Thursday, January 31, 2013

All's quiet on the southern front

A long time ago, long before the zeitgeist revolution of Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and any other informational inception thereof, and right before Elwood Edwards exploded into common Americana with his perfunctory “You’ve got mail”; there existed a growing quandary on the common elementary school playground.
It was 1997, and one could not turn the radio on in their parent’s wood-paneled minivan without hearing a certain song. It was upbeat, percussive, and knowingly white bred—perfect for a rising middle class of self-entitled suburbanite children flourishing under the Clinton regime, pre-“Lewinskygate.”
The song was this: MMMBop.
I was ten years old when I first heard this song, and like all fourth graders with limited capacity for critical musical thinking, I was hooked. It had a catchy chorus, simplistic, and non-thinking. “Mmmbop.”
I never really caught the rest of the lyrics, but not because the lead singer’s diction is awful (which it is), but because the lead singer’s voice is so high.
It was a girl, right?
That was the question on everyone’s lips on the playground. Without direct access to the information super highway, and our computer lab time spent handling floppy disks loaded with Odell Down Under and The Oregon Trail, wild speculation as to the gender of the Hanson singers enflamed the schoolyard.
“I heard it’s two brothers and sister,” Ashley Weegman stated confidently.
“It’s all girls,” rebutted Evan Young resolutely. “I saw their picture on Good Morning America. Bunch of long blond girls.”
“I think they’re just a bunch of boys who haven’t gotten puberty yet,” said Kurt Fidici, the class giant.
We all looked up at him.
            “What’s…puberty?” Ashley asked.
            “It’s like, you know. When your voice drops and your body changes and you grow hair.” Kurt said, with obvious first hand knowledge.
            “Oh yeah. I think my dad had that.” Evan added.
            “No. Everyone gets it.” Kurt stressed adamantly, as though he were repeating the words of a child psychiatrist.
            “Everyone?” I asked.
            “It’s how you grow up.”
            And so, fast-forward nearly fifteen years. I’ve now gone through puberty.
I’m on Facebook on a Thursday morning, bumming around on my newsfeed, and this pops up: mystery link. I click it and am taken to a modulated MMMBop, with a trio of decidedly masculine brothers now serenading me in a more digestible register.
Of course, I had learned long ago the truth of their phantasmal genders.
Still, I can't help but wonder...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Casual dad

RecentlyI was reminded of my impending mortality and ultimate doom and ephemeral souland yadda yadda yadda and not by another gray hair microscopically surveyed inthe mirror or another fissuring forehead crease but by the very quagmire andwasteland that I muck through that might be called my “acting and modelingcareer.”
As I scrambled to make ends meet in the artistically deadmonth of January after suffering not one, not two, but THREE lost contracts atthe end of 2012 (two because of Sandy), I looked upon the looming, frozenmonth-after-December with derision and suspicion, knowing full well that ifpast experience was indeed cyclical and “The Lion King” ultimately had it rightunder the auspice of “the circle of life”, I would be living paycheck topaycheck and eating Ramen while producers, movers, and shakers were extendingtheir holiday just ONE more week in St. Barthelemy before schlepping back toManhattan and L.A., needing just ONE more week thereafter to recover from theexhaustion of alcohol and sun.
So it was a pleasant surprise when I received a call from acommercial agent that I occasionally freelance with at 6:30 PM on a Mondaynight, in the midst of January, in the midst of crisis, in the midst of…death?
I screened the call and listened to the voicemail immediatelyafter:
“Hey Sam, it’s _________ at _________ Agency calling.Hopefully you’re around, because I have an audition for you for tomorrow, Tuesdaythe 22nd at 2:10. You’re going to _________ Studios at _________Madison Avenue. It’s for a national Macy’s commercial. It’s going to shoot the23rd or 24th. You need to be available for those dates becausethis is a callback session. The role is for a ‘casual dad.’ Let me know!Thanks.”
I froze.
‘Casual dad?’
I had only moved to New York City three years before,arriving from Oklahoma City the day after college graduation, taking theE-train from JFK like a REAL New Yorker, and popping up from a hole in theearth in Times Square with a suitcase and a dream and now, looking back,psychotic delusion.
I had had my ups and downs like any other Midwestern kid whomoved here for a love of something they could not quite grasp or ascertain, oreven really converse, so they had to “sing.” But surely getting a backhand fromLady Liberty and a golden shower from Bloomberg didn’t aggregate being cast as ‘casualdad.’ I could not possibly look that haggard. I was twenty-five going on twenty-six,at worst twenty-eight, not forty going on infinity.
I decided to call my agent back.
“Hey _________, it’s Sam calling you back.”
“Hi Sam! How are you?”
“Good. Just calling you back regarding your voicemail.”
“Does that work for you tomorrow?”
“Yep. Just wanted to touch base. ‘Casual dad?’”
“Yup. Casual dad.”
“Okay, cool,” I said, grasping for a straw in the infinite.
“Yeah, so just wear a sweater or something.”
“Sweater. Got one of those.”
“Great. Have a good night!”
I clicked the phone off and felt the dragon-headed onset ofanxiety lurch inside me. I was also trying to kick my Xanax habit (Rx-enabled,nothing illegal here), so I forced a swallow of the scaly, serpentine beast rollingin me like Smaug taking a Scrooge McDuck dive into my pitted stomach and satcross-legged on my couch, waiting for my girlfriend to return from thebathroom, and vacating myself mentally until then. Perhaps I was thinking ifholding your breath could be considered an anti-oxidant. Mums the word.
“Who was that?” my girlfriend asked, finally returning afterwhat seemed like an eternity alone with my thoughts.
“An agent. A commercial agent. One that I sometimes workwith, but never book with.”
“I have an appointment tomorrow. For Macy’s.”
“For a dad.”
“A ‘casual dad.’”
In my mind I had a clear picture of what a ‘casual dad’ wascomprised of. It was the eerie antithesis to Rob Delaney’s token #cooldadhashtag on Twitter.
#Casualdad was a heavier set man with an affinity for pleatedpants and a lambswool sweater vest, inarguably argyle.
#Casualdad drove a #casualvan because it was affordable andmultifunctional and allowed him to carpool his #weirdson to Boy Scout troopmeetings every Monday.
#Casualdad had a #casuallife in a #casualtown and wascasually slowly dying inside and out because he did not have the casual cojonesto become a cool Lester Burnham or a cool Jeff Lebowski, and so his gravestonewould read: RIP #Casualdad, A casualty of the ages!
“What’s wrong, Sam?” my girlfriend asked me, vacuuming meback into reality.
I had worked myself into a frenzy.
“I’m not ready to be a dad, babe. I’m just not.”
She looked at me dumbfounded. “What?”
“I just…can’t be a dadright now. Definitely not a casual dad, but I don’t think I’m ready to be acool dad either!”
“No one’s asking you to become a dad. Definitely not me.”
“My agent is!”
“Do I look old?”
“No. You’re twenty-five.”
I sat on the couch, a picture of discontentment.
“So you’re not going to do it?”
“No. I have to. It’s potential money.” I sighed and stood up.
“Where are you going now?"
“I have to go try on sweaters."