Freudian Slips: February 2007

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

February 27, 2007

The Greenest Grass for Sledding

When my lawn service company applied super greenup fertilizer a day before an expected snowstorm, I hypothsized they were paying too much attention to the groundhog's shadow and not enough to common sense. After seeing their invoice for the application wedged in my door, I decided to give those green thumbers a call in what should be their off season.
"My name is Joe Tornatore. I'm calling about a recent application of fertilizer on my property today."
"How can I help you?"
I stated the obvious cold hard facts. "Do you know the weather forecast is calling for snow? Do you know that it is still winter? Do you know that grass is still dormant and not even the birds are back from Florida."
"Yes." she answered.
I asked, "Then why are you tickling my front yard with chemicals when tomorrow I may be piling snow on it?"
"Sir, if the liquid fertilizer does not sink into the ground, give us a call back and we will reapply the same treatment in the spring."
-It was the kind of irritating pompous answer that made me want to dig a hole in the front yard, climb in, and wait for seepage. I am glad I didn't do that because it would have snowed on top of me the next day.


February 25, 2007

Short Verses Tall Orders

I backtracked to a family operated deli that I frequented as a hungry teenager. I recognized the middle-aged woman behind the counter who took my sandwich order. With her apron covered wide back to mine, I remembered that I knew her from high school. She was the daughter of the shop owners. A quick study determined that she had not aged gracefully. Assuming she was just filling in for the day, I decided to catch up on old times. There was so much to talk about.
I inquired for openers, “I haven’t seen you in eons, what have you been doing with yourself?” She turned around and looked up at me from a bed of shredded lettuce. Her face changed to a pathetic look. “Making hoagies six days a week for the last 25 years leaves little time for anything else. How about you?”
She summed up her life with shreds in her hands. I did not know what to say. I lied and answered, “Nothing, really. Same old, same old.”
While waiting for my hoagie to be made, I started to think about the meaning of life. I carve my life with an ice pick to shape it and get the most out of it. She looked like she wanted to take the knife slicing tomatoes in hand to her throat.
A few minutes later, I paid her the money due with a tight smile. I picked up my brown-bagged order and before hitting the doors I squeaked, “You sure make the best hoagies here.”
Someone famous recommended inventing yourself every seven years. It was a tall order that she could not fill.


February 22, 2007

A Peculiar Town

A strange sign to say the least. It reminds me of a prop in a Stephen King novel.


February 19, 2007

Closing the Book

…The Ties That Bind
by Joseph Tornatore
I am proud to announce that I have finished penning a fictional novel called Of Might and Manacle. The plot evolves around a psychologist, Dr. Dexter Margold, who accepts a post at a turbulent cottage at a state institution called Nova Egypt Developmental Center. Located in the flat pinelands of New Jersey during 1989, the novel transports the reader through the insane normalcy of institutionalization. It is a graphic portrayal of 21 dually diagnosed clients and the motley crew staff responsible for their care.
While the original draft gathered only dust on a bookshelf much of the time, in the end it took me six long years to write this 387 page novel over a span of twenty years. It took me away from my family and it took a part of my soul. In my forty four years on this planet, writing this book was the hardest thing that I have ever done and with any literary luck it may turn out to be my greatest accomplishment.
The 75 book characters that I created are as real to me as any I have ever met in my social work career. Each character seemingly visited my imagination. They shot ideas to the forefront of my mind as if they wanted more air time or character development. They became a part of me in some strange way. While figments of my imagination, my characters are now equally hard to leave behind on the flat copy. Nevertheless, it is time to close the book on this chapter of my life. It is time to turn Of Might and Manacle over to trusted proofreaders, the US copyright office, and the search for a viable publisher...even if its publication takes me another twenty years.


February 18, 2007

A Dog Gone Shame

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February 15, 2007

Only in Texas

Because of setback restrictions, thank goodness the owners couldn't get a variance for a machine gun.


February 11, 2007

All Greek to Me!

The upstairs holding tank for waiting-to-be-called background extras had spiritless iron bars overlooking the first floor. It offered not even a whiff of the actual movie set for The Greek American, a full-length dramatic motion picture encompassing thirty years in the life of a tragic man. Our miniscule roles as patrons in a Greek nightclub figured to offer only a glance of the camera while holding iced tea filled beer bottles.
The assistant director greeted the background extras shortly after our call time. When he asked for volunteers to be stand-ins and read for the principal actors, my hand shot upward for reasons I cannot explain other than gaining immediate access to the movie set. On the walk onto the prepared set, my volunteerism sounded painful just thinking about it. Reading a co-star’s part from a cold script could get me kicked off the set faster than if I lit a match with a villainous smirk. Low and behold, I memorized my scripted lines after the second take. About an hour of rehearsal later, the assistant director escorted me over to the director of the movie.
“This is Joseph Tornatore, he has been helping us out reading the part of Spiro this morning. He did a good job with that and he has played a bartender before in a movie.”
The eloquent looking director looked up from her handheld pages for the first time. She daintily folded her hands as if expecting more information.
The assistant director expounded, “I told him we have two other options for bartender but he brought wardrobe with him just in case.”
Her ears bent. It was speak now or forever hold my peace. I explained, “I played a bit bartender in Bazookas, a movie that is in post production and has not been released yet. I only had one line in one scene but it felt natural. I would like to test myself.”
The director smiled, “You are no longer the stand-in for Spiro or an extra, you are our Gus the Bartender. Get in wardrobe and meet back down here on the set.”
One bartender coming right up I mused to myself. I not only had bartender formal wear from my last movie, but I packed wardrobe threads for almost every fathomable part in a nightclub scene. I came prepared with everything from a Pampered Chef outfit for kitchen help to a referee shirt in case a fight broke out on the dance floor.
While tending bar for the first time in my personal wardrobe, I thought that trying to act like I belonged on the movie set would be a bigger part than my bartender part. Then the second assistant director handed me parchment foreign to my dubious acting career. I stared down at a computer generated call sheet that had my name in a credited role next to Gus, the bartender. A couple of lines next to mine on the call sheet was the star of the film, Kenneth McGregor, he of a hundred film credits and movies such as X-Men, Cocktail, The Hurricane. I stared at the call sheet trying to figure out how to read it to see what tiny scene they needed a hand to serve shots of imposter whiskey.
“You’re in a few scenes on each of the next three days.” he informed. “Some of your lines are in Greek.”
My acting started before the camera rolled because I tried not to act dumbfounded at what my ears let in. He just said the plural of scene, multiple lines, consecutive days, and something about Greek dialogue. I just started to get hip with the call sheet when the script sides were given to me. My look down at the dialogue on the bar confirmed my worst fear. It was all Greek to me! So practicing lines with accomplished actors in Greek when I never touched a live script before in English more than hinted that I had a lot of catching up to do or this was going to get real ugly real fast.
No fault of my own, the ten scenes with me in them took almost 30 hours to shoot. For what it was worth, I delivered five lines as the trusted bartender. I had scripted dialogue with the star of the film, Kenneth McGregor, who played a troubled nightclub owner to perfection. Other people’s scripted dialogue mentioned my character by name. Depending on the camera frame, I may be seen with the gorgeous Andrea Langi who played Shane on Sex and the City. I learned how to make a fine looking fake merlot with one ounce grape juice and four ounces cranberry juice then doctored Greek uzzo from milk and water. I knew my own acting skills held limitations, however, when I watched two skilled co-stars bring themselves to tears to pull off their riveting scenes barside. I admired the immensely talented Kenneth McGregor work himself up to a volatile character.
The assistant director came over to me late Saturday night. “Joe, your scenes are wrapped!” I thanked him for giving me the opportunity then took a few steps heading off the set of cast, crew, and extras. I never imagined that I was turning my back on one of the greatest moments of my life.
“May I have everyone’s attention. Quiet on the set.” Conditioned to hearing a director’s commanding voice, everyone obeyed. “Gus, the bartender has wrapped for the Greek American. This was Joseph Tornatore’s first principle role. Applause for Gus, the bartender.”
I waited for the rousing applause to settle before I gave them a fitting curtain call. I shouted, “The next round of drinks is on the house.”
I heard chuckles as I left the stage. Then the tears that I knew I could not summon for a camera naturally trickled down the powder puffed cheek of this actor.


February 09, 2007

Pardon the Interruption

This obsessive compulsive sort may be running himself into the ground. My work caseload imploded to the extent that it required the shuffling of human beings and paperwork to better homes. The emotionally charged relocations have required longer work hours and thereby taken me away from my normal desk duties. Moving entertainment centers and triple dressers with vanity mirrors in freezing temperatures has also been physically exhausting. I have strapped this Girl Friday to my desk until I return.

On the homefront, I am within pages of finishing up a book that took me six steady years to write and twenty years thinking about how to write it up to publishing standards. While tooling and editing the final chapters with manic glee, I got a call to be a background extra in a movie. That gig has turned into something bigger at the worst possible time. I am running on pure adrenaline now with an expected crash impact time of this Sunday morning.

My next post will be from the other side of dawn. Pardon the interruption.


February 08, 2007

My Generation

The weather hovered at 21 degrees with a wind chill of next to nothing. How cold was it? I saw commuters jogging in place at a bus stop to keep warm. As much as I did not want to be out and about, my travels took me to a department store.
A teenager wearing nothing but sweatpants got out of her car in the rear of the parking lot. We parked in the same row so our egress through winter turned out to be a parrallel journey. The teenager and I walked alongside one another in a two-step race for the entrance. Bone chilling numbness immediately shocked my middle-aged system. I flipped up the hood on my oversized winter coat. I slipped on my winter gloves while she involuntarily shivered from the shoulders down. I felt foolish not being able to put my hat on before my ears turned brittle. The wind whipped right through the teenager’s cotton garments. She looked so pathetic that my parental tones took over.
“You have to be freezing cold.” I empathized. “Where is your coat?”

“Our generation doesn’t like cumbersome coats." she explained. "It’s not fashionable.”

I saw another teenager who resembled this same cold person. I couldn’t be sure if it were her and I did not want to take anything for granted. The weather was a carbon copy of winter. Draped only in a Penn State grey sweatsuit, this teenager seemed hell bent on freezing to death. I decided to throw the same line out there to see if it would ring any hell’s bells.

“You have to be freezing cold.” I empathized. “Where is your coat?”

As she escorted a retarded man across campus, she made a blanket statement without its warmth. “I don’t wear coats.”

The retarded client wearing a full-length coat never joined in on our conversation. He and I shared a warm smile, however.


February 06, 2007

The Rooster Roaster

Remember the annoying red neon sign of Kenny Roasters restaurant beaming in Kramer's apartment on Seinfeld's Chicken Roaster epsiode? Well, what I am about to describe is sitcom similar to that only on a personal level.

I fear mentioning a name here on account of reprisal, but a good friend of mine has made pals with a wild rooster. By the time I tried to talk sense into my friend's choice of strange pets, it was already too late. He already started to feed the rooster. He encouraged the scruffy animal to come closer with each passing building of trust. The lonely rooster must have took a fancy to all the attention because he started to live at my friend's house. Their relationship blossomed when he started to make a habit of petting the rooster's crown even picking it up and cradling it like a newborn baby. Maybe it was a jealous streak but the rooster started to peek in the windows and wait by the entry doors for my friend.

When my friend telephoned to ask me in hushtones if I flat out knew anything about rooster sexual habits, my imagination feared the worst. It was at this point that I was afraid to ask him if he knew anything about rooster sexual habits. I learned that my friend, the loveable lug that he is, bought the rooster hay bedding and other creature comforts when money was believed to be tight. He now finds it comfortable talking about the rooster in public to the mailman and the like.

As irony can only dictate, I find myself at this same friend's Super Bowl party, a gala event in which I find him cruelly serving chicken wings mind you. Before long, I am prompted out onto the wood deck to visit the rooster. I step outside into the wintry night air to pay quick homage to the harebrained rooster. Perched in the tree is the fabled rooster sleeping away the bone-chilling night roasting by ultraviolet lighting. I got to admit that a rooster in a tree turned tanning bed is the last sight I would expect to find to outshine a Prince at a Super Bowl halftime show. The gamecock stirred and gave me one of those stares to crow about because at that point in time he was warmer than me.

I started to rationalize the odd sight but it boggled my mind. Homeless man wanders street in winter, homeless man freezes to death. Rooster climbs tree to escape predators, my enamored friend puts a warm spotlight on him. I thought all this was a bit strange so I tried to keep my laughter to a minimum. The other party guests must have been equally polite because they were bantering on about the rooster too.

That night I thought a lot about my friend and the rooster more than even the actual championship football game. The next day, I went to the gym where I saw a friend of mine sitting in his idling car in the parking lot. His door ajar, he proudly fed a live squirrel a part of his bag lunch. The squirrel pranced on his lap and did tricks for breadcrumbs.

I am starting to think I got to domesticate a billy goat to fit in socially.


February 03, 2007

Burying the Past

Before the ground froze and winter arrived, I went on a treasure hunt. After thirty years of separation anxiety, I went back to try and find a personal diary that I packed in Ziploc bags and buried in shallow ground as a confused teenager. All you Geo cache hunters eat your heart out. I only remember writing my innermost thoughts in the diary but do not recall details of what I wrote. What did I write as a hormonal misunderstood and troubled teenager? What high octane underlined grievances laced the pages? What burgeoning fantasies undermined my developing sexuality would I unearth? I could not wait for my eyes to lace the pages.
After a twenty-mile drive, I pulled curbside near the spot. I got no further than a few feet from the curb in my excavation efforts. Decades gone by, I looked around to be certain that my coordinates were correct. My internal compass indicated that I was in the right place. In this still undeveloped property below my feet, I buried my personal diary. Although thinned out, the clump of woods remained standing on its own. Everything looked the same except for a staked sign at ground zero where I buried my diary. Unmistakable in its warning, a NO DUMPING sign prominently faced the road. I would not be surprised if the person responsible for digging the hole that now staked the sign actually unearthed my diary. The thought of my private thoughts made for public consumption simply ate at me. Thirty years had passed since my last entry. My children are as old as I was when I penned those diary thoughts.
It is not good to be caught digging up the past nor be accused of dumping it on private property. I strangely left this mystical place without my packed shovel ever leaving the car. The past would have to wait some more.


February 01, 2007


-When your secret nuclear bunker needs arrowed high visibility signage, the war may indeed be over.


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