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October 17, 2014
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On my 30th birthday I had an acting job in Times Square

I am a Bear

On my thirtieth birthday I had an acting job in New York City. I played Papa Bernstein Bear in a live stage show as part of Toy Fair. At 10:00am I told my coworkers that I was going to a meeting. I stepped outside the building to meet the director and begin acting. Over the next hour I would scar a generation of children.

We went to the ESPN Zone sports bar, where a wardrobe station had been set up. The bear costume was gigantic. I put on the body and overalls, stepped into the huge bear boots and awaited the head. The giant fiberglass, felt and fur head had a baseball helmet sewn into it. It balanced precariously on my noggin.

Once inside the costume I was helpless. I tried to walk out of the restaurant, but my big bear feet kept kicking chairs out of the way. When I tried to look down at my feet, my head fell off. My bear wife and bear children weren’t faring any better. Staffers took us by the arms and led us out onto the Times Square stage like invalids.

Once onstage I realized that the costume was nearly soundproof. Staffers were talking into our mouths, probably giving us important information, but we heard nothing. Then the staffers left us alone on stage. In front of the stage there were 200 children behind ropes, all squealing with adoration. The ropes were removed, and we were attacked at the knees.

As children surrounded us, hugging our legs, tugging our arms and shouting, it seemed only natural to make eye contact with them. I looked down and saw a Chinese boy hugging my leg and staring up at me with affection. I was about to ruin him. The last thing I saw was his expression change as my head detached and smashed his little Chinese face. He let out a scream that sent the other children scattering across Times Square like little Cloverfield actors. I tried to grab my head but my bear boot knocked the little boy to the ground. It looked exactly like I had kicked the boy off the stage.

A staffer grabbed my head as it rolled down West 44th Street and she slammed it back on. The sight of that sent another wave of screams through the crowd. The other staffers rushed the stage, took us by each arm and led the mean, invalid bears back into the bar.

That was how I began my thirties. I was paid one hundred dollars to traumatize hundreds of children on my birthday.

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