Whenever an older man hits on me at a bar. I ask him about his kids, it always makes me smile.
DREW “GRANPA” DONNELY (47, overweight. Upper Eastside bar. )
I been a fireman for 27 years, longer than you been alive. Love it, best job in the world best guys in the world. They’re fun. They’re brave, and they work hard. Got some bad news for you though, see those guys, they’re good guys, the best guys in the world, attractive guys, strong guys, smart guys, but they don’t make a lot of money though. Pick one, you like one I’ll send one over here. Just not Little Billy, you’re too good for lil Billy. How about Patty over there. Striped shirt. Pat’s a good guy, owns a restaurant in Florida. It’s a good life.
Work two days, off five, can spend it with the family. I got two kids. Twins. Boys. Ten. Yeah yeah they been to the house for Christmas parties every year. Smart boys. One played baseball and he wants to stop and I say " okay". The other plays soccer, says he wants to stop soccer I say "okay". The one plays the (mimes an instrament) clarinet, the other plays violin, and he’s pretty good. He’s learnin. The other the (clarinet miming) made all county band-very good. One plays football. And this, this is the only thing I can teach my son, the only sport I can teach my son. And he says he wants to stop playing football and play clarinet. And I say " Okay, okay whatever you want to do". Because I want my kids to follow their dreams you know? But I say to his mother “he is going to be 6’2” 250 pounds he could have been a linebacker for the Giants, a great lineback, and he wants to fucking play music. But I never say this to them.
They’re smart kids. Played classical music to my wifes stomach. They have these exams, state wide exams here in New York that all the fourth graders take, and the principal calls me in and says that they both got perfect scores, and I says how many in the school got perfect scores and he says four. Two out of four. When they were babies, as soon as they came out my wife. She’s laying there with her legs open and I pick them up and none of this gagagoo stuff I say “Tommy one ..two..three.. four. Danny one…two…three…four”. I read that in a Japanese magazine. I’m a smart man, I’m no genius but I read a lot-lots of time. Never “goochy coohy cooo bullshit but one…two… three…four…one…two…three… four”. And as they get older “five …six…seven.. eight.. nine…ten… then five…ten… fifteen …twenty Dad”. I just hope they aren’t accountants. All the counting. See you you’re an actress and that’s nice, tough life. gotta have a dream you know. I just don’t think people dream of being accountants. But whatever they want to be you know I’ll say " okay". If the clarinet player comes to me and says" Dad I want to be an actor" I’ll say "okay". I’d rather he play football but I’ll say "okay".
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I am not a self loathing writer. Although I've dated my share. (My neurosis rear their head continuously in other ways). I'm too distant from it. A part of me admires that dedication, locking yourself in a room for days rewriting, perhaps someday the gap will close and I'll feel differently. So below, for all the writerboys who have driven me crazy.
THE WRITER (29. Theatre District Bar)
They get into your head all these voices.thinking they can write it better than you. ‘See it has to be more active, sound less like you, more like you. More spectacle, less spectacle. It needs an arch, but really can you cultivate that? I don’t know what’s wrong with it but in that last half there’s there’s just something missing.’ It needs it needs it needs. It needs a god damn audience. That’s what it needs. It needs someone to listen. Shut the hell up, digest it and then, then you can talk. ‘New forms new forms’ who the hell said that? We need new forms. Yeah well we fucking do, but every fucking generation has been searching for them. Like in ten years plays will be obselete. We will have cultivated a generation with an attention span too short to watch actual fucking human beings. Hell everything will be mediated we’ll fuck over the internet and send our semen through DHL. Wait. Like right now as I’m speaking am I active enough? Do I want something enough from you? Yeah? Yes I fucking do ! I want a drink my good man and you are going to get it for me. Because tonight, tonight I got torn a new literary asshole. Close up on my anus. You see, you see it’s torn. ‘Be more this be less that. More commercial, damn the man be less commercial. ‘I’m not going to categorize myself because I’m an artist’ fuck that shit. Fuck that ‘Franny and Zooey’ Sallinger bullshit shit. I’m not an artist. I’m a guy. Who writes. I’ll be an artist when I’m dead. Years from now if people are sitting in this bar talking about some words I wrote that got them off then then my friend I’ll be an artist. Just sucks I won’t be around to hear it.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
in·tense (in tens′)
1. occurring or existing in a high degree; very strong; violent, extreme, sharp, vivid, etc. an intense light
2. strained to the utmost; strenuous; earnest; fervent; zealous intense thought
3. having or showing strong emotion, firm purpose, great seriousness, etc. an intense person
4. characterized by much action, emotion, etc.
My first year of college we anonymously gave each person in class a word. Any word in the English language. (There are over 200,000 words in the English language) This was the word I got six times. Intense. I got my list and cried. Weeks later as I got my heart broken for the first time, my long distance (ex) boyfriend said ‘that’s why I love you, you just feel things more than me’. I intensely wanted to punch him in the face. This word has been my label since I was a young post divorce child asking seven year olds on the blacktop ‘how they feel’. I was an ‘intense child’. While others were labeled as ‘creative’, ‘bright’ ‘driven’ and ‘attractive’ I was suddenly doomed to a life of reading Proust and drinking whiskey in a corne, chain smoking, wearing all black after cutting myself in the bathroom while listening to Tori Amos. (I do not listen to Tori Amos).
I never understood this word. Hated this word. It seemed like a copout. Almost an adverb. Something you only say because you don’t know what to say. Like a nice way of saying ‘ you have issues’ or ‘feel shit’, but never quite addressing what it is it is assumed you feel. I’m sorry I’m being a little too…douchey.
When you look intense up in the dictionary douchey does not come up. Before this evening I have never looked up intense in the dictionary. I guess I just associated it with being in tense, a state of tension, restricted, which frankly made me feel more restricted and tense.
Looking at the definition intense doesn’t seem so tense. It actually seems quite open. ‘Existing in an extreme degree’ ‘vivid’ ‘marked by or expressive of great zeal, energy, determination, or concentration’ The more I read the more I feel people over estimate me,perhaps I’ve fooled them. Zeal? Who has zeal anymore? ‘Exhibiting strong feeling or earnestness of purpose’ Okay I’ll take it. ‘deeply felt’ Is it possible to feel something half assed? ‘Characterized by much action, emotion, etc.’ ‘Etc?’ The definition gets an ‘etc’? This seems a little all inclusive this intensity? It might as well say ‘whatevy’ afterwards.
The truth is I want to feel fully, good or bad. I want to think fully. I want to be earnest in what I feel and think and do. Whether that’s intensely being stupid, or immature, intensely failing, succeeding, loving, hurting, falling up stairs, rolling down hills, eating jars of peanut butter; I want to be there for it. All of it.
Because it’s not worth it if you aren’t.
Yes perhaps I am that word, and I’m apparently’ a lot to handle’. I know this, been told it. Been left and have left for it. I was an exhausting kid, and I’m probably an exhausting young woman. But I’m not asking the questions of other people I’m asking them of myself.
When people call me ‘intense’ I just laugh in their faces, but hey I’m laughing fully… (Or I just shoot lazer beams out of my eyes).
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Note: I wrote this over a year ago, afraid of believing in anything. In high school I watched Meet The Press religiously,had the Supreme Court Justices memorized,hung a Gore poster in my window, worked polls, but after two faulty elections politics weren't about me. In the past year that has changed, I believed again. I'd like to hope that by the end of today this country has a little bit more hope. We need it.
DANA, 27,Waits on a subway platform
Have you seen these women on the subway? These little asian women on the subway. Is that politically correct? Asian? Can I say that? I can’t say oriental right? Like the rug. But these women with the masks. They scare the shit out of me,. What the hell are they protecting themselves from? Like what is so fucked up that is floating around the subway that they need this mask, and why haven’t I gotten the paper mask memo, and if some chemical warfare is floating around why aren’t these mask wearing people telling us. Why aren’t they sharing Also what the hell is a fucking paper towel wrapped around your face going to protect you from? Anthrax? They’re probably laughing at us, laughing at us behind those little masks. I know I could wear a surgical mask too, and they’re within their rights to do so, as Americans. But it’s… It’s selfish .
I’m not saying it’s not a scary world out there. It is. But it’s just. I’m so sick of fear you know? I don’t watch the news anymore. I don’t. I can’t, and it’s ignorant. And it’s gross . I know it’s gross that I know more about Britney Spears’ divorce proceedings than what’s going on over there. I admit that. I don’t read the New York Times. I pretend to, but I don’t. Not even the arts section. It’s just paralyzing. And it’s not like a concienscious choice or anything. Not to do these things. Maybe it’s laziness? And I don’t feel like hopeless about all of this. I feel we still have hope. But like somehow to keep that, that hope, to like keep going, I have to not add to the fear you know? And I don’t even know what I’m afraid of. Who I’m afraid of. Like there are so many people in between me and the people that actually get things done, Like tons of memos and papers and votes between me and them that maybe I’m afraid of that. In Fourth grade, during the first Gulf War, That’s what we call it right, the first Gulf war? Whatever. We made these cards for soldiers over there, with all these crayons and construction paper. And we sent them over. And I remember thinking that those people weren’t so far away, that somehow the President would deliver the cards for us and you know make sure they got there, and that it mattered. And I guess that’s what I’m afraid of, is that it doesn’t.
Monday, November 3, 2008
ANNEMARIE, late 60’s. Hospital waiting room. St. Vincent’s
I knew when I met him, moment I saw him, just felt different. My great Aunt told me Anne Marie when it’s the one you know, and I never believed her but it’s true you do, least I did. Never told him, we were young, we broke up, didn’t want to scare him, or me. But I knew. My girlfriends used to say why you so calm about Phil running around with other girls, and I’d smile and say ‘because I trust’. I trust that when he’s ready and I’m ready it’ll happen. And I wasn’t threatened by those other girls. Hell he had a girlfriend when I met him. Her name was also Annemarie, Annemarie Delveccio can you imagine? First thing he says to me when I tell him my name is ‘My girlfriend’s name is Annemarie so I won’t forget it’ and I smile at him and say ‘Well so you don’t get confused you can call me Gus’. Don’t know why I picked Gus, seems a funny name to pick but I did. And we were friends for a long while, even though I knew, we we’re friends, till one day he didn’t want to be friends no more and he kissed me, said he never kissed a girl named Gus before.
We’ve been married 45 years. 2 kids, 2 boys. One’s married, no grandchildren yet. But they got time. I used to journal before I met Phil, I don’t mean to sound immodest but I have lovely penmanship. They used to teach you that real good in school. But the day I met Phil I started writing to him instead. Don’t know why I started but I did. Told him how my day was, how I was feeling. And when we we’re ready I started writing and sent them to him. When he was in the service this was very fortunate, but even after, I’d slip them in his suit pocket when he slept. Even if I was mad at him I’d write it out in a letter. Over 45 years of 365 days of letters. One for the day he proposed, our wedding day, our wedding night, when our Joey and Peter were born. Every day a letter. And we never mentioned it. And it wasn’t perfect. We fought and he picked on me, and I picked right back.
But it’s a lovely thing to have a partner in this world, someone to be accountable to , and for. The day they took him to the hospital he had one in his inside pocket. And he’s lying there on this stretcher, looking paler then I ever seen him, and he looks at me and says ‘Hey Gus I got your letter’. First time he ever mentioned them A stroke. Struck by the hand of God. Things don’t work so well, but he’s still here, thank God every day for that. So I read them to him now. You’ll know. Trust me, you’ll know.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
BRAD, 25, formerly in finance.
I was fired last week. Not fired technically. ‘Downsized for corporate reconstruction’. Staffing level adjustments. Associates, analysts even VPs, and MD’s essentially too many brokers not enough to trade. Sub-prime market. Job cuts. The market sucks. We all saw it coming, cuts, but you never assume that you’re going to be the cut. It’s my first job- was my first job, straight out of Penn…Wharton. I had offers at Goldman Sachs, Lehman. McLean. Not that it’s worth anything now but I did. Now I might as well be an actor, all those bankers running around jobless. No one really enjoys it, It’s not something you do because you enjoy it, it’s not an enjoyable job. Can it be an enjoyable lifestyle… eventually, yes. Not as this age, it is your life –3 hours of sleep-but-But I was good at it, am good at it. Doctors and lawyers can pretend that they are doing their job out of compassion and for justice. Bankers do it for the money. Consultants say that their pay is comparable but they’re full of shit. Pardon my French, but they are. It’ll be fine. Ironically I own stock in the company which seemed like a sure thing.
Uhm. Some people argue that there is not a finite amount of success in this world, but there has to be. We as a society are outgrowing the idea of trades. We want better, more. I mean to my grandfather’s generation there were professional cab drivers, and bartenders, trashmen and these were respected jobs. Careers. Destinations. I mean without the immigrant population in this city restaurants and the service industry would cease to exist. Why? Success. If I’m at a meeting eating kobe beef there has to be a guy in the kitchen washing my dishes. If I’m investing for a ceo of a fortune 500 company there has to be some little Mexican lady ironing his shirts. We can’t all grow. I mean that’s what this country is built upon the idea that we all can get to a certain level but we can’t. Sacrifices have to be made, cuts. People have to hold up the pyramid. It’s the order of things, and if that doesn’t exist there’s just not enough. If I’m doing well there’s someone out there who isn’t. It’s just the nature of the machine.
Scientifically look at it. We’re outgrowing the earth. Kids are getting bigger. 12 year old girls have breasts. People are living longer. Technology. Churches dying all of it. Our growth will cause our extinction. I mean think about the plague, entire towns abandoned. Entire towns would be quarantined in the hopes that who was supposed to survive would. When it was done they would just come in, clean up the bodies and start over. Survival of the fittest. Natural selection. Without it we use up all our resources. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that AIDS, and cancer are good things, but the plague existed for a reason. With each generation traits get stronger, money begets money, we grow, and that’s fine just as long there’s a balance.
I’m sorry I’ve been drinking. It uh makes me more introspective. But I’m sobering up a bit. You work hard you party hard right?
Man I got wasted last week I mean I think I had a right to, but I did. So I left the office, after the, the- talk, had a few drinks downtown with some guys from work. Met this girl on the Lower Eastside, she went home. And I’m in the subway, and there’s this homeless guy with a sign that says ‘tell me off for a dollar’, and I see this guy every morning, just sitting there. and it’s like three- four am at this point no one’s around. And I see him just sitting there with this sign. Not doing anything, not adding anything, just breathing you know. Just breathing my air. No emotion nothing, dead. No purpose no emotion, nothing. And I look around. And he sees me, his eyes open and he slightly smiles and holds up this sign pushes it towards me. This cardboard sign. And he laughs, he laughs. And I just beat the shit out of him, I don’t make any noise. The whole thing is silent. It’s like were dancing. I hit him hard in the face, my knuckles start to bleed from his teeth. And his nose gives in there’s blood everywhere, and he just takes it, he just lies there and takes it. Like a doll or something. Like he enjoys it. And I just flail away man, I just let him have it. Slam his head against the tile. And he just lays there. Smiling really peacefully, breathing real quiet. Blood all over him.
So I stick a hundred dollar bill in his cup and get on the train.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I just fell asleep in a dressing room. Curtain closed, on the floor, face pressed into a mirror. A ‘power’ nap. A power nap in which a montage of thoughts flickered past, in true film form. (I often see my life in film form, although if my life was a film it would probably go direct to video, and I would be replaced with Mandy Moore in need of indie cred). Flashes of today’s meeting, Monday’s meeting, the appropriate time to wait to call a boy, if said boy is even interested in my calling, how long before I have to get up, questions of why said boy should be calling me, questions of why my stomach still hurts, why I drank, what did I eat, what I should eat, how much more time? Did I set an alarm? How many more hours am I here? What should I wear Monday? What the hell am I wearing today? Perhaps I like that boy, perhaps I don’t, perhaps they’ll take the deal, perhaps they won’t. I hope they take the deal. Why am I not asleep… why am I not- Then finally a hazy in and out. In and- Before European tourists tap on the glass door to rifle through old clothes, equipped with pursedogs and speak as if I am not there.
I am nearly 26. Nearly. I lie about this, say I’m 23. I could be 23. I am moderately attractive, perhaps even more than moderate. (I’m also apparently not modest, and vain). I’m a fairly talented trained actor, a pretty okay writer. A determined person. A type A. I have friends, an apartment. I was student of the month in March of 8th grade. I won 2nd place in the African American Experience Speaking Contest. I make really good guacamole. I graduated with honors from a fake ivy league college. Then why am I in a fetal position in a dressing room. Stealing a half hour of sleep?
When I first moved to New York at 19. My idea of bohemia was beautiful. As a transfer at NYU I thought I would live on miso soup, and easily pay rent on my exposed brick West Village apartment by picking up a few shifts at a local coffee shop. I would be salty, thin, and caffeinated. I would not be rich, but I could easily get by, for New York was the place you could get by. My training would be warm, diligent, and loving. Upon graduation I’d sign with an agency that would easily allow me to audition daily, work, and eventually have a small home in LA, in which I’d spend a few months, and sublet the rest of the year. I’d make a life making art. I would live with my boyfriend a tallish writer/director/actor/musician/something who wore ironic rimmed glasses. We would take Saturday mornings and split the New York times at an outdoor café while walking our dog. We would buy produce at the farmers market, and place tea roses on our table before heading out to our friend’s latest opening in Chelsea. After which we would sleep in, and awake to npr and whole wheat pancakes . I would float from project to project, projects I enjoyed, the occasional one I didn’t, and actually have days off. Days I could sit in a park, window shop (maybe even buy), or go to museums. Days to read,write scripts in cafes. Days that were mine.
Currently my time is borrowed. Even these various sentences I type, as a shopgirl in between customers. Plays get written in between Italians trying on furs, and teenagers looking for perfect prom dresses. This is my weekend. Weeks are on call for auditions, that seem more infrequent by the day, and running around trying to rent homes to restless new Yorkers, who always think they should be getting more. The truth of New York is everyone should be getting more, but there isn’t enough more to go around. I practice yoga, I schedule it in between the waiting, and find myself in downward dog thinking about voice messages. I’ve found my own meditation, a being in the moment due to efficiency and lack of energy to be anywhere else. Multitasking yet presence in each task… ok attempt at presence in each task.
This is my bohemia. A half hour that’s mine on the floor of a dressing room.
I’m holding out for the weekend. It'll come.