My friends were recently sharing instructions on how to eat sushi on Facebook. Well, I’m here to tell you that not only were they eating sushi wrong, if they follow those instructions they are STILL eating it wrong.
Here’s the deal: You don’t need to use chopsticks. Ever. Not for Japanese food, not for Chinese food, and certainly not for Thai food.
I guess the Washington Square Institute thought they were making up for my previous therapist when they assigned me a new one who looked like Jay Leno. I wasn’t a fan of the TV show but found it encouraging that my new shrink seemed more amused than concerned by my problems.
Things went well enough the first few months. Sure, he had a few annoying quirks, such as only taking notes when I happened to mention a dream, or always pointing out with a titter the double meaning of the expression “it’s hard.” (To this day I still say “it’s difficult” because of him.) But such are the hazards of psychotherapy.
Not long after moving to Brooklyn I was introduced to two women at an art opening–a blonde and a brunette. They asked why I had come to New York. Embarrassed to say, “to be an artist,” I jokingly answered, “to be a poet.” The brunette pointed to the blonde: “She’s a poet!” “I’m sorry, I was kidding,” I said. “I came to New York TO BE A DANCER!” The blonde then pointed to the brunette and said: “She’s a dancer!” I skulked away.
Posted in New York
The first time I sought therapy was as a student in a small liberal arts college in Texas. I had high hopes the school counselor would be able to untangle my messy life (I had to, considering that I was majoring in Psychology).
I told him the sordid story—I was dating my housemate’s ex-girlfriend, and she cheated on me, with him. Now I was trapped in a painful jumble of regret, resentment, and despair. Plus a very uncomfortable household.
I did it. On the eve of the iPhone’s seventh anniversary, I finally bought my first smartphone. That’s right, I’d been using a flip-phone all this time. I didn’t even have a calling plan, I had one of those pay-as-you go things that my wife says only ex-cons use.
It’s not that I’m a Luddite – I’m on the computer day and night. Hell, I was working professionally for a website in 1998 (the year Google was founded!) and bought this domain name in 2001. It’s just that I hate phones. I hate making phone calls, I hate receiving phone calls, and I. Fucking. Hate. Voicemail.
This morning I crossed paths with the elderly Indian gentleman I see most mornings on my way to work. We went through our usual routine: I smile and say good morning, and he smiles back, performs an elegant flourish with his hand, and responds, “and a very good day to you.”
Not only is his greeting unique, the fact that I willingly interact with a stranger is itself exceedingly rare. Whenever I hear that Will Rogers quote, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet,” I think, “That simple-minded Okie clearly didn’t live in New York.” I figured that out the first year I lived here.
Last week I was looking for my boss when I noticed Nabokov’s Pale Fire on a colleague’s desk. I asked her, “Are you reading this?” Realizing how condescending that sounded, I tried to make a joke of it and added, “Or what?”
It wasn’t stomach pain that finally drove me to a gastroenterologist, it was embarrassment. My innards were getting progressively louder. They started by sounding like a creaking door at a haunted house and eventually worsened into the howls of a depressed hound dog. The doctor ran a few humiliating exams and suggested I get an endoscopy, which is the misleadingly reassuring term for sticking a camera down your throat to take pictures and gather samples for a biopsy.
I’m meeting an old friend for dinner at Angelica Kitchen (yes, no possessive) and arrive early. I ask for a table for two, and the hostess tells me I have to wait for the rest of my party.
“Can I then have a table for one? It comes to the same thing,” I say, gesturing to at least three people sitting by themselves in tables for two.
“Sorry, it’s policy,” she explains. I give up and spend the next fifteen minutes reminding myself that without rules our world would descend into chaos.
A girl in college once told me she thought that people who liked the same bands could probably be friends. Her sentiment struck me as terribly naïve, but it’s taken me two decades to question my own assumption that people who like the same books share a sensibility.
Last week my wife and I went to see the formidable Barbara Ehrenreich speak at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn. You might know Ehrenreich from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, her much-celebrated and controversial book about the ordeals of blue-collar workers, but I love her for Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, in which she stomps all over our country’s favorite panacea. In short, Ehrenreich’s a bad-ass. Which is why I was so surprised by the kind of people that made up her audience.