Friday, June 13, 2008

the knock on the door

i got a knock on my door the other day. when it happened, it seemed to echo throughout the entire apartment, like something ominous was about to happen. like something out of a hitchcock movie. my friend and i looked each other dead in the eye like he was steve mcqueen and i was ali macgraw and we were on the lam. ah, peckinpah. i actually felt a few seconds of genuine panic.

i know that it's weird, i know that "people don't do that," but i don't care. those "people" don't have to walk a mile in my converse all-stars. and if they did, they'd never make it across the street. i never answer the door. and i know very few black people who do. answering the door is the kind of thing that happens in the suburbs or on television. they answer the door on your favorite sit-com. in reality, it's not the thing to do in the ghetto. it's just not. there's absolutely no such thing as an unexpected visitor in this neck of the woods. when someone wants to come over, they call first to make sure you're home. or you plan it out. you say stuff like, yeah i'll be home around 7pm. swing by, we'll have ice cream. but they don't just knock out of nowhere. only cops do that. and even then, i'm not opening the door. that's a great way to rob someone at gunpoint. you can buy a cop uniform anywhere.

a few years ago, my next door neighbors got robbed by two guys pretending to be cops. they flashed badges and everything. and they had small children in that apartment! heh. not me, buddy. i ain't goin' for that okey-doke. you're going to have to shoot me through the peephole. and you'd better not miss.

i even know actors who keep cop outfits on hand, in case there's last minute on camera extra work or under fives to be had.

and hey -- remember that deranged guy that pretended to be a fireman who knocked on his former co-worker's door on halloween? he raped her, beat her up -- for 13 hours. he even videotaped everything. why did it take months to find him?

so like i said the first time: if i don't know that you're coming over, i'm not answering the door.

so yeah, it's funny now but for some reason it wasn't funny in the moment: there we were, watching the daily show and we're both looking at each other as we silently ask the same question and run through our mental database of who it could be. all of that in a glance.

so he gets the door. it's this guy, a 19 year old kid really, from the 2nd floor. he's dark skinned, with these contacts that make his eyes look hazel, almost vampiric. he's dominican, like almost everyone else in the building. and he's flaming. i like this kid. he's got two little brothers and they're adorable. i always make sure to give them kindereggs at holloween. and a baby sister. and his mother is kind of a saint. so he's got my full and undivided attention. i want to help him for his mother's sake. she's that much of a sweetie.

he wants to talk to me about modeling. modeling!? get this: someone stopped him in the street, said they were an agent from elite and after an initial meeting, decided to work with him doing runway -- for 40% of his take. i balked. first of all, while i'm sure that happens to lots of people in the industry -- every other model, from gisele to alek wek started exactly this way -- it sounds like a total con. just because it happened to them doesn't mean they aren't going to pull your leg or try to use you up. he's telling me about what a fierce walk he's got. who cares if you're getting used up? the average modeling career only lasts until you're 21.

i didn't tell any of that to the kid. instead, i told him the numbers that never get an argument out of anyone: my manager has never taken more than 10% and neither has any agent i've ever worked with. and i can write that 10% off at tax time. i'm doing on camera and voiceover work now, but even when i did print work in college, no body took that much. i know visual artists who have to fork over 50% to the galleries that represent them. elvis gave up 50% to colonel tom parker, his manager. but that was their deal. that wasn't the norm. i don't know any runway models who give up 40%. and runway is an important distinction to make because that's where black models get paid as much as white ones.

as i'm talking to him, i look over at my friend who's standing in the kitchen and he makes a face. then i look at the kid and realize that he's making the same face, too. of course, this made me laugh. but then the kid thought i was laughing at him, and that made me feel bad. so instead of explaining why i laughed, i apologized, brought him inside and gave him my card. i know quite a few fashion designers and stylists and the like. if he wants some advice, i know of a few people that he can call.

the last thing i said to him was, you can knock on my door whenever you want. and you know what? i actually meant it.

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