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.

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