Monday, June 30, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

To work, or go on an audition?

I've said before that I'd explain the online booking websites, so here goes...

First, when it comes to the entertainment industry you always hear "DON'T PAY FOR ANYTHING!!!" Well, that's not really true. That line is used to keep new people in the business from getting scammed. What it really means is that no one can charge to rep you - agents and managers only get a cut of what you make. Like cheesy attorneys, they don't get paid unless you get paid. Similarly, no agent or manager can force you to pay them to take your headshots. However, you do have to get headshots and make prints of them, which can be costly.

Somewhere along the line I picked up the mentality that "If they like you, they'll pay for you!" That's not true either. Pretty people are a dime a dozen, especially in LA. You have to have something damn special for anyone to pay for your plane ticket, your hair cut, or hell, to even buy you a latte! In my case, I still hope to find someone to pay to fix my crooked bottom teeth, but why would an agent, manager or producer do that when there are a million other pretty, talented, wide-eyed brunettes in this town who already have straight teeth?

With this springs writers strike, constant talk of an actors strike, the rising dues for SAG and the popularity of YouTube and webisodes, even getting representation is very difficult right now. So... the key is submitting yourself for projects via booking website, which are something else you have to pay for!

You can subscribe month to month, but like a newspaper, it's smarter to just cough-up the sixty-some bucks, depending on the site, for a years access. The sites have two functions. First, you can upload your pictures, resume and speed reel for casting directors, agents and managers to view. (Uploading the first few pictures are free, then there's an additional cost to add more. Speed reels are clips of your work, I believe they also cost more.) Second, it gives actors access to 'the breakdowns.' What is a breakdown? It's like a wanted ad published by casting directors that gives you all the pertinent information about a project - when it auditions, when it shoots, who the director is, what it's called, what the plot is and most importantly, the description of the roles they're looking to fill.

If you think the role is right for you and the dates fit your schedule, you "electronically submit" for it. With a few clicks of your mouse, your headshot and resume are sent to the casting director to be considered. Some casting offices still prefer hard copy submissions, but the industry is electronic for the most part. It's important to have a really expressive headshot because the casting directors see them in the form of little one-inch thumbnails on their screens, with the hundreds or thousands of others who have submitted.

So anyway, I'm on two booking sites- LA Casting, which is more commercial, with lots of extra work and Actors Access (aka The Breakdowns) which is more theatrical with plays, pilots and short or nonunion films. Of course, big budget films and guest roles on major TV shows don't typically need to use these services; they have contracts with casting offices who send actors who are already in their files to the producers to audition.

After you submit, if they actually want to see you, you get a call or email. Since I only have a super shitty agent that I don't communicate with, this is where my life gets really stressful. You never know when an audition might pop up; they're few and far between, but when they come they always manage to conflict with something else! Once I get a manager, they'll help me make the tough decisions, but for now I'm on my own.

Last week I had an audition for a play in Pasadena, it didn't pay and Pasadena's kind of far from my apartment, but doing plays gives you a reason to send postcards to all your industry contacts saying, "hey, I'm in this play..." They probably won't come see it, but it reminds them who you are. But then, at the last minute, my acting teacher, who is also a casting director offered me a job. It was a $100 gig for five hours or less to give viewer feedback for the new Eddie Murphy film "Meet Dave." Not only did the audition and gig conflict, if the gig ran the full time, I'd be late to the musical I was doing...

Huge stress! Luckily, since it was my acting teacher, he was able to guarantee I'd be out in time to get to my musical and I ultimately decided that if I got the role in the play, I'd loath driving to Pasadena for the rehearsals and I needed the $100. So I did the movie promo; it was really cheesy, but it paid. I'll ask my teacher tonight where and when it will run, because I have no idea.

The delimma today is that I'm scheduled to work at Universal on Wednesday from like 12:30 to 8 p.m. but I just got an audition for a short film at 1:40 p.m. Hhmm... What to do? It's an unpaid, non-union short film, but I need more film credits on my resume. I also need to work!

Tour Guides are part of a union, so our shifts are based on seniority and those of us who are newbies aren't getting many. The cool thing about the Tour Guide position is that it's supposedly flexible for auditions, but that flexibility comes from doing something called "whipping." You "whip" through your tours, forfeiting your union rights to breaks between tours and your lunch. Depending on the day, you usually give three or four tours during your seven hour shift, as they have to give you a fifteen minute break after each and a forty-five minute lunch. When you "whip," however, you must do five tours to get paid for the full shift. It seems kind of stupid since you rarely give five tours anyway, but those are the rules. I suppose I could go to work late and have to give five tours in a row, but I just don't feel confident in doing that! I'm still rebuilding my speaking endurance and I'm not confident that I have enough information to keep the guests entertained when I get "stalled" on the tram out on our tour route. I've been lucky so far, but the more tours you give, the more likely you are to run into issues!

The other option is to call off work, but I don't think a non-paying short film is worth it...

Damn it! I need a manager!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What the hell is this? Homesickness?

My eyes hurt from crying.

You’re probably thinking that I cry about everything – parking spots, furniture, gas stations…I swear, I am tough shit, but it’s the little things that take me overboard. For example, I was perfectly composed through the whole car breaking down and dealing with the tow truck thing. But that was just one of several things that compounded this week.

After a busy Thursday with a video shoot and audition, then giving tours all day Friday, you’d think having nothing I absolutely had to do yesterday would be a good thing. But, no, it wasn’t.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a morning person and the first thing I have to do in my day is the first thing I do. So on a day I have nothing to do, I do nothing. Yesterday I slept till like noon-thirty and then dealt with emails while instant messaging with my man until two thirty or three. All of this transpired in my bed! In my defense, all I have is a small loveseat. No dining or patio table. No chairs. No where else to really lounge.

You’re probably thinking, “Okay, sounds great! What’s the problem?” The problem is that I felt like a huge loser. I know me – I’m not the motivated person that people seem to think I am. I should have reread a play and memorized a scene for my acting class. I should have been learning more material about Universal, as the busy season creates lots of “stalls” on the trams and I simply do not know enough information to cover my ass. Had I been online sooner I may have gotten some extra work with Disney, I should have mailed some follow-up postcards to casting directors, dropped off my dry-cleaning or at the very least gotten some makeup on my ugly face in time to go to the pharmacy and pick up a scrip. I didn’t even write an entry on one of the million topics I have stockpiled for this damn blog!

It’s a funny thing when self-loathing pours over you – it must take massive amounts of energy to generate the most depressive of emotions, but not a single scrap of energy prevails to actually motivate you to do any of those things you’re so tormented about not doing! I just can’t help but think things like, “To be successful in this industry, you have to be a go-getter! But you’re in pajamas at two in the afternoon…”

At three o’clock my time my boyfriend got off work and we chatted via webcam once he arrived at home. I watched my cat hop onto his lap, carelessly whipping his orange and white tail across my boyfriend’s nose. I started talking about the details of bringing my cat back to LA when I fly home for a friend’s wedding, but when my boyfriend mentioned “[the dog] will miss him,” my eyes instantly filled with tears.

Everything about relocating my cat sooner than my boyfriend and the dog is selfish. There’s no sense in taking him out of a larger home that he’s comfortable in, with an old dog who needs his companionship, only to have to give him some sort of awful sedative for the plane ride, pay a pet deposit and worry that he’d slip out the door under my roommate’s feet. The tears, of course, were not just because it’s stupid to try to bring my cat here, but moreover that I miss everything – the cat, the dog, my boyfriend, my house, my parents, my friends.

I stopped crying and we talked about something else, but a while later I was in tears again. As I dwelled on all the things I should have done that afternoon my boyfriend tired to convince me that I don’t give myself enough credit… That everybody deserves a day off. Funny; he never takes one. I do see his point, but I’m not that busy - I’m not doing that much to justify such laziness.

He showered me with love and compliments and it just caused more tears to run down my face. There was no slow build up of emotion, there was no reason, there wasn’t even anything running through my mind. There were just instant tears.

Again, I’d dry my eyes and move on to another conversation… Then the cat reappeared and to get me to smile my beau sat a shoebox on the floor. After a thorough inspection my cat got in it and curled up, because that’s what cats do. It worked – I smiled. Then I started to cry.

“What the hell is going on?” I asked with frustration, “Is this homesickness?”

I don’t exactly fit my boyfriend's definition of homesick – that being that you not only miss a place and the people in it, but that you’re so uncomfortable wherever you are that you’d give anything to be back in your comfort zone, at the place you call home. I’m actually quite comfortable here; I know this is where my dream career is, and as my boyfriend pointed out, I adapt pretty well just about anywhere.

However, this town is difficult and I’ve had a really rough week. I’d give anything just to have some normalcy. It would be easy and so much more enjoyable if I had my boyfriend’s arms to fall into every night, or even my cat to curl up in my lap purring. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get, I’m so tired all the time because no matter how hard I try or how much I do, it doesn’t seem like enough.

I don’t feel homesick, because I’ve known all my life that I wouldn’t stay in Ohio. I told my boyfriend, it’s more like the feeling I have when someone dies. That may sound extreme, but that’s what I feel. It’s an emptiness that causes tears to just fall from my eyes without any rationale and a desperate longing to “have things back the way they were.” That doesn’t necessarily mean to be back where I was, but rather to feel what I used to feel and to have what I used to have here with me now. I guess that could be another way to define homesick.

It really doesn’t fucking matter what word defines this feeling, it sucks regardless. It seems like I’ve been in tears consistently every hour or two for the past twelve hours and I’m sick of it. My head hurts, my eyes hurt and it amazes me that I even found the motivation to write this! I think I hoped it would make me feel better, as blogging usually does. The verdict is still out on this one…

Clearly the moral of the story is that I must stay busy as to not make myself crazy with loneliness.

I did get out of my pajamas and walk to the grocery store but I forgot the cookie dough that I went there for! I realized it half way back to my apartment as I sipped my Starbucks vanilla-mocha… So I guess I got my sugar fix anyway, but in terms of emotional comfort food, it was not at all the same.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

If I WALK the mile to the grocery to buy more cookie dough, does that make it okay?

I have so much to blog about here...

My first few days of working as a tour guide.
Being an extra on Craig Ferguson.
Being an extra at a certain celebutants reality show.
The audition before my car broke down.
The shoot that came from that audition.
My car breaking down.
The audition for a "pageant think tank."

For now, I'm walking to the grocery. Hey, stop shaking your head at me! I need cheese, cereal and aluminum foil for all the healthy-ass turkey burgers I broil too!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's worse than the gas prices? The horrid, incessant BEEPING sound the pump makes!

Luckily my car was taken to mechanic very near my apartment, I got the call to get it around 5 p.m. I didn't mind the walk there and the mechanic and attendants were all great.

But after that...

I don't like the idea of using ATMs for deposits; but I finally decided I had to do it because I was always busy during banking hours. At the ATM the other night, I realized I wasn't carrying the card for my new California bank. After getting my car this afternoon I drove around the block to try again only to find my deposit was in another purse. Okay, fine, at least I finally ordered new checks (my bank wouldn't do it online, isn't that odd?).

Then I drove across the street to the grocery store to get detergent and a softener ball. I've been trying to save money, but I'm sick of going up and down the stairs every fifteen minutes while doing the laundry. (Yes, I've decided my building is trustworthy and I don't babysit the washer and dryer anymore.) I had tried Bed Bath and Beyond, who recommended the grocery. Nope.

The frustration began to heat up as it took forever to pull out from the grocery in the hectic 5:30 traffic. Once I did, I couldn't merge into the left turn lane to get to a CVS in the continued search of the softener ball.

I was so pissed as I sped through the intersection. I reached for the condolence of my music, only to find that all my radio presets were changed. What?! That is a breaking point for me! The frustration was at a full on boil as I called my boyfriend to ask if I was justified in going back and ripping the mechanic a new one! No, no I was not (and wouldn't have anyway), radio presets typically disappear when the battery dies or is disabled.

Fine, so now on an unknown side street, I was by no means lost, but I wasn't sure whether or not I had missed the CVS once I got back to the main road. A more pressing issue became finding a gas station as the low fuel light glared at me. I was excited to find a station with Premium at $4.85! During his last visit, my boyfriend had given me a credit/debit card which his company bonuses are issued on with about forty bucks left on it to for gas. All gas stations out here ask for the zip code the card is registered with when you pay at the pump. I entered my Ohio home's zip and then BEEP BEEP BEEP "See attendant" appeared on the screen. I walked to the window and can not even tell you what the exchange was with the man due to his thick accent and failing speaker system. He ultimately told me to try again. I did and BEEP BEEP BEEP "see attendant."

I got in my car, slammed the door and drove the fuck away! As if getting gas isn't painful enough, it does not need to also be a pain in the ass! At this point I was a couple miles away from my apartment. I thought there was a CVS on the main road behind my apartment, but couldn't recall for sure. I drove past a Walgreens and Rite Aid, but again was in the wrong lane and saw them too late to merge and besides, I have a CVS discount club card...

I had called my boyfriend to double check the zip code for the card. Our distance relationship makes him feel so helpless and he can not stand not being able to help me with things. Having taken my navigation device out of my car when I left it with the mechanic, my boyfriend insisted on going online to find me the nearest CVS, which ended up being a few miles the opposite direction.

At this point I decided to continue driving out of my way to get to the Amco am/pm gas station that I've mentioned before. Their gas is a blend of some sort and is therefore always ten to fifteen cents cheaper. I remembered it was a place where you always had to pay first but I had forgotten on critical thing - it's cash or debit only. The attendant glanced at the card I thrust toward him and said "no" in very broken English, "that's no debit, it says Visa."

"Yes, but sometime's they're both, can you just try running it?" I insisted. "Do you know the pin?" he snipped. I rolled my eyes, cursed and huffed away. No, I did not know the pin and I was embarrassed that I had not thought of that important little factor. "Have a nice day" he quipped insincerely as I barreled out the door of his dirty, cheap convenience store.

Had I not been a raging bitch, I could have just gotten my debit card from my purse, but I had had it! As I tried to pull out of the gas station lot and make another impossible left turn, tears welled up in my eyes. I turned right and went down another side street.

At a THIRD fucking gas station, the price was ten cents more than the first. I entered the company bonus card. BEEP "enter your zip code." I hit the wrong number and had to cancel. BEEP BEEP BEEP. I swiped the card again. BEEP "enter your zip code." I did. BEEP BEEP BEEP. "Invalid." I gave up on the free gas and dug my own plastic out of my purse. I hit cancel again. BEEP BEEP BEEP. It did nothing. I hit cancel again. I hit clear, folded my arms and glared at the machine. Not only was I not leaving this this gas station, I wasn't changing pumps.

It eventually cleared and I entered my card. BEEP "enter your zip code." I did. BEEP "select grade." I did. BEEP "begin fueling. BEEP BEEP BEEP "receipt?" I selected yes. BEEP. It printed and then BEEP BEEP BEEP "take your receipt." Oh my gawd!!!

I've noticed this before, but when you're already at your wits end, it was all I could do not to use the nozzle to beat the shit out of the gas pumps digital screen. The beeping is not only unnecessary but SO LOUD and at a mind numbing pitch . It's ridiculous! Why? Getting gas is already an awful experience, it's as if they've made the BEEP to signify the horrifying screams of your wallet.

From there I went to a CVS on the same road as the mechanic, a mile in the opposite direction.

They did not have a softener ball.

I quit!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The hits just keep coming - My car died today!

... In the middle of a busy road, causing me to miss an audition for another musical and my acting class, where I would've done prepared scenes in front of two casting directors. The cause: my alternator.

I bought a tube of cookie dough after getting canned yesterday and finished it tonight! By that I mean eating it raw - so much for being Hollywood-thin!

Details later.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I just got fired AND locked myself out of my apartment – what a great fucking day!

No, I wasn’t fired from Universal Studios; I just wasn’t “asked back” for the fall semester with a company that gives pro-college speeches to high school students.

Once again, I am utterly embarrassed and amazed I am sharing this information. I used to blog to impress, so I'm still adjusting to this idea of blogging reality.

I know what you’re thinking, “But you’re an award-winning public speaker who has worked with pro-college programs for seven years… you’re outgoing, attractive and professional.” Yes, yes I am.

I was not asked back solely based on scores. At the end of each presentation, the students are asked to fill out and return a survey; only about sixty percent do. The school counselors are asked to also fill out a survey with comments and fax it in later; their return rate is even lower.

The company looks at how they rate your effectiveness and the value of the presentation. As you can see, my scores were lower than the company averages, but not by much:

Presentation for Seniors:
Counselor Value: 8.42 (Co. average: 9.51)
Counselor Effect: 8.75 (Co. average: 9.42)
Student Value: 7.73 (Co. average: 8.47)
Student Effect: 7.79 (Co. average: 8.58)

Presentation for Juniors:
Counselor Value: 8.9 (Co. average: 9.54)
Counselor Effect: 8.82 (Co. average: 9.4)
Student Value: 7.96 (Co. average: 8.53)
Student Effect: 8.05 (Co. average: 8.61)

Here’s the thing – I gave nearly forty presentations in Ohio and Michigan and my performance was never addressed; I was never told my scores were too low. The only communication the company had with me was to give the address, date and time of my next presentation.

I honestly thought the company averages were purposely inflated to motivate us! If there are speakers with this company that can get nines and tens out of obnoxious high schoolers, then more power to them! I would gladly admit that I suck and sheepishly step aside, but it’s just so hard to believe! It takes a lot of “good kids” giving you great scores to balance out the bastards that would give absolutely anyone a one or two just to be an ass.

Then, there is the point person – the counselor, principal or sometimes a teacher who is dealing with giving the ACTs, screening kids for drugs and guns, consulting the latest pregnant freshman, oh yeah, and maybe remembering that you’re there to give a presentation… I once totally bonded with a counselor, she praised me and my presentation… then I got my scores from her – fucking sevens. Sevens! Some educators just won’t give an A+ or in my case, a ten.

They also used the excuse that LA is a tougher market and if I was “challenged in Ohio…” Challenged? I never had an incident or complaint and my scores were not that far below average! I just can’t believe this company thinks they could better train someone new than tweak my performance. Not to mention the fact that I'm not getting a free plane ticket home for the fall training, as the headquarters are in Ohio.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to try to get fired on purpose, like George on Seinfeld; this is my first time getting canned and it's certainly not fun. I loved this job and thought I was amazing at it! I just keep reminding myself of what a casting director recently told my acting class, "you're nobody until you've been fired!"


So what do you do in California when you’re pissed off and in tears? You take your laptop to the pool, that’s what you do!

BUT – I was an extra at a fancy event last night, which meant I had to carry a tiny purse that only my car key would fit in. Having separated my keys, I grabbed the wrong set. So here I am, a bikini-clad hot mess with only a car key, cell phone, lap top and towel. No shoes. No apartment key.

My super is home, so I can get back into my apartment without any trouble, but what a shitty day!


Oh good grief, then when I tried to post this, blogger was down.
I know, I know, I’m in a fucking swimming pool right now, life is good. I could be a starving child in a third world, war torn country…

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sorry folks, as most of you probably realize, I have other blogging obligations this week! ;)

I don't know how people do it - I've been swamped and I'm not even doing that much! I can't wait for a nice relaxing day to catch up on my blogging here!

My first day on the job as a tour guide was last Saturday; I gave three tours and got a dollar tip for my first! Wednesday I was a paid audience member for the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and I worked a again yesterday, giving four tours. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it's so exhausting being out in the hot sun and I'm still working on getting my speaking endurance back up.

In the coming days I have two auditions and my final three performances for the short musical festival. Until then...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Desk Debacle

As I’ve mentioned before, I moved to LA with only what I could fit in my car.

No bed.
No dresser.
No desk.
No tables.
No sofa.
Not even a lamp...

I packed in a few small trunks and plastic drawers that could double as storage and decoration, but I had a lot of purchases to make. As I mentioned briefly before, those purchases were a major emotional undertaking!

I became a mental case – one moment thinking, “I have to have a mattress. That’s a basic need,” then the next moment, “But the money I have saved will be gone after just a couple months rent! I can sleep on my roommate’s air mattress for a while longer…”

Then after deciding I was going to buy something, I went from, “I deserve nice things, I’m going to use this every single day.” To thinking, “I should go the cheapest possible route. I could get a mattress off Craiglist… Hopefully the $100 price tag doesn’t mean someone was murdered on it…”

I am extremely thrifty. I love my TJMaxx and Big Lots and I manage to sniff out the deals no matter where I am. So, as I’ve expressed previously, not being able to find the stores I know, or know the stores that are here is insanely frustrating! I spent hours online, trying to locate businesses and identify credible Craigslist deals.

Finally, after a month of going between an air mattress and small futon and feeling good about my final interview for the Tour Guide job, I decided I deserved a gawd damn mattress! In North Hollywood there’s a block with like four furniture stores, one was advertising $200 mattresses on Craigslist. I was skeptical of the quality and first went into a different store, in front of which I had parked. Al’s Discount Furniture. I was feeling simultaneously jubilant about recent successes and fed up with my sleeping situation to the point of apathy. In Al’s I was immediately “up sold” from a full to a queen. “They’re basically the same, so you may as well get a queen.” “Okay,” I blindly agreed, not questioning the fact that I thought they were exactly the same or asking what the price difference would be. The salesman showed me the cheapest mattress in the store and then one quite a bit better and $100 more. I was very blunt about my broke/new in town status and remained reluctant until I got a “for you” price for the better mattress. My boyfriend is a sales manager, so I know that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it was a cheaper quote than the display price.

I sent my boyfriend a text and tried to call him for a second opinion, but didn’t get an answer. I hated the feeling of uncertainty as I completed the transaction. I even joked with the sales guy, “I know I’m your dream customer,” meaning one who makes an instant purchase. I was a grown ass woman, buying something we all need, yet spending that much money made my stomach turn. Back in my car in front of the store I finally got my boyfriend on the phone; his first words were something like, “Why did you let them talk you into a queen?”

My reaction surprised me – I literally threw my precious Coach purse (which had been gifted to me, of course) across my car and screamed “GAWD DAMN IT” as tears welled up in my eyes.

Three thousand miles away and very perplexed, my boyfriend tried to make sense of me, and again, even I was taken aback by my actions. Sure, we all get mad and cuse sometimes, but to literally scream and throw a values possession? What the hell? I haven’t reacted in such an immature manner since childhood.

When it comes to negotiable transactions, there is certainly added pressure not to be taken by the salesperson, since I’m with one and know their tricks. That, compounded by my own genetic tight-ass-ness and self-imposed stress about making the right decisions led to a major breaking point.

As it turns out, I got the mattress, box springs and delivery for like $300 less than it sells for in a department store. But, at that moment, I felt compelled to walk to the store I had originally planned to go to. The fact they were selling mattresses for $200 was not surprising – the place was a complete dump. I would never want to sleep on anything from there. However, I did want a lone desk sitting by the door.

The salesman was very aloof, as I held his Griffin Terrier, I even wondered if he was “slow.” He quoted me either $150 of $195 for the white, made to look antique, hutch style desk, with drawers on the bottom half and shelves in the hutch. I said thank you and left, certain I could find something cheaper. The other stores on the block were equally shitty, making me feel better about my mattress purchase.

I continued checking Craigslist unsuccessfully for a desk and finally decided to take a trip to IKEA. Ah, IKEA. I had heard such wonderful things about it from everyone… and the little bit of me that’s not German is Swedish! My experience, however, is not one I will soon repeat.

At this point, I was looking for lamps, bedding and a desk. The trouble with IKEA is that it’s mainly made up of vignettes, small displays with everything a room would need set up for you to marvel at. That means there isn’t a specific section of lamps, or rugs, for example, to compare prices and styles. You have to have a very good memory or go back and forth from display to display. What a great marketing tactic; I’m sure some people see a display they like and buy everything featured in it, but that is clearly not how I operate!

The bigger problem with IKEA was that it made me feel like a fucking rat in a maze! Unlike a normal store, where you can walk off the main aisle way and through a section, IKEA was basically one winding aisle. A quarter of the way in, I asked where the bathroom was; I had to completely backtrack, then go through the chaotic kids section and cafeteria.

I was hungry and exhausted and my patience was quickly becoming starved too, as the prices were not a low as everyone had made them out to be. Like a normal store, there was a large section of office furniture, none of which I liked. That was when I decided I was done. My feet hurt and I was getting the woozy feeling I often experience in a Super Wal*Mart.

I found an exit sign, but around the next corner, it said Dining instead… To make matters worse, there were children everywhere. Who brings their brats to shop for furniture and home goods? Then I realized I was on the second floor! Down a flight of stairs, the exit signs had completely disappeared. The amount of people around me and endless nature of the store had my head spinning. I was hot, weak and pissed. Finally, I saw a sales associate, and with absolutely no regard for the swarming children, I politely said, “Excuse me sir, GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.” Taken aback, the early twenty year old asked, “Um… are you going to buy anything?” “NO!!!!”

Thankfully there was a Starbucks in the bookstore across the street.

Between the coffee and fact that I didn’t have to move my car, I managed to drag myself into the adjacent Office Max. There, I realized what a great deal the white desk in the crappy NoHo furniture store was. Sure, you can get a computer desk for thirty bucks on Craigslist, but that’s not what I wanted. I have a laptop and use it in bed; I need a desk for storage and display purposes.

Not sure if I’d been quoted $150 or $195, I went back to the store and casually said, I’d take it, “$150, right?” This time, an older Asian gentleman waited on me. His English was bad and he seemed quite frazzled, so I kind of talked passed him to the first guy, who sat on one of the display couches with his shoes off watching TV with the dog. The Asian man left as we discussed delivery; he quickly returned to say I had to pay $250. I knew the desk had been custom made as part of a bedroom set that was not picked up; it was the last of the pieces to be individually sold; apparently it had been the Asian guy’s deal.

I argued briefly with him, “I don’t understand sir, it clearly has 3 inches of dust on it…I’m willing to give you something for it.” He was belligerent and I left. My spirits were broken, knowing I could not find anything I liked as well for as good of a price. As I crossed the intersection, the first guy and his dog pulled up, telling me, “He’s just an asshole; comeback when he’s not here and I’ll sell it to you.”

On three separate occasions he failed to deliver it on our agreed upon time. He never returned my calls and countless times the angry Asian man would answer and I’d have to say “No, you can’t help me, I’d call back.” I even went so far as to have my roommate get a quote on it. The angry Asian told her $299, and that it was originally $500!

In the mean time I had sat the long cardboard box my boyfriend had sent my electric piano in across my decorative trunk and set of plastic drawers. I covered it with a blanket that did not compliment my bedding; if I flipped the blanket up and folded a flap down, there was storage inside. I used Styrofoam from my printer and lamp boxes to enforce the ends so my printer and orchid could sit on top. At first I was so proud of myself. Damn, I’m resourceful! It worked, but it was not ideal, convenient or attractive.

As time passed, I went from proud to depressed. Really? My very existence is a small business, yet I was using a fucking cardboard box as a desk! I knew moving here meant a lot of sacrifices; I’ll gladly eat peanut butter and jelly everyday, but when it comes to organizing headshots and resumes and bills and receipts and scripts and pens and pencils and my stapler, my printer, my pictures, my books, my stationary, my plants… Using a cardboard box was fucking ridiculous!

So last week my boyfriend was in town; while I was at work I asked him to go check out a unique shelving unit I had found on Craigslist for $35. I had already checked and knew I could rent a pick-up truck for $20 for the day. $55 was the absolute cheapest option I had found for something I actually liked. If my printer would fit on it, it would serve the function of storage and display.

My boyfriend reported that it was very heavy and nearly 7 feet tall. “Excellent!” I thought, that makes $35 an even better deal! However, my beau was concerned about getting it up the stairs to my place and that fact that once we put gas in the pick-up, the ordeal would be more expensive than I thought. “Yes, but still less than anything else…”

One of the most difficult things about a distance relationship is that you can’t help one another; you can only be there with words, which often times doesn’t do much good. Once again having the temporary ability to fix things for me, my beau insisted we could surely find something else somewhere else. I know his intentions were well meaning, but my mood was immediately soured. As if I hadn’t looked everywhere there was to look… As if I hadn’t spend hours online… As if it was my fault that they wouldn’t fucking deliver me what I wanted!

So I insisted on showing him the desk they wouldn’t deliver me. Other boxes were piled on top of it, making its size and details difficult to see. Just like my roommate, my boyfriend’s reaction was that it was not worth the money. “Are you kidding me? Have you been to an office store ever in your life?” For $150 at Office Max you don’t even get a drawer!

As we drove to Target to see their at-home-assembly pieces I cried. I cried! First over a mattress and now over a stupid desk! The whole process had just been ten times harder than it ever should be and I couldn’t believe we were wasting part of his visit on that! I was seriously offended that now two people had disagreed with the value of the only piece I had found and liked. As I already knew, the options at Target were more expensive with less storage, and in my opinion, a lower quality. So we dropped it…

LAX is some 14 miles from my apartment; it’s “over the hill,” as we say here in The Valley. Near the airport my interest was peaked by a Big Lots that looked ten times nicer than the one in NoHo that I’ll not go back to and an Office Depot, which I didn’t think LA had. After dropping him off, I suppressed my sadness by going to both stores.

The Office Max had a pile of at-home-assembly Sauder’s desks, as in Sauder’s of Archibald Ohio, originally $99 to $129 marked down to $15. I shit you not! FIFTEEN DOLLARS! There were six or seven styles of desks; again, they were computer desks with limited storage, but I knew instantly one would be going home with me! Luckily, the most stylish desk, with a dark cherry finish and silver hardware had two small shelves and two doors for hidden storage, as well as a matching two-drawer filing cabinet. So for thirty bucks I finally got my storage and display area! My beau can have his credit for fixing my situation, since I would have never been near that store if not for him. The desk came in a box that was probably five feet tall, but only four or five inches thick and was 80 pounds; it barely fit in my car and luckily neighbors helped me carry it upstairs.

Never mind the pride of turning a cardboard box into a desk, I was so impressed with myself that I completely and successfully assembled both pieces in a few hours. Check the pieces out here and here. Can you believe I got those for $15 each!?!

I know this isn’t the most interesting or entertaining blog entry, but it’s an experience worth recording. As I keep saying, everything is just more difficult here and this is a classic example. Not to mention that it finally marks a sense of completion for me. I’m no longer sleeping on an air mattress or living out of a suitcase or cardboard box. Sacrificing and being resourceful is an attribute of successful people, but I think actually having resources and organization from which to work will allow me to be even more successful!

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Survived My Weekend!

I have had the most exhausting past few days!

Lots of work.
Three performances.
Little sleep.

I'm not scheduled to work this coming week, but have acting classes Monday and Tuesday nights; I plan to follow the call-in procedure to possibly pick up extra shifts at work, but am really looking forward to a few days to relax! I'll be able to catch-up by writing about my first day on the job as a tour guide, going postal over postcards and finally resolving a desk debacle...

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm so tired!!!

9 a.m. to 5p.m.: Work (Safety training... ugh!)
6 p.m.: Musical rehearsal for a stand-in actor
8 p.m.: 7th of 12 shows

8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Work (My first day of giving real tours!!!)
8 p.m.: Musical

2 p.m.: Musical
Later: Rehearsal with my acting class scene partner...
When am I going to memorize those lines?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm Officially a Universal Studios Tour Gude!

This morning I passed my certification and am now officially a Universal Studios Tour Guide!

I tested in the first of three groups and was randomly selected to do the very beginning of the tour, which is probably my least favorite... Nevertheless, our entire group of eight passed. Another group will test this afternoon and the final "guidelings" will go on Thursday.

Everyone else in my group got a long lunch and were then getting wardrobe, ID photos and such this afternoon. Luckily, they let me leave early and I'll do all that on Thursday. Instead I'm spending time with my visiting boyfriend. So why am I blogging...?


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Feeling like a kid again... and not in good ways.

Earlier this week I felt like a college student again...

Tuesday night I found myself at an iconic diner downtown in the wee hours of the morning, having gone to karaoke night with acting classmates again. Wednesday night I pulled an all-nighter studying Tour Guide material since we had to be "off book" Thursday. It was just like college - I'd always procrastinate all day long, then get the energy and motivation to write papers or speeches around 10 p.m. and then stay up all night getting it done. Surprisingly, I was fine at training all day Thursday, I'd even argue that running on the adrenalin of no sleep made me better than normal.

I know, I know... it's not healthy and it's not a habit I plan to get into. It really came back to bite me yesterday when I worked all day then had to get to the second weekend of my show. We didn't rehearsed this week, so everyone was a little rusty and energy is low because our audiences are pretty small. So if anyone is in the LA area, please look up "The 10s" and come see it!

After the show I had to rehearse one of the musicals I'm in because we're switching from a live pianist to recorded accompaniment. The composer recorded a faster tempo for pretty much everything, so I fear tonight will be really rough!

My onstage boyfriend, who is in both shows I'm in, and I tried to meet up with another cast mate and her boyfriend for food, but had no luck. You'd think in any big city that things would be open late, but at 11 p.m. on a Friday, all the kitchens were closed. Unlike NYC, LA goes to sleep early, so we went back to the onstage b-fs place instead.

Talk about feeling like a college student - He recently moved into a house with a couple other roommates, one of whom has tons of gorgeous inherited antiques. I felt like I was in a mature atmosphere again, as opposed to my unfinished living area that has only a love seat and no dining table, or my bedroom where I'm using a cardboard box as a fucking desk and my bedding which was a sale brand usually targeted for teens and dorm rooms.

Being back in a home, with complete furnishings, a new washer and dryer and pets made me feel so empty and depressed. At the same time though, I was so excited to be hanging out with great new people. After we had gone country line dancing at the gay bar last Friday, I had joked with my real boyfriend that "Operation make _____ and _____ my new best friends" was moving along nicely! All joking aside, I can't stand feeling this way - like a nerdy looser who just wants someone to like them. I've never had a lot of friends, especially female friends, but I have always had a serious boyfriend to spend my time with so the lack of other friends didn't really matter. Since my boyfriend isn't here though, I am experiencing a longing for companionship that I haven't felt since adolescence.

It's a feeling I do not enjoy. Especially last week when I thought I had really fucked up my friendship with my onstage b-f... After last Saturday's show I was getting in my car to leave and two little girls from another show ran out to me, "Can we ask you a question?"

"Sure," I replied with a smile, since the adoration of little girls is something that is normal to me. "Are you and that guy really boyfriend and girlfriend, like in real life?"

I laughed and in a very "Karen Walker" ala Will and Grace tone I said, "Oh honey, he's gay!" After a short moment of surprise the girls joked that all the nice and cute boys are alway gay... as if they'd already experienced it.

The next day I was eager to tell my onstage b-f the "funny story," actually I had wanted to call him after it happened, but restrained. My heart sank when instead of laughing he just looked at me and said, "You outed me to ten year olds?"

"Well I thanked them," I backpedaled, "because we must be convincing onstage." To which he quiped, "They're ten, they'd think anyone who kissed were together."

I, of course, apologized profusely, "I'm so sorry... I guess I wasn't thinking, I thought it was funny and it just came out..." Adding in a last line of defense, "I think they're more like twelve and they're theatre kids in LA, so it's not like they don't know what gay is!"

In Ohio, people who know me know I'm extremely sensitive to race, sexuality and religious issues. I believe in complete equality; though I was raised in a small conservative town, my nephews and niece are all bi-racial and one of my brothers is gay, so I can't stand bigotry. That being said, among certain groups of friends certain types of jokes were understood... Here in LA, I feel like my values and what I thought I knew about myself are unraveling. IE: the post about the Hispanic construction workers in North Hollywood and now this gay issue...

I feel like people are getting the wrong impression and I keep putting my foot in my mouth about issues that I'm usually on the other side of! I want to say, "It's cool, my brother's gay and I appreciate the beauty and sexuality of everyone...and I never want to get legally wed in part because the marriage laws in this country are bullshit..." But I can't, and won't say that, until it comes up organically because I know how naive it sounds. It's like claiming you can use the N-word because you have "a black friend." No. No, you can't.

Anyway... hanging out last night made everything seem okay again. Of course, anytime your feet are dipped in a backyard pool that feels like bathwater, with a six week old pug puppy on your lap, life is good.

What makes life even better is that my boyfriend is flying into LA tonight! I have to rush from my show to the airport and he'll be staying until Wednesday afternoon. Thank goodness! I can stop feeling like a kid who needs friends and live in the normalcy of sharing my life with my one true companion... at least for a few days.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Random Hilarity I found on the Web!

I'm clearly procrastinating... I should be studying all things Universal, but instead I'm watching:
The Big Debate: Heidi VS Tyra

Two minutes of funny! Click and laugh people, click and laugh!

Nevermind the Fire, Universal Studio Tour Guide Trainees are about to Combust!

To be a Universal Studios Tour Guide you have to pass a certification test, which is no big deal because you're given three weeks of paid training.

We (the trainees) all naively assumed our test would happen on our last day of training, the looming Friday the 13th of June!

Imagine our shock, when yesterday we were told the following:

The trainers will be dividing us into a "strong half" and a "weaker half." We'll find out which half we're in this Friday or coming Monday.

This coming Tuesday, the strong half will have their test while the weaklings get more practice. (We don't have training Wednesday.) The weak half will test on Thursday and those who have already tested have an optional day of pay to just come play in the theme park and take the tour. If you test on Tuesday and don't pass can you try again on Thursday? I don't know.

For those who pass, Friday the 13th is a required day of safety crap.

It's a double edge sword - no one wants to be deemed "the weak half," but at the same time having to test Tuesday is a whole lot sooner than any of us expected! We were all surprised they were so blunt about it, but the fact is that they can't test all 22 of us in one day and they really do want and need everyone to pass, so this gives people who need it a little extra time.

The fellow trainees I've talked to all agree with me that it would have been nice to know this sooner. We would have been working a little harder, but it's our own faults for assuming the test would be the very last day of training.

I have to admit, I'm really stressed out! I am incredible competitive, so being in the weaker half is simply not an option! However, I have three performances this weekend and my boyfriend is visiting Saturday night to Wednesday. I had wanted to take a half day off of training to spend more time with him on Monday or Tuesday, but it doesn't look like that's an option anymore. :(

I need to study my ass off now... If you need me, my nose will be in a binder that's 3 inches thick, filled with everything you ever wanted to know about NBC Universal history, films and TV shows.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Universal Studios Hollywood: Before and After

Touring the Metropolitan sets Friday;
I believe this was New England Street.

Photos taken today from the tram:

I never went through this area in the tram because things were always filming; Friday we couldn't actually take pictures of or walk down New York Street due to a soda commercial. As we quickly crossed an intersection, I did snap this shot; it was the only fire-proof facade among the Metropolitan sets because controlled fires were set in it for the movie "Legal Eagle."

Here's a shot of the backlot taken from the Universal Starway, copied from Wikipedia. (The Starway is five stories of escalators taking you from the park down to the front lot.)

Here's my photo taken today of the backlot from the Starway.

The roofless building was the King Kong attraction sound stage; the large red brick building is the previously mentioned fire-proof "Legal Eagle" building. The large building next to it is the "Clock tower" from "Back to the Future" and "Ghost Whisperer;" contrary to news reports, it's still standing - obviously! The other facades left standing are part of Court House Square.

The Media Fans the Flames!

By this morning papers in England were reporting that Universal Studios Hollywood had completely burnt to the ground!

Well, I am dead tired from working there all day, so it's definitely still standing. Many specifics and the overall enormity of the Universal fire were inaccurately reported.

I do know how the fire started, but being a blogging insider is not worth my job... I'm sure it will come out in due time. I will confirm it did start on a sound stage, but it had nothing to do with something filming.

I will tell you this:

* Only 1% of the lot was burnt.

* The theme park, City Walk, Studio Tour and most sound stages were business as usual today.

* With the exception of the "Legal Eagle" building, New York and New England Streets were destroyed.

* Only two of four sides of Court House Square (where Ghost Whisperer currently films) was burnt. Contrary to reports, the Back to the Future "clock tower" is still standing. Furthermore, the building just looks like a court house for Ghost Whisperer and the recognizable eve and clock are stored elsewhere.

* Reports said the King Kong attraction was partially damaged; in fact, it is completely destroyed.

* Reports said thousands of patrons were turned away; only about 800 (on the high end) waited around for the park to open; they all received free passes.

* Some reports said Wisteria Lane, Whoville and the Bates Motel and Psycho house were all effected - that is completely inaccurate. I rode past all that three times today on the tram.

* Reports said lacking water pressure hindered the firefighters; the water pressure was fine.

* While plowing trenches for the water to run through a gas line was hit, causing the reported explosion and injury eight firefighters.

* Absolutely no irreplaceable TV or Film footage was lost.

* In 1990 New York Street also burnt; this is slightly worse since it took King Kong this time; in '90 the sets were rebuilt in three months.

* Stephen Spielberg was on the lot in flip-flops and a baseball cap to do what he could... not sure what that means, but he was there. My bosses said all the big-wigs were there and everyone looked like bums, having thrown on whatever was lying on the floor and rushing out the door!

I have pictures, both from my walking tour Friday and of the destruction today that I will share soon.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I started getting texts from Ohio in the 6 a.m. hour that Universal Studios Hollywood was on fire!

No, I was not there, so yes, I am fine. No, this will not effect my job.

The ironic thing is that Friday when I took the walking tour we stood on New England Street, one of the destroyed areas, and talked about the last time there was a fire. They're not all that uncommon. The tour guide director spoke specifically about how easy it is for New York and New England Street to go up in flame because there's just facades made of rubber and wood.

The day of the last fire they still ran the tours. The set will be rebuilt to look exactly the same very quickly.

The news video reports that it started in a sound stage; it looks to me like it's the stage that houses the earthquake attractions, one of a half dozen "animations" included on the tour. It closed recently and was scheduled to be down for a month for refurbishments.

I'll know what happened for sure when I go to work tomorrow...