Tag Archives: NYC

One day, I’ll be a real actress

The email sounded promising enough. “You have been selected to audition for the Roots and Branches theater company.” Key word: Selected. You see, being selected, as opposed to being asked or invited, automatically makes me superior to all the other actors in this city, as if they pulled my headshot from the massive stack of mail and said,“Her! She’s the one! She’s got talent! Pizzaz! A real dynamo this one!”

Yes, this may sound like a scene from a Shirley Temple movie. And?

I continued reading the email.

“Roots and Branches is an inter-generational community of artists, interested in exploring past and present situations to combine individual moments of personal growth into a collaborative creative presentation.”

Whatever. Just give me a job. Please. I can’t feed my two kittens. I say kittens because even though I don’t have kittens, you can believe that I do. I thought about saying children but really, the idea of me having a child at this point in my life is just ridiculous. And I need you to believe that I have some sort of desperation to go to an audition that will ultimately take me nowhere. Cause why else would I keep putting myself through these useless and often humiliating auditions? Why?! WHYYYYY????

Because I have hungry kittens, damn it!

I arrived at the location provided by the theater company. From the outside, it looked like one of those recreational facilities where you play basketball or indoor soccer. But when I entered, I didn’t hear the usual squeaks of sneakers on wood or grunts of defensive play. There was only silence. A stillness to the building. I took a look and saw no one around. I stood in the empty lobby, alone with my thoughts about how I was alone. However, instead of being creeped out by this Unsolved Mystery waiting to happen, I had an odd sense of familiarity, a feeling like I was home.

I was at a retirement complex.

Growing up in Central Florida, I am no stranger to the elderly lifestyle. Living in conjunction to the second largest retirement community in the United States, The Villages (spreads over three counties!), old people silence is something you learn to live with. Occasionally, a golf cart hums by at 3 miles an hour. Or a house will blast Maury and Montel at full volume. After seven P.M. the silence fills your ears and starts to eat away at your brain.  Soon you’re talking to yourself to fill the emptiness in your head and phrases like, “Baby needs Mr. Q to bake something.  Banana. Banana.” or “Mr. Q ate my tulips. Baby wants her red ones.” start to make complete sense.

A painting by Mr. Q

Lauren, head elder of the Roots and Branches, came out of an elevator and greeted me in her wheelchair. I volunteered to push her to where ever we were going and she directed me to the back of the complex, to a large rehearsal room she called their “jam space”. A group of elderly men and women sat in a circle and applauded as I rolled her in. I noticed there was only one other actor there to audition. His eyes kept darting from the group to the door. I sat down next to him, away from the elders. He nodded his head at me.

“Hey, I’m David.”

“Sarah.”

“Looks like we’re the only ones here to audition.”

“Good.” The fewer the better in my opinion.

One of the elderly men rose and a hush fell over the group. He groaned the entire way.

“Boy, them knees don’t work like they used to!” Knowing laughter filled the room. “Well let’s get started here. Kids, this isn’t going to be your typical audition.  We’re going to do a little improv, story-telling to see what we come up with. Sort of like we’re workshopping you. That’s what we do. We workshop and tell stories and then we write a play. We’ve got Dina here on guitar, so if you want to start singing, she’ll start a melody and go along with what you do. Dina, why don’t you stand up. Where’s Dina? Dina!?”

A woman with a shaved head stood up behind him. Stickers about saving Mother Earth adorned her guitar case. “Hey guys. Who’s ready to jam?”

“Sarah, why don’t you go first?” The elder pointed at me with his cane. Seriously?

“O-okay.” What was he going to make me do?!

“Sarah, take this cane.” He handed me his long knotted walking cane, maple oak in color. “Take this cane and tell it something you want it to know. Anything. Just something you feel it needs to know. I’ll speak if I feel the cane wants to know more.”

I held the cane tenderly and began to tell it a story.  Sadly, this story is true.

“So, um, I was doing my laundry the other day.  Um, and, uh, I had a sort of bad week. And I hate doing laundry. I mean, I HATE it. And I was really tired and stuff and I went to put in the quarters into the dryer and I hit the wrong button and refilled someone else’s dryer with the quarters. MY quarters. And, um as I said, I had a really bad week and when I did that I started to cry. In the middle of the laundromat.”

“How did that make you feel?” asked the elder, or should I say, asked the cane since, while it is capable of creating thought, it is unable to vocalize its concern for me.

“Stupid.”

“It made you feel what?”

“STUPID!”  I shouted this line to make my story sound more meaningful.

“What do you want the cane to know about that sad story?”

“Um. That people are good. Cause this man, he didn’t even speak any English, he came up and put four quarters into my machine. Of course, that only made me cry more. But it was still nice.”

“Sarah, do you sing?”

“No.”

“Do you dance?”

“Yeah.” Crap. “I mean, I used to.”

“Would you do a little dance with this cane?”

‘Yeah, I’ll give you a beat!” shouted Dina as she began to strum a cheerful melody. I figured my dignity was shot with that laundromat story, so I began to dance a beautiful dance with my partner, the cane.

We twirled in circles together. We tangoed. We did the twist. I lifted the cane high over my head and pandered to the elders, tapping my feet vaudeville style. I could tell they were enjoying my performance even though what I was doing couldn’t really be considered dancing. What I was doing looked more like what a four-year thinks dancing is; an uncooordinated mix of hip thrusts, arm poses and funny faces.

“Now say something to the cane,” the elderly man commanded.

I looked at the cane and, in a rather inspired moment, said, “You’ve been so good to me, baby.”

Laughter and applause filled the room. I had pleased them. I sat down and a female elder leaned over and whispered, “That’s how I always feel.”

After I watched the other auditions (two more actors came late), I felt pretty confident that I was going to be jamming with the Roots and Branches full-time. While the other actors may have had better stories, I beat them all with my dance.

They never called me back.

And somewhere, in New York City, a cane sits alone, wanting just one more dance.

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Hog or Heifer? Or Both?

Fired. Again.

It’s just not working out, they say. I don’t blame them. After working three years in various Manhattan restaurants, it’s inevitable: I’ve acquired the bitter waitress syndrome. I couldn’t care less about working in another restaurant and learning five different ways to fold a napkin. They can take their Zagat rating and shove it.

Yet here I am, in a heap of tears on my bathroom floor.

It’s January in New York City. Fucking January. Nobody is hiring in January.

After this restaurant and many others have so readily disposed of my services, it might be pragmatic to stop waiting tables and do something else. In my defeated state on the bathroom floor, I think about bartending. That’s an upgrade, right? It’s not waiting tables but it’s still a night job that allows me to pursue auditions and write during the day. I don’t have much experience but I like beer and know how to pour a pint. I also like to dance and be sassy.

And if there is one place in New York City where dancing, being sassy and pint pouring come together, it is at Hogs and Heifers.

New York City lore has it that the inspiration for the late ’90′s feminist movie, Coyote Ugly, comes from this bar. According to the movie, the bartenders or “coyotes” that work there are wild and unpredictable. They dance choreographed routines on the bar and cut men’s ponytails off while pouring pitchers of water over their svelte model-esque bodies. One coyote is so talented she can stop a bar brawl by singing. I know! She’s that good. These coyotes make a ton of money every night (the movie never shows them working the day shift) and they do it by capitalizing on their sexiness. Or sluttiness. However you want to look at it.

Sitting on the edge of my toilet seat, I dial the phone number for Hogs and Heifers. It is 7:30 PM. I hope I’m not calling too late.

“Hogs and Heifers,” a husky voice answers. I can practically smell the cigarettes through the phone.

“Hi!” I cringe at the perkiness of my voice and attempt to lower it. “Are you hiring any new bartenders?”

“We’re always hiring.”

“I will be there in thirty minutes.” I hang up, exhilarated.

I rush to put on some appropriate clothing. It is a frigid night so layers are a necessity. My white lace tank top peeks out from underneath my lavender argyle sweater. I pull on some jeans and sling a black knit scarf around my neck. A pair of black platform boots adds extra height to my 5’7 frame and keeps my double socked feet warm. I check myself out in the mirror. Not bad.

The Meatpacking District in Manhattan is where Hogs and Heifers is located. Like Space Mountain at Disney World, you can’t miss it. The outside of the bar is rusty and worn down and a row of motorcycles rest on their kickstands along the curb. Blasts of Johnny Cash are heard whenever someone steps out for a cigarette. A red neon light displaying the name of the bar sizzles and pops with danger.

A large tattooed bouncer checks my ID. He lets out a tiny smile when I tell him I am applying to be a bartender. “Good luck, honey.”

It may have been the dead of winter but judging by the bikini tops and cutoff shorts donned by the bartenders we were in the middle of a heat wave in August. I approach the bar and ask for an application.

“For what?” the bartender wearing an American flag bikini asks.

“To bartend? I brought my resume…” I trail off feeling hot and itchy under my sweater. The bar is empty, except for about eight bikers, all wearing serious amounts of facial hair and leather. A lone female wanders back and forth from the bar to the bikers, until she finally loses her battle against testosterone and settles in with the bikers by the jukebox. A mountain of bras hang from the ceiling, sloppily discarded as the remnants of a good time had. I notice the other two bartenders are having fun being complete smart-asses to one of the bikers. This could work, I think. I bet I’ll become one of the favorites here…

“Sweetie, you want something to drink?” American Flag asks.

Caught up in the atmosphere, I slam my hand down on the wooden bar. “Gimme a shot of Jack!” My voice growls with an unusual ferocity.

“That’s my girl.” She pours the shot and slides it to me. I slug it down, the alcohol burning my throat. I’m not a Jack drinker. American Flag grabs a megaphone from underneath the bar and it crackles as she turns it on.

“Hey. Hey. Listen up!” She glances down at my resume. “Saaaarah wants to work here!”

Oh my. It’s exactly like the movie. I start hooting and pumping my fist in the air to make it clear that I was the Sarah she was talking about.

“So you know what she’s gotta do! She’s gotta show us her moves! Get up here and show us what you got!”

I continue hooting and hollering like an over excited ape. I proceed to clumsily mount the bar. It is higher than I expected. My stomach turns, partly due to the shot and partly from the realization that I can’t clog or two-step my way out of beginner’s dance class, let alone freestyle on a bar as a prerequisite for a job interview.

A country western song starts to play on the beat-up jukebox in the corner. I gently start to sway my hips to find the rhythm. I glance at the men below me, trying to entice them with my smile and upbeat attitude. They are unresponsive. It must take them a minute to warm up.

My mind flashes to one of the scenes in the movie, where the main character Violet is trying to survive her first night. She can’t handle the pace of a packed bar. She balks when the owner tells her to dance on the bar. She pisses off the fire marshal. She fails at everything. Things are looking grim for Violet. But right before she gets the boot, she figures out a way to win over the crowd and her boss by auctioning off a really cute Australian guy for the ladies.

So since this place has been just like the movie so far, it’s clear that the key to getting a job at Hogs and Heifers is to interact with the crowd in some manner. Show them I know how it works here in this bar. And what better way to do that than encourage the bikers to buy a shot for me, their new favorite bartender?

“Who’s gonna buy me a shot after this?!” I shimmy precariously in my platform boots.

Silence.

“That’s cool!” I skip to the other end of the bar. That’s right. I skip. I skip because it has become apparent that I am a terribly unsexy bar-top dancer. My moves are generic, uninspired and limited. In addition, my platform boots have shifted my point of balance causing me to awkwardly teeter after any move I make and my thick sweater is wearing me down, making my body appear shapeless and bulky.

“Why don’t you take off your sweater?” suggests American flag, via megaphone.

American Flag has a point. Why don’t I take off my sweater? I wriggle out of my sweater and with a bucketful of sass, toss it out into the crowd, hitting the only biker slightly interested in my performance squarely in the face. I’m left wearing an ill-fitting tank top with a hole in it and my hair is sticking straight out from sweater static. The bikers start to notice me.

“Yeaaaaah, watch out!” I shout, energized by the slight breakthrough I have made with the crowd. Thinking it the appropriate time to pull out one of those cool knee slide moves demonstrated in the movie, I prep myself and go for it. I slide a mere two inches, more of a heavy plop than a slide, my knees catching on a sticky film of spilt alcohol.

“Get on your knees in the bedroom, not in my bar,” chastises American Flag.

Embarrassed that my knee slide did not garner awe and appreciation, I stand up with a broken spirit. I tap my right foot to the beat. It is no longer exciting to be a potential hog. Or heifer. Not really sure which one is better. The song finally ends. The megaphone crackles.

“It’s a two song minimum, honey.”

Sometimes the desperation for a job and the panic of not having rent money gets in the way of common sense. In this case, it would be to accept defeat and get down from the bar. Call it a night and circle want ads in the morning. Not to keep dancing in a trashy dive bar where the bartenders encourage quickies in the bathroom.

“Let’s hope the next song isn’t a slow one,” comments a bartender with braided pigtails.

Another upbeat country song begins. Going by my last performance, it is clear I need to do something other than dance. Like the singing coyote, what I need is a gimmick. My eyes fall to the lone female. Two is better than one I figure.

“You! Get up here! You know wan-na!”

She responds in a baby doll voice. “I’ve always wanted to dance on the bar.” Her hopeful eyes look up at me, glazed over in a way only a kitchen made narcotic can do.

“Then get on up here, you crazy lady!” I pull her up next to me. She stumbles as she stands, her thin figure hidden by a men’s white T-shirt. Her stringy brown hair falls flat in front of her face and over her eyes. She’s missing one of her back molars but I think I am the only one who can tell. Basically, this is girl is stone’s throw away from sitting out by the local truck stop taking whatever she can get for a blowjob. Which makes her perfect for making me look good. Of course, assuming that this isn’t a bar full of truck drivers and/or vagrants.

Almost instantly, the men in the bar swarm to her and gather at her feet. I pretend not to notice the snub and attempt to capitalize on the attention she is getting by dancing harder and faster, much like an insecure cheerleader overcompensates by yelling the loudest, forcing everyone to look at her and not the real star of the squad, that damn Kelly Kapowski girl.

Any hope of gaining attention was lost when she removed her white T-shirt, leaving a pair of pale floppy breasts exposed, sunny-side up.

“Tits at 8:15! Tits at 8:15!” yelled American Flag into her stupid megaphone.

My right eye began to twitch with suppressed rage. How dare she? I was the one who invited her up, the one who made her bar-top dancing dream come true, the one who desperately needs this job. And here she goes, getting naked and distracting everybody, taking their focus away from where it should be: on me. Now I have to deal with the fact that I am standing on a bar next to a topless woman whose name is Gina.

This is officially not how imagined my night would turn out.

Since I wasn’t going to join her and go topless myself, I decided the only other option was to acknowledge the situation and support her in her nakedness.

“Whoo! Yes. There it is. Yes!” I clapped my hands hard, in vain. It’s not like anyone was paying attention to me, not with a pair of boobs jiggling about.

As she twirled her tits around on the bar, I sensed it was time to for me to get down. I lowered myself from the bar and back to the sticky floor. I felt a disorienting mix of things: embarrassment, anger, shock and oddly enough, accomplishment. Even though none of the bartenders would look me in the eye, I still thought I did okay. I mean, I made it through the two song minimum. I waited for American Flag to tell me when I could start training.

“At least you gave it a go.” American Flag said as she wiped down the bar with a rag and walked away. Excuse me, what? She didn’t care about giving me a job at all. She probably didn’t even remember my name. Later on after her shift, she’d refer to me as “that girl” who came in and skipped on her bar. How depressing.

A biker came over to talk to me, probably out of pity. “Can I get you that shot you hollered for? Whatever you want.”

I looked at American Flag who was now licking Gina’s face. Maybe not working here was a good thing. For everyone involved.

“Yeah. Make it a Jack.”

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Mad Men Screening

I heard there was going to be a Mad Men event Sunday night in Times Square. According to the paper, there would be costume and trivia contests followed by a screening of the season premiere on a giant screen in Times Square. I’m a big Mad Men fan so this sounded like fun.

It turned out to be a lot more fun than I anticipated.

My friend Damian (who lives for the show and Christina Hendricks) and I arrived at Times Square dressed in 60’s-ish attire. I say 60’s-ish because people really went out of their way to dress up and we just wore whatever looked dated from our closets. Once we navigated past the police blockades, we found ourselves in the middle of Duffy Square where there were rows of chairs set up for the screening. I immediately saw that there were two sections: the commoner section with plastic chairs still wet from the afternoon rainstorm and the VIP section; a section that was right in front of the screen and had complimentary snack and drink service provided by either a cigarette girl or a gentleman in a white suit. Also, since very important people have very important bottoms, the chairs were dry and cushioned.

VIP Seating Area

If I know one thing, I’ve never met a VIP section I didn’t like. Just standing on the other side of the rope, breathing all that average people air, made me feel itchy. I knew we were going to have to try and sneak into the VIP section but I wasn’t sure of the best way to go about this. I started by asking one of the men with a VIP badge how I could get a seat in the VIP area, since I consider myself (and always have) a very important person.

“Well, it’s sold out, but since there was all the rain there might be some no shows. You can ask them and I think they’ll probably let you in. I’d wait until later though.”

If I couldn’t hear the words, “I’ll take you in there myself” followed by him actually taking me in, I had to work on another plan, even if that did sound potentially promising.

I walked around to do some surveillance. I needed to find a weak spot where there was no security and ticket takers to stop us. It also needed to be congested enough for us to slip by, undetected. I found the perfect spot at the edge of square, where the velvet ropes were low enough to casually step over and into the VIP area. A few others gathered near the spot, for sure thinking the same thing. I knew if they saw us step over, they’d throw the hater card down and tell security. We played it cool and waited for the narcs to be distracted by something glittery.

However, we were all distracted by the crazy lady who marched by holding a three foot high plastic doll that was wrapped up in cellophane just like how a basket is wrapped for Easter. She stepped over the rope and into the VIP section. And no one stopped her. What?! SHE’S HOLDING A GIANT PLASTIC DOLL PEOPLE!

To say that was infuriating would be an understatement. But if she could make it in…

Everything after this happened very quickly. Security came over and started to clear the area. We pretended like we couldn’t hear them, until they asked us if we were in the costume contest. If we were, we needed to go into the VIP area and wait in line to be judged.

Uhhh, of course we’re here for the costume contest! Can’t you tell? We are marginally dressed as 60’s hepcats!

My dress is polyester... so that counts as a costume right?

We stepped over the rope and instead of joining the line, defected to a pair of seats. There was over an hour left until the screening started and the wait was agonizing. Once you get into a VIP area you’re usually good to go, but we didn’t want to risk someone asking us where our wrist bands were and get kicked out so we tried to keep a low profile.

But when they’re handing out Mad Men gift bags…

I flung my naked wrist to grab the attention of one of the people handing out the gift bags. I told him I didn’t get one and he asked where my wrist band was. I didn’t know how to respond to that so I stared at him, stupidly, until he realized that’s not a question you ask someone already sitting in the VIP section. He handed me my gift bag and walked away. Damian refused to make eye contact with me after that exchange.

“You just had to have the gift bag didn’t you?”

The rest of the night continued without incident. Turns out, the crazy lady with the doll was a participant in the costume contest. She came as Betty Draper (even though she was wearing a black dress and didn’t brush her hair) and the doll was Sally. A nice surprise was that January Jones and Elisabeth Moss showed up to present the episode. They both looked amazing, although J. Jones is really skinny. I loved both their dresses.

It was also Elisabeth’s birthday the night before, so a cake out was brought out and we sang Happy Birthday to her. I love Elisabeth Moss. She seems so nice and genuine. I want to be friends with her and all the ladies on Mad Men.

Happy Birthday Lizzie!

After the screening, they handed everyone in the VIP section Mad Men Barbie Dolls. I loooooove classic barbie dolls and was thrilled with my Joan barbie.

Me and Joanie

Barbie Joan on my desk makes me happy.

To top off the night, we went to the unofficial “after-party” at the W hotel and had martini’s and listened to music from 1964. Then we went on a drunken rampage and trashed Don’s old office.

It was a pretty swell night.

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