Friday, April 19, 2013

One Month Sans Cell Phone

The Cell Phone Thief

Exactly one month ago, on the way to a meeting, I got out of the cab, slammed the door shut, realized my iPhone had fallen out of my jacket in the cab a moment earlier, and watch them both speed away into the distance.  Since I hate the sound of a ringing phone, my phone lived on silent, so the cabbie didn't pick up when I called from a friend's cell a few moments later.

I did everything I was supposed to - I kept the receipt, called the garage, even went out to the actual garage (okay - it happened to only be two blocks from my apartment).  I put my phone on lost mode, made sure that a message with Rafael's number showed up whenever it was turned on, and then waited for the good Samaritan who found my phone to get in touch with me.

But that good Samaritan turned out to be more of an Adam Tiler.  Every few days, my computer would buzz, indicating that my phone had been turned on.  It even displayed a map, showing where my phone had been for those precious moments it had been allowed consciousness.  I got to track my stolen phone's whereabouts through New York City.  I imagined it asking it captors to kindly let it out for a brief stroll along Riverside Park, after which they sped over to Spanish Harlem, where it spent a few days on 108th St and 2nd Ave, close to one of my favorite tacquerias.  In all of its adventures, my phone never left the island, but really, I didn't blame it.

A day after I lost my phone, I went on a week-long retreat to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center to finish up teaching my Advanced Directing class for NTI but mostly, to spend a week writing the final draft of my book.  I decided not to replace it before I left, figuring that the tranquility its absence would afford me would be good for finishing the book.  I was right.

Save $200

I go back to the Big Apple on March 28th, and begrudgingly trudged into the Big Apple Store, where I was told that if I waited until April 13th, my annual rebate discount thing would kick in, and I would save $200 on the iPhone 5.  It was the sign I needed.  I decided to spend two weeks sans cell phone in the big city.

It was amazing.

I was so amazing, one week after my rebate date, I still don't have a phone.  And although I feel the experiment coming to an end (I got into rehearsals next week for my PARADISE LOST project and think that it would sorta be irresponsible not to get a phone before that), I have to report honestly to you, loyal readers:

I didn't miss my phone at all.  I've never been happier. 

Here are a list of times I reached for my phone to realize I didn't have it:

1) Every five minutes, to verify that five minutes had passed since the last time I'd checked.

2)  Every time the person I was with got up and went to the bathroom.

3)  Every time I left the person I was with to go to the bathroom.

4)  Every time I heard someone else's iPhone text alert bell-ring-ping thing go off.  I swear to God, the Pavlovian reaction I've developed to that little sound is down right maniacal.

5)  To quadruple-check the address of the place I was supposed to meet someone.

6)  When someone was late to meet me.

7)  Every time I thought about using one of those apps that seemed so great when I downloaded it and like I would just it all the time but then I realized it was just sort of annoying.

The amazing thing was discovering how many times we use our phones unnecessarily.  When someone was ten minutes late to meet, I didn't actually need a text telling me that.  I just waited.

When I was late meeting some friends because I couldn't remember if Fonda (best Mexican in New York) was on Ave A or B (it's B, fyi) and I couldn't check on any of the five thousand map apps,   they just waited for me.

Every thing was fine.  There were no crises.

I hope that after I get that stupid cell phone today, I will be able to retain the lessons I've learned while we were apart.  I hope I'll be able to break the cycle of abuse that we enact on each other, me depending on it far too much, it enabling my mania.  But I doubt it.

It seems innocuous - why not check your email when left alone in a restaurant for three minutes?  Why not shoot off that text as the bus you're on lumbers up 10th Ave?  Why not catch up on those articles in The Times while you're waiting for the subway?

But these individual moments add up, culminating in shattering our attention spans.  We don't need to be able to communicate nearly as much as our phones allow us to.  Now, when I see people emerge from the subway and anxiously check to see if anyone had emailed them in the twelve minutes they were underground, as I always did, I think the same thing when I see people smoking: slave.

I want to write about two more things - they have no direct relationship to having lost my cell phone.

1)  Today will be my fourth day on a liquid diet.  I woke up on Tuesday, decided I felt disgusting, and began juicing.  Here's what my intake basically looks like:

Breakfast - Green Juice: Kale, spinach, parsley, celery, green apple, lemon
Lunch - Orange Juice: Carrot, beets, lemon, ginger
Afternoon Snack - Smoothie: bananas, strawberries, home-made almond milk
Dinner: Home made beefstock.

The first day was hard and I was headache-y.  Since then, I have felt euphoric.  Concentrating on one thing for extended amounts of time ain't the easiest thing in the world, but I led a three-hour meeting yesterday.  And I played soccer.  I don't think I could rehearse a play like this, since I'm tingling and semi-hallucinating the way I always imagined LSD would make me.

2)  My Paradise Lost Project has raised over 7700 dollars!  Our goal is 10000 and if you're one of those people whose thought about kicking in but haven't yet, we've only got a week to go.  The time is now!  Carpe diem!  Give me your money!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why I Want You To Give Me Money

This is the poster for our (meta)Physical Feast of PARADISE LOST.  Ain't it neat?

Money Money Money

I love haggling.  Just recently, on a trip to Syracuse I got myself upgraded hotels.  Not just hotel rooms (who hasn't planted someone else's hair in the bathroom to get bumped up to a suite), but actual hotels, in the process moving up from a studio at a glorified Days Inn to a stunning 1BR in a wanna-be Ritz Carlton.

Maybe it's because of the time my ancestors spent in bazaars, but haggling comes as easily to me as mixing cocktails does to a WASP.  And yet, I hate asking for money for many reasons.  Maybe because so much of my life has been defined by its absence.  Maybe because my parents fought about it (in a nutshell, the positions - my mother, Armenian: Let's live!  my father, the Isareli:  Let's save!).  I saw friends starting theater companies and funding films and begging/borrowing/stealing for something they believed in, and I never envied them.  Even the idea of running an institution and having to ask for money on its behalf terrifies me, and not just because it's the part of the job that my friends who are Artistic Directors bitch about the most. 

I've been slowly working through my money issues.  The first thing I try to do is determine whether or not an expenditure is inevitable.  Toothpaste?  Inevitable.  Pinkberry?  Evitable.  If something's inevitable, I try to reason to myself, there's no point in torturing myself about it.  Since I'm going to do it inevitably, I might as well just do it now and get it over with.  The evitable things are trickier for me, but after all, man cannot live on bread alone.  Or Pinkberry, as a week of research showed me.  Right now, I'm just trying to minimize the self-torture I perform after succumbing to the evitable, so that I can actually enjoy that pomegranate frozen yogurt, rather than lacerate myself for having spent money on it as I greedily spoon into my face.

I'm thinking about money these days because I've finally taken the plunge.  I found a project big and weird and epic and unique and lots-of-other-adjectives enough that it has inspired me to leap over the hurdle of my money-asking phobia.  In December, a company of 20 actors and I began adapting PARADISE LOST for the stage.  When I sent the first email out to the actors, I had no idea what our final product would be - or if we would even have a final project.  But on the first day we met, when I was detailing to them what I wanted us to do, I heard words coming out of my mouth, describing a day-long concert reading of our cut adaptation of the epic poem.  With two meal breaks.  And naturally, we'd make the food.  And serve it as well.

I don't really know where the words or even the idea came from.  I love to cook, and a few summers ago, prepared dinner for a colony of 75 artists every night for a week at Lake Lucille, where Brian Mertes and Melissa Kievman would produce site-specific multi-media deconstructed Chekhov plays.  I would plan my summer around these events, and getting to see Bill Irwin do Vanya inspired me to saute, bake and simmer out of my comfort zone.

I used this image for a previous blog post and just think it's so hilarious I can't help myself from using it again.
Another integral part of this PARADISE LOST process is that we, the artists, are self-producing the project.  And, like Spidey, we've found that even with a little power comes great responsibility.  We have formed committees.  We've created video footage and launched an indiegogo campaign (I'm obviously going to beg you for money at the end of this blog, but if you want to donate now because you believe in art and in me, here's the link: I believe in art and in you, Michael ).  We've created menus, organized master recipe lists, researched ingredient costs.  We've summarized and laid out. We've even already gotten a grant, from the Drama League's New Directors/New Works fund.

This is the basic gist:  we've cut the poem down.  We're going to perform a concert-reading of it over the course of one day, and we're going to break that event up with two meal breaks.  We're going to prepare all the food for those meals.  And we're going to serve the food.  And the whole thing is going to be free.  But, the only way we can make it free is by getting you to donate money.  

The basic guiding principle behind this event is the desire to create something epic, something sensual.  I want to create an experience that is the opposite of the four-character, living room, unit set play.  I want to create the kind of theatrical experience that I love - unique, epic, bizarre and delicious.  People can come to as much or as little as they want, but what I hope is that by hearing this epic poem and sharing meals, community will be formed within the audience as much as it is within the artist community that mounts the event.

We're trying to raise 10K in 25 days.  By this time this blog hits, it'll probably be more like 22 days.  That's a lot of money.  It's more than 9K, but not as much as 11K.
In letters like these, people always write "even ten dollars help."  I never believed them, but now that I'm on this side of the equation, I really get it.  If you donate ten dollars, then we'll only need to raise $9,990.  That's less than 10K.  So even ten dollars really does help.  But not as much as twenty.  Not by half.