Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We’re Just Three Lost Souls Swimming in a Fish Bowl

A morning or two after the Hair Show, Abe pinged me: “I feel really awful like Im a heart breaker. I guess I dont know what Im doing.”

I left it up on my screen, unanswered. I wanted it to hang in the air like an comic book character’s thought, hoping it haunted him.

Alan and I planned to see each other on my first day off, which was a Wednesday. On a rush call, I booked work on a French beer commercial for that night, so I pinged him my cancellation.

I showed up to an abandoned hospital in Downtown LA around 3pm, smoked a bowl and waited in line with a group of Angelenos and a suitcase.

A transport arrived to take us to an abandoned warehouse, where we had to fill out various amounts of paperwork, and were warned repeatedly, we were getting a flat rate. There was no overtime and no guarantee of when we would get out. For non-union, $150 is still pretty good.

There was a burger station and actors holding was inside the warehouse, with the windows totally taped up.  I had a veggie burger as dry and vegan as I could make it, and then waited in line for wardrobe.

The wardrobe guy was an eccentric Brit who really loved my selection, and inevitably, put me in my denim mini skirt and a purple plaid button up. Then I was ushered into a tent where we got accessories.

I was waiting with another girl, she said, “I am so fat. I hate this gut. I just wish it would go away, then I would be happy.”

I said, “A flat gut comes with a price. Since I lost weight my face is looking more drawn. I have wrinkles I never had before.”

She went back to massaging her gut, she wasn’t inviting me into her conversation- she was talking to herself.

The Accessory Girls came in and one asked me, “Is that my skirt?”

I said, “No, its mine.”

She said, “Oh. Ok. It looks just like mine. Do you have any shoes?”

I said, “I left them in my car.”

The two girls exchanged a glance of disappointment.

I said, “But they were all heels.”

OK, it is a little unreasonable to ask me to bring my entire wardrobe to set and via transport. Not to mention, I just really don’t have much.

I asked, “But can I have this cowboy hat?”

One girl said, “Sure!” And popped in on my head.

She said, “Oh no, its too big. Hold on.”

She came back with a smaller hat, cowboy boots and a little leather, dream catcher “like” necklace. Then she sent me to make-up.

I kicked up the dirt in my new cowboy boots and realized I should not be going to make-up, I am just an extra. Make-up was for featured talent.

So I went back inside to finish my Baldwin book.

The craft service table was packed with candy, fruit and coolers of ice water. I reviewed it. Then Sebastian came up.

Sebastian is a small, skinny guy I worked on a game show pilot with almost a year ago. He might be as tall as me, but he bends like a skinny tree. In corduroy pants, a velvet vintage hat and a blonde go-tee. he stopped to look at me.

He said, “I know you.”

I said, “I know. We worked on Mind Game together. And then I saw you at an audition. I wanted your autographed head shots.” Yeah, he autographs his head shots.

He stammered, but its part of the act; to be beguiled by me, so overwhelmed with my beauty that he can’t speak. And with a person like that, its hard to play along. You are simply the audience.

He juggled fruit and let them fall on the ground, “Your eyes are pulling me out of it, I just can’t see anything but those . . . eyes.”

I shyly giggled and self-consciously stroked my now short hair.

He invited me outside to meet DJ and a few other friends he had on the shoot with him. I told them I was looking for coffee, which was only available on the crew crafty truck. They retrieved a cup for me and the night air wrapped around my bare legs.

DJ came and went, stirring up what people he knew or wanted to know. He was a tall kid, fresh faced, floppy hair but clean around the neck. He was large, by that I mean, big but not chunky or disproportionate. He had a tattoo across his forearm that said, “God is my Judge.”

Sebastian, “DJ is in my spiritual group- well Church group. I mean, its a group for people who love Jesus.”

I said, “Does he love Jesus?”

He said, “At our stage, you have to be IN love with Jesus.”

I said, “I am in love with Jesus, but for probably very different reasons than you are.”

DJ, Sebastian and one other more quiet fellow surrounded me and said, “You should come to the group. You will find the best people in Los Angeles, no obligations, no money, you just come and hang out with some really great people.”

I said, “That’s not really my thing, but I will think about it.”

DJ came up from behind us and I said, “I hear you are in love with Jesus.”

His face turned solemn. “Very much, he is everything, and the joy from that love it just . .  sets you on fire.” I could see he had the voice of a preacher in him, one he had known or seen on television.

Sebastian had another gentleman there, his writing partner. He was older and quiet compared to the other two.

He sat with his laptop, black thick curls draped around his ears and a broad, cocoa nose. I couldn’t tell what race he was.

Sebastian said, “He is a best selling author.”

I said, “Oh?” as I blew the vapor off my coffee.

Sebastian, “Yes, his book sold like crazy in England.”

I nodded and asked to see a copy.

He pulled it out for me.  I read the sleeve . . . it was Christian themed.

I nodded approvingly and handed it back.

He said, “People don’t know me as much in the U.S.”

I said, “Well, anonymity is a tool for a writer. People behave more naturally when they don’t notice you.”

He leaned back and smiled at me.

I said, “I am a writer too.”

They both skeptically positioned their heads and studied me. Do I not look like a writer? I mean . . .

The Author asked, “What do you write?”

I said, “A real time autobiography, one might call it  . . . a blog. About my life.”

I explained to them my life as a struggling actress, the bout of cocaine, the roommate suicide, the Prophet, the marriage to my professor.

They sat and quietly listened to everything.

Sebastian, “I think we found our next book.”

I said, “Nah. Its my next book. (beat) Hey, would one of you mind taking a picture of me over by that graffiti before sunset. I like my cowboy hat.”

Sebastian, “You know who is perfect for that? DJ.”

DJ grabbed my camera and directed me. Looking back on most of the photos, I look awkward and stiff. I am no model, that’s for sure.

A flame thrower was practicing with damp wands behind us.

It got dark fast and DJ fist pumped me, “I got an erection, nice work.”

I said, “Wow, thanks?”

I retreated inside with my book. There was one room attached to the side of holding that had light. All the readers were collecting inside on folding chairs with their books.

One older gentleman had a multicolored beanie on, an old man go-tee and reading glasses on. We had a casual conversation, turns out he is an accountant that lives in a small cottage in Silver Lake. He makes just enough to live, but he doesn’t want to do much. That was kind of nice.

I turned to my book, now stained with coffee from some other day.

“If we start worrying about money now, man, we are going to be fucked and we are going to lose our children. That white man, baby, and may his balls shrivel and his asshole rot, he want you to be worried about the money. That’s his whole game. But if we got to where we are without money, we can get further. I ain’t worried about money- they ain’t got no right to it anyhow, they stole it from us- they ain’t never met nobody they didn’t lie to and steal from.  Well, I can steal too. And rob. How you think I raised my daughters? Shit.”

I wondered if women are deliberately paid less so they have to depend on money from men; forcing us to marry or sell a part of ourselves for some level of financial stability. I know women tend to accept lower paying jobs, that is what the experts claim.

I can tell you that Abe, who has not worked a real job in his entire life, is paid more as a legal videographer than I have ever been paid in my highest ranking position. I wondered if I applied for the same position, which somehow I don’t even think I would get an interview for despite more experience and education, if my rate would be significantly lower.

We were called to set.  Everyone left their phones and laptops charging in holding and walked over to a section of the warehouse that was set up with barrels of fire. I was thrilled! HEAT!

We were instructed to dance at the prompt of the music.

Female flame throwers and swallowers were put on platforms around us to dance with fire wands and hoops.

A man was dressed up as a female and instructed to simply walk through the crowd.

The French really know how to make a commercial.

I hung out close to the barrel to keep warm, it was night now and there was no insulation. I stood next to a Russian girl, and we had a casual conversation.

I said, “How do you like the States?”

She said, “I LOVE it here. Back in Russia, I was secretary and teacher. It was so boring.”

I asked, “Are you an actress?”

She nodded.

Me, “How is going?”

Russia, “Its going ok. I get jobs, lots of time for role of prostitute. But I like the acting. I had no passion for life in Russia.”

I said, “Do you have a passion for acting?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Its better than Russia.”

I laughed, “Whats it like there?”

She said, “Everything is very cold. We didn’t know the truth of our history. Do you know?”

I said, “I know a little about Stalin and Lenin.”

She said, “Well, all of our history was a lie. Everything I was taught was a lie. Things changed with the internet. We all found out the truth. It changed everything.”

That is kind of amazing.

I put my hands over the fire to keep warm, “Do you know why the Russians beat Napoleon?”

Others were listening to our conversation, and I looked to them as well. Everyone shook their head.

Me, “Because the Russians knew to defecate over open fire. It was too cold for the French to relieve themselves and they got sick and died.”

An older guy said, “Is that true or is that something you just made up?”

I said, “Oh its true.”

He said, “How do you know that?”

I said, “Um . .  because I have a Napoleon fetish. I watched that 2-hour PBS documentary TWICE. Something about a man who crowns himself emperor is just . . . arousing.”

We broke for dinner, and I enjoyed some brown rice and asparagus. The asparagus was spicy but not overpowering.

Another guy stood next to me, a tall black guy with big eyes, “Are you an actress?”

I nodded and we spoke for a bit. He said, “I can see you on the big screen, you’ve got something. You could be like a good crazy person. Not bad crazy, just crazy. A good crazy, lesbian.”

Me, “Um, thanks. Why lesbian? Because of my hair?”

He said, “The hair and .. . I don’t know. The way you carry yourself.”

Me, “Huh. Ok. I will hold out for that crazy lesbian part.”

I mean, Jesus Christ.

I sat down, Sebastian gave me his heavy jacket to wear to keep warm, and another guy who looked kinda like Val Kilmer gave me his sweatpants. So in my collaborative outfit, I texted Alan. He hadn’t gotten my ping and was asking for an ETA. I explained that I was on set til 3am or maybe longer.

He was disappointed. That was sweet.

I finished my book shortly after dinner and felt the sting in my eyes, like a splinter had just been removed. Finishing a good book is heavy; you are emotional, there is a moment of loss and consumption, and then you look around and realize where you are . . . in a warehouse . . . in the middle of the night. No one noticed that your spirit just moved.

We were called back to set on occasion and between takes, I would go sit in front of a small space heater I set up in a side room. A man joined me, asking if he could put his snakes in front of the space heater. I said of course, and sat on top of their holding containers while the prickly orange almost burned the skin on my knees.

Back on set, DJ asked, “So, what do you think of Sebastian?”

I said, “I think he is a bit odd.”

DJ, “But do you . . . you know?”

Me, “What?”

DJ, “Find him attractive I guess?”

Me, “Sexually? No. But he is nice.”

DJ paused, “How do you feel about chest hair?”

Then he opened up his top and revealed a forest of thin, brown curls over his chest.

I said, “How very Jon Bon Jovi. This cowboy hat must really be working for me.”

We all started dragging around 1am, and people were complaining. I told everyone that this was the easiest job in the world until it became apparent that they weren’t going to supply us any coffee.

I am sorry, after 1am, lemonade doesn’t fucking cut it.

Sitting next to Val Kilmer, he said, “Its funny, more people want to be friends with me on Facebook since I started doing this kind of work?”

Me, “What kind of work? BACKGROUND?”

He nodded.


I texted Abe: “I thought you were different than the other guys, but you are the same . . . just dumber.”

We were wrapping things up, and one group of people were already sent home. Those of us who had a call at 3pm were lined up.

The Production Coordinator said, “Does anyone WANT to stay longer? Is there anyone here who wants to continue to work on set?”

I said, “Without incentive?” They already told us it was a flat rate. Everyone would be paid the same no matter how much time was put on set.

The guy next to me said, “He’s joking right?”

I said, “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

The girl next to me, “Look, here is a photo of me getting arrested in a Korean McDonald’s for indecent exposure.”

After a minute, the Production Coordinator said, “OK, you can all go.”

I pulled off the clothes and returned them to the appropriate male suitors, Val put his pants over his head and inhaled the crotch . . . nice. Then I waited in front of a space heater until the line for wardrobe went down and returned my cowboy accessories. :-( 

I texted Alan, “Is it insane for me to come out now?”

He texted back, “Probably. But I am dying to see you.”

I texted Frank. Did I mention Frank and I reconnected on an odd note. He wants to adopt Maggie.

Maggie is my dog, even though just a few moments ago I asked her if she was still alive. She really just wants to lay there and relax . . . sometimes her eyes are open. But she is my dog. She adopted me.

That said, I thought Frank could dogsit and see if having a dog suits him.

He agreed to take Maggie and Esther for 24 hours.

Frank was up. So I dropped off an actor at a commune downtown, then rushed home, packed a bag, let the dogs out and we all drove to Frank’s in Hollywood.

Driving away from Sylmar feels so good- at that moment int he middle of the night, listening to Bob Seger on the radio and feeling a cold bite of night air on the back of my neck so the dogs could hang their heads out the window. That felt like freedom, no matter how short lived.

I dropped off the kids, had a quick chat with Frank about my love life.

He said, “Remember? You called this. You said Alan would be begging for you back a long time ago. But you said you would never give in.”

I said, “I probably shouldn’t give in, but right now I need to be worshiped.”

He said, “I like the hair.”

I pulled at it and winced.

I arrived in San Diego after sunrise. Why people drive slow at 5am makes no sense to me? There was a brief patch of touch and go outside of San Diego, but I flew into Little Italy fairly easily. I parked outside the church across the street, grabbed my bag and Brad and walked up to his apartment in vintage sunglasses.

The Hispanic blowing leaves outside the building smiled at me. I winced.

Alan leaves the door open for me, so I always just shove the front door open just before entering, likes its my opening in a movie.

He smiled as soon as he saw me.

I said, “Do we have to be blowing leaves at 7am? Doesn’t that violate some city law?”

He said, “They always start that noise at 7am, and then the church bells ring every hour.”

The church bell came on, “DONG DONG DONG”

I groaned. They have a big bell, but they aren’t using it  to make that noise. They have speakers placed on each side of the bell, playing a recording of a bell.


He took my bag, made me some tea and said I could lay down. I had been up for almost 24 hours.

He said, “I like your hair like this, a lot.”

I winced.

He said, “You don’t see yourself the way that other people see you. You are gorgeous. You don’t need a mane of wild hair to hide behind.”

I said, “I don’t need it, but I grew out this hair after a long time of having short hair and it was me. This doesn’t feel like me.”

He said, “Its sexy.” He leaned in and kissed me.

My guard was still up.

I went to go lay down and he followed me in, then gently pulled off my clothes.

He said, “Look, I grew a small little heart on my lower back for you. I didn’t have time to manscape. See? It makes a little heart.” He pointed to the hair on his lower back.

I said, “Aww, an early Valentine’s Day present.”

He pulled out my naked body in front of him.

I said, “I am feeling shy.”

The sun was all over me and we hadn’t been really intimate since early September.

He said, “You can cover up the top part but I need the bottom part.”

I pulled the blanket over my chest and face as he went down on me. Then we made love for a while, morning sweat and church bells.

Afterward, he disappeared for a while, he moved my car so I wouldn’t get a parking ticket . . . I think he went to class.

I remember dozing for most of the day and getting up for a late lunch at Underbelly with him.

Somewhere in the day he had said quietly at first, “If you decide to stay with me, I plan on buying a house with a yard.”

Well, that is exactly the right thing to say to me right now. Sweeter words could never be spoken. Its just, Alan was capable of being very cold and that would be something I would have to live with. I don’t know that I can.

On the flip side, Alan’s advice has been the most beneficial to me in the last year.

He said, “One of my clients complained that I was too much of an asshole. Its just she wasn’t listening to anything I said, so I stopped sugar coating it for her. It works on other people, like one client that tried to stab my boss last year. She loves me. I really don’t like working for poor people. Its just too difficult. I am going to quit that job. I have an interview with a private law firm that dabbles in divorce and other parts of law. Its kind of a boutique.”

In the beginning, Alan wanted to work for the poor and underrepresented. Now, his course has changed dramatically. Funny how that happens. The whole reason he was going into law was to stand up for the little guy, now he will completely change his mission. And I believe he will thrive working for the rich- they will respect him.

That excites me, in a different way than his Atticus Finch speech from last summer. I don’t know, I have to think about that.

Alan, “I’ve had enough of being surrounded by meth heads, child abusers, alcoholics, and worse on a regular basis and then representing them.”

Me, “Whats worse than child abusers?”

Alan, “There is worse.”


We came back and the night was falling down on us. I was still tired.

He was in his aquarium pulling out one of his fish.

Alan, “One of my fish has been dying for the last few days, he’s gone now.”

I said, “DEAD! HE DIED? Just now!?”

Alan, “He lived a few years after he was supposed to.”

I said, “Its because I came to visit. I am the ambassador of death.”

He said, “No no. I didn’t tell you because I knew you would have a reaction. Don’t feel bad. He has been dying.”

He gently pulled out the body and then went into the bathroom. I heard a flush.

I said, “Did you flush him?”

He said, “Yeah.”

I said, “Oh, I had to pee but . . . I guess I will wait.”

He said, “You don’t want to desecrate his burial?”

I said, “Exactly.”

We went to lay down in bed and he said, “He was sick for a while now. I thought about flushing him earlier, but I figure even a few days in pain is still a few days of life.”

I thought about that. Recently, I found a video of a teenager who died of heart condition. He suffered a near death experience earlier in the year and made a YouTube video using cards to describe the experience.

The boy is beautiful, I mean, just a gorgeous young man. His story in a few cards:

When people’s bodies “die” the brain still works for a short time.

I heard them [Paramedics] say, “Hes not breathing, his heart stopped and he has no pulse.”

I really thought to myself, this is it. I am dying.

The next thing that happened, I’m not sure if it was a dream or a vision.

But while I was unconscious, I was in this white room. No walls, it just went on and on …

There was no sound. But that same peaceful feeling I had when I was 4.

I was wearing a really nice suit, and so was my fav rapper, Kid Cudi.

Why he was the only one there with me, I’m still trying to figure out.

But I was looking at myself in this mirror that was in front of me.

The first thing I thought was ‘Damn, we look GOOD!”

I had that same feeling, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I then looked at myself in the mirror, I was proud of MYSELF, of my entire life, everything I have done.

It was the BEST feeling.

Kid Cudi brought me to a glass desk and put his hand on my shoulder. Right then, my favorite song of his came on, Mr. Rager.

The part where it said, “When will the fantasy END. When will the heaven BEGIN.”

And he said, “Go now.”

Right then, I woke up and the EMS were doing CPR.

I didn’t want to leave that place.

I wish I NEVER woke up.

Do you believe in Angels or God?

I do.

Its comforting, perhaps life is not better than death. Maybe that is the big secret. We are fighting to struggle in the sun, when the other side is peace in the dark.

We made love again and he said, “There really is nothing like making love to you.”

I turned into him and kissed his cheek.

I didn’t know what to say. He really broke my heart. I wasn’t over it, even though I rationalized it, and reignited my connection with him. I couldn’t give all of myself to him again. And I am not sure I wanted to.

The morning came fast, and he was off to court at 6am.

I saw him in his suit and he bent over me whispering something about how I should sleep in and take my time. 

He would be back.

I muttered something back. The sun wasn’t up yet.

He said, “I didn’t understand a word you just said.”

I said, “Good luck in court.”

And slipped back into dirty bed sheets and dog fur.

I woke up, showered and got a cup of coffee with our dogs. I sat in his empty place and played “Wish You Were Here.” That song reminds me of us from last summer. I tried to find “Angel” by the Black Crowes but I misspelled Crows.

I was restless.

Was I going to wait for him for a brief goodbye? I had to be at work by 2.

He left a note: “I will be back around 10:50-11:00 If you can’t wait I understand. I left gas money by your glasses. <3

I knew he wanted me to stay. I was feeling muddled.

I didn’t want to go back to LA. If it wasn’t for my Pittie Princesses, I wouldn’t.

I left.

Both Abe and Alan called that morning, but I just wanted to drive. Just drive and collect my thoughts about what I was doing.

I got a text from Alan, “I knew you would take off.”

I texted, “I didn’t want to wait for a drawn out goodbye. I thought it would be easier.”

He wrote, “I see you looked for Black Crowes on my computer . It is spelled with an ‘ES’. Angel is the first song I taught myself on guitar.”

There is something poetic about how he knew which song I was looking for. He gets me sometimes.

I picked up Esther and took the kids to work, Frank said he had some event that night and would leave a key for me to grab Maggie after work in case he wasn’t back in time.

I was mind fucking us. I don’t know that it would work with Alan. He was so hard on me the week before, and he tries to motivate me through harsh dialogue. All those terrible things he’s said to me.

I responded to it this time, it worked.

Most of the time it doesn’t work. People have been saying terrible things to me since Kindergarten. People have hated me for a long time, before I could even grasp the concept of hate.

It makes me think of Em and how our friendship ended. I didn’t give her the response she wanted, but the words she and her husband used were like fire. Even if my thoughts brush pass her and our last few nights on her back patio, I feel my skin darken and curl. I run away.

That’s what I do.

I just don’t know what to do with people’s rage towards me, so I find it best to slip away. Maybe that is the wrong thing to do. I don’t know.

I find it hard to believe I matter so much that I inspire rage.

After work, I texted Frank. We both decided we would hang out if he was around and catch up.
The few text messages I got back were nonsense.

“I 3656f5ewffrji xxied 20pkfk”
“thevvvvvvvvvwoqre s777”

He was drunk or on drugs.

I swept up Maggie and left a Thank You note on his desk.

As I was driving back to Sylmar, he called and said, “I am almost there. Just help yourself to anything.”

I said, “Are you drunk?”

He said, “I had a bit to drink yeah.”

I said, “Let’s hang out another time. I will be around.”

He sadly said, “Ok, I gotta say. I think you are terrific. This is off the record but, you can do no wrong in my book. You and the dogs are welcome anytime. I really wanted to see you tonight.”

I said, “Wow, this hair cut is really working for me.”

Back home, Abe left a note next to the heart shaped stone I bought for us in Ocean Beach. He had come to visit and waited a few hours before giving up.

What a little mess I have got myself in now.

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