Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Cheer...and A Cookie or Two

I've discovered Lactaid - a drug that allows people whose bodies hate lactose (that's me) to eat dairy. And now, since I'm home visitng, it's allowed me to have a truly authentic Midwest expierence.

Would you like cream in your coffee?
YES PLEASE!


How about some cheesey potatoes?
I'LL HAVE EXTRA!

More butter on that lefse?
YES! AND SPREAD IT ON THICK!

As you can imagine, the scale has not been kind. But as always, I will return to Los Angeles in a few days and begin taking yoga, eating salds, and stressing out so much the uclers in my stomach won't let me eat.

But for now, bring on the cheese! And the SNOW!

If there is one thing I miss about living in the Midwest, it is defintetly the snow (and the people, and the seasons, and the trees, and the food, and the...oh, sorry...)

I think if you have lived in California all your life you don't realize how beautiful it can be. All you can imagine is cold, and storms, and ice, and frost bite. But when it snows like it did yesterday (and the day before that, and the day before that...) it is worth all that other stuff.

So, enough from me. What follows are some photos of home and, of course, the snow.

This may be one of the only times I've ever seen my brother read a newspaper. And I've posted it on the internet for all to see!

An ornament I made when I was in First Grade out of a toilet paper ring. Can't you just see the artistic ability starting at such a young age? I mean look at those eyelashes!!

The coat is hiding the 17 cookies I had eaten before attempting to make this snowman.


Look at that form! If there was a comepetion for synchronized snow angel making, my mom and I would have clearly taken home the gold.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Will The Real Jolly Santa Please Stand Up

A few days ago I was in The Beverly Center - a mall close to my apartment. I was enjoying the window displays, the holiday music, and drinking a peppermint mocha.

This is just like Christmas at home!

I thought as I tried to turn a blind eye to the woman holding a traumatized Chihuahua in a pink snow suit.

Yep, just like it!

As I walked by "Santa's Workshop" I started to get excited. I have always loved seeing the kids sitting on Santa's lap, they are so cute and full of joy! I slowed down and looked over. This is what I saw.



So kids, if you are planning a trip to the Beverly Center, mommy might want to break out the make-up.

That's right. Hunky Santa (and his Candy Cane Girls.)

Uff-Da.

Los Angeles, I have to ask. Can't you please, just for one day, be okay with being fat and jolly?

Apparently not.

I guess there's always Easter...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hearing Voices

Tonight I was cleaning my kitchen and all of a sudden I heard my father’s voice coming from somewhere in my apartment.

I thought that I had officially lost my mind and the final step was to hear a member of your family speaking to you through the walls. I stood in the middle of my living room completely still. Was it coming from the TV? My computer? My phone?

MY MIND?!!!!

He just kept saying….

Jessica, Jessica, look at me honey!

And I just kept screaming….

DAD?!?! Dadddy?? I don’t know where to look! Where are you??

Jessica, hi honey! Hi!

Okay, Dad…I know my apartment is REALLY messy and I know you raised me to disinfect my toys whenever a friend comes over but I just haven’t had time!!

And just before I sacrificed a lamb and joined the man outside my building talking to a tree about the pros and cons of side-walk chalk, I realized the remote control had gotten stuck between the cushions of the couch and had turned on the DVD speakers but not the TV (the logical, not-on-the-verge-of-a-mental-breakdown, answer.)

I turned on the TV and saw my brother and I (age one and five) standing in the living room. I sat down and watched (slightly disappointed that my dad wasn’t actually here.)

My brother wandered around in only a flannel shirt and cowboy boots while I stole camera time whenever I could, demanding that Dad record my dancing, eating, talking, and just standing, then insisting that we watch it RIGHT NOW.

Where did that girl go?

Not the demanding, attention-hungry one in the princess dress (because she is definitely still here) but the girl who had the time to dance around in her living room. The girl who put on performance after performance at the drop of a hat, even when you didn’t ask for one (or begged that she not give you one.)

This week, that girl was INCREDIBLY busy. More busy than she’s been in a long while. The kind of busy where taking a shower becomes only something you do “if you have time.”

For those of you wondering, I had time twice this week.

And I know that lately I’ve been writing A LOT about being “so stressed” or “so busy” or “so crabby.” And I’m sure the seven people who read this are getting really annoyed.

But soon I will be home, dancing in my old living room again and trying to steal all the attention from my brother (damn his huge green eyes!!)

T-minus 10 days.

I will come home to snow. To my mom’s homemade cookies and my dad’s home videos. To my brother (who now wears pants) and to my old friends.

And that is definitely something that makes me want to dance in my living room.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Faking It

I finally got cast in something that I really love.

It’s a world premiere play. (And I get to play the lead.)

I don’t know how I can say that without sounding ridiculously pretentious. (Maybe it would help to know that every time I say it I am completely overcome by giggles because I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE IT and I feel like I pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone involved in casting!!)

The playwright’s name is Tiffany Antone and she is brilliant. The director’s name is Mary Jo DuPrey and she is brilliant.

The whole thing is brilliant.

The show is called "In the Company of Jane Doe" and it's a comedy about the life of an over-worked woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown who decides to take serious (and strange) measures.

And I am so thrilled! I had a great audition and an even better callback. I was pumped when the cast list came out and totally confident that I was going to have a great first read!

But as soon as I walked in to that theater and realized everyone knows everyone but me and that I have to read in front of all of these people, I didn’t feel quite so great.

I just stood alone in the rehearsal space as everyone around me hugged and smiled and reminisced about old shows. I stood and quietly tried not to smile too eagerly every time someone looked my way. Tried not to sweat pools on the outfit I had picked out that I hoped was “hip, but not like I’m trying too hard.”

I stood in the middle of that room, making an occasional joke to cover how uncomfortable I was (Thanks, Dad for passing on that trait.)

And as the read through began, I started to notice something that crippled me with even more anxiety.

Everyone was REALLY talented.

And that confident little actor inside me slowly started to die away as I said joke after joke with no laughter. And the harder I tried, the worse it became.

I glanced at the director and just KNEW that by her taking a sip of her coffee what she was really saying was “I HAVE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE CASTING THIS RIDICULOUS EXCUSE FOR AN ACTOR!!!”

But then I remembered something someone very wise said to me this week –

We are all just little kids. Being an adult just means you are better at faking it.

And at that point the kid inside me wanted her blankie!! And her daddy! And the pink teddy bear that her mom threw away when she was three because it had “the bronchitis germs” all over it.

I took a deep breath and faked my ass off.

I faked the second rehearsal too.

Besides, what is acting if not faking something you’re not. I mean, I’m not really ”an over-worked woman on the edge of nervous break-down,” right? Right? RIGHT??

Ahem.

And I’m sure I will continue faking it. Continue acting like my being terrible and nervous is just “part of my process.” That I’m just, “discovering the character” and “letting her organically develop.” Actor speak for “I have no idea what I am doing and need more time!!”

Faking it till I make it has always worked for me.

It worked my freshman year of college when all I wanted were friends and someone to tell me that an “A minus” did not mean I was going to fail at life.

I faked it when I moved to Ireland and just wanted the rain to stop and for the Irish to stop pointing out that I knew NOTHING about the world.

I faked it when I moved to Los Angeles and just wanted the sun to stop beating and for people to stop pointing out that I knew NOTHING about the movie industry.

And I’ll fake it through rehearsals until (like all the other cases) I realize one day that I’m not faking it anymore. That I actually am comfortable and confident and – dare I say it – funny.

And when that day comes, you should all come see the show.



“In the Company of Jane Doe” opens at the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica on January 14 and runs until February 6.
It runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 6:00 pm.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Older

Thanks to my father’s birthday gift of old home movies, I just spent the last hour reliving my birthdays from ages twelve to seventeen and I’ve come to one solid conclusion.

I’m older.

So. Much. Older.

The home movies took me back to a different time. A time of blunt-cut pageboy hair, jean hats, high wasted khaki pants, huge glasses (ohhhhhh the glasses) and high-pitched giggling about some secret crush.

In fairness, I still high pitch giggle about secret crushes.

I sat and watched myself get older and older. From the birthday that was for GIRLS ONLY to the birthday where I hosted a dance in my basement and we swayed to the tunes of Celine Dion and played Spin The Bottle with a Seltzer bottle.

As I watched myself wear too much blue glitter and make the classic white-girl hair mistake of cornrows, I thought about how far I’d come.

I’ve moved so many different places.

I’ve lived abroad.

I’ve climbed a mountain.

I’ve kissed a boy.

I don’t wear cornrows anymore.

And now glitter is just for special occasions.

But the younger version of me is still there…somewhere deep down. It’s present in my undying love for Spin The Bottle and it’s there in my pursuit of the dream that I promised myself I would chase when I turned 12.

That girl, that girl with the over-sized glasses and the farmer’s tan would be really proud of this girl. The one with the contact lenses and the pale skin (because she’s afraid of wrinkles and skin cancer.)

Because this girl is here, in Hollywood, pursuing what she promised she would. Despite setbacks and money issues, failed auditions and moment’s of complete self-doubt, I’m still here.

And so is the twelve-year-old who promised herself she would be.

That is the best birthday present ever.

Here’s to that girl…..

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Thank You Note To Halloween

Dear Halloween 2009,

It’s Monday and I’m still tired. I think this means I’m old. And that you, Halloween, deserve a ‘Thank You’ note! (My mom will be so proud that I’m using my manners.)

So here it goes….

Thank you Halloween, for closing Santa Monica Blvd for 10 blocks so that 400,000 people could show up in full costume to celebrate.

Thank you for considering a bright orange mesh thong and some face paint a costume (or rather, the guy next to me on the treadmill at the gym thanks you.)

Thank you for enabling my friend Katie to use (in total seriousness) the phrase,

And then Care Bear went home with a guy she met at the bar.
(In fairness Care Bear’s costume was pretty sexy…for a pink fuzzy bear.)

Thank you for making it the one night of the year where I can get away with white fish net stockings and fake eyelashes.

Thank you for also making it the one night of the year where it is okay to take unsolicited photos of random people you see on the street.

Thank you for this:


And this:



And this:



And mostly this:



Sincerely,

Jessica
(Roxie Hart)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't Mess With Texas

Last week I ate the best brisket of my life and couldn’t find a single restaurant that didn’t have at least one item that was ‘smothered in cheddar.’

I was in Texas.

Yeehaw.

I was working and visiting my best friend, Chelsea and her husband, Sangam. They had just moved to Houston and I was their very first guest.

It was good to be with those people. It was good to remember what it was like in college when we all lived mashed together like sardines. It was good to be with someone who remembers who I was before I became the person I am today.

Plus, they even had a guestroom – something only bonafide adults have.

I had an amazing time with them, eating brisket, laughing at Texas bumper stickers, eating Tex-Mex, laughing at Texas signs, eating BBQ, and laughing at each other.

There was a lot of eating.

And laughing.

I felt so welcomed and loved. But I am about to say something crazy.

I MISSED Los Angeles.

Uff da. There. It’s out there. On the Internet. There is no taking it back.

Let me explain. While in the Lone Star State I got to do a great deal of traveling. I got to see some amazing places in Texas (Austin) and some not so amazing places (somewhere on I-45 where I passed a sign comparing women to cattle.)

I was charmed by the how they still speak respectfully to strangers with the use of ma’m and sir. I enjoyed seeing an American flag or two and some Levi jeans and cowboy boots.

But darn it if I didn’t start to yearn for a stranger to honk viciously at me on the street, or to be surrounded by rainbow flags, or to walk down Santa Monica Blvd and see a man wearing the same jeans as me except in a smaller size.

Even the patriotism became a little hard to swallow– like one of those year round Christmas Shops where the wooden Santa’s go from being cute to creepy after more than 15 minutes spent in the store.

One of my favorite books about studying abroad – and lets’ face it, LA might as well be a foreign country with it’s very own language – “I knooooow, riiiight. OMG I totally LOL’d and spilled my venti, macchiato, no-whip, non-dairy, organic coffee.”

ANYWAY.

In the book, Survival Kit For Overseas Living by L. Robert Kohls, it says that the best way to beat homesickness is to go away to a city you’ve never been and have the experience of coming back home – to your new place. When you walk into the airport suddenly the things that weren’t familiar before are more familiar than the place you left. That worked for me when I lived in Ireland and went away to Spain.

And it worked now.

I got off the plane in Los Angeles and wanted to kiss the girl in the ridiculous shoes and the Louis Vuitton puppy carrier. I wanted to high-five the man who was wearing his big, ugly sunglasses indoors. I stepped outside and breathed in the smoggy, sunny, dirty, air of LA and as my phone dinged with ‘welcome home’ texts from my friends and a homeless guy asked me for a dollar, I smiled.

It was good to be back in LA.

It was good to be home.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Find Your Grail

I recently went to a house party with a prima donna, a celebrity, and a world famous composer.

Let me explain.

My friend, Michael, was in a world premiere opera in Santa Barbara, (excuse me while I revel in the fact that I have friend in a world premiere opera.) The opera was written by Steven Schwartz – who also wrote a little musical called…oh I don’t know..…WICKED!! Noah, Kelli (who was visiting from ND) and I drove up for the day to attend.

Now, one thing I love about Los Angeles and the surrounding area is you never know when a completely normal event is going to turn in to something mind-blowingly (yes, I love making everything into an adverb) wonderful.

After the opera we were invited to the Founders Party. Originally, we were not too excited about this. But once we found out it included unlimited free wine and mixed nuts you couldn’t keep us away. We milled, we acted like we knew a lot about opera – oh, yes the mezzo soprano’s vibrato was exquisite– and we drank our free wine…oh did we drink our wine….

Steven Schwartz was there and accidentally bumped into me, the Prima Donna was present and basking in compliments but suddenly I saw Noah turn white.

What??

Oh my God…turn around.

His lips weren’t moving when he spoke and he was staring at something in the distance.

Why?

He can barely get the next sentence out and I’m not sure if he’s going to burst into tears or pee right there in the middle of the banquet hall.

It’s Sara Ramirez!!!!!!

Okay, for those of you who are going “WHO???” Sara Ramirez is an incredible actress who originated the role of “Lady of the Lake” in Broadway’s Monty Python's Spamalot and now stars in Grey’s Anatomy.

AGH!

We devised what we thought was a sneaky plan (as Kelli was begging us to calm down and rethinking why she ever visited her mentally unstable friend.) We casually decided to down what wine was left in our glasses, giving us an excuse to go to the bar – conveniently located right next to Sara. How sly of us…

We stayed at that damn bar for what felt like an hour. We kept widening our circle to try and “accidentally” include her. We kept “casually” looking around the room hoping to catch her eye.

Finally Mike got tired of this and said.

Oh my God, I’ll just introduce you!!

And guess what gang? I was totally cool. Other than the ferocious blush that was starting to appear – the kind that is not cute and attractive but looks more like a rash or a birthmark all over my neck and entire face – you never would have known I was peeing my pants with excitement.

We chatted, we mingled, we avoided mentioning the fact that she is a huge star. Everything was going well. At that moment, the Prima Donna of the opera burst to the middle of the room and screamed at the 20 of us left at the party, “After party at my house!!!!”

Seriously? We looked at Sara and she says….are you ready for this…..

ARE YOU GUYS GOING? YOU SHOULD COME! IT WOULD BE FUN.

I’m pretty sure Noah blacked out.

As you can imagine, that pretty much sealed the deal. Now that we were best friends with Sara Ramirez, Noah and I both felt we had to attend (so as not to disappoint her.)

Poor Kelli had to restrain us in the car on the way to her house as we sang “FIND YOUR GRAILLLLLLL!!!!!” (If you don’t know what that means go here.)

The party was a total hit. The Prima Donna suddenly changed roles into the hostess with the mostess and whipped up homemade spaghetti carbonara, lemon pepper chicken, birthday cake (the little boy who was in the opera…and pretty much a child prodigy…. was turning 12) and many other foods.

Of course we situated ourselves right by Sara and her best guy friend. They told us how they worked together when they first moved to NYC and how they struggled and struggled. (Even though Sara went to Julliard and was on Broadway when she was 21.)

And I was struck by how COMPLETELY normal this all was. She’s just chatting with us and taking a bite of spaghetti carbonara and birthday cake – that’s my kind of actress.

And I’m looking at her and her best friend and I’m thinking.

This is Noah and I.

In a few years.

That’s us.

They’ve been struggling together for years. And granted while neither Noah or I went to Julliard or were on Broadway by the time we were 21…we both like cake!!

Just like Sara!

And we both love performing and struggling together, and talking about acting, and taking on challenges….and did I mention we all like cake??

My point is that sometimes I can get so tired of struggling – of not getting an audition or a callback or even a chance. And sometimes it’s hard to see what I’m working for. But at this party with producers and prima donnas and child prodigies, there it was…right in front of me, eating creamy pasta and refined sugar.

The reason for all this craziness and frustration.

As we drove back to LA that night, Kelli turned to me and said,

You two are really lucky to have each other out here.

I looked at Noah in the back seat as he was trying to sleep off the alcohol and the shock.

I thought about how I believe in him so much – and how he believes in me.

You’re right.

And dammit, Noah, soon we will be telling stories about how we used to struggle.

How we thought about quitting so many times.

How a small thing like knowing that Sara Ramirez eats cake kept us going.

And how in the end…

It was all worth it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fur and Pleather

Last week I almost bought a baby bunny on the corner of Sunset and La Brea.

A man wearing camouflage and about a month's layer of dirt was selling them as I walked out of a theater with my friend. Now by “selling” I don’t mean he had a booth and a sign that said “Bunnies For Sale” or “Buy Two Bunnies And Get A Bushel of Carrots Free.”

No.

Although if you are reading this homeless, bunny peddling man, that might be a good business plan.

By “selling” I mean he was sitting on some steps cupping his hands close to his chest. As we passed he didn’t say a word, just opened his hands so that a small bunny head peaked out and almost brushed my leg (and broke my heart.)

Now, I have to give it to this guy. He definitely knows how to pull at heartstrings. He made sure I could see how cute the bunny was while simultaneously making me horrified at the thought of what he might do if the bunny didn’t sell tonight.

I tried to stare straight ahead and keep walking as my bleeding heart screamed:

Buy it, buy it! Save the innocent bunny from the scary homeless man! Remember, you’ve always wanted a bunny? It would go so well in your apartment. No matter that you have no time and no money to buy lettuce and carrots. BUY IT!!

I glanced back at the man but thought that along with the cute white ball of fur he might also give me Hepatitis and decided not to risk it.

Sorry bunny.

I went to drink my sorrows away at the bar, Happy Endings. You may remember Happy Endings from this post.

This bar always misleads me into thinking it’s something that it's not. As we walked in country music blared in my ears and the beer pong tournament was reaching a fever pitch. This may sound like a normal bar but I knew better. Every time I go here my blog just writes itself.

Tonight was no different.

I was sipping a beer (an abnormal drink choice but my desperation to fit in outweighed my desperation for a dirty martini) when I saw them. I gasped and tugged on my friend’s shirt.

Looooook.

It was KISS.

Okay, not really. But it was a man and a woman dressed as KISS. We are talking full-out, no holds barred, black puffy hair, pleather pants, and black and white make-up.

I took another sip of my beer as the one with the widow’s peak prepared to play beer pong.

As is the case most times, I was less amazed by the duo themselves and more amazed by everyone’s reaction.

Which was to not react.

Not even to acknowledge that a couple, dressed as KISS was playing beer pong at a bar called Happy Endings.

Anyone?

ANYONE??

When they started dancing to “Don’t Stop Believn’” no one even took time out of their conversations to notice that two members of KISS were grinding to Journey.

And I started to think about that damn little bunny again.

How people in LA can walk right by something so desperately and heart breakingly (yes that’s a word!) cute and have no reaction. How KISS can walk into a bar, kick ass at beer pong, and grind on the dance floor and no one gets out their cell phone to snap a picture.

If I walked up to Santa Monica Blvd right now wearing only whipped cream (don't worry, Dad just hypothetically speaking) I can guarantee NO ONE would blink an eye unless they were to ask me where I got it and if it was low-calorie.

There is something so lonely and so incredibly liberating to know that here in Los Angeles you can be anything and do anything. This creates a city that is beautiful and diverse, where creative things are allowed to happen.

But it can also be lonely. Like the bunny no one really wants you can go unnoticed – even if you are incredibly cute, furry and white. Or incredibly scary, shiny, and black and white.

As I walked to my car later that night, I passed the steps where the man had been. He and the bunny were gone.

I bet the KISS couple bought it.

They know what it’s like to have no one notice them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mortified

Wednesday night I purposely humiliated myself in front of about 200 people.

The comedy show I was in, Mortified, went up last night. If you don’t remember what Mortified is go here…or here.

The entire day I was terrified. What if people don’t laugh? What if people don’t come? What if people throw raw eggs at me and ban me from ever setting foot in Los Angeles again?

Ok, so maybe I was overreacting.

But there was something terrifying about getting up on stage and reading your most private thoughts to an audience of strangers and having them laugh at your junior high pain.

As I was waiting backstage, I started to have an EXTREME case of stage fright. We are talking about the works – hives, shortness of breath, waterfalls in my armpits. And no amount of sternly repeating under my breath, “You are a professional, you are a professional,” was helping.

To make matters worse, the creator of the show, David, came up to me right before the band started and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re going first."

WHAT!?!?!

Why, WHY, would you put me first? I’m new to this! I need someone to warm up the audience! I need someone to jump in the ocean first to make sure there are no sharks!!

I felt the hives start to work thier way up my neck.

The show started and good ol’ Dave – who I now wanted to punch in the face - gets up on stage and says:

Welcome to the show! Tonight we have a special treat for you – before the show begins we want to share a video we did with Alanis Morissette where she shares some of her hilarious childhood lyrics.

Again…

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I have to follow ALANIS MORISSETTE??? Someone get me some oxygen…

The video ends and I walk on stage, trying to keep my arms down so no one will notice the half moons of sweat that have formed on my carefully chosen blue dress (the one that makes my waist look small.) I stand in the bright light for a second and then say,

Hi, I’m Jessica.

People laughed.

And I thought, “Wow, am I that funny?” But then I realized they were probably laughing at this:

Yep, that’s me (it's no wonder I had to beat boys away with a stick...) And that was me on Wednesday night, blown up on a giant screen in front of 200 strangers.

But something happened to me with that first laugh. I felt the hives start to recede and the sensation that I was going to pass out at any moment slowly die away.

I mean if Alanis Morissette can do it (and she Oughta Know) then so can I!

So I calmly started to just read my journals. The journals of an over-dramatic, angst-filled, sheltered, 14 year-old girl living in North Dakota in 1998.

And it was GREAT.

After everyone had performed my good buddy Dave got back up on stage and asked:

So, what did we learn tonight?


He listed funny bits from every performer's journals and ended saying,

But most of all we’ve learned that no matter how mortifying our teenage years were - we survived.

And I thought about what a terrible few weeks I’ve had and how I’ve been really down lately and how I've wanted to quit. But I didn't.

I survived too – junior high, and right now (which can feel like junior high.) I survived because of the people sitting in the back that cheered extra loud when I walked on stage. (Thanks guys!!)

I survived because my parents sent me lefse.

I survived because Kristi sent me toilet paper.

I survived because Michelle bought me face wash.

I survived becuase I know there will be a time in my life when I will look back on my journals from September of 2009 and think what an over-dramatic, angst-filled, sheltered, 25 year-old girl I was.

And that’s a nice thing to know.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hollywood HotDish: A Love Letter

Lately I've been trying to be more positive.

Yesterday, I was succeeding quite nicely. I skipped to my car, enjoying the California sun and noticed someone had left a note on my window.

"Oh, how nice," I thought. "Maybe a friend stopped by and I didn't know it."

Here is that heart-felt note:

Oh, how sweet.

I just have to point out two things:

1. I was not double parked.
2. I was staying positive.

I was positive this person was an ass.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Squeaky Wheel

My desperate cry for help worked.

The 'Number 2' blog seemed to turn things around for me. After I calmed my mother down (who had just read the blog and was none too fond to learn that her good sweet daughter had turned to stealing from big corporations like Starbucks) I had an influx of people asking me if I was okay. If they could buy me yogurt? If they could beat any one up? If they could buy me face wash? My friend Michelle went so far as to actually buy me face wash. (Thanks!!) And my parents sent me my favorite food: Lefse! (If you don't know what that is go here....it is it's own food group in North Dakota.)

Seriously, thank you for all the love everyone.

And while I didn’t write that blog so anyone one would feel sorry for me (ahem) it was nice to feel loved and supported. And speaking of supported…that brings me to this:


If you are looking at the picture asking yourself, “Is that a roll of toilet paper with ribbon around it?” The answer is,"Why yes it is."

Yesterday was a busy day. After trying to look beautiful for headshots (a hard task when you have GIGANTIC bags under your eyes from being stressed about tyring to look beautiful….the irony kills me every time.) I returned home, checked my mail and I found toilet paper, wrapped in a ribbon.

Did Starbucks catch on and decide to make a donation?

When I opened the box further I discovered it wasn’t only toilet paper, oh no, it was a box that included the MOST WONDERFUL care package I have ever received. A list:

- Facewash
- Toilet paper wrapped in a bow
- Cut out photos of famous people and why I’m going to be successful like them
- Pictures of Minnesota
- Crayons (because who doesn’t need to color)
- CHOCOLATE
- A framed photo of my friends and I in Europe
- Note Pads
- Post Cards of those 1940’s women saying sassy things
- A beautiful card (the kind that you read years from now and still cry)
- Make-up removal wipes
- Personal messages attached to each of the items.
- Did I mention there was CHOCOLATE? (And that it is now 8:52 in the morning and I just ate the last piece with my Kashi Go Lean Cereal. That was right before I didn’t work out and right after I skipped yoga.)

So as you can see, I think this deserves a mention. So THANK YOU, Kristi, for lifting my spirits. By the time I was done sifting through the basket of love my boss could have waltzed in and fired me, and I would have looked at him and said:

“Great! More time to wash my face and eat chocolate!”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Number Two

I recently heard that Los Angeles is the second most stressful city in the United States (after Chicago.)

Chicago must have won because of that whole 'windy city' thing.

It’s the only logical explanation that LA came in second. I mean how can a city with fire slowly encircling it, heat that makes you run your air conditioner until ice starts spraying from it (seriously, that happened) and people that make you hope those flying shards of ice will blind you so you don’t have to look at one more shallow person, not win??

Because LA deserves it. Believe me.

I’ve had a long week. And while I was trying to think of uplifting things to say about the week, how I learned some sort of life lesson or that I’m going to be okay (cue puffy white clouds and some cheery music) I have come up short.

But maybe that’s the point.

I shouldn’t try to candy coat how hard it can be out here sometimes. How poor and hungry I can be. (I’m currently sitting in Starbucks because this morning I joyfully found a gift card from months ago with five dollars left on it, rushed down the street, and am eagerly drinking caffeine and praying Mary-Kate Olsen was right when she said you could use it as an appetizer suppressant.)

I have no auditions.

I have no call from my agent.

I have no money.

I have no face wash. (Believe me, that’s a big deal.)

On Saturday I attended an alumni event for Concordia College (my alma mater.) Those sweet Minnesota kids had come all the way to California to play soccer. They were all so nice and young and innocent that I wanted to throw up (but that would have wasted too many calories.) And as I sat watching them, wishing I was like that again, the bitter, hangry me started thinking. I've decided there should be a college class that teaches these kids there will be a time in their life when they are so low on toilet paper they will have to steal some from Starbucks.

Ahem. That’s just a random example…

And for those of you who are going to make some sort of comment about how lucky I am not to be starving (debatable) in Africa, or being persecuted for my religion, or in the middle of a war (other than the one between me and my checkbook) I ALREADY KNOW. Even the mere fact that I have a computer to type this blog and a gift card to discover means I’m well ahead of the rest of the world.

But this is my party – er, I mean blog – and I can cry if I want to!

Did I mention I have no face wash?

Then again, maybe second place makes sense. Because that’s exactly what this week has been.

A big number two.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Boobs

A few weeks ago in acting class I saw two different women’s naked breasts.

I wasn’t even that surprised. I think that was more shocking than the breasts themselves. I just sat there, in my seat, staring at naked nipples and wondering when the scene will be over so I can go have my Sunday evening pizza.

I guess I’m jaded.

The old me would have blushed, sunk into her chair, and went home and wrote in her journal about the trauma. The adult me eats pizza and thinks about doing it herself the next week.

I revisited the old me for 33 hours this past weekend. I went home to North Dakota where the only exposure I have to deal with is from the weather. The trip was to attend the wedding of one of my best high school friends. I was an usher – a job that threw many good, solid, gender-role-upholding North Dakotans for a loop.

They’re just lucky I didn’t flash a boob.

I need to pause here and say this: Originally, this entry started out as a funny commentary about what it was like to be in the Midwest again. How quaint, unchanged, and old-fashioned all the people were. How lucky I am to have gotten out of there.

It would have sounded a little like this...

A guy in the airport bit into a Big Mac and made a noise that was comparable to one he probably makes when he's naked with a woman, a country song ringtone twanged on a cell phone, a man sat across from me reading a bible, and everyone was wearing jeans. I’m home.

It was going to be pretty funny (if I do say so myself.) I was pretty proud of the sassy, witty, educated observations I had made. I had eagerly scribbled them down on the back of my flight itinerary and laughed quietly to myself as I waited to board my connecting flight from Minneapolis to Grand Forks.

But something happened in those 33 hours.

As I was flying back to LA, I reread my original thoughts. And I didn’t like them.

Maybe it’s the fact that I had groaned like the man with the Big Mac when I bit into the mashed potatoes with meatballs and gravy that we ate for the wedding supper.

Maybe it’s the fact that I still say supper.

But as I sat rereading those funny thoughts, all I could think about was how pretentious I sounded. How high-and-mighty I was being. So what if the guy next to me on the plane had no concept of how expensive rent was in LA? I have no concept of how expensive spring wheat is.

But in the end, I think the deciding factor was that I had an amazing amount of fun.

Seriously, it was a rip-roarin’ good time.

In fact, it has been quite a while since I have felt so loved, so welcome, and so free to have two slices of cake.

I got the pleasure of seeing seven of my classmates (which is more than half my graduating class) and countless old teachers, mentors, neighbors, and friends. I was surrounded by people I loved – and who loved me. The whole wedding was a love-fest of drinking, reminiscing, and remembering why my little town – as much as I wanted to break away – was a great place to first experience the world.

So this once funny entry about crazy North Dakota has turned into a love letter to my home state. Mushy, and nauseating, and full of clichés (especially that doozy of a line about ‘experiencing the world.’)

As I was boarding the plane to come back to LA, it seemed that North Dakota had one more thing to teach me. A young man turned to his friend and said excitedly:

“And than I took a shot off her bare titties!!”

I guess North Dakota really does have everything LA has.

Even boobs.

Monday, August 31, 2009

HotDish of The Week

I know, I know...TWO HotDishes of The Week in a row?!

But don't worry, I am spinning a new blog right now and it will be up soon. But this couldn't wait!


For those of you wondering, NO, that is not me. (Although it's not far off...I did have that hair cut...and those glasses...and thought I looked damn good like this girl seems to think.) Anyway, this is my way of letting you know that I got in to the comedy show called Mortified! You remember me talking about that a few blogs back.

Well, the producers decided my junior high journals were humiliating enough to be put on stage (thank you???) So, on September 16 at 8:00 PM you can see me divulge the secrets of my 8th grade heart through excerpts from my journal. Go here to buy tickets. They usually sell out so buy them fast!

And to entice you even more...here is an excerpt of what you may hear....

April 16, 1998

Dear Journal,

When his arms went around me to pull me off the hay bale, it just felt so good....so right. He's never gotten so close before. But it's not like I just have a crush on him...it's an ache to see him again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

HotDish of the Week

I'm in a play!

Remember when I boldly proclaimed a few blogs back that I was going to embrace the comedian inside? Well....I guess that will have to be put on hold until this play is through. I'm sure you can gather, judging from the poster, it's not a laugh riot. It's a whole 'nother kind of riot....

But, if you enjoy twenty-somethings in short plaid skirts and would like to see me attempt some seriously sexy choreography - after which the assistant director told me, "Oh, Jessica you are just so cute," the last thing I wanted to hear as I was doing my best Lindsey Lohan impressoin - you should come!

It opens THIS Sunday (pause as I have heart palpitations) and runs through September 27. Buy tickets online! They are much cheaper. So go here and support me.

Becuase there's a disturbed Catholic School Girl in all of us....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Picket Fences

One of my college roommates is pregnant.

She’s going to be a mother, a grown-up, someone who is a responsible adult. I can’t even remember to water my plants and she is going to be in charge of another person’s life.

Of course I’m excited. When she told me I was completely silent for approximately a century. I was in my car and may have blacked out for several seconds until the person behind me gave the signature Los Angeles hello by laying on his horn. I came to and said the usual excited, reactionary things, “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe it! Congratulations! I have sweaty palms! Can you name the baby after me?!”

And of course I cried.

I always cry. Which is strange. I’m not a big crier but over the years I have found that when my best friends call me with big news my first reaction is to burst into tears – leaving them confused and a little annoyed at stealing their thunder.

In college, one of my roommates told me she was engaged as we were standing in front of the chicken nuggets at Dining Services. I collapsed in a puddle of tears so obnoxious that one of the DS staff handed me a napkin and awkwardly patted me on the back as I kept repeating, “I am just so happy…I am just so happy.”

Over the years I have celebrated life-changing events with many friends. And as the celebrations pile up I would like to think I have become more tolerant, more pulled together, and not such a crybaby. But it has actually gotten worse.

After a good deal of soul searching I think I’ve pinned down the reason for all the tears. It’s not an overwhelming happiness that brings on the waterfalls (although I am happy.)

It’s a sense of loss.

After my sentiments about how excited I am, how proud I feel, how they are making the right decision, I hang up and there is a silence that follows. In this silence my loneliness is palpable.

It feels like I am losing my friends a little more every time their life moves forward without me. It makes me realize that I am sacrificing something to live here in Hollywood. By pursuing what I need to be pursuing I am missing another part of my life.

I want to be there, screaming and jumping up and down with my friends instead of being alone, in my car, making the person stopped beside me think I’m having some sort of a seizure. I want to be there to hold hands, to button up wedding dresses, to buy a house next door to my friends, have millions of children who will one day marry each other, and live happily ever after.

Instead I’m in Hollywood where my closest neighbor is the creepy guy who takes out my trash without asking.

Usually it’s fun to be the friend who is single and adventurous, and pursuing her career. The friend who doesn’t need marriage, or a guy, or a family, or a stable job. She has her dreams!!

It is only in my friends’ exciting announcements that I feel that I’m missing something. The sense of loss comes rushing in, overwhelming me. It is only then that I allow myself to grieve over what I’m giving up.


And yes yes. I know if that’s what I REALLY want I can pack my bags, move back to the Midwest, snatch up the first home-grown boy I see and makes lots of blonde-haired blue-eyed babies. And someday I will.

Someday I will trade in my picket lines for picket fences (okay, I’ve never been in a picket line but I just couldn’t pass up that great play on words – plus the sentiment is the same.) Some day I will live closer to my family (I promise, Mom) and raise kids, and have a backyard with a grill and a dog. But for now I want to live in a an apartment with no backyard, a creepy neighbor, and no grill. I want to have long phone calls with my friends and try and get through the momentary feelings of loss.

Because if I moved home I would lose something even bigger.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Piece

Apparently, I’m funny.

I never wanted to be. Growing up I was the cheery, happy girl who wished desperately she were more sullen. I wanted people to take one look at me and think I was mysterious and intriguing. I was the girl who made-believe she was the servant not the princess because it was so much more tragic. The girl on the Speech team who always did the monologue about rape, or cancer, or the-sister-who’s-other-sister-drowns-in-a-lake-and-now-she-has-to-secretly-raise-her-dead-sister’s-love-child-as-her-own. (Real example…)

Instead, I was a glasses-wearing, permed-hair-sporting, Laura Ingalls Wilder-loving, well-adjusted and dare I say…happy….child.

So I became an actor.

I sank my teeth into the meaty, juicy, serious world of the ‘the Theatre’ (to be said in an English accent.) I lavished in the overly dramatic, confusing-as-hell kind of plays. You know the ones – where everyone is in a body suit and they keep repeating the word ‘cocoon’ for no apparent reason.

When I moved to Los Angeles I was still on a warpath for drama. But as I went on audition after audition for the sweet, innocent girl who’s lover dies, or who’s mom leaves her, or who’s secretly addicted to crystal meth, I would look around and realize that everyone else wanted to be that too.

It was just bad odds.

So after a few well-received comedic scenes in my acting class, I started to think that maybe I should try comedy….it seemed to be more of a niche market.

And last week, in an attempt to try out my comedic chops, I auditioned for something called Mortified. For those of you who are thinking… “Umm..that’s a state of mind,” let me explain. Mortified is an amazing real-life comedy show that celebrates the crazy, funny things you created as a child (poems, journal entries, etc.)

Long story short, I submitted and got called into audition (I think it was the poem I wrote in 4th grade about what it’s like to be a black slave….pause for horrified reaction….that really secured my place in auditions.)

But as I stood up to read from September 5, 1997, something strange happened.

I didn’t want to.

ME. The girl who writes about her life and posts it on Internet, DIDN’T WANT TO TELL STRANGERS ABOUT HER LIFE. I sat there gripping my journal and realized I was worried they wouldn’t think I was funny. They wouldn’t think my life was worth putting on stage. That these most private of thoughts were not funny at all but actually just pitiful.

Maybe I didn’t want them to know I had a big crush on Brandon Albrecht in the 8th grade (don’t worry Jessie Albrecht I’m over it…), or that I thought Titanic was the best movie EVER, or that I ever had the audacity to write an entry that proclaimed “They’ll see, they’ll all see….I’m going to be someone!” But I buckled down and relived junior high.

And they laughed.

A lot.

And despite the fact that sweat was forming unappealing half moons under my arms and my belt that was really cute when I left the house now felt like a ring of fire in the non-air conditioned studio, and my skin was one big nervous hive, I felt good.

And then one of the producers said something that changed everything:

“You are really good at playing yourself.”

And that, loyal readers, is the golden ticket, the whole reason I put you through this long, tortuous entry. This may seem obvious – of course I’m really good at playing myself, I am myself – but for me it was ground breaking. I realized that I am not a tragic, bummed out, girl-who’s-raising-her-dead-sister’s-baby. I don’t even have a sister.

I am just me. Quirky. Funny. Who sweats under her arms and breaks out in hives when she’s nervous. And that’s better than the dramatic girl I wanted to be. Because she’s not real. And ironically enough, Hollywood expects actors to bring one thing to the table – your true self.

And yes, yes…all of you actors reading this and thinking “But acting means playing someone you’re not” can put down your pitchforks and Stanislavsky manuals. I get it. But we actors bring a piece of ourselves to every character we play.

And I’ve finally found my piece.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

HotDish of the Week

Apparently, my friends are making a habit of being featured in magazines. Just when I think there is nothing exciting to report another friend casually mentions over coffee “Oh…yeah….I have a five page” – FIVE PAGE – “spread in The Knot: Minnesota.”

WHAT?!?!



Meet Michelle and Sargam. I was lucky enough to attend their magazine-worthy wedding in Minnesota, which was a mixture of Indian and Western cultures – brilliant. Who knew curry went so well with lutefisk?

Michelle and I grew up in the same small town – Wimbledon, ND, population 300 (that’s 300 people, not 300 thousand.) Fifteen years later we reconnected in LA – she had moved here for love…I had moved here because I had a momentary lapse of good-judgment.

I live in their guest house, work for Sargam’s company (until I am famous, as he always reminds me,) watch their dogs, and generally insert myself into their life wherever I can. “Hey guys, whatcha doing tonight?? Oh, having a romantic dinner and watching a movie? Great! I’ll be there at 7:00!!”

We even have an organic garden – which I think officially makes us a Commune.

During our first meeting in LA they had invited me to a party. I was desperate for human connections – having been in LA for only four days and the only person who had spoken to me was the Armenian man at the liquor store who just kept repeating “You have veddy bootiful eyes….”

After someone asked me how I was liking LA I had happily (with a hint of desperation) announced to the entire party, “Well…I am currently in the market for an apartment, a job, and friends. So, if anyone knows of where I could find any of those things…you know….just let me know…”

Thanks for stepping up to the plate guys. I love you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Red Carpet

Today was a rough day.

First of all, it’s HOT in LA. That always makes things worse for me. I am not a fan of being warm. Growing up in the Midwest, my idea of warm was a nice 70-75 degree day with a light breeze. Not like a summer in LA where it’s 93 in the shade with no breeze unless you count the BMWs speeding past you.

Second, an audition I was really looking forward to was canceled. It felt like the one life-giving river of hope I was counting on to get me through the summer had dried up – okay, that was a little dramatic. But anyway, it was a big bummer.

Thirdly, I was hangry (for those of you unfamiliar with this term it is a dangerous combo of hungry and angry.) So I decided to check out the newly reopened Pavilion’s Grocery Store down the street. I got in my Yaris (which was like getting in a little red hand basket to hell) and drove to the store, positive that this trip would improve my day.

After circling the store a couple of times I finally find the entrance. As I’m pulling into the parking lot, I see a group of people in black shirts standing there, waiting to greet me. There are “Grand Opening” signs posted everywhere and my heart quickens and the thought of samples and Frisbees with the store logo printed on the front. A black–shirted man stops me as I pull in.

“How are you doing today, m’am”


(I'm hot and tired and hangry…how do you think I’m doing?)

“Fine, thanks. How are you.”

“Good. Are you here to shop today?”

I stare at him blankly. Why else would I be here?

“Yes.”


“I’m sorry m’am. Today we are having a red carpet event for the Grand Opening and the store will be open tomorrow.”

I look around. Sure enough there is a red carpet leading into the grocery store with the whole kitten-caboodle of ropes, cameras, and what appears to be press. That’s right, a RED CARPET AT A GROCERY STORE. As I drive away I remember the good ol’ days of my hometown where a grocery store grand opening meant a free scoop of vanilla ice cream and a red balloon. I guess in Los Angeles the ice cream would have too many calories…but at least there could have been a free balloon.

I swing around to Trader Joe’s – take that Pavilions – inside which a man who really should have thought about showering prior to picking out his produce follows me around the store. When I finally reach the check out I say sheepishly to the cashier, “I forgot my cloth grocery bag…sorry!”

To which she replies, “We’ll forgive you.” But judging by her tone wanted to add, “But the planet won’t.”

After getting sucked in by a woman selling make-up endorsed by some celebrity make-up artist I had never heard of (But she will donate 5% of the $35 to Operation Smile….5%?!?!!? – that’s $1.75…how generous of her….) I raced back to my air conditioned apartment and collapsed on my couch.

Sometimes this city can take all of its ridiculousness and dump it on you in one fell swoop. At moments like this, I feel like I can no longer live in a city that gives grocery stores red carpets and no ice cream – life is just too short for no ice cream.

But as I sit in my air-conditioned, quiet, cute little apartment I try and force some perspective. I remember that tonight I’m going to a play with one of my best friends in Los Angeles, that tomorrow I am dressing up and attending a pirate party on a ship, that I have air conditioning, that I have friends, and that there will be other auditions. And I realize, life is actually too short for me not to live in Los Angeles.

But it is damn hot....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HotDish of the Week

Just like a good Midwest potluck I’m bringing something new to the table. Welcome to the first installment of the 'HotDish of the Week.' In addition to my normal, run of the mill LA anecdotes, this will be a brief mention of something I’m really excited about/really hating. (Not that I have ever hated anything in my whole, sweet Midwest Girl life…) Enjoy!



My friend Noah is famous. At least he is to me and anyone else who reads Los Angeles Magazine. He is featured this month as the LA Archetype “Actor-Waiter.” Buy one! Read it! Noah is talented, driven, deserving and one of my first friends in LA.

With every person I share this article with, Noah and my relationship becomes stronger and stronger. As if I can achieve fame by proxy. It has moved from “look at this article, one of my best friends in LA is featured” to “my very best friend in the whole universe is in Los Angeles Magazine.” We will probably get married when he is a movie star.

What can I say….I’m a fickle fickle girl.

We celebrated by eating at Animal. If you are a carnivore and are willing to try things like pig stomach and foie gras then I would highly recommend it. And for those of you silently judging me for eating anything with the word “stomach” in the description…you would have too if it was covered in butter, gravy, and maple syrup.


Congratulations to Noah, ‘my best friend in the whole world who I’m so close with I would donate both my kidney’s!’ I love you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zero Degrees of Separation

Some people say I look like Kevin Bacon.

Let me back up. In Hollywood I have found that it is important to have your niche – the thing you do or the way you look on which you can capitalize. My agent is always asking me how he can “spin me.” As I sit in his office while he brainstorms on my finer qualities, I blissfully remember my college theater years. In the safe haven of a “learning environment” I was allowed to play child-killing psychos and manipulative bitches. Ahhhh the good ol’ days…. Now, in LA, my options seem limited to playing sweet friends and quirky funny ladies. Because that’s what people see when they look at me. Damn these blue eyes and my affinity for dresses.

When I first moved to Hollywood I was shocked at how much of my true self I was asked to bring to my performances. Coming from a theatre background I was not prepared. In theatre, it's about who you could be (i.e. child-killing psycho.) In film, it's about who you are. Apparently, to become a great film actor you have to let down those walls and be willing to expose those sensitive, embarrassing, emotions.

As I try to silence my soul, which screams incredulously – ‘But I don’t have serious emotions…I’m from the Midwest,’ I buckle down and start putting my true self out there. The quirky, dorky, dontcha-ya-know Midwestern girl I am.

But back to Kevin Bacon.

I have had four people – two of them strangers – on four different occasions tell me that I resemble Mr. Bacon. Why these strangers decided (one in a coffee shop, one in a restaurant) to ruin my day by sharing this little nugget of destruction is beyond me. Why my friends bought it to my attention is probably some reason like, “they wanted me to hear it from them first.”

Now, I am not above shameless self-promotion and self-exploitation – all in the name of my career of course. After doing an extensive online search for Footloose photos, comparing them with mine, and crying at the unfairness of it all, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wrote a letter to Mr. Bacon’s agent letting him know that if his client had any movies coming up please give me a call as I could pass for his daughter.

I guess my point (and yes I do have one) is that I have to learn to embrace what makes me, me. I have to stop thinking if only I had curly hair, or short hair, or bigger eyes, or smaller thighs I would start getting cast. I have to remember that some directors are looking for a dorky, slightly awkward blue-eyed girl who maybe…in the right light…looks a little like that guy from Footloose.

So Kevin – if you’re reading this – give me a call. I think together we could be unstoppable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Star Danced

I’ve always wanted to be an inspiration.

I’ve always wanted to be someone who makes people see themselves in a different light. It’s one of the reasons I’m an actor. In the last three months I have lost two influential people in my life, both college professors.

My Shakespeare professor, Dr. Gordon Lell, died in April. Thanks to this man, I now have an uncanny ability to rattle off Shakespearean facts and the need to purchase every Shakespeare Bobble Head I see.

A STORY:
I invited Dr. Lell to my college graduation. I told him in an email that he didn’t have to bring a gift unless he was going to bring that black BMW I had always wanted (aren’t I clever…) He showed up to my reception wearing his classic tweed suit and handed me a magazine page on which was a picture of a beautiful black BMW. Scribbled across the top he had written, “It’s the thought that counts, right?” Indeed. He then handed me a card and when I protested (No gifts!!) he just smiled and said it was nothing. As I opened the card I noticed a yellow post-it stuck to the top. He had written, in his scribbled hand,

“…but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.”
Much Ado About Nothing 2.1 319-20

It wasn’t nothing to me, Dr. Lell. I still have that yellow post-it.

*********************************

Helen Cermak, my theatre professor, director, and fellow feminist ended her battle with cancer yesterday.

She taught one of the most influential classes I took at Concordia: Women in Theatre. This class changed the way I felt about being a woman. Helen taught me that I don’t have to apologize for having an opinion, that I should be proud and not ashamed of my body, and to constantly strive for equality in big things (like wages) to smaller things (like way we speak to each other.)

A STORY:
During every class, Helen would ask a question that called for a bold, risky answer. She would call on us to give our opinions about books, plays, or our place in the world. And every single day she would say,

”Jessica, Jessica….what do you think?”

Despite my downcast eyes and the fact that I made a habit of trying to sit out of her eye line, she would always ask me first. It became a class joke and it would drive me crazy.

As I think about that now, I think Helen was trying to make a point. She knew the thing I struggled with most was giving my opinion regardless of what other people thought. I wanted to be the sweet, nice, Midwest girl! Heaven forbid I be a woman with an idea different from someone else!! Everyday she forced me to own up to the fact that I – much to my surprise – have an opinion.

When I heard that Helen had passed away so quickly after Dr. Lell, I didn’t quite know what to do. I couldn’t fly back for the memorial service because I am the poor struggling artist she always wanted me to be.

Death always confuses me. What do you do when you hear someone has died? Do you pause? Do you stop your day? Do you cry? Do you laugh?

Or do you keep on going?

Keep on living the way they taught you to live. Keep on striving to make art and to seek knowledge. Keep on trying to make them proud. Their legacy lives on through the beauty they taught their students to create. I guess you can never really lose someone if you keep giving back what they gave you.

I have taken with what they have taught me to my life here in Hollywood. Every time I feel that I’m not good enough, I remember Dr. Lell and that yellow post-it. I remember Helen every time I sit down to write this blog and remind myself that I am a brilliant, smart woman with my own opinions…and I don’t have to apologize for that.

Thank you.

Thank you Gordon and Helen for reminding me that I am an artist and I have something beautiful to contribute to the world.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I year, 26 days, and 8 hours

I have been in Los Angeles 1 year, 26 days, and approximately 5 hours. Not that I’m keeping track…

As I was walking back from Urth Café (where I’ve been seen every day for 1 year 4 days and approximately 3 hours) I was thinking about how I could put into words this big accomplishment. If only there was some image, some fun anecdote that would help me explain the way I feel. And like a gift from God - or maybe Jesus from Sunset and La Cienega – I saw him.

He was shirtless, wearing short shorts, big blue plastic ray-bans, and holding onto a leash that was attached to a dog so small I could have easily fit him in my pocket. He was oblivious to the world as he was listening to his iPod and boldly singing along with the music as he waited for his little rat dog to finish her business.

“Take it off…yeah yeah yeah….Take it off….yeah yeah yeah.”

As I passed by, unnoticed, I wanted to let him know if he took anymore off he might be arrested.

This man did not care that he couldn’t sing, that maybe his shorts were just a bit too short, or that such big man with such a small dog is funny to us common folk. He just seemed happy.

At first I was annoyed. Who does this guy think he is? Not caring in LA? He looks absolutely ridiculous. How dare he be so happy!! But then that little voice inside me – the voice casting directors, diets, and snooty boutique owners drown out – spoke up and said something momentous.

WHY DO YOU CARE?

Since moving to LA 1 year, 25 days, and approximately 6 hours ago I’ve started caring too much what other people think of me. I think most people in Los Angeles – judging by the sunglasses, diets, and fancy cars – feel the same way. It’s hard to stare criticism in the face everyday and boldly proclaim, “I don’t care what you think of me. I am good enough no matter what you say.”

It has taken me a little more than a year in Los Angeles to realize that I do care. Hopefully it will take less than that to wean myself from this addictive attitude. Someday I hope to be like that man in short shorts and not give a flying you-know-what what other people are thinking of me. I would like to climb to the top of the Hollywood sign, look down at all of Los Angeles and scream at the top of my lungs….

I don’t care if I’m not what you are looking for!

I don’t care that I had chocolate cake for supper!

I don’t care that I’m not wearing the right label!

I don’t care that you filmed a movie with Brad Pitt!

I don’t care that you think I’m too fat, skinny, tan, pale, inexperienced, too experienced, nice, bitchy, cold, warm, or naïve.

I don’t care because I AM GOOD ENOUGH.

Yes, someday I will climb up that sign and let the world know that I am above caring what anyone else thinks. But not right now….

After all I’ve only been here 1 year, 25 days, and 7 hours. A girl needs some time before she breaks multiple trespassing laws and asserts herself. For now, my big “look how much I don’t care what you think” moment was not shaving my legs for 10 days.

Take that society.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Day Jesus Came To Town

I saw Jesus on the corner of Sunset and La Cienaga.

He was standing on the sidewalk in his white robe, shaggy beard, long hair and strappy sandals (which he rocked waaaay before they made a comeback.) He was not holding a sign or a cross or healing leprosy– not doing anything you would think Jesus would be doing when he visits Los Angeles. He was just standing on the street, unassuming, waiting patiently for the cars to pass so he could cross to the Sushi restaurant on the other side.

That’s the thing about Los Angeles – just when you think tonight is going to be a normal night, a simple time out with friends, you see a man dressed as Jesus waiting to go to eat sushi.

It is this fact – the fact that you never know what will happen – that is somehow the most comforting and stable thing I could ask for in this city. At any moment I could become extremely successful, I could suddenly afford that dress in the window of Dolce and Gabbana, I could feel fulfilled artistically, and I could see Jesus standing on the street.

It is LA’s consolation prize for choosing to live in a city that can be difficult. There is always a chance that today could be the day things get easier.

My friend Noah and I were talking about this and the question arose: How long do you wait? How long do you do something that is not your dream to try and achieve something that is? How long do you serve people mashed potatoes at a restaurant you could never afford, stock shelves at a grocery store you would rather shop at, or take care of children who are admittedly adorable but not your own?

I used to think I would give myself three years but now that I have been here for one, I realize three years is not enough. Lana Turner had probably done her fair share of mind-numbing jobs until she was discovered in that Soda Shop.

I suppose the day will come when I am either wildly successful (let’s all hope for that option) or ready to move away from the edge, rest my white-knuckled fists, and let go of the dream. But for now, I am content knowing that tomorrow could surprise me.

If Jesus can wait I guess I can too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Endings

I was at Happy Endings the other night – a sports bar, not (as I originally thought) one of those ‘special’ massage parlors. I sat sipping my Gin and Tonic and listening to a friend talk about her crazy new roommate. It seems like LA is full of unstable people just waiting to move in with you. This particular one’s name is Phoenix Rising………pause for reaction……… Yes, that is his legal name. According to my friend, he changed it some years ago but if you ask Mr. Rising what his original name is he boldly proclaims, “There was nothing before Phoenix Rising!!”

I fade in and out of the bad roommate stories and as I look around the bar I notice quite a few interesting characters. There’s man with a pirate eye patch, a gentleman playing pool who looks like he walked out of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and a girl who appears to be taking a vacation from the rigors of the Playboy Mansion. I imagine all of these people would be strong candidates for the ‘Roommate From Hell’ position. But a couple of days ago I might have considered them.

I was lonely.

I returned to LA on Monday and was excited to be in sunny California only to find June Gloom. Friends were understandably busy, auditions had slowed down and the lack of a “House” marathon pushed me over the edge. I was officially lonely in a city of millions.

I used to be afraid of loneliness, almost ashamed that I wasn’t always able to be content. In LA it seems that most people are on their own – unmarried with no immediate family and with their best friend painfully absent. But despite this, it is rare that I hear anyone admit that they are lonely. It’s like the giant elephant in the room that everyone refuses to mention despite the fact that every now and then it slaps you in the face with its trunk. As if, admitting it, would mean it will eat you alive.

I’ve learned, after one too many chocolate overdoes and tearful conversations with my best friend, to embrace the emptiness - to breath it in and let it take me for awhile. Loneliness is something to accept along with traffic, heat, and another missed callback. Loneliness reminds me that I need people (and that people need me.) And that’s a nice thing to know.

The loneliness passed in a day or two, friends started calling, workshops started happening, my life in LA took off again and the feeling of contentment....like a phoenix rising....returned.

(Oh, come on!! I couldn’t help it.) :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Humbling Bathrobe

I was getting ready to leave my grandparents’ house, dressed in my favorite new super cute, Lucky Brand Maxi Dress. I was feeling sexy, confident, and soooo LA. As I pulled my suitcase toward the door my grandma stopped me, touched my dress and said with a voice full of concern, “Aren’t you going to take off your bathrobe?”

God bless my grandma.

Remember when I said “I always feel so much cooler here than in LA.” Well, thanks to my grandma (and a few others) I also feel so much humbler.

I always think I will excite my friends and family with stories about celebrity sightings, fast-paced city life, and crazy auditions. But when I arrive, stories at the ready, I realize how ridiculous, self-centered, and boring I sound. Nobody cares (and why should they) that I am living in LA. No one cares that I saw Lucy Lieu at the gynecologist (ok, ok, I’ll let it go….) Nobody cares about things like that. And thank goodness.

In Los Angeles, I can get so wrapped up in myself. What movie I audition for, what car I drive, what restaurant I frequent. In my hometown, people care if the crops will do well this season, where you can get the best roast beef (Valley Meats in Valley City, ND) and whether the school will stay open for another year. They care that I'm still the same person I was when I left, that I am happy and healthy, and that I visit when I can. When my ridiculous stories fall on deaf and indifferent ears, I gather my pride from the pieces on the floor and remember that it really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I still have two amazing grandparents that care about me and get excited when I guess the puzzle on “Wheel of Fortune,” that I have friends that still love me enough to put up with my silly LA stories, and that I have a place I can go to get some perspective.

And Grandma, now that I look at it, maybe my dress does look a little like a bathrobe…


Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Name In Lights

When I go home I always hear two things. 1. “You are so tan!!” (Even though I’m not, I think people just need to believe that if you live in California you will be eternally tan. 2. “You are so skinny!” (That’s usually my Dad, God bless him.)

Home is where I am right now, basking in the glow of old friends, my Mom’s rhubarb pie, and my grandparents asking when I’m going to be on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” (The fact that “Raymond” is over means nothing to them. I will never truly be a star until I appear on that program.)

I love it here.

When I step off that plane I always feel so much cooler than I do in Los Angeles. Suddenly I’m not just like everyone else. I’m the girl who lives in Hollywood! I’m the girl that gets asked her name by the taxi driver so he can “look for it in lights.” Whose masseuse tells her “She can feel I’m going to be successful because I have good energy.” At home when I tell people that I am an actor they get excited and interested instead of looking at me with eyes full of pity that I’ve gotten so used to in Los Angeles.

Admittedly, it’s fun to drop phrases like “Oh, this old dress? I just bought it at a boutique in Hollywood” or “Yeah, my agent is driving me crazy!” When I’m home, suddenly seeing Lucy Lieu at the gynecologist (that really happened) is not commonplace but something unique and exciting - something that sets me apart.

And maybe that’s what this is all about - coming home and suddenly feeling better about myself is rooted in the fact that I am having a different experience than everyone around me. I get to be a unique, colorful fish in a little pond instead of a dull looking minnow in an ocean of sleek, better-dressed fish.

In LA I’m always fighting against the girl who’s one size thinner, one inch taller, and one more movie more experienced. At home, I am just experienced enough. The fact that I have headshots makes me a superstar. And sometimes that’s what I need, to feel successful for just one moment.

Last time I visited my grandparents my grandma said to me, “I just don’t know how ya do it out there…Uff Dah.”

In all honesty, it’s because of people like her.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hurry Up And Wait

I spend most of my time in Los Angeles waiting. Waiting in traffic, waiting to audition, waiting to get that call from a director, or waiting to hear that my latte is ready (sensing a caffeine addiction??) It is one of the things I notice most about this city and it surprises me. LA always seems to be moving so fast but if you take a closer look, people are just hurrying up to wait.

I recently went to a meeting with an amazing agency (that will remain unnamed.) I had pumped myself up in the mirror before hand (“you deserve this, you are talented, you can’t see that huge piece of chocolate cake you had last night on your thighs…”) I put on my best dress and did my hair in that “I’m really sexy but also sweet” way.

When I arrived, I was asked to wait. When I finally got into the agent’s office I read the lines he gave me. After nailing the commercial dialogue - I really do love grilled turkey on flat bread - and calling up emotion for the dramatic scene, I waited for reactions. Happily, they told me how great I was, how much they loved my read, how I take direction very well, and how I’m so gorgeous that they want me to bear their children (ok…that may have been an exaggeration…) As I was standing there, basking in the glow of their compliments, I couldn’t help but hear the distinctive “but….” in their voices. What now?

Of course, they needed to wait. They were worried about me not having my SAG card, not having a guest-star role on a TV show, and not being a “proven” working actor. I went home glad they liked me but frustrated about their hesitation.

Now they are debating, and I, of course, am waiting. I hear from them on Monday and after checking my email for the twelfth time tonight (because who knows, a big Hollywood agent just might be up at 1:30 in the morning on a Sunday night needing to tell some new girl they really want to represent her) I began to realize that I AM NOT GOOD AT WAITING. For those of you who know me well, I am a woman of instant gratification. I need to have the perfect apartment NOW, the perfect career NOW and the perfect life NOW.

LA is not nice to a girl like me. And while sometimes I think I might go insane, I am also realizing that all this waiting just might be good for me. To be constantly waiting to hear if someone wants you is a vulnerable position and takes a considerable amount of patience. But maybe I could use that. I need to realize that it’s okay if I don’t yet have the perfect career or the perfect life. If I did, this blog would be much more dull and my life much less exciting. There is something wonderful about always standing on the precipice.

I wish I could end this entry letting you all know that the agency called and I have signed with them…but I can’t. I’m still waiting.


AN ADDENDUM: I heard from the big agency today. THEY SIGNED ME!! I will now be represented by Momentum Talent Agency for Print, Commercial, and Theatrical. Thanks Momentum!! And now the cheesy ending.....I guess waiting patiently really does pay off! Ahh shucks!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is It Bright In Here?

I was at an audition on Saturday afternoon going over my lines and trying to look like the perfect combination of a dedicated actor and an actor who doesn’t care if she gets this job because she has soooo many other jobs. I was moments away from being called in when….in walks an actor sporting my biggest pet peeve of people in LA. SUNGLASSES INDOORS!

He saunters in with the biggest black sunglasses I have ever seen, grasping a Red Bull in one hand and a crumpled script in the other. Strutting down the hallway, he stops at my feet, looks down at me sitting on the floor, and in a voice that says “I am way too good for this audition and I was out partying last night at a place you can never even dream of getting into,” asks me “Where do I sign in?”

I debate saying something referring to his derrière but refrain and point to the sign-up sheet on the door.

This leads me to my big question: What is it with Los Angeles and sunglasses indoors? When I first moved to LA, I immediately noticed the people with their sunglasses on inside. In my naïveté, I had thought that perhaps they were famous actors who just didn’t want to be noticed picking out an avocado at the supermarket. But I soon realized that if that were the case, three-fourths of LA would be made up of famous actors. And that’s just not true. (Most actors in LA are the ones selling you the avocados.)

I have a theory: Wearing sunglasses ensures that no one will be able to see what’s really going on behind your eyes. With those glasses on, you are protected from the public learning you have a severe hangover or serious heartbreak. Because so much of this city is built on being the coolest kid in school, the sunglasses help protect those fragile egos. Honestly, part of me wishes that I could be that cool, that cut off from people seeing who I really am. But let’s face it, I’m from the Midwest and I don’t need sunglasses to cover my emotions…I’ve just learned to repress them.

In all fairness, California is very sunny and I do own a couple pairs (okay, 4 pairs) of sunglasses. But I always take them off inside ‘cause it’s just not that sunny in a bank, gas station, or department store. I think Los Angeles could learn a thing or two if people started realizing it’s really not that bright in Bloomingdales and it’s really okay if you’re feeling scared, self-conscious, and a little vulnerable. It’s LA after all; we’re all feeling that way.