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Easter Time Too

“Well I started our on Burgundy ..” – Dylan

November 10, 2003

Bob Dever, my grade school friend and Little League teammate, had a father who worked for Otis Elevator. He said his dad became a bit glossed-over with the gig and frequently fell back on the unfortunate monotone crack “the job has its ups and downs.” Last week I myself applied for a part-time job running a freight elevator and working the front desk at a downtown commercial building. I wasn’t accepted.

The great thing about lowering your goals to pursuing work you’re not entirely enamored with is that you aren’t crushed when you don’t get it. I wondered after if not using Mr. Dever as a reference was a mistake, but in truth I’d never met the man and it’s been thirty years since I last saw his son. I chose not to stress my formal education and English degree either, instead focusing on my inherent ability to push people’s buttons. Before applying for this job, I was also rejected as a tenth grade writing tutor, art gallery receptionist, video rental clerk, film production assistant, interactive DVD writer, and bartender. Many times as a bartender, actually. But, as someone I knew once put it, “you make your own luck.”

***

Making my own luck, I saw an off-Broadway play for free yesterday, volunteering to usher in exchange for a seat. I knew nothing about the performance going in, but the gesture fit my ongoing quest to get out the front door. It ended up being about a gay New York therapist who is also the victim of a beating in Central Park. His gradual recovery and subsequent memory recall force him to face ethics he’s breached in his practice. I enjoyed the play, but also got the feeling that if I get any more progressive, I’m going to have to die and come back as a fish.

I must be hanging on to some shred of ordinary allure though, because when I told the house manager that I had offered to do the job for fun and wasn’t an aspiring performer, she squeezed my arm and said “bless you.” It wasn’t my sense of charity she was enamored with, but the fact that I wasn’t an actor. I didn’t fully get this until the second usher, who was an actor, showed up. She got way too into the job, and tore each ticket stub like she was Brando auditioning for On the Waterfront.

Being an usher for a moderately priced matinee performance involved dealing with some crazy old bag ladies out for an afternoon’s entertainment. I did my best to assist one cultured crony to her front row seat, but she still almost spilled several times, maneuvering the precarious decline of the venue’s makeshift stairs. I guess she wasn’t too pleased with my ushering skills, because she resisted my attempts to help with her bundles and coat at the bottom. No job is without complications, even if you volunteer. I’m starting to think I should shoot high, since any fall from expectation is relative.

***

I’m on the F train, of all places, when it comes to me late one Sunday night: I might be cultivating some form of desperate appeal, or at the very least, delusions of such. Wearing black ski cap and long sleeved Guinness shirt, I glance up from my shoes and notice a smiling girl waiting for the doors to open at Borough Hall. I smile back and she holds an extended pinky and thumb to her face, seeming to mouth “call me?” I sit dumbfounded, pathetic creature that I am, blowing my twelve-second window of opportunity. She shrugs and exits, a likely ticket out of my mental ghetto and heir to her dad’s elevator empire.

I’ve gotten the feeling lately that this entire relocation deal might be a brief window of opportunity, and I’m going to have to jump at something semi-solid before the doors close. As restless as I am, I’ve found a hard but familiar seat since my summer arrival and may have become a bit too comfortable.

You come to New York to build experience, not equity. This was the conclusion reached in one summertime conversation with a buddy. It is expensive to live here, and unless you join the flow and commit, savings will be rapidly depleted. On the other hand, avoiding the flow and preserving removed perspective can present a wealth of unusual angles and experience. It won’t last forever, and the transition from observer to observed can be rough. But short of an unforeseen Central Park beating, memories can last a lifetime. And besides, nobody wants to live anywhere forever.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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