Oh boy have I been fooled in the past. I remember the Karl Rove engineered brilliant radio ads that made it seem that the estate tax was important to my life and needed to be repealed because it was going to ruin family farms. Well sadly the Monsanto written legislation already took care of that and I was a sucker for the spin that was not in my ultimate best interest.

I am really not sure who are the select few who actually benefit from a No vote. I do know that my friend who did an AMEX commercial with Jerry Seinfeld is not voting cause of the drastic loss of SAG union commercial work after the 2000 strike that has taken decades (decades!!!) to rebuild. He is not voting cause he is out of the business cause of that reduction in SAG work. I walked those picket lines and knew just knew it was a disaster. Don’t get me started that the faction of our union that didn’t want the merger created the need for it with the de facto FilmTV strike of 2009.

So of course if you need to vote No go ahead. Magical thinking is that we have the same leverage as the Teamsters and will get everything we want & was left at the table or as small as the DGA and those pensions caps will just get lifted. Talk to all the people who were fooled into voting for Brexit and the mess that is.

Proud that our leadership is forward thinking lookiing out for the best interest of our entire union and the future of syndication. Where are you watching your reruns? That is right -on your streaming services not on PIX11 (PIX11 what is that you ask? Case and point -it is the boat Seinfeld sailed to make their mint, a mint that is still grandfathered BTW). Oh and I can only guess where you are watching Seinfeld now.

Vote YES. My increased background numbers can wait Cars and Kids Above The Count!!! and Escalator Clause for BG numbers. I will see you all in the 21 century as soon as we call all get back to work. Whatever you’re voting for Pete’s sake Wear a mask so we can get back to work!!!

Be forewarned. This is a rant.

My parenting style is the imperfect version of ‘FUCK YES’ the title of a book I found many years before getting married and having kids. The memorable example that stuck with me was ‘You want the car tonight? FUCK YES! You are now responsible for any and all things related to its use including costs and safety.’ Simple. Know the consequences and do your best responsibly.

If I repeat the obvious, that the simple precautionary action of wearing a mask reduces one’s risk of spreading infection, helps others remain safe and flattens the curve during this pandemic is at least easy, forgive me. Maybe it is important to me cause it could save your or your loved ones life…

Why the fuck are some people not wearing a mask and social distancing? They obviously have not read my favorite book on parenting. My guess is they are in the same category of prophylactic Russian roulette players. Apparently they have not checked the recent stats either. COVID19 is a killer and I can give you the names of enough dead friends …so why do you think you’re immune from giving and getting the virus?

Ask the celebrating graduates from Horace Greeley how easy it is to get and spread. Look at the numbers for the states that opened too quickly, Texas and Florida, and how quickly they are closing their bars now.

I was inspired to write this manifesto after being passed by another unprotected jogger on a relatively well traveled public walkway. A runner who I am sure would not want an unplanned pregnancy.

So.

Sure. Go ahead and have sex without a condom. (What do you call people who use the rhythm method of contraception?… Parents!) Anyway most adults should know that there is a greater probability for pregnancy. Although not a perfect prevention measure condoms also reduce the transmission of some STDs.

Just wear a mask. And make sure you’re having sex with a consenting person you are quarantining with.

Rant over.

For now.

If this global pandemic is not enough to put my existential wheels into hyper drive, I am worn down witnessing the worst of man’s abuses. Lets just call that what it is- police brutality and domestic terrorists taking advantage and causing chaos undermining the best of humanity, peaceful protestors. Add to the mix tone deaf destructive leadership counter productive to the cause of social justice and I am worn down.

As an admitted sensitive soul, taking on all of that pain is a default setting and my dark cloud (and soul) is finding it hard to see a silver lining, usually my saving grace. Yet, we are still here and we (must) go on. About a week ago I was thinking that to simply walk back into the when-its-safe-from-pandemic world was the victory. Of course my wish was to proudly be slimmer, younger, better looking and with a streamlined life purpose on top of being alive. Now the victory is just wanting to walk back into the world, ideally a world that respects social justice and humankind.

The powerful and inspiring example I am holding on to is that of a transcendent Nelson Mandela walking out of prison a wise, peaceful and respected leader. Trouble is my contrarian brain juxtaposes that to Hitler’s incarceration which was not as rehabilitative. The reform I wish for is challenging given the emboldened darkness festering in a political Petri dish. Somehow I want to trust that the conquering of evil is not the uphill battle against entitled privilege that now is leaving a loathsome stench.

And to think a week or two ago I was tailspinning cause the brilliant acting guide Seth Barrish, one of the many gifts of quarantine, made a reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s rule of 10,000 hours of dedicated practice leading to world class expertise in one’s chosen field. Mathematically besides napping and worry I couldn’t come up with anything that I had practiced for that amount of time. I had already lamented not having an adequate reserve fund or Voice Over career and was envious of those who did. What did that say about my palpable life accomplishments (and why shouldn’t napping did count…I still think I have the indoor record and am working on the outdoor.)

Fatherhood? NOT! My kids are at each other’s throats. Writing? Only if the indecipherable 6000 hours of morning pages are really leading me to a career as a scribe. I am not sure the output even counts as expert practice as my journals are as not screenwriting and there may not be transfer credits. I could just write a screenplay…If I am not at 10K hours doesn’t mean it’s not time to start.

Taking stock in a panic mode is maybe not the best choice either, reminiscent of that scene in the film Almost Famous when the plane is seemingly going to crash and one of the bandmates confesses his homosexuality not wanting to die with that life long secret. If our metaphoric plane is going down now I would like to think I am already an open book. That open book borne of my meditation practice.

I can only imagine what my life would look like without those 6000 hours of writing, Come to think of it my meditation practice hours are likely close to five figures. Anyway isn’t it the journey not the destination? I am gonna hold on to that today. That and a world full of other like minded travelers doing their best not matter how many hours it takes and not matter what is going on around us.

First of all I Fucking Love Love Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.  I am in awe of his emotionally transparent bravery… his opening musings are a healing tonic of rationality and counter to the darkened ramblings of untrustworthy leadership that this week has lauded road intimidation and traffic snarls. All of which has been irresponsibly magnified without challenge in the mainstream media.  Particularly when I am feeling anxious, these angry rants oddly take the edge off of my own rabbit holes. Dare I say his stream of consciouness is a communal tonic espcecially for this twisted dark soul.

With that said I am compelled to make this public request and beg him to reconsider one of the choice descriptions he and many others use to describe that rambling ‘elected official’ and his enablers and acolytes.  Hey, I went to Bronx Science I am a man of semantics …even though I avoided the debate team like the plague. Here is the deal -STOP calling a destructive tyrant a ‘clown’ … using that word only humanizes this leader’s sadistic actions, and in effect desensitizes all of us to its pernicious effects.
Full disclose & no surprise I am also a graduate of Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Clown College (yes my Harvard Law School educated father loves to point out that statistically speaking my school was more difficult to gain acceptance…I tell him the level of applicant might be a bit different.) In my experience in the world of professional clowning I’ve crossed paths or worked with yes 1000 of clowns from all over the world. Even the shittiest of them have a genuine concern for the well being other people. In my case it was the ideal channeling of my codependency that attracted me to this work and lead me to decades of entertaining pediatric neuro oncology patients. That unto itself should be a weighty enough verification on behalf of most of my ilk that our intention it is to entertain and distract. Clowns care. Despots harm.

There is nothing funny or kind about putting kids in cages,  performing unnecessary hysterectomies against womens’ wills, or sending US troops to attack US citizen who are exercising their constitutional right to protest. This is the work of a piece of shit mother fucker who justifies every fascist action, quite a difference from a clown. Using the word clown as a descriptive is a grave disservice. Not only is it demeaning to hardworking entertainers who are actually helping maintain healing via healthy humor in very troubling times but it also humanizes an inhumane person.

So Marc, I am imploring you to call out the inhumane and misguided leaders and followers for what they really are – a dictator wanna be and his minions, You don’t have to like or enjoy clowns to appreciate the importance of choosing these words and epithets judicially. Just like you would not call a domestic terrorist a comedian, please choose words that represent what this tyrant is doing.  Trusting you understand this important delineation.

In any case …Thank you for your transparency and for fighting the good fight. 

 

… And the busiest I ever was… right before I went to Ringling’s Clown College. At the time I had just quit my bartending gig at the Empire Diner to circumnavigate the temptation to drink. And the reason to drink would be that my life was full, just not with the things that I wanted to do with my life.

Now, I am also incredibly busy, busy now with a life that I could only dream of…well almost. Like many people I hang around with (actors, writers, musicians), I just lost my job …or actually jobs…

And when I say lost, I mean everthing I do for work has been shut down by this pandemic. Film production, live theater, interactive events, all of it is at a standstill. As a freelancer I am somewhat comfortable with my down time between gigs. The blessing (and curse) is that the gigs ends. I can usually utilize that time to refresh my skills, rejuvenate my soul and get back to making that film which will be franchised.

In fact, in my 32 years of earning I’ve never really had a ‘job’ unless you count my year with Ringling Bros as normal employment. Sagely, at 16, I picked up this wisdom from Eric Hoffert’s amazing (living w MS) grandfather, who told me he had never worked a day in his life. Not knowing how I could do that, this was the life I aspired to live.

BTW I love working… whether its being on set for 14 hours, or being a ‘tummler’ at a family or company event. Fortunately this ‘work’ has brought me all over the world from the Tobu Department Store in Tokyo to the beautiful setting of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. One of the most rewarding of all of my gigs was the one I resisted the most, entertaining pediatric neuro oncology patients and their families.

All of these gift evolved by saying yes to one simple audition for Clown College. In fact that period before clown college was the busiest because I had a full life of recovery meetings, acting classes, improv troupes, a therapeutic lunchtime basketball game, and Broadway Show League softball every Thursday afternoon. I was also getting cash advances on my credit card to pay my rent.

Today I am pretty much doing those same things except virtually and no cash advances.

And now to the rant portion of my writing. Feel free to skip the next paragraph.

When I hear an elected official worry that stimulus checks might make us worker bees lazy, Sorry! No! Wrong! (you, who have lifetime health care coverage) that money will just keep us from starving and losing our homes. I am not even going to mention the stimulus amount per capita going to profitable non tax paying corporations, but that is another story.

OK rant over.

My final thought on this matter goes back to Abraham Maslow. He and his triangle surmised that once one’s basic needs are attended to, one can focus on a higher purpose and make contributions -sometime beyond measure. When a benefactor gifted a years living expenses to a struggling novelist, she was able to focus only on creating something in that time. Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ exists in the world cause she had the time to create. Sidebar note. She actually had the time to write at least 2 novels one that was rewritten into the opus we are all familiar with. I may not write an opus or the great American novel or King Lear or discover calculus but now at least I have the time no matter how busy I am. The end results of my last ‘busy’ period sustained me for over 30 years. God willing we all will have another 30 years to look forward to the results from this one … a day at a time.

Last spring a Christmas miracle nest materialized on our lazily-not-taken-down front door wreath, eggs and all. Once we realized this natural treasure grew despite our unintended disturbing interruptions, we used a different entrance to the house. When the noise behind our door was not as I thought, the cheerful feeding of babies but fucking grackles attacking the pair our hearts were broken. As devastating as when year round planted Christmas tree on our deck on 57th street with a Robin’s nest fell over, first without eggs and then heartbreakingly a second time with. How fragile nature is and powerless the well intended powerful are.

Our finch story is far from over. Mel and Ida (or maybe Peter and Ida) are back. Once again we were too lazy to take the wreath down. Protecting them again feels like a Sisyphian task. The bird feeder that attracted them has also brought back the grackles and blue jays. The neighbors were confused by caution tape we put on our front steps maybe cause it’s a pandemic. The Mylar strips or aluminum foil that might scare the predators could discourage our finch friends according to our local birding expert at Feed the Birds on S. Riverside.

Why they would attack each other perplexes me. (Didn’t they see Planet of the Apes?) Protecting birds may not be our duty even if they are our closest link to the dinosaurs. Our attempts however valiant including once trying to save baby grackles from a fallen nest have had limited success. Audubon, thought to be birds greatest advocate, killed almost 400 specimens of the species he painted. Whatever the case, these Finches have demonstrated a fortitude that is inspiring.

The move from 57th street where son #1 was made to the burbs was precipitated by a bizarre piece of unmarked mail whose contents burned my eyes. The subsequent poison control investigation included street and subway closure beyond comprehension. After 9/11 the move to 53rd street felt like it was too close to the President’s, at the time, hotel choice.

All I know is we are still here and our birds came back. Life is fragile. Handle with care. Care even if it might hurt.

… but we already knew that. Not matter when our first meeting with the dark night of the soul was… we all know we’re gonna die. Existentialism and I met at the foot of my parents bed… I was under a year old. The fear of my new incarnation and my choice of stewards brought on an anxiety attack. Yes that is right, an anxiety attack of fear before I could talk. ‘What the fuck did I get myself into’ would probably the words in today speak. That I thought my parents might have an answer could have contributed to said anxiety … what did I know? I was doing the best I could (and so were they.)

Fifty seven years later, more than half of which I’ve walked the fine line between a death desire coupled with the fear of life, its a wonder I have chosen life. This is nothing short of a miracle given my family history which includes an uncle’s suicide (kept secret for 40 years), my father’s threats of suicide at the dinner table, one brother’s attempt with pills and another trying to put a plastic bag over his head. And yet I am still here and so are they BTW. Thankfully instead of me being the enemy of myself, I only have had to battle the vagaries of life. Ha! Even with the demons at bay, depression, self loathing, and good ole self destructive behavior has, like a virus, morphed in numerous forms.

Am I OK…are we OK …what does OK look like? Who knows? Today, like every day, I need to get through the 24 hours without hurting myself or anyone else. Some days are prettier than others and that’s without a pandemic. After 911 panic/PTSD was the default mode. Cognitive behavioral therapy, before I knew what it was, taught me to think through and beyond the fear to a sober reference. Unbelievably my Dad helped by sharing his WW2 experience of surrendering to the possibility and powerlessness over his own demise. 99% of the time my fear is just that and I just gotta get out of my head. This is challenging today when the meetings and activities that help me keep my head on straight are scant. I have come a long way since that first panic attack … and in the immortal words of Alan Vega from the band Suicide while being booed off the stage opening for The Ramones ‘Why are you all booing? You’re all gonna die anyway!’ In the meantime have fun, stay safe and be kind as best as we can.

From ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’
Don’t worry I’m ok (sorry Icould not find the smiling version of this shot)