Sunday, August 31, 2014

What is depression you ask?

Time for my next level of vulnerability.

After my last post, dozens of people have asked me questions about depression and have commented that they never would have expected that I deal with it.  Just like the ALS ice bucket challenge, I actually studied about ALS and realized I knew nothing about it.  The first time I heard about it, I thought it was American Sign Language Foundation.  I'm dumb.
Here are a few of the ideas and thought processes that I have dealt with in my years of depression.  I know they do not speak as fact, but if I go through this, I'm sure at least one other person does.  Please don't read this and think this is me 24 hours a day, it's usually me 15 min to a couple hours a day.  BUT, there are some people who do deal with it 24 hours a day, every day, for years.

1)  Depression, Anxiety, and stress go hand in hand for me.  I get overwhelmed very easily and I have to go into a zone to deal with everything at once.  When I get overwhelmed, I become quiet and easily irritable.  It has nothing to do with anyone personally.  I get frustrated with myself that I can't deal with it and that it affects me, which causes more stress and anxiety, and that causes more depression.  Then I get angry that something is causing me more stress and my anger is layered with the subtext "why are you in my life right now?"

2)  I go negative instantly and really have to be in the right state of mind to think positively.  The worst phrases you can ever say to me.  "I need to talk to you", "Can we talk?", "Call me back as soon as you can".  When I hear an open ended conversation that has to deal with me, it can only be bad things.  It's never followed with, "I want to give you more money".  I go back into my database and try to figure out where I've screwed up along the way. Then I put about 50 things that I could be yelled at or shamed for and that sits in my head until the conversation occurs.  Then even if any of those 50 things weren't brought up, they will stay with me for a long time.

3)  I can be made to feel like shit in a matter of seconds.  It's easy.  It's the power everyone has over me.  You could tell me one thing I've done wrong and I'll hold on to that for weeks.  Tell me two things, and my summer is destroyed.

4)  My depression hasn't hit extremely low in some time, but dips into that area every so often.  A depressed person feels sorry for all the problems they have caused you.  If I hadn't done this, said this, shown this to you, etc, then YOU would be a better and happier person.  My existence has caused you pain and anger and I am more sorry than you could ever know.

Are you reading this and shaking your head and saying get over it?

5)  Telling me that I shouldn't be depressed or that I should be over something or not let something bother me is probably the worst thing you can do.  I remember in college, a friend pretended he was me and listed all the great things I had in my life and then said "But I refuse to be happy" and everyone laughed. It might have been the single worst moment of my life.  If I could flush all my paychecks down the drain in order to not deal with this, I would.  I dwell.  I let myself have too many regrets.  If I'm made to feel guilty about something I already know is a problem and already am ashamed and am called out on it, you have beat me in more ways you know how.   I absolutely, 100% know that there are things that bother me and that I dwell on that I shouldn't. Telling me that it bothers you and that I need to get over it doesn't make me get over it, it tells me that my mental illness bothers you and I should be better and now I'm depressed that you have to know me and have me in your life.

6)  I will avoid conflict at all costs.  I doubt everything I do on a daily basis.  I have failed and screwed up so many things in my life, I think it's the norm.  If I bring up conflict or argue with someone, eventually I will back down because there is no way that I am right.  Conflict causes anger, anger causes resentment, resentment causes someone to think less of me and that I'm incompetent, and all of that makes me more depressed.

7)  I dwell on things way past the point they should be dwelled about.  I know this and I try to not let it.  I know it's stupid.  You pointing out that I'm still dwelling on something I shouldn't be makes me beat myself up more.

8)  The snowball effect:  I have learned over the years to identify my triggers that put me in a negative state.  Sometimes one blind sides me and anywhere from 10 minutes, to an hour, to a day I will have accumulated 30 things why I suck and why I only bring pain and stress to myself and other peoples' lives.

9)  Everyone is better than me.  Period.

10)  I've gone back and forth on this one, but I can't figure out if depression causes someone to be defensive and deflect blame for everything or accept all the blame.  Someone being defensive causes me to be really angry, but I don't know if it's because I say "I'm mentally weak and I can accept blame, so why can't someone strong like you accept blame?"

11)  If I hear what people have said behind my back, I might as well chalk the day up to being useless.  Goes back to if I wasn't in that person's life, I couldn't cause them anger or stress and that they had to take time out of their life to tell someone else what I do wrong in life or the decisions I make aren't right.

12)  Telling me what I do wrong is awarding yourself the Captain Obvious title.  I know what I do wrong.  And if I don't know what I do wrong, and you making me feel guilty or ashamed of it has now put me 3 rungs down on my self confidence.

13)  100 things go perfectly for me in a day. One thing goes wrong?  I will dwell on that one thing for the rest of the day.  Wish I didn't.  Man, I wish I didn't.

14)  Please don't tell a depressed person to "just cheer up".

15)  There have been many times in my life I wanted to call out of work "because I'm depressed" but would be laughed at, but if I had food poisoning, a headache, or a fever, I would have a free pass.

16)  There are many times I believe I'm the only person who ever feels this way.

17)  I HATE that I have to take medication for this.

18)  There is a world of difference between asking someone "What's wrong with you?" and "Is everything ok?"

19)  Don't ever feel like you have to fix or heal someone who is sad.  Sometimes just listening is enough.

20)  There is not a human being in the world who can say or do something to make me feel worse than I have made myself feel at some point for the exact same thing.

21)  There is a very special bond between people who suffer from stress/anxiety/depression and when they ask are you ok and you say "panic attack", they understand 100% and know exactly what to do.
When someone who doesn't understand goes into "what can I do" mode and you say nothing and they say they feel bad for not being able to help.....that causes more depression and more guilt.

22)  Boring people is a huge fear of mine.

23)  Being too much for people is a huge fear of mine.

24)  Sometimes being in the presence of people is a huge fear of mine.

25)  Sometimes being alone is a huge fear of mine.

26)  I have imaginary arguments with people in my head all day and lose most of them.

27)  I recognize when I'm having irrational thoughts and feelings, and when I'm out of the depression they seem ludicrous, but inside the depression, they are the realest things in the world.

Please don't respond to this with positivity and "Jason...blah blah blah".  This is solely an informational post that might just save a friendship, relationship, or maybe a life by someone who reads it.  I went through a bad time in my life and that was mostly because I didn't understand it AT ALL.  Now that I can look at it from the outside, I can recognize it and label it, I can defeat and conquer it, and sometimes it punches me in the nuts, I have now learned to manage it and have taught my wife how to deal with it.  She has a special place in heaven.  20 years ago I went from being depressed and having irrational thoughts and feelings 80% of the day to 10% now.  But damnit, that 10% can be a mountain sometimes.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 20 Year High School Reunion Headspin

I get most of my ideas for plays, essays, or blogs from a simple comment or idea.  With my 20 year high school reunion approaching my head was already thinking a million things and then I read a comment about how the people probably haven't changed and that was my launching pad.
(First of all, everything I write here is based on my own experiences and thoughts and reflect nothing of a universal truths of my classmates. )
Who's scared?  Nervous?  Excited?  Freaked out?  Angry?  Resentful?  Working out? Clothes shopping?  I'm sure we all fit into one, a couple, if not all of them.   Why?
Why is this night the pinnacle of how we are judged or by what label we put on ourselves now?  I found myself asking an actress in my show if I should shave, cut my hair, or keep letting my hair grow along with a beard  for my reunion and I froze dead in my tracks.  I put myself in high school, 20 years later, in front of someone who would help me be proud of myself.  I think this is why I'm writing this.  This is my therapy.
With Robin William's suicide this week, I have been evaluating and comforting myself more than usual.    Some of you know, and some don't, that I have been suffering from mild, average, extreme, and 1000% depression since High School.  I've spent years seeking help, dealing with it, succumbing to it, and conquering it.  It's still an issue I deal with every day of my life but not nearly as bad as it was during my teenage years.  The point in stating this is simple:  I don't have any clue who I was in high school.  I didn't understand life, love, death, friendship, work ethic, sexuality, eccentricism, and did I say LIFE?
The 38 year old Jason looks at 18 year old Jason and says "What the fuck were you doing?" Hell, 38 year old Jason looks at 36 year old Jason and says the same thing.
This brings me to High School....... What.  The.  Hell.   Think about the given circumstances.  400 "kids" in our class, pumped up on newly formed hormones, confusion, and excitement.   We were put together and STUCK in that building for 4 years with each other.  We had no escape unless our parents moved away or we dropped out.  So what did we do, we picked anything and everything that made us feel safe and comforted.  Was it a sport?  The drama program?  Art Class?  Band?  Math Club?  Wildcat?  Cheerleading?  Hanging out and smoking?  We found what we could safely live in and we stayed.  We formed cliques because, I don't know, that's the social norm.  I've casted movies and TV shows where we had to find actors who fit the social norm in cliques.  We didn't invent these things, they came way before us.  We spent our days hating other cliques, wanting to be in some, passing judgement on them, or being embraced by them which gave us an identity.  Would these groups define who were for the rest of our lives?  In the minds of 38 year olds looking back at high school, probably Yes.
On this isolated island of High School, we were players in The Hunger Games.  Survive or be killed.  Some of us were bullied and some of us were the bullies.  Some of us got beat up, some of us were the beaters.  Some of us were "Popular" and some of us weren't.  We were stuck with our arch enemies in class.  If someone made fun of me, I couldn't escape, I had 4 more classes with them that day and the next 4 years.  And they were bigger than me, and better looking, and had the girls, and that made me define myself as weak.
Now I'm 38.  If someone was to do that, I'd tell them to go fuck themselves and go to my wife, 2 cats, and insane library of theater books....because that's what defines me now.  I don't believe any of us knew what made us happy or who we really were in High School.  And if you do, you have all of my respect.
The reason I'm actually excited about going to the reunion is because deep down and using common sense, we've all changed.  Good and Bad.  The good stems from the fact that we're adults and most of us have realized life sucks and isn't fair, but we've learned to survive and find what makes us happy.  It's almost like we're all on the same playing field.  Wives, Husbands, Kids, Pets, Etc.  We didn't have those staples in high school.  We were seeking and experimenting and failing more times than succeeding, and that's really ok.  We've lost parents, siblings, children, jobs, and homes.  We've dealt with cancer and divorce and murder.  Cheating, money loss, and war.  In 1994, we didn't have the scars that cover us now.  Human beings fascinate me and why shouldn't I see the people that started this journey of life with me.
I believe something happens in everyone's life that is the game changer.  Some find it very early, some mid way, and some don't at all.  Mine was Sept.11, 2001.  The best part of that day for me living in NYC was the first 4 phone calls I received that day before the towers fell were my friends from high school.  That day stuck with me as the day that we as humans only have each other and the life we have is so precious and short.  Columbine affected me a lot because I don't think that school was much different than ours.  There is not one person in my graduating class I couldn't sit down with and have a conversation with.  What really separates us apart now?
I hear about people hurting in school and being outcasts and being picked on and shooting up schools and 38 year old Jason shakes his head and thinks "Why do we put so much emphasis on high school?"  If we could've gotten some of those kids out of school and to see how much of high school is actually a joke.
I've spent every day since high school being an artist and actor and spend every day studying people, behavior and ideas.  Honestly, I didn't know the first thing about homosexuality in school and now about 60% of the people I hang out with are gay, lesbian, or transgender and I don't even think twice about it.  That doesn't make sense to 18 year old Jason.  It's such a taboo to be different, artsy or dress differently growing up, but honestly, those people have become the core of my friends and I seek them out more than boring, safe people.  18 year old Jason would have been afraid to be judged.  38 year old Jason says "Get a Life".
I'll admit, I was very lucky in school.  The group of guys I was placed in class with became my soul mates.  I admit.  I am in the minority.  These guys became life long friends and groomsmen at my wedding last year.  Do I wish I had talked to every single on of my classmates in school.  YES.  Why didn't I?  Because I was scared and believed I had absolutely nothing to give to heir lives or fun.  On a scale of 1-10, my self esteem was below 0.  I'm sorry if my own demons and depression caused anyone pain or rejection. I didn't ask out girls, who would want to be with me?   I was just trying to survive.  I found my safety in drama, choir, and those friends.  In my latest show Fetish, I describe in detail my journey through puberty and becoming a man.  The show is a complete comedy and I have a blast performing it and the audiences are in hysterics as I perform it.  It's non fiction.  At that time, 1990-1994, I thought I was the only one in the world who was confused by sex, and believed I was the only one masturbating, which made coming to school everyday an enormous embarrassment. It was an enormous relief that most of the things I went through were shared by all the audience members who see it.  I didn't know that then.
 Who of us can't say we're better friends with some people now than in high school because of Facebook?  I enjoy seeing your lives and family and achievements because that's what I do now as a human being, cheer on.  I didn't in high school because my own insecurities destroyed me.
Going back to a High School reunion opens old scars and puts us back in the minds of our confused teenage years.  It mixes our past life with our new life.  Even if we have conquered our insecurities, it reminds us that we had them.  I hope I'm never defined by who I was in High School, because I absolutely have no clue who I was.  I know I was beat up a couple times.  Will I go to my reunion worried that I'll get beat up again?  Will I worry that the girl I had a crush on won't talk to me like I did everyday in school?  I don't care, I'm still going to say hi and catch up and then go home with my hot wife!  If I talk to someone who seems to have no interest in me, that's fine, I'm not going to see them after that night!  I want to laugh with people I laughed with back then.  I want to laugh with people I didn't know back then.  I was made fun of a lot.  Will I worry that I'm going to be made fun?  Sure, bring it on!  My weird things are what make me me!  And I'm ENORMOUSLY HAPPY with who I've become.
Plus....You know 2 of our classmates are going to hook up that night and that's going to be awesome for them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  Go Cats.  Class of '94 Rocks!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why I'm in the Minority

       I'm a white heterosexual male.  Historically, I have never had to overcome prejudices, laws that didn't benefit me, or voting or marriage issues.  These past couple weeks, I've realized that there are things about me that make me sit alone in the world.
       I don't play candy crush.  I don't even know what it looks like.  I don't know any inside jokes that come along with candy crush.  If you show me candy crush and the DNA model of a female spider, I wouldn't be able to differentiate between the two.
       When I drive, that's all I do. Drive.  I don't text, update my twitter, drive one handed, "like" my friends' facebook statuses.  When I switch lanes, I use my turn signal.  I'm able to do this because I have both hands free.  One is not attached to my left ear, which also allows me to check my blind spot when switching lanes.
       I drive the speed limit.  I don't drive 8 miles under which actually causes more wrecks than driving 4 over.  I don't come to a complete stop on merge lanes.
       At the gym, I work out.  I don't pose in the mirror.  I don't speak loudly into my cell phone while on the treadmill for 30 minutes straight because I'm working out.  I'm breathing hard.  It would be very unpleasant for the listener if I would talk to them while I was working out, which is why I went to the gym in the first place.   I don't have my leg up on the bench in the locker room and dry my taint for a good 10 minutes.  Even in the privacy of my own apartment I have never spent more than 15 seconds in the taintness region.
        These are things that I feel 98% of society does and I feel ashamed I'm on the outside looking in.
        I don't text during plays or movies.  I am able to allow myself to be immersed in the imaginary world for 2 hours of the day without worrying what is happening on the outside world.
        I am able to be in a room of 7 people and be the only person not on their phone.  I am able to enjoy the company of those around me.
        I can make it through an entire play without opening a piece of candy.  I can honestly say I've made it through 37 years of my life without eating a piece of hard candy wrapped in a plastic.  I can honestly say I have NEVER seen anyone eat or open a piece of hard candy, unless they are watching Willy Loman's final plea to the world at the end of Death of a Salesman.
       I read books.
       If given a 5 question test that will have me executed if I can't answer one correctly about any of the Kardashians, I will be executed.  Unless one of the questions is "Leave this answer blank if you don't know anything about the Kardashians"
       I would commit suicide if I ever acted like I was superior to someone working in the restaurant business, a teacher, a janitor, anyone who works..ever, anyone who has a job that allows the general public tell them what a piece of shit they are.

I am in the minority.  I demand my rights.
That's it right now.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Evolution of a show

3 days prior to auditions-
"I have my song, I had 3 voice lessons, I have my outfit, I have my picture and resume, I've watched all the youtube clips, I'm taking an extra dance class, I've read the script.  My audition time is at "x", which means I'll spend 2 hours traveling, get there 30 minutes before, stretch, look nice, and smile at everyone there"

Day of audition- 
"I traveled two hours, I look nice, I got my hair cut, I have my picture and resume, I have three extra ones just in case, I've smiled at everyone, I have my song book in perfect order, with tabs for quick access, songs categorized by genre, tempo, belt, legit, comic, dramatic, 32 bars, 16 bars, and 8 bars."
" Yes director sir, I will and can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you ask for.  I would love to take my clothes off for you if it will get me the job.  Can I sing another song but do it backwards?  Anything for you to get the job.  Oh, that is a very interesting story mister director sir, I will laugh and giggle at everything you say (Even though I don't understand anything you're saying) so it will get me the job.  Look how much fun it will be to work with me!"

4 days after audition-
"I got the job?  Thank you!"

"Dear Facebook, I will be playing the role of "x" at "x" theater from "x" to "x".  I am so honored and lucky to be part of such a fascinating show."   (143 likes)

Leading up to rehearsal-
"My going away party will be at "x" bar from 7-the next day and I will most likely be hooking up with one of my kind of close friends after a lot of alcohol because I will be gone to do what I have passion for"
"I need someone to sublet my apartment for 52 days"
"I will go home and spend a week with my family so I will be all charged for my show"
"I have the exact number of underwear, shirts, shoes, pants, shorts, hair products, etc for the run of the show"
" I have all the songs memorized and all my lines in perfect line readings.  I don't want to embarrass myself.  I don't want to be the worst person in the room."
"Dear restaurant.  I hate this job.  Go fuck yourself."

1st Day of rehearsal-
"Thanks for finding me on Facebook.  How do we know "x" in common?"
"You're attractive, I hope we hook up by the end of the run"
"Oh my Gosh, Mr Director, everything you're saying is SO funny!.  All of my cast mates are so funny too!"
"Good read thru! (I am so much more talented than the two leads)

3rd Day of rehearsal
"I am friends with these 4 people and don't really talk to those 8 people.  And I hate that girl because she looked at me wrong one day"
"Oh you like "x"?  We should definitely go do that when we get back to the city!"
" When I did this show a few years ago, we did it like "x", and it was so much funnier"
" I love everyone in this cast.  We go everywhere and do everything together"

Last day of rehearsal-
"Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck"
"We're never going to be ready to open."
"Leave me alone!  Where's my costume?!"
"Hey backstage tech jerk, get out of my way, I need to get on!"
"Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck"
"I hate all of you"

Opening Night-
"I wrote cards to all of you.  I love all of you"
"I'm so nervous!"
"I believe in this show so much and believe this cast will blow everyone away"
"Opening night drinks! Everyone is taking pictures.  Tag me in them on Facebook please"

Next Morning-
"I'm so hungover"

1 week into run-
"I have about three people I like to hang out with outside the theater"
"The audience tonight didn't laugh at anything we did.  They suck.  They should all die"
"I'm going to start changing up my show because it's kind of getting boring"
"Is she ever going to sing that note right?"

2 weeks into run-
"My parents are here tonight, I want you all to meet them!"
"The sight of those 2 people in the cast makes me want to stab them in the neck."
"I don't want to be here tonight.  Can't we just cancel the show?"
(Insert about 87 inside jokes about the show and other cast members)

3 weeks into run-
"I fucking hate this show"
"21 more performances and I get out of this hell hole."
" I hate everyone who is in this show, knows about it, or comes to see it"
"Let's do the show as quickly as possible tonight"
"I've hated the director since the first day.  Do you remember (insert weird story when everyone didn't know each other and couldn't be honest with each other)?

4 weeks into run-
"I shouldn't have slept with "x" but I was drunk, bored, and lonely and now they think we have a "thing""
"14 more shows of this God forsaken piece of shit show that is ruining my life"
" I only like my one friend in the show"
"I'd rather be anywhere than here right now"
"Why would anyone come see this show? Do they know I'm the only talented one in it?"
(While on stage, thinking) "Wonder what happened on Walking Dead tonight?"
"What is wrong with this audience?  They don't respond to anything!  Why did they even waste my time by coming here?  They are here to purposely ruin my life."

Last week of run-
"I'm going to miss everyone so much!"
"I can't wait to get back to the city and get my life in order"
"Unemployment.  Wah Wah."
"Does anyone have a lead on any apartments?"
"I wrote everyone cards for closing night"
"I'm going to miss this show"
"Why am I crying during curtain call?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012



Blackout '03


By: Jason Nettle

I guess everything happens for a reason. At least that's what I've believed and what I've been told. I had just gotten back from doing summerstock at the Theaterbarn and was back to work at Big City. Since there weren't many bartending shifts available, I had asked Brendan if I could wait tables during the days. It was a sucky job and the money wasn't great. But hey.... I'm an actor and I just needed enough money to get by. Although, the day business sucked so bad that I was starting to fret the upcoming month. It was about the middle of August and my mind was stuck to paying my bills Sept. 1st. I actually had sat at the bar with Corey and plotted out my budget, the first time since i moved in 1998. I was working for someone that day, and Erin was out of town so Corey just happened to be there too. No one was at my tables at this certain time so I was standing at the golden tee golf game talking with Corey. He knew about my financial troubles and I was joking around about it. I recalled the story about the guy who got the lead in Footloose and how he had said when he was on the Today show that he was down to his last quarter and it was really the last audition he was going on and then BAM! he got the lead on Broadway. I told Corey I guess big things were in store for me now. Now there's this guy we call douchebag whose real name is Bruce. He looks just like Locke on "Lost", except take away the cool part and add a douchebag. He sits on the exact same stool every day and drinks his Meyers Rum and coke, no ice, in a snifter. Could anyone be more of a loser than that? He wears what looks like a fisherman's vest without the bait and hooks all over it and gives some stupid Star Trek phrase every time he comes and goes. Live Long and Prosper I think. Some days, I replied in my head, now that you're leaving, I have a chance.

Now douchebag sits there everyday with the newspaper that WE bought and has that aura of being better than most living creatures. He has succeeded in acting much more than me, see he's the face of Smirnoff Vodka, from back in 1980. I don't know what he does now, I think he lives off that and his wife. Poor bitch, I don't even know her and I feel sorry for her.

Douchebag overhears what I say to Corey and feels he needs to chime in. But first let me ask you, when you see two people talking to each other and laughing, why do you feel the necessity to bring the mood down, especially when you're a douchebag? So Douchebag says (not knowing my name, even though I've worked there longer than he's been a douchebag) " Yeah, but those are the stories you do hear about. The majority of people in those situations never get the big break and end up failing." End of statement. Are you kidding me? Would he not have been able to sleep if he hadn't guided me with those fucked up thoughts? He put his bald head back down and started to read. Corey and I had nothing to say. The fact that those words still ring in my head 2 years later frightens me.

So the day progresses, Douchebag has put on his Australian fedora on and lived long and prospered, and Corey and I are there by ourselves. It's getting to be 5ish and the cafe is starting to fill up with happy hour folks and I've got a few tables now. I do remember I had two typical middle aged-should never deal with customer service-lived off of their husbands-I get whatever I want- I know how to run your restaurant better than you- my happiness should be your highest goal cunts sitting in the cafe. They were drinking wine or something and asked me if we had munchies. I said we had an appetizer menu and they didn't like that at all. I guess we should spend all of our money on things to give out for free so no one spends money to eat! EVERY time I walked by the table they asked again coming up with a different idea of what I could give them for free. "You should really have munchies" "Yeah, you shouldn't have a case of the uglies, but you do!" I finally had it and walked next door to the deli and got 2 small bag of pretzels for 50 cents and came back and dropped them on their table. "Oh, you didn't have to do that" "Oh no, because by doing that I've finally gotten you two to shut the fuck up and finally in your life have nothing to complain about, but that probably won't last very long because you'll find something else to harp on".

It was about this time that my manager, Steve, showed up. Did the normal hellos and how are things and he disappeared downstairs. At that exact time, all the electricity went out in the restaurant. Now it was pretty damn hot so the heat could have had something to do with it. The lights above the EXIT signs came on, but that was it. I thought about our big ass fuse box downstairs and went to check on it. Steve was already down there flipping switches and cussing at the box. In his deadpan delivery he asked, "what'd you guys do?" not knowing if he was kidding or not I said as a small child, "nothing". None of the switches were blown so I went back upstairs to see what was going on. I walked out side and noticed the street lights were off. Then I noticed something that has made me laugh to this very day..... everyone was looking up. So what did I do? I looked up thinking I was going to something that would make all the lights go out around me, like the Green Goblin or something. Why does everyone look up when you don't know what's going on, it's like turning down the radio when you can't find a place, or women opening their mouths when they put mascara on.

So I looked around and noticed all the other shops were dark, the traffic lights were out, and far as I could see, the lights down the street were out too. I guy was parked in front of the bar listening to his car stereo and he said "All the electricity in NYC is gone!" OK, this was the only time all night I had a small case of the panics. All the electricity in NYC is gone? That's like saying all the cows in Iowa were missing. Or everyone in Mississippi have all their teeth. It 's something my brain wasn't able to wrap around. I went back in and told Steve what I heard and he went into his "zone". Steve is the best guy I've ever worked for. Always fun, loves sports, not on your back all the time, but when it's time to get serious, he's there physically and mentally. He goes into survivor mode. He started telling us what to do before I even realized what was going on. The first thing he said was to bring up as much bottled beer as possible and fill all the tubs with ice. ok. Next was to get every candle we possessed in the restaurant and have them out. Next was to get as many flashlights and make sure we had batteries and backups. It was as if this guy saw the entire night happening before him and letting us in on it. He had the kitchen guys get his generator and start charging up one of the beer coolers. He sent Brendan to get gas to fill up the generator. All of a sudden, Corey and I could see what we were going to be in for. The heat was starting to get to us now and it was about 6 pm. Everyone was just getting off work and word was getting to us that the entire east coast had no electricity. that there was some problem in Canada blah, blah, blah. A few people talked of terrorism, but that didn't seem to be the case. I do remember one guy coming in and he looked a little distraught asking if he could use our bathroom because it was hot and he was feeling a little panicked and now that I think about it, I don't ever remember seeing him again, I wonder if he's still in there.

Our bar was starting to get pretty full with a lot of the neighbors from high rises around us just waiting for the electricity to come back on so they could go up to the 35th floor. Dormandy courts has about 3000 residents, and I think almost everyone of them came into our bar. We knew this would be just like 9/11. Everyone was walking from downtown and would be here in about an hour. People were hungry but all we could make were salads. We had to save all of our ice so all we were selling were bottled beer and wine.

As the sun was setting it was getting REAL hot in the bar with 200+ people in there. Chris Byrne finally showed up after walking all the way up from Stuy town. He instantly went into his "I'm going to get fucking stewed tonight!" Now Corey and I were going to go home after our regular shift but we were here for the long haul. I remember 2 girls showing up at one point dressed so nice and most likely hit with the stupidity stick telling us they were there to "guest bartend". Without missing a beat I said there was no way in hell. We were going to make so much money for the bar tonight that we might be able to open a new place tomorrow. Since the electricity was out, the NCR registers didn't work so the register was open and we just made change out of that. I asked Steve what he wanted us to do about ringing stuff in and he just smiled and said "just be fair". When he said that I sort of chuckled because I don't think he could've asked for 3 better bartenders behind his bar on this particular night. Corey and I were in the middle and Byrne was down at the hook doing shots and getting stewed. Steve didn't have to worry about a thing. I think he had 3 of the most trustworthy bartenders in the city.

This was the jist of the night. People were coming into the bar out of the scorching humidity and asking what we were serving. "Cold bottles of beer". The was the best thing. They usually asked "Just give me 3 of your coldest" and we reached in and just handed them to the person and took the money. It was perfect. No mixed drinks, no cosmos, no margaritas, nothing. A person actually asked for a pina colada. Corey lost his shit. They couldn't understand why we couldn't blend one for them. idiots. Rule was.... no ice given to the customers. 2 reasons. We had to save as much as possible to keep everything cold. 2- for hours on end, we had bottled beer all up inside of it and the ice was definitely...."not clean". One lady demanded, and I mean demanded that she have ice in her wine, so Corey said he wasn't responsible for anything that happened after he put it in there and when he scooped three ice cubes into her glass, there was the nastiest label/moss from a bottle that had been at the bottom of the cooler that just floated in her drink. I think she drank it.

Lights? Have you ever served beer by candlelight? have you ever served beer by 200 candlelights? Well, we did. If I had farted at any point of the night. You know one of those farts that hurt your ass when your done? The place would have exploded and set off a flair that could've been seen by a satellite. My friends lived in a high rise across the street and said when they looked down at our bar, it looked like we were doing work on nuclear waste. The glow coming from inside the bar might have been enough to light the city. The three bartenders had flashlights. BUT, since we needed both of our hands at all times, we found that place in our necks when you tilt your head to the side to keep the flashlight the entire night. Not one person who came into the bar knew what we looked like. All they saw was a flashlight facing them as if they had just gotten pulled over and a cop was questioning them. "How many" my voice would ask. 6! I would reach in and grab 6 beers. NO clue what they were. We actually placed all of our budweiser select on top because we had such a hard time selling it when the lights were on, we told the people that was our coldest beer. Everything was either 5 or 6 bucks. So no matter what I gave, it was 6 bucks, by the end of the night it was 7 or 8. People didn't care. They had nothing to do but drink. They couldn't go home, everyone was out, there were hot girls there, hot guys, people sharing stories, people not having a CARE IN THE WORLD. There was nothing anyone could do. Steve went out and turned his car on and blasted the stereo. So we had music. People were dancing, smiling, laughing, making out. Even if we got behind a little, people just cheered us on, because it didn't take long to catch up. We just pulled as many beers out of the ice and started handing them out and taking money. People were tipping like crazy. Giving us a 20 dollar bill for 2 beers and telling us to keep the change. Being so grateful that we were open and supplying such a good time for everyone. Corey and I turned around at the same time to put money in the register and put our tips in the bowl and the money was overflowing, falling behind the register, on the floor, etc. Corey picked up 2 handfuls of money looked at me square in the eyes and screamed, "HEY BRUCE...... FUCK YOU!!!!!!! " That douchebag was sitting in his 120 degree apt. hopefully pooping his pants 'cause he couldn't find the toilet.

I definitely have never been sweating that much in my life. Anytime someone ordered a water, I'd fill up 3 glasses. One I would hand to the person, one I'd dump on myself, and one I'd throw at Corey. We didn't know what was water or sweat after awhile. At one point, I looked up and my cousin was standing there with her friend. I handed them 2 beers, and the crowd and darkness swallowed them up and I never saw them again that night.

I would be lying if I said everything went real smooth all night. The worst was the heat. But the flip side was everyone was real thirsty. Second was this huge bin of ice that was on the floor right behind the bar. Corey was on one side and I was on the other, but since it's bartending, we were switching a lot. Hence, everytime we jumped over the bin, our shin would hit it. Corey and I had the worst bruises the next day. Of course we couldn't look down at them because our necks hurt so bad from holding the flashlights there for 10 hours.

At about 5 or so, I think the last person left. It was the three bartenders, I think Steve was asleep in the office downstairs, and a couple of our friends. It took us about an hour to blow out all but 2 of the candles. Corey went to sleep on the couch in the restaurant and Byrne and I walked down the street, each holding a candle. We walked to 2nd ave. only being lit by our candles and the moon. My God you'd think we were on a romantic date. Byrne got into a cab there and I walked back to my apt. Not a light was on. The whole city was asleep and I felt like I was the only one alive. No one. All apt. high rises dark. All shops and delis closed up. It was beautiful. I held my hand over the candle to make sure it didn't go out. I was a little worried about getting into my apt. Just as I got to the steps to my building, the candle went out. I made it through the first door, and then things got scary. It was pitch black.....I mean close your eyes dark. I've walked down that hallway a million times, but it was the perfect acting exercise to see what it was like to be blind. My biggest worry was that someone was on the stairs. Made it to my door, fumbled around the keyhole, dropped my keys, made it in, scooted my way to the couch and just laid down and went to sleep.

I woke up the next day to sun but no electricity. It was about 10 am so I had nothing else to do so I walked up to the bar to clean from the night before. When I arrived, Corey was opening the windows and Ricky was setting up the cafe. I realized we were opening. I was wearing a tshirt and shorts which would be now known as my uniform for the day. To our surprise, a shipment of fried food came that morning. And by the way, our fryer was once one person sat down and ordered wings and mozz sticks and people walked by and saw that and started salivating, we were packed again. A lot of the city hadn't eaten in a while. Everything in their fridge was bad. The deli's didn't have much because it went bad, and we were serving hot food. I was the waiter and Corey was bartending. Same thing. Packed. Since ATM's didn't work we had people begging us to take their credit cards so I learned how to manually make copies of them and had a stack of them about the size of the 9/11 commision book at the end of the day. Corey and I ran around until 4 pm when we finally ran out of bottled beer and the ice was all but gone. Just then the NCR's shot open, the fans kicked on and you could hear a cheer coming from the streets. Corey and I collected our money.....our piles and piles of money, our pay all our rent and bills for a month money from the last 24 hours and went home and slept for a long time.

Corey and I have always talked about having an anniversary party every year and turning off all the lights, kicking the AC on, and only serving bottled beer. It was a great night. I've been here 7 years, and I can honestly say those 24 hours were the absolute best hours I've ever had here.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Born in the wrong decade

"It was twenty years ago today" Paul McCartney sang out 45 years ago on the first track of one of the biggest rock albums of all time.
Last night I was privileged to see Rock Albums Live at the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando and had the most un-enhanced drug trip of my life. Sgt. Pepper's was not made with concert type songs. It was a studio produced album that changed the way music would be produced for the rest of our lifetimes.
I'm not exactly sure how many musicians it took to create this masterpiece in 1967, but it took 14 to recreate it live. Besides the normal lead, rhythm, bass (right handed last night) and drums, the stage was filled with violin, viola, cello, trumpets, glockenspiel, tambourine, and sound effects to name a few. By the time "She's Leaving Home" came up I was speechless and consumed with the sound. Not because of the musicians last night, but because I couldn't believe 4 men (but mostly 2 of them) were able to write this library of music in the 60's and every song is better than the last. I was born listening to the Beatles. My dad used to rock me to sleep as a baby to Abbey Road. The first song I ever learned to play on guitar was Rocky raccoon. I sang "Michelle" as an audition song when I was 12. And I'm pretty sure my future song will be able to say the exact same thing.
The stage lit up and the guitar solo began and I became aware of the audience members around me. To my right was two fathers in their late 40's and their two sons around the ages of 10 and 12. All four of them sang along to With A Little Help From my Friends. A younger couple stood to my far right with their 4 year old daughter who danced as freely as she could to Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Behind us was three generations of a family all yelling at different times to their favorite song. The man in front of me closed his eyes throughout the hour long recreation and tapped his foot and mouthed the words. He let his head sway to the beat and crunched up his forehead and eyes when the music moved him more. I figured he was my dad's age and assumed when this album came out in '67, he was in college, protesting the war and doing more than drugs than all of us in this generation can get our hands on. Then up the aisle came a 70 year old woman bopping to the tune of Lovely Rita. Through the gray hairs and artificial hip, I saw a girl free from all the medicare and social security problems. Most likely going to call her grandchildren tomorrow and tell them while they were playing Rockband and texting their friends at home, grandma was out living a REAL Rock life and dancing with kids younger than them!
Shockingly, during "A Day in the Life", I thought to myself This could be the future of music. This is where music has the chance to go. Does anybody else realize how ridiculous this statement is?? This music broke all barriers 45 years ago and set the standard for all musicians. After the concert we went out to the bars and dance clubs and it is not humanly possible to listen to 2.5 hours of Beatles music and then listen to "Call Me Maybe" and "I'm Sexy and I know it" without putting your head in a wall. I was talking to a buddy and we were talking about classic rock and I said that I feel that music is out there somewhere, but without MTV (the way I remember it), radio stations, and record and cd sales we can only listen to what the popular culture wants us to listen to and sadly that will continue to be shit that I just don't have any respect for.
Long live Rock n Roll.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

it seems so

The reason I consider myself a failure is because I don't work hard enough to be the best I know I can be. When did "just getting by" and "finding or creating excuses" get to be the norm? When did being average seem ok because that's what everybody else was doing? When did exceeding all expectations of myself and others get to be looked down upon? Why am I scared to be the most brilliant, talented, and creative human being walking on this planet? Deep down I know I can be and that might piss people off for saying it or even believing it, but enough people have pissed me off in my life that I get a turn. Why am I even scared to write this?