Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There is no 'Last Shot'

As a general practice, I don't like to complain too much. Let me amend that. I try not to complain too much. Venting is very healthy and can be helpful in the right context, but something inside of me clicks off when I publish negative thoughts. It is carrying the negativity out there.

That said . . . may I present the following story:

Friday night, I ran out of gas on my way home. My unemployment check was late and my rent check was cashed, so I was $888 overdrawn with no room left on either of my credit cards. I had no cash, not even 50 cents, on me.

The good news is I ran out of gas right next to a gas station. I put the car in neutral and pushed my car into the lot. Then frantically called my friends, everyone I could think of who didn't live on the west side. Being that it was Friday night, everyone was all over the place and two friends were about 30 minutes away. Jaq was on the phone telling me I should ask a stranger for money.

I am really uncomfortable asking for money, from anyone. In this case, I had no choice. The first guy I asked gave me a $5 bill and offered to push my car in front of a pump for me. Once I put the car in neutral, I noticed four men total around my car. That was kind of awesome. I drove a Hyundai powered by men.

At this point, when something disastrous happens . . . I get a little frazzled. I used to freak THE FUCK out. Now, my voice gets raspy, I get a little misty and ask God 'Why?' but I don't lose my shit. Money is a powerful thing, but even more liberating than having money is surrendering to the idea that you don't have any. With this realization comes a relief that there is nothing you can do. You learn to let go, stop trying to control your life and just float through the universe with a little luck and good karma in your pocket.

I also have really great friends. Jaq picked me up and took me to a play starring an actor I worked with on the pilot. Normally, I would have texted my apologies and stayed at home, but I flaked on this person a couple times already and really needed to follow through and go. Surprisingly for a Hollywood theater production, it wasn't just good (which is already unheard of) but it was great!

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The next day, I was booked on a show with Tori Spelling. Why am I a Tori Spelling fan? Its nothing specific I can put my finger on. I loved to hate her on Beverly Hills 90210, but really warmed up to her via the reality show she launched on Oxygen. Something awkward, kind and cute about her . . . not to mention SHE is living the dream. Hot hubby, kids, animals, and a career. Really?

I was meeting Jaq for this job, as she got booked too. I told her I was worried about running out of gas on the way to the studio since all I had was the stranger's $5 to get me there until cash paid out at the end of the day. She said, "If you run out of gas, just ask a stranger for money." Ugh. Shiver. Do I have NO PRIDE?

I made it and was genuinely excited to work the show. My friend Helen was having a committment dinner that night (that is a dinner to introduce friends from both sides of her newly committed relationship). I was looking forward to introducing her to Abe and RSVPed us over a month ago. Tori's show was supposed to go 6 hours and then Abe would pick me up at the studio and drive us over to the restaurant, also in Glendale. Perfect plan if I do say so myself.

I waited for Jaq, stuck with wet hair from a quick shower and a cute white dress for the dinner party. Two actors sat next to me. The actress, "Where do you live?" Washed up, LA actor in a business suit, Miami Vice beard and mid-life crisis farting in the bags under his eyes, "In the valley. I do everything I can to keep from slitting my wrists every morning."

Jaq arrives, thank God. She takes her seat next to me. Me, "God, I am freezing!!! Look at the bumps on my legs."

Jaq, "Its because you have no body fat."

Me (distracted on phone), "I know." I put the phone away. "I mean (British accent with chuckle) I know."

Jaq, "Yeah, that's more like it."

A medic came out and introduced herself. She asked us if we needed any medication, Tylenol or feminine napkins. I should have taken this as a prophetic warning of what was to come. I declined.

We were led inside. I found out Tori is co-hosting a morning talk show with . . . Jeff Lewis. JEFF LEWIS from 'Flipping Out'. Now, I avoided the show 'Flipping Out' for almost a year because I didn't want to be reminded of my misery working as an assistant. When I was "let go" from the shackles of bitchdom, I stayed up all night chowing down on soy ice cream and watching every episode I could fit on my DVR. The difference between Jeff Lewis and my previous bosses is he has a sense of humor . . . and a personality . . . and a soul.

In fact, I think Jeff Lewis is misunderstood by most people due to his razor fine use of sarcasm. I admire that kind of sarcasm. I really do.

Tori came out. Jeff came out. I could feel a warm dose of serotonin creep down the back of my neck. Animals came out for the first segment of the show and my pupils dilated to the size of nickels. The estrogen might as well have been dripping off the ceiling since I was also PMSing. I woke up with cramps, which usually gives me a 24 hour warning before I start bleeding.

When I PMS, no one really notices. I might cry a little more easily at this or that. I lust for chocolate. I complain about some mild bloating. That's all pretty normal anyway. Usually, its me wondering if I am pregnant and if not, can I still get pregnant. Or is my mother's theory right, do women ruin themselves with birth control pills and the occasional, early 20s abortion?

Ok, so back to Glendale, I am in the studio, I am laughing at the jokes, enjoying myself, finally find a seat next to Jaq when I notice time is ticking away. The crew let us know that food is there for us. I think, that's weird because they said they were on their last shot of the day and we are still a bit before 6 hours (the legal maximum to work someone without a break for food).

Let's add one more layer of stress. I am occasionally only getting one bar of reception on my phone, which usually fades as soon as I try to USE my phone. Abe texted, "Here." I texted, "On last shot. Out soon."

Well, the last shot wasn't the last shot. There was a whole cooking segment after that which was actually the last shot. Jaq said, "It will be at least another hour and half."

I said, "No way, this is their last shot."

I asked the audience wrangler, "Will it be another hour or hour an a half?" She shook her head and said, "No, not at all. This is the last shot."

**CUT TO: Outside the Studio**

Abe outside waiting for me. He smoked a cigarette and strolled up the sidewalk. He could smell potatoes. He discovered the potatoes are coming from Shakey's restaurant. He walked in and said, "Hey. Do you have taters?"

**CUT TO: Inside the Studio**

I am inside, keeping it cool. They break down the kitchen segment and bring out a whole other set. I look around wildly, "WTF!?!?"

The producer says, "This is the last shot. They are just going to have a few closers. (to end the show)"

Jeff Lewis took food from the catering service for crew and cast, and brought it to us. He thanked us for patience, apologized for the wait and served us food. I swear to God, he is the nicest celebrity I have ever met. That is almost too bizarre for me to wrap my own mind around.

I felt the slow trickle of warm blood in my white dress. FUCK! I can also mention here, since we are such good friends, that I am behind on my laundry and the only pair of panties I had were my nice lavender lingerie panties with the matching bra. This is the ONLY matching pair of lingerie I own and I had to SAVE UP for it to buy it at TARGET! Ok. Pathetic . . . YES, but perhaps an explanation for why my mood started turning.

I hung my head in my lap and started complaining to Jaq. "Poor Abe."

**CUT TO: Outside the Studio**

Abe was in his car, eating taters and smoking pot. When he was done, he went outside to smoke a cigarette next to two people, a man and a woman, and struck up a conversation about inoculations. Abe listens to Coast to Coast am radio, and heard a woman call in with evidence that the flu vaccination weakens your immune system for up to 3 months and can also sterilize men for short periods of time, potentially altering their potency for life. There is a theory that these vaccinations will soon be mandated with travel, employment, school and, as a result, 80% of the population will get sick and die as a super power government slowly takes over.

The man and the woman were also waiting for someone inside the studio. Abe got the sense they were all going to smoke pot. Just a sense he got.

Suddenly, a compact, black vehicle stopped suddenly along the curb, almost obstructing traffic. A middle-aged woman in a provocative top was screaming at her phone.

Woman: "FUCK! FUCKING FUCK!?!? Come on!"

Abe: "Is everything ok?"

Woman: "I can't find the freeway and my fucking phone won't fucking work!"

Abe: "If you go straight down this road-"

Woman: "The maps won't load! WHY WON'T THEY LOAD!?"

Abe: "The 5 is right up there-"

Woman: "GOD DAMN IT, this thing is WORTHLESS!"

Abe: "Just stick on this road and head straight to the 5."

Woman: "But I don't know how to get to Redondo Beach from the 5."

Abe: "Just take the 10 fwy off the 5."

At this point, Abe noticed her breast was falling out of her top.

**CUT TO: Inside the Studio**

Pizza arrives for the audience. Fucking awesome. I can't eat fucking pizza. I am VEGAN.

As they hand out the boxes of pizza for each person to take one slice, I head down to audience wrangler #1.

Me: "I'm sorry but I have a dinner party that started at 7-"

Wrangler #1: "No."

Me: "I just need to know if there is any way I can slip out or when we will leave-"

Wrangler #1: "No. I just need you to sit down and stay where you are."

I went back to my seat and turned to Jaq.

Me: "The only thing worse than not being able to eat pizza, is being surrounded by people who are eating pizza."

Miami Vice turned to me with a pepperoni pizza. "Want some?"

**CUT TO: Outside the Studio**

Abe wandered across the street from the studio into a Middle Eastern bakery, led by his nose. He opened the door and a Middle Eastern baker was behind the counter. His eyes widened when he saw Abe.

Surly Baker: "What do you want?"

Abe: "What do you got?"

Surly Baker: "This . . . we have what you see."

Knowing Abe, he probably leaned over the glass counter with his nose, fluttering his fingers in the air like he was playing piano.

Abe: "Hmmmm, how about a Belgian puff pastry? Or two."

**CUT TO: Inside the Studio**

The audience fluffer, the one entertaining us to keep energy high, knew I was vegan. Throughout the taping, while throwing candy at us like it was day old fish to captured seals, Jaq asked for the Laffy Taffy (vegan) on my behalf. So after the pizza was consumed, she brought me a plate of steamed vegetables. THAT was sweet.

The other audience wrangler, #2 (a blond version of Olive Oyl), one I have seen around for the last year, motioned for me to stand up and move to a new spot. They move us around to keep the audience looking new for camera.

I said, "I'm sorry. I have plans. Is there anyway you can let me out? I am an hour late and they keep saying 'Last shot'."

Wrangler #2, "No, I'm sorry. This is the last shot, and I know you heard it before-"

I said, "You're right. And I don't believe it."

I moved to the new seat, where Jaq was just moved to. I felt the emotion welling, I was so late. I threw down my purse and sat down.

Jaq, "Geez. Relax."

Tears welled in my eyes.

I mumbled something . . . "Why did they have to lie about last shots? If they hadn't lied, Abe wouldn't be outside waiting for me, alone, in the cold. This is fucked up!"

Jaq, "Abe will be fine. He is probably smoking weed in his car."

**CUT TO: Outside the Studio**

Abe smoking weed in his car. He just finished two belgian puff tarts and noticed the studio security guard pacing back and forth. A cop car pulled up to the car parked directly in front of Abe.

Then two more cop cars pulled up. They ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and searched the trunk.

Abe wondered, "Did the security guard mean for the police to search MY car? What if the police made a mistake and they are actually looking for me?"

**CUT TO: Inside the Studio**

The producer comes up to us and says, "We are reshooting the opening because they didn't know you were laughing at their jokes. They felt like they did a bad job, but really they just couldn't hear you laughing because their mics were turned down too far. So we are going to do the intro over."

GOD DAMN IT ALL TO HELL! 40 more minutes!

Finally, we wrapped.

I stood up and jumped over the seats. Tori was talking to a few select people, but Jeff was 5 feet from the door shaking people's hands and thanking them.

I briskly walked to the door then stopped. Jeff Lewis. He makes me laugh.

I turned around and said the stupidest two words I have ever said to any celebrity. "You're amazing." What is so amazing about him? His home decor? Please, I don't know the spider bites on my ass from track lighting. What a generic fucking compliment!

He turned to me, his face was glowing. His smile was huge but the rest of his face was frozen in botox time. I didn't want to shake his hand because I knew he was a germaphobe, then he placed his hand on my lower back and said, "Thank you, so much!" Jeff Lewis. I adore you.

I ran out the door and found Abe standing on a brick partition where all of us were lining up for our clean, white envelopes of cash. My eyes were welling with tears and my voice was breaking up like I just fucked up my oral presentation in 6th grade social studies. (yes, that did happen)

I leaned into his shoulder and apologized. He blew smoke over his shoulder and said in a monotone, "Are you crying? I don't get it. Why?"

Me: "Because I was stuck in there for over two hours and I knew you were out here waiting and we missed Helen's dinner and they kept saying Last Shot, Last Shot ... if they were just honest with me you wouldn't have had to wait. I feel like a bad friend, a bad girlfriend and a very poor person. (text message chimes) Oooh, I got an audition with the Church of Scientology."

Abe: "Baby, I just don't understand why you're upset. I'm fine. I had some Iraq pastry, or something. Maybe it wasn't Iraq. Araat pastry. He acted like I didn't belong there or something. I am like, 'Dude, everybody makes Belgian puff tarts, alright. You aren't special."

Wrangler #2 was checking our paperwork. She was pissed at me for snapping at her inside. I was texting, checking messages. Because my paperwork was not folded out and ready for her to roll her eyes over immediately, she skipped me in line.

Ok, I have been doing audience work for almost a year now. They recognize me. They know me. They still treat us all like shit. They make us hold our urine for several hours at a time during a taping and then refuse to let us use their restrooms after the show has wrapped. We are always supposed to be ready and waiting for whatever they want in exchange for a tootsie roll. Well, I am fucking sick of it.

I am loving a job with no heavy responsibility, but the feeling of being disposable really wears on you.

She moved on to the next girl's paperwork and said, under her breath without looking up, "If you have your paperwork out, it will benefit you greatly."

I unfolded my paper and said, "Or I could just unfold my paper and move up in line."

She looked at me like I called her the nastiest word for a dirty cunt I could muster. She said, "What?"

I said, a little louder, but not much because I knew I didn't have to repeat myself, "Or I could just unfold my paper and move up." There was no attitude, I just felt like stating the obvious.

Her eyes got wide, she grabbed my paperwork and looked it over. She said, "Geez, alright!" Rolled her eyes, turned her head with a twitch like I smacked her in the face. Under her breath and sing song, she said, "No need to get upset about it."

OK BITCH- I was upset when I was bleeding all over my pretty underwear, underneath an air conditioning vent for 8 hours hearing 'Last Shot' over and over while my boyfriend was stuck outside for over two hours. THAT was upset.

THIS . . . ha . . . is not upset.

I walked to Abe's car. Abe, "Sorry if it smells like pot and potatoes in here." Home, sweet home.

We drove to the dinner, which was over, but had drinks with Helen and her old lover/new boyfriend. It was important to me we go, though Abe never understood why. Helen and I both pined over our men and discussed the best way to get them back with the relationship we wanted.

For months, we waited. We broke up with them and tried to be as isolated as possible from our estranged boyfriends. So we would grab cocktails together at the Cheesecake Factory, check our text messages waiting for an apology, a plea or an admission.

Helen's came back first. I will admit, I was jealous as much as I was happy.

Then Abe came back. It worked. They did love us, after all.

After the gathering, Abe drove me to my car, left outside the studio. It was conking out of gas when I parallel parked it prior to the show, so I wasn't sure if it was going to start.

I turned the key. The pitter patter of electronic keyboard rung from my car radio.

Out here in the fields
I fight for my meals
I get my back into my living.

I don't need to fight
To prove I'm right
I don't need to be forgiven.

Don't cry
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland

I smiled. My car started. My boyfriend smiled at me. Life began again.

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