidence held him at the crosswalk. He was too afraid to boldly suggest sex without jumping through the necessary hoops of dating politics. Tracy was a special; better to play it safe. God help his life without something special in it.

Tracy did her best to ignore Warren’s obvious glances at her chest. She kept her eyes glued to her menu.

“Oh, hey – did you see Moonrise Kingdom?” Warren asked Tracy.

She looked up, “No, not yet. I want to though. Did you?”

“Yeah. It’s… really good.” Warren let his critique hang in the air before looking back down at his menu. Wes Anderson was her favorite director, so the question was not out-of-place. But she could tell that Warren was sitting on something. Is he nervous? she thought, Why is he nervous? She fought against her impulse to make a joke of it; be witty and sarcastic.

She had been looking forward to this date for the past week. Warren was the first guy – in almost a year – for whom she had a genuine attraction. She wanted to “Wow” him tonight, but she did not expect that he would be reduced to an awkward, uneasy mouth breather. She took a deep breath and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe some food and drink will loosen him up, she thought. Just don’t be an assholeyet.

“Oh great. I can’t wait to see it. How’s the Chicken Diablo sandwich?”

“Not bad,” Warren squeaked. He cleared his throat, regaining his normal tone. “Delicious, if you like spicy.”

*************

You let him cop a feel? It was the first date, Trace!” Jess said to Tracy over the phone.

Tracy chewed her salad at a small green metal table in Bryant Park, as the 11:30 a.m. sun shone down and traffic stayed at a hum. She sidestepped an argument with her older sister back home in Philadelphia. “We were both terrible at bowling, and the bartender kept offering free tequila.”

“I mean… this is new, Trace.” Jess sat behind her desk in her law office; she was supposed to be reviewing debriefs. “You’re not one to be so easy.”

“Shut-up.” Being described as “easy” pissed Tracy off.

“I’m just saying: you must really like this guy, or… you felt really sorry for him?”

Tracy paused, realizing how much time had passed since she actually “liked” someone, “Yeah, Jess. I do like him.”

Tracy did like Warren. He was cute. He was sweet. He actually tried.

On their first date – after the second shot of tequila – she demanded his iPhone, and was impressed by what see found in his music: The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids, and a shit ton of Bruce Springsteen. Not just the studio albums, but bootlegs of concerts in Akron, Ohio from 1992. Warren was a superfan, and that was refreshing, considering the last guy she dated owned “that Kings of Leon CD” because “he heard it at The Hurricane Club.”

“Wow. Springsteen fan, much?” Tracy quipped.

“Um… yeah.” Warren took the phone from her, clicked it shut, and put it back in his pocket.

“You shouldn’t be embarrassed.” Tracy loudly said over the sound of bowling pins.

“I’m not.” Warren replied “I just don’t want to look obsessed.”

“But you are.”

“I know, but…” Warren stopped himself, a deer staring at a green light. “I realize that it’s weird.”

Tracy laughed, she had never heard anything so stupid said in sweet earnest. “It’s okay to be weird. I like weird. I’m having a good time, weirdo.”

Tracy Moyer had dated her fair share of assholes. For 7 years, she worked front desk reception at Price, Stern, and Wanamaker, LLP and partied the nights away. How she arrived in New York was still a secret to Warren, one that she was not going to reveal before she was ready. All he knew was: she had lived in New York since she was 19, and she loved music. But the stories she could have told Warren – maybe one day, if whatever this courtship was lasted more than a few weeks – might have only made him squeak higher.

There was the Wall Street trader, who loved cocaine and yelling at waiters.

There was the Columbia Economics professor who made her wait in a hotel room for 4 hours while he was at a summit.

There was the grad school poet who “came out” as “bisexual”, and urged her to join him at a couple of group sex parties.

There was also Krista – a painter from Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. She, of all of Tracy’s partners, was wonderful. Tracy still had a portrait Krista had done for her; it now lived in her bedroom closet, right next some Bach LPs and a very dusty violin case. It was fun to date another woman. Men could be bulls; Krista was crane – delicate, artful, focused in getting what she wanted. But after only two months, Tracy realized that Krista was a lesbian and she was not. Leading her on would not be fair.

She ended their relationship two summers ago, right when something began to not feel right. Tracy woke-up one morning – on a Tuesday, no different from any other – and was filled with empty. Nothing felt unusual, until she started losing sleep. For weeks, she woke up at odd hours with night terrors and lucid dreams that would pull her out of bed. They always ended at the same place: her in pajamas, standing in front of that same closet, hand firmly placed on the doorknob. When she snapped out of it, she pulled her hand away in shock. But as it continued, the shock would turn to fascination. Tracy knew what was on the other side of that door. It was the thing that birthed the Tracy of the last 7 years, and guided her to party after party, boyfriend after boyfriend, kept her at a dead-end job. She had run from it out of anger, out of fear; and yet here she stood – the two of them only separated by a flimsy plywood door. The question remained: What are you going to do about it, Moyer? A siren screamed through the night below her Upper West Side apartment, shaking her awake. It was 2:45 in the morning, and she was exhausted. She looked at that doorknob one last time, before she turned and crawled back into bed. She sipped from the water glass on her nightstand, closed her eyes, and tried to make the most of the remaining two and half hours before her alarm went off. As her body relaxed and she drifted off, her mind began to run again. Another restless night lay ahead.

*************

“Warren?” Tracy said. He drifted off, his neurosis leading deep into a mental playground. Tracy, meanwhile, had made up her mind, and put her menu down. “Warren.”

His eyes lit up, and he came back down to Earth. He had been thinking about the smell of her neck – she wore a perfume that had a sweet vanilla scent. He wanted to press his nose against her nape while his lips would move down her spine, and his left arm wrapped around her shoulder, fingers pinching into her socket. His penis had grown erect.

“Hm? Yeah! Chicken Diablo sandwich. Delicious if you like spicy!” Warren repeated as he started to cross his legs, but moved too fast and crushed his testicles. “GAAAAAHHH!” Warren choked, soaking in the pain. He quickly uncrossed his top leg, and banged his knee under the table – hitting squarely on the nerve. “Fuck!” The table jostled, causing their waters to quake. Warren splayed over the table, and grabbed both of them before they tipped over. His face went red.

“Are you okay?” Tracy’s voice had concern.

“YEAH! Yeah! Just, uh –“ he released the glasses from his grip, and sat back down, “ – uh… moved a little too quick on the ol’ leg cross.” Warren shut his eyes in embarrassment, Why the hell did you just say that?

“Oh. Uh. Okay.” Tracy did not know the care protocol for a man crushing his balls. “Well, don’t kill yourself. I mean, I get it – you like what you see.” Tracy put on her best W.C. Fields impression as she waved her hand over her breasts. The minute it came out, Warren’s face went a full white.   She immediately regretted it.

“Yeah,” still searing from the pain, Warren searched for the right words “your boobs are great.”

The table went dead silent. Neither of them knew where to go from there. Warren took a sip of water to stall. In the back of his mind, he heard Haha! Oh Warren, you’re such a fucking mess! It was Melissa’s voice.

A waitress approached the table, “Is everything okay?”

“Yup. Just, uh… just banged my knee.” Warren stammered as he turned out to speak to her.

“Would you like an icepack, sir?”

“No. I’ll be fine.”

“I must insist.” the waitress commanded. She slapped a sandwich bag of ice wrapped in a dirty towel to his knee. Warren winced as the cold chilled through his jeans. “City law says we have to.” the waitress continued, “Plus, we need you to fill out an accident report.” She shoved a clipboard into his hands.

“Accident report?!? Can we order fir – “ As he tried to pass the clipboard back to her, the waitress snatched it from his hands and violently slammed it on the table with a smile. The waters quaked again, and other diners began to turn their heads.

“I know,” the waitress rolled her eyes, as if to say Bloomberg, amiright? “but we just need to let The Department of Health know you weren’t hurt as soon as possible. And then there’s our insurance. That reminds me, look at my phone – “

Before Warren could say anything, the waitress whipped out her phone, the flash snapped, and it was back in her pocket. Had he seen the photo, Warren would have been greeted with the sight of him and Tracy, washed-out; his eyes blinded by an LED flash while a large puddle began to drip down his slightly swollen knee, the annoyed looks of the surrounding tables turning to see the commotion, and Tracy wearing an expression that summed up the whole night so far, “What. Is. Happening?”

“Sir. I’ll give you a few minutes to fill-out all the necessary forms – you can keep the pink copies for yourself. After that: I will be happy to take your order. But until then – if you even asked for a Coke, I would assume responsibility. I can – however – lawfully elect to bring you some plaintain chips.”

With that, the waitress disappeared back into the crowd. Warren – still woozy from the flash – turned back towards Tracy. They were both bewildered. An anxious second date was derailing. With nothing left to say, Warren reached for the pen from under the clipboard. “What’s your date of birth?” he said as he clicked the tip out.

Tracy let out a laugh; a loud, deep laugh that said everything Warren needed to hear. “What just happened?” she covered her mouth as she tried to stifle more giggling.

“Apparently,” Warren said, “God hates me.” He cracked a smile. “But at least I don’t look like a jackass, right?”

Tracy began to laugh even harder. She couldn’t stop; poor Warren – who wanted to take her out for nice meal – had been reduced to a sad sack of dirt in less than a minute in front of the entire restaurant. The night was not going great. But at least he could laugh about it. That took a certain amount of character.

As she pulled her hand away from her mouth, Tracy smeared half of her lipstick on her fingers and mouth. She looked as if she had just devoured a small animal. Warren’s eyes widen, “Oh no.” he said in between a giggle.

“What?” Tracy replied.

“Your – “ he could barely finish without laughing, but he pointed to her fingers. Tracy looked down at her hand and nearly died.

“Oh my god!” she said “Oh Jesus Christ – what a fucking night.” Her face began to blush. He put the clipboard down, and took her hand.

“Here.” he said. Dabbing a napkin in his shellshocked glass of water, he wiped her fingers clean with one end and dried them with the other. He crumpled up the napkin into a ball and pocketed it. In his palm was Tracy’s hand: soft and sweet smelling. Warren’s palm reminded her a paper shopping bag. Tiny pieces of skin flaked away at the creases, which meant that he did not moisturize. If nothing else, his heart was in the right place. In her 7 years in New York, Tracy had not seen that in a man. He laid his thumb over her palm, and she curled her pinky and ring finger around it. They looked at one another, and suddenly it was clear: nothing was going to go to plan tonight, and that was just the way it worked with the two of them. So if they could each be okay with that, then why should either pretend to be something they were not?

“Do you –“ before Warren could finish, his face was on the table. The waitress returned with the plantains on a tray, but right before she put them down, she turned away – thinking she heard her name, but it was just the fryer crackling through the paper-thin walls of the kitchen. The tray clobbered Warren in the back of the head. His face smacked the table top, finally knocking over the waters. As liquid drenched the formica surface, Warren felt a numbness run across his cheekbone and lower jaw. Under him, strands of red began to mix in the puddles. He pulled his head up, and tasted metal in his mouth. His tongue ran along the ridge of his gums: a bloody bruise had formed. Below him, his blood formed perfect circles and dripped off the table, into his lap. For a moment, he wondered if this was some cosmic sign of life’s cyclical nature – or just a really pretentious Instagram photo waiting to happen. He looked back up at Tracy, whose face had lost all color. She did not seem to notice or care that her dress was getting stained.

“HOLY SHIT, EVES! Are you okay?” she quacked.

For the first time in a long time, Warren held the attention of an entire room. Tracy. The waitress. Other patrons. The cook staff. The world stood still for him. It was everything his rock and roll days never delivered. Warren used the balled up napkin to wipe his mouth and fingers. The wound continued to bleed as he thought for a second, before he told everyone what exactly was on his mind.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he said to Tracy.

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10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years Of Adulthood

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2015 marks the 10th anniversary of moving out of my parents’ house. I was 22 years old, and still had a year of college left. Rather than go home for the summer, I got a theater internship in New York and moved into my first apartment (a summer sublet in Inwood, just off the 200th Street A Train). To get by, I worked nights and weekends as a Starbucks barista. I once served a latte and talked movies with Manohla Dargis, now the chief film critic at The New York Times.

I was still a year away from discovering The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater; I dreamed about becoming the next Eric Bogosian, and in turn: I wrote a one-man show about that summer.

I had no idea what lay ahead for me. So, naturally: I wondered what advice I would tell myself from 10 years in the future…

1. Break-up when you know it’s time to break-up.

The first time I fell in love was in college.  I was 22, and I had been dating my then-girlfriend for 3 or 4 months.  Being so young and dealing with a complex emotion is like eating a pizza before it kills you.  You’re high, and insane, and at that age – life is just a series of absolutes.  A few months later: I realized I didn’t want to be tied down. But I was scared to break-up with her.  I was scared to be alone. I was scared to trust my instincts.  There was also a part of my personality that craved order, which being in a relationship provided.  But (I’ve since found) that order comes out of routine, values; learning who you are and what are healthy choices for yourself.  As we stayed together for 2 years, our relationship grew toxic – scarily toxic for 2 college kids. Looking back, I should’ve broken up with her when I knew.  Maybe today we’d still be friends.  I don’t regret that she’s gone; I regret all the screaming matches and drama that it took to get us there.

2. Jealousy never helped anybody.

In one way or another, I’ve ended up knowing a few famous people.  I grew up with them.  I’ve shared a beer with them.  I have a good acquaintance with them.  I’m also extremely jealous of them.  I want their lives. Living in Los Angeles makes coping with that jealousy very hard.  But you have a choice with jealousy: you can let it motivate you, or you can let it cripple you.  Jealous, crippled people are very draining people to be around.  They are quick to criticize everything, and have nothing to show for themselves.  Concomitantly: I’ve seen some famous friends get absolutely crushed by the show business industry.  It’s not pretty to wake up one day, and have everything taken away from you.  Suddenly all of that jealousy is useless, and you want to tell your friend “It’ll be okay.”  For that reason: I don’t root against people anymore – even the terrible ones.  And I try to use every bit of jealousy I have to create work, not enemies.

3. Wherever you’re from, leave.  Leave, and don’t return for a decade.

Of the few smart things I did in my early 20s, I’m glad I left Philadelphia and never looked back. It’s not that Philadelphia or South Jersey are awful places. But – at the time – I wanted to be a famous actor or a famous writer, and neither of those two places offered much for me. Also: three generations of men in my family had barely lived anywhere else. At the time, I felt a Skywalker-esqe calling to be different. As a result, I’ve continually put myself in a situation where I had to “figure it out on my own”. I like that about myself.

4. No matter how hard you try, someone is always going to hate you.

This ties in with the “Jealous, Crippled people” point. One of the few things I’ve learned is how little control people have over their lives. Outside of saving money, being kind, and staying healthy, everything else is a roll of the dice. I do my best to live a compassionate life. If I don’t like someone, I aim to give them due respect through civility. 9 people out of 10 see that, and appreciate the effort. But then that 10th person always thinks I owe them everything. I’ve lost friendships and dealt with depression over a lot of 10th people. In the end, you can’t change the 10ths. They are on a different journey, festooned with issues and insecurities that they need to deal with. They become sad icons when you realize they’re not just angry at you, they’re angry at the world. All you can do is smile, say “Hi.”, and keep walking.

5. Take time off (even when everybody else isn’t).

Let yourself have a couple of trainwreck years, especially before you turn 30. Obviously – don’t get addicted to heroin, or something like that. But do live your life, for a while, and try to figure out who you are and what you want. If you’re going to be successful in the Western World, you have to work at least a 50-hour week, at a below means salary, with student loan debt. Before you sign up for that, know that you’re willing to do it.

6. Always wear a condom.

“Humbling” – being the only mid-twentysomething adult waiting with a group of teenagers to get tested at a Planned Parenthood because you don’t have health insurance.

Proudly testing negative since 2002. Always wear a condom.

7. Lying is harder than truth.

In order to figure yourself out, you have to actually try stuff. Some things, you’ll know after one try (making out with another dude; not really my thing); most things will require more than one try (my attempts at stand-up comedy; also not really my thing). Everyone walks around with an idea of who they are in their head. Make as much effort as possible to make sure that idea and who you actually are sync up.

8. The world keeps turning through your fuck-ups.

My most notable failure was my talk show, The Matt Fried Hour, which I produced back in New York from 2008-2010 (you can find many awkwardly disjointed clips on YouTube!). The show started out with a ton of promise, and by the end was held together by duct tape and a wagon wheel.

The show regularly struggled to sell tickets. It hemorrhaged money left and right. It put many friendships to the test, and ended a few others. It was always a fun trainwreck, I guess. But in the end: it failed. It failed because of my inabilities (at the time) as a producer and a host. And when your show fails – and 50% of its title is also your name – it’s hard not to take it personally.

I took a long break (2 years) from performing after the show ended; thinking it would be too hard to come back from something so humiliating. And it was hard to come back. But it wasn’t impossible.

The thing about failure is that people will only remember it if you never let them forget it. If failure is what you end on, then people will see you as a failure. If everything you do after is just as bad, or worse, people will see you as a failure. But if you can pick yourself, re-invent yourself, and move forward, then everything will be fine. My play A Charlie Brown Apocalypse taught me that.

9. Success requires some level of solitude.

I honestly believe that all successful people are lonely, in one respect or another. That’s not say that they’re unmarried, sullen, and think Ted Cruz would make a great President. Quite the opposite. But I do believe that success – however you define it – requires focus; whether it’s stand-up comedy, or writing a novel, or getting your MBA. Personal attachments and material possessions don’t help you achieve much of anything. Taking time to study, hone, sharpen, toil, and blow it all up does. In order to do any of that, you have to isolate yourself, and – in effect – create your own approach for achieving whatever you want in this life.

Only you – alone – can dictate the direction of your life, and only you – alone – can answer for the results.

10. Eat.  Drink.  Smoke.  Fuck, Responsibly.

I’ll keep this one brief: life is too goddamn short to be comfortable, laidback, or easy. If you spend it living by someone else’s expectations, you will have wasted it.

Be selfish, but don’t be a dick. Don’t try to hurt people, and don’t try to hurt yourself. And above all else: get laid whenever the consensual opportunity arises.

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The Survivalist, Prologue: “Valentine’s Day”

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April 2011

So hold me close/

Say you’re forever mine./

And tell me you’ll be my/

Lonely Valentine…”

Warren Eves let the final minute of “Valentine’s Day” – by his idol, Bruce Springsteen, off the Tunnel of Love album – play out on his iPhone. The synthesized chords, cheesy as they sounded, tugged at his heart. He lay on a couch – the couch of his best friend, Dan, and his wife, Laura – in their quaint, modern condo in Hoboken, New Jersey with his ear bud headphones jammed up against his ear drums, staring at the faint light on the ceiling from the streets below. It was night. His eyes began to well-up. This was the first time Warren cried in 7 days; it was the first time that the events of the past week were finally sinking in.

Melissa Chase was not going to marry him. No one was going to marry him. Warren was alone again.

He turned his head, and focused his eyes on the blinds that coated the window. He rose from the couch in his t-shirt and underwear, and walked across the parquet floor of Dan and Laura’s living room – “Quietly,” Dan begged him, “Please dude. Laura hates the squeaky floors in this place, and won’t stop thinking about it.” – towards the window. Intercut with the cheap aluminum was a view of downtown Hoboken, and beyond that: New York City. The moon was out tonight, and shone brightly down on The Financial District. In the distance, Warren could barely make out the red neon sign, “THE WATCHTOWER” in Brooklyn, atop the publishing offices of the Jehovah’s Witness newspaper. Brooklyn was only a few miles away, but it might as well have been in California. The sign burned in the summer night from Brooklyn Heights. To him, it had always been an anonymous piece of the skyline that he barely regarded on his train rides to and from his job in Manhattan. He was always too busy listening to Bruce on his iPhone, reading Rolling Stone, or thinking about… well, his “funny” path from rock musician to paper pusher. The last part, at first, greeted him with a crushing sense of sadness. He learned over the years to push it away, ignore it; he told himself he was happier with Melissa and their life together in Park Slope. And – after a while – it worked. In the last year, he was able to think about the whole thing and sort of smirk at the irony while the red neon looked over him. But tonight, “THE WATCHTOWER” was a landmark no more; tonight, it was actually doing its job and protecting the land beyond it from Warren’s rebel scum. Somewhere in the dark that covered Brooklyn, Melissa slept alone in the bed they once shared, in the apartment where they had been making plans.

For half-a-second, Warren wondered if Melissa had already brought home someone else. That would be fucking perfect, wouldn’t it? I sleep on Dan’s couch while she’s fucking some dipshit she met at Union Hall. Her first night as a free fucking woman. She might’ve met him two weeks ago on the train, and gave that asshole her number, because she knew she was going to break-up with me. FUCK. She’ll probably make him coffee in the morning and pour it in my Born To Run mug, and serve to that prick just to spite me, that fucking cu

Warren began crying again. He stifled himself, so as not to wake Dan and Laura (in addition to a squeaky floor, everything in their condo was chrome and granite – horrible acoustics for sobbing). He took a minute, and told himself to not think about any of that anymore. He was angry, but going insane over hypotheticals was too draining. There were many questions he had to answer, and it was getting late. He tip-toed back to the couch, and slipped under the comforter. He stared at the pack of Marlboro Reds on the coffee table; he had bought them that day – his second pack that week – and thought about slipping out onto the balcony to smoke one. He decided against it, and flipped to his back – staring, again, at the light on the ceiling.

“What the hell happened to my life?” he wondered.

*************

“Shit, sorry.” Warren said.

He put the homemade garlic bread back on his plate, and reached for a napkin at the center of the small table. With mechanical efficiency, he ran the napkin over the carb debris that had tumbled off his plate and dragged it to his cupped hand at the table’s edge. He looked up at Melissa – searching for some approval over a job well done – and was met with downward eyes. Melissa would rather poke at the penne and garlic beard Warren spent an hour making than talk to him. Warren closed his hand, and walked the crumbs to their resting place in the garbage…

Or wait? Does this go in compost? Shit. I don’t remember. If I ask, she’ll roll her eyes and say I never listen. Maybe I should just put it down the sink… no, then if we get another roach – I won’t hear the end of that, either. Fuuuuck. Okay. Trash. Put it in the trash, and just hope you’ll still get to watch The Long Goodbye tonight and she’ll go to bed, and there won’t be a fight.

Foot on the pedal of the trashcan. Lid opened with a metal squeak. Warren clapped his hands over the garbage, and tossed his napkin. Foot off the pedal. Lid thudded shut. He waited a moment – silence.

Thank Christ. he thought. Warren walked back to the table, and sat down.

It was quiet over dinner. It had been quiet for two weeks. Melissa had been dealing with a lot at work (most of which, Warren couldn’t remember), and she was still furious with him over the guitar. A Fender Esquire, which he had bought with part of their savings – $800, to be exact – ahead of consulting her. It was the same one Bruce Springsteen wore on the Born To Run album cover as he leaned on the shoulder of Clarence Clemens.

For weeks, Warren had been waking up with night sweats. He couldn’t focus on anything. Even worse: the littlest instances – a dropped plate of food, a foot plopped in his lap for an expected rub – all seemed to set him off.   He tried to talk about what was going on in his head, but Melissa only ever rolled her eyes at him. It was infuriating. Not to mention: their looming wedding did not make anything better in their house. Five months of engagement were not painting a happy picture of domesticity.

He felt trapped. Though he couldn’t articulate it, Warren was disappearing. At first, it was barely noticeable: somehow, a polo t-shirt appeared in his closet. And then it snowballed fast towards him: he worked in sales for a pharmaceutical company; his Chuck Taylors were replaced by Sperry boat shoes; his Friday nights ended around 10:00 p.m.; he knew way more about Ru-Paul’s Drag Race than he ever wanted to. One morning as Warren shaved with an Oprah-recommended Remington Electric (always at a “1” because Melissa hated stubble), he did not recognize the guy that peered back at him. This guy had sold off Warren’s original guitar years ago, and was constantly arguing with Melissa about leaving Warren’s massive CD collection on their building’s stoop to be picked over by scavengers. This was not Warren Eves. Warren Eves was either invisible, or dead, and this guy – “Waarren” – had taken his place. A momentary lapse in concentration caused “Waarren” to cut himself at the corner of his mouth. He shakily put down the razor and grabbed a towel. Beads of sweat appeared on “Waarren”’s forehead, his breathing quickened, and the heartburn he battled for the last year became a painful inferno in his chest. Warren wanted his body back; “Waarren” had to die.

When Melissa saw the bank statement from their joint savings account, she went silent. She walked into the living room, where Warren was reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth at her behest, and shoved the statement right into his face.

“Explain.” she said, curtly.

“I, um…” Warren couldn’t say anything. Instead, he put down the book, and went into their bedroom. He returned with a brown unopened shipping box from under their bed. He cut the box open, and plunged his fingers into the packing peanuts, wrapping them around the serpentine neck of the guitar. He pulled it out – taped up in a cellophane bag – and carefully removed it. He strapped the Fender Esquire around his torso, stopping to admire his fingers grazing the fret board strings – something about him suddenly looked visible. He looked up at Melissa, smiled: “…surprise…!” he meekly uttered.

“Waarren” was dead; long live, Warren Eves, irstwhile hero to neutered fiancés.

Melissa looked at him, wordless, “Eight hundred dollars.”, she said “That money was going to get us a condo in Brooklyn Heights.”

Melissa did not speak a word to him for two weeks after. Barely a “Hi.”, “Okay.”, or “I love you.” came from her lips. She was embroiled with a huge campaign for Chase Bank at work, and didn’t have time for Warren’s latest crisis. Warren responded by doing anything to get her attention: cooking, cleaning, DVRing every single reality show she loved and she knew he hated. But it was late. All of the effort; it was too late. It was kind of pathetic. None of it changed the fact that he had made a big purchase without telling her; with their money, which was really her money. Warren seemed to approach his sales job with the bare minimum effort. Warren was not following the game plan. And she was getting tired of waiting for him to open the playbook, or even bother to take a note.

“I don’t want to marry you.” she said, looking up from her penne as Warren sat back down at the table.

“Why?”, Warren was shocked.

“Warren – why do you think?” Melissa replied “We’re not happy anymore. We don’t want the same things.”

*************

It was now 2:47 in the morning. Warren thought about smoking a third cigarette, but the tip-toe’ing back and forth to the balcony was ridiculous. Instead, he sat up on the couch in Dan and Laura’s condo, and slurped down another triple of Jameson. The earbuds were back in, his final conversation with Melissa played over in his head while “The Secret Garden” hit its high point. The whiskey didn’t make anything feel better, but at least the buzz was finally making him tired. As Bruce whispered to him, Warren let the alcohol take hold. He chugged the last third of his whiskey and curled into the fetal position. His eyes slowly slitted down, and the last thing he could see – on the other side of the room – was the Fender. It lay atop a stack of four boxes, all of them containing Warren’s entire CD collection.

Warren both loved and hated that guitar. It was fire stolen from the gods, and a call to an ex-girlfriend in his phone history. It was him, through and through: a beautiful, pitiful fuck-up. He closed his eyes, as the new verse of lyrics carried him past the bridge…

You’ve gone a million miles, how far’d you get?/

To that place where you can’t remember/

And you can’t forget.

She’ll lead you down the path/

There’ll be tenderness in the air/

She’ll let you come just far enough, so you know she’s really there./

And she’ll look at you and smile/

And her eyes will see/

She’s got a secret garden, where everything you want, where everything you need./

Will always stay./

A million miles away.”

What the fuck am I going to do with my life? Warren wondered as he finally fell asleep.

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Lest We Forget Obvious Child

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FYI: if you haven’t seen the excellent Obvious Child, spoilers are ahead.

December is my favorite time of year for movies. It’s the heat of Oscar season, so many films I’ve been hearing about for months – via Sundance, Cannes, Toronto – will finally make it to commercial release. I’m pleased to see Boyhood getting all the buzz that it has; Birdman remains my favorite film of 2014, though Whiplash is a pretty damn close second. Still ahead for me to see: American Sniper, Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, Selma, A Most Violent Year, Nightcrawler, and Top Five. I’m pretty sure when I’m in South Jersey for the holidays, I’ll end up seeing Mr. Turner or Into The Woods with my parents.

2014’s been a rich year for character dramas – especially on the indie level (seriously, what hasn’t A24 released yet?). But one film getting lost in the shuffle of all the “Best Films of 2014” articles now popping-up is – I think – one of the most important movies of the decade and a comedy at that; that movie is Obvious Child.

There’s a lot about this film that makes it wonderful: Jenny Slate’s performance; Gillian Robespierre’s script and direction; David Cross in an ill-fitting tanktop – c’mon, America!

But Obvious Child is a comedy about a young woman getting an abortion. Well… there’s more to it than that – the same way there’s more to The Producers, Dr. Strangelove, The Landlord, or Harold and Maude. Those were also dark comedies that tackled big stuff – nuclear war, institutional racism, The Holocaust – with a lot of poise and earnest. They were also all produced during the 1960s, one of America’s uneasiest decades in cultural history. So maybe it’s no coincidence – as feminist politics has become a mainstream talking point since 2008 – that Obvious Child is now here: a whipsmart, self-effacing niece to the aforementioned titles.

Slate’s Donna Stern is a lovable but messy stand-up comedian, who gets dumped by her asshole boyfriend, loses her day job, and its the dead of winter in New York City – a season when you never want to leave your house because climate change has turned the city menopausal. To stave off depression, Donna hastily hooks up with Max, a really nice guy b-school student, and they forget to use a condom. And then Donna gets pregnant. And then Max falls for her, not being the wiser. And then Gabe Liedman and Gabby Hoffman showcase the coolest Gay Best Friend-Roommate duo ever captured on cinema – which made me wonder, “Why don’t I have a gay best friend?” Well then again: I’m a white, straight dude, so I would also need a podcast.

In a time when our culture is becoming increasingly politicized but remains oddly ignorant, Obvious Child is a straightforward, funny look at how young people fuck up. And the “fuck up” here is understandable. Let’s be honest, proto-millenials: if you’ve remained single into your 30s and live in a big city, you’ve had unprotected sex with a stranger or casual acquaintance at least once. For whatever reason, it happened. The only people who are going to judge you are the conservative assholes who have misinformed opinions about everything. And they’re the reason Creed was a big deal, so who cares what they think?

Fucking Up is the only way kids in their 20s learn how to become adults in their 30s. Fucking Up means dealing with the scary side of life, and figuring out how to get to the other end in one piece. Obvious Child shows a young woman – without health insurance – having to make a tough decision about her body and her life, and doing it with a great sense of humor. The last movie I remember laughing this hard at in a theater was The Big Lebowski – and I was 15.

Part of why this film’s jokes land so hard is that the plot is terrifying. There’s no moral dilemma in Obvious Child (sorry, Kirk Cameron). Instead, Donna’s pregnancy shines a light on all the glaring uncertainties of her life. If you take a hard look at 21st Century adulthood, you would think Darwin is trying to kill all of us: college debt isn’t going away; no one wants to pay a living wage; Tinder has made us all a little more shallow; and in show business, if you’re not careful and enterprising, you’ll be eating Ramen forever.

Now that I think about it: I’m surprised anyone I grew up with is now a parent; Godspeed, you Kings of New England.

In Donna’s case, there would be nothing responsible about becoming a mother. Which sets-up a question a new generation of taxpayers now confront: who would take on more responsibilities when there’s a lot of yourself left to figure out? In a world that demands more time, more expenses, more personal sacrifices well past your 20s – what’s the point of keeping up with the Joneses? Futhermore: why bring a child into this mess?

There was another thing about Obvious Child; a revelation, in fact. In the film’s penultimate scene – when the abortion is done, and Donna sits in the recovery room, looking at the myriad of other women who have undergone the same procedure that day – it hit me: “Holy shit… this is part of being a woman. Something like this happens to all of them at some point.”

It would be really stupid for me to say, “NOW I GET IT!” I’m white, and own a Jewish penis – I will never really get it. But I did have that moment good art aspires to: communicating something universal about the human condition; profound, even. And it has stuck with me – as a man, as a heterosexual, as a “comedy person”, and as a writer – since June 2014.

I only bought 2 Blu-Rays this year: the 4K remaster of Ghostbusters I & II, and Obvious Child. At this point, I don’t think I need to explain why. But I will say: if you haven’t seen Obvious Child yet, please see it. It’s very funny and very worthwhile.

If I ever have kids, I’ll make sure they will – when the time is right.

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10 Times The Jaguars Mascot Offended Us

Yesterday, Jax – the mascot of the NFL team The Jacksonville Jaguars – got into some hot water.  During a home game against The Pittsburgh Steelers, he displayed a sign on local TV mocking the recent U.S. outbreak of Ebola and Steelers’ Terrible Towel.

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Now, the obvious question here is: “Who cares?  It happened in Jacksonville, Florida.”  But, it’s been a controversial year for the NFL.  Scandal after scandal seems to be cropping up, and unfortunately: it’s no different with Jax – a mascot who is well known for pushing the league’s buttons.

In 10 different instances over the years, Jax has shown things on that sign that no one would ever find funny.

1) 2012 vs. The Miami Dolphins

Fins

2) 2009 vs. The Minnesota Vikings

Vikes

3) 2013 vs. The Houston Texans

Houston

4) 2005 vs. The Oakland Raiders

Shanks

5) 2008 vs. The New York Giants Super Bowl run, when a Jacksonville win would’ve kept them out of the postseason

Plane

Progressively, Jax has also taken personal liberties with that sign, going beyond football games themselves to express his often “radical” opinions on matters.

6) In 2012, when Jacksonville was rumored to be trading for native son Tim Tebow

Tebow

7) In 2009, when a public option for healthcare was still in discussion

Abortion

8) Again in 2009, when state education departments began implementing the Common Core Initiative

Math

9) In 2011, when Jax weighed in on the dealings of Hollywood

Charlie

10) During the 2014 preseason, when it just got weird

Sharon

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Sober Fox

Whiskey-On-The-Rocks-Slider

For 30 days while on the road, I quit drinking. This is a story of the ensuing frustration, revelation, and tacos.

I’m not an alcoholic (I don’t think), nor do I think going sober for 30 days at all epic. I have plenty of friends and heroes who don’t drink; some for years, some for decades. They don’t drink because they shouldn’t drink. I didn’t drink because I just wanted to see what would happen.

I grew up around alcohol. My parents were drinkers. My grandparents were drinkers. Booze was a big part of my childhood.

Back in my Jersey hometown, drinking in the woods or the local golf course was “a thing”. However, I was decidedly straight-edge and coincidentally(!) a virgin through all of high school. Who needs booze when you’re watching The Sirens of Sondheim with the other drama club kids – right, guys?

I stayed off alcohol until college. There: I perfected the drunken superpower of turning a good time very awkward; just give me a couple of beers and tell me, “I think W. is a great President”. It was a fun for no one.

In these leaner L.A. days, I’m described by all my friends as “a conservative drinker”. On the rare occasion when I am loaded, I’m a charming drunk, the kind that would make Peter O’Toole proud: stumbling into a 2 a.m. Uber, hazy from Jameson, sometimes with a new phone number, uncommonly with an evening companion, craving a cigarette or a plate of Carne Asada fries. Often, there are drunk texts: all to women back on the East Coast; all of them harmless, or cute, or sexy, or some combination of the three. Almost always: those women are happy to talk for a few minutes, but they have lives outside of my antics and want to go back to bed.

I had flirted with sobriety since I got serious about my writing career 3 years ago. Like many heralded talents of this era, I’ve always juggled a day job with a writing project. A typical day for me is 10-12 hours at my job, maybe 90 minutes of writing that night – if I can still stand. Nothing easily destroys that short burst of energy like an after work cocktail. I’m the kind of person who obsesses over making each day count. So: sobriety always seemed like a smart business move. But then again: who the fuck eats steak with a glass of water? (Peasants, that’s who.)

The key change, however, happened in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide. It wasn’t a moment of clarity. Earlier this summer, I started working out and hiking, so I was already drinking less than I had in the past. But the suddenness of Williams’ death – and lack of details when it first broke – made alcohol feel like a bad move, no matter what.

A few days after my last beer, I was quickly hired to work on a reality show that shot on location in the Southwest and Oregon for a month. Like most TV production jobs, it was a “Drop Everything”-type situation and I needed the money. By day 4, I was driving alone in a minivan, shooting through Northern Arizona, en route to New Mexico. The double-time pace helped me stay clean for 7 days. After that, I didn’t have a plan. If I felt like a drink, I would have a drink – but I didn’t. If anything, I wanted to see how long I could go and I made the arbitrary decision of 30 days at the suggestion of a colleague.

30 days. No alcohol. On the road. In the middle of nowhere… awesome.

The first thing I noticed was how present alcohol had become in my life since I was 19. Even as a lightweight, the impulse to have a beer with a meal or nurse a whiskey over a dinner meeting was strong – really strong. By day 9, I realized how much distance I had put between me and that angry, straight-edge kid. Did I betray him? Probably, but he also thought being the first person to discover Postal Service would get him laid. He was a nice kid, but misdirected.

By day 11, I found I didn’t need alcohol to be social or outgoing. Kyle Kinane has a great joke about sober people who also love to dance at weddings, “Those should be the first people in line for murder suspects.” He’s kind of right.

As my “sobriety experiment” continued, I began to wonder if it was one of the dumber decisions I’d made (and I used to be into “raving”). The whole point of sobriety is for people to deal with life head-on; to overcome addiction or inhibition, and be fully realized human beings. I chose sobriety “just because”. And it was temporary sobriety, prompted by nothing: no rock bottom, no moment of clarity. After 30 days, I didn’t know if I could go full-on sober, or if I would want to.

There were some days I hated being sober, like day 19: our show’s night out in Salt Lake City. SLC – if you’ve never been – is a very charming place. Not my first choice for a wild Friday night, but it’s conducive: it’s small, it’s walkable, it’s filled with young people who want to live in city less “complicated” than, say, Milwaukee. As we bar-hopped around downtown – me guzzling 5 club sodas that night – I got some flack from my co-workers. A few thought I was missing out on bonding; a few didn’t get the difference between 19 days and 30 days. When I look back on that night, I also wonder what I really gained, except knowing that my limit of control has a far reach. Which is good to know, but I wouldn’t’ve minded cutting a little loose and then flopping into bed; perhaps a drunk text would float over the Utah mountains towards the New York City rooftops.

But in the end: I didn’t do anything. By then, I had been sober 19 days, and if I made it this far on my dumb decision, I was going to make it to 30, Goddammit.

It is worth mentioning that during this stretch of time, I’ve never been healthier. The lack of alcohol helped my immune system sustain itself over 30 days of work, and travel across 7 states. Not dealing with morning hangovers also let me maintain my work-out schedule, which is just as Rooseveltian as my dumb decision-making. My body became the leanest and most defined it has ever been in my life. For the first time, I kind-of, sort-of looked like the swim captain you wanted to fuck in high school. Being a former fat kid, that achievement meant a lot.

The other significant health note: I wasn’t getting laid, which I had been doing a lot of since a break-up back in February. To keep it brief: I was the one that got dumped. I didn’t see it coming. I really liked the person; I thought it was going to get serious. It didn’t, and rather than deal with my feelings, I decided to cope with sex. For a while.

It’s funny: when you’re depressed, the stuff that works great in your 20s – drinking, sex, improv classes – doesn’t quite work in your 30s. Weirdly, it kind of feels like you’re running from something! That is: until you decide to quit drinking for 30 days, leaving you no choice but to face your depression. Well, you do have a choice, but I’m not famous enough to have Courtney Love read the suicide note at my funeral. Maybe Tara Reid… maybe.

After three weeks of busy days and quiet nights – often alone with my thoughts – my yearlong depression came into hard focus during Day 21-27 in the woods of Oregon. I guess you could call it… I don’t know, “functional depression”? It’s not like I was writing a pitch for Courtney, but I had spent 2014 acting as if nothing was wrong – and not just with my dating life.

Show business is… tough. My path in it has found some consistency after patches of inconsistency that were propped-up by a few lost years in a crappy office job. Building a career in Hollywood is a patient, piecemeal process that I – and all of my friends – are wading through. And yet, through stints of unemployment and regular script rejections, I found myself focusing on all the stuff you’re not supposed to: my age, my fuck-ups, my old UCB peers who are now staffed on shows, my friends back East who’ve found happiness in more stable life choices; how much I missed New York, how indifferent I still am to L.A. as a city; how days seem to go by a lot faster than they did 10 years ago.

By day 24, when I thought about context: it made sense that I would look for a distraction – like a failed relationship, putting off an attempt at sobriety – to not face the harder shit that had been weighing on me this year.

Production wrapped on day 27. My flight back to L.A. was the next morning. I spent the late afternoon hiking in the woods, taking photographs of things you’d find in a place with four seasons. I climbed out onto a fallen tree over a stream to catch the sunset. The night before had been the wrap party, with an open bar. Unlike SLC, I was happy to abstain. As tough as sobriety had been, I didn’t want a filter anymore. I stood out over an Oregon forest and finally admitted the obvious to myself: I was still broken-hearted; unhappy; frustrated; depressed; hungry for some kind of success, something that would answer the question, “When the fuck is it going to be my turn?”

The plane ride from Portland to L.A. was quick – three and a half hours, I think. At take-off, my body finally shut down, and I let exhaustion wash over me. I had gone 28 days without a drink. All I wanted was a Jameson to commemorate a job well done. But I had to wait 48 hours. If I didn’t, all of the trouble I put myself through would be a complete waste.

Everything I learned about myself still sat at the back of my mind.

Day 30, I was alone in my apartment in Echo Park. The clock struck 9:39 p.m. It was done. I had gone 1 month without drinking a single sip of alcohol.

I let another 20 minutes pass; I didn’t feel like drinking anything. But a small part of me wondered what I was still trying to prove. I went to my fridge, and opened a beer. I sat back down on my couch. I took a swig.

The empty carbs bombed my stomach like Hiroshima. The alcohol buzzed straight to my head.

I was back in an altered state. My problems were still there, the objective truth of my life still hung over my head. But with alcohol: I was coping, like everyone else. During my lost years at my crappy office job, I tried – really hard – to be like everyone else.

I never, ever liked it.

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#ManTips: Sex

man-tips-dating-better-man

It’s #ManTips Monday; 10 easy tips for being a better man.

  1. Don’t: assume sex on the first date. Do: suggest the first date be at your place.
  1. Don’t: expect a blowjob. Do: set the mood with a bluegrass record.
  1. Don’t: buy Magnum condoms. Do: wear JNCO wide leg jeans.
  1. Don’t: be a fake. Do: hide your Ninja Turtle action figures.
  1. Don’t: avoid eating her out. Do: show her 200 saved Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons ahead of time.
  1. Don’t: wear Axe Body Spray. Do: anything else.
  1. Don’t: get upset she fakes orgasm. Do: get upset when she falls asleep first.
  1. Don’t: troll for sex on Tinder. Do: troll for Farmer’s Market companions.
  1. Don’t: fuck and run. Do: fuck, make coffee, listen to a story about her dead dad, and then say you have brunch plans.
  1. Don’t: call her. Do: send roses to her job with a card that says: “Thanks for fucking.”

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MCA, My Billy Goat Bearded Hero

If you follow me on Twitter, or are friends with me on Facebook, I’ve made it no secret how deeply the death of MCA a.k.a. Adam Yauch has affected me over the last two days. Adam was one of my heroes – right up there with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Jim Carroll, and Joe Strummer. I’ve loved the music of The Beastie Boys since I was 14 years old (my first two Beastie albums were Licensed To Ill, and Hello Nasty, which features “I Don’t Know” – a heart-breakingly enlightened MCA solo piece with Yuka Honda). They were a band that’s been with me for 15 years; a band I never grew tired of, whose music continued to blow me away, even as their hair began to turn grey. If you missed Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two last summer and you love the Beasties, I highly recommend buying it. The album hinted what we could have anticipated if MCA had survived his fight with cancer: 3 elder statesmen of hip-hop who refused to take themselves seriously as age seemed to catch up. In addition to jokes at their own expense about pushing 50 and still rhyming, they continued to evolve musically and came full circle with brilliant tracks like the Jimmy Cliff by way of Paul’s Boutique song “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” featuring Santigold, and the rambunctious, sonic dance track, “Make Some Noise”.

I remember watching MCA’s video message in 2009, announcing the diagnosis that would eventually claim his life, and couldn’t help but feel worried. Optimistic at the early detection, but worried. This man was just more to me than a music icon.

On November 23rd, 1999, The Beastie Boys released The Sounds of Science – their greatest hits anthology. It was my 16th birthday; I was confused and aimless. Actually, for a month and a half, I had been contemplating suicide. What led me to such thinking I can only describe as a mix of things that – when you’re 16 – seemed epic and unmanageable. But what kept me from moving forward on any impulses was my slim hope that my problems were not a be-all, end-all. Anyway, the minute The Sounds of Science came out, I bought it and fell in love with it (as I did with all the Beastie albums). Included in the 2-disc set was a 40-page booklet where the Beastie Boys included notes and stories about their songs. Attached to the song “Bodhisattva Vow”, MCA included an essay about his conversion to Buddhism and the personal headaches he created during production on Ill Communication in order to meet the Dalai Llama for the first time.

This essay served as the first exposure I ever had to Buddhism, the one faith – if any – to which I’ve felt any spiritual connection.

Adam’s words about falling over himself to meet His Holiness were both humble and passionate. It was shortly after his first meeting that he became more impassioned to the cause of Tibet, and recorded “Bodhisattva Vow” as a hip-hop tribute to his faith and his mentor. This was when MCA, the humanitarian, was born. MCA, the obnoxious party boy, was now pledging to save the world. If nothing else, but because it was his duty as a human being.

“Whoa.” 16 year old me thought.

Obviously, I didn’t off myself. Obviously, Adam’s words and lyrics had an impact on me that got me through a rough year. In the months after purchasing Sounds, I would continue to tell myself through that shitty, shitty time: “If I can just make it to the end of this school year, I’ll be fine.” But, Adam also showed me: we can all change. Nothing is permanent in this world; nothing is finite. The guy who will fight for his right to party can, 10 years later, “Say a little something that is long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be due./To all the mothers, and the sisters, and the wives, and friends/I want to offer my love and respect to the end.”

“Bodhisattva Vow” is a very simple song that pledges love and gratitude to the present-day existence had by all sentient beings. In the wake of MCA’s death, it – along with “I Don’t Know” – takes on a very sobering weight about the limited time we have as human beings. It’s not about touchy-feely self-love; it’s about recognizing that life is an opportunity, not a death sentence. Because: you don’t know why you’re here; you don’t know what’s going to make you happy; but what you do know is that sitting around and being uninvolved in the world around you is not going to give any answers.

Adam Yauch taught me that a better tomorrow exists. And, just because you live to see that tomorrow, that doesn’t mean you have to change anything about yourself because you’re older, or that money and success is going to lead to happiness. You should always grow. You should always be open to the world around you. You should always care, and stop to help out when you can. You are not what the world wants you to be; you are only what you choose to be.

Over the last two days, I’ve come to a realization: I loved Adam Yauch. Maybe it was only the idea of him, since I never had the privilege of meeting him. But I loved him, as much as I could. He was a role model and a teacher; a buddha. He was an MC that always left me speechless. He was the only one of my self-destructive idols that showed me life and happiness exists after 23 years old. And it was going to be awesome. On Friday morning, someone I loved very much was taken from me; and as it goes, I will need time to accept it and move on.

As I’ve said – on repeat all weekend – I love you and will miss you, MCA. Your death is one of the saddest things I have experienced since my grandfather, and before that my father, died. But I will never forget what you taught me. I pledge to pass it on in my words and actions to those around me. And maybe, just maybe, I might unknowingly touch some loner kid’s life out there the way you touched mine.

Goodbye, Adam. I love you. Namaste.

“I give thanks for this world as a place to learn/
And for this human body that I know I’ve earned.”

-“Bodhisattva Vow”

“It’s not so simple as I try to wish,/
But then again what is?/
There is no other worthy quest,/
So on I go.

I don’t know./
Who does know?/
There is no/
Where to go.”

-“I Don’t Know”

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From My Queue: “Conversations with Other Women”

In an attempt to reduce the amount of digital clutter in my life, I’ve resolved to actually watch the 50+ films and TV shows on my Netflix queue.

I first stumbled across Conversations with Other Women while doing a random search on Netflix.  The film seemed interesting enough to gather dust on my queue for over a year: a man and a woman with a past meet-up at a wedding and re-explore their failed relationship.  Sadly, I’ve been kicking around a similar script idea in my head since I moved to New York (this is why you don’t dick around, kids).

While the film’s dialogue is smart, it sounds and feels like it’d be much better as a play than a film.  This sentiment is amplified by the filmmaker’s choice to shoot and edit the entire thing in split screen.  My guess is that Hans Canosa’s intention was to experiment with the character’s memories of each other when younger and recollection of past events.  While he does find some moments of great storytelling, the effect is more jarring than daring.  I found myself distracted more often than not, and even annoyed, since the split screen rarely embodies a single shot that let’s the viewer ease into the world of the film.  And more so, that seems to only highlight that the script is heavy on dialogue, light on dramatic action, and gets you wondering why not just make it a play?  The story and characters are interesting enough.

Both Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter are great; Tom Lennon and Olivia Wilde get a lot out of their limited screen time as well.  By the film’s end, you get what Conversations with Other Women is really all about – regrets, hope, possible redemption.  I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, but seriously – 84 minutes of a goddamn split screen?

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Always Ames…

Bonus post! Why? Because the post I had scheduled for today wasn’t ready yet. As you might expect, this provoked me to spend the night sobbing into a bottle of Dr. Pepper, and calling my ex-girlfriend from kindergarten multiple times (Allison, I’m sorry). Anyway, because I did feel inclined to write about something on the QT – and since this is, technically, a blog – then I can’t begin to recommend one of my more recent favorite graphic novels, The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames. It’s a sweet, tragic, hilarious tale of the things a man can do while drunk and the ponderings that are left with him the morning after. Lord knows: who hasn’t woken up the next day after a wild night out to discover he spent $20 on 3 bags of Family Size Dorito’s and has 3 text messages from a girl in Wisconsin (true story). Anyway, The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames. Enjoy readers.

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