Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My 9/11 Story

By nightfall on this tragic day, still in shock, confused and having an intense need of being with fellow New Yorkers, I was drawn to my local bar, The Right Bank (a waterfront bar on the East River just south of the Williamsburg Bridge)not knowing if it were even open. It was open and filled beyond any event I’ve witnessed there. Mostly everyone was blankly staring into space or at the TV( which constantly replayed the horrible images captured earlier that day.) Barely audible were the few conversations going on in corners of the room before me as I stood silently in the door taking it in. Here was my extended family at their most vulnerable, all of us smacked into a state of mutual confusion and grief. The bars owner, an ex-fireman, paced around nervously, torn between his role as host and his attention to the television. The outside courtyard, from which one could painfully see downtown Manhattan with it's freshly punched out front teeth, was also filled to capacity with shell-shocked patrons. All these faces, familiar to me at various degrees of intimacy, shared an expression of loss and uncertainty here at what was to become the beginning of a new era in America.

Monday, May 4, 2009

As if....

My first nice bit of employment here in "exciting" Pittsburgh and I walk out on the job for the first time ever. Hired by an old "friend" Park of Park Place Studio to charge scenic an anchor news set, I arrived at the Civic Light Opera shop where Park had arranged the set to be built and painted before shipping out to the West coast. I had thought that 30 years NY experience in my business would carry a little clout but to my surprise it simply inspires a resentment in colleages I've met here. Being installed as charge painter on this job, the CLO charge painter and her staff (consisting of her 21 year old daughter and husband who was quite a vocal Obama hater) were forced to succumb to my leadership and although I was a nice and as bending as possible to this situation, they were secretly not having it. They were polite to me but not really friendly. It was up to me to say good morning and we never shared lunch together, they rather liked to go out to their car and leave me to dine alone.
The job included the painting of massive amounts of brick wall and it was made clear to me she didn't want to help with painting these so I pretty much let her do what she wanted.
About half way through the job, Park (the client) came in and approved of all the work except the speed of which the carpenter crew was cranking out the pieces that would then come into the paint shop. He came out of a meeting with the shop's owner(John Edkins ) and told me that he thought my being the charge painter was causing problems in the shop hence the slow work. He informed me that he was going to demote my position and ask the women to be charge painter hoping the carpenters, being used to her charge, would work faster. For the life of me I didn't understand the logic of the move but what could I do? I was a bit sarcastic with Park for a while but I let it go and thought I could bear it for the last four days of this job. After Park had left I was assigned one menial task after another by the new charge. At one point I had to protest. When she asked me to sand and back paint a piece, I replied quietly, "Excuse me, I am a scenic artist."
She turned instantly livid at my insubordination, began yelling  and stormed off to get the shops owner who offered me a choice of doing the jobs I was grossly overqualified to do or leave. I chose leaving but before I could get out of there he thought he would have a little fun and tell me I was demoted because my work was substandard and I was jeapordizing the reputation of his shop.
There I stood being gazed on by almost the whole crew, humiliated. I could feel the pleasure of some of them seeing the "la-dee-da New York" intruder being sliced down to size.
I left the place stunned by the events of the day and worried if I would be treated with the same resentment elsewhere here in my old home town. For three days I stewed and replayed the events in my head still unable to comprehend why it had happened. I had never felt this level of disrespect in the work place before and I hope it never happens again. I don't mean to sound like an ego case but my resume runs circles around anyone that was there that day and what is the point of having built it if it doesn't get you that respect?
I feel better today when I got a call from New York with a freelance job I would not have been available to take had I finished the painting job. And the New York job is much easier and pays 3 times as much.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

There's no place like home!

WHo'd of thunk I'd ever leave New York City?  Due to the recession amoung other reasons, I have relocated (after nearly 30 years) back to home town Pittsburgh.  Work was at a snails crawl and eviction was immenant so with a little convincing from one of my sisters I decided to forgo the daunting task of finding yet another unaffordable NYC apartment and head back to Pennsyltucky.
Three of my sisters came on a mission of rescue with a truck and a van  hoisted me away.
I haven't been out of the city in years and it was spiritually refreshing to admire the winter landscapes as we hurtled across the PA turnpike.  We stopped once and parked side by side to have a roadside picnic passing food between the van and the truck.  My sisters are easy marks for making laugh and it was my goal to have them peeing their pants almost the whole way.
Upon arrival we drove through a dismal and deserted downtown Pgh. which made me moan, "What have I done????"  However, seeing my new apartment in the arty neighborhood of Lawrenceville made me feel better.  The very next day I went to one of my sisters to watch the SuperBowl.  On the drive back towards town we were treated to the sights and sounds of a town gone mad.  All along the way the streets were lined with cheering, towel waving Steeler fans hooting and dancing and shooting off firecrackers.  I pretended it was all for me and my triumphant return.  Thank you Pittsburgh, thank you all!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Roommate Roulette

Living in NYC for the last 25 years, I've had a wide variety of roommates.  An artist's income demands sharing your residence in this city.  Some of them were disasters, others became close friends.  Some were just bizarre while others brought huge amounts of fun.  None of them cleaned very well but I rationalized their lack of tidiness with the lopsided rent I charged them.  In the latter years I found it was profitable to take a multi-bedroomed apartment, furnish the common areas with my decorative flair and then put the ad on Craig's list.  This usually worked out.  Though lately, my luck has changed for the worse.  Recently I moved into a very nice place (new construction, central air, modern) I thought I'd have no problems getting a cool roomie at all.  The trouble is, it's located in Bed Sty, Brooklyn.  I've had scores of people make arrangements to come see the place but they get so frightened when they get here they don't even ring the bell.
One guy showed up to view the place.  He asked me how I feel about nudity because he was a "naturalist".  I said I didn't mind if he kept it out of my face.  During his visit this middle aged, chunky "naturalist" asked to use the restroom. (Wait for it) he returned from the bathroom wearing nothing but his black socks.  I passed!  The first one to actually take the room was a fiesty black women named Natalie.  SHe seemed pretty cool so I agreed to have her move in.  I asked her for some ID and she produced a social security card which named her Jerry.  She explained she changed her name for her modeling career.  I hadn't occured to me right away but I soon began to suspect something strange.  I said to her three days in that when I saw her name was actually Jerry, and don't get insulted, I thought she might be a tranny.  "Why Brian Honey, I AM" she exclaimed followed by a loud cackle.  "You wanna see my $8000 tits?" she laughed as she ripped open her (his) shirt and proudly displayed two perfect breasts.  I asked if she(he) still had a dick, she(he) told me he was saving up for that.  I congratulated her(him) on winning the most interesting roommate ever award.  It was fine till I begin to notice more and more frequent gentlemen callers coming all through the night.  Turns out she had a little internet TV show she was producing in her room luring customers who had a taste for her special combo package.  I had to refund her money and ask her to leave because I was having nightmares mixed with the night reality of the endless parade of men.
A few weeks later, I accepted a young photographer who just moved from Nashville and was ready to take NY by storm.  He kept assuring me he had big offers all over town and paying would be no problem if I would let him move in and wait a week for his checks to come in.  I agreed , but a month later he was still waiting for those checks.

I think I've just about had it with the roommate game, yet I can't afford my own apartment here in the city.  Maybe it's time to move back to Pittsburgh.