As the daughter of a Hollywood glamour obsessed momma, I’ve been watching the Oscars since birth. It’s a religion. Plunking yourself in front of the TV starting around noon and not moving until the credits roll hours later makes perfect sense to me. Therefore I am the world’s most revered, learned, brilliant authority when it comes to the Academy Awards.
Yes Angelina’s leg (and skinniness) was bizarre. Sure, Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth’s thing felt way off (maybe she needed her garden pizza oven as a prop). I’m not sure if Rooney Mara possesses a soul or if she’s some real-life Star Trek type alien thing come to probe us all. What I do know is that becoming a thief and stealing this is something I’m seriously contemplating:
… the outfit, not the person. I also know it made me smile when Billy Crystal said this:
"Tonight, enjoy yourselves, because nothing can take the sting out of the world’s economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with golden statues."
That gets the Bureaucracy for Breakfast official and very important seal of approval! Anyhoo, if you do hear of this coral Louis Vuitton dress being mysteriously stolen please don’t tell anyone and just know that I am most likely hiding out in Mexico and wearing it to the local dive bars with pride!
This is how the 1% sip their fine champagne! With pearls on their fingers and bows on their head, not a hair out of place… at least I think that’s what she’s doing. Could be some weird Bunuel type scenario but I’ll leave that up to you! Cheers!
vol XXV: Planes, trains and acute nervous breakdowns .....
…Or, how Anne Hathaway made me feel like a hobo!
“The snow was slushy and when it hit my face felt a wee bit like little daggers rather than puffy snowflakes. The wind pulled a Pacquiao on my $1 umbrella turning it inside out like a bowl…”READ IT HERE
New post! Dear Moneybags, Writers are People (with bills & expenses) Too…
“What is it with people having no problem throwing money at valet parking, tailors to hem their yoga pants, or cashmere toilet paper, but if you need some little creative person to actually create something for you? Peanuts…”
I’m broke, you’re broke, we’re all broke! We’re broker than 2 Broke Girls, but not as broke as that homeless lady that lives on the corner bus bench. We should give thanks. Still, during the lean times when it hits me that my student loans ain’t going away and my bank account ain’t bursting at the seams, I go to a dark place and tell myself, “Screw it, I’m just gonna go apply at Hooters.”
These ladies look pretty happy, right? I bet they go on vacays to Cabo with their tip money and spend all that money on sugary resort drinks. Who knows. I don’t. Yet. Even Brad Pitt spent time running around dressed as a fast food chicken or whatever. And look at him now! This is the land of opportunity so if we need to dress in Hooters outfits til the dream happens - so be it!
I played a little word association game with some friends and asked what pops into their noggins when they hear the word BUREAUCRACY. The answers came back fast and furious - here they are! Comment with your own words if you wanna…
Time consuming, Cabinet, Stuffy, Government, Bullsh*t, Unnecessary Obstacles, Egomaniac, Unproductive, Red Tape, Headache, Congress, F*ckers, Lobbyist, Breakfast (teehee), The Man, White People, Suits, 1%, DMV, Grad School, Slow, Anonymous, Constructed Misery, Runaround, Automated, Complicated, Dreaded, Lines, Bullsh*t (again), UCLA, Forms, Rude, For Breakfast (teehee), USC, Hypocrisy, Corrupt as a Muthaf*cka, U.G.L.Y.
So there you have it! Everyone just loooves BUREAUCRACY.
This really has nothing to do with bureaucracy but it’s so stunning y’all should read it. Maybe it’s the opposite of bureaucracy? In any case:
"It was a year when Frankie thought about the world. And she did not see it as a round school globe, with the countries neat and different colored. She thought of the world as huge and cracked and loose and turning a thousand miles an hour." - Carson McCullers
Maybe it’s just me but customer service peeps are being a hell of a lot nicer these days. AT&T ladies are joking around, being sweet and helpful; checkers at Ghetto Ralphs and Albertsons are all smiley and positive as if they’ve been drinking the Trader Joe’s Kool-Aid or something. Maybe it’s because they’re all just so damn happy to have a job. But whatever the reason - it’s a thing.
Holiday season. It’s right around the corner. Christmas music and dreidels have muscled into our local drug stores, the pumpkin patch just closed down, and my confused and/or lazy neighbors still have their gigantic spider web and witch decorations out. Scary. People are out doing their holiday shopping. Oh, wait – never mind! No one is really doing holiday shopping, are they? Unless they’re in Bev Hills or the Hamptons or Paris something, right? I always wonder that when I’m forced to drive through the Rolls Royce bumper car jungle that is Beverly Hills: Who ARE these people loaded down with shopping bags? They’re not occupying Wall St, that’s for sure. More power to them and their $4,495.00 miniature crystal ladybug from Neiman Marcus. Really I mean it. The ladybug is pretty cute:
So unless you’re one of those cool-nerdy type people who can whip up a dozen crocheted Hello Kitty X-mas scarves for your BFFs or cook up some vegan truffle mint cupcakes and enjoy it, my advice for the broke, the weary, and the unemployed during this holiday season is simple: Holiday Parties. Get invited. Go. Drink Free Cocktails. Be Merry.
Holiday parties really can cheer a girl or guy up. It doesn’t have to be a super fancy soiree, but you can make it feel fancy by dressing up, wearing cute shoes, and forcing yourself to forget the loans and the rent and whatever else. Channel your inner Paris Hilton or Olson Twin (either one will do!) and then surround yourself with warm fuzzy free things and warm fuzzy people you love. For free!
For some reason the Trader Joe’s elevator at Sunset & Crescent Heights has an elevator plastered with old 70s album covers. My eyeballs landed on this one and it was like love at first sight. Or really strong like. Pretty cool image.
See these ladies? All the stuff they have? They look so b-o-r-e-d, poor things. Maybe they’d be happier if they ditched the furs and the fancy crystal and hit up a happy hour for some $3 margaritas! Let’s discuss….
In honor of the crazy California babysitting bill they’re trying to pass I thought we could revisit my own “(mis)Adventures in Babysitting”… I’m all for workers’ rights but, c’mon now!
“They stumbled to the top of the staircase wearing only jeans and bras, giggling like schoolgirls while punching each other Tyler Durden-style. I suspected they either got their hands on Cisco, PCP, or both…Then they tumbled down the staircase…”
LISTEN HERE: Marketplace "The Ripple Effects of Unemployment"
Bureaucracy for Breakfast is featured in this in-depth Marketplace story about unemployment. If you’re in Southern California tune in at 8PM PST this Saturday or Sunday to 89.3 KPCC-FM and you can listen online HERE
The report explores some interesting aspects of what’s going on with our crazy economy. Here’s hoping things change!
well since the next post involves me reading Snooki’s sure-to-be-Pulitzer-worthy novel “A Shore Thing,” and since I am on the wait list at TWO libraries to get my hands on this coveted piece of literature, I thought we could revisit the post that started the Bureaucracy for Breakfast Snooki obsession. It’s called “Henry Miller, Snooki, steel coils, and the CAA Death Star.” Take a peek! I’ll be waiting patiently by the phone for the library’s call…
“I haven’t given up the alternate plan of getting sponsored by a fruity vodka and rolling around naked on a Vegas hotel bed with money flying all around the room…”
Yes I feel like puking just like this half-dressed Barbie doll but… I’m getting on stage and reading from the blog tonight at Bang Studio in Hollywood at 8pm. Come on out if you’re in Los Angeles and watch me (hopefully) not puke.
"Now there’s no nudity and I’m no ageist, and lord knows I think it’s great that people over sixty still get it on, but this is the most awkward, disturbing, and – did I say awkward – sex scene ever filmed…"
“They stumbled to the top of the staircase wearing only jeans and bras, giggling like schoolgirls while punching each other Tyler Durden-style. I suspected they either got their hands on Cisco, PCP, or both…Then they tumbled down the staircase…”
I’m becoming unhinged. This economy is SILLY. I apply for all kinds of jobs that I am qualified for, film jobs, editing jobs, and NEVER get calls. I have an MFA damnitall! Then I email my phone number and a photo (granted I picked the most ridiculous pic of me possible) to this ad to be a “Go Go Dancer/Waitress” (at a legit bar) without even a resume attached and I get a response within an hour? For a job that will probably pay better than any film industry job I could get at this point in time. I mean I know the statistics people said the recession ended in June 2009, but it still feels like rough waters out there to me. I wonder how much the people got paid to conduct that survey telling the rest of us that the recession is over and we should all fling our hands up in praise and do a jig and thank the good lord everything’s all better! But I don’t have time to worry about things like what the invisible statistics people got paid to figure out that everything was hunky dory… I have a go go dancing interview to prepare for!
In the meantime here’s something to help you stop doing whatever it is you were doing: http://bit.ly/aBCoaa
Month five of unemployment. This is about the time you start to realize you should do things like finally read Shantaram because, well, you’ve got a lot of hours to spend with a 900-something page book about an ex-heroin addict/convict who goes on a spiritual journey. I mean, there are only so many hours you can fill writing, planning, looking for jobs (that sucks up about five minutes per day), and making weird concoctions to eat for lunch. And you can’t really take classes when you’re unemployed because, well, classes cost money usually, and the EDD gets suspicious when you engage in potentially threatening activities like paying to learn things. I am trying to learn how to play guitar (I pay in beer, not bills. Take that, EDD spies!), but I don’t own an axe yet so I’m relying on Sunday sessions with my patient friend Tony, who lets me use his electric guitar, while he slums with his acoustic. Thanks Tony! “Night Moves” sounds better with an amp — it drowns out all my mistakes and makes me feel super cool. I appreciate that delusion at this time.
I truly wish I was a TV watcher, and that even watching award-winning black and white movies at home in the daylight hours didn’t make me feel guilty. I did attempt to “get into” golf and watch this PGA tour, since this whole Tiger Woods fucking up his swing thing is actually pretty psychologically riveting. But having golf on TV during the day works like Ambien on me — a few whispery minutes of the game and I’m zonked. I do love the collective “oooohhh” when somebody does something good (hits the ball real close to the hole or, better yet, gets a hole in one! Yawn). That “ooohh” is so… repressed. It makes me giggle, right before I nod off.
So as I talk smack about TV and feel guilty actually watching the thing (except a few beloved shows here and there: Mad Men, True Blood and Monster Quest are pretty cool) here comes the beer-swilling, temper-throwing Jet Blue employee sliding off the plastic slide and into our collective psyches. This guy isn’t a folk hero. He’s a whiny, possibly mentally imbalanced jerk. I admit that at first his tantrum put a smile on my face but that quickly changed. I mean, yes, he said, “screw you” to The Man… but did he really? Was Jet Blue being real mean to him, cutting his pay, taking away his medical benefits, sexually harassing him, making fun of his red hair like in that M.I.A. video? Doesn’t sound like it. And I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants and dealt with a LOT of unbelievably obnoxious assholes that I would have loved to have doused with their fancy cocktails and drenched in their lobster sauce, but that little voice would always stop me: “Bite your tongue, smile, get a big tip, take their money.” The worst were the people that would come eat in the super fancy San Francisco steak house I worked in, and very rudely demand something vegan. Um. It was famous for STEAK. The black-Amex-toting meat eaters were always so much cooler than the black-Amex-toting vegans (and I was a vegetarian at the time).
I also remember sitting at the conference table at my last job — the one that sent me on this long, long vacation that I’m experiencing — listening to the CEO berate everyone at the table, white knuckling it, trying to slow my breath, feeling my face practically burst into flame (after one of these meetings my supervisor actually pulled me aside and, laughing, said, “Are you OK? I could actually feel the heat coming off of you.” I should probably invest in Beta blockers for times like those. Russian temper.) It took everything in me not to walk out of that conference room, but I knew the economy outside of our seemingly safe high rise sucked, so I held on for dear life. Maybe that’s bad. Maybe the red headed stranger that stuck it to Jet Blue is smarter than me. Now he’ll either go to jail (maybe he’ll read Shantaram with all that downtime) or become a millionaire. I mean, he’s got a publicist and stuff now; he’s living the American dream!
My strong reaction to the Jet Blue maniac got me thinking that, honestly, maybe all these reality show people I make fun of (The Situation, Heidi Montag and Spencer “creepy” Pratt, the Kardashians) are way smarter than I am and smarter than all of us who work long hours just so we can maybe squeeze in a trip to a Sandals resort before we die. The Situation supposedly is gonna make five million dollars this year. That’s five MILLION. For being a total, complete, peerless tool. Granted money isn’t everything, and integrity is, like, majorly important and all, but c’mon people. I’m starting to think I would be OK acting like an idiot on TV in front of millions FOR millions. That way I could tell Sallie Mae to suck it, and that, believe you me, would be worth risking my integrity, anonymity and pride.
A lot has changed in just a few short months. I couldn’t bring myself to even audition for that Jerry Springer dating show back in the spring, and here I am, thinking that I might just sign a consent form in blood if it meant I could potentially be rolling in the dough. My wise Southern mother once taught me a phrase that I will now apply to all these reality show tools: DUMB AS A FOX. When she first said it, it was because I was making fun of Jessica Simpson, back when she had her reality show on MTV. Remember, Jessica and her ex-hubby lived in a McMansion and lounged around in their bathing suits whining about whether they should dine at Hooters or PF Chang’s that evening? In this one episode, Jessica was saying something really, truly ridiculous about tuna vs chicken. I made fun of her, and my mom shot back, “Oh honey, Jessica Simpson is dumb as a fox.” Hmmm. Maybe she was right.
In any case, one of my sisters recently talked me into applying to one such unnamed reality show extravaganza that involves roses, proposals and lots of ink in publications like People and Us Weekly. So I went on their website, and dammit I applied. Granted, as I did on my application to the Jerry Springer show before I fled the waiting room in terror, I embellished the truth a wee bit. I didn’t say I collected taxidermy bugs this time — that fits for Springer, but it would certainly not fit for a show about Ken-doll men choosing which female to mate with. For the question, “Why are you interested in being on ____?” I refrained from writing, “Because I want to be dumb as a fox and get money for being a total tool on TV in front of millions of people. I want to sell out!” Instead I wrote, “I want to find true love and I think this could be a great way to do that.” Heehee, how sly am I? Jessica Simpson would be proud, I think.
So now I wait and see. I did admit to my wise Southern mother that I had applied, and that I want to be dumb as a fox like Jessica. Her reply? “I don’t give a damn! You’re a writer not an idiot!” We’ll just see about that…
The pool parties have kinda dried up, for now. They’ll be back, sometime in my life. I hope. That exhilaration that swirled around me during a sunny couple of weeks in July seems to have snuck away on little cat feet, leaving instead lots of foggy, cold days which are great for brooding and writing, but which are bad for… just about everything else. Like thinking about your situation as a jobless person, looking ahead at the long stretches of days and years that you hope to fill with success and triumphs and (legally obtained, non-government issued) paychecks of some sort. These long stretches look one way when it’s sunny out and you’re sipping cocktails poolside, and another way when it’s October in July and your car window decides to just drop off its hinges and your health insurance runs out and then the Silverlake walking man (RIP) passes away and you maybe start to think you could easily wind up like the Silverlake walking man: a half cocked, half dressed, sunburnt loner who one day decides to take a forever dip in the Jacuzzi. I really think I suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
This funk got me thinking about Sullivan’s Travels, the super awesome Preston Sturges movie that you really should see if you haven’t. It’s about an out-of-touch Hollywood director who wants to write MEANINGFUL, DEEP stories that will INSPIRE and MOVE people. So he goes “undercover” with a bunch of hobos (man I love that word so very much) to really see what it’s like in the trenches, and to see what “those people” experience. What he learns in the end, though, is that making silly comedies can be more deep and meaningful than trying to tell highfalutin stories about the human condition. Especially in times like this when so many of us are taking pay cuts, having our hours reduced, or are altogether unemployed. I think this phenomenon explains my recent giddy, unabashed, all-consuming love for the movie SALT, and my disdain for that other movie, INCEPTION. I sat through Inception bored and annoyed. Sure, it looks great and Leonardo is like our modern day Clark Gable (I love it that he always looks well groomed and dapper, even off set… that’s sexy. No scraggly beards and greasy hair for him!), but to be honest I just don’t want to have to THINK that damn much when I see a movie these days. And besides, Inception thinks it’s way deeper than it is. I mean, “what if our reality is just a dream?” Come ON! Those were deep thoughts in eighth grade when my first love and I would lay in the bayou, holding hands and staring up at the changing clouds wondering aloud, “what if this is a dream… etc etc,” but now? And do we really need to spend almost three (confusing) hours contemplating this? Just freaking entertain me already!
Enter Salt. I saw it during my deep funk, and I must have REALLY needed a movie just like this on that particular night because I actually clapped at the end. Loudly. I didn’t care if no one else clapped. I didn’t care that this wasn’t the premiere where everyone is supposed to clap, and instead it was just a normal old night at the Arclight. I clapped goddammit! A few other people did too – maybe they had just gotten their hours cut that week. During the entire ninety minutes when Angelina was leaping across speeding semis on the freeway and beating the crap out of grown men with her toothpick arms, I felt like a little girl surrounded by Barbie dolls, easy-bake ovens and Neapolitan ice cream. THIS is what Preston Sturges was talking about! This silly, fun, entertaining flick pulled me — like Westley pulling himself out of the quicksand in Princess Bride — right out of my dark place. Salt is badass, and I cannot wait for the sequel. And I think I may need to dress as bloody, butch Salt for Halloween, as a tribute. I mean, this chick jumps out of airplanes without a parachute! Hells yes.
This phenomenon applies to books too. Somebody lent me a Paul Auster book that’s about as uplifting and positive as Talented Mr. Ripley (meaning, this is some dark recesses of the human condition crap) and it’s good, and I can’t stop reading it, but I kind of miss the Chelsea Handler book that I read right before it. It had a hot pink cover! She wrote about Cabbage Patch Kids and adolescent masturbation! But I lent that one out so I can’t pick it up and use it as a buffer. Maybe I’ll watch reruns of The Chappelle Show between chapters, so as to stay sane and balanced.
I may need Chelsea Handler and Angelina and Neapolitan ice cream at this moment in time, to stop myself when I start thinking too much about the fine line separating me from the Silverlake walking man, but I won’t go so far as to resort to watching Rachel Ray or Sex and the City 2. When you see me watching that crap, all hope is lost. It’s not just a harmless distraction watching grown women twirl around the streets of Abu Dhabi in Chanel couture – it’s an assault on your psyche, people! I loved SATC the show, and I loved the first movie – it was like glittery, pink crack. Just pure fun. I admit I even had a cosmo afterwards. I’m not proud of that, but there it is. And it took me a little while to figure out why I had zero, zilch, nada desire to see this new SATC. I don’t care about bad reviews with movies like this – I KNOW they’ll be dumb, but if they’re fun, I’m in! It’s because of this: In this new SATC they flitter around Abu Dhabi in the highest of fashion, in this freaking economy? It’s just an insult, and so out of touch with what’s happening these days. Maybe it’s just because I am one of CNN’s statistics about the economy now, but I think they should have at least had Miranda get laid off or have Samantha’s PR business go under. At least Salt wears utilitarian clothes – I’m sure she could afford a puffy Chanel dress, but she has more sense than that. If Salt twirls out of airplanes in the sequel wearing a Dior ball gown, Balenciaga 6-inch heels and a tiara, I may need to find a new distraction.
The point is, at this time, in this economy, at this moment, bring me the big, dumb, fun. As Mr. Sturges once wrote: “It isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.”
That’s right. I am living large. Like MTV Cribs large. Like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fancy. Like Oprah, if Oprah floated in Malibu pools sipping sangria. And I’ve probably never been so poor.
Oh I’m working hard. And applying to jobs, though I haven’t gone the waiting tables route yet. I’m holding out for something bigger. Just a little longer. And I’m pretty damn good at managing money, sort of. Except when I have to buy tickets to the Black Keys. I don’t need to go see them live, but I could die tomorrow so I want to dammit. That’s what this new phase of life is all about. It’s about: Why the hell not?
Buy a ticket to see your favorite band, then you shop at Ghetto Ralphs with coupons instead of Whole Foods without, and you’re guilt free.
This whole “I don’t have a boss my life is totally on my terms” feeling is real hard to turn your back on once you have it. It’s like it’s the heat of a Southern summer and you don’t realize you’ve been walking around with a heavy wool blanket wrapped tightly around you day in and day out, and then suddenly that blanket is lifted away and you realize how you’ve been living. That’s how it felt to me at least. Actually I picture the blanket more like a gigantic 17th century tapestry, but who needs melodrama?
Back to the high life. I’m not sure what’s going on in the universe but in this, my 2010 Summer of Unemployment, I have been to more fancy pool parties than I’ve been to in my entire life. One minute I’m getting neck strain from a busted laptop I can’t afford to fix, the next I’m at Liberace’s old condo, swimming, sipping cocktails, and stuffing my face with homemade paella, one of my favorite things on the planet, and something I never think to order or make. And here it is, glorious paella, walking into my life! Two weekends in a row! Magic. I found myself at another pool party on the day our country celebrates its independence from the real pale faces. Brits. This pool party was at a Malibu mansion, with DJs, overlooking the Pacific. They even had an “airbrush station” where tall naked buxom girls got designs airbrushed onto their toned skin. I stood in line for a bit. I was in that kind of mood. But then the dance floor beckoned…At the end of the night there were about thirty people dancing in the Jacuzzi, and for a split second I thought, holy hell, I AM part of Marianne the Maenad’s bacchanal on True Blood. Only no one had those creepy black glassy eyes. Thank god. I also thought for a second that this may be what being in a reality show feels like. Minus the teary fights about… whatever they fight about on reality shows. Racism? Clothes? Which club to go to? But it was fun – a girl even decided to pour her beer from the bottle into the Jacuzzi we were all smooshed in. That’s the life.
When I was a gainfully employed member of society, I never got asked to housesit. Ever. Now I find myself house sitting this amazing place in Venice. They have a freezer, and I don’t. I spent thirty minutes in the ice cream aisle the other day, just picking what kind of ice cream I could store in my temporary freezer. My old staple, Cherry Garcia, found its way into my basket. I wanted to get something exotic and fancy, like champagne fig saffron sorbet, but that’s for people who are used to freezers and who buy stupid ice cream that can’t taste nearly as lovely as Cherry Garcia. They also have a flowery back garden for me to write in. If you’ve ever had a flowery back garden to write in, you know what being rich feels like. A back garden is also a great place to dance around in alone at night with your iPod blaring in your ears. Doing that makes you feel like Trump with better hair. These are the things that happen when you have what certain members of society (like people who are smart and live in cities like Austin and Des Moines instead of cities like Los Angeles) know of as total and utter privacy. No roommates. No weird-ass neighbors who wear muumuus and walk around with their squawking pet cockatoo on their shoulder. A cockatoo that this muumuu-wearing neighbor of mine has decided really needs to be dressed in a pink tutu. Poor birdie. I’m just wondering, if, when the couple that actually lives in my pretend house return in a week, they’ll mind if I just kinda stay and live there and eat my Cherry Garcia in their flowery garden whilst I write my magnum opus.
In the last few months I’ve also been told that I should sell weed and/or become a kept woman. Several times. This is the kind of high life that leads to Heidi Fleiss-ness. One girl who was really trying to convince me to make and sell “baked goods” almost had me convinced. We were eating paella together, so I must have been weak and vulnerable. She said it was easy, and she did live in a pretty snazzy place. But, I don’t have an oven; there’s the rub. I also got a cryptic email from a female acquaintance last month saying: “How do you feel about Italy in July?” My reply was: “I feel awesome about it but I’m unemployed so…” She went on to explain that she was seeing an Italian dude, and they were going to his motherland on vacation. He had an Italian man-friend and she thought I could come, have a free trip, and… keep him company. “No expectations of course,” she added. Of course. If that man-friend were Ryan Gosling I would have been on that plane lickety-split. Something told me it was not Ryan Gosling, so I declined. I must admit I was haunted by visions of frolicking on yachts in the Mediterranean for weeks after our email exchange, but I live right by the Pacific Ocean. What do I need a yacht for?
For now, the universe is kind enough to let me live this high life. So as not to sink into a guilt-laced depression due to my Russian heiress existence on the weekends, I get myself to my “office” aka the coffee shop, every weekday, and work. And write. Even if it’s sunny and the beach beckons. That’s the other side of not having a boss and a schedule – it’s all up to you. You have to crack the whip on your own damn self. Not that I’m complaining, but sometimes it’s tempting to lounge around when there is no jobby job to report to, but for all you laid off people out there, you probably know that this lounging can lead to dark thoughts of “what am I doing with my life I am so lame where’s the remote…” This is bad.
If my house sitting couple doesn’t agree to let me lurk in their garden when they return, I’ll finish my Cherry Garcia and go home, happily. And if the pool parties dry up, I may shed a chlorine tinged tear, but I’ll live. I want to be filthy rich – who doesn’t? But the best part of my July 4thdebauchery wasn’t dancing in the Jacuzzi like an extra from The Hills. It was taking my iPod, when the DJ played a played-out house track, walking out to a cliff overlooking the waves, sharing my headphones with a real awesome friend (you can’t share headphones with just anyone) and dancing and singing at the top of our lungs to, who else, the Black Keys. Maybe I should have apologized to the strangers lolling on the grass for bombarding them with my most likely obnoxious display of vocal mediocrity, but in the moment, I didn’t care. I was feeling rich. Why the hell not.
Just for fun, here’s a sample of what I like to jump around to in the backyard at night, alone. Where no one can see. In case you want to try it – no one has to know. If you don’t like these songs… make your own damn Garden Party Playlist…
The Elf’s Garden Party Playlist:
Edward Sharpe: Home
Florence and the Machine: Kiss with a Fist
Black Keys: She’s Long Gone
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – any song will do, they all turn me into a jumping bean
Bloc Party: Ion Square
Mike Snow: Animal
Kings of Leon: Fans
Heartless Bastards: Into the Open
Bob Seger: We’ve Got Tonight (when you’re out of breath and want to take it down a notch and just sing)
Dolly Parton: Jolene
White Stripes: Jolene (gotta listen to Jolene in this order)
Remember the nice guy who worked at the Genius Bar, and who told me to call a 1-800 number and use the word “inconvenience” a lot, so I could maybe get my MacBook fixed for free? Well, I did as he said, and used “inconvenience” a ton, and it worked! That dude and his 1-800 number tip saved me $350!
Well, now I’ve got another 1-800 number to deal with, and this one ain’t so friendly.
The state owes me a few thousand dollars in unemployment checks. Somehow, I filled out some miniscule thing wrong, and since getting through to them on the phone is about as easy and as amusing as finding Osama bin Laden, I’m stuck sending them countless emails. Their replies are always: “Please call the 1-800 number to speak to a representative.” I’ve gotten so incredibly frustrated that my last email probably made me sound like a suicidal/homicidal maniac (I wrote FUCK — a lot — in caps… I couldn’t help myself). They may have me on some terrorist watch list at this point. I mean, I understand the whole notion of “going postal” when dealing with this type of bureaucracy. It makes you feel inhuman, disposable and, deep down, scared.
I understand the economy sucks, especially in California. I understand that this is the reason the EDD can’t hire enough people to answer their phones. Hell, there’s not even an option to “hold” until an operator is free. It’s just: “Please try again.” When I picture the EDD office in my head, I picture three women sharing a flimsy cubicle, surrounded by empty cubicles haunted by the ghosts of their laid-off past co-workers. I don’t know why they’re crammed into one cubicle in my mind — maybe it’s more dramatic that way. These three ladies in my imagination work their collective asses off to save their jobs, eating out of Tupperware and staring at the photos of their kids that they’ve taped to the walls to remind them of all that’s good and awesome in the universe. My “FUCK”s aren’t aimed at them. My “FUCK”s are aimed at that elusive villain: bureaucracy. If there are two things in the world that really get me in a tizzy, they’re condescension… and bureaucracy. But that’s just me. And also slow drivers. And people who don’t say “bless you.” But two plus two doesn’t equal two, so…
Whatever happened to the barter system? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could hand Sallie Mae three grizzly hides that we had skinned and in exchange our student loan debt would be paid? Maybe if things stay this way, the world will go back to that! Granted, a lot of us who don’t know how to fish and hunt would be a little screwed, but whatever. We can learn to make wax candles or pickles or something. Or learn to hunt. It’ll be like Little House on the Prairie. Bloomingdales will turn into those little country stores like the one Nellie Olson’s daddy owned, and we can all just trade things we’ve made or found. Now I sound like a hippie. But there has to be some happy medium, right? We’ve really gotten ourselves into a … pickle… economically, and once you’re kicked off the “I have a job and a paycheck I’m so safe and secure” merry-go-round, it really hits you how FUCKed we really are.
Are you still reading? You didn’t change the channel from sad news to E! True Hollywood Story? When it gets like this, and I feel myself sinking into fear and woe-is-me-what-the-hell-have-I-gotten-myself-into mode; I remind myself that in the grand scheme of things I am still very lucky. Not to sound Pollyanna-ish, but it’s true. Growing up, my mom — being the savvy Southern lady she is — always had pearls of wisdom for me, and for my sisters. Whenever I got down about something (usually things that in junior high seem very dramatic: I’m too short for basketball; I hate my freckles; I got a C on the math test; Ray Gonzales asked Lindsay Smith to the dance and not me therefore I may just die and if I don’t die I will never love again, etc etc) she would always say: “Honey, there will always be someone smarter, prettier, taller, and better than you. Remember that.” And then she’d walk off.
At the time, I would mutter, “yeah, thanks,” feeling pissed off that my own mother handed me these words when I was feeling low, instead of something along the lines of, “Well you’ll grow seven inches over the summer and you’ll make basketball next year, and then Ray Gonzales will love you forever and that will up your math score which, as everyone knows, makes freckles disappear!” Now I get it, and I go back to that advice again and again, and it helps. There willalways be someone prettier and taller and smarter and better. There will always be days you’ll have sangria with friends in a sunny park feeling on top of the world, and days you panic because of bills and rent and bureaucracy. Just like there are people like Paris Hilton, and people in Haiti living in camps. This all sounds simplistic, I know. But it helps to remember it. And who likes complicated anyways? Besides bureaucrats.
Funny enough, a few days after my zillionth FUCK-laced email to the EDD, someone from EDD actually picked up the phone and called ME! It wasn’t one of the women from the imaginary EDD office in my head. It was a man, with the sweetest, gentlest voice I’d ever heard. He took care of my dilemma and promised that I would get paid for the six weeks I was owed. Phew. I thanked him over and over, and he very sweetly, very gently said, “Well you’re welcome. And next time, maybe leave the four letter words out of your emails, OK”
If there is a next time, and if bureaucratic BS does get me in a tizzy again, I will try to leave the four letter words out of my emails. I can’t promise anything. But I’ll try.
vol IV: "How Jerry Springer (almost) made me do it"
It was handed to me a week ago. An innocent looking, baby-blue postcard. A casting call for a dating game show. My nightmare, really. But when you are jobless, and your nightmare promises $500 for a single day’s work, it’s shockingly easy to face your worst fears. Or so I thought.
Next day I sent them an email, saying I was interested in auditioning. They asked me to submit a photo and answer some simple questions. Easy enough. I did as I was told by the Invisible Casting Gods. A nice woman named Veronica called me, and we set a time. I’m not an actress, and I don’t think I’ve ever really gone on an actress-y audition, so I had to ask, “Um, what should I wear? And bring?” Veronica told me to just bring myself and “wear date clothes.” Hmmm. One woman’s date clothes may be another woman’s trash… or something like that. I mean, we’re all different! What if I like to wear jeans on a first date, and another chick likes to wear a gold sparkly tube top and pink stilettos? Something told me that in this situation, I should up the ante and leave the jeans in the closet. I settled on a white dress. Done. Let the chips fall where they may!
Driving to the audition across town, I blared Temper Trap and sang along. I passed Century City, where I used to sit day in and day out, cooped up in a fancy-pants high rise with sporks in the kitchen and fluorescent lights all around. I sang louder, feeling elated that instead of being in Spork-ville, I was doing something as ridiculous as auditioning for a dating show! I really wanted the audition to go well — I wanted to be picked!
I found the building where the audition would occur. As I walked into the building I noticed a sign that said “Goethe Institute.” Hmmm. That’s weird. I liked Goethe in high school, lord knows why — probably because he was German and pissed off at the world, and I was a teenager and pissed off too — but a whole Goethe Institute? Why? What did they do in there? And why is it in the same building as this audition? I still don’t have the answers.
I asked the concierge where to go and he said, “See all those TVs?” I saw them. “Go in there.” I went. The waiting room tipped me off to the fact that this wasn’t some dinky dating show cooked up by some sleaze ball in his Van Nuys garage. Six flat screen TVs proudly played: E! True Hollywood Story; COPS; and some Hayden Panetierre cheerleading movie. The couches were plush and pseudo-fancy. This, I learned, was Comcast territory. And this was not just any dating game show – it was a Jerry Springer dating game show. I gulped, and took a seat.
I surveyed the scene. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many stilettos. There was a really pretty Indian woman who had a pink plastic folder with papers in it. I panicked – does she know something I don’t? Did she bring a resume of some sort?! Did Veronica tell her secrets she failed to reveal to me?! And then there were the Botox Twins: two scary looking blondes who looked like their faces were cast from the same mold – or from the same doctor. Yikes. The excitement I felt as I sang at the top of my lungs on the drive over petered out a little. What the hell was I getting into? Before I could bolt, a sweet-faced girl came and rounded us up.
We were piled into another, much smaller, waiting room. In my high school, if you were “bad,” you got sent to the Bull Pen — basically a tiny, windowless, brick-walled prison cell next to the principal’s office. This waiting room reminded me of the Bull Pen. Ah, memories. The sweet-faced girl handed us a bunch of forms to fill out, and left. I settled in and, being the impatient person that I am, I started filling out the endless forms at warp speed, handwriting be damned. I suddenly got the feeling I was going to be waiting in this Bull Pen for a long, long time, no matter how fast I answered questions about my dating history and “quirks”.
About halfway through the questionnaires, it dawned on me: if I want to be picked, and get that $500, I should probably, maybe, embellish my answers a wee bit. I mean, this was Springer, right? There was a whole form asking us to circle “All That Apply” and some of that “All” included: I’m a circus performer; I wear adult diapers; I am a gang/mafia/Triad member. I didn’t even know what the hell Triad member meant! I do now. I Googled it.
I wondered what the other men and women were writing on their forms. I’d never run over my no-good boyfriend with a sedan because he was banging my BFF. I’d never had sex with three midgets on top of a Vegas hotel. I’d never married a blind, octogenarian hermaphrodite … because I lovedhim/her! Again, I needed to up the ante if I was gonna compete in this pageant. For example, for the question: “List 5 outrageous things you have done” I snuck in: “Took a joyride in a random car.” What a (lying) rebel I was! That’ll entice them. And for the question, “Strange or bizarre collections?” My answer: “I collect taxidermy bugs.” Um, what? Don’t ask me where that came from because it is a mystery to me. But there it is. Finally, for the question, “Unique beliefs?” I wrote: “Sarah Palin is evil.” Now that answer is 100% true. I’m not sure it’s a unique belief though. I think I was just getting tired.
Finally I came to the final form, the mother of them all: Consent and Release. You bet I read that damn thing word for word. I knew the stories of people getting plied with alcohol on reality shows and edited together so they act like they’re part of Marianne the Maenad’s bacchanal on True Blood! No thanks. My pen hovered above the signature line. I mean, signing this gave Comast the right to use my likeness, voice and image however they wanted, in perpetuity. My stomach dropped. I panicked. People worry about privacy issues and Facebook and all that, but trust me, that stuff has nothing on the sheer terror of signing yourself away to Comcast and Jerry Springer. I shoved the papers into my purse and bolted.
The halls were empty. I found a good-looking guy in white button down doing god-knows-what important work in his office.
Me: Excuse me? Where can I get my parking validated?
Dude: Did you finish the audition?
Me: No… I’m not gonna do it. I can’t sign the release form.
Dude: Oh, that’s nothing. We have plenty of actresses who…
Me: I’m not an actress. Can you guys use the audition tape any way you want?
Dude: Well, only on our web site and maybe in commercials. It’s harmless. You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to. You’ll be great! Don’t leave!
I think he used some cult-leader type techniques on me because I found myself back in the Bull Pen, hand poised over the signature line again. Why was I such a worrywart? I’ll tell you why: When a camera is put in front of my face, I get nervous. Nerves cause me to have what I will call “Truth Tourettes,” and I know myself enough to know that whatever scandalous question they asked me, I would blurt out the total, embarrassing truth. No filter. I was doomed. Not that I would blurt out anything as scandalous as having a taxidermy collection, but still. Personal is personal. Visions of the $500 danced in my head. The consent form stared up at me. The Bull Pen walls closed in. I bolted. Again.
In the elevator this Tina Turner look-alike woman asked how my audition was. Even though there was no camera in front of my face, I blurted, “The consent form freaked me out. I’m leaving.” She, too, must have taken the same course in cult-leader tactics as the good looking fellow, because she soothingly said, “you need to go back up there and audition. I was married to Ike Turner, I have plenty of baggage honey, but who cares!” Something told me her Ike Turner marriage was about as true as my taxidermy collection. I smiled, she exited the elevator, and I rode on down to the lobby, finally feeling sure that bolting was the right thing to do.
I slept well that night. If you have no qualms about letting some corporate entity plaster your likeness all over a Jerry Springer show, more power to you. You’re probably $500 richer than I am. But as I sit here with the unsigned Consent Form and the silly questionnaires in my apartment, for my eyes only, my Truth Tourettes safely at bay, I realize there are some things this girl can’t do for a buck.