New York City has a reputation for hardening people. The wide-eyed, naive dreamer descends the stairs from a bus that’s just pulled into Times Square from small town Montana. Stars in his eyes, a smile on his face, country clothes on his back, big plans in his head. A year later you find this same guy dressed all in black, chain smoking, cussing cars as he jay walks across an avenue. The harsh reality of the city has sunk into his bones. We all know that cliché.
My friend Gary is from small town Montana. The man I know always has a grin on his face, he’s always up to something new. He’s like a ray of sunshine peaking through the concrete mountains of the New York landscape. I’m sure I’ve seen him angry or sad but it’s honestly hard to remember. He has a way about him, still after years of living here, that I want to describe as innocence. Really, I think he looks at the world and first and foremost sees its sunny side. That’s rare in 2013, and rarer still in the city we call home. So he brilliantly defies that one New York cliché, but don’t worry, he’s still got plenty in him! He can always make me smile, a big goofball with a sense of humor like no one else I know. He’s this week’s feature! Gary, shine your light on my blog:
Name/prefered pseudonym: Gary Warchola
Borough and neighborhood: Currently, I live in Hamilton Heights, Manhattan (just like New York Cliché!). That is in northern Harlem below Washington Heights.
During my two years of living in New York, I have moved 4 times. Hamilton Heights, Crown Heights in Brooklyn, Jackson Heights in Queens (I am not afraid of Heights! Sorry, bad pun), and New Jersey (which isn’t really New York, but I started working in the city at this time).
How are you a New York cliché? I am a New York cliché because I am the struggling actor who works multiple jobs. Much like many other cliché actors in the city, I am also a writer. Every now and then I am in a quiet spell in my life, then suddenly I am writing lists, trying to figure out how I can cram in all my obligations, stay above water, and not lose all my money. As a I cliché, I write best in coffee shops. Sometimes, I wonder why I need a coffee shop. I think it is because my apartment is small and I just need to get out.
They say no one who lives in New York is actually from New York. Where are you from?
I hail from the prairies and mountains of Montana. I was born in Billings, the state’s largest city. In high school, my family moved to Butte, Montana. A mining town with a crazy history. During college, I lived in Missoula, Montana, the setting of the movie A River Runs Through It.
Bloomberg is banishing you from NYC. You have 24 hours before you have to pack up and leave for ever. How do you spend them?
Well, I have yet to visit the Guggenheim, so I will do that first. I would ride my bike there through Central Park. While on the Upper East Side, I would ride the Roosevelt Island Tram. This tram provides a great view of the city. Even after two years of living here, I did not even know it existed until this summer. I would stroll through Times Square. Even though Times Square often frustrates me, I do enjoy it occasionally. I would make my way to the Lower East Side-Union Square-Tompkins Square Park- Washington Square Park. I would pedal my bicycle across the Manhattan Bridge and back. It takes a lot of energy to make it to the top of the bridge, but it is such a fun ride down. When I descend into China Town, I feel like an airplane. I wrote a poem about this once. Later that night, I would have to take in a play that I have had my eye on, maybe something on Broadway, at the Brooklyn Academy or Music, or somewhere else. After that, I would like to get a last beer, more specifically a Baltika, at the KGB bar in the Lower East Side. Then I would have to find some karaoke.
Whenever I am in the Lower East Side and I start to get a little hungry, I like to go to Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery. If you have never had a knish, you should try one.
Hot dogs or pizza? Well I would have to say pizza. I am up for trying new kinds or whatever. If you go to the Alligator Lounge in Williamsburg [there’s one 14th Street in Manhattan too!], you get a fresh made personal pizza free with every drink. It is amazing!
So you live in NYC, but what’s one super-touristy thing you secretly love?
I once rode the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Whenever I have out-of-towners to show around we go and ride the Staten Island Ferry just to get a glimpse of Lady Liberty. Also, whenever I get a view of her from random places around town, it makes me happy.
Lots of tourists go to Ellis Island, but I think everyone in New York City should go there. It is not that expensive. Technically it is free, you just have to pay for the ferry ride, which is the only way to go there. The line can also be horrendous. Check it out during slow seasons and week days.
Ever had a run-in with a celebrity (A-D List)?
One time, I had a brief exchange of words with this one woman. She was very friendly. Later, someone came up to me and said, “Hey, did you see Maggie Gylleenhaal?” I realized that I had just talked to her.
I also walked past Tracy Morgan and his 30 Rock entourage on the street. I did not even notice until I was right next to them. I looked at him for a second, but I just kept walking.
You totally saw something weird on the subway or street today (you may not have registered it was weird because you are jaded), what did you see?
An Octogenarian with purple hair.
Some of the sermons on public transportation are also quite interesting.
What is your favorite fictionalized New York? How does it compare with reality?
Hmmm. For fictionalized, I would go with Ragtime, both the book and the musical. I love imagining all the history occurring at the beginning of the century. The streets were filled with so many languages and cultures. That was such an important time for the formation of the American identity.
This may be cheating…. but I also want to reference a non-fiction book that struck me. I recently read Just Kids by Patti Smith. So many exciting things were happening in the 60’s and 70’s in New York City. She met so many amazing people here. This book inspired me because Patti Smith struggled to have enough money to make it day to day, but despite her challenges, she kept focused on her art and just kept working. Eventually, she found success. I want to emulate this. She was also an artist who was involved in many different mediums. Whether her art was visual, theatre, or music, she kept busy.
Hmmm…. For the question “How does it compare with reality?”
In the current reality and the New York City I know, the world has become much bigger. There are more people than in the turn of the century or in the 60’s and 70’s. Things are moving so much faster. Also, there is not quite so much music as there is in the musical Ragtime.
Plug something! Be it something you are involved in, your significant other/roommate/cat is involved in, or just something you think is extra-special going on in NYC.
I will be in Much Ado about Nothing with Snapped Productions February 14- March 2, 2013 at 133 Street Arts Center, 308 W 133rd Street in Harlem. Also, people can look for me on Investigation Discovery’s Fatal Encounters this Winter/Spring. I will appear in the show involving George Tiller, the abortion doctor. I play the crazy guy who shoots him. It will be a great story to tell in my old age.
Thank you, Gary, for sharing your New York perspective. And for being the most patient person ever (and putting up with severe delays in the posting of this!) I can not wait to see you play a creepy killer guy! Major acting props cause you’re nothing like that in real life (unless you just hide it really well….like Dexter….you’re not like that right??) See you soon, neighbor!
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