Sunday, June 27, 2004

Two weeks ago, we had a big party at our soundstage to benefit the Ella Thompson Fund, a charity that the creator of our show supports. It was a charity auction, and I donated an X-Files episode script that was autographed by Chris Carter as well as the DVD set of the 2nd season, from which that episode came. I already had the script, in fact had three of them from different episodes, and bought the DVD set to donate to the charity. I auctioned one script on eBay, donated this one, and have one left now. I'm not sure what to do with it. Keep it, or sell it.

I pulled out one of my ball gowns from Los Angeles to wear to the event. It's a timeless classic so still very much in style. No, not a dull, safe, simple black dress, but my gowns resemble Titanic wear, full length sheer beaded mesh over shimmery fabric, along with a beaded, sheer mesh shawl. They cost me a fortune, but it's been worth every penny. I could wear any of my gowns to the Oscars and feel completely dressed and in style for the occasion. When I buy gowns, I tend to dress on the elegant rather than trendy side, and my gowns are timeless, certainly not boring, and oh so feminine and sexy.

I wondered what it would be like going to a party like this in Baltimore. I'll say it was more sedated, people clumped more and mingled less. And yes, it was less glamorous. I found myself half there and half not, as I wasn't really very close with anyone yet, having just started the job a couple of months ago and only a couple people from my department were there. The sense of fun that I usually feel at such events was missing, perhaps because of the timing, but I don't think so. Ever since I've moved to Baltimore, I've felt completely disconnected from the place and people. I simply don't like it here. And, it's getting worse, not better. My eyes are on getting out of here, not on being here, and once I get into that mode, it's hard to get out. It will take a while, due to financial constraints, but the goal is there. I'm trying to focus on the "here," as best as I can for now, because it's not like I can just pick up and move.

I'd met some of the cast before, and met more of them that night. As the party wound down, Dominic West came over and sat with me and another Anne, (though her name is spelled without an e), and we all chatted a bit. Though his character is from Baltimore, he's British, and it was weird to hear his accent matched with his face. He was a bit hyper and funny, asking me about the research that I did for the show and saying he enrolled in a pottery class. I wasn't sure if he was kidding or not. I don't think he was.

In the middle of it, a woman plopped herself on his lap and he handled it really well. She had bid and won several items, including a package of things that his character would like. So, she earned a sit in his lap.

My mom and I were supposed to go to this together, but she opted out since it was right after grandmother. I was half in the mood to go, but thought that it would be good for me to get out. Like I said, half there and half not. Wondering how I was there in the first place and feeling completely ungrateful about it.

As I said, I did get "done up" for the event, as I always do. I love dressing up, even though I felt completely out of place driving through very unglamorous Baltimore in my unglamorous tree-dented Honda on the way there. The last time I put on that dress, I was driving through Los Angeles in my Audi TT Roadster to a very swank party in Beverly Hills. I was glad to have my Honda though, as I went to an after party at the first assistant director's house that was in a questionable neighborhood. The cast came along, and there we all were again. The cast and some of the crew of "The Wire" partying it up in a renovated rowhouse decorated with Ikea furniture. Again, I almost didn't go to the party, even though I was strongly encouraged by my coworkers. I just wasn't in the mood. However, sometimes that's the best time to go, when you aren't feeling like it. So I went. I didn't drink, and wasn't my usual social self. I was once again, wondering how I got in the middle of this party. I wasn't in the mood to schmooze or flirt, or make myself known. I was just taking everything in, not being shy but not being overly in everyone's face. I'd forgotten to put ice in my drink, and despite a coworker telling me to reach in the sink full of ice with my hand, I just couldn't, knowing that I'd pet a dog on the way from my car to the party. Dominic West scooped his cup in the ice in front of me, and without asking, I took his cup from him and poured his ice into my drink. "Would you like some more?" he asked, amused and a little taken aback. I said yes and he filled it up. It was pretty funny. Being a girl in a gown, sometimes you can get away with such things.

I stayed around for about an hour and a half, then decided to call it a night. I was tired, my bed was calling. I walked to my car, out of place in the rundown area in more ways than one. I stepped in strappy heels over broken sidewalks as the bass from the party raged on behind me.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Tonight is the service for my grandmother.

I think that in the last two days, it's sunk in that she's gone and I'm not going to see her again. I have no grandparents left of my mother's side, and now she doesn't have any parents. I was driving near the assisted living home where grandmother lived, and a sense of comfort washed over me knowing that she was there with all her little funny idiosyncrasies and her room decorated with pictures. It was immediately replaced by emptiness in realizing that was not the case, and that in her room the grandmother I remember, not the one that replaced her for the last few weeks of her life, was not there. In fact, she wasn't anywhere.

As I stepped out of the house this morning, trying to remember where I parked, I ran into Jim the landlord. We chatted, then I saw a woman walking her two German shepherds. She said, "I guess I'll see you tonight," and at first I didn't know what she meant, then recognized her. It was Martha, the rector of the church who will be performing the ceremony. I pet the dogs and talked to her, saying that I didn't recognize her out of frock. The church is located one block over from me, walking distance, so there will be no driving. I'm leaving work early today at 3:00, to help out beforehand. I'm going to try to fit in a nap between times, as I am in great need of one. Afterward, we all meet at my mom's house, then she and her brother will fly the ashes to Newport, Arkansas to be buried or scattered alongside my grandfather. I'm not sure which.

This is the same cemetery that is right next door to my grandmother's old house in Newport. Across the street from her and the cemetery was a vast cornfield. When I would visit, I used to play in that graveyard. We'd walk around, counting the lambs on the tombstones. Lambs meant that the deceased had been a child, a concept that was completely foreign to me. I remember saying that I wanted a lamb, not understanding the full context of what that meant. Not only would we count the lambs, but I'd have to touch each one. We'd search for the oldest person, or the person who had lived the longest ago. Reading the epitaphs on them. So many things to see, as people were as varied in their deaths as they were their lives. The largest tombstone, which was really a mausoleum-like structure that I would climb on top of was always a favorite stop. On a lot of the headstones, I'd trace my fingers inside the names carved in stone and clear dirt, cobwebs, or grass out of them. Willow trees loomed around us, their hanging branches sweeping the grassy lawn as wind, or spirits moved through them. It was a peaceful land of adventure for a child. When my grandmother didn't come with me, I'd say, "I'm going to the cemetery," and off I'd go, running around the stones and trying to find something new. Fresh graves, flower displays, new headstones or ones that I hadn't noticed. Darting in and out of stones that dwarfed me, jumping over the ones that I could. Seeing if my arms could fit all the way around the pylons. Sometimes I'd put my face on them to see if they were still warm from the sun, even though it was dusk. Laying on big slabs of marble, facing the sky as birds or crop dusters flew overhead, smelling freshly cut grass. I was lost in the world of those who had departed, but very much alive among them.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The store visited me last night.

That's right, the store visited me. I did not visit it.

I'll start this by saying that I never answer my phone. In fact, the last few years, I've grown to hate the thing. I'm not one to spend hours talking on it, a stupid device that I must hold to my ear in order to chit chat about the inane. I find a lot of times that it's an invasion in my home, ringing when I'm not in the mood, so I screen calls that I get. If the ID reveals that it's someone that I actually want to talk to, then I will pick up and talk. Save for few, for a very short time.

And that brings me to last night, when the caller ID revealed a wireless caller whose number I did not recognize, WHY I picked it up without letting the machine screen it, I have no idea.

When I answered, the last person that I expected was on the line. A seventeen-year-old girl (soon to be eighteen) whom I worked with at Barnes and Noble. We had a friendly relationship, even though she had clashed with most everyone at the store except for me and a few others. However, I was wise enough to know to keep her at a distance. No bonding, siding with her on gossip, much less believing her gossip, no lunch outings, just friendly chatter. I can recognize a drama queen a mile off, but this girl went way beyond that to a bonafide trauma queen.

As you gain wisdom, you learn to identify certain people whom you know not to get personally involved with. People who live their lives in a reckless, selfish manner and want to have as many people on board as they can when the train wreck happens.

As an example, within the couple months of her working at the store, she borrowed a coworker's car to drive to lunch and wrecked it before she even got out of the parking lot. The owner was also a teenage girl and didn't understand that you never, ever, lend your car out to anyone. Cars are lethal weapons. The trauma queen didn't have a license, insurance, and singularly drove the car into two parked cars right in front of the cafe. After which, she said "no problem, no problem, just send me the bill," and of course, stiffed the girl for any repairs. Luckily for them, the guy who was the owner of the second car was a scam artist with no insurance, and after unsuccessfully trying to scam the girls into paying him a few thousand dollars for a piece of shit that was held together with rubber bands and bubble gum, he went away. His car suffered minor damage, as did the brand new truck. The guy who owned the truck decided to go easy, I think and fixed it himself. The girl's car however, was damaged.

Before that, when she was really new, she involved me in her Halloween costume. I thought she was way older than she was, and on good faith and wanting someone to feel welcome, I lent her my vest that I'd incorporated into my Trinity costume the year before. My Prada vest, that is, from the flush days. After the holiday had passed as well as a couple of weeks, no vest. I asked her to return it several times. No vest appeared. So, the night came when she needed a ride home, and I said, "Sure, and you can run into your house and grab my vest." To which she responded crestfallen, "oh yes," she said, pause, "when you lent it to me I didn't realize it was Prada," in a voice that suggested she was disappointed that I'd remembered she had it. I dropped her off at her way out of the way house, and waited as she ran into get the goods. It was the last time that I gave her a ride home, even when she asked. I live downtown, and it already took me long enough to get home.

While I worked with her, there was always a drama, trauma, or all of the above going on. And usually, she'd involved a few other people in it. I also wasn't sure when she was being honest. So last night when she called to tell me that she'd been kicked out of her apartment after being arrested for assaulting her roommates, was staying in a hotel room that she didn't have the money for and was worried about getting kicked out at 11:00pm, and could I please call the hotel desk and plead her case to stay over one more night, I was frustrated. I spoke to the woman, asking what was going on, and she told me that the trauma queen had promised payment that day and didn't show up. I knew this was a ruse to get me to either pay for her room, or pick her up. Neither of which I offered. She was way out in Towson, and again, I'm downtown. Not going to happen. For a good friend, I'd be there in a second. But this girl isn't a good friend, and shouldn't be spending sixty dollars a night at a hotel. Did I feel for her? Sure. Was I going to rescue her? No. I told her to speak to the hotel lady, who in turn said she'd speak to her supervisor. When the trauma queen called me back, the police were in her room. I asked to speak to one of the officers, and told them that I wasn't a good friend, that I was actually surprised to get this phone call, and that she was an ex-coworker of mine who wasn't of age and needed help. I told them she was on the outs with her mother who lived in town, so if they could guide her to somewhere to stay, or find her mother and take her home, that would be great.

She kept telling me to come down there and let them imprint my credit card, but that was sure as hell not going to happen. During all this, the cops were going through her things, asking her questions, and telling her she had to leave. I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it, and had a feeling that she was calling me because she'd worn all her friendships thin with favors and figured I was fresh. While I was at Barnes and Noble, she was always on her cell phone, so I know that she has friends in town. Finally, a third phone call later, she was out on the street with her stuff, saying she was going to throw herself into traffic. I knew she wasn't, and I said, "go to a place that's open all night, and find somewhere to get inside." I still wasn't convinced that I was her only option, but she was working it really well. About two hours had passed since the first phone call, and I was growing irritated with her. She constantly repeated, "I don't know what to do," which translated into "come solve this for me." I couldn't. Not only that, I wouldn't. The mess she had gotten into was way beyond me. She had to be at Barnes and Noble at 8:30 in the morning, and I told her to find a police department, that once when I locked myself out of my apartment, couldn't reach the landlord and didn't want to spend $150 on a locksmith, I spent the night in one. It was half true. At one point, she asked, "And you can't come here because?" "I can't," I said. I then said that my phone was beeping being low on batteries, and that I'd offered all the suggestions and help that I could, but couldn't do anything further.

That night, I got two more phone calls from her that I didn't answer. One telling me to call a hotel for her. Another telling me to call her.

I didn't.

The next morning, I called Barnes and Noble and spoke to another ex-coworker who told me that she was there and on time. I did want to make sure that she was okay. I had a feeling that she'd think of something, or someone. I also called later that day and spoke to a manager about what had gone on, so they were aware that one of their employees was in trouble. They knew all about it, were shocked that she'd called me, and said that the people at the store are really struggling with her. Apparently, she's imposed on several people, or at least attempted to. I wasn't surprised.

I was online with a couple of friends via IM when I was on the phone with her and explained what was going on. One who was in Los Angeles, the other right next door. Both were telling me that I was doing the right thing. I have a pretty good instinct about things, and my gut feeling told me that saying no in this instance was right. There is always more to the story, and I knew I wasn't getting the whole picture. Especially after talking to the hotel lady.

I feel for this girl, but know that most her hardships were brought on by her careless actions. I also feel that she's gotten into the habit of taking people for granted and being manipulative because so far it's worked. I watched her in action when I worked with her and the clusterfucks that it created for her and others. This wasn't an, "I'm on hard times" phone call. It was a "fix it for me" phone call.

I can only hope that my saying no will resonate somewhat. It was good practice for me, as well.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

This is my 200th entry on Anne...straight from the hip. Normally, I wouldn't keep track, but Blogger's new layout lists the number of entries right beside your blog, and the number 199 just stuck right out. So, here it is, number 200. May I do it justice.

On Thursday, I made a trip out of the office to the local coffee shop in Fells Point. It was an overcast, warm blanket kind of day. A caressing wind stirred the air and I was driving slowly, looking for a parking place on cobblestone streets that knew horses hooves way before they knew tires. On my right was the water, and my left, the colorful array of stores that line Thames Street. The street is wide enough that it allows for vertical parking on both sides, but finding a place is still near impossible. So I rolled slowly, finally inventing a space at a corner. And that's when the song came on, bringing back a memory of hearing it for the first time. I had leaned forward to turn off the ignition and get out of my car, but once the first few notes started, and Mick Jagger's haunting, almost taunting voice floated over the guitar chords, I sat back and let it play.

I was thirteen years old at the time, lying in bed at home in a quiet suburban development in Kansas. The song had long been released, but this was my first time hearing it. I was a captive audience. My window was open, breathing the cold breath of a fall night over my cheek and hands. All was quiet except for my radio, and I was huddled under several comforters. However, it wasn't the wind that was giving me chills.

That song, one that introduced me to the possibility of a more mature, unpredictable, and mysterious world was Gimme Shelter. It drew me in, the deep bass seducing me as it sank into my skin and churned below the belt. In its spooky way, it told me that there was an edge to walk on were I willing to take the chance. A world way beyond anything I knew. An unfamiliar, and yes, sexy world where adults mingled and danger lurked in the air. My body was still as I laid on my stomach, but my eyes were concentrated on a corner of my room far past the walls, the quiet streets, beyond my neighborhood and city limits, across states and into the streets of the cities, the darkened maroon lights of night clubs, being not just one, but one of many awake in the wee hours of the morning. The solace of walking the concrete streets at night and yes, the men out there who lacked inhibition. Their clothes, hair, and feeling the heat of their skin against mine. Traveled, storied lives that would never cross my path in Kansas, nor of those whose mothers dropped them off at school in their station wagons. The world that Mick Jagger sang about was one where I could be unprotected, unguided and unapologetic.

Without shelter.

it's just a shot away,
it's just a shot away

At that age, the boys I knew were mostly immature and obnoxious. Even then, I knew that few were going to leave their hometown. But through the radio I was hearing the sexually charged lament of men with experience. A lot of experience. Not boys, but men who had walked the walk and not just talked the talk, but knew when to be silent and let the moment be what it was. Just like I was doing in that darkened room. So far, from being thirteen. So much to look forward to.

For some reason, hearing the song in my car that day brought back that memory as if it had happened yesterday. Perhaps I was feeling contemplative, or because I'm feeling myself on that cusp again of discovering an entirely new world. One where I have room to expand, breathe, walk the walk, and dive deeper. So, I didn't fight it. Like I had back then, I stopped, let my eyes relax into soft focus and let it in. People walked past my car, but I didn't see them. I was that young girl again on the cusp of her teenage years, being awakened to a different state of being, swimming in the shallow end and wanting to go deeper. As I sank into my seat, I remembered lying there in bed alone so riveted, so far away from Kansas as Mick Jagger sang about needing shelter.

And how I realized that shelter was the very thing that I needed shelter from.