N.Y.C.! Just Got Here This Morning! Three Bucks! Two Bags! One Me!

18 Jun

PATRON: Is there a CD?
ME: No, sir…they haven’t recorded one yet. They’re probably going to wait until it goes to Broadway.
PATRON: Oh! So we’re seeing this before the people on Broadway do?
ME: Yep! You sure are! This is the pre-Broadway tour.
PATRON’S WIFE: Well, [Houston] is sure prettier than Broadway, I can tell you that.
ME (playfully): Well…I think there might be a lot of New Yorkers who might disagree with you.
P.W.: I’m from the South, and when we went up to New York, I just hated it. We were afraid to get out of the car!
ME: Well, when were you in New York last?
P.W.: We went to see HAIR in 1969.
ME: …

OK. So I have a blog. Now what do I do?

Today we traveled from Houston, TX to San Antonio (also in Texas, for those of your who are geographically challenged). It was a pleasant 3 1/2-hour trip by motor coach, and the trip was made much more tolerable and, if you’ll forgive me, “fierce” because we watched Beyoncé’s “I Am…” concert DVD. This is life on tour.

When we weren’t singing along with Bey or marveling at her hair-ography, I was left pondering what in the world I was going to write about on this here blog. I have so many stories to tell – most of which you probably won’t care much about – but I have found that I’m stressing out trying to figure how to tell them. One can’t go telling tales all willy-nilly. These things must be done elegantly, with thought, structure and form. And then there’s the pressure of wanting to be “funny.” And I know that there are some of you who are just waiting to pounce on any little grammatical error I may make (I’m talking to you, Melody Jeane). Being an overnight internet sensation is hard, y’all. It’s all happening so fast!

After much weeping and praying and gnashing of teeth, I finally decided on a format. Sort of. My goal is to begin each entry with a transcription of an actual conversation I’ve had with a patron (or patrons) while I’ve been at work, and then somehow tie the blog entry to that conversation. I don’t know…we’ll see how that works out. So…here we go!

In January 2002, I was living at home with my parents in Louisville, Kentucky. I graduated with my masters degree in May and spent the summer in a wildly successful run as the “bullet-colored growly man” Jud Fry in Discoveryland! U.S.A.’s 27th annual production of Oklahoma! (lots more on that later), where I was able to save approximately $12 of my earnings for the summer. So I moved home at the end of August to find a job so I could save money to move to New York. I missed my friends and adjusting to living at home again was proving to be quite a challenge. I felt like I was wasting time in Louisville – I needed to be in New York because Broadway needed me!

I signed up with a temp agency in Louisville – the first of many I’d eventually work with – and they assigned me a gig doing data entry at a credit card payment processing company. (The irony of this first job is not lost on me, considering how awful my credit has become since moving to New York). My first day on the job began at 9:00am on a Tuesday, and by 9:45 we were all being sent home because two planes had flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The news was reporting that Fort Knox was considered to be a potential target and, even though Fort Knox is about 45 minutes from Louisville, the company thought it best to send us all home.

I spent the next week – maybe it was a month? – glued to the TV, just like the rest of the world, but for me the heartache felt different. I had many friends from school who’d just moved to New York. My friend Jennifer arrived in Manhattan exactly one week before the attacks, and I knew she was temping somewhere in Manhattan, but I didn’t know that Manhattan was 12 miles long and that the World Trade Center was at the southern end of the island. I spent endless hours online (remember dial-up?) chatting with “friends” in the AOL Theatre chat room and sending emails back and forth. For someone who had never even been to New York, I was destroyed because I had already decided that New York was “my” city. Because, you know, Broadway needed me.

Watching the coverage on the various news channels only made me want to get to New York sooner, though I could never really explain why. I guess I wanted to help? This feeling of helplessness would pop up again in 2011 just after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. As it would happen, I ended up in both places about 5 months after each event.

I tried to make the best of my time in Louisville. I was cast in the ensemble of Kentucky Opera’s Carmen, which finally gave me the opportunity to perform in the theatre where I’d seen so many national touring productions come through town. You can imagine how surreal (and slightly soul-crushing) it was to be standing in the lobby of that theatre just six months ago selling merchandise in the very spot where I bought my first Les Misérables t-shirt and Evita souvenir program. It was kind of a full-circle moment, especially considering I spent 8 months last year selling merch at the Evita revival on Broadway. Come to think of it, my first audition in New York was also for a tour of Evita. I didn’t book it, despite my swarthy Latino look. But I digress…

On January 12, 2002, I packed a suitcase and my backpack, my Aunt Betty tearfully pleaded with me not to move to “the evil city,” and I flew the coop for New York. Well…East Islip, Long Island, anyway. I flew Southwest Airlines, and at the time they didn’t have flights into either of the two major airports in New York City. So at 25, I found myself in a tiny airport 50 miles outside of one of the biggest cities in the world, I took the first train I’d ever taken in my life and I miraculously ended up at Penn Station where my aforementioned friend, Jenn, was going to meet me next to the McDonald’s. After 20 minutes of searching, I finally found her and the McDonald’s and my New York life began.

I wish I could say I truly remember seeing Times Square for the first time. I really don’t. After only living in New York for a few months, Jenn was walking much faster than I was and I spent the majority of my time just trying to keep up with her. I do remember we had dinner that first night at a restaurant on the first floor of what is now the Hampton Inn on 8th Avenue and 50th Street. That restaurant is now a T-Mobile store. And I remember a monthly Metrocard cost $63. It’s now $112. I also remember thinking, “I got this.”

Folks, let me be the first to tell ya…11 1/2 years in and I still ain’t got this.

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4 Responses to “N.Y.C.! Just Got Here This Morning! Three Bucks! Two Bags! One Me!”

  1. Nina Anderson June 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    I just love this writing thing you’re doing! 😉

  2. Natalie Buchenberger June 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Love it! Looking forward to the next one 🙂

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