Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chapter 19 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional

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By the time Monday’s interview arrived, I had been to four different stores in search of a book on making balloon animals.  While there was no shortage of such materiel, making a sword out of a balloon was pretty hard to learn by looking at pictures.  Plus, holding the book and the balloon posed a major challenge as it was impossible to do both with success.

I’d resigned myself to the fact that I’d just have to tell the truth.  Copping to my lie would surely cost me the job, but it was kind of hard to fake it with balloon animals.  I’d almost cancelled altogether, but when I called to do so the night before, Violet, the owner of Focus on Fun, was so excited to meet me, I found myself all caught up in her excitement, gushing about how I was so looking forward to the interview.

Violet worked out of her apartment on the Upper West Side and as I climbed the stairs to the fifth floor, I wondered again whether I should’ve cancelled.

“Just a few more flights up,” she called from somewhere above my head.

My heart was pounding and it had nothing to do with nerves.  I was in good shape, but five long flights of stairs had me grasping at the railing like a frail, old lady in an attempt to pull myself up to the top. 

“Hi Liz!” a voice said to my left. 

“Hello,” I squeaked, steadying myself as I tried to catch my breath. 
Violet stood in the doorway of her apartment and I wasn’t sure if it was the light coming from behind her or the lack of oxygen going to my brain, but she looked like a very tall cross between Pippy Longstocking and a clown. 

Her braided ponytails sat on her shoulders, held together by those old school ponytail elastics - the ones with marbles on the ends.  She wore lilac sweatpants, cut off at the knees with mint green tights underneath and a red sweatshirt tied around her waist.  The only tame thing about her outfit was the white man’s undershirt she wore with rhinestones circling her neckline.

“Come on in,” she said, as a wide smile spread across her face.

Inside, her small apartment was bright and cozy.  Her desk sat underneath a loft bed and the rest of the space - save for a small couch next to the window – was filled with costumes and props.  It was like being at a

Sesame Street
convention with Big Bird and Elmo looking down at me from their respective hooks on the wall.  Princess costumes and clown wigs hung from a rolling coat rack and in the far corner, sat a small pile of various balloon sculptures from poodles to swords to purses.  Hard to believe all that stuff fit into such a small space. 

“Have a seat,” she said motioning towards the couch as she settled into her fancy, ergonomic chair.

Sitting down sounded like a great idea, being that I was still a little out of breath from my journey up the stairs. 

“Let me tell you a little bit about what we do,” she said, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees.

It was hard to concentrate as she talked because Violet looked like a kids’ party character.  Her green eyes danced when she talked giving life to the sprinkling of freckles across her light-chocolate skin and her hair – though braided - looked like a wild child wearing a pretty dress. 

The mention of balloon animals snapped me back to attention and I humbly admitted that I knew nothing about them.

“That’s okay,” she sang, clucking her tongue a little.  “I like you!”

And with that, she slid her chair over to me and gave my knee a smack.

“I’ll show you everything you need to know.  Don’t worry, it’s simple.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Are you bored? Thirsty?

Photo: courtesy of Pegu Club NY

It's Thursday and from here on out, I'll be sharing my new column, "Crossing Over" each week.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Chapter 18 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional

PART 3 - Strippers and Clowns

It was official.  I was no longer on unemployment.  I received my last check yesterday and I wondered how life could be so cruel.  I knew the end was coming, I just didn’t think it was this week.  Being the handicapped mathematician that I was, I mistakenly calculated the weeks remaining and thought I had at least two more checks coming.

It sucked because, instead of basking in the glory of a successful gig, I now had to figure out a plan of action to make some money.  I still couldn’t believe how many people came out to show their support.  There were tons of people from the Madsen Group including Scott - who never goes out.  My parents were there; along with both aunts and uncles.  Even Tony showed up to hear a few songs.

The Cove had never seen so much business and the kitchen went down hard, falling behind upwards of thirty minutes and running out of almost everything.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves despite the ineptitude of the restaurant.  My regulars were especially rowdy – god bless ‘em – screaming for more each time I bid the crowd, good night.  And like the kitchen, I ran out of stuff to sing, finally ending the show after three encores. 

At first I was nervous and struggling to keep my legs from shaking.  But there was so much love in that restaurant, my nerves quickly dissipated once I got the first song out of my system.  It was such a thrill having so many people come together – like a funeral, without the dead person.

Albert manned the bar and told me later that the owner wanted me back once a month.

“Though, you gotta charge him next time, Liz.  They made a killing tonight.”

Charging to sing?  Now, there was a concept.  That meant I could actually pay my musicians with someone else’s money.  As ecstatic as I was about the gig’s success, I still had to come out of pocket to pay Kevin and Jerry.  Getting paid next time seemed like a good plan.

Getting paid next week also seemed like a good plan and I had to figure out what to do to make up for my lost unemployment.  Going back to corporate was completely out of the question.  I would rather live on Tostito’s and Ramen noodles than set foot in an office.  I was going to find something; I just wasn’t sure what.

“What about bartending?” Marla, my friend from the Madsen Group, asked when I called to break the news.  “Why not get a job somewhere else that’s busier?”

I wasn’t ready to be a real bartender.  The Cove was a great starting point and I did well with what I had, but I couldn’t handle a bar that had more than six people at a time.  Not yet.

I picked up a copy of Backstage – the actor’s trade paper – and combed the Help Wanted Section.  There were tons of catering jobs and calls for babysitters and dog walkers, but nothing appealed to me.  Walking my own dog was enough of a challenge and I did enough grown-up babysitting at the Cove.  I wanted to do something that was fun.

At the bottom of the page was an ad for a Children’s Party Performer.  I could do that!  Plus, the name of the company was Focus on FUN.  It had to be a sign.

 Without hesitation, I picked up the phone and dialed.

“Focus on Fun!” said the upbeat, women’s voice on the other end.

“Uh, hi.  Yes, I’m calling about the ad in Backstage.”

“Oh!” she squealed with delight.  “Are you a performer?”

This lady even sounded fun.

“Uh, yes, I am.”

“Great!” More squeals.  “Why don’t come in for an interview on Monday?  We can sit down and see where your strength’s are.”  She paused.  “Do you do balloon animals?”

“Yes, I do!” I lied.  How hard could it be?

“Terrific!  You can show me what you can do when I see you on Monday.”

And just like that, I had a job interview!

I had some work to do, though.  How the hell do you make a balloon animal, anyway?