New York, Monday June 28
Well, it's been 2 weeks since my first encounter with Fraulein Braun, my
new Grolpy. She is certainly as cranky and possesses none of the Iranian
subtlety of "not showing it on the surface" (be rooye khod nayAvordan).
She is very vocal about her likes and dislikes.
-- "Was isst diese Headshots Nazi? They are more like Headshits!..
Du must take die neuer photos or else how can I get you diese acting gigs?"
Finally my nightmare is realized as I have found someone who actually
pronounces my name NOT-ZEE, rather than NAW-ZEE, day and night and there
is no amount of protest that I can make to change this habit of hers. Guess
it must remind her of the good old days of the Third Reich...
I've had a bevy of acting odd-jobs, including being an extra in a Woody
Allen movie (Yeah! Though I never got to meet his highness, I was simply
one of thousands in a crowd scene at the Met), a singing telegram for some
poor sap's birthday at one of the big pharmaceutical companies downtown.
And I kid you not, I was actually a live mannequin sprayed with gold body
paint in the window of a Seventh Avenue boutique for a whole dreary afternoon.
My fantasies of punching Grolpy in the nose have transferred themselves
to images of hanging Eva Braun by her feet from the window of her office
and shaking her until that big white Marie-Antoinette wig finally comes
off (perhaps revealing that her entire cranium is covered in scales and
she is some monstrous alien from Mars sent on a mission to Earth to make
my life miserable?).
Well, not only am I no way near my path to becoming the next Reese Witherspoon,
these class Z gigs don't even pay enough to cover my groceries let alone
my rent. So yes, you guessed it, I finally gave in to the cliché:
I am now officially a NYWA: A New York Waitress/Actress.
Got a job at Bar 89, this place in Soho whose pathetic claim to fame
is its ingeniously designed bathroom stalls (The whole trick is that the
doors are made of tinted glass so you think you and your business are being
exposed to the entire dining crowd waiting outside, but really you are safely
hidden... clever uh???).
God it sucks to be in the service industry. When I escape from the tyrannical
claws of Eva Braun, it is only to land in the equally cruel grip of Teresa,
the Puerto-Rican manager of Bar 89, a Hispanic Mama who looks and sounds
like Rosie Perez and who you would expect to show up on the set of Jerry
Springer swinging a chair or two in the air. Forget about those tales of
$30,000 tips, this is low-wage hell, and the tips have to be shared among
the whole staff. As such, you have no real incentive to work your tail off
when you know the jack-ass who spends his night ducking out of his table
duties and spending countless smoking breaks outside in the back alley is
going to get his greedy paws all over you hard-earned cash anyway.
My first day with Teresa, I wondered how I didn't get fired. She had
just finished giving me instructions in her thick Brooklyn accent and speedy
Gonzales rhythm and I was standing around trying to decode her speech to
see about my first task of the day when a couple entered the restaurant
and I proceeded to give them a table.
When Teresa came back from wherever in hell she had been, she gave me
a furious glance as soon as she saw the sitting customers.
-- "Naz, waddya ju, feensh tellinya about aw aouwsuvopewatn?"
She had to repeat it twice more before I could tell she was asking me:
"Naz, what did I just finish telling you about our hours of operation?"
Seems we were closed when I decided oh so brightly to let these poor people
in. Seems we only opened at 2 p.m. and this was half past noon. I waited
for her to fire me but she only growled some more incomprehensible stuff
at me and gave me a mop. Fabrice, another waiter, came to my help.
"Fawrget abaowt Teresa," he said in a thick French accent (I
am going to go crazy with all these accents but then again I made the decision
to move to New York City!), "Just keep yur cheen up, yu veel get trou
And with that, I started mopping up.
Wednesday June 30
Just got back from an audition. A real acting audition. A real play. No
more children's stuff. It's Broadway. Well... off-Broadway... okay off-off-off
Broadway, but still! No Christmas elf outfit involved! And this is for a
speaking part. I could have kissed Eva Braun.
The audition was at 4. Manny left me dozens of phone messages giving
me words of encouragement. Ali was so nice to drive me there. He left me
at the theater though because he didn't want to break my concentration.
The part is small of course. I am not gonna completely destroy my chances
before I even get my foot in by coveting the lead part. The play is about
this strange dysfunctional family and also some kind of social statement
about the rotten state of the New York bourgeoisie etc. Who cares? I just
want to memorize my lines and get through this without bursting into tears.
I play the maid, ironically enough, so the training as waitress will serve
me well in balancing the tray of drinks I have to carry for the audition
When I get to the theater, the dressing room is already full. This is
where we are to wait before being called on stage. The director and producer
will sit in the audience while the director's aide will read the scene with
us on stage.
My heart sinks at the sight of my competitors. They all seem younger,
prettier, fitter. None display an ounce of nervousness, let alone an ounce
of fat on their perfectly toned bodies and are busy applying their stage
make-up. Some have even brought little maid's outfit. I haven't thought
of bringing anything at all! The girls seem to know each other and are busy
trading gossip and stories of their latest "parts. One girl snickers
at the demise of "Cats" on Broadway, noting that a competitor
has relied on it for her bread and butter for the past 10 years. I wish
the wall would open up and swallow me as I realize I am not even at the
level of the "Cats" person.
I decide I can't stay in this dressing room or I am going to get psyched
out and run away from this place. Instead, I check my rank on the list and
decide I have about fifteen minutes before being called in. I wander the
halls of the old decrepit theater until I come to a hallway marked by various
frames. In wonder and awe, I gaze at those black and white faces, from the
50s' pre-War, and even some brownish-yellow photos of turn of the century
Vaudeville. An overwhelming sense of both admiration and melancholy overpowers
me. How many of those faces are alive today? How many of them realized their
dream? Maybe their dream wasn't even to be a "star" but simply
to make a living. After all the names in those captions are often foreign-sounding.
No doubt these were immigrants who carried their craft from their home country
to the New Land of Opportunity. Compared to them, to the pressures they
were under, and the living and working conditions they were forced in, I
have nothing to fear.
I return from my little trip down memory lane just in time to hear my
name being called. Taking a huge breath, I drop my handbag and come out
onto the stage.
Thursday June 31
Eva Braun called. She sounds more sympathetic than usual. Uh-Oh. I already
know what she is about to tell me.
-- "I am so sorry Liebchen, the part has gone to..."
Oh well, got my work cut out for me... On to the next challenge!
Friday July 1
My daily jog with Ali continues. I have been really good about it ever since
that horrible week of Internet Chatroom addiction. When we finish with our
jog, we usually go grab a light breakfast at this health place near his
house where we have our talk about our daily ordeals. He tells me about
his latest article, and I complain about Eva Braun or Teresa, or life in
general. Manny jokes with me that Ali and I have become quite the married
couple but she is crazy. I mean, even if I WERE attracted to him in the
slightest, WHICH I AM NOT, he would never be interested in me. I am too
much of a flake for him. He is so mature, seems to have lived quite a full
life and looks like he knows what he wants out of it. Me? He probably feels
he has to mentor me, put me in the right path, for whatever reason, pity
or compassion. Just the same, I enjoy his company even though his eyes do
still scare me a bit. They just seem so cold, so severe sometimes. But maybe
that's just the kind of discipline I need. A friend who is not going to
pamper me or give in to my rationalizations, but "tell it like it is."
This morning, over an egg-white omelette, Ali told me about an offer
he received from Time magazine for their Paris office. Unconsciously,
I feel a knot form in my stomach but I put on a bright smile and congratulated
-- "Nah bAbA, I'm not taking it..."
The knot has suddenly loosened.
-- "Really? A great position like that? Wow, New York must have
grown on you!"
He is about to respond but pauses, looks into my eyes, then mumbles:
-- "Yeah... that's it... New York has grown on me."