Sunday, January 26, 2003

I woke up this morning and thought I was in Los Angeles. I had dreamt that I was at Teuscher Chocolates and that Kiefer Sutherland was about to serve me my mocha. I told him that "24" had been robbed at the Golden Globe awards, and he thanked me. Though the dream was very real and he was a celebrity, I was very at ease talking to him and being myself, much like I was when the celebrities came into the store at the Barnes and Noble in Calabassas, or asked me directions such as when James Woods pulled up beside me when I lived in West Hollywood and asked me how to get to Robertson Blvd.

I was almost drunk with disorientation as I stumbled out of bed and got out of the wrong side of it, meaning that I egressed on the left side instead of my usual right side, and wandered aimlessly around my bedroom, looking forward to the mocha that Chris the coffee cutie was going to make for me when I got to Teuscher. The treasures of Los Angeles were at my fingertips, and I was excited at my choices.
Me writing in my journal at Teuscher in Beverly Hills. Delicious mocha and carrot cake sits on the table. Angela Ueber, one of the baristas there snapped my picture at my request. It was one of my favorite places, and I wanted to remember it the exact way that I enjoyed it.

Then I realized I was in Baltimore, and that Los Angeles was more than 3000 miles away. Though I am content with my move here, it was a sad feeling that stuck with me the rest of the day. I was sad that the things that were familiar and friendly to me were not so easily in my reach. I was sad that I wasn't going to enjoy a day in the sun, sitting at Teuscher and watching Beverly Hills walk by.

This was all I wanted today. My mocha, my usual table, and a warm day at my favorite coffee shop.

I did do something "Los Angeles" today though. There is a movie that is going to film here in town and I went to sign up as an extra. I don't know if I will do it, but I wanted to be in the running if the opportunity arose and I was willing. It's a movie called "Ladder 49" starring Joaquin Phoenix and reportedly John Travolta. It was funny going to this cattle call, and I purposely chose to go on Sunday due to the Superbowl, looking at all the people who had really dressed up for the occasion. Extra work is not glamorous, and the casting directors are looking for background, not stars. You don't want to go in looking like a bum, but it's not wise to overdress, either. It screams "amateur" at the casting people.

The crew was extremely organized, getting us through in about thirty minutes. When I saw that the door was closed upon my arrival, my stomach sank, wondering if I'd put myself in for a couple hour ordeal. Thankfully it wasn't, and once we were inside and seated in the auditorium, the Polaroids and paperwork went quickly. Of course, a man with horrible body odor sat right next to me. I'd smelled him as I walked through the door, and was extremely pissed off when he plopped his ass right beside me. I really, for the first time almost told him, "ya know, I'm going to have to move. You stink." But, I didn't.

The casting director stood up on the stage, introduced himself and told us the drill, then asked if anyone if they had any questions. One woman demanded to know where they would be shooting, and he said they didn't know yet, but that it would be the downtown Baltimore area. She persisted, and he repeated what he said, then looked away from her and mouthed the word "ooooooookaaaaaaay" slowly, indicating that she was a looney. The crowd laughed, and she deserved it. I wanted to take off my boot and throw it at the back of her head, the stupid idiot. Shaddup already and get a clue. And stop wasting everyone's time. Come to think of it, she was probably one of our customers at Barnes and Noble.

He asked if anyone had anymore questions, and some people wanted to know what they were going to get paid and when the filming was going to start. Or, if they could leave their headshots instead of have a Polaroid taken. The answer to that was no, that they wanted a picture that looked like you, and most headshots do not look like the people they belong to. Stinky wrote down everything the casting director said as if it was going to be on a pop quiz when we got up to the stage to have our pictures taken.

Behind me a girl chattered about the film industry as if she knew about it firsthand. She didn't. She was a film student at an obscure university in Baltimore, from what I could tell, and not a very informed one. She blathered loudly about how you have to start in the film industry young, which is bullshit. You start when you start, it's your drive, luck and hard work that get you where you are. Cathy started at the age of thirty, I think, and she is now the Key Second AD on the West Wing. She also mentioned that if she were on set that she'd be asking all the camera men where they went to film school. Their answer to her would be, "Fuck U." There's nothing worse on a set than an extra who doesn't know their bounds and bothers the crew. They have a job to get done, and pesky extras are a major irritant.

After a few minutes, they had us walk up on stage one by one, first stopping to get our photos taken and then handing our paperwork to the person at the table who stapled the Polaroid onto it. My picture wasn't half bad. We then walked to the last table, where the casting director sat and collected the paperwork and met everyone briefly. Perhaps it was my dream that I'd had that morning, but when I got to the table and he asked me if I was having fun, I told him, "Yes. I'm from LA and I'm homesick, so I wanted to do this."

"Really?" he perked up, "What part?" I told him West Hollywood and we compared our cross streets. There's something that always happens to me when I get into situations where I feel that I'm being judged on my physical attributes. My voice gets smaller and I become shy. Had I met this guy at a party, all would be fine.

However, in situations such as this where I'm unfamiliar with the people, I always choke. The person that can just be me hides behind the image she feels is being judged, leaving what I feel is a vacuous uninteresting presentation. I get frustrated with myself, simply because that tiny voice stifles the larger one that I have, much like hooking a garden hose up to a fire hydrant. It's almost like test anxiety, where you know the answers but can't get past the first question.

I wish that I could be comfortable with both attributes being appreciated at the same time, but I'm not. Like I said, it's that internal fight between the demure doormat who hopes to be noticed and a confident person who says, "Here I am, both above and below the neck."

I haven't yet figured out how to be a happy medium of both.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

I'm in.

My apartment, that is. I'm finally physically in after several weeks of moving in, unpacking, going to Ikea and buying storage furniture such as wardrobes and bookshelves, lugging those items up a flight of stairs with the help of my mom and stepdad. The first bookcase I took up the stairs myself, and came close to being a candidate for the Darwin awards. "Shit Doesn't Roll Uphill. -- Stupid girl pinned under bookshelves twice her weight after trying to carry them up a flight of stairs," would be the caption. My legs look like someone took a bullwhip to them, black and blue from resting heavy boxes full of stacked Ikea furniture parts on them when I couldn't go any further. That, or dropping them on myself and pushing with all my might to get it up one more step. Why, when I always think that I'll avoid arduous physical labor, does it always end up being the worst? I am experienced at moving, but with every apartment I always need something and the burly guys I paid to take things up the stairs are long gone. In this case, it was bookshelves. And, they kicked my ass. Yeah, that's right. I got served a can of whoop-ass from some Ikea bookshelves.

The fatigue that my body is experiencing from continued overexertion is taking a toll on my attitude at work. That, and the stress of knowing that I was moving in today. Yet another change. It's exacerbating an adjustment problem that I've had with the customers. As I've said before, they aren't the brightest bulbs on the planet. They are a complete change from the customers that I encountered in Calabassas. The problem is, that when I was seventeen, I bolted out of my hometown to get away from people like this. Now, I'm encountering them on a daily basis. I thought that I could handle it, just shut my eyes and ears to them, but I can't deny that it is taking a toll on me. The constant deadpan, humorless, dense, uneducated, and okay, I'll go ahead and say it, fat and ugly clientele. And yes, I know that isn't nice to say. It feels even worse to think such things. To put it into perspective of why these mean thoughts surface, a coworker of mine was walking by an obese couple who were looking at our "Lord of the Rings" display that we had up for the holidays. She overheard the man say to the woman, "Look, they have all four books here," to which she responded by chastising him, "What do you mean? They can't have all four books out, since there are only TWO movies out." I'm glad I didn't hear that, as I don't know if I could have kept quiet. I may have suggested that they walk by our Harry Potter display where we had a special preview of the third and fourth books BEFORE the movies. Like I said, the people here don't read, except for romance novels and books about their ailments, most likely brought on by being overweight and smokers.

And what's worse, is they expect you to be as dumb as they are. In Los Angeles, the customers didn't assume that you were a nimrod, since a lot of people who work retail are pursuing other things. And, because the people there were not nimrods for the most part. I got asked about five times a day if I was a student, or a writer, since I worked in a bookstore. People came to me for suggestions for books and I was happy to share them. I was interested in the people who came into the store, and they were interested in being helped or would take suggestions. They weren't all perfect either, but again, Los Angeles was a land of dreamers, and the people reflected that.

So, I'm keeping the idea in the back of my head that another job may be the answer. I'm not planning anything right now, but if the daily exposure to the mullet people gets to where I can't stand it, I'm ok with finding something else. Perhaps a different store, perhaps a different job. I like my coworkers, but I can't be subjected to abject stupidity on a daily basis. It makes me an angry person, and I'm not an angry person. Depressed, yes. Pissed off, no.

At least not yet.

The snow God's have visited Baltimore again. The sky has sifted a steady helping of snow since noon today, and about six inches have accumulated. It's beautiful, and peaceful. A snow covered tree stands outside my window. Earlier, the neighbors were shoveling heaps of snow off their stoops and the sidewalks in front of their houses as their kids played alongside. This is the Baltimore I imagined, with snow covered Victorian rowhouses and me in my warm, big apartment with hardwood floors, high ceilings, and a marble fireplace mantle. I made this happen, because I believed in it. And though there are some things that are not perfect, this part is.