Sunday, September 16, 2018

Letters To Patti Ann (Chapter 3) "Behind The Wheel"

hi patti ann,

nice to get a good laugh at that message you sent.  things are great here, feeling a big sense of accomplishment finally.  the sun is shining, and cool.  i'm as tan as uncle winn in the middle of the cane field, well almost.  i got a few new hats too.  they're a lot like the ones the old men used to wear in grand point.  i think todd has one of papere's old hats.  my music is really coming out good.  i can't believe it's my creation.  this is what i wanted to feel since joey died.  i have peace now, because i haven't quit living, you know? evolving.  there's much for us to be thankful for.  hope you're battling and trying to move on.  we have a duty to live truthfully, and honestly with ourselves.  we must fight hard to squeeze out every bit of ourselves while we're blessed with life.  you are a living flower, if you can continue to dig deep and continue to blossom, there will be much life surrounding you.  i'm thinking of you today.  happy mothers day!  it's the greatest mother's day, lil maddy can kiss patti ann.



They call me an elephant head because I don't forget a thing.  I remember things in detail, like the warmth of Patti's legs when I learned to drive by sitting on her lap.  My first time behind the wheel of a car and it was in the Poirrier's prized Chevrolet Vega.  For some reason, it seems there must have been cigarette smoke because wherever Patti was there was Tina too.  Not that Tina smoked but she was born wild and loose and was free.  It's a hard place to get to as a human, that childlike state.  When I got to the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in NY, that's the first thing they tried to get us back to, was our inner child.  To act on instincts.  

Patti was much more reserved and observed more and let Tina have center stage.  These little road trips were insane for me.  At this time I could only take my bike up to the old school yard where we played baseball but here I was behind the wheel going all the way to the "New Road".  Well it wasn't quite a road yet.  It was a long stretch of dirt that would go from east to west along the River Road about a mile or so north of the river.  The back of Grand Point would be the back no longer.  And we were indeed in the back and Gramercy was the big city.  It was a special kind of freedom when we'd spend a night or two in Gramercy at my maternal Grandparents house.  Two quarters in my pocket headed to the bakery on Main St. felt really good.  It felt like a city. I always took note of the same feelings I'd have years later in NY when I'd take a break to walk down to the cafe.  

In the late 90's,  I was going back and forth to Louisiana pretty regularly.  A new airline was starting called Jet Blue and you no longer needed a booking agent to book a flight.  I'd book a $69 flight one way armed with my portable recorder and my new found perspective and love for Grand Point.  It was absurd.  I was making a record.  Years before while reading many biographies, I convinced my dad that Marlon Brando was just a dude from a  country town and that I was going to the same acting school as him in NY.  My parents were always opened minded, especially with me because I was forever challenging the status quo.  I had a hard time with footsteps and following them.

Ms. Alice Winston came off as a mean old lady at The Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting.  Everyone was frightened of her but I kinda liked her and the way she'd teach the class over looking New York smoking a cigarette and never flicking the ashes.  They'd just drop to the floor.  She was from a golden era. She was getting on in years and we were constantly compared to Marlon Brando cause he was still Stella's prized student and Ms. Alice was around in those times when Stella started her school.  It was grueling for an introvert.  9-5 everyday of the week, up on stage having to perform or put yourself out there in some capacity.  Before long it became natural but I always had a chip on my shoulder about it because I had this Grand Point accent I couldn't get rid of and the European actors had these big open beautiful voices.  Those diction classes gave me a headache, trying to get my lazy Cajun tongue to move and annunciate.  

Much confidence came out of my year at the Conservatory though.  To have these teachers who have seen it all tell me I'm an artist was all I needed to run back to my apartment every night to write music.  These were the things going on for me when I first moved to NY, when Patti first lost her normal life and the letters began.  There was no road map for me.  Everything was instinct.  I had finally convinced my parents I was an actor and now I was sitting outside my East Village apartment telling my mom I'm a musician and I'm leaving the Conservatory.  It was a safe place at Stella.  It was part of New York University and there were many talented, smart folks around and the best thing about it was having a coach again or mentors to push you.  Leaving this behind was really scary cause I'd be on my own now.  Or at least that's what I thought.  

The wolf would begin to howl again and this time Patti would barely escape it's grasp and become my muse.  Trips to Louisiana became very important.  One to see Patti and two to gather information and stories.  Someone told me the old "Daves Store" had been moved behind the Stock Pile Bar and I went to see it before heading back to Brooklyn.  It sat vacant and I peeked in the window.  I could smell the smoke and Little Millers.  I saw Kerry scratching on the 8 ball while the place was packed with bare footed kids waiting their turn to climb the winners bracket.  I saw Mr. Yolande smash his big farm hand on the table and grab the foreigner Pat East by the neck.  (Foreigner=anyone north of the New Road)  I saw myself, Patti and Tina behind the bar grabbing a Pop and some "Grand Isle Candy" (Starburst) after our drive out to the New Road to see the huge airplane that had landed in an emergency so the "Sky King" could run home.  "Bye Mr. Milton"..... "Bye Mang".

"Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art" -Stella Adler

No comments:

Post a Comment