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.


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.”


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.


Oh my God…turn around.

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


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.


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…..


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.