Lone Writer

Last week I went to the Steely Dan concert at The Beacon with my dad. My dad is my ultimate partner in crime. He likes activities almost as much as I do, which is genuinely saying something. We have a tradition in the summer of having weekly dive dinner date nights every Monday. The only requirements are great food, an even better beer selection, and that the restaurant isn’t even the least bit fancy. We’re a jeans and t-shirt kind of family and my dad takes that to the extreme. Seeing him in a suit can only be described as a fish out of water moment. And a tie? Forget it. Those are pretty much only reserved for funerals and maaaaaybe a black tie wedding (but I still wouldn’t count on it). So for us, the divier the restaurant the better.

Our big hit last summer was Tacombi at Fonda Nolita. Tacombi has rolled out several restaurants in the past year or so, but in my opinion, none hold a cande to the Nolita outpost. It’s located in an old warehouse and in the summer, the garage style door is rolled all the way open. One of the now iconic Tacombi taco trucks is parked in the middle of the restaurant, creating a deliciously hidden Mexican haven in the middle of Nolita. Some of our other greatest hits include Rosarito Fish Shack in Williamsburg, my dad’s favorite childhood pizza place Star Tavern, in New Jersey, and the not at all divey, but still excellent, Empellon Taqueria in Greenwich Village and Perla on Minetta Lane.
I digress.
My point is that my dad usually has great taste. He’s a die hard Springsteen fan and his other musical tastes are usually pretty on point. So when he asked me to come to the concert with him I figured I’d most likely enjoy the music. Well…have any of you ever listened to Steely Dan? Because I hadn’t. I’d definitely heard of them and would maybe recognize one or two of their songs if I heard them on the radio, but for the most part, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. Honestly, I was under the impression that I was going to see one man named Steely Dan. First name Steely, last name Dan. Wow, I thought, his parents had great foresight that their son was going to be a musician when they named him. And when you hear the name Steely Dan, don’t you think cool reggae/steel drum type music? I understand that I only have myself to blame. It would have taken all of five minutes to look them up and listen to some of their “greatest hits.” And when I say greatest, I say that with the utmost facetiousness.
Steely Dan blows.

Here is the description I sent my mother mid-concert:
“This is what the love guru would choose to sing at 1970’s blacklight karaoke club for the elderly. But on repeat for 3 hours because every song sounds like the same piece of shit as the last one. But that’s ok because at least the band is nice on the eyes if you’re into that hunch back, senile, reptilian kind of thing. And at least the oaf next to me has such bad breath that I have to bury my nose in dads arm to keep from gagging. If you like that kind of thing, it would have been a blast. Me? No would be putting it kindly.”

The things we do for the people we love, right? But in all seriousness, even though the music wasn’t up my alley, I still had an amazing evening. I’ve found that post graduation, there’s nothing more comforting that snuggling up with my parents. We’re supposed to become more independent as we get older and I certainly have in most respects. But I’ve found that with age, I actually crave big family bear hugs more than ever. I had the best morning on Tuesday because I got to have an early breakfast with my mom at The Grey Dog in Chelsea. I’ve been to the other Grey Dog locations around the city, but had yet to try the one in Chelsea and it got a thumbs up from both of us. My day only improved from there as I went uptown to my parents’ to have dinner with my mom since my dad was out of town and we watched the Mets tragically lose to the Dodgers.

No one really tells you how hard the transition is into the real world after graduation. You simultaneously feel like the world is your oyster and completely alone at all times. No one wants to admit that most days they feel as though they have no friends and that the world is eating them alive. But what I’m just starting to realize is that the feeling extends across people from all walks of life. In my opinion Taylor Swift has done irreparable damage to our expectations of what constitutes a viable social life. “Squads” aren’t just abnormal or hard to find, they’re actually one of the most preposterous, disgusting phenomena plaguing millennial social circles. We shouldn’t want to have a “squad.” We should strive for a few substantive friendships, rather than a swarm of superficial ones. Do you know who else has a squad? Cheerleaders. And I certainly don’t want to be in any sort of group that goes under the same moniker as a group of cheerleaders. A squad is a short term solution, a bandaid, for much more serious issues at play. You can surround yourself with hoards of people but what good does that do in the longterm? Feeling alone certainly isn’t fun, but neither is masking those feelings with a constant slew of frivolous friendships.

Many of my friends moved elsewhere after graduation and there’s really only a small handful of us in New York, most of whom are bankers so I rarely get to see them regardless. So right now I’m trying to find my social niche and that’s far from easy. Making acquaintances is easy, making real friends is surpassingly difficult. So why does no one talk about it?

Making friends is like a muscle I forgot to stretch. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in a position where I had to make new friends since freshman year. And frankly, I kind of lucked out because I met my best friend Jonny as we were moving our boxes into our freshman dorm rooms right across the hall from each other. And now, not having a Jonny-style partner in crime to help me overcome my severe social anxiety makes all of this especially hard. So maybe I’m wrong and I’m the only person that feels this way but in the event that I’m not, here’s a reminder: Feeling lonely is normal. Struggling to find your place is perfectly acceptable. “Squads” are for spineless idiots so don’t worry if you don’t have one. And finally, it’s ok to talk about feelings of desolation. It’s ok to admit you’re feeling inconceivably isolated. And I’ll let you in on a little secret — anyone who acts like they feel otherwise is almost certainly lying.

But on the bright side, I’ve started to realize that such rumination can provide opportunity for unrivaled self reflection. I love being alone, just not feeling alone. Does that make any sense at all? And if I take any feelings of desolation or the struggle to find my place in the world and direct it somewhere positive, with a bit of ingenuity it’s not that hard to overcome. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of interesting events in New York every week. The city is a playground in itself, just waiting to be explored. There are people everywhere. Literally, everywhere. I can meet them, observe them, and even write about them.

Writing has been the best creative outlet when I feel like I have nothing to do or nowhere to go. Any regular reader very well knows that one of my favorite things to do is to find new writing spots around the city. For so long I’ve been on the lookout for good cafés and bars in which to write, but little did I know that the best spot was right in my own apartment. I moved into my apartment nearly five months ago but until Monday had yet to figure out what to do with my old tv. It’s been sitting at the foot of my bed as I’ve contemplated whether to use it as a secondary tv in my bedroom or as a computer monitor at my desk. It’s sat there for months collecting dust as I was merely too lazy to make up my mind and work out the high level, complex logistics of well…moving it and plugging it in.

On Monday I finally decided. Computer monitor it is — and it was a great decision on my part. When you’re used to working at a laptop all the time, being face to face with a massive monitor is quite the upgrade, particularly for writing purposes. I sat down to write my blog post on my new monitor and used one of those designated writing mac apps of which I’ve tried several. I tried a couple while I was writing my thesis and settled on Scrivener back then because it allowed me to do more specific types of edits and insert more sophisticated footnotes. Scrivener is a content-generation tool specifically designed for those composing and structuring long, intricate documents. For anyone writing an essay or any sort of long written assignment, Scrivener is ideal. It’s not the easiest on the eyes; I wouldn’t say their UI is all that breathtaking but the tools are top notch. By sophisticated footnotes I mean that I was able to create a footnote once and then whenever I wanted to reuse it I just clicked that source in a drop down menu, wrote the new page number, and it inserted automatically. It also created what I’m calling “internal hyperlinks” which allowed me to click on the exact sentence to which a footnote or a previously written comment was referencing and be taken to the footnote in question. Scrievener also allows you to easily create chapters and subsections within those chapters. For my thesis this was ideal as I was constantly shuffling around various sections and moving chunks of text around my massive document — something you really can’t do in any other writing app I’ve come across thus far. However I must mention that Scrivener doesn’t come cheap. It starts at the high price of $44.99, which by app store standards is insane. But ultimately, I found that its flexible tools were well worth it.

However, for my blog Scrivener wasn’t nearly pretty enough or have a sleek enough interface to elicit the type of creative outpouring I aim for while writing for pleasure. I searched around, exploring the plethora of writing apps available on the Mac app store. I did a few google searches for “best writing mac app” and finally settled on Markdown. It’s super simple. No bells, no whistles, just words. It’s a blank page (one can choose white or black) and text — that’s it. Each word takes up a satisfying chunk of the page, almost like a game of pacman where the word is pacman and he’s muching away at clean white computer monitor. One thing I particularly like like is that I can change the font as I please. A little known fact about me, and one I’ve never really shared with anyone, is that I have a weird thing for fonts. I love typography. I go on those font collection websites and download fonts in droves. I don’t know what it is about lettering, but a good font changes everything for me. So needless to say, when I downloaded Markdown I spent some time searching through my collection of downloaded fonts and finally settled on one called ‘Drugs’ oddly enough. It’s very simple and clean, yet has enough flair that each letter’s distinct appearance in aggregate generates a beautifully woven tapestry of words.

My new writing setup inspired me to transform my apartment into the ultimate creative environment. I turned on my record player to full volume, Miles Davis crooning on the vynl, and typed away ferociously with a nice little shot of espresso beside me. I lit some candles, well no, correction, I lit so many candles, which while creating a beautiful ambience generated quite the potent, headache inducing crossbreeding of candle scents in my apartment. It looked real nice though. My day of desktop computering, record player playing, and candle wick burning set my week off on a good foot. To top it off I ordered in Westville for dinner, one of the best food options in I would say just the West Village but they have so many locations that it’s really up there as one of the best places period. I’m a sucker for anywhere with good broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower so needless to say, Westville’s my jackpot.

So in summary, loneliness is inescapable but there are always ways to placate the feeling. My love/hate relationship with New York aside, the city has an endless supply of hidden gems to brighten one’s day. Whether it’s by spending time with family, engaging in some sort of creative activity, traipsing down an untrodden street, or discovering a new restaurant, there’s always something to help you push on through. There are days I feel like the ultimate social butterfly of the world and others where I feel like a slimy slug on the bottom of the ocean with no friends to her name. But the sun sets, the day starts anew, and to quote Thomas the Train, you just have to “think you can.”

Originally published at drinkingalone.xyz.