Freudian Slips: July 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.

July 31, 2007

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

My stepdaughter’s seventeen-year-old boyfriend displays dodgy speeding through our otherwise quiet cul de sac. The hooking blind spot at the top of the street rarely slows the manchild down. Children playing have not pared him within the speed limit. Talking to him about public safety has not changed his ways. My wife doling out occasional gas money to him has only put higher octane in his tank.
To make matters worse, he often leaves the house flustered following silly teenage argument and his emotions spill over into reckless driving. My clenched teeth clocked him once at approximately 70 miles an hour in the closed court of our development.
If I am to believe the gossip grapevine, the police department received complaint from concerned neighbors and they installed a solar powered rubber strip across the road to clock the speed of motorists. I do not know if the manchild ever noticed the entrapment but I could not help but wince where the rubber meets the road.
With probable cause, the police have now upped the ultimate ante. They chained a 15-foot high warning sign in front of my house, the very parking spot of the accused. So now I am paying five digit property taxes to have a monstrous neon eyesore that penetrates the black night in front of my manicured property. Now the visiting boyfriend parks in front of the warning sign when he is not boldly taking my spot in the driveway. Maybe the dome light went off in his head because he has not tipped over a single orange cone nor have I heard his tires screech lately.
As for little old me, the pissed off homeowner, this is certainly a case where non-violators will be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


July 29, 2007

Before a House is a Home

I cleared my throat of the remnants of lunch before I spoke to Beatrice Lilly Dungstone. “As you know, the Superior Court of New Jersey has declared you a vulnerable individual living in the community. Your house was condemned and this hospital is set to discharge you pending placement. What this means is that I am going to have to find you a new home to live in.”
Beatrice acknowledged, “I know I cannot return home, Joe.”
“I am glad you have accepted that. Now I cannot make promises but it is likely that I will be able to get you your own apartment. Since you are your own legal guardian, I need you to sign this release form.”
I passed her this razor thin parcel and a ballpoint pen. She looked it over from the prone position of her hospital bed. I fully expected a watershed moment but Beatrice stayed dry.
“Beatrice, I want you to read this form aloud to me and tell me what you think it means. I’ll explain anything you do not understand.”
She slowly read the document aloud on a third grade level. She tripped on only a couple of compound words. She looked up with winced eyes that signaled comprehension. She offered, “It means I give you permission to look for a home in the cooommunitttty.”
“Yes. It can be thought of as something that simple but let me paint a broader picture for you. Your choice avoids institutional care. This represents a brand new start for you in the community. A second chance at life. A shedding of the past. It means there will be paid staff to take care of you in an all expense paid apartment. Mindful staff to help you food shop, cook, and do laundry. Do you remember the horrible conditions you were living in before you were discovered? I am offering running water, electricity, a roof that does not leak ,a basement that does not flood, edible non-spoiled food in your refrigerator. Basically, your health, safety, and well being restored.”
My social worker brush stopped painting a picture for Beatrice. A dozen brush strokes of explanation failed to wipe the blank stare from her bedridden face. She covered her mouth with her hand before revealing motive.
“I am going to have to play hard ball here." she wagered. "Right here, right now, you got to give me $10.00 or I ain’t signing nothing.”
My dander raised. I could have squeezed all of my compassion in my roomy wallet at that moment. “I hold the keys to your new life and you are demanding ten dollars from me?”
“You got a point.” Beatrice relented. “Five dollars is my final offer.”


July 26, 2007

Cry Foul

May 1, 2004 Citizens Bank Park Section 138

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A father speaks takes his non-sports minded daughter at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.
Inside the ballpark, I conjure nostalgic field of dream memories amidst twilight’s postcard sky. “You know, all of my years coming to the ball park, I have never caught a foul ball. Not one. Not even close. It remains a dream that dates back to my childhood.”
Rachel and I hit the concession stand. Because there were no ketchup packets available at the new multi-million dollar ballpark, a condiment station returned the favor by pumping ketchup at the rate of one quart a second into my corrugated cardboard tray full of exorbitantly priced greasy fast food. Rachel and I sit down in our assigned seats. We grace our laps with dueling cardboard food trays screaming of calories. All is right with the world.
Alex Cintron of the Arizona Diamondbacks settles into the batter’s box. The light hitting infielder swings awkwardly at a high pitch. The ball sails foul down the left field line. I crook my neck and find the spinning ball hurdling towards our section. It draws closer, earning my standing ovation. I remember the food in my lap but I cannot help myself. Cheese steak and French fries fly from their cardboard holding tank.
Settled into the seat next to me, my daughter never moved, winced, or broke stride from eating her finger-licking-good chicken fingers. Meanwhile, I jump over the empty seats in front of me. The ball takes a wicked first hop in the aisle before I bare hand it. I am overjoyed and celebrate in the revelry.
My daughter takes one good look at me and patently rolls her eyes like any other unimpressed teenager. My clothes are covered in ketchup splatter. My shirt has a small rip. Off of the sweaty concrete, I peel my cheese steak sandwich that looks as though it has been rolled in a batter of grime. I realize that the plastic faceplate of my cell phone is crumpled broken. My daughter senses the collateral damage and smirks.
Her sarcasm precedes only the next bite into her chicken fingers. “All those years, now was it really worth it, Dad?”


July 23, 2007

Ping Pong - Amazing Skills

You do not have to be a skilled table tennis player to appreciate this amazing video.

July 22, 2007

Forest through the Trees

Our three-tier backyard deck has now taken me half of a summer to complete in drips and drabs. Mistakes, repairs, powerwashing, painting the uprights, and staining the deck boards has killed half of a summer. Faulty plumbing fixtures, a broken big screen TV, and a leaky roof have derailed the completion of the deck and caused empty white rabbit pockets and headache.
Last week, while plugging along on the final coat of stain on the top deck, I heard an unmistakable sound with only a few boards to go. The savage sound frightened me but not for the reason you might think.
A deadwood tree severed from its root moorings and began what seemed like a slow motion fall through the canopy of the woods. As I turned to see what direction the tree fell, my personal safety seemed an after thought. I concentrated on all of the toil I had poured into this deck that I didn’t want go to waste.
I shouted to the tree Gods. “Not the deck! Don’t hit the deck! Not the deck!”
The tree caused a sensational whooshing noise against the ground but missed the deck by the safety net of fifty yards. My next-door neighbor ran out of her house in hysterics but I went right back to staining better wood than what fell. I want this deck done before it is time to store the deck furniture for the season. After all, I can just about see the forest through the trees now.


July 19, 2007

A Trip Down Mammory Lane

I wonder if an entire lane is devoted to soccer moms.


July 17, 2007

Shoes for the Baby

One calendar year passed since I last visited Ron and Rena Hubbard, both mildly retarded. Old Man Time has a haunting way of standing still in their simple lives. Rarely do they change their unstylish ways, especially with emotional benchmarks. Before I utter a preliminary question, I can almost predict their final stance. Three steps through the front door of their cluttered apartment; I find Mr. Hubbard spit shinning a pair of infant black patent leather shoes in The Empty Cupboard. Ron passed the kitchen dish towel to his wife in order to shake my hand.
Ever so willing to please Reba picked up where the husband left off. She polished around the heel of the left shoe. The towel sported gravy stains on it so I wonder about the exercise in futility. Ill-equipped to care for human beings, I pray that the little shoes belong to a baby doll but there is no circumstantial evidence to suggest this saving grace. Afraid to ask the right question that would lead to the wrong answer, I watch their diligence to the task before speaking. The shoes seem to take on a life of their own in their otherwise empty hands.
I said haltingly, “What or who do the shoes belong to?”
“These are the shoes to our firstborn baby that people like you took away from us. These shoes are the only thing the courts let us keep. Joe, it is all we got left.”
I stood there stonewalled, not wanting to delve deeper and risk emotional upheaval.
Mr. Hubbard interrupted the three-way silence. “I know what you are thinking?”
“You do?”
He reasoned, “Yeah, you are wondering what happened to our guinea pig. It died.”
My bottom lip curled to the damning mortality. “Yeah, a guinea pig held in captivity is what I was thinking.”


July 15, 2007

A Lonely Number

-Taking the day off from life to feel like a big zero.


July 12, 2007

The Notebook, A Numbers Game

On June 12, 2003, I watched my eight-year-old daughter pull books from our library shelves. Jenna turned to a group of crinkled spiral notebooks resting on a forgotten shelf above her head. The notebooks were in her wee hands before my mind could recall myself at her age.
Her ponytail swung wide. ”What are these notebooks, Daddy?”
I picture framed my daughter holding the old notebooks. I positioned her on my lap then told her a story dating back to my childhood. She listened intently. Jenna's inquiring mind was at the impressionable age when she started to acquire a sense of her father. I doubted whether she was prepared for the nugget I was about to share.
“You know that Daddy saves everything. Well, I used to write in those notebooks when I was your exact age. You know how your Daddy gets obsessed over certain tasks and projects. These notebooks represent the first tangible evidence of my obsessive nature.”
“What does tangible mean?”
“It means real proof. You see these are no ordinary notebooks. Open the notebook with the astronauts on the cover. Turn to the back page and tell me what you see.”
Jenna quietly sifted through the jaundiced pages housing thousands of numbers. She looked for purpose. I could not be sure if she found it.
Jenna whispered, “All of the pages are filled with numbers.”
I added, “Chronological numbers. One hundred and twenty six pages are filled with numbers. One summer, I wanted to see just how high I could count but once I began the task it was hard for me to stop. While other kids smeared across the pages of coloring books, I was busy recording numbers. I got to 18,704 before I could stop myself. I think I took up the game of baseball after that.”
Jenna flipped through the pages but stopped when she spotted dried blood. She looked up at her father and saw him in a different light. I double swallowed. This notebook had the x-ray capability of a personal diary under halogen lights.
I tried to bandage the open wound. “I can’t remember if I cut my finger or they bled when they were tired.”
As she turned the page, she shimmied for balance in my lap. “Now let me explain to you what an heirloom is." I said. "An heirloom is something you pass down to your children for them to cherish. It could have real value or just be of sentimental interest. These notebooks are heirlooms. It would make Daddy so very proud if you could continue this book and see how far you can count up to. You would be writing in it at the very age I wrote in it some thirty-three years ago. Wouldn’t that be a phenomenal treasure, something a father and a daughter can share like the time we saw a shooting star? If you write in it, I will give you the notebooks for safekeeping. Perhaps, you can carry on the notebook tradition with your own children one day.”
I handed Jenna a pen. She went to diligent work next to me writing on a desk. Jenna rattled off a half page of sequential numbers. I was so proud. A few minutes later, her finger strides came to a screeching halt. She lifted the pen from paper.
“This is stupid!” claimed a disinterested Jenna before tossing the notebooks back on the shelf.
-As much as life is an open notebook, it is a crapshoot within a numbers game.


July 10, 2007

Christmas in July

Joe Tornatore wrapping up Christmas 1980.


July 08, 2007

Buckle Up for Irony

It is difficult to get excited about acting, when the majority of my projects are never to be heard from again. Opportunity recently blessed the set. I just finished filming as an extra in The Division of Motor Vehicles Pilot. The DMV Pilot is a long shot pilot television program that will be first shopped on cable television markets with the hopes of being picked up as an ongoing series.
Produced by Tommy Productions, it is a sitcom assembled in the same vein as the laugh a minute show Nightcourt. I played an angry citizen in the long lines of the lost and found at a New Jersey motor vehicles agency. The bureaucracy parallels to my day job can never be overstated, not even in this outlandish picture of me wearing a patriotic flag shirt next to a set prop. Looking at this picture, I wonder if one life can have too many knee-buckling ironies?
Joseph Tornatore on the set of The DMV Pilot.


July 05, 2007

When Your Number Is Up

Bingo selected me as a Camden County Superior Court juror. Out of seven hundred prospective jurors, I was the only one who yelled “Bingo” when my number was called in a downstairs holding tank. The tightly wound crowd exhaled laughter at my antics. To the contrary, I waited 45 years to serve as a juror on a criminal trial and having my number called was one step closer to the juror’s box. All of my years watching forensic television would finally pay off. Even the elevator ride up to the courtroom smelled like justice. Inside the icy courtroom, I listened to four days of testimony and evidence on a graphically portrayed child molestation case. After closing arguments, the judge read every element of the nine indictable counts pending. Not for the squeamish, just the reading of the law took over an hour. After which, I anticipated deliberation by organizing my wealth of input and insight. That is until a high-heeled clerk stood and spun a wooden bingo wheel for no apparent reason. The bingo wheel was an antiquated apparatus that looked like it had been hand carved by a convict's penknife at the turn of the century. Bearing a grimace, the clerk read number 183.
“Juror number 183, Joseph Tornatore, kindly take a seat behind the prosecutor.”
My demotion to alternate juror became a part of the proceedings. I sat stunned and my body language read nothing but disappointment. I slouched my way from the juror’s box to the empty seat behind the prosecutor who is actively referring to his juror’s chart in a reshuffling of the judicial deck. It was hard to put my downward spiral feelings into words until I conceptualized that my right to vote on the case had been denied on Election Day. The bingo wheel spit out another number. A middle-aged man shrugged his shoulders then joins me in the last-minute excusal. A sheriff escorted us to a seclusion room where sensory deprivation awaited. The sheriff stood guard just outside our open door. We were prohibited from leaving or using cell phones. Hours passed. Occasionally, I heard the raised voices of the dozen jurors deliberating the defendant’s fate in the sealed off room next door. I gave myself a once over. This is the only point of a criminal trial where a defendant has more freedom and rights than jurors.
I would have argued passionately without signs of fatigue that the defendant was guilty on five of the nine charges. The real jurors voted not guilty on all nine counts. I could not believe what my ears heard as the foreman kept echoing not guilty. The defendant's number wasn't up, only mine was yet he showed not one iota of reaction at the verdicts. I have an idea what the defendant was thinking and it was in line with my gut. I can spell it out for you…and Bingo was name oh.


July 01, 2007

A Courtroom Drama

As I stood before the chatty Kathy of a female Judge as a prospective Superior Court juror for a criminal case, I needed to remind myself that I was not the one on trial.
The judge asked me “Are there any questions in the ava doire document that might excuse you from this trial before the court?”
I explained, “I only answered affirmative to one question but I do not want to be dismissed because of it.”
“What question triggered a yes response, juror?”
“Number 13. With my job as a social worker, I have on occasion testified in court in regards to my clients, who are developmentally disabled.”
“I do not see how that could interfere in this particular case.” She ruled. “Juror number 183, about a hundred jurors have come and gone before you. You know the drill. Tell us a little about yourself turning now to the selected questions of a personal nature.”
“Like I said, I am a social worker. This is my 22nd year. I am married for a second time but who is counting? I have four children –two biological and two stepchildren. Three daughters and a son. You wanted to know their respective ages – 12, 12, 15 and almost 17. Only the oldest works and the rest are still objecting to chores. Oh, I forgot to mention that I work as an actor too. And you wanted to know my favorite television shows. I enjoy sporting events and my favorite TV show is The Sopranos.
The judge smiled widely. “Juror number 183, could you approach the bench?”
On my way to the judge’s bench, I wondered what I said that needed sidebar conversation in private. I gave a tough swallow then adopted a whispering voice.
The judge shouted behind me. “Council, can you join us at the bench?”
The footsteps from polished shoes approached behind me. The prosecutor and the defense attorney quickly flanked either side of me. We stood poised like three solid masses before her excellence. The rest of the crowded courtroom had no other choice but to wait without being able to listen.
The eager judge pushed on the frame of her glasses and leaned forward. “Council, you will have to excuse me and pardon this interruption. I have to seize the moment. This is the first actor I have run into since The Sopranos ended. Tell me, juror, and give me your honest opinion, what did you think of the Sopranos finale?”


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