Monday, August 27, 2012

Asher's Command

-winter 2002
The other reason why i couldn't go home for the holidays was rehearsals for my second Wood mainstage show, an original play by Marilyn Felt. It's about an idealistic jewish army officer who is befriended by a palestinian mechanic in the West Bank, and how their friendship fails to survive the region's animosities. It was very topical, as suicide bombings and reprisals were in the papers weekly. I liked the script, although i felt it still needed editing. I auditioned for Asher, the jewish lead. The director was a New Yorker named Tony Giordano, who was good friends with Bob Kalfin. When we met, i almost felt he was Bob, for their energies and looks were profoundly alike. In time, i would grow to cherish their differences, too. Tony asked me to play Reuben and Tarik, which was a casting option i hadn't known they were considering. To simultaneously play a Jewish fanatic and an Arab fanatic, the two characters who embodied the region's destructive hatred, was a fascinating idea. The play had been awarded a Kennedy Center grant, of which only three are given each year. I was hooked, and signed on. A fantastic cast fell into place. Playing Asher was New Yorker Don Harvey, whose laid-back intensity and humor i was instantly simpatico with. He'd had roles in a number of films, notably DIE HARD, EIGHT MEN OUT, and the half-delightfully atrocious TANK GIRL. He and i chummed around during the run. Robert played Samir, the arab mechanic. He hadn't sought the role, but was undeniably perfect for it. Kelly Parker played various supporting parts, and was a funny delight as always. Leanne Braman from ANDROCLES played Lila and Mouna, the wives of Asher and Samir. Her quirkiness and humor were a downright hoot. I (and others) were originally concerned that she wasn’t right for the parts, but eventually we couldn't imagine anyone else playing them. New Yorker Stephen Jones played several parts, chiefly the interrogator and the general. He was fantastic company, and a great talent. At first i'd been cast as co-interrogator, but Tony eventually decided to write out that part, saying it wasn't a reflection on my acting. I also played a newsman's voice, and Asher's sergeant (a nothing part i grew to love). I had many quick changes, and wore a yarmulke under my arab hat. Playing the rabbi was local actor Chuck Hilton. We hit it off wonderfully, and he gave an understated, fantastic performance. One of my fondest memories came during rehearsal. Chuck, Don, and i were in the lobby. They were running lines. I'd heard Don give a piss-funny impersonation of Brando's Godfather, and also knew that Chuck did a creditable Jimmy Stewart, so i had the two of them do their scene, a polemic debate, with those accents. We couldn't stop laughing. The final cast member was April Poland as Rebecca, Samir's half-jewish daughter. We instantly felt comfortable with one another. A couple weeks into rehearsal, i moved into a cast house with her and Stephen. She and i worked out and biked together, and it was a delight to be with a woman who could keep up with me athletically (i'd always fantasized about loving just such a woman). She was funny, smart, passionate, talented, and i sweetly fell in love. But timing is perhaps everything - she had been married that year. She opened up so much to me. She found herself having to be the mature one in her marriage, and liked how she didn't have to be that with me, venting away like a complaining child. He visited once. He was a fine fellow, but i instantly felt i could offer her a stronger peace of mind. They were moving to central Pennsylvania, as she tried to find a balance between working actress and preacher's wife. One night, after an hour or three of talking, i asked her if she would like to spend the night holding each other non-sexually. She said she couldn't. Another night, i sat on the porch after she went to bed, with my circle-of-friends candle flickering nearby. Her room had a door onto the porch, and i sat there for hours, listening to the beautiful night sounds of island nature. The production itself was very special. As Reuben, i went to extreme measures to get the arab defilers off our holy land. One of my favorite scenes was when i’d been arrested. Asher's making me try to see reason, but all i see is my faith. As i'm escorted off, i'm screaming "What about the side of God?!  What about the side of God?!!"  The lines carried us both offstage, where Don would mock-wince and break up laughing at my assault on his ears. I also had a speech on top of a platform, telling the audience of the spirits of my ancestors. I had the idea to punctuate the speech by jumping off the eight-foot platform. It was powerful. As Tarik, i was a reluctant terrorist. At one of the audience talkbacks, i tried to explain how i saw him as not nearly the extremist Reuben was. But most of the audience couldn't get my point, likening a fire bomber to a moderate. I had a second interrogation scene with Don, after Tarik’s arrest. During rehearsals, Don and i would sometimes crack up when we got into each other's faces. The show affected audiences. Tony's direction was wonderful, his presence gentle and non-controlling. We were visited during rehearsals by the playwright. She was a sweetie, but she and Tony couldn't agree on further text cuts. She allowed some, but never enough in my opinion. I sent her some more suggested edits a year later, and she sent back a gracious letter, saying that she'd had similar thoughts. Leanne's mamoul-making Mouna had only a couple offstage lines, but those lines had an unintended comedic element, which the cast delighted in. April had trouble with some of her scenes, and it was generally agreed that the writing was betraying her, not the other way around. She was so very dedicated, and got so frustrated trying to make it work. We all tried to help. I climbed into the rafters to watch her on many nights, so i could give her continuing feedback. I gave her some readings as Asher, which she felt a little more comfortable with, so she wasn't always thrilled with what Don was giving her either. The comic highlight of the play was Steven and Chuck as the Baradis, arab fugitives running around and hiding behind rocks. They were never meant to be funny, but Chuck's stage whisper had a distinctly un-stealthy quality, and there was something just generally Pythonesque about their running and crouching behavior. I played a jewish soldier pursuing them with gun and flashlight, and that was comical too, for Chuck had trouble crouching in his arab attire. Even though i never “find” them, i had to literally leap over Chuck a couple of nights. Humor aside, it was a great bit of physical acting...running through the set, up the steps, out into the lobby, and then re-entering on the other side of the theater, still shouting and running. For the audience, the scene fortunately stayed serious. One night Chuck flubbed his Baradi lines, saying something about a village driving into a truck. Those bumbling Baradi boys, they were great. I joked about the show's sequel being BARADI: THE MUSICAL, with such songs as "Who put the Flags Up?" (sung to the tune "Who Let the Dogs Out?"). Kelly and April also played dancing jewish maidens, teaching children. They were on a platform, and i hid in a dark corridor near them to watch (a trick requiring considerable stealth). They didn't see me just a couple feet away, and i didn't tell them until late in the run that i was sometimes there. Their earnestness as they tried to dance on the too-small platform, going on about how seven (and eight, too!) were powerful numbers, was just a little comical, and even ever-so-faintly homoerotic. My final character, Asher's sergeant (whom i named Gad Gissin) was a wonderful way to end the show. I played him as sympathetic to Asher's humanistic leanings, and was the character onstage dealing with Asher's breakdown. I had done a unibrow for my earlier characters, but then two brows for Gad (Don noticed this after about three weeks). It was also fun wearing the soldier uniform, with beret and sidearm and all. Reviews were generally quite good, usually focusing on Marilyn, Don, and Robert. I probably received the most notice of any of the supporting actors. But i also got a lesson (not that i needed it) in how subjective reviews are. One scribe opined that my two extremists were so indistinguishable, he thought they were the same character. Another was certain that two different actors were playing the parts. When the show ended and we all said heartfelt goodbyes, i was the only one staying on Sanibel to do another show. There was poignance in this, as i thought about impermanence and the vagabond quality of theater life. The day April left, i bought a rose and decided to give it to the first woman i came across, to honor my feelings. It turned out to be a librarian, and i'm pretty sure i made her day. At that moment, i thought i would do that every year on that date, for the rest of my life. But time goes on, and i didn't.

Friday, August 24, 2012


(a continuation of WOMEN 19 -

Working and living in New York was wonderful. I lived across the Hudson, in Jersey City. As i explored my new life, i often thought about the possibility of randomly meeting someone from my past. Three months after i arrived, i came out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal one night and began walking up 8th. I noticed something familiar about a person ahead of me. She entered a pharmacy, and i followed. She reminded me of R, whom i hadn’t seen in eight or nine years. I followed her to the back, in no hurry as it probably wasn't her, and there was no other way out. She finally turned her face. Her look when i quietly said something and gave her a huge hug, was classic. She was thirty now, pursuing her theater/dance dreams. Her relationship with the fiance of her youth had run its codependent course. We discovered we lived within a mile of each other - i had to take a bus to one of the biggest cities in the world, to discover my neighbor. An even bizarrer connection was soon revealed. After our first evening together, i walked her home. All that night she had made reference to her boyfriend, Johnny, describing him as an amazingly brilliant actor and hard drinker, a bit older than i, who had gotten a theater degree in Pennsylvania. His last name finally slipped out. Biehle. I stopped in my tracks. I spelled his last name. She nodded, surprised i had gotten it. I told her i was pretty sure she was dating one of my college theater buddies. When we got back to her place, she found a pic, and there he was. Bald, but him. It was the only time in my life (that i knew of) that two people from entirely separate pieces of my past had met, and become close. I hadn't been especially close to John (perhaps no one ever had), but i had a goodly amount of affection for him, and it was wonderful to see him again. R and i hung out together over the next year. She spent much time relating her misery over her almost masochistic, doomed-to-dysfunction romance. She worked as a personal trainer and was oft achy, so i gave her massages. These became an experience that was at once exquisite and nearly paralyzing. The sculpted body she had developed in the intervening years was thunder-strikingly beautiful. I had never been close to a female so like my ideal, a mirror of my own physique. Sometime during these months an attraction grew, which exposed any previous attraction i'd had for her as unworthy of consideration as such. The first time i worked on her naked back, the image seared my consciousness. The first time i worked on her gluteus, i wanted to live in that moment forever. And she had trouble seeing this beauty in herself! Remembering the cosmetic surgery she'd had as a teen, and knowing the state of mind that must accompany such a process (i was always apparently much more bothered by it than she), i had a bit of a mental block in finding beauty in her face. But i remember one night when her hair was just startlingly soft, and her eyes possessed a deep beauty that made me wonder whether i'd ever seen them before. Through all this, she continued loving Johnny with a completeness that he was constitutionally incapable of returning. So i kept my attraction to myself, until it became so pronounced that i felt dishonest not telling her. I did so, in a non-solicitous way. Somewhere in the mix of attraction and memories of my stupid, ill-motivated behavior of our earlier life, i came to a place where i was hers for the taking. I knew of course we had significant incompatibilities. She indulged in social drinking and makeup (i quickly found out that if i didn't want to be attracted, i just had to catch her when she was painted). Plus she had a huge hang-up with nudity. Bizarre thoughts came to me from time to time, such as horror at the thought of her offering a nose job to our teenage daughter, a rite of passage in her family. Not that i was rationally considering children, was amazing to me that my desire was so overwhelming, particularly with the knowledge that she had been Charlie's lover a decade earlier, and now (disquietingly, though less so) John. I wanted to attribute my new attraction to maturity on my part, but that’s probably self-deluded bullshit, as dealing with a lover’s past can be an irrationally rocky shoal to navigate for most, apparently me included. One aspect of my feeling for her that filled me with happiness was that she was the first New York woman i was attracted to, over whom Vanessa’s shadow was gone. R acknowledged that she still felt desire for me on some level. I suggested that we share physical closeness without sex, as we had on that seminal night fifteen years prior. But she doubted her ability to stay in control. And she decided that her lifetime of romantic misses had brought her to a place where she never wanted to get in a relationship that didn’t have a foreseeable long-term future. A part of me felt i might soon be rationally happy that she'd been able to resist me, but but but…i wasn’t convinced we couldn't be good together. Anyway, she and John finally split, and she went to Missouri for a six-month show. A month or two later, she wrote that she was sexually and emotionally lonely. One unforgettable night, she sent two audaciously naked photos of herself (remember the nudity hang-up?), and asked me to come to Branson for a weekend, to be her lover. I said yes. The “vacation” aspect allowed her to rationalize it. Our sexual express jumped track when her tour ended prematurely. Once home, she was again reluctant to become sexually involved. But she was still raw from her Johnny experience, and probably would be for a good while. In that light, i thought my love and sexual healing (with no-pressure expectations) were just what she needed. She didn’t agree, and began aggressively putting herself out there, notably on dating sites. My massages became regular again. Her desire for me manifested again. She became fully naked with me for the first time (ever!). I began to give her the sexuality she wanted, but held back because she refused to be exclusive, and hadn’t been finished with John for a six-month period, which concerned me from an STD standpoint. There may have also been a tiny echo of our past in my holding back. But for three or four months, we shared some very intense and beautiful sexuality. I gave her marathon body-kisses, and discovered that the desire i'd had for Vanessa’s derriere was not an anomaly. In kissing R’s gluteal region one night, i was taken with the urge to explore her anal-lingually. It was a good thing i held back, though…doing so would have flipped her out (she loved my tushy-kisses, but cringed at the thought of anything anal). Her thighs were stunningly beautiful, though she thought they were too large. She had one of the most aesthetically-pleasing vulvas i'd ever beheld…crowning those amazing thighs, the most adorable little bush, and perfect lips. I discovered a mind-blowing sensation…after liberally spreading wet kisses all over her tush, i laid my penis in the moistened crack. A-ma-zing. We shared a goodly amount of genital contact, and one morning i came startlingly close to penetrating her from behind. She said she loved that position (particularly as a wake-up call), and told me she'd been desperate for me to penetrate her at that moment. Another time, i stimulated her to orgasm with my hand, and she was amazed, as other men hadn't been able to do so (too much direct stimulation turned her off). I told her it wasn't my skill, i was just along for her beautiful ride, but she wouldn't agree. Because of blood sugar issues, she sometimes became unpleasant, almost nasty, but i didn’t let it bother me. I discovered more incompatibilities…she needed a white noise machine to sleep, wasn't fond of receiving oral, and i had never known a woman so particular about when she did and didn’t want sex. She told me she didn’t fancy long sessions, she liked to come fairly quickly after penetration and be done. Which might have thrilled most men...but sadly not me. She said she could never see herself with a man who didn’t drink. But through all that, she inflamed me with desire…and sweet happiness when i held her. She imagined what it might be like to have a lover for a year, and find out whether her sexual satisfaction diminished. I wanted to be that guy. When we were together, being the person she could always count on filled me with a happiness it's hard to describe. One day she called to tell me she'd been injured at work, and couldn't get home alone. Coming into the city and getting her back safely, is one of my most precious NY memories. One rainy night, she had a blind date to go to, but before she left she lay down with me and told me a part of her was afraid that if she gave herself to me fully, i would ultimately go away. I’m not one for recriminations or second-guessing...but that’s one of the few moments of my life that i know i'd live differently if given a second chance. I would never, ever let her out the door that night. I would hold her, and not stop. And yet i can’t say that her fear was too-close quarters, our incompatibilities might have gotten the best of us, and i'm pretty sure that loving R wouldn't have kept me from offering equal time to my dream woman, if she ever came along. R never understood why i seemed willing to settle for less than my dream woman, in being with her. My answer was that finding a sense of mindless peace and happiness with anyone in this broken world, is so, so very rare. It was easy for me, less trapped in the future than she, to perceive the amazing beauty we could live, were we able to just let go of ourselves. That said, i readily admit she might have been the “wise” one. It's not insane to say that desire was kicking wisdom’s ass, inside me. Then finally, she got her wish. One of her date sites produced a fellow named Eric. He was a drinker, and she wasn't afraid he would leave, and within four months they were married. He seemed a decent fellow. I was happy for her (with reservations, admittedly...i knew she wanted the fairy tale so badly she would hold on to the relationship like a bull mastiff, no matter what). Deep inside, i was a little ashamed at how i wasn’t able to let go of my desire…in fleeting thoughts i imagined him dying, so that i could hold her again. Because of that shame, i was content to disappear from her life when she revealed that he wasn't comfortable with me. I even "nobly" deleted those two amazing photos she had sent, as i returned to my lonely world. I never imagined that anything would keep us from being close always, no matter which way romance went...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You. Will. Be. MOVED.

The most consistent freelance job of my New York years has been mover...though technically, it hasn't even been all freelance. I've been a member of a small moves company for six years. Moving Forces! Inc! I started out freelance, but one day i answered a "looking for movers" ad. It is a measure of how much i enjoy this company that, when we switched from casual wear to uniforms a few years ago, i (non-conformist in the very fibers of my DNA) didn't bolt.
Working small moves is perfect for my personality. You're helping others. You can take or refuse jobs at your discretion. Most are less than four hours. Constant exposure to new people and new environments. You can drop out of your mind almost entirely, to do work that negates the need for any other "exercise". Many jobs are easy, some are wonderfully brutal. Moving Forces services all five boroughs, plus parts of Jersey and very occasionally Long Island and Westchester.
A "small move" is one in which the client provides the vehicle (usually a rented truck), and hires extra hands for the loading or unloading (or both). Two movers is common, though i've been on crews of 1-5. For the past couple years, partly because of knees with recovering repetitive stress injuries, i've usually been the truck loader. Often i'd rather not be bothered with that...just give me heavy shit to carry...but i'm excellent at loading, and it does have a zen quality. It's reminiscent of the video game Tetris (which i've never played, but the number of times i've seen it played must mean it holds some kind of gaming record). Taking up every available cm of space, keeping heavier pieces low, protecting fragile pieces, and building in such a way as to avoid shifting or toppling, is a challenge. I consider the need for ropes a sign of someone who probably could have done better. There have been very few times when we weren't able to fit everything in the truck, even when the client should have rented the next size up.
I stand out a bit from other movers in eagerness and physical ability. I've never seen another mover go back up stairs for a new load as strongly as i, almost never slowing down to just one step at a time. The cameraderie with the other movers is great. Frequent chatter or singing or such. Our rare disagreements are generally good-natured, like the never-ending "chain/stage" debate. Our boss's favorite outburst has always been "Chain!", said with equal parts gung-ho and playfulness. "Chaining" is having a constant link of movers between apartment and truck, with one mover passing a load off to the next, and so on. But at a certain point over the past couple years, some movers (including, bizarrely, the boss) began to do staging instead of chaining...while still calling out "chain!" Staging is setting your load down at an arranged spot, for the next person in the link to pick up and carry on. I rail no end against staging, as its relative inefficiency is indisputable (not that some don't try, of course). What expends more energy - bending over to set something down, requiring someone to bend over and lift it back up, or passing a load directly to the next mover? It's a no-brainer. Staging can also cause gaps in communication, as the needs of the truck are relayed back to the apartment. When pushed to defend staging, the best my companions can come up with is shaky logic or a feeble appeal to emotionalism ("It's psychologically tougher having to sometimes carry the load an extra flight or two"). Any disparities in chaining even out over the course of a move - if you have a longer trudge, your next haul will automatically be shorter. But for some bizarre reason, several of my teammates are stuck on staging.
The clients are almost always wonderful, though a mixed bag in terms of preparedness. Some are still bagging and boxing as the truck fills up.
My favorite technique? The turtle - taking a heavy object (chair, coffee table, wardrobe box with handles) onto your head or back. The pancake is also fun - flopping a mattress over the railing of a stairwell while your partner moves ahead to catch it.
After six years, i have company seniority, aside from the boss. There are only five or six on the roster at any time. Many have been creative types (musicians, actors...). Moving Forces switched from a flag logo to camouflage a few years back, which i thought was ill-conceived, considering where we ply our trade. Patriotism resonates in NY. Militarism resonates in...Oklahoma? Our uniforms are black T-shirts with camo pants. The shirts bear our logo and the slogan "You Will Recommend Us".  Our reviews have borne this out - we've historically gotten the majority of our business from U-Haul's website, where we've constantly ranked at or near the top of their affiliated company rankings. I've thought of alternate slogans - "We Will Move You", "A Moving Experience", or "You Will Be Moved", but the boss is happy with the old one.
As for the boss, Robin, well...he's quite a bird. It all flows from him, and it's all pretty damned good, and he's quite a bird. A bizarre mix of german/brazilian heritage, he's got aryan structure and militarism - his original idea for the uniforms was fatigues, with medals for rank and distinguished service (we talked him out of that one). He adds to that a brazilian esoteric silliness...ducky stickers on paychecks, for example. He has heightened geopolitical awareness and an eager, offbeat sense of humor. He asks us to call the moves "trainings". He joins in many trainings himself.
New York moves sometimes involve elevators, but buildings lower than six floors aren't required to have one. You understand what i'm saying?
Fortunately i love heat...some of the summer moves involve stairwells where the temperature is over a hundred. Many movers bring a spare T-shirt (one guy even brings several), but i bring only one, mostly because i sweat less quickly and copiously than most.
The money's nice. After one raise, i make $17/hr. Tips are almost always involved, often $20 or more. My lowest-paying move was the day a fancy bed footboard tipped over, cracked, and my partner and i found ourselves with a $500 bill. My highest-paying day was a sixteen-hour move to the suburbs for a sweet musician named Duke, and his wife. $450.
The heaviest thing i ever moved was a first-edition widescreen TV. It weighed the better part of five hundred pounds. There were four of us, and we had to get it from the 5th floor to the street, with no elevator. We couldn't lift it steadily until we set it on two blankets and grasped the four corners. Even with that, we could only go one step at a time. LIFT! Bump. LIFT! Bump. LIFT...
My funniest moment involved a day my partner John and i were, for no particular reason, riffing on the old GET SMART. We were taking a huge, wobbly Ikea wardrobe down one flight and to the trash. I had the lower end. I'm about five steps down, sort of underneath it, when a whooshing sensation envelops me. When i open my eyes, the entire enormous swedish behemoth has imploded, myriad pieces of it trickling around my ankles. How i didn't get bowled over or otherwise concussed, i'll never understand. With unassailable comedic timing, i looked at John and, in my best Don Adams, said "Missed me by THAT much."
I hold the company record for the highest distance (forty-one stories) any mover has ever dropped an object. We were moving a client into a high-rise, and had a full load in the elevator. When the doors opened on the 41st floor, i picked up two armloads, then suddenly realized my partner needed help steadying something he was pulling down. I set down the load in one of my hands - right on the crack between elevator and floor. One of the things in that load was a small, unpainted wooden shelf. It silently sliced through the opening, and was gone. We never heard a crash.
Our most immortally-named client? Israel Sockeye.
Alas, the end of Moving Forces ( may be at hand. For some reason we'll perhaps never understand, U-Haul has dismissed us from their site, taking away 80% of our business. The reason they gave is that they only want to work with companies which don't have their own truck. Which we don't - the closest we ever came to having one was an affiliation with a fun fellow named Curtis, who had a big yellow truck. He bumped parked cars and fire hydrants with head-scratching regularity. We only dealt with him for a few months, four or five years ago. When i learned we were removed from the site, the only thought that made sense was that one of our rival companies had lined the wallet of someone at U-Haul corporate. We've applied to be reinstated, but U-Haul reserves the right to do whatever the hell they want (and charge us a hefty fee if they do reinstate us). A shame. I can't imagine that any NY company made clients as happy (or made U-Haul look as good) as we have the past few years. We're personable, quirky, talented, and dedicated. But the nature of this business is that the majority of your clients will never give you repeat business, no matter how thrilled they are. We'll wait a second while everyone catches up to the people who've already figured out why that is.
The most apt way i can tell you about my time as a NY mover, is to devote a moment to each of the most memorable movers i've worked with. This is also, i hope, a fitting memorial to one of NY's most unique moving companies ever.
Tall with large feet that sometimes flop in your way, he sets a fine example of moving talent. He never wants us to let on to the client that he's the boss. Trainings with him are peppered with his repeated exclamations of "Amaaaaazing" and "Chain!" It's easy to get him singing by humming a line to some obscure 80s pop song. He has an extreme macrobiotic diet, which is perhaps as much myth as reality (one legend being that he subsists entirely on orange juice). As he never eats added sugars, he never brushes his teeth. Add to that his habit of carrying garlic bulbs in his pocket, to pop in his mouth at random moments, and you have a formula for frequently-funky breath. He also eschews deodorants and such, so his musk is purty strong. But he's a delight to work with, every single time.
I probably logged more minutes with Mike than any other mover. A sweet soul. He and i were the company's only bikers for a long time, and it was always fun comparing how far we'd traveled on any given day. An easygoing musician with an eager outlook, very comfortable in rapport with clients. He and his wife Sandy (and two dogs) took me in once for a month when i was between homes. Our last move together was moving him to the suburbs. He makes it back into the city on occasion, and is very much missed.
Moving Forces most regular mover over the past year or so, given my other conflicts. Thoroughly professional, thoroughtly competent, and thoroughly a pleasure. A singer/songwriter, his band, Greg Smith and the Broken English (, won an IMA award last year. He's sort of a cross between Dylan, Tom Waits, and Davey Jones. He establishes rapport with clients easily. I love his music, and he's becoming a friend outside work.
A gregarious croatian with heavy accent and a penchant for wordplay, he lived with Robin for a year or more before returning to Croatia. A good mover. He's a charismatic figure in new age spiritualism. I helped edit/translate one of his books, and he founded a school in NYC. I became friends with his ex-wife as well, and he invited me to become his traveling companion/editor, but i get suspicious any time the phrase "school of thought" comes up, and didn't want to risk making my own creative visions ancillary to anyone's.
A freelance editor who spent a few years with us before taking a full-time position with a publishing company. Easygoing, keen of wit, and a right fine mover. He grumbled about physical labor as time wore on, which made me sad. We vowed to never see the film THE ROAD, as the book was so sublime. I hoped we might become better friends, and he did invite me to stay with him once when i was between homes, but he drifted away into his new life.
My biological sibling, i brought him into Moving Forces when the Tavern on the Green, his fourteen-year employer, closed. He spent a year with us, until he became a doorman at the Trump Soho. As eager a mover as you could ever want, he loves to bring up little details of jobs we did months earlier, details which i've usually forgotten. His unfamilarity with the work and a bout with Lyme disease made him a bit slow and weak at first, but he shaped up nicely. I suspect we'll be sharing Moving Forces in-jokes decades from now. He still longs to do moves on his rare days off.
A jazz trumpeter. Great company, fun and friendly, he also did volunteer work teaching kids music. He had the habit of scanning sidewalks for cigarettes that hadn't been fully smoked, and finishing them off. He disappeared off the face of the Earth, in a way that felt faintly ominous.
A testament to the in and out nature of freelance work, he was a great, smiling presence on many jobs, then disappeared when his gigs in the music world took off. A couple years later, he happily re-appeared.
A big, bearded fellow, very low-key. I took a shine to him, partly because he reminded me of a fuzzy-headed G.I. Joe i'd had as a child. I wanted to become friends with him outside work, and it almost happened.
He makes you want to find the people who raised him, just to say thank you.
Very outgoing and enthusiastic, but i eventually became disenchanted with him, and told Robin i thought he was making our company look bad. His strengths were negated by a general ungentleness, which manifested in dropping boxes instead of setting them down, and suggesting we attempt to "force" an expensive piece of furniture through a doorway it wasn't fitting through. The only mover i ever heard bark at a client. I lost good money because of him on at least one occasion.
One of the most talented movers i ever beheld, he could handle enormous pieces of furniture alone like no one else...but acted as though he was in charge of every move he worked. I had more patience for him than most of my companions, but eventually his act wearied me too.
Sadly, i'm kidding. We've never had a female mover, though i've kept egging Robin to hire one. He's interviewed several, and says none have gotten past the question, "Can you carry half a sleeper sofa up five flights?" Sigh. I've seen what Olympic women look like three or four decades after Title IX, so i refuse to give up hope.
A gnarly acid jazz drummer from Germany, i think he ended up in jail for some bogus "consensual crime" charge.
The most imposingly statuesque mover i ever knew, he was 6'5" with arms the size of my legs. Unimpeachably agreeable. The only mover who had larger feet than Robin, he had to walk down stairs diagonally, otherwise he would slip off. I was sad when he left the company to go raise christian babies. That sentence can be interpreted two ways, and either would be correct.
It took me about three seconds to be perplexed as to how or why Robin hired this guy. He was an ex-convict, which is perfectly fine, but he didn't have the kind of personality that puts people at ease. A pronounced lack of gentleness. I think perhaps Robin has a fascination for redemption...but his instincts failed him this time. During moves, Felix was sometimes on the phone conducting semi-shady business deals. I told Robin we were going to lose our high company ranking, and we were going to deserve it.
I don't remember much about him, but how can i not mention someone named "Cool Breeze"?
My first partner ever, Al was as great a comrade as you could ever want. He was funny, he was strong, and he played well with others. I nicknamed him "Lovin' Al", after the James Taylor song. He had been through any number of personal crucibles, with time spent in the army, jail, and a husband/father phase that sounded none too pleasant. He had put that all behind him, to live a life of enormous simplicity. I've never quite gotten over the fact that our company lost him when we moved "on the books", with tax forms and such.
Moving Forces. Wonderful times.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

olympic innovation! (pt. 2)

I have an idea which will improve the entertainment quality of the Olympics, while simultaneously providing a richer appreciation of the amazingness of the athletic feats being witnessed. In every individual event, there should be one average joe or jane inserted, picked at random from the population of the host country. Watching your local baker Al chugging out a nineteen-second 100-meter dash, will perhaps make you more suitably awestruck by those sub ten-second scores. Watching Ms. Mousopolos, kindergarten teacher, notch a "DNF, rescued by hook" in the 200m breaststroke, will make her a greater hero in the eyes of her kids, and provide a rich source of YouTube material for everyone else. And each host country should be obligated to field a contestant or team of non-athletes for any event in which they have no entry. Think how much fun that will be when we get a host country with no water polo team.

pitch count

If i never hear the term "pitch count" again, it will be none too soon. If you want to know how idiotic this term is, imagine a ringside boxing manager yanking a fighter who reaches 100 punches. Old Hoss Radbourne is rolling in his grave.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

naked! art! yay!

As i entered adulthood, one of the thoughts that bounced around my head from time to time was a curiosity about the world of the art model. Mostly, this curiosity was just a response to living in a sexually-repressed society, where nudity taboos are everywhere you look. I realized at a pretty young age how destructive these taboos are...that the damage done to our psyches by not being allowed to walk down the street, run with the wind, or dance in the rain naked naked naked, is almost incalculable. By the time i was an adult, i was ready to buck these taboos wherever i could. Any pretext to get naked, no matter how flimsy, i'll take (one of the possible titles for this blog was "sensitivenakedman"). I've never lived in a nudist colony, but it's on my short list. A lot of people perceive this facet of my personality as "exhibitionism", a form of attention-seeking.
A lot of people are pretty fucking stupid.
So doing naked modeling was in the back of my mind for years. Not just being naked, but being paid for it? Are you kidding?
Still, i knew how deep-rooted is the socialization that teaches us bodily shame. I couldn't be 100% sure that i would be comfortable taking off my clothes for a roomful of clothed strangers.
Just 99.999%.
Then one day, i'm looking through the want ads in Florida, seeking supplemental income for my acting. And there it was - "Art Models Wanted". A local art league. A quick phone call, and...
Know how some things you think are going to be cool, turn out to be even cooler?
I was so unself-conscious, it was silly. The artists were so friendly and fun. I was naked with strangers in public, and NOBODY CARED. When they put money in my hands, i may have laughed. Would i like to do it again? Are you kidding?
Years later, i've been professionally naked all over the place. For individual artists. For art leagues and colleges. For illustrators, painters, photographers, and sculptors.
Is it hard work? Brutal. Sometimes the poses are short, five minutes or less, but for serious work, they want you to stay unmoving for a long time. The industry standard is twenty minutes on, ten minutes off. With classes, they usually time that pretty strictly. With individual artists, i've gone an hour or more. But even twenty minutes is seventeen more than lots of folks could handle. You might never have realized how constantly humans shift our bodies, even in the most relaxed moments. We're designed that way...optimal blood flow and muscle comfort involves almost continual motion (look at speeded-up tapes of people "not doing anything" sometime). To suddenly freeze that natural state is, well...unnatural. To do it well requires muscle tone and pain tolerance.
The industry standard is a three-hour shift, but i've been asked to do as many as eight. Mostly, you're asked to do one pose over and over and over again. You quickly learn where the pain points are. You learn what part of you is going to fall asleep, over and over and over again. Very occasionally you'll have a pose that qualifies as easy...usually involving about thirty pillows. But generally, even poses that start out comfortably are killers by the second hour. When the break comes, you can't just stand up. You need to slowly unfold out of the pose. You spend your break stretching and moving and slapping whatever part of your body has fallen asleep. Ten minutes is almost never enough time to feel normal again. After an hour or so in one pose, you won't feel "normal" until the next day.
Even with all that, there are times when staying awake on the stand isn't easy. There can be something so deliciously soporific about forced inactivity.
And the most-common question of people who have never done it is, of you get erect? No no no no no. What a silly idea. I mean, okay, maybe once in those hundreds of times, i started to feel a little blood flowing into my "area"...but i thought about Margaret Thatcher, and was fine. I don't think i'm atypical, i'm pretty sure erections are almost unheard-of. Which is actually a tiny bit surprising, because another question i get is, what do you think about while you're up there?
Mostly bad pop songs from the eighties.
Plus any of the million other things people think of when they're not thinking of anything. Since sex is pretty high on that list, you'd think there might be the occasional erection. There are certainly other public occasions...say, on a subway car, when you get a little chubby as you're dozing, or become aware that the nipples of the woman across from you aren't as innocuous as they were a couple minutes before.
But really, no. There's something inherently non-turgid about being naked for strangers while in pain.
You do learn, however, that you might want to avoid sex before a session. Drippage.
And i do confess i occasionally, surreptitiously "straighten" my penis, which tends to flop to the right.
Do i ever do clothed modeling? Yeah, but i really have to like the artist a lot.
A big part of the reason why modeling is even cooler than you'd imagine, is the work being done. Even with amateurs, there is something going on that is enormously ego-stroking. To walk around and see ten or twenty versions of "you" is a bit of a rush. And if the artists have actual talent, it becomes...there's no other word than "humbling". Never mind what the artistic object is, just being witness to beauty in creation, is amazing. I've amassed a nice collection of images of myself. Artists generally love to be generous with that sort of thing, making you copies and sometimes even giving originals.
I once spent a week posing with two women, but not intimately. After hundreds and hundreds of experiences, posing intimately with a woman is the only thing i've never yet done. I'm looking forward to that as the pinnacle of my career.
Any particularly goofy or special memories?
I once posed for a college art class, and one of the female students turned out to have been a high school student of mine, from a year or two before. I wish i could have a transcript of any phone calls she made after class.
I've done body double work for Brad Pitt.
I've been made into a statue by one of Hollywood's top body-casters, an experience that's worth an article all by itself (
I've had a beautiful rendering of my erect penis done (in larger than life size). If you come across that one...
Make me a copy. I never got one.
(Clothed modeling? Look again.)