Yet another post about me learning something from children.

There is a phrase that I think about a lot. It takes many forms, but because I love a good prayer, my favorite wording is:

God grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man.

I make this request to God frequently, because frequently, I feel like I did something wrong. So I have to tell myself that it’s all in my head, and this prayer-phrase is very motivating in that regards. But anyway, this isn’t what I meant to write about. Get out of my blog, Men!

This week I realized that while man confidence is advantageous and all, I would rather have the confidence of a middle school girl who hasn’t yet fallen off the cliff of Childhood Revelry into the tempestuous waters of Adolescent Confusion and Trauma.

This was solidified for me during a shoot on Monday at a middle school in East New York. My friend Stephanie was directing a series of promos for an upcoming pilot, and asked if I minded jumping on set for the afternoon. My task: to block a short fight scene.

I’ve directed a lot of kids. It requires stamina. And a lot of breathing from your diaphragm. And yep, these gals were just as deafening as every other group of kids I’ve worked with. But there was one major difference: they somehow managed to be great listeners, too. Not just to me, but to each other. Even through all the teasing and the verbal digs, they managed to be accepting, patient, and extremely creative. Sometimes, without even speaking, they would all erupt into the same dance. Or one girl would start quietly singing, and then suddenly they were a choir.

I hardly had to yell at all. In fact: I found myself mostly listening.

A good actor will take a look at a script and flesh out the world surrounding the lines. They will get in front of a camera, or on a stage, and think: what would I do in real life? And then they will find a way to inject that real life into the scene. Atmosphere will roll, the audience will be transported, and we will all live on a different planet together for 15-130 minutes, plus any residual feelings. Easy, right? Not in my experience.

This takes confidence, which is very hard to find. So when these kids jumped right in and put their own spin on it, creating a fully fleshed out and tremendously entertaining scene, I was honestly kinda jealous. They even added a little moment before the scene started, which is something that many grown up actors don’t think to do even after dumping a hundred grand into an MFA.

Their confidence came from an organically childlike place  -one of wonder and adventure- but it was ever so slightly tinged with the dynamism and resolution that comes with being a woman.

What a powerful combination.

Money Makes Me Sick

On any given week I have 2-3 major faux-pas. Most of the time I forget about them after a good night’s sleep. And if I don’t, that’s okay, because it’s usually cancelled out by one that’s even worse. This week I had two major social bloopers, less than 48 hours of each other. One involved my lawyer, and the other was barfing in a mansion.

If I could go back in time and visit 10 year-old-me, she would be wildly impressed with how glamorous and professional our life will/has become.

Before I begin, I would like to say that the #2 thing that bothers me in my life is when I tell someone about a Horrible Goof of mine and they say: “Why would you do that?” It is especially worse when they say it in their most incredulous voice. As if I have an evil twin; and randomly doing a scary blood curdling scream, or carrying a bag of vomit around in a room full of billionaires is something she has written on her bucket list.

Well, I don’t know why I do this dumb shit, people! That’s why I write about it in a blog! Perhaps talking about it is a way for me to work backwards in order to answer that very question.

(BTW the #1 thing in my life that bothers me is when I accidentally text “tge” instead of “the” and my autocorrect lets it slide.)

I should now mention that the lawyer is not explicitly mine. He works on behalf of my tenant association. Something that I think 10 year old me would ‘tsk’ at.

“Shouldn’t you be a homeowner by now?” She shoots water at me through the gap in her front teeth.

“Oh, go eat another hot dog, Tory Jr.! You don’t have many years left with them anyway!”

So, I’m not actually going to tell you about my courtroom non-drama because it’s really not that interesting, and besides, I want to cut straight to how I barfed in a mansion while the experience is still fresh.

My catering company called me into work early yesterday, all the way over to the Upper East Side. In great haste, I fried up a bunch of veggies, squirted mustard all over them and then put saltine crackers on top because I don’t cook unless I have allotted myself 2-3 hours + a cool down period.

It was a lovely 70 degree day. Providentially, we weren’t allowed into the mansion for another hour. My co-worker, Kat, had Italian Ice from a street vendor and so I wanted one too. I’ve never had one, because, despite dumping anything I can find into a bowl at home and tossing it with picnic condiments, I’m leery of street vendors. After 10 minutes of weighing the pros and cons of every flavor, and being continuously cut in line by schoolchildren, I finally decided on mango and coconut. It was very good. I ate it in 30 seconds, and then I got like… stupid hungry. Ravenous! This is unusual for me.

No worries though because this particular catering company provides a five star staff meal (turkey and cheese or PB&J and if we’re lucky we don’t have to eat it off the floor, even though the floors are often marble).

During set-up I started to feel nauseous. Also unusual for me. I never get nauseous. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve thrown up, sober, in the last five years. But I chugged water and made it through, knowing that there was a sandwich waiting for me just on the other side of this icky feeling. I guess I could have explained my situation to the captain, but I didn’t want to seem needy. Or weak, actually. I work with mostly men, and so I constantly feel the need to prove my capability so I will get hired more often.

The best thing about catering is the backstage access to some of the most gorgeous homes, museums, and venues in the world. I’ve seen artwork that many people would love to see, but will never have a chance to look at. Gigi Hadid’s face, for example. Why just this week, I stuck my armpit directly into it while removing a large salt roasted fish from her table. That face? Yeah, it’s art. And now it knows the power of Schmidt’s deodorant.

This particular mansion is also art. A grand spiral staircase, topped with a Tiffany stained-glass skylight/Givenchy baseball cap, marble walls that taste like caviar when you lick them, Italian tapestries older than Satan’s grandpa’s dick. ETC.

Here’s the deal. Whether we are passing pigs in a blanket on the beach, or champagne in a historic building, cater waiters have a tendency to be sloppy and careless. Not all of them! Only the male models. But this particular company is absolutely teeming with male models, so I wasn’t surprised when were asked not to use the guest bathrooms.

I may not show it, but I am extremely socialized. If someone tells me I’m not allowed to use the bathroom, and that my only option is, ironically, the mansion next door, I will obey. So you can imagine my predicament when I walked into staff holding, saw a beautiful man crouched by the stairwell eating a sandwich while we were all still working away, thought to myself: “OHHH THE NERVE OF THESE MALE MODELS” and immediately started dry heaving.

What was I to do? Here were my garbage can options: The bathroom, which I was not allowed to use, the kitchen, which was where the FOOD was, or the ballroom, which is where all the staff was setting up.

Luckily, Kat showed up out of nowhere with a garbage can from the kitchen and two water bottles, and she shoved me right into the restricted bathroom and shut the door. Women! God love ’em!

But, it was just a few simple dry heaves followed by a runny nose. Sorry guys, I’ve hit over 1,026 words and we haven’t even gotten to the real barf yet.

SO. I felt much better, assumed I was cured, and ate a sandwich. (When it was the appropriate time.) After the sandwich I found myself still feeling hungry. I chugged another bottle of water, talked to a teenaged model about how he has 36,000 followers on Instagram and he’s only had it since January, and then decided to have another sandwich. Why? I DON’T KNOW. BECAUSE I’LL NEVER BE A MODEL? I only made it through half anyway, calm down.

During the pre-show staff meeting in the ballroom, my body decided to reject the food once and for all, and I had no choice but to barf in the guest bathroom. The toilets, by the way, actually STARTED as a Malaysian cave painting of a babirusa before it was magically turned into a modern day john by a celebrity witch named Melanie Mx Lotus. I forgot to tell you that earlier.

You know, I razz on myself a lot when I write, because it makes me feel better, but I WILL give myself a little credit and tell you that when the mango Italian Ice / raspberry jelly combo hit the voodoo toilet that probably cost more than my student loans: I, too, was an artist.

Catering is a pretty easy job most of the time. There is some heavy lifting here and there, and I don’t LOVE fighting my way through the halitosis parade that is a crowded room full of art buyers, but the shifts like last night, when all I had to do was sit in coat check with Kat and Matt and sip water and not barf, those are great nights. Those are dream nights!! Easy. Fucking. Paycheck.

So I sat my ass down, let Kat and Matt take over for a bit and… then I threw up again and decided to go home.

Here, FINALLY, dear fans and friends of my parents, is where we get to the absolutely mortifying, colossally disturbing faux-pas that I promised early on and I’m sure that once I’m done writing this, I will have exorcised the memory and it won’t seem all that bad.

There was a small garbage in coat check, and a side room. So I snatched it and hid myself away. The little pirates inside me heaved all the remaining water and peanut butter out of the sinking ship in my stomach, and the task was finally complete. So I tied and double bagged it because… gross. Then, I stood up and found myself face to face with a cabinet full of little handmade dolls. The dolls were all wearing pink and white checkered aprons with frills and the display was titled “Self-Portraits.” Holding my bag of vomit, I vowed that my self-portrait would never look so blatantly feminine.

Then I immediately went into “Obedient I should do the right thing mode,” which is a total lady thing, and did what any good little girl / cat with a dead bird / socially awkward idiot person who feels like they need to prove they’re not lying would do, despite Kat’s pleas for me to just leave it for her to deal with:

I carried the little garbage can containing my barf up the gorgeous marble staircase, smiling politely at the billionaires I passed, walked into the ballroom full of my co-workers, showed the can to the boss and said: “I threw up in coat check. What should I do with this?”

He was rightly disgusted, and it turned out I had two options. Leave the barf in the hall and let Kat take care of it, like she had suggested. Or just… take it outside to where the rest of the trash was. Which never occurred to me even though coat check was basically in the driveway by the sidewalk.

Maybe this wouldn’t embarrass you. Maybe you just read 1,813 words, waiting for me to tell you that my puke is super combustible and I accidentally burned down the whole ancient joint, and then I gave you story blue balls instead. I hope I didn’t let you down. On the other hand, sometimes I’m so socially cautious that I actually just end up fucking up most of the time, so: I officially don’t care what you think! (Please love me.)

Celebrity witch Melanie Mx Lotus herself could have turned my upchuck into gold, and I would have been on the train feeling guilty afterward no matter what. I either didn’t do enough or I did too much. I suppose being socially appropriate means that you’ve found a healthy balance. These people exist. I am not one of them.

But hey at least I can say I barfed in a mansion!! And someday when the time machine is a thing, I really will go back to little me and say, “Go ahead Tory Jr., eat those frozen cordon bleus that Mom got schmoozed into ordering from a strange door-to-door frozen meat salesman. Because when you grow up, you will have a very delicate stomach.”

#wcw Alicia Barnatchez

I can remember going to two slumber parties in my youth. Maybe there were more, but I was a weirdo and I doubt it. At one point I was pretty consistently referred to as “Freak of Nature,” and nobody wants one of THOSE braiding their hair.

Once in 6th grade a few of us went to this girl’s llama farm for a slumber party and we watched “The Other Sister” and afterwards I announced I hated donuts, which was a lie. The next morning we had donuts for breakfast and I had to sit and watch everyone eat them. I’m pretty sure I know why that memory sticks out to me. (THE LESSON I LEARNED WAS TO NEVER TELL A LIE).

The other sleepover was hosted by myself, and I was dared to pull my pants down and turn around in a circle three times while saying “I’m Madonna, I’m Madonna.” After that I went to my bed and read a book alone while everyone watched “Pet Sematary.”

Naturally, I grew up and wrote a play about girls at a sleepover, and one of them flies into a murderous rage, because I have some sort of childhood psychological something to fulfill / repair.

Also, I wrote this play because Alicia Barnatchez was delightfully pregnant and I thought it would be silly to place that beautiful expectant body of hers in a teenage slumber party situation. I feel really weird about that sentence, but seriously, the first time I saw her in the full glory of her pregnancy I was stunned. Never have I seen a woman carry a child so gracefully, so luminously. On top of that, she’s one of the funniest performers I know. I always feel safe with her onstage.

Alicia, Emma, Caitlin and I made up the lady component in the Annoyance NY’s first graduating class. We’ve all known each other for just over a year and we have had a great time growing together as performers, so it wasn’t hard to write bawdy characters for a few gutsy ladies that have faked demon hell orgies together. And then Annie Donley said she’d direct it and it became a real thing. If I ever have a baby like Alicia did, I would like for Annie Donley to direct it. I am obsessed with Annie Donley. If anyone wants to get together and talk about it over coffee lmk. 

I thought we were going to do our show a couple times, Alicia was going to have her baby, and we would all move on to the next thing. But, its a fun show and we were asked to expand it a bit, and perform it at the end of April- which was realllllly close to Alicia’s due date.

Due to false labor pains and a case of hobbit feet, we didn’t have a chance to rehearse the new script all together until the day of the actual show. Which was terrifying for me. Everyone else was totally cool with it. How do you people relax? What’s the damn secret? I am so lucky to be surrounded by cool chicks who are not as neurotic as I am. 

By the time we all got together to rehearse, around 3:30pm, the baby was fumbling with the keys to unlock the door, but Alicia hauled her pregnant ass all the way up to Times Square anyway. We even choreographed a dance.

We did the show, it was a blast, and Alicia’s water broke in the cab on the way home- just a few minutes after leaving the theatre. Baby Oliver took the stage the very next morning.

People put up shows in unusual and imperfect situations all the time. That’s one of the fun things about a live performance. And you know what else people do all the time? Back out of shit last minute. NOT ALICIA BARNATCHEZ. This lady is the boss. So think about her the next time you “don’t feel like it.” 

Back in March, when Alicia was somewhere between 8 and 9 months pregnant, our improv team, Sweet Valerie High, performed at the PIT’s NYC Improv Festival. When Michael Condon inevitably picked her up and began to carry her around the rest of us cleared the sides of the stage like a hockey team. She didn’t bat an eye, of course, because she’s fearless, trusting and unusually easy going.

We got a run of the show, so we will be performing it every Saturday night at the Annoyance in Brooklyn. Our first rehearsal after Alicia had her baby started on the floor, as we laid there and listened to her tell the four of us about the hours after she left the theatre that night. I couldn’t help but think that it felt sort of like a sleepover, this time surrounded by women I admire and love to goof around with.

From the sounds of it, Oliver is just as laid back as his mom. And I’m sure he will grow up to be just as committed, courageous and hilarious as well. 


#wcw Senior Airman Tasia Reed

I have a handful of very detailed visual memories from high school. I’ll never forget, for example, what I wore on my 14th birthday (September 11, 2001), or kicking a girl from the opposing team in the ass during a basketball game while she bent over to pick up the ball.

A memory that sticks out to me, for less obvious reasons, is the first time I saw Taz Reed. I had not yet met her, but she was preceded by her reputation: a drum playing transfer student from Germany. Germany! How exotic!! A chick drummer! Woah!! In my mind, I pictured a tiny blonde. No clue why. (Germany).

I was pretty surprised when I showed up at marching band practice on a hot August afternoon to see instead a tiny black girl in a Korn shirt and Jnco jeans, with a blonde stripe running itself through her short hair. Does it ever matter if anyone is black or white or purple?! Actually, it feels like a necessary detail because it was at that moment in my life, my brain, which had only left the Midwest 1 or 2 times, chewed up the word “stereotype” and spit it right out onto the timpani Taz was standing behind.

I ask Taz if the memory of her outfit sounds about right and she says, “Unfortunately… yes… what the actual fuck was I thinking?”

Maybe in this memory I am wearing my red Dickies and oversized John Lennon t-shirt. So I console her with that.

“You never got mistaken for a boy or a lesbian.”

Touche! Oh high school.

Speaking of foreign languages: Taz isn’t really FROM Germany. She was a military brat. There’s no base in Waterloo, Iowa, but she had come home to live with her grandmother.

We became friends immediately. She had a car and could help me with physics, but more importantly, we were both navigating through high school life as gap-toothed introverts hiding inside baggy clothes, with very specific taste in music. And, at the time, we were good kids. Which meant we could stay occupied and out of trouble just by eating chicken wings or laying in bed listening to hardcore music. I had never in my life met anyone more boy crazy than Taz, and Korn frontman Jonathan Davis topped her list. I leaned more toward the pretty boy type. Orlando Bloom. YEARS of longing. Taz and I were both accidentally goofy. The only girls in a group of nerdy guys (sorry dudes), which made us the butt of many gentle jokes. Pretty soon Taz knew all my secret AIM screen names, which is how you define true friendship!!

Taz is older than me, so she graduated earlier and headed off to college to study physics and philosophy and continue being boy crazy. Eventually she headed down to St. Louis to finish school and be close to her family, and we would meet up for Pancheros and intellectually stimulating conversation whenever she would return to visit. Pancheros, btw, is Iowa’s Chipotle, and it is better than Chipotle because they will “Bob” your burrito. (Mix up the ingredients).

Eventually Taz decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the Air Force. So off she went to Germany, the apparent home of tiny blondes. It’s easy to lose touch with someone when you don’t get a chance to connect with them, physically. Taz is back in the states, in Baltimore, actually. Even though we don’t see each other, it feels nice to know we can.

In the movies, part of growing up is going to your high school reunion and seeing who’s fat and who’s successful. I would be lying if I said I didn’t compare. Thanks, Facebook. But Taz is someone I could never hold a candle to. She graduated from basic training in 2011, and has been steadily stacking up the awards ever since. Along with her actual job (Cyber Systems Operations Journeyman, Training Manager- “Sorry, I can’t tell you where I work”), she is a Suicide Prevention Monitor, a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate, a musician, a student, a basketball coach and a Dr. Who fanatic. She addresses most people affectionately as “Friend,” and refers to Civilians as “you guys.”  In certain circumstances, she can arrest people. A benefit she has just recently learned of and seems very excited about.

I love to hear about the work she does, because there are so many stigmas associated with the military. We talk about the riots in Baltimore and how she could protest as long as she’s not in uniform. We lay bare the discussion about whether or not soldiers are heros. We fondly remember our friend Jake, a victim of the war in Iraq. We don’t talk about boys anymore. We don’t need to because our everyday lives and our career goals are interesting and complicated enough without them. Taz doesn’t plan to be in the military forever. But it has helped her focus and given her a sense of purpose.

“If anything, the military has helped me realize that I want to contribute to my community and make things better.”

My friend Taz is a badass.