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

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cinco Años


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.