Monday, June 11, 2007


Middle of the Melon recently tagged me with a meme, and though I'm late in responding, I feel obligated to give it a go. The task is simple: Eight Random Facts about myself. To keep it interesting, and to perhaps avoid repeating any of the answers I gave back when this was Five Random Facts, I've decided to confine these facts to the period of time I call The Richmond Years.

1. Ahh, Richmond. Capital of the Confederacy. Think: Baltimore, ridden with Klan and pitbull fighting, with senseless beatings replacing car thefts and a better variety of food. If you are going to blow your money and youth socializing in Richmond, stick to one hard and fast rule: If the scene is dominated by VCU, stay. You're likely to witness, or even be a party to, something truly fucked up. If the scene is lousy with University of Richmond students, well, sorry, sucks to be you. I've been there when the ratio flipped from the former to the latter, and man, it's like watching a lame tree sprout before your eyes. (Randy Baker may not like it, but he needs to check himself--he spent most of his time on our side of town.)

2. All of the prostitutes in Richmond--ALL OF THEM--are transvestites. Don't let anyone tell you different. Don't let some dude tell you he found "the one that was a woman." He didn't. As sure as you can't turn left on the Boulevard, he didn't.

3. Side by side, TheatreVCU managed a much stronger good-to-lame ratio as far as their productions went, but my god...that one bad VCU show every year was like a suckfest for the ages. I ended up getting cast in one of the suckfests, and, after the first table read, was so fully aware of the impending disaster that I realized that if I didn't do anything else with my life other than get myself out of that show somehow, I would nevertheless die a hero to the only people who mattered most to me: me, myself and I. In that endeavor, I was successful. When I finally went to see the show, however, I was alarmed at how it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be. Indeed, it was much, much worse.

4. One night, I went with Fiancee of DCeiver and a couple colleagues to see a show in the Performing Arts Center. I walked into the theatre, and the most extraordinary thing happened: the next five minutes or so of my life were LITERALLY the plot of a Mentos commercial. I cannot possibly blog it and do it justice. Next time you see me, ask me to demonstrate.

5. One of the grad students a year ahead of me was a guy named Richard Helland. He was a great actor, and the sort of guy you were always glad to have around to carouse with, but he'd be the first to admit he wasn't the greatest student in the world. By the time his final year rolled around, he had amassed a transcript full of incompletes, dating back to his second semester. Going into his last semester, here's what he was facing down: nine term papers, a complete write-up of his Comprehensive (the second-year) precursor to the thesis, and, oh yeah...the thesis itself. Amazingly, in one four-week period, he shut himself up in the Theatre Department computer lab and pretty much did not leave until every last page was finished. At first, we thought he wasn't going to make it, but after the first week, a few of us started to believe. By the end, he had the whole program pulling for him. We were about ready to name the computer lab after him. And the best part, he aced everything. He basically did his entire MFA in four weeks. That motherfucker was LEGEND.

6. The saddest thing I ever experienced in my life happened my third year. I was sitting at home, on a Sunday, watching the football game. That's when I got a call from my colleague, Greg, a really great actor and a good friend from my year. He came from a small town in Pennsylvania, and was a little naive around the edges, but he was a stand-up guy, a wicked comedian, and the category-killer when it came to pickup football. So, picking up the phone, I was happy to talk to him. Immediately he starts in, "Hey, Jason, I wanted to call you because I recently found out about a tremendous money-making opportunity." Naturally, I assumed this had something to do with acting, so I was like, "Spill." That's when my relationship with Greg changed forever. "Well," he began, "I recently found out about an exciting way to earn money, and the best part is, you basically make money by sharing." Right then, my heart nearly broke. I knew enough to know what had happened to Greg--he had fallen into the sinister clutches of the beast known as Amway. I immediately begged off the call, put the phone down and collapsed onto my bed. "Those bastards," I thought, "Those shit-lipped, Satanic bastards!" Greg was this beautiful thing, full of potential, and they ruined him--I mean that literally. THEY RUINED HIM. He was never the same: he always seemed sad and joyless and dodgy and clothes didn't seem to fit him very well after that. I have sworn to avenge this great crime. Let it be known, Amway: YOUR HOUSE IS GONNA FALL.

7. Friend to the blog Paul, during my Richmond Years, was then in a band called Otis Wants Bread, and Richmond played a role in some of their goings on: they played the Route One South Music Festival, fired their managers in the parking lot of the Diamond...and the weirdest experience they ever had happened in Richmond. Returning to Charlottesville after a prolonged period of touring, they found themselves running late and in need of food. Luckily, Richmond loomed in the distance, and while it was past four in the morning and Paul didn't know everything there was to know about Richmond's 24 hour eateries (otherwise he would have known about the 3rd Street Diner), he did know there was a 24 hour Dennys not far off the highway. So, they made a break for it, quickly found the Dennys, and pulled into the parking lot, filled with the promise of food. But when they reached the door, they weren't prepared for the sight that awaited them. Right next to the sign, "Open 24 Hours," was another sign, "Closed." "It was right then I knew," Paul relates, "I had finally reached the twenty-fifth hour."

8. One of the things we grad students did as members of the faculty was to teach Public Speaking classes. It was a great way to train and maintain a group of undergraduate operatives, and, by and large, it was really quite fulfilling to see the students go from being terrified of speaking in front of people to being able to handle stringing some cogent thoughts together for their peers. Prior to my arrival, the Phillip Morris company would often pay the MFA's to give condensed, two-week versions of the Public Speaking class for their employees. They had two options for compensation: $1200 in cash, or, the equivalent in cigarettes. Astounding. And, adding to the craziness--I actually knew the one person who EVER took them up on the latter offer.

So there you have it. I tag everyone who's working on Birds. Scotty, make that happen.

1 comment:

PK said...

Honored to be included on the list... here's a little more color commentary about the 25th hour:

- The incident was actually WHY we later fired our manager. We played a Saturday night gig in Wilmington, NC - which Google Maps will tell you is TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE MILES from Richmond. We thought the managers were going to get a motel room. They thought we were. It was Memorial Day weekend. After stopping at the first 20 or so highway exits on the way back to C'ville, we finally gave up and made a break for it, stopping in Richmond for some food. We got home at 9 am and by that time were driving in 20 minute shifts, consisting of a "driver" who theoretically operated the vehicle, and a "puncher" who kept the "driver" awake until he fell asleep himself.

- Also, there were actually people inside the Denny's, going about some sort of business, cleaning or something, and there were people sitting at some of the tables. From all appearances, they could not hear us beating on the glass doors. It was like the twilight zone; I am convinced that we were actually peering into another dimension, where, you know, Denny's was actually OPEN.