Ah, 2013, what a ride you’ve been…

*[NOTE: As you know, all of my blog entries open with a quote. Since first blogging waaaaay back in the day on MySpace (and later on FB), I’ve had an end-of-the-year tradition of looking back on the past twelve months, writing it up, and sprinkling said write-up with many of the best quotes I’ve heard that year. These quotes can come from anyone – celebs, politicians, strangers – but recent editions have skewered evermore towards quotes from friends. Such is to be expected when you regularly encounter such eclectic characters.

This past year, I wound up not collecting any celeb quotes at all. I didn’t intentionally leave them out, there was just nothing said that stood out as much as the quotes you see below. The few gems I’ve collected below were things that, when heard in context, instantly prompted me to think “I need to write that down and save it!” That’s a good habit for a writer. The order of the quotes has no particular rhyme or reason, they just stand as some of the better moments of 2013 for me.

If you just wanna read those, they at the bottom, under the Ren & Stimpy video.]

chocolate cupcake and candle

Would you believe I feel good despite the current time of year?

Every year there’s a period of time which I approach with utter dread. The dates never change. Like witnessing a tornado on the horizon, I try my best to prepare for the oncoming storm. Although I’ll admit most of my anxiety over what’s coming is always worse than what actually does, that hasn’t made it any more enjoyable. I know that I’m going to see people I don’t want to see, do things I don’t want to do, and hear things I most certainly don’t want to hear. I’ve begun calling this period of time the Three-Week Vortex.

Week 1 ends on the 25th of December – a time that brings with it an almost fascist insistence that one be happy, so as not to bring down the mood of all around them.
Week 2 ends on the 1st of January – other than the Twilight Zone marathon, there isn’t much to which I look forward on this day.
And then there’s Week 3 ending on the 8th of January. My birthday… Yeah.

I’d wager most any other person on Earth would look upon these three weeks with an unapologetic glee that could only be illustrated in animated .gifs of Sailor Moon clips. Me, not so much. The first week is hindered by the fact that I’ve been unemployed for five years, but am still required – not hyperbole; that’s the sort of family I have – to go broke making sure everyone is materialistically accounted for. Then my tells me I’m a godless loser, both in longwinded speech and pre-dinner prayer

You think Week 2 would be better. Most people look upon the end of the year and start of the next as a chance to take stock of what’s occurred and look forward to what’s ahead. That’s exactly why I dread it. It’s the inevitable downside of surrounding yourself with overachievers. I skipped out on my 10-year high school reunion because, in a contest of bragging rights, I had nothing to bring to the table. The last few years have been particularly trying for me as I’ve spent the last five lacking romance, employment, or lasting connections to longtime friends – three things which I hold very dear. I’m honest enough to realise that is as much my own fault as that of fate. My father will gladly emphasise the latter when once again tells me I’m a loser, both in longwinded speech and pre-dinner prayer.

I could probably put up with all of that and leave it behind in the previous year, were it not for the fact that Week 3 – a mere seven days later – will be my birthday. This year I’ll be turning 33. Yup, the you-know-who year; the milestone of your 30s more important than turning 30; the day which brings with it the inevitable conversation wherein my father will remind me that at this age he was married with kids and had a steady job – so what the fuck have I done? (He gives this speech quite regularly, especially with the last five years’ unemployment forcing me to stay with him or be homeless. But him being the big Jesus-freak – and having already taken swipes at me on the 25th and the 1st – I know he’s got a special down-dressing in store.) Both in longwinded speech and pre-dinner prayer.

This is why I tend to spend my birthdays as far away from familiar faces as possible. With someone else’s birthday I’ll gladly help myself to free drinks and cupcakes whilst stealing the show at karaoke. For my own? I go full Salinger (sans the urine-drinking). I try my best to cut off as much regular communication with the world as possible. You can still get in touch with me in the event of an emergency, but we’re not hangin’ out. I love you, which is why I’d rather not spend time with you on the most depressing day of my life whilst I drink myself into a coma and avoid phone calls from family members who tell me “what [my] real problem is” and why I’m wasting my time with “that actin’ shit”. (If I can go one year without being asked “Why don’t you do real acting [ie. waving a magic wand and suddenly becoming a movie star]?” I’ll die a happy man.)

That’s why I don’t celebrate those three days: it’s one day of dwelling on my financial shortcomings followed seven days later by a dwelling on my professional shortcomings followed seven days AFTER THAT by a dwelling on my personal shortcomings.

Now if you’ve made it this far with holding a sharp object in one hand whilst contemplating the body’s major arteries, then you’re probably wondering why I began this piece by saying “I feel good”. Well, I do. I honestly do. And it has to do with looking back on the past year. I know that 2013 wasn’t the best of years for some people I know – and there were some major low points for me as well – but I can scarcely recall a year in my adult life when the high points have risen so high above the low. The reason for that is because I can scarcely recall a time in my life when I realised just how much I mattered. If you’ll indulge me…

  • Earlier this year I terminated a multi-year relationship with a theatre company. It had been a long time. Point in fact, I’d put off doing it at the end of 2012. Most of the people who have asked me about it personally have heard my six professional reasons; very few know the two personal reasons. Suffice it to say, it was made abundantly clear to me that I don’t matter to that company, nor have I for some time (in spite of all of the work I’ve put in). But that’s good because I’ve spent the past year strengthening my relationships with other companies, as well as building new ones. People are now eager to cast me (one company in particular wanted me to do their whole 2014 season), read for them, and have me on their roster; whereas they would usually only bring up the old company to complain. So when I’m in the lobby of a show and I’m told that someone at the old company is shit-talking me to anyone within earshot, I actually feel pride in knowing that I have so much attention outside the company.
  • Right after Labor Day I received a telephone call from a friend in distress. She more troubled than I’d ever heard her and she asked me if I could meet as quick as possible. Hopping on the first BART to the East Bay, we spent the day drinking, talking, and going over sad stories about relationships and performing. Or rather she did, for the most part. I was there to listen. But that’s good because when I now see that the same friend in a stable relationship and already booked for show through the summer, I’m glad that I was there to tell her things would improve without it just being lip service.
  • Recently an actress friend and I got into a discussion about my love life – or rather, my lack thereof. I’ve given up holding my breath expecting to meet the right lady. My friend not only refused to accept this as an answer, she encouraged me to actively sabotage another relationship and go after the young lady myself. No, really… Naturally I didn’t follow this {ahem} extreme dating tip (in fact, I did the opposite), but that’s good because it made me rethink how much power I have in regards to dating when I’m not sinking into the complacency of being single.
  • I wound up directing a dickhead actor in one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. Seriously, if I have any choice in the matter, I will never work with this asshole again. I’ve publicly taken the blame for all that went wrong with that production, but privately I’ll tell you that this one guy ruined it because he decided that it would done his way – fuck what the director and writer suggest. But that’s good because almost everything else I directed this year was a blast. So much so, that I’m becoming more ambitious as a director and telling people to remember my name when opportunities come up. If the cost of that is adding one more name to my “Do Not Work With” list, so be it.
  • A group of friends whom I’ve known for – hoo-boy – 17 years (one of whom I’ve known for more than 20) were got together to wish one “Farewell” as he moved to Arizona. I was going to go, but when the guest of honour specifically forbade another friend of ours from attending, I decided not to go. But that’s good because I’d rather continue to nourish a friendship in close proximity than to encourage someone who holds a grudge from another state. I wish EVERYONE well.
  • I was invited to a private gathering where a friend told me of a business venture coming to fruition in the new year. I sat outside watching an infant as a friend went into Civil Court and needed a last minute babysitter (the ruling was good). A record number of my friends got engaged in the past twelve months; some of them even got married. Hell, a record number of my friends have had great relationships, period – even a handful who went through very ugly divorces. More and more are comfortably finding how best to balance their professional responsibilities with their creative urges and haven’t been shy about telling me opportunities for both. And that’s all good. Period

Those are just the things I can remember off the top of my head. What’s best about all of those scenarios is that I was never the centre of attention in a single one of them. But my presence was always requested. So many important things happened in the lives of those around me and they wanted me to be there witness them. We are all cursed with insecurity, I’ve just become known for admitting it more than others. As such, I’m grateful when people share the truly intimate parts of their lives with me. It’s not ego to want a little recognition every now and then (as a fan of Kanye West, that bar has been set pretty high already) nor is it necessary against your sense of altruism. It’s acknowledging the basic human of wanting to know you matter to people even if just a little. Don’t make it about yourself, don’t pay lip service to something that goes over your head, don’t try to “fix” someone to make you feel better – just be there. I’m good at that.

And that’s why I don’t like celebrating my birthday: I’m honestly not into the idea of something being all about me. It’s just not my thing. I’ll be there for someone who asks for me, but I don’t really like the idea of people gathering around just for me. Hell, in 2012 I spent the day at a TheaterPub rehearsal and spent the night drinking and watching a friend sing at Amnesia in The Mission. I’m antagonistic to people who acknowledge the day; I really am grateful. I’ll just be thinking less about what the past year has meant to me and more about what it’s meant to the people around me. Hell, Mr. You-Know-Who had to die and be resurrected before he knew that for sure.

With that in mind, here are a few quick year-end things I’ll mention (as pop culture requires of one at the end of the year). Keep in mind, that a lack of finance means I don’t get to see as many shows ‘n things as I’d like, but the ones listed here made an impact. Feel free to click on the titles for my reviews:

BEST MOVIE(S):(tie) 12 Years a Slave and The Bling Ring

One is a (rightfully) lauded uncompromising emotional gut-check that FINALLY acknowledges slavery from the point-of-view of a slave. The latter was dismissed as a pretentious attempt at connecting with Millenial youth without holding them accountable for their bad antics. I say the latter’s non-judgmental eye is its greatest strength and holds all the more resonance given the recent use of “affluenza” as a legal plea.

Hon. mentions: Frances Ha, Pacific Rim, and Gravity

WORST MOVIE: Man of Steel

What really stays with me more than the movie itself, is the comment I got at the bottom of my review. The commenter – for whom I’m sure English was not his/her first language – took issue with the idea that a superhero movie should be “fun” (those quotes were put around the word). Shame on me for expecting the opposite of nihilism.

(Dis)hon. mentions: World War Z, Carrie, and August: Osage County

BEST THEATRE: Megan Cohen’s Totally Epic Odyssey

And I’m not just saying that because I was the audience member who got to hear her “secret” (although that was cool). But if you know something better than a PBR-drinkin’ pixie retelling Homer’s Odyssey with a dance-break intermission, I’d love to hear it? All this time later and we’re all still humming “Ooh, Baby, Baby, it’s a wild world…

WORST THEATRE: Stuck Elevator

I’m not sure the show actually ended? Perhaps we’re all still stuck and just hallucinated leaving?

BEST MUSIC: Anything by Lorde or Kanye West

One is an Aussie songstress who coos grounded lyrics over catchy melodies. The other is the human “id” personified. If that doesn’t explain why they both strike such a chord with me, then we probably shouldn’t hang out anymore.

WORST MUSIC: “Blurred-fucking-Lines”

This is why I avoid so much popular music.

BEST IN TECH: I finally got on Netflix.

I couldn’t give less of a damn about overpriced gaming consoles, I just wanna see Faulty Towers. I also got my first smartphone. Meh.

WORST IN TECH: Google shoves Google+ down our throats.

Though I use YouTube links in my blog, I haven’t logged onto the site itself in weeks (by choice). I haven’t commented in months (not by choice). That’s the problem with a company growing so large it flip-off is customers so lackadaisically. For shame.

So… what have we got in store for 2014?

Well, I for one have just been cast – I mean I got the call as I was writing this entry – in a speaking role for local independent film that will be getting a lot of press coverage. Later in the year I’ll be acting a play I’ve wanted to do since I was, what, 15-years-old? I might be part of another full production around October. I’ve started writing – a LOT. I’ve got had promising job interviews recently and I’m starting to schedule more. I’ll definitely be moving this year – hopefully of my own volition. I’m finally ready to start posting new blogs about job-hunting, personal issues, and… maybe dating? That’s all I’ve got set in stone so far.

But I will be there. That’s all I can promise. I might not always be everywhere I want to be, but everyone who really needs to get in touch with me will always be able to. And who knows, by the time you next see me in person, we’ll all have something to be happy about.

And now… The Quotes!

“I’m almost there. Open the door, ‘cause I have to pee super-bad.”
girl on bus to friend/relative on phone, Friday – 4 October 2013

“Great set, man. I’d shake your hand, but I just took a shit.”
— Punchline audience member to Sean Keane (who hadn’t even gone on yet), Sunday – 3 November 2013

“Here’s a pic of the lead actress. Her outfit could be a metaphor for the show: sloppy, mismatched and unintentionally funny. They all sang well, though.”
Jeremy Cole, giving his personal review of a local production of Next to Normal, Thursday – 18 October 2013

“I enjoyed it even with the few funny moments that weren’t supposed to be funny. If you are more interested in fashion than in feeling emotion than I guess don’t go”
Vince Faso, commenting on the same production as Jeremy, Friday – 19 October 2013

“I haven’t done enough ‘Stupid’ to go in there.”
Kat Kniesel, as we drove past a popular SF night spot around with people waiting all the way around the block at 3am, Saturday/Sunday – 27/28 April 2013

“Long story short, we continued to see each other through the winter, and as of the vernal equinox, we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Marissa Skudlarek, telling the story of how her romance blossomed, Thursday – 23 May 2013

“I thought it was on par with a mediocre community theater production, I felt like it needed more workshopping.”
Julia Heitner, giving a Twitter review of Joss Whedon’s film version of Much Ado about Nothing, Thursday – 11 July 2013

“ ‘B.Y.O.P’? That’s my cue to attend!”
Marissa Skudlarek, responding to an RSVP for a Spring garden party, Thursday – 21 March 2013
(BYOP = Bring Your Own Parasol)

“Pretentious theatre, on the other hand, is good wine gone vinegar.”
Claire Rice, talking about theatre with its head up its ass, Thursday – 24 October 2013

“Haha, I actually just rejoined.. I have a few dates already, and they seem sane. It’s kind of like shopping at Ross, you have to search through an unorganized mess of clothes, but sometimes you can find the perfect outfit.”
— my friend Danielle, in reaction to my saying I was considering re-joining OKCupid, Sunday – 10 November 2013

“Life is a cruel mistress.”
“WRONG. Mistresses are well compensated for their efforts. Life fucks you for free.”
JackieJack from BrooklynSummers responding to friend’s comment, Monday – 4 November 2013

“Three words: black… tar… heroin.”
– from Allison Page’s inaugural entry for the first ever Saturday Write Fever by the SF TheaterPub, Saturday – 23 March 2013

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