Saturday, September 11, 2010

Of course Jason gets reflective today

I can't remember a September 11th in the past 9 years that I haven't stopped for an extended period during the day and just shook my head and thought "What does it all mean?". Taking the chaos of the world and trying to make sense of it. Trying to help the general public understand situations and feelings that they don't see on an every day basis. I feel that is my job as an artist, actor, and maybe what God put me on this earth to do. It might be because I'm going through one of the worst phases of my life and acting classes have made me get in touch with emotions that have been blocked for a long time, but I have been overwhelmed with questions and motivation today.
I watched MSNBC today and they showed the events of 9/11 in real time from their broadcast that day. as the events happened, they didn't have answers, the news was new to them, but I knew what was going to happen next, and watched how they discovered things as they played out. I couldn't turn it off. I know how it ends. I know that everything that happened that day will eventually become a conspiracy theory. I know that war was just around the corner. I know I cried that day. I know I walked around NYC in a daze that day. I know I ended up at my bar that day and bartended until wee hours in the morning because it was all we I what to do. I know I served drinks to people who had traces of ash in their hair and lightly covering the life trauma that would become apparent on their faces for years to come. I hugged people who lost friends. I answered phone calls from friends of the bar who were reporting of missing friends of the bar. I remember the facts. I remember the outline. But what was going on in my heart? What impact did those events have on me?
Perspective. That's all I can say. In the weeks leading up to it, and the year after, I put life in perspective that has hardly been touched since then. My mom was sick, the physical world around me was being attacked, my dad was injured, my brother got cancer, friends lost their jobs, cousins were shipped to Iraq..... and I had a lady at my bar yelling at me because she asked for one ice cube in her whiskey and I accidentally gave her two. Perspective. It's really why I wear the Livestrong bracelet around my wrist. It's a daily reminder that no matter what I deal with on a daily basis, life can be so much worse.
I've written this before, but I believe we have forgotten the feeling after 9/11. I'm afraid it would take another disaster to get us there, but what can I do as a 5'9, 175 lbs man in Orlando FL that can help our society just make life a little easier? Help find perspective. I write this sitting alone in my apartment, with no one close enough to me to have a direct impact on them, but write and hope that all my friends, past friends, family members, past relationships, people I don't even know will just stop and look in the eyes of their surrounding humans, and just stop worrying. You're there. You are meant to be there. God never gives us anything we can't handle. It hurts. It seems like a mountain we can never get over. But we have others to help us. You have me. You have a neighbor. And back in 2001, I had 11 million people to hold hands with and face the challenges of tomorrow.
We always think we can have more. I remember when I drank, 2 drinks would make me feel good, so 3 must make me feel even better, and 4 would make me feel better than that! Well, we all know that's not true, it usually just gets very bad after that. Why are we scared to live in the moment and be happy with what we have? Why can't that 2 drink feeling be enough? On 9/12, we were. We weren't worried about succeeding in our goals in the next year. We were worried about today and only today. What could we do today that would help us get through and help us sleep better that night? We have stopped living in the now. I go to bed now worried about getting a decent job after grad school and making sure I have enough money to retire. One of my heroes said "Life is what's happening when you're busy making other plans". Perspective. Who do you love? Why are you worried about your future together? Live in the moment. Hug them. Tell them you love them and you're so blessed a higher being brought you together. Call your parents and thank them for every sacrifice they ever made to make you the person you are today. Call a teacher. Thank them for taking time out of their life to make sure you could reach the potential inside of you. Thank your waiter. Thank the person that held the door for you. Thank the cashier who could smile at you even though they're doing their job just to make some money to feed themselves.
I know this is deep and all, but guess what: I'm not going to live forever. And if my writing seems cliched and melodramatic, don't worry, I'll die someday and you won't be burdened by these spiritual thoughts. I hate that it takes a day like this for me to get in touch with these feelings again, but I realized today that for the past 9 years, I have been lucky enough to live by these standards almost daily. At my restaurant, when shit hits the fan, at funerals, when asshole drivers are around me, when idiots bother me with their carelessness of my personal space. But guess what? I always feel bad afterwards for letting it affect me to the point it does. Because who cares? None of those people are even in my vicinity right now, and when you let negativity into your life, you can't be 100% of the person I know you can be.
Why are we so scared as humans? Why are we afraid to fail? Why do we always want to be right? Why don't we take chances on opportunities? Why do I think I don't deserve happiness? Why do people think that 3rd or 4th beer could make them feel happier than they are right now? Look at where you are RIGHT NOW. Maybe you think you could be happier because you're not living in all that that moment has to offer? Stop. Breathe. Life is full of choices. Sometimes the smallest choice can be the difference. Perspective. Smile. Don't look at our country and just see the bad things, find one thing, and just smile. We make life harder than it has to be. Don't argue. Don't spread gossip. Don't be negative. We didn't know what those terms were on 9/12. We just hugged and gave all the thanks in the world of those who stood by our sides, our family members who called and worried about us from outside of the city, and we held up the American flag whenever we could because we had pride and we were telling the world, no matter what happens, we believe in ourselves and we believe in each other.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Journal from Sept 11, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Lights
Follow the Light
By: Jason Nettle

I have a hard time believing you can argue this, but we have forgotten. Yes. It's the 5 year anniversary of the worst attack ever on American soil and even though we honor it and remember all those that were lost, that FEELING is gone. If we were to play word association and I said the word "9-11", I promise you the words and phrases I would receive are: War, Iraq, Osama Bin Laden, Bush has screwed up, New York City, and planes. The words that seem to be forgotten are what 9-11 would bring up just after the massacre: community, caring, united, perspective, strong, and have to put an end to it.
So today I didn't want to get involved with the news covering all the conspiracy theories on how people believe our own government plotted this, and how every conversation led to how we haven't found Osama and what in the hell we're doing in Iraq, and how we're not any safer 5 years later than on Sept. 10th. Yeah, people want Bush dead, and think he isn't smarter than the homeless guy outside of my apartment, and he's inept to lead us. We want someone to blame for everything we've been through. Minutes after the towers collapsed and we see Arabs celebrating in the streets in the middle east, 98% of Americans wanted to go over there, kick ass, make them pay for what they've done, and destroy all evil over there so this would NEVER happen again. Today we have 50% of Americans wanting our troops home and saying we don't belong over there or the rest of the world will hate us. So, I wanted to remember the day for what it was and only the 3 weeks that followed. I didn't see how one day of the year, all of us forget that we absolutely hate the other half of the country's beliefs and unite to remember. It seemed too ridiculous for me.
I stayed home. All day. Watched tv and some of the coverage, but turned it off when it became too political. The last thing I saw was Katie Couric explaining that the checklist made by the 9-11 commission that would make our country safer received C's, D's, and F's. Yup, that should fill us with fear until next year. I kept myself busy until about 7 when I left to go down to 26th street to see a whole evening of improv done at the school I've been studying at last few months, Upright Citizen's Brigade. It was just growing dark when I got on the subway at 96th St. 40 minutes later, I got out of the subway at 28th St. and it was definitely after dusk. As I was walking to the theater I looked up and saw two huge bright white lights shooting up to the heavens. I had forgotten that they illuminate these two beams from the site of Ground Zero in honor of the fallen towers. I always carry my camera, and I pulled it out and played with it till I could illuminate the sky brightly so the beams stood out. On a certain shot, the clouds were right over the beams and that seemed to pierce the cloud like a sword, with the clouds falling limp over the brilliant gash the towers had made.
I don't know what it was. I was about 2 miles from it and I just started walking towards it. Yes, i was walking towards the light. Every so often I would stop and take a different type of shot, each one being different than the last. The closer I got, the more I thought of that day and what those towers did for this city. When I had first moved to NY, I lived in Queens and used to stand on the subway platform out there, which was above ground, and just stare at the beautifully lit buildings on the southern tip of manhattan thinking it was a too magical to be real. I used to take friends and family down there because the architecture was unmatched. The Windows of the World restaurant at the top was a gorgeous place to take a date and dance to their Big Band nights. They're gone.
The strange thing was as i was walking, these two magnificent beams were shooting up to God and I walked by hundreds and hundreds of people who didn't even seem to know they were there. They were sitting outside eating, complaining to their waiters, on their cell phones, arguing with there mates, and listening to their ipods, trying to shield themselves from the community. I never seemed to look at the base of the lights, but just kept looking up so high that they seemed to be going behind me.
The two beams are set up just south of Ground zero, so as I was looking up and seeing how high they were going, I found myself looking at the fence which protected the graveyard of two thousand of my neighbors from the throngs of tourists and vandals. An enormous American Flag was draped just to the west on a tall building, which only reminded me of fellow cast members who wore Canadian shirts on Fourth of July while we were on tour in Asia so that no one believed we were from that Hellish Ego centric country, America. Hundreds of people were there taking pictures, praying, and looking at the all the flowers, letters, and items left in remembrance of loved ones. It seemed a little too comfortable for what I imagined it would be. Too much of a tourist trap. I kept staring at the hole. Why today? Why did I miss the towers today? I wanted them back. I wanted to pretend this had never happened and we could go back to being unprepared and worrying about ridiculous stuff in the news (like celebrity couples' babies), and New Yorkers never being teased with what it felt like to have 11 million people having your back at any given moment. Go back to never knowing what it was like to feel like you should never take anything for granted and kiss your loved ones goodbye, you know, just in case. Go back to having the CIA hate the FBI and the police and fireman not wanting to work together. I just wanted those two enormous masses sitting in this spot and everyone could go to work tomorrow and make a living, And if they had to fly out tomorrow, their families could walk them to the gate.
I did a lap around the void and decided it was time to leave when a fight almost broke out between the group who asked everyone to support our president and troops and the group who wanted peace and wanted the troops back home. Yeah, right in front of everyone. Almost a fight. Lots of yelling, getting in people's faces, and successfully ruining the day of family members who were down there mourning the ridiculous slaughter of their husband, wife, our child. A little more selfish you fucking idiots.
I turned and got on the subway. Got off again at 28th street so I could check out the rest of the improv evening. Turned around and there were the lights. Saw the show, came out, and there were the lights. Took the subway up to 96th street, and there were the lights. It wasn't until this moment I realized how fucking close this attack was to my bed where I was sleeping. These lights stretched up and attached themselves to the heavens and have secured our island with their support. No matter where you are in NY, there they are. As I write this, they are shining up from southern Manhattan, a few miles away. On a night like this, it is more than apparent that they were there. No matter what walk up, apartment building, or restaurant you're at which blocks you off from Ground Zero, those lights can be seen from anywhere and remind you that they were there. They were our history. They were a way of life. They represented two targets which would turn this world upside down, split our country in two, and launch us into the 21st century in a way no one ever would have imagined.
I miss them.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

How I Learned to Drive- Journal #1

I love my real niece, in a way that isn't described in this play. I have been cast as Uncle Peck in the pulitzer prize winning play by Paula Vogel, How I Learned to Drive. In my 24 years on stage, this is probably the toughest character I've played with "Academy Award winning" traits. You know: drunk, gay, handicapped, mental, dying, and in this case, a pedophile.
My first time back on the stage in awhile has its challenges including acceptance, personal morality, and line memorization. Peck is the uncle to Lil Bit who ranges from the ages of 11-18 when he has contact with her. "Contact". I could have taken the easy road and played the idea of being a pedophile. I could have played him creepy. The play is written as if the actor who plays Peck could also be cast as Atticus Finch. Well, I was Boo Radley in school, so what does that mean? Peck is honestly a nice guy, he's the tragic hero. So I could play it easy and just be the nice guy through the whole show and maybe it'll work. But I'm a 34 year old grad student. Here is an opportunity that I could sink my teeth into something that I haven't had a chance to do before.
I don't believe in Method acting so I'm not going out and molesting kids to see what it feels like inside. Although, there are a lot of 18 year olds walking around this campus who look 13. I decided to start in the library and see what I could find. Well, what I found was that if you google "psyche of a pedophile" in the library you instantly become aware of everyone who is sitting behind you. You also become aware of the campus police who might come tackling me when my computer is red flagged. Fortunately what I found on a lot of psychology websites is exactly how Peck is written: Nice, unassuming, friend to all, no criminal record, trusting, trustworthy, father figure, caring. Unfortunately these are the traits for pedophiles. My concern instantly went to my friends who are parents, my brother, and my future self as a dad. Pedophiles can be lost in the community in such places as schools, community centers, and as lifeguards. They can be 19 years old up to 90 years old. They are not obvious to the eye. We make jokes about the child molesting mustache, the clown suits, and creepy behavior, but the traits have to be looked into a lot closer.
A lot of us do theater to teach. To hold up a mirror to society. To take the chaos in the world and try to make sense of it. Some of us do it because we want fancy clothes. This show respects the former. If this play can help 1 parent look at the traits of this disorder in a different way, I've done my job.
These are some of the things I've learned. Most molestation cases come from within the family. Next, they come from family friends or neighbors. Very few child molestation cases come from the weird guy in the bushes. That's why this play is so powerful. Uncle Peck is trusted by Lil Bit, his family, and all the neighbors. Vogel has written it so well that she puts those traits out throughout the whole show. 1) They have an easier time talking to kids than they do adults. 2) In most cases, they were molested as children. 3) They use a behavior known as grooming to zero in on their obsession. Trust is the major term here. They get the child to trust them in all aspects. My director used the comparison to training a horse. Every time they do something good they get a carrot and get punished whenever they do something bad. Pretty soon, they will do whatever you ask them to do, because they know the consequences for all actions. 4) There is a power that pedophiles feel. For whatever reason, they feel powerless in the world. Children are easy to take control over so that is who they zero in on. 5) Children from broken homes and awful situations are easy to groom because the pedophile can make them feel beautiful and cared for more than anyone else can.
The two shows I watched while researching this role was Oprah's story when she interviewed 4 pedophiles and heard there whole story. If any of this is interesting to you and want to protect your children even more, please watch this. The other has been my all time favorite show: To Catch A predator. Up until now I watched this show with laughter because the guys were so stupid. When Chris Hansen would ask them questions, they all tried to lie the exact same way. It's like when I lied to my parents when I was in high school and my dad freaked out because he said "that's the exact same lie I used when I was in school!" I think these two shows are different because the MSNBC show really just touches the surface but shows the kind of terror that's out there, and all of these people find each other on line. The Oprah show hits the stereotypical traits I explained earlier. Hearing these guys' stories, I started to feel bad for their mental health problems. And then that's when this play made sense to me. Peck is not evil. I pray that the audience will feel bad for me at the end. That will make the play that more powerful.
Pedophiles don't feel they're doing anything wrong. They know it's legally wrong, but they justify every single aspect of their behavior."If she/he isn't being physically harmed, what's wrong with that?" "She/he isnt loved by anyone else" "If they didn't wear those clothes they did, I wouldn't be turned on". Holy crap!! It's a mental illness.
It's very scary taking this journey into the role of Uncle Peck. Theater is supposed to resonate inside of you. I have given up control and let Peck resonate inside of me, and with the advice of a couple faculty members, always be aware you're just doing a show and leave it on the stage when you go. Well I wasn't planning on doing it any other way, but thanks for scaring the hell out me!
This is journal #1 about the prep work that went into it, we have almost 2 weeks of rehearsal down and 24 days left. I have a million more lines to learn, so I should probably be getting on that now.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Central Florida vs Ohio State

It's bigger than Otterbein and about the same size as a concert for Jack Johnson. It is Central Florida football. Since OSU played Thursday night...(why).... I was able to attend the first game of the Central Florida Golden Knights against the scrappy Coyotes of South Dakota. It was just a little different than a Buckeye game. Just an itsy bitsy teenie weenie bit different. First, size does matter. OSU has length and girth and attachments and viagara going for it. OSU seats around 102,000. UCF- 45,000. In order to get a ticket for the shoe, you have to sell your first child, sleep with Wendy Williams (girth), and take a loan out. UCF- show up 20 minutes after the game starts, and swipe your student id card, and then sit wherever you want. We sat in the third row. I must have missed the band of....100 come marching out of the non existent tunnel and make every person in the crowd tear up when they hear that drum corps pounding all the way through your chest.
I started noticing big differences right away. I had absolutely no problem using the rest room because I had no one in front of me. Then I wanted a drink, no line. Although it didn't cost me 18 dollars for a hot dog and drink. I looked around the stadium and noticed it was 80% students. I saw one little girl wearing a UCF cheerleading outfit and 3 boys trying to work their way through their cotton candy. In Columbus, we groom our children to be Buckeyes. From birth, they are told about Woody, Archie, Eddie, Chris, Beanie, A.J, Rex, Orlando, Vic, Les, Hopalong, and if we're very careful..... Maurice. We take the Columbus children to the games because it is life changing and because our parents did, their parents did, and their parents did. We learned the words to the Fight song. We learned to hate Michigan. We learned who the Neutron Man was. We knew what TBDBITL meant, and we were allowed to say damn as long as it was in that phrase. We fantasized about possibly dotting the i one day in our lives. UCF children need to learn to wear sunscreen and it's only three hours until they get to go home.
Instead O-H-I-O being yelled by different segments of the stadium, the right side yelled Black and the left side yelled Gold.....I think. Black Gold. Those are our colors, oh I get it. So we're not paying tribute to the winner of the 1924 Kentucky Derby Winner? Looked around again. No jerseys with numbers of current players or past players. Really? Not even an 8 for Mr. UCF Daunte Culpepper? Although, I would feel weird wearing the number of the kid that sat behind me in Physics class.
Hey, no one is dressed like the coach! Sweater vest and tie? With a lot more concentration and scanning, I couldn't even tell who the coach was. Was he there? Touchdown. UCF scores! Only half the crowd noticed. That's sad. During the commercial break, if it was being broadcast anywhere, ESPN national spotlight game?, they play Ozzy Osbourne and a lot of confused faces appear in the student section. Shortly after, the new Katy Perry song comes on and everyone sings along and dances. Kill me.
Did I mention there was no Donatos or Kroger Ads? I mean, I really want Donatos now. Damnit. Who is UCF's rival and does it go as far back as OSU/Michigan? I'm sure it does. Maybe it's USF or maybe the fighters from the UFC and they're fighting in honor of those 3 letters!
End of quarter 3! Bring on Hang On Sloopy! or...... is that the Jonas Brothers? It sucks, so it must be.
Side note, I don't know how to go to a college football game without wearing OSU stuff, so I did. My friends laughed because I got 5 O-H yells in the stadium. I told them to meet me at the Varsity Club and then we'd go over to Tommy's to get some pizza. After the game, I sang Carmen Ohio, traffic was awful and it took me 8 minutes to get off of campus. Arrggghhh.
Next week I can't decide if I'll watch the OSU/Miami game or UCF and NC State.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I'm actually shocked by how many people have emailed me and said "You haven't updated your blog in awhile". Well, thank you. I'm honored and humbled. These past few weeks have been filled with emotions, stress, ease, tears, and laughter. Welcome to be an MFA acting student. I have spent the last two weeks just letting everything settle in, and there is a lot to settle in. I have compiled a list of observations I have made about school, students, Orlando, and the world in general. some are funny, some are deep, but most of them are funny, or deep.
1) I like to make lists. They are far more comical than my writing.
2) I am absolutely in love with my MFA class. I know it's only 2 weeks into it and we'll probably hate each other in 3 weeks, but these past two weeks have been the most supportive and exciting I've experienced in years. We range from ages 21-34, yeah , me being the oldest and already nicknamed the "Godfather". We are starting our own fraternity just so we feel like we're in college and we can throw parties and not feel bad about it. It's more like Old School than anything else. And I guess I'm Luke Wilson because my apt is going to be the frat home. We really just want to have a Toga party. Does Toga get capitalized? It should, it's very important. We have already cried, laughed, partied, shared, supported, studied, and reinforced each other as a group. I feel when I let go and give way to what ever is going on inside me, I will fall in the arms of my class and that's what's most important in a conservatory class.
3) Which brings me to my next point. Release. We're starting at the basics of body awareness and that is the reason for all of the crying and possibly the strength we have found as a group. Emotions are trapped in tension and 99% of us and 99% of our bodies are filled with tension. And when you release that tension..... Holy Shit! It's only been two weeks and we're (I'm) dealing with vulnerability, trust, love, hate, commitment, self esteem, and ego issues that have been stored up for 20 years up until just a month ago. We have movement class every day at 8:30 and by 8:45 I have demons shooting through my stomach and my heart and my brain and my soul wants to explode. It's hard to put your body in a neutral place because we hold so much tension and muscular behavior that we are so unaware of.
4) Kids in college now use computers for everything! I have my Superman, Toy Story, and Transformer notebooks and usually my assignment is "go to this website, print this out, type this up, and email it to this website." ?!?!?!?!?!? Do they realize I was just finishing college when the internet was introduced to society. Not once have I heard, click on, download some porn, check facebook and you'll be done. If that was the case, I would have passed grad school years ago.
5) I'm finally at a place again where I'm free to think and feel with my heart instead of my brain. In NY, I had to plan, manipulate, and schedule my life so I didn't fall behind. Here, everything is from the body and that is great because my schedule is made for me, my syllabus tells me what I have to do, and my paycheck should be there at the end of the month as long as I keep doing what I'm doing. We're finding our lines, characters, and behaviors come from our gut and not our head. This is the greatest gift that has ever been given to me. The answers in grad school aren't in our left brain, but what we feel, and I AM FEELING A LOT! If there is a ratio, I have an A+ and enough for the rest of the student body too.
6) Colleges are cities within cities. I went to Otterbein which was small and had one restaurant. I'm surrounded by chain restaurants, fast food joints, barnes and nobles, and stores that seriously have everything.
7) Everyone needs to STOP asking me if I'm going to go after some young freshman to date. I'm in the frame of mind where I might start dating again when I'm 40, and it's NOT going to be with an 18 yr old. I cannot believe how old I feel on this campus. I can't think of one thing I would have in common with a college student. Hey, remember the 80's? the 90's? no. ok. Remember 9/11? You were 9? ok. My cell phone is acting up. Oh? You can start a nuclear war with your phone? Awesome.
8) Cell phones. Holy all that is holy crap. I knew cell phones were popular and useful, but the amount of usage cell phones get on a college campus is insane. I think I walked by 30 people in a row once and every single one of them was talking or texting. Phones go off in the middle of class and every ring is some hip hop song. God, I'm old.
9) 2 weeks and I still have no fucking clue how to get around campus.
10) Budget Van lines and Budget Car Rental should never never never never get your money. If you've ever wanted to do me a favor, go to some other company than Budget. If I can keep them from getting 10,000 dollars, I will consider this movement worthwhile. More on that in a later blog.
11) You're really not someone's friend until they have stalked you on Facebook.
12) If you have a picture of your niece as your profile, everyone just assumes that she's your daughter since you're 34 and couldn't possibly single and without child by that age.
13) It's hot here. But totally different when you want to study your lines or do homework and can go to the pool in your complex. This will be awesome when it's january or february.
14) It's no longer pre party, but pre game when you drink before going out, even if there is no game to go to or you're not athletic in anyway.
15) UCF football is not as big as OSU football. I don't think I need to explain this one.
16) When trying to relate to your students, stay away from "classics" like Gladiator, Forest Gump, and Cheers, but it's better to use things they know about like Jersey Shore, The Kardashians, or Justin Bieber. God, I'm old.
17) I'm scared. I really am. These next two years are going to be tough. And a degree in this doesn't guarantee anything. All I can do is try to be the best I can be and hope God will take care of me. Everything happens for a reason, and I have been tossed around a lot lately, but once I get into class, I try to open up, learn as much as I can, and hope that coming to my apartment won't seem as lonely as it does right now.