Chicken Little’s Big Adventure

Before the IED-like results of this year’s presidential election and the chaos that has ensued, I was prepping myself for a big reveal that I planned to develop through the medium of this blog over the coming year or so. With Trump having won the election, I was forced to pause for moment to consider what it means to be American, how my own apathy may have contributed to his victory (don’t worry, I voted for Clinton!), and what my responsibilities are for the coming years. After several of weeks of intensive self-care and introspection, I have decided that honoring my original intention and moving ahead with my plans is one of the most important things that I can do for myself right now. In many ways, I will serve my country better as a more fully realized version of myself than the one that has been floating around since I moved to California. I may express some of my internal hopes and fears (for the world and for my country) in a later blog post, but for the moment, just know that I am still processing the election results and trying to figure out where I fit in, like so many others of you.

As the title of this post would suggest, I am in the midst of planning a BIG ADVENTURE for myself that I’m looking to embark upon between next fall and the following spring. Ideally, this adventure will start in Australia, continue on to New Zealand, up through southeast Asia, and on to Europe. There is no projected end date; I’m looking to travel as long as I can comfortably manage to do so. But I would also like to situate myself so that resettling in Europe is a possibility. Berlin, Brussels, London, Madrid and Barcelona are on the list of candidates.

Since coming to Los Angeles, I have had to ask myself what it is that I really want from life. What is it that speaks to me? What makes me feel alive? I’ve returned time and time again to the most formative and existence-affirming moments in my life, and most of them include travel. I love navigating the unknown of distant lands, stumbling through and then easing into foreign tongues, and relishing the sensation of otherness being thrust upon me in beautiful and sometimes challenging ways. I think of how fortunate I was to have spent time in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rabat (Morocco), and Tel Aviv between the ages of sixteen and twenty-three. I think about how awake I felt on those adventures, and how much of the last couple of years have felt a bit like sleepwalking. Since sleepwalking seems to be the norm these days, particularly in a town like Los Angeles, it is hard to escape such a mindset in this environment.

In order to make this adventure a reality, I need to establish for myself a couple of streams of income to ensure that I don’t starve (or have to come home early). Right now, the things that seem most reasonably likely to keep me housed are:

  • Hospitality work (restaurants, hotels, cafes, bars)
  • Clerical (word processing, data entry, proofreading, etc.)
  • Teaching English
  • Writing (essays, articles, this blog, and my books)
  • Ceramics

Since I’ve tried teaching English abroad without any prior experience, I’d like to get trained/qualified before trying to do so again. This will take a little time and money. The last two items on the list are, perhaps, the most farfetched, simply because it generally takes a while to get people to pay you for your writing, and I would need access to a ceramics studio, which will not always be possible.

The other thing I have to think about is budget, factoring in the things I’ll have to buy or pay for before I go. I’d like to have about $10,000 saved up before I go, and I’ll need to factor in the costs of:

  • A good hiking backpack (recommendations welcome!)
  • Storage unit for whatever I can’t or won’t sell
  • Virtual phone number
  • A new external hard drive to back up computer
  • A new iPhone for pictures/social media management
  • TESOL/TEFL certification

So many other factors will probably come into play over the next year, but I with the right amount of discipline, I know that I can make something happen!

Chicken Little, signing off.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Didion was among the first to crystalize the dull realization that you are not the red heifer you thought you were, and that as much as you love New York, she does not need or want your sacrifice

I never read Joan Didion in college. It’s a shame, really. I didn’t know that her essay “Goodbye to All That” was the archetypical farewell letter to New York City. I could see with my own eyes the countless numbers of artists that come to New York to offer themselves up to to The City’s merciless, loving arms, ready to be burnt offerings on the altar of her bosom. I was unaware, however, that Didion was among the first to crystalize the dull realization that you are not the red heifer you thought you were, and that as much as you love New York, The City does not need or even want your mundane sacrifice. For many who “come out of the West,” as Joan says, the metropolis is too much, and most are not rich enough, and cannot stay young enough, to bear its weight indefinitely.

So I left. Following the tide-like pull that once lured settlers into the unknown of the Wild West, I carried out my own Manifest Destiny. I was certain, like the gold miners who came before me, that I would find my fortune. But like many of those same starry-eyed young men and women, I was disappointed to find my hands grasping at pyrite and glitter. The state I had abandoned at the age of eighteen has not much changed since my youth, and my relationship to it, after having seen the wider world, is that much worse for the wear. Ways of being and worldviews that I once accepted (and even ascribed to!) as a younger man have become thorougly repellent to me, and analogs for the various types of people I went to high school with are now my colleagues and neighbors and are even more irksome to me now than they were then.

For months after moving to LA, I pined for my beloved metropolis. On the worst days, I simply couldn’t understand or remember why I’d left. The crowding and cost of living had certainly begun to take their toll, but in exchange, one received the vibrancy that comes with living in a big city, and the special brand of magic unique to New York City. When compared to New York on these points, Los Angeles is something of a dusty backwater masquerading as an urban center. Everything that people from east coast kvetch about regarding Los Angeles (the traffic, the subpar nightlife, the languid pace of life) are true, but what makes things more infuriating at times is that (A) this is not the image of glamour and refinement that Hollywood projects to the world, (B) the natives refuse to acknowledge these shortcomings, and (C) things don’t have to be this way. There is enough money and enough space for the city to be and aspire to better. But the truth of the matter is that people here, despite holding onto their urban fantasy, do not want the city to change. They like things just the way they are. I would argue that LA has more in common with Oklahoma City than it does with New York, Paris or London, and it is apparent, despite municipal efforts to bring LA into the 21st century, that that will not be changing any time soon.

What is the thesis of all this? For one, my grasp of the narrative essay is weak at best. Also, I’m an elitist asshole. (I’m working on both those things and will try to provide updates on my progress.) Secondly, I have actually found my sojourn west to have been invaluable in my discovery of self despite my severe frustrations. I have not gained any great appreciation for Los Angeles or California more generally, but I know now, in no uncertain terms, that the grass is not always greener, and that humility is a dish best served repeatedly and under duress (not unlike water-boarding). Additionally, the kindnesses that Angelenos have shown me despite the ill will I harbor toward this place is really nothing short of amazing, and it’s more than my little Grinch’s heart deserves. I need to get out, ASAP.

I fled New York thinking that my quality of life would improve, but although I have access to all the sunshine and pho a boy could want, I am probably more stressed and less happy than I was at any time during my eight years in New York. I make more money, but ironically I have less of it to spend. I have a car, but nowhere I really want to drive to. I have paid vacation days but little energy for vacations (combined with the sick but pervasive fear of using up all my days and being trapped until my next accrual). Worst of all, I am in something of a creative hub but have never felt further alienated from my own creativity. In short, this is not the place for me, and it is only a matter of time before I need to hit the road.

Bird by Bird

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my  brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

For most of my life, endings have come pretty easily to me. I think I owe this to the number of sad, tear-soaked goodbyes that dotted my youth. As I moved from city to city, school to school, friendship to friendship, goodbyes became par for the course. Ask anyone I know well, and they will tell you that I am most unsentimental when it comes to the ends of things. This could actually be a sign of severe emotional detachment, but that, I think, is a story for another post. Today, I want to talk about beginnings, because for me, and for many people, beginnings are hard. Continue reading “Bird by Bird”


Over the course of the last two and a half weeks, I have had six panic attacks. Six terrifyingly oppressive and exhausting panic attacks–and they’ve all been about my upcoming return to New York.

Surely, you might say, I should be very excited to go back to New York. I have, after all, been trying to do just that for a sizable portion of my time in Los Angeles. And you would be half right in your assessment. I am, indeed, very excited to return to the world that I have inhabited for the largest portion of my adult life thus far. A world where I will once again be surrounded some of the most educated people from all walks of life. A world where I know that I can, if I choose, avoid talking of auditions and casting agents.  I am excited to return to the realm of the cosmopolitan and escape some from L.A.’s relentless sub-urbanity.

However, New York is not some mysterious unknown into which this adventurer is now diving. For all that I love that city, I no longer harbor any romantic ideals about what it’s like to live there. Life in New York is, in a word, exacting. It is probably one of the most relentlessly grinding places that one can choose to be. “Anything after New York would be–a pleasure cruise,” as the song goes. It is a really fucking boring pleasure cruise–but many a former New Yorker has been driven from their abode, perhaps for Portland instead of Santa Fe, but the sentiment remains. So many things that normal Americans take for granted are labeled luxuries in New York. Personal space? Access to nature? Solitude? New York has managed to commodify each of these in such an intense way that great sacrifices must sometimes be made in order to obtain them. And having lived in California for the last 18 months where those three things are abundant, I will admit that I balk a bit at re-surrendering myself to the concrete jungle. I’ve gotten awfully comfortable in my 1 BR with parking.

And as I make the decision of whether to live with another person or willingly raise my own budget for rent an additional $300-$500 dollars every month (an amount that would rent an entire two BR apartment with parking in other places), a tiny voice creeps in and asks me what exactly I think I’m doing. I know how hard things can get. I know the depths I can sink to. I am at something of an impasse, and all I want is to find my way home.

What is a home? They say home is where the heart is, so it makes sense that my poor, fragmented heart is so confused about what that word means. Having bounced from town to town as a child, then state to state and country to country as I reached adulthood, I have given pieces of my heart to so many people and places over the years that my compass has no north. There is no guiding star to lead this voyage, so it often feels like I am simply adrift at sea. My parents live in different cities, both far from the town I fled to go to college. My host families in Japan, Argentina, and Morocco are living their lives without me. The entire country of Israel, which I love with reckless, wild abandon that you can only have for first loves of a certain nature, is too fucked up to consider returning to any time soon. So for now that just leaves New York with the largest portion of my heart: home to 8 million crazy, ambitious, intelligent, beautiful, wonderful monsters — who have not paused or slowed since my departure, because they are too busy trying to stay afloat themselves. I am one insignificant grain of sand on a shoreful of souls who have come to and left New York. And much to my chagrin I know that I will be leaving little pieces of my heart here in L.A. with the people here who have unexpectedly become like family.

All of this is to say that home is where the heart is; I just need to find all of the pieces of my heart.


What greater tragedy is there, I often think in regards to my own life, than the waste of good potential?

Ever since spring ceased to mark the end of a school year and the coming of Summer Vacation, it has become increasingly difficult for me to enjoy. The fact that one must, as an adult, continue to work through what are arguably the most pleasant days of the year is almost enough to make one wish that it wasn’t spring at all. If all the weather is going to do is mock me from outside my office windows, maybe I’d be better off without it.¹

T.S. Eliot put it so succinctly when he said:

April is the cruellest month,
breeding Lilacs out of the dead land,
mixing Memory and desire,
stirring Dull roots with spring rain.²

The whole mad race toward summer, for that matter, is filled with a melancholy entirely different from that experienced in the brackish months of autumn. In the fall, we mourn the loss of light and life from the natural world, but in spring it is the departure of vitality from our own lives which is drawn into focus. As the world regenerates around us, we cannot help but see that we have grown another year older, another year further from our spritely youths, and another step closer to the clearing at the end of the path.

It seems too that I have been surrounded by the shadow of death as of late. At every turn, I am having to express my condolences to some good friend or another, the one degree of separation between myself and the Reaper being a few degrees too close for comfort. TV and film that I cannot help but watch (the amazing Grace and Frankie comes to mind) delve deeply into issues of mortality and purpose and happiness and loss, and I am amazed at how quickly things can change, how thin and ubiquitous the barrier is that separates us from the great beyond. It is as though the universe is reminding me, not so gently, that this too shall pass. I need to get my shit together.

As the earth warms up and the trees refoliate, I am bombarded with the fruits of other people’s labors (which seem all the more plentiful in comparison to my own relatively bare limbs). Here, so-and-so is receiving his Master’s degree. This one is getting married. Those two are having a baby.  Or starting a business. Or booking a gig–and here I am, in a city I do not love, immersed in a culture whose priorities I do not share, ostensibly chasing a dream that I can no longer wholly identify as my own. I cannot afford to leave, nor would I want to without giving L.A. and “the industry” a proper chance, so for the moment I am stuck. It is the definition of frustration.

It is unhealthy, I know, to measure myself against the successes of others. But I am, after all, only human. In addition to being “only human,” I am also a single-minded and unmerciful perfectionist in whom the drive to excel has until now been life’s single greatest motivator. And like most perfectionists, it is not the potential for success which draws me onward, but the fear of failure before which I am ever-fleeing. No matter how often I check in with my inner child or self-coach to be mindful of the damage I am capable of inflicting upon my own psyche, my auto-flagellation game is strong and my implements are well-honed with use.

The one piece of comfort that I can take from the turning seasons is the knowledge that this too shall pass. Just as spring will always glide into summer before giving way to winter, this sense of melancholy will fade. It may potentially be replaced with a sense of foreboding or a deep, unmitigated sorrow, but I can deal with that when I get there. The world is moving underneath my feet, and it’s almost impossible that I’ll feel exactly as I do now in a year or even six months. Until then, there’s not much to be done for it except put on a little Joni Mitchell, spend some time at the beach, and nurture my life’s tree as best as I can. In time, it may well bear more fruit.

¹ This is hyperbole. Please do not take spring away from me.
² T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

The Hulk

When I get anxious, I tend to forget to eat. I just lose my appetite, which is not to say that I don’t get hungry. I just don’t want to prepare food or eat it. I would totally take an I.V. drip during those times. It’s generally not a good idea to let me forget to eat.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am not pleasant when hungry. My ex used to call me the Hulk. You know, like the giant, green, ass-kicking Hulk. The used-to-be-a-nice-guy-before-you-pissed-him-off-but-now-he’s-liquifying-your-spleen Hulk. Except Bruce Banner only turned into the Hulk when he got angry. I feel like it’s actually pretty easy to go through life without getting too angry (unless being angry is the general conceit behind a plot line that justifies your existence). But hunger. EVERYONE gets hungry. And with a metabolism like a coked up hummingbird, no one gets hungrier than me.

Maybe you know someone like me whose sky starts falling as soon as their blood sugar does. I can totally feel it happening and do my best to avert disaster, but sometimes people just won’t heed any of my warnings. (I frequently don’t heed my own warnings.)The signs are as follows, for anyone out there who might have a friend like me.

  1. The first warning issued by the Hulk is “You’re making me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.” Mine is a little more subtle: “Hey guys, I’m starting to feel a little peckish. Do you think we could stop to get a snack?” This seemingly offhand suggestion is to be taken very, very seriously. In the same way that Mr. Banner lets everyone know that they won’t like him when he’s angry BEFORE beating the shit out of them, I personally try my best to give a heads up about the shit storm headed down the pike. Granted, this requires a second party to receive said warning, and sometimes I’ve already surpassed stage one when I come into contact with innocent bystanders.
  2. Next comes the calm before the storm, when the blood sugar gets too low to respond to most things with more than one- or two-word answers. Like I said, sometimes people encounter me already in stage two. Usually it is on my way to food, and it becomes difficult to disentangle myself from whatever the situation is that is preventing me from getting food. Also, when my blood sugar gets low, it becomes hard to make decisions about anything, so unless the person I’m with rationally decides that they are hungry, I could be stuck in this stage for a while until…
  3. I am ragey and snappy and two seconds away from nuclear holocaust. Or everything is broken, life is cruel and meaningless, and I can only blame myself. Well, myself, humanity, my boyfriend, myself, my parents, myself, global warming, and myself. You don’t want to be here for this.

My roommate (and best friend) frequently finds me transitioning to phase three. Briefly she is worried that something is actually wrong, as there are occasionally real and (vaguely) warranted breakdowns that do occur. However, she soon sees the situation for what it really is and asks, “Do you need a snack?” Between my incoherent mumblings about the mind numbingly incomprehensible sadness that has overcome me, she finds me some juice, a cookie, a granola bar, or a handful of M&Ms in order to guide me back to reality. BEST STRATEGY.

You won't like me when I'm hungry.

Sadly, this is often not the strategy that I pursue of my own accord because I am insane and, like I said, have a hard time making reasonable decisions when I get this way. Left to my own devices, I latch on to the craziest, most absurd scenario possible and grapple with it as if my life depends on it:

1: I’m never going to succeed at anything.
2: But there are a lot of things that I’m good at!
1: Right. Jack of all trades…Master of NONE.
2: Shit.


1: If I don’t get my shit together I’m going to end up homeless.
2: That doesn’t even make sense. I have a support network! I have friends and family who love and care about me. I don’t even do heroine.
1: Someday they’ll all be dead. And you don’t do heroine yet.
2:  8-(

Or how about this one?

1: I’m not feeling well. I’m sad. I’d better check Web MD. (<–WORST IDEA)
2: I have cancer.

As you can see, this is NOT conducive to, well, anything.

My boyfriend once took me to dinner at a Turkish restaurant with his dad and brother. Now I’m no stranger to exotic cuisine, having spent a fair amount of time out in this wide world of ours. After a year in Israel, in fact, a lot of this “Mediterranean fare” has grown on me, even if I’m pretty confident that I will never like stuffed grape leaves no matter how many times I eat them. That being said, I had never eaten in a Turkish restaurant before, and arriving at one for the first time at DEFCON 3 was a bad idea.

If it had been a Thai restaurant, I can pretty reasonably bet that I would have ordered green curry regardless of time or circumstance. Here, however, I did not know any of the dishes by name, and there were no pictures in the menu (because it was a classy restaurant), so I was forced to read the descriptions of the dishes. For all the good they did me, the descriptions themselves might as well have been written in Turkish. Of course my boyfriend and his family, having previously visited this restaurant, knew what they wanted rather quickly. The pressure to decide only increased my agitation, and while my boyfriend tried to help by venn diagramming me into a choice: “What are you in the mood for? Chicken? Beef? Vegetarian?” I  could only silently scream at him: I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M IN THE MOOD FOR! I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE!!!!

I told him he wasn’t being helpful and then the waiter came by and offered to tell us about the specials. This is a lifesaving offer because the specials will include, at most, four dishes. Will you necessarily like any of them? No. Will they cost more than the rest of the menu? Yes. Will it save you from a meltdown? Definitely. And so I ordered the Moussaka, which involved lamb, tomatoes, and cheese. It was really heavy and not at all what I was “in the mood for,” but I ate it and was sated. The Hulk then scurried away into the recesses of my mind to hide out until the next long day when I forget to pack myself some pocket snacks.