“WELCOME BACK!” TO A New York STATE OF MIND
Okay, so after twenty years of living in Los Angeles as a “freeway culture isolationist,” buffered by my car from the regulation of mass transit schedules as well as any unwanted up-close and personal interaction with humanity, I have been back in New York City since June...having moved here to help care-take my ninety year old mother; re-ignite my post-divorce love-life, and resuscitate my acting career with a midlife reinvention and remodel.
On all fronts, stand-up comedy seemed to offer a promise of "salvation." It would provide a respite from my daytime care-taking responsibilities; it’s heavily male-dominated, and “back in the day,” before EON, I was a company member of NYC’s Off-Centre Theatre sketch comedy troupe (which is where funny guy John Leguizamo got his start) and toured with the improv group, The Proposition, (which launched the comedy career of Jane Curtin). So I figured, I’d “start over” by going back to my live-comedy “roots.”
After the end of the first session of my stand-up class at the Manhattan Comedy School, even though the subway pulled up the moment I reached the platform, I missed connecting to the train home to Long Island by two minutes. The next week, I boogied out of class as soon as it was over instead of dawdling to network and chat…and ended up missing the train by three minutes (?)
Over the course of the next hour spent “lounging” in the Penn Station waiting room, I was accosted by a drunk named Jimmy (slurringly pronounced “Zhhheee-meee”) who plopped down in the seat next to me and started hitting on me in Spanish. When I tried to curtail him with “No habla,” he took that as an indication that obviously I spoke some Spanish and kept up with his advances, blathering “Zhhoo lookee Spanee” as if the way I looked was some sort of language decoder, and that if he continued saying it, the decoder would eventually activate.
I considered moving, but even at this late hour, seating was at a premium and I was in no mood for standing. Besides, “Zhhheee-mee” seemed like a “happy” drunk -- all-in-all, relatively harmless and seemingly a pretty nice guy. (No “love connection,” however!) Finally, the train to Freeport was announced and he left…but not before several attempts at getting me to kiss him good-by using the international “index-finger-tap-to-the-cheek” symbol.
I politely blew him an air kiss and waved good-by.
Immediately, his place was taken by some kid screaming into a cell phone: “This is Doctor (yeah, right!) Michaels…Well when is she going to be home, then? Listen, I was just robbed at gunpoint and have no credit cards and no money…I reported it to the police but they say they can’t do anything and a cab ride to get up there is going to be at least seventeen dollars!” Fortunately, my train was announced before he could hit me up for the seventeen bucks.
Weary from the long day of taking care of my mother; the postpartum of the adrenalin rush from class, and the toll taken by my anxious, waiting-room vigilance, I nodded out on the train…only to wake up as it was pulling away from my stop.
It was after midnight when I got off at the next station, and I was irked to discover that I had just missed the train going back in the other direction, and it would be forty-five minutes till the next one.
This might be a good time to mention that I’d driven over my cell phone with my car – which I now used mostly to drive back and forth to the train station – the day before, and had yet to replace it, so I had no means of calling my sister to come pick me up. Nor would it have made any difference if I could have found a pay-phone, because the moment I’d programmed her unlisted number into my cell, I promptly forgot it!
When the only two other people waiting on the platform got into a shouting match that looked like it might erupt into violence, I decided to take a cab. Cautiously, I walked around the station, ready to scream at the top of my lungs and “run like the wind” if I came across any trouble. There was not a taxi to be found. Fortunately, there wasn't any trouble, either.
Sighting a 24-hr Dunkin’ Doughnuts, I decided to go in and wait out the interminable twenty-five minutes left till the next train, when suddenly (thankfully) four taxis appeared… probably returning from dropping off passengers of the train I’d just been on. I leaped into the first one. The driver was a kid working the late shift to put himself through college. He listened patiently to my “what-a-crappy-day” saga and sympathetically opined, “I sure hope things get better for you,” when he dropped me off.
When I got inside the house, my sister was asleep on the couch. Totally whipped, I went upstairs and straight to bed. About half an hour later, she knocked on the bedroom door and walked in with my newly purchased, ten-ride train commuter ticket (with nine rides remaining on it), in her hand. The ticket had fallen out of my wallet when I paid the taxi driver. I was his last fare for the night before turning his cab in, and when he found it in the back seat and saw that it was for “Woodbury to Penn Station,” he figured that it was probably mine. Instead of turning it in to the lost-and-found, he’d driven all the way back to return it to me before going home.
Hey, things were getting’ better already!
Just when I’d started to feel that my glass was half-empty and life was passing out straws…“the kindness of strangers” came along and filled the glass back up, again. Along with the taxi driver, a man I’d just met and hardly knew – upon hearing of my cell phone fiasco – graciously compiled information and links to websites on the latest cellular services and equipment he thought I might want to take a look at before making my purchase.
But, then…my techno-savvy son, who uses the same wireless carrier and gets a new cell phone every year to stay current with the latest gadgets, offered to buy me a new one (!) or said I could have his old one – which, for me, is still an upgrade from my old one…and which was the offer I decided to take him up on. When it arrives, I just need to drop in my old phone's undamaged SIM card (they seem to be indestructible) into the replacement and my wireless phone-book will be magically restored!
However, “just in case,” I've also bought an old-fashioned, spiral, cardboard-cover, address book to make a back-up hard-copy. Additionally, I’ve acknowledged to myself that if I want to make my train on-time, I’m going to have to haul my butt out of class at least ten minutes earlier from now on.
“Laid-back California Girl” doesn't live here anymore. I've come to understand that if I want to fully participate in life, I should expect it to be messy, frenetic, imperfect and unpredictable, and just roll with it…learning to laugh at and appreciate the quirkiness of “inconvenient” occurrences, along with being grateful for the gift of those that are unexpectedly kind.
It's taken awhile for me to make the adjustment, but I've finally got my “Feisty, New York City Woman” chops back. And as any New Yorker will tell you, “Hey, sometimes $%*&!! (bleep) happens …but that doesn't mean it has to stick.”
I (Heart) New York .
BTW – For those in the New York area, the "New Talent Showcase" for my stand-up class will be Sunday, Dec.16, 2007, 4:30 pm, at Caroline's Comedy Club in NYC...in case you're interested. Michael O’Leary, Rick from Guiding Light is in the class, as well, and will also be performing. For information and tickets, call Caroline’s Box Office: 212-757-4100
Love you madly! :-)