Prelude to a Big Break

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Posts Tagged ‘the anchor bar

5 Things.

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One way to measure the impact of an event is frequency. How long does something last? It’s not the only way to measure something, but for the purposes of “list themed blog posts” it’s reliable. We’re covering acting, television, football, road trips and probably some things that I haven’t even thought of yet. (That’s how these posts work.)

13 Weeks. Mad Men. The supposition that my experience with this television program is somehow unique from everyone else’s seems a little absurd. I have friends who live and breath the show each Sunday. (Most notably, a buddy from Toronto who always emails the salient quote from each episode with an 8-step swear word behind it Monday morning. That’s how men bond, you see.) But… boy, oh BOY does this show resonate with me. I didn’t live through the 60′s (obviously); I’ve never been a part of social change (unless you count a protest in 4th grade after our elementary school banned hockey sticks); and I don’t drink at work (not really relevant since I don’t actually work for a living). The series flows along and entertains for all the reasons you’d expect (good writing, wonderful acting, spectacular fashion) and then, like Canadian Club mainlined into my arm… Don Draper goes to California. All bets are off when this happens. During Week 2 of the NFL season (before I started hosting people at my place) my buddy Max introduced me to this mother. She was wearing a Mad Men t-shirt; leading to this exchange: “Nice to meet you Max’s Mom. You a big Mad Men fan?” “I sure am!” “Really!… That’s great. What’s your favorite episode?” “Well, that depends. Do I have to limit it to one episode or can I pick an episode from each season? If I had to just pick one, I think I’d start with Don’s trip to California in Season Two.” “Umm…. *staring blankly* That’s a good choice… *openly ogling my friends mother* I gotta go, it was nice meeting you.”

22 Weeks. The NFL. That’s 17 weeks of the regular season, 3 weeks of playoffs, a bye week before the Superbowl where I’m considering a medically induced coma, and… The Superbowl. I’ve been hosting people at my place for 4 weeks now. It peaked yesterday afternoon when my living room had 13 people in it. For anyone that arrives by 10:30, I cook breakfast. Arrive after 10:30 and I think of inappropriate things to say about you that will not be transcribed in this space. Keeping with the theme of females totally destroying my ability to remain calm and collected… There was a girl at my place yesterday (let’s call her Rachel, because that’s her name) who kept making educated, often biting and – consistently – funny sporting comments. After each snippet I started making the same face a child makes when a magician pulls off an especially baffling magic trick at a birthday party; that face would then morph into the expression tourists from the Midwest make when they see on the Sunset Strip. Finally, I’d look up to see my cousin Robbie and pal Dave openly laughing at me. Big day yesterday.

13 Weeks + Bowl Season. College Football. I waited 29 years and four months to start seriously following College Football. Why? Umm… not really important. I always knew this sport would spark a torrid love-affair. It has. Last January I picked Oregon as my West Coast team. Quack Quack. My East Coast team…

1 Weekend, every year, for 7 years. Syracuse, New York. In September of 2004 my friend Tim and I sat around our apartment with a (random) College Football game on in the background. “We should go to a College Football game, shouldn’t we?” Tim’s response: “Of course we should, you idiot.” October 8th, 2004: I went out with a group of friends to a horrible club in Toronto. I say “horrible” principally because it was horrible. At 4:50 the next morning Tim walked into my room with a Heineken: “Drink this Heineken, or consider yourself less of a man.” It’s one of those unnecessary, inappropriate, totally perfect things that friends do to one another. (We should also consider the possibility that it set the stage for “” years later. This may or may not be a good thing.) At 5:00, we set sail (Tim drove) for Syracuse. After crossing the border in Lewiston, I suggested a in Batavia, New York for breakfast. (By the way… ALL these details matter.) At breakfast, Peggy greeted us (75 years old if she was a day) and Beth was our waitress. Since it was homecoming weekend, we got stuck staying at the (I’m merging it into one word) on James Street. This sad excuse for a hotel sits kitty corner to a gas station that sold 30 packs of beer for $13.99. Not dismayed, Tim and I saddled up to the corner of the bar at . And… this all sounds like a pedestrian trip. Except, it wasn’t. And it isn’t.

Six years later: Tim picked me up on a freezing morning in Toronto. At 5:00. Peggy’s 81 and hasn’t lost a step. Beth is married with two kids and openly ignores her other customers to catch up with us. The EconoLodge (which is still disgusting) holds a specific room for us, when they can, and they call Tim to wish him a Merry Christmas every December. Syracuse Football remains awful. (1-5 during our visits.) And you still can’t spend more than $40 at PJ Dorsey’s without succumbing to aggressive alcohol poisoning. We’ve added a few wrinkles here and there. Last year we crawled back along the I90 – IN A BLIZZARD – then decided to hit in Buffalo since that’s where chicken wings were invented. It’s a trip we’ll always have. That’s why I’m flying back to Toronto in November. I mean… I want to see my family and my friends and their babies… I want to drink a beer that doesn’t leave me feeling like the title character of Thinner… I want to renew my driver’s license (we all need to take care of practical things)… But most of all, I want to see the sun come up over Western New York as my buddy and I blaze a trail towards a city we picked for proximity when he was a student and I worked at an insurance brokerage.

The lesson: A trip, or a day, or whatever… is what you make of it. Oh, and Syracuse is my East Coast team.

10 Episodes a year, for the next 3 years. TBA. I’m awfully close on a show. When the process started I wanted to be a serious contender. That was my goal. Now I want the job.

Written by Stephen Amell

October 18, 2010 at 10:23 pm

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I like numbers.

44 days - That’s how old my terrific beard was when I shaved today.  When the hair on your face is substantially longer than the hair on your head, it’s time to move on.  When you start to look like you should purchase a van with tinted windows, it’s time to move on.  When you give serious thought to being one of those guys with a bushy beard and shaved neck, it’s time to move on.

28 3/4 years – That’s how long Toronto was my home for.  I’ve lived in other places: LA in 2000 - 01, Calgary for the fall of ’08, Aurora in 1999 – 2000, my brief stint in prison, Turks and Caicos for the winter of ’05 and – memorably – Belfast in the spring of ’06.  I suppose those were just places that I stayed.  Toronto was always my home-base.  Let’s hope that I was profound jinx on all the sports teams.  Seriously.

3 - That’s how many home cooked meals my friends Angela and Tavis have crafted for me while I’ve been home.  If memory serves we had Mexican-ish, Steak and some sort of Lamb Risotto WineWineWine combination.  They’re the example I can cite…  If this post listed every instance with friends of mine treating me like Mo’Nique at an Awards show, we’d be staring down the barrel of an 8,000 word post.  Don’t think I wont attempt it…

Yeah, you know what?  Screw it.  A tiny sampling:

  • Andrew and Ilana had me over for dinner and a visit with their two lovely kiddle’s.  I got to be Uncle Steve for almost 45 minutes.  People who frequent this space haven’t met Uncle Steve; he’s a solid guy.  This is to say nothing of Andrew and I commiserating over drinks at odd hours.  Those are the best times. 
  • Jenn and Tim didn’t flinch when I ordered a Poutine / Chicken Wing death spiral at The Rebel House.  This was preceeded by an afternoon on Bay Street with gentlemen who drink (same corollary as “ladies who lunch”).  They also let me emcee their wedding.  So, there’s that, too.
  • Chris Bolton rolled me into the original Terroni on Queen West for a coffee.  When Chris goes to that restaurant he’s greeted like some combination of Norm from “Cheers” and Phillip Seymour Hoffman from “Owning Mahoney.”  (I don’t care if only, like, four people get that reference.)
  • Warren, Peff (read: Jeff) and a special guest appearance from St. Andrew’s Jr. High Graduate, Lauren, made for an improbable Beaconsfield, Drake Hotel, Dakota Tavern combination.  That night solidified the utter uselessness of making plans in advance.  It was a beautiful night.  (By the way…  In keeping with the theme of this site, Lauren and I were in the “Wiz of Oz” together.  My very first organized production – 1994.  One thing that I didn’t mention to Lauren: How bitter I am - to this day - over not being cast as the Lion.  That should eventually lead to a self-shot YouTube clip of me singing “King of the Forest” somewhere in Griffith Park.  In other words, we’re all winners.)  Lauren is putting on a play this spring called “.”  Feel free to pre-order some tickets.
  • Hobbes the Cat, and his basement, put themselves in my “Watching Football Pantheon” along with the living room at 198 Millwood and Barney’s Beanery in LA.  Hobbes also wins a prize for unabashedly wearing Molson Canadian labeled clothing.  He’s earned it.
  • My sister Andrea wins a prize for helping me relearn the fundamental truth for any New Years Eve related activity: House party or bust.
  • Tim (SCH) and I rocked the 6th Annual Syracuse Road Trip (Est. 2004) with a ferocity that harkened back to a time when the Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series in 86 years.  Bonus points to Tim for suggesting a Sunday stop at The Anchor Bar in Buffalo.  Double Bonus Points for our trip being the only game that Syracuse Basketball has lost this year (21-1).  We’ve still got it.

1 – That’s the only instruction I need to give the person cutting my hair.

0 - This number has something to do with the Toronto Star, but I don’t want to be quoted.  I’m not seeking publicity.  I am, however, looking forward to the bankruptcy of that newspaper.

64 - The number of days I spent in Toronto.  Not sure if it felt like a fortnight or five years.

To everyone mentioned in this post, thank you.  To everyone I forgot, sorry.  I’ll be bidding a beer soaked goodbye to everyone Wednesday evening.  Thursday I’ll drop a massive photo blog, otherwise known as the fourth installment of “God Bless Friends.”

EDIT: After a quick review, I realized that this post may have been a little too serious.  There are more numbers.

6.3 - That’s the number of times I watched “Inglorious Basterds.”  I’ve already written about Christoph Waltz; German for brilliant.  Right before Christmas this movie reached “I’m watching it before I go to bed status.”  “IG” was usurped by the second viewing of “Mad Men” Season 3 late last week.  What a run!

.5 – Number of NFL Sunday’s I missed from early December until now.  Tim and I were navigating through a blizzard for the 4:00 games on January 3rd; that being said, none of them had any playoff implications.

5 - The number of months I waited to take my MacBook in to repair the trackpad.  It’s ironic that I waited that long because, much to my suprise, it was under warranty.  Don’t think you can out-stupid me.  You’ll lose.

3-ish - Number of weeks I’ve been waiting to hear about a job thingie.  An interesting job thingie.

7 - Seconds I’m able to keep my eyes on an episode of “The Bachelor” before having to turn away.  The internet is littered with rants about the stupidity of reality television.  These rants are unoriginal and, often, spiteful for reasons the author doesn’t fully recognize.  With all that being said, I honestly believe that “The Bachelor” is going to destroy our society.

(Hyperbole Alert!)

This show is a perverted, soul-sucking television experience.  If you aired an explicit video of Secretariat’s greatest ejaculations, there’d be more educational takeaway than this program.

How are they positioning themselves?  Is it supposed to mirror real life?  Does everyone realize that the female contestants model their reality show habits after the Season 1 “Newlyweds” performance of Jessica Simpson?   Do adjectives want to file a class action lawsuit after every “date” scene?

I could go on.

6 – Number of consecutive weeks that the traffic has increased at Prelude to a Big Break.  This is a really neat thing for me to witness.  I’m writing less and I’m not advertising the site, with the exception of an occasional Twitter update.  I don’t know where the people are coming from, but I know they’re reading and that makes me feel great.

2 - Number of times I saw “Up In The Air.”  Can we skip the five year waiting period and elect Ryan Bingham into the movie character Hall of Fame?

How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life… you start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV… the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home… I want you to stuff it all into that backpack. Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office… and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack, feel the weight of that bag. Make no mistake your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks.

98 - That’s the percentage of “stuff” that I no longer have.  I’m going to California with one bag.  5 weeks later, Louis the Dog is coming.  That bag will be filled with every material possession I have left.  It is an outrageous, wonderful, life altering feeling.

I don’t agree with the middle section of Clooney’s monologue, ultimately, neither does his character.  Friends and family are desperately important.  Even more pressing?  How hard you try to figure out who those friends are.  I know who my friends are, and I know who I am. 

It’s the only thing you can take with you.


Written by Stephen Amell

February 1, 2010 at 4:52 pm

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