Archive for July, 2009

Weeks 7 & 8

July 27, 2009

This has been a busy and tiring last couple of weeks but not in a way that means I have loads of career-ly good news to write ab0ut.  So, I officially have a job which means that both of us are now employed.  If nothing else, that buys us more time.  Our bank statement this month informed us that, at the rate we were withdrawing, we would have lasted 3.5–4 months longer without income.  We’re still not completely sure (full disclosure in scheduling apparently isn’t in vogue for NYC employers) how much income we actually have coming our way but we do have the knowledge that all you have to do to move up within an NYC company is not quit or get canned for 3 months and then ask (for a raise or promotion).  As hard as it has been to get jobs, we’re now looking around at our bosses and coworkers wondering why it’s so hard to get employment.  New York City job market:  warm bodies desired.

Anyway, Jenn has been adjusting to her new work schedule which is typically 5pm to 1am three days a week and going to a few auditions.  (I wrote her a monologue which is better than the one I wrote for myself and we’re both excited for her to use it but there has not been an appropriate audition for it yet.)  I have been going to more “training” (i.e. excuse to get more money out of me).  But this time it led to a company that actually places promising candidates, and since I can speak, write and remember to wear shoes, that means me.  That means it also led to a “hot” uniform.  Sleek black pants with thick, sexy gray stripe down the side, short-sleeved gray button-up shirt with massive patches of U.S. flag and company name with black pockets and clip-on tie.  Phew…now let’s take a few moments to cool down…okay.  What I mean, of course, is that it’s embarrassing but that’s okay.  I trained on-the-job a few early days last week.  The site supervisor is a lady that fits perfectly into the description that my wife came up with to describe cops and a former boss of ours–aggressive but not too bright.  Add to that mix the catch-you-off-guard sensitivity of a woman and a less-than-stellar grasp of English and you have a pretty good hold on Captain Garcia.  She really likes to explain things as absolutes and then completely contradict herself 5 minutes later and, when questioned, talk to you like you’re a complete moron for not already understanding how things work.  The irony of it all is that I can say, with near-total certainty and within the realms of complete modesty, that I am the most intelligent person she has ever trained or worked on this job with.  I ask questions that pop up when I see blindingly obvious inconsistencies and contradictions (between what she says one minute to another or what our “post orders” tell us and what she tells us) and she gets worried and confused because…this is the first time she’s ever heard those questions or had anyone call her out on anything…because everyone else she’s trained has just smiled and nodded and said “uh huh” at everything she said…because they’re not very smart.  I ask questions and, in her mind, must be the dumbest person she’s ever come across.  However, I don’t have to work with her much anymore because, most likely, my schedule will be midnight to 8am a few days a week.  I worked that shift a couple days ago and it will certainly call for adjustments on my part but it’s the only shift that stays out of the way of rehearsals and auditions….so I’ll make it work.

All of this potential frustration as well as rehearsal frustration and general NYC hatred has given way as of late.  Nothing really improved other than what was going on in my own head and heart…and there are a couple reasons for that.  The biggest reason is that God put it on my heart very clearly–in a moment of horrible brokenness–to add discipline (something I’m terrible at) to my walk with Him by writing His words on my heart by reading the Bible about 3 times as much per day as I’ve ever been comfortable with.  I started this beautiful but difficult regimen last week and (surprise!) things started internally improving pretty quickly.  It’s not really a matter of NYC not sucking anymore or musical rehearsals not being maddening or getting a job that’s a great fit by any means.  It’s more a case of not really thinking about all of that or worrying about it because I’m constantly thinking about Jesus and seeing His glory and beauty in everything around me and wondering how I can better honor Him in my actions and words….and He’s everywhere–just as much here as Peoria or Kansas City or China or anywhere else–so I can observe His magnificence wherever I am and take heart that He is with me always.  The second thing is…Wilson Phillips.  The same day God urged me to read His word more Jenn and I were in Wal-Greens waiting for a no-baby prescription and Wilson Phillips greeted my ears for the first time in years.  It made me really happy but also got trapped in my head more permanently than I’ve ever experienced.  That might drive some people nuts but, suprisingly, I freakin’ love it.  Whenever I can feel myself start to swoon and I’m not in a position to whip out my Bible and read a couple more chapters, I can simply sing to myself these glorious lines put to a wonderfully catchy-inspirational early 90s melody:  “Break   free  from  the chains.  I know that there is pain but if you    hold on for one more day  break free break from the chains  (drum      drum      drum   drum   drum-drum-drum) someday somebody’s gonna make you wanna turn around and say goodbye (say goodbye) until then baby are you gonna let ’em hold you down and make you cry  (don’t you know) don’t- you-know   if-you-change   things’ll go your way   if you hooooold on for one more day-yeah  if you you hoooold on for one more day   things’ll go your waaaaay  Hold On For More Day!”  Is this merely a coincidence?  Or is the one glorious hit from Carnie Wilson, her sister, and the blonde chick part of God’s amazing plan and encouragement for me?  Well, I know that God uses and loves some music that isn’t genred as “Christian” music, and if you look at the vague, yet aspiringly inspirational message in those lyrics….how could it not be meant directly for my heart.  So, if you’re reading this Wilson Phillips (of course they’re reading this…all together squishing into two neighboring computer chairs in Carnie’s basement right before watching Beaches for the 142nd time and alternating chapters reading aloud from the Twilight series), know that you gals and your beautiful music are part of God’s plan.  Isn’t that nice to know?

Jenn’s birthday was this past weekend and we had a very nice evening.  Some coupons and gifts joined together to give us a nice dinner out and then we visited Roosevelt Island which was very pretty at night and then we made our way home for some husband and wife fun and then ice cream cake and prizes (gifts)!  A really simple but wonderful night.

I had the first couple practices for the church softball team.  P90X has really improved the power in my hitting stroke.  We have a few more practices and then an all-day tournament coming up 2 Saturdays from now.  I can’t stinkin’ wait!

Some observations:  Prostitution is, of course, illegal here.  However, I just found out that advertising for prostitution is apparently okay.  Wouldn’t the cops figure that whole thing out.  “Man, I’m an undercover cop and I don’t know how to catch those dang hookers in the act so we can arrest them…hey lookey there, here’s 58 ads for hookers in a mainstream newspaper handed out for free at the entrance of every subway station in the city…hmmm.”

Riding on the subway with a security guard uniform on is humbling.  I guess that’s okay.

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Week 6

July 15, 2009

I forgot to mention that we spent the actual 4th of July at Coney Island.  I had never been there and I think it is now my favorite spot in this wretched place.  The sand is cool (as in temperature), the junk food is spectacular, and it doesn’t feel anything like the city.  It’s nice.

Jenn got a job–which is a huge blessing!  She went back for the 2nd interview at the top-of-the-line bowling alley and was the only person the managers actually settled on by the end of the day.  They all could agree that she had a brain and was professional and would be a great fit for their administrative marketing position.  For all the other positions, for which it was apparently acceptable to dress like a hooker for the interview, the male managers had to battle out which chest they most enjoyed ogling.  We haven’t yet found out how much she’ll be paid or what her hours will be exactly but tomorrow we will.  Though she is working in the back office, if she plays her cards right she might be able to see George Clooney pick up a spare during a coffee break (or maybe even shake hands with Carrot Top–hey, let me dream).

I’m really impressed with this showcase thing I’m in (it’s called The Actor’s Project NYC).  Wednesday was my first troop meeting and everyone in there is really talented and really supportive and the head guy picked out a monologue for me that I think I can knock out of the park and allows me to act like a total idiot.  It’s still awhile until the showcase rolls around but, along with the troop meetings/rehearsals of monologues, there are also free workshops for your resume and bio and headshot and networking with agents and all kinds of stuff, plus competitions, plus auditions for other aspects of the showcase.  Also, now I have people I can go to with the “I got an email or saw a flyer or an ad for this thing…is it legit or a scam” questions…which is a big help for me since I really have an issue with trusting people too easily.

Rehearsals continue for this music-less musical and now I am not sure which is worse:  training to be a security guard with the worst person ever as my instructor or sitting through these rehearsals.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across a director that is a worse time-manager.  If you’re not going to use a certain group of people for the last hour-and-a-half then tell them they can go home or come late or whatever the case may be.  He doesn’t give clear direction and then blames the actors for not doing what he wants and stops scenes every 10 seconds no matter what, making it impossible to get any kind of feel for the whole scene or get any momentum of any kind.  He’s also quite easily sucked up to and rewards it with extra parts and solos….which means I am at the bottom of his list I think.  The closest thing to sucking up I can muster is not punching him in the face for being a moron.  Even if I’m the lead in a show I love, I typically dislike rehearsal….a lot.  So, this will end up being the hardest earned “credit” for my resume I could ever imagine.

I had my first paying gig on Saturday.  Yep, twenty-five whole stinking dollars—take that self doubt!  It was doing street improv for an art project.  Basically they put a sculpture on the sidewalk that looked like rolled up sidewalk in a busy part of Brooklyn.  Then they gave the three of us actors lab coats and clipboards and had us act scientific (by measuring it and taking samples and such) and try to convince people it wasn’t a sculpture but in fact the sidewalk rolled up.  “This is an aberration which is a mutation of urban structures.  We believe this is caused by group tension or stress.  We already know that human behavior can effect the physical world with carbon emissions and other pollutants.  Well, our theory is that the physical world can also be effected by mental and emotional activity of human beings.  In previous aberrations, we have found traces of norepenephrine which is the hormone in the brain linked to stress.  Also, we have anecdotal evidence of aberrations popping up during the Great Depression, WWII and sporadically throughout the 70s.  If the economic crisis isn’t righted soon and group tension isn’t lowered soon, we believe these aberrations could soon be in walls, foundations of buildings, or even the human body.  This could very well be just the beginning.”  So, obviously, I repeated something close to that quite a few times during my two hours of “work”.  Some people got it and played along and had a good time with it.  Other people got it and, for some reason, got really mad (mostly engineers and architects).  Surprisingly, quite a few people bought it, were very concerned and thanked us profusely for being on the case.  Anyway, it was a quick two hours and a lot of fun.

That was the beginning of a busy day on Saturday.  I then rushed from there to a musical rehearsal.  Thankfully, I only stayed there for about an hour and then went to my callback audition for the improv comedy group I first auditioned with a few weeks back.  I made sure to show some completely different stuff this time around and I got into the group.  My first performance will be this Saturday.  After being around a lot of the members of this group at these couple of auditions, I am really really impressed by the network of sketch and improv comedians I worked with at University of Illinois.  Now I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that that group of people at U of I would combine for the greatest improv or sketch comedy group in all of New York City.  Granted:  with all the options here, nobody pays for improv and sketch comedy shows so it would make sense that the best of the best in that category do not reside here…still go U of I comedy network…we ruled.

On Sunday, we went to a barbeque after church with our new church friends and that was a great time with lots of food…a really nice, fun blessing.

I have a feature-length film audition coming up that I submitted for only because I assumed that they wouldn’t call me in to audition.  I was wrong so now I have to try to figure out how to speak with a “legit” South American accent by Thursday.  I guess I’ll google it.

Jenn finally allowed herself to take some days off from auditioning/waiting for hours on end (I think it was getting the job that did it) which is a relief to her body and, actually, a relief to me.  I was intensely getting quietly annoyed at her persistence.  I guess admiration has a limit before turning.  Anyway, I’m glad she doesn’t feel so much pressure now.

Some observations:  In Peoria, if you see somebody walking out of a business with a black plastic bag it means they either just bought/rented pornography or bought something from a store that specializes in pornography.  In NYC, just about every business uses black plastic bags for anything you buy from there….and I’m just not used to it yet.  I walk out of a little side store with a pack of batteries and a carton of juice and I feel like everyone’s staring at me and judging me for my filthy perverted purchase.  I try to hide the bag altogether or make sure the contents of the bag are visible whenever possible and am always looking at the ground hoping nobody sees my face.  It’s completely embarrassing without anyone else’s help.

Tyler Perry’s thought process as I imagine it:  What would make this scene funny?  Oh, I know:  someone can say something really really loudly.

It makes more sense that people in this place are angry or depressed when you realize that a game of bowling costs at least $16 and a movie ticket costs at least $12.50.  Every other way of trying to entertain yourself or go out and have a little fun follows suit.  So, if you have the stress of barely making a living, we offer you no accessible reprieve by way of fun:  good luck.  If this city had testicles, I would kick them.

Random Thought

July 10, 2009

God gave this to me while I was trying to fall asleep the other night…thought I’d share:

Desires are unquenchable.

Desires fuel/guide/determine pursuits.

Therefore, pursuits are everlasting.

This is done by design.  God made us this way because he wants us to desire HIM the way–and as powerfully–as He desires us.

Everything else has limits.  Everything else runs out.  If your desire is possessions so your pursuit is gaining more and more and better and better, eventually you either run out of things to buy or steal (because of lack of funds, limited interests, or something else) or you continue buying but cease to gain any real satisfaction or happiness with each new possession.  If your desire is sexual and your pursuit is that brand of pleasure, you will eventually run out of conquests or perverted twists “to keep things interesting” (if you even survive the potential consequences) or you will find yourself heartless and numb to that pleasure.  If entertainment is your sole interest, you will eventually run out of anything new, anything fun and it will all be the same…or you’ll simply find yourself bored and empty.  If respect and esteem is your pursuit and desire, you will eventually find that no actual power or contentment lies in that and you will always, unstoppably, become less important and less interesting to those who once looked up to you.  Anything worldly you can think of will lead to discontentment, depression, or death.

He/God/Jesus is the only desire that never runs out and never stops offering gains with each passing day.  You could spend every minute of every day for the rest of your life learning about Him and never learn everything.  You could spend that time trying to get closer to Him and never get close enough.  You could use all of your heart, mind, and soul to worship and love Him and never feel as if you’ve loved Him or worshipped Him enough.  You could pursue Him and His works for all time and never run out of things to do, learn, love, give, teach, or speak.

On the other side of this, though– this inability to find a finish line will not feel like failure or evidence of some inadequacy when observed truly.  Every gain of the heart or mind; every inch closer to Him you crawl, every new hour you walk with Him hand-in-hand is better than gaining the whole world.  So, the feeling is not “this game cannot be won, so I wish not to play one hour more!” but, instead “this is amazing!  when can I get more?!” and the well will never run dry.  Ever. 

This emptiness in all of us; this feeling and wonder of what else is there or “please what’s next” …is a gift.  It is a gift given by God to His creation so that we all might eventually look to Him as possibly the fulfillment we seek, the end of “what else?”.  So that no matter your surroundings, your family, your country or education, your heart might someday seek its creator and yearn for the only void-filling end-all that exists.

Lies are being whispered into all of our hearts, though…telling us that all these distractions are the answer, telling us how dull and antiquated all this God-business is and how weird it would be to not be the person you’ve worked so hard to be and not feel like you’re the one in control of all this.  However, there is no roller coaster, no scary movie, no sky dive, no orgasm, no new car/couch/house/tv, no earthly relationship that can compare to one second in the presence of the King.  And if we choose it (and it is a hard choice to make…daily) it is there for us every moment for the rest of our lives…and for all eternity.

 

**That is all based very closely on God’s words and I was simply sharing.  But if, by God’s grace, any of this has put a pain in your chest or a weight on your heart, that too is a gift and I plead with you not to waste it:  sincerely ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart, change your life, forgive your sins and show Himself to you.  If you do this, tell somebody that would be excited about it (don’t keep it to yourself) and ask them to pray for you, help you with your next steps, and start talking to God every moment you can.  See what He does and accept His ultimate gift.

If you’ve already given your life to Jesus and this has simply convicted or softened you to the half-heart you’re giving Him…well, I’m in the same boat.  And I would love to talk so we could help each other to…dive closer to fully focussing on the one thing that truly matters and fulfills.

If this offended you, I would really love to talk so feel free to contact me if you are as willing to listen as to talk (I promise I will be too).**

Week 5.5

July 8, 2009

If I were the editor of a New York City paper, I would right now tell you that the 4th of July happened–and there were fireworks and people gathering!–and Michael Jackson died–and he was a terrific father and performer but kind of weird sometimes!–this last week and a half…and that’s it!  Nothing else happened at all…ever…not even some guy consuming a hot dog on a Tuesday happened so don’t even ask!  The earth stopped and 2 things happened so shut up!

I don’t know how the media coverage is elsewhere but here…it’s pretty ridiculous.  Anyway, this has been a really rough week but I will try to not simply rant for 1000 words.  The Monday before the 4th Astoria has its own fireworks celebration.  We heard of this and tried to meet up with some church friends but could not find anyone so we sat in front of a fantastic muni-band with a terrific jazz vocalist and enjoyed that for about an hour.  The fireworks then came and they were at least up to par with a really good Peoria celebration which surprised since it was just for our little village in Queens (not even all of Queens) but then it hit me that, more than likely, there are probably twice as many people living in just our little village as live in all of Peoria. 

It was all down hill from there.  The bright spot was that I got to audition to get into this actor’s showcase that is focused on putting you in front of agents so you can network and perform and get yourself legitimate representation.  I got in to that group which seems promising and I was really glad I had the monologue that I wrote myself after hearing what the dude was looking for.  Other than that, Jenn started an impressive streak, that lasted basically the entire week, of going to equity auditions and sitting for 3-8 hours and getting told non-equity would not be seen and to go home.  I sat through two more 8-hour sessions of “training” being instructed by the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever met.  He is the kind of guy that asks people questions after learning something about their background expecting them not to know the answer.  When they, in fact, don’t know the answer he insults their education, intelligence, manhood, and whatever else might be applicable.  When they do know the answer, he tells them their wrong anyway and eventually rewords what they said as the real answer to show that even if you have experience in this area or went to school for this particular thing…HE KNOWS MORE THAN YOU and he’s amazing and just the greatest, wisest person you’ve ever met (that’s the point).  Nothing I could say in a small amount of space could capture his horribleness…you would have to sit through 24 hours of him yourself…and I would not wish that on anyone.  At the end of this, it became apparent that it was not actually a situation where we would finish training and then have a job.  It seemed as though we would then get told where to go to interview for a job.  But, as I found out today, it’s not even that good.  I gathered all the crap the jerk instructor told me to gather, jumped through all his hoops and met him for “placement” where he gave me a name and an address and said it would be great.  I went and it’s just another security guard placement agency that hasn’t even heard of this guy.  You have to apply as if you’re just some guy off the street and you sit down and they give a half-hearted interview and then say they’ll call you if something opens up.  Hmmmm. 

I also went to the first two rehearsals for my exciting new MUSICAL to find that there isn’t actually any music written down…like in books…with notes…on staffs…you know.  The writer/director just thought of some songs and either wrote some note names on some scrap paper or recorded a line or two into his cell phone….seriously.  He doesn’t have a real good memory so it takes him awhile to remember the songs himself to be able to teach them to us and then hopes we remember them because he’ll change it if we don’t.  First rehearsal was definitely a “what did I get myself into” moment.  The songs are really good once they actually get learned but that might take awhile.  You couldn’t get away with that in Peoria, IL but half-mile away from Broadway, they give you the green light.  Awesome.

So, it’s gotten to the point where I officially hate New York City.  Hate.  Hate it.  But Jenn had a positive sounding interview at the “bowling alley of the stars” and finally got off the schnide to actually get seen at an auditon and thought she did great.  Our computer stopped working for a few days but then it ended up only costing $20 to fix (look at the positive side, right).  I am not totally sure what God’s plan with us is here.  It’s probably not to be miserable for months at a time so I need to adjust something…pray more maybe.  This is tough…but the weather’s been beautiful and Harry Potter comes out soon….great.