Monday, January 24, 2011

How I Got Here: Patrick

This is part of a series.  You can read other contributions, here, here, here and here.  If I've failed to link to other entries, please let me know.  (Thanks to Tony for giving me two more links; are we still missing people?)
 For years I swore I would never live in New York City.

   I'd only spent a few hours here in the Winter of '87, and hadn't cared for it.  I knew from living in London that I wasn't a fan of cities in general.  I found them ugly, crowded, dirty, rude and loud.  The cement and skyscrapers made me claustrophobic.     
 Those few hours in NYC, not only did I feel the concrete canyons closing in on me, I found myself rushing as fast as I could, everywhere, despite the fact that I had no place to be, no schedule to keep.  I just found the manic energy of the crowds impossible to resist.  A friend I was sight-seeing with that day loved the anonymity of the place.  At each street corner she'd let out a loud shriek, delighting in the fact that no one cared, or even seemed to notice.   
That wasn't much of a draw for me, however.  Even graduating with a degree in theatre, I swore I would never live in NYC, nor would I ever wait tables.  (For the good of diners and restaurants everywhere, I have at least kept the latter promise.)   Instead I headed off to Seattle, Washington. 
 That was a good choice.  In '88 the regional theater scene was exploding, with Seattle as one of the acknowledged capitals.  I fell into some remarkable situations, with talented, inspiring people.  The cost of living was low and the city gorgeous.   
Around about year seven though, for any number of reasons (age perhaps being the easiest to point to) I began to get restless. More as a way to shake things up than anything else, I gave myself the assignment of going to at least three auditions a week.  On one occasion, just to make my quota, I went to an audition for a conservatory I had never heard of.  The auditor turned out to be an alumnus of my college, we had a nice chat, the audition went well and he let me know I had his support if I wanted to attend the program. 

I had experienced a couple of premonitory dreams that Summer and Autumn, so I was perhaps more receptive to mystical ideas than usual.  Meeting this guy had a sense of pattern to it, or at least it did for my pattern-seeking brain at the time.  I didn't think I'd go though.  I hadn't been planning to go back to school, I certainly didn't want to go in New York City, and if I did go, wouldn't I want to go whole hog and get an MFA?  This didn't seem like a good fit. 
 Two months later, in early December, I got a call from the school registrar, asking if I might want to start in the program that January.  That is to say, in about a month.  They could offer me a little bit of scholarship money, if that sweetened the deal. 
 I was still wary.  I'd been able to graduate from college debt-free, so the thought of taking out student loans, in order to go to acting school, seemed like a dubious prospect at best, scholarship money or no.  But along with that mystical pushing, another thought started to exert its own gravitational pull.  I didn't feel like I had taken a lot of risks in my life.  I was careful, a planner, and kind of a nervous nelly.  I didn't jump off cliffs. But I wanted to, at least once.  The fact that this was harebrained became part of its appeal. 

I wasn't completely off the deep end yet.  A trusted professor gave me a rave review of the school.  My folks were a bit bemused, but game.  To my surprise, Mom wasn't even worried about me moving to the big bad city.  Daily reading of the New York Times had kept her apprised of the severe drop in crime.

So, off we go then.  In two weeks I had given away or packed up seven years' worth of stuff, and left the town for good.  I spent the holidays in Indiana, then flew into Newark Airport.  A few hours later the blizzard of '96 hit.  The city was paralyzed for over a week. 

This was a blessing for me in ways I would have never predicted.  For one thing, it meant that no one thought it odd that I didn't venture out much my first few days. If my hosts were aware that I spent much of my time huddled in their guest room in the fetal position, sucking my thumb, they were kind enough not to mention it.  Because I was freaking out just a wee bit.  Even with the ready-made structure of school, I still had some daunting tasks ahead of me, like finding a place to live.  I knew the reputation.  I'd heard the stories.  Even the idea of a broker took some getting used to.  I needed to pay someone to help me look for places?  Pay them a month's rent?  During that first snow-bound week, when none of the brokers offices were open anyway, I at least made peace with the concept.  The snow gave me another gift.  The first time I ventured into Manhattan, it still blanketed everything.  I was one of only a handful of people climbing over the drifts.  Traffic was nil so most of us walked in the streets, rather than the unshoveled sidewalks.  The entire island was deserted, beautiful, and quiet

I think my twenty-nine year old self was better equipped for the bustling metropolis than my twenty-one year old self had been, but it was still nice to have those first few days to explore the place in peace.  I still love New York City best when it's covered in snow. 

*All the photos were taken near my apartment in Harlem.


  1. Wonderful Patrick, and i totally agree about loving the sudden silence.
    PS: Beau and I did our "How I got Heres" in April:


    I hope I'm not missing anyone else.

  2. I do love this series and I hope other contributors offer their stories. Patrick, you seem to have carved out your place in NYC quite nicely. Perhaps it is your skill as an actor that gives you the adaptability. I love NYC, but I'm not sure I could live there.

  3. Lovely.
    A great story with evocative photos that ooze New York City - wearing its best rough-around-the-edges, still-not-completely-gentrified ensemble.
    You have discovered and illuminated the paradox that is this City for me, and, I suspect, many others, where that which you proclaim to distain, you love, and where you would expect to wither, you thrive.

    Long live the flâneur.

  4. Everyone has a "How I got here" story about NY. For some people it is the culmination of a lifetime's desire; for others, it's just pure fate or accident, or providence, or even bad luck. With me, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, when I was a month away from my 19th birthday—as if I was destined to live here. I hated my first 5 years here: it took me that long to get really acclimated to it. Now I love it, to tears, to everything. There is no place on earth like it. We forget that sometimes.