A little story to tide you over while I work on processing the last couple weeks!
As I have mentioned in a previous blog, I was married before. I got married at 22 years old (I know, I know…but at the time it didn’t feel so young). Things weren’t good from day one and improved not one wit over the next two years. Nevertheless, I was in the marriage for the long haul and tried to make it work. My ex-dh and I even bought a house together hoping that would cement our future.
I was working as an assistant manager at a Christmas gift shop and as a bartender/waitress at a barbeque joint by night…anything to not be home I guess. My dh was a graphic/comic book artist who suffered much for his art. By day he worked as a manager of an indy music store where bitterness was bought and sold at a high price. Suffice to say I was not doing any writing. I was also not pursuing film work although I had just graduated at the top of my class at Penn State. I had really lost my way.
But there was one week that changed everything. Changed my whole life. Changed it so much that I could never go back to my old life again.
It changed everything.
As “backstory,” I received a call from a good friend from college saying accusingly but truthfully, “What are you doing with your life? When are you going to get back to writing? Have you given up on film altogether? Are you just a bartender now?”
I did like bartending. And in my MIND I was working on a screenplay set in a restaurant. Still, his call struck a chord. He was right. I needed to get back to work but I had no idea how.
Calling the universe…
A short while later, I got a call from my friend Tom Manning (this is his real name and I don’t care who knows it. He’s my hero.)
Tom Manning said that a short film of his was accepted into the New York Film Expo. Filmmakers bring their independent films to the Expo for publicity and of course ultimately, to sell them. The films are all screened at the Angelika Movie Theatre in Greenwich Village over the course of one week.
He asked me to go with him to the Expo and help him publicize his film. He would cover my expenses and pay me $300 for the week! I accepted immediately. I thought it sounded fun and I never said no to a new experience.
I had no idea what was ahead of me.
Tom and I spent nights in his parents’ house in Jersey and then commuted into Manhattan every morning in his old convertible, smoking, talking, laughing and listening to Dylan and Springsteen and Paul Simon (“The Boxer” will forever be our song). It was magical. Tom’s a great talker, a great listener and wickedly funny. We’d listen patiently to each other’s stories, waiting the whole time for our turn to tell a story that we’d secretly been writing in our head the whole time.
We’d drive into the Village and go hang out at the beautiful and historic Angelika all day, drinking coffee, smoking and networking with other filmmakers. We quickly found out that by supporting other people’s films you could get them to support yours. Hand out flyers for your new friends’ movie on Monday and they would pass out fliers for your movie on Thursday. And the best thing you could do was attend screenings. Everyone wanted a full and enthusiastic audience for their film so we got to see lots of movies, every dang day!
It was ah-mazing for me.
I was a filmmaker again (by proximity). I watched films no one else had seen yet, met indy filmmakers from all over the country, elbowed with famous actors, directors and cinematographers, and partied every single night with all my new friends, for FREE. Cause here's the icing on the cake: every night of the week, after “work,” in the city of cities, in some fabulous, chic and trendy restaurant or club, a party would be thrown just for us Expo participants, totally gratis and sponsored by some industry muckety-muck, thank you very much.
Just for fun, let me spell that out for you at home.
Free fancy drinks.
Free fancy food.
In fancy-schmancy Manhattan.
Surrounded by oh-so-cool indy filmmakers and the like. And I was like one of them.
I. Was. Getting. Paid. For. This.
Plus, Tom and I were totally bonding. We were living out our individual yet conveniently mutual versions of heaven. We pinched each other and gaped and drank and smoked and laughed. We watched movies and promoted movies and talked about movies and partied on the movies.
Every day fell into a wonderful pattern. Joy streamed like the morning sun on Tom’s convertible. I lived in the Village for a summer during college and it was great to be back in the Big City. Every song from Tom's car, every song in a bar was like the soundtrack to our lives. Tom and I "worked" all day, partied all night and dragged our asses back to his parents’ house to nurse our hangovers for another day.
I was 24.
It was heaven. Heaven!
And I was just a little bit developing a huge friend crush on my man Tom.
Let me explain something about “Tom.”
Tom and I went to film school together at Penn State but I actually MET Tom the summer after my senior year back in Lancaster, PA.
We graduated from different high schools but I was dating a guy from his alma mater, so Tom and I would often be at the same parties that summer. Back then, “Tom” was known as “Sid.”
“Sid” was a drunk, arrogant asshole that I couldn’t stand. He was always in my face at parties, challenging me, harassing me, being totally rude. I thought he was such a dick and I made no secret of it. (Little did I know that Sid wasn’t the dick, the guy I was dating was the dick.) I remember at one party, late in the summer, Sid practically spit at me in a loud, drunken stupor that he was going to Penn State Main Campus like me. “Ha! Ha!” he laughed, enjoying himself at my expense, “I’ll see you there!”
Oh gawd. Gag me. I rolled my eyes at him and walked away.
Well, good luck! I thought. At least among 30,000 Penn State Main Campus students, Sid and I stood no chance of running into each other. Ha ha yourself Sid. Joke's on you.
Well…imagine my surprise when it turned out that “Sid” was ALSO a film student! But “Sid” went by “Tom” now and so Tom and I got (re)acquainted. To his profound credit, Tom immediately acquiesced to being a jerk to me back in Lancaster, apologized and we started anew. We became good buds and he was always the funniest guy in the room. He was still acerbic and direct as hell but I really liked that about him and realized I always did.
And NOW! Now to be able to spend all this time side-by-side my man Tom/Sid was a complete compliment to my karma.
About mid-week Tom and I met a group of filmmakers from Chicago. A group of cute, fun, filmmaker guys. We did the whole cross-promotion things for them and met up at that night at the nearest Expo party. One of the guys was Marc.
Marc was a guy wholey different from anyone I would ever imagine being attracted to. He was pretty slick and a real jokester and short. But he was cute and clearly into me.
Into me. Into. Me.
This was a shock let me tell you.
After a couple years in a pretty much love-less, sex-less marriage it was a shock to be into-ed. I had gained 40 pounds in the first year and half of my marriage. Somehow I managed to find the strength and self-control to pick my face out of the Oreos and lose all the weight and then some. Still my self-esteem was pretty shattered from my relationship with my dh and it had not yet caught up with the new hotty I was...or so I thought.
You see, I think when I hit New York (and ya gotta HIT it) I suddenly felt like a SOMEBODY and all this shiny, new-found confidence just showed up one day. But I didn’t REALLY know that until I saw it reflected in Marc’s eyes.
As he watched me.
To Ms. Aretha’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
In a basement bar crowded with industry folk.
Such a wallflower, right? Well, Marc thought I was something. And it was wondrous to me.
So Marc and his posse started joining us all the time. Now I had two dates to everything!
Tom and I were becoming closer and closer in that truly amazing, miraculous way you become totally intimate with someone in a very short period of time. He was funny, kind, generous and the life of the party. And he was taking me on the ride of my life.
And Marc! It was like having a boyfriend just while on vacation. While you are at your happiest and most relaxed and most attractive.
One night, the boys and I took a nighttime cruise around New York Harbor. Oh my sweet Lord!
NY Harbor on a boat in the dark of night. All the lights of the skyline sparkled like a million stars above us and their brilliance was reflected in the dark, murky water around us. As the boat cruised along the harbor, the captain gave an intimate, detailed audio tour of all the precincts and neighborhoods and their histories. We got up close to the Brooklyn Bridge and then, and then, we’re suddenly looking up from our watery G&Ts and staring up the nose of the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island. It was beautiful and majestic and friggin HUGE.
There were all these American flags blowing in the night wind and as the captain shared stories of those early comings to America, we all got a little teary-eyed. And suddenly Marc pulled me in his arms and kissed me. Right under Liberty Enlightening the World.
I was like an immigrant myself, discovering freedom and enlightenment in a new world. In New York.
Stay tuned for the exciting finale!