Tag Archives: actor

“If I Can Make It There, I’ll Make It — Anywhere!”

As far as I felt, I was still a fucking nobody:  commuting to my graduate classes six out of seven days a week, on a 45-minute subway ride from the Bronx.

Sure, as any not-too-lame looking chick, I tried to upgrade my style with an occasional ten-dollar purchase from the H&M on Broadway and 34th.  And I had even managed to go out with a few finance guys from Wall Street and realized they were no more sophisticated than my 20-year-old ass.  But despite my now impressive expertise of the Island’s neighborhoods and demographics, my favorite shops to browse and windows to shop (only the ones where I was least harassed by salesgirls) — I was hardly a New Yorker yet.

Shit!  I didn’t even know any good places to eat!  Despite the 50/50 scholarship, the pleasure of having a graduate degree — forty five grand later — was leaving my ass seriously broke.  For one, I could never join my classmates to their lunch outings.  And because of my immigrant pride, when shooting down their invites, I would give them reasons related to my studious nature (and not because I was eating beans out of a can, in an unheated basement apartment, every night).  So, for the entire twelve hour day spent on the Island, in between classes, I would have to last on a pitiful, homemade sandwich made out of a single slice of pumpernickel bread and a veggie burger, glued together with a thin spread of margarine and then cut in half.  The meal was so embarrassing, I would do my best to chomp it down alone, in the staircase of a school wing unlikely to be visited by my classmates; or, if I was getting the shakes — inside a bathroom stall.

And this was with my two shitty, part-time jobs accounted for!

And because my education was costing me an arm and a leg — and possibly my sanity and longevity, in the end — boy! did I look forward to the end of every semester.  Most of my colleagues would leave for their wholesome looking families — in Connecticut or wherever else purebred Americans had their happy childhoods — and there, I imagined, they sat around on their white-fenced porches and threw tennis balls for their pedigree golden retrievers to fetch.  For Christmas, they retold their tales of crazy, filthy, overcrowded Manhattan while clutching giant cups of hot cocoa and apple sider in front of electric fireplaces, and waiting for the contributions of cash.  In the summer, they’d allow their parents to pay their airfare for the pleasure of their company in the Caribbean or the Riviera.

I, on the other hand, would remain stuck in the Bronx.

(Well.  It was either that, or going to visit my obese stepfather and endure his interrogations about what I was planning to do with my art school education, for which he was NOT paying.)

So, for the last two years of grad school, I stuck around on the Island.  And whatever happy lives my classmates were deservingly pursuing elsewhere, I still thought I had it the best:  I was free and young, in New York Fuckin’ City!   Unthought of, for my long removed Russian family!

In those days, it was between me and the Island.  Just the two of us.  Finally, I would have the time and discipline to follow the schedule of free admission nights to all Manhattan museums.  With no shame, I would join the other tourists waiting for discounted Broadway tickets at the Ticketmaster booth in Times Square.  In the summer, I would gladly camp out in Central Park over night, so that I could get a glimpse of some Hollywood star giving Shakespeare a shot at the Delacorte.  I read — any bloody book I wanted! — at the Central Branch, then blacken my fingers with the latest issue of Village Voice, while nearly straddling one of the lions up front.  And in between my still happening shitty jobs, I would work on my tan on the Sheep Meadow; then peel on my uniform  (still reeking of the previous night’s baskets of fries) and return for my graveyard shift in the Bronx.

Yes, it was MY time:  to be young and oblivious to the hedonistic comforts of life.  I was in the midst of a giant adventure — that forty five grand could buy me — and outside of my curiosity, all the other pleasures of life could wait.

“Now, what are you planning to do with your art school education, hon?” one of my former undergrad professors asked me during an impromptu date.

Snide!  Ever so snide, he had a talent for making you feel not up to par — ever!  If he were to try that on me today, I would flaunt my post-therapy terminology on boundaries and self-esteem.  But back then, I was eating lunches inside the bathroom stalls of my Theatre Arts Building and wearing a button name tag for work, at nighttime.  So, I would endure the condescending interrogations over a cup of some bullshit organic soup he’d insist I ordered — and for which I would pray he would offer to pay later, as well.

“Well.  I guess you could always teach,” he’d say while packing up to leave for his rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side.  (Whom did he have to fuck in order to live there for the last two decades?)

He had a point though:  New York didn’t need another girl with her romantic dreams of love and starlet success.  New York — could do just fine without me.

But still:  It was MY time!  MY youth in the city!  His — was long gone, and I supposed it was reason enough to despise me.

But how ever unrealistic were my pursuits — and how ever hard was the survival — I still had plenty of curiosity in me to give it all a fair try.

“Except, Around Hollywood and Western — We Have to Keep Doing It!”

“Oh, but everyone’s got these stories!” a man of tired compassion told me as he heard my saga of homecoming, this jolly holiday season. “I mean, after all,” he said, “this country is made entirely of immigrants!”

I wondered, as I studied his ethnically ambiguous face:  Was he East Indian, a couple of generations removed from his native land and now free from all the confines of his original tradition — to make what he could of it?  It not, how ever did he find his way into my yoga class?

Was he like me:  Tasting all religions in his youth, in hopes of finding a recipe to peace?  Some religious texts had tempted me with their poetry before; others — with their majority.  I’d always wanted to belong, so I kept looking.

Was he, like me, at liberty to pick and choose between the details of his heritage, only wearing it when most convenient for his now American identity?  Did he carry his comedy routines in side pockets:  At the expense of his immigrant and heavily accented parents, he could whip ‘em out at gatherings of curious American friends?  Did he practice the routines on paper first, or did he merely get addicted to the laughter he could cause — and so he’d work them out in public?

The evening city hummed and sparkled outside the windows.  Across the street, I could see a casting space where I had once nearly died of shame by bumping into an ex-lover from a disastrous affair.  He sat in the corner, with his giant legs stretched out ahead, sounding every bit like that one asshole actor who must practice his lines out loud, at full volume, in a waiting room filled with his competition and the rookies from Ohio.

That morning, I had announced official warfare against my acne; and my Hollywood haircut refused to cooperate at covering it.

I saw him first, pretended not to, and thankfully got called immediately.  That’s when he must’ve heard my name; because by the time I had stepped out, he was standing by the doorway.

“I thought that was you!” he said and shifted on his feet as if leaning in for a hug.

Our story was so typical, it should’ve made it into a sitcom about actors in LA-LA:  He wanted a rebound with someone with his ex’s Slavic face — another actress — and I had wanted more.

“No fuckin’ way, American buddy!” I thought.

But out loud, I said, “I’ve gotta run,” and blew my bangs out of my eyes.  He noticed the stampede of pimples across my forehead:  stubborn and multiplying.  “Another audition!  Gotta run!”

“Yeah,” he said, mesmerized by my forehead.  “Yeah.  Definitely.  But let’s do coffee sometime!”

Natalia Vodianova

Everyone’s got these stories, it is true.  My friends had all suffered, at least once, from having used someone for sex, or from having been used.  And then, we’d all scrape up our dignity to have the courage to keep showing up:  to other dates and to auditions; and to the companies of friends, where we readily whip out our comedy routines and force-feed ourselves with laughter.

To be happy here, it takes discipline.  Or some serious delusion. Some of us had had those mental breakdowns that justified our flight from this fucking place.  Others would just have an episode, go home to recover — then return for more.

The ethnically ambiguous man continued:

“I’m going home myself,” he said.  “Can you believe it’s holidays already?!”

The traffic crawled along the boulevard underneath.  Two lanes of it:  one fire-engine red, another — silver.  An eatery at the corner was glistening with Christmas lights; and reflected by the changing colors of the traffic light, its giant windows would take on different shades, at well timed intervals.  With the shimmer of the hills behind it, the city looked so pretty, suddenly.  And standing above the traffic, out of it, I thought to find it peaceful.  But then, I changed my mind.

I wanted to object to my ethnically ambiguous co-practitioner of yoga:

“It’s not your turn to speak, American buddy!”

But he had been carrying on, by then.  He’s got that story, too!

And so:  I listened.

“I Fly Like Paper, Get High Like Planes. If You Catch Me at the Border — I Got Visas in My Name!”

I am at a rehearsal last night, and I’m thinking:

“I don’t want to be heavy anymore.”

Now, I don’t mean my physicality here:  I’ve got a pretty compact bod on me — always have had — and I’ve always been light on my feet.

I seem to have inherited the smallest features from both sides of the family:  My motha’s people run quite low to the ground in their height; and dad’s tribe, although quite tall, is nearly transparently thin.

And then, my head’s rarely in the right place:  It’s always wanting to be elsewhere.  So, the restlessness of the mind adds to the activeness of the bod, adds to the shedding of the weight.  I’ve come to think that perhaps it’s all for the better, anyway:  My size fits best into airplane seats and packed buses, New York subways and Moscow bread lines — and wherever else the mind urges the bod to fit itself in.

So, when I thought, “I don’t want to be heavy anymore,” I think I meant:

I don’t want to be dark.

Now, I don’t mean the color of my skin here:  I’ve got a pretty dark complexion on me.  Motha’s people — are fucking gypsies, so they are really more like Russian blacks.  In my childhood, motha would have to keep me out of the sun — just so I would still resemble my father’s child a little bit more.  Because his tribe — is quite light (although they’re quite heavy in their footsteps).  And they’re nearly transparently thin.

It’s bad enough I traded in my father’s blue eyes over the course of the first year of my life.  He came back from his military training in some bleak lands of Motha Russia to meet me at the hospital.  I was only a couple days old.

“He’s got my eyes!” he said before the doctor had a chance to explain to him that I was actually born a girl.

(So sorry!)

Whether or not ultrasound existed back then in Motha Russia, motha chose to rely on the old school witchcraft of her people when predicting my future sex.  Surprise, surprise:  That shit didn’t work, and dad was now cradling a blue-eyed brunette of a nearly black complexion in his arms.

“Well…  At least she’s got my eyes.”

With quite a blow to his dreams of the first son, dad left again for some other bleak lands of Motha Russia:  He was always light enough to move.  (But we, Russians, often tend to have heavy footsteps:  We love to step on others’ toes; so if we aren’t playing war — we seem to be always training for it.)

Anyway.  When dad returned home, half a year later, he found his newborn with eyes so black, he could see his own reflection in them.

“He… she — don’t got my eyes no more!”

(So sorry!)

So, when I said, “I don’t want to be dark anymore,” I think I meant:  

I don’t want to be perpetually difficult on my loves.  

Now, I do seem to be easier on my friends:  Over the course of our loves, they’ve gotten used to the restlessness of my mind that adds to the activeness of my dark, compact bod (that adds to the weightlessness of my footsteps).  From all the distant corners of the world, however bleak or perfectly civilized, my loves receive messages of my journeys:  The messages of wanting to belong — if only I would stop moving for long enough. 

But then again:  My friends don’t have to live with me.  They don’t see me pacing my living quarters at night, as if needing more room.  They don’t witness my restlessness accumulate as surely as the hours in each day — until I finally decide to move again, to whatever bleak or perfectly civilized corner of the world.

My loves, however:  My loves are constantly subjected to the restlessness of the mind that adds to the activeness of the bod, that adds to the shedding of the weight, that adds to the weightlessness of the footsteps.

Just ask my family:

My motha’s people — are fucking gypsies.  Yet, for at least two generations before mine, they’ve given up on moving, only following the call of some bleak lands.  Over a century ago, they’ve settled on the East Coast of Motha Russia, much less civilized, unconquered:  The lands that were waiting to be discovered by the more unsettled hearts.  Over the course of the last few centuries, it was populated by the subversive many and the courageous few.  There, the Russian blacks of my motha’s people found their home.

That’s, of course, until I came along:  A blue-eyed brunette that swapped her father’s eyes for a pair of those, black enough to serve as mirrors for her loves.  And as soon as I was old enough to obey the restlessness of the mind, I would follow the call of my gypsy complexion.

(So sorry!)

Because my motha’s people may have given up on moving, but they haven’t settled, I decided.  Not yet.  Perhaps, not until I myself birth a child in some bleak or perfect civilized corner of the world — and I see my own reflection in his or her black eyes.

So, when the other night, I thought, “I don’t want to be heavy anymore,” I think I meant:

I don’t want to negate myself the joy of freedom.

Courage!

Only courage should elate my heart, from now on:  the courage of following my gypsy complexion and the heart that never settles for anything less than love.

And when I do love, I don’t want to deny my loves — the utter joy of my freer self. 

“You See: Everybody — Is Somebody. But Nobody Wants To Be Themselves.”

“What you’re thinking… you are becoming,” he said, holding too lengthy of a pause for an effect.

What he wasn’t realizing was that the habit of breaking-up his thoughts with these loaded silences shot down any effect he was aiming for:  It deflated the importance of his statements, and any urgency in his inspirational speech — to a room full of actors — was going out of the windows.

Although, come to think of it, there weren’t any windows in the joint at all:  We were packed into a black-box theatre of a classroom, like an army of revolutionaries planning a revolt in a basement, somewhere in the jungles of South America.  Everyone was an artist of sorts; quite a few writers — and even a spoken word poetess (she was rad!).

There was a handful of newbies in the room:  You could tell by the way they surveyed everyone with their impressionable and somehow petrified glances.  (Oh, to be new to the chaos of LA!  I wouldn’t want to relive that joy.)  The rest of us — were seasoned residents of the city, not yet veterans of the industry.  But we had all been around the block by now — around several blocks, actually, in search of casting spaces and parking spots.

Some seemed jaded, and they sized-up all the previous speakers while never uncrossing their arms for the entirety of a 2-hour lecture.  There were some that loved to hear the sound of their voice; so, every question of theirs turned into a tiny, brooding monologue.  An older actress from Chicago, a bit tipsy from the free wine, had been hollering from the front row as if she were listening to gospel:  Such humanity!  (She was rad!)

Pretty girls — of those, there was plenty.  That’s the one thing guaranteed in LA-LA:  Perpetual beauty that either humbles and inspires — or saddens with its dispensability.

Anyway, he was saying:

“What you’re thinking… you are becoming.” 

The guy was quite tall, slightly on the stocky side.  His non-immaculately white shirt was untucked, with its top half unbuttoned down to his undershirt, also non-white.  He wore jeans and insecurities galore.

Half way through the evening, he took over the job of announcing the speakers from the evening’s MC.

“Who IS this guy?” I caught myself thinking every time he got up, lingered by the director’s chair in the middle of the stage and hogged our time with his prolonged, miserable pauses.

Standing in the corner of a packed room, I had been studying the audience for nearly two hours.  There were a couple of faces I recognized.  A few seemed quite familiar; but then again, as a seasoned resident of LA-LA, you begin to lose track of origins.  And you catch yourself thinking:

“Do I know you?”

“Have we met in a constellation of classes and workshops happening at every minute and in every neighborhood of this city?”

“Have I seen you in a commercial, or in a waiting room for that commercial’s audition?”

“Or, have I simply bumped into you while we both circled around the blocks, in search of casting spaces and parking spots?”

A man with Jeremy Irons’ face caught my attention, in a corner of the classroom.  You don’t forget a face like that.  (He was rad!)  But then again, I’d been around the block too many times by now — around many blocks, actually — and I had long begun losing track of origins.

“So… you just gotta…” the man in a non-immaculately white shirt was hanging onto his silences, on stage.

He made some sort of a peculiar gesture with his hand.

The speakers who had preceded him — not necessarily seasoned residents of LA-LA, but definitely veterans of the industry — were quite inspiring.  Passionate, eccentric and honest, they had spoken of their love for the art — and their advocacy of the artists.  They — were rad!

It’s an unusual thing here, in this city.  Back in New York, packed into black-box theaters, one comes to expect talks about the art of it all.  Because there, we prefer to be think of ourselves as craftsmen — artists of sorts — not businesspeople.

But in LA-LA — it’s all about the business!  And in a constellation of classes and workshops happening at every minute and in every neighborhood of this city, we agree to collect the crumbs of information qualified as networking.

“Because you never know!” they tell us.

So, you learn to surrender.  You better!

You better surrender to the unexplainable chaos of the industry.  You better learn to accept yourself as a seasoned resident of this city.  You better let go of all expectations and stop counting the favors and the debts other people owe you:  No one owes you jack shit!

It takes time and an open mind — to survive here.

It takes a passionate heart to keep bringing the craft into the rooms full of businesspeople; and that heart has got to keep at it, despite having been around several blocks, in search of casting spaces and parking spots.

It takes discipline and humility to become a working artist — a veteran of the industry — not just a seasoned, bitter resident.

It takes a love — for the art!

And my own happiest discovery about the business is that thankfully, it still takes GRATITUDE — to persevere.

“Does Enchantment Pour Out of Every Door? No! It’s Just on The Street — Where YOU Live.”

The street on which I live:

I seem to have memorized its every nook, and every speed bump; its every crack on the road.  Lord knows I’ve had enough time for that, for I have been walking it; strutting, running, driving — surviving — on it, for nearly six years.

Six years.  Who knew I’d last here for so long?

Just a week before I first landed here, I was promising a beloved back in New York:

“I’ll be back in a year.  Don’t worry.”

He didn’t:  The beloved moved on to another love, and suddenly I had no reason to come back.  So, I stayed here — for just a bit longer.

The street on which I live:

By now I know the patterns of its residential parking by heart.  This funky red house right here collects vintage cars, taking up quarter of a block for their parking.  The Spanish style apartment building at the other end:  People are always coming and going there; and if you sit in its driveway long enough, flashing your emergency lights at the rhythm of your heartbeat, you are guaranteed to get a spot sooner or later.  You gotta be quick though:  Keep flashing the lights and come upon the decked out Hollywood dandy, reeking of cologne, or the unsuspecting Armenian girl getting in her car, for a night on the town.

Pull up, roll down the windows:

“You leaving?”

Try to smile.  After all, they don’t owe you jack shit.  And if they let you take over their spot, give ‘em room to pull out.

Then, wave:

Gratitude seems to go a long way, around here.

Whatever you do:  Don’t park in front of this abandoned structure right here.  Because it’s not abandoned:  It’ll filled to the brim with emaciated cats and a single resident the face of whom I’ve never seen, for the last six years.  At nighttime, a window always lights up in the attic.  The front door is barricaded with abandoned furniture.  The front yard looks like a field of wild weeds and overgrown bushes.

Still, whatever you do:  Don’t park there!  That unattended garden with berried trees will kill the paint on your car.  And whatever you do:  Don’t feed the cats.  The sign written in crayon on the front gate says so:

“DON’T FEED CATS.  THEIR NOT HOMELESS.”

In my second year, I finally earned an occasional parking spot inside my garage.  I had been bouncing between jobs, one more terrible than the other; and after settling for a decent night gig, I negotiated to share a spot with a neighbor:  He would work the graveyard shift as a security guard; and by the time, my club closed and I came home with blistered feet, he’d be leaving for work.

In the morning, I’d have to get up, get dressed and re-park on the street, often finding my neighbor under the berried tree, still in uniform, feeding the cats.

“I couldn’t sleep,” he’d explain to me, as if caught redhanded; and his tired face fit for a Native American shaman would make me wonder how he got these emaciated creatures to come out of the house, in the first place.

At the end of that year, I would want to move:

“Stay!” my roommate recommended.  “That’s just your second-year itch.  Everyone gets it in LA.”

Curiously, I’d drive around other neighborhoods:  funky or cheesy, some parading their wealth, others — their transient despair.  I would do that for a week, applying to a couple of New-York-like buildings.  But then, I’d come back to my street:  That was just my second-year itch.  Everyone gets it in LA.

The street on which I live:

The faces of its residents have been tattooed into my memory, even after they move on.  And many have moved on.  A couple of working girls in my building with decent night gigs:  They’d get so tired surviving on this street, and in this city, while waiting for their big break.  A few would eventually land a small acting gig — a stand-in for the big break — and they’d move to better places, better streets.  Some would leave for their boyfriends’.  Others — would go home.

That pretty blonde, who used to be a redhead in the first year of living here:  She got her first speaking role on a canceled show.

“It only took five years,” she said to me in my garage, and she scoffed with such scorn, it made me want to move on.

Her roommate, a pretty black girl with extensions and a shaggy dog, had already left.  She couldn’t wait for her big break any longer.

That pretty blonde, who used to be a redhead, would be gone within a week.

The security guard with a tired face fit for a Native American shaman would leave too.

The street on which I live:

Some of the faces seem to stay here forever.  There is the family of a jeweler — a family of good faces — that lives in a rustic house with wooden furniture.  They don’t smile much; but by now, the mother of the house has learned to nod at me, while she waters the lawn at sunset.  And the lonely old woman that always knocks on her second story window:  She would seem quite sad in her dementia, if she weren’t so childlike.  And the handful of Armenian men, selling random goods in their front yards every weekend:  They get quiet every time I walk, strut or run by; and they keep smoking their cigars.

The street on which I live:

There seems to be so much humanity here, and so much mercy.

In the gated house directly across from my building, there is supposed to be some sort of a shelter.  Another building, half a block up, serves as a home for homeless teenagers and runaways.  And than there is that abandoned structure right here:  It gives shelter to the forsaken cats.  But at least,

“THEIR NOT HOMELESS.”

And at the end of last week, someone had made a new shoefiti:  At the intersection that leads to my street, a pair of Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slipper was thrown over a telephone line.  Some say these shoes are meant to be stolen or unwanted.  And sometimes, they belong to a departed.

 

Welcome to Hollywood! What’s YOUR Trip?

“How is it out there?”  I got a text from a long lost comrade, on the East Coast of my youth.

It came in between my feverish dreams on behalf of the girl next door with a terrible cough; and another girl, also sort of next door (more like behind the door diagonally across the hall from mine), who insists on slamming that fucking thing every time she leaves or returns to the premises.  (And considering that the girl behind the diagonal door is a new starlet in Hollyweird, she comes and goes quite a bit.  I also presume she must be quite forgetful, ‘cause that door usually gets slammed a dozen times before the joint returns to its habitual silence.  All that noise — from one little girl!)

Oh, and then it was one those fire drill days in my building; and once I returned to my heavy, sweaty dreams — after the new starlet finished her door slamming for that portion of the day — off it went:  A horrific sound of metal on metal, meant to save the living and to wake the dead!

I reached for my earplugs.  Normally, I sport those if going to bed after midnight:  when the ghetto birds come out to cruise my ‘hood and wake up the girl next door — and her terrible cough.  But yesterday morning, I was meant to sleep in.  (I had been awake for half the night, every night of this week, due to a heartbreak-related insomnia.  FUCK.)  Except:  I forgot to read the memo plastered on the door of our garage earlier in the week.

“Probably another filming notice,” I dismissed it at the time.

But the memo multiplied like an occasional stampede by rodents; and by the morning, it appeared on every door of the joint.  When the drill when off, I stumbled out of my apartment into the corridor, with purple earplugs ‘n’ all:

“Is there smoke?”  I thought, trying to remember where I used my laptop last, before finally falling asleep:  ‘cause that’s the only thing that was worth rescuing.  “If there is no smoke, I’m going back to bed!”

“Dear Tenants!”  I first read the paper on the diagonal door before noticing my own copy.  I skimmed over it.

“Cocksuckers!” I thought.  So much for sleeping in!

I closed the door, jammed in my purple earplugs further and went to the fridge.  That’s where I keep my coffee, you see, and anything else that I would hate to see be invaded by a stampede of rodents.  Top shelf:  Hemp milk, honey…  FUCK:  I’m out of coffee!  Totally forgot!  Must get to Trader Joe’s today, but:  FUCK.

I got out a gypsy skirt, utilized it as a dress, took the stairs, stepped outside:  Lovely.  Perhaps not really a beach day, but still:  Lovely!  I took out my purple earplugs and walked to the 7-Eleven on the corner.  Behind it, a construction that’s been going on for over a year was starting to look like a building, not a skeleton of steel beams, and plastic, and fiber glass.

“Afternoon, m’am,” a bearded man in an orange helmet grinned at me in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven.  These guys are awesome:  construction men who are often warn their invasion of an neighborhood with signs like “Caution:  Men Working”,  “Men Working Above”, “Caution!  Men!”

“Afternoon?” I responded.  What frigging time WAS it?  Come to think of it, that fire drill memo did mention 12 noon.

Armed with my watered-down coffee, I rushed back to my apartment.  Sure enough:  12-fucking-30!  FUCK.  I gotta publish!  The horrific sound of the drill made me consider visiting some coffee shop at a walking distance, but then you never know with those, in Hollyweird:  Some lonely exhibitionist may always impede on my work there, and then I’ll need my purple earplugs again.  I got to work.

After a typical three-hour session which sometimes feels like a catharsis, and other times — like a mean constipation — I finally got around to returning my messages.  There was a semi-flirtation by an old lover.  Cute.  Then, there was the request to take a raincheck on a date from a player I just met.  An actor.  Of course:  What was I thinking?  Two lines were sent to the old lover, one — to the actor.

“How is it out there?”  I reread the text from my long lost comrade.

Right.  What to say to that one?  I stumbled around the apartment for a little longer (the fire drill was finally over), and decided to do a little research on behalf of my curious witness, on the East Coast of my youth.  Because I’ve been out here a bit too long, to be easily impressed to give him the answer he may want to hear; so I thought:  Why not take a little walk while running errands?

First stop:  The bank.

“I’m SO glad there is no racism out here!” 

As soon as I stepped in, I overhead a white woman do her spiel in front of two clerks, in the lobby.

“Right, right, right,” one of them was responding.

They didn’t have a choice but to listen to her.  None of us did.  I began testing those dinky pens with strings, just so I could sign my checks.  Apparently, she had just returned from Paris and was “shocked” — “SHOCKED!” — by the state of the racial affairs over there.

“I tell you:  This is exactly why Los Angeles — is the best place on the planet!” 

I looked over at the African American security guard by the door:  Was he as uncomfortable as me?

“Right, right, right…”

The white woman was finally marching out, laughing at her own joke, seemingly relieved (had she just fulfilled some civic duty?); and as she passed the security guard — now holding her door — she ignored the courtesy to thank him.  Oh goodness!  I was already craving to get back to my apartment.

But:  FUCK!  I’m out of coffee!  And didn’t they just build a new TJ’s around here?  I decided to walk around a lil’ more.

“How YOU doin’ today, mami?” — a Chicano was smoking outside another bank I passed on my excursion.  I examined him, head to toe:  I’ve been out here a bit too long to be easily impressed.  Then, toe to head.  The head was smirking, disarmingly.

“Good,” I answered.  Fine:  I looked back and pressed my lips together (my version of a smile); then kept walking.

“Nice poom-poom!” he hollered before I disappeared behind the sliding doors of TJ’s.  And how would HE know?!  FUCK.

Screw it!  Quickly, I picked up my staples:  I’m pro.  A woman on mission.  Besides:  The inside my apartment was starting to feel very tempting.  

Ahead of me in line, a young mother was venting to the cashier:

“My son was beating up a boy over these seaweed snacks!  And I was like:  You’re in kindergarden!”

The cashier smiled uncomfortably while stuffing her bags with what looked like a month’s supply of seaweed.  The young mother looked back at me for some better sympathy.  I pressed my lips together.

“I mean:  This is what the children in Hollywood fight over!  Seaweed.”

She took her time paying, while figuring out which credit card was going to work that day; and finally settled on writing a check.  This — was gonna be a while.  I put down my items.  Scanned the shelf of Zico coconut water.  Oh!  I NEED me some of that!  I grabbed a about a month’s supply, and approached the tortured cashier.

“Rough shift?”  I said.

He pressed his lips together:  “Just another day in Hollywood.”

I packed my own bags, paid cash, took a different exit to avoid the smoking Chicano and stepped outside:  Lovely.  Perhaps not really a beach day, but still:  Lovely!  I strutted home.

Oh, but:  FUCK!  I’m out of coffee.  Totally forgot to buy some.

FUCK.

“Have You No Sense of Decency?”

Sirens.  They are so much louder in this city, it seems; louder than anywhere else. (And I’ve heard my share, trust me.  I hate it.)

They are louder than in that other place I keep procrastinating returning to, regardless of its coordinates as the Center of the Universe (because I haven’t paid my dues here yet, you see).  But then, these police hollers are not as as loud as those other things, up in my neighborhood’s sky every bloody night, shooting down searchlights into a zip code that shoots searchlights back up at it, from every douchy new joint that won’t last.

Nothing really lasts, it’s true.  But LA-LA has a special talent for transience.

Everybody despises it here, at least at one point or another.  It’s what this city is here for, don’t cha know?  This poor, used-up girl!

When I think of LA-LA’s face, I think of a woman, of course; of someone who is moderately pretty and lovable, but with time.  She is the girl one settles for, not the heartbreaker perfectly dressed at all times who ruins a man’s heart with her impossibility and expensive, addictive perfumes.  No, LA-LA is much simpler than that:  She is there, for the taking — if one is kind enough and patient.  But if ever you decide to break-up with her, she’ll let you go so freely you’ll wonder if she ever even loved you at all.  So, the joke’s on you, really.  And no matter where the departed go from here — from her — don’t you worry:  She’ll be fine.  She’ll still be here, for the next guy.

The natives (who are in the minority here, because the minorities — are not):  They despise the newcomers.  And there are plenty of those, every day climbing off their Greyhounds and shuttles; interrogating their cabbies as if they were tour guides.  (I would hate to be a cabdriver in this city:  too many flights.)  It’s endless, this influx of dreamers.  Perpetual.  THANK GOD.

And then, the newcomers despise not being important enough, not quickly enough.  Back in the pond where they’ve come from, they used to be so beloved:  How dare you not know their name?!  Or maybe, they weren’t loved enough, and they’ve come here to avenge themselves.  Regardless:  They have yet to learn that LA-LA doesn’t give a damn about their personal agendas.  Here, time is made of liquid rubber (and it stinks equally).  It takes time to make a name for yourself (even if you’ve come here with a name).  But first, you have to make a living — and a life.

The beautiful girls, of which LA-LA has plenty:  The beautiful girls who lose their beauty here — that’s what they hate this city for.  They would’ve wasted their youth elsewhere, it’s true; but then, it least, it would’ve gained them something.

I bumped into one of them the other day:  She’s been paying her dues for six years now, just like me; and after endless auditions and plenty of cocktail waitressing, she’s finally earned herself an Under-Five on a some show about Hollywood douche bags.

“Congratulations, love,” I said.  “Where to next?”

“HOME.  I’m going home.”

The young, heartbreaking boys with low expectations and a high tolerance for deprivation; who sleep in cars in between apartments (because it makes for a great story, once they’re famous) — they think they don’t need love around here.  They can do without it, for now:  They’ve got time.  But when they learn that time is made of liquid rubber, randomly, they start poking around.  Poking themselves into any moderately pretty girl who’ll pay attention after enough drinks — and attention.  All this random poking into loveless girls — that’s their beef with this city.

“No offense,” one of them shot me a stare the other day as if I were the one offending him.  “But there are no decent women here.”

I rebutted quickly and well (I’ve had practice, you see).  He laughed, changed his mind (was I worthy of a poke?), and asked me if I had “anything on me”.

“Anything on me?”

“Don’t cha like to have some fun?” he said; then, shot me another spiteful stare.  I was just another dumb bitch, who, at least, had the decency to be decent.  But he wasn’t after decency, really.

Oh, we’ve all had a share of mistakes here; have fallen prey to douches and scams.  But that’s okay.  Silly mistakes are okay.  Just don’t be stupid.  LA-LA is too small of a town for stupidity, because somebody knows somebody else.  The word gets around.

Here, you’re always supposed to know a Somebody:  Knowing a Somebody gets you closer to your own Somebody-ness. So, you hang on to the few famed ones, drink up from their expensive pool, up in the hills.  You memorize the names of their siblings and pretend liking their dogs, just so one day you may say to somebody, over pizza:

“That’s my friend:  Somebody!”  And you all stare at the face blown up on the screen and feel like you’re ever so closer to having paid your own dues.

And every once in a while, an actual friend of yours — not just a Somebody but a comrade-in-arms — books something big.  (This must be the reason why I myself love pilot seasons in LA-LA.)  And it’s wonderful.  Oh, how wonderful!  THANK GOD.  And if you haven’t lost the ability for compassion to your own sense of despair, you feel thrilled for her.  Because it also means there is still hope; that dreams are not forsaken, in LA-LA.

But then, your friend leaves.  If she doesn’t leave for another city, she leaves for a different demographic.  You may still have a chance to hang out at her expensive pool, up in the hills; sitting next to the next transient guy, despising this city:

LA-LA has a special talent for transience.  But at least, you have a chance to cash in your own big check (after enough time and patience; dues and poking around).  And if you’re still with it — at your turn for Somebody-ness — it’ll get you closer to your next dream.  Or the next city.

Big Break? Big Balls!

Back in my Motha’ Russia, there is a saying:

“Moscow wasn’t built overnight.”

Say whaaaat?  Okay, I’ll translate.

Any grandiose endeavor by the human mind, soul or imagination takes time to build.  Or in the words of my gorgeous lover:

“Anything worth having — takes a lot of hard work.”

Which is exactly why I was never a believer in the bullshit fairytales of Big Breaks and Overnight Sensations.

First off, I wasn’t born here; and neither was I a lucky bastard to be born to a family that would support me.  Quite quickly — oh, say, by the age of five — it became clear that not only was capable of taking care of myself, I was expected to do so.  So, when I left the anarchy of Motha’ Land’s last decade of the 20th century, I didn’t climb off the boat at Ellis Island expecting to tread upon pathways paved with easy money and other people’s easy “yeses.”  I was ready to bust my slim, tomboyish ass and earn my way; and I was NOT willing to make my step heavier by stuffing my mind with delusions of lottery fairytales.

And thusly, I did.  Oh, how I did that, my comrades!  For the sake of mere survival at first — for a decade! — I worked anywhere between two to five jobs while carrying a full-time class load in college and grad school; and then — as any American — I decided to practice my right to pursue a dream.  And, let me tell you:  This cat went for it!  Trying out every major in college.  Entertaining dozens of professions.  Taking-up internships on the Isle of Manhattana, just because she could.  Trying her hand at every art form, at least once.  You’d think this wild cat actually had nine lives to spare!  (All the while, the list of survival jobs and sleepless nights and financial sacrifices continued to accumulate.)

Now, if you’ve chosen to settle in either the metropolis of LA-LA or the other Center of the Universe (love you, New York — but it’s complicated with us!); you know that everybody is trying to be a Somebody.  That’s the reason for these two opposing cities’ magnificence and an occasional cause for annoyance.  But if you’ve come here to participate in the race, you’ve most likely been made a witness of the following event.  Say, a Somebody’s name comes up.  Or better yet, that Somebody appears in a national commercial while you’re vegging out on the couch with your aspiring actor friends.  You KNOW, there is going to be someone to holler:

“OH!  THAT’S MY FRIEND!”

Yep, we live in a close proximity to other people’s dreams coming true.  I myself have  a couple of comrades who are either on the verge of their first well-paid job of significant exposure, or are already working actors and writers.  And I’ll tell you this:  There was nothing “Overnight” in the pursuit of their dreams.  Just like the rest of us, they worked restaurant jobs and temp gigs and those soul-draining office jobs, at all of which they’ve been painfully overqualified, yet underpaid.  They’ve wasted their days in the soul-draining background holding areas and did the grind of audience work (otherwise known as the Freak Show of Humanity).  So by the time their personal Big Ben struck the hour of the Big Break, those hustlers have paid their dues.  They’ve done the legwork, you see; have knocked on dozen of doors; mailed enough head shots and reels and clippings to pay for a house downpayment.  They’ve been tortured by doubt and daunting competition and endless rejections.

My personal fascination is always with the journey that takes after the Happily Ever After.  What happens after the Big Break; or in the morning when you finally wake up as a Somebody?  From what I’ve witnessed:

—  First:  Your friendships get tested.  If you’ve had the balls to reach for any dream of seeming impossibility, you better be equipped with the self-possession and the courage of rediscovering the true content of your friendships. Some of your people will stick around, god bless their exceptional souls (at which point, I pray you have the wits to claim them as your permanent family).  But others — will flake off!  Be prepared:  Some friends will demonstrate very odd behavior that’ll leave you feeling disappointed or lonely.  So, may your god of choice grant you the wisdom and the grace to handle the life-changing reshuffle.

— And then, there will always be an army of acquaintances who will want a piece of it:  A piece of your Somebody-ness and the overdue prosperity that most likely comes with it. Again, keep clutching on to your chosen people; because after the noise hushes down, they’ll still be the only ones having your back.

— Finally, my favorite part:  And the work — continues. From what I’ve learned in my insignificant yet loaded with turmoil eight previous lives:  The work never stops.  And to that, I say:  Mazel tov!  If you’re one of those lucky dreamers to grab at least a handful of what you’ve reached for, may you continue to ask for more. So, here is to your endurance and patience, your courage to dream and the balls to handle the consequences!

Ghost Fucking

Your film library shelf has a dusty picture of her—the one that slipped her thin arm down your trachea, formed a fist inside and sucker-punched your heart.  It took you nearly a year to remember the original beat, your heart still wincing at the sound of her name.  The couch on which I’ve stretched out my dark thighs reeks of her:  the original Slav whom I am meant to reincarnate tonight.  I stare at the beautiful face with a dimple on her left cheek—the face you’ve planned to find in your firstborn’s crib.  That face you must imagine in order to cum all over my breasts tonight.

You’re getting me a drink in the kitchen:

“So, just hot water then?” you sound condescending.  You always sound condescending.  You probably whine to your shrink about continuously falling for the exotic, foreign girls; about your wishing to procreate with your own kind.  But white women don’t fuck like we do—the brown, foreign girls.  They don’t do the dirty work, on their hands and knees, like our immigrant mothers:  they don’t lick your taint; they don’t nibble away at your nipples or lap-up your Catholic shame.  They don’t make you shriek, “What the fuck are you doing?” while you stare in awe at the action between your legs.

I drop my register a couple of notches, where my native tongue usually dwells:  “Come here,” I purr on the couch.  I am just playing my part here.

We begin a film that I’ve attempted to watch many times before, on other white men’s couches; because they can’t get off without a lesson or two on their culture.  So, they make me mixed CD’s; and they over-annunciate when I ask them to repeat a cliché.  They dust off their father’s copies of Citizen Kane and The Godfather (Part I and II—never III):

“Hwhat?!  You’ve never seen this?”  No, I haven’t.  They didn’t have TV’s where I come from:  Bosnia or the Ukraine.  Or Ellis Island.  It’s all the same to you.

I put my feet under your thighs, then on top of them.  Someone is already overacting on the screen, in black-and-white.  I scoot down like a bitch in heat.  I caress your thinning hair and exhausted eyelids.  There, there, my little boy.  It’ll all be alright, in the end.  Your lips, dry and large, start looking for your mama’s breasts; and in the act, they forget the condescending grin.  And for that second:  I can see you—you on the first day of your lungs inhaling; you, before a lover stuffed her holes with your organs; because it was much easier than working on her own shit.  That you makes my ovaries flip like a Romanian gymnast.

So, I rip my face through the air, toward yours, even though I know you’re already gone, thousands of sexual ticks overcrowding you self-awareness.  Your mouth tastes like Jack.  And pot.  A sad twofer prone to be found in an American lover.  I reach down to confirm the case of a Whiskey Dick:  Bingo.  I try not to lose my hard-on to pathos but I know if you do get some wind tonight, you’ll have to turn off the lights and close your eyes.

Which you do.

“You like that?” you ask, quoting your favorite porn, in the dark, with nothing but the must-see American classic illuminating your skin to that color of translucent white.  I’m getting fucked by a ghost here.  “Hmmm?  You like that?  Tell me what you like!” you repeat.  It’s your couch—it’s your game.

I do have a choice though:  to pull you out of me, fix my skirt—and leftovers of my dignity—and walk out of this typical tale of pathetic Hollywood sex; then, cry inside my car, then call up a girlfriend to dis your name.  Or I can lie.

“Oh yes.  Just like that.  Right there.”  I lie.  A terrible actor in another warzone of an unworthy love story.