I kept thinking about Sam’s tirade—him throwing his pint glass, shattering it plus the mirror as he screamed at me in front of Peter. Numerous guests heard and called for security and he had to be escorted out. He went quietly, even apologizing to me under his breath. I hadn’t meant to hurt or undermine him. “His rage just got to him,” Peter surmised at the time. “You know, we all want to explode sometimes, over every little thing. Maybe he just maxed out, on you.” He defended his theory a couple days later, once I had been let go: “Sam had to fire you, so it looked like you were at fault. If he kept you around, everyone at that party would think he was in the wrong, and Sam wouldn’t let that happen. But don’t worry, Eric. You’ll be fine, because people like you. You’re honest, and you work hard.”
“We all want to explode sometimes, over every little thing.” Peter’s excuse for Sam summarized most of my days in New York. Anybody who breaks that fundamental civil liberty—go about your day without impeding others—contributes to my ever-expanding impatience. Aimless walkers, subway-seat hoggers, bikers and taxi drivers who ignore traffic logic: in a given day, we are all tested dozens of times. Throw in a long commute, cruddy weather, tiring work hours, and a high cost of living, and it’s a surprise more of us don’t unleash our compressed rage on a regular basis. We’ve got a high tolerance for bullshit, plus a solid grasp on what is and what isn’t important. What is important: a strong, composed, protected mind.
How does one keep his mind guarded? The smartest practice is to treat everything functionally, with little attachment to trivial things like new restaurants, fashion trends, or celebrities. A manager must treat his high-profile clients like completely normal people, or else would be bad at his job. A good fashion designer cares less about wearing her remarkable gowns than she does about the quality and care and artfulness in creating them. Also, why should anyone wait an hour for a table at a crowded, flash-in-the-pan restaurant, when there are thousands of places he could get into immediately, with just as good of food and a quiet ambiance? Isn’t dinner about filling one’s stomach and enjoying the company of others? I think many New Yorkers lose track of what is important, what is functional versus what is frivolous.
My dad could sense that I was losing track of something—perhaps sleep more than anything—so he offered to fly me home for a week as I sorted out my next steps. “No reason you can’t be in Kansas while you make phone calls and write emails,” he pointed out. “Anyway, I think you could use some peace and quiet, and I wouldn’t mind having my best buddy home for a few days.” I agreed, so he booked a flight a couple weeks out. For a while now, I had been letting Joanie’s song “Kansas” keep me from missing home (plus we were both profiting off of the single), but I knew a visit to the landlocked state could keep me centered. I would get to see Talia, too, which guaranteed I would return to New York feeling relaxed, calmed, reassured.
I wanted to have a plan of attack for when I went home. The goal was obviously to clear my head and figure out how to get back into working with actors. I was open to more than just management, so I called Eva—the agent who said I could work for her team at Gersh Agency—to see how I might be an asset for them. “To be completely honest, I’m not so certain I could hire you right now,” she said. “We all know and love you, but we need to keep a good relationship with Sam since he and I share Tyler as a client. And, I think you should know that he’s been making calls about you, telling people not to hire you since you’ll just do the same to them.” Feeling slightly threatened and mostly annoyed, I buried my face in my palm: “That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard.”
The next day, I walked into Sam’s private office, right past his new assistant Erica as she stammered and tried discouraging me. I closed his door behind me and blocked it with my foot as she aggressively tried to open it from the other side, screaming “Sam, I’m sorry, he just waltzed past me….” Sam and I stared quietly at each other for a moment, like a standoff. I went first: “What the hell is your problem? Are you so afraid of me that you have to sabotage my chances of getting a new job? You shouldn’t hire assistants if you don’t want them to learn how the business works. What harm will it cause you to see me succeed?” To which he smiled coyly, responding: “No harm at all. I’ll just take great pleasure in watching you fail. I created you, so you’re my mess to dispose of, Eddy. You embarrassed me in front of a lot of important people, and now I’m simply returning the favor.”