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New Life : New York - kale & cigarettes
New Life : New York

New Life : New York

Charlie just got done yelling at me. Not yelling as you would imagine a parent doing, but yelling at me with his mind and his silence as I explained dramaticized vignettes of my New York life. 

On 11:11 I used to wish to make a specific amount of money this year. I thought it could help alleviate some anxieties. But now I wish to be unburdened. Which is to say, I want to be free. 

Even that isn’t good enough for Charlie. “What does it mean – to be free? I don’t understand.” And I’ll sit there and ponder his question in frustration because I actually don’t know either. And maybe that’s why I can’t find my groove because I don’t know what I’m moving towards. I am hopeful that my weekly Skype calls with Charlie, a 71 year old Aikido master living in Thailand, will help me move forward into something more clear. 

I’ve gone on a few dates since being in New York part time. I haven’t seen the same person twice. Usually we meet for coffee and go for a walk. The idea of being confined to a cross-table stare within the first five minutes of knowing someone isn’t appealing. I need to be moving so I can see things and form ideas as my eyes make contact with the things happening around me. 

Sometimes, I will go on dates back to back. Like I will travel to places in the world with similar landscapes back to back. I like to have the immediate comparison. What I liked and what I didn’t. If I said something that didn’t feel right I know I can correct it the next time around. 

I don’t know this city yet. Which makes it hard to create an experience. In San Diego, I know the best spots for every environment I want to be in. A walk on the cliffs at sunset. Balboa Park at night when it’s empty. Tucked away restaurants with cult followings and delicious takeout. I have all the moves. Which is to say, I can be impressive. 

I told Charlie today I am more concerned with how I am being perceived in every moment than how I actually feel.

“And how does that feel?” he asked.

Like I’m wearing a costume and I have no power in my own life. 

On a first date everything is awkward, clunky. Added to the fact that I’m in a new city where I know very little and have experienced few reps walking through the coffee shops and streets. Is this door push or pull? Will the music be too quiet where we feel like we have to whisper? Is this park on the map a place people actually go and sit or is it a known dump by locals? 

I am a fragment of myself here. Moving like a projected hologram being controlled by a satellite on a five second delay. Nothing is fluid. Everything is second-guessed. 

I wish to be unburdened meaning I wish to be me. I wish to walk into a situation and feel centered in my body with a calm mind and say the things that I feel are true, no matter where I am or who I’m with. 

I do not wish to be a leaf, a bit of dust, a plastic bag moving in whatever direction the wind happens to be blowing. 

New York is complicated for me. 

“Why did you move there?” Charlie asked. 

To fall in love I suppose. To write. To be in a situation that is new and exciting. I don’t have a plan beyond that. 

“You might’ve wanted to flesh out a few more details before getting a place,” he continued. This is a dagger to me. As I am already doing damage control on my frayed neurons. I see the anxiety spread out around me, take a look, and consolidate a strike right into the center of my chest. What can I do but follow my feet? 

I have one chair. The radiator functions as my work desk, dining table, and ottoman when I’m reading. I waited on the first morning for the wifi to be installed. Then I walked to Noho to the Casper store and bought a full-size mattress to fit in the tiny bedroom. I ordered a Lyft XL to pick me up and drive me back to the apartment, where the driver dropped me a full block away. I dragged, carried, and sashayed the box down the street and up three flights of stairs where I found my low back to be screaming at me as it does when I do too much. 

I waited for Amazon to arrive with more essentials. Cutting board, knives, Vitamix, toaster oven, soap, towels, cooking pans, and silverware. I cut down box after box and made a pile so large I felt a little disgusting. 

You can only take boxes down to the street on Tuesday after 4pm for Wednesday pickup or you will be fined. Trash has to be placed in a contractor grade black bag. So I walked three blocks to Target and got some heavy duty trash bags and shipping tape. Also, a pair of scissors and a power strip. A broom too, but I forgot that at the register. 

I went up and down the stairs several times while on the phone with Ashley and chipped away at my pile. I looked at how people positioned their trash and tried my best to blend in. That’s what I’ve been doing a lot while walking and riding the subway, looking around and taking notes. 

What does it mean to live in New York? How do you dress? When do you cross the street? All questions that make me feel anxious but will soon be answered and give me a sense of confidence. Maybe that’s why I do this – to replace all my comforts and routines with randomness and uncertainty. Forcing a reinvention. A rebirth. 

If only I could get in my car and drive to IKEA and knock everything off my list. I can’t. It gets put together in pieces. Two days worth of groceries from Commodities Health Food Store down the street. Another trip out to Trader Joe’s because I forgot cooking oil. I did that on my way back from Best Buy in Union Square because the speakers I ordered on Amazon were the wrong size, as in, they were five feet tall. Now I have to carry them back down the stairs and wait for UPS to buzz the apartment at an unknown time to pick them back up. 

I realized after breaking down all the boxes that I had no way of cleaning the floors. I forgot cleaning spray. I didn’t order a vacuum. Back to Target. Another call to Ashley. I was carrying around the cordless vacuum when I realized I’d need to take a shower later. Shampoo, soap, a curtain, and some rings. 

My mind was split everywhere so I went to F45 in LES for a workout. And back I came into my body. When I walked out I was enamored again. This city. These people. Every fifth passer-by is so pretty I giggle to myself. Where the fuck am I? I was on my way back to Westville to eat for the 5th time in 3 days when I decided to stop at an arepas place and get a grain bowl with roasted pork. It was delicious. 

I overheard the two women next to me talking about their friends being flaky and breaking plans. I took notes on the specifics in case I, later, had to break plans with someone. They said they wanted to catch up. Made a plan for Tuesday evening and on Tuesday morning he said he had to run errands and wouldn’t be able to make it. Run fucking errands? Are you kidding me? She said to her friend. I thought it was weak, too. It made me feel nervous about my dating life here. I am used to a different pace. Not that people aren’t flaky as hell in California, I’m just not putting myself in many positions where people can say no to me. My friends are like family and my employees have no choice but to listen to me. 

So far the average text return time is about 4-5 hours. Dates require at least a 1-2 week lead time. Everyone says, “This week is a little crazy,” or, “This week is nuts for me, maybe sometime next week?” Or they will ask me my schedule and I have to pause because my life is basically just sitting next to the radiator eating takeout while I wait for deliveries. “I’m working remote this week, so, flexible!” As I learn more about what works and what doesn’t I make adjustments. “I’ve got stuff most of the week but can hang out Friday evening or Saturday morning for a couple hours.” That places the urgency and responsibility on them to secure a time. 

The success rate with scheduling is much higher the more specific I am. Jenny was the one who pointed that out as I was reading her possible text responses to Erica, an artist from Brooklyn who I went on an art show date with. 

“Don’t say things like let me know when you’re free it’s too wishy-washy. It doesn’t make me feel interested in responding to you. Tell me when you can hang out and leave it up to me to make that happen.” 

I have been giving Ashley advice on a new guy she likes. He is a bit avoidant, as I am, so giving her the playbook for how to keep a guy like that interested is easy. I tell her not to respond right away. To never change plans in order to see him. And to never respond to an intimate conversation with him by saying things like, “That was really great talking last night.” Just let the moment speak for itself. And let the vibe build naturally. She has been listening and it’s working perfectly. The only problem is that I can’t take that same advice for myself.

In my own life, things become more complicated. I want to respond to texts right away because when people keep me on the hook it makes me feel anxious as hell and I don’t want to cause that for someone else. At least, that is the positive way of framing it. The deeper stuff might be that I have insecurities that flare when I’m getting to know a new person and I need to know where we stand as quickly as possible so I can escape all that discomfort and uncertainty. 

“How can you spend so much time thinking about a person you don’t even know?” Charlie asks me.

Good fucking question, Charlie. 

One month ago, I was sitting on my couch in San Diego watching YouTube videos of emotional America’s Got Talent auditions. My emotional vice is when the performer is awkward and has a stringent father who doesn’t express emotions well. The performer might be overweight or have acne. They might be an outcast or someone who was bullied. 

The father will come off as discouraged by the fact that his son/daughter wants to perform in front of this many people. He might be wearing a bulky button down tucked into Levi’s (not 511s) with a leather belt suitable for farm work should the mood call for it. This is everything he stands against. He doesn’t believe in any of it. He’s only there because he’s too proud not to show up. The very center of him is undergoing microtremors and he keeps his posture so tight that no one will be able to see the fear he’s been hiding since the world turned to him and asked that he be a man. 

Then the performer sings. And for a moment, we are all silent because we aren’t sure what we’re experiencing. Because we aren’t accustomed to being blown away that often. The judges will start to smirk, the audience will open their mouths in disbelief. This is just the warmup for me. I’m waiting for the cutaway shot backstage. The performer goes on a run and now the crowd is standing. The lump starts to build in my throat and I can feel my fists tighten as I take that deep breath through my own father’s nostrils. They cut to the man standing firm in his Levi’s only now he is soft. His face is trembling and his eyes are so glossy he will have no choice but to break character and wipe them away so he can watch his kid crack him into a million little pieces. At this moment, I am gone. I am wishing I am on stage, self-actualizing in front of the world and breaking through my father’s fearful shell and seeing him crumble into the weakness and sorrow that permeates everything inside him. I know that’s how he feels because that is how I feel. 

I went to see Julie after Alexis and I broke up. A couple months had passed and I was curious as to why I hadn’t felt anything yet. She told me I was back to what I knew. I was going to New York, meeting new women, constantly filling myself with novelty.

“The brain loves novelty. If you can get enough of it then things may never catch up with you,” she said. 

It didn’t sound like a good thing.

“In a way, you are exactly where you were before Alexis. You are repeating your pattern, as we all do.” 

I enjoyed my life before Alexis.

“And yet, you jumped right in with her as if you were miserable otherwise.” 

You can only kiss someone for the first time once. A thought that has crippled me in relationships. Now I have more peace in knowing that even if the kiss grows old between me and someone else there are so many other things in my life that will constantly be new – my thoughts, feelings, and experiences that make my past self’s version of the future completely irrelevant. While some are saying I am broken, unreachable emotionally, I am feeling that I am acquiring knowledge. I’m here to live. 

Charlie tells me we should feel everything we say. That our thoughts become our breath and when they are connected we will appreciate who we are being. 

I ask myself at night as I sit down on my meditation pillow – am I appreciating myself?

Am I appreciating myself as I move through this world and make countless mistakes and hurt people I love? Do I deserve to appreciate myself? 

On Sunday, October 13th I sat at the bar at Waypoint Public and talked about movies with Rachael, the Sunday AM regular bartender. I had just finished my 8am F45 workout and answered yes when she asked if I wanted ‘the usual.’ 

I have some apartment tours that are lining up for Friday in NYC. Lower East Side (LES), East Village, and Williamsburg. 

I’ve committed to the idea that now is the time to live in New York. That if I don’t do it now, I never will. 

Of course such a thing can’t be proven or even relied on. But it was giving me motivation. 

Outside the bar, on this sunny Sunday morning in Southern California, stood a pair of those young, hot couples with one small child each. The wives were wearing dad jeans and vintage track jackets and the dad were wearing loose neck t-shirts and wayfarers. 

For a second, it makes parenting and love seem desirable. Then they pull away in four identical bikes. The men are in front with the kids in baskets in the front and the women trail behind carrying their totes bags. They are all wearing helmets. 

And that is how I know marriage isn’t for me. You have to subscribe to the program to be successful. You have to be willing to compromise, sacrifice, and be okay when things are just okay. 

Rachael sets the plate in front of me, along with the hot sauce and rolled silverware. I know the weight and texture of the wrap and anticipate it in my hands before I grab it. My bag hangs on a hook in front of the stool next to me. I am sitting in the same seat as every other week. They are about to roll up the garage doors and let the cool morning breeze come through. I will close my eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Charlie has taught me to locate the things happening around me as a way to make myself present. Breeze. Laughter. Car driving by. A bird. A child. And me. Here.

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