Monday, March 14, 2016

Leaps of faith

It's funny how sometimes our lives can be guided by a gentle whisper.
When ignored that whisper is no longer a quiet background noise.

When ignored it takes on more the sound of a clashing symbol - a resonant and clear sign of something completely unplanned, but heavily and remarkably magnetic...
and perhaps destined.

A gift from Karen, a fellow cancer survivor
Three months ago Patrick had a job offer in New York...of all places.

Funny thing. Three years ago Patrick took a leap for me by leaving New York. He left this same city so he and I could share a zip code and truly grow our relationship.

Back then he took on the very 'controversial role' of an actor moving from New York - headed Upstate - REALLY Upstate - Rochester, New York. It's a controversial role because virtually no actor does it unless their intending to leave the profession. Actors pile into New York, a city of plenty, and stay there. To leave this bustling island almost always means leaving the craft.

His then-agents scratched their heads. He wasn't moving to L.A...going where? And you intend to keep acting? Love makes you do crazy things, I'm sure they surmised.

While he watched rent payments decrease,
 ironically theater work actually increased for Patrick. In a move that made no sense to anyone in his business, he more than 'made it work' maintaining work as an actor based in Rochester NY. His agents proved incredulous of his decision to relocate and so Patrick decided to represent himself. 

He happily proved everyone in his crazy business wrong because that's how willing to take a leap and willing to stick to his gut instinct my (then husband to be) is. This strange recipe worked for his career and it worked for our relationship - as you know, we married in August of 2014. 

Fast forward to Fall 2015.

In the midst of my own employment gap and while contemplating new job opportunities ...Patrick suddenly found representation again. This time his new dynamic manager was willing to 'think different' and take a chance on an actor living a six-hour-drive away. Suddenly Patrick was making multiple trips to New York for his first television auditions in years. 

Patrick shooting his first pilot 'Unfiltered' 
He would drive there, park in an insanely expensive garage, un-rumple his shirt and walk steadily towards the audition.

No one in the auditions was ever the wiser - or even guessed he had woken up at three in the morning and driven from Rochester for his 15 minutes in the casting room. He would practically grab a quick lunch across the street, couch surf for a night and head straight back.
Despite driving through and in internationally renowned traffic in a round-trip circuit, he was incredibly persistent and undaunted. (You might even say a scrapper).

The pay-off was quite remarkable. In that incredibly small space of just three weeks he had booked two television roles. Orange is the New Black and Blue Bloods. And this - after being out of the television casting pool for years. 
Patrick with Magnum P.I. himself

Then word came of a brand new offer.

An open ended run in New York.
Housing for the first part of contract. Housing provided in New York City?

"I need to go with you."

Before I even let out those words, I considered them for at least three very sleepless nights. I was afraid of the words escaping my lips and fear that followed letting them out.

Adding my piece to this equation would make this new opportunity less of a temporary move. 
I knew New York City...I was a small town girl. I grew up in a town with two stoplights before I moved to Rochester (a comfortable level of 'big city').

Sundown on my train to New York
Full disclosure here: I was frightened of Manhattan. Patrick had known this when he lived there when we began dating. People move to New York when they are guileless and young - not on the jagged edge of "settling down."

Our rooftop view from West End Avenue 
Yet, I knew New York was calling him once again and he was living more than 300 miles away from where the real dance was. Here I was at a point where things were far more possible for me to move. Could I let my own fear get in the way of a major chance for him when I had the freedom to leap? The answer was no.

A month into Patrick's stay in New York I joined him. I borrowed the largest rolling suitcase anyone in my family owned (Mom) and stuffed it full of clothes and boarded a train. I have to admit, that morning I felt like the gypsy that I had been years before. Uncertain yet resolved to do this.

Please know dear reader, I was afraid. I cried a good deal of that morning. I sobbed
Opening night -the cast of Shear Madness
hugging my niece and my Mom goodbye that morning. I cried in the train station as my Dad sat and waited with me holding my hand and telling me he knew I was doing what my heart told me to do.

Imagine how hard that is for a parent to do when you'd rather have them close to you.

And then suddenly we were living in the Upper West Side! That night when I rolled into Manhattan and my husband put us in a cab was surreal. So too were the several days and nights after it, as I ventured out in a city that puzzled and overwhelmed me. Very much like Dorothy feeling she was not in Kansas anymore.

Gradually I stopped fearing things. I learned to haul groceries the New York way, three bags in each hand and choking on a receipt with a price that didn't include the abundant selection of a Wegmans.

I learned the rhythms of our borrowed neighborhood, the ebbs and flows of it all. I loved the gossip about our super chic temporary housing and learned how Jon Hamm and Charles Grodin had been tenants in the building. I must admit before I learned they were former residents I took every ride up or down as an opportunity for celebrity excitement.

Though I had an advantage to most "new to New York" inhabitants - a husband who knew the city like the back of his hand, I liked indulging my solo explorer time. I loved figuring it all out.
Ringing the famous Nasdaq bell

When I had somewhere to go alone I found it a challenge. I learned the subway, the buses and the streets by trial and error. Though most of the subway's daily passengers looked world-weary and vacant to me I tried to hold in my sense of wonder. I learned fast that eye contact was almost always a wasted luxury. Sometimes I would breathe in slowly and try not to hear the brash squeaking and the metal clacking and just meditate.

Over time New York slowly but surely grew on me.The clerk at the bodega around the corner smiled and began to recognize me and even smiled. The constant howl and grinding sound of traffic no longer became a stimulant - it lulled me to sleep. The subway card slid more confidently in my hand through the machine.
I began to stop asking why people lived in this overcrowded place and appreciated the thrill of it. We got discounted tickets to the hilarious Something Rotten and got to see Patrick's good friend John Cariani play Nigel Bottom, a role he originated. 
A chance to play conductor at St James?
Can you blame him?
John shows us the wig room
No synthetics here ladies!

Afterwards John led us around the winding backstage of the St. James Theatre on West 44th Street. As the wife of an actor I've been backstage before but John's tour was pretty impressive. I resisted the urge to ask to play dress-up in a multi-million dollar costume collection in the same historic theater where Rogers and Hammerstein premiered their Oklahoma and The King and I and Carole Channing first walked out as Dolly. 

These are the things that enchant the citizens of this city and keep tourism pumping steady streams of revenue pumping solidly in. Magical indeed.

I have to admit New York grows on you in waves. The experiences wash over you and then quietly settle into your normal-everyday encounters. It's funny how I made this transition. Quietly astounding how this happened suddenly and yet gradually and here it is almost five months later and we've made the decision to stay.

That in itself was a process.
Living here with included housing is a whole different reality to truly deciding to make a commitment to staying and finding a place to live. And it soon became abundantly obvious that a married couple (with one of us temporarily unemployed) could not stay living in the Upper West Side.

The search for a suitable apartment is a rite of passage for all New Yorkers. And as I've learned it's always a sobering one. The search for a place to suit a married couple (two people trying to inhabit one space) is an even steeper lesson in reality versus the New York of our dreams.

I wish I could show you some pictures of the apartments we saw, but the truth is there wasn't an easy angle to take the picture with without being in a corner. Yes, on our budget we were introduced to the micro-apartment. 

The search left us totally frustrated and annoyed. Patrick's old neighborhood in 3 years time had suddenly become too expensive to consider.

I wanted an elevator. Elevatored buildings in striking distance of Manhattan were far beyond striking distance of budget. Living vertically is its own challenge.

And we found a winner!
(the park directly across from our apartment)

Some of the addresses of the places we looked were darn-right scary. My "worthy of signing a lease" became a combination of two things...

Would you push a stroller or walk a small puppy down this street?

Would you let my Mom visit us here?

If the answer to these questions was no, I think it was safe to say we were continuing the search. And so we did...

It was a 40 minute sojourn outside the city that finally found us. Yonkers.
As in "Lost In..." Ironically, a Neil Simon play. The Noonans have a special place in their heart for this American playwright...and perhaps so too the city of hills (as they call it).

Stepping off that train in Yonkers felt like honestly a first breath of fresh air in the apartment search. That day we found several "no-gos" until we found the "A-ha" apartment, but the fit felt right.

It's not easy to put down a deposit and sign your name to an apartment in a brand new city. The dedication of a year of one's time and the signing on of "I live here" says very much that you are committed to the purpose of relocation - no longer an itinerant, able to drift in or out. THIS was the step that made us resolve to a brand new direction...and sign our names officially to that direction.

So, my friends: it's been almost five months since I rolled that suitcase full of clothes out of Rochester, saying Geronimo at a time when I thought everything in life would have been figured out. And since that time I moved our entire apartment to a place a six-hour-drive away...and watched wistfully through the rear view at a picture I love as it got smaller behind me. I'll always know where home is, I'll always return to it.

But there is a time when a whisper guides you and you listen...scared as you are.

You have to have faith that you'll make it through. Stumbling blocks aside, sometimes you learn so many new things about yourself in the process.

There are times when everything you know of life has to be rewritten to listen to the whisper or you'll always wonder "what would have happened had I listened?" 

I have learned so much in these months. Patrick too. Truly, we've learned so much together.
I took up cooking!

I've dealt with being unemployed in a city expensive to navigate with a job.

I've learned to make useful time and fill it with exploration.

I've learned to cook and bake...really well.

I've taken some classes and learned some new things.

I've taken on my first job in theater merchandise.

I've successfully navigated the job search (MAJOR SPOILER...TBA)

I've learned more about myself than I could have ever imagined.

So, here I am...and here we are.

You can take the girl out of Rochester, but by God you can't take Rochester out of the girl.