Feb 092002

There is no possible way I can make this a short entry. So much has happened in the last few weeks, and every time I think I need to sit down and start writing about it something else happens that needs to be mentioned as well. So I apologize if this particular entry gets a little on the long-winded side, gang, but there is a lot of ground to cover.

“Maxwell” opened on January 4th here in Tampa to two rave reviews and a really horrid one. Like Meat Loaf states so eloquently, however, two out of three ain’t bad. Our second night was commemorated by a young man here in Tampa attempting to repeat the events of September 11th by ramming a small passenger plane into the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa. It was a totally surreal experience, especially for our composer, Joe Popp. He was about half a mile away from the World Trade Center when it was attacked, and here he was in Tampa and someone was flying planes into buildings again. I wonder, though, if the group of people in the show were just more cynical than the average bear or if we are already becoming numb to the effects of terrorism on our country. It didn’t take us long to start cracking jokes about the event, mostly around the fact that if it WAS a terrorist attack it was a pretty lame one. I mean the kid gets 10 out of 10 for the target but minus a million for the timing. I think there were all of maybe 5 people in that building.

For me personally, however, the attacks have taken on a new meaning, but I’ll get to that later.

On Wednesday, January 30th we got on a plane and took the show to New York City.

I always knew I would love New York. For some reason, I’ve always felt a pull towards it. I just didn’t know I would love it as much as I did. Every minute I spent there was filled with a kind of energy that is hard to describe. Like the city itself is alive. I’ve never felt more instantly comfortable in a place.

Wednesday night I met up with Barry at the airport and we took a cab back to his place. After dropping off my stuff we went to meet his girlfriend Colette at a Caribbean restaurant not far from their apartment, and there I had probably the best meal I ate during my trip (and I had a LOT of good food). They had this fresh ginger beer that they make in the restaurant that absolutely blew me away. Our waitress was this incredibly beautiful African-American woman who looked like she should be modeling clothes in Paris and not waiting tables in Brooklyn.

So after dinner we go back to the apartment and things suddenly go a little sour. Colette works a Monday through Friday job that has her getting up at 6 AM in the morning. Barry was going out of town again on Thursday, and their apartment is really small. So Colette kind of freaked out and basically told us that there was no way she could handle me staying there. Thing is, I can totally understand where she was coming from. I didn’t get in earlier than 4 on and of the nights that I was in New York, and to have me tromping around while she’s trying to sleep just would have been horrid for her. So, in the midst of this apologizing and freaking out she tells us that she rented me a room at a place called the Leo House in Manhattan. The Leo House is a hotel run by nuns that was designed to help people who can’t afford to stay in fancy places. For 62 bucks a night you get a bed, a toilet, and a shared shower. It even includes cable television. Barry was totally embarrassed and couldn’t stop apologizing, but to me the accommodations were fine. I had my own space that I could come and go as I pleased in, and I didn’t have to pay for it. What more could I ask? I know Colette felt really bad about doing that to me, but to be quite honest I think I was happier with those arrangements.

So after I got settled in at the Leo House Barry and I went to a bar called the Lake Side lounge to hook up with John Cecil and some of the “Maxwell” cast. It was a pretty crowded little place, and they were playing really shitty music Barry, John and I bailed out and went to a place called the Ace Bar. Apparently, this place is pretty famous. John said a lot of the movie “200 Cigarettes” was filmed there. I liked the place. It wasn’t too terribly crowded but it was definitely busy, and the music was much better. So over the course of many drinks I played catch-up with John and Barry. After a few rounds, Barry bailed out on us so John and I decided to go do a little more exploring.

Keep in mind this is 2:30 in the morning. Here in Tampa, things are dead. There it felt like it was 10 PM.

We went to another bar, whose name escapes me at the moment, and had a round with a genuine Irish bartender. There I learned about some of the crazy laws up in New York. Get this – the bars are allowed to be open until 4 AM, but you aren’t allowed to dance in them. I actually saw two people get told to stop dancing one night at the Ace Bar! I wasn’t really clear on why this rule was in effect, but it apparently has something to do with Guliani cracking down on rave clubs.

After we left that bar we walked over past Union Square station and went to an all night diner called Cozy’s. There I had yet another excellent meal in the Big Apple. One thing got to me about New York restaurants. The service was very fast, up until you got your food. I mean, I think one night we got our meal in less than five minutes. It takes FOREVER to get your check, though! I mean you practically have to grab these people to get them to take your money. Here in Florida they check on you every five minutes. Oh yeah, and the Cole slaw in New York totally sucks. Don’t try it.

So I finally rolled in around 5:30 that morning and crashed almost immediately.

I woke up around 11 and took a quick shower. I had to be over to the art space in Brooklyn by 3, and I thought I might get some sight seeing in before hand. That didn’t turn out to be the case, though. I was too nervous I would get lost and we had a lot of work to do that day. So I stopped and got a bagel and coffee on the way to the Subway and went directly to the theater (note : when ordering a bagel in New York, make sure you tell them you want it toasted if that’s the case. If not, they assume otherwise). I arrived at the Galapagos Art Space about one that afternoon. We spent the rest of that day getting the set put together and working out the nuances of the show in a new house. We had to make several changes to our entrances and some of our staging. The space was considerably smaller than the one in Tampa (which isn’t saying much) and we didn’t have as many places where we could get on to the stage. We managed to work it out, though, and had a decent run through at 9 that night. After the run I went to the Ace Bar again and met with John and some of his comic book geek friends for another night of drinking and ribaldry. The gang I met that night was a pretty decent one, even if the couple that was there were a little full of themselves. Mind you, in my experience I haven’t come across many really hot oriental women who dig comic books, but there is only so far that goes towards making you queen of the world, ya know? One of the guys I met there was the nephew of Klaus Fluoride from the Dead Kennedys (whom I already had tickets to go see the next Friday, ironically) and told some interesting stories growing up with that kind of influence in his life. We went to breakfast at a place called Odessa, where I had some awesome Pirogi and a really tasty Santorini Hamburger (hamburger with spinach and feta cheese on it). Got in, again, around 5 that morning and passed out again.

The next day I slept in until 3 and didn’t feel guilty about it at all. We were opening that night in New York and the last thing I wanted was to be tired. After cleaning myself up I made my way towards Brooklyn again. I did a little exploratory walking near my hotel, and got a slice of genuine New York pizza while doing so. To my surprise, I discovered that I’ve been eating it for years. Dal’Italia pizza here in St. Petersburg has always made the claim to be New York style, and they were right. In fact, I think Dal’Italia has better stuff than what I had.

Once I got to Brooklyn I stopped and got some Sushi, then went to the art space again. Friday night was the worst night there as far as the weather was concerned. It was cold and rainy pretty much the whole time, but that night the winds were really harsh. At the arts space the dressing rooms were basically a plywood covered section of the alley between two buildings, and we spent the whole night freezing our asses off. They managed to get some of the holes covered and put a space heater in there on Saturday, but for Friday all we could do was huddle and suffer. What made it worse was that we held the show for almost 15 minutes before opening, and then Joe (in a semi-drunken state) made a HUGE curtain speech. All told, it was almost an hour after we had warmed up before we went on. An hour of sitting back stage and being cold. All that aside, however, the show went very well. John and his girlfriend Lisa came to see us that night, and afterward I spent a long time talking to them about what they thought of the show. They had a lot to say, and it wasn’t all complimentary. Ironically, a lot of it was stuff that had been said to me by the director, ranney, all along. Things that he said to me would be noticed by audiences that were paying attention. Things that he said might work in Tampa but wouldn’t fly in New York. Some of the stuff actually pissed John off. To the point where he said that if those things had gone on in a show that he was involved in he would have fired someone (or kicked their ass). I think they felt bad about going off as much as they did, but I’m not the kind of person who only wants to hear the good stuff. You don’t get better if you don’t know what to improve on. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your take of what I just said) they thought I did a great job.

Or they were just being kind.

Again I went out gallivanting with John and Lisa afterwards, and we made our way to Odessa again for another late night breakfast. I made it home relatively early that night (around 4).

I woke up around 10 the next morning and decided I was going to do my sightseeing. I showered quickly, got a bagel and coffee, and made my way to the Subway. I rode to Chambers street and got off to head towards the World Trade Center. After getting a little lost (and subsequently saved by a timely phone call from Colette) I managed to find it.

So there I stood. Looking at this huge area of Manhattan that was just…empty. Most of “the pile” has been cleared away, and you can only see it from certain angles. I didn’t want to wait 3 hours to stand on the observation platform, so I walked around the area just trying to get glimpses of what I could. Most of what I got was a feeling that something was just missing. It was wrong. Like in the middle of this huge urban area there was this black hole. I guess that’s a pretty apt description. I saw some very moving things. I saw all the cards and pictures hung up by the families of the victims. I saw people crying. I saw the damage done to the surrounding buildings. I saw some of the rescue workers on breaks, looking tired and sad. I saw a sign that someone erected that was reminiscent of those road signs you always see in war movies. You know the ones, I’m sure. It had directional arrows pointing to different cities with the miles to them on it. The last arrow said “Hell – 0 Miles.” That kind of chilled me.

I didn’t cry, though. I didn’t feel much of anything. Just kind of numb shock. I wondered if for some reason it didn’t affect me.

I was wrong. Since then I’ve been more susceptible to the images and memories of September 11th. I’ve caught myself crying a few times. I’ve seen the damage it did to the city, and to the people there. I sat with John as he fought tears while talking about someone he knew that died that day, because “those bastards” weren’t going to get him to cry. I heard so many stories about the stench, and the horror, and the feeling of unreality. I took some of that with me. Someone I met there told me that I couldn’t possibly understand what it felt like to be in the city that day, and to be completely honest I’m glad.

After I left Ground Zero I went to Battery Park and took the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. It was really, really cold on the front of the boat but I stood out there long enough to get a few pictures and just marvel at how cool it was to be seeing what in person something I’ve seen probably millions of times in my life. I got back off the ferry and walked a few miles up Broadway and past Wall Street, just getting a feeling of the city and seeing what I could see.

I finally got back on the subway and made it over to Brooklyn. Stopped to get a bite to eat at a place called the Gray Parrot and meandered to the Arts Space.

That night was probably our roughest one of the run. David and Ami both got sick, and David almost completely lost his voice. I felt really bad for him, because he was trying to hard to get it out and just couldn’t do it. By the time we were done it was hard to hear him on stage, much less in the audience. We didn’t let it stop us, though, and again we had a great show. Barry and Colette came to see the show that night, and we all stayed afterwards to drink and listen to Joe do an acoustic set.

That was when I met Leslie.

John had told me that there were a lot of single women in New York, but I really didn’t expect to meet one in a bar. Sure enough, though, she struck up a conversation with me while we were waiting for drinks and over the course of the evening we started talking more. She moved to New York six years ago from Orlando, and she works for Blue Man Group. We talked a lot in the bar that night, and that was where I heard the most about the effects of September 11th on an individual. She really opened up with how she felt about the events of that day. It was really moving to have a relative stranger let me know so much about what went through her head that day.

We talked for a long time at the bar, and then decided to go get breakfast. When she found out I hadn’t been to Times Square yet, she insisted that we go there. I am so grateful that she did. Seeing Times Square at 2 AM was like being in a scene from the movie “Blade Runner.” Huge electronic billboards were everywhere, and even that late there were tons of people on the street. What’s funny is that Leslie said that it was slow that night. Strangely enough, we couldn’t find a place to eat so we went back to her place in Queens. We took a taxi to get there, and that is where I had my frightening taxi experience. Those guys are nuts!!!

Back at her place we continued to talk, and I found out more about her. She showed me some of her poetry, and talked about a childrens book that she is writing. I found out that we had a lot in common as far as our taste in books and movies (she had Kurt Vonnegut’s “Hocus Pocus” next to “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” by Douglas Adams next to each other on her book shelf – two of my all time favorite books). We sat up until 6:30 AM getting to know each other before I finally had to head back into the city. It was hard to leave, but she was tired and I had to be at breakfast with Barry and Colette in a few hours.

Meeting Leslie was one of the high points of my trip. I know that must sound odd considering the fact that I saw old friends and got to perform on stage up there, but it’s true. She was a really awesome person, and part of me is sad that she lives so far away. I’d really like to spend more time with her. I plan on keeping in touch, though, and when I visit again I’ll definitely check in and see how she is doing.

I got absolutely no sleep that night. I made it back to my hotel around 8 in time to clean up, pack my bags, check out and head towards the airport. I stopped and had the previously mentioned breakfast with Barry and Colette first, then jumped back on the subway to go to JFK.

Our ragged crew got back on the plane and flew home (minus one…Christen missed the flight and had to catch a later one). We were all really trashed, but I didn’t find out until we got home why some of them were particularly down. Jason’s mother had died the night before. He found out a little while after curtain that night. She had been sick for a while, and it wasn’t totally unexpected, but it still must have been rough to have that happen while he was away. When Dad died, I was there. I heard him die, in fact.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure which is worse.

So that’s the end of the New York saga, but I have more to write about! Tired of reading yet???

Two nights after I got back I got into a wicked fight with Jody about not spending enough time with Alex. I know that, over the last month, things have been a little rough because of “Maxwell” and I’ve been feeling enough guilt about it as it was. She said some really harsh things, though, and it really got me going. Ami had come over to pick up her computer from me, and unfortunately she was here while I was going off on the phone on the back porch. I don’t like people seeing that side of me. I don’t like the fact that there is even a “that side of me.” I’m a passionate person, and while it takes a lot to really get me angry when I get going there is a lot that comes out. I called Jody later and apologized for the really mean things I said, and we were able to talk about the issue more rationally. I really think that she is putting her own perceptual filter on a lot of what Alex says and does. She also doesn’t give him credit for being manipulative, which he is. I don’t think she likes that word, because she sees it as being negative. I agree with her, to an extent. It’s negative when it’s malicious. I think Alex just knows what to say and do to get the results he wants, he doesn’t realize he’s doing something unkind. I know she has his best interests in mind, and I DO have to make up some time with my son, but I don’t think the situation is nearly as bad as she thinks it is.

That would have been where this ended, but one other funky thing happened I want to write about. Last night, after seeing the Dead Kennedys at Jannus Landing (great show…the new lead singer really kicks ass) Barry (who is in town for a few days) and I went to the Castle in Ybor. At one point I was standing at the bar and I started feeling really funny. I got nauseous and dizzy, and I suddenly had tunnel vision. Barry came over to ask me how I was and the next thing I knew I had hit the ground. I passed out! I wasn’t drunk, either! I had hardly started to drink. What’s really scary is that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I was in a club with Spike a few months ago and something similar occurred. I just didn’t pass out that time.

It’s got me kind of worried. I mean, I was in the hospital twice for what they thought were strokes. They decided in the end that I hadn’t had strokes, but what if they were wrong??? Did I have another one last night? And why in a club? The loud music? The lights? The smoke? The white makeup and black clothing?

I’d go see a doctor about it but, yet again, I still have no insurance. Blah. Oh yeah, and things at work are already starting to look shaky. They’re cutting my hours by four next week. Not sure how long this wagon is going to roll.

Well, I didn’t want to end this on a down note but that’s what happened most recently. All in all, I’m loving life again. I can’t wait to get involved in another show. I made some great friends and really opened up myself again. I want to get back to NYC soon, too. I’ve been talking with my friend Maria about it, and we might try to fly up for a few days in the summer.

So that’s it for now, gang. Thanks for reading. Here’s to what life brings me next!

To Babylon!!!