‘My turn to have a life’

You’ve probably seen Mike Pniewski a half-dozen times, but can never put a name with the face. You’re not alone. He is regularly approached by people who say things like, "Didn’t I go to school with you?" or "Do you go to such-and-such church?"

In fact, he’s an actor whose credits range from Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and Law and Order to Remember the Titans and Ray. He was a bus driver in Ray, a cop in Remember the Titans, a judge in Law and Order, a flight surgeon in Tom Hanks’ HBO series, From the Earth to the Moon, and a sheriff in the Oscar-winning short, Two Soldiers.
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It’s just a movie

Having made a list of recent calamities which establish me as the odds-on favorite for Job of the Year (Job, as in the Bible) – auto accident, computer and printer failure, plumbing and electrical mishaps, credit card company deceit, work shortage, etc. – I turned in distress to "Screenwriting for Dummies."

Granted, it is a strange choice for moral support, but the impulse that lead me there was spot-on.

"At the beginning of Act III," I read on page 222, "your protagonist either faces the upward hike or the downward sprint to the most gripping moment in the script."

This was compelling stuff for a couple of reasons, and I didn’t need Harold Bloom to point out that my own situation is exactly that of the theoretical protagonist in "Dummies."

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The easy way

Charlie Schaubel called me last Saturday morning. "Hey, John," he said, "I’ve got a place to teach."

If you read my last blog – "Focusing on the target" – then you know that I took golf lessons from Charlie last year. But the driving range where he taught had been sold, and after 35 years in the business, he had no place to work. He had tried other facilities in the area, and been turned down. He was running out of money, he was tired and he was depressed.

Oddly enough, I was going through a rough patch myself, and it is one of the curious aspects of life that what you can’t or won’t see about yourself invariably shows up in people around you.

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Focusing on the target

I called Charlie Schaubel last weekend thinking that maybe he could straighten me out. I hadn’t hit a clean 5 iron shot since late summer, and I wasn’t doing so well at life, either.

I met Charlie last year when I took up golf. He was teaching at a driving range, and had we not spoken first by phone I would have driven right past the place. The building needed painting, the balls were crummy, the range was shabby, the putting green looked like the surface of the moon.
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The brotherhood

I had an acting job yesterday which was shot at an old-fashioned diner near a high school in midtown. One of the other actors was B, a man with whom I studied acting two years ago when I was just getting into the business.

Since we were both extras, we spent much of the morning sitting in plastic chairs in the parking lot waiting to be called to the set while steam from the dry cleaners next door blew past like fast-moving clouds.

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Friends and family

I called my friend Kitty Saturday evening in a last-ditch effort to avoid another weekend night alone. Kitty is one of my best and oldest friends in Atlanta, a refugee from the financial world and a wonderful portrait painter. We speak the same language spiritually, and I needed a healthy dose.

I suggested Mexican food, but she was cooking for her father and his friend, Katie, and invited me to join them. Kitty put her career on hold more than a year ago to move in with her father when his health began to deteriorate.

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Slumming with Liliputians

We are in Starbucks, two small tables pulled together, six men around them drinking decaf or tea, and one hardy soul drinking leaded. It’s 9:30 in the evening. The conversation is politics, although it is less a conversation than a carpet-bombing by the three conservatives.

As in: We’re winning the war in Iraq. As in: So what if people are being held as suspected terrorists, but haven’t been charged. As in: The absence of liberal talk shows demonstrates how little support there is for their cause.

The other two men listen and offer an occasional comment, but I can only watch. Not because I agree, but because I feel as if I’ve been ambushed.

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Eliminating the middle man

It didn’t occur to me until well after I’d walked barefoot across the 20-foot bed of glowing coals that maybe a firewalk was not the way to personal power. Maybe it was just an experience, one I would not repeat and one that would have no significant bearing on the rest of my life.

But it is human nature – or at least it was my nature in the fall of 1984 – to think that I was just one transcendent experience away from a shift that would fuse my reality with my potential, and I would be changed for all time.

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Dream thieves

The second day of February was overcast and threatened rain. There was a damp chill rising off the ground, and the wind blowing out of the west promised rain and a full-blown case of the blues.

I did a balance transfer last month, shifting debt from one credit card where a zero percent APR was expiring to a new 0% APR offer. But on my desk was a bill double what it should have been. And with it, a slip of paper entitled "Why Your Minimum Payment Calculation is Changing."

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Letting God off the hook

I had coffee recently with a single, age-appropriate woman who was recommended by the guy who cuts my hair. H, as I will call her, was very pleasant and personable, and attractive, too. But the hairdresser said she was 5-foot-8 to 5-10, although he was a little vague about that and it should have beenRead more

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