Freudian Slips: January 2008

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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.

January 30, 2008

Plastic People

A childhood friend recently made an unannounced visit to my house. Since Greg and I last saw each other, a couple of years have stubbornly passed. Greg and I knew each other intimately as children by invariably grew apart in adulthood as best friends never intend.
Along the walk up our double driveway, Greg explained to his son the depth of our friendship in both quality and longevity. Greg knew almost everything about me. What he did not know is whether I was home or even still lived at this address. A different vehicle than what he last remembered occupied the driveway. Adding to the mystery, the parked convertible was an odd choice for parents of four active teenagers who often confused their parents for cabbies.
“Hmm….maybe Joe moved.” Greg spoke out loud. “I don’t see Joe’s car. The house looks different too.”
Greg took a moment to decide on whether to ring the doorbell. He scoured his memory banks for all that he knew about my personality. Then he schooled his son on my eccentricity.
“Joey and I have known each other since we were kids. There is one word you gotta know about him. Plastic. That’s right, plastic. If we look around here hard enough for clues, Joe leaves a trail of plastic wherever he goes. You just got to look. When we were kids, he sealed comic books in plastic bags for safekeeping. Baseball cards he tucked in plastic sleeves. Scrapbook pages he laminated. He would make an ant geranium out of a plastic Tic Tac container. Plastic I tell you. Everything he keeps sealed airtight in some type of plastic like he is building the ultimate time capsule. He is a neat freak like you would not believe.”
Greg’s son gave his dad a quizzical stare as if there were green plastic trash bags by the curb, the homestead had to be mine.
“There!” shouted Greg in amazement. “The license plate on the convertible is protected by a hard plastic case. It’s encased in clear plastic. Joe Tornatore lives here, I tell you.”
Greg triumphantly rang the doorbell but my wife invariably answered the door. I was out buying acrylic plastic for a plaque assembly. Plastic I tell you.


January 28, 2008

A Downer All Right

This is the empty beach of the Outer Banks, North Carolina. Although this picture was taken right before a terrible lightning storm, somehow it has become my mental image to forge me through the long winter. What works for you?


January 25, 2008

Trash Talking

Your first house is for practice. My first wife and I bought a secondhand twin home in 1986, a modest two story structure in Blackwood, New Jersey that was joined at the hip to another populated home. While I managed to put a roof over my head, I lacked a firm understanding of tools and what to do with them on this dwelling. So I rudely practiced carpentry on a thin-walled house that held a thick thirty year mortgage note on it. It is where I learned to paint, wallpaper, saw, spackle, and swing a hammer.
Because we did not own even a chair leg of dining room furniture, my wife and I transformed the family room into a more spacious living area, a great room in a wee home. We moved the brand new console television to a blank wall that had no existing electric outlet. So it became my job to power the signature piece called the television. The kitchen sink rested on the other side of the wall. Investigating my surroundings, I found an electric outlet underneath the cabinetry housing the sink. It invited room for a spare plug-in. Giddy-up!
So I used my drill and hand saw to make a hole through the dry wall and out the other side underneath the kitchen cabinetry. Over the course of about two hours, I managed to fish an extension cord through the wall then connect the television to the new electric hook-up. Giddy-up! I patched the hole then painted the wall with matching touch-up paint. I took a step back to admire my clean, efficient, problem solving handiwork.
Time to kick back and watch a baseball game with my feet propped up sipping from a frosty mug of beer. When I could not power the television on, I knew something had to be wrong. I checked the circuit breaker. My mug defrosted. I double checked my connections yet found them to be true. My beer warmed. What could be wrong? Mounting a frustrating sweat, I paced around the silenced boob tube. The baseball game had probably reached the third inning by now.
Just for shits and giggles, I flipped a light switch to the right of the sink above the kitchen countertop. The television immediately turned on but so did the ½ horsepower garbage disposal! I assessed my ingenuity amidst the noise pollution. The only time I could watch television was with the annoying drone of the garbage disposal operating. Like I said, your first house is for practice and your second house is for keeps.


January 22, 2008

Kelly's Hero

Around two am one night, I wound up surfing the boundless internet. I comparatively shopped for the best music download site to become a new member. The house was so quiet that I could hear my fingers click mouse buttons. I end up on a reputable site that came highly recommended by a consumer’s group. They advertised the one time fee of $34.95, which entitled members to unlimited downloads for a lifetime. No less than twelve million original songs plug it's database, none of it shareware. Still skeptical, I read the terms and conditions before I clicked to the final page that beckons my wallet to open. I decided against making the purchase but saved the site to my favorites server list to return to at a later time. When I tried to exit the screen, a pop-up message appeared at the center of my screen. An instant messenger I am not, so the pop-up screen with bells and whistles startled me. The following is the transcript for the conversation that followed.
“Before you leave the website, do you have any questions?”
I see a designated typing box for me to reply. My fingers slowly type out, “Who me?”
A ticker appeared on the screen alerting me that my agent is sending a reply. “Hello, my name is Kelly. Do you have any questions about our music club?”
On a portal page where I was prompted to relinquish my credit card number and personal information, and set my password, I did not expect to become interactive with somebody watching me. Then I drew the obvious conclusion that I am being dupped by automated replies. I attempted to elicit abstract thinking. “Is it me or does this deal seem too good to be true?”
Kelly answers, “We are the number one music download site…blah blah blah”.
About two minutes of information exchange occurred. Kelly’s responses seemed straight forward and impersonal like the hunk of metal I envisioned. I thought to myself. This world has gotten to be so technically sophisticated that a robot has jumped onto my computer screen approximating human contact. I decided I would be a protagonist to this façade; a crusader for simpler times when you could pick-up a telephone, call a business, and talk to someone live.
I typed, “I am attracted to your candor and helpful nature. You are a breath of fresh air in a world gone awry. Thanks for being there for me when I need it. I am going to take a chance here. This might come as a shock to you but I love you.”
My canned display of emotion would certainly blow the circuit board on the robotic teleprompter in the sky. The ticker flashed that my agent is sending a reply….
“Thank you. I am blushing.” typed Kelly. “That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me online but I have something to tell you too…I am married. I adore the movie Sleepless in Seattle though.”
We all get caught with our pants down from time to time.


January 20, 2008

Kicking Irony

Call it serendipity or synchronicity but sometimes my thoughts literally match up with the world unfolding. I believe these ironies are small magical trophies to behold. Dozens of times a day, irony appears to the forefront of my life. The conversation I just had with someone, strangers talk about in my next location. The fine-tuned idea that I just produced in my head repeats on the airing television. The thought that enters my brain from the stratosphere is the title of the next song that the radio plays. From the many corners where I turn comes happenstance, karma, and kismet. It never ceases to amaze or stupefy me. I do not always share my coincidences for I do not want to be called a warlock but these wondrous sledgehammers of irony keep me not only interested in life but privately engaged in the reason for our being.
As I reflected on the irony heap thrown my way on this one particular day, my remote control channel surfs for a sports station. I reasoned that sports stations would be covering the upcoming championship football games. It is the time of year for playoff football so that type of program coverage would be no revelation. My mind settles on the unbeatable New England Patriots. I said to myself that I would not be surprised if they were talking about the New England Patriots right now. Given the Patriots undefeated season, this too would have been no Nostradamus prophecy. I continued to channel up on the remote control. I almost stop to watch a high definition special on dinosaurs before I remembered my yearning for a sports agenda.
I turned on the first sports station that crossed my dial. A sports anchor interviewed Garo Yepremian, a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team. At a 1998 sports memorabilia show in Philadelphia, I occupied the same press box as the pint-sized player with a cannon for a leg. In discussing his professional football playing days and the 25 year anniversary of that perfect season, Garo told me every time a current team gets midway in a season without a loss, he starts getting phone calls from the press asking for opinionated statements on whether the current team could likewise go undefeated.
I paraphrased my commentary to Garo. “If a team goes undefeated for an entire regular season, you will be doing TV interviews during the playoffs.”
My head tilted to stare at kicker Garo Yepremian on my TV set…even though irony not him was kicking me again.


January 15, 2008

Joseph Tornatore in KANK movie

In this film clip from the blockbuster Bollywood film Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna(KANK), the taboo love of lead actors Dev(Shahrukh Khan) and Maya (Rani Mukherjee) literally collide...into me. Playing a train commuter and slinging a backpack, I pass alongside the destined lovers as they finally unite in the movie's moving climax. Before the director opted for Rani to drop her purse on the train tracks before reuniting, her swinging pocketbook accidentally caught this background actor in the family jewels. On another take, their emotion spilled into me. This take was so good they used slow motion for dramatic effect.

Shahrukh Khan was once voted the most recognizeable face on the planet by Time magazine. Rani Mukherjee radiated elegance and beauty from morning until night. As for my part, my lovely wife chides that walking erect is not acting. When you don't bat an eyelash while being sterilized by a rogue purse, I beg to differ.


January 13, 2008

Pedigree of Pets

What happens when a pet loving developmentally disabled Star Wars fan meets two identical looking Chihuahua dogs at a red light? The two vehicles idled next to one another never expecting what would follow.

Connell, a mildly retarded man, took advantage of his sudden perch in the passenger seat. It was rare that his mother let him sit in the front seat of the car. Since his hip replacement surgery though, it was easier for Connell to transfer from the front seat.
From his co-pilots seat, Connell pushed his electric window down. It took four shouts before the driver of the next car heard him. The well-dressed driver in the convertible acted annoyed at having to lower the radio volume then her window. Connell’s mother quickly picked up her negative vibrations but she was more concerned with what business her son was taking up in another vehicle.
“What are the dog’s names?” repeated Connell.
The lady answered, “Luke and Leia.”
Connell processed the information, removed his seatbelt, and left the car. His mother became hysterical. The other driver went from annoyed to alarmed.
His mother shouted, “Connell come back! Get back in the car.”
“Wait a minute, mom.” said Connell cool as a chilled cucumber. “I always wanted to do this.”
A scene unfolded at the red light. Connell’s artificial hip scissored his way to the convertible. The force was with him. The dogs yapped and scooted closer to their owner. The lady recoiled and her fur coat almost got up and ran away. In his excitement, Connell began excitedly slobbering more than the dogs at this point.
Connell sweated the details. “Which one is Luke?”
The lady clutched her miniature dogs with one hand and pointed to Luke with the other. Connell’s effeminate high-pitched squeal lowered octaves to master his impersonation of Anikan Skywalker.
“Luke….he said to the dog. “I am your father.”

January 08, 2008

Cutting Out The Middle Man

With underscore and exclamation point, I wish to announce that all of my children are now teenagers. On a personal note, this dubious distinction for a parent my age has caused me introspection.
I have nine years remaining before I can retire and owe eight small years on a dwindling mortgage. I obsess over health matters that I took for granted earlier in my life. Whereas before I thought only about wanting to leave a legacy on this planet, my ideas are now selfishly consumed by my mortality. The proverbial bottle of life is dastardly both half empty and full.
This benchmark arrived for me this week like a snake pit with no vacancies. The snakes wriggled around my ankles and up my pant legs until one wrapped around my neck to constrict my breathing until I said its full name: Middle age has arrived. Middle age with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining thereto.
My youngest daughter shared her birthday remorse. “I want to be five. I want to just play house and watch cartoons.”
My seventeen-year-old disagreed with her sister . “I want to be your age. Yeah, thirteen. Seventeen sucks. I got to go to work at my age.”
My children’s candidacy prompted this reflected state of mind. When I was younger with my whole life ahead of me, middle age seemed a distant star on the horizon. My children have only begun to realize that life gets harder as you go along. I convinced myself right there and then that I just want to be seventeen again with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities appertaining thereto.

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January 06, 2008

Bobcat Sighting

This is a circa 1980 picture of my first car, a 1979 Mercury Bobcat. The v4 engine of the Bobcat could out race any long distance jogger. The white color attracted flying insects, dirt, and dollups of road tar. A festive bright red interior made occupants want to sing lung-emptying Christmas carols. On the road, it swallowed motor oil by the case and eventually seized the advertised removeable dipstick to the engine block. The accidental upheaval from one of my drinking binges left a permanent odor that made driving conditions unbearable in temperatures over 80 degrees. While parked, it got hit by a car then a motorcycle but those accidents did not put it out of its misery. As this car was given to me by my parents, I returned the favor and gave it to my younger brother.
I got to thinking about this Slobcat, as it was nicknamed, just the other day. You know, my brother has yet to thank me for my charitable donation.


January 03, 2008

My Impotence Precedes Me

Luigi Al Denti's cataract eyes issued me a surreal P.T. Barnum stare. “I know I haven’t been always truthful with you in the past. I don’t blame you for not believing me but I gotta tell you somepun about my vacation down the seashore.”
I fretted, “Tell me that you didn’t get into trouble with the law while on vacation.”
“Not this time. I may as well just say it. Joe, you are in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.”
“I certainly am an exhibit in the Ripley’s museum in Atlantic City.” We gained each others full attention. I asked, “Now if I can pick your brain, what the heck did you think when you saw my statue?”
Luigi tugged on the plastic tubing line of his portable oxygen unit for no apparent reason. As he searched for the right words, my ears bent to the steady oxygen bursts into his nasal passages. A place on his face begged for my pardon before continuing.
“Ugh, forget about me for a minute.” he dismissed. “There were visitors in your chamber over by the well that the poor girl fell down. They were saying mighty cruel things about you wearing a beekeeper’s costume.”
I winced at the expected turn of events. “Did it remind you of how some ignorant people have treated your handicap in public?”
“Yeppers.” Luigi replied agreeably. “That is why I stuck up for you. I told them folks that didn’t know better a thing or two. I said that I know you. I said you can say what you want about the guy but he is an impotent person. Joe Torn is a social worker for the retarded. They all just stared at me for the longest time. I sure shut them up.”
Joe Tornatore in leaner times

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January 01, 2008

We Are The World...AIDS Commercial

Airing on the Comast Cable Channel is a socially responsible commercial that I filmed in as an actor. The 36 second spot generates HIV awareness. The commercial is as much a fingerprint of my acting as it is my career in social work.

The message of this commercial is statistically revealing. Of the six billion people sharing this planet, forty two million people are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Inescapably inseparable in our human interactions, we must all act responsibly.

Here is the link to the commercial. The download takes less than a minute. I can be seen in the first five seconds of the commercial sporting a white shirt and sparse hair. Near the end of the commercial, the camera films an aerial view of the group aligned in a human ribbon, the symbol for HIV awareness. I can be seen near the knot in the ribbon bow, holding the commercial together if you will.
You can click on the following You Tube link to retrieve the commercial.


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