Archive for December, 2004
Thursday, December 9th, 2004
All right, get out your pens and pencils and a notebook. The following will be on the test, and if you do not pass the test, you *will* fail.
You can no longer make me wait for you.
From the age of five, I sat out in front of my school or my piano lesson waiting to be picked up. From the age of six, I sat in class waiting for the bell to ring. Since I became an actor, I have sat outside rooms waiting to audition, I have sat in dressing rooms hearing “half-hour” then “ten minutes” then “five minutes”, and between those two experiences, I sat by the phone waiting to hear if I had the part.
I have waited for countless hours, sitting in cars, sitting in lobbies, sitting outside restaurants. Every trip to the doctor, every trip to the DMV, every time more than three members of my family have a meal together, I am wearing my coat and standing outside, saying outloud to passersby, “What can they be doing? What can possibly be taking so long? When I was told the time for this to take place, right now was the time, nothing has changed, so why am I the only one standing here?
I was a caesarean baby. I wasn’t even *born* on my own schedule.
No longer. I can’t do anything about the waiting to hear if I have the part, I can’t change the doctor or the DMV. But so help me God, if we set up a time to do something, you either honor that time or I will walk the fuck away. From here on.
Let me be clear:
1. If we say, “I’ll be there some time after 11”, and you show up at 3:30, that’s totally fine. 3:30 is after 11. I can’t complain.
2. If I have to wait in line because there is no assigned time (the DMV) or because lives hang in the balance of your schedule (doctors) then I’ll wait.
3. If I invite you over to dinner, but I don’t assign a time, then I don’t expect you to be there at 7:00. Or 7:30. Because who knows what time “dinner time” is. Last night I had some people over, I wasn’t sure when anyone was coming, so I made food that would stay warm or that would be good re-heated.
4. You will still be late sometimes, and there are tons of reasons. But there is a difference between a reason and an excuse. If you were late because traffic is really bad at 5:30 PM, that’s a reason but it isn’t an excuse. You’re not *excused*, fucker. Leave earlier. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at 9 AM, you better account for the other people who are going the same place.
5. A perfectly reasonable explanation for why you are late is “I fucked up and didn’t plan my schedule well.” If you are late to for an appointment and you say this to me, I will like it a lot more than “I couldn’t find my keys”, or “today has just gotten out of hand”.
Even more important is this: When you don’t hold an appointment you have made with me, you are telling me that my time isn’t worth thinking about, that I have to be subservient to your schedule. If you are a doctor or a government agency, then you’re right. If you are a *FUCKING TALENT AGENT* then you are *FUCKING WRONG*.
Here is the standing rule. You get the same grace period as if we were meeting for a movie. If we’re going to see a 7 o’clock movie, we would meet at 6:40. The movie starts at 7 whether you’re there or not. So, from now on, if I have an appointment that is not met by twenty minutes past the appointment, I will leave.
I’m serious. Dinner? Movie? Play? Meeting with a talent agent who is going to try to get me work? Golf? Whatever it is, after twenty minutes, I’m leaving.
How do you stop me from doing this? It’s a two step process.
First, you call me, or you send out a nurse, or you send out your gay snotty-ass assistant to talk to me. Tell me where you are, what your revised schedule is. If we’re supposed to meet at 7, and you now know that I will leave at 7:20, then you have to call me *at seven*. If you show up at 7:15, I’ll deal with it, I made this twenty minute deal publicly. But if you call me at 7:20 and I’ve been standing in the cold for twenty minutes, I’m gonna leave anyway.
Second, you *APOLOGIZE* to me. Once our appointment is finally kept, don’t tell me that my time has been disregarded because your life is so fucking hard. If I set up an appointment with you five weeks ago, then your assistant called me to confirm last week, and then yesterday your assistant called back to move the meeting earlier by fifteen minutes, well, then your *FUCKING JOB ISN’T REALLY A FUCKING SURPRISE TO YOU, IS IT?” If you think to yourself, “I could fit in an hour to meet Sean for lunch” but you didn’t figure in 45 minutes on the subway, then you fucked up and you owe me an apology.
I have four careers going right now, which net me a total of about 11,000 dollars a year. I have something to do every single second I’m awake, and lately, I’ve had stuff to do when I should be sleeping. *RIGHT NOW* I have something to do that’s far more important than writing this blog.
But more important than that is my announcement. When it comes time for me to die, I am going to point out to my maker that I have months worth of hours coming to me from the back seats of cars and wooden lobby pews and piano teacher living rooms, but I don’t think anyone will honor the chits. In any case, I have as much time debt as I am willing to carry.
As a bonus, if I am ever more than ten minutes late, feel free to give me endless shit about it. Say whatever you want, harass me, call me a prick, but please, from now on, be on time.
Tuesday, December 7th, 2004
You get up in the morning and jump in the shower. While in the shower, you use the shampoo and conditioner that you have selected after a few years of trying different stuff, and you have found the right combination that will make your hair either lay a little more flat, or poof up a little bit more, or highlight the red, whatever. You use the shaving cream that cuts down on tears and rips, along with the newest multi-bladed razor for the same.
You make your coffee, or you buy it. You have found the coffee that gives you enough lift, and you go back to it every morning. Or you haven’t, and each morning you are trying to find that morning libation that will kick you into gear. You wear your sweater and trousers. Maybe it’s the clothes you really want, the ones you know fit well and make you feel good, maybe you’re lower on your laundry schedule, you’re a little uncomfortable. But your entire wardrobe is filled with things you thought were going to make a small difference, and a lot of those things do.
And then you go to work, you get your lunch, etc. Your lunch is maybe a salad. Maybe it’s a cheeseburger. WIth no bun. You’ve got some kind of idea of the things you are supposed to do when you eat, there is a *style* to your belt and shoes, a *style* to your sandwich and diet coke. There is a life*style*, based on a cavalcade of advertisements and your own back and forth with different products.
Again, no judgement, I’m not lording this from on high. So far, this is purely *human*. If you didn’t do all this, you’d be living in some Buddhist retreat or commune and, let’s be honest, those places would suck for people like you and me. We like the taste of shallots sweated in butter, we need shiny lights and toys, and *of course* we do. Anyone who thinks any different is living outside this awesome cool-ass world we’ve made.
But here’s where it starts sucking. You read “The Rules”. You read “He’s Just Not That Into You”. You watch Dr. Phil and you get control in a brand new way. We get control through self denial, self hatred, self abuse. You squeeze into those uncomfortable shoes, you wear a poncho, you spend an hour on your hair. But really, you talk about the miserable shoes, the humidity that frizzes your hair, the bulky poncho, the many ways that you are denying yourself or living with pain.
Who you are is based on what you eat, who you vote for, what you wear. We have lost our lives and replaced them with life*styles*.
The span of human history is spinning past you right now, but you have the new Fug-Boots. Those snuggly wuggly fug boots. Your people crossed oceans to forge new lives, and you’re all psyched because someone named their baby “Apple” and isn’t that hilarious and dumb. Your great great grandmother had seven children and buried five of them, and you’re pissed that you can’t afford the 40 gig Ipod to replace your 20 gig Ipod.
We hate ourselves for our softness and we turn to self-help books and self-help groups to revel in our self hatred. We swim in the worst of our tendencies. We grab a brownie and, while eating it, we say we are being “bad”. You are eating a thing, and, in an effort to have some sort of moral compass in our ridiculous lives, we say that the eating of it is “bad”.
I’ve often wondered what history will think of this time in America. We had a series of books growing up, history books, who’s spines were marked with titles like “The Age Of Invention” and “The Age Of Reason”. I have feeling this time will be called “The Age Of Theory”, when nothing we do is based in fact, or more, that there are no facts that we all agree on. Our country is painfully bifurcated, our cultures are all hardening, congealing like old pudding. I have a group of friends who say they will not *date* someone based on who they voted for. We are judging one another on the sets of theories we embrace, not on the content of our character.
Because the idea is that the theories are not fluid. Once you embrace something, it’s a sign of moral terpitude to leave it behind. If you need religion for a while, and then you don’t, it’s a sign that there is something weak about you. If you lose weight only to gain it back, then you have no will power. But, how can one group or one theory work for you for your whole life? Don’t you change? How can you read a book at 22 and have it mean the same thing to you at 35? And if it means less, why is that bad?
I have a friend who is a hardcore right winger, he’s really rude to me and he can be painfully one note in his conversations. Why is he my friend? I mean, he loves me. He’s respectful of my mind and my time. He will send me a gift because he is thinking of me and he knows what I like. He has a laugh that rivals almost anything you’ll ever hear, and he laughs and laughs at stuff, at smart stuff and at dumb stuff. He is a joy to be around. He voted for Bush and he honestly thinks the only good Arab is a dead Arab. And that is hard to swallow, hard to be around.
But you know what? If you voted against Bush, but you’re not very funny and you’re late to everything and you generally make the day worse by being there, then I don’t really care what your theories on life are. Fine, you’re a vegetarian and you are helping inner city youth, that doesn’t mean I should have to wait 45 minutes for dinner or, worse, be the one who makes all the jokes while you do all the laughing.
Your life theories don’t change the content of your character, and I don’t care how devout you are in religion or leftist causes or fashion or the cult of personality, if you start by holding the door for someone, forgiving someone else when they don’t, and not celebrating yourself for holding the door, you could save a coupla grand a year in self-help books and In-Style magazines and our country would be a lot better off.
Here’s some knowledge for you.
1) If you’re dating a guy and he doesn’t call as often as you like… that means one of 2.5 billion things. Because there are 2.5 billion guys in the world. I love my wife, but I forget to do stuff. I *married* my wife, but I forget to call her back sometimes. That, however, is *ME*.
2) If you are trying to lose weight, you should first figure out why. If it’s because there’s a little voice in your head that says that nothing you do is good enough, then maybe it isn’t weight that’s the problem. But, again, in America there are 280 million different reasons why people put on weight, and that little voice is not the same problem for everyone.
3) Chances are that your unhappiness is largely due to about twenty different reasons coming at you from all sides. Maybe it is that you are lazy and weak, but there are 280 million different possibilities for your unhappiness and there are no answers.
4) If you are having trouble finding a mate, it’s because of 150 million to the 150 millionth power reasons. You know how you can’t figure out why your best friend is dating that guy? You don’t know why those two people are getting married? It’s because you don’t know, you can’t know, there’s no guide or theory that will help you know. No-one can possibly understand the vagueries of the human heart.
We are living in an art-free culture, a culture that renounces magic and inspiration. Our comedy is ironic, our celebrities are a celebration of the flawed, our art is self-referential and self eating. From Team America to the White Canvas to Urinetown, we *comment* more than we produce, while the “inside joke” and “inside knowledge” take the place of actual life.
And the perpetuation of this theorizing is bad. Our generation is pissing their lives down the sink making art that won’t last past the most recent sets of cultural in-jokes, dating girls based on the height/weight ratio and dating guys based on their voting records. The cultural handcuffs are sitting in front of us and every day we shackle ourselves as if to go out of the house any other way would be tantamount to walking around naked. I am not suggesting that we disrespect the culture we are in, I am suggesting that we shift our concept of “fact” to where it rightly belongs, in “theory”, and we treat other’s theories with the same respect we want afforded us.
Because, I’m fairly sure, this blog will change a lot of people’s minds.
Thursday, December 2nd, 2004
This Morning At The Bank
a play in two acts.
Several people are in line at a bank teller. There is one single male teller despite the bank’s ability to have four working, and despite the extra two women behind the teller wall eating breakfast sandwiches and talking. At the teller window is a young woman who is submitting her tip money from her nighttime waitressing job before she gets on the train to go in to City College where she is studying macroeconomics.
At the front of the line is Crazy Old Lady (COL) who is talking to Her Nephew (Nephew). The age difference means that she is likely his great Aunt. She is from the indiscriminate Old Country, he is indiscriminately a descendant from the Old Country, probably two generations removed. He is finished at the bank and is trying to leave, she is waiting in line. Behind them is Important Hispanic Man in Suit (Important Man), and behind him is me.
COL: Is very important for you…
Nephew: Yes, I know, Mammy.
COL: You have to say for to stay in school…
Nephew: Yes, I know, Mammy.
COL: Your cousin, he no want to stay in school, and he come to me and say “Mammy, I no for want to stay in school…”
Nephew: I know, Mammy.
COL: And when he say that, I, uh, I *hit* him (she strikes the air like a prize fighter)
Nephew: (laughing) Mammy… I don’t think you…
COL: I *hit* him in his nose. And I say, “You no go to school, I hit you in the nose!”
Nephew: Well, I don’t know if you know…
COL: And now? Look at him now.
(The waitress is now done at the teller and leaves. COL is next in line.)
COL: Yes, I tell Donny to stay in school and now…?
(There is a strange pause as Nephew waits to see if he is supposed to answer. COL‘s hands rise up as if she is holding a small pumpkin in front of her eyes and stares.
Nephew: (finally) Now… he’s a dentist?
(COL‘s hands come together on each of Nephew’s cheeks in something a little too soft for actual damage, but startling if it’s meant as affection.)
COL: Now he is a dentist.
Important Man: Excuse me…
COL: (to the important man) I’m going, I’m going. You should not rush an old woman.
Nephew: I’ve got to get to school, Mammy.
COL: Yes, you must get your high school diploma.
Nephew: (who is clearly about 22) Mammy, I’m almost done with college
COL: But the high school diploma is the *important* thing. You should get your diploma.
Nephew: Okay, Mammy…
Important Man: (muttering) Madre de Dios…
We are now at the teller. There is still only one.
COL: Here you go.
(She slides her ATM card and a handwritten note under the glass. The teller holds up the note. It is a piece of notebook paper, more specifically, it is a piece of spiral bound notebook paper with the little tags still on the left side, more specifically, it is the bottom three inches of a piece of spiral bound notebook paper with the words “Four hundred dollars” written on it.)
Teller: You’d… you’d like to withdraw four hundred dollars?
COL: (leaning on the counter and looking out the window) Please.
Teller:Do you have your account number?
COL:I do it with the card. I give you the number, it is 5579.
Teller: Ma’am, I’m not supposed to have this card or your number.
COL:I’s okay, you are working for the bank.
Teller:(sliding the card back to her) Why don’t you swipe the card in the reader and then punch in your number.
(COL spends a little time getting her glasses on. They are on a small beaded rope hanging from her neck, but she first looks for them in her purse. She gets the glasses on and slides the card back to the teller.)
Teller: No, ma’am, you slide the card in the reader and then punch in…
COL: Yes, I know, that is what I am doing here…
(she snatches the card and swipes it, punches in her number and then puts her card away back into her bra, which is located under her jacket, in her sweater and shirt, and only accessable from the waist. This requires her to bend over a bit, for the sake of modesty, and fish around up under her clothes. The teller waits. I would not say patiently.)
Teller:So, four hundred dollars from your account?
Teller:You know, you could get this money from the machines out front…
COL: OH! Those *machines* are just terrible.
(She turns fully to the line of people waiting at the bank)
(She turns back)
COL:Those machines are always putting in the numbers wrong. I have all the numbers for everything, all up in my head. And the machine say, “you are not that much money in your account” and I ask for the money I know is there. My daughter come with me and say, “You don’t use machines any more, you go inside.”… The machines have the numbers wrong and they don’t get the right numbers.
Teller:Well, the number you just entered is the only number you need.
COL:But you cannot get money out.
Teller: Oh, sure you…
COL:NO, you cannot get money out.
Teller: But, you would get money the exact same way you are right now, except that on the screen…
COL: You should be able to put in card, enter your number, then ask for money and they give it to you. It should be that easy, but the machines no work, so I come inside.
(Everyone realizes that the ATM is actually *exactly* this easy. The machine does *exactly* what one would want it to, and, for a brief moment, we forget that we have been waiting far too long in this line and revel in the idea that they invented a nearly flawless machine to do exactly what one would need it to that is available 24 hours a day, conveniently located and completely user friendly. The teller has decided to give up and get this woman out of the bank.)
Teller: How would you like your $400?
COL: I need $175 in fives and the rest in twenties.
Important Man: (muttering in Spanish. By inflection alone, it sounds like he’s saying “Dude, just give her $180 in fives and the rest in twenties”)
Teller:(staring at the woman) I’ll give you eleven twenties and the rest in fives, hows that?
COL:You are banker, you do it however you like.
Yeah, there’s probably a better ending, but after that, she just took her money and left. It’s like this every single day here. You hear people saying, “I wish that fucking kid would watch his language”. You hear, “every time I see another rat in the subway, I buy another cat.” You hear, “You aint mad at me playing the lotto, you’re mad because I aint never won.” It’s a city of one liners. No wonder we’ve got the best writers in the world.