punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Hearing from an old friend...

I just a letter from an old friend of mine. Actually, she started out as an assistant of mine at a former job. She was the best assistant of anything I ever worked with. Perky, chipper, and ... well, I couldn't help but compare her to Marlo Thomas in the old sitcom, "That Girl." Her name is Ellen Reif.

Ellen left my company to pursue her dream work as an actress/playwirght in New York City. Yeah, I know, like 500 other people who get off at the Port Authority bus terminal daily. But I knew something was special about Ellen. She wasn't some spoiled brat who wanted to be an actress for attention. She didn't have this illusion of stardom. She just wanted to work. My friend Eden, who also went to New York City, had a similar dream to be a costumer. I knew both of these girls had enough chutzpah to do what they could do to succeed, not matter what the odds.

Someone saw my diary entry about Ellen, and asked about a play she had written. I figured, I hadn't spoken to Ellen in a while, so I looked her up. I couldn't believe she still lived in the same place she moved to, but then again, I am not sure what "rent controlled" really means, which is how many of my New York pals describe living sometimes. I also couldn't believe I hadn't spoken to her since 1995. Yeesh. Some friend *I* am! But it was super to hear from her again.

Two things stuck in my mind about her letters. One, she is pretty much a success, although those who think being an actress is all glitz and champagne would think, "Man, she has to work to SUPPORT her acting?" Uh, yes. Like 99% of all successful actors, she does. Only 1% get the Hollywood dream, which for many is not their goal. She works during the day, leading a "double life," as she joked, a professional by day and does her acting and writing at night. People like Ellen are inspiring to me. She set out to do something she loved, and she did it! My friends Eden and Neal also did the same thing with Broadway costuming and linguistics.

The second, and more scary thing, was this story: Then my entire world was turned upside down - September 11th happened and my office blew up. My office in 2001 was on 70th Floor, I had a 9:00 meeting and arrived at the Trade Center at 8:50 I was in the concourse (the first plane had already hit) and the Port Authority evacuated us one-by-one onto the street. That's how it starts. It still amazes me, but Ellen is the friend I had closest to the actual event. Most of my friends in the Pentagon were away for training, off shift, or just happened to be away that day. Eden was downtown, I believe. One of her good friends' stepfather was on the plane that hit the Pentagon (also had a friend who three of his coworkers at Mitre died on that same flight). I wasn't prepared for that, for some reason. I recall going cold reading her story. Parts of that event still affect me, and I am not sure why. I was sitting in a windowless friggin' office that day, far away from anything. But today, after reading her letter, I am sitting in a (different) windowless office, and when a plane flew low over my building (which happens a few times a day), I swear my panic level rose. Man, I have to get a grip.

Anyway, it was good to hear from her again. She's one of the reasons I want to go to New York City (and Eden, and Merideth, and Vinnie, and Martha, and the rest of youse guys ... honest, I am trying to make my way up there...).

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000241.html
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