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 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!