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17

Feb

New ZealBlog - Chapter 1

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“Bye, boys”.


The Swedish bombshells, the loves of our lives, 6 feet tall each, blonde, blue-eyed, graceful, easy, feats of nature, made in God’s image - not the Jewish God as he’s proven incapable of making them like this - strutted out of our lives forever without so much as batting an eyelash, let alone looking in our direction, floating two words behind them with a breathy sexiness, letting the words fall out of their mouths and not thinking twice about the crushing finality they would represent: “Bye, boys”.


Everything is backwards in New Zealand, from the flow of the toilet water to the side of the road you drive on, so forgive me for starting from the finish line. Let’s take a step back from the climax and set the stage at the outset of my trip to the other side of the world. A few months ago, I had the fortune of getting a new job, which presented me with some unexpected time off. I had my last day in the office on Wednesday, booked a flight to New Zealand for my first backpacking trip on Thursday, spent roughly half my life savings on hiking gear at REI on Friday and was in the air with one of my closest friends on Sunday. Daniel had been planning this excursion for months, meticulously researching the history of the country, poring over every travel guide ever written in both online and print and crowd-sourcing the must-see beaches and best hiking trails from friends and family that have visited over the years. On some level, through his grossly unhealthy, shamelessly dorky obsession with all things Lord of the Rings, he had been mentally and physically preparing for this vacation for the better part of his life. Though nothing, not memorizing the tribal history of the Maoris, New Zealand’s indigenous, marginalized minority population; not feigning lifelong interest in New Zealand’s premier, world-class rugby team, the All Blacks; not making a trip to his hometown of Baltimore to borrow his great-grandfather’s weather-proof merino wool socks passed down from generation to generation, could have prepared Daniel and I for the emotionally cathartic journey in New Zealand: The Land of Tomorrow.


After a 20 hour straight shot, we arrived in Auckland, near the northernmost point of the country, and vowed to make our way all the way down the coasts of both islands, ending in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. Given the opportunity to go on the Kiwi Experience tour bus with 21 year old girls the world over, sowing their wild oats on semesters abroad, or rent a car and have the liberty to go wherever we wanted without predetermined destinations, there was no wrong decision: the outright opposite of Sophie’s Choice. We opted to rent a car since it gave us more freedom and, despite a few near-death experiences (see: paragraph on Kiwis driving on the other side of the road), it became the defining decision of our trip. Like your first friend in high school that gets a car, who you beg just to drive you around the block during lunch, we had a secret power to wield over every other backpacker in the country. For perhaps the first time in our lives, we were, unequivocally and indisputably, the cool kids.


There’s no irony in New Zealand. Its beauty is so pure it can leave even this jaded New Yorker rendered speechless. Not beholden to the strictures of a guided tour, we could stay an extra night in a certain sleepy beach town, or stop off on the side of the road at a tiny fish shack on the water claiming to be the whitebait (read: sea worms) capital of the world.Though I like to think our boyish charm, endless wit and harmless nature played a part, the Swedish loves of our lives may never have given us the time of day if not for a last-ditch act of desperation. Upon meeting the girls on the road, we made them a universal offer impossible to reject since time immemorial - “Want a ride?”. With snow-capped mountains on one side, and the breathtaking blue of the Pacific on the other, the delirious drive around the mountains and down the shore of the South Island is arguably the most majestic in any world, Middle Earth or otherwise. Whether the girls took us up on our proposition to bail on the bus because they grew tired of the monotony in riding coach all day, or we wooed them with our cross-continental humor, we may never know. But, looking back on the four days we spent together, I learned that there’s one obstacle you just can’t overcome - time. I’d do anything to go back and press pause on the beach during our first afternoon together in Wanaka. Unfortunately, life, like my grandma, doesn’t have DVR.

27

Jul

Alone Star State: Chapter 4

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          Haunted by an image of my mother scolding me for coming back to Jersey with a Texan woman a few years her senior, I had no choice but to leave the bar empty-handed. I tiptoed through Oliver and Jade’s kitchen at 4am, poking through the fridge of virtual strangers, searching frantically for the kind of cheese that, if ravaged, would be least missed. An early start tomorrow, I thought, as I gasped for air between bites. According to just about everyone, I would be remiss not to attend a college football game at the University of Texas during my stay. To my misfortune, that week’s game against Illinois State began at an unsightly 11:00am. The last time I woke up before lunch on a Saturday was centered on a Brand Spanking New! episode of Doug. I arose at 7:30am thee next morning, sans grace, and stumbled outside the house to find my adopted street lined with tailgaters, their clothes creating a collage of burnt orange to match the sky above. A cup of coffee and a headache in tow, I set out to capture the rural college experience Yeshiva University could never afford me. Although, to be fair, I couldn’t afford Yeshiva University, either. In any event, Jade, ever gracious, lent me a UT t-shirt and matching hat and I was off blending in with the sea of fans, a Longhorn for life, just like everybody else.

 

            For a city with so many transplants, you would not be able to tell from their rabid fan base. There must be something in the BBQ because once you step foot in downtown Austin, you automatically bleed orange. The people of Austin may be the most giving of any tailgating community in the country; I could hardly walk down a single street block without being offered a can of Coors Light and something fresh off the grill. Try asking complete strangers for a six-pack outside of MetLife Stadium before a Giants game and you’d sooner get met with a fist to the face. This is how you throw a pregame, I realized, as I encountered fans prepubescent and elder, native and tourist, student and alum, all bound together for a common goal—hooking ‘em horns.

 

          I came across a group of twelve guys from Australia celebrating one of their friend’s bachelor parties halfway around the world. After chatting for a few minutes and shot-gunning beers at 8am to earn their respect, they took me in as one of their own. It turned out that all twelve of them had collectively quit their jobs two years prior and moved to the Cayman Islands to start life anew. Most of them worked at the same accounting firm on the island, maintaining a 9-5 lifestyle, only, living permanently at a vacation destination. Just when I had thought that was the best idea I’ve ever heard in my life, I saw one of them wearing a yarmulke. Intrigued, I inquired within. The crew, some Jewish some not, made a bet that the last person to book their ticket to America would be forced to wear a yarmulke throughout the entire cross-country trip. The fact that the culprit was Catholic and it was Sabbath morning only made it more hilarious. I was almost offended until I realized that I didn’t have any other friends. And so, with one arm extended, forming the Texas hand signal, and the other wrapped around the shoulders of my honorary Jewish brother, we were both on our way to the first college football game of our lives.

 

          Once we entered the stadium I realized there was assigned seating and, in what had fast become the overarching theme of my trip, I was alone again and left to my own devices – beer, mostly. It just so happened that legendary Hall of Fame player and coach, Darryl K Royal, who led the Longhorns to three national championships during a career spanning as many decades culminated by a renaming of the stadium in his honor, had passed away two days prior to the game. The band was more organized than a synchronized swim team and carried themselves with more swagger than Justin Bieber could even wet dream about. For the first play of the game, the Longhorns came out with the Wishbone Offense, popularized by Royal himself, and executed a huge play downfield, not looking back for the rest of the game. I found out later that ESPN switched to the live broadcast in order to celebrate his life and pay their respects. I learned all the chants and cheers and screamed at the top of my lungs, nearly losing my voice as the Longhorns cruised to a comfortable victory.

 

          After the game, the parties continued throughout the afternoon in typical Texas fashion. It took an older gentleman, nearly three times my senior, to set the record straight on crafting the perfect margarita. For all I knew, this septuagenarian may have even invented the thing. Lay a wet sponge on the table and spread salt evenly across its surface. Take a glass, top down, and tap the sponge lightly, twisting back and forth to gain an even coat of salt across the rim. Then, fill the glass quarter-way with ice and three parts Triple Sec, Margarita Mix and Republic Tequila, all of equal amount. As the day began to take on a hazy glow, I walked around campus and admired all the beautiful sun-soaked, blondes bouncing around the East Mall, not a care in the world. A place for College Janes the country over to sow their wild oats, I thought, and who was I to get in the way? Why, for me to come between a girl and her sexual rite of passage would be downright un-American. Though, how would I, a relatively older outsider from the other side of the country, capture their hearts? Therein lay the rub. And I’m not talking about BBQ.

18

Mar

Alone Star State: Chapter 3

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Upon making acquaintance with a young lesbian couple visiting from Los Angeles, we all decided it was time to nourish ourselves by way of an Asian-influenced taco truck helmed by none other than Top Chef Season 9 winner, Paul Qui. Beet home fries? Yes, please. I quickly learned that in this part of town, there was nary such thing as a brick-and-mortar dining establishment, Austinites opting instead to have their food stored conveniently behind their bars in parking lots filled with trucks. After some drunk googling (droogling?), I discovered that with over 200,000 food trucks, Austin was the US capital of mobile munching, lending a new if less altruistic meaning to Meals on Wheels. Lauren, Joanie and I (names have been changed to protect “Joanie”, the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister back home who is not yet aware of her recent life choices) had entered into a routine: zigzagging from bar to truck and back to bar again, having our presence felt in every nook and cranny of the neighborhood. One venue had locally famous DJs spinning dubstep tracks du jour, another had an indie rock outfit that was one Last Call with Carson Daly appearance away from national recognition, and a third featured live karaoke, a New York delicacy, at best. We stuffed our faces with the smorgasbord of sounds, all of it in one square mile and over the course of one night. After some admittedly sloppy dancing, my new best friends regrettably informed me they needed to wake up early tomorrow for a full day of sightseeing; with pecks on my cheek, flicks of their hair and turns of their heels, I was alone yet again, the nouveau-metal band getting louder behind us and drowning out my final goodbyes.

 

What on Mother Earth was the name of this song and how did it possess the key to my soul? How come Shazam never seems to work when you finally remember to use it? It couldn’t be 3AM already, could it? Do they have ruffies in Texas or did I just order one too many Long Island Iced Teas?

 

I couldn’t be sure, but around two hours had passed since the lesbian lovers left my side and I was trying to navigate my way toward a successful end to my first night on the town. A scene-y rock band was nearing the end of their set as the crowds began to thin. When in a club by yourself on the other side of the country, you tend to overreact to exchanged pleasantries with the opposite sex. Struggling to make conversation, I indulged in probably the barest minimum for what could be considered coincidence—Oh my God, you went to college? Me too! I needed to make a bee line for the exit. And fast. After a small scuffle with the bouncer about whether or not I could leave the venue with half a glass of beer in tow – I lost the argument – I exited the bar stage left and saw in the distance a square-shaped dance hall decorated with lights of every color beckoning me to come hither. Finally, I thought, the bar that struck the perfect balance of pandering to the ironically bearded while paying homage to the Texas of yesteryear. Just when thinking I had seen it all, I became a master of the two-step at The White Horse, Austin’s very own hipster honky-tonk.

 

It’s a testament to my sheltered upbringing and childhood shaped by mass entertainment that the first thing I thought of upon entering the bar was Friday Night Lights. Raised by television and a tendency to travel internationally instead of road-tripping cross country—let’s give #FirstWorldProblems a final curtain call before retiring the phrase—my idea of Texas was molded by Brian Grazer and Peter Burg. However skewed my version of Texas might have been, it was not hard to imagine Smash Williams, Tim Riggins and most of Dillon celebrating a late season victory at a place just like this one. Patrons both young and old, native and transplant lined the bar, a shot of whiskey in one hand and a Lone Star in the other.  I mosied on over to the dance-floor, minding my own business, when, out of the blue, a middle-aged woman from El Paso sidled up next to me and began the Texas Two-step. Our traditional gender roles reversed, I followed her lead as the house band took us back to the roots of country music. Some of the band members looked old enough to be Willie Nelson’s father and I got the feeling you’d be in trouble if you walked in and played some Taylor Swift. Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. Next thing I know, a crowd had formed around us, people started clapping, I’m staring into the eyes of a complete stranger twice my age, my feet moving so fast it felt like dancing on a cloud…and I could not stop laughing for the life of me. Sometimes, the experiences you all but force upon yourself, the lasting memories you try so hard to cultivate, end up finding you first.

25

Jan

Alone Star State: Chapter 2

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I landed Thursday afternoon and Oliver was there to pick me up right on time; perhaps a little too on time. After throwing my bags in the car and making sure the trunk wasn’t lined with garbage bags, I hopped in and began to breathe in the expansive scenery and endless farmland as we cruised the outskirts of downtown Austin. Turned out, Oliver was a) British, b) close in age and, most important of all, c) a pretty good dude. When we pulled up the driveway to their two-family house I could not believe that this couple had such large and well-decorated digs at this point in their lives.  Kick-starting what became a trip-long comparison to life as I know it on the East Coast, the only thing more impressive than the size of their home was that it was entirely paid for by renting out their spare bedroom every night of the year to travelers like me. Oliver and Jade both work at home: he for his own company helping small businesses build out their online presence and her as Community Manager for—you guessed it—AirBnB. I could think of no young couple more emblematic of success, taking 21st century technology and some DIY millennial know-how and using it to their full advantage to carve out the life they felt they deserve -  a reiteration of the new, if slightly spunkier, American dream.  

I had known each of them for less than 30 minutes before I began envying their affordable living, entrepreneurial spirit and overall laid back mien. Spending some time abroad a few years ago, Jade, a lifelong Texan, met Oliver at a pub in London. Several pints (and dates) later, they were on a plane to start their lives together in Austin. They spent the majority of their night helping me plan my weekend, telling me which bars, restaurants and neighborhoods I had to check out during my stay. I would have written “sights” to appear more cultured but I’d prefer to be truthful to all one of my readers. Besides, I try not to lie to my mom. After grabbing a to-do-list and a couple of road-beers, I was off and on my own again to wander the streets under the sprawling night sky.

I was en route to East Austin, what was described to me as the Southwest’s answer to the East Coast’s all-too-popular (all-too-played out?) hipster scene running from Williamsburg, Brooklyn down to Gainesville, Florida. While sauntering around aimlessly and introducing myself to random bar patrons at the 1920’s-inspired speakeasy, I thought that I easily could have been on 9th and 2nd in the East Village and wouldn’t have known the difference. In fact, half the people I struck up conversations with were from New York. Everyone seemed to be a transplant, the other half having migrated over from more coastal cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. No one I chatted with in the bar had lived in Austin for more than five years, let alone a lifetime. If I didn’t know to Keep Austin Weird, I’d say their slogan may well have been Austin: Established in 2009. That’s not to say that my new friends embodied the overall stereotypical character traits from the towns in which they came. Most New Yorkers I met during my bar crawl that night were surprisingly and abundantly kind, buying me round after round of drinks and accepting me as their own right away. It seemed as if a stint in Texas (and a few cocktails) had mellowed their harsh. Maybe you can take the Queens out of the girl, after all.

20

Dec

Alone Star State: My Journey Deep in the Heart of Texas

Howdy, partners! First off, I apologize for leaving everyone hanging with the Spain and Israel Saga. I will allow my loyal fan base to Choose Their Own Ending:  Ending #1: After bulking up on a steady diet of patatas bravas , I gored several bulls, became a highly decorated matador, was paraded down the streets of Pamplona  and Gorsky Day replaced Corpus Christi as one of Spain’s National Holidays. Ending #2: Same as #1, except with paella. Long story short, we survived that getaway, escaped as a hero and lived to see another vacation. All of which leads me to the retelling of my latest adventures: Ladies and Gentlefolk, I present to you…“El Chronicles del Texas”

My boss came to me last month with word of a conference on mobile advertising taking place in San Antonio. Only one of us from the New York office would be allowed to attend and so I quickly put together a slideshow highlighting my exceptional performance for the company thus far and detailing my uncanny ability to schmooze with just about anybody. Now, it may be worth mentioning that by “slideshow” I mean “unintelligible rant” and by “schmooze” I mean “drink heavily”. Nonetheless, I made my case and was granted permission to attend the weeklong retreat and attempt to win some new business. Having never been to Texas, I was not about to fly across the country just to spend all my time in arguably the lamest of all Texan cities (Cue the death threats from my San Antonian readership). No; Texas was too large and I had heard too many stories about other places (to say nothing of seeing too many episodes of Friday Night Lights) not to explore another part as well. But, where oh where would I go that would take me out of my New York City comfort zone, while at the same time make me feel right at home? I found the answer faster than finding a hipster at a Southwest Honky-tonk: Austin, Texas.

My spontaneous spirit and Jew brain kicked into high gear right on time as I thought of different ways to spice up the trip while saving a few bucks along the way. Instead of paying a premium for the regular hotel experience, why not sign up for AirBnB, an online startup that links homeowners with travelers throughout the world, offering both local flavor and a cheaper alternative for the baller on a budget.  Much like I would never walk into a restaurant without checking Yelp to see how good their Bread Crumb Removal Guy is, I was not about to enter a stranger’s home before reading a few comments from past guests. After some extensive research, I came across the #1 ranked couple in all of Austin, Jade and Oliver. Once finding out they won the elusive title of “SuperHost” and had no intention of coughing it up any time soon, I had made up my mind: I would trust Jade and Oliver with my life. Or, to put it in less hyperbolic terms, trust them with showing me an above average time. They accepted my email for the requested dates I would visit and, all of a sudden, they were offering to pick me up from the airport. All told, either I was about to get murdered or meet what seemed like the nicest people alive…and maybe both.  

25

Mar

Untitled Memoirella, Chapter 3

To my pleasant surprise, more than half of my roommates spoke English as a second language, which is more than I can say for the 2nd floor of my old apartment in Washington Heights. Throughout my adult life, I had always lived with good friends so the prospect of bunking up with virtual strangers was a little unsettling. Maybe it’s the lighting but I’m pretty sure this woman has a 5 o’clock shadow and why does the guy in the corner look like Mayhem from the Allstate commercials? However, I would soon discover that, when put in close quarters with someone over a finite period of time, with the very real prospect of never seeing that person again, you open yourself up more than you might with some of your closest friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but Urban Dictionary already defined this phenomenon as a “single-serving friend.” But, just as any woman can attest during her routine binge run at the local 16 Handles, sometimes you just want seconds. Unfortunately for me, I wouldn’t have the opportunity.

Bed chosen, bag unpacked, pleasantries exchanged, I was already feeling more comfortable in my new surroundings and could pretend to be whoever I want. Better yet, without any social pressure, as modern day poet Drizzy Drake Rogers might suggest, I could really “do me”. I quickly integrated into the band of kooky misfits and we had all made plans for a night out on the town. If a room full of twenty and thirty-somethings from Finland, Brazil, Australia, France and the States could all get along in Spain then how come the UN hasn’t yet figured out world peace? Or at least found Kony.

All the goodwill notwithstanding, I decided that I would still go to sleep wearing my bright neon pink fanny pack containing my wallet, passport and newly exchanged Euros strapped tightly around my waist. Something about being alone in the middle of a hostel in Barcelona brings out the responsible in me. That and my mom made me bring one. Though, before I got carried away with being a reasonable adult, there was still a night of drunken debauchery with my new best friends to be had. Our hostel came equipped with a full bar of bottom shelf drinks and what I can only assume was an intentionally sticky floor. It was possible that I had found a bar even dive-ier than my favorite in New York - Alphabet City’s The Horsebox - and I could not be any happier. I turned to my left and struck up a conversation with a guy from South Korea and perhaps Asia’s second tallest man. After a couple of poor jokes and failed conversation starters that were lost in translation– “Who let you out of Korea?!” “What? I take plane.” – I started thinking that maybe Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansen were onto something. I spent the better part of an hour trying to ask him if he needed to custom order his condoms. In my defense, when he finally got the joke, the payoff was tremendous and I had him in stitches. “What? No, I okay. No need stitches.” Maybe world peace was going to be harder than I thought.

01

Mar

Untitled Memoirella, Chapter 2

The wheels grazed the ground below before planting firmly on Spanish soil when I realized my only frame of reference for Barcelona was courtesy of Vicky and Christina. After all, if I have one celebrity doppelganger, it’s Javier Bardem. But, why did I come to Spain and why did I do so alone? Was it to learn more about a different way of life or to learn more about myself? And why was I typing out questions like a poor man’s Carrie Bradshaw? Was it because I sometimes watch Sex and the City reruns on the treadmill at the Crunch in Union Square? Or, did I genuinely struggle with the reasons behind my trip halfway around the world? The truth is, I would find out that going on vacation is as much about seeing new cities and different cultures as it is examining your own. Everywhere I went, locals and fellow travelers told me that they *loved* my accent. Never in a million years did I think people from all over the world like the way we spoke. New Yorkers, exotic? Fuhgeddaboudit.

 

 

 

”You look so New York.”

“You dress so New York.”

“You speak fast. It’s so New York.”

 

 

 

I was stopped in a club one night where a girl gushed drunkenly to me about New York for the better part of an hour. And I had always thought that New Yorkers were New York’s biggest fan. I didn’t realize that people outside of Manhattan thought we were “the best city in the world”, too. All this praise and I was wont to do some self reflecting. What about the way I walked and talked made me *so* New York? These are not exactly questions you ponder on an overcrowded cross-town L train during the morning rush. Maybe sometimes, you need to go somewhere else to find out where you’re coming from. But, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

 



I arrived at Equity Point Center, the sketchy hostel with the least amount of negative reviews on Yelp, and my home base for the next four nights. My yeshiva high school education afforded me one year of beginner’s Spanish and I would not be afraid to use it. “$80,000 well spent” is what I always say. Little did I know that Barcelonans speak Catalan. Not only do they have a different language, but I would soon learn that they look down on the rest of the Spanish speaking population. It reminded me a lot of Texas: You get the impression that, if they could secede from the rest of the country, they would. With Catalan as their native language and Spanish their second, English was in a distant third place—the Newt Gingrich of Barcelona. Luggage in tow, I stumbled into my shared bedroom and was met with blank smiles from seven non-American strangers. Thank Dios for my uncanny resemblance to Bardem; I would have to get by on my dashing good looks alone.

20

Feb

Untitled Memoirella, Chapter 1

Afternoon, fellow lovers.

Great to be back. The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and the next thing you know, I was the Yao Ming of blogging. But, in honor of the new Asian on campus, I decided to turn over a new leaf and get back to work. Every week, I will release a fresh piece of my Mini Memoir chronicling my trip to Spain and Israel. The times had, the lessons learned and how I will most likely just go on living life unchanged.

Eternally yours,

Gorsk-Dawg

I spent the year after high school, like many of my classmates and friends, ensconced in Bible study at a Jewish school in Israel. What better way to relate to our faith, so the theory went, than to dwell in the same place that our forebears once did. What better way to connect with our past than to study the literature of the last few thousand years in the very places they were conceived.  The year abroad wasn’t just a matter of hammering home the ever-evolving do’s and don’ts of the written and oral Jewish law, but it was meant to strengthen one’s bond with the land as well; the Modern spin on an Orthodox rite of passage. However, during my year abroad, I found it difficult to separate a connection with the Land of Israel from its Biblical overtones. Maybe my school did a poor job of instilling in me the passion for the Land, or maybe I was just too immature to feel the magic, but I had never been able to gain an appreciation for Israel’s history outside of a religious context. This past winter break, seven years later, I decided it was time to revisit my roots and see if I could gain a newfound sense of appreciation for the Land of Milk and Honey. I would embark on a journey of self discovery, though not before a four day layover in Barcelona, Spain, Europe’s capital of nihilism. I’ll take my praying with a side of eating and loving, please.

The first leg of my trip, much to the chagrin of the group of females lined outside my apartment, was to be had alone. If I was serious about disorienting myself from my surroundings and truly looking inward, I would have to go it solo dolo. As I sat on the plane preparing for departure, and the Spanish version of the safety video came on first, a shock of nerves washed over me. Almost certain I was the only passenger of American descent, I couldn’t help thinking, What did I just sign up for?  Now, I’m no xenophobe, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around spending a week in a foreign land and having to “press 2 for English”. But, after chatting with a lovely mother of three to my left for a while, and then letting the smooth lyrical stylings of one Ricky Martin aurally please my senses and ease my worries, I was one bullfight away from becoming a local (To say nothing about never being so shamefully aware of my Ipod’s lack of Hispanic singers). With one hand turning the volume up and the other placed squarely atop the head of 7 year old Eduardo, there was no turning back.

03

Nov

Who Decides?

Sincerest apologies to my readership for the hiatus, I know it must have been a difficult couple of months. In the words of the great Mr. West, “I’m living in the future so the presence is my past. My presence is a present kiss my ass.” In related news, I’ve been working on my modesty.

At the end of summer, a few friends and I headed out to a lake house in the Poconos for a little weekend getaway. There were steaks to be grilled, alcohol to be consumed, souls to be searched, decisions to be decided. Some of us were trying to figure out which grad schools to attend, what careers to pursue and others just wanted to sort some things out. Every once in a while you need to physically remove yourself from the problems at hand in order to arrive at the proper solutions. Little did we know that, sometimes, the answers lie at the bottom of the bottle.

As we lay down on the ground under the May sky on that fateful Saturday afternoon, the sun took on the same golden hue as the tequila swishing around in our bellies. And, as is so often the case, a monumental realization was born out of something so seemingly insignificant. Any recreational drinker would attest that there are moments of absolute clarity. Somewhere along the way, perhaps between shots 6 and 7, the universe aligns itself for a fleeting moment. It’s as if the blinders are removed and you are privy to some deeper level of understanding. My friend looks to his left, sees our other friend and makes a rather astute observation.

“Dude, you’re totally in the mud right now. That sucks!” Friend.

“Well, maybe he…wants to be in the mud?” Me.

Nobody likes to be in the mud. It’s, like, a thing.” Friend.

“Yeah, but…who decides?”

From there it just took off: an outpour of questions ranging from serious, “How do we define success?” and “What makes a person happy?” to pure whimsy, “How many people does it take to make a social convention?”

Throughout our formative years we always played a part in the decision-making process, but, at the end of the day, many of our choices were made for us. With the diminishing guidance of our religious leaders and teachers, family and friends, perhaps it’s the shift toward complete, autonomous control that proves most terrifying. And so we delay the inevitable truth that in the end, we and we alone are left with the consequences of our actions.  As we leave the nest—our parents’ homes, the communities in which we are raised, the temples or other institutions we attended throughout our youths and the high schools and colleges that helped inform and shape our adulthood—we are left to fend for ourselves. The struggle is in many ways similar to those that came and went before us: how much do we want to follow in the footsteps of our forbears?

Yet I feel that we are challenging the status quo in ways that previous generations have not. With the development of the ‘modern family’—single parents, interracial marriages and same-sex unions—we have redefined traditional homelife. In America, more women than men graduate college every year and we are finally seeing equality in the workplace.  The only denomination that seems to be growing, in my eyes, are the religiously unaffiliated.

I may be over-reaching here, but “Who decides?” could very well be the cry of our generation. Well, we like our coffee expensive and our music free. We try to define our careers, not the other way around. Perhaps we have a little too much faith in humanity. Some of us feel we’re never more united than we are while playing Halo on Xbox Live. Others think we could achieve world peace if we all just did the Downward-facing Dog.

With all this change in the air, where does that leave me? A 23 year old single male, new resident of the East Village with wavering religious conviction, who, despite 14 months in the workforce, still gets surprised every time he sees a pay check.  I don’t have the answers. But to me, the first step in figuring it all out is admitting that I don’t have a goddamn clue. For better or worse, I’m a perpetual work in progress.

And so I say to create your own personal philosophies. When all is said and done, who cares what “they” say.

A few days later, one of my friends on the trip with us, after years of struggle, finally decided to come out of the closet. I can only imagine the thoughts racing through his head and the decisions he arrived at on that drunken Saturday afternoon. Inherent in the very question “Who decides?” is the answer: I do. And you do, too.

Then again, it could have just been the Cuervo talking.

13

May

Oedipus’ Second Complex

I return to my old stomping grounds in Central Jersey every seven or eight weeks. This isn’t so much to see the folks as it is to get my laundry did. Whenever I see my blue linen bag beefing up, reaching capacity, and my underwear dwindling down in my dresser to the two or three with various holes, hanging on by a literal thread before dissipating into nothingness, I know it’s time to pay my mom another visit.

I relayed this to my friend the other day and he responded in turn, shedding a light on and calling into question the current relationship I have with my mother.

“Twenty freaking three years old and your mom still does your laundry?”

 It’s not that I didn’t find it odd that this was the case, nor that I’m incapable of washing, drying and folding my own clothes, but it’s just been a matter of routine since as far back as I could remember. Even now, with my employer insurance, my mom continues to remind me when it’s time for my annual trip to the dentist or another routine eye exam. Throughout my life this, amongst countless other things, has been mommy’s turf.

And yet, mother won’t make my appointments forever.

A particular lyric from Billy Joel’s famous classic about post-adolescence, Captain Jack, hits a bit too close to home.  In particular, Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky’s home.

”Well you’re 21 and still your mother makes your bed,
And that’s too long”.

               

Whether or not Captain Jack will get me high tonight is beside the point. In honor of Mother’s Day and in true Gorsky fashion—late, that is—I’d like to propose a toast to moms everywhere. Perhaps what’s most tangible through childhood is a mother’s omnipresence; there through good or bad, thick and thin. There to show her undying love and support upon receiving an excellent grade on that paper you wrote about totalitarianism in the 4th grade. There when getting your first salaried job upon graduation after months of applying and hundreds of resumes and cover letters sent with no reply. There to express her disappointment when you accidentally let your retainer get wrapped up in the tablecloth and thrown into the garbage at the weekly mock Sabbath dinner on Friday afternoon in Solomon Schechter Day School. And there for  that time you thought it wise to spray paint your car in a checkerboard of neon red, blue and green with “Crazy” on one side of the car and “Gorsky” on the other, large enough for all on the New Jersey Turnpike to point toward and laugh at back in junior year of high school.

               

The time may never come when I don’t fear disappointing my mother or secretly pine for her respect and approval.  And that’s okay. But I’m slowly coming to the realization that it’s time to take some responsibility for the little things in life. When the buckle on my shoe falls off, as it did in a recent clubbing fiasco, I should go to the cobbler on 181st Street and not the mother at home.  At a certain point in adulthood the relationship to your mother will change. Gradually, the caregiver becomes the recipient of care and our roles will inevitably endure a transformation. Through the process of time our relationship of provider and providee will undergo a complete reversal.

 

They say that when looking for a significant other, we seek, subconsciously or not, a spouse that resembles our mothers and fathers.  I take comfort in knowing that my dad doesn’t decide when he goes to the dentist, either. And it is only a matter of time before I embark on a quest to find a wife that can fill my mother’s shoes. Or at the very least, fix my own.