The trials and tribulations of a long distance commuter
Sunday, January 31, 2010
My Guiding Light
I know, it's been over a month since I've posted anything. Call it my winter break. Took a horrible vacation, been busy at work, got the winter blues. Whatev. Needed some me time to recharge the battery. So this week, as a way to get back in the swing, I have a story to tell that really isnt about a commute, but it ends in a commute, so hang in there.
The first time it happened I was in a bar. We were celebrating somebody's last day at work and we took about 10 people to a some place in NoHo. Now if you know anything about magazine people (which is what I am) and graphic designers in general (which is what I do) you know that they'll travel considerable distances for free food and drinks, and word gets out fast, so in a very short time the original 10 turned into about 50, all industry types, not all of whom I knew. So when it happened that I was standing at the bar and two women came up to me and said "We just wanted say that we love you and that we think you're really talented", I assumed they were a couple of fellow magazine folk come to pay me a compliment. The "we love you" part seemed a little strong, but not that unusual I guess, and the "youre really talented" thing made perfect sense to my misguided overinflated sense of self importance. Of course women approach me in bars, I thought. I choose typefaces and assign cartoons for a midsized weekly entertainment magazine. In fact, im surprised its taken this long...
"Could we get your autograph?" they asked. Well hells yes ladies. In fact let me buy you two a drink and tell you all about the time I changed the display sans serif from Bureau Grotesque to a Geometric that really got the design world talking...
"We've been watching your show since high school and you're our favorite" I'm sorry, what was that last part. What show is that?
Yes. Guiding Light. Turns out, I look a lot like Josh from the daytime drama Guiding Light. More specifically, 13 years ago, when I cut my hair short, had a stubbly goatee and weighed about 25 pounds less than I do right now, I looked like Josh. Today I look like Josh after a 13 year carb bender.
Sorry ladies, Im not your man, but I can tell you some funny stories about how reducing the weight of your paper stock from 32 to 30 pounds can save almost a million dollars a year in shipping costs. Nope. I lost them.
So thats how it started. From this moment on, I would live my life as we all do but with one small difference. I would go to work, raise a family, pay my bills, battle through lifes daily trials, enjoy lifes occaisional victories, and then, about every 6 months, I would get confused for Josh from Guiding Light.
The sightings came less frequently when i changed my hair style, shaved or gained a little (or a lot of) weight, but whenever the stars (and our stubbly goatees) aligned, it would happen.
Aren't you that guy...? Nope. But you look just like... Really. Not me. Too bad. Tell me about it.
So after about 10 years of this, I had an idea. It was time to "monetize" my good fortune, as they say in the online advertising world. I set up a meeting with the casting directors of Guiding Light and made my pitch.
As you can plainly see, I said, I look a lot like the character Josh from your show. Well, if you lost a few pounds maybe... So here's what Im thinking fellas. I'd like to come on the show for a week as Josh's long lost evil twin and then write about my week as a soap actor for Esquire magazine (which is where I worked at the time). My character (I was thinking Rex or Stone maybe) could show up on Josh's door, either recently escaped from prison, or a mental institution, or from being on the lam in mexico, and then I'd ask for money, or the car, or prescription drugs, and then I'd threaten the whole family, maybe take a hostage, burn down the hospital (I'd never actually watched the show, but I assumed there was a hospital), if the writers insisted I could have a brief affair, and then, bam, at the end of the week, they shoot me and dump my body into the river, not quite dead though, in case my week went so well that they insisted I come back later for a longer stay. Ratings would soar. My career as a TV actor would be launched and I could quit my day job and live happily ever after.
Can you guarantee us that the story will run? they asked Well, sir, I can guarantee you this. I can guarantee you that I will show it to the editors at Esquire and that if they really like it and have some extra space that month that they will almost certainly consider running it.
We'll be in touch. But... Thanks. but the ratings... Security...
And that was it. 10 years of being mistaken for a Josh wasted. Nothing to show for it. No cameo. No effing awsome death scene where I hold the fake blood on my shirt and stare at my twin brother in disbelief as i drop into the murky water of the soap opera river. My one shot at stardom gone for good. So I gave up on the dream. I grew my hair long, shaved my goatee for good and moved on with my life.
And then, about 5 years later, I had left work early and was on the 2:48 afternoon off-peaker home (you see, here comes the commuter part), and there he was, literally sitting at the end of the car reading a paper. Josh. Or more accurately, the man who plays Josh, the actor Robert Newman. Turns out he's a commuter, just like me. Here was a man who in a small but not insignificant way had been a part of my life for 15 years and he didn't even know it. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) it's not often that life hands you an opportunity like this and so I decided that I would accept this gift from the daytime TV gods and I sat down in the seat facing him. Surely he would be fascinated by my numerous tales of mistaken identity, my brazen attempts to ride his coat tales onto fame and fortune, and the ultimate acceptance of my simple and lowly station in life.
I leaned, in close and introduced my self. I explained who I was, how I had spent the last 15 years of my life being confused for him, thinking about him, plotting to infiltrate his show, the whole sordid tale, and even as the words were leaving my mouth I could tell this was a mistake. There was just no way to explain this story to the man who was its focus without sounding like an unstable stalker who had finally, after years of searching, cornered his pray on a northbound metro north train. When I was done talking, he stared at me with those steely blue moneymaker soap opera eyes of his for what felt like a good 10 minutes while he no doubt considered his options, and finally with a look that ultimately had more pity in it than fear, he said, "Nice to meet you", and he went back to reading his paper.