Sometimes it’s just you and the cat.

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My girlfriend is away.

The talented thing she is, she’s off rehearsing a play, doing what she wants to do, living the dream, etc, etc.  The only unfortunate thing is, it is away.  Some 2,500 miles and two time zones away.  So it’s just me and the cat for about two months.

Sure, we talk on the phone, and we’re texting every day, but alas, her smiling visage no longer graces the capacious rooms of our castle home.

Therefore, I am getting A LOT of work done.

It’s not that I don’t get work done when she’s here, but when she’s not here, boy howdy!  From the time I wake up until my eyes close on my pillow at night, I’m doing something or other:  I’m writing, I’m transferring my writing from my notebook to my computer, I’m corresponding via email about my writing, I’m recording audiobooks, I’m editing audiobooks previously recorded, I’m working on the musical I’m writing, I’m corresponding with my writing partner about said musical, I’m traveling to my day job, or I’m working at my day job.

There are only MINUTES of my waking hours when I’m not doing one of these things, and I usually watch Doctor Who during that time.  I’m a very busy boy.

If Becca was here, there would be less of this, and more of canoodling and general nesting activities with my loved one.  More time spent on eating, sitting together, engaging in conversation, etc.

What’s been nice in this time of separation, however, is the Travel Notebook.

OH YES.  CAPITAL LETTERS.

The Travel Notebook was a BRILLIANT idea I had (thank you very much) the last time she was away.  I bought a small, pretty, hard-backed notebook for her to take with her on her travels.  For every day she was away, I wrote a prompt for her to complete.  “Describe where you are at this exact second.”  “What was the most interesting thing you saw today?”  “If our cat was there, what would she be doing?” and so on.  

Since she had it the last time she was away, I was deemed the notebook-holder this time.  When I visit her in the middle of her time away, we’ll trade, and I’ll give her the notebook.

It’s nice, and it keeps us thinking about each other.  It also provides a fun diary on which we can look back once together and see what the heck we were up to.

Until then, though, it’s just me and the cat.

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Sometimes artists work weird jobs. A LOT OF THEM.

It is the distinct travesty of contemporary western culture that one requires, to live within the circle of accepted society and to function without fear of starvation, homelessness, or general indigence, MONEY.

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Ahh, the mere word conjures up a myriad of images and emotions within all of us.  We imagine it in abundance, we imagine it in scant.  We image ourselves with it, our neighbors with it, our loved ones with it, and we imagine all of them without.  We can visualize permutation after permutation of the spread of wealth across this great green globe, and we all have such strong opinions in its regard.

If you are one of the lucky few on this orb to have felt the call of beauty and creativity within, good on you.  We of the artistic ilk can only hope that one day our contributions will earn us enough MONEY that we feel a part of the team – Team Normalcy, Team Mainstream, Team Dollars, Team Pounds, Team Euros.  More often than not, however, this is not the case.  We have to supplement.

I know, in terms of my overall timeline, I’m not too far along.  Only twenty-eight years and some change have passed since I’ve been here.  Still, I’ve been working in the world of jobs for money’s sake for almost half that time.

It all started in high school.  Hardee’s Restaurant.  I woke up every morning at four a.m. to bake the biscuits on which the breakfast sandwiches would be served.  Before I left at noon, I would put in the first batch of fried chicken.  Those glorious salad days…

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I had other smaller jobs in high school, such as a week’s worth of work at a run-down music instrument store, a stint as a bridal shop living mannequin (oh yeah), and trumpeter and chorister for several local churches.  All for the sake of money.

I got to college in Philadelphia and found I had less time to work.  I was in a conservatory acting program, after all, which took up a sizable amount of my waking hours.  Somewhere in there, though, I found the time to work as concessionaire for a local theater, chorister for a professor’s church, and the occasional shift at Hardee’s when I came home after my freshman year.

Once I hit the end of my sophomore year, however, I stayed in the big city.  It was here that I acquired two separate jobs at almost the same time:  The first was as children’s train driver at the Philadelphia Zoo.  Wearing an engineer’s cap, I collected payment from parents, settled children onto the very small train, and squired them around the circular track, all the while scolding them for reaching out the car window or trying to escape altogether.  This job was also required to help out with the swan paddle boats, holding them steady as families stepped in and out at the dock.  It was not one of my favorites.  I quit after a month.

The second job in college was a winner, however – working retail at Adventure Aquarium.  It wasn’t that great to start, I’ll admit.  I hated being trapped behind a cash register all day while hordes of children brought up sticky stuffed dolphins to be paid for with smelly, wet bills.  The day arrived, however, when the manager asked if I wouldn’t mind working in the stock room.  OF COURSE, I answered.  Thus began two glorious years where I received and tagged shipments of toys, t-shirts, books, key chains, and all other manner of gift shop goods.

And here was the best part: the stock room of the gift shop was butt-up against the backstage area of the shark tank.  So while I listened to showtunes and broke down cardboard boxes, I got to watch sharks swimming around for eight hours a day.  Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

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Out of college, I started to get work as an actor, so thankfully my need for day jobs dwindled.  Still, I spent some time working in a theater box office and teaching audition classes to children.

Once I moved up to New York, however, I was back in the game.  My first job in the city was my all-time worst job.  Planet Hollywood, Times Square.  I applied for a position in the gift shop, now having substantial experience.  I was told they were all staffed up there, but could use someone on their Visa team.  What’s that, I asked.  After they explained it, I suppose I was desperate enough for cash that I said yes.  It was, after all, completely spelled out:

I was to stand at the entrance to Planet Hollywood, right before guests get on the elevators to go up to the restaurant.  I held a clipboard in my hand.  I was to ask the guests, “How many?”  This was a sly attempt to get them to think I was the host.  “Three,” perhaps they’d say.  “Great,” I’d reply.  “I can actually save you $15 each for a total of $45 off your meal today by signing up for our Planet Hollywood Rewards card.”  Then I’d whip out the clipboard, complete with the coupons I would give them once they filled out the credit card application.

Here’s where it got good:  “Oh no thanks, I don’t need a credit card.”  “It’s actually a rewards card,” I’d answer, “earning you points the more you use it.”  “So it’s like a points card.  But then why does it look like a credit card?”  “It’s sponsored by Visa.”  Oh, those sly devils…  Once I got them to fill out the CREDIT CARD APPLICATION (oy), I’d send them on their way up to the restaurant, earning a cool tenner for each one.

It never went like that.  I think in the four months I worked there, I only got two.  The rest of the time the incoming guests would yell at me for trying to trick them, or else ignore me entirely.

After I got out of that mess, I worked at a museum for a bit, an ice skating rink (oh yeah!), then held a string of administrative positions at various small businesses.  When one company offered me a full-time job as their receptionist, I ran away as fast as I could.  I couldn’t bear the thought of being tied down to that desk day-in and day-out, riding the subway at only the busy, crowded times, and having only a few hours in the evening to myself in which to ply my artistic trade.  I resolved to being poor.

In the midst of all this, I did what any normal poor, liberal-minded artist would do – I joined the Army and became a medic.  National Guard, actually.  Weekend warrior.  Good part-time gig with student loans wiped out and some extra cash in the bank.  And now I’m a nationally-certified EMT.  Which is weird.

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That basically brings me to the present, where I work primarily in house management for an Off-Broadway theater, charming the pants off old ladies every night, all the while telling them to sit down and shut up and to stop eating during the performance.

The newest undertaking in my I-need-to-earn-money-so-I-don’t-die job hunt is quite possibly the strangest – Audiobook narrator.  I hopped on the train when my girlfriend started doing it.  There’s a great website out there – acx.com – where indie publishers and self-published authors can get their books read by independent producers (moi).  You audition for the gig, and hopefully they pick you.  If they do, you sit in your little closet with your clothes piled around you, reading aloud into a fancy microphone a chapter at a time.  Then you upload the thing and, in theory, they approve it and you get the cash.

Here’s the unfortunate part – IT’S SO HARD!

I spend my days editing these chapters, getting rid of throat clears, lip smacks, background noise, and all other sound detritus to get to just my voice saying words.  There’s fancy software, there’s fancy plug-ins, and, at the end of the day, you just can’t get it all!  Eek!

How I feel in the voice-over closet.

How I feel in the voice-over closet.

Still, it’s a very weird wonderful line of work that combines two things I really like – acting and reading.

Who knows what the future will bring to me in re: day jobs.  What crazy line of work will I end up in next?  And will there ever come a day when I’m not doing odd jobs (literally)?

The world may never know.

What odd jobs does everyone else have???  What was the worst?

Sometimes you start a story at 16. And finish it at 26.

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Ah, high school.  Those ripe and rare salad days.  The virgin landscape of yesteryear.  That delightful time when anything can – and does – occur.  When all roads are open to you, and everything is possible.

It was during this impressionable time in my life that I explored every creative outlet I had in my body.  I acted, I sang, I danced, I composed music, I wrote plays, and of course – I wrote fiction.  Although recently undertaken as a solid professional goal, the urge to write was bred in me long before a whisker showed its face on my chin.  Now, there have been little stories swimming through the river of my mind for as long as I’ve been a sentient being, but it was in high school that the idea of THE NOVEL first reared its head. 

THE NOVEL came to me one day after watching a performance of Puccini’s La Boheme at a waterfront amphitheater.  It was a beautiful evening, and Rodolfo and Mimi sang of their love as the sun set behind them.  I was with my first love, and I had never felt more alive before.  I went home and immediately knew what I was meant to do with my life.
Well, not really.  That never happened.

Really, I have no idea where or how I got the idea for THE NOVEL in the first place.  But it appeared one day and I said, “Hey, that’d be a cool book.”  So I sketched out some ideas and wrote a chapter or two in a journal and promptly forgot about it.

Cut to my sophomore year of college four years later.  Going to school in Philadelphia, I was working part-time at Adventure Aquarium across the Delaware River in Camden, NJ (which, at the time, was considered the most dangerous city in America – fun fact).  Every day I had to get on the PATCO train which connected the two cities and ride it across the Ben Franklin Bridge.  While on this commute one day, I suddenly remembered THE NOVEL.  (I should mention I was going to school for musical theatre at this time, so I had entertained no intention of writing.  Ever.  Not that I was against it – it had just never occurred to me.)

Being an ambitious lad with an hour of nothing to do every day while commuting, and not being one of those silly bookworms who read on the train, and not being one of those crazy teenagers who listen to music on the train, I decided I liked the romance of writing a novel on the train.  I found my old red notebook and set to work with a serious mind.

I plotted out THE NOVEL and created a map of the world (Yes, it was an epic fantasy.  Of course.).  I wrote a few chapters and was so pleased with the novelty of it all.  This was so different than going to voice lessons and dance class and crying in Meisner studio and dealing with hot girls who were actually crazy.  Alas, all good things end, however, and my time at the aquarium drew to a close.  I typed out what I had written and saved it on my computer.  And promptly forgot about it again.

So it went for the next few years – I graduated and got my first professional acting gigs.  I fell in love, fell out of love, moved in with people, moved away from people, had other day jobs, and eventually moved to New York.  During all of this, THE NOVEL would stop by my head to say hello every now and then.  I wrote a couple of chapters between acting gigs, I rearranged a bit of dialogue when going through a breakup, I edited the map anytime I saw a cooler map in another epic fantasy book.

I actually got a lot of writing in during Army basic training.  After the day was over and our drill sergeants released us for the night, I’d sit up in bed with my little notebook, scribbling away about fairies and magic with my M-16 semi-automatic rifle by my side.

Anyway, there came a point when I realized I had finished the darn thing.  So I said, “Neat!” and promptly forgot about it.

Cue me making the decision that I’d like to start writing fo’ realsies.  THE NOVEL is ecstatic.  Happily, I read through it, prepared to start the editing process.  I am appalled.

Here is the problem with beginning a novel at 16 and finishing it at 26:  it was written by at least ten different people. 

I could point out exactly what section each author wrote.  And not because I remembered when I wrote what.  It was because it was so blatantly obvious.  I will highlight a few of these authors:

The 16-year-old wrote like Tolkein or Dickens:  long, luxuriating sentences that carried such weight of import that you wanted to take a nap after every period.  You lost track of the subject of the sentence after hearing how beautiful it was in the moonlight.

The 21-year-old wrote like David Mamet:  whole chapters filled with dialogue.  Occasionally there’d be a “he said” in there, but that was about it.  Otherwise, it was action-action-action.

The 26-year-old wrote with a sense of motivation: whole pages where we followed the characters’ thoughts and feelings, their wants and desires, and then a little blip about what them doing something to get it.

It was like somebody with multiple personality disorder wanted to write a book.

So here we are, a year later, and my agent suggests (not wrongly) that I give it yet another go-through to clarify some points.  Sigh.  How much longer shall I continue to edit, trying desperately to unify these many voices into one?  Only time will tell. 

Hopefully it’s not another ten years.