Before I got sidetracked into a three week long explanation of how I started going to the gym again, I was recounting the moment on the front porch when I decided I would fight to stay in the crazy house I’d been living in for six weeks.
As you may recall, the incident with the police on Christmas morning started a chain reaction that looked like it would lead to the demise of the household. After going to the gym (cue workout montage), I sent Andre a text message asking what was going on with the house, with a clear statement of my wish to stay put.
“Ja Ja, I’m going to keep the house” was the text message I received back.
Jeez, that’s it. Now you know why I went onto a three week long detour; there wasn’t much of a payoff to the story. A simple text message let me know that I could stay where I was and not have to worry about the nightmare of finding a new place to live or, even worse, changing my address.
The New Year was approaching and I had composed ‘Mission Statement 2009’, which was to be read every morning to keep me on track. Now I know what you’re wondering, “what does this kid think he’s Tom Cruise or something?” If you weren’t wondering that, then forgive my presumption. If you were, then the rest of this blog is for you.
I read about a study that found that the average time it took before people started breaking their New Year’s Resolutions was 23 days. As it is a Mean and not a Median, those that stick to their Resolutions for the entire year weigh pretty heavily into the conclusion, leading me to believe that the typical amount of time is about two weeks, unless some people were straight up honest and reported times such as 27 minutes (NYE Brunch is quite the temptation).
For me, this is reason enough to dismiss the concept of New Year’s Resolutions as being nothing but a marketing ploy that was, not necessarily created, but certainly perpetuated by, Gyms and Book Clubs looking to sell memberships. My co-workers at the station had declared 2009 to be “The Year of Action”, and I thought this year called for something more than my usual list of “Goals”, which is an indirect and watered down euphemism for “Resolutions”.
The thing about “Missions” is that they tend to get accomplished. Have you ever heard someone say “Resolution Accomplished”? At best your goals will be “reached”. I don’t know about you, but that particular verb seems kind of childish and needy to me. To explain:
Pretty lame, right? Even if you reach said object (or goal), you looked all awkward and gawky in the process.
Now “accomplished”, that’s a verb that can lead to a victory lap peppered with high-fives and potential sponsors. People “slip” on their resolutions and “fail to meet” their goals. Missions? If they’re not accomplished, then them mo’fo’s are “aborted”. That’s not a verb you just throw around, and I think both Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers would agree with me there (is this the common ground they’ve been looking for?).
Missions are badass, and 2009 is the year of action. So consequently I drafted Mission Statement 2009. As you may know from watching the many movies about missions (as opposed to the few movies that exist about resolutions or goals), there is always some sort of “human” element. It’s not just about finding the treasure or saving the Queen, it’s also about making a connection with people.
So my Mission Statement included several such elements, most notably the following: OPERATION HOLIDAY.
Holidays have become the bane of my existence. The majority of my generation has to deal with the juggling act of separated parents, in which every holiday doubles in quantity of locales. Over the years my family expanded geographically to further complicate the task of holiday get-togethers. But the final nail in the coffin for my holiday go-get-em cheer was my first Easter in New York City.
I had missed my first Thanksgiving just six months earlier. I was scheduled for the evening shift, and was unable to find anyone to cover for me. As an actor, I was constantly trading shifts with fellow employees in order to be able to make the slew of last minute auditions that pop up. Since I couldn’t get rid of my shift, I figured I may as well help someone else out by taking their day shift and working a double. The horrible irony of that wondrous day was that we closed before my night shift would have even began as it became clear that no one was going to be coming in for dinner that night.
I worked Christmas Eve and was able to spend a short two days at my Dad’s just three hours north of the city, the trip being book-ended by crowded Amtrak rides. I worked the 6:15am shift on New Year’s Eve, and didn’t get to start my Saint Patty’s Day celebration until 1am. They ironically gave me the one holiday off I never have any use for, Valentine’s Day (take that, Hallmark!).
All these shifts tended to be return-favors for people covering for me. I learned quickly that the only way I was going to get off when I needed to was if I made it up to people in a big way. Easter was coming up and I was once again in a situation where there was no way I’d be able to off my night shift: 5:30pm to close. Feeling a healthy mix of caring and cynical, I suggested to my good buddy Eric Saez that I take his shift on Easter morning so that he could enjoy it like a proper human being. He protested, but I insisted that there was no way I’d be able to make it up to my Dad’s anyway.
The one catch, however, was that he was scheduled for the 6:15am shift, which normally gets off at about 2:30pm. I assumed someone would be willing to switch so that my double would be a bit more reasonable, but alas, no one would budge and I was stuck with the 6:15am shift and a nice three hour break. A bit of a bummer, but at the same time I was happy I could do the favor for Eric, a relentlessly generous and thoughtful fellow. In fact, it was probably better this way as the three hour break would give me an opportunity to call family and whatnot.
If I already had a sour taste in my mouth for holidays, the two people that decided not to show up for work that day poured some soured milk into my already too tart glass of lemon juice. My day sucked.
Showing up at 6:15am, I got a net total of 15 minutes off my feet before my shift ended at 11:30pm. That three hour break kind of took a back seat to our persistent flow of customers. As I finished my side work at the end of the night, I began what promised to be a lifelong habit of muttering to myself. Yes, this is normally reserved for alcoholics and crazy people, but it was the only way I could keep my sanity (?). Instead of my usual stroll home down 34th Street, I waited for the Crosstown Bus, unable to muster up any more strength for the night.
My muttering generally consisted of the following thoughts divided into nonsensical fragments much like the character of Lucky in “Waiting for Godot”:
– I’m done with this city
– I’m quitting acting for good
It was amidst this muttering that I looked out the window at stupid thirty fourth street. I normally liked this street so much, especially because of the Empire State Building in all its glorious enormity. But now thirty-fourth street was just stupid. Stupid and dirty. Stinkin’ American Eagle store. Stupid apartment building. Dumb elephant walking the other way. Idiotic sidewalks with their…wait…
I snapped out of my newfound state of maniacal muttering and focused my eyes on the line of elephants walking the other way. This was one of my many ‘New York Moments’, in which I decide I love New York City despite how much it has been kicking me when I’m down. I decided that this was just another wacky day in my wacky life, and I had to keep truckin’ on.
But in the act of truckin’ on, I had to make peace with the futility of celebrating holidays. And so began an era of holiday humbug. I couldn’t help but think that the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a delightful tale of sensibility up until the end when the hero of the story sells out to contrived gaiety driven by commercialism. But in sharing my analysis with other people I began to suspect that my outlook on holidays was a bit unhealthy.
Mission Statement 2009 set out to rectify this problem:
“Every Holiday this year, I will take the day off and celebrate it with people. If this means booking an expensive flight or risking my job, so be it – you only live once.”
This is without a doubt the scariest and hardest part of my Mission Statement. But what Mission doesn’t have a good challenge, right?
First up was New Year’s Eve itself, since the post-midnight section was technically part of 2009. I went to a gathering and had fun like a normal person, getting home at 4 in the morning (having only imbibed one drink, I would be safe unless the cops tested for Blood Mirth Content).
The next day I woke up at 9am, eager to begin my mission. The first thing I did was walk to get a newspaper from the Lankershim Food Mart, the closest thing this town has to a bodega. I engaged in the standard banter with the guy behind the counter, asking him about his New Year’s. After telling me about his quiet night at home he followed up with:
“I visited my wife in the hospital this morning.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, what happened”
“She’s in a coma.”
“Oh God, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s been six years. But, you know, I still have her. But it reminds me how lucky we all are to be healthy and to be alive. We must be happy and appreciate the people we have.”
Well shit, guy across the counter, that’s just what I needed to hear. Commence Mission Statement 2009, OPERATION HOLIDAY.