Freudian Slips: March 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.

March 30, 2008

Sparring No One

- Jack Dempsey
A thousand starlings occupying city limits darted around the glaring spotlights fastened to cranes. If not for the outdoor filming of a television show, any other day this would have been a late afternoon walk around City Hall in Philadelphia for the homeless.
On this day, however, a haggard looking homeless man wandered onto our production set. Once he became aware of his surroundings, the mere presence of the crowd animated him, willing him to do something special. His sagging jaw sprung to action to spiel outlandish delusions of grandeur. With nothing better to do in between takes, the crowd of actors quickly took notice of his sad yet humorous antics. To everyone's surprise, he went up on the balls of his feet to shadowbox. Before long, his voice rose to address the masses and he fed off the frenzy.
Coincidentally playing a news reporter, an actor with comedic timing thrust an official looking microphone in front of his scruffy unshaven face.
He spoke right into the useless prop. “I was the first man to fight Jack Dempsey. I boxed the grrreat Dempsey in 1914. Tell the world my name. Tell the world to remember me.”
The crowd applauded his words and this only encouraged him. The news reporter then interviewed him because this is what he wanted her to with a microphone plunged in his face. For a homeless man accustomed to indifference, he continued his uprising to drown out the few mocking laughs and only recognize the overhwelming applause.
“Tell the world my name.’ he bellowed sparring no one. “The world must remember me.”
Wranglers escorted him off the set before we ever found out his name. That is the trouble with the homeless. He could have been anybody. He could have been nobody. He could have been somebody. You never know when a homeless man walks on by. As human beings, we box ourselves into a corner that way.

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March 26, 2008

Flip Your Wig Across The Universe

-The Beatles famed Flip Your Wig Game
I recently played a practical joke on someone at work, a voiceover gag that exponentially ensnared time and resources of an entire office of personnel. It’s outcome reminded me of a prank gone awry many years ago.
Long before stalking laws existed, I played the part of a teenage fool. In the late 1970’s, I worked on a paint crew where I came to know a wayward individual named Trevor Albert. When I get to know people, I am a bridge builder of common denominators and my keen memory serves me well. Two years my junior, Trevor’s sense of humor and willingness to go out of his way to play practical jokes ultimately bonded us together. Maybe I sniffed too many paint fumes but he talked me into doing something that I am still ashamed to admit.
Trevor hatched a plan to revenge an old girlfriend’s scorn. He solicited my help and I obliged as long as nobody would get hurt. Over the course of the next several weeks, Trevor spoon-fed me detailed personal information about a sweet sixteen-year-old girl named Donna. I absorbed everything about Donna: where she shopped, her favorite foods and restaurants, nuances about her daily routine, her favorite color, the names of her friends, cool hangouts, her school subjects, what her parents did for a living, where they enjoyed summer vacations and on and on about her favorite rock band, The Beatles. When I could weave a heartfelt homespun story from my memory bank about a girl I had never met before, the joke spun into scary motion.
Call it devil’s intervention, but I came into possession of an authentic Beatles Flip Your Wig board game in excellent condition containing all of the original pieces. The Fab Four had no idea who their new owner would be. Trevor asked me to pretend I was Donna’s secret admirer and go to her house bearing the cardboard gift of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. I followed the handwritten directions to her house and parked at the curb after school one day before her parents were due home from work. I walked up the driveway carrying a professional gift-wrapped present complete with a red bow. A girl resembling Donna’s description answered the front door of the bi-level home wedged in middle class America.
I greeted her with an assuming confident smile. “Hello, Donna.”
She asked, “Who are you?”
“My name is not important at this time but I will say that I am your secret admirer. I have been following you around all summer. Donna, I am in love with you. As a gesture of my deep affection, I present to you a gift that only a true admirer could give you.”
Donna stood there weak-kneed and stunned inside the door. She knew better than to invite me inside but her peaked curiosity would not let her end the emotionally-driven conversation. She looked over my shoulder at my idle car then her eyes swept the neighborhood for clues and trouble. I outstretched my hands offering up the colorfully wrapped gift. Donna swung the door open and grabbed the gift. She gently shook it then looked back at me with detective eyes.
She instructed, “Wait here.”
At this point of my dimwitted prank, my cranial gray matter realized she could be calling the police about the certifiable stalker at her doorstep. My flittering nerves wanted to bolt across the lawn and drive off never looking back but the burgeoning actor in me wanted to see this thing through. Alas, through a side panel window left of the front door, I could see her opening my gift sitting on a lower staircase step. She acted incredulously happy about the gift and opened the front door with a softer receptive stance.
“Okay, I give up. How did you know I am nuts over The Beatles?”
It was time for the hook, the twist that would make her flip her wig. I explained, “Donna, I know everything about you. You went shopping two nights ago and bought a new blouse. I would have bought that blouse for you. Your favorite colors are pastel and for that reason, you love the Easter holiday. Your birthday is September 24th and I already picked out your gift. You are going to be seventeen this year. You like to talk on the telephone to your friends after dark….”
She yelled, “Stop it!” Elevated to primal fear and not knowing what to make of me, Donna screamed then ordered me to leave the premises before slamming the door. I left before the police could arrive.
Not too long ago, some twenty-five years after the fact, an ad in the classified section of the newspaper attracted my attention. A memorabilia collector offered to pay $1000.00 for a complete Beatles Flip Your Wig game, regardless of condition. I am not sure if Donna saw the ad because the most elaborate time consuming joke that I ever played on someone turned out to still bear a price on me. In the end, there is a price to pay for everything in life. Now I have never stalked anyone in my life but pretending to do so convincingly might be fine acting but it is no frigging joke.

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March 23, 2008

On the Bubble

Samples of my custom painting on 3" miniatures.

The almighty power of the Internet can open up unseen worlds. A couple of months ago, a custom painting service that I offer on Ebay attracted some positive attention. An unsolicited email from the president of the South Jersey Bubble hockey league, invited me to do a meet and greet with the players.
At their next meeting, I brought color brochures, references of past customers, and samples of my finished product. The league meets on a weekly basis at a swank residence up in Burlington, NJ, where the owner powers three ICE Super Chexx bubble hockey tables. Upon arrival, my preconceived notion that this league would be a collection of sedentary overweight guys taking out their failures at on-field sports in a tabletop game was quickly dismantled. These members were athletes who fielded softball teams, played tennis, took skiing trips, athletes who collected trophies as if it were a national pastime.
To be expected, New Jersey had a scatter-plot representation but players came across the bridge from Pennsylvania. I learned that a guy traveled down from Connecticut to make the opening face-off. Arrivals got greeted with handshakes, many addressed by nicknames they had earned by reputation.
The league showcases some of the best collection of talent in a single league across the country. Four of their members currently boast official rankings in the top twelve in the country. The walls were decorated with pictures from national tournaments, there were stories of peril and prowess on the ice, and Excel spreadsheets kept their league statistics beyond dispute.
I have never met a cluster of more competitive hobbyists anywhere. They showed such a rare blend of stout competitiveness and good sportsmanship that their camaraderie was infectious. They welcomed me in their lair by putting me on the playing schedule the night I attended. They took turns offering me encouraging words while they rattled the pipes of my goalie and kept the scoreboard blinking all night. With no instant replay, I sometimes had to ask how goals got scored on me. Explanations often carried awe-inspiring mystique.
“My winger kicked the puck ahead with my right foot over to my hockey stick. I saw your goalie covering the short side so I deflected the puck off of your left defensemen into the net.” Moving his lighning quick hands like a concert pianist from rod to rod, my opponent scored again before he could finish the play by play of the goal that I questioned.
Now I am no slouch when it comes to playing bubble hockey. My resume includes making it to the second round of the only doubles tournament I had the gumption to enter. But from the moment the opening face-off dropped, I watched one nationally ranked player pepper 31 shots on goal in a puck-controlled blitzkrieg offense. While my knees buckled at the level of competition before me, my competitive juices flowed and my obsessive-compulsive nature kicked in. My mind began taking pictures of the plays run against me, formations on the ice, the ingenious mode the players tethered passes and carom the puck. I was so far out of their league, the strangest thing happened. I joined their league.


March 18, 2008

The Bare Bones

My female technician for my Dexascan test was an attractive Asian woman blessed by a sparkling personality. Despite being in the sterility of a hospital setting, she took a few earnest minutes to get to know me, which I liked. She then took my vital signs, the results of which she liked. Standing with my back to the wall, she then used a growth stick to measure my height at a pedestrian 5’9”. I felt like a shrinking violet cut down to size.
“5’9"?” I argued, “How did I lose an inch of frame since high school?”
“Skeletal changes can happen, Mr. Tornatore. That is what this radiology department is about.”
A little too caught up in my vanity, her gentle touch needed to guide me over to the bed for the actual procedure. Dressed in a loose goosey hospital gown, I feel a little self-conscious by her human touch. After she positioned my head on a pillow, she asked me if I was comfortable lying in the prone position. I told her I never tell lies in this position. She roared.
She kept her smile positioning the scanner directly over me pelvic region. She grabbed me by the ankles to uncross my legs. She touched my shoulder to remind me to relax, lay motionless, and breathe normally. I was a puppet to her touch now. She had a subtle but commanding way about her that I have seen firsthand with hypnotists. I knew then I would have barked at the moon if she asked.
She reported to a monitor, pressed some buttons, and a dual energy beam of very low dosage x-rays passed over me. The beams measure the difference between bone density and soft tissue. It was quiet for about two minutes when I heard her voice, that voice again.
She complimented, “My, you have nice bones!”
I tried to swivel my neck to gauge more context from her expression but she instructed me not to move.
In a softer voice still, she commented, “You see, all that worry about being an inch short.”
“Thank you.” I blushed, still not certain if we were talking about a non-invasive procedure.


March 13, 2008

Laying Down the Law

Ever since my locker was broken into at the gym last year, I keep my valuables in the car and have been working out with my keys kept in my possession at all times. It seemed a foolproof way to stay safe and keep my new car from being stolen.

The keyring lump in my shorts has its disadvantages. I often have to reposition my car keys during stretching exercises on a floor mat and situps on a bench to avoid discomfort. No big deal. In the last few weeks, I have incurred some minor setbacks.

By definiton, technology is suppose to make it harder for criminals to operate. I have come to learn that protecting my gym locker from break-in by hoarding my keys can mean making my car accessible. While Seinfeld's George Castanza would marvel at some of the close parking spots I am stealing at the gym lately, the untold story is that I am triggering my deft transponder during exercise and thereby popping the car door locks and trunk.

While my locker full of 1980's garb has never been safer on a continuim, all of the thieves are canvassing the parking lot waiting for me just to roll on my stomach and lay down the law.


March 09, 2008

Skin Deep

Over the last year, my body has undergone subtle changes. We take you now inside my last visit with my allergy immunologist, who treats my rare skin disease Mastocytosis. He is a wonderful doctor but one who may be used to bending his ear a little more for acute patients.

Upon examination, he gently scratches my forearm with the double swipe of a metal instrument to provoke Darier’s sign. Whealing, itching, and swelling infiltrate the localized area. This is a pathogenic sign that the mass production of histamine in my body is poised for immediate release.

He remarks, “Your body is very sensitive.”

I said, “You do not know the extent of it.”

“Tell me.”

I explained, “Since my last annaul examination with you, normal every day occurrences have developed a negative impact. I can’t lean on anything because the pressure becomes too great. It hurts when my fingers go through my scalp to wash my hair. Socks that I have worn in seem like they fit too tight. The jet stream of the shower head pummels my body. Sleeping on my stomach feels like it lights my organs on fire. I constantly switch sleeping positions in bed to alleviate the pain. A ten-pound weight at the gym feels like a 20 pounder. Sitting too long is uncomfortable. I find myself unconsciously standing to avoid contact with anything. When I bump into an object, the body part coming into contact hurts deeply and for an inordinate amount of time."

I read his body language. I knew that the moment I stopped complaining I was going to get the patented speech about reducing the amount of stress in my life since stressors play a role in manufacturing histamine and making my disease worse. I didn’t get his undivided attention until I added, “My wife’s touch sometimes hurts.”

He grabbed his prescription pad, ordering me to undergo a Dexascan and bloodwork to shed some light on the problem. People often ponder the question: Which of your six senses would you give up first? In the last year, I have arrived at an answer that has everything to do with my skin disease. Hands down, the sense that I would sacrifice would be touch. It pains me just to say so.


March 07, 2008

Playing the Baby Mama Card

When I dine alone, the company that is kept around me is sometimes as savory as the food. At the Golden Corral restaurant, I watched a man have dinner with a woman blessed by stunningly exotic South American features. Sitting at the table next to me, they shared a lot of introductory information. My keen eye for matchmaking concluded it was early in their relationship.
The man explained in laborious detail no shortage of past relationships with a curled lip. Thank goodness, he dined at a mega buffet because he had many failed marriages to bemoan. He spoke about children spread across the globe, child support payments and non-payments, prenuptials ending in restraining orders, wives he tried to control and own but ultimately divorced and disowned. He did not seem to realize he was not making a good impression upon this woman who had grown ripe for indigestion. I truly felt sorry for the woman but in between my plates of sirloin steak smothered in fried onions and mushrooms, my ears kept pressed to the gossip grindstone.
The man’s cell phone kept ringing an inordinate amount of time. Finally, he picked up his cell phone, covered the phone with his hand, then informed his date that he was on the pone with baby mama #3. He then told his divorced wife Ginger that he was on a job and traveling on interstate 95 heading to Georgia. Either my eyes deceived me at this point or this South American beauty just turned into the most gorgeous road checkpoint I had ever seen. Never mind telling a boldface lie in front of your date or that seventy-five miles per hour on an interstate never sounds like clanking utensils.
Unable to smooth-talk baby mama #3 on the cell phone in public earshot, he left her alone at the table to reflect on an imploding date. She sat pushing her food from one side of the plate to the other. With no dirt to eavesdrop, I paid a timely visit to the bathroom. Before I unzipped my first article of clothing, I recognize the same man’s voice echoing from a bathroom stall.
He vacillated between sweet, angry and constipated while tethered to the phone. Identifying his caller by the moniker, baby mama number #4 with no shame, I heard him contesting unpaid medical bills. He begged her for a little something something mattress mambo if he wrote her a check for $100.00 the next time he saw her. He showed his unselfishness by letting this baby mama know he was free around midnight this coming Saturday night. Then he unspooled toilet paper on the roll.
Hearing him talk and defecate seemed like a waste of my time. I left the bathroom and returned to my seat. While I chewed the fat on my next course, the man, for lack of a better word, returned to his table. I captured his surprise with satisfaction. The South American beauty was long gone, probably last seen buying a home pregnancy test at the closest drug store.
“That is stone cold.” he said aloud.
I allayed, “You will find another girlfriend.”
“Nah dawg, she stuck me with the bill.”
“Didn’t you pay upfront before your meal?”
“Yeah but dawg, I had my sights on her loaning me $100.00 tonight for another bill.”


March 04, 2008

Wishing Upon a Star

I am not one to want to celebrate my birthday by taking off from work. On the anniversary of my 22nd year with my employer, however, I felt the desire to take a day off from work to myself. Surviving the twenty-two years with my humor and sanity still intact, seemed reason enough to recognize the personal benchmark.
I have been pondering an early retirement plan now offered at my job anyway so what is one day off? The early retirement plan being tabled essentially waves up to three years from the mandatory 25 years of service. Although I could not draw a Lincoln penny from my 401K retirement until 2016, I wished upon a star that I had another income stream to fall back on to retire now. A person should feel a sense of accomplishment from their vocation but the rewards are becoming fewer and far between for this attritional social worker. While chugging to a retirement age in my full time occupation, I started to feel unsuccessful at my side businesses. If only I were a more devoted writer, a more gifted actor, or a better Ebay businessman then I could retire with my pruning peers now.
From the early morning on, I fought compulsions that vacillated from the tease of retirement to working harder at other endeavors. Then I reported to my regular job, not even surrendering in taking a day off from the same job I have done for the last 22 years. My phone never stopped ringing. The phone calls were not from a publisher, my casting agent, or a single buyer from Ebay.


March 01, 2008

The Bucket List

This certainly pales to anything that I have seen on the streets in this upside down world.


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