Monthly Archives: November 2011

14. James Gets Food Stamps (With A Side Of Ignorance)

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I had a great adventure today. But if I talk to you regularly, you know that I have great adventures EVERY.DAY.

Today: food stamps.

I applied for everything online. They ask for how much money have I saved up, how much money I make at my jobs, how much my rent costs and how much my utilities cost. So. I had a phone interview where I told them all the same things all over again. Then I received my card and my PIN number. Lots of people have their picture on their Food Stamps card, but I don’t.  Apparently it’s not necessary. The card is like a debit card. So. I get $115 per month on this debit card. I’m not quite sure how to use it yet. (I’m not sure what I can use it on/what stores I can use it at.)

I waited in line for 3.5 hours. The first hour, I was standing outside in the rain. The line went down the block. It was craziness. I then waited in a huge line inside… to talk to the reception desk so they could direct me where to go next. Then, I sat in a waiting room for like 90 minutes. And this is where the real adventures began.

I sat beside a woman who immediately started talking to me. She had the thickest Polish accent. I know her real name, but Kelley suggest I call this special creature Rasputin. Yes. Rasputin.

I felt bad for this woman for about 20 minutes. Maybe 15. She has lived in the United States for 40 years, and she served in the Navy for 12 years. (My mother says it’s not possible to fight in the Navy if you weren’t born here… but I have a tendency to believe whatever I’m told… but she has a veteran card?? Whatevs.) So. She gets a pension. But for some reason, she lives in a women’s shelter in Manhattan. And recently, they started giving her $16 a month for food. She’s pretty livid.

Then she asked me if I was religious. I said, “I’m a Christian”. She asked where I go to church. I said, “I don’t”. She told me to go to the Times Square Church and they would give me guidance. Kind.

She asks if I know the Bible. I say, “No”. Then she starts to lecture me about the Bible… but she couldn’t remember the name of the dude who got trapped in the whale’s stomach so, being the heathen that I am, I helped her: Jonah. (Thank you, Veggietales.) She asks the woman sitting next to her if she knows Jonah (…like, personally??). The woman is Colombian and she responds, “Poquito ingles.” To which my open-minded Polish friend responds, “Well, go learn. Go to school and learn English.” THANK GOD this beautiful Colombian woman doesn’t speak English. I smile at her kindly, and she smiles back. She doesn’t need to understand the hate that is stumbling brokenly out of Rasputin’s mouth.

But Rasputin is convinced that Colombian Goddess doesn’t know Jonah because she’s Catholic and, apparently, Catholics know nothing about the Bible (in the words of Rasputin).

Then a little latino precious angel baby comes up and fake spits at us. Rasputin responds appropriately: she yells at the baby. Then she “whispers” to me about her Latinos. She is upset, because everything in this office building is in English and Spanish. “What about Polish?” she asks. I say, “Everybody here speaks Spanish; nobody speaks Polish.” She continues to spit out the words, “boleto, ventana” repeatedly with disdain. I smile politely at all the SPANISH-SPEAKING PEOPLE AROUND ME. “Dear God, please let Rasputin’s speech be unintelligible to everyone but me.”

Then, she tells me that the reason her food stamps got fucked up is because “there are too many Iranian terrorists working in the agency.” I don’t know what any of that means. But it made a lot of sense to her.

Then she says that men are foul, and they cheat on their wives the second their wives become pregnant and fat. She said that a female elephant’s pregnancy lasts two years, and during this whole time, the male elephant stays with her faithfully. He feeds her and cares for her. But she says humans aren’t like elephants. (This little anecdote may be the only thing she said that I enjoyed…. but I’m not sure if it’s true…)

Then she asks who I’m going to vote for. “Obama?” she asks. “Yes,” I respond. She says she thinks Hillary Clinton would be a better president. She asks what I think. I tell her, “I think Obama was put into a shitty position, and I think he’s doing a great job.” She scoffs. She says that Hillary would make a great president because she doesn’t wake up with a boner…. like men. And she wouldn’t be wasting her time playing golf with ambassadors. Okee dokee.

Then. She says that British men are all faggots (her words, not mine). She says that it is scientifically proven that they have something in their DNA that makes them more feminine. …I smile politely and let that one slide.

But then, I crack. Cuz she says this…

“Obama was born in Kenya, his mother was a prostitute, his father was a Muslim and that’s why Obama sympathizes with Muslims.”

I cracked.

“That is not true,” I say, between giggles. I can’t hold them back anymore. She scoffs at me and rolls her eyes. I decide it’s time to open her eyes.

She tells me to be careful in marrying a woman, because she will cheat on me.

Me: I don’t want to marry a woman.
Rasputin: What, you want to marry a man?
Me: Yes.
Rasputin: *disgusted face*
Me: *laughter*
Rasputin: Well that’s your choice, but it’s not natural.
Me: I disagree.
Rasputin: How are you going to have children?
Me: I’ll adopt.
Rasputin: Who will give you baby? A cow? A horse?
Me:… human beings…
Rasputin: What type of person will give you baby?
Me: I don’t know. Some people have kids that they don’t want to keep.
Rasputin: What is the sex of these people.
Me: A male and a female.
Rasputin: Exactly.
Me: *laughter*
Rasputin: Ok, but you cannot talk about this anymore because I feel I am going to vomit.
Me: *laughter* That offends me. That really hurts my feelings.
Rasputin: It’s not all about me me me. You hurt my feelings.
Me: How did I hurt your feelings?
Rasputin: Cuz I want to vomit.
Me: That isn’t hurting your feelings.
Rasputin: You hurt my taste.
Me: *laughter*
Rasputin: You laugh!
Me: Yes, you’re being ridiculous.
Rasputin: You don’t understand me. You don’t understand my generation. I am from the Old Country.
Me: Well you don’t understand me, and my generation.
Rasputin: Yes. And we can’t force our opinions on each other.
Me:
Rasputin: You’re an actor, because you don’t want to work.
Me: That’s not true.
Rasputin: Then join the army.
Me: No.
Rasputin: Ach. You’re an actor, because you don’t listen to your parents, right?
Me: No. That is not true.

And then her number was called. But please, keep in mind, I smiled the whole time. I did not lose my cool. And I laughed the whole time. I think her last words to me were something like…

“Well, I’ve taught you a few things today.”

Yes. Yes you have. But I don’t know if it counts if it was all FALSE.

I’m still giggling thinking about it. She didn’t really offend me in any way. Although I was quite shocked that she knew I wanted a cow-baby… I’ve only told that secret to like, my closest friends. Perhaps Rasputin has a future in soothsaying. One can only hope…

No, but really. Here are truths of today…or the things that I am educated enough to know are true:

Obama was not born in Kenya.
Obama’s mother is not a prostitute.
British men are equally as gay as the rest of the world.
I am an actor because I love it.
Catholics know the Bible, too.
Rasputin’s food stamps are probably fucked up cuz she’s volatile, not because of Iranian terrorists.
An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.
Hillary Clinton does not wake up with morning wood, because she has a vagina. It is impossible to foresee what Mrs. Clinton would do with a penis (…unless you’re Soothsayer Rasputin).
Being gay is so natural. Perhaps.. too natural. But really:
I WAS BORN THIS WAY, BABY.
I will be a great father to a human baby. And I will have valuable lessons to teach about courage, humor, kindness and LOVE.
Gay people have the option of adopting a horse-baby, a cow-baby or a human-baby.

To my parents:

Thank you for this indestructible sense of humor.

Now to dream of my future cow-baby…

(nothing but love)

JAMES.

 

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13. James Makes a Budget (And Then Shits On It)

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Here are the basics.

So. I live in Astoria. It takes me 35-40 minutes to get to Times Square 42nd Street bu I only have to take one subway. I live in a one-bedroom with two other people. The living room has a door so it’s David’s room. I share my room with Kaylee. My bed is lofted. We both have full-sized beds. It’s a nice sized room. Not huge. But comfortable. We have basic internet and cable through Time Warner, though right now they could suck my dick because our internet has been on-and-off for two months. And they have fixed it TWICE. So. I’ll break it down into the bare necessities.

Rent for this one bedroom is $1525 total. We split it like this:

David: 40%
Me: 30%
Kaylee: 30%

So here’s my monthly budget:

Necessities!

RENT: $457.50
(You can expect to pay at least $600 for your own room. I’ve been told that I could get my own room for $500 in Washington Heights and it takes about the same time to get to Times Square, maybe a little less: 30 minutes. Washington Heights is above the upper west side in Manhattan; 155 st and up. Also, I’ve been told Harlem has some cheaper apartments. And it’s not as bad a neighborhood anymore; it’s become gentrified. Yes, you do need to be careful, but it’s not nearly as bad as it’s reputation. Harlem is also above the upper west side in Manhattan but below Washington Heights; 110 st to 155 st. Astoria is getting a bit pricey. People generally say that if you have your own room and you pay $800 or less, you’re lucky)

METROCARD: $104
(I buy a monthly metrocard. If you go in and out of Manhattan in a day, you spend like $5.50. I work in Manhattan so I take the subway almost every day. In WI, I was paying like $30 per week on gas so I’m actually saving money on transportation. Just get the monthly pass. It’s necessary because you need to be able to get to auditions. Also, if you lose it, you can file a claim and be refunded for the rest of the days on your metrocard. Trust me, I lost mine and they refunded me the remaining days I had left on the card and they canceled the card I lost. You can file 2 claims per year. The first one is free. The second one costs like $5. You just have to tell them your credit card number.)

ELECTRIC/GAS: $70
(I’m not so sure about this one for the winter. And actually, thus far, I’ve paid less than that. So far, the most I’ve paid for this is $35 but I’m splitting a bill 3 ways, so the bill for the whole apartment is like $125. I’m sure I will actually be paying at least $60 when the radiator is on full-time, but so far, I’ve been over-estimating, just in case. That way, if I over-estimate, I can have extra money at the end of the month instead of scrounging for change.)

INTERNET/CABLE: $20
(Once again, I’m splitting the bill three-ways so it actually turns out to be $60 per month. But this one doesn’t go up and down. But I must admit, I DO want to kill Time Warner in the butt.)

GROCERIES: $200
(This is based on a month being defined as 4 weeks. So I give myself about $50 per week. But if you plan on never eating out while in the city, you should give yourself a little more money because then you will need to buy more food; you can pack lunches if you’re smart. Some things are cheaper out here, some are more expensive. But I can definitely survive off this.)

LAUNDRY: $20
(If you go to the laundromat once a week, you can get by on just $5 a week. You won’t have huge loads. You can wash all your clothes together as long as you wash it on cold. Just make sure you separate them into smaller loads for drying, otherwise it will take forever and you will waste your money.)

MISCELLANEOUS: $100
(This has NOT been enough in the past and I usually end up dipping into my emergency fund. But I use this for various things like deodorant, toothpaste, toilet paper, resumes, printing music. But again, I have been spending more than this. To order my postcards, I spent $100 alone. Fluck. So, just be aware that you will be spending more money when you first get here cuz you’re getting settled.)

EMERGENCY: $100
(…for emergency deodorant. or flights home… or at least a one-way ticket flight home.)

SO. On these bare essentials, I pay:

$1071.50

Now, I make at least $18/hr at one of my jobs. After taxes, I figure I make about $15.3/hr. So. I work 8-hr shifts. That means I need to work about 3 shifts per week. That’s not too terrible. So. Bare essentials. I will update soon with the cost of luxuries like dance class. But also, be aware that I share my room. You need to make at least $15/hr here. Getting a job is about networking. I suggest asking your friends for help. I also suggest trying to get into waiting tables. All work out here is flexible/unreliable but then again, that describes the schedule of a theatre person.

I hope this helps!!

LOVE YOU

JAMES.

12. James Goes to a Cattle Call

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So I went to a huge cattle call audition for Beauty and the Beast national tour. Sign in started at 10:00 AM. I got there at 9:50; I was 161 on the list that they had already started. I woke up at 7 to be warmed up by 10:00. I talked to a guy who was 80th on the list; he got there at 7:45. I asked him, “How did you wake up early enough to be warmed up?” He said, “I didn’t. I signed up on the list and then walked around and hoped my voice would wake up.”

Hm. Ok. Smart.

Also smart: friends sign in their other friends. So then not EVERYONE needs to get there at the asscrack of dawn. And if your friend is running late, then you just put their name on the list so they’re not waiting all fucking day to be seen. Plus, if you do it for a friend once, next time they’ll do the same for you.

They were only supposed to be seeing guys this day. But a lot of girls showed up cuz they couldn’t attend the following day for the girls’ audition.

They were trying to get through 50 people every hour.

That wasn’t happening.

So. They had to cut it down. They told girls to come back tomorrow or they could only sing 8 bars today. They said guys had to sing a strict 16 bar cut. Mine was like 24 bars but it was cut time. Still I was freaking out.

But before I went into the room, I talked to people. 🙂 WIN. The guy I was sitting next to knew a bunch of people from UWSP. And then this girl and guy on the floor went to Oklahoma so they knew Brian Cowing! Such a small world! And then I ran into someone else I had seen at a previous audition.  What are the chances!

So. Back to the audition. People started crossing their names off the list cuz they didn’t want to wait for whatever reason. SO. I crossed off my name and inserted it into one of the slots of the crossed-off names. WIN. I moved up by like 50 people. (NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS. I found out that this is bad. So don’t do it. Naughty James. Sexy, Naughty James)

So finally it’s my turn. The audition was at Pearl Studios. They warned us not to over-sing cuz the room already has amazing acoustics. I shan’t divulge my audition song, but it was a baritone song. (It was about 16 seconds). So. I go in, they ask what I’m singing, I tell them. I sing. It goes really well. The room has beautiful acoustics. T’hey’re pointing to stuff on my resume as I’m singing. Afterwards, they’re pleased. They say, “Wow. ‘That was great. Beautiful.” And I said, “THANKS!” and ran out of the room.

So. Lesson: make sure they have nothing more to say.

But the point is: I represented myself well. I represented my school well. They may not have anything for me right now, but they will remember me next time (hopefully). And if they see me enough, they will remember me and (hopefully) will think of me next time they have something I’m perfect for.

As a side note, I ran to another audition afterwards. Cuz you can do that; run to two auditions in one day. But they were only seeing equity. And the equity actors at this audition were so rude to me. And I’m not make a generalization, but I am saying, “Um, HELLUR?! You were once a lowly peon like myself. So don’t treat me like an inferior; we are the same.”

Step off, bitch. We’re on the same team.

JAMES.

11. James Takes a Voice Lesson

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I’M SO SORRY! I actually have so much to say but I got so side-tracked!

So. Voice lessons are expensive out here. I have friends who take lessons from teachers who charge $120-$150. And they can’t play piano well. Cuz if you want someone to play piano well, then you hire a pianist to run through your songs with you once. OY. BUT. I got lucky cuz Alex told me about this guy who lives like 10 blocks from me and he only charges $60 an hour. THAT’S NICE. So I went. It was good. He’s a good singer. He’s an amazing tenor. But I think he’s pretty fresh out of college. And I think I would rather have someone who has been practicing voice for a long time, cuz I’m paranoid about my voice.  He was trying to help me out with something and he said it 1,000,000 different ways and I still kept fucking it up. So. Maybe it’s me. But to be sure, I’m gonna try someone else. My manager suggested this woman who charges $60 an hour. Otherwise, David swears by his voice teacher. And I would LOVE to see her but that’s… $120 an hour. That means I could only see her once a month. Hell, now I can only afford a $60/hr voice lesson once per month.

But the money/budget thing is for another blog.

Perhaps this next one.

JAMES.