Saturday, November 17, 2012


i'd like to think of myself as someone who can appreciate a wide variety of things, more so than the average person.  however, there is one area where i'm definitely deficient, in the realm of art.

i am not a visual artist in the traditional sense of the word.  i have never had an experience at a museum (and i've been to a shit ton of them) that did not result in me bemoaning the amount of walking that had to be done.  (yes even the louvre and the palais du versailles was not exempt)  i just never got art.  sometimes it's kind of nifty and cool, but cubism, impressionism, realism, surrealism, expressionism, pop art, it's all foreign to me.  i can't appreciate it.  i just don't have that gene, my sister got all of that from me.

because of this, i can accept that people have limitations.  we all do.  so when people say that they like in n out better than shake shack, i understand that their palette of taste has limitations, that they just don't have the ability to appreciate a higher quality of food, just like i can't tell you the difference between a monet and a van gogh.

i'm not the biggest foodie.  i'm a picky eater, so my tastes aren't as eclectic as some of my foodie friends.  however, i do believe i am a burger connoisseur.  i eat burgers high and low, far and wide, and i try new burgers any time i get the opportunity.  there are a few burgers i have yet to try in new york, but i will definitely put those as events on my list of things to do.  but in the medium-speed food category, (let's face it, neither shake shack nor in n out, despite its misleading moniker, are fast), there is just no comparison.

of course, that doesn't stop people from trying.  a foodie blog did contend that shake shack indeed won a side by side taste comparison (although such a comparison is technically impossible since both franchises do not exist in a nearby area together):

and my own blog entry 3 years ago:

and my yelp review on shake shack written earlier this year:

people say that i'm biased, that because i'm from new york, i'm gonna like shake shack better.  and they also admit that the bias works both ways, that californians would probably like in n out better, but that they are essentially equivalent.  this is just not so.

since moving to LA, i've probably had in n out about 8-10 times or so.  that's an average of once a week.  so i know their items well, i've had them plenty of times.  their fries are horrific if you don't get them animal style.  their shtick revolves around the animal style-ness.  but animal style is a gimmick.  it is a trick that masks the overall blandness of the actual important part of the meal, the meat of the burger.  the meat is just not that good.  i've actually had to eat wendy's or mcdonald's once or twice because i was tired of in n out as a burger.  it just isn't a good regular option, i would say i go to chick fil a more often that this place.  chick fil a is awesome.

until today it had been 75 days at least since i had my last double shack burger.  since i had my first shack burger, it's probably been the longest i've been without one by far.  i expected the same juicy goodness i've had with every shack burger i've had in the past 6 years.

from what i experienced, i finally understood the old adage: distance makes the heart grow fonder.  i literally turned to my shackmate, david tae, and asked him, "was this always this good?"  he responded, yeah it's the same old shack burger.  i couldn't believe it.  it was even better than i ever remembered.  having in n out burgers so frequently killed my sense of what a burger should actually be.

it was freshly cooked as we went to the UWS location late night, with few customers around, so the temperature was popping hot, where it was almost burning my tongue.  but the juices that flowed out of the meat made the pain well worth it, as i savored every bit of the burger in my mouth.

i actually couldn't respond to my shackmate's conversation he was having, as i had to use my entire mental faculties to enjoy all that the food was offering to me.  there was a moment of silence as i had my "anton ego" moment.  it truly was an orgasm for my mouth.  when God said, "let there be hamburgers", this is what came out of his fingertips.  a juicy double shackburger.

i do not get any such enjoyment from an in n out burger.  but now i am enlightened; i understand.  people have certain limitations to their enjoyment of different aspects of life.  just as i cannot appreciate a finely painted mona lisa, i have come to accept that some cannot enjoy the masterpieces that shake shack churns out daily.  now instead of feeling indignation when people think in n out is better than shake shack, i merely feel pity.  pity that they will never experience the joy that i have experienced, that their capacity to understand the universe of hamburgers is limited to a cheap thousand island dressing.  pity that their misplaced loyalty to their childhood burger joint has blinded them from the truth.  pity for the meaninglessness their lives must contain for not having experienced the full justice of a shackburger.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


there is nothing but the hum of the engine and my parents snoring that indicates any semblance of life in the dark nebraskan country side.  driving nights on the road across country is a lot more dangerous and scary than days, especially in these backroads.  as a result, nights are my shift, as my lasik enhanced eyesight gives me an advantage in the darkness over my parents' aged vision.

the sky is filled with nothing but emptiness and i can't help but wonder where i'm going.  driving into the blackness of the unlit pavement feels like getting swallowed into nothingness.  the silence and the absence of outside stimuli forces my mind to fill itself with things of the past, and sometimes i can't help thinking about someone, how i partly never wanted to leave the northeast a decade ago to stay close, how i didn't want to move to atlanta for a job after college, how when finally we were on the same 13.4 mile long island, we couldn't be farther apart if we were on opposite sides of the planet.

i check the odometer and the gps for progress.  miles whiz by by the tenth, but crawls slowly by by the tens.  no big deal though, as i've driven for over 500 miles nonstop before, under the same silver 2004 toyota camry LE under my feet.

it's only been a couple hours since we left the denny's.  the parents love the denny's, cause of its all american menu and cheap prices.  i can't help but think of the breaking bad fifth season premiere, and arranging my bacon into my age.  i'm an older person now, nearly turning the page on my twenties.  by this age, i thought i'd have things figured out, but here i am, driving into this nothingness and wondering what the hell i got myself into.

i think about happiness, and how i could've charted my life in that direction.  there's so much i could have let go of in order to pursue that avenue.  i thought of several possibilities that could've led to a traditionally stable and functional life, that would've made sense.  i wonder if i would really be happy in those scenarios, and ultimately decide that i would have felt trapped and wondering.  the pure pursuit of happiness ironically leads to disappointment, when you realize that it's fleeting.

i'm not going to fool myself into thinking that i will be happy if i am "successful" in my endeavors out here.  happiness is not what i'm searching for in this career path.  but i can't help but think to myself, what the contingency plan is if i "fail".  in a sense, it doesn't cost that much for me to try my hand at this career, one in which the majority of people aren't fulfilled by, whether artistically or financially.  i am in a economically advantaged position to pursue it.  but in terms of opportunity cost, there's plenty of pressures telling me that i'm being insane.  finding myself in my mid-late 30's with no professional career to speak of is a daunting possibility.

my mother has her own aspirations for me, becoming an academic and saving this nation from economic turmoil from the reigns of the past couple of federal reserve chairmen.  but i could name a host of other career "options" that i could go into that would be considered safe, practical and even meaningful.  more of a sure thing.

most of the real actors i've talked to, the ones that work at it and are serious about it, tell me that you can't go into this business unless you think it's the thing you were born to do.  i believe that that sense has been within me for a long time, i've been told that i'm hypersensitive to things and that i have a flair for the dramatic.  but at the same time, because of the uncertainty in the whole industry, everything you do is a step a faith.

my thoughts bring me back to the road i'm driving on.  my faith is in the united states and nebraskan governments and my iphone's waze program, trusting that i'm not driving into a brick wall or off a cliff, racing along at 80 mph.  i sigh as i pull into the 4th holiday express, and mutter to my parents that we're here.  i wonder to myself briefly how they must feel, thinking how they spent their youth surviving the darkness of life just to watch their son plunge into darkness headfirst.

whelp, can't turn back now.