Fake ID’s

I mean Jesus… Look at this kid. I’d rob this kid.

I had my phone pressed to my ear and I was telling my girlfriend, “No really! I can get you anything! This place has every knock-off thing you can imagine. Gucci, Prada, Rolex…”

I was on Canal Street in Manhattan, and I was sixteen, and for whatever reason I was trusted to be on my own. I was trying my damnedest to project an air of confidence, that probably just came off as cocky naivete – the kind that only an over-privileged, over-indulged white kid can muster.

During my boisterous listing of the few name brands I was able to commit to memory or have shouted at me by vendors on either side of me, I caught someone’s attention.

“Fake ID’s,” the large black man interjected, leaning over as he passed me on the street to add to the secrecy. As if he pierced my ear with a fish hook when he walked by, my head turned and my body followed.

“I gotta call you back,” I closed the flip phone. “Sir, I believe you’ve found a customer.”

I followed this dude through the alleyways leading away from Canal Street (it was daylight, but I’m willing to acknowledge it wasn’t the best plan) as he explained the process. We would go up to his guy’s studio for the photos, and he would print them out right then and there with whatever magical machine he had stolen specifically for this purpose. This guy was the best – used to work for the DMV and shit.

We landed in a small Chinese cafe across the street from the spot. Then the negotiating started. “How much you got on you?”

“Really, I only have about $80. So that’ll have to do.” I tried sneakily pulling the money from my pocket without getting my wallet out so I could continue bluffing. Being much more adept at this than I was, he noticed right away.

“Hey man! We gotta trust each other here! You gotta be up front with me! Is that really all you got?!”

It was not. I pulled out the entire $130 that I had in my pocket and handed it over.

“Alright. Coo. You gotta trust people, man. Anyway, here’s the thing. This guy is super paranoid, and he don’t trust anybody. I need to prove to him that you cool and you not wearin’ a wire.”

It was far-fetched, but what did I know about the illegal fake ID industry? I handed him my watch, which was the “most likely place for me to be hiding a recording device.” He left me with my phone, though, which was very nice of him and really should have raised some red flags.

“Alright. I’m gonna run across the street and check in with him. Stay right here and I’ll be back in a minute.” I saw him disappear into a store across the street. I counted to 60. I made it to 50 before jumping out of my seat and following him.

I got inside the store and immediately saw the door leading to the other street that I couldn’t see from the cafe. I ran outside to try and find him, but Canal Street was buzzing with other idiotic tourists trying to find cheap alternatives to luxury items. Also, there was a subway entrance on each corner. This dude was gone.

Any normal person would probably have cut their losses, but not your young, privileged idiot protagonist! I ran back inside and asked the Israelis who owned the place if they had seen the guy. They hadn’t, but they said they had a pretty decent surveillance system, so I called the police so I could finger the guy (not like that).

They arrived not long after I called and told me to describe what happened. “Alright, so I was buying a fake ID, but we’re going to have to look past that for the time being because this guy robbed me.” I explained the rest of the story in as much detail as I could remember. Apparently this was a recurring issue with tourists – two dudes from Australia just had the same thing happen to them the week prior.

I accompanied the police inside, and found them a pretty decent (though grainy) photo of the guy. Part of me wants to think that my insistence on being in the right lead to this guy’s capture and imprisonment, and part of me is impressed by the guy’s commitment to his craft, and hopes that he continued duping dumb white tourists for years to come.

If you ever plan on living in a big city, I strongly encourage you to get robbed a couple times. I’m not going to say it’s resulted in me making better choices, but they’re definitely better-informed bad choices.


A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part IV

We were on the Coast Starlight Train heading north after my mother’s wedding, just past sunset and San Francisco. The conversation turned to our status as relationship partners, as it often does after a wedding. She told me that she had fallen in love her 54 year old writing partner. “Honestly, I haven’t exactly been present lately and you’ve been working closely on an emotionally intense project. I’m obviously upset, but so long as you haven’t acted on it or communicated that to him, I think it’s something we can work on.”

We agreed that we were both at fault and she assured me that she had come to me first, but I hadn’t exactly cooled off by the time the train came to a halt in Sacramento. It was about 1am, there weren’t any cabs and Uber didn’t exist, so we were walking home. It’s tough to communicate your anger in your stride when you’ve got large rolling bags trailing behind you.

When we got home, I was putting things away, and she was typing frantically on her laptop in the next room. That wasn’t exactly out of character given that she was a poet, but this seemed different. I asked her what she was writing, and she said “nothing,” which was definitely out of character. I asked to see her computer – nothing in the sent folder, but there’s a Trash folder in just about every email ever in case you weren’t aware. She was unaware.

“I told Sean that I loved you tonight.” I don’t remember what the rest of it said, but I’m pretty sure that’s not something you say unless you’ve talked about it previously.

“Get out of my home.” I felt confident that the proportion of the bills I was paying allowed me that sentence, so I went for it. She packed a couple bags for immediate use, and I did my best not to talk to her. It was late, and I caved in the face of her crying, and said it would be fine if she stayed there for the night, but the next morning she had to leave.

She did, and that was the end of our engagement and that three-year chapter of our young lives. I waffled on my conviction to end it, but her choice to move in with the subject of her infatuation made it easy to maintain a hard line on both sides. With the gift of hindsight, it was the right choice for a litany of reasons, but when you’re young and in love, it’s nearly impossible to see straight.

I made similar mistakes in the name of love since, and I’ll likely make them again in the future. I drink in spite of the hangover, and I fall in love knowing that it’ll come to a crushing end eventually. I’m a strong proponent of jumping off the cliff and figuring it out on the way down – the rush is worth it.

Back In The Today

IMG_20180827_181346_832.jpgI feel like I haven’t checked in with you in a bit. Hi! How are you? How are your kids? Still nonexistent for some of you? Oh, how I’ve missed you.

I shot my first commercial this past week. I was essentially paid to sit around most of the day and eat free food, occasionally I pretended to be a worker in a glasses manufacturing plant, and went home. The irony of doing a glasses commercial and pretending to wear glasses after recently getting laser eye surgery is not lost on me. Anyway, it was great, and I can say that I’m a paid actor now.

I also did my first video audition, which was to include some information about me, a monologue, and the lines for the role itself. Apparently, actors just have monologues that they’re prepared to do at the drop of a hat. I was not aware of this, and had to learn one as quickly as possible because there was a tight deadline for submission. After thirty or so takes, and a two hour break that I had to take because I was getting too angry, I was able to finish off the interminable 4 minute video. After my final take, I hit upload, then waited anxiously before pressing “Submit” at 11:59pm. There was one view on the video and I had no calls the next day saying I was the best thing they’d ever seen, so I’m guessing I didn’t get it.

I also started Improv classes at Second City. They are fun. They are more fun than I thought they’d be by a pretty long shot. I was not embarrassed or concerned about how I looked because I’m in a new city where there are zero people with an expectation of the way normally behave. It’s freeing in a lot of ways to be an unknown.

Lastly, I did stand-up again the other night, and it went pretty well. I was probably a little tipsier than I needed to be, but I got a few laughs and the host told me he’d like me to come back. So ya know… That’s something.

Three weeks in. It feels like it’s been much longer, and I feel like I should be much farther along than I am, but I’m loving the shit out of this process when it isn’t dreadfully dreary, and I look forward to more.

Feeler of the Road

FB_IMG_1535639276685.jpgWe hopped on a plane crossing the Mediterranean to spend a weekend in Morocco. I found something called an “eco-tour,” which was sold as a tour of the Moroccan country side on camels, and who doesn’t want to do that?

What they failed to mention was that much of the traveling would be done in a van that took you to specific stops where the travel company got kickbacks from the restaurants and merchants. Oh, and there was only one CD to listen to for the entire nine hours we were in the van, which was rotationally hilarious and mind-numbingly grating, as you can only listen to songs you don’t know or particularly like so many times, and the roads were shitty so the thing skipped constantly.

The countryside was lovely, though. Immediately outside of Marrakesh, plastic bags blanketed much of hilly surroundings, but beyond that were large swaths of farmland on both sides of rivers that bisected otherwise barren desert. We finally stopped at a small oasis hotel that seemed largely unoccupied, but the walls were covered in such ornate designs that having people there would’ve ruined it for me. Our camels met us there, and a couple Berbers (a nomadic tribe in Northern Africa) led our group off into the desert.

We got to the encampment just after nightfall, and they had dinner waiting for us in the large dining tent. It was lit with gas lamps and candles, beautiful, richly colored rugs lined the floors, walls, and ceilings, and a small band of kittens roamed the interior. We spoke loudly in combinations of English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Farsi, Berber, and pantomime. We pulled from large baskets of bread, brass serving dishes with vegetables and meats, and trays of fruits and vegetables, and drank tea to fuel and lubricate the conversation.

When dinner was over, they took us over to the fire they built to play the drums and dance and sing under the Sahara sky. My lady and I slipped away and wandered over a couple dunes for some privacy. It was romantic, but sandy, so it didn’t last long, and we rejoined the group.

As the night wound down, most of the eco-tourists made their way to their tents. The Chief of the tribe and I were fast friends, and he took me to see where he would be sleeping. They all slept on the dunes overlooking the camels so they could watch over them at night (and also so that the shit didn’t roll downhill onto you at some point while you slept). He pointed firmly to one of the night guards sleeping on and under a collection of rugs and said essentially, “You sleep here!” It was an enticing offer – the nomadic lifestyle makes for some fit looking men, but, “I think I’d prefer to sleep with my fiance.”

After some clarification, I understood that he just wanted me to do as they did, so I grabbed my lady and a collection of carpets and we set up under the most beautiful set of stars I have ever seen. I woke up with my face coated in a fine sand, but who the hell cares? What an awesome night. I had my friend write the word for “nomad” in Berber, which literally translated to “feeler of the road.” It is presently tattooed on my right leg (I did not get the tattoo in Africa because… well…). We said goodbye to our new companions and after a short 9 hour van ride (he clearly had not had time to get a new CD), we were back in Marrakesh.

The streets of the city were teeming with stray cats and stray children that would insistently offer assistance in finding your way to your hostel, then curse at you in English and Arabic when you refused to pay them for their unwanted services. The marketplace was alive at night – stalls filled with camel leather products (all cured in camel dung – a smell that does not come out quickly) and vibrant sacks of spices were manned by a group equally as insistent as their children. We wanted alcohol, which was illegal for locals to buy, so we followed a guy down some dark, winding alleyways until we got to one restaurant owner who would sell us hugely overpriced bottles of wine.

We drank them in the comfort of our hostel, chatting with people from all over the world next to a white marble pool, which was a remnant of better times for this establishment. The plane ride back to metropolitan life was short and welcome, though I’d be happy to hang out with those Berbers again any day.

A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part III

I took her on a backpacking trip, and we got a late start so we didn’t arrive in Yosemite until 1am, but being us, we decided to start the hike anyway. We were tired and winded, and stopped in a clearing to catch our breath. I asked if she’d like some water from my pack, then got down on one knee and didn’t give her any of the water she asked for. She cried and hugged me and said yes under a beautifully full moon, and at the tender age of 20 we were engaged.

I was nearing the end of my college career and was told for the first time I needed to complete three quarters of a foreign language. Taking them sequentially would’ve extended my time in school, and I wasn’t having any of that. In my scrambling for a solution, I discovered that going to a foreign country for three months allowed you to do all three required quarters of language classes in one go, so duh that’s what I did.

Because I was engaged, it took a little extra planning and money (thank you parents), but not too long after we were both on our way to Madrid – me to take classes and her to teach English. We had a beautiful studio apartment on Calle de Toledo near Plaza Mayor. The cabinets and desk were built in, the floors were marble, and there were huge windows that looked down on the vibrant streets of metropolitan Spain. I did my homework in bars where I got help from locals who argued over verb conjugation, and I actually watched sports with a vested interest for the first and only time in my life.

One night we went to a Gogol Bordello concert, which I’d highly recommend you try – gypsies know how to party. After, we headed to the nearest expat bar to continue the drinking we had started before the show. There was a pair of fairly attractive women standing at the bar, and as soon as I turned my back she was making out with the one with blue hair. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re in an agreed-upon exclusive relationship, making out with any gender without a discussion with your partner is just not cool. I was upset, I said as much, and stormed out of the bar.

There was a whiskey place nearby that was extremely packed and had rock music blaring over the speakers. She followed me in, was incredibly inebriated, and dressed in a mini skirt and a leather jacket. The bouncers of the bar saw her repeatedly trying to get my attention, saw me rebuff her, and figured, “this chick is a prostitute that’s disturbing our patrons!” So they promptly flanked her, picked her up off the ground, and dropped her off outside the bar. At the same time, the two whiskeys I ordered arrived, and I had a really hard time walking away from them to go tend to someone who had just upset me. I downed one of them, took a sip of the second, sighed heavily, and walked outside.

I didn’t talk to her – I just kept walking. We had another friend with us, so I spent my time venting to him. There was a group behind us that I didn’t pay much attention to. I hailed a cab, and when I turned around she wasn’t there. I was too tired and angry to wait for her, so I got in the cab to go home. It wasn’t until I got there that I realized she had the keys to the apartment. I slept on the stoop, and she finally rode up in another cab after the sun was up, and she had an orange bag that she had swiped from a construction site over her shoulder. We both stumbled up the stairs and went to sleep in the hopes that these feelings wouldn’t still be there when we woke up.

I was shaken awake because she had a bloody nose, and it freaked her out. I told her it was probably nothing, and was reluctant to deal with her as she was still pretty hammered, and I was still pretty pissed off (and also maybe a little drunk). She woke me up again when she screamed. She went to blow her nose, and her her face near her eye immediately inflated like a fleshy water balloon.

I learned that she had been separated from my friend and me when the group we were walking with veered down a different street. In the hopes of spotting us, she climbed some nearby scaffolding, but her high heels weren’t up to the task. She slipped, and pinballed off the beams with her face on the way down. In the process, she fractured her orbital bone, so when she blew her nose, snot and blood flew through the new opening in her sinus cavity, filling the area around her eye underneath the skin. Also she was concussed.

Once I pieced all that together via some hungover Googling and the parts of the story she was able to spit out between gross facial secretions and immediate unconsciousness, I woke her up again and dragged her to the nearest emergency room. Pro-tip: foreign emergency waiting rooms are a great place to hash out relationship problems. Apparently I cared more about her physical well being than I did about being slighted. Go figure.

The Desert in the Off Season

We were greeted at our camp site by a ten foot tall neon green penis that sprayed a light, refreshing mist during the day, and shot fire from its tip in the evenings. We piled out of the Lincoln Town Car I rented to shuttle us to, from, and around the desert, and set up a camp of tents, shoddy 2×4 supporting structures, and an old parachute. It was Black Rock Desert, but there was no organization okaying our presence, no expensive tickets, no large-scale art or upsettingly large stacks of speakers pumping out garbled untz noises at 5am, and no rules.

After being there a couple hours my friend asked, “Hey are you cool with me taking the trunk off of that Town Car so we can fit more people in it?”

“If you feel confident that you can get it back on, then yes, absolutely!” He was a mechanic, so I felt confident in his abilities, and I also loved the idea. We were now able to (somewhat) comfortably transport up to 13 people at a time, meaning we were the party wherever we showed up.

When I wasn’t building or tinkering, I spent most of the daytime hours in the open desert teaching people how to do donuts in the Town Car, and lounging around at or near Frog Pond (ponds, really – it was a collection of small hot springs) in varying amounts of clothes. My particularly eccentric Ukrainian friend liked gathering the small fish or tadpoles inhabiting the pond into his mouth, then spitting them onto anybody who asked why his cheeks were puffed out. It was hilarious.

The evening rolled around, and my friend said, “Would you like any of the liquid acid I brought?” I feel like you can all guess what my answer was. “How many drops do you want?”

“I dunno. Three? Four? That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay, tilt your head back and open your mouth. One… Two… Thr- OOPS!”

“Throops?! How many is throops?!”

“Uh… Maybe like… Eight to ten?”

Great. Clearly it was time to load up into the Town Car and head out into the desert. There were thousands of people spread out over the vast expanse of public land (you were only legally allowed to have so many people at each campsite, which seemed to be the only rule people were interested in following), so you just had to drive toward the lights to find a group partying. For some reason, I was still elected to be the driver, and we may or may not have spent 30 minutes following around a car with a flashing light on it, and we must have visited upwards of ten different locations.

My friend that throopsed me and I stood watching a group burn a five-foot high wooden man, and they neglected to tell us that they filled it with fireworks. One of them zipped right between our heads; neither of us moved. We turned slowly to each other and I said, “Well that was close, huh?” Then we laughed until it was time to move on to the next place.

When we’d had our fill of nonsense, we headed back through the pitch black desert to our camp. I was still driving, but my passenger was dictating all of my wheel turns, as I could not see. “Okay, straight. Left… LEFT! MORE LEFT!” We narrowly avoided a large muddy patch that the car would have sunken into, and I finally decided I had had enough of the driving thing, stopped, and made my passenger drive, which he was basically already doing. When we got back, I did that cartoon thing Homer Simpson does where you spin around in circles on the ground saying, “WOOOOOP, WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!” until I got tired and went to bed.

The finale of the event comes in the form of a 30-foot tall frog with vampire teeth and bat wings, made primarily from wood and propane tanks, constructed at the far end of the shooting range (there was a shooting range). I took my shotgun and lined up with about 40 to 50 other naked or nearly naked people with guns, then someone yelled, “Holy shit, it’s a Frog Bat!” And everyone opened fire.

The explosions reverberated through your bones, and the thing went up in a glorious mushroom cloud of smoke, fire, and Frog Bat bits. Having slain the beast, there was nothing to do but pack up, put the trunk back on, and head home – tired, hungover, sunburnt, and victorious.

A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part II

Our first romp in the grass was literally in the grass of the local YMCA, as our drunkenness gave way to the sun rising over the San Fernando Valley – clearly we were in love. Things progressed as quickly as the 350 miles between us would allow. We spoke on the phone every day, and we made frequent trips to visit one another in our respective cities. After six months or so, we couldn’t stand to be apart, so we decided to find an apartment in a neighboring town, as her artistic sensibilities, and disdain for college towns and the shackles of higher learning in general wouldn’t allow her to be in the same town as a university.

It was our first time having our own space, and I got wrapped up her hippie fun and frolicking. Our apartment was filled with beautiful antique furniture that we coated in day glow, stacks of records and books that spilled out of every shelf, and half-finished paintings and drawings that were done in varying states of inebriation. Luckily it was in a shitty neighborhood, so nobody really minded the loud young couple next door. Except that one time.

There’s a game called the “Dude v. Fuck Game” – you watch The Big Lebowski, and each time someone says “Dude,” the Dude Team takes a shot, and each time someone says “Fuck,” the Fuck Team takes a shot. She and I decided to play by ourselves with a bottle of rum, that in all likelihood we shoplifted from the nearby grocery store. I don’t remember who was on what team, and really it doesn’t matter. This game was likely to kill us both if we kept going at the one shot pace, so it soon became half a shot, then a quarter, then just a sip.

“I have to tell you something,” she said about three quarters of the way through the movie, her voice quivering with the fear of what might come next. “I cheated on you.”

It felt like I got punched in the chest. Hard. The wind left my lungs and I made every attempt to unhear what I heard. As the air filled my lungs again, so too did the kind of anger that only youth and half a bottle of rum might allow for.

“HOW LONG AGO?!” I finally got to after a run of ranting.

“Six months, maybe? I’m not really sure. I was really drunk, and it was just the one time, and I regretted it right away, and I couldn’t tell you!”

“Damn straight you couldn’t! I never would have moved in with you! I could have avoided all of this!” The yelling wasn’t cutting it anymore. My arms started thrashing around – I threw things, I broke things, I punched things. I have a distinct memory of pushing her against the fridge, but I was blinded by rage and too much alcohol, so I don’t recall much else.

There was a pounding on the door. I could see red and blue lights flashing through the window. “Open up!” I sobered to the degree I could and opened the door. I was immediately taken onto my porch and put into handcuffs. I hadn’t hurt her in any physical way, though repeatedly calling her a “whore” probably didn’t feel great emotionally. We each explained our sides to the story.

“I know you’re hurt right now, son, but is this really something you want to go to jail for? Because that’s where this is headed.” The police officer took a kinder approach than I expected. Maybe he was used to seeing so much worse when he arrived at scenes like this, or maybe he felt pity for me because he had been in a similar situation, either way, his approach was appreciated.

I was let up, and the rest of the night was quieter. As it has the tendency to do, love conquered our negative emotions. We resolved to work it out – we knew that with grit and determination and willful ignorance we could make it work. Dammit, we were better than all those other couples, and this would just be another shining example of how true that sentiment was. Love was all that mattered, and we definitely still had that, at least. “Love is all you need” and shit, right?

“Sooner or later you’re going to have to face the fact that you’re a moron.”
– The Dude