Tarnished City on a Hill

What the f*** just happened? Whatever way you lean politically, I think we can safely agree that no one—no one—expected this. Even the most staunch Trump supporter didn’t expect him to actual…

Source: Tarnished City on a Hill

Tarnished City on a Hill

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What the f*** just happened?

Whatever way you lean politically, I think we can safely agree that no one—no one—expected this. Even the most staunch Trump supporter didn’t expect him to actually win. They hoped for it, but they couldn’t have known.

So what the f***?

I will attempt to explain to the best of my limited knowledge. My aim is to wrap my arms around this gorilla, not pass judgment. I want to point out the divide in the hope that folks standing on either side of it might hesitantly wave at each other instead of throwing rocks back and forth. The anger is real, I get that, and throwing rocks can feel damn good. But let us take a peek at who we are aiming at.

There are many, many reasons behind why a person casts a vote. Were there true blue bigots who gleefully filled in the bubble next to Trump’s name? Sure. Were there smug liberal elitists voting for Hillary’s inevitable coronation from the safety of their ivory towers? A few. Those voters are not my subject. There are voters who vote primarily for cultural reasons and those whose concern is mostly economical, and those are the ones I’d like to look at.

Back in “the day,” cultural concerns—what a candidate felt personally about social issues, reproductive rights, religious values, civil rights, etc.–were considered secondary. Candidates always had to prove their “integrity,” but it was rarely what got them elected. “What will you do for me?” was the main criteria, not “Do your values match my own?” Enter the old-school, disenfranchised, mostly white, working class voter from the heartland and the rust belt. They have seen their jobs sent overseas. They have seen their worry for their future and security ignored. Many voted for Obama at least once, with the hope that his promised buoy would lift all ships. It didn’t. Their anger is real. Their fear is real. As I heard brilliantly posed on a radio show recently, their fear is not new—many groups in this country have spent generations being marginalized—but it is new to them.

So here comes Bernie talking directly to their concerns. And there he goes, ushered out the door by the media, the DNC, and ultimately tone-deaf Democratic voters. Who will look out for my best interests now? Where do I vent my anger? Which candidate will allow me to keep my job and put food on my table? We know the answer to that now. Not the status-quo candidate who lumped me in with the rest of the “deplorables.” I’m going for the guy who wants to restrict global trade, keep American jobs in America, stop the flood of immigrants I need to compete with, and give me back some damn pride for a change.

Are these voters racist, xenophobic, and reactionary? No. They are mostly white people voting in their own economic self-interests. Cultural concerns about Trump’s hateful rhetoric may have been considered, but in the end what he said on a talk show eleven years ago or his batshit crazy wall-building talk were not the deciding factor. My job, my family, my vote. Self-preservation. A tale as old as time. If you want to know why conservative Christians, some African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and above all female voters could possibly vote for a candidate like Donald Trump, here it is: the rhetoric didn’t matter. Their jobs did.

And was there also a giant middle finger to the celebrities and the millennials and the smug “liberals” who underestimated their anger? Sure, why not. If you couldn’t be bothered to listen to me screaming for eight years, here ya go, suck on this. He probably won’t win no matter what I do anyway. These are the voters now telling Hillary supporters, “Get over it! I had to live through Obama for eight years.” They see the palpable fear of minorities as a gross overreaction. In their hearts they did what any sane person in their situation would do, the simple, pragmatic thing—they used the vote they had to ensure their livelihoods.

So let’s look across the divide at the Hillary supporters. For a voter who values cultural issues—economic justice, civil rights, marriage equality, Black Lives Matter, gun control, et al.—Hillary was never a perfect fit. She was a little too invested in big business and its unending fountain of political funding to be believed as a progressive crusader. The way Bernie was treated by the Democratic establishment left a bad taste. But most of these voters relented when Bernie pushed his chips in with hers, and began to get excited by her shiny, new progressive agenda. Then they looked at her opponent and saw every idealistic dream they had for their country turned utterly on its head. They saw intolerance, misogyny, xenophobia, hatred—the worst, basest underbelly this country has to offer. They saw minorities being punched in the face, the end of religious freedom, women being grabbed and assaulted, spewing, venomous anger toward themselves and their underrepresented friends. And Hillary–uninspiring, hard-working, smart-as-a-whip policy wonk Hillary—didn’t seem like a bad choice after all. In fact, she seemed to be the only sane choice. How could anyone support that man and all he stood for?

And here’s where it gets a little poetic. Culturally, the past decade or so felt like a series of wins. Our first African-American president. Gay marriage. Outrage at the deaths of unarmed Black men. The acknowledgment of violence against women. Online movements for equality and solidarity. It felt like being on the precipice of a new country where inclusion and fairness were valued. And then—the first female President of the United States seemed to be a looming reality. Don’t underestimate the importance of the narrative of improvement and evolution to these folks. It is the reason their hearts are authentically broken today. They are the people who see in this country the possibility of the shining city on a hill. There is no American dream without these people dreaming it into existence.

To them, the election of Donald Trump feels like a repudiation. The back of the hand given to uppity women, minorities, gays, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans. A punishment. A death. They feel unsafe, now that the thin veneer of acceptable behavior seems to have eroded like the ozone layer, and they worry for the safety of others. They look around them and see Germany in the 1930s. And some will roll their eyes at that. But just like with the unheard, disenfranchised heartlander, the anger and fear are real. And for the non-white, the violence seems frighteningly imminent.

And then there’s the dream deferred. The specter of a demagogue, backed by a Republican Congress and Supreme Court, hurling us back into the cultural dark ages, rolling back all the progress we’ve made, killing the dream of equality and reproductive rights for women, equal educational opportunity, affordable health care, racial healing, LGBTQ rights. To understand the depth of disappointment these voters are experiencing right now, you have to understand the dream they feel slipping away.

So here we are. No claims of “racist voters” are going to change this. No amount of “get over its” are going to make the grieving process easier. There is endless invective on each side, endless reasons to revel in your rightness or curse your oppressor. The rabbit hole has opened up and swallowed us. And we can take the long view, say that this open wound between us will eventually close over and heal. And that is very true. But it doesn’t help us here and now. All that can help us now is empathy. If we can maybe, maybe take a step back and see each other as human beings instead of profile pictures. If we can make simple commitments to try to understand those who disagree with us, even when that disagreement runs far and deep. If we can come to the common conclusion that whatever our political bent, we need to be vigilant in the support of the powerless and unheard among us. It will be hard, maybe the hardest thing the country has done since WWII. Families will turn against each other, fights will erupt, opportunists will use this as an chance to turn us hateful and resentful and violent. I won’t be able to hold my tongue myself, especially in the face of prejudice. Nor should we. If we are who we say we are, Trump and Hillary voters alike, Americans, people with anger and fear and dreams and pragmatism, we will not stand for it. Let that be our common ground: protection. If…

Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom FREE June 6, 7 & 8

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My ebook, “Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” will be FREE on Amazon on Friday, June 6th, Saturday, June 7th and Sunday, June 8th!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C479TN6/

“Sister Mercedes and the Temple of Doom” is a collection of blog posts from this very blog!  From the depiction of the author’s upbringing as a fat, shy Catholic school boy to the vagaries of family life to trying to live hand-to-mouth while on disability, “Sister Mercedes” is a sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes tragic and always human glimpse behind the veil of parenthood, marriage, pop culture and the world in general.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please spread the word to anyone you think would be interested.  It’s FREE!

Thanks,

Brian

 

Patty Duke Sipped Here

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I have a story to tell my friends.

It’s a show-biz story. A story of perseverance, fortitude and a never-say-die attitude. A story of pluck, determination, ambition! It’s about going out there a simple chorus girl and coming back a star!

Except the star is an end table.

Allow me to explain. Those of you who know me may have received one of the 10,000 or so emails and Facebook posts regarding my play “Echoes of Ireland.” We’ve been on a bit of a Spring tour, performing the show in Newburgh this March, Catskill in May, and coming up in June—Goshen! Get your tickets! While supplies last! Act now! JUST THROW MONEY AT THE PRETTY COLORS!!!

Sorry, I got a little carried away. Anyway, the reason why we’ve been able to pack up the show so easily and visit these fine villages is that we have practically NO set. It’s literally four chairs, or stools, or boxes, or whatever the theater has handy for us to put our butts on. We have costumes—I mean, we’re not completely without theatrical sensibility. And props! We have…well, we have a couple. More than one. The lights get dim and then bright again. OK, it’s a good show, don’t judge a book by its lack of incidental music. Oh, and there’s one table. Little dark cherry deal, ’bout yea tall.

The table belongs to Dana, one of our cast members. She brought it in two days before we opened in Newburgh, and we were very grateful to have it. Not too big that it blocked the audience, nor to small to rest a cup of tea upon (or some grammatically correct version of that notion.) Through the course of the show laundry is folded on it, and a fake cigarette and ashtray rest atop it. Good, hard-working table that keeps its nose clean, does its job and doesn’t kill you to the rest of the cast as soon as your back is turned. A mensch.

We liked it so much that we brought it with us when we went up to Catskill. We could have used other tables, but this one had proven its worth and deserved more consideration than the rest. Again it took its place among the stools and turned in yet another useful, utilitarian, hard-working performance. The show in Catskill was glorious. A wonderful, receptive crowd in a beautiful, brand new theater space. We received–along with our table—a standing ovation. I mention that fact only to adequately set the scene, not because of any prideful vanity about the show and my cast…(it was one of the best days of my LIFE!) There was a pleasant post-show buzz, as the theater owners supplied free shots of Bushmills and some very nice Irish music. We all packed our costumes up and returned home with the pleasurable warmth of a job well done. And some Bushmills.

And without our table.

The theater owners informed us of the missing cast member and we arranged to pick it up the next week when my wife had a doctor appointment in Albany.  However, that was when fate intervened and decided it was the long suffering table’s turn to enjoy the spotlight.  At the last moment, the owners (a charming couple named Steven and John) made arrangements to bring PATTY DUKE to the tiny, insignificant village of Catskill for a “one night only” performance.  Her only demand?  A small table! Where to find one…hey, what about the one left here by those idiot “Echoes” people?

Thus, the table will soon have an IMDb credit.  With Patty Duke. What a world.

I agreed to this on Dana’s behalf, which you may consider forward of me. But I took for granted that she wouldn’t want to deny her table this once-in-a-lifetime experience to star alongside the original Hellen Keller. However, I took pains to insist I was not responsible for any water rings left by Ms. Duke.

The fact of the matter is that the table will soon have a more impressive resume than I do. My closest brush with stardom was when I almost sold furniture to Dianne Wiest. She didn’t buy. Dana’s fear is that when the table finally returns to her it will be so inflated with its own ego that it will refuse to hold her jar of Q-tips anymore. And this, apparently, would be my fault.

I told her every time the table starts talking about “that time I performed opposite Patty Duke,” just start flipping through an IKEA catalog.  Actors need to know just how replaceable they are.

 

Echoes of Ireland at Ritz in Newburgh, NY March 21-23

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Hi Everyone,

My play Echoes of Ireland will be shown the weekend of March 21-23 at the historic Ritz theater in Newburgh, NY.  For my local readers, the show will feature Ron Morehead, Cat Barney and Dana Lockhart.  All the necessary information is below.  If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop in and say hi.

Best,

Brian

A Family Saga Resonates Through Generations

in Brian C. Petti’s

Echoes of Ireland

March 21-23 at the Lobby at the Ritz Theater107 Broadway Newburgh

Fresh from it’s production in County Cork, Ireland!

The sweep of the Irish experience from County Cork to New York City is on display in Echoes of Ireland, a drama about family ties, the immigrant life and the Irish-American experience. Written and directed by Ellenville, NY resident Brian C. Petti,Echoes will hold performances on Friday, March 21 at 7:30, Saturday, March 22 at 7:30pm and Sunday, March 23 at 2pm at the Lobby at the Ritz Theater107 Broadway Newburgh. Echoes of Ireland was recently produced in County Cork by the Skibbereen Theatre Society where it garnered rave reviews such as:

“Powerful …every emotion came to the fore during this story of pride and determination in the face of adversity.” Cllr Karen Coakley, Mayor of Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland.

Tickets are $15, and may be purchased at www.artful.ly/store/events/2624. There is limited seating, so reservations are strongly suggested. The play is being presented by Safe Harbors of the Hudson and Hatmaker’s Attic Productions, through an agreement with Eldridge Plays & Musicals.

Echoes of Ireland is a series of inter-related monologues that follows the saga of a single Irish family from County Cork in 1860 to 2001 New York City. Beginning five years after the end of the potato famine in Ireland, Echoes follows the Cunyngham clan through their journey across the ocean to the ports of Manhattan, through the lowly existence of immigrant life in the States, to the assimilation and rebirth of their family as American citizens who never forget from whence they came. The journey is part tragedy, part comedy, part history lesson and all undeniably human. 

Show times are:

Friday, March 21 at 7:30

Saturday, March 22 at 7:30pm

Sunday, March 23 at 2pm

Echoes of Ireland features notable local actors Ron Morehead (Cairo, NY), Cat Barney (Kingston, NY) and Dana Lockhart (Middletown, NY). Additional information can be found at: pettiplays.wikispaces.com and http://www.ritztheaternewburgh.org/.

Brian C. Petti has had his plays produced Off-Off Broadway (Masquerade, The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein, Banshee) and regionally (Next Year in Jerusalem, The Measure of a Man, On the Expectation of White Christmases,) by such companies as Ten Grand Productions, The American Theater of Actors, Inc. and The Fresh Fruit Festival. Masquerade was staged at Cherry Lane Theater in NYC and Next Year in Jerusalem was the winner of the Humboldt State University National Play Contest in California, where it received a student production. Published plays include The Measure of a Man by JAC Publishing and Promotions, Banshee by Next Stage Press and Echoes of Ireland by Eldridge Plays & Musicals.

Safe Harbors of the Hudson is a nonprofit organization committed to transforming lives and building communities through housing and the arts in the city of Newburgh, New York. The Cornerstone Residence is a unique facility that offers support services and jobs training on-site provided by Independent Living, an advocacy and service organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for persons with disabilities. The Cornerstone Residence consists of apartments and artist lofts, with a mixed tenancy of single adults, including the formerly homeless, veterans, those living with a mental health diagnosis, artists and other adults in need of affordable housing. The building offers many amenities and programs including a fitness center, library, computer lab, classes and a GED program. Many of these amenities and programs are available to the public. The Cornerstone also houses several multi-use spaces that may be rented for special events of all kinds.

Future projects include the renovation of three commercial spaces and the restoration of the historic Ritz Theater. As the only remaining historic theater in the City of Newburgh, the Ritz will provide a venue for live performances, educational programs for our youth, employment opportunities for our community, and create an active cultural and tourist destination.

Founded by brothers Edward and William Gibbons-Brown, Hatmaker’s Attic Productions is putting the “community” back in community theatre. They’re working to build a positive and safe creative environment where all are welcome.

The play will be produced in cooperation with Eldridge Plays & Musicals. Eldridge, a leading play publisher since 1906, offers hundreds of full-length plays, one-acts, melodramas, holiday and religious plays, children’s theatre plays and musicals of all kinds.

Welcome to the Fishbowl

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I am not a celebrity, nor do I have any ambition to become one. Of course I’d like to become a wildly successful playwright whose plays are continuously showing around the world 24-7. But how many of those can you name who aren’t Neil Simon? Mostly I like to try to do good work and take that wherever it leads me.

I mention the topic because three “celebrities” have made the front page of the tabloids lately, three men whose work I’ve appreciated for many, many years. “Trust the art, not the artist” is a motto to live by, especially in this age when “celebrity” and “talent” rarely cross paths. Honestly I care about the product, and I have very little patience for the cult of personality surrounding most actors, directors and singers. To say I “know” someone because of a character they’ve played or a novel they’ve written is at best delusional and at worst dangerously misguided. Yet we all seem to know so much about the people who entertain us, and there seems to be an unending desire to consume more and more, to lay them bare and swallow them up and, ultimately, bring them down a peg.

The three men I’m speaking of are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Allen and most recently Alec Baldwin. Very different men with very different talents, united in my mind by the fact that I almost always found them interesting to watch and supremely good at what they did. One of them is dead of a drug overdose, another has had his reputation forever tainted and the other is so fed up with the paparazzi merry-go-round that he declared an end to his public life.

I don’t pretend to know what demons drove Hoffman, or what Woody did or didn’t do, or whether Baldwin really used an anti-gay slur when he was chasing a persistent reporter. I wasn’t there. I don’t know any of the parties involved. What I do know is that an AWFUL LOT of people who also weren’t there have an AWFUL LOT of opinions about what happened. And in the reactionary fishbowl we call America, what we think happened and what really happened are often confused. We get our messages in quick flashing headlines and tweets, encapsulated in 140 words or less. The sources for these messages have become less and less reliable, and more and more urgent to capture our attention. “Reporting” has become “scandal mongering”, and it’s only getting worse.

I saw a documentary recently about the Watergate reporters Woodward and Bernstein, about whom was made the classic journalistic triumph film “All the President’s Men”. The story of how these two men methodically and rationally connected the dots to a conspiracy that ultimately led to the resignation of a President is riveting stuff. But what stands out for my purposes here is how careful they were. They knew the consequences of what they were doing, and so they (and their editor) insisted on two sources for every item of news, and they made judgments about the veracity of those sources. In other words, they acted in a sober, responsible manner, with the goal of ultimately revealing the truth behind this Watergate break-in and who knew about it when.

The documentary interviewed a current editor and asked him what would happen if the story broke today. He said it would be tweeted around the world immediately, and the worst would be assumed about the Republican’s motives instantly. All the parties involved would immediately assume a bunker mentality and make sure they got their stories straight. There would be a spinned response to the report and an effort by those involved to deny further information to leak. All this would happen in the space of a day, and ultimately the in-depth reporting that Woodward and Bernstein did over several months with phone calls and interviews would never happen.

Is this what journalism has evolved into? Is “first” more important than “thorough” or even “factual”? The answer to that question, of course, is yes. In the age of instant pictures on cell phones and instant video on YouTube and instant messages on Twitter, instant news is what we seem to crave. Where it comes from and how it is procured seem immaterial. If someone makes an unsubstantiated claim, that’s news. If someone posts an opinion about, oh, anything they feel like having an opinion about, that’s news. Innuendo? That’s now called “speculation” and it doesn’t need to be corroborated. And if a reporter sticks a camera in the face of a celebrity’s child and jostles his wife, then films the celebrity flipping out, guess what? He’s made news.

I know the impulse is to say boo-hoo, poor rich celebrities who have to deal with autograph hounds and paparazzi, cry me a river. OK, I get that. But how far does that go? Would you want people writing stories about your drug habit, and how you’ve left your children fatherless? Would you want people dredging up a case of your alleged sexual misconduct that was dismissed by the police fifteen years ago? Would you want someone whose only motive is to besmirch your character to publicly label you a homophobe?

Like I said, I wasn’t there and I don’t know what really happened. But I know that the sources for “news”, especially when it comes to people in the public eye, has become ever more questionable. Their motives are suspect and their methods are borderline illegal (and over-the-line immoral). And the scariest thing is that no one seems to mind.

For the record, although I have seen the horrifying effects of drug addiction up close, I think the only people who can stand in judgment of Hoffman are his family. And although I am staunchly a supporter of victim’s rights and I abhor the use of homosexual slurs, I don’t think Woody Allen molested anybody and I don’t believe Alec Baldwin is homophobic.  Just my opinion, I know, and aren’t we more than cluttered up with those. But I base my opinion on the lack of reliable sources.

I think we’re cluttered up with those too.

The Super Bowl is the Straight Man’s Tony Awards

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If nothing else, this blog has always stood for truth, acceptance and freedom from judgment. Well, mostly it’s stood for snarky comments and self-indulgent stories about my family, but stay with me here, I’m trying to make a point. When I see injustice in any form I MUST stand and speak its name. Only when we come to find intolerance intolerable will we ever break the shackles of tyranny and evolve as a species to the point where other intelligent life in the universe might want to hang with us and smoke a joint. It is in this spirit of mutual understanding that I make the following complaint:

My gay friends are bullying me.

I know, right? Who would have thought? Oh, it started out innocently enough. An arch of the eyebrow when I peeked at the TV to catch the score of the Mets game. A snicker when I was two years off guessing when Mame debuted on Broadway. That barely contained look of disbelief when I confessed my love for the comedy of Kathy Griffin. Words may hurt, but an askance glance from a gay man can kill your ass dead.

All this and more I could endure. But a certain day is on the horizon, a day myself and my kind celebrate as the holiest of holies. A day of reflection, ceremony, prayer and hot wings. Yes Virginia, I’m talking about Super Bowl Sunday. I’m not a football disciple like some straight men, but I would still rank Super Bowl Sunday in the top five were it a national holiday. Which it is in essence, at least every bit as much as Independence Day, and you don’t have to sit on a blanket in the heat getting bit by mosquitoes to celebrate it. Food? Check. Party? Check. Watching TV on a comfortable couch? Got it. Replace the turkey with a 6-foot Italian hero and it’s Thanksgiving with a better game. In fact it’s just a few presents and some garland around the flat-screen away from being Christmas.

So last year I’m enjoying myself, waiting for the game to start, when I begin seeing posts on Facebook with a common theme. No less than ten of my gay friends post something along the lines of, “Is there some kind of big game today?” The mocking tone was undeniable. Then I see five more that say, “I hope Mike Tyson hits a goal in that tennibasebasketsnookerball game tonight.” Oh, the lacerating drollness. The daggers keep coming: “Why don’t we just skip the game and make it a four-hour Madonna halftime concert?” “Know what I’m watching today? Real Housewives marathon on Bravo! Suck it breeders!” and the straightforward, “They’re just running around chasing each other. What’s the big deal?”

Needless to say, I began to feel…insecure. Am I really a mindless sheep, subsuming myself to the pomp and circumstance of this societal circus? Is the Super Bowl I’ve watched since childhood really sound and fury, signifying nothing? Am I now chronically uncool in the eyes of my cool gay friends?

Well, scratch that last one. I’ve never been cool to anybody regardless of their sexual orientation.

I lived shamefully with these doubts, being careful not to in any way reveal my straight-leaning tendencies. I hid in plain sight. I listened to top-40 radio. I became incompetent using tools. I got really bitchy about bad acting on TV, and bemoaned the current state of Broadway.

Wait, I was doing all of that already.

I tucked my love of sports way, way back behind the mothballs and the Christmas decorations. I became a closeted heterosexual. Until…

The Tony Awards! Spectacularness! Musical numbers! Choreography! Tony parties! Neil Patrick Harris! Radio City! Jane Lynch! Pippin! Complaints! Vicious, catty contempt! Sparkly gowns! Superiority! More gay men in one place than a Cher concert!

And then it dawned on me. The Tony Awards is the gay Super Bowl!

I immediately posted “Is there some kind of big awards show tonight?” on Facebook. Yeah, I’m a jerk.

But it got me thinking. Like Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or Stan in South Park, I’d like to sum up what I’ve learned today. We are all fags. All of us have that something they value that other people can’t understand. Whether it’s a love of baseball or a penchant for musical theater or a spoon collection, we have it. And we look at those spoons in judgment and think, what the hell is interesting about spoons, unless you’re trying to eat soup? What would possess a person to search ebay or a local flea market to find the perfect spoon? Knives I get, even forks to a certain degree, but spoons?

Yup, spoons. It’s all good.