Monday, May 16, 2011

May You Find What You Seek.

So, having told that story, I can move forward to the latest to tell the real story. My friends and a few others close to me know that my life has been rather...turbulent lately. (When the nickname you receive from a group of strangers is Rouge Wave, perhaps turbulent is an understatement.) Anyway, the two journeys have been, in the grand (or foolish) romantic tradition, over a woman.

Originally, she was supposed to be leaving for Philadelphia, which was one of the main reasons that I signed on to do The Elephant Man, enabling me to visit. Well, that didn't happen, and in my infinite wisdom, (sarcastically so) I fell for her hard. She loves someone else though, and she wants to be friends. That was and to some extent is still really hard for me, and I wasn't sure if it was going to be even possible for me to handle. So, more or less on a whim, I headed to New York to do a job, and seek some perspective.

I found what I was looking for in the middle of a park, about 174th street. As I was sitting there, trying to figure things out, a little old woman, about half of my size sat down next to me. Wanting to be friendly, as I truly don't know many people in the city, I said hello, and we began talking.

She asked me why I was there, and I suppose she could sense my hesitation, as she told me in her heavily accented English.

"Don't worry. It's almost anonymous here, I just met you, you just met me, we can talk about anything, and then we both go our separate ways. Tell me what is bothering you, and I can tell you what I would do," she added with a twinkle in her eye. "I have a lot of life experience."

Not having a thing to lose, I told her exactly why, that I was looking to get a sense of perspective from being away from the woman I was in love with. I told her that she loved someone else, and I was being left out in the cold.

She listen to me thoughtfully, and after a long pause said "I see. Were you married to her?"

"No." I replied.

"Did you have children with her?"

"No..." I responded again, slightly puzzled.

"Lived with her?"

"I never had the chance" I rejoined, thoroughly confused.

She then floored me with her response. "Then move on. You are a young man, your wings aren't broken. If you were smaller I would put you over my knee right now. This is nothing, it is a bee sting. You have your whole life ahead of you. Yes, you love her. But move on."

After that, we sat in thoughtful silence, and shared an apple. She then shared her story, which was fascinating in it's own right. Growing up under Communism behind the Iron Curtain, traveling broke through Italy, and having her name changed at Ellis Island, the woman has seen most of the twentieth century. Then she added something which added a lot of perspective for me.

"I'm at the end of my journey now. When elephants go to die, they go to the elephant graveyard where all of the other elephants died, to die among the bones of their ancestors. I have to make that choice now. Do I want to go back to Croatia, and die there, where I grew up or do I want to stay here, and found a new graveyard for my ancestors?"

At this point, my phone, which had been mercifully silent the entire time, suddenly rang, startling us both. I was being summoned to deal with yet another problem on set. She saw the concern on my face as I took the call. I hung up, and before I could say anything, she affectionately dismissed me to go work:

"You are at the beginning of your journey. Be careful, and know that now I will be missing you. Good luck on the next part of the trip, and remember to move on."

With that, I thanked her, and left, with simultaneously a lot on my mind, and without a lot of weight, as I realized that I had somehow miraculously managed to find what I had sought, and that the perspective I was looking for came from the last place that I was looking. I guess when answers are needed, you just need to ask.

Until next time,


Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Medias Res

So, here it is. I currently find myself inside of a large metal box, hurtling through time and space towards an unknown future. That is a ridiculously overly poetic way of saying that I'm currently on a bus on the way home back to Pittsburgh after a somewhat less than successful journey from New York City.

Now, I know several people are inquiring at this point as to when I even left. The answer to that, and to why, is rather complicated, so I'm going to go in media res for a moment, and flash back to an earlier journey that wasn't discussed, travelling to Philadelphia while on The Elephant Man. The reasoning, or at least my thought process, between the two journeys is connected, hence the need to go back to the beginning.

After finishing up a rather successful set of previews for the show, we hurriedly packed up and left for Philadelphia. Arriving rather late, we all turned in at the hostel, and prepared to really get into the work the next day.

Dinner that night was absolutely delightful, as we had decided to pool resources and try to cook, as opposed to spending a significant amount of the budget attempting to dine out. Seeing what was around, we decided to go for Italian that night (I know, it's me cooking, therefore Italian cuisine is likely.) After writing a quick list of ingredients, we set out shopping only to discover that a frost had made eggplant rather scarce. Now, Eggplant Parmesan is rather difficult to make without eggplant, but there were some very good looking baby zucchini in the case. Desperation is the mother of invention, and we decided to go that direction instead.

The cooking process is incredibly simple, a quick saute of the split zucchini, a fast boil of the pasta, and a quick doctoring of the sauce (a little wine goes a long way), we had a delightful meal in very good company.

Following dinner, we were joined by another cast member, who brought along two friends, Ian and Tim. We relaxed the evening away, plenty of good wine and conversation, the two fueling each other, and finally called it a night in the wee hours of the morning.

The next day was rather rough, as the day before a show is liable to be. It was even more stressful, as performing in a museum puts even more restrictions. Tempers (especially my own) were beginning to flare a bit when mercifully, break came around and we found ourselves with several hours free.

After being in the same room with the same people for close to 72 hours, I decided to head off on my own and check out the Franklin Institute. Walking across the park to it, however, I was surprised to hear my voice being called. I turned around as was surprised to see Tim and Ian standing there. After inquiring if I had plans, of which I really didn't, we decided to go on a walk to seek out Tony DiNic's, in the Reading Terminal market.

Now, Reading Terminal is kind of a foodie Valhalla. It's almost impossible not to find something delicious, but we were on a mission to seek out the sandwich as it was seen on Man Vs. Food. And find it we did.

This delicious monstrosity of a sandwich contains almost a pound of pulled pork, but it is the way in which it is made makes it something else, possibly in the category of manna. It's by far one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. The meat is prepared by braising overnight in it's own juices, then it it pulled, placed back into the juice, and then braised again overnight. This produces some of the juiciest pork I've ever tasted. Now, this is an even more impressive feat, considering that pork is one of the easiest meats in the world to dry out.

The other ingredients of the sandwich also help complete the flavor profile to be something sublime. First, a layer of provolone adds a sharpness as well as structural integrity (something very important in sandwich engineering) when it melts, juice proofing the bun. The greens are truly what put the sandwich up over the top though. A topping of broccoli rabe adds spiciness and a garlic undertone, which make up the symphony of flavor that is that sandwich. In case you can't tell, my mouth is practically watering at just remembering and writing this description. If you are in Philadelphia, skip the cheesesteak and go for this instead.

After stuffing ourselves on pork, we decided to go touristy and check out the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Elphreth's Alley, one of the oldest continuously inhabited blocks in the United States. We had a fascinating discussion on history, as Tim and Ian, both English natives, were curious why Americans celebrated something that was only a little over two hundred and fifty years old, I then explained that it was because in a country only about that old, we have to find our "founding myths" where we can. I also pointed out they had encapsulated the European idea of America in one fell swoop that day, giant sandwiches and the Liberty Bell, or in a metaphorical sense, conspicuous consumption and blind patriotism.

We then adjourned our little adventure to watch and perform in the play, and following another night of carousing, settled in our beds, ready to move on to the next journey.

Until next time,