From Afar

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— Photo by Cary Kandel
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. Until mid-March, he lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he worked in the film and television industry and performed stand up comedy. He’s relocating to New York City, where he will continue to muse about his life on and off Martha’s Vineyard in his weekly “From Afar” column.

To belong or not to belong? That is the question I asked my girlfriend several thousand times while transferring a brimming apartment into small boxes and a Hyundai. She was very helpful, often erring on the side of “Abandon that, I beg of you, for the love of Goodwill.”

It was my apartment’s fault I had acquired so much stuff; high ceilings create huge closets, and empty shelves are bad for feng shui, and sure maybe I could have purged more in the past but throwing an item on a shelf was historically much easier than walking it out the door. The plethora of belongings made sense as I had been in this place for over four years. I tried not to move often. I was fortunate to only move once on the Vineyard as a kid and my possessions only had to go a couple miles across Oak Bluffs.

Clothing is always the easiest to discard. For this move I drafted a strong resolution not to become fat again, embracing an adult small (also known as youth XL) lifestyle and shedding all baggy garments. I also sliced my t-shirt collection in half, now leaving just seven hundred thousand to stow.

The funniest thing for me about packing is how it unearths exhibit after exhibit of bad decisions. Why did I buy a twelve pack of floss? Do we have room in the car for that much floss? Who do I know who will take a twelve pack of floss without thinking I’m a serial killer?

Charlie's over-stuffed car
Charlie’s over-stuffed car

Then there’s the troubling post-removal phase of pawning off everything with “value.” It’s disgusting how little anything is worth on Craigslist. I swear you couldn’t get $20 for a $100 bill on that website. I resolved that if I must dispose of everything for pennies or nothing on the dollar, I would at least only deal and barter with my friends. That helped me feel a lot better. Phrases like “I’ll throw in this toilet paper holder for you to remember me by” have a nice ring to it and makes one feel a little better about a financial defeat.

Things were touch and go for a minute when I introduced the topic of my putting green making the cut. I don’t think my girlfriend realized it plugs into the wall and RETURNS the ball to you, which is historically much easier than walking over to get it. As I type this post in Astoria, New York I am staring at the putting green. It weaseled its way into the car, concrete proof she truly loves me!

It’s time to get off the couch and start going through these 19 boxes that surround me. The ones that arrived first will be the easy ones, labeled “Books” or something on the outside and neatly bundled and arranged, the product of an unstressed packer. What I’m most worried about are those last boxes, brought to the post office at the eleventh hour and “coded” in ways more complex than the highest CIA encryption. Who knows what lies under all that tape and cardboard?

My guess is enough floss to survive the zombie apocalypse.

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Charlie and Marty Nadler pose with Elvis on a drive across the country — Charlie and Marty Nadler pose with Elvis on a roPhoto courtesty of Charlie Nadler
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. Until mid-March, he lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he worked in the film and television industry and performed stand up comedy. He’s relocating to New York City, where he will continue to muse about his life on and off Martha’s Vineyard in his weekly “From Afar” column.

Labor Day 2006. The last big wave of tourists on Martha’s Vineyard departed and it was time for my Hollywood life to begin. I needed reliable transportation and sage advice, so I tossed my successful comedy writer father into the passenger seat of my Toyota and drove onto the ferry. I asked him to pack light, which he did, although he revealed in Woods Hole that he had brought nine hats.

While our ultimate goal was Los Angeles, my dad and I made sure we had a blast every step of the journey. We hit , Nashville to eat, Asheville to socialize, and the Grand Canyon to soak up adventure… and by that I mean we visited the IMAX theater at the Grand Canyon that provides a wonderful overview of all the thrills that await those who visit the region. We then promptly departed said region for Vegas.

To this day that road trip of ours serves as a great metaphor for how I try to live my life. I still have various epic finish lines in sight, but the only thing I can really control is the next exit on the highway.

Once in Los Angeles I found a city that is never dull and sometimes lucrative, but always a tough adjustment. Over the next 90 months I slowly created a life for myself. College held my hand through the motions of grown up existence, but California forced me to commit to every facet of adulthood. It was an amazing process, discovering the difference between a job and the job, any apartment and the apartment, some girl and the girl.

Learning how to live taught me how to write. I found a notebook the other day that came over in that maiden Nadler voyage of ’06, filled to the brim with miscellaneous jokes, ideas, and thoughts. Thank goodness twenty-two year-old me thought I was too legit to quit, because looking through that notebook today, I hate most of the material. But my bland 100-month old notebook makes sense. I still needed to try and fail, experiment and succeed, love and hurt. LA gave me all of that and the experiences are priceless as both an artist and a human being.

I thought I had a good ten to fifteen Pacific Standard Time years in me but the expressway of life is now bringing me to New York City. The Toyota is long gone, but my girlfriend has an equally dependable Hyundai. It’s bittersweet to uproot but we’re excited to plant anew. We’re stopping in several inspiring locales including Vail and Cedar Rapids. I am only bringing one hat, but my father will be happy to hear I shipped eight others.

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Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy.  In the twice-monthly “From Afar” column, Charlie will muse about the Island from his perch in LA

Your winter has been unfathomable. The colossal cold and suffocating snow should end soon — well, in theory anyway. You never know, this could be the next ice age. Summer might be a thing of the past, like the typewriter, a history lesson we pass down to our grandchildren around the nightly bonfire.

In Los Angeles this winter, the average temperature hovered mostly in the 60’s and 70’s, however I feel like I have suffered along with you in a different, weirder way.Living out here has made me so horribly soft that 50 degree evenings now feel like blizzards.

Where did I go wrong? Is there hope for me? Will I survive?

My problem is I have a reputation to uphold. I’m an East Coast kid. My blood’s supposed to be fierce. Wearing a jacket in Los Angeles is cheating and brings great shame to one’s family. But on the flip side, year-round sunshine is the crack cocaine of weather. All it takes is a few years of exposure for it to slowly destroy you from the inside out.

I think back on my coldest memory, and none of it involves any of the snow or ice I’ve conquered as a younger man in Oak Bluffs and Boston. No, my coldest memory was a few weeks back. The Cali temperature had dropped to an apocalyptic 39 degrees. I took out a coat, not just any coat but “the coat” that I keep way up top in the “East Coast area” of my closet. I wore the coat to my friend’s house, and as I passed rows upon rows of palm trees, the humiliation I experienced froze me to my core.

I worry I’m no longer physically cut out for Vineyard winters, so I did a little research on internal thermostats and how they are affected by climate. At first I was comforted to learn that the warmth or cold a person feels is tied less to the actual temperature and more to the perception of temperature. It turns out it’s the endless string of warm days that has caused the cold nights to disarm me spiritually. But then I realized what this meant; I am no longer MENTALLY cut out for Vineyard winters. Knowing what I know about my brain’s capacity to change and heal, I am now officially horrified.

I want to get better. I want to be like you.There should be a temperature rehab for people like me. Maybe the taxpayers can build a little 75 degree sun chamber for me deep in the woods of West Tisbury? I could spend 23 hours a day inside this artificial ecosystem, then brave 1 hour out in the “elements” and slowly ease my way back into the general island population.

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Charlie Nadler writes From Afar
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy.  In the twice-monthly “From Afar” column, Charlie will muse about the Island from his perch in LA.

It’s times like these when I miss my old Vineyard summer jobs the most.

The Hollywood Producer interrogating me received 200 resumes and scheduled 25 interviews. I was thrilled to make the final round and dumbstruck when he offered me the job. I didn’t expect this because I’d flubbed an important interview question.

He asked me how I dealt with stress.

I can’t remember what I spewed out, the interview process is stressful and tends to blur together. I definitely didn’t tell him the truth; he wouldn’t have responded well to that.

I had concerns. The drive was almost an hour each way and the salary was meager, but this smooth talking middle aged gentleman had a great reputation — “Super Nice Guy!” — and he promised a lot of long-term upside about how this would lead to invaluable connections and an eventual business partnership with him for future projects. It helped rationalize the bagged lunch life I’d live for a while. He wanted me to bring in ideas right away, and this was the first time a producer had asked me to bring in anything besides a Diet Coke.

I enjoyed a promising first morning thanks to the dazzling efficiency of the building. It was one of those swank offices where the guard will hurtle his security booth if necessary so he can open the door for you. The elevator call button should’ve been called the open sesame button because a door dinged as soon as you grazed it with your finger. Don’t even get me started about the Flavia coffee machine; ready-to-go pouches that DISAPPEARED into the machine after brewing. I barely had to do ANYTHING at this place! I was living the dream. The only thing better would be if this company relocated to Oak Bluffs.

Then the “Super Nice Guy” showed up.

I have dealt with a lot of tough personalities in entertainment. I can cope with them. I had heard my new boss could be “crazy,” but everyone in this industry is crazy. Including me. Especially me.

But this guy spoke a dialect of English that I hadn’t studied. I soon learned “Get a card” meant “Get two cards,” and punishment for this type of illiteracy was excessive verbal abuse. He was super nice at times, but you never knew when his fury would return, and it arrived faster than the elevators.

Since there is no Rosetta Stone for “Maniacal Hollywood Producer English,” I logged an absurd amount of unpaid overtime trying to make sense of it all. I clocked twenty-six hours in my first two days. I would make eight dollars per hour, also known as California minimum wage. I hated helping this guy sell his ideas. I missed selling apple fritters.

The last straw came when my boss asked me to meet him on the other side of the street— so he didn’t have to turn his car around — with four packets of this special cleanse powder. Recalling the card debacle, I took eight packets. Noting how much he hated waiting, I avoided the “inconvenient” crosswalk and jay-walked across six lanes of rush hour traffic to make the drop seamless.

I risked my life for a mean person’s colon cleanse.

It was at this moment I realized the answer to how I deal with stress. I extricate myself from bad situations. So I did just that. I quit just two days in. An employer cleanse so to speak.

They opened the door for me on my way out. It was wonderful to escape one second sooner.

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Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy.  In the twice-monthly “From Afar” column, Charlie will muse about the Island from his perch in LA.

“Charlie, I have something to tell you; I met someone!”

It’s always great news when your mom is happy. It was late spring in Los Angeles and I looked forward to an upcoming trip home in a handful of days, not just because home is the best, but now I would also meet this guy.

I get off the boat. We sit down to lunch on the harbor, and somewhere between ordering sandwiches and learning this guy’s last name, they tell me they’re engaged. This trip turned out to be a two-for-one because I’d now be returning in October for the nuptials.

It’s always great news when your mom is happy. It’s always great news when your mom is happy.

He had three kids from a previous marriage and they wanted the four of us to read benedictions. Before I agreed I had to look up what a benediction even was, but my mom made it easy and clarified that it could be anything, either a reading or something we wrote ourselves.

Charlie Nadler owes his career as a standup comedian to his mother's decision to wed for the third time.
Charlie Nadler owes his career as a standup comedian to his mother’s decision to wed for the third time.

The wedding immediately became secondary to me, because public speaking was my number one fear growing up, ahead of anything else. I graduated 6th in my high school class, which could not have been more ideal for the shy 17-year-old me because the top five had to talk at graduation. For a good chunk of my life I was more scared of giving a full speech than dying halfway through one.

I’ve always loved moving words around, so luckily love trumped my fear and I wrote my benediction despite my “crowd disability.” I knew I could type funny words onto a computer screen, but the jury was out if I could speak these words in a public setting without spontaneously combusting.

I think the most successful humor comes from being the first person to say what’s on the tip of everyone else’s tongue. It’s that perfect combination of relatable and fresh. So I stood up in front of about 70 friends, family, and strangers, and the first words out of my mouth were, “When my Mom and Jack met last week…”

The laughter felt like a jet engine on my face. It was the greatest sensation in the world and I was immediately addicted. I soon discovered my shyness only came from a lack of self-confidence. You get enough booster shots of audience appreciation and it all melts away.

Unfortunately my mom’s third marriage didn’t work out. It wasn’t meant to be. But she’s happy, and the whole experience still led to matrimony; me and the microphone.

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Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy.  In the twice-monthly “From Afar” column, Charlie will muse about the Island from his perch in LA.

Buy her roses. Take her somewhere with a white tablecloth. Groupon the ballet. These are all solid boyfriend moves.

But the most effective way I have found to be a significantly better significant other, is simply being from Martha’s Vineyard. Who would have thought that one of the best ways to a woman’s heart is via steamship?

I got to show my girlfriend around over the holidays and having home field advantage was like being on boyfriend steroids. I literally could not escape being the man. No offense to all the boyfriends in middle America, but “Wanna walk to a lighthouse?” is way smoother than “Wanna walk to Walmart?”

An advocate for the devil might point out that my current residence, Los Angeles, also boasts romantic sights. Sure, but if you take your girlfriend up to Malibu the traffic takes the same amount of time it took Lewis and Clark. Then once you arrive you are swiftly ticketed when full parking lots force you to park illegally. Needless to say I prefer the Vineyard dating scene. Always.

Islanders can bask in the glory that our homeland geography takes basic situations and propels them into the ninety-ninth percentile of awesomeness in the eye of your girlfriend. Exercise gets her heart rate up, but exercise at Cedar Tree Neck takes her breath away. Wowing her with knowledge about erosion is fascinating, but using the Gay Head Lighthouse as an example makes you fascinating. Even just taking her out in public helps your cause. Everyone knows you, approaches you, hugs you, welcomes her.

During our stay, miracles disguised themselves as obstacles. Earlier in an all-day tour we found ourselves up-Island with sandwiches and nowhere convenient to eat them. We settled on the car, an unfortunate venue for a meal. But we parked in Menemsha, an incredible venue for eating in a car. Blandness averted! Then later in the day it was getting dark and we had to get back soon for dinner, prompting me to take the most direct route back to my Mom’s. This of course turned out to be beach road as the sun was setting. She melted into the passenger seat.

I know I make it sound like the washashore half of the relationship benefits the most, but I can’t lie; I get a lot out of playing tour guide. I am lazy when I’m back visiting alone. Some trips I’ll barely leave Oak Bluffs. It’s a relatively small island, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of Vineyard out there to enjoy, several spots I’m embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t been. But it feels good to acknowledge this, and for future trips I will add them to my “Continue To Make My Girlfriend Think I’m The Coolest” bucket list.

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Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy.  In the twice-monthly “From Afar” column, Charlie will muse about the Island from his perch in LA.

I’m almost never in Oak Bluffs, but I’m always in Oak Bluffs.

I’d like to live on the Island. But I stink at it. Learning a trade would be difficult. I feel no matter how hard I tried to build a stone wall, it would inevitably collapse on me. Going back to school for a profession is also out of the question. I suffer from a pair of chronic conditions: laziness and cheapness.

Like many childhood friends, I went into the family business. It’s the best decision I ever made. Nadlers don’t landscape, run inns, or design roundabouts. We work with ideas and I find myself in Los Angeles, hoping to earn my return, striving not for money but the island time it buys.

Luckily modern technology helps me keep a general, comforting pulse on my home. I track local news stories and learn about new establishments; I heard about Fat Ronnie’s and Pirate Jack’s way before they opened, I’m excited for Copper Wok, and talk of a Bowling Alley in Oak Bluffs is my kind of talk! I enjoy Facebook and Instagram pictures of my friends fishing the derby or sometimes even (gulp) getting married and having children.

This connection from a distance serves as an invaluable reminder of how special it is to be from Martha’s Vineyard. Few places are so safe, picturesque, calming, welcoming. But this amazing status quo comes with a price. Believing my childhood home is the best can make life frustrating when life is imperfect — out in Hollywood I have worked for pampered executives who get mad when the wrong bagels are stocked on their private jet. Sometimes we, as Vineyards, get sesame when we want everything, but it’s important to remember our awesome surroundings, the same surroundings that draw the spoiled jetsetters every summer. We are the everything bagel of islands. [Side note: Nantucket is a gluten free bagel.]

What’s fun about being an islander from afar is the ability to compare and contrast daily life on the Vineyard versus LA and the respective definitions of strife. This week the Times has a headline about an upcoming public meeting in Tisbury dedicated to the redesign of one parking lot. Meanwhile in the LA Times, three men were arrested for armed robbery of a Starbucks gift card. And that’s a fluff piece.

Whenever I return, whether it’s a weekend or a month, I wish it were longer. I spent most of high school dreaming of “the real world”. Now my adult life centers on plots to escape the mainland. The island does a lot of great things, but what it does best, is grow on you. Like that cliché wine quote. It gets better with age.

Maybe that’s why they call it the Vineyard…

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Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.
Charlie Nadler writes From Afar.

Charlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. He lives in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he works in the film and television industry and regularly performs stand up comedy.  In the twice-monthly “From Afar” column, Charlie will muse about the Island from his perch in LA.

Tinseltown and Tisbury are more similar than you might think.

During seven plus years in Los Angeles I’ve worked on movie sets, in writers rooms, and at production companies. The jobs are short-lived. At least the weather is warm. But it would be a lot more enjoyable if traffic and parking weren’t so terrible.

Sound familiar?

This grind reminds me a lot of summers on the Vineyard where my mélange of employment included crunching bakery registers, teaching tykes tennis, and slanging bags of books. Like my experience in show business, I got all of these jobs not so much from a resume but a high quality referral. I knew Islanders who knew Islanders. The book gig was the shoo-est of shoo-ins: my mom owned the store.

Entertainment executives operate in a similar manner to many Vineyard employers. Crewing up for a movie is not unlike building a house. We value each other’s stories, perspectives, and experiences more highly than a pile of applications.

Film school and family enabled me to initially break into the entertainment industry (education plus nepotism is a wonderful combination!), but it’s my Martha’s Vineyard roots that primed me for a long-term career. Growing up in our seasonal environment instilled me with a competitive work ethic. I learned how integral it is to be flexible, think outside the box, and strike while the iron is hot.

This employment pressure is identical to show business. Time is money and superiors are perpetually impatient. Nine out of ten of my bosses have been “August people”. But I have to pay the bills, and August people have a knack for gatekeeping the money for said bills.

It’s easy to complain, but I force myself to stand back and remember how exciting it is to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. I always try to appreciate my surroundings. It’s a rare silver lining that Hollywood and the Vineyard share: the scenery heals the adversity.

While Hollywood doesn’t have our short “season”, showbiz jobs often have similar shelf lives. Movies wrap. Series get canceled. Sometimes you outgrow your gopher costume and you do the canning.

The ebb and flow of work-life balance in film and television resembles patterns of Vineyard employment. Many Islanders diligently build a nest egg in the summer so they can do something completely different in the winter. I spent almost half a decade locked to a desk, saving up so I could be unemployed full-time to pursue several creative endeavors.

That lasted an entire year. It was amazing. I have zero regrets. I made progress. But now it’s time to dust off those referrals and pay some more inescapable dues.

I’ll see if the guy who replaced me at my last job at Castle Rock Entertainment has heard of anything promising. He’s a good friend.

His name is Simon Goldberg. He’s from West Tisbury.