The idea was simple; an artistic mural to inspire the campus and give our image a facelift. Unfortunately, the artist we decided to work with did not work out. And by that I mean the entire project became somewhat of a disaster; leaving the school in disarray and partially painted. We had less than fourteen hours before the start of business the next day and had a mural to produce. My brother (the best brother in the entire world!) gave me the clever idea of using an old overhead projector to bring our image to life on the wall. This enabled us to trace it with pencil, then with fine-tip brushes, and finally “color within the lines” like school children. The end result was amazing. Now, like getting a new tattoo, I want to cover EVERYTHING!
There are a million things in life I never saw myself doing. I new I would never be President of the United States of America. I knew I would never win a Grammy (even though secretly, in spite of a terrible karaoke voice, I would totally accept one). So, a career as an Esthetician is high up on the list with those insanely awesome accomplishments.
Almost two years ago I was a struggling writer, having just finished publishing my first book, when I decided to have a nervous breakdown and leave the “greatest place on earth” New York City. I tend to make decisions without really thinking and my decision to leave the city after five years was no different. I made up my mind overnight. So quickly in fact I left New York practically the same way I arrived: with two gym bags and no money.
My destination was Texas. How long I would stay or what I would do there was really of no concern to me. I just knew I had to get the hell out of New York before I exploded. You see, I had reached that “point”.
What point is that?
To really understand the “point” I have to rewind a little bit to 2006. It was a random weekday night and after leaving a dinner party drunk I wandered into a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen: The Ritz. When I first arrived in the city there was no Ritz and HK was still on the verge of becoming the new Chelsea. Living in Queens, all of the gay bars popping up in HK proved convenient and easier to knock out on the way home on the E Train.
I was never one to drink by myself till I moved to New York. I recall that night as one of the first. The bar was dead. The few people sitting around the bar looked bored as they sipped their drinks and watched lame music videos on the flatscreens. I sat down at the most secluded end and ordered a beer. I gazed around and no one particularly interested me. I summoned the bartender for a shot of 1800. Then a second….a third…and POW! A stranger starts up conversation.
He sat one stool away from me and asked how my night was going. Smiling, I lifted my empty shot glass and let it do the talking for me. He laughed, was friendly enough, and an hour later he was sitting next to me telling me his life story. He was an actor, from Philly, and had just moved back to the city after leaving for two years.
"Wait, wait…why on EARTH did you leave?" I asked astonished. "This city rocks. I’m NEVER leaving this city!"
He laughed like he knew something I didn’t know and responded, “I just hit that point, you know? New York can be overwhelming. The stress is insane and the entertainment industry is competitive. I just lost my ambition.”
The conversation proved to be too deep for me in my drunkeness. I mean, how do you lose your ambition in the most inspiring city in the whole world? People come to New York City from all over the world just to walk its streets and feel that energy. I couldn’t imagine feeling the emptiness this guy (who drank his beer like a grandma) spoke of. He irritated me.
He continued, “This city can do two things: make you stronger or tear you to shreds. You just can’t take it personal. Look it me! It was rough, I left to regroup, and I’ve been back for almost a year and everything is different. I’m better equipped to handle the hustle.”
At this point I had only been in the city maybe nine months. I was bulletproof. Everyday I was meeting new people, learning new things, and waking up each day was like a new adventure. This sourpuss was draining, obviously weak, and when he turned down the shot I bought him I knew he was bad company. Shortly after I got up to leave, shook his hand, and thanked him for the conversation. He smiled curiously and gave me this look, to this day, I still remember. Maybe it was a curse or cautionary gaze, but it was instantly etched in my memory.
He patted me on the shoulder and said, “You take care of yourself. Seriously.”
(To Be Continued…)