Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Pull off a Scene with a Complete Bitch

I was called back for a second audition in a teaser (a trailer of a feature film not yet made, seeking financing). It is under the guise of a supernatural thriller but the story has more to do with the Armenian genocide.

I would be the lead . . . of course.

When I went in for the call back, it was just me and the other lead actor (playing my husband), who either wrote or wrote and produced it. I am not sure of his exact role, but it seems like he is as involved as the director. Also, he is an acting teacher at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute (a school for acting).

We went through the lines and talked about it for a bit. I had to head out to a comedy show immediately afterward- but the second audition ended up taking 40 minutes. Ugh. Of course. When I have no where to go after an audition, I am in and out like a teenage Mormon.

I told him I had heard about the Armenian genocide, but didn't know much about it other than the Turks don't acknowledge it.

He said, "It was horrific. Now you go to Turkey and the people apologize for it left and right. It was horrible, I mean what my great grandparents went through makes what the Jews went through look sweet."

My face contorted. I am so late for the comedy show. Abe is in the car in the parking lot. Em and her hubby are waiting at The Improv for us. The clock is ticking . . . but I can't leave that on the table.

He said, "To be taken to a camp and then gassed to death would be a cake walk compared to what they went through."

I said, "Well, a lot of Jews were experimented on. I mean . . . there were a lot of methods of torture."

He said, "True, but you know what I mean."

You say tomato [tuh-mey-toh] I say tomato [tuh-mah-toh]. Its all genocide at the end of the day, right?

I said, "The stories I hear from Africa are beyond the imagination. Definitely, the worst things I have ever heard."

He said, "Oh yeah, I have a friend who is a politican. He is one of the nice ones, and he says that the government purposely severs aide to the continent. Not because they don't have it, but to keep the population from exploding. There is plenty of food. They are dumping crates of grain into the ocean to keep the prices up."

I could feel the air suck out of my lungs. I believe it. I fucking believe it.

Then he grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes.

"Ok, lets do the scene one more time. Let's get close. Its hard getting close."

I said, "I know, even in real life its hard getting close." I thought about Abe, and how the honeymoon period seemed much easier to wrap my heart around. Now that we are in the trenches of a relationship, I can feel myself afraid to let go entirely.

He said, "Oh I know, but I mean in this scene. Its hard getting close." Looking into my eyes, I shut up and did the scene. Just shut up and do the scene. Thats my motto.

I got the part last week and scheduled a rehearsal with them for this morning.

When I showed up, there was another actress there. She was smaller, older, unusual looking. She was very friendly to me and asked, "Are you the costume girl?"

I said, "No. I am the lead."

She said, "Oh . . . but I read with another girl who was the lead. You mean Annie?"

I said, "Yes. Maybe you are thinking of call backs."

She laughed, "No. It was a rehearsal."

Alright, bitch. You want to play this game? We can dance this dance.

I casually sipped my latte and said, "Well, they cast me last week but maybe I am second choice. That's fine. I don't mind. You gotta pick who you think is best for the role."

She grew silent then said "Cause I know I read with another woman who was Annie."

This bitch wasn't going to let it go. I ignored her. We did the scene and I was not off book. I am so fucking exhausted, I can't keep my eyes open at night to read through and memorize lines. Even if I did, I assure you, I would forget them by the morning.

Now, if I had more time, I could be well rested and have time to read the whole script. I am full time at Doggie Daycare for the rest of the month. (How am I staying up late to write this blog you might ask?)

Truth be told, I can memorize lines very quickly which has made me lazy. My ability to accomplish things quickly puts me in the habit of procrastinating. What can I say?

They noticed I wasn't off book. I was embarrassed. It may even seem that I didn't read the scenes until this morning. It seemed that way because I actually read them for the first time off my iPhone while driving into Hollywood that morning (which took an hour). GRRRRRR!

We got through the first scene and it was too polite. I am supposed to be pressing her for answers about a family secret and then connect with her when she finally opens up. She is the maid, I am the mistress.

We got up to do it, and she claimed the dialogue was too expository to sell as "natural." She started trimming the lines herself and threw up a loud protest to my stage husband when he offered to throw her a line during rehearsal. She said, "I don't want you to confuse me, because I have already changed the lines to make them sound more believable."

Dude. What a bitch.

We were having a hard time getting mean, she was so timid in the scene. They asked us to be over the top. I came in and improvised a few lines that involved the word "fuck" over and over. Her business was to wash dishes during the scene. She kept miming washing the fucking dishes so I slammed my hand down and kept screaming, "Put down the fucking dishes and TELL ME!!!"

She exploded, "Shut up, you fucking bitch!" Spit flew from her mouth and I could see she wasn't really acting.

We did the scene and it erupted into the level of anger and surrender we needed- but somehow we had to get to a place near the end of the scene where I have her head in my hands and then hold her. Hold this bitch? I don't care how talented of an actress you are, that is rough when dealing with little Miss Tude'.

I pulled her aside and apologized if I pushed her and explained it was just for the scene. She said, "Well, you just started improvising lines so I thought I should just improvise lines, too."

At least I am not REWRITING THE SCRIPT!

I said I was having trouble feeling like I could touch her at all during the scene, so I asked to hug her. Instead of waiting for an answer, I just hugged her. It was awkward. She didn't hug me back. Then I touched her head and said, "I am supposed to touch your head in the scene, but I don't know how to do that."

Miss Tude shook my hand out from under her head and said, "Don't worry, if I don't want you to touch my head, you won't touch my head."

Cunt. Jesus. YOU AREN'T THE LEAD!! GET OVER IT!!!

I excused myself to grab some tissue out of the restroom to blow my nose. When I came back, conversation between the director, Stage Hubby and Miss Tude suddenly halted.

Director, "We are just discussing how she wasn't sure if you were the final Annie."

I said, "I told her I was the real Annie." Then I shrugged my shoulders and cackled. Oh yeah. CACKLED! The director laughed and said he liked my confidence.

I shrugged my shoulders again. What the fuck!?

We did the scene again, and this time, at the pivotal moment in the scene where anger melts into sympathy, I just hugged her and cried. Oh yeah. I cried. Tears!

The director applauded. I told them I fucked up my lines. They said it was perfect. They asked
us how we felt. I looked at her, she looked at me.

I said, "Pretty good, you know. Still a little awkward."

My Stage Husband said, "Well, it needs to feel awkward to work as a scene."

I nodded and smiled. Miss Tude looked at me with a smile and said, "I am just really uncomfortable."

Um.

They told her it was working, that being uncomfortable was helping the character. She raised her voice and kept going on about how her self esteem wasn't where it needs to be (probably because they gave her direction and didn't dismiss her as perfect out the door) then I tuned her out. I don't know what else she said because I was trying to make sarcastic eyes with my Stage Husband. His stared straight forward, he wasn't going to indulge me.

They comforted her and assured her. Pish posh. The woman is upset because of the same reason most women are upset around me. Its because I am genetically superior. Now, I don't mean I am better looking necessarily, though in this case that is a hands down YES I AM. My physical qualities might be more pleasing to a potential mate, but in addition to that, my body is ideal for childbirth and I have no history of disease in my family. Everyone in my extended family outlived their friends and ended up dying at a very old age of something like a car accident.

Nature has intended my genetic strain to thrive. Miss Tude, however, is meant to die alone in the forest.

Now, Abe will say, "Babe, you can't just go around saying that you are genetically superior."

I don't know why not, when bitches are just going around treating me like shit as if that is some kind of token at the toll booth of ugly.

She left. I heard her feet scuffle out the door like a rat rushing out of daylight.

The Director and Stage Hubby assured me she confused her call back with a rehearsal and there was never another Annie. I said, "I would imagine you wouldn't have time seeing as you cast me last week, a couple days after the second audition. Not that it matters, but it was still inappropriate to say to me before a rehearsal."

Stage Hubby, "Very inappropriate. You have to be careful in this town with your reputation. I probably wouldn't cast her again. She is perfect for this role though. The thing is, if a director asks you to stand on one foot and do the scene, you don't ask why. You stand up on one foot and do the scene. Lee Strasberg said, 'This isn't a democracy. The stage is totalitarian. There is no conversation. For all intents and purposes, I am God."

That's why I always say, "Just shut up and do the scene."

We went through a husband/wife scene where I push him for answers to the family secret. It felt good. I was given permission to experiment. I played with his arm hair and gazed into his eyes. Felt blood rush to my cheeks when I scolded him.

In the middle of the scene, he didn't come back with a line. He just looked and me and smiled. I smiled back, we were obviously no longer in this scene.

Stage Hubby, "I was just thinking this is why I married you. You are so beautiful. That's just what I was thinking right now in the scene."

I thought about this. He was identifying why he would marry the real me and make me his wife. I might get confused about the moment if he wasn't 15 years older than me (like all my stage husbands) and also in a relationship with someone else. It made me feel at ease, it was weird. I felt comfortable.

We found ourselves in the scene, and it was great. You know, the acting thing sometimes is the only thing I can do right (outside of writing this blog and having sex with Abe). Its strange that I have only discovered that now.

We finished and they both walked me to my car. The Director said, "The only thing I am concerned about is you two being off book."

Stage Hubby, "I always tell my students, know your lines backwards and forwards before walking on set."

I bit my lip. They weren't looking at me, they were looking at each other, but they were talking to me.

I said, "Its easy for me to get off book. I will be on Friday."

The director said, "This is an independent production, so we won't have time to learn lines on set."

I smiled but thought about the two early morning shifts I am working up until production. And, I am rescuing another dog tomorrow after work. Shit.

They nodded and hugged me.

I kind of beat myself up about it on the ride to work. I should have known my lines. I am just so tired.

You know what made me feel better? (I mean besides a blow off the pipe and a huge doberman pincher standing between my legs all afternoon) . . . that last scene in "8 Mile":

Cheddar Bob
Yo where you headed, Rabbit?

Jim
I gotta get back to work, yo-

Sol
(Laughs)
C'mon, dawg. I told that girl from the laundromat who wasn't that good lookin' we'd meet up with her late- I need a second opinion, yo-

Cheddar Bob
Yeah. We gonna get all the hot bitches now you won, Rabbit!

Jimmy (keeps walking) Fuckit.
(to Cheddar Bob)
I'm, late for work, yo. I'll see you guys tomorrow-

Jimmy and Future walk down the street together.

Jimmy
Yo Fuche, you ever seen a horse before?

Future
You mean the four legged kind?

Jimmy
Yeah.

Future
Why?

Beat

Jimmy
Fuckit, man- I gotta run.

Jimmy says goodbye to the Future, and takes off running down the street. On his own.

Away from his friends.
Away from the crowd.
Away from the club.

Running by himself down the dirty streets of Detroit. Heading in the opposite direction of everyone else.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Scam-tastic!

The first day of stand up comedy class, the teacher asked to do a brainstorming exercise; what do actors and prostitutes have in common?

There were the obvious answers: "Do anything for money" "Fake it." "Use Craigslist to find work"

My answer was, "They both get head shots."

Like most of my humor, I say things that sound perverted though I haven't thought them through all the way yet.

A head shot is an 8X11 glossy picture of yourself with your filmography and contact info on the back. You submit head shots for auditions and present them at auditions. Its the actor's equivalent to a resume.

When I first decided to give acting/modeling a go, I showed up to an interview downtown October of 2009. I was submitting for various jobs to get the hell out of the homicidal-suicidal assistant job.

The voicemail I received was confusing, it was asking for a couple pictures and your resume. I didn't remember sending off to a model/actress ad, but that was for fear of rejection. The fact that someone was reaching out for me to come down was exciting.

I showed up to a very posh lobby and was buzzed up to the 3rd floor, NeVon Management. Surrounded by chubby teenage girls, I was called in to speak to a woman around my age, very plain, with her hair pulled up in a bun. She asked me if I was there for a job or as a model. I decided to say I was there as a model. I saw a slight smile roll over her face.

She told me they were looking for mature models for Sunset Magazine, and other adult female periodicals. She offered to represent me and advised that I start out with modeling and then take a class or two in acting. If I liked it, to slowly transition into acting but avoid reality TV.

To kick off the process, I had to schedule an appointment for a photo shoot so they could make my zed card. A zed card is the model's version of a head shot. It is smaller than a head shot, but has four different pictures of you including all your measurements and stats.

I googled NeVon and couldn't find very much on them. Some comment threads in message boards started with a question, "Hey, has anyone heard of NeVon management? Is it a scam?" No answers.

I found a girl who had NeVon mentioned on her modeling website and emailed her. She said that she was looking to switch agencies and management, but was sticking with NeVon for the time being. So I thought, "Why not? Everyone needs a stepping stone."

Not-for-Profit and I were living together and happen to be in a calm period. He wasn't spending all of his nights in our Hollywood place, but he was showing up to talk to me and help with the dogs. He still gave me his half of the rent. The combined income took some stress off my cash flow, so I invested in a stand up comedy class, a French class and, now, this photo shoot which would cost me about $250.

I had an appointment with the NeVon stylist who picked through all my clothes to assemble two outfits. Also, I was to find examples of photos in magazines that I wanted to use for a look.

I showed up to a photo shoot in an industrial area of downtown Los Angeles. There were lots of girls and boys; all shapes, all sizes, all ages. There were ultimately two sets they were using, one was an industrial wall and the other was an outside brick wall. I brought in my examples from magazines and reported to hair and make-up. The women working there were not happy.

While violently brushing my hair, they told me they had been working since 6am without a break. That they had not provided with any water or food and the building wasn't air conditioned. They also communicated that they would never work with NeVon again.

I did my first shoot outside. I was self conscious about not having any nice shoes, so I told them I forgot to bring any. They photographed me barefoot.

It was a mess. The stylist who picked out my clothes was the only person from the company orchestrating, so she was totally overwhelmed. I was the second to the last person slotted to shoot and felt like I was in a sweaty, boring purgatory. Nobody would talk to me.

I took control of my own photo shoot, and coordinated with the second photographer on my own. The whole thing was a cluster fuck.

When I came in a week later to discuss photos, they told me there was another $250 printing fee. This was alarming. I shook my head and told her I had no idea about an additional printing fee. She stared at me with a frozen expression. I slowly pulled out my debit card and handed it to her.

Another red flag was they were showing up as "Red Alert Modeling"on my bank statement for the charges. I did more research, other users on various message boards assured those of us concerned that the company simply changed their name from Red Alert to NeVon.

So I saw it through . . . I called up continually for a couple of weeks until I got my zed cards. When I came to pick them up, I wasn't thrilled. Its hard looking at yourself. Its makes me very uncomfortable. The only time I like the way one of my pictures look is when it doesn't look like me at all. A strange phenomenon to want to take pictures of yourself but not look at them.

That said, the general feedback from people outside of NeVon was I looked a little overweight. I was 5'9 1/2 and 138 lbs. Around that time, I put myself on the no carb diet. Working out just made me hungrier, so I put myself on protein bars and trail mix for a few months until I got down to 129 . . .130. Now in pictures I look kind of curvy, but in life I am getting pretty skinny. In fact, I haven't been this skinny since before puberty.

So, I waited to hear from NeVon about jobs and called to follow up. They directed me to their website, which required extra membership fees depending on the features. I built the basic page that required no fee . . . and never heard from them again.

Bye, bye $500.

The cinematographer on a documentary I made a few years ago was now living in Silver Lake practicing still photography. Sarah Renard (http://www.sarahrenard.com/) invited me over and said she would take a few shots of me for a very small fee. I came over, she handed me a Red Stripe, and we caught up while she pushed me in corners of her kitchen and living room.

I remember attending a panel where Jim Sheridan was speaking about how he connects to his actors. He said he is able to grab the magic of the person and pull it through the lens by simply loving them. The love comes through the eyes, through the lens and lands on film. He said that's why photos taken on a disposable cameras or off your phone are the most precious, while Yearbook photos and family portraits are often forgotten.

He then said celebrities are a different animal, they want you to love them and hate them at the same time, so its trickier.

I hadn't seen Sarah in years, but I loved her to death. She was the Maid of Honor in my wedding. We were both married then, now both divorced but she had found someone amazing who she loved and was enjoying a comfortable life. That Swede . . .

I hadn't met Abe yet, and was still holding on to Not-for-Profit. When she asked about my love life, I said I was in a 5 year affair with a bi-polar alcoholic. Her response, "What does that say about you?" I don't know . . . what does that say about me?

She got some good shots of me, and decided I wanted two looks, then gave her double what we originally agreed on.

I took the head shots out there with me and built my LA Casting profile with them. Everyone has something to say, "You look older", "It doesn't capture your personality" "You need to smile more." "That's you?" . . . you need a 3/4, you need a full body, you need a commercial, a theatrical, a quirky . . . BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH! Gawd, its fucking frustrating.

Now the printing costs with head shots are an equally large sum of $250+ and I could never afford it all at once, so I took the photos to a Kinko's and put together what I call, a 'Poor Man's Head Shot.' They are about $1.60 a piece, I staple them together. It looks like a regular head shot except without my name printed on the front of it (which is standard).

I auditioned for a manager once, Carolyn Silva, who told me that those head shots don't grab anyone's attention and I need one of my smile. She agreed to manage me if I used her referral for a photographer. Well, they were quoting me $300 for a photo shoot (which I never had at one time) and that wouldn't even include the printing fee.

For awhile, I saved the money, then would lose it to bills. I talked to the photographer and discussed scheduling, but the shoot for ANAHEIM was always getting in the way. Then, eventually, I wondered if they wanted to represent me, wouldn't they start with the photos I have first instead of waiting until they collect their referral fee from the photographer? You know those "managers" that prey on newbie actors make a living from a 10-20% referral fees. The head shot business is a big business out here in the L of A, next to acting "classes".

In Silva's case, the yahoo email address should have tipped me off that she wasn't professional.

When I came to the realization that I would never be able to afford head shots from one of these people, I asked someone I worked with on ANAHEIM, a photographer by trade, to grab a few shots of me.

That was a whole fiasco (http://soibecameanactress.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html)

Those shots were never touched up, but they were free. I looked skinny and the tequila inspired some great poses.

So I have been using them for several months. Even then, my friend, a talent manager, said none of those photos captured my personality. UGGGHHH!

Last Saturday, I had three auditions in one day. The first one was in CAZT, a common casting space in West Hollywood. Usually I catch up on the sides (pages from the script to be read and performed in the audition) via iPhone while I am waiting to audition. It takes me about 10 minutes to be off book unless something throws me off my game.

I showed up and asked for sides. The casting woman didn't even know what sides were, so I explained just as the director, an Arabic middle-aged gentleman, stepped out and asked why I didn't request sides through my audition confirmation. I told him I had a crazy week with four auditions and a call back. Shit happens, you know?

He gave me sides and then made me wait for an hour to audition. AN HOUR! What a fucking asshole! When I got in there, we discussed that this was a teaser to raise financing for a feature version. The log line was a Jewish high teacher helping a Muslim Math Coach in a platonic romance.

For the second time this month, I was asked in an audition, "Are you Jewish?" And I answer, "No, but I'm dating a Jew." Sometimes I throw in, "But my parents think I am Jewish." That's a joke.

Right before I slated my name on the camera and started my lines, the director said, "Because I know you from that other project (I don't remember him) I am going to tell you the formatting on your head shot is way off. It should be in columns, like this." Then he held up someone else's head shot.

The formatting is identical to the one used on the website where they found me. WTF?

He stared at me. I said "ok."

He said, "I am just telling you this as a favor, because I know you. You shouldn't be going out with this. Casting directors would throw this away."

The camera man was staring at me. The co-producer was staring at me. Some other random dude in the corner was staring at me.

I said, "ok."

Silence.

Hey, asshole . . . I am not going to thank you. I hate it when police officers and assholes in general trick you into thanking them for a criticism. This wasn't the time nor the place to give friendly advice. So I gave him "bitch eyes", one of the many valuable talents my older sister taught me while growing up. Head down, eyes up and just the slightest squint as if to say, "What's your fucking problem?" Bitch eyes.

You know what? I still knocked out that audition.

The Co-producer, a woman, said, "You have very expressive eyes. Its very intense."

I smiled and thanked her.

The director, "Isn't it funny how women look at the eyes?"

Well, where the fuck were you looking?

I am beginning to realize that my sex appeal only comes across with my personality and is more relatable to women. I wonder if that is why I haven't been cast in a few things. An old friend from film school said he would never cast a woman in his project he wouldn't want to have sex with.

I remember auditioning for a feature film about a couple that is cornered by middle class life, rack up their credit cards to do everything they want to do and then kill themselves. After the audition, the female producer said, "We will definitely be calling you." I never got called back for it. My quirk isn't the Scarlet Johansson Playboy picture every director is holding out for.

Back to my Jewish/Muslim audition: after the co-producer and director bickered about whether or not to bring in another actor for me to read with, I was released to my next audition in Corona. This audition was for a Bridal Gown print ad.

It took me 45 minutes to get out there. My finger nails were short and dirty. Band-aides were wrapped around four of my fingers, three were burned when I picked up a hot pot and the fourth was slammed in a gate a few days later. I am very tired these days.

I watched another actress slowly climb the marble steps up to the property and looked at my reflection in my car. I don't have the long black coat, the black boots and the smokey eye make-up. If someone is going to cast me, its because they see me. Not because they see a canvas, because they see a character.

The audition was in what appeared to be an unfinished guest house on a ranch. I heard a man and a woman inside, pitch to the girl in front of me. "He's having a special. $175 for the entire head shot package."

The actress asked, "How many looks?" He said, "One." She left and went out in back to take a few stills with this photographer on the property.

The man and woman asked me to stand in front of the camera, tell me a little bit about myself and why I would be good for the ad campaign.

I asked them for more details on the campaign and they just said, "We want this location to be used for weddings and events, so we are going to make little postcards." Vague, but ok.

I smiled and revealed unflattering personal truths, did my pelvic awkward twirl, made them laugh, my whole "bit". Then, at the end, the guy next to the woman videotaping said, "Your missing your name from the front of your head shot."

I said, "I know. Its a Poor Man's head shot. I just go to Kinko's and pay as I need them."

He said, "Its cheaper to buy in bulk." And then lifted the photographer's business card.

I said, "Oh yeah, but I never have enough money at one time."

The smile faded from his face and his hand swung down with the business card. He said, "Well, if you ever decide to get new ones, you can call him and work out a deal." This was smelling of a gimmick.

I took the card and said, "Do I go out for the still photo shot now?"

He said, "Oh, he is just taking shots to show her what he can do with her look."

I thought, if there was a job in this, the only way to have a shot was to convince the photographer Airic Lewis (I would include his homepage but my computer is telling me it has been reported for suspicious activity) to take a picture of me. Just to keep me present in thought and conversation.

So I waited and spoke to Airic. Even he seemed a little deflated when talking to me.

Airic (holding my head shot), "You aren't going out with this, are you? Casting directors would just throw this away. You aren't looking at the camera. A head shot is something that captures you and has your eyes to the camera lens."

This is so exhausting.

He offered to take a shot with me, but we didn't move around the property. He just had me stand next to a large garbage crate behind the guest house. Why wasn't he taking me up the hill like the other actress? Between you and me, I was traditionally prettier than she was.

He snapped a few photos and then told me to breathe.

I wasn't going to get this job.

He looked and said, "See, these two I just snapped off look a thousand times better than your head shot."

I looked and said, "Yeah . . . those are nice."

He said, "NICE!" Then he shot a few photos and checked the image, muttering to himself, "Excellent. God, everything I do is great. Everything!" Here is where I laughed and he snapped several photos.

People like my smile. I think its retarded because my teeth look like they belong to a 5th grader- but it emotes an innocence that is sometimes there and sometimes not really there at all.

He showed me the pictures. The first few were pretty good. It didn't look like me. It looked like some European woman who would own a condo and clean her car. Your first reaction to a picture of your face is general repulsion. Then you look again and see that its not so bad, in fact its pretty good. Then you wonder, "Do I look like that?"

The pictures fuck with your head. You start to notice imperfections with your skin, your eyes, your expressions. You see yourself age. It makes you a little crazy.

The photographer, "Better, right? And that's with no make-up."

Actually, I was wearing make-up.

I said, "Yeah, I like those but I don't have much money."

The photographer said, "Look, I will give you to these for $50." I'm thinking about it.

I don't know. I wish I had someone give me some honest fucking advice so I could figure out where to go with this next.

The Cobbler

Abe's mother invited me to Hanukkah dinner on the last day of Hanukkah. I asked for the evening off from Doggie Daycare and took an audience job in the middle of the day for Fran Drescher's Tawk Show to pay for a dogsitter and gas.

I woke up late in the morning and only had 2 hours to make the peach cobbler and get to Fran's Tawk Show.

I used my mother's crust recipe since it is vegan, delicious and what I grew up eating. When I think back to what went wrong, the first thing that comes to mind was not chilling the water. For some reason, chilling the water overnight makes all the difference in a pie dough. I forgot the ritual of filling up the glass of water and putting it in the refrigerator before going to bed. Ice chilling or freezer chilling just doesn't work, and my mother warned me of that!

Then, rushed, I beat out the dough but couldn't get the consistency I wanted for 30 minutes or so. When I finally was able to patch together a crust, I stuffed it in the oven for 25 minutes before rushing to Hollywood. Since I preheated the oven, I hoped I could turn off the oven but leave the cobbler in there to cook with whatever heat was trapped inside. Second mistake.

I came back from the Tawk Show and there was a lot of juice. I mean . . . a lot of juice. I drained the peaches before putting them in the cobbler, so I don't know what the fuck. I tipped it over to drain out more peach juice through the crust, while carrying it to my car in the drive way.

Third mistake, I drove with it on the edge of the passenger seat so that one end was slightly higher than the other, as the base of the seat is at a slight angle. I thought if I rotated it around during my commute- it wouldn't get soggy. After 2 hours in traffic, it got soggy. Even with the rotation.

I pulled up to Abe's apartment and parked outside. I sat there. He came out to my car window. I knew we were late. I got out of the car and asked for a cigarette.

Abe, "How was work?"

Me, "Eh, ok. The first time I worked that show, they played music from the 90s. Now, they are back to that Top 40 bullshit. That Katy Perry drives me crazy. 'Daisy Dukes and a bikini top' . . . what is that? A story?"

Abe, "It doesn't make any sense. People like to listen to songs that don't make any sense."

Me (singing), "Daisy Dukes and a bikini top-"

Abe (chuckling), "Well don't make me listen to it. (beat) The cobbler looks good."

Me, "I drove with it on a tilt and I think it made half of it really soggy."

Abe, "No, it looks good."

40 Minutes Later- Abe's Family Home

I walked into Abe's family home with cobbler and a bottle of champagne. The cobbler needed heat and the champagne need chill. Abe's father offered to keep the cobbler in the oven, still warm from the brisket.

As we were all sitting down for dinner, Abe's Mom sang out happily, "Take a picture!"

Abe's father sat down, exhaled and said, "I would rather just use my mind to remember this moment instead."

Abe stood over me and lit the candles standing in a glass menorah, some leaning over too far, others standing straight up like each was a person waiting their turn in line.

I watched him light all eight candles, as he sang, "Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha'olam, asher kidishanu b'mitz'votav v'tzivanu, l'had'lik neir shel Chanukah."

I hadn't heard Abe speak Hebrew yet. He already has a deep voice with the faint glass clinking tap-tap-tap of a boy. It felt warm hearing foreign words fall out of his mouth. It was a little unexpected, precious and sexy.

Abe's grandmother and grandfather jumped off a train going to Auschwitz as young adults, escaped to Belgium and hid in someone's attic for a year. There, they fell in love and got married. Something about being that close to the history, sitting at the table and sharing the ceremony with a family that survived inscribes itself along the spine of your soul.

The traditional food for Hanukkah dinner is beef brisket, jelly donuts, homemade apple sauce, potato latkes and kugel (an egg noodle dish that takes on a lot of variations). The only thing I could eat was the latkes, which are essentially potato pancakes specially made vegan for me, and the steamed brussel sprouts, green beans and cucumbers. Kugel must be made with egg noodles, so I will never be able to have it.

Jewish food is very different from Italian Catholic food. This seemed simpler. Some of the recipes Abe's mother talked about required some modern, processed ingredients like 'Lipton's Powdered Ice Tea'. The kugel was made with dry cereal flakes. The food, on its face, looked very basic and almost bland. Abe's family happily enjoyed it. It all has a history, deeper than mine. They are the chosen people, after all.

My mother makes lasagna, ricotta cheese pie, ravioli and cannolis all from scratch. She pounds out the noodles by hand. She insists on cooking every holiday, locks herself in the kitchen and gets incredibly grouchy; burning her fingers on the cannoli rollers and stuffing ravioli shells that break apart at the wrong touch. It didn't take long as a child to figure out that several hours in a hot room with a frustrated Sicilian is the opposite of Christmas delight. The end result, however, is phenomenal.

My "sacred" foods growing up seemed a lot more colorful, heavy, indulgent and angry.

The apple sauce on the latkes was strange, but good. I kept piling steamed vegetables on my plate because they were so delicious. During dinner, Abe informed everyone in the most blase manner possible that there was a wasp nest hanging from the roof, outside his apartment.

His mother, "You've got to get rid of that wasp nest. Right away!"

Abe, "Eh. There are only two left and they know if they go inside they are going to die. I mean, three guys live there. They aren't coming inside, trust me."

His Mother, "What if one gets inside?"

Abe, "Oh well. I'll be fine."

His Mother, "What if it stings you?"

Abe, "Then I'll swat it."

His Mother, "What if it stings you in the eye?"

Abe, "Then I'll still swat it."

His Mother, "What if you are asleep?"

Abe, "Well then I will have to take the chance of it stinging my forehead."

His Mother, "Get rid of it, Abe."

After dinner, Hanukkah gifts were exchanged. Everything was nice, but modest and practical. I thought I would feel uncomfortable with that part of the evening but I didn't. Abe got a new pair of jeans and tried them on for us while we sat at the dinner table.

Abe's Mom, "How do they fit?"

Abe, "Well, they are a little tight in the crotch."

Don't look at me. Don't look at me.

Abe looked at me and smiled.

Then I couldn't help but smile.

There is no way in hell I was going to look over at his parents and brother watch this moment in silence.

Tick. Tock. Tick-

Abe, "Yeah, they are nice though." He reached down and pulled down the crotch.

Don't look at me. Don't look at me.

Abe breaks out a chuckle and looks up at me, blushing.

Dear God.

His brother got boxers with beer and pretzels printed on them. Abe's brother, "Boxers with beer and pretzels. I have still have the green pair you gave me a few Hanukkahs ago. That's ok, this is different beers and different pretzels."


Abe's mother told me about a Holocaust Survivors Cookbook. I laughed. Why did I laugh? Because I am an asshole. I don't know why I laughed. I realized she was serious and showed me the book after dinner. While the men rubbed their bellies and collected the dishes, I skimmed through a couple recipes with old photographs printed along side them. Underneath, each had a story. Horrible stories.



The food is basic in many ways, but it is food that kept the Jews alive so they could protect their bloodline. So they could endure. Their food is about life, not pleasure.

After the meal, we had my cobbler. I don't know what to say, half of it looked soggy when I pulled it out of my car and half of it still looked soggy after pulling it out of their oven . . . if not soggier. Everyone had a piece and I was the only one that finished it. Everyone else was "full". Look, I know my cobbler sucked, ok?

One hour later- Abe's car


Me, "Ok. What about the cobbler?"

Abe, "I bit into it and there was a piece of dough. Like raw dough."

Me, "Oh my God, my cobbler sucked."

45 minutes later- post-coitus:

Me, "My cobbler sucked. I am never cooking again."

Abe, "I've heard that before."

Me, "You would like that wouldn't you?"

The next morning- post coitus:

Me, "My cobbler was God awful. I am never cooking again."

Abe, "I ate the peaches out of it."

An hour later- driving to Midas:

Me, "Tell me one good thing about my cobbler."

Silence.

Me, "There is nothing good about it? It was all bad?"

Abe, "Look, babe, I don't know what to tell you. If you ask me if there are a few things wrong with the cobbler, I have to say there are a few things wrong with the cobbler."

Me, "It was so terrible, there is nothing good to say about the cobbler."

Abe, "I am sure everyone appreciates that you made the cobbler. Everyone liked that you brought the cobbler."

Me, "The idea of the cobbler is the only good thing about the cobbler?"

25 minutes later- at Midas:

Me (putting my hands on Abe's shoulder, staring him straight in the eye): "So what you're telling me is last night was about me smelling like BO and bringing bad cobbler? Is that what happened?"

Abe looked at me and smiled.

You know what? Want to talk about rituals? Lets talk about rituals. I am going to make peach cobbler every year on the last day of Hanukkah for the rest of my life. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Bill Murray Incident

Here is an 11 month old story for my 7 month old blog:

At Sundance this year, I attended a film industry party I had no business attending.

Prior to the party, there was a screening of a movie, Get Low. Just before the movie screened, the director brought out the cast including Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray. When Bill limped on stage with one crutch, a black suit and black hat . . . my heart stopped. Knowing I would be attending the party afterward, I could feel the voice buried just above my stomach whisper, "uh oh."

Yes, as it turns out- I am hot for Bill Murray. We all grew up with him on screen, no need to revisit his career. One could say he molded my sense of humor. He and my parents fostered my comedy . . . like big, porcelain Russian dolls. That said, the very distinct tingling I felt in all my primary female organs was new for Bill Murray. I have no memory of being at all sexually attracted to him before this moment.

Here he was on stage, everyone roared with applause, and he seemed uncomfortable with the praise.

Later, during the Q&A, he was gracious towards crew, witty with every answer, polite and one could see even from an 800 seat auditorium, that the other cast members respected him, even liked him. My facebook status read, "Bill Murray is poetry in my heart." He was. Amend that: Is.

Fast forward 3 hours, I enter the party wearing a sweater dress I bought during Victoria's Secret semi-annual sale. My feet were wet from snow and I already had two pints of beer in my otherwise empty stomach. I stretched out in front of the fireplace to warm my feet and discuss the business of independent film with a reporter from Variety.

They were serving only quarter glasses of champagne, so I found myself getting up a lot to help myself.

Then, from the fireplace I saw Bill enter wearing a string of red chili pepper lights blinking all around him. My heart sped up. Being a girl, I would bide my time properly. There is an art form to approaching true love, you don't just jump into it as rock songs would have you believe.

I met the director, very kind. We had some Annie Hall banter. Then I met the producer, who just walked up to introduce himself. We had a nice conversation scuffed with some sexual innuendo. Upon our second and more buzzed conversation, I mentioned I was a big Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek fan (100% true). He said, "Who would you rather meet, Bill or Sissy?" Sissy was making her way to the door. I told him I hate to choose, but Bill.

He said, "Bill would love you so much if you walked up to him and held his plate at the buffet table for him." He had recently hurt his knee and was struggling with one crutch. I am ashamed I didn't think of this first.

I walked up to the buffet and picked up a plate. "Need some help?" I offered. Bill was taller than me, which always feels good for a tall girl. I felt myself stretching upward for eye contact. He turned over his shoulder and looked at me. A small smile. "You're cute. Yes, thank you." I was smiling, the type of smile that makes a family photo ten times better than a yearbook photo. The first thing I noticed was how soft his lips looked. I could already sense how they would feel all over my body before any food was put on his plate.

He instructed me on what he wanted, and I had locked into assistant mode. Though I was recently fired from being an assistant, I am good at it. "Very healthy!" I praised.

He then said, "Want to get married?" I said, "Absolutely, when's the wedding?" We went back and forth on it. I called myself his girlfriend and he corrected me, "Fiance." I quipped, "Apologies, of course 'Fiance.'" Bill paused, gazed then smiled. Butterflies dance. This was all over the steamed vegetables.

I walked him to his spot at a bar. He was getting settled in his seat. My buzz was FLARING so please be forgiving of the following events.

I introduced my friend, who excused himself then shot me a look. What was that expression: fear, excitement, wonder? Who knows . . . he knew I was amped up for Bill since before the screening.

I then turned to Bill and said, "Since you are on crutches, is the Aunt Jemima treatment out of the question?" I turned 30 degrees toward the bar to motion my behind for the punch in my joke. This is where I came to know the "Bill Beat." Every time I made a joke, Bill would stop, look at me and then smile. This happened in that exact order the few times I did speak to him. What does it mean? I don't know. I made Bill Murray smile more than three times, that's the jackpot for me.

I returned to our nuptial plans. Me, "I live with lots of animals. I hope you aren't allergic . . . dogs? Cats?"

He said, "Dogs, I am ok. Cats, I have a problem."

I could tell I was losing him to the broccoli now. He asked I sit down and talk to his friend Cary, immediately next to him at the bar.

I moved to Cary and introduced myself. He said he lived in Vegas. I said, "My sister lives in Vegas, do you want me to set you up?" He said, "Yeah, does she look like you?" I said, "No." I thought about what I should follow that up with but came up a little empty, so I just ended that part of the conversation once he took my phone number.

We chatted. I must have been slurring because the two things I remember hearing from Cary the most was "Calm down." and "Drink some water." I am a class act.

Once I obediently left Bill's side to entertain Cary, I noticed a flurry of other, less attractive women, surrounding Bill. I lost my spot in the light with him. I do better with one-on-one's than the group "date" scenario reality TV mercilessly invented.

Fuck those bitches.

I expressed my feelings quite candidly to Cary, who must now think I am insane. I kept insisting I was far more funny than any of these groupies. (I still stand by that)

The evening becomes a blur around this point. I know I anchored myself to Cary for a while, and felt my feet dancing on the floor, eager to expend the alcohol sugar fizzling in my veins.

I remember talking more to the producer, more to the director . . . more with my friend. Each time running for more champagne.

I remember going up to the service table and introducing myself to the bartender and the security guard. Ryan and Jason, they both said. I proudly announced, "I was in love with a Ryan and a Jason at one time" pointing with the same finger wrapped around yet another delicious glass of champagne.

The producer said there was an after-party but he expected something in return for the invite. I told him I was on my period. He laughed and asked if I was serious. I said, "Quite serious." This conversation then made its way to Cary, who laughed and asked if I was serious. And then to some random guy who told me he could smell it. I asked HIM if he was serious. He said no.

I remember rushing up to Cary and making a crack about Asian vaginas. This sounds so crass on paper, but I must assure you . . . its kinda funny. Cary laughed out loud. I could see the fillings in the back of his mouth. He said, "You're funny. You know that's Bill's humor. You two have the same sense of humor."

The sound of these arranged words echoed in my head. Of course. Bill is my soul mate.

I had my eye on Bill throughout the evening. The same group of plump, plain women surrounded him and politely chuckled at his conversation. So undeserving.

Again, I have no memory of most of the conversations I had that night. There is even a picture of me with the director and my friend on the internet, I have no memory of ever being taken.

The alcohol was soaking through us. The director showed me pictures of a Polish girl that broke his heart on his iPhone. The melancholy was taking hold.

Meanwhile, the party was changing, even building into a totally other kind of party. More people none of us knew.

I saw Bill alone by the fireplace. He was standing up. I felt the urgency to remind him I was there. Gracefully rushing over to him, I belted out a few witty lines about our love. I delivered my ballad with a straight face, but then followed it up with the batting of the eye lashes, the big smile, the slow swiveled pelvis.

I think I said, "I thought forever was going to start tonight." I know there must have been another sentence or more. 9 months later, I realized that's a line from a Bonnie Tyler song. I don't remember how or where we shook hands in this exchange . . . but our hands were joined.

I waited for him to bounce something funny off me or maybe even say, "Nice to meet you, goodbye." Nothing. The moment changed. My smile faded as I became very aware that he was staring right at me, still holding my hand.

His handshake was firm and confident, it wasn't loose or halfhearted. What I remember the most was the warmth. There was so much warmth around my hand, I couldn't tell where his hand started and mine stopped. He was still staring at me.

There was once a moment similar to this one. I was sober, working in retail and fell in love at first sight with a new manager. Yes, I said it: "Love at first sight." At the time, I was married and gave up on my naive romantic ambitions for stability and friendship. So when I met the new manager, time stopped. I felt his hand around mine, the warmth. I remember every freckle on his face. And in less than 3 minutes, my whole perspective on life and love spun into a new monster. Less than a year later, I would leave my husband for it.

I ended up having a 5 year long affair for this particular freckled, retail manager. It was the type of attraction you try to hold on to for the sake of magic.

Still nursing the broken heart from the above mentioned lover, here I was holding Bill's hand. It felt similar. Sure there is the celebrity, there is the champagne, there is the excitement and anticipation . . . all excuses the men in my life use too easily dampen my retelling.

The women in my life know what I am saying. It was a moment. In this moment, I wasn't thinking, "Bill and I are really going to get married." No. I thought, "I can touch the magic again."

And as that thought slipped over my head like a new, pretty dress, I found myself leaning in towards Bill's face. I have never leaned in for a kiss before. If I had, I was met so fast in the middle, there was barely notice of a reach.

I felt myself sway a little on my tip toes as I came closer to those soft lips . . . then Bill ducked out of the way. I regained myself immediately. Silence.

Cue the director walking up and announcing to the room, "SHE LOVES YOU!!" I don't remember my expression. The moment had died in labor. Bill laughed and whispered some joke in the director's ear. They both laughed.

I turned back into the room of people and found a corner to cry in. I cried like I was 7 yrs old. Thinking back, I couldn't pin point what triggered all the tears. Feeling rejected? Feeling mocked? Losing the magic? I really don't remember much but a blond woman bending down and saying, "It's not worth it, honey. Nothing is worth this many tears." You can always rely on strange women to give you the best advice in your worst condition.

I don't remember leaving the party. I remember snow and falling on snow banks like clean, soft bed sheets. I don't remember getting on the bus, but I remember jumping off in time to vomit outside.

I was still crying. My escort, a friend who was really just getting to know me during this last week, pulled me up and propelled me towards my hotel room. He complained I threw up on his gloves.

Around 5am, I suddenly woke up. Nauseous, smelly, still in my discounted sweater dress and my first thought being, "That was awesome."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Tale of Two Friends

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . it was just another day in 2010.

This blog is thinly veiled among my very small group of friends, so lets call this cast of characters Friend A and Friend B.

After what I call "the cancer year", (2009: I was fired from a job I hated, my cat died and my boyfriend of 5 years finally disappeared into an alcoholic cloud on the other side of Los Angeles) I decided it would be mentally healthy for me to develop some friendships with other women.

Right when I got a handle on the new life I was creating for myself, two women came into my life; Friend A was related to someone I once dated a lifetime ago who found me on Facebook and Friend B was a younger boss from an old job who I kept in touch with. One day, they both started calling/texting me and all of a sudden I had girlfriends.

A few months went by, and I went on that trip to Vegas with Abe. I am not sure if this is connected, but after I got back, I noticed that Friend B was getting a little competitive with me. Over lunch, I casually mentioned how impressed I was with Abe paying for everything on the trip. She quickly reviewed all the expensive things her ex-boyfriend got her and how excited she was to see what was in store for her over the holidays. I just don't know how to respond to that kind of silliness, so I ignored it.

The next few s, it was a version of that conversation coupled with a few criticisms about my hair, about how I care for my dogs, essentially about my low standards in the lifestyle department. Again, she is a bit of a snob and I knew that her kind of confidence, which delighted me so at bars when we are out drinking, came with an air . . . a haughtiness. However, the air was turning from "I deserve better" to "I deserve better than you."

I would joke with Friend A, "Its not like I keep criticizing her shortcomings and saying, 'You could really be a lot less materialistic and superficial.'"

Then came the GChat. I had offered to refer her to the all girls valet since she was laid off herself several months ago. She asked a few questions about it and I answered them. She said it probably wasn't for her and she had to free up time for her boyfriend, since he works. I don't let it eat at me that my friends have the luxury to turn down work, but I think this is a good point to pour myself a glass of wine.

She then typed in her little box:

friend b:... ur income is too low
it sucks bc i would like to work w/dogs too but im not a teenager anymore
and i have real bills

I read this and felt my cheeks burn.

me: I know you didnt mean to sound like an asshole with what you just said
but you did
I have a lot of debt too, 100k

friend b: i can see that

me: and a house of animals to support
and I am older than you
THINK before you SPEAK

I disconnected.

I bought a pack of cigarettes.

I drove to work, braking suddenly and loving the sound of two abandoned coffee mugs slamming into each other on the floor of the passenger side.

Something you should know about me and Friend B, I was trained to take her position at a company only a month after I started working there. Then, I got a higher paying job, one might say a better job, and left.

Friend B is trying to make a point to me, and it is mystifying what that point is. She thinks she is better than those around her. Is it because she is better educated? No. Is it because she makes more money? No. Is it because she is better looking? No.

The only people who really act like assholes in Hollywood, are the ones who have something to prove. I have met my share of celebrities, and they have all been kind and gracious; Chris Rock, Kevin Spacey, Lucy Liu, Oliver Stone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Fiona Apple, and of course, (my fiance for 15 minutes) Bill Murray.

They have nothing to fucking prove. The people in middle; the mediocre talents who have nothing especially insightful or witty to say or do, they are the assholes that want you to bring them a latte and clean up their snot rags.

Why would I give a fuck about what Friend B says? Well, because she was my friend.

Now, my parents are proud of me because I am working my ass off, but only because I am working my ass off. That's not right either. Its not about how much and how hard you work. That really means nothing in the end. Its not about how much you make either, of course, anyone who watches VH1 Surreality TV knows that. Its about living your dream. When you are living on dreams, and nothing else, all you have are alliances. When they fail you, it stings like a bitch.

The people you love most can be blind to the things that make you the happiest, and it doesn't make sense to me. I love animals and movies. I love nothing more than either of those things, except maybe Abe. And I get to do all three of them, all the time. Its fucking heaven- so why do they make me feel inadequate?

The next day after the GChat fiasco, on my day off, was a small valet job. The venue was 1416 La Brea; Charlie Chaplin's studio (built in 1917) and then Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop.

I hustled cars for a few hours with the other girls, mostly immigrants and lesbians. I guess that is the small pool of Los Angeles girls who know how to drive stick shift.

During the event, aka our down time, I spoke to a British girl next to me.

Girl, "I am writing a book about how I came to Los Angeles."

Me, "How did you come to be in Los Angeles?"

Girl, "Well, when I was 20, I started having very clear memories of abuse in my childhood. I spent a lot of time with my Grandmother who said that she loved me very, very much but that my parents didn't love me. In fact, they didn't love me because my little sister was stealing all their love and they preferred her. So my grandmother said, 'You will have to kill your little sister.' Every Thursday, we would go swimming in the pool and I would try to drown my sister."

I am speechless at this point.

Girl, "She still has scars. Anyway, I was 20 when I was watching television, and I saw a talk show and realized that Leeza Gibbons was going to be the one to help me. Just something went off in my brain- Leeza Gibbons. I bought a plane ticket, left a note for my parents and everyone that knew me and took off. I moved into a hostel in Venice, and found the studio where they filmed her show . . . Paramount. And when I was in the audience, security was too tight to speak to her personally, so I left a note in an envelope with her name on it just, if by chance, someone picked it up and gave it to her. The next day, she called me. I went to another taping, she knew who I was right away in the audience and came to me. She invited me up to an office after the show and we talked about my memories and feelings. Now, 10 years later, she is one of my closest friends. We spend Christmas together."

Los Angeles is a crazy, wonderful, disgusting place to find yourself. (* please note that I realize what a crazy story that is but I don't have time to figure out what the fuck)

After the event, we were invited into the venue to grab leftovers from the caterer.

I wandered in passed a door with Charlie Chaplin painted on it, as if he was peaking through the doorway. It was dark but I found my way to a theater with massive ropes lining one end of the studio. You just have to take in a place like this, you know? The history of it.

I couldn't go too far, so I looked around a little before the caterer offered me some Angus Beef gourmet sliders. I said I was vegan, and then he offered some mushroom arugula pate sliders. He said, "I don't like mushrooms, but these are . . . INSANE." He took a tray out of the oven and waved it in front of me. I thanked him and grabbed two. I started moaning when they were in my mouth, the other valets turned to look at me.

I said with a mouth full of food, "I am going to write a rock ballad for these mushrooms." He smiled and said, "I told you those are good mushrooms."

While savoring every last bite, I wandered as far as I could go without someone yelling at me. It is like a little village inside, with various production companies renting out offices. I looked into the lobby staging a wall of Golden Globes, Emmys and Oscars. Huge posters of old Chaplin movies were painted on one end, while various Muppet characters were painted on the other. The receptionist was there working late, saw me spying through the glass doors and winked.

Then I found an old, red phone booth. I put my hand on it and said, "Love ya, Charlie." Yeah, I am poor . . . but I am living like a king.

I drove home and Abe was there, cooking my dogs steak and rice. I couldn't even get my last boyfriend to take me to a matinee. Abe wanted to buy me a new bedroom set and had a purple one picked out on my browser (my favorite color). He also had a list made that said, "Clean stove, Organize Laundry, Organize Closet, Feed Animals, Walk Dogs, Cook her Food . . ." A few items were crossed off.

Then I opened the living room door to find my dogs relaxing on clean couches with Maggie, my senior dog, watching the Cooking Network. I don't know about you, but that is a great fucking day! I am happy. My God. I am happy.

I need money, that's true. Everyone needs money, some just have easier access than others. I play with dogs for money. I drive sports car for money. I act or hang out in the background for money.

A person like me needs to keep one foot in her imagination all day . . . to stay alive. The office work was killing me. Every part of me got sick from the monotony and captivity of organizing, answering calls, using my mind to think about little things that kept a greater machine working. My soul almost faded entirely.

I thought about hanging myself in the shower one night. It was a night when my live-in boyfriend was drunk, he would accidentally tear my clothing, break my dishes and say the worst things imaginable, all after a day of two bitchy bosses barking at me that I wasn't doing enough for them- it just felt like I was cornered. I couldn't see where it all ended.

I actually had an anxiety attack at work after my ex-boyfriend slammed me against the wall a few times. I woke up and went to work so I could get yelled at over something totally minor and forgettable by my bald, rich, obnoxious boss. I started hyperventilating and went into the stock room where the 20 yr old intern asked if I was ok. That was a low. Low low . . . low.

The adventure of life was waiting for me to come back, and I don't have to be 45 and Kevin Spacey to see it. I am having a fucking American Beauty moment. Somehow, then and only then, did I find the greatest boyfriend in the entire world who I have this intense chemistry with. A year ago from today, I wouldn't BELIEVE how happy I would be, where my path would lead me . . . and here I am, answering to a younger woman's judgment as if it really means anything.

God . . .

It doesn't.

After blowing off a little steam, I went over to Friend A's house, who had a present for me. Well, she had a slice of pie for Abe and a present for me. While sitting next to a fireplace, she told me the story of her visit to a casino. She was explaining a game to me, I didn't know what game it was. I wish I did so I could document her careful telling of the story. She was breaking even, then put a $20 on some pairing which has a special significance somehow, I don't know.

In the end, she won $1100. My mouth dropped. I said, "You won $1100?" She nodded her head, her smile slight but delight spilling out of her blue eyes. Then she said, "I want you to have this." She handed me a $100 bill.

I said, "I can't take this, this is yours. Enjoy it."

She said, "I already decided this was for you. I thought about it when I won. Then I talked about it with my husband. And we both decided this should be for you."

I kept trying to put the bill back in her hand. She isn't rich, in fact she has been suffering from the broken-down-car virus spreading around my pool of friends. She kept handing me the bill back.

I looked down at the Benjamin Franklin's crumpled bald head in my hand and felt warm tears spill out of my eyes. I leaned in to hug her and felt the sobbing that can billow from your stomach scratch at my throat. I stopped myself.

I said, "You don't know how much this means to me."

She said she knew, she said a bunch of other things I can't quite remember. I just know that I would never expect anyone to do this for me, not even my own mother. She asked me to save part of it for something just for myself. Truth be told, the $100 was spread out over food for my animals and gas but . . . this month was the first month I have had all the money for rent on time.

My back kind of jello-ed and I felt muscles in my neck and jaw loosen. How did this wonderful person find me and teach me what people are capable of the same week Friend B's words got tangled in the spokes of my wheel?

This year, I have had an old co-worker pay for my phone bill when it was shut off and also put me on the list to get free garden groceries delivered to my house once a month, since he took the company on as a new client. A neighbor keeps dropping off large boxes of dog treats and kibble for my babies. A person I never met on Facebook sent me a gift card. My dogwalker started leaving me cash and toiletries whenever he stopped by to walk the girls. The Comic gave me his old iPhone when mine was stolen.

Abe took me shopping at Target, spending money on new clothes and a bedroom set, towels, etc. He kept bringing me clothes to try on in the changing room, and the old lady (who I think was mute because she used her hands to communicate) would let us back and forth without those plastic item numbers. She made everyone else grab a number, but when Abe or me came dancing back with clothes, she ushered us to the same room with a sweet smile.

I have had rich boyfriends in the past, and refused their offers to buy me things because I thought it would spoil the relationship. I actually think my refusals created tensions that ultimately destroyed the relationships (if you can call them that).

Now that I have let go of all the control, I can see all the gifts that have been waiting for me down the road . . . I just had to make the right turn. I am going the right way.