Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ode to a Patrick

In 1914 my great-grandfather Patrick (his given name, Pasquale) came to the United States at the age of 13, with a bad case of psoriasis and only a vague idea of how he was going to survive. After a few days in holding at the Ellis Island hospital, the doctors cleared him for entry and he was released, having given the address of a cousin who was living in New York City.

He worked several jobs, including one for an Irishman who called him Patsy, which a judge, evidently in disdain for such a name given to a man, changed to Patrick when he officially became a citizen. Eventually he saved enough to send for his brother, Alex (Alessandro). As the roaring twenties took the country on a wild and prosperous ride, Pat and Alex made their way west working for the Northern Pacific Railway. They saved and saved to send for their younger brother, Tony, and his family. But the depression hit, and then the war, and immigration slowed to a trickle; Tony and family would not set foot on US soil until the mid-1950s. Meanwhile, Pat and Alex struggled through the depression, eventually working for the railway again as the war effort began in earnest. To supplement their income, they built houses on the side, salvaging timber discarded by the railway to help set foundations. My grandmother told stories of helping dig foundations as a child and watching them mix concrete by hand.

But none of this was passed to us, as their own children moved into mostly professional jobs. They were not ashamed of their working-class background so much as eager for their children to prosper in this country for which they had left home. There was promise of a better life here, and damned if their children weren’t going to make manifest that promise. So here, by dumb luck and chance, am I at the beginning of the twenty-first century. I don’t do back-breaking work, I don’t often work more than 40 hours a week, I have a college degree (of questionable value) and live modestly in the most un-modest city in the world. I am no success, by any appreciable measure. I am lazy, often depressed, and can be incredibly obtuse myself even while maintaining a high level of disdain for stupidity and ignorance. And still my life is a dream in comparison to my great-grandfather’s journey, his long separation from his family, his ability to persevere through thick and thin with the kind of grit and determination that I cannot fathom. He prevailed to make the life I’ve had possible; to provide the opportunities, both squandered and realized.

At times I think the Ancient Egyptians had it most right, that our ancestors are also the key to our future, that their journey into the afterlife presages our own, and that their memory and legacy, no matter how big or small, should be prominent in our hearts and minds and monuments. Perhaps it is the weakness of my reason, or the human condition, that makes me believe that they are not gone forever. And so today, I honor him (my namesake), my grandmother, my mother: three lions of my youth, who finally lay down with the Lamb of God.

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis Dómine;
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vendus Interruptus

Coming back into the city on the bus from Washington, DC earlier today (we were only stuck in traffic once we got into the city; 20 minutes to go 5 blocks) I saw a street vendor cover his wares with plastic, carefully unfurl a prayer rug, remove his shoes, and then pray toward the East. It was strange, and beautiful, to watch from the silence of the bus, imagining him focusing on the sacred amidst the cacophony of the profane (Black Friday crowds and traffic jamming the streets near Macy's).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Diary of a Bad Year

I'm currently reading JM Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year, and remembering that Coetzee is really quite a stunning writer. This clever little tale of deceit has three simultaneous threads that can be followed individually, but that create a crackling experience together. He is absolutely at his cagey finest in this book, creating (or perceiving?) a doppelganger that cannot be pinned down. Many will react strongly to the "Strong Opinions" section of the book, and I suspect that this will turn many off, but patience is a virtue in this case, and those that stay for the duration will be rewarded. I like a good curmudgeonly jab at one's critics!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I am currently in rehearsals for my first official, soon-to-be advertised New York City Off-Off-Broadway debut in a show by the production company of which I am a member, The Collective. The production offers three weeks of different programming that should interest just about anyone.

The first week, of which I am a part, is a series of six monologues written by Clay McLeod Chapman featuring six Collective members. Chapman is the creator and performer of the long-running and much-celebrated The Pumpkin Pie Show.

The second week features two pieces by Edward Allan Baker (North of Providence) with four Collective Members showing off their chops in two difficult, richly textured one-acts.

The third week will prove to be intriguing, as The Collective debuts a bold new adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s scandalous fin-de-siècle play Reigen (better known as La Ronde). The production will feature ten Collective members and is sure to create some buzz.

Details to come soon.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I don't think my previous post was intemperate. Apparently management here would disagree were they to read it, since everything is status quo at work. And "Ron" seems to have gotten over whatever initial reaction he initially had to his humiliation. Water off a duck's back, I guess. Sometimes I think I exist in the twilight zone and have completely bizarro reactions to things that everyone around me seems to think are just fine.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Annals of Douchebaggery

There are times in life when one human being does something to another human being that is so hurtful one has to wonder what in the perpetrator’s past or make up might cause such perfidy.

It’s no secret that I couldn’t care less for my job. That said, I have, at the very least, straightforward respect for each of my colleagues and my supervisor, and at the best, I care for each of them as I would my friends and family. There is a manager in a different department, however, whose work ethic and actions should have left him terminated long ago. I can put up with the fact that not every incompetent jerk gets canned when they should, workplace politics being what they are. What I cannot abide is the willful humiliation of a subordinate employee IN THE WORKPLACE.

This so-called manager played the following self-described “prank” on his own employee. The employee, we’ll call him Ron, is an aspiring model and has all the requisite attitude and narcissism that go along with such aspirations. Do I like the guy? Not particularly, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him publicly humiliated; he does his job and we all muddle through. The boss, let’s call him Asshole, decides that he’d like to play a prank on Ron. Asshole puts together a fake portfolio and letter proclaiming to be from Ford Models (a prestigious modeling agency here in New York) and sends it to Ron via FedEx. The letter says that they’d seen some of his modeling work on the internet and that they’re interested in speaking with him about modeling opportunities and could he call at his earliest convenience (Asshole listed the phone number of one of his friends). Ron calls this number and speaks with the “Ford Models Representative” (friend of Asshole) and proceeds to get very excited about the possibilities of his becoming a legit model and starts telling some of his co-workers, friends, and family about it. Ron comes into work on April 1 and Asshole reveals that this was all an elaborate prank, a ruse, a real dick move. Ron breaks down crying, is beside himself, humiliated. He goes home early after speaking with the HR director (yet another friend of Asshole) and the GM. Asshole remains here to cover his shift, and apparently thinks this will all blow over by tomorrow. He proceeds to joke with his other staff member that he should have his own reality show, he's so good at pranks.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT? You ask. How is this gigantic douchebag of a human being still employed at this godforsaken black-hole of a workplace? I am asking the same questions.

And I have no answer for you, except that bad behavior seems to be rewarded around here. Someone who has such obvious contempt for his underlings that he would trample on their dreams and aspirations in public (and if you knew the context, you would know just how very public it was) has no purpose leading anything, managing anything, let alone getting paid to do so. These are tough times in this city, but I may not be able to continue to come to work here unless they get rid of this sack of shit.

I know how “stupid” it is to post about your job. They can fire me if they want. I’d be proud to sit in that HR director’s office and tell her that, if she had even the slightest inkling of what this manager (her friend, remember) was doing, she is every bit as depraved and worthless as he is, and potentially worse since it is her job to protect her employees. Och. Disgusting.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On Broadway

I acted on a Broadway stage this week. Okay, a little background. My friend, Sam, was the Associate Sound Designer for a new play produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company (Broadway’s only non-profit producer) call Distracted, starring Cynthia Nixon. Sam is an amazing people person, and he had a little conversation with the General Manager of the Laura Pels Theatre (where Distracted opened last night; here is the NYT review). The result of that conversation was that The Collective was given the opportunity to have our meeting in the Laura Pels. My friend Victoria and I have been working on a scene, which Sam has been directing, from Polish Joke, a play by David Ives that we have loved since we saw it in 2002. We did that scene at our meeting on Monday. On the Broadway set of Distracted. And then Sam gave me his tickets to opening night and I went and watched Cynthia Nixon play on that same stage for two-and-a-half hours last night. It’s been a good week.