Mandela Loves Cheese

I’m back. Thanks for waiting.

I think I officially love New York, but I don’t see how anybody lives there all of the time. It was exhausting. Constantly moving, always spending money, sweating while cold and raining… I’ve never really been cold while sweating and wet from rain before. It was a lot of fun and took all of my money. I got to see just about everybody I love out there (including one special lady that drove two hours just to see me for an hour at a TGIFriday’s. That’s how you know someone loves you). I think I slept about ten hours total, but that was just fine.

There wasn’t too much sight-seeing, as it was raining most of the time, but I felt like I walked just about every square inch there was around there. I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, I saw a Broadway show, and I was on television (give your TiVoes a rest — the segment isn’t airing until the week of Sept. 15th). I slept in a tiny Manhattan apartment on a broken futon, I slept in a near-stranger’s bed in Brooklyn, and I slept in a guest room in Long Island. I got mistaken for a local and gave directions to Kew Gardens (even though I figured that first word was spelled with just a single letter). I braved my way through thunderstorms and umbrella-bending winds to sign a contact that certifies me as a real writer. I spent an entire night in one bar catching up with friends, crying and laughing and holding hands, wishing there weren’t so many miles between us every single day.

Jeff put me into a cab Sunday morning and said, “I love you.” I wiped my tears as I watched him catch the cab behind me. “He’s going somewhere else?” the cabbie asked. “Yeah,” I said.

“You two go in different directions.” he said. “You take the train to see him? Penn Station?”

“I live much farther away than Penn Station.”


I debated for a second, remembering how my mother only told me two rules to New York: anyone could knife me at any moment and never tell a cabbie I’m not a local. “I’m from California,” I said.

“Oh! California! That’s much nicer than New York. Beautiful out there.”

“I think they both have their merits,” I said.

“So your friend, he lives here?”


“And you live all the way over in California?”


“That’s far away. You here to see him?”


“That’s nice. When will you see him again?”

“I don’t know. I go home tomorrow. That was the end of our visit.”

“That’s so sad,” he said, and he didn’t talk to me again until we pulled up to Penn Station, where he told me to have a safe trip home.

Fans of my O-Town recaps will be pleased to see this bus stop ad. It made me laugh so hard I had to stop walking and take a picture in the rain. Check out the fine print:

Man, that’s funny. Funny! O-Town cares about your welfare ass.

Dan and I hit the road early Monday morning (as early as the storms would let us, anyway). Armed with hundreds of CD’s, four Entertainment Weekly’s, fifty pages of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the fourth Harry Potter book, three Newsweeks, too many Powerbars and about fifty gallons of water, we never stopped talking or singing until both of our voices put Kim Carnes to shame.

Seeing the entire country at eighty miles an hour feels more like a challenge than a vacation. We set tiny goals for ourselves. Finish this Teen People before we get to Amarillo. Just make it past this state line before dark. Don’t play this CD until it’s dark so we can sing once we can’t read anymore. Will we actually write a play between NY and LA?

We decided to stay in one motel in Amarillo only because it had a Gold’s Gym attached. After two days of sitting in a car for thirteen hours at a time, we just wanted to run as fast as we could for half an hour. As we checked in, the front desk clerk informed us that the gym was right outside our motel room door. I did a little dance and said, “I sure did miss Texas! Yay! Gym!”

The front desk clerk looked right at me and said, “That’s because this hotel’s still run by white people.”

Hey, Texas. I forgot how you’re mostly not Austin.

We also slept that night next to a gigantic cross. There are two of them on the trip, both claiming to be the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

We drove through the buckle of the Bible Belt and onto the wasteland of desert between Amarillo and Los Angeles, and we did it in one day. There was something in that morning that made both of us just want to keep going, keep driving, cut the trip short by one day and get home to real beds and clean rooms and the non-rain weather of Los Angeles.

We drove seventeen hours that last day, laughing and singing the entire way. We couldn’t have done it without Twist, Billy Joel, Nelson Mandela and his cheese fetish, George Michael, Edie Brickell, the history of a capella groups, and Harry Potter. I had a blast.

And from what I understand, it’s absolutely beautiful in New York now. That’s how it goes. I’d rather have the gritty, rainy New York anyway. I never get to see rain anymore.

We got back to Los Angeles to find that it’s raining. I guess I’m just bringing the clouds with me wherever I go. I keep falling asleep whenever I stop moving for more than ten minutes. But I got some good news today: I’m a semi-finalist in the Austin Film Festival screenplay competition. So, get ready Austin, I’m coming home.

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