“You’re not as good as you think you are,” Michael The Realistic Mystic told me in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
I was in NOLA for a friend’s wedding. On the night before it, I’d drunkenly walked past Michael without noticing him in his beach chair on the sidewalk. I was lost in the humid, hedonistic spirit of the city, as well as the contents of my to-go cup filled with Coffee and Kahlua milkshake. But my friend Julia, who has an eye for mischief, saw Michael and tugged the back of my purple-beaded necklace to halt me. “Look,” she said, “It’s Michael The Realistic Mystic! Should you get a reading, Flybot?” Julesbot and I had known each other long enough to have robot nicknames for one another.
It’s cold out. Let’s take a bath to Robyn’s latest album HONEY:
Procure and place the following items next to your bathtub: one waterproof speaker, one bag of your favorite scented Epsom salt, one towel of at least Wamsutta quality, one rubber ducky (ideally the one you’ve saved since childhood), and one jar of all-natural, local honey.
Ensure you have nothing to do for the next 40:18 minutes. Light your bathroom appropriately with a candle, disco ball, or color-changing LED lights on a pre-programmed loop. Load up HONEY, Robyn’s latest album, on your streaming platform or musical library of choice. Remove your clothes.
As an artist and a human being, I’ve found four emotions that trap me:
Pity: no one wants pity you. It’s seductive to want pity, to be consoled, to be told nothing’s your fault, and the world isn’t fair. But the truth is: no one really wants to feel sorry for you. And you don’t want someone to pity you, as much as you may imagine you want it. It’s humiliating. Pity is a useless emotion. Nothing comes from pity — no release, no catharsis. It just wastes everyone’s time.
What is the antitode to Pity? Anger. As a 65-year old man in a clown outfit named Lunatic at Burning Man told me once, Anger is a transformative emotion. You can do something with anger. You can write your anger, sing your anger, create from your anger. It transmutes your depression into something tangible, and whether or not you share what you create with the world, it leeches the poison out of you. Honoring your anger is part of honoring yourself — warts and all. Anger is valid and helpful and it’s part of your human dignity. Best of all: it can lead to something — it moves the pain and releases it.
This quote was the main piece of wisdom given by Anna Shapiro at my college’s commencement speech. She described feeling devalued early in her career, misunderstood, used, and unappreciated by those in power. And she advised us not to let assholes ever dictate our sense of self-worth.
I’ve always had a hard time understanding this quote.
I went exploring through old drawers yesterday in my childhood house, and I found this letter I wrote to myself the day after coming out of the closet on Feb, 13, 2004. My mom kept it. She had such a difficult time accepting me coming out; even so, she had the wherewithal to keep this letter because she knew it was a big moment in my life.
I am struck by the words I wrote in this — I think it may be one of the wisest things I’ve ever written, and I wrote it 14 years ago.
I don’t know if I am. The worlds I socialize in — comedy and artists and gays — are notoriously full of heavy-drinkers.
But even in that world, I’ve always found myself having one more drink than my neighbor. I finish my pint about twice as fast as the rest of the table. I’m not even polite these days to wait for others to catch up — I go and get started on my second round. I’ve always assumed it was natural for me to drink more than others—justified because I’m a 6 foot tall, 180-pound guy —so I’m “meant” to drink more to feel the same buzz. I’m allowed to “ramp” up at the start of an evening, to “stay even” with my more lightweight friends. I did not attend a “Fraternity” in college, but I somehow got familiar with all these binge-drinking related “terms.”
I love horror films. As a ruthless Capricorn, I’ve always believed that I would be the second-to-last person to survive in one. Not the final survivor — no. My hubris at having come so close to triumph would doom me in an epic failure at the last second. But my pragmatic nature would get me very far along — I would do whatever it took to survive, including sacrificing others if needed.
I wanted to put this theory to the test and found the means to do so in a NYC interactive horror-themed experience called THIS IS REAL. The show is no longer running in NY, but for those who for some reason don’t want to have the actual details spoiled, do not read on!
Berlin is the untamed city. It is harsh. The people are not people-pleasers. Their attitude is direct, the rejections from clubs brutal.
I have been to Berlin five times; it may be my favorite city on earth. I love that it is wild, that it resists gentrification, that it oozes weirdness, that it is full of insanity and inanity everywhere one looks. I love that no one thinks of going out Monday-Thursday nights but takes clubbing on the weekend dead seriously. You go hard —dancing from Friday-Monday morning. I love that an ‘expensive’ meal out with a beer might cost you 12 Euros. I love their falafel; it’s the best falafel outside of Tel Aviv. I love that German trains run on the honor system. Can you imagine the NYC subway surviving one day on the honor system? It would be anarchy. I love that German trains run on time. I love that there isn’t much to sightsee or many pretty buildings to look at in Berlin; the best spots are underground, meshed into the Post-war remnants and repurposed bomb shelters. I love Tempelhof, the World War II airfield that Berlin turned into an outdoor garden. Where else can you ride your bike down an actual runway and pretend you’re a 747? I love the beer garden Klunkerkranich, with a spectacular view of the city that someone set-up without signage on the fifth floor of a Kreuzberg parking garage. I love the Berliners themselves — the people I’ve worked with, played with, danced with, made love with, with with’d.
I observe it happening, and my brain keeps track of everything — the wins, the losses, the drama, the bliss. I register how I feel; I can speak to how I feel (at length to my therapist and friends); but I can’t experience my feelings.
I have a best friend named Aaron, who travelled the world to find himself. He used to run PR for major NY entertainment clients in a 9–5 job he dreamed of having, until the reality proved a waking nightmare. So he invested early in Bitcoin, did well enough to quit his job, and travelled for years to Bali and India to learn about himself. Along the way, he developed a passion for the Tama-Do school of sound healing and studied with the master of the movement, Fabian Maman, in Switzerland. He spent months all by himself, cultivating intimacy with his mind and heart and fears and intuition. He repaved his path in life, and his journey inspired me to seek my own way. I left my steady job in 2016 to freelance as a teacher, writer, and performer, engaging in my own solo odyssey into the unknown.
I met the healer/witch/intuitive therapist in Encino, California. My friend David had gifted me a session to meet with her while I was out on the west coast. She and I talked about feelings and problems and the past and future for about an hour. Then I got on the table for her to work her magic.
I’ve come to realize: my feelings are not necessarily true.
I’ve noticed how often I have a negative thought or feeling, and after some time, it passes. I forget why I even felt that way in the first place — what triggered that sense of unease, or uncertainty, or unwell.
I’m staying in my childhood home over the Winter Holidays in Northern California. I’m 31 years old now, and my earliest memories come from this house.
It’s morning on the day after Christmas, and I just meditated on the porch. There’s no one around but a deer on the hillside, wary of me as it nibbles grass. The only sound is the far off hum of cars driving on the 101.
I’m a Capricorn, and my brain runs on pragmatism, even when it comes to mysticism. I’ve been wrestling with it for years now, and I’ve come to believe that the only practical option that makes sense for my heart is to believe in a higher power. To trust that some greater, wiser force is conducting the reigns of my life. That everything’s meant to be and is happening as it should.
I saw my mind like a department store, and I was the security guard in the middle of the atrium.
For once, I could see my problems labeled clearly: There was the department of Distractions. There was the bodega of Crippling Anxiety. There was the greeting card store with a sale on Comparing Yourself To Others. There was the fast food court with News about our country falling apart. There was the Responsibility and Task Management desk, control panels blinking with notifications. All these stores in my mind, open for business, ready to set the tone for my day as I woke.
I believe in sudden prophecies told by a best friend on a moonlit midnight in Switzerland.
“You’re challenge right now, Prince Philip,” Aaron said, “is going to be dealing with Patience.” We then got into a shouting match over the Senate testimony into Russian meddling in our election and whether America was just a shell country run by secret Russian capitalist overlords.
I’m flying home tomorrow to NYC from a three-week trip abroad. I’m grateful for this time. Gratitude is not an emotion I’m very good at experiencing. I’ll taste the epic highs of a moment and then forget what it felt like minutes later. And when the moment passes, and I’m no longer on top of the world, I get unhappy. In the solitude of traveling by myself these three weeks, I’ve had time to think about this.
A two-person scene is hard enough in improvisation.
Add more people to the equation, and it gets more difficult to manage. When the lights come up on four or more people, I remember the advice that Mick Napier taught me back training at The Annoyance: think more of the same. Rather than finding points of differentiation, aim to bring your disparate characters in alignment over the context of the situation and how you all feel about it. While an eight-person monoscene with eight disparate points of view can be done, it isn’t easy to improvise!
However, I want to take a closer look at and unpack the dynamics and methods for three people improvising together in a scene. In general, three bodies in play tend to align in common relationships, and there are both pitfalls and strategies we can employ to heighten each dynamic.
Unless I am trapped in some god forsaken town without a gay bar, I’m done with online dating/hook-up apps. I hereby swear them off for good.
I’m done with Grindr and Okcupid and Squirt and Scruff and Tinder and Thrinder and JDate and Feeld and Bro and Match.com, and I would be done with eHarmony too if they didn’t think my sexual orientation was a choice.
I am done with profiles designed to show curated trappings of us at our self-selected best. People are messy, and I’m more attracted to the bumps on the seismographic of someone’s personality than the smooth first impressions they try to make.
There is a person I may be in love with. I met him a month ago, and we’re as close to a real-life version of fairytale soul mates as I’ve experienced. I knew it from the first time we hung out and got into a long discussion about Jodorowsky’s Dune. Now we’re friends for life, after just a couple months of knowing each other.
When you meet a new person and invest yourself in him or her this much, you create a mirror. You can see yourself anew through this person’s eyes — from the first impression you make to the soul you bare as you let down your guard. You reveal the dirtier parts of yourself in the reflection— the cold sores, the longstanding fears, the hangups, the hopes you’re afraid to admit, and specifically for me: the bitterness I carry.
I believe in the maxim: never date someone with your same name. It must be cursed from the outset. I’m not referring to cursed as in your future family-in-law confusing who’s who when asking for “Philip” to pass the green beans at Thanksgiving. No, it must be a law of nature that two humans of the same name shall never intertwine, lest catastrophe befall both.
What makes people laugh? I believe it can be boiled down to an equation:
Surprise + Believability = Laughter.
The most obvious answer is Surprise. “I didn’t see that coming! Who ever thought he’d do that? Woah! Can you believe that’s how it went down?!” We laugh when we are caught off-guard, our anticipations subverted or paid off in an unexpected way.
My first reaction is to panic. I woke up today with nothing on my plate until the evening. Same thing tomorrow and the next day and the next. I’ve never been so not busy in my life, except on vacation. When I’m on vacation, I allow myself to be OK without things to do. To be OK with no-doing. But outside that context, those empty swaths of calendar terrify me.