Posted by Elliot Steingart
Due to stress, I can’t fall asleep. I don’t want to use Ambien, Melatonin, or alcohol to put me out. I’m counting on a mantra.
Repeating a mantra is a helpful way to gain inner peace. I use a mantra when running up a challenging hill in the neighborhood. Battling exhaustion I repeat to myself, “Los, Los Feliz. Los, Los Feliz. Los, Los Feliz.”
I repeat this over and over again until conquering the hill. It’s also helpful other times. I whistle the mantra on the way to Coffee Bean. I try to stay loyal to this mantra, but occasionally during sex I repeat “Go, Go, Go.” When that doesn’t work I revert back to “Los, Los Feliz. Los, Los Feliz.”
Strangely, my Los Feliz mantra does not work for sleep even though I sleep in Los Feliz. Not knowing where to turn I asked my father for advice who imparted the following nugget: “Whenever you want to stop thinking say to yourself ‘STOP THOUGHT’.”
“STOP THOUGHT” works if you have only one thought. I have too many thoughts to stop. Once one thought is stopped another appears.
I told him, “STOP THOUGHT” doesn’t work. I could sense his disappointment.
“Turn off the TV before bed. Don’t play on your cell phone. Don’t eat before bed.” He advised.
That eliminates my entire pre-bedtime routine. I need a mantra that is more forgiving.
I was up late thinking about work. I heard rumblings that my job would change. I considered every scenario and how my new role would impact my day to day. I visualized my outlook calendar and thought about how I could better delete my junk mail. “STOP THOUGHT” I shouted in my head, to no avail. With nowhere else to turn I tossed and turned, pulling half the sheets away from my girlfriend.
“MIND CLEAR!” I demanded.
More thoughts entered my mind. Why can’t I sleep? I’ve been doing this for 28 years. Shouldn’t I have this down?
“MIND CLEAR!” I demanded again. Because all my thoughts were focused elsewhere I didn’t quite realize what had happened. It struck me. I developed a new mantra. It didn’t work, but I was that much closer.
I asked my mom if she ever used a mantra. “I have one,” she said.
I was relieved to hear. “Great.” I said. “What is it?”
“I’m not telling. It’s personal.”
Even my own mother doesn’t care if I sleep at night. I don’t need her mantra, whatever it is. I’m guessing “QUINOA. ”It’s only a matter of time before “MIND CLEAR” works. When it does it would be great if this mantra could remove other things I don’t like student loans and Chris Brown.
Taking a hot bath at night and cutting out pretzels in bed is helping. There is no need to think about work in bed. I'm there 40 hours a week. I don't need to be there another 40. I will find a mantra. I'll let you know when I do.
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February 13, 2013 | 2:03 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Sometimes I feel like people are out to get me. My courage was tested this week, not once but twice. The first time involved dropping off shirts at Celebrity Cleaners.
“Is this your first time here?” asked the Persian girl behind the desk.
“I've been here once before.” I said. “Last name is Steingart.”
“How you spell?” she asked.
“S-T-E-I-N-G-A—R—T as in Timmy,” I announced.
“Not in system.” She said suspiciously.
I was surprised since my old dry cleaner recognized me in the system as someone who brought in dirty shirts and pants.
“Can I pick up tomorrow?” I asked.
She gave it some thought. “Yes, fine.” She agreed as she handed me a pink receipt.
When I came back to pick up my laundry I presented her a coupon.
“I can't accept this,” she said. “Must be $20 or more.”
I don't know why it’s called "fine" print when it always screws you. I sighed as I looked at my pink receipt. I looked up at the girl whose back was turned. I noticed the name on the pink receipt I held in my hand wasn't mine.
The name printed on the receipt was STEINFART. The FART jumped off the receipt. There was no GART, but a giant bold faced FART. STEINFART, ELLIOT. This seemed like a steep price to pay to pick up my dry cleaning the next day.
It finally registered that STEINFART was the name they had in their system. Too embarrassed to correct her, I paid for my dry cleaning as STEINFART. The name that tormented me throughout childhood is now on file at Celebrity Cleaners forever. I said nothing. I left as STEINFART. While STEINFART is a celebrity, STEINGART is some shmuck that needs to learn how to iron.
The worry of finding a new dry cleaner was offset when my girlfriend invited me on a romantic movie date to see Zero Dark Thirty. Walking into the theatre I noticed an armed security guard. I gave him a head nod once I saw he was strapped. While my girlfriend stood in line for popcorn I found our seats towards the top in an empty row. Checking my phone I heard a hacking cough coming from an elderly man in the row behind me. I took that as a sign and moved a few rows down. My girlfriend returned with the popcorn and the movie began.
During the opening sequence frantic 911 calls are heard from people still inside the Twin Towers. A few new audience members shuffled into the theatre arguing in Farsi or Arabic. They pointed toward the seats next to me and filed in. In the darkness of the theatre both men resembled the Al Quada detainee on screen. My girlfriend squeezed my arm during the first water boarding sequence. The man seated next to me kept looking over at us, tapping his foot and fidgeting as thought he couldn't remove a wedgie.
Watching suicide bombings on screen did not calm my nerves. The tension grew palpable as the armed security guard from the lobby entered the theatre. The security guard surveyed the audience and left. After the next torture scene the person sitting next to me began scratching his chest, and blurting out words I could not understand.
I feared a bomb was strapped to his ankle like the one I saw on screen. I had my chance to alert the security guard. I could have saved the lives of everyone in the theatre, but I did not want to break the rule of talking during the movie. Finally, my girlfriend leaned over and shushed the suspected terrorist. He stopped talking.
In hindsight I probably sound like a pretty big chicken. Not everyone with brown skin is out to get me, just the dry cleaner.
February 1, 2013 | 1:38 pm
Posted by Elliot Steingart
Every couple of years it’s nice to go back to the institution that now refers to me as “Borrower.” I owe it to my alma mater, UC Santa Cruz. Stepping foot on a college campus now that I’m 28 makes me appreciate how far I have come.
On a recent visit my girlfriend and I traversed through a large chunk of the 2,000 acre campus. I acted as tour guide pointing out my dorm and the health clinic that gives away free condoms. We admired the redwoods and the sensational views of Monterrey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. I felt very nostalgic but the more I looked at the students whizzing by us, the more I felt out of place. Between the sweats and pajama bottoms, I felt like I was staring at a sea of Lena Dunhams. The student body changed as well. I started our tour trying to spot the Jews. I left the tour trying to spot the whites. At one of the colleges I noticed two white guys throwing a football. At that moment I felt like I was truly back on campus, especially when one overthrew the other by a good five yards. I hearkened back to the time I accidentally tossed a football that grazed a pregnant woman in the back. College...
Because we would soon leave to visit my girlfriend’s sister at Stanford, I decided to play a game of "Which Campus has the Hottest Student Body." I noticed a striking brunette with red lip stick. “She’s hot.” I told my girlfriend. My girlfriend shot me a look of disgust. And that was the end of that game.
In an effort to stay true to my college experience we saw more of my smoke spots than we saw of lecture halls. After walking across wooden bridges through the forest my girlfriend seemed to have a favorable impression of UC Santa Cruz. I waited for her return from the bathroom before we would drive up to see her sister at Stanford. “There’s poo on the toilet seat,” she cried.
We left for Stanford soon after. For a school filled with geniuses you would think they also would know how to flush a toilet. Older and seemingly wiser, I flushed a genius’ pee. Like Santa Cruz, it was difficult to find many white people until we reached frat row, the surprising location of my girlfriend sister’s vegetarian cooperative. Walking to greet her sister, we noticed a student hanging upside down from a tire tied to a tree. A few others wearing tie-dye gathered around picnic tables drinking beer. Conversation centered around the line up for Coachella. The majority of acts like Stone Roses, Grizzly Bear, and Bingo Players sounded like names of other vegetarian coops.
After seeing my girlfriend’s sister’s debut as director/playwright of “Terminus 2 Terminus” set aboard the Paris Metro, we found ourselves invited to a wine tasting in our honor at the coop. My girlfriend and I sat Indian style in a 10 x 13 dorm room with 30 others waiting to taste $5 merlots.
“Where do you guys go to school?” I was asked by a freshman girl sitting next to me.
“We go to work,” I explained nicely.
Sampling the wines was different this time. This was the first time I poured wine not in my mouth, but out the window. By no fault of my own, a half a bottle of red spilled on the carpet and onto my girlfriend’s leggings. One of the stars of “Terminus 2 Terminus” sat in the wine puddle, not seeming to mind at all.
In college it’s fine and acceptable to glide around in pajama bottoms, not flush toilets, and sit in wine. It’s this kind of attitude that most seems to exemplify college. I’m just not in college anymore, but it's good to remember I once was....(cue: sound of toilet flushing).