Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guy Fawkes Day

As a kid, I hated Guy Fawkes.

Probably much less than the English but I’m fairly certain I’m the only American six-year-old who carried around bitter feelings toward a 17th century English rebel.

I think I must have come across the story of Mr. Fawkes in one of those “See What Happened on Your Birthday” postcards they have at trinket stores. I found November 5, hoping to learn that it was the day Cabbage Patch Dolls had been invented or that I shared a birthday with Punky Brewster.

Instead, I learned that an English mad man had tried to blow up the House of Lords.

And now he gets his own day. With bonfires.

This was clearly a direct snub against my birthday.

After all, this was my day. It seemed ludicrous to me that someone was trying to take that away.

Every year I would do a mental comparison of my birthday against the festivities of the English National Holiday.

I soon learned that bowling at Safari Lanes and dinner at Paradiso did not compare to a nationwide celebration.

It was clearly a stacked deck.

Eventually, somewhere in my early teens, I let the whole thing go and replaced it with excitement for my first boy-girl birthday, asking for Dock Martins, and deciding what color of corduroy pants I would wear that day.

But a few weeks ago, when I mentioned my birthday was approaching, someone recited the famous rhyme about Guy Fawkes Day.

Remember remember the fifth of November.

It got me thinking about my childhood obsession.

How devastated it made me to imagine that someone else outdid me every year.

Nowadays, although I love my birthday, I am constantly aware that maybe it’s a little silly.

In fact, I usually wish something would take away the pressure I feel for the day to be all about me.

It seems that somewhere along the line to adulthood we are taught that we’re too old, too mature to get a day all to ourselves.

Like we don’t deserve it.

So this year, on my birthday, I tried to push away the uncomfortable thoughts. And when I looked around at my mom, who had flow all the way from Minnesota to be with me, and my friends, drinking wine and listening to music in the warm Malibu sun, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.

In fact, I felt really lucky.

I spend every day as an actor and a writer trying to get people to pay more attention to me. To watch this or look at that. To cast me, hire me, or buy my show.

And there, sitting with me in the grass, were people who already think I’m special.

Who already think that I’m worth celebrating.

And that’s not silly at all. It’s just lovely.

As for Guys Fawkes, I think I can finally say it.

I win.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


On my right hand I have a callus that reminds me of third grade.

That year, I had watched the Summer Olympics religiously and decided I wanted to be a gymnast. But more than that, I knew what gymnastic move I wanted to do more than any other. It was simple really. No flips, no crazy kicks, no acts of balance.

I wanted to fly.

Let go of the bars completely, and float through the air catching the other bar just in the nick of time.

I’d seen gymnasts do it all summer. How hard could it be?

When I returned to school in the fall I was ready.

Ready to become the Shannon Miller of my third grade class.

I practiced all through recess and at the end of the day I figured it was time. After all, I had practiced an ENTIRE RECESS.

In my eight-year-old head that seemed like most of my life.

I rubbed sand on my hands to get rid of unwanted palm sweat– something I’d seen Shannon do before she attempted the uneven bars. I ignored that she was actually rubbing special chalk on her hands while I was grinding sharp pebbles into mine.

Minor details.

I surveyed the bars.

There was a problem. The skinny ones I had been practicing on seemed too close together. 

I would not get any air, any real sense of flying, if I let go in between those two bars.

Then I had a brilliant idea.

I would use the thick outside bars (the ones used to keep the skinny ones together.)

Never mind the fact that those two bars were so big I could hardly get my little hands around them. 

Again, minor details.

I jumped up, gripped the thick metal as well as I could and started to swing my legs.

The faster I swung, the better chance I knew I had of catching the bar. (The bar that suddenly seemed really far away.)

I swung harder.

When I swung back for the fourth time and was almost parallel to the ground I knew it was now or never.

I let go.

I was doing it! I was flying towards that other bar just like the gymnasts!

I stretched my arms as far as they could go. The bar got closer and I could feel my fingertips brush the cool metal.

But that was all they did.

Brush the metal.

Despite my diligent and focused twenty minute practice, as my body (still parallel to the ground) headed for the hard sharp sand below I had the sinking feeling that maybe I should have given it one more recess.

I hit the ground like a plank, my arms still reaching for that elusive metal bar.

The wind instantly left my little body and my teeth bit down hard into my lip as my chin hit the sand.

I lay there for a moment – shocked that I was not as talented as Shannon Miller.

And then the tears started, not so much for my bleeding lip or my inability to catch my breath, but for the frustration that twenty minutes of practice had not been enough.

This was going to be harder than I thought.

Twenty years later, it’s the same here in Los Angeles.

Success in this town is harder than I thought.

Which brings me to something else that was harder than I thought.

Season 1 of Book Club is going to premiere on Hulu!


Finally all of our (and many other peoples’) hard work is paying off.

It could not have come at a better time.

Lately, I’d been moping around getting bitter that things weren’t happening faster.

That I wasn’t getting any younger and that my apartment wasn't getting any bigger or closer to the ocean.

But although it was difficult, I would not have had this success any other way.

Just like falling on my face taught me in third grade that if I wanted something, I needed to work at it.

That year, I practiced so much that the inside of my palms started to resemble an eighty-year-old farmer’s. My calluses were large, thick and a point of pride. I would wave them around when people doubted my dedication or abilities.

They were my battle scars.

I hadn’t minded the calluses in third grade, when I was working towards being the monkey bar champion so why should I mind them now, when I’m working towards the life I want to live?

Instead of feeling bitter that things aren’t happening faster, I should be proud of the work I am doing. The calluses I am building up that are making me stronger.

Even though I never tried to attempt the flying leap again, I got really good at the monkey bars.

And years later, after building up some serious calluses in Hollywood, I got something even better than ultimate success on the monkey bars.

I got one callus closer to my dream.