I quit my job today.
When I got out of work, dragging my quasi-roommate John Beamer’s semi-gifted-to-me umbrella, my dad was waiting on the corner to pick me up.
My rents had been supportive of the idea and in fact had been goading me towards it for a while. They didn’t seem to know for sure anymore than I did what it was that was to be done with my life but, at least, they knew it didn’t involve working at a movie theater.
In fact my parents had been overly generous to me, offering not only to cover my expenses in the time between I left my job and when I was tentatively scheduled to start my new one (if it ever happened) for PBS, but also to send me Europe or LA, or somewhere, or something; all to get my mind off the craziness at hand, all to try to get some perspective.
Such offers are undoubtedly kind, but they always make me think of one of my other one-time roommates, the comically-accented Roibeard, my co-worker at theater, who ate Ramen for every meal, since he was trying to get by on just the theater’s pay. There was no trip to Europe for him, just a possible trip home if things don’t work out.
Still with the “improv code of life” I seem to be improvising to, in life you big choices, you commit to them, you trust your instincts and you deal with the fallout later.
My job at the movie theater was, maybe ironically, something that was supposed to reduce stress in my life, to transition me from hectic past jobs to something more base and ordinary. It was there to give order to my life and a little bit of money so I had an excuse to go out, to be productive, to do something, other than sit at home, stare at my screen and think about blog posts or scripts I wouldn’t write.
It was something that in the increasing uncertainty of my life, especially given the recent televised craziness (and ensuing occasional bouts of recognition), was a certainty. I knew that when I went there, I was of it. A movie theater employee. An “Angelikan”, as my co-worker Schuyler would call it. When people asked me what I did, with all of everything in my life and theres, I could say: “I just work in a movie theater.”
Now, I don’t know who I am, or have what to define me. I felt as I walked up to the office, this was probably something else too then a change in employment circumstances.
When I told them “by the way, no offense, but I quit”, they seemed unsurprised. I still filled out the same end-of-shift paperwork, I still said good night and clocked out before I left.
When I got in the car with my father outside, he said “Where to?” and I told him “Home, I guess, to write a blog post.”
“Yeah,” He replied, driving. “I might give it some time, before that.”
I went to see a show on Saturday night at the UCB Theatre, the same place I take classes and the same place that recently at “the peak” of my “fame”, had unceremoniously rejected me from two of their electives.
Even though that stung a bit, there were only places to see non two-drink minimum comedy that night, with a guarantee of some sort of quality and Death By Roo Roo, which the loudspeaker announces as the “best damn improv group in the whole damn universe” (or something to that extent) is generally considered in New York as the most consistently funny improv around, for whatever that statement’s worth.
Their show is called “Your F**cked Up Family”, where they sit and interview a member of the audience for details about a particularly strange family, family member or crazy family story.
People sometimes come with ideas, ready to raise their hand, in the improv nerd community that is the UCB.
That night, I didn’t come prepared; I just call from my sister while waiting on line for the show.
I hadn’t spoken to my sister since she’d been through such travails as are unmentionable even on this usually frank forum, but needless to say, they were constant.
The call was even more shocking because in all the time, or rather, all the times, my sister had been going through her “problems”, I’d never once gotten a call.
In fact, I was pretty sure she didn’t have my number and when I heard her voice, I suspected my parents of foul play (They denied giving it to her, later).
I didn’t talk to her then, I was going to see the show, but when I sat down there in the audience and they called for volunteers, my hand shot up and stayed there even when they asked me if I was sure.
Some people, wonder why I choose to talk about my sister and her unfortunate choices in public forums. I would say that like my blog, turning the effect she has on my life into a story, making it anecdotal, making it something imparted and somewhat unreal, is a way of taking control of a situation you are powerless towards. Like they say in one of my favorite musicals, Passing Strange, art is an attempt to correct life, or at least to make sense of it.
The decently long-story of my sister went over fine with the improvisers (one of whom I knew from a story-slam had similar issues) seeming to show sympathy and engagement with what I said while the audience seemed more uncomfortable, trying to reconcile the tales of disregard and collateral damage I gave with the eventual reveal that, yes, I was on a TV show, kind of.
I wonder if people feel that way about the characters they see on TV. Maybe at least those people don’t think I’m “Seth Rogen with asperger’s now”.
Maybe they think I’m too fat to be Seth Rogen.
My sister did call back though and the show did go on, to some applause. I got some nice words from old teachers and semi-friends, a couple of whom approached me a couple times to thank me for sharing. I even found some old “friends” of my sister, who recognized her, nameless, from the story I told and wondered too, what had become of her.
When my sister called back, I told her what I knew I needed to; that I couldn’t have my life with her in it right now, that she was too unstable, that she wasn’t my responsibility, that I loved her and hoped she’d get better and told her she could write me if she wanted and I’d see if I could read.
For her part, she cursed at me and called me selfish and asked me how I’d feel if she died. I told her I had to go and then I was gone.
I have no excuses to make, nor ways to explain or apologize for my interactions with her life.
I only knew the more I’d talk about her on stage, or in public, sitting with friends, or a therapist, or just sitting at home alone, writing this–
The more I knew what I needed.
But I guess that’s only a part.
My mom has good taste in things.
I often mention my father on these pages, but after all that’s to be somewhat expected for all of the inherent fraught-ness and import of the father-son relationship in Western culture (mostly in our case, manifested in a series of bad-puns and comebacks based around them).
But my mother is still the one who’s always right about everything, the planner, the meticulous one, the writer, the boss.
The truth really is, my personality is probably derived from hers.
We even share the same tics, biting our nails and feeling the bossy need to “save situations” we’re involved with by taking charge of them, since otherwise they are utterly doomed.
I’d call it a “messiah complex” but then again, we’re Jews.
Anyway, it was my mother who got us tickets to “The Book of Mormon” (the best new musical on Broadway for sure and a definite huge hit), my mother who managed to sit shiva with a grieving family friend, while organizing a national scholarship event and fundraiser, my mother who made the reservations for Utsav, where we all pigged the fuck out.
Utsav has long been my sleeper-hit for the Theater district, a mid-price Indian joint whose dishes might seem expensive by other neighborhood’s contexts but whose beautiful exterior and relatively high quality/cost ratio for the neighborhood made it seem like a minor miracle any time we went there.
This time around was my first time having their lunch/brunch buffet, with a fried bread/curried chickpeas Indian street-food breakfast, fresh uttapam veggie-pancakes tossed from the griddle to your plate and mini multi-veggie dosas brought to table-side for a snack.
And those were just the appetizers.
By the time we finished fenugreek masala, seared cauliflower curry and a dark-stewed chicken dish, we were 2-3 caffeinated drinks deep each, not so much regretting the amount of food we’d eaten as trying to figure out how we’d stay awake during the show.
“Don’t worry,” Mom told us. “It’ll be funny enough for that.”
And to wit, my father (a notorious napper/snorer) did make it through all three hours of the book. And it was my mom (and neither of us) who got the overlying theme by the beginning of the second act, that turned out to be the musical’s big reveal.
“Oooh, my little Nicky-ooh.” She murmured ensconcing me in her now tinier-hug, that felt bigger due to memory, in the middle of the 1 train home.
And I have to admit, there are times, despite protest, that I don’t mind that either.
I’ll give it up to my mom, being right.
Lunch Buffet- $17.95 (appetizer/entree/dessert, drinks not included)
46th St bet 6th Ave and Broadway.
BDFM to 47-50th- Rock Center. 1237NQRS to Times Square 42nd St.