Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Express Yourself

A couple of months before I moved to New York I was saying goodbye to a friend of mine and he grabbed my arm and told me:

"Promise me you will write down everything that happens to you in New York."

That comment obviously stuck with me...

The other day I was in Central Park working on a project. I had some down time so I sat myself on a bench, pulled out my note book and started working on a few things I needed to get done. About fifteen minutes went by before I met Eddie.

Who is Eddie?

Well Eddie is a 70ish year old man who tools around the city on a motorized scooter. I, for some reason peaked Eddie's interest as he scooted up right next to me and initiated conversation.

"Sorry to interrupt but is it raining?"

Seeing as both Eddie, myself and the sun were out, I was caught off guard. I stared at him as my mind flashed back to the day before when my dear friend Aidan and I were sitting in a coffee shop and a homeless man came in and walked straight up to our table and asked for money and left without bothering anyone else. Aidan experienced first hand the power of my stranger magnet.

Now Eddie wasn't homeless and he didn't ask me for a single penny which was nice but he was in fact incredibly weird.

Once I informed him that it wasn't raining he clumsily transitioned our conversation into the ups and downs of his life as a writer.

He pulled out a beat up pack of Camel Lights, struck a match and as he lit his cigarette I knew I was in for an interesting moment.

You see back in the 80's he used frequent a diner on the west side and at that diner he met a young aspiring singer. He told me how the two of them would stay up until the wee hours of the morning drinking coffee and talking about their ups and downs as aspiring artists. He had just moved back to the city after a couple years of living in and performing in Las Vegas and she told him how all she wants to do is sing but she had trouble believing she had what it took to make it in show business. But Eddie assured me that he believed in her. Apparently they remained close until one day she became the superstar he always told her she could be.

She no longer had time for Eddie and their late night coffee dates.

This upset Eddie. Even I could still see how upset this still made him as his eyes searched my face for a response that would give him peace of mind.

I had nothing. I didn't know what to say. Mostly because I was trying to decide if he was completely insane or if he was actually being sincere.

As he took the final puffs of his cigarette he told me that he waits outside her apartment complex on 81st street hoping that, even after all these years she would see him and they would pick up right where they left off. But no such luck.

"Maybe you should just move on." I said delicately.

"Would you mind reading the letter I am going to send to her, and let me know what you think?" He said with a bit of a pleading tone.

How could I say no?

So he digs into his scooter basket and pulls out a yellow legal pad, hands it to me, lights another cigarette, and watches me closely as I read his 4 page letter to Madonna.

When I see who it's addressed to I resolve that poor Eddie is probably more on the insane side and less of the sincere side of the spectrum. But I kept reading.

The letter was full of passion. Full of hurt. Full of confusion as to why he hasn't made it as an artist and why she had and so easily left him in the dust.

As he finished his second cigarette and I finished the letter I looked at his sad eyes and all I could say was...

"I'm sorry, Eddie."

And I was.

Whether or not he was insane or being honest didn't matter. I was sorry that he felt his dreams had never and will never come true.

We shared a smile.

He asked me to write down his home phone number and to give him a call if I'd ever like to meet up with him in the park and help him with some short stories he was working on.

I took his number down when my phone rang. I let it ring because I felt like Eddie needed me to be there with him for a little bit longer. So we sat there, he on his scooter, me on the bench and we shared some silence.

My phone rang again and I decided to pick up and give myself a way out of the conversation because I did need to go but I didn't have the heart to just walk away.

As we went our separate ways my first response was to laugh at the absurdity of what had just happened. I didn't know what to do except laugh at it.

But tonight, while I was ending a long and exhausting shift at work Eddie crept back into my thoughts.

Being an aspiring artist is terrifying. It requires great risk. But the passion to create and to dedicate your life to doing so is unexplainable but it's a necessity for survival if you are bitten by the artistic bug.

What if I never make anything of myself? What if I am always just a cocktail server with big dreams for the future and all of the sacrifices I've made to be in New York and follow my dreams were all for not? What if I go crazy and become Madonna's oldest stalker?

As I sat in my cab on my way home tonight I not only thought of Eddie but I thought of what my friend told me before I moved to New York.

"Write everything down."

And while I was writing down the story of Eddie, I realized that I am grateful that I was able to keep Eddie company that afternoon. Grateful to be someone for Eddie to connect with for a brief moment.

We were two aspiring artists, one young, one old. He shared a story and now I am sharing a story.

It didn't work out for Eddie. Maybe it won't work out for me...but by god I am going to do everything in my power to make sure it does. For me and for Eddie. Because I can't imagine doing and being anywhere else.

With great risk comes great reward...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Summer Clowning.

Summer in New York is a tricky thing.

Tricky meaning, I don't like it.

I feel like most people think the summer in the city is cool and perhaps they even look forward to it. Not having to wear a million layers just to keep warm. Not trudging through snow. Being able to sit on patios. And just being able to enjoy this place in a different way.

And yeah...I totally love those things too. And while I am about to list all the reasons those things aren't good enough to win me over on my "summer in the city" feelings...I do look forward to those things as well.


I haven't had a good summer in this city yet...

My first summer here I was out of work and living on (blowing through) my savings account. And then I got mugged...and lost $700...and all my i.d.'s...on my way to the airport.

-10 points for summer.

My second summer I was again out of work because I had just quit my job because of a busy final two months of school. So I found myself spending my days working a string of really shitty low paying jobs with really thrilling responsibilities that include but are not limited to: sweeping up peanuts and cleaning poop out of dressing rooms.

-12 points for summer.
-53 points for poop in dressing rooms.

My third summer was a little more stable in the work department but it was generally a summer of personal and emotional struggles. My own personal Chekhovian hell. And while my own hoopla didn't really have anything to do the fact it was summer time...I'm gonna go ahead and blame summer time anyway because blaming things that have nothing to do with weather on weather is just so much easier.

-9.05 for summer
-72 pooping in dressing rooms (I mean COME ON)

My fourth summer...well it's just beginning.

Today I really felt like summer was here for good. Maybe it was the unbearable heat. Maybe it was saying goodbye to my best friend who leaves NYC for gigs every summer, maybe it was the unquestionable choice to opt for iced coffee and not hot coffee at the bodega this morning. I don't know.

As the day continued and I walked to the train to go to work,. anxiety crept into my stomach. I thought about how much I love New York but when I don't like her (like I typically don't in summer time) she wears me out and fills my thoughts with doubts about the choices that led me here.

And then a clown car pulled up.

...No, I'm completely serious.

I was standing at the cross walk waiting to you know...cross...when I look up and this black jeep with big red clown lips and and clown eyes on the front of the car, pulls up to me. The window rolls down as a man dressed as the happiest clown I've ever seen simply said:

"Smile, beautiful."

And he drove off.


Wait, what?

That's not real life.

All the sudden this damn city lured me back in with a classic "Only in New York" moment. I mean really though, only in New York can a clown drive up and intercept your negative thoughts with such a kind reminder to smile.

Hope for the summer began to fill my head. Could this could be a great one with so lots of smiles?

And then I got to work and I suffered a few blows to my recharged hope. A common hazard of the hospitality industry.

One of my first tables of the night was this older couple. The man of this duo pretty much asked me every question there is to ask about the menu, he sent me to the kitchen to ask the chef a myriad of weird questions, he made lots of uncomfortable references to he and his wife's sex life and tons of bad jokes at my expense.

They made things difficult and I was annoyed. My smiles were all forced as I powered through.

When the time came to drop the check (a long awaited moment), I thanked them, we shared one last bad joke and they left.


I went to pick up the signed check and inside the bill holder was a generous tip and the gentleman's business card.

On the back of the card read:

"Keep that smile, Colleen."


Wait, WHAT?


My heart felt full. My smile felt the most genuine it had all week because Mr. Questions McBadjokes made my night.

Today I was full of doubts and worries for the impending change of seasons. Today a clown randomly pulled up to me and told me to smile. Today a bothersome but kind old man reminded me again, to smile. Tonight I am sitting on my porch, on this beautiful night, doing what I love, with a smile.

My fourth summer here...well, it began with an overwhelming desire to

+100 for summer.

-94 for pooping in dressing rooms.