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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why I'm an Actor

I just finished watching Akeelah and the Bee.

Akeelah is an 11 year old girl with a talent for spelling and she gets encouragement and support along the way to reach her goal. It made me think of my own childhood and how my parents were there for me financially and spiritually but were unable to reach beyond that and give me any practical help about "what I wanted to be when I grew up."

My dad always tried to pressure me to do something without trying to find out what that was. He always talked about "passion" but didnt know how to instill it in me. He made these vibrant speeches about why you had to have it and he was deadly serious. I was scared of him.

Growing up, I was always trying to entertain people. I put on magic shows and entered talent competitions for stand up comedy. But that was it. They never asked me about why I did those things or made any attempt to lead me in a direction. My dad just wanted me to have some direction. I remember one time he put so much pressure on me to come up with something that I blurted out I wanted to be an air traffic controller just so he would be quiet about it. I didn't really. Probably I had seen air traffic controllers save people in movies and so that's what I thought of. I just wanted him to be proud of me since he was out there pushing himself his whole life so his children would have the opportunity for learning he didn't have.

He struggled as a child and his father was frequently violent, telling him he was good for nothing, and he would never make it. He fought against that and worked hard as a young man just to prove his father wrong.I never had to do that. My grades were always good enough in school even without studying. I never had to get even with anyone. I just had to stay out of his way.I wish they had been there to help me with my homework or to stop to find out what I wanted.A lot of things that other people take for granted I was never taught. I just sort of muddled my way through life in probably a continued effort to stay out of his way.

The one thing that began to be a constant for me was movies. I felt things when a movie told a good story - pain, anguish, love, hate. I understood how the characters could feel that way. My mother gave me a soft heart and I was deeply affected by the things I saw. Just after college I made a halfhearted attempt to move to New York and be an actor with a friend of mine. He passed up the chance, saying sales made him more money than acting could. So I let the dream fade away. I didn't really tell my parents about, it didn't really fall into the few amount of things we talked about. They just wanted to make sure that I was happy, and I so hated to dissapoint them that I couldn't tell them that I wasn't.I ended up working for my dad and helping to run a custom building company. He loved having me there with him every day. Sometimes we would take off work and go to the movies or eat breakfast at our favorite restaurant.His speeches had softened over the years.

By now, he realized how much pain he had caused his children and began to regret things. We started to open up more and he always wanted to make sure that I was in the right place.Then one morning in our daily meetings he told me that he was thinking about me, and wanting to move to New York and he said that he wanted to make sure that fear didn't stop me from following my dreams.

I was sobered by that message and immediately took heart and announced that I was moving to New York to be an actor, which is where I am now 2 years since that pronouncement (I've been here nearly a year). Sometimes I get down because I don't get enough encouragement. I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing but it seems so mind boggling sometimes. Where do you turn to? What do you do? Well, apparently you keep plugging away and you never never give up. I falter sometimes and lose sight of that vision and get caught up in my own despair of the situation and sometimes the ship gets righted.

I spent the whole day playing video games and eating and other mind numbing stuff. I felt the weight of the world. My parents couldn't be there for me, I couldn't feel God there for me when I read the Bible a bit, but when i was watching that movie, I felt so happy to be alive.Akeelah and the Bee was such a sweet story about wanting something so badly and never losing focus on that vision. It took her 11 months of studying. I've been here that long and I just don't know when it will get any easier, but when Akeelah won that spelling bee competition I cried, because I had done it with her. I was there with her when her mother said she couldn't go to the competition and when she told her later it was because she didn't want to see her be a loser.

Before I came here, my parents expressed their own fears about the terrible things that might happen to me when I came here and some of them have probably come true.

But I'm still here, I'm still standing.I'm an actor because that's what's in me. I feel it stronger than anything else. I'm writing my own story now, one that will continue and will flourish and will get better. People ask me how New York is treating me, and I tell them it gives you what you put into it.

I want to put in my all. My parents wouldn't expect any less.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Am I Doing?

Some people have commented on the strangeness of my last post. Some people haven't commented at all. While some others have not read it. I feel bad for those people, because they'll never know what it's like.

Now there is a good reason why I was so off last week. I've been working like a maniac all summer. No hold up. Let me tell the story first for those who came in late.

Life in New York City has been really hard. I lived in Brooklyn with a sumo wrestler who subsisted on hot dogs and corn flakes and my other roomate smoked 5 cigars in the apartment a day and yelled at his mother weekly on the 3 in the morning and 6 in the morning...Then he produced an eviction notice showing that I had to get out in 7 days.

This was fun, because I had been there for about 5 months then and so I was really getting some semblance of stability. I loaded all my stuff into my car and then paid an old man to sleep on his couch for 5 days. He kicked me out 2 days earlier than I thought he was going to, so I was back in my car again. I stayed in Harlem for 7 days with superficial friend while trying to stay away from black guys and crackheads at 3 in the morning.

I forgot to mention that at the first couch location I had a suitcase of pants thrown away by the garbagemen because I left it on the sidewalk in front of my car...And at Harlem I had a rock thrown threw my window and my cablebox stolen.

Additionally I lost 3 different restaurant jobs during this time and was not working for weeks at a time more than once. God was really grounding reality into my head, I think to prepare me.

All this time meanwhile I had been going to a Christian artist group called the Haven and meeting with extremely limited success with making friends or girlfriends, which was my only reason for going there and pretty much remains so to this day. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the worship and the small group discussion, but I go to church or the Haven every week hoping to make friends and meet girls. I hope I'm not in the minority in that opinion.

So I made a really good friend at the Haven in a short amount of time which is never a good sign. Like 2 weeks after I met him, parallel reality was getting really clingy and whiny about how I wasn't a good enough friend to him. Yeah, exactly like having a girlfriend except without all the touching and making out, etc.

Parallel friend got evicted at the same time I did for messing around with his roomate, and he managed to convince me and Too Lazy to Shave to be roomates with him in the East Village where we would be taking over essentially what was designed as a 1 bedroom apartment recently vacated by Crack Addict who Parallel friend was best buds with and where we previously were having Bible studies.

So I spent a month there (not working), mostly with Too Lazy to Shave because Parallel Friend was often either in the mental hospital relaxing between "episodes" or having sex with his new girlfriend that he was introducing Christianity to.

Crack Addict dropped a bomb on us by informing us on a Tuesday that a transvestite was moving into the place on Thursday and did I have somewhere else to go.

So, broker than I had ever been, I moved onto another couch on the Upper West Side with the Calvinist who had never been married and was extremely eccentric. We got along very well and I listened as he instructed me on the Westminister Confessional, sometimes twice daily.

I still was not working, yet again. I was going to job interviews and looking for apartments constantly. It drained all my mental and financial resources further. It was a harrowing experience and I am grateful for the constant Biblical instruction without which I might not have made it.

To be continued: only because this got really long and i sorta have other stuff to do.