Friday, November 19, 2004

Would you say you’re a live wire? Or low-key?

Introvert? Extrovert? Pervert?

Depends on the situation, right? When it comes to my energy level, I want everything done in a New York minute, but just so I can get back to my California dreamin’.

And when I was in Hawaii with some friends, I remember one of the girls kept remarking, "Michael, you’re so mellow." Well, sure, I was into serenity; the other guys were into our itinerary. Arguing about whether to go to Hanama Bay or the north shore. Snorkeling or surfing? Whatever, dude. It’s all good. I was lei’d back and mai-tai-ing one on. Why get uptight about how to relax?

Still, I can get pretty damn intense sometimes. My friend Mike marvels at how I can get all emotional about shit, whether I’m doing my happy Irish jig (he incorrectly calls it my Walter Huston dance) or foaming at the mouth in a foxtrot of fury. "Jeez, Mike," he’ll tell me. "Take some ‘zac or something." Why curb my enthusiasm? So I can be permanently comatose like him? I’d rather rage against the machine once in a while than be comfortably numb forever. Mike’s the kinda guy who could be set on fire and wonder what’s cookin’. I’ve warned him that if we’re ever overrun by Dawn of the Dead zombies, I’m shooting him in the head first… just to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, there was my friend Erik. Young skinny neighbor kid who had tons of energy. He’d join me on a run in the morning, and while I was off at work, he got to hang around. He was waiting to hear back from the grad schools he applied to; otherwise he had nothing much to do. And no one to hang out with.

Til I came home. Then he was like a little puppy dog, scampering excitedly, happy to play.

But shit, man, I was tired. Sorry, I wasn’t that hungry, didn’t feel like going out to eat.

"What if we order in?" Erik said, "Get some Chinese food, hang out…"

Poor lonely kid. Very nice guy, just too eager sometimes. Okay, I told him. Pick out some dishes and order whatever you want.

He made a call while I’m sinking into my easy chair and Ottoman. A minute later Erik said, "So I ordered some kung pao, mu shu, fried rice. It’ll be here in 15."

"Cool. Thanks." My words came out in a slow murmur.

"That all right?"


"You want, I’ll cancel it. We could get a pizza instead."

"No, that sounds good."

"You sure now?"

Yeah. Yes. Why does he keep asking me?

"Well," he said, "you don’t seem that excited about it."

I sighed. Peeled myself off my comfy chair, stood up, took a deep breath and mustered all my energy.

"Yeah!" I said. "Chinese food!" The kid started to smile, so I kept going with it.

Shouting at the top of my lungs. "CHI-NESE FOOD! CHI-NESE FOOD! WE’RE GONNA GET SOME CHI-NESE FOOD!" Now I was jumping up and down like a spastic cheerleader.

"Kung PAO! Mu SHU! Woo HOO!"

I bounced out of my apartment as if MSG is PCP. "Yeah! All right!" One of my neighbors peeked out his front door. I didn’t hesitate. "We’re getting Chi-nese food! You want?!" The guy slipped back inside.

Erik was laughing. And you know what? I worked up a pretty good appetite. That kung pao tasted great.

The kid got into school back east, but he gets in touch with me when he’s back for the holidays. He’s slowed down a little bit, overwhelmed with his classwork. Still, when he called me he reminded me not to fill up too much on turkey next weekend, ‘cause we gotta go out for some…

"Yeah, I know." But I let him say it.

Erik shouted into the phone. "Chi-nese food! Chi-nese food!"

Shit, I look forward to hanging out, but’ til then, I’m gonna have to conserve my energy.


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