Sunday, November 29, 2009

The return of the Sunday Grateful

So, it was Thanksgiving a few days ago and its been a really interesting week of sneaky blessing lessons.

I started the Sunday Grateful blog inspired by Too Much Perfection...but my ADD kicked in after awhile and I wasn't particularly consistent. But the fact is, life really does seem to go better when I remember to be grateful for things, to acknowledge what is working in my life and keep my attention less so on the things that don't seem to be working.

This week a few things happened to really illustrate that its best not to judge your life so much. Religious people say that God has a plan for us. I've never bought that phrase. I'm pretty certain that God is pretty damned busy and doesn't have individualized plans for the billions of us on this planet...but that's for another day.

What I DO believe is that God, or the Universe or whatever it is, responds to our thoughts and behaviors as we dictate. And that sometimes things just happen. They might seem one way at a certain point, but later turn out to be something else.

Case in point: In January of this year I was evicted from my home of 10 years. That apartment signified the end of a 2 year period of time when I was essentially homeless and living on friend's couches and spare rooms. So, when I fell a little behind on bills from medical expenses and then when I unexpectedly became jobless for a year and a half and I was struggling to catch up on rent, you can imagine that finally giving up was a huge and painful decision for me.

I had failed to take care of myself. I had failed to be a grown up and meet the most essential of obligations, rent payment. A struggle of more than a couple of years that I surrendered on.

It sucked. I was down on myself, down on the world, particularly down on the management company that owned the building that was essentially moving ahead because a payment had been and they decided to stick to the letter of the agreement so they could renovate the apartment and install bad plumbing and wiring and charge 4 times the rent I was paying. But the bottom line was that I was a failure.

Jump ahead to last Tuesday and I get an email from a friend of mine who lives across the street from that old apartment. The building is on fire, people are jumping out of windows to the firemen below, smoke and flames are everywhere. Bad wiring is the culprit according to the fireman my friend talks to. My apartment is one of 6 that are decimated.

Suddenly I feel pretty damned lucky and the fact that I lost a lot of stuff in the hasty move I had to make pales when compared to the thought of losing EVERYthing.

Then on a smaller note, this Friday as my brother, his new girlfriend and I are waiting for the bus home from Atlantic City, we are cold. He has to be at rehearsal in NY at 6, I need to be at work at 5. We wait for the bus. It arrives, but its been to two casinos before hand and only has room for 4 more passengers...we are the 10th, 11th, and 12th among about 40. The next bus will make me late for work.

Greyhound decides to supply a second bus. This is not uncommon practice, but in Atlantic City the bus ride is a gamble like anything else and there's just as much chance we'd have been sitting out there waiting for the next bus, which might have been just as crowded.

So the new bus arrives, completely empty, which means that with everyone on the line, we still have a lot of room and can stretch out... a near impossibility most times. AND, the normally 2 and a half hour ride to NYC is 2 hours and 10 minutes. So I am actually earlier than expected. Which reminds me that the trip from New York to Atlantic City and ultimately Cape May, is normally a 4 hour trip altogether and was 3 hours. Totally good fortune all around.

You never really know what's bad or good in the moment. There is only what is and what isn't.

So, I'm grateful for what is. And I am grateful for the first step toward a wisdom of ceasing to judge my life in every given moment and to simply live.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Right Across The Street From Russia

and here you see the phenomena of Sarah Palin in a nutshell.

The founding fathers created a way of governing that was pretty restrictive by today's standards. Videos like this begin to convince me that they might have been completely correct in this.

I won't go into the many many things that are wrong with what people say here. But if you post a question in comments, I'll be happy to answer. So...without further adieu, I give you Columbus Ohio Borders.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Long Thursday Journey: Part 2, What a night. Plus a touch of Friday.

3:00 pm: I'm at the office. It is of course odd to be here when I usually am not. But it's centrally located and has a usable men's room. Picked up some alcohol and hand wipes from the Duane Reade and start undoing the wax and glue and make goes faster than I thought. Awesome.

I tweet a few pics of it and head back to my desk, which is thankfully unoccupied for this earlier shift. I sit and take those damned shoes off and breath while co workers ask what I'm doing here so early and also how the gig went. I tell them...then remind Mark at the front desk that I will be late tonight for the memorial. I go back to my desk, rest my hips, catch up on email on the iPhone and catch about a 5 minute cat nap. It helps.

4:15pm. I head out. The memorial is scheduled for 5 and its a quick subway ride, but I figure I will see some familiar faces and want to have some room for conversation if necessary.

The subway's are cooperating and in minutes I am back in the neighborhood (The Upper West Side) where I grew up. I don't spend much time here now as I knew few people who still live in this now unaffordable area and it is also fairly unrecognizable from my youth.

4:40 pm: I'm at the memorial chapel. It is an UWS stalwart that I am grateful still stands, and I am reminded that the last time I was here was 25 or so years ago for the memorial of a college friend. The surreal is all over the place.

I walk into the main entrance and there is Alex, one of my first friends in high school. I hadn't seen him in quite a while and we'd suffered a bit of a falling out over the years, but we smile and embrace each other and he says how it does his heart good to see me. We get into the elevator and immediately start talking about how we've processed Mr. Eskow's death as if we'd been in touch every day for the past 30 years even though we've barely spoken for the past 10. It occurs to me that the last really lengthy conversation he and I had was the day of my father's memorial. This is just getting creepy.

4:45 pm: We get to the 2nd Floor chapel and I can see Jerry's daughter, Lisa greeting people. Lisa is only a few years younger than I am. I remember meeting her a few of the times she would visit our school to see her dad. She is still stunning and I can't quite fathom the fact that it has been 30 years since I have seen her. The wheel of life is humbling.

I go to check my coat and umbrella. The woman taking care of all that is Lisa's college roommate (whose name escapes me). She's very sweet and we talk a bit about how things are going. I ask how Lisa is doing, how Libi (Jerry's wife) is doing. She says rather well. He'd been sick awhile but there is still a weirdness to processing it. I nod agreement and mention that I had to blog about it in order to work out my own oddness, I could only imagine how hard it is for them.

She looks at me and says “I read that blog, I think that was you. It was wonderful. Lisa loved it!” I suddenly remember that when I sent Lisa an email of condolence from the notice of Jerry's death that I had told her about the blog if she cared to read it. I actually had no expectation that in everything she had to do, that she would even get to my email, let alone read it. But apparently a google search of Jerry Eskow brings up the blog and her ex husband had found it. I'm amazed.

The woman turns and waves to Lisa then points to me “He wrote the blog” she says. So I wave to Lisa and go to her to say hello and she tells me how much she and her mother loved the blog. That it meant a great deal to her. I start getting teary because well...I hadn't really thought about having an impact like that just from a little blog. It both humbles me and feeds my ego a little.
Lisa introduces me to her mother who tells me that I got Jerry exactly right. Lisa follows up by saying that her mother never does much on the internet. Again, I am floored.

I go into the main chapel area and look at the posters of show's he's directed. A great photograph of him that I remember being in his office and a picture from one of the Senior productions from high school. (The photo is the same one used here) It happens to be a production that my ex wife was in, though she isn't in the picture. Our Town, and Ving Rhames is playing George's father, if I remember right. He was one of the fathers. Anyway, I hadn't seen that pic, aside from the reproduction in my ex wife's yearbook, in 26 years. I grin.

Alex and I look for a seat but see several of our old teachers. Mr. Britten one of our acting teachers who had been one of the original Bozo the Clown's back in the 50s, who has the energy of a teenager despite having to be in his late 70s. Mrs. Koehler, another acting teacher whom I had Junior year. Despite white hair she looks the same and is just as commanding as she was then. Mrs. Schwager who was a math teacher when I was there, but also good friends with many in the drama department. She looks about the same which seems impossible. Later, Tony Abeson comes in. He started teaching there when I was a senior and was a very strong influence on my work. It's a flood of people and memories.

As Alex and I make our way from all the teachers, my ex wife comes in, escorting Mrs. Schein, who was my first acting teacher there. When my daughter was about 4 or so she met Mrs. Schein on the street with my ex. They hit it off immediately and there were frequent visits hence.

But the last few years Mrs. Schein began to succumb to Alzheimer's and it was clearly taking its physical as well as mental toll now. She too was a very dynamic woman, very youthful even as she grew older. She always wore black, like Mrs. Koehler and they both were known to wear leather pants. It is disconcerting to see her now, barely able to walk, and unable to recognize anyone there.

I'm thoroughly impressed and proud of my ex wife for bringing her. Being with very sick people has always been something that has frightened my ex. But she worked through it, obviously, out of love for our old teacher. (My ex graduated in 1977, we met several years after high school but that's another story). They sit together with the other teachers who are very emotional to see “Roz” and thank my ex profusely through tear streamed faces. Its nice to see.

Sometime after 5pm because here I lose all track of time pm:
Paul comes in. Paul, like Alex is a year younger, but came in at the same time I did. He started as a freshman, I as a sophomore (yeah you can do that in NYC, or could back then). He was my first scene partner and when Mrs. Schein sees him she tells him he was a very nice boy. But Paul remembers how many times she admonished him as something or other and doesn't realize how far gone she is. He makes a humorous reference to it, no malice intended, just a fun ribbing, til he realizes what's happening. It hardly matters.

Many others I know of course are there, and there are many hellos. Alan, a guy from two of 3 classes under me but who was there when I was a senior comes in. His girlfriend in high school lived in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn as mine did and so we hung out a lot too. Alex, Paul, Alan and I are sitting together and the memorial finally starts. I think its about 5:20.

Lisa speaks. She tells funny stories about Mr. Eskow's passionate approach to life, his need to master certain things like mixed drinks or the perfect omelet. Stories of her young son and him. How he dealt with Parkinson's with humor. She finishes by saying that she was an only child, but that when she would visit her dad where he taught, she felt like she was part of a huge family. She speaks of how she loved that old building we used to be in. How it was a kind of magical castle of creativity. I smile and get a bit misty because she's exactly right.

Next is a guy that Mr. Eskow grew up with, went to WWII with and then college too...turns out like me, Jerry grew up on the Upper West Side. And I laugh at some of the stories describing certain streets...despite the decades distance between us they were much the same up until 15 or 20 years ago, so I recognize a lot.

He tells a story that strikes Alex as amazing, about a young woman that Jerry had fallen in love with. I won't go into detail but I'll get back to it later.

More family members speak, nephews, a brother...and then the rabbi says that if there is anyone who wants to speak or tell a story, that the the floor is open.

This strikes me as terribly dangerous in a room filled with about 300 theater people. We love to talk.

Alex gets up. But someone closer beats him to it. This happens several times. Paul leans forward and suggests that all four of us go up, but I feel like I'd just be repeating my blog.

A couple of more people go and then Paul who has the aisle end of the pew, stands...we all stand too. I realize I had something new to say.

Paul gets up first. He talks about how he briefly dated Lisa Eskow. He also spent time with Mr. Eskow in the mornings and have conversations about this or that. Jerry really liked us and enjoyed talking to us. The story was about how one day, Jerry, silently made it clear that dating his daughter was not in the cards for Paul. He just sat with his knee over the other, hands clasped over, peering over the top of his glasses at Paul and Paul said. “This isn't a good idea is it?” Jerry shook his head. That was that. The room laughs.

Alan is next and he tells the story of how it had fallen on Mr. Eskow to tell Alan that his father had died. How patient he was in the telling and how he sat with Alan quietly, telling him that whatever he needed he'd take care of it. A ride home, calling someone else to keep him company home if he preferred. Whatever was needed. Alan said he decided to go home on his own, but how Jerry continually followed up with him over the rest of the year.

My turn. I stand at the podium and suddenly find myself overcome with emotion and have a hard time catching my breath. What the hell is wrong with me? I breath in and introduce myself and mention how the four of us all hung out together in one form or another.

I go on to talk about how the school is very important to me, how it is in my bones. I ended up marrying a woman from there and though we didn't stay married it was such a part of our beings that when our daughter was 5 she decided to go there too (though a different building, she still did it).

Those years are the first time in my life I was in a place I knew I belonged. Where was safe to fail in my work. And fail I did on more than one occasion, but also I had terrific successes.

I pointed out Mrs. Schein, who according to my ex beamed at her mention, and how she taught the basics and how to think through a character analysis. How to hold myself and begin to think well of myself. Mrs. Koehler who taught me that attention to physical presence was as important as psychological analysis.

In my emotional state I flaked on Mr. Britten who was out of my line of site, but later said to him that what he had was a ridiculous joy for being there every day and that he made us all feel good in his class. There was never drama. There was Mr. Capalletti (sp?) how had a very subtle way about him and whos lessons tended to hit you on the back of your head when you weren't looking. And Mr. Abeson, who in my senior year taught me that actors and artists of all stripes have an important place in the world and that we should be proud of what we are. Who helped me clarify some of the language that had been taught me in that school and make it even more active. Who tried to teach me that poverty was not romantic.

In that speech I managed to tell these teachers what I had failed to tell Jerry Eskow. That they were important to me and that I loved them. I looked down toward Lisa and said to her that he had made all those people a part of that teaching there. And that it was indeed a castle and that he made it that way.

I was done and really really needed a glass of single malt.

Alex was up next and told the story of how Jerry had changed his life simply by telling him he needed a box moved from point A to point B...that Alex is now a professional in the stage hands union, indeed in Local 1, which takes a serious amount of skill and ability to get to and that it was Jerry who recognized that in Alex within his first few days in high school and that he knew that if Alex didn't have something to do at all times...there would be trouble.

He then finished by saying that he lived in the same building as this dancer that Mr. Eskow had fallen in love with in his youth. Alex did a paper on her for an assignment for Mr. Eskow. The paper was handed back to him with an A but absolutely no notes. Everyone else had had copious notes.

No matter how many times Alex asked why there were no notes, Mr. Eskow skirted the issue. Now Alex knew why. This strikes many of us as the highlight of the evening.

Another fella from around our time, Bill came up and thanked Jerry and spoke of his street life and how the school saved his life. We are a little dubious of this as we remember Bill as being a pretty cool kid right off the bat and not at all menacing. But apparently it is how he felt about himself and more importantly where he felt his life was going at the time.

Mr. Abeson got up and described what a “hot mess” he was when he came to PA and how badly he needed that teaching job and how on paper he was unqualified but that when he said he felt this was where he needed to be, all Jerry did was lean forward and say “Yes it is” and he was hired.

7:30 pmish: It is over and we are breaking up...we say goodbye to as many as we can. My ex is already gone having to bring Mrs. Schein home before she became too exhausted. I catch up with others there. Some whom I didn't remember but who remembered me (Freshman always remember the Seniors) Some vice versa. I am the only one from the graduating class of 1980 and I am rather disappointed by that fact. Ah well.

I say goodbye to Lisa who is leaving for home in Texas in a couple of days. She's in Austin and we joke about how Austin is the only place in Texas worth a damn. Libi thanks me again for the blog and says again how much I “got him and what he was trying to do”. I find myself wishing that I had managed to get Jerry while I was in high school, but glad I got there eventually. I remind Lisa that most of us are on Facebook and she should do it too and say hello. She nods. I don't think she will do it.

Paul, Alex and a few others and I have a beer/club soda/coffee at a nearby bar and trade stories about all the teachers. I still want a single malt, but I'm broke and I have to leave for work. The Magic Hat beer will do just fine.

8:35 pm: I say goodbye, we all remember that we are on Facebook and to stay in touch. I head downtown to the office where it is so dead I end up doing a little Corel training and watch Countdown and Rachel Maddow on line. They make me think about Fox & Friends, but mostly all night I keep thinking about the memorial. How much of a celebration it was. Joyous. There wasn't a single maudlin moment. A fitting tribute because Jerry would have hated maudlin. That much I knew.

1:15am: I am heading home in the car the company provides every evening after 10pm. I'm grateful for it.

1:45am: Home. I take off the Jos.A.Bank suit, those awful shoes and breath deeply. I sit down at my computer and finish off email, play a little Yoville and Farmville on Facebook to unwind and accept a couple of friend requests that popped up from the memorial, then send a couple of them myself.

There are already notes on the PA pages on Facebook about the memorial. Our speeches are mentioned which is sweet and I see that my blog has gotten a LOT of new hits since the memorial.

2:45am: I lay down. Too tired and achy to think about anything. I plug in my iPhone to speakers and wall cord and listen to Ambience Pacific Shore to let the crashing west coast waves waft me to sleep.

Thank you for today, Universe. Thank you for every day, but especially for today.

Goodnight Jerry.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Long Thursday Journey: Part 1. On The Fringe.

3:30am: I'm awake. I'm supposed to wake up to an alarm in another half hour, but my body, despite being on sleep aids has decided I need an extra half hour to get ready for the day. After a moment I decide my body is right. I have to shave my head and face and be very very thorough about so the extra time takes the sense of being rushed off the table. I am suddenly aware that I am waking up at the time I usually go to sleep. This is weird and it hits me just how long this day is going to be.

I get up, shower and do the shave thing. I'm excited. Today constitutes what is my first paying acting gig in many years, and even though its not a full on production, just a promo stunt, it feels really good.

5:00am. I am out the door in my new Jos.A. Bank suit and my charcoal grey longcoat. I haven't dressed this well in years and I am suddenly very aware that the neighborhood I live in isn't that great and its 5am and I am looking damned upscale. I walk cautiously and even cross the street when I see a couple of teenagers coming up the block toward me. Jeez. When did I become THIS guy?

5:15am: The A train arrives, running local. This is fine as it will take me right to the F. So far so good. I have to be at the hotel at 6am sharp to have my eyebrows covered. I'm excited and amazed to be upright. I listen to Dan Savage's podcast to stay awake. Nothing like listening to people's sexual issues and Savage's awesome if sometimes snarky advice before sunrise.

5:55am: I arrive at Stay..a new hotel on 47th street. I'm right near where I used to go to High School. It's the first of many moments of walking by significant areas of my past. The day is going to have an element of weirdness I hadn't anticipated.

6:20: I am in a small hotel room with 10 other guys with shaved heads in suits and two make up artists. I've had to get my own coffee as there is none provided. That irks me a little as coffee and pastries at gigs this early is pretty much SOP, but since I'm getting a free suit out of the deal, I get over it really fast and get my own coffee.

My eyebrows get spirit gummed, waxed and covered. I'm really looking like an Observer now. My inner actor is excited and dancing with my inner fan boy. The only thing better would be actually playing an Observer in an actual episode of Fringe. But this is damned fun.

7:00am: We are split into two groups of 5. One group is to go to the Today Show, the other, Fox & Friends. I am really hoping for the Today Show as those three morons on Fox & Friends really bug me. I am of course chosen to go to Fox. But I'm getting a free suit and $250 so I get over it.

7:15am to 8:40am: I am standing outside the Newscorp Building in Rockefeller Center doing the Observer thing. (Silent, watching, creepy) The show is broadcast and I am forced to remain stoic while Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson (her credentials according to their website is that she is the first classical violinist to be crowned Miss America.) and Brian Kilmeade kiss Rudy Giuliani's ass while he lies up and down and up and down. As I listen though I am relieved to realize that this scumbag won't be running for Governor of New York, which I think he has a shot at winning, but is instead running for President again, which will help him succeed in travelling from being America's Mayor to being America's least liked scumbag. Later Brian Kilmeade says “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but certainly all terrorists are Muslims” I nearly vomit. But I remain stoic and scare the hell out of passersby. Despite the 3 Blind Idiots in the background I am having fun...and at about 8:30 the show goes to break filming me and 3 of the other Observers on the street.

The first time I am on television since my episode of Law & Order 15 years ago and its on Fox & Friends. I'd be unhappy, but I'm on television and I'm getting $250 for the day and a free Jos.A.Bank wool and cashmere suit. I get over it real fast.

9:00am: Grand Central Station. Here the fun really kicks in as people are milling about and stopping and staring. Some of the other guys end up having pictures taken with passersby. I am just stared at, I love it.

10:00am: Times Square. We are in the area that has been closed off to traffic. I'm sitting at one of the chairs with a circular table. This is a major relief. My shoes are very bad shoes and I have been on my feet since 6:30 this morning and I have an artificial hip. I'm actually in a great deal of agony. It makes being stoic a bit easier.

The sitting helps a lot though I am still achy.

School children come by. They are about 9 years old or thereabouts and very excited by what they see.

“Hey that bald man moved” “so what stupid, they're not statues” “can I have a picture Mrs. Jones, with them?” “What are they doing” “It's a TV show, I think my mom watches it.”

They are adorable.

A pretty girl of about 20 is staring around with 2 friends of hers. She gets one of the folks who hand out Tabasco sauce and say “Watch Fringe on Fox tonight at 9” to take a picture. The girl sits in the chair next to mine and her friends stands behind her. I am “observing” facing away from her. I hear her say “Dude, don't look over at me, ok?”

Now to me, that just means, “Please look right at me” so I slowly turn my head and give her a wondering, quizzical stare. She jumps. “DUDE” and her friends laugh. I turn back and look across the street, she settles in and has the picture taken. The Tabasco girl is laughing and so are the pretty girl's friends. The walk off and I hear her say to her friends “I want to crack one of them up”. This almost cracks me up.

More tourists come by, more pictures are taken.

In the walks between sites we are working, I have passed by 10 different places where I've once worked and also where I am currently working. And of course, where I went to High School. Later today I will be attending the memorial Jerry Eskow. There seems to be a real symmetry to the day and I am glad that this is a day that I am working as an actor. Jerry would be pleased I think

11:30am: I am finally eating breakfast at Andrew's Coffee Shop and stopping to get vitamins at The Vitamin Shoppe. I wolf down the eggs and bacon and coffee...ahhhhhhhh. Then head over to Macy's for the second half of the event.

11:50am: Herald Square, lots of passersby. We are basically all together in another part where traffic is no longer allowed. But it is part of a crosswalk so there are plenty of people to creep out. And creep out we do. I stand at the edge and stare into the windows of passing buses which are slowed by traffic. I gaze at every passenger I can. Inside I am grinning at the reactions even though on the outside I show nothing more than an otherworldly curiosity. My back and hip and feet are aching again. So much walking. So much fun.

Twice I am asked what is going on by passersby. I silently direct them to one of the Tabasco people. Some are fans already and shout OH YEAH. Others say weird.

We are being filmed for the promo. Some genius walks up to the cameraman who is gazing intently into his viewfinder to set up a shot.

GENIUS: Excuse me, are you filming something?

CAMERAMAN: Calmly and nicely tells him what's going on.

INNERJOHN: No, moron, he's fucking the camera right here in the middle of Herald Square.

Really, I am exercising delicious self restraint today. $250 and a free suit. Did I mention its a $600 suit?

1:00pm: Union Square. The last site. We are all pretty exhausted actually but still having fun. There are benches and a couple of us sit and do our creepy resty thing. But there are few passersby in this part of the Square.

It starts to rain, so we go down into a subway entrance and scatter among the stairs and turnstiles. This affords a fantastic opportunity to stand at the gate and observe commuters who are unnerved by what is happening.

At a certain point a very drunk woman comes down the stairs...talking out loud about some craziness. I watch her out of the corner of my eye because she might be trouble. She's that drunk.

She pauses for a moment before the turnstile and looks around, stumbling a bit as she sees 10 men of varying ages, all baldheaded, all very well dressed. She shakes her head “Oh no no no. I need to get right the fuck home now. I can NOT deal with this. No no no sir” We are all desperately trying not to crack up.

1:50pm: A cameraman from the local Fox News station comes down to shoot us for awhile. He seems to be having a great time with it all and it turns out he's a Fringe fan. He says this should be on the news tonight, but a friend on Facebook tells me the next day that she saw me that morning. It creeped her out. I get very pleased.

I pass by so many places I used to work today, its like my past is sort of surrounding me. I decide its a way of saying goodbye to all those old non acting jobs while I am acting. I like it.

2:10pm: We are done. I am exhausted, but I have a memorial and then work later. So I grab more coffee, some spicy cinnamon gum and head to the office where I work to use the Men's Room to take off the wax and gum from my eyebrows. And get some rest. My body is really aching pretty badly.

I'm not even half done with the day yet.

To be continued...

If you are on facebook, you can check out what we did here. Scroll down for Sightings: New York and you can find me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Praise of passing teachers.

Most of us are pretty arrogant when we get to high school. Even the most modest of us. We are smarter than our parents who are exceedingly uncool and say the most ridiculous things. We know who we are and we know exactly what we are doing and where we are going and anyone that tells us otherwise is either full of shit or just has no idea what is going on.

This disease goes on until we start to approach 30. Then we start to realize that WE were the assholes and that we have a ways to go. If we are lucky.

A man named Jerome Eskow, who was the head of the Drama Department in my high school for many years before and after I went there, passed away a couple of days ago after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease.

I went to the High School of Performing Arts here in New York City. Most of you will know it as The Fame School. I hate that moniker, but that's a blog for another day. I entered the school in September of 1977 as a Sophomore and graduated in June of 1980. Yes, I'm that old.

To this day I consider my time in High School pretty much the most amazing years of my life. Not all happy, mind you, but every moment pretty fucking wonderful. I experienced all the awfulness that goes with adolescence. Confusion, anger, social awkwardness, etc. In spite of all that I enjoyed a level of creativity, exploration and artistic growth that I've never had since. Jerome Eskow was more responsible for that than any teacher I've ever had.

That's not how I felt about him through most of high school. Only toward the end did I begin to suspect how brilliant the man truly was, and how much he loved us and the school.

He came across as rather pompous, sitting on the edge of his desk, legs crossed, his hands cupped a foot or so from his face as his gravelly, slow voice expounded on and on about acting theory, theater history, "the business".

To so many of us, it seemed like endless droning by a man who loved to hear himself talk. While there's possibly a grain of truth to that, the fact is that we suffered from our own pomposity. The pomposity I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. We suffer from this pomposity to the extent that we don't hear the grains of wisdom that are offered to us. And as I came to realize later, Jerome Eskow offered a lot.

I won't get into the specific lessons here all at once. A lot of them won't make sense outside of the Theater. But one thing he said once has always stuck with me.

"We have to say I hate you a lot before you can really get to I love you" I don't remember the context of the day's lesson. But the point of what he was saying was that to truly love someone, or something, you have to really know them and accept them, warts and all. You have to pass through the negatives because at the end of all that is the positive that was there in the first place. The love.

As time passed and after I graduated, I would visit the old school, which later became the new school when it moved into a large and (to my mind) still soulless building a bit further uptown, I found that Jerry (who seemed to prefer me calling him that after graduation) had more to teach, more to talk about. But more and more it was about me and self acceptance. I continued to watch the way he would talk, the way he held himself...and it occurred to me that it wasn't so much pomposity as it was...PASSION.

Slow, gravelly, deep and I think even luxurious passion.

My life went on...I drifted away from visiting, Mr. Eskow retired as did most of my teachers. The last of the teachers that were there retired just a couple of years ago (while my daughter was a senior in that soulless structure).

I sent an email to Mr. Eskow a couple of years ago. Or I meant to. I never heard back from him, it occurred to me and its possible that either his Parkinson's made it too hard or that I, in my ADD just flaked on it.

It is a regret. I don't think I ever told Jerry how much I've grown to admire him as I've gotten older (more mature?). I didn't tell him that despite my rather disappointing career (so far) that much of my deepening as an actor and a teacher comes from the things he taught me, even if they took awhile to soak in.
I had other teachers at P.A. that I loved. Some were inspiring, others were brilliant in subtle ways, some, honestly, weren't very good at all.

Jerry seeped in, someone planting seeds in the dark of night while every one is sleeping. Then one afternoon you wake up...and there's a tree.

Rest In Peace, Jerry. Thanks for the trees.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sent to the Attic (without any supper)

So, as I suspected it would, Fox canceled Dollhouse this past week. So, as a result, I will be canceling Fox from my viewing activities.

Whining Fanboy you say? Over reacting? Well, maybe. But losing Dollhouse is really the final among many straws.

Dollhouse was not a perfect show. It took a few episodes to find its voice. Get its leggings. But this is true for every other Joss Whedon show, with the possible exception of Firefly, which I will get to in a minute.

Here's what Fox has/has not done, that has me deciding to tell them to go fuck themselves.

1-They put Dollhouse in exactly the same time slot where they put Firefly a few years ago. Friday nights...WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING TV!

2-They barely promoted the show themselves. This year alone on Twitter we counted hundreds of official Fox tweets for Glee, a show that was already a hit, and about 20 for Dollhouse which was strugging ON FRIDAYS.

3-They then blamed poor ratings.

4-They promoted upcoming episodes coming in November, but only as coming soons, very rarely on other time-slots, then within days they pulled the show OFF November for sweeps, thus playing a sort of game with fans. They assured us that this was a way to keep the show safe and help their numbers (the replacement, re runs of House, garnered a tiny tiny teeny weency improvement for that slot. Why? BECAUSE NO ONE WATCHES TV ON FRIDAY NIGHTS for network broadcast numbers to be worth anything.

5-Then after a week they cancel the show, demonstrating that EVERYthing they said previously was flat out, in your face, bald faced bullshit.

They treated Dollhouse marginally better than they treated Firefly, which is to say that they treated it like less stinky shit, holding it 3 feet away from their noses instead of 4. And they spoke to fans in condescending and again, lieing tones.

What they should have done, if they really wanted the show to hit, if they really wanted to give it its best opportunity like they said they did, was keep Fringe on Tuesdays (I'll get to that in a minute too) and have Dollhouse follow, giving the show a significant and popular lead in. If Dollhouse failed to garner an audience then, the network would have had a legitimate case on its hands and would actually be able to honestly say they tried.

I've written about this before. Gone are the days that network executives gave shows time to find their audience. Time for their audience to find them. No more. Everything has to be Lost now. Everything has to be Desperate Housewives (I just vomited a little into my mouth). Everything has to be Glee.

BTW, I have nothing against Glee, it doesn't interest me, but it sounds like a good show IN A GOOD TIME SLOT.

Firefly was probably Whedon's greatest creation for television. It was mature, featured the strongest cast that's ever been on one of his shows and it had a great premise. Sales of its DVDs continue to sell brilliantly. Fox claimed to learn a lesson from that. Their actions proved that to be bullshit. They did absolutely nothing for this show.

The pulled this same kind of half hearted nonsense on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles too. I wasn't a fan of the show for a number of reasons. But it clearly had a loyal base and its ratings on say FX (which Fox owns) or SyFy (Which Fox doesn't, and God I hate writing "SyFy", so fucking stupid)would have made it a smash. Given that Dollhouse's ratings were even better, that same action would have been even more successful

And finally.

I love Fringe too. It's on Fox so my giving up on Fox means I am giving up on Fringe (yes there are ways to watch it under the radar, I'm not going to advocate that). But they are doing it to Fringe too.

It was a hit on Tuesdays last year. It started slow and built really well. So what did Fox do? They moved it to Thursdays...OPPOSITE CSI AND GRAY'S ANATOMY. Two huge ratings giants. What the fuck did they think was going to happen?!!!

And now they are saying that they are unsure of the ratings and we will see about renewal.

And then of course there's Arrested Development. A brilliant show that yes, they stuck with but never did a single thing to improve its ratings. They played the martyr with it and also fucked with its fans.

Well guess what? FUCK YOU FOX. FUCK YOUR DISDAIN FOR GENRE TELEVISION and FUCK YOU FOR TELLING ME FUCK YOU. The Simpsons is boring now and you have nothing on that interests me. Much as I like Seth MacFarlane I have yet to get a single good laugh out of Family Guy (I know, I know....I just don't think its that good). I'll watch the remaining 7 episodes and then I'm done with you. Oh, and if I haven't said it enough already, FUCK YOU.

(Monday update) I forgot to mention that I think web shows are the future anyway. Like Dr. Horrible or The Guild. I don't think it's a bad idea to begin making clear to networks, both broadcast and cable that they are moving into irrelevancy as far as we are concerned.

I encourage you to join me in my boycott if you've had enough.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blog that's really stealing someone else's blog

So back in April I put up some pictures that were taken by professionals at the first Teabagger demonstration. Just stuff that displayed the monumental stupidity of this movement.

But yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers actually encountered a group of these geniuses in her home town.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Too Much Perfection. She doesn't normally get political and ranty the way I do. Its just a nice calm witnessing. Good on her.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OK, Look...

Yesterday sucked on a lot of levels for those of us that stand for sensibility, reason, fairness and freedom in this country. But it also wasn't the big deal that the main stream media keeps making it out to be.

New Jersey: For those of you who don't live in or nearby, you might think that this is a big deal. John Corzine, incumbent Democrat, ousted by a Republican for a bedroom at the Governor's Mansion in Trenton. But those of us from these parts know one thing, every 4 to 8 years New Jersey goes from having a Republican Governor to a Democratic Governor and vice versa. In my lifetime this State has never been able to make up its mind as to whom should run it. And Governors of both parties have never gotten it quite right. Only Tom Kean, a moderate Republican, managed to do a fairly decent job for the state, actually beginning to make inroads toward shedding The Garden State of its reputation for being a garbage dump.

Republicans cut taxes, then the localities have to raise property taxes in order keep their basics (garbage collection, etc. going) so they get ousted for not keeping taxes down. Democrats move in, raise taxes, improve schools etc...but the taxes got they get ousted.

The Senators are still Democrats and likely to remain that way. The State generally goes Blue for national just has a split personality for its locality. The northern part is generally blue, the southern generally red, with Indies in between. The Indies generally dictate what happens.

Oversimplification, but basically that's what happens over and over again. Corzine was not a great Governor. Better than he got credit for and better than his overspent campaign managed to communicate, but his negatives were enough.

Virginia: Virginia is a purple state with heavy emphasis on the red end of the spectrum. It went blue for Obama last year for several reasons. A-youth vote B-Sarah Palin C-Changing Demographics. But that doesn't mean that the change is going to be a steady climb. For one, the Democrat ran a lousy campaign in a state that always elects a Governor of the opposing Party to the White House. For another, its mostly a Republican it did what it usually does.

Neither of these elections mean a lot for either party.The next Governor of New Jersey will be a Democrat, very likely in 4 years because this guy is a clown. Virginia will continue to move toward blue, but at its own pace. Just like Georgia and Texas. (Yes, GA and TX are going blue...just watch)

New York 23: OK, this one surprised me. I really thought the conservative would walk away with this one, but here's the thing....other than 23, most of that area is blue, and it seems that 23 looked around, thought about which candidate had the better chance of doing more for them and went with the Democrat rather than the guy who was anti-abortion but had no idea what the local issues were. Parochial indeed, Dick Armey, parochial indeed.

So its one more Dem in the House for us. This is far more significant than losing two governorships. The Club for Growth and Sarah Palin and DICK Armey will tout their ability to oust the established Republican candidate, but they won the battle and lost the war. They think they will win next year, but that's highly doubtful. The district will likely feel good about their choice this year, especially since the economy will be picking up by then. Also, that area is about to be redistricted and in two years will be entirely Democratic. Its over.

Meanwhile we also did well with getting progressive into a seat in California. This isn't getting much play but its at least as important as NY-23 if its important at all.

Finally there is Maine...ahhhh Maine. But Rachel Maddow warned us. States are basically losing whenever it comes to these referendum votes. The anti Marriage Freedom people are well funded by the Catholic church, the Mormon church AND the Church of Scientology and well...people are bigots and self righteous beasts for the most part. I think that while it is disappointing, we should bear in mind that 5 years ago, the vote would not have been as close as it was. Close enough that a recount is likely.

Marriage equality is going to have to be done on a national level. As a friend at work said yesterday, it will likely have to be some kind of law saying that Civil Unions must provide the same protections and rights of Marriage and that Civil Unions are to be available in every state.

I don't see the LGBT community going for that. They seem to have decided on an all or nothing approach. But I think my friend might be right.

This is an issue of rights. It bugs the shit out of me that we allow elections that take away rights, but apparently we do. And apparently we do indeed vote to remove rights. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

We will get there. We've been moving in that direction quite a bit, and we have a generation coming up that doesn't even believe this is an issue. Indeed, most of that generation voted for Obama as their first national vote last year. Maybe this is small comfort to my gay brethren, but it is a comfort at least....I hope.

(Friday addition)

OK...seriously, I don't think I've said 2 nice things about Republicans on this blog, but the key words have attracted an ad to contribute to the Republican Governors Association.
Tone Deaf Much? Out of Touch Much?...Yes I do believe so