Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Metamorphoses


It has been said, and by many, that the lesson is in the journey. It is not the destination that is important so much as the path that is taken to get to the destination. It has taken me a long time to realize the validity of that statement, the truth that lies therein, but the fact has crept into my mind, into my being and I have surrendered to the journey. Whatever it is that happens, every day, I try to accept it and to learn what there is in each moment that I am meant to absorb into this crazy quilt that is me. The lessons have shocked me, have surprised me, have disappointed me; I cannot, though, ignore them.

How do I allow myself to be absolutely honest about the vistas I am seeing each time that my eyes are opened for me, lately? To be honest would be misconstrued by many. To be secretive would be untrue to the integrity of my being. I know not where to start…

I have been criticized, recently, online and by a stranger for being egomaniacal and thinking that the people around me have nothing better to do than sit around thinking up ways to sabotage me. I promise that I have thought nothing of the kind. There is greatness in the way perception works and everyone’s perception is different. I don’t perceive that my thinking worked that way; indeed, I have perceived that the real problem is only in that people don’t care. Indifference is more painful than hatred. The indifference of people that I have encountered in my life has left more scars on me than any wounds earned in outright battle. That is my suitcase. It belongs to no one else and I ask nobody to carry it for me or attempt to unpack it. If I write about my damages in a journal—whether it be the leather bound ones on my desk or the public ones on the internet—it is simply my desire, my need to work out some issues, some thoughts in my head, through writing. The writings are, after all, in my journal. I make them public because I can learn from comments people make, advice they may leave and because I continue to need some kind of attention for (what I, even now, maintain is) my artwork. I’m not shooting that many pictures these days—the writing I do is the only artwork I am creating. As with all art, there will be people who don’t like it. I suppose I should welcome their comments but I don’t. I feel like; if someone doesn’t like what I write, they should stop visiting my blogs. So there. I have said what I feel, what I think, and I will also say that because of the criticisms, I am afraid to write honestly.

Courage is being afraid of something and doing it anyway. That’s what Pat says. So, in spite of being afraid to write what is in my heart (and worse, what is in my head), I cannot help but put pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard and let the language flow…

There is much change in the air in Two-A. It is part of the journey. I have never tried to stop change; I’ve embraced it and championed it. As a matter of fact, I have leapt into the unknown, into danger—Pat has always said I rush in where angels fear to tread. That’s how we ended up living in New York City…

In the early 90’s Pat was still working as an actor. I had long since retired from the career that I had wanted since the age of six. I say he was working as an actor, even though the work was drying up. In one year we watched eight Equity theaters close. He was dying a slow death, artistically, unable to find work and unable to survive the increasing loss of morale. I knew that we had to make a change. So in November I began telling people that we were moving to New York City. It wasn’t until January that the story got around to Pat. One evening, a calm and peaceful one, he came home from work and we were doing that routine that every couple has-it’s different for each couple but the same in its intent. How was your day, dear. I ran into someone we haven’t seen in awhile. Did you remember to mail that birthday present to Aunt Suzy?

I heard the strangest rumour today…

“Really? What rumour was that?”

It’s the first time someone has ever told me a rumour about myself. Someone told me that they heard we were moving to New York.

“Oh. I’m sure they did.”

Why would someone hear a rumour like that?

“Because I have been telling everyone that we are moving to New York.”

Why would you do that?

“Because I knew you wouldn’t want to if I asked you. Now you have to because if we don’t, everyone will think we’re big fat liars.”

We were living on 49th Street by October 1st.

It was a time of great change. There has been an ongoing stream of change for us, these last twenty years; but there have been a handful of times when the change could be considered great. The move from Denton to Dallas; the move from Dallas to New York. Pat’s retirement from the acting profession, my becoming sober. The systematic loss of more than fifty percent of our circle of friends. These are the events that I would call times of great change, for when the time has run its course, we have been changed as people; and like I said before—I am in favour of change. I enjoy the journey, the evolution, the adventure.

When I met Pat, he was a slightly shy man who hid behind the characters he played onstage and the jokes he told offstage. He left Denton because I wanted to. He became an employee at the General Cinema North Park 1 & 2 and worked his way up from ticket taker to management. We saw a lot of free movies and added some great one-sheets to my movie poster collection. He worked on the Dallas Forth Worth stages for one glorious year solid and then, for awhile, worked from time to time when the right gig came along. The acting work became less frequent and, finally, just dried up. He left Dallas and came to New York because I wanted to. Within the first eight months he gave up his acting for two reasons: 1) to find out who he was and what in life made him happy—other than acting 2) to support me while I created The Sweater Book because he believed in me and in that project. He was a bathroom attendant at Planet Hollywood for an amount of time long enough to addle the brain of man, woman or idiot savant. When he left that post, he became a temp agent, moving from company to company, as a good temp does—and that wasn’t easy for him because he has hated change since he was a boy and his family moved in the middle of a school year, causing him great distress. Through his work as a temp, he developed computer skills one must get in an institution of higher learning and a knowledge of office work and politics that one reads about in books; and in a few short years he was working for one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. He learned about advertising and about INTERACTIVE advertising. He was good at his job and well liked. A few years had passed before that agency’s biggest account cut back on their advertising and one hundred fifty people were laid off. He was number one hundred forty eight. There was a period of time when he collected unemployment and was with me at home, which I sort of enjoyed but which also made me sort of crazy. Within the year he was working as a project manager for a dot com business. There he was and there he stayed.

Until nine days ago.

Comparatively, my story has more turns but less distance traveled. I was a brat as a child, who decided that he was fabulous enough to be a movie star. By the age of 20 I realized I could not be a movie star---I was too effete and I was too ethnic; so I would be an actor, instead. By 24 I had given up. I had given up on dancing because I wasn’t good enough; I had given up on acting because I couldn’t get cast as anything but Christopher Wren in THE MOUSETRAP or Larry in BURN THIS. I tried to run a catering business but I couldn’t balance the books and I couldn’t make a cheese soufflé; so I gave it up. I tried to run a photography studio but I kept doing free photo shoots for my friends and I didn’t have a good enough darkroom technique to satisfy my paying clients. I sold books for a year and quit to work in a box office at a theater. I left that job to work box office in another theater. I left that job to work box office/front of house (and do free photography) for another theater. I left that job to stay at home and drink. Several months later I found myself sober and working as assistant house manager at the biggest theater in Dallas. A year later I was made house manager. It was the first time I was comfortable at a job and the first time I was good at a job. The pressure of responsibility got to me, though, and seven months later I stepped down: my assistant became house manager and I became assistant house manager and began planning our move to New York. By October I was living in Two-A. I had managed to work, unsuccessfully, in the arts for my entire adult life. Now I was in New York, arguably the most (or at least one of the most) artistic cities in the world. Where would I go next? I worked at Planet Hollywood as a bathroom attendant for a few months; then I was a chiropractor’s receptionist for a few months. After that, though, it became clear that I should focus on The Sweater Book and that is what I did and after over a decade of work, I saw that project come to a close with the publication of the book, which nobody bought. I don’t know where the copies went but they did not go into the hands of the public. My friends and family bought copies and I have 200 copies (well, now it is about 170—I have given many away to charities wanting to auction off a signed copy), and there have been a few strangers who bought copies. I was (considered by some) an artistic success. I was not, according to my bank book, a financial one. During the years I was living in New York, I attempted to run a photography studio but the business ebbed and flowed—one, clearly, more than the other. No one would hire me. I couldn’t get a shoot and I couldn’t make my advertising work; and the clients I did have either couldn’t be made happy or made me crazy. I had tried to retire from photography on more than one occasion but I always went back to it. I missed it. I needed to work. I needed to create art. I needed to pay my bills and didn’t know how to do anything else.

Two years ago, under the crippling feeling of failure caused by the experience of releasing a book without fanfare, a book no one seemed to be able to publicize, a book no one (outside of my circle of friends) seemed to want to buy or even seemed to like, a book that cost my household seventy thousand dollars to make and which netted less than ¼ that sum for the charities promised funds from the book, I began to question my existence. I looked at my career as a photographer for money, which was even less satisfying than the artistic venture called THE SWEATER BOOK because, at least with the book, I was given a chance to work with the celebrated artists whom I admired so. It became very clear that what I needed to do was find a new career path. So I retired. I began a renovation of our home which, two years later, I still have not finished. I began studying to be a personal trainer but I could not memorize the ACE personal trainer’s manual. I wrote and I took care of my loved ones and I went to the gym and got in shape. But mostly I just took care of Pat and tried to be the best spouse I could. When the fact that we were a one income household in New York city began to be a problem, I sold my personal belongings on Ebay. It was difficult but it was necessary and, after all, they were just things. Finally, I found an inner strength and came to grips with my failure and decided to be a man and go back to work. I began working on new books, hopefully ones that people would pose for and ones that publishers would publish and that the public would buy. I re opened my studio and began doing headshots again. During the two years I was gone, headshots changed. They were colour now. They were digital now. They were more portrait-like and more interesting. I had to learn to take the new brand of headshots and I had to shoot a bunch to put in a three thousand dollar ad I was going to run and in the portfolios I was going to need. I did it. Did it all and had a marvelous time doing it. I found out that I could grow as an artist and change with the times.

Then it happened.

At forty four, Pat Dwyer was woo’d away from his comfortable job of five years, away from project management for the dot com where he had friends and complacency. He was courted by a company that wanted him so badly that they have told him that during the four interviews they had with him, they were trying to think of ways to impress him so that he would come to work with them. He was trying to think of ways to impress them, not knowing how much they wanted to impress him. He was nervous about being considered too old. He was worried about not having a college degree. He was scared that he was going to get his hopes up and not get the offer.

He got the offer.

My Pat..my spouse..my partner in crime and life has left his job in favour of a career. He has been offered an important position with one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. The salary they offered him took our collective breath away. They gave him an office (which he shares with a woman he likes a lot) and they gave both of us insurance benefits. There is potential for advancement and the next step up for him would be vice president. He is stunned but he has handled the transition with grace and aplomb. It is only late at night, in the blue green glow of the midnight moon, or early in the day, in the cool grey of the dawn, that he says things like “I don’t even have a college degree” or “At times it is hard for me to believe..” The rest of the time he puts on his game face and goes to the races. This is his time. It is his adventure. This is his Sweater Book.

I remember, every day, and have been remembering (since the day he told me, just weeks before the release of The Sweater Book) that he gave up his dream of being an actor to support me while I pursued my artistic dream. He gave up his dream so that I be an artist, so that I could create that book. There is a scale and it is tipped in one direction. It is now my time to make a sacrifice for the person I love and who loves me, both more than anyone or anything else in the world. The truth of the matter is, I can’t get a celebrity to pose for me. I have been sending out invitations to people to pose for one of my new books and a few have said yes but an even fewer number have actually MADE it in front of my camera. They know my first book flopped. Being in one of my new books is a nice IDEA but not an important one. I’m the photographer who failed and everyone knows it. I did get to work with Judi Dench and her family for one of my books. And I have gotten to work with wonderful young Broadway talents like Matthew Morrison, Ann Harada, Jennifer Gambatese, Deidre Goodwin, Shoshanna Bean, Eden Espinosa, Ramona Keller, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Max Von Essen, Stephanie Block and Romelda Benjamin. I’ve done some shoots with stars like Alan Cumming, Anita Gillette, Kristine W, Deborah Cox, Brian d’arcy James and Cady Huffman. I have shoots coming up with Joanna Gleason and (my beloved and favourite) Jill Clayburgh. And of course I am always doing photos for my sweet and treasured Donna Murphy. There ARE things happening; but they are happening very slowly. And the beautiful three thousand dollar ad came out and since that happened I have had one call from a potential client. One. The only difference between two years ago when I couldn’t get a job and now is that it doesn’t matter. If the work comes, it comes. If the celebrities call, they call. I will be here. I will be ready to do their photos, for pay or for play, when people call me. I ain’t goin anywhere. BUT. I have a bigger job, now. I have a more important job. I can be an artist on my own time, on my own turf, on my own terms. I can do that during my off-hours from the job that I am SUPPOSED to do, the thing that I have learned I am BEST at, that which no one does as well as I do.

I am content to fill my position as the Executive’s Spouse.

It is my turn to support him. I will be at every company function, I will know the names of his team and his supervisors. That man will have a freshly cooked provision of hot food to take with him every day, for the four meals he must consume at work. If he works late, I will be at the gym when he is finished at work, ready to be a good work out partner. His clothing will be clean and pressed when he needs a sharp outfit, his house will be spotless when he comes home from that office and the bitch is on time when he says he is ready to leave the house. I am already involved in the decoration of his office at work and every Wednesday he will have freshly baked brownies, muffins, cookies or anything else that he wants to take in to his team to say thank you for your hard work. If he needs an extra pair of hands to carry things to that office, my hands are his hands. If he leaves his cellphone at home, there is door to door deliver of that sucker, within the half hour. You’ve never SEEEEN a better HouseSpouse than the one you are about to see rise up off of the half shell that is Two-A. And when this Executive’s Spouse is seen in public or at the office, you can bet he is going to be well turned out. I, now, have the opportunity of living out my (and Pat’s!) lifelong dream of being a trophy boy. I will be on a diet 365 days a year and my ass will be on that treadmill an hour every day. When they see him with me, people will think we are the gay Donald and Marla—with better hair and no divorce. My career will be my part time hobby, designed to bring in extra income (which is always nice but, now, not necessary) and designed to give us a chance to work with those lovely people who actually WANT to work with me, be they celebrities or humbles, rather than the ones I have to work with because we need the money. I have beautiful and marvelous young people who come to me, fresh out of school, needing a good headshot and unable to pay the extreme fees photographers charge for headshots. Now, I don’t have to worry about sending them out there to get substandard headshots that they can afford. I can say “what would YOU like to pay for a headshot?” I can work on a sliding scale, helping the future of the business get started, rather than focusing on overcharging kids for pictures just so I can pay my bills. I have my future vice president covering the bottom line while I create affordable headshot art for the people who need it. It’s a perfect arrangement, I think. Everyone wins.

I like when everyone wins. That’s why I love movies like WORKING GIRL and DREAMER and CINDERELLA MAN, where the credits roll over the swell of triumphant music and the hero laughs or cries or both.

I am not the one laughing and crying today. That is Pat. Because he is the hero of this story. He is my hero. He has saved me. He saves me every day and he has done so for twenty years. He has saved me in every way that a person can be saved. And even though he doesn’t (actively) need saving right now—I am here. I am here to support, to save, to be. To be any and everything that he needs me to be. I am so proud of my little Irishman who doesn’t have a college degree, who pulled a Tess McGill and got out. He was a temp and he will be a VP. THAT is journey. THAT is change.

Now.

Let the River Run….

3 Comments:

Anonymous annalisa said...

kudos to pat for everything he has acheived and kudos to the two of you who, as i am always want to say, are my favorite couple and the couple everyone wants to be. everyone should be so lucky as you to have a pat. everyone should be so lucky as pat to have a ste.

love you both!
a.

8:21 AM  
Blogger jungle dream pagoda said...

I'm just hoping my"Pat" does not read this,you put this part-time artist/executives wife to shame!
Congratulations darling Pat and HOW could anyone not love The Sweater Book?

6:50 PM  
Blogger Timothy Hogan said...

So very long ago I knew you and Pat but the decadesfade us out a bit. How lovely the way your live's compliment and support one another. If only most relatonships were so filled with confident Grace. I'm designing a New Religious Paradigm on my site. Stop by if you're bored.

5:04 PM  

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