I have returned from my trip to New York. How was it? Well, first I must take you back to the past. To play the shitty games that suck ass? Not quite.

Back in November, I decided it was time to step up my game and I applied for Julliard. I figured it would be an eternity before I heard back from them. But I heard back from them in only a few days and I had to select an audition date and city. Boy, did that come quickly, but I set up a date with the intention of not getting caught up in the Super Bowl. As for the city, it was a bit of a no-brainer for me. I chose New York. I had wanted to go there forever! More importantly, my brother Nick had been breathing down my neck to go to New York. With thoughts of going to Julliard racing through my mind, I started rehearsing my monologues – in particular my “Ideal Husband” monologue. I rehearsed this almost religiously. It didn’t matter if I was tired, it didn’t matter if I was hungry, and it didn’t matter if I my body was aching. After all, those were the conditions I might be under for the audition. If I had a bad day at the office, I used it. After all, this is a passionate monologue.

The weeks leading up to my audition were rough to say the least. 2014 in general began on a note of self-pity and resentment. Then again, most years begin on notes of self-pity and resentment for me, but 2014 began on that note AT A PARTY so maybe I am making some progress. The week before my trip was a nightmare. I found out I wasn’t going to be in the new Star Wars movie. I got one crazy customer after another at the day job – most of which caused me to have a little involuntary overtime almost every day. I couldn’t properly celebrate Zooey Deschanel’s birthday because Netflix sent me a busted copy of All the Real Girls. The again, that last one could have been a lot worse. Two years ago, I sent Zooey a Twitter message wishing her a happy birthday. I found out later she received a personal letter from President Obama. I don’t really know how to compete with that one… Either way, I needed my vacation.

The good news is that my vacation began a little early. The bad news is it started because I had a sore throat. Yes, you read that right: Two days before the audition of my life and I had a sore throat. But it did give me time to get my affairs for the next day’s trip. For example, I still didn’t know where the audition was actually taking place. So I looked it up on their audition FAQs page. I found out I needed four monologues. Fine by me, I have dozens at the ready. I also found out one of them was supposed to be a Shakespearean monologue. Guess what I don’t have. Yeah, I know that’s sacrilegious for an actor to not have some Shakespearean monologue down by heart, but suddenly that was my problem! I decided to print up the “St. Crispian’s Day” speech from Henry V. Not only do I really like that speech, but I’ve watched the version from the Kenneth Branagh version several times so I figured it would be easier for me to memorize.

The next morning I was up early at Nick’s behest. After all, he was driving so I didn’t want to hold him up. Here’s the thing. I got up early, he didn’t. The problem is I seem to operate on Japanese time, Nick seems to operate on Mexican time. What do I mean by that? You see in Mexico (and France, as I’ve been told), they have a somewhat loose definition of time. If a friend says “Be at my place at 3”, they really mean be there at about 3:30. This rule, however, does not apply to formal engagements such as job interviews or doctor appointments – be on time for those! In Japan, it is the exact opposite. If a friend says “meet me at 3”, they really mean be there at 2:30 (if not earlier). See, this article has a little education in it!

Anyway, about an hour after he said he’d be there, Nick showed up and we were on the road. I was excited about all the places we were going to visit. After all, this is like THE city when it comes to visiting landmarks: The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Time Square. As a movie and TV buff, I was pumped about the prospect of visiting filming locations from Ghostbusters or the Seinfeld café. Okay, I knew we couldn’t do ALL of those, but I figured we’d be able to do some of that fun stuff. But more importantly, I’d have another chance to see Liam (AKA Mr. Aspiring Actor). I still owed him a copy of Pinheads on DVD and I was just generally looking forward to seeing him again. After all, he met me on my turf, it’s only fair I meet him on his. I knew my brother was looking forward to meeting one of his friends. Fair enough – I figured meeting him would be fun.

Despite my excitement, I also had to keep reality in check. New York is after all a city notorious for crime. Look, I realize movies like Taxi Driver and Mean Streets aren’t documentaries but they were made by people who are familiar with the city and know what it is like to live there. And it is not just violent crime, I know a lot of stories about con men (While we were walking the streets, Nick even warned me about a popular con where people will try to give you a free album and then charge $50 for their autograph…. Or something like that). Plus, there’s the general reputation of grunginess – homeless people, hookers and the like. And forget about con men trying to rip me off, what about honest businessmen just trying to make a buck? I had been warned that stuff is expensive out there.

After being trapped in what felt like a never-ending stretch of Pennsylvania – like that bunny on TV with the battery it just keeps going and going – and being caught up in traffic, we finally made it to the city so nice they named it twice. Nick and I were excited just to see the city. Our excitement waned after we made the startling revelation that driving through New York is pretty tough – the one way streets, endless pedestrians. So yeah, one New York stereotype proved to be true. I had to call the hotel to find out where we had to park. After finding the place, I received the first of many rude awakenings: parking was expensive. Yeah, I had been warned about this, but I thought my motel had fee parking. Paying a heavy toll for parking was irksome but acceptable. The next part was a lot harder to accept. We couldn’t access the car while it was stashed at this garage. (Okay, theoretically we could have gotten the car out, but it would have made things super-expensive.) So, the bottom line was we didn’t have a car. Oh well, there’s stuff in walking distance, right? (Okay, that’s not sarcasm; a lot of stuff was in walking distance.)

Then another problem arose. I suddenly saw why I paid “so little” for my room. It was basically a closet. Also, I misread one detail on the room I rented. Instead of the twin beds I was hoping to get, I got a room with one queen-sized bed. The tiny room I could handle. After all, I spent four years in a pretty cramped room when I lived at Kent State. But I really didn’t want to share a bed with my brother. I think the underlying reason is obvious, but I’ll get into the specifics later. The room size became temporarily moot as Nick and I hit the streets. We didn’t see much for a while until we finally came across Time Square. We saw the sights. Yeah, if you’ve seen the pictures and the movies, you kind of know what’s there. It was interesting seeing Red Lobster and Sbarro locations. So in addition to the bright Broadway signs, there was a lot of stuff I was used to – just more ostentatiously advertised. As if I had to tell any of you, it was cold. How cold? Let’s put it his way, my face went numb. And that’s not an exaggeration.

We met up with my brother’s friend, Sean. And I started to enjoy myself a bit. We indulged in one of the dishes Nick and I looked forward to – New York pizza. We went to a nice play that very proudly advertised that it does not sell slices. Not only was the pizza good, but I enjoyed talking to Sean. We got to chat it up about movies, TV and life in New York. Nick and I planned on getting some desert – which was only fueled by what was on the menu at this place: tiramisu, cheesecake, gelato cannolis (which I really wanted to try). We made our way back to the city and I began to notice something – something that would be a defining part of the trip. My leg started hurting. It could be that the Dr. Scholls in my boots were starting to fail. It could be that because of the snow I couldn’t walk like I normally would. Or it could be that my brother never broke his alarmingly fast stride. Yeah, my leg was near death and he was doing a classic “trying to get away from someone else” stride. We swung by the ice skating rink and a Toys ‘r’ Us (don’t ask) and we kept walking. As we inched closer to the hotel, I began to wonder – So where are we going for dessert? My brother up and decided “Oh, we’re not stopping anywhere. I just wanna go back to the motel.” Yeah, that’s right – he didn’t ask if I still wanted to do it. He didn’t even say “Hey, I really don’t want to do this anymore.” Yeah, he didn’t want dessert anymore so obviously I didn’t want dessert anymore. (Also, I was hoping to give my leg a rest.)

However, there was important detail about the trip back. One of the reasons we were out was to find the building I would have my audition at. (The e-mail I was sent just said it was on 65th street.) We found a Julliard building. I saw this big glass building and thought to myself “Tomorrow I’m auditioning for Julliard in there.” Keep that in mind for later.

Nick and I made it back to the hotel and I went to bed early – not one of my habits.  I had an audition for Julliard the next morning. I needed rest, and I was getting up early. My audition was at nine, but I had to be there earlier (they recommended 9:45 at the latest), and I had to get something to eat. Unfortunately, my body doesn’t always know what I need. Sleep was extremely restless. I usually listen to the radio when I sleep, but I’m unfamiliar with New York’s radio selection so I decided not to chance it. Instead I was privy to the melodious sounds of my brother’s snoring. While it’s not as bad as it used to be, snoring of any kind is one of my biggest pet peeves. While my sense of hearing only got offended once, my sense of smell got tag teamed by my brother’s dragon breath and his notorious foot odor. See, I’m not just too macho to share a bed with brother. Sleep was pretty restless, but I’m used to that. I’m an actor with a full time job – this isn’t the first time I’ve had to perform on low sleep. And it won’t be the last.

The real problem was that my leg was still aching and my throat was still sore. Yes, the audition of my life and I had a sore throat and a bum wheel. Also, Nick did not get up despite his very adamant insistence I get up early. So I waited and he got up at about seven and we headed for Julliard at about 8 (the time it was recommended I be there). Suffice to say, we didn’t stop for an actual breakfast meal. This concerned me because I can be quite unpleasant when I don’t eat. You know those Snickers commercials where somebody turns into a celebrity because they don’t eat? They turn into Robin Williams or Joe Pesci – or my favorite the Joker. I can be the same way: I get cranky, I can’t focus, if I go long enough I might even get lightheaded. Based on that description, I was told I turn into Jon Voight when I get hungry… I think they meant Christopher Walken.

Anyway, Nick and I ran into a bit of a snag. We weren’t entirely sure where we were going. We just knew it was on 65th street. I figured that the Julliard building would be hard to miss. We struggled to find it regardless of what logic dictated. And Nick and I had our only real argument of the trip about how I should have figured out beforehand what building my audition was in – because, you know, yelling and childish name calling are the solution to a problem like this. Eventually, I decided to call someone at the school. This particular someone gave me somewhat vague directions. I probably sounded like an idiot because I kept repeating the directions back so I wouldn’t have to repeat them. Of course Nick didn’t pay attention while I did that and I had to repeat the directions anyway. In lieu of the very vague directions, Nick and I found the building I needed to audition at, and it was… that big glass building I discovered last night. Surprised? I’m not!

I entered the building and there I was inb Julliard – months of build-up and preparation, and I was finally there. I met my student mentor who guided me to the waiting room with the other actors. My mentor and the other student helpers were actually really friendly. It was quite a site since there were so many people there of all shapes and sizes. This wasn’t exactly the time to make friends as everybody seemed to be in their zone, preparing for their audition. I had an agenda of my own: I had to relace my boots as they fell out while trying to chase Nick. I was still somewhat ticked at my brother, but then I decided to quickly check Facebook before my audition. Nick posted a status saying “good luck, Al.” It made me realize something: No matter how much he may yell and even if we do argue, Nick still cares about me.

Even though there were a lot of us, we were hoarded into a room where we were given a prep talk about the school. More importantly, we practiced a few warm-up exercises that were actually a lot of fun. They put me in a much better mood – which may have been trouble since my monologues called for me to be angry. Then again, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the Shakespeare monologue – especially since I had only managed to memorize about half the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

I waited for my name to be called for my audition. My mentor escorted me to the audition room… where I waited more. I’m really glad these auditions were one-on-one. I’ve been in group auditions before where I had sort of an “I need to do that” attitude. So I went in, still not knowing whether or not I’d have to do a Shakespearean monologue. I went in and did my Ideal Husband monologue and because they wanted a contemporary monologue, I recited my As Good as it Gets speech. So yes, I dodged the bullet! I likened this audition to Rocky’s fight with Apollo Creed. There were so many things I thought could have gone wrong. I worried about being late, not finding the place, completely choking on my monologue, not being able to talk, etc. etc. etc. Whether I made it or not, I did in fact go the distances. Callbacks would be that afternoon. So the question was running through my mind: Would I get my round two?

I exited my audition feeling like a million bucks. I was walking through the city by myself, and I have to admit there was a certain liberty to walking around alone and not having to keep up with my brother. But one thing was sure: I had to get some lunch. Nick and I stopped for health smoothies and that was not enough of a lunch. I mean how hard would it be find a place to eat? Street vendors were, after all, everywhere. But I wanted to indoors and warm. And more importantly, I wanted to sit down. I’m sorry to say I made my way to Starbucks for lunch. Now before anyone hassles me about eating at Starbucks, I need to point out that I REALLY wanted to take part in local cuisine, but a few factors won out:

-        It was close to Julliard so it wouldn’t be too far to walk back.

-        It was a pretty direct route back to Julliard. My sense of direction is atrocious and I was in one of the biggest cities in the world. The last thing I wanted was to get lost.

-        My credit card gives me bonus points for Starbucks so there!

Also, there was a homeless man sitting outside that had a tremendous singing voice. As I sat there, eating my breakfast/lunch, I assumed that I would go back to Julliard and wait for my callback while Nick would do his own thing. I figured that was a good medium. He could have his fun, and I could recharge my batteries. But while I sat there, my brother sent me a message saying he wanted to meet up with me. I told him where I was, trying to do my damndest to give him the specifics despite the fact that my location was needle in a haystack. After waiting a few minutes, that logic thing showed up again and I told him to instead just meet up at Julliard – just because we both knew how to make it there.

My brother and I walked around for a bit – pretty aimlessly this time. My brother suggested we get some massages. I was actually up for the idea. I figured even if they couldn’t do anything for my leg, at least it would be a chance to get off my feet. Plus it would probably feel good. Finding one was harder than we realized, but we did stop for pizza. It wasn’t as good as the place we went to last night, but I’m glad I had it. Nick really seemed to like it though. We ended up wandering again. This is when I finally brought up to Nick how troublesome it was trying to keep up with his walking. I spuriously compared him to the Terminator because it began to feel that way. Seriously, NOTHING stopped him! The snow didn’t stop him. Pedestrians didn’t stop him. I imagined that if someone dumped a bucket of marbles in his path, he’d just trample over them without missing a beat. I stopped wondering why he was walking so fast and began wondering HOW he was walking so fast.

We had to doubleback to Julliard because… it was time. This was the moment of truth. Would I be one of the lucky few selected for a callback or would I have to study dermatology elsewhere? (C’mon, RichB and I can’t be the only ones who appreciate that reference!) I sat there, waiting for the list to be posted at 1:30. Then they postponed it to 2:00. So I waited again. They postponed it again. God, Tom Petty was right, the waiting IS the hardest part! (Every day, you see one more card…)

Eventually, the moment of truth came. I ventured up to the second floor. The callback list was posted… and I wasn’t there. I double-checked. Still not there. And my obtuse last name is kind of hard to miss. I have talked about disappointment before. This isn’t being angry about “So Long” not getting an Oscar nomination. This isn’t being upset that The Michael J. Fox didn’t live up to my expectations. This isn’t Robert DeNiro making another sellout comedy. This is real heartbreak. This is months of preparation and anticipation for nothing.

Although I’ve never discussed this before, I’ve largely felt like my life has been a bit stagnant ever since I graduated school about 2 years ago. I thought that going to Julliard would be my chance to turn everything around. It would be a new city, a chance to make new friends, a chance to leave the one horse town I currently live in. This was my chance to enter the big leagues and just like that, it was gone. I took the elevator to leave the building. I kind of wish I could have taken a picture of that ride. Well, I could have, but taking random pictures of strangers just seems a little taboo. But I say this because I looked across at the shear disappointment cast about everyone’s faces – the perfect summary for the whole sodding event.

Nick and I sat around for a while. He knew this wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me. We both wanted to visit Top of the Rock – a spot that would allow us to view the whole New York skyline. But in light of the recent bad news, we decided to head back to the motel room to recuperate first. But on the way back, Nick made another announcement. You see, he had already told me that we had been tasked for picking up a gift for one of our friends. Actually, allow me to elaborate: The gift wasn’t for our friend so to speak. It was so he could give to a girl. I was none-to-pleased, but I figured we would pick it up on the way home on Friday. But there was a sudden change of plans as we had to seek it out right then and there! So we turned around and made our way to the subway. When I saw the route, I figured it would be a quick trip and we’d still have time to do something fun. Famous last words.

I was also annoyed because my chances of seeing Liam had officially gone out the window. After I found out our car was taken away from us, I realized my chances were pretty slim. Liam gave us instructions on how to find him, but it still would have been an hour and a half both ways. Chances of seeing him were still pretty slim but I still hadn’t given up hope on seeing Liam… until we took this trip. It started out okay. Nick and I talked about a few things such as the fact that Nick thinks I should market my idea for “I Pizza New York” t-shirts. (My idea is like “I heart New York” but with a pizza instead of the heart.)

Trouble started a-brewin’ when Nick and I became lost. We had to do multiple transfers on the subway to find this place. Bear in mind we weren’t picking up some I Heart New York or some random trinket. We had to find a VERY specific mummy’s head snow globe. Nick’s frustration at the matter began to rear its ugly head. He began to make some very explicit threats about our friend to the woman who ran the store. By the way, he had to call her a lot to actually find this place – and he had to do so multiple times.

Eventually, we reached this unusual antiques shop. I was pretty much dead from the waist down, and we had been trudging through the city for so long that even Nick was showing his fatigue. Any chance of meeting Liam or going to the Top of the Rock had been flushed down the toilet. I have to admit the Oddities Antique Shop was a pretty cool place – not flush away a third of my vacation trying to find this place cool, but cool nonetheless. There were animal skins, real Shriners hats, human skeletons. But on the bright spot, we bought the fucking snow globe. Despite Nick making it abundantly clear that he wanted to smash that thing, we held onto that thing with a death grip. After all, we didn’t want that whole trip to be for naught.

The trip back was no easier. I had to buy another subway ticket because Nick lost his. (I wisely put mine in my wallet.) Nick was still adamant about going to the top of the rock. Despite feeling physically and emotionally drained, Nick still wanted to do it. Knowing there’s no talking Nick out of something when he sets his mind on it… most of the time. Once again, we got lost on the subway. Because of this, we reached a point where visiting the top of rock would have been completely impractical – especially since we would have had to fork over more money for subway tickets. Speaking of things that were out of the way, we couldn’t do the other thing I so badly wanted to do in New York – eat at Ray’s Pizza. We did stop at a diner that had some pretty good stuffed shells. I did get my wish on one thing: I finally got to have me a cannoli.

The next day was the day I pulled my Snake Plisken routine and escaped from New York. The offer to visit the Top of the Rock was still on the table, but between my sore body, needing to get the car out and checking out of the motel, it just wasn’t possible. After the trip I had, you’d think I might be thrilled to be going home, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have no idea when I’m going to be able to take another trip or even have an extended break from work. I’m not in school anymore so there’s no spring break or summer vacation. This was supposed to be the time of my life. Instead I hurt my leg, spent most of my trip on an Easter egg hunt for someone else, aggravated my sore throat, was rejected from Julliard, and Brenda’s probably dead. Okay, it wasn’t all terrible. The first night where I met Sean was a lot of fun and lived up to expectations of this trip. I should also count my blessings: I wasn’t robbed, I wasn’t conned, and despite what random drunk people told me while coming out of a bar, looking like John Lennon in New York did not get me shot.

I have to say though, I did enjoy New York. It was nice having stuff I wanted within walking distance. I’ve been to Vegas before (it was before I met Les so no I didn’t visit him). And I really liked it, but it was a major league tourist trap. New York City had a lot of the things I liked about Vegas – good food, cool places to visit in walking distance, just not as ostentatious and touristy. Surprisingly, I found Elf’s depiction of New York to be pretty accurate. Sadly, I never stormed in on any diners and congratulated them for having the world’s greatest cup of coffee. (I can also think of something else from that movie, I’d have loved to do that I didn’t.)

Epilogue: After returning from New York, I thought my troubles were through. I was pumped about holding the live premiere for Pinheads the next day. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that either because of a blizzard in my area. Also, there’s a reason I was able to post this now. I’ve been out of action because my throat is STILL sore! Worst. Vacation. Ever.

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