A no-holds-barred chronicle meets self-help guide from the bestselling author, rapper, artist, and chef Action Bronson. From the New York Times bestselling author, chef-turned-rapper, and host of Viceland’s F*ck, That’s Delicious and The Untitled Action Bronson Show, F*ck It, I’ll Start Tomorrow is a brutally honest chronicle about struggles with weight, food addiction, and the journey to self-acceptance. In his signature voice, Action Bronson shares all that he’s learned in the past decade to help you help yourself. This isn’t a road map to attaining a so-called perfect body. Instead, Bronson will share his journey to find confidence, keep the negative vibes at bay, stay sane...
Publisher: Abrams Image (April 20, 2021) Pages: 184 pages ISBN-10: 141974478X ISBN-13: 978-1419744785 ASIN: B08TRVDXD7
Action Bronson is the powerhouse behind F*ck, That’s Delicious and Stoned Beyond Belief. He is the television host of Viceland’s F*ck, That’s Delicious and The Untitled Action Bronson Show. He lives in New York City. Rachel Wharton is a James Beard Award–winning food writer who lives in New York City.
New York City Made Me
I’ve always had a sick confidence. I’ve always felt like I was six-foot-two and shredded, like I could literally do anything. Like I could field a baseball with a gazelle-like skill. Like I could run the forty-yard dash faster than any human on earth. Like I could score a touchdown at any time and smash a baseball into outer space.
But in reality, I am not six-two. I am five-eight with stilts on. With stilts on, and wearing roller skates. And I’ve been around two forty, two hundred seventy pounds for most of my life.
I honestly think my confidence comes from growing up being short and fucking husky—we don’t like to say the fat word, we like to say husky—and having to jump and run with all different types of ethnicities on the basketball court in Flushing, Queens, where I grew up with kids that were skinnier and better than me at jumping and running. Those street games every morning at the courts outside our elementary school? I was just able to make it there. The kids were skinnier and better than me, but I still made it happen.
As a kid, even though I was short in stature and husky, I was very fast and pretty good at sports, and I had tremendous moxie for my size. I had a lot of strength, that kind of explosive power you can have at my shape and size. I was even scouted for weight lifting because I was good at squatting, I was good at bench pressing, shoulder pressing. And I was also good at baseball at a young age—I remember in Little League we won a couple of championships for sure. I just hit the ball in a really wild, powerful way, like a ton of bricks even off a tee. I used to jack home runs off the tee. And even with my shape, I used to be able to do cartwheels for fifty yards and then do a cartwheel into a roundoff. I bet I could still do a roundoff, even now. Plus, I was smart, and I could make people laugh.
Look at Mr. Perfect over here, right?
Mostly I am kidding. Mostly I am making fun of myself. But I’m really just saying that I felt like I was gifted, like I was a special child. I held myself in that regard, like, Oh my god, you’re different from others.
I think part of it is you got to spend time by yourself to know who you are. You have to be one with yourself to be confident, and trust in yourself, because basically what you have to do is not give a fuck what other people think about you, and not pay attention to what everybody else is saying. So to be confident, you literally have to know yourself. I’m an only child, so I had lots of time to know myself by just being totally by myself. By the age of ten I was doing all kinds of things alone. I was chilling alone and taking the city bus alone. As an only child growing up in my part of Flushing, in the 1990s, you got to really fucking go in on yourself.
Part of it is also, I think you have to have confidence in whatever abilities you do have, and then you have to believe you can do other things, and then you just go for it—you gotta just think that you can do a cartwheel, and then you can.
So I was short and I was husky—I made sure I excelled at hanging out. I made sure I excelled at making people laugh. I made sure I excelled at playing handball with my friends. And being pretty good at those things gave me this type of feeling, like I’m six feet tall. I believed I could hit a shot from anywhere on a basketball court on anyone—it’s obviously not true, but once you believe that thing, you start getting closer to doing it. I had a crazy jump shot in my consciousness. In my consciousness, my jump shot was 100 percent. Whether it’s true or not, it helps to be able to tell yourself that, to be able to tell yourself that you’re able to do these things. You got to kind of believe it if you want to do it, right? First you have to believe that you can, or believe that you’re different, that you’re special.
So that’s why I say it was the New York City basketball court that made me. We would all play before we went into school, and we’d all run out to it again at lunchtime. Everyone would be waiting at the door, like fucking dogs at the pound, then just run out to the court. This was at PS 200—that’s where the basketball courts and handball courts and shit like that were in my neighborhood. We played basketball, or sometimes we just ran, we just ran after each other, trying to hit each other.
Think about little boys from all over the world playing in the schoolyard together, just running and doing, like, fighting moves in the air—not really hitting each other, but more like at each other, lots of weird Ninja Turtle–type kicks, that’s what we would do. And it’s Queens: it’s a melting pot. After school I would go over to my friends’ houses, where it would be Indian, Spanish, Honduran food. You come over to my house, it’s my nonna’s Albanian food. Your eyes are open to a lot of new things early on, you’re not really scared of anything right out of the box. We also played in the park behind my mother’s apartment building.
We called it Tire Park because they used to have a dragon made out of old tires in the dirt back there. Tire Park was easy for everyone because we would stay there all day and night and our parents would just whistle for us when it was time to come home. For lunch, my nonna would call me in: Ariyan! She would just call my name right out the window. I’d go home, and there’d be her fresh bread that she’d bake in nice smaller rounds so she could fit three or four in a basket. She always had her peppers and tomatoes. The feta and chicken and rice. She made food for me, she made it for everybody, she just made food all day long.
Let me tell you all the things I’ve done in Tire Park over the years: I’ve smoked weed. I’ve drank beers. I’ve gotten head. I’ve played box ball, I’ve played tag. I’ve played baseball and samurai showdown, I’ve been on the swings. I’ve thrown up. I’ve gone in the sprinklers, which aren’t there anymore. I’ve fucked in Tire Park. More than likely I had steroids on me at one point. I more than likely shot steroids in there, during my steroid years.
I’ve hit all kinds of home runs in Tire Park, back when we used to play stickball or baseball with a tennis ball there. I loved stickball. I was an amazing fucking stickball pitcher and basher—that’s when you just bash the ball, as in, a basher is a big hitter. I just made that word up, but I’ve been bashing balls my whole life, mostly at the batting cages out on MTA land by JFK airport, where planes fucking fly right by you. I also remember up the block from my crib they’d have a stickball league, and people would even bring beach chairs. It’s a chill game, but it’s still competitive, like softball.
You remember Skip It? If someone had that game when we were younger, we’d play that in Tire Park, too. You’d put the tetherball thing on a tie around your ankle and then you’d skip it. I loved that. We played box ball, when you draw a fucking box on the ground—you know, draw a box and then you play tennis almost. The goal is to get into each other’s box.
Girls wouldn’t really play basketball with us, not back then, but they would play handball. Everybody in Queens played handball: Chinese kids do it, Spanish kids do it. All Asians do it; they traditionally admire skill games that require focus, like ping-pong, and handball is that kind of skill game. I started playing handball when I was ten, eleven, twelve. During the summer, somebody would definitely come around the handball court with the icees, and maybe the ice cream truck would show up, also. Mister Softee had one side of the park, and the Good Humor truck came to the other side. Did I prefer one over the other? Depends on what time the mother-fucker came when I was wanting it—I don’t have drug dealer preferences. If one guy has what I need, I might take that, and when the other guy calls back, I’ll take that, too.
Over at the basketball and handball courts, you also always had the older heads around in the summertime—you know, they’re forty years old, hanging out in the park smoking weed with fucking seventeen-year-olds. And they’ve already been through some shit in life at only forty years old. That’s when you learn you don’t want to be that. Those dudes were fairly normal in Electchester, the apartment buildings where I grew up, because it was built for the electricians’ union and there would always be these fucking degenerates who used to be in the union who didn’t work anymore.
They would be there smoking blunts in the park and playing handball with us, and drinking beers and shit—and they would just be part of the whole crew. They might have been cool to us then, but now you see they were just fucking old dudes that should’ve been at the bar. They should have been wherever, just not at the park with fucking teenagers, fucking smoking and drinking and playing handball. But it is fun to chill outside in the summer with your friends—I can see it. Is it not fun to be in a park playing handball in the summertime, smoking blunts with a bunch of friends around?
At that time, maybe we didn’t even know they were forty years old. When you thought about somebody being forty years old, you were thinking about your parents. My father’s not out there playing handball. Some people’s fathers were out there—some people’s mothers were out there. You would always try and guess what everybody’s situations were, why they were out there. Try to guess the type of fucking government benefits they had. You think he got social security? Oh yeah, Tommy’s on the spectrum, he gets government help, he gets a free crib.
I mean, that’s part of my confidence, too—that everyone in my neighborhood was a character. We only knew crazy people and crazy stories, growing up in Flushing. Apparently my neighborhood is now called Pomonok, though I still just call it Flushing. Used to be, if you said you’re from Pomonok, you were from the projects called Pomonok, which are right nearby and some of the biggest projects in the city.
There was always a sense that Electchester was its own thing, even if it was just apartment buildings. You went to Electchester Boy Scouts, you played in Electchester Little League. Our elementary school was right across the street. You would go to Halloween parties at the electrical union board office, where I was a Ninja Turtle like seven years straight—I would just be a different turtle each time. I remember when I was Raphael—I had the Asian sais with the curve to protect your fist, one dagger for each hand. They have intense weapons, the Ninja Turtles, but they just hurt you enough so that you lose consciousness and then they retreat, because that’s the way of the samurai.
Like I said, Electchester was built for the electricians’ union in 1949, which is why they called it Electchester. My grandfather was a plumber, not an electrician, but he moved in right after it opened, to a small two-bedroom apartment when my mother was still little. I grew up in that same apartment, though by then my American grandparents had moved to Florida and my Albanian grandparents had come to live with me and my parents.
Just across the street from our apartment building used to be a neighborhood spot, a diner called Larry’s and Lil’s, until a Korean man bought it, Mr. Lee. That place was full of characters—there was the crew that used to hang at the coffee shop, mainly retired electricians and older people chilling all day, smoking cigarettes and shooting the shit and playing Lotto. They literally had nothing to do, so they would wait there for a conversation. Once in a while they’d order something: Lemme get a coffee. Lemme get a scratch-off.
They had the same annoying conversations all the time, too—always some sort of complaint. I would dread going in there because of the conversations I would be forced into having. Then the Key Food supermarket expanded into where the diner was, and that was all a wrap. I heard the Japanese place started popping off as a morning spot. Now I think they’re doing, like, pancakes and eggs.
There was this other guy, Skip, who would always talk about the Jets. Wherever and whenever he would see me, he would always start some Jets conversation like we had already been in the conversation. Like, he’d say, My father: 1969. Joe Namath, Joe Willie, I’m in the stands . . . Oh man, it was crazy. Always about the Jets and his father and some kind of glory story and explaining his pain, because we did share pain for the Jets. He would always have the betting form rolled up in his pocket, he loved the horses.
We had the lady who used to drive the fucking carriage around with the fake baby in it. We had the brother and sister who used to always walk only on their toes. There was this one kid we called Urkel; you could literally yell out any name and he would be like, Yo, with a wave. He was definitely touched—he was very thin, and he had glasses the thickness of bulletproof bank glass.
There was a man who used to wear headphones that were a transistor radio, and he was only listening to sports talk radio about the Yankees. He was also touched, but he was a big Yankees fan, and I respect that; I’m a Yankees fan, too. He had the jacket, he had the pants that were hemmed, and he would always be going to a Yankees game or coming from a Yankees game—even if there wasn’t a Yankees game, he would be on his way to or from a Yankees game. I once saw him at a Yankees game with his transistor radio. He was by himself, and I was by myself with my transistor radio. This is making me go back into the memory bank now—but you drive around, you see most of ’em still.
Even our across-the-hall neighbor, Lester, he was a character. He was an accountant and my mother’s weed connection, and he was the one always smoking the weed on our floor. He would come out—you know, very Jewish hippie—fucking stoned out of his mind, wild gray hair pulled back, and hop into his Accord. He and my mother grew up in those same apartments right there across from each other, neither ever moved.
Even this one kid in my high school was a character: he used to carry around a duffel bag full of weights so he could get just one arm really strong for arm wrestling. That was his shtick—the duffel bag and one big arm and challenging people to arm wrestle. I had my own shtick in school, I guess, but that was next-level.
There’s only one character where I live now, on the edge of north Brooklyn and Queens, and that’s the guy who works in my building. He’s been on some of my TV shows, and he’s a true one-of-a-kind that guy. He’s the one who is constantly dropping and doing push-ups, and he’s told me all kinds of things—how his wife died, how his wife is in jail, how she tried to stab him, how the fucking dog died, how she killed the dog. He’s always telling me what he cooked—he told me something recently about jelly and hot dogs and cream cheese. He was like, You gotta taste it, all scratchy and garbled.
Some parts of Queens are being touched by the rest of the world now—you know, the hip neighborhoods where people want to live. Maybe they don’t have as many characters. My old area’s pretty much safe in that regard: my neighborhood will never change, unless they literally tear it all down, and there’s no reason to do that.
You know what else gave me confidence? New York is just a hard city. You don’t make it instantly here. No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll.
When I was growing up in Queens, everyone made fun of each other, and you couldn’t have fucking thin skin about any of that shit. I mean, there are dishrags—the type of people who get run all over and they let you do it. You see one person treating them like shit, and then everyone just follows suit, until that becomes the norm. Until that person shoots the school up. I know it’s sad to say, but that’s how it happens, that’s how it is.
And then there’s the type of people who talk shit to you and you talk shit back, and then depending on those people, it’s either a fight or it’s not a fight. I wouldn’t say I would always pop off, but I wasn’t a dishrag. I for sure wouldn’t let anybody talk shit without me talking back. And sometimes there would also be a fight. You talk shit and get punched in the face, then, you know, you don’t talk shit anymore. It was all part of growing up in New York.
New Yorkers are usually just a little bit tougher than others when it comes to that type of thing. You know, with the words. In New York you can literally stand with someone and just talk crazy to them, back and forth and back and forth, and nothing will happen. You talk shit, and then you walk away. It’s tremendous. It’s an art, it really is.
Most of the time, getting laughed at, I feel like that builds skin. Some people I know, they take it harder than others. But where I come from, our mentality is, you know, words are words. Unless someone punches you in your face, you need to be slicked back. You just need to have an arsenal of things ready to go in your mind, you have to have a lot of comebacks and jokes. I also think when you’re different, or you feel different, you need to build that ammo up so you have it to use against others, you gotta fight back. At least that’s what I did. And it doesn’t have to do with my weight. It doesn’t have to do with anything. It just has to do with . . . you know, New York is a hard city.
In New York City you have to find your voice. There will always be people that think they outvoice you, out-talk you. You gotta gun your way through this fucking world, because motherfuckers wanna ice you. Motherfuckers want to ice you cold, you know? So you gotta let ’em know you’re here to stay. You gotta let ’em know you’re nice. You gotta let ’em know you’re not going to put up with any of the bullshit.
I mean, this is all basically thirteen-, fourteen-, fifteen-, sixteen-, seventeen-year-old back-of-the-bus type shit. That’s where I refined these skills. And the city bus going from my high school was the craziest back of the bus of all. This was the Q31, and it ran from Bayside to South Jamaica. If you were on the back of that bus, you already knew it was going down.
The Q31 was the most wild bus, because it would go from Bayside High School all the way to Archer Avenue and the last stop on the E train. Motherfuckers were literally scared to come to the back of that bus, ’cause no one was going to get left alone, no matter who you were. The back of the bus was always a place where you knew you would get tested. You want to stand in the back with the tough guys, eh? If you were in the back of that bus, you were getting made fun of, nonstop. There was no way you would be able to just chill. You could be tough, but if you were sitting there and you couldn’t talk that shit? You were getting up.
But I always chose the back of the bus, of course, because I enjoyed it. One hundred percent, that’s my element, the back of the buses. I’m talking like thirty or forty kids packed in the back, all talking shit, and somebody always had a radio. Everyone congregating toward the back area because there we were isolated from adults. It was a sea of humanity: when we got on, the regular people that were already on the bus were mortified. The bus driver wouldn’t even move the bus sometimes, it would get so crazy. He would stop—and wouldn’t move until motherfuckers got off the bus. There were some hard-core ones back there, there was definitely some tough ones who would fight the bus driver.
You heard about that bus driver who recently uppercutted the woman who spit in his face? He stopped the bus because she was being crazy, and then she spit in his face, right in his face. So he literally knocked her off the bus. A spit in the face causes blind fury at that point—you can’t stop when somebody defiles your face like that. Isn’t that a defiling thing? Right in your grille. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, I would be beside myself. And everyone else was laughing and cheering her on.
That’s how it is on the bus—everyone is a troublemaker. There was always something crazy happening, it was never normal. Somebody nonstop screaming about Jesus. A woman holding a fake baby. There was a woman who walked around with her mother and a fake baby in a stroller for fucking twenty years. Like I said, my neighborhood has only characters.
I remember when we used to take the bus, the Q28, to get to this gym called Mount Olympus to work out, and me and my friends would even fake-wrestle on the bus. I would make like I was almost falling out of the bus, and the driver would stop the bus and pick me up and help me out—I would act like I was really hurt. It was ridiculous, and we did all this just to make each other laugh.
Waiting for the bus was also crazy—like just the whole act of standing at the bus stop. It was crazy after school in general: a free-for-all, fucking herds of people, everyone running, yelling. Everyone trying to squeeze on that first bus that shows up, because everyone wants to get home quick, no one wants to wait twenty more minutes for the next one. That first bus: you gotta be ready for that first bus. We would have to pry open the back of the bus doors so we could run in, just so we could fit on. Just chaos and craziness.
So I always traveled out of my neighborhood—I knew the world was bigger than the neighborhood even from the beginning. And I knew that my neighborhood wasn’t the place for me.
From 164th Street and Sixty-Ninth Avenue, where I lived, you had to take two buses just to get to school. To get to Manhattan, the city, you had to take the bus all the way to where it lets you off at the end of a subway line. Think about this: I grew up mad far from any subway. Going to and from Manhattan from my part of Queens is still almost like time traveling: you can go from being in that grittiness of the city, with mad people around, then being on the train for an hour or more to the end, the very end. Then you get off at the last stop and walk up and you’re in fucking different air. Like, it’s almost rural. It’s like, Shit, we’re here now. It’s just all, like, future shit, traveling in fucking pods under the earth. And then you still have to get on a bus to get home.
My mother and my grandparents had always allowed me to take the bus by myself. Even when I was eight, nine, ten years old, I’d already be taking the bus to Main Street in Flushing to go look at shoes at Dr. Jays, or go to the music store by myself or with my boys. We were always able to go do what we wanted, without needing a ride.
Your parents always did a test run, before they let you ride the subway. I remember the subway test run, when I was eleven years old. I also remember one time just a few years later, we cut and we took the fucking train all the way to the World Trade Center, the E train all the way to the end. My two oldest kids are now fifteen and thirteen. We used to be on the train alone at that age, but they don’t even take the subway yet. I just did what I wanted at that age, and my mother trusted me. I don’t think I was more mature, but I had street smarts. Plus we had no phones—we had to rely on ourselves, and on each other.
By sixth grade, we could even leave school and go out to lunch by ourselves—all we needed to do was bring in a fucking note. Think about that: twelve years old, all of us had that note, and we would all just go fucking mad far from school every day, we would walk in a pack to McDonald’s or to the Wendy’s, or get Chinese food, or we would sometimes go to the pizzeria. I would ask my mother for money, I would get five bucks, six bucks for the week: the number 2 at McDonald’s was only $2.99 at the time. McDonald’s and Wendy’s were dumb far, but if we got brave we would go and then come back late—it was a long walk and we only had a certain amount of time, but even then we didn’t really give a fuck.
In my neighborhood, growing up, everyone usually took the bus to hang out in one of four places: from 164th Street and Sixty-Ninth Avenue, where I lived, you could go to the mall, you could go to Forest Hills, to Jamaica Avenue, or to Main Street in Flushing. You would go to the music store for tapes, you would go to get movies, and the arcade was the shit. Maybe your parents were giving you a little money, or you had some from your birthday.
In Forest Hills—at the intersection of Seventy-First and Continental, where my family’s restaurant used to be—there were mad stores for shopping, and Austin Park, where everyone would hang out and smoke weed and skate and shit like that. When you went to Jamaica Avenue, it was more of a real urban-city type area, with the courthouses and the Long Island Rail Road station to the airport.
Most of my time not in school was spent taking the bus to Main and Roosevelt in Flushing—literally where they intersect is where I would wait for the bus, and it was a crowded intersection even then. (If you kept going south on Roosevelt, across the creek, you’d end up in all the Spanish-speaking neighborhoods in Corona and Jackson Heights, where I started going to eat when I got older.) Man, shit used to be popping on that block of Main Street in Flushing: you had Dr. Jays, where you could get your shoes and shit. Modell’s—that became a bank—that’s where I got all my Yankees World Series hats. Where I waited for the bus was right at the Wendy’s, where five people got killed in there in 2000—it is now a Chinese mall. I ate a sandwich in that Wendy’s the day before the massacre.
That area was Chinese then, and it’s gotten much more Chinese since. Before, it was a little more rugged—the projects are a block away, and a block or two out past that it’s all construction companies, all hookers over there. Literally hundreds of hooker houses on those two blocks, and they’re still there. You still see those ladies on the corner asking if you want to get a massage. The hookers are actually from all over—a Chinese woman once brought my boy into a house filled with Dominican women. Back then a lot of people would go over there and rob people because, at that point, the Chinese would always send their money Western Union, so they would be lining up at the store with a shitload of cash in their pockets.
Almost every day growing up I would go to Main for some reason or another, or just to hang out—we would just walk up and down the block. That’s what hanging out in Queens at sixteen is: walking up and down the block, twenty times. We’d walk up and down those blocks for hours, just going into Modell’s for no reason. Going to the old Busy Bee Mall to look at the ill sneaker stores. That was the first place I ever bought gold teeth. You’d get the PlayStation One chip so you could play all the Japanese games. You’d go to Peck’s art store, steal a black book, get some markers. Right next door there was Chinese laser tag, which was wild back in the day—they always had the Mortal Kombat theme song playing. The movie theater we went to was right there, too.