Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bat Mitzvahs, Brooklyn, and Beyond

The city is kissing summer goodbye. How nice it will be not to stand on crowded subways with sweaty people who aren't accustomed to the heat. Yep, it's autumn in New York, and I'm excited to see if it's all Billie Holiday said its cracked up to be.

Friday was my first full day off of work in 2 weeks, and I was as lazy as humanly possible. Friday aside, I've been splitting my time between Food For Thought and Alice's Tea Cup. Alice's is getting easier everyday, thanks to the cool people I work with (most of whom are actors, designers, or writers). It takes me about an hour and 15 minutes to get there from my apartment, so when I have the opening shift I have to leave by 6:15 am. I'm missing my senior year college days when 10 am was early and the only consequence of oversleeping was possible chapel probation. My current subway reading is "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". I'm still trying to figure out where that tree went.

I've catered two events for Food For Thought that are worth noting. The first was a bat mitzvahs for a wealthy family in New Jersey. Kelly Ripa was there. Regis, however, was not. The second event was for former basketball star Alonzo Mourning's charities. Not only was Alonzo there, but Patrick Ewing, Dwayne Wade, Nate Robinson, Quinten Richardson, John Starks, Earl Monroe, Herb Williams, Craig Sager, and Chris Rock's wife (random, but true) were also among the folk who put their trash on my little silver tray as I walked around the room. Not exactly what I had in mind when I dreamed of rubbing elbows with the stars.

For the first time in my life, I find myself trying not to be too good at what I'm doing. Allow me to explain. It's not that I want to be bad at it, seeing as I don't want to get fired... it's just that I don't want to be promoted or be considered a "professional" at hostessing or waitressing. If I get too good at it, if it becomes second nature to me, then I will have unknowingly created my very own fall back plan. Not completely loving my jobs is what motivates me to keep auditioning until I get to do what I really want. I never thought I had it in me to shoot for mediocrity, even in things I didn't really care about. Viewing these jobs as just a way to get by helps me keep living beyond...beyond picking up peoples' trash, beyond passing out menus and recommending teas, beyond where I am and what I have right now. I don't need (or want, for that matter) to be famous. I just want to do work that I can be proud of, work that can teach, inform, or simply entertain. I like to think that there's something more to my life than working a bat mitzvahs, that somewhere just over the horizon, something better awaits. And all I have to do to get there is keep truckin.

"That's what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will... "--Hope Floats

Friday, September 19, 2008

These Boots Are Made For Strolling

First of all, my apologies for not writing in a while…you can uncross your arms and stop tapping your foot now.

Some of my time this past week and a half was spent at my first 2 catering events, one for each company. Food For Thought was in Long Island for this huge company called Rex Corp, who apparently owns almost the entire island. I had a pretty simple job as a h’ourderve passer, and the people I worked with were really helpful. When we were done, I sampled some Grecian Lamb with Sour Cherry Chutney Sauce, Duck Nacho with Avocado Sauce, Miniature Chocolate Souffle with Cremon Sauce, Sweet Thai Chili Lobster Skewers with Mango, and that was only half of the menu. Sound snooty enough for you? I thought of people back home who would have thrown the skewers at my head and instructed me not to return without enchiladas or a steak. The only downside to the night was that I burned both of my thumbs lighting votive candles…which were outside…in the wind…which, logic would tell us, means that they would blow out, right? Apparently, lit candles were of utmost importance to this crazy corporate lady throwing the party, so I had to relight them when they blew out. I had blisters on my fingers for a week, but all in all I loved this catering company.

My Great Performances event was far less laid back and far less understanding. Highlight of the night: the fact that the wedding we were catering cost over 600,000 dollars. It was a Korean girl and an Italian guy, so they actually had 2 ceremonies- a traditional American ceremony and a traditional Korean ceremony. The kids partied from noon-11 PM...and they certainly had to pay for it. They had cocktails, followed by a 5 station buffet, followed by a 2 course dinner, followed by coffee and about 10 dessert choices. GP is not a bad company, but after working this event with them I decided that they’re just not right for me.

When I wasn’t serving shrimp to the trust fund babies and desperate housewives of the tri-state area, I was Assistant Stage Managing for the Red Bull Theater Company. Red Bull Theater is an Off-Broadway company that focuses on plays with heightened language. This was just a staged reading that people paid a lot of money to come hear so that the theatre could raise some money. An ACU alumnus, Lyndsey Goode, got me the job. The reading was held in a legit theatre space above an Episcopal Church. The cast consisted of several accomplished stage actors, including Reg Rogers (Tony nominee) and Michael Urie (who now plays Marc St. James on “Ugly Betty”).The job was easy enough, I got to listen to the best play reading I have ever heard, and I got to play with a wireless headset. It made me feel important.

Since it was a volunteer thing, Lyndsey told me she wanted to take me out to dinner to “pay” me for my time. As if that isn’t nice enough, she got me a free ticket to the final dress rehearsal of Jason Robert Brown’s new musical “13”. This musical hadn’t even gone into previews yet, so I was part of the first audience to get to see it. Bonus: Jason Robert Brown was there to introduce it to the audience. Another former ACU theatre kid, Michael Miller, came with me. It was on that fateful Tuesday on the 5th row in the orchestra that we witnessed a performance by the most talented group of preteens in America. The entire cast is made up of 12 year olds, or at least people around that age. Even the band is composed of preteens. If you’re familiar with Jason Robert Brown, you know that his music is beautiful, but it’s certainly not easy to sing. These kids blew me away. After the curtain call, each cast member had a little solo time to show off some amazing things that they didn’t get to do during the show. To name a few, a couple of kids did a step routine, one girl had a crazy lyrical dance solo, two of the guys had a tap war with the drummer in the band, and one of the girls (who I swear was a grandchild of Aretha Franklin) sang in the background. I’ve never felt more intimidated by middle schoolers.

One more thing before I wrap this up: I got hired by Alice’s Tea Cup! I started hostess/barista (tea maker) training on Wednesday and I’ll continue it on Saturday. I have to memorize and try over 150 different kinds of tea and deal with stuck-up Upper East Siders, but my co-workers are really cool and the only dress code is that you have to wear something…I mean, if they’re going to force me. We can even wear the fairy wings that we give to the little kids when they come in to the restaurant.

My Pepaw always says "you can live for a while with a rock in your shoe." So even though I’m currently the new kid at my jobs, I am treated as virtually invisible by the people I serve, and I’m wracking my brain trying to remember all of the information being sent my way, I’m still holding onto faith that it's going to get better. I’m finally starting to meet people who I will hopefully call my friends soon, and my Alice’s trainer said he was impressed with my work on the first day. I suppose I've come to the point in my transition where New York City is no longer a surreal vacation destination, but a place where I'm making a home. Auditioning is no longer a grade for a professor, it's an interview for a job. It’s tough sometimes to remember that eventually square one may become Hollywood Squares, that starting at the top may yield to being at the top. It's been said that you have to run the race to get to the finish. I say, why run when, as New York has so thoroughly taught me, walking is just as good for you? I know it's important for me to keep my eyes on the prize, but I don't want to be so focused that I zoom by all of the things that make this adventure blog-worthy...and eventually E! True Hollywood Story-worthy. I will do everything in my power to get to where I want to go, but only God knows where I'll truly end up. So until I get to the finish line, every morning I will wake up and patiently put one foot in front of the other, fully trusting that my feet will take me somewhere.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sand and the City

It seems like this city does everything in its power to make it hard to survive here. And it works overtime to make it even harder to be happy. There's a condition that develops in pretty much every citizen at some point called "inner city depression". It's the sharp realization that pursuing your dream may not cover your rent, that not a single face on the street is familiar or friendly, that those unfamiliar faces don't care who you are or what you are doing or if they never see you again. It's calling home and hearing the voices of the people you care most about, and knowing that's the closest you'll get to being with those people for several months. It's when the magic disappears and you feel like you're being swallowed up by the sheer size of this city. It's any number of things. And I think it's been trying to sneak up on me.

On Wednesday, my friend Nicole invited me to Far Rockaway Beach. It took 4 train transfers to get there and I got lost a few times, but I finally made it. We spent 3 1/2 glorious hours riding waves and dodging jellyfish. When we got out of the water, I sat and just stared out at the ocean. LeeAnn Womack sings that song "I Hope You Dance", and as cheesy as it is, one of the lyrics is "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean". And I do. But more importantly, I must New York City. Not even the Big Apple can be bigger than the ocean. They can stack their buildings high enough to hide the stars, but when all is said and done, New York City is just...a city. Just as the surfer heads to the beach with the biggest waves, the actor heads to the city with the most opportunity to audition. I hadn't been able to audition because I was getting things situated here. And now that I'm basically situated, I've been avoiding auditioning because I've felt intimidated and somehow unprepared. I felt the same way about moving to the city until one of my professors told me, "Lindsey, you will never feel ready for that city. You just have to go. Trust me, you're ready." How easy it is to get wrapped up in the idea of New York, in the reputation it has so carefully constructed to market itself to the world. This will by no means be easy, but I'm tired of being intimidated by this place.

I'm reading a book by David Mamet in which he makes a great point. He says, "Alice, when in Wonderland, asked the caterpillar which road she should take, and the caterpillar responded by asking her where she wanted to end up. That's a question you might want to ask yourself. If you want to be in the theatre, go into the theatre. If you want to have made a valiant effort to go into the theatre before you go into real estate or law school or marry wealth, then perhaps you should stay in school." Mamet later speaks on having a fall back plan, like I wrote about in an earlier post. He has this to say, "I was once at a marriage ceremony where the parties swore to 'try to be faithful, to try to be considerate...'the marriage was, of course, doomed. Any worthwhile goal is difficult to accomplish. To say of it 'I'll try' is to excuse oneself in advance. Those who respond to our requests with 'I'll try' intend to deny us, and call on us to join in the hypocrisy--as if there were some merit in intending anything other than accomplishment." I've been holding out on a dream because I didn't feel ready. But I'm going to take my professor's advice and just go. I didn't come here to get a pat on the back or a cookie for giving it a good try. Although I will still take the cookie :)