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@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
For reasons I’m not even really sure (I’m sure the reason is that I mumble), I’d been dealing with a guest/client at work all week who continued to call me ‘Victoria,’ both on the phone and via email. It was strange to me though, given ‘Victoria’ is two more syllables than ‘Lori.’ Nonetheless, my level of apathy triumphed, and I decided to keep my true identity hidden. She was rather annoying.
For the weekend I covered for a hostess at my part time job which my manager praised as some sort of act of heroism. He tends to acknowledge to the point of praise when someone is a “do-gooder,” surely a psychological game to encourage continued beneficial behavior. Positive conditioning is far more effective than negative criticism. It surprises me how many people haven’t figured that out yet. You want people to help you out? Be kind to them. Whoa! What a concept!
Still, even if motives are well intended, any hint of insincerity gets under my skin. Blow smoke up my ass and you’ve sacrificed some of my trust.
“I’m only here because she filled in for me when I went to Costa Rica AND the week I worked Borgata. Plus, you’re paying me. This is not an altruistic act. There’s no such thing,” I confessed.
If you know me even a little, or maybe not all, really, maybe exclusively from content I’ve put on the internet, you know I hate dealing with the public. However, unless you’ve actually spent time with me, you really won’t have a full grasp on just how uncomfortable/awkward I can be in social situations. Working the floor of a jazz club and dealing with people is my absolute Hell. At least, though, this Hell has good music. Sometimes that’s all you can really ask for… a good song. How often music expresses thoughts and feelings I’m unable to describe, even with my talent of the written word.
I’m fidgety and uncomfortable in my interactions, occasionally asked to repeat myself because they can’t hear me. I blame it on the music, but I know it’s me. Mumbles Palminteri. I’m fine even though it is it’s own form of torture. I just want to sleep and never wake up, I think, having gone from one job to this one, in total what would be a 17 hour work day, not including commuting.
“Didn’t you just perform at the Borgata last week? And this intimidates you?” A co-workers inquires, observing my squirrely behavior.
“Yes. Give me a microphone on a stage in front of hundreds and I will be fine.”
“I don’t understand you.”
This one lady on the floor is being a huge bitch to me. I’m an easy target. Despite my sheer will to be a hard pirate, no one is intimidated by me. This lady switches her table three times. No table is good enough for her. She says to me, “I spoke with Victoria today. Where is Victoria? She will get me a good table.”
This made me grin. Oh, Victoria. Well that changes everything! Victoria, a person who not only doesn’t work here but doesn’t exist at all. I’m your Victoria. But she doesn’t know this. She doesn’t even recognize my nasally voice. You’d think someone would remember such an annoying sounding voice– like that of a cartoon mouse with a sinus infection. What a god awful voice I have for someone who decided to speak to the masses for a career.
Laughing, I leave this woman’s table. Later, I’d tell my co-worker about this. “Ohhhh,” she laughed, “I was wondering who the fuck she was talking about.”
Overall, the night was smooth. I didn’t even feel tired until my 16th hour of working when suddenly it dawned on me that I was close to being up for a full 24 hours and I hadn’t nearly eaten enough food. I had expected the night to bring me a much higher level of anxiety. Being who I am, I always expect disappointment, so I’m glad when what I expect to happen doesn’t. At the heart of the true cynic is someone who wants to be proven wrong.
The day before, upon going to work and leaving the Canal Street subway stop, a junky shoulder checked me and I stumbled into another woman. Of course, all New Yorkers shoulder brush/bump into each other sometimes. In any overcrowded city, it’s to be expected. But this guy was trying to hurt me. He checked me.
The switch in my brain that controls rage immediately clicked off. Rightfully so. The crack head quickly moved down the street. It was my first instinct to run and jump on his back. I have a small knife in my pocket, and I wanted to stab him in the throat. In this moment, that was my truest, purest self. Just as quickly as the rage came on, it was like there was another version of me quick to jump in my way, waving her hands in my face going, “don’t do this. It’s a terrible idea. It’s not worth it. You weigh 110lbs. He will throw you to the ground.” Keep in mind, this is all happening within seconds. I scan the street for a cop. There are none. No one even tries to stop the guy. They just give him dirty looks. Geez, aren’t there any real men left in New York anymore?
Instead of acting on impulse, I turned to the startled middle-aged lady who essentially broke my fall. “Are you okay? I’m sorry.”
“Why are you apologizing?” She asked, “are you okay?”
“Fine,” I said, losing sight of that asshole. And then I continued my way to work. My shoulder did hurt, possibly because it is already my bad shoulder, but it was nothing to cry about. Still, I ranted about it to co-workers. Essentially, I was pissed off at myself for not shoving back. Being steamrolled is one thing, not defending yourself is another. Though upon further inspection, I think the Jiminy Cricket version of me was right: walk away; this is not worth it.
Sometimes you got to ask yourself, what would Victoria do?
Wait, who the fuck is Victoria?
Exactly a week before, I had been sitting on the bed in my hotel room at the Borgata in Atlantic City, blankly staring out the window. It was day 6, show 6. It’s a great gig, but it’s a long week. It was white out foggy on day 6. Beyond my window I couldn’t even see the building sized advertisement on Harrah’s resort, constantly flashing names of pop stars I hardly recognized. Felt something out of a “Blade Runner” movie. My head was in a complete fog as well. This is where I want to be– what I worked so hard to get, and here I am, more than half crazy. I started laughing which was followed by tears and even though it was about the same thing, I hardly remember what it was now. I felt like I could feel the building shake from the wind. Could I really feel the hotel shaking? But I swear to you I felt it. The building was shaking.
It had been a most productive week until that sixth day. On the sixth day, I did very little. I just couldn’t bring myself to it.
Leaving the room became less and less of an option, as more people recognize you from the shows as the week goes on. “You’re that comedian girl,” people would say to me in passing. Indeed. I’m that comedian girl. One night I overheard a woman saying how much she didn’t care for the show at all. When she looked up, she saw me standing there and we held eye contact. She was a bit embarrassed, I presume, and I blank stared her. No smile, no frown, no expression. A stare anyone who’s been around me enough knows well.
For a fleeting moment, the rage switch flipped. And I wanted to rip that walker from her decrepit hands and beat her with it. In fact, I was fantasizing this as I blank stared her. But then I remembered something. The echo reminded me. It said, “wait, hold on a minute. Do you really give a fuck what this lady thinks? I mean, look at her! She’s a fat lazy slob who is retarded enough to be entertained by slot machines. Who gives a fuck? In fact, you want this woman not to enjoy your comedy. Your crowd is a thinking one.” Indeed. What would I do without that little voice. How quickly and logically it helps me regain control. Just like that composure is restored. The internal madness nothing more than a blank stare to the public eye.
That scares me. That rage switch. There’s more than a slight streak of anger issues in my family. I’ve seen in the eyes of people I love turn into sharks. Something primal and void of empathy. I’m far more predisposed to a faulty depressive switch. And I’ve been on the other side of that too, looking into the eyes of a depressed loved one and not even really being sure if they’re there. Knowing I must look this way sometimes, in my stares, is enough cause for isolation.
Anger never stays with me long. Having seen it take the wheel and spew hatred that cannot ever be fully amended, anger is an emotion I’ve tamed. Not really to protect you. There’s no true altruism, remember. Because every time I load anger missiles and fire them out, like heat seeking missiles, they always seem to return and do far more damage to me. Lose control and you’ve lost.
Though it makes me wonder, sometimes, if when I leash the anger, it’s fuel for the darkness. There is darkness in my mind. It contaminates memories. My teeth grind when it contaminates memories. How it gains momentum and power sometimes. Like on that sixth day in the casino where the echo of reason walked into the fog and out of my sight. With a longing gaze, I look for it, waiting for it to return.
Why is it that a victory sometimes also feels like a defeat? Perhaps in those moments where I click out of present surroundings, I’m going to plead to the darkness: leave my memories alone, take me instead. Who, I wonder, did I look like on that day as I sat on my hotel bed and stared out the window.