Saturday, April 30, 2011
I was on a family vacation when I was 12 years old in Rhode Island. That’s when it happened. It was serious and came out of nowhere, tackling me. It stopped me dead in my tracks. I wasn’t even a teen. I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t prepared for the ramifications of my discovery. I was sitting on a bed in a hotel room looking right in front of me at something I had never really seen before, baffled and bewildered. That’s when I realized for the first time, in that moment, looking in a mirror, that my hair was the shit.
It was long and blonde and my fingers slid through it with ease and awe. My eyes widened and the person on the other side of the bed looking back at me, smiled. Probably because he knew what it meant, and would go on to mean.
Life’s interesting. Great people discover great things. Benjamin Franklin found electricity. Columbus found India. The Romans found Jesus. Regis found Kelly and I found my hair, sitting on the top of my head just as it had always had been. Now though, it was talking to me, letting me know the future was going to be different now that I’d found it. My mom and sister saw my discovery and asked what I was doing in front of the mirror. I simply replied, “My hairs pretty cool...” They just rolled their eyes. Trust me though, it was/still is cool. It always will be.
My relationship with my hair has been nothing short of interesting. I’ve tried getting rid of it, pushing it back, or away. I’ve parted with it, and shot it up the heavens. It’s faded away, but always, it comes back to me. In lieu of other recessions in this world, people and things that come and go, my hair has never receded or retreated.
I tell you this now because reflection is important. I stand to look at the things in front of me and realize what’s changed or stayed the same. Things change. That’s life’s innate truth. You can reflect in front of nothing or you can reflect in front of a magical invention, the mirror. It’s the only object in this world that really lets you look at yourself and all your matter as a being. It’s this only inanimate object that lets you look at the most animate, alive, and aware object on the planet, a human being, without filter.
One thing has never changed for me. Thank God. That thing is how cool my fucking hair is. No matter what I stand for or how hard or fast the wind blows, my hair is standing, letting all the heads know what time it is. In my classroom it is always, awesome hair: all the time, o’clock.
I look at my reflection more than I look at anything else. It’s true. It’s not because I’m completely vain. It’s because I’m completely cool with myself. I gotta check in with McManus, say a couple words of wisdom, or give a pep talk. You can find me most times with your passenger seat mirror down, or checking out my reflection in a storefront window. I’m not ashamed of it. I like myself, maybe a little to much.
Regardless of how you feel about it or me, I love my hair. It’s worth its weight in gold, it’s just ironic that is it’s the same color.
Monday, April 25, 2011
In high school your hobby usually dictates what your hair looks like. If you play sports you most likely have short spiked hair. If you are in accelerated classes you most likely had a hair part, and if you were a cheerleader you most likely had highlights on your head. What you do with your feet and brain usually coincided with your hair style. If you listen to top 40 radio stations, you probably really care what people think about your hair. If you listen to hard core hip hop, you most likely have an “ill fade”.
At an early age you’re subconsciously attaching your identity to your hair and your shoes. It’s true.
In May of my sixteenth year of life I needed a new pair of shoes. I drove to the mall with my friend Billy, who loved the mall. He worked at the mall. He lived at the mall. We would pick up chicks, outfits, food at the food court, and records there, almost daily. That’s what American teens do when they want to be seen or see what else is out there. I needed a new pair of shoes and he and he drove off to the South Shore Mall in the heart of Bay Shore NY, Long Island.
Things had changed for me that year. I’d lost about 90 lbs. I’d fallen in love for the first time. I’d stopped doing drugs and started listening to Sublime and classic rock and roll. I was changing. I was growing and I needed a new pair of shoes. I walked in to the mall wearing an old pair of ratty skate shoes and walked right past Journey’s and Pacific Sunwear. Those were the places that I’d purchased most of my sneakers. I needed something else, something to prove I was going somewhere. I wanted running shoes for the first time in my life. I marched right into Foot Locker and the referee looked at me like I was in the wrong store. I had long hair, big baggy pants and skate shoes on. I told him that I wanted to start running and I didn’t know where to start. He giggled a bit under his breath and then once he knew I was serious he started presenting me with options. After about three tries I went with a size 12 pair of New Balance running shoes, grey with a yellow N. You know the ones I’m talking about. I took off my skate shoes, put the New Balance’s on and paid for them. I placed my old shoes in the new box and walked out, differently.
After I walked out I looked at my head in the mirror and decided to walk to the mall’s barber shop and cut my hair short for the first time in my life. I wasn’t even apprehensive about it. I was ready to switch it up. As the locks fell to the ground I started smiling in the chair. I paid for the haircut and walked out with my friend. We weren’t really saying much to each other. He knew my brain was going somewhere special. I took my old shoes and threw them in the garbage and stood on the curb outside of the mall, the same mall I’d been going to for over a decade. I looked at my feet and I felt how light my new head was. It was clear to me. It was that moment that I’d changed myself and my appearance from the ground up, and from the head down. I had transformed.
Why do I tell you this long winded story about my shoes and my hair? I’m teaching you a lesson. You can change your world with a few adjustments. You can change your outlook by changing your shoes. You can strip and add layers to yourself with the swish of a scissor. It’s easy to do, if you want to.
Women own dozens of pairs of shoes. They change who they are all the time. They are feet chameleons. If you want to know what’s on a woman’s mind, just look at her feet. If you can get her to take off her shoes, well then it’s up to you.
How does all this apply to you? It may not. Just know how you walk is dictated by why you walk, and that’s dictated by what your feet are wearing.
That day I bought my first of many pairs of running shoes. I started running then, and I’ve never stopped. I put other shoes on, some for leisure, some for work, but I’ll never forget that first pair. Those shoes represented that year and would go on to shape every year leading up to now. I still run, but I stay in one place now and run every mile of it until I understand the path I’m on.
Monday, April 18, 2011
There’s a little boy somewhere. Maybe he’s the new kid in school. Maybe he’s scared. Maybe he’s confused about himself and others. Maybe he likes weird clothes and music that his peers don’t "get." Maybe his voice could fill up the Grand Canyon, but his mouth can't articulate his thoughts.
He maybe overweight and unappreciated. He may be quiet and excited, a glowing light sitting Indian style, by himself, watching the others on the playground while he hums unknown melodies. He dreams, all day and all night. He prays for understanding and for the others to understand him.
Maybe he walks home watching cars pass and leaves wave at him, smiling because his thoughts tackle his fears with laughter. Maybe he dances in his room and talks to his stuffed animals as if they were an audience. They can’t clap though. He knows this. He understands this.
I do this because that little boy should hear those claps. I do this so that he smiles. I do this so that he knows it’s ok to think those thoughts, but learns to speak them aloud. I do this so he can grow to the understanding that it’s his world, not there’s. So that he knows those claps are coming. He just has to think loud enough so they can hear him.
Monday, April 11, 2011
I grew up on Long Island, NY. We lived in a town called East Islip, right slap dab in the middle of the fish shaped body of land. My father worked in Manhattan and commuted about an hour and a half each way into the city, five days a week. The Long Island railroad lets you off in midtown Manhattan in the basement of Madison Square Garden in a place called Pennsylvania Station.
When I was a kid, New York City was still a dangerous place. Mayor Giuliani wasn’t even a concept yet. Crime and poverty, which are basically the same thing, were commonplace. I remember that there were literally rules one would have to follow to divert crime and the homeless. Back then Penn Station was a breeding ground zero and home for the homeless. Cops weren’t cleaning up the mess because they were too busy being dirty.
My father and his co-workers had these rules to, “not get stabbed.” Guns were expensive and harder to come by. So if you were going to get mugged, someone wouldn’t be throwing a coffee cup at you, they’d pull out a steak knife.
The rules went as follows:
1) No eye contact in Penn Station
2) Wear a trench coat over your work clothes.
3) Don’t carry a briefcase if you’re alone, or it’s past 7PM
4) Ignore everyone
5) Carry mace
These rules were important and if not followed meant certain things may take place. Growing up, the city seemed to be a scary place, not just because it was so dense, but also because a lot of people were murdered.
My first time in Penn Station I was probably eight or nine and my father ran with me upstairs to MSG with his hands covering my eyes. I remember it smelling like despair, a bathroom, my dad’s workout clothes, pizza, doughnuts, and beer all at the same time. Rather than be adverse to it I became secretly addicted. That was real life happening. I’ve been through that station probably 5,000 times since, maybe more, in my teens to go to concerts, in my early twenties to perform comedy, and in my late twenties when I lived in the city. You don’t really understand homeless people till you live in close proximity to some. It goes beyond just not having a home, because they’re people too, with identities. To quote The Muppets Take Manhattan, “People’s are People’s.”
I lived in Park Slope Brooklyn from in my mid to late twenties. My apartment was close to what was once considered the most dangerous avenue in the state of New York, Flatbush Avenue. Brooklyn’s gentrified now. There’s much less crime, more lesbians, and groups of white boys that have the word, “the” in the name of their band. Most of them don’t even play an instrument. It’s a safer avenue now. My subway stop was right there on Flatbush. The blessed Q train. The homeless men that congregated on the steps of that platform were awesome. They were there every morning and every night. There was a duo of men that stood together rain or shine. We never really got their names. That would break the fourth wall or take away from the angelic inspiration of the quick words of wisdom they so regularly offered. They were more potent being partially anonymous. We called them “Eye patch man,” and “Mr. Please help me out.” Every day when I passed them they would greet me with smiles on their faces and say the same things. Eye patch man would say, “Love is love baby,” and Mr. Please help me out would say, “Please help me out.” He said it in a way that was almost like he was singing it, but he wasn’t. It always made my friends and me smile and we always helped them out. At Christmas they would wear Santa hats and sing carols. In the summer they would ask us to meet them in the park for a BBQ. If one of them was not there everyone in the neighborhood would express concern. They slept in random places, made enough money to eat, but still were homeless. They had a message though, many in fact, all revolving around one key phrase uttered 700 times a day as many went to and from work, “love is love.”
Those two men saw me grow up over 7-years. They saw me with long hair, short hair, with different girlfriends, sad, happy, dressed to impress, and dirty after a 18 hour day of work. They kept an eye on me; literally, eye patch man really just had one eye.
The reason I tell all of this is this, those men were my NY street angels. I knew their stories and they knew mine. If someone else asked me for change I would just nod and say, “Sorry I got my guys.” I live in LA now and still when someone asks me for change that’s what I say. Once when I said no to a guy he looked at me dead in the face and called me a faggot. I simply replied, “I didn’t know being broke made me gay.” He shook his crazy head and walked on by. He didn’t have story for me or at least one he wanted to tell me. Homeless people have stories and every city’s homeless are different. In NY most are just down on their luck. Most are veterans or victims of the crack epidemic. They just couldn’t get themselves back to civilization or out of the prison system. I once saw a woman in broad daylight just drop her pants and enjoy a nice bathroom moment. In New York the homeless are just more deliberate. In LA they are just lazy and crazy. They figure if they gotta do it somewhere they might as well have a decent view. I was just in Seattle and those homeless people are dark souls. Each one is a Nine-Inch Nail's song waiting to happen. They live in the shadows and scurry around from shadow to shadow waiting to strike like a vampire.
I feel sorrow for those who don’t have a roof over their head. It gets cold outside and a bed is a great thing to have. My two guys may not have had those two things but they had love, love for each other, love for the street, and love for love. I miss them. I hope they’re ok. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Some people see the bright side of things and some people are the bright side.
Monday, April 4, 2011
All my life, wherever I’ve been, I’ve been waiting to go somewhere else that I couldn’t describe, until now. In my dreams at night I always saw two places in my head, a room with lights and lasers shining all around, and the view from atop of a tall hill. That view as it turns out is the sprawling massive grid of Los Angeles. I wanted to tap-dance and drop presents over that grid like Saint Mr. Bo Jangles.
I know in my dreams that my heart and my brain were living in the same house, just in different rooms. My conscience was trapped somewhere in that house. It knocked many walls down until that house was just one big space for my heart and brain to shake hands and start working together.
They left that house with a bag of giggles and a stopwatch that could only go for 15 minutes. I’ve since then thrown that stopwatch away and I keep those giggles in my breast pocket. My heart and brain ran together though. They ran to college in upstate NY, Florida, Minnesota, Brooklyn and Manhattan. They gift-wrapped their arms around as many people and things they could.
You see, I spent the most of my youth observing and thinking. I saw things differently, literally. I was cross-eyed, still am.
When I built up enough courage and trust in myself to start talking to people around age 13, I never stopped. I wanted to interact with the world within the parameters of how I saw it and I wanted to see how it saw me.
We don’t create dreams, someone else does. Whatever that someone is, needs those things to happen. Whether it is someone who loves to fix cars, or someone who sells insurance. It’s not really about the task or the act. I’ve realized that it’s about the message behind the act. The act is just a vessel for the message. All of our messages put together make up the purpose or the show behind the curtain we call life.
My message is this:
This is a silly place and I’m a silly guy. Being that it’s so silly, it makes it innocent, because it’s so innocent, that makes it fun. It’s so fun in fact that you should smile about it. I’m going to dance in front of you and make as many attempts to make you smile, until you do. If I do that, then you’ve received my text message. Hit me back. I live in West Hollywood. Just look for the man tap-dancing on top of houses with lasers and lights shining everywhere.