Life After Fat Episode 1: “I have an idea but you might hate it”

"For real though, how good would a rum and coke slushie be right now?"

“For real though, how good would a rum and coke slushie be right now?”

So this is the biggest creative project I’ve taken on since college, and maybe my biggest project yet. This is the pilot episode of the new web series, “Life After Fat” that I directed, and I plan to direct the remaining episodes once we take care of funding it. More on that to come!

In the meantime, I hope you like the pilot. We’ve put a lot of work into it, and I’m very happy with the result. Along with the writer, producer, cinematographer, art department, and amazing actors, it’s been a fantastic collaborative effort. Take a look at the website, specifically the cast and crew pages, to find out more. And stay tuned!

So, You’re A Couch Surfer: An Open Letter To Myself

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My new (temporary) digs was considered by xoJane.com to be “classy as hell”

Hey, you.

(Hey, me!)

Well, this is a fine rut you’ve gotten yourself into; crashing on your girlfriend’s couch with all your furniture in storage, nearly 3 years after moving to New York. Who would have thought that after living here for 3 years, you’d be back to square one like someone who just came up here? Just how bad did New York kick your ass anyway?

(Well…)

Never mind, I don’t need to hear your version; I’m sure it’s self-pitying and depressing. Whereas my version will be all meta and self-aware! You like those things, don’t you?

(Hell yeah!)

So, from what I can tell, here’s what happened, going as far back as necessary to know the whole story: After about a year of shifting around from place to place in Brooklyn, roughly 2 years ago you found a “permanent” place in Greenpoint, a room in a hastily converted attic apartment on a month-to-month basis with no lease. It was pretty shady from the get-go–the landlords never fixed anything (in fact, you never even met them). As it turned out, they owed nearly a million dollars in back taxes. But hey, at least they never raised the rent!

Not to say I blame you for taking that place. Given the state of housing in NYC, it’s not like you had many other options available. Rents here are so stupidly astronomically high that you couldn’t hope to afford your own place unless you had an endless supply of regenerating kidneys to sell on the black market, and that’s not even taking into account the cabal of landlords’ absurd insistance that you have to make 40 times the rent. On top of that, even if you had roommates to go in with on an apartment, each of you would need to submit a Library of Congress-sized stack of personal documents.

No, what you had to do was to constantly scour listings for open rooms, which brings a set of obstacles all its own, namely the thousands of other people attempting the exact same thing. This leads to mountains of emails that may or may not be answered, followed by interviews that boil down to:

Hello, there. I am normal. I am asking you to trust me when I say that I am normal. I am not, however, too normal. I am not so normal that I am not interesting. Because I am extremely interesting.

Also I am not poor. I am so not poor that, as requested, I am bringing a large stack of documents proving that I am, in fact, not poor.

This process repeats until an interviewer decides that yes, you may grace their presence on a day-to-day basis. And that’s what happened at the month-to-month place in Greenpoint.

And it was great! And with each passing month, you forgot more and more of the shadiness of the situation, and grew more and more attached to the roommates who said they were so glad that you were a part of their community. But you knew in the back of your mind that it had to end eventually, and that end came quite a bit sooner than you had thought.

The new landlords bought the building, and took over as an LLC, with the express purpose of making money. They made that purpose clear when they came in and announced that the rent will be raised on the current tenants from $2200 for the whole apartment to $3000, an $800 increase (roughly 40%). That would mean that each tenant would have to pay $1000 per person to live with roommates. Somehow the thought of anyone paying $1000 to live with roommates always boggled your mind, but to these landlords it’s just day-to-day business, and what they expect you to accept unconditionally.

Now, the next step was important, and could have been handled a number of different ways, but a lot of your options dried up when your two roommates (the same ones who mentioned several times that they were glad you were a part of their community) selected a new third roommate and found a new 3 bedroom apartment somewhere else, leaving you behind to deal with the landlords.

But you were undeterred! After calling up an advocacy group to see what rights tenants have to protect them against massive rent increases from landlords (answer: tenants actually have no rights, and landlords can legally charge whatever massive hike their tiny, hardened walnut-hearts desire), you learned that all you could do was try to negotiate a fair price and fill the vacant rooms. You couldn’t fill the rooms without settling a price; it wouldn’t be fair to bring new people into such an unstable situation.

Sadly, no amount of Christmas carols made the landlord's walnut heart grow. Probably because it was a walnut.

Sadly, no amount of Christmas carols made the landlord’s walnut heart grow. Probably because it was a walnut.

Unfortunately, the landlords were simply uninterested in agreeing to an increase that was fair to the tenants who had been living in the building they had just purchased. After all, they had paid 10,000 whole dollars for that foreclosed building! There was money to be made! So you decided to put all this behind you, get some roommates, and find another apartment.

Well, apartment hunting wasn’t successful. After trying to find places with different-sized groups of people, and finally deciding to go in with 2 other people for a 3-bedroom apartment, one pulled out, and then the other. And then, for the last 10-or-so days of May, it was just you, looking for a room, trying to convince people that you’d make an acceptable roommate. This was the worst part, and also not successful.

So that’s how you ended up here. Moving Day was kind of a blur, and after a lot of bullying and harassment from the little guy who does all the landlord’s dirty work for him, you gave him the keys and delivered a sort of half-satisfying tell-off the following day. And now you’re probably wondering if leaving was the right choice, as the other tenants said that you should have stuck it out for longer. But as crappy as it was for your old roommates to leave you behind, they had the right idea to get out as soon as they smelled something fishy. Now that you’re couch-surfing and have a month or two to find a place, it’s almost as if you’re starting over in New York. Lots of people come to New York and begin their time here couch surfing, but in your case, you’ve already gotten a three-year head start. Put all those connections and experience to good use, and consider this your New York Renaissance!

NYC Popfest 2012

This year’s NYC Popfest went from May 17-20 in different venues across Manhattan and Brooklyn, and like every year before this one, it wasn’t just a great festival of wonderful new and established indie pop bands from all over the world, but also a once-a-year gathering for the world’s pop community, a chance for old friends to get together and bond and make new ones as well, all brought together by a mutual love of great music and all things pop.

The All New York’s a Venue crew shot Popfest on both a Canon EOS 5D and an old Canon Super 8 camera from the late 60s. Special thanks goes to the festival’s organizers, all the great bands we saw and filmed, and everyone we interviewed. Finally, I apologize for posting this several months after the festival, but it was a passion project I worked on in between all the jobs and paid gigs I’ve had in the meantime. I hope you enjoy it, and I have a couple more things to share in the next couple of weeks.

TOASTING IN EPIC BREAD

Hey I still use this, right? I do. Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but it’s all the result of some big life changes, traveling, and severe procrastination. I’ll do a post about the procrastination later (if I get around to it) but first I should mention the crazy stuff that’s been going on:

And yes, I am ever so stealthily flipping off the company who sold me this camera.

I finally have a respectable camera. I got the Canon EOS 7D because its amazing video capabilities have made it one of the top DSLRs of choice of lots of indie filmmakers, but also, bonus points for being a pretty kickass still camera as well. Full HD video in glorious 24p, a designated switch just for toggling between video and still modes, and access to some amazing 35mm film quality lenses–it all makes me wonder why I never made the switch to DSLR filmmaking before.  This plus my Retina Macbook Pro plus Adobe Creative Cloud plus the abundance of freelance gigs I have ahead of me means that I have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

I’ve also been reading quite a bit about what it means to be a freelancer, and while it sounds to me like it’s a huge plunge to take, the benefits greatly outweigh the downsides (namely, insane taxes and healthcare). I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but the goal is to be my own boss someday, and be successful doing it.

This is of course, no thanks to the company who sold me the camera. I received it literally four weeks after placing the order (and paying for it!) due to the first one they sent getting lost in the mail. It finally came via UPS at 7 pm the evening before my week long trip to Canada. About that…

My girlfriend Kristina and I took a trip up to Montreal, Quebec City and Toronto for a week. We took the Amtrak Adirondack up to Montreal–it was a day long trip but really nice ride. We spent a big chunk of the trip in the dining car taking advantage of the spotty wifi.

While in Montreal we had the help of two extremely gracious hosts to show us around the sights and introduce us to all the amazing food. Mary, pictured above, also helped both of us get acquainted with our new cameras (because it’s not like I had a chance to do much with mine before the trip…) We also had the chance to see a burlesque show, the Chinese lantern festival, and have a picnic in the park.

After we had a chance to get spoiled, we were on our own for the rest of the trip. We made our way to Quebec City by train, and after a couple of hours, we had really seen just about all the city had to show us. Everything about it was really pretty though, including the train station.

We then made our way to Toronto, where we had more hosts to stay with, but we were still on our own to explore the city. Due to a ticket mishap, we had to spend more money than we wanted, so we tried to explore Toronto on the cheap. Seriously, $25 to go up the CN tower? Instead we opted for vintage stores, fish and chips in a park, and coffee and pastries for dessert the first day, and a food market and a museum on the second day. Also a coffee shop named after me, because of course that exists.

And a gigantic dog.

Finally, instead of taking a train that cost twice as much as the one to Montreal, we left Toronto via the midnight bus. Twelve hours later, we arrived in New York and made a pact not to ever travel by bus again, midnight or otherwise. You see, we crossed the border at Buffalo around 2 am, and without warning, we were told to get off the bus, with all our luggage, and go through customs and show our passports to the cranky overnight shift border patrol. We then drove through a very deserted downtown Buffalo, and around 6 am, we were woken up from our cramped slumber for a rest stop in the middle of nowhere (though there was a McDonalds open in the rest stop). Somehow, waiting in line before dawn at a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere with a busload of strangers after a half awake bathroom run was the most surreal moment of the entire trip.

Greenpoint Summer

You know that Spike Lee movie joint Red Hook Summer? It’s apparently about gentrification, though I didn’t get that from the trailer. I also don’t remember seeing any Bloods in Red Hook either. Anyway, my Red Hook Summer was last summer. Quite literally, actually, it was from mid-May until Labor Day that I lived in Red Hook and did my part to help gentrify it. This summer, then, is my Greenpoint Summer.

Why yes, that’s the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant as the logo!

Anyway, today marks my second anniversary of living in New York! And I can look back upon how much progress I’ve made in the past two years. I also had a chance to celebrate it:

Why yes, that is a picture of Jamaica Bay at 5:00 am, taken from the A train on some bizarre adventure!

And I can tell you, with all honesty, it was a great way to celebrate it. A rooftop party with some amazing Texas-style barbecue, a live DJ and a photo booth. I mean granted, it was technically the one year anniversary of All New York’s a Venue. But it was also:

  1. an excuse for Will to serve up some of his seven pounds of BBQ brisket that he won in a raffle, and
  2. close enough to my own two year anniversary in New York that I’m totally going to call it that, at least for my own purposes.

Because yeah, this time two years ago I was slumming it up in a hostel while looking for a sublet, and this time last year I was gentrifying Red Hook while fleeing earthquakes and hurricanes. This year, I’m having rooftop parties celebrating a webseries I managed to stick with and turn into a website, getting my first paid production gigs, and coming up on a different sort of one year anniversary–the relationship-y sort. Progress, guys.

Anyway, this wonderful event was documented with photos. Credit goes to the photographers, who are all either better photographers than me, or have access to slightly more advanced iPhones than me.

This amazing photo was taken on the first try by Matthew Narvin.

Photo by Matthew Narvin

The damage done to the brisket. It was intense. Photo by Will Patterson.

Black and white photos from my Polaroid camera, “scanned in” via my iPhone…

The Twee-est Thing You Will See Today

Hey. Remember that thing I did? The premiere of the short film ‘fetti that totally happened June 14? Now’s your chance to take a gander and watch the adorable Super 8 film. Here it is below:

Also, here’s an interview where I talk about Wes Anderson and Hyperbole and a Half, and I’m pretty sure that the two of them will never be mentioned in the same sentence again:

The Night Train and the Rockaway Sunrise

  1. Wait for the G train at Bedford-Nostrand around 2 a.m.
  2. See creepy guy staring at you and grinning.
  3. Move to a different location. Look over to see if he’s still staring.
  4. He is. He’s actually leaning over in order to do it.
  5. Be thoroughly creeped out.
  6. Decide to yourself that you absolutely do not want to get on the train with this guy, despite the fact that there are plenty of other people around.
  7. See faint green G train symbol in the opposite tunnel.
  8. See an opportunity to cross something off your list of 26 Things To Do Before Turning 26 and take it. (Specifically, to ride the subway all night and watch the sunrise over Jamaica Bay).
  9. Run up the stairs to the opposite platform and catch the train in the opposite direction.
  10. Look out the window. You swear he’s still staring through the window.
  11. Take the G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn.
  12. Get off and wait for the A.
  13. Observe the other people in the station, who at this time of night, include a couple roughly your age, another guy your age, a bunch of MTA workers cleaning the tracks, and one other man yelling and cursing at the MTA workers for apparently delaying his return home.
  14. Get on the A train.
  15. Note that you see some really strange things when you ride the subway this late at night. Super old red trains chug along unused tracks for maintenance. The clientele is a mix of crusties and grungy hipsters who party on Thursday nights and people who work the overnight shift.
  16. Wonder about the lives of these people. Who among them rides the train this time of night all the time? What’s it like to work all night? What’s it like to party all night on a regular basis?
  17. Note that you’re now in the 212 on the uptown A.
  18. Doze off.
  19. Get woken up by 3 big loud dudebros loudly talking about how cool they are.
  20. Overhear: “Yeah, she was like, ‘how late do you go to bed?’ I was like, ‘5:00-5:30.’ She was like, ‘You keep this up you’re going to die young.’ I’m like whatever.”
  21. Dudebros finally get off.
  22. Note that it is now 3:20 a.m. Good time to turn around. Get off at the next stop, 190 St.
  23. It’s a weird, cavernous station. The only other rider looks like a guy who runs a deli. You’re later joined by an older man and a girl who looks to be in her 20s. Wonder what the hell she’s doing here. Wonder if she’s wondering the same thing about you.
  24. Snap a picture of the station because it looks cool.
  25. Get on the A train back downtown.
  26. A girl and her gay best friend get on behind you and chat loudly while eating take-out. It’s now about 4 a.m.
  27. Doze off again.
  28. Wake up after what feels like just a few seconds but find that you’re already at Canal Street.
  29. As the train travels through Brooklyn, note how not-empty the train is. Most of the other passengers are asleep. Wonder how many of them sleep on the train regularly.
  30. Past Grant Avenue, the train comes above ground. See the sky for the first time in hours. The first signs of sunlight are just appearing over the trees. Watch the little houses in Howard Beach get lit up by the first rays of sunlight.
  31. Snap a picture as the train crosses Jamaica Bay, because the view is spectacular. The water looks like glass and JFK Airport is silhouetted against the red glow.
  32. Get off at Broad Channel to turn around and make the trip back home. It’s now roughly 5 a.m.
  33. Broad Channel is a strange, slightly decrepit station, just like all the other stations on the Rockaway line. It looks more like a random isolated backwoods railway station that gets one train a day than a station of the NYC Subway.
  34. Take the A to Broadway Junction to switch to the L. You are now joined by morning commuters. See the sun rise higher over the projects of East New York as the L snakes around to the above ground station.
  35. Take the L to Lorimer-Metropolitan.
  36. Get on the G to return to Greenpoint.
  37. Finally depart the subway. Step into the morning light at Greenpoint Avenue. The sun is up and it smells like burnt breakfast outside.
  38. Walk up to your apartment at 6:30 a.m.
  39. Go to bed at 6:40.
  40. Wake up at 12:30. Feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.