Stand Up Sellers and Seducers

The pests of New York City are notorious. Sewer rats, pigeons (“flying rats”), squirrels (“rats with cuter outfits”), bed bugs, cockroaches,  and the guys who sell comedy tickets in Times Square. Tourists fall for their crafty sales pitches, locals avoid them, I fell for one’s charm and good looks.


[This is the Introduction of the nine part Safa Boy Series]

Like bed bugs in a street curb sofa, they infest the area, preying on all those they come in contact with. A walk on Broadway from 42nd Street to 50th guarantees multiple accostings:  “Do you like stand up comedy?” “Want to be part of a taping of a live show?” “What are you doing tonight?” At best they are obnoxious, at worst aggressive to the point where you buy a ticket just so they leave you alone. That’s probably how they make half of their money. The other half comes from sales made by promises of headliners who never show and exorbitant drink minimums they neglect to mention.

times square stand up comedy
Note: this is NOT the guy I fell for. But he is an example of those who sell tickets out here!

But don’t shoot the messenger, it’s not the ticket seller’s fault, he’s just desperate for money and likely unable to get a job anywhere else. Anyone can get a job selling comedy tickets- it’s under the table and solely commission based. This means a lot of them are total weirdos, lack social skills or social security numbers, and/or have no capacity for any semblance of “professional appearance”.

I know all this because I’ve been working promotions in Times Square. Remember my Disney on Broadway days? Well currently I am promoting an Off Broadway show that is nowhere near as successful as The Lion King yet somehow they pay me as much as Disney did. Thus I am exceedingly familiar with Times Square’s many promoters- the Scientology flier team (also notorious), the slinky Chicago dance team, the sketchy guys who promote strip clubs, the sweet Irish fellow who promotes Pandora jewelry, the comedy promoters who’ve been out there since my Mary Poppins days. You’d think turn over would be high but it’s not. New promoters are obvious and often don’t last long.

The moment I spotted him, I was instantly attracted. If you look up “My Type” in a dictionary his picture would accompany this description:

Male. Above average height, 6’+. Fit, slim build. Ample dark hair, esp. black. Often of Italian ancestry. Positive energy. Bright eyes, tangible “twinkle”. Roommates may describe as “goofy”. Possesses uncanny ability to make questionable statements-“I’m a working traveler”; “I’m couch surfing while I look for a place”; “I’m sorta in between jobs”; “I’m a virgin”- sound romantic. Dimples likely, great smile imperative. Will induce outrageous flirting and impaired judgment.

He’s selling comedy tickets and so, knowing what I just told you, I keep my distance. Best to stay away, not risk temptation, merely admire from afar. Eye candy to get me through a shift sounds better than chocolate anyway. The only chance for failure with this plan is that he approaches me. Given my luck, of course that’s what happens. He flashes a brilliant smile at me before opening his mouth to introduce himself. One word out of his mouth and I’m a goner. Looks that make me swoon accompanied by a British? No. Australian? No. ….uh what then? South African. A South African accent. I’M A GONER.

[To continue The Safa Boy Series, click for Part One]

Patron of the Arts

Word of warning: If you call me before 8AM EST I will pick up bleary eyed, with morning breath palpable across phone lines, slurring my words in a groggy “Hello? Who died?” Yes, in my world, phone calls before 8AM mean calamity.

So when I pick up the phone at 7:30AM one snowy Friday morning, I’m nervous as I punch in the numbers. I reassure myself about 20 times that the recipients of this call will be awake. Hearts will not leap into chests at that first jarring ring of a phone. This is far from my average phone call. The number I am calling is a land line, the people I am calling do not have cell phones. Further more, they are away from home, staying overnight in NYC. In this day and age of everyone has cell phones, I’ve never had to place a call at a hotel. Do hotels even do such a thing anymore? They must, though I don’t have full confidence in this belief as I punch in the numbers I found in a google search.

The Harvard Club is more than accommodating in putting my call through. When my aunt answers the phone there is no hint of panic (nor groggy morning breath) in her voice. After a quick chat to the purpose of canceling our breakfast date (which I was really looking forward to, curse you tonsillitis!) I roll over and go back to sleep. Just as I’m drifting off I hear my phone buzz. I bolt awake, not looking at the incoming number, answering my phone the way I thought only people on unrealistic TV shows do. Hello? I squeak, suppressing “WHO IS IT? WHO DIED? WHAT’S GOING ON??” It’s my aunt again. My heart settles back in my chest. She inquires about the status of my computer.

I have the worst luck with computers. So of course the month after the warranty expired, mine started a downward spiral: pop-up windows about hard drive failure and spontaneously crashing. I figured its days were numbered and procrastinated on the inevitable sans-computer-computer-freak-out. Then in a miracle similar to Hanukkah (I’d like to think), after six days of hibernation (I didn’t bring it when I went home for Christmas) I turned on my computer and everything seemed more or less back to normal. (Less in that I can’t tilt the screen with out it shutting down but more in that it stopped mentioning hard drive failure ten times a day.) Point is, it’s totally usable. That’s what I told my aunt, in an abridged version. She then explains, “Your uncle and I miss reading your blog. You’re a good writer [she may have said ‘great writer’…I wish I remembered]. Your mother said you were having problems with your computer and that’s why you hadn’t updated.” (Further proof my mother reads my blog.)

I wish I had an excuse to explain my lack of writing, but honestly I’ve just been struggling to find motivation… I start to say. I don’t really know where I’m going with this explanation, which feels almost confession like. I haven’t been writing, for no good reason, and I feel guilty about it. There you have it. Before I start psycho-analizing my lack of motivation, my aunt says “Your uncle and I want to buy you a computer.”

It’s not even 8AM and I’ve been offered a computer. At least I think I have….I have had weirder dreams. I forget how the conversation ended, if I was able to fall asleep after I hung up the phone, but if I didn’t dream it, I know she was serious. So not only does my aunt, a published writer whom I hold in high respect, think I’m a good (yeah, I don’t think she said great, she’s not one for exaggeration) writer, she likes my blog. As if that wasn’t motivation enough, she wants to buy me a computer. Wow. I always dreamed of having a patron of the arts but alas they’ve gone out of style since Mozart’s time. Yet it looks like I found one. If this doesn’t keep me updating, nothing will (not to discourage free beverage, compliments, and comments, those all help too!)

Just for Kicks: Kickstarting 2011

Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants. A jump-start to forward momentum. This is what January is all about.  The old resolution kick in the pants.

Your pants not fitting properly to kick you to eat better and exercise.

Maxing out a credit card to kick you into saving versus spending.

A night of vomiting to kick you to give up drinking.

Snow storms and nary a day over 30° to kick you to look for a job indoors.

A third bout of tonsillitis and 11 days of tear-inducing sore throat to kick you to get a tonsillectomy STAT (your terror regarding surgery be damned!).

Finding out he lied and cheated on you to kick you into kicking him out of your apartment (STAT).

A sometimes vague, sometimes overwhelming feeling of discontent, of being lost, lacking motivation and purpose, fearing failure, and general ennui to kick you to find direction in your life (still working on that one.)

An offer of a computer to kick you to update your blog.

(Note: We started off with clichés and then got personal.)

January is supposed to be about jump-starts. Start the year off right. In that spirit, I started January jumping up and down. Jumping and giddy drunk and 3,2,1 HAPPY NEW YEAR! Kisses, dancing, and all around festivity with great friends. 2011 was just how I’d hoped it would be for about 90 minutes.

Then January kicked my ass and has been unrelenting all month.

2 AM on New Years Day should have been the low point. First I made the untimely discovery that my tolerance had dropped significantly.  I’m now worse off then when I started. That is to say, somehow I could hold my liquor better when I was 17 and had never before touched a drop.  Next thing I know I’m near black out drunk off two vodka cocktails and a SOLO cup of Champagne. I was rescued by a boy, without whom I may never have made it home (then it actually would have been the low point), but not before I vomited all over myself, his pants, and a subway platform.

In hindsight I’m positively thrilled I puked on his pants. Merely 36 hours later the same boy vomited (metaphorically) all over my heart. Fortunately, it takes a lot more than vomit to break my heart; nothing a good cleanse can’t fix (á la Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair).

However, if you’ve ever tried to wash vomit out of something (and if you haven’t, I hate you), you know the smell can linger. It can take several washings to get rid of the odor. Even then, the garment may have a negative connotation. Who here vomited in elementary school, then called the shirt you wore that day the “Puke Shirt” and refused to ever wear it again? (I can’t be the only one!) If you don’t see where I’m going with these puke metaphors: It was as hard for me to get this boy out of my heart as it is to get puke out of your clothes. That kicked my ass for a good part of January.

The first morning I woke up free from thoughts of him was the morning I awoke to pain in my throat. Every time I get a sore throat I panic due to my horrible history (which I talk about at length here). Usually I’m just paranoid. This time I was not. And so my ass was kicked for the rest of January. 12 days, 3 doctor visits, -7 lbs, and some spit up puss (more disgusting than vomit fyi) later I could open my mouth, talk, and swallow without wincing. This is the last time my tonsils kick my ass. I’m figuring out insurance and then booking surgery. Tonsils, your days are numbered.

So here we are, last day of January. Snow, soiled heart, sickness: January left my ass positively black and blue. I have high hopes for February. Kick my year into gear.

The Strange World of ComicCon

Know who this is? No? I  didn’t either until I spent Friday running around Times Square asking people Do you know who I am? NARUTO! Now I know he is a Japanese Manga character, his birthday was Friday, and onlythe people who attend comic conventions and the occasional Japanese tourist knows who he is.

He was my ticket into the crazy world of ComicCon (touched upon in my last post). Now that I am no longer employed as a pirate, I am a freelance promoter/brand ambassador/promotional model. That means I hand out a lot of free shit. Naruto swag was as good as it gets- I passed out $20 T-shirts, tote bags, plush toys, action figures- nice stuff; truly a shame I had no interest in the subject. I get paid to give people free stuff, dress up like a Japanese Manga character, and people watch at ComicCon. Not as cool as being a pirate, but still fun.

I was dressed in the orange outfit and black headband you see in the picture, joined by 30 other promoters in the same garb, running around ComicCon. They didn’t let me keep the outfit- a huge disappointment, I thought I’d solved What Should I Be For Halloween? ComicCon is very much like Halloween. In between karate moves (we were told to do them to attract consumer interest, I am NOT kidding) and passing out swag, I snapped pictures (on my SHITTY phone- apologies for the quality) of the patrons of ComicCon.

Sonic and Fox! These were among the only characters I recognised.
Yeah, no clue who they’re supposed to be. But they were thrilled to have their picture taken!
I think they might be characters in a comic they wrote themselves. That red face paint show “I am the creator” kind of dedication.
Recognize these ladies? Like Halloween/Ren Fair, ComicCon is an excuse for women to show T&A. But maybe you can’t tell that from this picture. My phone started taking extremely low resolution pictures at this point.
Can you see anything in this picture? It’s the true tragedy of my shitty phone. These guys came in dressed like aliens with SUPER detailed scary looking costumes. There were six of them and when they marched up to Javits Center there was seriously a feeling of invasion. I’m so bummed I failed to capture it on film!

Best people watching ever on the job, and that’s saying something as I’ve worked next to the Naked Cowboy!

Nerd Awakening

Renaissance fairs attract a certain kind of person.

Geeks. Nerds. (I know there’s a difference between the two; if I go back next year, maybe I’ll figure out what it is.)

I had a nerd-awakening this summer and I was completely unprepared for it.

I played hacky sack.

I visited a comic book store.

I learned at least the names of the super heroes represented on t-shirts worn by my cast mates (a shirt I’d always thought to be for Homestar Runner turns out to be for The Flash. Oops!)

I almost bought a superman hat because all the other pirates coincidentally had matching ones.

And one warm night it early August, just before a meteor shower, I lost my Star Wars virginity.

Yep, I’d never seen any of Star Wars.  My 2 nerdy neighbors (the finest men you’ll ever meet) told me they’d be gentle, popped popcorn, fired up a laptop, and held my hand through Episodes 4-6.  When we were finished, they looked deep into my eyes and made me promise not to watch the “abominations” of 1-3.

I ran around dressed as a pirate every weekend, is any one surprised some “geek” rubbed off on me? Really, you’d be surprise if it hadn’t.  I came back to NYC in a sweat. Not only was I worried I’d forget I left the woods and accidentally pee behind a tree, I was worried my entire identity had changed. What if I was no longer the hip, struggling actor but instead a nerdy, awkward role-player? I’m sorry but that’s no kind of New York cliché especially for the sake of this blog, mine was a valid concern.

Fortunately I worried for naught. I slipped back into New York City life almost as if I’d never left. I feel at home here, I really do. What am I up to? (“What’s up?” As we all love to ask.) I’ve been doing freelance promotions for the past month, making good money smiling and passing out free shit. Sometimes I’m on the street. other times at an event. This weekend I got a great taste of what my life as a “nerdy, awkward role-player” would be like, and made me think twice about dismissing it as a non-New York cliché.  I worked a gig at the New York City Comic Convention (ComicCon) an event I had heard of, but never quite imagined. Turns out it’s quite similar to a Ren Faire, including the prevalence of clevage but not turkey legs.

Here’s another reason I can not be a geek/nerd. My technology sucks. My phone is falling apart and even has a broken speaker so that it doesn’t ring (no joke). But on the bright side, it does vibrate and it does take pictures. Even a ridiculously low resolution picture speaks a thousand words. You’ll really see what I mean next post.

South Pacific Rolemodel

Every day when I walk to the subway I walk past Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre (I also walk past Juilliard, Alice Tully Hall, Laguardia High School of Performing Arts…not to make you jealous or anything…) South Pacific was just playing there and oh am I sorry if you missed that show. It was beautifully done and really would make anyone miss the classic Broadway musicals, Rodgers and Hammerstein. I was lucky enough to see it with my old high school friend. He and I had been in the show our senior year of high school (South Pacific is a terrible show to do in high school FYI, but especially when your high school is 60% Asian because non-traditional casting just doesn’t work in the show as race is the huge theme of the show.)

I’m sad the show is over, not just because it is a show I would have liked to see again (though it did have an airing on PBS of a live performance- you should check that out). I’m sad because on my walk home I will no longer see this sight: A man with a crew cut, a button up short sleeve shirt, and snug, high waisted (by today’s standards) pants looking like he’s straight out of WWII era, leaning against the wall smoking a cigarette (totally completing the 1944 image the cigarette does).

This was some guy in the chorus- I bet you the same guy every time- that I saw many a night on my street. He always made me smile, not just his picture perfect 40’s-ness but the fact that he defied everything the director of my highschool’s South Pacific said. Do you think Broadway actors do things to destroy their instrument like smoking? You can bet they don’t! Defies the costume designer too: Broadway actors don’t eat in their costumes, they don’t go outside in their costumes, they treat their costumes with great care, and so will you! Through college they did this to us too Do you think Broadway actors don’t know their lines 2 weeks before the show?? Broadway has always been the standard, we’ve always assumed it’s where everything is perfect and perfectly professional, and perfectly flawless and nothing less. But now I know the truth! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! Broadway is where you take smoke breaks between your scenes on the street outside the theater (where nosy little aspiring actresses will see you and get all excited)!

There was a dumpster outside the theater with general debris, “South Pacific Backstage” signs, and prop plants from the show. I thought about taking one as a souvenir but then decided I was above it. Had the same debate about asking my smoker to sign my program. I may be a nosy little aspiring actress, but I still have my pride.

Ten Posts, Ten Days

Well here we are. Ten posts later. Goal achieved!

Things I learned:

  1. I can do it, I can write every day, even when I don’t really want to, I can still do it.

  2. Blogging every day in the way I’ve always blogged is silly. 1000 to 500 words a day? Insane!

3.  You readers that I talk to said you couldn’t keep up with me! So if I blog every day, I’m going to have to change my style.

  1. I have trouble writing less than 500 words. Wordy am I.
  2. Without a doubt, quantity vs. quality. I wasn’t super proud of my posts the way I have been in the past when I’ve carefully crafted my words and done some editing. There were too many nights where I said “This would be a much better post if I didn’t have to post it NOW as it is 11:58PM!”

  3. I talk about my blog more in real life. I’ve said “I wrote a post about that!’ at least 5 times this week. That might be a bad thing.

  4. I now sorta kinda know what it’s like to be on deadline. There were a few evenings cut short- “I have to leave! I have to go home and blog!”

  5. Writing every day is inspiring. I am inspired and have new ideas.

  6. Though it is difficult for me, I can write a post under 200 words. I can even write a post that is a list! These are things I hope to continue working on in the future.

  7. I love it when people comment. It’s a little discouraging when you write 10 post and only get 3 comments written on them. (But those 3 comments were so awesome that it makes up for it.)

It’s worst when you ask something specifically to be commented on and then get no comments so I’m taking a big risk here: What your thoughts on my 10 posts in 10 days experiment?