Sunday, February 12, 2012

My New York City (Mis)Adventure -- Part One

I grew up in a tiny enchanted cottage, 780-square feet according to the Zillow report (they have the date of construction wrong by seven years). The house was located deep in the dark woods of then-remote Windham, New Hampshire.  Though I was routinely forced to eat liver for dinner and a horrific concoction referred to as 'hot dog stew' (with carrots, potatoes, and too much paprika) and always showered standing up because the house wasn't equipped with a bathtub, I never thought of myself as poor or some kind of second-class passenger through life until a well-to-do princess cousin from the sprawling town of Salem told me I was.  The princess lived in a big cape that always left me feeling illish when forced to visit.  There was no lake in her backyard, far fewer cool green shade trees, and an air of pretentiousness permeated the place, recognizable even then. When I was thirteen, my parents sold the enchanted cottage and forced me to live in that same town, where the elitist atmosphere was inescapable, as was the dividing line between the Haves and Have-Nots. Quite a few of the locals made my teenage life miserable, my cousin the princess among them.  But I discovered writing and I began to write with a seriousness of purpose and, despite numerous obstacles, transcended what they and I thought myself capable of becoming.

I haven't eaten liver or hot dog stew in a very long time.  Though I still live, by choice, in a small New Hampshire town, as an adult and a professional writer I have traveled the country, often visiting America's biggest destinations because of my writing.  I've been on the sets of various television shows, watching as they were filmed or taped.  I've interviewed some of the most talented celebrities in TV, Film, and Music; have been interviewed; have pitched and sold TV episodes; signed books; written books from rooms in New York City to Los Angeles.  I prefer the peace and solitude of my home and home office, but function well in big crowds, whether working them to get a story (my visit to cover the X-Games in '96 comes to mind) or at a podium, reading my work.

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg
So when I was personally invited to New York City to read from the 2012 edition of Best Gay Romance by the fine folk at Cleis Press, edited by the stellar Richard Labonte, I was thrilled (BGR 2012 contains my long short story, "The Bachelors").  I also decided that if I was going to venture out of my comfort zone, I'd make a real adventure of the trip.  In addition to the reading, I was comped tickets to review the Broadway show Love, Loss, and What I Wore, written by Nora Ephron and starring a massive revolving cast of well-known women actors, five at a time, that has boasted in productions past such luminaries as Barbara Feldon ("Agent 99" from Get Smart); "Frenchy" from Grease, Didi Conn; Knots Landing alum Michelle Lee; Susan Sullivan of Falcon Crest and Castle fame; Two and a Half Men's Conchetta Ferrell; and the incomparable Kate Mulgrew, "Captain Janeway" from Star Trek: Voyager, who penned the fabulous book blurb for my forthcoming collection, The Fierce and Unforgiving Muse: Twenty-Six Tales from the Terrifying Mind of Gregory L. Norris (Evil Jester Press, March 2012). What made this particular cast run so fantastic, in addition to the delightful Dawn Wells, aka "Mary Ann" from Gilligan's Island, was that it would also feature none other than the Robin Strasser, "Dorian Lord" from my late, beloved soap, One Life to Live.  The opportunity to rub elbows with La Strasser, whose riveting performance as the regal spitfire of fictional Llanview, PA one afternoon in 1983 would lead to twenty-nine years of devoted afternoon viewing, was more of a highlight to me than the reading.  After so many years of interviewing celebrities for numerous magazines, rarely any more do I get starstruck.

New York: a city I've visited dozens of times.  A city I've said that I love for almost two decades, because I always have such great literary adventures there.  Oh Giant Red Macintosh, how you tested my love during this most recent voyage to your avenues and event centers.

I should have known the day would challenge me when, at four on this brisk past Wednesday morning, I woke to find a rejection letter on a story and project I'd been told I was most-likely a shoe-in for. No sweat; after some 4,000 acceptances, I handle rejection well. It was the timing of the thing. Got dressed.  Met my ride. Picked up the bus a few towns over.  I told myself the foul odor of ammonia on said bus was likely some cleaning fluid.  It worked enough to get me through to the next connection, which smelled much better.  One bus later, I was finally en route to New York City, with this month's issue of The Writer opened, a wide smile on my face.  We entered the city.  At West 66th Street, the bus passed the ABC TV studios where, until December, OLTL had been filmed dating back to the late 1960s.  My breath hitched.  My smile evaporated.  Another bad omen, surely. But I soldiered on, through the Port Authority, onto Broadway, and from there to 47th Street and my hotel, the Edison.

I won't even begin to relate the ridiculous nightmare that happened after I found I would not be allowed into my room due to a snafu regarding my reservation.  There I stood at the reception desk, surrounded by original Diego Rivera murals and acres of black and serpentine marble, in my new designer sneakers, jeans, T-shirt, and winter pullover, looking every bit the upscale traveler, only suddenly I broke in an icy sweat, dealing with a frigid manager and his unsympathetic (read: downright rude) cadre who had zero interest in ironing out the issue -- the adult versions of all those popular kids in high school who delighted in making my life miserable.  Luckily, as a citizen of the Granite State, I am rock-solid in a crisis.  It took four hours, but I resolved the issue and moseyed up to my room on the ninth floor, forced once again to remember that just because someone lives in a cosmopolitan mecca doesn't automatically make them more sophisticated or better than I; nor does living in an expensive zip code entitle an individual to class.

My room in one of the city's finest hotels greeted me cold, and the water never ran more than lukewarm at best.  Still, I unpacked, decompressed, called home, and decided it was best to move past the afternoon's aggravating chain of events.  I had a night at the theater to look forward to.  I showered, dressed well, and headed out into the icy snow falling over the city, my destination the Westside Theatre at 407 West 43rd Street.

The snow fell.  I stopped and bought a dozen long-stemmed coral-colored roses for Ms. Strasser, inserted one of the promotional cards from Muse, arrived an hour early.  A gorgeous, intimate theater with elegant acanthus leaf lamps and sconces (originally built as a German Baptist church), the Westside was like a sauna, so I stepped back outside into the snow, feeling bedraggled and beaten down, more than exhausted by my trip and the travails upon arriving to the city.

And then, as I shook my head, chuckling humorlessly at the image of myself, a small town hick in designer threads wondering what the hell business he had standing in the heart of New York City, the Universe smiled down upon me with a glimpse at an event as rare and elegant as the arrival of Haley's Comet. Gliding down 43rd, looking as gorgeous in person as she always did on the small screen, came Robin Strasser, the one and only -- a clear reminder that I had earned my right to stand right where I was standing.

As stated, I'm rarely starstruck anymore.  But Robin Strasser is a super-star and long ago earned a rare place of magnitude among the best and brightest.  She stole my breath, truly.

To Be Continued...


  1. Rejection letter? Did they bother to read your story? Wow.

    At least your trip had some good times though.

  2. Dale, the only bad was the incident in the hotel (I had paid for my rooms via, not the Edison directly, the discount hardly worth the aggravation that resulted!). Many good times followed that initial jolt -- next up, my review of the play, then Part Three: the reading, which was fantastic! So stay tuned.