August 6

August 6, 2010

A few nights ago I was riding home late on the subway.  The train was a few stops away from where I get off and this very bold homeless man delayed things for awhile.  He is very familiar to anyone that pays attention.  He doesn’t just sit on the sidewalk with a sign and a cup.  He approaches each individual person waiting on the platform, looks them in the eye and asks if they have any change or spare food with his hand in full receptive position.  That is how I’ve seen him previously but on this night he was wasn’t looking for money.  However, he appeared to be claiming a temporary home.

The train doors opened and immediately two large black garbage bags flew through the air and landed inches away from the older ladies sitting next to me.  Then he appeared in his shirtless, hairy slendor with three more small suitcases in hand.  I thought maybe that was it but after dropping the suitcases he lunged out of the train for two more full garbage bags.  By this point the doors began to close but he pinned himself between them until they reopened and then he threw in two more bags.  This process continued for 5 more minutes.  Everyone around me had moved from that side of the train car (I would’ve as well if there was a bad smell but, thankfully, there was not) and now 65 heads were turned to frown and silently scold this man.  Some ridiculed him with their friends while others took pictures with their phones so they could ridicule him later on when they were around their friends.  The homeless man didn’t even look.  The doors had closed.  The train was once again moving.  He crafted dirty insulation around the metal rails and walls that enclosed his chosen bench.  Twenty stuffed garbage bags and three suitcases laid strewn on the floor around him.  I’ve never witnessed more than two or three New Yorkers agree on anything.  But an entire train car was in agreeance to hate this man, and he could not have appeared to care less.  I sat between the man, and his fort, and the angry (yet quiet) horde.  I looked back and forth and could not help but feel so…jealous.  This man had no fear–a humbling boldness.  He was not oblivious to all the hateful MIIIIND BULLETS being shot his way but he acted like it.  Socially, he assessed himself as having nothing to lose (which might seem obvious but, out here, I’ve witnessed extremely rich people as well as the pit of poverty acting as absolute slaves to what other people think of them).  I couldn’t help but watch this man’s attitude and crave it as a pot of gold or a bag of steaks.  I walked home nearly weeping at the strength of this urge to be just like him.  Maybe then I could speak truth in uncomfortable situations.  Maybe then I could pursue my family’s souls with the blind zeal that I should.  Maybe then those strangers that surround me would not be able to step near me without hearing  the name of Jesus.  Maybe then my focus could be on the One Thing that truly matters.

I am grateful I have a home just as I am thankful for every gift God has given me.  I know it is possible to not throw these gifts aside as rubbish and to also have this bold, fearless attitude.  I know it.  It must be.  I just wonder if it’s possible for me.  I hope it is.


Quick Thought

July 15, 2010

The other day I was remembering the first time I heard the song “American Pie”.  I was 16.  I had been driving for a couple of months and it was summer break.  I almost always listened to rock stations on the radio while I was driving.  I can’t remember exactly where I was going but it was somewhere in Washington and I was just a few minutes away.  Then this song I, somehow, wasn’t familiar with came on.  It started a bit too slow which almost caused me to turn the station.  2  1/2 minutes later I pulled up to my destination but couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car.  I was completely enraptured.  I had no idea what the song was about, and I was just starting to pick up the words in the chorus so I could barely sing along, and I was really confused with the idea of “drinking whiskey and rye.”  But I couldn’t stop listening and I was actually saddened when the song finally ended 4 minutes later.

Jenn’s new job is as a music instructor at a center for adults with mental retardation.  The floor she works on is for those with severe-to-profound retardation.  Nearly all of them are nonverbal and the average IQ is close to that of a 3-year old, so teaching them a tune to hum or beating or moving something in rhythm is about all you can hope to really teach.  The best to hope for is that music will reach them in some way or open them up in a way that regular words or frustrated instructions cannot.  Recently they’ve been focussing on the role that piano has in different types of music.  This past week has been centered on piano’s role in lite rock.  So, Jenn took all of my Billy Joel and Elton John CDs to work with her and the classes have been spending some time each day listening to this music as a group.  People that have to be pulled out of their chairs to go anywhere have been getting up and dancing.  A man that just stares blankly at a wall has been grooving and groaning, looking like he’s being shown the meaning of life.  There has been laughing and singing and anticipation every day. 

No one sat these people down and explained to them that Billy Joel and Elton John are two of the greatest that modern music has to offer.  No one told them that it just wouldn’t be logical or socially acceptable to not enjoy these songs.  There was no peer pressure.  Yet, “Honky Cat” or “Crocodile Rock” comes on and they dance to it.  “New York State of Mind” or “Piano Man” comes on and they feeeel it.  I finished listening to “American Pie” that day back in 1999 and, even though the song was decades old, I felt like I was walking around with an amazing secret the rest of the night.  The truly great music is like this.  It sweeps us up into it and sort of takes us away.  It helps us create this brand new world in our imagination that we need to live in for as long as possible.  And, unless someone has a predetermined bias against it (they’ve decided to hate the genre or don’t like the band because their parents loved them), it always seems to be the same core songs that everyone can agree on–no matter age or upbringing.  There wasn’t a big meeting to determine these songs, followed by a press conference to let everyone know “these are the songs you must like and/or love”.  There wasn’t anything close to this.  It’s just the music.  If it reaches you, it speaks to you…and you fall in love.

I feel like Christ is like this.  My story (of coming to Him) is completely my story.  But I know there’s some bloke in China or England or Canada who has the same story.  And we didn’t read the same complementary Christian books, we didn’t have the same friends, we didn’t hear the same speakers or have the same parents.  But we share Jesus.  Every person that truly comes to Him feels like they’re coming home…feels like their heart is working for the first time…feels like this is where they should’ve been all along.  So many have the same words to describe their gratitude for His amazing gift.  So many weep the same tears when they describe what Jesus means to them.  So many feel the same awe when they first fall in love with Him…and then again and again and again.  Jesus is like this.  He sweeps us up and carries us away.  He awakens our hearts, souls, and minds, and feeds us truth we can’t deny.  He shows us love we’ve never felt or seen before and challenges us to show it back–to Him and the rest of His beloved.  He becomes Savior, Father, friend, lover…to everyone who lets Him.  Jesus is a beautiful song.  He is a brand new world that I need to live in the rest of my days.  I know I’m not the only one.  I love that I’m not the only one.  He is real.

1 Year Anniversary

June 2, 2010

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of Jenn and I arriving in New York City to stay.  We are no more accomplished today than we were the day we came.  We are quite a bit more knowledgeable but that’s simply because we have been here for 12 months and don’t have any learning disabilities.  If I spent any time at all recounting the little that we’ve done and accomplished in this last year,  it would make me very sad…so I won’t.  Instead, in order to keep things light and not ruin my day, I will discuss some of the differences between Peoria, IL and New York City as I now see them.

In Peoria, if you see a woman that you think looks like a man, you perhaps scold yourself for being so shallow and judgemental just because she happened to have a square jaw or broad shoulders or an odd fashion sense.

In NYC, if you see a woman that you think looks like a man, you’re right…because it is…always….it’s a freakin’ dude….and that’s it.

In Peoria, if you see a woman you think is dressed like a hooker, or at least a stripper, you’re probably right.   She is most likely a hooker, or at least a stripper.

In NYC, if you see a woman you think is dressed like a hooker, or at least a stripper, you’re probably wrong.  It’s most likely just an actress on her way to an audition or, if it’s evening, just a regular girl on her way out to a club or a bar knowing that, if she is to have any chance of getting ogled or shuffled to the front of the line, she must be dressed like a trapeze artist in Amsterdam.  The one time I have been propositioned by a hooker since being out here, she was the most modestly dressed girl I had seen all night…I would’ve felt comfortable introducing her to my grandmother as my friend Angela (or whatever).

In Peoria, when people have something they realize they will never use again or do not need at all, they typically just stuff it in their basement or  their garage or their 6th closet.

In NYC, when people have something  they realize they will never use again or do not need at all, they stick it out on the sidewalk with a “FREE” handwritten sign taped to the pile.  Sometimes neighbors walk by and find something they want but usually the pile is cleared by people that make their livings by putting out a few tables on a street corner and selling things they didn’t have to pay for for one reason or another.  These tables should have a sign above them that reads “MOST RANDOM GARAGE SALE OF ALL  TIME” because they’ll typically have something like 65 cell phone covers, 25 belts, 3 childrens board games, 10 unopened kung fu dvds, 14 packaged t-shirts, a watermelon and a unicycle.

In Peoria, if someone is yelling on the street nearly everyone stops and listens to see what is going on because it must be important or possibly even cool.

In NYC,  if someone is yelling on the street no one stops or listens because seemingly eveyone else is yelling on the street and it’s almost never important….or coherent.

In Peoria, if it’s summer and a girl isn’t wearing a bra, she kinda stands out.

In NYC, if it’s summer and a girl is wearing a bra, she kinda stands out.

In Peoria, the crazy people are in some sort of facility.

In NYC, the crazy people are outside your apartment.

In Peoria, there’s a church on every block.

In NYC, there’s a bar, cafe, and pizza joint on every block.

In Peoria, if you hear the people across the street yelling at 3 in the morning, someone calls the cops.

In NYC, if you hear the people across the street yelling at 3 in the morning, someone yells at them to stop yelling and then they yell at each other until they get sleepy.

In Peoria, it’s understood that you don’t use really foul language in public places loud enough for those around you to hear.

In NYC, it’s understood that you’re supposed to use really foul language at any time, in any place, in any setting, loud enough for everyone around you to hear.

In Peoria, if you have an audition to go to, plan on staying about 2-3 hours with 45 minutes to an hour of that being you actually auditioning.

In NYC, if you have an audition to go to, plan on staying 2-6 hours, with 45 seconds of that being you actually auditioning.

In Peoria, being racially ambiguous gets you a lot of questions.

In NYC, being racially ambiguous gets you a lot of roles/jobs.

In Peoria, “not being able to find a parking spot” means you couldn’t find a parking spot within a 30-second walk to the front door of your destination.

In NYC, “not being able to find a parking spot” means a vacant, legal parking spot literally does not exist within a 2-square-mile radius.

In Peoria, professional opportunity usually involves CAT.

In NYC, professional opportunity, unfortunately, involves everything that we dream of…..(sigh).

12 months down…..who-knows-how-many-more to go.

Later in April

April 28, 2010

This week, I started my 4th different job since coming to New York.  this job will take me throught the 1 year anniversary of being in NYC–which is about a month away.  So, in this past year, I have had as many different jobs as in the previous 4 years combined–or something like that.  This one is with the Census Bureau.  So, in 8 weeks, this job will most likely finish and I will have to find another waitering job.  I’m okay with that and I’m also discovering that sitting through training classes for (at least kinda) lame jobs has become almost like a 2nd home to me…or at least like a mediocre action film (or romantic comedy for the ladies)–comfortable and very predictable.               

There is always one or more persons that act like they know more than everyone else (instructor included).  This time we have both types:  the kind that laugh by themselves everytime something is said they think is stupid, correct minor details within examples–taking the conversation to the galaxy of Pointless–just to show off knowledge they assume no one else is blessed with, and make rude comments and observations just loud enough for people around them to hear but not quite loud enough for the instructor to make out…and the type that angrily corrects anything said or done that they KNOW will RUIN minds and lives if it is simply let go while consistently sounding as if they might kill someone at any moment (both types immediately turn incredibly sweet and charming if given the spotlight and seem to be festering in the hope that the rest of the class will rise as one and revolt to place THEM as the new instructor…which they obviously deserve).

There is also always the person that really took it to heart when one of their grade-school teachers said “there is no such thing as a stupid question” while also managing to either be partially deaf or incapable of listening and thinking at the same time. 

The instructors are always either unqualified to teach anything and uninterested or incapable of attempting to show otherwise or unqualified to teach anything and dead-set on proving that they know more than any human that has ever walked the earth and can make people weep with the sheer power and viciousness of knowledge.  This week’s training has the former.

We have some funny people though.  During the obligatory “now let’s take a few moments to get to know each other” time we were supposed to stand up and state our name and why we wanted to work for the census.  The second guy to go looked about as apathetic as a person can and said as boldly as he could muster “My name is Phillip and I want to SERVE MY COUNTRY.”  Everyone laughed.  He offered a half-smile as he sat down.  Another guy said he thought it would be a good way to pick up chicks.  Another young man said “counting people has always been a passion of mine.”  A cute, petite lady who looked to be around 40 said, “I’m just looking forward to getting raped and murdered by the man that asks me to come into his apartment” and the instructor smiled and said, “Very good.  Very good.”

Also, having gone through this sort of thing before, I knew the first day would be a bit of a train wreck and there would be a lot of dead time.  So, I brought some reading material and came mentally prepared.  This led to the best part of all.  While instructors were scrambling and fumbling around endlessly for something or other, I was getting more and more into a book that was leading me to think about God and what I believe about certain things and all that.  Lately, I’ve been wishing and praying for freedom and no fear.  I’ve been so bogged down by this feeling of never getting over the same sins that have had their hooks in me for so long, and always feeling trapped in this worthless version of a person, and feeling like nothing will ever change so there is no reason to hope.  Then (and it didn’t really have anything to do with the book), the most wonderful thing that has happened to me in a long time…uh, happened.  God spoke in me and truth rang in my chest like it hasn’t in a long while…and the words “I AM free” started repeating over and over again in my heart.  I’ve read that Jesus Christ has freed us from sin with his death on the cross so many times but it wasn’t until that moment that it all…just hit me.  I am free.  I am not chained to any sin, or bad decision from the past, or fruitless habit.  I am free.  Meaning sin cannot touch me.  I could swim in it for a week and it can’t touch me.  Jesus’ blood covers me like a shield of armor.  So all those things that I constantly think I can’t do and shouldn’t think or feel…I CAN…which completely demolishes any power that sin has over me.  My nature (I think all of our’s) is to want to do whatever I’m not supposed to do, whatever I’m told or I know I CAN’T do, I long to do it.  That is the nature of the sin inside us.  But my sins are forgiven.  My stains are washed away.  Every turn from God has been forgotten…past, present, and future.  So, I can do anything.  So, I don’t feel the tugging pull to any of those things I thought enslaved me.  I am free.  The beautiful part is that God has been working on me so much–like He’s refining silver–that He gave me this truth at a time when I have no interest in displeasing Him.  I love Him.  I want to obey.  I genuinely desire to please my Heavenly Father.  It brings me joy…and sin does not.  All those things that grabbed at me and led to the whispers “you know what you could do”…those things used to lead to guilt just by popping up in my head and immediately led to a battle that I rarely won…now I say “yeah, you could do that”…and the suffocation stops.  Then I ask, “but do you really want to do that?”  The answer is no.  I want to do things that bring me joy.  Those things do not bring me joy.  They never did.

Now I know that freedom of any kind does not guarantee against attacks.  Nor does it always protect against slander and prejudice…and more attacks.  But I have hope now.  For the first time in a long time, I have hope.  I’m writing again.  I believe there is a plan again.  I believe that He will lead and I am capable of following.  I have joy.  I have Jesus.

Later on April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010

I want to be free and I want to be fearless.  I want the power that comes with this.  I want God’s eyes to see.  I want Jesus’ heart in discernment.  I want the empathy and focus that come with that.  I want to snap the chains of entertainment.  I want to not need a song and dance playing for me at all times because it is all just a sideshow.  I want to honor and glorify God with the way I work without yearning for man’s approval and affirmation.  I want to be beyond reproach on everything.  I want the only questioning I am put to to be interrogations of spirituality and heart for which God gives me all the answers I need.  I want the Holy Spirit to be present for me and with me every moment.  I want righteousness to set my path before me every day.  I want to yearn for Jesus and then know how to run closer in a real way…not cheap actions or attempts.  I want every other desire to be secondary so much that it doesn’t show up on the radar.  I want life in a real way–I want it in the way it was supposed to be, with some new adventure every day in the midst of material simplicity…and every second of it laid at the feet of Jesus.  I want freedom.  I want fearlessness.  I want choice to be shackled to God’s will.  I want truth to have no choice but to come from my mouth–I want it tied to the end of my tongue.  I want peace amid chaos instead of stress amid boredom.  I want to be stunned by His beauty and glorious majesty continuously.  I want to spend more time weeping in gratitude than grovelling for help and blessings.  I want to be free.  I want to be fearless.  Please Lord…grant me this.  Give me freedom.  Give me fearlessness.  Give me your power.  Give me your presence.  Give me you.

April 13, 2010

April 13, 2010

Most of the time, being out here makes me feel like I am in a barely-lit conference room with a small movie screen taking up one entire wall.  The screen plays on it specific excerpts from my life.  All my goals, all my dreams, all my potential…every single thing I went after wholeheartedly and attempted to accomplish is right there.  Then, me coming up short and eventually quitting the pursuit and letting the gifts and potential given me fall limply to the side until it is almost forgotten.  This goes on for a little while and then a 50-year old Julie Andrews turns from the screen to face me and says, “By all practical accounts, a complete failure.”  Well, gee thanks.  How about screw you Julie Andrews!  “Well, my dear, if you really look at it, there can be no other conclusion.”  Oh yeah?  Princess Diaries 2!!  Huh?!  Huh?!  How does that make you feel?!  Princess Diaries 2!!  “Well of course before that bit of rubbish, there was the world-loved jewel:  The Sound of Music and my Oscar-winning turn as Mary Poppins.”  Psssshh.  Your Oscar was nothing more than a sympathy win because people felt bad that you got passed over to take the role you originated on Broadway in My Fair Lady for the already screen-savvy Audrey Hepburn.  You were just weird and she deserved the win even if she didn’t sing a note of it!  And I saw part of Sound of Music and I wasn’t at all impressed.  The supposedly-German soldiers sounded like they were from a New Jersey-based barbershop quartet.  I could’ve made a better version of it when I was 19!  “Could’ve, should’ve, would’ve…but didn’t…and won’t….right Mr. Gordon?”  Grrrrrrrr.  I hate you fake Julie Andrews!

January and February

February 27, 2010

It’s getting really annoying  writing on here without some sort of triumph to report.  Sigh.  That’s why entries are getting spaced out like vacuum supply stores.  We spent a lot of our heart and free time on this play I wrote out here.  Rehearsing was quite the process and pretty darn expensive once we moved out of our kitchen.  We had some pretty cool breakthroughs the last week of rehearsal and went in to our first performance without a tech rehearsal but with a lot of excitement and hope in what we had.  The first performance went well considering the lack of tech rehearsal but there were some nerves and minor issues that only we knew about.  We had about 7 people there for us out of the 60 or so total audience members.  It was a small theater by Peoria standards–probably would fit about 80 which is pretty big by NYC standards–and it was mostly filled.  At this point I was still under the impression judges were involved in deciding the winners all the way through the process so we were confident we would be moving on even though it wasn’t our best performance and we had relatively low audience representation.  We saw the other two shows–one was pretty good the other was terrible–and knew we had a better show.  Pretty easy round because only 3 shows were in each session and two of the three would move on to the next round…which we did.  The second round was also the semifinals and this is when I discovered that I was mislead by the bumbling artistic director of the festival.  This is when I found out that judges did not come into play until the finals…so the first and second rounds were completely decided by audience votes.  At this point–5 minutes before the first show started–I looked out at the audience and saw that, despite our best promotional efforts, we had 5 friends in the audience (afterwards we found out that three of them had to leave right after our show and, therefore, were not allowed to vote since they wouldn’t be seeing all the shows…even though we watched  as 15 people showed up right after our show pledging their allegiance for the last of the four shows–we were 2nd–and saw them being handed ballots and given instructions on how and when to vote before they were ushered into the theater).  Our show went great.  It was the best we had ever done it, the audience was cracking up and responding the way I had hoped an audience would back when I first wrote it.  I was really proud of us and, for the first time, absolutely, wholeheartedly believed in it.  I knew we had put together a fantastic play.  Then the next morning we looked on the appropriate website and saw that we were done.  No judges would ever see it and we would never get a chance to put it up against others on a level playing field.  Only one show from each session moved on and–guess who–it was the last show from our session that would be advancing.  This was just to punctuate what a popularity contest the first two rounds really were.  We had watched it.  It was well done.  It was…cute.  We didn’t think it was even in the same league as what we had just done….didn’t matter.  So, the competitive side of me felt unjustly ripped off and led me smoothly into a solidly depressive hopelessness that lasted for a good week…which was great.  My writing has come to a standstill because I’m usually spending my energy battling myself on whether or not there’s even a point to it.  Obviously, my persistence sucks.  My discipline sucks.  My sense of “creating for the sake of creating” sucks.  I’m really not cut out for this battle…..but God is and He’s saying “stay”.  The last couple weeks have been spent trying to figure out what our next step is and the only thing that gets us excited is the idea of performing our show for the artists in our church followed by a call to arms for all of the creatively gifted people in our church to come together in collaboration in an attempt to find purpose and to glorify God as directly as possible with our gifts…and see what happens.  First steps still need to be made on that.  We’ll see.

Other stuff:

So, it’s starting to get to that point where it is hard to remember what it was like not living in New York (I don’t think it is a coincidence that that sounds like something a prison inmate would write.)  The big picture and the major stuff is still there in my head but the details and the feeling of living in the Midwest is becoming harder to conjure up in the ol’ memory bank.  No, that does not mean living here is starting to grow on us…I think it means that 8 months is a lot longer than it sounds.  Anyway…

I know it is unwise to draw broad conclusions from singular events but, until shown otherwise, I am very uncomfortable with the mindset of rich Jewish people in New York City.  I worked my very first Bat Mitzvah a couple weeks ago and the experience was strange.  Even if I had Bill Gates-type money I have a hard time imagining dropping $80,000 (minimum) on my daughter’s birthday party.  Now I know that turning 13 is a bigger deal than any other age according to Jewish customs but I’m pretty sure that it’s because of  religion-based reasons that that is the case…and it’s difficult to take the relgious ceremony aspect of the whole thing seriously when you have someone with a microphone screaming to a room full of 12, 13, and 14-year olds (while the appropriately inappropriate rap song from 5 years ago thumps loudly from the speakers) “Where’s the sweat dropping?!!!” and the children respond along with the music, “Sweat drip down my balls!  Aaaall these b****es crawl!  Aww skeet skeet motherf—“….and on it goes from there.  This while all the parents look on smirkingly and the two adults paying for the party smile wider because the company they paid to come in to scream at and dance with these tweens are, in fact, making this party more lively.  I suppose it’s no different than families who celebrate Christmas with all the gusto and flair one could imagine and never pay one ounce of attention to Jesus (the Christ in Christmas) through the holiday.  Whatever the case, it made me uncomforable…but I did take home a lot of mints that had dear Molly’s name and birthday all over them.

Met some b-list celebrities at work recently.  It wasn’t really that cool and I didn’t have anything to slip to them so they could give it to their agents or any other cliched act like that.  The most exciting for me was meeting Devin Harris and Bobby Simmons of the New Jersey Nets.  If I were running a gossip column, I would tell you that Bobby Simmons ordered a Grey Goose and tonic and Devin Harris ordered a Shirley Temple because he was taking cold medication and I looked like a giddy school child getting to chat with NBA players…but I’m not, so don’t even ask.

I want “Up” to win Best Picture.  It featured the most beautiful montage in cinema history at the beginning of the film and it’s easily the best movie I’ve seen this year.  “Avatar” was visually amazing in 3-D but it doesn’t stand up as just a movie against Pixar’s latest gem.  Speaking of which…Pixar:  greatest production studio ever?  I think so.  Aaaaaaand bleh.

Missing Dad…

February 6, 2010

Arthur George VonBehren – November 15, 1947 – February 5, 2002

Eight years ago today my Dad died. This particular blog isn’t about chasing dreams in NYC, or wondering aloud where next months rent will come from, or speculating on what is our next step as “aspiring artists”. The fact is, I’m 985 miles from home, and on the day that I most want to be able to visit the big Lutheran Cemetery on the South Side of Peoria, IL and wrap my arms around my mom and hug her until I can’t hug anymore, I can’t.

I saw literally thousands of people on my way to and from work today. I caught myself scanning the faces in the swirling crowd that crossed 42nd Street and 8th Avenue at 5:20pm, desperate to see a brown, hand-me-down trench coat gracing the frame of a 5’10”, 54 year old man, complete with thick framed brown glasses and a rather dapper looking tweed hat.

As far as I know my Dad never visited New York. Though I have to hand it to him, for a mid-westerner, he sure did walk like a New Yorker; quickly, with an agitation that only stems from being paranoid or late, constantly propelling himself forward unnecessarily with his arms, as if he was sure the best thing in life was just around the corner. I think the crowds would have intimidated him. I know he would have fallen in love with every pastry shop in Astoria. And I’m positive he would have made us go for a jog through Central Park, all the while him pointing out the different types of trees and making sure that I ran on the “inside” so that if a rogue cyclist hit an unassuming runner it would be him instead of me. Yep, Central Park would have been his favorite and I can just imagine him saying “This is so be-u-tee-ful, Jenny” while walking through “The Ramble” on a breezy September day.

He wasn’t a risk taker, and he was a fervent worrier when it came to his kids. So how would he feel about his youngest daughter, his “Jenny”,  packing up and moving to the big city? He would have been secretly proud, but wouldn’t have shown it. Instead of telling me how much he would miss me when we left, he would have just looked at me with a little grimace and said, “Now call your mother, cause this is gonna be hard on her, okay?”  He would have collected the postcards that we’d send home and put them on display for his 4th graders, and maybe even add in a special unit on New York City to his social studies curriculum. He wouldn’t have called, but instead would have typed out letters (complete with some goofy clip-art graphic) at least once a month,  mailing them in legal sized business envelopes with our address scrawled in his almost illegible handwriting. And when he watched cheesy PG movies with my mom at home he would have said, “That’s going to be my girl”,  instead of the “That could be you someday, honey” that I heard growing up. 

But this is all speculation.

I was twenty when my Dad passed away, and my life looked very different then. As far as he knew, I was en route to being a professional violinist, although my shoulder injury was already starting to stunt my progress in that direction. My Dad never saw my junior recital which was the following month. Nor my college graduation. He never met my future husband.  When Eric decided to propose, he had to  courageously face  my Mom to ask for my hand.  My Dad didn’t know that I decided to size down his father’s wedding ring and use it as my own.  And on my wedding day it was my uncle Larry who graciously walked me down the aisle in lieu of his brother. I’ve worked over a dozen jobs the past eight years, been in at least a dozen plays, fell in love and married the man of my dreams, and made the biggest “move” of my life. And I have to pinch myself to remember that he wasn’t there for any of it.

I remember a week after he died, wishing that I could somehow find a telephone to heaven, just to simply hear the voice that was still so fresh in my ears. I was afraid that I would forget that sound. That timbre. I know now, that is impossible. It will forever be secure in the inmost corner of my heart, along with the smell of his tweed hat, the feel his big tan calloused hands, and a thousand other things that one never thinks to cherish about someone while their alive.

This story actually does have a good ending believe it or not. I mean, February 5, probably will always be the worst day of the year for me, and I never expect to do anything except have a good cry with a box of tissues and an ample stash of chocolate. But, the good news, and it is good news, is that my Dad believed that Jesus loved him enough, despite all of his flaws, to die on a cross for him, so that he could spend eternity in the best place imaginable: Heaven. Just like all the good, goal oriented New Yorkers, anxiously walking towards the next best thing right around the corner, my Dad new his whole life where he was headed and why. He got their faster than any of us ever wanted. But knowing that he has seen “what’s around the corner”, gives me a jealous hope to keep on walking in the right direction.

End of December/Beginning of January

January 20, 2010

So, Jenn and I got to go home for Christmas.  There was a lot of talking, a lot of playing with nieces and nephews, a lot of gooood eating, and a lot of relief and smiles.  I can’t really talk too much about it though because it then took about 2 weeks to break out of the depressive state that being back in New York caused.  It was wonderful being home and it was really hard coming back here.  That funk means that there really hasn’t been much going on because it took a whole bunch of work just to get up in the morning for awhile.

Work had basically forgotten about me when I got back.  The one scheduled night I got to come back to was New Year’s Eve.  An Asian-American young professionals group rented out the entire facility but left it as a cash bar so our tips were dependent on the sales we made in our section–which of course is typical for serving at most restaurants but not so much at our place with huge parties like this (groups usually pay a ridiculous sum and a gratuity figure is factored into the cost which is then split between the servers/bussers/runners that worked the party and it shows up on your check).  One highlight of my section was getting to witness the most absurd guy-dancing-at-a-party ever–if silly cartoon octopi existed in real life and they had a singles bar/club…this guy would be a go-go dancer at that club.  The lowlight of my section was that many expensive bottles were being bought in the section to my right…and many were being bought to my left…so the people clogging up my section mooched all night off those two mini-parties and didn’t want to buy a thing.  I’m pretty sure my persistence was the only reason I sold anything but even that was sad.  On a night where our facility sold over $100,000 in alcohol, my total sales were $92.  On a night where a few servers made their rent money, I got $27 in tips.  That was upsetting.  The other lowlight was staying until 6am trying to pre-clean after the most disgusting, violent, disrespectful, horrifically drunk group of people I’ve ever witnessed finally left the joint…in total shambles.

The next week I got scheduled for zero shifts.  So, we were freaking out a bit and thinking I was once again going to have to look for yet another job.  God was good, though, and two people called during the week looking for someone to cover their shifts so I was able to pick those up and remind the managers that I’m not terrible and that I, in fact, exist and can do this job well.  Thankfully that was all that was needed and I’ve been scheduled for 3-4 shifts in the couple weeks since then.  Crisis averted.

We have been rehearsing our show once a week and things are going pretty well.  As a director I’m running into the difficulty of directing Scott to be completely himself in his part (which is not as easy as I expected) and then directing Jenn to be completely not herself in her part…and then directing myself while paying attention to what they’re doing isn’t simple either but I think once we get closer and start stacking rehearsals on top of each other, things will start to click.  Finding set pieces for the show is proving to be a lot more difficult here than I’ve ever seen in Peoria.  Everyone wants to be paid for using their furniture and we don’t have many contacts.  If God wants this to be an amazing show, though, it will all come together no matter how difficult it seems right now…I know that.

Jenn was put in touch with a really cool arts center by a co-worker.  This co-worker teaches beginning ballet at this place and when she found out Jenn had taught piano and violin previously she made the connection for Jenn because the facility was in need of a beginning piano teacher.  Jenn sent references and her resume to the director and then she was told to come and to be prepared to teach the class so they could see how she interacted with children.  My wonderful and talented wife then proceeded to wow the director and the couple parents that were sitting in on the lesson and, after the parents told the director that they were planning to pull their kids out of the program because of dissatisfaction with the previous instructor but would keep their children in if Jenn was hired, they hired her on the spot.  Right now it’s only one class but it has potential to grow and she might also be able to teach a few violin classes if that program keeps growing (they have an instructor already but it’s getting close to being too big for one person).  It pays well on a per lesson basis and it makes Jenn a heckuva lot happier than answering phones.  She has also been teaching violin to a young girl from our church so those few things combined mean that she has at least one day per week now where she can focus on music and teaching and not worry about it cutting into her regular job for that day of the week because it’ll end up being better money anyway.  For now, she’ll keep the office job but at least she’s got one day.  It’s pretty cool, as well, that it’s the kind of job that you just can’t get in Peoria without being associated with a school of some sort which, without a teaching degree, is impossible for Jenn anyway right now.  So….5,000 marks on the “con” side of the board for New York living and now…uh…4(?) marks on the “pro” side.

I just recently got to meet up with a friend, Kevin Parker, here in NYC which was awesome.  We hadn’t seen each other in about 6 years nor spoken in about 4 years but it was as simple a reconnection as they come.  I’m pretty sure he’s on his way to becoming Secretary of State but if I become massively rich before then I will employ him to find charitable causes to give my money away to.  We only had a couple of hours to hang out but it was really nice and a few people in his massive box of contacts might turn out to be very helpful out here for me.

A couple of random quotes:  (my wife and I are not vulgar, foul-mouthed people but I come from a family where, at least, we are very comfortable discussing subjects that might be taboo in other families which means that since we’ve been married Jenn has become much more liberal in some of her references and I’m still getting used to it)…..While home at Christmas, we were having a beautiful meal at her sister’s house.  It was kind of fancily displayed and there was a lot of it and it was all delicious.  So, Jenn was making “mmm this is good food”-type noises and moans, so her sister asked “how you feeling over there Jenn?”  Jenn replied, “I feel like my colon should get a prize!”…………………This past weekend we were enjoying our first dinner and a movie date in at least 4 months because we had some gift cards.  After dinner we ordered this amazing double-chocolate slice of cheesecake and were sort of eating in stunned silence for awhile until Jenn said, “this is like if sex and chocolate had a baby!”  I find that confusing on a few levels but it made me laugh anyway.

Middle of December

December 19, 2009

So, last weekend we filmed the short screenplay I wrote a few months ago which had been put off a couple times before….quite a learning experience.  We now know that if we are going to be using students to help us shoot these reel-building projects–and I can’t see any way that that would be changing–we need to assume that, no matter how big a game they might talk, they will have no idea how organized they must be to get 12 pages or more done/shot in a day or two.  I’m sure that is not the case with all students but we know now to be prepared for such a case.  We had gotten off work for Saturday and Sunday to shoot this thing because our guy told us that it would probably take a full two days to get it all done.  The night before we are supposed to shoot, I am told that the crew he had assembled is no longer available and asked if I know anyone with a car that could help pick up all the equipment in lower Manhattan and help transport it all to our apartment (where we were going to shoot)…because he didn’t realize just how much equipment there would be.  Eventually we work our way to the suggestion that we just shoot it at his apartment since the equipment is already there and get an assurance that we can shoot without a crew.  The next morning, we get there and rework the blocking because of the new space while he sets up the lights.  Just as we are about to start shooting a short while later, he realizes that he’s missing a necessary piece to be able to fit the camera on the tripod and some other apparently important piece.  It had managed to make its way into the afternoon by this time (late start due to subway delays and light set-up), so after some discussion, we decided that Jenn and I would just do the scene all the way through and he would watch and figure out a shot list for the new location and what the lighting set-up would be for each shot so that we could fly through the shoot without much thought the next day.  This seemed like a good idea but he didn’t want us to do it again after we did it once and I looked at his script and there were really just a few notes on each page.  I asked him what he needed from us and if he needed us to come up with the shot list–which was probably the 4th time since meeting him that I asked that question–but he said we had given him everything he needed and he knew exactly what he was going to do once we started shooting the next day.  I should know by now that, in New York, you just don’t take anybody at their word, but I did…wanting to trust him and believe that he knew what he was doing because I still don’t know anything about the other side of the camera.  Jenn and I arrived the next morning at exactly the time we all decided on the day before.  We woke him up.  So, we got costumed and ran through lines while he set up lights again.  An hour or so later, he was ready to start shooting and then realized that no sound was getting picked up by the boom mike or the microphone on the camera.  After 30 minutes of fiddling and experimenting, we got in a cab to run to his school and see if someone knew what was wrong.  The equipment person decided the camera was broken and took another 30 minutes to find a camera for us that actually worked.  We got back to the apartment and finally started shooting, but after finishing up the exterior/outdoor/set-up shots, and starting the actual scene, it became obvious that this guy had a very short attention span.  He started yelling cut at completely random times and then readjusting himself for a brand new shot and then asking us to start where we left off as if he had forgotten that editing is supposed to be a post-production task.  It was as if he was shooting the film as he saw the final version in his head.  Strange and a big waste of time is what that was and, after a few frustrating exchanges, it was suddenly apparent to Jenn and I that we would need to, quickly, come up with a shot list for the entire film and keep up a checklist of everything that could possibly be done with the lighting set up as it was because daylight was fading fast and we didn’t have another day to squeeze in any shooting.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal if we knew ahead of time that this would be needed but we had been assured that that wasn’t part of our job.  Anyway, eventually our guy relented to just doing what he was told and admitted that he had no idea where we were in the script or what was going on–which couldn’t have been helped by the fact that, by this time, he hadn’t eaten anything in at least 16 hours.  (He said he never eats while shooting because it slows him down…which obviously he decided some time ago that that would be his “thing” and people would talk about it and maybe it would become legendary–“I heard he never eats while shooting”  “yeah, he’s amazing.  We’ve been shooting for 22 hours so far today and he hasn’t even had like a fry or anything.”    “That’s amazing.  He looks like Ghandi.”    “Totally…and he’s definitely weakening too.  I saw him trip over a piece of tape a few minutes ago.”    “Plus, I think he’s losing it a little bit.  He keeps yelling at me and calling me Oprah…but I’m not…Oprah I mean.”    “Maybe that’s why he added the pink unicorns into this tense courtroom scene.”    “Talk about suffering for your art…”      “Amazing.”  )  With that system in place and him just trying to find interesting shots from where we told to him to be, we moved at a pretty quick pace and managed to finish up just as the sun was going down–though we did only get one take for almost every shot, which is dangerous…I mean what if Jenn picked her nose with both hands in one of the shots and we didn’t notice or what if I looked too incredibly handsome in multiple shots for the story to even be believeable?…..heee-yah…just kidding…but I’m sure you get the point.  Editing won’t start until January and I guess we’ll see how we did once that process begins.  There was a lot learned that day and editing will offer a whole lot more to learn.

Work has been good.  A lot of prayer has been put in to make sure that I’m working hard, keeping a good attitude, doing what I’m told, and not being effected by all the slight debauchery going on around me.  It’s really nice when Jenn and I get to go in or go home at the same time…it reinforces this whole team-first concept in everything we do.

But now we have the next week off because WE GET TO GO HOME!!  I am writing this around 1AM  EST and by 4am we will need to be at the subway station to take us a few stops so we can catch a 4:15am bus to take us to the airport to check in for our 6:30am flight out of LaGuardia and to Chicago then Bloomington.  We are praying that the severe snowstorms predicted to hit will come in after we have left and will not delay our visit at all and I am hoping that pure adrenaline will keep me going our first day back since, obviously, I will not be sleeping tonight.  Instead I will be thinking on how to most efficiently tackle all my nieces and nephews at the same time and how to show my friends how much I’ve missed them without licking their faces…which is what my current urge is…seriously…that’s how stinking excited I am.  I just hope we get a chance to see everyone we have missed and no one feels left out and that the days go by as slowly as days have ever gone…and in the midst of it all we manage to remember Jesus…entering this world through a back door sneak-attack to take on and wear first the filthy rags found in the barn and eventually all our sins so we could be seen blameless in the sight of the Lord.  I love Him so freaking much but it just never seems possible to give Him His due.  Merry CHRISTmas to everyone and thank you to those whom have blessed us with emotional, prayerful and, most recently, financial support.  I won’t name names because I don’t want to rob you of any rewards or blessings but please know that we are so very grateful.  Loooooove.