Freudian Slips: February 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.

February 27, 2008

Rolling A Gutter Ball

I have an unbreakable habit of relaxing when I am alone in the company of another high functioning developmentally disabled client. I sometimes forget my place as their social worker and fall into a normalized pattern of camaraderie thereby treating them as equals. Even though my contemporaries believe I work best with the profoundly retarded, I relish the rare opportunities of sharing the banter with a highly verbal person possessing only a mild disability.
Alone with Beatrice Dungstone as both her transport and informant for a group home placement interview that advertised a vacancy, habit reared its head. As I schooled Beatrice about what to expect during the interview process, she preferred to talk about other stuff. She broke out chewing gum that she cracked like bubble wrap and soon I got lost in her reminiscing about her glory days of captaining a bowling team in dubiously titled Hell’s Angels. Soon I found myself driving around in circles lost in a rural town, hell on wheels. Without the correct phone number to the group home, I announced to Beatrice the need to call the local police station to ask directions to what could only be the only group home in this small town.
In between her lively stories of carrying a cocktail-laced 159 bowling average wearing a faux motorcycle jacket, Beatrice impatience escalated from annoyance to barbs about my driving ability. So I reached into my actor's bag of tricks deciding to make a crank call for levity purposes.
I faked the first call to the police station. Only mimicking touching my cell phone’s key pad, my improvisational acting rolled a gutter ball. “Yes, is this the police? Good. Good. I just wanted to speak to a sergeant. Oh, hello, sergeant. My name is Joe Tornatore and I am a social worker. I just picked up a homeless person right off of the streets. Yes, she was definitely loitering. And she threw her gum wrapper out of the car window so that is littering, right? What? Hold on. Yes, she looks kind of dangerous. In fact, she is claiming to be a former reputed member of the Hell’s Angels. I will do that. Right away. Yes, sir.” I hung up the phone and turned towards her. “Beatrice, Sergeant Kovacs wants me to bring you in for questioning.”
After I swung the car around, Beatrice did not miss a beat. “I question your jokes. You are making stupid jokes that I am homeless! Shame on you! You know how nervous I am about this placement interview and the dread of moving. You get me lost and late to my appointment then start making crank calls to the coppers about the name of my bowling team back yonder. What kind of a social worker digs up my past to make jokes about me? Be thankful I can think for the both of us because I don’t think you can work and chew gum at the same time. I am going to report you to your supervisor and you can believe your lousy driving will come up too.”
Beatrice’s scowl rattled my unprofessionalism. “You are right. I am sorry. Bea, I will be more considerate to your situation.”
“Joe, you better be nice to me. Now that I have your ear, I want you to buy me a carton of cigarettes, buy me lunch somewhere nice, and before you leave I want a big long hug from you like you really mean it.”
“I was only joking.”
“I’m not!”

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February 23, 2008

Fitness Cycles

At Bally’s gym, happenstance placed me on an exercise bike next to a serious minded middle-aged woman. I attempted in vain to keep up with her spinning legs but I quickly settled into a 6 mph trailer crawl. She had never broken stride by the time I baled on the ride ten minutes down the road.
A half an hour later, this ambitious woman appeared next to me in the free weight area, where she grabbed heavier dumbbells and out-muscled me on the arm curls. She later outstretched me on the floor mat. On an incline bench, she accomplished more sit-ups. She completed more repititions than I on the lat pull down bar. A picture of fitness, she only grimaced during exercises that made me profusely sweat. By the closing ceremonies, I was intramural athletic to her Olympian effort.
I mused over leaving the gym at the same time. The airport sound of my rolling gym bag on wheels made a mockery of my state of fitness compared to her shoulder straggling backpack. To my chagrin and pride, I detected no signs of actual fatigue from her gold medal performance.
I chatted, “It’s a good feeling to be finished with a workout.”
“Yes it is.” she replied.
Heading off to my car, we strangely parted company where the sidewalk met the parking lot. By the time my lard butt touched my car’s leather seat, this woman had simply disappeared. I never saw her pull out of the lot.
As more irony would have it, I passed her on the shoulder of a two-lane road. Leading with a Greg Lemond chin, she pedaled a shiny bicycle into the biting wind of a winter day. I floored it. Forget about the unfair advantage of a gasoline alley because I incautiously sped ahead of her for the first time in her workout. I leaned on my horn, beeping it in shallow victory.

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February 16, 2008

The Happening Scene

The Happening scene: Joseph Tornatore with Mark Wahlberg.
Even a hard working non-union actor like myself recognizes the rarity of being captured on film. For a non-SAG carrying member, to be recognizeable in a close-up scene with a star is beating another long set of odds. Consider me lucky.
The trailer for the movie The Happening is out and its premier cannot come fast enough for this little known actor. For months, I have been sweating out making this movie's final cut. I apparently made the final cut of the movie because I appear in the promotional trailer of what sizes up to be a pivotol scene revealing "the apocalyptical event."
Pictured above: Mark Wahlberg and I are both seen looking back taking instruction from director M Night Shyamalan setting up the train scene that makes the trailer.
Here is the link to the trailer. http://www.movieweb.com/video/V08BtwyBCEFGOV
Playing train conductor J. Dropik, I make a cameo in the trailer at 1:15 seconds. I can be seen on the left side of the screen looking square-jaw while sharing the spotlight with Mark Wahlberg. I am not sure how much of my work made the final cut but the dialogue stretched for about one minute. For a couple of the takes, I started the scene holding and pointing out our middle-of-nowhere whereabouts on a train schedule.
What is now revealed about the plot is ironic for me. Man is destroying the planet and millions of bees drop dead. To think that I secretly carried my Epi-pen in my coat pocket during the days of filming in the event of a sting! M Night Shyamalan could have told me the buggers were all dead in his doomsday eco-slanted plot!
Hooray, the movie plays in theatres beginning June 13, 2008. Make it your bees wax to go see it.

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The Happening Clip

video

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February 14, 2008

Girl Interrupted

Gina Nina Willits is a mildly retarded individual with a soft-spoken personality that got easily consumed by her strong-willed parents like a merciful life there for the taking. In 1978, her parents broke off Gina Nina’s engagement to a non-handicapped contributing member of the community. She had been a girl interrupted ever since. Her parents denied her opportunity to be the only thing she ever wanted, a beloved wife and mother. Gina Nina eventually earned her driver’s license but her parents refused to let her drive outbound except on practical errands around a hayseed of a hometown. Her parents did not want her to work because they selfishly wanted her to keep them company during the day. They told her what to do and when and for how long and with whom.
Before I became Gina Nina’s case manager, the parents virtually smothered her with no insight or understanding to the damage done. After years of inroads and outreach, I had finally convinced the parents that a residential placement was in their daughter’s best interest. First, Gina Nina needed professional help if she stood half a chance of making it in the real world.
Sitting before a psychiatrist, Gina Nina was asked to speak like history in the making. I watched Gina Nina’s sheltered incomplete existence unravel before her stiff-lipped parents. Gina Nina’s co-dependency prevented her from answering a direct question without first looking at her parents for their approval to speak. With approval to speak now granted, regurgitating her parent’s opinion was expected like the silencer on a gun that really needed rapid firing on a range.
Being forced to assume an identity of her own in session broke her soul down. She was the pink elephant in a room that she would soon snake with tears. The cloud-like clinical and sinister depression that wrapped hold of her and prompted the need for psychiatric intervention bungled her mixed emotions. Likewise, the challenges of integrating her in the community seemed dauntingly incomprehensible to her parents. Gina Nina had difficulty even envisioning a life separate from her family’s home and the idea overwhelmed her in the sterility of this psychiatrist’s office of an initial consultation. She was a victim of her parent’s doting and she became dependent on them in a learned helplessness force fed down her throat for decades. Now a psychiatrist was asking her to speak, an unheard of proposition in the Willits family dynamics.
Thinking about the high hurdles ahead of this woman, took my breath away like few clients who came before her on my caseload. I painfully sat there waiting for the psychiatrist to take the lead and quell the overbearing parents. I waited for him to provide the forum to allow a tiny voice to muster a fraction of autonomy. I did not know what I would hear next.
As if the mother needed to show her culpability of the daughter whose life she snuffed, she moved strangely forward in her chair. The father sat dispassionately disinterested. Gina Nina choked on her tears trying to get out her first words in a lifetime, like a baby trying to form a monosyllabic word. Before words emerged, Gina Nina’s needed to look away from her mother's cast stare and gain her composure. It was not much of a declaration of independence but Gina Nina's stubby fingers crawled along a mahogany desk towards a coffin-shaped cardboard box there for the taking.
The mother shook a finger at her 51-year-old daughter. Her sighs and posture acted like a preemptive strike on a familiar target. Gina Nina's fingers recoiled and the mother snapped harsh judgment.
“And don’t take all of this man’s tissues. Two tissues will be enough for your sniveling and blubbering.”
My disappointed eyes met the psychiatrist’s change in expression. As I double swallowed my own emotion, the clinician now knew where to begin. Two paper-thin tissues were expected to cover the sadness of an aborted lifetime. I could not get over this. So my own stiff lips quivered in undoing and that is when I began to cry. It was open season on tears for the girl interrupted.

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February 12, 2008

On the Heels of Nursery Rhyme

Something tells me an old lady lives in this shoe.

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February 08, 2008

Remote Control

If this blog story were simply a television show, the three introductory words “Ten Years Ago” would slowly bleed onto the screen for viewers. In a far away Amish Country in rural Lancaster County Pennsylvania, I had a paranormal experience.
On a guided tour of a working Amish farm, our loquacious bearded guide explained this throwback culture in living color. The Amish worked off the land and their great green rolling pastures magnified the way things must have looked most places one century ago. The Amish customarily shun modern conveniences but somehow thrive with their self-reliant horse and buggy ways. During the tour, my mind fixated on the Amish’s choice to live like shut-ins from the outside world and not own television sets. I experienced a déjà vu feeling that I could not pinpoint, distinct and indescript at the same time. Even though the tour consisted of the entire workings of the Amish community, I could not escape their communal rejection of the television. A future intersection of three things kept repeatedly circling my thoughts – Amish, TV, and my life. Since the Amish barred television sets and I held no association with the Amish, I dismissed this awkward feeling not long after my dirty shoes left the splendor in the grass farm.
Fast forward a decade of time. After I sold a New York Giants bookmarker on Ebay, I emailed the seller indicating her package was about to be mailed. The signature post-script to every sent email is my Freudian Slips blog address. This Ebay customer took the initiative to visit my active blog. As if appearing for her eyes only, the customer read the then lead story of transferring my home movies on VHS tape to DVD. She promptly emailed me to ask if she could pay me to do the same service for a bunch of her video cassette tapes. A week after I signed on to the project, a package arrived in the mail. A wrinkle in time followed.
Sorting through the package, the VHS tapes contained labels of news broadcasts and televisions specials. I plugged in my first tape only to arrive at a Good Morning America piece on a tragedy that happened in the Amish Country on October 2, 2006. A clinically depressed gunman takes a roomful of schoolchildren hostage in a rural Amish school. In unspeakable fashion, he shoots ten innocent girls. He murdered five of them before he fatally shot himself.
As if the tragedy is too horrific to process, its connection goes undetected. Reminiscent of my former vacation in that region, the same countryside and the unmistakable colonial Amish attire starts to register. I time travel to the Amish farmhouse and the guided tour where I experienced the déjà vu complete with narrative. The ghoulishly similar narrative on the television broadcast hurdled me to that same eerie feeling of déjà vu, distinct and now descript.
Janice Ballenger, who hired me to burn the DVD’s, appears on the taped television program wearing the hat of Deputy Coroner in Lancaster County, Pa. I recalled Janice’s promise to the families of the victims. She wants to show the Amish families affected by the tragedy, the television coverage on a single DVD. Employing my modern technological conveniences of a VHS/DVD up/converter playing on my high definition television, I complete the discs which will eventually become property of Amish families. Burning the discs made me wince. At long last, the unlikely trilogy of the Amish, television, and my life came to fruition. Words bleed onto this page. Five school children just had to die in the meantime.

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February 06, 2008

Mickey Dee Livers

This might be the only way I can be kept from McDonald's fruit and yogurt parfaits. I crave them and my waistline needs to love them even more.

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February 03, 2008

Standing Tall

I stood in my family room complaining of the scaffolding needed to paint my vaulted twenty-five foot high walls. All of a sudden, Irving Magill’s face entered my memory banks. There he was and I knew damn well why. Irving tumbled forward to remind me that I had taken life for granted.
Like a Midwest sheriff from a yesteryear staled by blowing tumbleweeds, security guard Irving Magill wore a cowboy hat and a shiny badge of self-importance. He stood about 6’8” tall, a lanky appearance about as unattractive as they come. He walked with an unbecoming scissor gait like he had just been hit by gun shrapnel. Not unlike his unusual walk, his ways were also off kilter. Irving didn’t have a bad bone in his body but he annoyed people without even trying down to their bones.
A security guard at Bally’s gym, Irving took his job too seriously for common folk. He pretended to show valor where courage was never circumstantially questioned. When locker room crime slid on the fritz, Irving directed incoming traffic in the busy parking lot. He wielded a blow whistle, flashlight, and moved orange cone props around the parking lot like an obstacle course at a Nazi driving school. Bally clientele showed impatience with his high-strung antics. Many challenged his authority while insensitive patrons downright ridiculed him.
Irving had very little going for him in life other than the thankless underpaid job people gave him a hard time doing. His older more society-deemed successful brother worked as a decorated police officer. So I recognized Irving’s need to wear a badge but I don’t think many other people figured that one out. They viewed Irving like an overzealous school crossing guard working the wrong checkpoint. He told people they parked their cars cock-eyed within the white lines, yelled at adult pedestrians for running in the parking lot, or asked patrons too many awkward but well-meaning questions.
One night his big paw waved a halt sign my way in the parking lot. I obliged by stopping my vehicle dead in its tracks. I rolled down my window and awaited further instruction.
“Joe, did I tell ya I am getting my first house next month? I go to settlement in a few weeks.”
“Congratulations, Irving.” I complimented, “You must be darn proud.”
“I am blessed but it’s just a little trailer home. Not much to speak of but it is a place to hang my hat, call home. That is always a good thing.”
“Where is this place that you will be hanging your cowboy hat?”
“Thanks for asking.” He smiled in front of the idling cars lining up behind my vehicle. “They are hauling the trailer tomorrow to its final resting spot in the boondocks of Vineland. I gotta make some modifications to it before taking up residence. After that I’ll be able to stand without hitting me head in all but two of the rooms. That is always a good thing.”
Walls between people are artificial. Walls in need of painting are as high as you make them out to be.

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February 01, 2008

The Mickey Mouse Click Club

You might not need a talent agent for this suspect movie extra opportunity, but you will definitely need a talented surgeon for the carpal tunnel syndrome developed from continually Google clicking hits on websites.

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