Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Harpist Wants A Diet Coke...and Other Tales Of Servitude in the Southland

(the following is from an old Myspace blog I wrote in Oct 2007)

"Excuse me... the harpist wants a diet coke."

I stared at the man. What was that? I repeated it to myself.
The Harpist? Wants a Diet Coke?


I didn't even know there was a harpist here. And, how is she gonna be able to drink it while playing a harp? Furthermore, sir... why did you insist on grabbing me and passing along the profound information that "The Harpist Wants a Diet Coke" when you see I have a tray full of glasses and another handful of dishes, and I am jogging-not strolling, not even walking- through the crowd of wedding-goers you see before you? Do you not see the bar 15 yards from you?

But, I understand the consequences of actually asking such questions out loud. No, no... instead I must internalize this frustration/annoyance, smile at this man (who later gave the blessing of the meal at this wedding and talked about "turning the love here tonight into energy and that energy nurturing our hearts, minds and souls" woo woo), reply with a charming and very Southern 'Yes, sir', empty my tray and head to the bar to get a Diet Coke for the previously invisble harpist in the corner.

For a moment, the frustration of an earlier incident in the day crept back into my mind. You see, the wedding I was working was a default. I had gone to work at my current place of steadiest employment, Maggiano's. Upon arriving there (to make a long story short), I got "made an example out of" by my boss and sent home. Like I was in third grade. Again. Only minus the fun, innocence, and irresponsibility and instead of a teacher I have a balding, miserable, dickhead boss. So, I left.

Fast forward to being desperate for money and booking a catering gig. And now, here I am working a wedding in Malibu, face-to-face with a man who has just interrupted a nice bussing rhythm because he wants me to fetch a Diet Coke for a Subtle Harpist. Through the course of the night, I will find myself cornered by a drunk couple who think our company staffs just about the cutest waiters they've ever seen, enduring park rangers who insist we expand our catering contract to include janitorial service, listening to an absurd toast by the bride's astrology-obsessed drunken father, attempting to tune out the band (2 white guys who insist on jumping from Spin Doctors to Blues Traveler to Digital Underground to The Gorillaz), passing hors d'oevuers to people who get a kick out of pissing me off by challenging my knowledge of the ingredients contained within said appetizer and then not taking any off of my tray (thereby not lightening my load) and explaining over and over again to the drunk guy at a table that I am not the chef and therefore could not tell you how our mini-quiches were made so small.

On top of it, I was distracted. My thoughts kept drifting to someone in particular. Someone I like. It was just one of those days following one of those nights and you just keep thinking about this someone. And this is going to sound horrible following that romantic thought, but I was also distracted by the LSU-Florida game which I needed updates on every few minutes and was a close as fuck and a game that I regretted missing. (Apologies to the someone in question that the football game was as big a distraction, but you were distracted at the time too by a big mouse in a magic castle, so we remain equal on points...)

All in all, however, the gig wasn't bad. I made good money.

I notice that serving is getting to be a part of my life that settles into some form of two extremes: ridiculous and maddening or profitable and tolerable. Sometimes the two meet. Today was an example of such a meeting. My restaurant debacle was ridiculous and maddening, the gig was ridiculous and tolerable, but the whole day turned profitable. As I am now in my mid-20s, I am beginning to feel slight and perhaps self-imposed pressure to create a more stable life for myself. This past year has been both a successful and profitable year for me acting wise. Thank God for that. But service-tude is becoming an increasingly less acceptable form of income to me. It's a lot of shit to deal with even on the days when you make good money. But many folks say it's a necessary evil. And, unfortunately, they're right I think. Which leads to the conclusion (hopefully it's just a temporary one, though, while I figure out a way to dump the server thing) that I just need to shut my mouth and pay the damn bills.

So, for now, the Harpist can have her Diet Coke, no ice, with a wedge of lemon.
Never mind it's out of the way...
it's what they pay me for.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Have I Never Noticed This Before???

FANCY Ketchup huh???
As opposed to what, Unsophisticated Ketchup? Plebian Ketchup?
I'm happy to know I can get nothing but the best from the Golden

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conspiracy Theorists Of The World, Unite!

I have a skeptical side.

I do not usually allow it to appear enough in the Public of my Personality to color my overall outlook on life. People that spend too much time criticizing, judging, or doubting usually have a demeanor that is about as pleasant as a shooter of vinegar.

However, there are times when I feel as though I can see the forest for the trees. And I know that in this country, we the citizens (because of our power to fire and re-staff our government every 2-4 years) have high expectations of the government. By and large, the US is also a land populated by folks with a fairly high most areas. This is, in my opinion, a very good thing for this planet. The natural consequence, of course, is that those who are honored by victory in our electorate immediately feel obligated (more often to themselves than to their constituency) to keep their jobs. Occasionally this does work in our favor.

But sometimes...ah, sometimes...well, we just have to face it. Sometimes the desire to keep one's job in our government carries with it the belief that that office has the right to inform us of their actions solely on a "need to know" basis. And, well, let's be honest here- none of us are hopefully stupid enough to believe that every decision, every action our government undertakes (note the terminology there) is noble.

No, sir...
Presidents, Senators, Representatives, even military and local officials have to make tough decisions. Or take actions that are- to put it nicely- less than savory. Often, they just plain fuck up.

And then what happens? Then, the Big Red Machine gets goin'.
The gears and bells and whistles begin to turn and blow and then is born what we call...
a Conspiracy. Or a Cover Up.

The following is a link to a story that very quickly spread across the nation last night: In this interview, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth (a man who SHOULD know what he's talking sure to watch the video) names this object in the sky "a big missile."

The following is a link to a story that is now very quickly spreading across the nation: Didn't take long did it?

In this follow-up story that is part of a campaign that began this morning, even as I awoke and had not yet heard of this mystery missile, there are immediate attempts to explain-away. I turned on the local NPR station and heard a man who was brought onto the show specifically to not only debunk any speculation that this was actually a missile but also to (with the aid of the less-than-bright and somewhat grating female host) laugh said speculation off with tales of famous "conspiracies" that were later "proven" hoaxes. Pardon me for believing Dept Sec Ellsworth- a man who should not only have enough experience to identify weapons employed by our country but who also should know when is the right time to open your mouth and when is not. Oh, and by the way... did you catch the part about Ellsworth saying the US has done this before?

What bothers me is not that the US would be launching a missile from 35-40 miles away from where I reside. No sir...what bothers me is that, well, they just don't 'fess up to it.

What I'd like to hear is something along the lines of: "We were testing a missile off the coast of California and every possible precaution was taken to ensure the test was succesful and no one was hurt."

What I hear when supposed experts and Yes Men call something that is obviously more than a mere plane or jet just that is: "Oh, this test had completely unintended consequences and we just blew the shit out of some little island in the South Pacific completely unintentionally (or otherwise) but we are currently sending billions of dollars to said island to kept their mouths shut. By the way, we're going to raise your taxes to pay for this covering-of-our-collective-government-ass."

Maybe I'm way off base here. Maybe I have an over-active imagination. Maybe I like a good mystery too much. Maybe...

But don't you worry, boys and girls, as long as there are things that go bump in the night and lights in the sky and Men In Black and Black Hawk helicopters that fly overhead without us knowing about them...and yes, missiles that are launched and then called planes...I will be sitting here in my little Booth In The Sky, watching.

Watching and reporting.

After all, someone's gotta do it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Now Don't Break Our Hearts...2 Years Later

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog entitled "Now Don't Break Our Hearts."

I'm glad I wrote that. That blog was my attempt at capturing a wonderfully fulfilling idealistic victory in my life. In this entry, I recounted my political shift that occured in the months and years following Hurricane Katrina and the devastation she did on my hometown. My ideals changed. My ability to see things outside of the bubble in which I had grown up got sharper. Despite everything my family wanted and contrary to the values they thought I had been sold on, I voted with full conviction for Barack Obama.

Last night, the country admittedly turned on the Obama administration.

Sadly, most of the voting population bought into the hype that Obama is the cause of this terrible economy we find ourselves in and that "Obama-care" is evil (while out of the other side of their mouths they complain about the rising cost and inefficiency of healthcare). They've bought into this crap that Barack Obama is a Socialist, a Muslim, a natural-born Kenyan...and they buy it from a party full of misinformed, uneducated perverts, racists, closeted homosexuals, and formerly practicing witches who believe that ritual human sacrifice is still a rampant problem on Halloween in this country. The majority of this country allowed themselves to buckle under the campaign of fear that the (you gotta hand it to 'em) MORE AGGRESSIVE party- the GOP- has fed them in their desperation since '08.

Obama reached across the aisle to try to work WITH the Republicans, not against. Just as he promised in his campaign. He was rebuffed at every turn. Any honest, intelligent person will admit that.

Problem is...
we cannot only blame the GOP.

Barack's ideals remain intact. His honesty and integrity not only overshadow but completely obliterate that of his predecessor. Inside, he is every bit the President I voted for and in whom I still believe. But your intentions can only get you so far. This administration has not fought. This is what really hurts. In the great name of bipartisanship, Barack Obama has unfortunately laid down and allowed himself to be completely run over by the minority party of the last 2 years. Instead of knowing when he was not getting anywhere and then using the number that he had on his side, he continued to play nice and be polite.

Beset by an inherited economy that is as black as a night at my dad's East Texas ranch and a major Gulf Coast Oil Spill, it has been tough to watch my President and his noble agenda totally overwhelmed month-after-month, issue-after-issue. So often have I wanted to meet President Obama face to face and tell him "Come on man! Fight back! You've got the majority! Show this world what you're made of!!!"

Bill Maher wisely said (paraphrasing): "Say what you want about George W Bush, he had the balls to get the shit he wanted pushed through and he didn't care what the Congress wanted." While it may seem bully-ish, there is something admirable in a President (or at least Puppet Master Vice President and Man-Behind-The-Curtain Chief of Staff) who has a Plan and accomplishes it.

There are 2 years left. 2 years for this President who I still believe has real potential to change people's hearts and minds to get the job done. He has a lot of learning to do, but if there's one thing a man of Obama's intelligence and vision is capable's Change.

After all, we Changed in '08, didn't we?
Now it's HIS turn.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Maybe I'm Very Strange, but...

I have quirks.

Perhaps you'd call them peccadillos. Or some of you may be so extreme as to consider them symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

My friend, Sam, should be able to understand the difference...although, ironically, I think he would be one of the first people to call me weird/strange/asshole for some of these unique habits I am about to describe to you.

Regardless of what people may think, I find that many of these quirks provide me with a sense of rhythm or balance or efficiency and, perhaps, comfort. They are mostly my own way of doing things in a manner that I feel I am doing them productively.

A few examples:
1) When I go to work as an actor, I establish a ritual prior to going on-stage or on-set that I will do religiously throughout the run of the show or while I'm shooting. These rituals will vary wildly from production-to-production; sometimes they will be ridiculously specific and sometimes they will be rather general.

While performing in a production of West Side Story at The Hudson Theatre in LA last year, I only had a very short amount of time to learn a sizeable leading role before Opening Night was upon us. Feeling a little overwhelmed at the aspect of performing this role in front of an audience for the first time, I decided before I left my apartment that I was going to just let go and trust that I had put my time in, done my work and was confident enough in my abilites to nail it.

So, I made some hot tea to help my voice, put it a mug and left for the theatre. On the way there, I played Guns and Roses "Sweet Child of Mine" to get me pumped up, followed by a Michael Jackson's "PYT", Chris Brown's "Forever", and- yes- "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. These songs got me energized and ready to take on whatever lay ahead of me. Arriving to the theatre, I claimed a small spot in the very cramped quarters backstage- placing my bag in my assigned locker, ordering my costumes by scene, and kept my script on top of my bag in the locker. I got into my first costume and went to the stage to stretch and get physically ready. After that, I moved to the room where our Make-Up Designer affixed me with the standard "J" tattoo...the Jets' gang tattoo. My last step before the house was to open and we were to prepare for curtain was to go to the stage and vocally warm-up. I saved this for last because it was, in my opinion, the most important part of my prep. I hadn't done a musical in 6 years, hadn't had a vocal lesson in 5 years and there were, admittedly, some notes in some of my songs that gave me a bit of trouble with such little rehearsal time. Focus and concentration during this time was very important to me, but I also made sure not to overdo it and be weak for the show. Once all this was completed, I allowed myself 5 minutes to go backstage and socialize with the cast, especially the rest of the Jets...for whom my character was responsible for and cared a great deal about.

The above underlined routine I followed exactly, religiously every single night of the 6-week run of the show. I did not deviate, not even once- right even down to placing my wallet and keys and hot tea mug in the same exact position in my locker every night. The only modification I made was on the days where we had 2 shows in one day- during which time I would scale down my warm-ups before the second performance so as not to wear myself out. With this structure in place, I felt that I had created a little order out of chaos and gave myself the time to be ready both physically and mentally and was able to hit the stage feeling confident ready and able to just jump right into my performance.

On the other end of the spectrum, the schedule that our production of The Bacchae was given in our venue at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was so tight and short that I had no time to create a very structured routine. I had time enough to do a physical warm up and get into part of my costume at our housing before our walk up the Royal Mile to our venue. Once we got there, it was almost a mad dash to set up our props, complete the rest of our costume change, help the crew with any set pieces we could- oh, and get into some sort of last-minute place of concentration. I had no time or place to develop a routine that I usually enjoy...with the exception, of course, of finding the same spot to store my costume and street clothes, which is where they would stay for the rest of the run.

2) When I play tennis, I have a developed technique of wrapping the overgrip around my racquet that has to be exactly right: tight and firm around the grip without overlapping too much (of course it has to overlap but if it does so too much it throws off the balance of the wrapping). With this technique, my overgrip will end at just the right spot every time- just below the beginning of the frame at the end of the grip. I will, without hesitation, do it and re-do it or even throw unused grips away if this wrap is not succesfully done.

3) I pay by check.

Outdated? Maybe. For this I do not apologize. After living in Los Angeles on my own for 7 1/2 years, I have developed a routine whereby I understand the Postal Service and the various utility companies to which I graciously hand over my hard-earned money. It's a schedule...and it's one that is very easy to keep. Also, it allows me to prepare for and know when my money will be taken from my account...not to mention, allow me to manipulate the same withdrawal from my account by sending the check on the postmark date (making the bill technically not late by most utility/creditor standards).

Additionally, I have a Bank Envelope- purposely spelled with a capital 'B' and 'E.' It is a plain white envelope that I designated long ago to hold my cash and checks as I go to the bank to make a deposit. Since being in LA, I have used 4 envelopes. Yes, 4 envelopes in 7 years. I use them until they are completely worn out and unable to carry anything anymore. This particular trait I cannot explain...maybe I'm being environmentall conscious, but I doubt it. Maybe I'm lazy...or perhaps just a fan of keeping useful objects useful and present.

Dealing with the interruption of these habits is quite unsettling...

Today, while at Chase Bank (of whom I am only a member because they took over Washington Mutual- who I never had a problem with, by the way) the line was exceptionally long. I didn't mind...I had my iPod in and the Facebook app on my iPhone was keeping me sufficiently entertained. After a few minutes of standing there in my world, an attractive young lady named Anoush told me she could help me over at the desk.

I suppose I should have known something was up. Why pick me out of the perhaps 20 people in line? Why take me out ahead of the people who had been there longer?

She sat me down and told me the manager would take care of my transaction. She asked for my cash and checks. After looking around for her envelope and not finding one, she said "Let me have your envelope." Immediately, the bells went off... 'Why is this attractive yet unprepared and slightly impolite employee (what with her "Let me have's...") of a bank I don't like taking me out of line, sitting me at a desk and taking my Bank Envelope?' I reluctantly gave it to her.

She began to ask me how I pay my bills. 'Check,' I replied.
She rolled her eyes.
Strike One.

'Why do you do that? Have you ever paid them online?'
'Yes, a few times when I needed to pay while on vacation.'
'You should pay all your bills online. It makes more sense.'
'I appreciate that. Thank you. But I have a routine and I like to stick by it.'
'But that's silly.'
Strike Two.

'I'm sorry, but I don't think it is.'
'Well, can I just show you about our Chase Online Bill Pay?'
'If you'd like, but really I need to...'
She proceeded to show me an online process I had no interest in. I entertained her while also looking around for the damn Bank Manager so I could get my transaction and leave.

'Let's pay a bill today. Give me one of your cards.'
'No, that's really ok.'
'Oh come on! It's SO easy.'
'Honestly, I have no interest in paying online.'
'It's so so much safer though! People can't get your info as easily.'
Strike Three.

That's quite possibly the biggest crock of bullshit any sales rep has ever laid on me...and I've dealt with Anthem Blue Cross! Apparently this girl felt I was too dumb to know that account information can be pulled from the Internet, banks can be hacked...and that happens just as often, if not moreso, than someone stealing your info off a check that goes in the mail.

Normally I buckle when pitched some product or idea. You're reading the words of a guy, after all, who once allowed a Hare Krishna to talk him into a $5 donation since I wouldn't buy his book at LAX. The consequences of that: I gave him a $20 and he gave me a $5 back, insisting that was the deal we had made...

But from that point forward, I continued to block her every move. Even going so far as to be insistent that she process my deposit and let me leave.

When the Bank Manager finally came back, he gave me a receipt and walked away without even looking at me. So much for REAL customer service...

Oh, and by the way...he didn't give me my Bank Envelope back.

Sometimes quirks seem strange. Some of them I cannot even explain or define. But, they're mine. I own them. I control them.

And I enjoy the confidence they give...especially when someone tries to change them.