Saturday, October 29, 2011


My friend was at an audition recently and the director interrupted her halfway through the read.

I feel like you have a lot of joy within you.

She smiled and heartily agreed.

He grimaced.

Okay, I’m going to need you to bury that.

When she related this story to me over drinks a few nights ago, I laughed. What a brilliant way to sum up what (if you’re not careful) Los Angeles can do to you.

But I’m starting to think it’s not so funny.

I’ve changed since I’ve moved here – I feel…older.

Sometimes, it’s a good feeling.

- I now know how many margaritas I can have before it turns ugly.
- I have now haggled for and purchased my own car.
- I’ve realized that not every one has to like me and I can still consider myself a nice person. (Right? RIGHT!?!)

But I’ve noticed that with all of this good change, there is one very specific thing I have to constantly keep track of to make sure it never disappears…

A strong belief in myself.

And to be honest, it’s been hard lately.

About a month ago, I listened to a speaker talk about dreams. Among the many smart things he said, one line in particular stuck with me.

When did it become okay to stop believing that our dreams will come true?

I sat there, staring up at him and felt tears forming. I was shocked I was having such a strong emotional reaction to a seemingly simple question. But judging from the amount of snot flowing out of my nose, this was a question I related to.

When I was a kid, a teenager, and even an early-twenty-something I had no problem with this. I would write things in my journal like “Someday my dream is happening” or “I just KNOW it…I can just FEEL it” or “They just couldn’t see past my giant glasses to my raw talent!”

But lately, I’ve noticed a certain absence of those sentiments.

The older I get, the more I realize there are some people who look at me and think it’s time to give up this ‘crazy’ dream of mine. That, as I inch towards my late late twenties I should start thinking of other (read: more practical) things to do with my life.

And ashamedly, in my weaker moments, I’ve thought they might be right.

But they’re not.

It was just easier to believe in myself when I was younger- when nothing smothered that belief like money issues, countless no’s, and (pointing the finger at myself here) doubt.

But despite the fact that I'm turning a whole year older next week, I'm hanging on.

With my crazy dreams. And my crazier stories.

But especially with my crazy joy that (much like my friend’s) will not be smothered.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Last week I won $50 playing Black-Out Bingo at the Senior Citizens Center.

A few days before I had suffered from mild heat stroke in my scarf and high boots as I refused to believe the weather was not the lovely, Midwest Fall I so desperately wanted it to be.

When I found out it was going to be 101 degrees last Wednesday I knew it was time for me to get out of town.

So, Noah (whose refusal to turn on his air conditioner made him almost as desperate as I was) and I packed a bag and headed for greener (and cooler) pastures. Enter, Big Bear, California where it dipped below 40 degrees every night.

After a winding, uphill battle for the Yaris, we arrived in beautiful – no, stunning – Big Bear. The mountains, the lake, the weather, the lack of honking cars! It was everything we had imagined.

If I squinted just right and ignored the BMWs, faux-fur jackets, and eight-pound lap dogs it almost felt like we were in the Midwest.

There were so many options of things to do, so many ways to soak up the local culture. We could hike, boat, visit the local shops, or walk through leaves. The options were endless but we knew the moment we saw the flyer taped to the door of the Tourism Building what we were going to do.


With the elderly.

The Big Bear Senior Citizens Center was hosting a four-hour game of Bingo and there was no place we would have rather been.

When we walked into the Center the two older gentlemen at the ticket booth looked at us skeptically. When we told them we were not lost but here to play Bingo I thought they were going to fall off their chairs and break a hip.

They eagerly explained the game and ushered us inside like we were royalty. They proudly showed us where we could get a boiled hotdog or some Folgers coffee.

The smell of sterile band aids, Aqua Net, and boiled meat reminded me of visitors day at the nursing home in Jamestown when I would go see my great-grandmother.
I squeezed Noah’s hand excitedly and whispered in his ear.

We’re home!!

As soon as we sat down we were surrounded by people making sure we had everything we needed, explaining to us how ‘Crazy Ts” and “Postage Stamp” Bingo work. Noah and I were overwhelmed with the kindness and the attention.

By the time the game got underway I was ready.

I had by dobber, I had my cards, and I had the moral support of seemingly every person in the building. I may not have been as serious as the woman who brought in her own Bingo podium (with an attached fan to keep her cool) but I was set to win.

A few games in I noticed two things:

- Beverly was on a winning streak.

- The woman sitting one table away was staring at me.

Now, Beverly had the animosity of most of the crowd so I didn’t worry about her. But the other woman was starting to unnerve me.

Every time I glanced up she stared, smiling as if I was the neatest thing to come to Big Bear since electricity. She was probably eighty with a blonde poof of hair in the front and the rest of her head dyed shock-red. I admired her style but wished she would stop staring.

Then, suddenly, she was beside me.

I don’t mean to bother you. Are you enjoying the game?

I smiled and assured her I was having a blast. She smiled again.

Well, I was going to ask for your autograph but… that’s probably silly.

I stopped dobbing my free spaces and looked up at her, taken aback.

You want MY autograph?

She nodded eagerly.

Well, you are HER, right? You are Taylor Swift!

Beside me, Noah snorted.

Oh…no. I’m not Taylor Swift. Sorry…

She was unfazed. As she started moving back to her seat for the next round, she winked at me like we were co-conspirators.

Okay, dear. Right. Mum’s the word.

Before I could say anything she was gone.

I looked at Noah, who shrugged.

Soon my attention was back to the game as my favorite kind of Bingo was up.


Immediately, I had every number called. I dobbed out half my card before I missed a number. I grabbed Noah’s arm and started to get excited.

I kept dobbing out numbers as my card became more and more full. Finally, I was ‘on’ (Bingo term for one number away.)

We must have been causing quite a stir because the people around us started noticing my excitement. They whispered to us and to others, asking if we were ‘on.’

Finally, as the ball rolled out of the machine I could see it was the one I wanted. I dug my fingers into Noah’s arm as the woman next to me kindly instructed me not to say anything until he called it or my Bingo would be invalid.

Finally, the caller said it.



Noah and I leapt from our chairs and I held the winning card above my head.

Unlike the angry looks Beverly had received, everyone started clapping for us. Cheering as if they had all Bingoed too.

As the card checker read my card the blonde-haired/red-haired lady made her way over again. This time, with her camera.

She asked Noah to take a picture of her and I with my winning Bingo card. She smiled and squeezed my shoulder.

I can’t wait to send this to my granddaughter to show her that Taylor Swift plays Bingo too.

I gave up.

Yes, she will be so excited! Tell her I say hello.

When the games were all over and Noah and I made our way out of the building, we were stopped by countless people asking us if we could come tomorrow night for Bingo at the VFW or next week at the Eagles Club.

Finally in the car, the silence was punctuated by Noah who kept repeating one phrase.

They were so nice. Just…SO nice.

We both seemed shell-shocked at the kindness and warmth that the Big Bear Senior Citizens Center had showered on us.

When did it become shocking when someone was kind?

I realized that night, as I tucked my $50 safely into my purse, that I had told myself I was coming to Big Bear looking for Fall. But really, I had come looking for a reminder of home.

And I found, among the Bingo dobbers and the weak-coffee, the thing about home I actually missed.

A sense of community, a sense of joy, and the feeling that everyone was on your side.

It was refreshing to be surrounded by people who had lived longer than three decades and were proud of it.

Back in LA, I’m holding on to that feeling.

If I can feel that special and at peace among those people – I know I can feel it in Los Angeles too.

And Big Bear, for that, Taylor Swift thanks you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Last week I bombed at an audition.


It was the first time in a year or two that I have felt that poorly about a performance.

Earlier in the week, my manager had sent me the casting information; I would be auditioning for the role of the co-host in a hidden camera game show.

I was already dubious.

Hidden camera? Game Show? Co-Host?

Those were not words I was comfortable with.

But, as I told my manager, I would rather be working on camera in a game show than in a restaurant where the only cameras I’m on are for security purposes.

Now, it’s said that if you don’t care about an audition it will go better. That if you plan a trip, you will be put on hold. That if you already booked something you will book something else.

It happens every time.

So, I figured I was set.

I didn’t care at all – as much as I tried to convince myself I did. I had no right to be high-and-mighty about this audition but I couldn’t stop myself from snorting at the corny dialogue and turning up my nose at their request to ‘bring props.’ This was not the kind of audition I was used to.

When the day came, I drove to the studio, checked in, and sat in the waiting room across from a girl who had indeed brought her own props – an incredibly life-like cardboard TV.

I had brought a pen.

She smiled brightly at me and I returned the smile. After signing my name, I rehearsed my lines in the hallway – partly because this was a tradition of mine but mostly to avoid eating candy from the giant bowl they had set out for the actors.

Suddenly, the casting director came out and I heard the cheery girl tell her that I could go first.

I wasn’t ready but I figured that was all the better!

I stepped into the room, confident in my lack of caring.

They asked me to hit my mark, and told me to begin whenever I was ready. I smiled, took a deep breath, and started my lines.

Hi! I’m Jessica Runck. Welcome to (name protected.) Today on the show we are going to….to…

I stopped. What was my next line? I glanced at the casting director and she gave me a bright smile. I tried again.

Hi!! I’m Jessica Runck! Welcome to (name protected.) Today on the show we are going to…to…

I stopped again.


What was my next line?

I panicked.


I glanced wildly around as if the walls or the camera could give me some kind of hint.

This had never happened to me. I’m always prepared. I’m the girl who get’s straight A’s. I’m the girl who's been accused of being TOO PREPARED. I’m the girl who rehearses scenes to death.


Suddenly, I head the casting director’s voice cut through my panicked thoughts.

Umm, Jessica? It’s okay. Just breath through it. You will think of it, honey.

Oh God. She was talking down to me. Like it’s my first damn audition. Like I’ve never audition for this man. Or this one. What was happening?

I took another deep breath and tried it again. 

And this time I got through it. Barely. I don’t remember much about the rest of the audition.

When it was over, I raced from the room pausing just long enough to fill each pocket with candy before I slumped to my car. I sat behind my steering wheel and stared ahead. How could I have let that happen? And why did I feel so crummy about it?

After all, I didn’t really care about the audition. It wasn’t a job I had wanted. Not really.

But by the way I slammed on the gas pedal and peeled out of the studio, I realized I did care.

A lot.

Not about the job so much as I cared about how much I worked and how I performed.

And I had sucked.


For the girl who took double the credit load every single semester in college this was unacceptable.

I sped up the canyon back to my apartment, berating myself the whole way.

You are not above this job. Sure, sure you think you are all high and mighty because you have auditioned for some big people but have they ever actually cast you? UM, NO!

I pulled into my driveway and fired off a hurried text to my manager. I tried to dull the blow.

Audition went….ok. (Understatement of the year) I’m not a host… But at least they gave me candy.

I waited her response, expecting that she probably got a call from the casting director asking her why she was representing such an untalented and unprepared actor.

How could I have let her down like this? She was taking a chance on me. When she sends me to these auditions it’s her name on the line too. I stopped breathing as I heard her response come through. She was probably just going to drop me right there, via text.

I looked down at my phone.

And then I smiled. Not a single word from her about how much I sucked or how I wasn’t worth her time. Only one sentence and it was all I needed to hear.

What is better than candy??