A real fool that gets paid to talk to strangers in the street.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Molecules



When I was a boy it was hard for me to pee in public. I was tragically pee shy. I think it was a mixture of reasons. Really I think it’s because a lot of my insecurities were tailored around my being over weight. I never liked taking my shirt off in public. I was the one chubby kid in the ocean with a big wet t-shirt on that upon exiting the waves for the sand, would pull the sopping wet shirt off his stomach super fast. I was lucky that in the mid to late nineties the baggier the clothing, the better. I wore Jnco Jeans and oversized Nautica, Polo, and Chaps shirts. Being fat aside, I loved that clothing. 

So I think Peeing was just a fear I had because it meant that in some way I would have to disrobe, even if partially in front of other people. So I was scared.  Pooping in public I always adored though. I would close the door and daydream. I was safe there.

I remember this one time when I was seven or eight; my father took me out on our little fishing boat with a couple of his buddies. It was a brilliantly beautiful day on The Great South bay off the coast of Long Island. We were fishing for flounder. My dad was drinking with his best friends. I had my toasted everything bagel with vegetable cream cheese waiting for me in the cooler. I was pounding Oranginas. Then it happened - I had to pee. My father instructed me to go off the back of the boat. With my back turned on the group I pensively unbuttoned my shorts and tried to go, I couldn’t, not that first time, not the three other times.  I was embarrassed. They were cheering me on as I tried and tried. My dad sympathized with me, cut his fishing short. We went back to the dock. I ran home and peed fast. My dad and his buddies assured me that it was normal, but I wanted to be one of the guys. I wanted to be able for my dad to enjoy his Saturday. My penis had different plans.

I remember peeing my pants once in a department store when I was six or so, and locking myself in the bathroom at home because I was so embarrassed.  As I got older the fear of peeing in public subsided, still it was hard for me to make it all work. My brain and body were just so used to the difficulty that it just carried over into my teenage years, even though I had lost weight and been more confident about myself.

Then one day it all changed. I was sitting at a urinal somewhere in college. It was a packed bar and the urinals were all occupied. I was saying to myself, “Come on man, you got this. This is stupid now. Just fucking pee!” I couldn’t. Then something weird happened. I stared at the tiles in front of my face. Then I focused on the grout between them. I then focused in on a very tiny point on the wall and thought of the word, “molecules”. I said the word to myself and envisioned the smallest particle of matter in front of me. I started peeing. It flowed like it had never flowed before. I don’t know what it was, I really don’t. Was it just thinking of the word that worked, was it the actual molecules? I don’t know. But it’s worked ever since.

Maybe in some strange way it’s the small things that matter, that changes things. Is it science? Maybe it’s just focusing on the smallest piece of matter that makes you realize that you’re not who you were, that matters - that you are who you’ve become. You’ve peed a million times at this point, or you’ve interviewed a million times, or you’ve tried fixing something differently, or arguing differently. Sometimes it’s the smallest thing in front of you that makes you realize that you’re not who you were – it ushers in a moment of what you’ve become, and that sets you free.

One a side note, I once peed my pants in front of the entire Wu Tang Clan, but that’s another story.


To be continued.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cinco AƱos


The night I moved to Los Angeles I went to a very interesting party and met a dude.  I had driven across the country from New York with my best friend. It was my first night in a new big city of hills and wonder.  The dude at the party told me he’d been here for five years.  I thought to myself, “Five years? People actually stay here for that long?” See, all I wanted to do was move here, make my mark and move back to Brooklyn. I left my heart back there in Prospect Park.  It’s still there – but I’ve since cloned it.

I’ve had many conversations in my life. The most important are those I share with my son every morning as I extoll about all the nonsense that makes up our reality.  For a while there, the most important talks I had were with New York City. Every morning as I took the Q train to Manhattan from my beautiful Brooklyn I asked that town to throw me the bone I thought deserved.  I was a cog in its machine. Fuck - I was the machine.

New York defines you. You don’t define her.  She either decides to write you into her poetry or not.  You’re destined to become a period, comma, or exclamation point.  She’s not one for question marks, questions take too long to answer. But in LA you become the poet again... if you so choose. She’s your mirror, LA. She allows you reflect. That’s what this post is about.

I used to ask NY to give me a sign that I was going in the right direction. Here and there she threw me that bone, but in the end, the city forced me out like a splinter. I bought the best shitty Acura there was, drove it across the country, planted that splinter by the Pacific and grew roots. I started a family here.

The love of my life, the mother of my child was born and raised in NYC. She had been there the entire time but we couldn’t find one another there. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re really asking for. That’s the point in the end - we are here to ask questions regardless of the answers, or when said answers arrive.

I moved here for many reasons, but five men led me here. My father implanted so much nonsense in my brain that I had to go to the most nonsensical place imaginable.  Then there’s Tom, the man who fell in love with a fish and got “Big”. Jim, the man with the elastic face and the bright sadness, so bright he’s a child of the sun. Andy, the man who discovered how to be absurd for a living and never really die, the first adult to speak my language. Then there’s my sweet Robin, the man who saved my heart and sanity with everything from his standup, to Mrs. Doubtfire, the movie that healed my heart after divorce, and let me know that I could make weird faces and voices for a living, as well as touch the hearts of young people that have a hill to climb and purpose bigger than their house, their school, or their town. Robin was and is the reason.  I’ve not written about him yet because I’m still at a massive loss, we all are, but he’s the only hero of mine who I have on my wall, and I always have. I’ve followed him around cities and decades. He’s been the mentor I’ve never met. I wrote him a long letter once that I sent to his manager.  I thought to post it during his passing but I was losing it inside. Then, in a crying fit a month after his passing I realized what he did for me again, and why I was here, in Los Angeles.

I moved here for those boys and girls who have questions unanswered about growing up, about parents, about sex, about nothing. I moved here, because I didn’t want to bartend for a living. I moved here to start anew.  I moved here to make people smile.  I moved here to follow the question marks in hopes that they’d turn into a career that allows me to punch reality in the face with a fist full of nonsense and cry tears of joy.

I moved here. So did you. Away from friends, family and reality.

Here’s the thing; everyone knows life goes by quickly. Well it goes by even quicker here because the seasons don’t really change, and time flies by when you’re having fun. That’s the thing they don’t tell you when you’re moving here.  Countless people told me when I was moving here that the worst people are in LA. Yea I’m sure there out there, but I’ve been blessed with the best friends, friends I call family, and time does go by fast because we are actually having the best fucking time living our dreams out. I lucked out in this town, because of two women that are my dear friends and sisters, Kim Vasilakis and Rachel Germaine. 

Today is my five-year mark in Los Angeles. I write this as a marker. I write this for us, and for the things people back home don’t necessarily know or understand.

I want you to know that I’m aware of your small victories, LA.  Like, that time you didn’t get the part, but a hero of yours laughed during your audition.  I write this because I know what it means to have your script read, they love it, you get no notes on it, but for some reason it doesn’t go all the way.  I write this because your aunts and uncles won’t know how great you’re doing till you’re on a prime time TV show. But I know, and trust me, so does your art.

We all liked playing house, we’re all a little strange, most of us are still the same outcasts we’ve always been except we’re all in the same gang now. Sure, we compete against each other from time to time, that’s how we sharpen our knives.  I see men twice my age shaking hands and exchanging war stories at auditions.  You know what?  It’s beautiful.  It’s why I’m here.  We were born to tell stories.

This place we live isn’t lala land. It’s home.  My first five years have been crazy. I’m writing a novel about it right now.  When I’m done I’ll let you read it.

It’s been a wild five years LA. You know it and I know it. But I gave you my heart, and we made you a son, his name is Phil.  We’ll be here, cogs in your machine, thanks for throwing me a bone. And Robin, if you’re listening I’m dedicating the next five years to you.


Best,

Matty McManus


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Can Food Change The World?



Maybe this question is in fact the most important of questions, maybe it's not, but it's definitely an interesting one.  Especially for a former fat kid, especially for a New Yorker living in Los Angeles, and especially because if a meal can change my babymamma from the Antichrist to the sweetest human alive there's certainly a correlation between change and food.

Let's look at the most pressing and obvious way food can change the world and just get it out of the way. Child Hunger: if we feed the hungry, we change the world. As a new father, the thought of my boy going hungry makes me want to rip my arm off and feed him with it. But he's only just now starting solids.

Now that I got that out of the way, let's get to the fun part. Both God and Dave Matthews say the same thing, "Eat, drink and be merry." I couldn't agree more. Perhaps a sandwich is the perfect metaphor; it brings things together that wouldn't necessarily come together naturally and makes them one.

Food is an excuse to enjoy life with others.  We sit with each other and share three moments a day over food and drink (5-7 if you're in LA and 1 if you're lucky in NY). If you're not in New York or Los Angeles it's also usually when you put your phone down and the concept of interpersonal communication becomes a reality again. By virtue of needing both your hands to eat, we become people again three times a day, and it's nice to be people again. We're so into this togetherness that despite knowing better, Thanksgiving, the tragic foreshadowing of murder and genocide is celebrated nationwide with a cozily gluttonous family gathering.

I don't remember a lot of the difficulties of growing up. Sure I was fat, cross-eyed and liked Boy George and the Monkeys when kids were listening to Guns N' Roses and Warrant. Sure my mom cut my hair as if she had two left hands of all thumbs and sure, I had to wear a shirt when I went in a pool so the hottest girl in junior high wouldn't see that I had bigger breasts than she did. I really don't remember all that. I remember snack tables at family parties. I remember going with my father to get Buffalo wings with chunky bleu cheese dressing. I remember the smell of BBQ's in the summer and hot chocolates in the winter. Most of all I remember my best friends, Pop Tarts. I remember these things because I related to them. The phrase comfort food exists for a reason. As Americans these touchstones or "Food Nostalgia" is inescapable, and we pass it on.

I have a five month old son.  His name is Philip, we call him Flip for short.  He's just now getting into eating people food, fruit mostly (no arms). I can't wait to introduce him to the food that I love, and the food that he'll love on his own.  I love him, endlessly. The same goes for his mother. I spend at least an hour a day making her food while I drink an ice cold Northern California IPA. That is my zen, my relationship with food, my family and making merry with my meal.  

If food can make a new mom feel loved it probably could have helped out a few troubled dictators at some point.



Friday, July 4, 2014

The 4th


When I was five my family lived on the street called Ocean Avenue in Bay Shore New York. It was a great little Victorian house close to the water on the south shore of Long Island.

Once a year when green leaves thrived and the stench of barbecuing was in the air, summer was officially ushered in with a celebratory July 4th parade of people walking down our block with their lounge chairs, coolers filled with whatever fix they needed and beef. They would have their family in tow just to get their slice/plot of space at the marina at the end of the street to watch the fireworks over the body of water separating Long Island from Fire Island, the Great South Bay.

For some reason I was petrified by this day, this zeitgeist, this celebration.  The people walking toward these loud sounds didn’t make sense to my childish ears. I was frightened by the noises.  I was so scared that I would hide under my bed holding my ears with my eyes shut tightly until the bangs and booms had finished.

My father knew this and walked up to me and said a few choice words, “How about we walk down there early, before everyone gets there.  We’ll get our own spot and I’ll give you a hotdog.  Once the sun goes down you can sit in my lap holding your ears and closing your eyes until it’s over".  I disagreed, over and over again, until he said he’d let me eat chips too. 

I was a chubby kid – still am, and chips were everything, still are. 

I agreed.  I took his hand and walked to the end of the block.  He had his cooler and chair, and I had my father.

As people accumulated around us at the marina my father made it seem like it was just him and I.  He talked to the strangers around us like he was the mayor of the pavement we were sitting on.  He’ll disagree, but he was the mayor that night and he still is.  

Finally it was time for the hot dogs and hamburgers and I ate them with both ketchup and mustard like a good American should.  I also had three handfuls of ridged potato chips and a coke.  I remember this because we’re almost required to.  That’s what marketing is, and what America does.

The sun went down and I heard a crackle of a bang and closed my eyes.  I held my ear tightly while I sat in the middle of my father’s legs. I held so tightly I should have scars from it.  I was so scared I thought I was gonna die…until I heard my dad yelling in the breaks of the display, “JUST LOOK UP MATTY, IT’L BE OK…JUST LOOK UP!”

It took a minute or two of him saying this over and over  again. Then I slowly took one hand off my ear and unclenched one of my eye and glimpsed up. I looked up at the sky and what I saw was wonderful.   It was joyous.  It was perfect. 

These impermanent lights in the sky excited me in a way I’d never understood, still don’t.   I fell in love with fire works, and up until that moment they had crippled me.

I’m 33 now.  I’m in Los Angeles, the other edge of our country, those same fires are burring our sky annually reminding us of our…selves.  But I’m a father now as my son is sleeping upstairs as I'm typing this.  I rushed home from a BBQ just to make sure he wasn’t frightened. 

I’ve used that moment at the marina on Long Island with my father as a representation and example in almost every fearful moment in my life.  I just look up, or towards, or through, or around: because inevitably the bright scary lights welcome you if you just look up.

And that’s why I’m a father, that’s why I keep fighting, that’s why we’re a country, and that’s why I love the fourth of July.




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Care?




I went jogging tonight in Los Angeles. The setting sun and the fall breeze coupled with the full moon made me eager for another beautiful autumn on the west coast. I'm 33 now – I’ve experienced 33 autumns, and I’m lucky - I’m lucky to be alive.  I think about that all the time. Every once in a while I’m reminded why.

As I approached the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. & La Cienega, the center of the city, I heard the sound of breaking glass. My eyes searched for the origin of the sound and found a young lady that had just dropped something on the concrete. Out of instinct I ran to her. She was frozen there on the sidewalk with a horrified look on her face, trembling. Two other people stood by as she shook in silence. I told one of them to call an ambulance. I asked the girl her name, if she knew where she was, and if she could tell me where she was going. Her response over and over was “What?”  I asked her if she’d taken anything we should be aware of, and if she had the ability to sit down. Again she responded “What?”

The man who called the ambulance was instructed to tell her to lie on her left side. I held her hands, guided her to the ground and gently placed her on her side. I laid down facing her and calmly tried to make her feel better with my words. I had her breathe with me and follow my smile. She eventually told me her name, where she lived, where she was coming from, and that she lived with a sibling but she was still very incoherent. Her pupils finally started to stop rapidly jumping around her eyes as she heard the sirens approaching. She then sat up slowly, began speaking very clearly and informed us of three things; she is an epileptic and this happens from time to time when she forgets her medication, she had to go before the ambulance arrived because she couldn’t afford the treatment, and if her sibling found out about this something bad would happen. 

This girl was afraid to accept professional help because it would put her in debt.  As I was realizing this, the firemen and EMT’s approached us and she very articulately informed them of her epilepsy and that they need not worry. They probably saw the look on her face they’ve seen before on many strangers, the look that says, “I can’t afford your help.” They spent a couple more moments with her.  I held her hand, said goodbye and went on my way.

The look of fear I saw on her face is one I know all too well.  A few years back I contracted a staph infection that almost killed me. I was 4 days shy of eligible for benefits at my job. I was in a hospital, without insurance, for nearly three months. I was a 25-year-old bartender being sued by that hospital for $185,000. After years and years of hard work and help from my family we were bled dry until the debt was gone.

Then two years ago while riding my bike, I was hit by a car.  The driver, busy texting, blew a stop sign and hit me going 60MPH.

I didn’t have health insurance because I couldn’t afford it. I was a struggling artist in a new town just trying to get ahead. At that point even a full time service industry job wouldn’t have provided me health benefits.

I don’t remember being picked up by the ambulance that afternoon, but they told me later I’d said I was fine and could just go home. Even in a state of complete shock I was wary of the looming price tag of the care I’d need, and horrified of telling my family I was in a hospital without coverage yet again. I got 17 stiches in my face that day and needed 4 months of physical therapy.

I don’t know the circumstances of the young lady I met tonight, but if she’s taking the bus, has no health insurance and has had multiple seizures in a short period of time it’s not because she forgot her medication but because she can’t afford it. 

I don’t follow much policy, or even take sides that frequently. I grew up in a household that was one part hippy, one part frat boy, passionately exposed to both sides but I didn’t like the turbulence so I stayed out of the sky.  When my brother joined the Marines I was forced to follow policy so I began reading the news. Now that I had a horse in the race I’d started taking sides.

Calling an ambulance shouldn’t be a luxury. We shouldn’t recoil, afraid of the expense, we should take solace in the approaching sirens, thankful the help we need is on the way. People should have the right to stay healthy regardless of their rank in our socioeconomic hierarchy.

Our president made it his mission to afford us ALL this luxury. His plan isn’t perfect, but it strives to be. People are historically uncomfortable with change, but if we gave into the resistance we’d still have slavery.

Yes, our country is running out of money.  We needed to raise the debt ceiling. I guarantee that most people don’t know what it is or understand its correlation to the government shutdown. But I bet that they know someone with cancer, or a child with autism, or someone who was in a car accident, or someone who has epilepsy. 

These are real people who we all know, people who contribute to society.  Marshal McLuhan stated that it takes a village. It truly does and it always has. It’s time the villagers ask the right questions.

I’m 33. I’m an artist. I’m an American.

I’m happy to be alive, to experience this autumn, this year, this life. Who knows what would have happened if an ambulance didn’t come get me that day. Who knows what would have happened tonight with this young lady, maybe she’s someone you know.

Health insurance is a ridiculous concept when you think about it. People and employers spending ridiculous sums of money every month their entire lives in the event something happens. Something always happens. How about just making health care affordable for when it does?