Monday, June 30, 2008

Pilgrims, Partners and Poo

It seems I’ve somehow orchestrated two weeks in LA as far from reality as possible. After a week of house-sitting in swanky Calabasas (Spanish for “Rich People Live Here.”) (No, just kidding. Spanish for “Pumpkins,” say my sources.) my law-intern boyfriend Josh and I continued on down Route 5 for a weekend retreat with his swanky downtown law firm at the swanky resort, the St. Regis.

Now let me just say, this is the girl that spent her formative years picking sand out of her bathing suit at the Jersey Shore. The coast that defined public beach. Actual excrement has as much chance of washing up beside your sandcastle as the average amount of dead jellyfish. If you’re lucky, they’ll be a hypodermic needle stuck in it. The St. Regis scoffs at the public. They drive their tram car all over it, douse it in noontime mai tais, and drop on top a bedtime chocolate wrapped up to look like a butterfly.

Anyway. What matters here is that our heroine, the smell of Jersey and showtunes lingering on her, spent three days with very, very, very, very wealthy people. Most of whom were lawyers. It was like that one black olive that somehow makes it’s unfortunate way to the ranch dressing bin at a salad bar, leaving an inky marinated trail behind it. Fortunately, everyone was warm and welcoming, generous and, on the whole, at least pretended to be interested in an actress amongst their midst.

But then: The Observation. At the culminating sit-down dinner event, when talk stuttered after chatter about equestrian clubs and golf and daughters in law/medical/estrogen-intense private schools, the attention was turned…to me. The black olive. When it was revealed I was the lone actor, The Observation was made by one of the partner’s wives:

“That is a really, really difficult profession. I mean. Really difficult. Good luck with that.”

Aiiiieee! This is about the most obvious thing you could possibly say to me. Even starlets discovered in outlet malls, one hand in the discount panty bin, figure this out. Even Paris Hilton knows this. I KNOW THIS.

While hungover the next day from way too much open bar vodka-love, I lay on our king-size bed and obsessed over The Observation. Why do people feel the need to underline the challenge of my particular profession? They did this in New York too, they probably do it everywhere, but maybe the high concentration of aspiring stars in LA makes People Not in the Business feel they are warranted warning others from joining the fray. But, I mean, I don’t go up to partners in law firms, or neurosurgeons, or janitors or that poor woman who makes ALL the lattes at my Starbucks and offer a sympathetic caution, “You’re doing something really hard. Really. Hard.” Well, YEAH.

Is that a reason to stop doing it? Isn’t that what boy scouts and marching band and contact sports teaches us as children? If we aspire to something challenging, we should go after it. Get better at it, get great. Isn’t that the whole Puritan spirit? Did the pilgrims at Plymouth land on Massachusetts, look around at all those freaking rocks they’d have to plow out of their fields, realize they’d have to make maize into, like, 400 different kinds of oatmeal for the rest of their lives, and probably watch some of their offspring get cholera and die, and then go, “Eh, you know what? Let’s just go back to religious persecution. It looks like living here is gonna be ye olde difficult.”

Well, here I am on the West Coast, a pilgrim from a strange urban land, and I realize I’m committing myself to a difficult profession. Just like I did when I graduated NYU two years ago and found a rent job to support my Reproductions habit, just like I did when I went to NYU in the first place. I have never not known this was a difficult profession, in all ways, but I liken myself to those transplanted Pilgrims, because, like Nathaniel Hawthorne and his kin, I have no choice. I can’t turn around. This is what I am good at, what I can be better at. This is what I choose to do, even though I know it will A) potentially never give me total financial satisfaction or B) ever stop being hard. I know that.

So, I answered the partner’s wife, before taking a big sip of my company-paid Chardonnay, “I’d rather take a challenge than be bored. I’d rather it be hard.”

My career is like the Jersey Shore, if you will. You might have to dodge some needles and poop, but once you swim out far enough, the water feels so good. As good as the water on a private beach on the Pacific.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This is Not a Real Place (Yet)

So, boys and girls. Welcome to Calabasas.

I'm house and dogsitting here in North LA (is it north? Is it even technically LA?) for my boyfriend's cousins while they vacation in Hawaii, but this is no ordinary house. No, no, people, this house, and its neighboring mansions are not houses at all, but temples of pleasure.

This house is downright palatial. Britney Spears is moving in across the street. I can see in the windows of her South Wing. (Again, guessing with the directions.) I take my mornings bathing beneath waterfalls and slipping down the waterslide into the tiled blue pool. I retreat to alcoves of pillows to relax in sweet air-conditioned bliss. My shower has a glass wall, and a stone bench, in case I tire of standing. If, heaven be shamed, I get bored...I just stop wherever I am, pick up the nearest remote and watch one of the many flat-screen televisions featuring hundreds of channels.

This is not my life.

The house I grew up in had four bedrooms, a kitchen, and a 1/2 acre of dirt to play in. We had one refrigerator, and until I was old enough to date, you had to get up to change the channel. You took your hand and had to twist a knob on the TV. The effort. We didn't even have stairs. None. We lived in a "ranch house." Made for easy escape if your domicile burns to the ground. This Calabasas house is unusual in the neighborhood because it doesn't have an elevator.

Again, not my life.

Not to say this can't be my life, or that I cannot aspire to owning enough money to warrant desiring and actually affording a home like this one. But being in this line of work, being an actor, really forces me to humble myself to accept I probably will never actually live in this house. I probably will be able to afford cheap rents in skeezy-ish neighborhoods before they're artsy cool, and I'll probably prey on innocent renters on Craigslist for an apartment here in LA when I move in October. I look forward to years more of sharing not just common rooms, but bedrooms with other starvin' artists, sharing not only Netflix rentals, but Ramen noodle bowls as well, highlighting in the newspaper not only job opportunities but obituaries too, to remind myself to check out their sidewalks later to score some dead people's free furniture.

Sigh. The life of an actor. My life.

It's okay though. I don't need to live here. I need to work hard. I want to work hard. I want to move across this honking big country because I want to work. If I could figure out something else to do that would allow me to buy a house at all, I would do that! But I can't. In my lowest times, I've sobbed into my checkbook, "Why can't I just be happy as a bank teller?!" Plenty of banks, plenty of jobs. I look great in blue and red. (Those are the colors of my bank, Commerce. They always seem so happy.) Alas, I'm no teller. Unless you count being a storyteller, haha! Oh God, the smell of maid-cleaned appliances is getting to me. I'm serious. There's a maid lurking behind me right now, 409 in hand.

So, Los Angeles. I don't know what I'm doing yet. I'm enjoying the sunshine today, and hoping in October, when I'm here for reals, acting jobs will abound and money will flow, Commerce Bank will love me, and I'll get the work I want to give me the money I deserve so I can live in a palace like this. With an elevator.