Friday, August 18, 2006

Where was I?

Okay. I've stared at the title bar for the post far too long. This blog, like my life of late, has become choked into stasis. So instead of digging up a few linkworthy things or whipping out some quotable screed, I'm just going to spill.

I've been wondering what the hell I'm doing here ever since I took a blurry cab-ride from Penn Station to NYTW back in late April. I imagine everyone has some requisite "centering" amenity that they can't live without: cigarettes, perhaps, but Jesus seems to work for some people, too. I don't know. I'm at an age where the sexy calculus of the artist's life is starting to break down. Not to despair, necessarily, but maybe some despair would help unhinge my m.o. and force me to make bigger/better choices.

Because I'd like to think that my career-to-date has been the result of some self-driven master plan, but it hasn't. Even and especially this latest chapter in NYC: I am a creature of circumstance. I didn't even get the comforting finality of rejection -- that moment every actor learns to repress or burn off or re-contextualize into an acceptable, educating Event. I did that. And then I was de-rejected. Or something. So my "achievement" wasn't this show, it was my ability to adapt to the caprice of other professionals ... the ones who control who gets work and when and why.

But I don't feel like I've adapted, either. I've lived in some flavor of vagrancy for the better part of two years ... letting my finances play catch-up to the demands of my career which, ironically, doesn't even begin to yield basic solvency (never mind vacation, travel, wealth, organic groceries, dental checkups, etc.). And because I'm in this scrambled holding position now, I don't have the patience, focus or peace of mind to do anything apart from compulsive list-making. I tease out trends and chapters while I wait for the rudiments of a healthy life to take hold. Yes, it is the very portrait of a flustered ego clinging to whatever metric it can find to make sense of things.

To that end, here are some autobiographical fun-facts for 2001-2006:
  • 8.5 . The number of addresses I have had in the DC metro region. I was hours away from signing a lease for the 9.5th when I got the call to come north. I say "8.5" because one of those addresses (4618 15th st. NW) was really just a basement closet of a room that I hastily switched to so I could sublet my adorable Wisc. Ave. studio and thereby afford to vanish to Juneau last summer. To say I lived there would be an embellishment. I remember occasionally crashing there for one or two REM cycles. But I never bought groceries there or nailed anything to the wall.
  • 6. The number of addresses I have had in the NYC metro region since arriving here on April 25th. Needless to say, I haven't bought groceries or nailed anything to the wall at any of those places, either. I find my savings drained by the repeated purchase of commonplace items like nail clippers, umbrellas, coffee, laundry detergent, etc. All the things you'd normally have on hand at home.
  • 126. The number of times I have performed columbinus. This includes the 2003 Kennedy Center workshop, the 2004 Littleton workshop, the Round House production, the Perseverance production, the Seattle, Anchorage, and Valdez performances, the NYTW backer's presentation last fall, and the most recent run this past spring. Please forgive me, but that tally led me to wonder ...
  • $9,000. Total compensation for the above. Before taxes and union dues. And just to put that in perspective ...
  • $12,775. The amount of money I spent on cigarettes between 1999 and 2006. I need this number to help quell the pangs of self-righteousness that usually perk up after excessive contemplation of the preceding number.
I know this is a silly exercise but the stat-hunting isn't totally depressing. It's not especially illuminating, either. It's like playing anagrams while serving jury duty. I think. Any rational person would look at that list and say, "Quit smoking." Or maybe, "Quite smoking before you bitch about your salary." And they would be right. But I like this because it gives me an "act-able" choice: Is theatre harder to quit than smoking? Hmmm. They both bleed you dry. They both take years off your life. And two open wounds are worse than one.

And, yes, I take that as a legitimate dilemma. Because the past five years have also been marked by the occasional announcement that someone I know and love and admired has quit the business. Usually for reasons more compelling than: "It really gets in the way of my smoking." But still.

The other day I was walking up 6th Ave. on my way to an audition when a 4ft long cast-iron rod thundered to the ground two feet in front of me. The crowd parted to look up. I was on the phone getting more precise directions from my manager Laurie at the time. Our coversation ...

KM: Okay, so ... the address you gave me seems to be a light fixture store.
LM: No, I know it looks like that but there should be an office entrance nearby with the same address.
KM: Um, I ... oh. Okay, I think I see it.
LM: You see it?
KM: Yeah. Sorry about that.
LM: No problem.
KM: Okay, yes. Definitely. I'm walking there now.
LM: Great, so you're ...

(THUD!)

LM: ... almost there?
KM: HOLY FUCKING SHIT A GIANT PIECE OF METAL ALMOST IMPALED ME THROUGH THE SKULL LIKE RIGHT NOW AS I'M TALKING TO YOU HOLY SHIT.
LM: Whoa. Are you alright?
KM: HOLY SHIT.
LM: You're okay?
KM: YES, I'M ... I CAN'T ... HOLY SHIT.
LM: What happened?
KM: I DON'T KNOW.
LM: Window washers?
KM: NO ONE IS UP THERE.
LM: Construction crew?
KM: YEAH, NO. NO ONE IS UP THERE. IT JUST FELL FROM I HAVE NO IDEA.
LM: Are you going to be alright?
KM: OH SURE. THANKS FOR THE DIRECTIONS.
LM: Okay, take care of yourself.
KM: YEAH, I'LL ... YEAH. I LOVE YOU.
LM: What?
KM: NOTHING.

Now, it's hard to be fatalistic about these things because ... well ... in my experience, Fate ran out of lessons a long time ago. I've had near-death experiences before. I'm an extremely clumsy person as it is -- toasting bread is a near-death experience. So I feel no need to gussy up the whole episode as some sort of maybe-it-was-a-sign moment. Fate has been syndicated. I don't worry about fate. I have plenty of things to worry about. Gravity, for example. I guess I'll get to the rest of New York later.

11 comments:

parabasis said...

Arcticactor,

I've been trying to find your e-mail address to write to you about something. (this is isaac from parabasis). If you could drop me a line at parabasisnyc AT yahoo.com, it'd be greatly appreciated.
Thanks
Isaac

Anonymous said...

Couple of stats missing from that columbinus list: Number of kids who realized they were not alone in their pain (#?). Number of parents who went home and hugged their teens a little more tenderly that night (#?). Even if it were only one for each stat per show, that would be 252 bridges built. "Nice work if you can get it..." as the old Gershwin tune goes.

And, oh yes....STOP smoking!
--Trillum

The Deceiver said...

I just want you to know...if it had come to pass that that metal rod had killed you, I would have spared no expense avenging your death.

Lorne said...

Dear creature of circumstance,

Two suggestions:

1. Commit (cerebral) suicide every morning and you'll feel better all day long; or

2. Buddhist meditation, which is pretty much the same as #1.

Soon, rejection will be yours! And then, eventually, success!! Don't quit!!!

Lorne

Susie said...

I'm glad you're still alive.

SAS said...

Oh my but you do tell a good story.

If it is any consolation (which it never is) you are not alone in your confusion. Or in your inability to afford organic produce. Which is kind of over-rated anyhow.

I'll be up in NY for the next three weeks or so, we should get a drink. And I can tell you (though I won't do it justice second hand) the story that MB's castmate told us about when she was walking west on 57th and a severed leg fell out of a window several stories above her and landed in her path. And how she then looked for a moment as a crowd gathered around the leg and then moved on because she was late for work.

Greatest city in the world.

Rimbo said...

Near-death. Maybe not near enough.

I find it oddly comforting that the "word-verification" word that I'm forced to type at the end of these futile comments might never be typed again, ever, by anyone. "pngvku" will forever belong to me.

Anonymous said...

Karl,
Do you have a contact #? Glass houses and all ... sometimes there are things that only make sense when you engage your entire brain.
npreszler@charterinternet.com

jordo said...

i'm glad you're not dead.

keep your head up - i know i'm a novice...but i know you have what it takes to barrel through.

Anonymous said...

Hi arcticactor. I came across your blog when I was searching for the actor Karl Miller, whom I'd seen in Columbinus back in May with my high school. His performance in the piece was captivating and wanted to know what he was up to next. Anyway, this blog came up and I see that you were in Columbinus. Who did you play? Well, I hope you see this...it seems you haven't updated this for a while, so if perchance you do see this, pls. reply at incendiary-wit@hotmail.com.

Sam Blechman said...

You are the actor Karl Miller, right? I'm almost 97% sure you are. Please be. In anycase, I'm glad you weren't struck down by a cast iron rod. Maybe it was from someones railing. (and I don't care that you smoke)

and if you are the actor that I so hope that you are, because I'd rather not embarass myself by gushing to the wrong person; I've got some things to say to you, pal.
for one, I saw you in Hamlet at the Rep Stage last year and lord, were you amazing and fantastic. And ever since I've been searching for you in performances around the D.C. area, but to no avail. Come back from New York, please.
I visited Wittenberg University earlier this week, only to find out you went there. It was weird and fateful and kindof made me love the school even more.
Also, you're a fantastic writer. It's about 3 am and I've been reading through your blog entries for about an hour now. You're that engaging.
and even though I could continue to shower you with compliments until I died, but I won't because I'm terrified of sounding like some sort of stalker, which I'm not. I'm just a fan. Honestly.

oh, and sorry to completely clog your blog comments. I feel really dumb right now.