Archive for September, 2008

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Day 44: The Commuter Biker’s Life

September 23, 2008

FRIDAY
19 September 2008

When I get back to Yvonne and Ed’s at night, I’m completely exhausted, especially if I’ve been biking/busing/railing into Hollywood or elsewhere . It’s partly why I’ve gotten behind on these blog entries.  Not including the sojourn into Hollywood, getting home means navigating the tourists on Hollywood Boulevard (not as bad as Times Square, thankfully), taking my bike up and down the stairs of the subway stations, a 45-minute bus ride aboard the Rock-Hard Nipples express, and then the 20-30 minute bike ride back to the house.  Honestly, by the time I get to my room, it’s an effort just to take off my pants.

It’s not just the physical energy required to keep moving forward and stay upright, but the mental energy expended to stay safe and in one piece.  There are terrible drivers everywhere, but simple mathematics denotes there are more in a city the size of Los Angeles, which adds a new dimension of stress into my daily goings-on.  There are cars roaring out of driveways, cars approaching stop signs (and crossing the crosswalk lines, mind you), doors opening into the bike lane RIGHT as I’m passing (of course), cars that start to drift your way when riding in the street.  My personal favorite is when I’m riding in the street, and the driver in a car that’s about to pass me LAYS ON THE HORN to let me know they’re there.  Yeah, thanks for that.  Once I’ve recovered from cardiac arrest, I will make sure not to veer into your driving space, asshole.

Wow.  That’s a little out of turn for me. Road rage much?

It’s not just drivers, either.  There are narrow sidewalks, grates, mailboxes, transit stops, trash cans, broken glass, 8” curbs, dogs on leashes, dog poo (at least I hope it is dog poo… eeew), baby strollers, restaurant chairs, people darting out of store fronts, gaping holes in the concrete, school girls swinging their backpacks, low hanging tree branches, tourists gawking at the Hollywood Walk of Fame… I could go on.  I’m getting a serious core workout with all the damn bobbing and weaving I have to do.  There are also those people wandering aimlessly with no concept that other sentient beings exist in the world, or those pedestrians who stare right at you as you’re approaching and then flat-out decide it is too much effort to move that whole 6 inches to the left or right to make passing easier.  Yes, the world is filled with love.   I also enjoy those people I am in plain view of for hundreds of feet, but they’re on their cell phones talking to their agents or their botox specialists or ordering a pizza for all I know… anyway, their eyes are glazed over so they don’t see me until I’m 10 feet in front of them.  Then, they freak out like I’ve just materialized out of a wormhole or something.   There are many people living in their own little universes…

I’m also amazed at what I see some other cyclists doing.  Talking on their cell phones and/or texting… both of which are illegal when operating a motor vehicle here in California, but apparently it is acceptable to operate your bike through rush hour traffic and participate in these activities.   I don’t know how they even do it.   I can’t even use my Verizon GPS service without lodging my cell phone into the straps of my bike helmet.   I look like a Cyborg from Star Trek with the phone fused to my skull.  Still, I feel it is important to have my hands free to operate certain vital bike features like, say, steering.  And brakes.

The day was relatively uneventful otherwise.  I successfully navigated myself into West Hollywood to meet Darrell at a Coffee Bean.  He had some mail to hand-off to me, so we sat there and chatted a while.  Afterwards, I was supposed to go to a movie with my new friend Doug, but the weather was TOO gorgeous to sit inside at a movie.  (Speaking of which, I STILL have not seen The Dark Knight.   Can I still be a screenwriter in Hollywood if I’ve not seen that?)   We walked around WeHo for a while, grabbed some dinner and checked out a bookstore.  Very low-key, but it really was a beautiful night.  Both Darrell and Doug mentioned that this is one of the best times of year.   Warm, but not muggy, and a cool gentle breeze.  Brrr.  I might have to get out my long sleeve T-shirts soon.

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Day 43: The $5 Wink Investment

September 22, 2008

THURSDAY
18 September 2008

I parked my butt at The Coffee Bean in West Hills again today to get through some applications, research and what-not.  While I was working, it hit me (again) that I need to find that next action step. Job applications are all well and good, but everyone knows that statistically speaking, that method of job hunting has the lowest success rate.  I need to be out and about!  I need to be meeting people!  And that’s not just for the “real job,” but for the stop-gap job as well.  At Borders, at Target, at Starbucks, at a gym – I’m just Applicant Number X.  I’m not a name or a face or a personality.

The library was just across the street from Coffee Bean, so I decided to head there for a while.  With my body in rebellion, I’m pretty tired, and the library isn’t a great place to be when you’re sleepy.  Anyway, I fired up the laptop and logged onto mandy.com again.  I wanted to click through the site more thoroughly.  It was interesting, but I was still thinking, “I’m missing an element here.  I need to figure out the missing something-or-other!”  Clicking through mandy.com, I came across a small ad for a seminar that was happening tonight at 7:00pm in Burbank.  It was about networking and it was aimed exclusively at people working in the entertainment industry.  Hmmm.  Coincidence?  I visited the LA Metro trip planner to find I could get there by 7 on the Orange Line and the Noho Media District bus.  At this point in the day, I even had enough time to head back home, down multiple sore throat/mucus remedies, get ready AND relax for a few minutes before I had to head out again.  On top of everything, the event was only $5.  OK, I could afford that.  I figured this was probably an introduction to a longer and more comprehensive – and more expensive – workshop the speaker had to offer.  I’ve been to those kinds of events before.  Of course that’s not in my budget, but I still figured I could easily glean $5 worth of industry knowledge and tidbits to tide me over for a while.

The woman leading the seminar is a film producer named Suzanne Lyons, and she runs a company called Snowfall Films.  She explained her story as such: years ago she realized that many, many people in the entertainment industry have no concept about marketing their talent/business – no business plan, no marketing plan, no measureable goals for the next year, 5 years, and so on.  Every actor, composer, writer, director and so forth is and needs to think of themselves as the President of his or her own one-person company.  Not startling news by any means, but good information to be reminded of on occasion.

I was correct in that this 2-hour seminar was to give all of us a glimpse of the larger program she offers – the one I can’t afford.  Still, I could tell I would leave tonight’s event with some concrete action steps for the upcoming days, weeks and months.  She singled me out for one of the exercises, where we list unique things about ourselves that are completely unrelated to our careers.  The second part of that exercise is for the rest of the group to tell me what they think those unique things might say about me as a writer.  It was pretty cool, I must say.  In another exercise, we helped another fellow brainstorm how he could get more work (many of those ideas I wrote down for myself).

The program Suzanne teaches is called Flash Forward, and it’s designed to help entertainment professionals make leaps and bounds forward in their careers.  The program offers a support system, brainstorming, accountability– where you are not only held accountable for following through on your own daily/weekly/monthly action plan, but you are also held accountable for the success of every other person in your group.  There are networking exercises, marketing exercises, relationship building exercises.  Dang!  All of the stuff I really need. It was an invigorating couple of hours.

Afterwards, I wanted to stick around and gab with people a while, but I knew I had a long trip home.  Still, it was important for me to make sure I found Suzanne and told her “Thanks,” even if I couldn’t afford to take the bigger program right now.  While I waited for her, I chatted with some of the other seminar-goers.  One woman named Tori swore she knew me from somewhere.  I gave a complete history and background, but we never did figure it out.  Out of the blue she asked what I was doing this weekend.  She had some friends having a party and she thought they would be a really nice group of folks to meet.  Mostly gay, I believe.  Magically (or not so much), she had determined that I was a giant ‘mo, and she thought her friends would be a nice group of new people to meet.  Maybe it was standing on my chair and breaking out into “Rose’s Turn” that tipped her off… I don’t know.  So now I have a party to look forward to on Saturday!  It’ll be my first trip to Silverlake, so I’m excited.

Tori asked if I would take the seminar, but I explained how poor I was.  The only money I had for a deposit was the $5 in change I was given after paying for the evening’s seminar with a $10 bill.  Tori said I needed to talk to Suzanne regardless.  Either way, I knew I wanted to say “Thank You” to Suzanne for such an inspiring evening, and that I was going to figure out a way to take the Flash Forward seminar in the future.  I was the last person to get to her.  Here’s how that conversation went down, more or less:

Andy: Thank you, Suzanne.  I enjoyed that a lot.  Fantastic.  I have to figure out a way to do this program in the future.  I really want to do it.  I think it would really help me out.

Suzanne: That’s the first step right there.  Wanting it.

A: Yes.

S: So the reason for not taking it now… is it time or is it money?

A: Money.

S: OK. Are you a fast typist?

A: Yes.

S: Would you be interested in doing some transcription work?

A: Absolutely.

S: If you would do that for me, I’d take that as payment.

A: Like a barter?

S: Exactly.

A: Yeah, I’d do that!  Would the barter be just for the $100 deposit?

S: No, it’d be for the full amount.

A: I’d love to!  Plus it’ll give me some work to do!

S: Well OK then.  Perfect!  I was hoping I would find someone who could help me with this transcribing.  This way you’re helping me, and you’ll get to participate in the program.  Plus, you’ll be transcribing my workshop on low-budget film production, so you’ll get the benefit of all that information too.

Um.  Wow.  How amazing is that?  I really was estatic.  Here I was… the LAST guy in the room to talk to her once the seminar was over.  She could have made that offer to any other of the 23 people in attendance who went up to speak with her.  For whatever reason, it came down to me… the guy who only 15 minutes earlier had said, “This would be great for me.  I HAVE to do this.  I HAVE to trust the ‘how’ will present itself.”  And then the way appeared.

I call that my $5 Wink investment, and I think the return will be huge.

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Day 42: Bike in Hollywood

September 21, 2008

WEDNESDAY
17 September 2008

I took the faaabulous bus and rail into Hollywood again today.  I’m not being sarcastic either – I really think it is a sweet system.  Maybe I have a future in public transportation.

During the trip I think I figured out why my throat is harboring a viral invader from another planet.  This isn’t exactly rocket science.  For starters, with all the extra bike riding I’ve been doing, my body is like, “WTF, dude?”  Suddenly I’m riding an hour or more a day (cumulatively) and my body isn’t really used to it.  That being said, my professional medical opinion is that my body is in shock.  In addition, after riding 20 minutes in the baking sun, I wind up sweaty, hot and overheated.  I then board a sub-zero temperature icebox with wheels.  Seriously, they have the A/C setting on these buses programmed to “Antarctica.”  In addition, on the 45 minute bus ride to the rail station, the A/C blows forcibly right into my face, taunting me with it’s icy billows.  The bus is crowded so you can’t really move, and not breathing would result in some rather dire consequences.  What else can I do…

Anyway, I was trekking into Hollywood today to put in some in-person applications and see what work I would drum up.  After all the messed up financial happenings this week on Wall Street and what-not, it really is a lovely time to be seeking employment, don’t you agree?  I go one stop further on the rail line than I’ve been going and exit at the Hollywood and Vine station.  As I was walking up the subway stairs, the Pantages Theater fills my sight line.  I’ve done plenty of box office work in the past, and think this would be a great place to cash in on that experience.  Wicked is currently playing the Pantages, so I’m sure it’s an interesting crowd each night.   Tourists, plus all the resident 13-year-old girls and big ol’ homos who can all relate to the screechy green witch.  For the record, I enjoy this show fun show, catchy music, huge sets and some fantastic stage craft all-around.  In case you don’t know, Wicked is a musical based on a book by Gregory MacGuire that is a biography of sorts about the Wicked Witch of the West’s life BEFORE Ms. Dorothy Gale dropped by.  I don’t think it’s a big secret that, of the more prominent stereotypical gay genes, I received an abundance of the “Musical Theatre Lover” gene.  Unfortunately I missed out on a few others like good fashion sense and the ability to accessorize my living room, but I can hire other gays for that.  I’d take the musical theatre gene any day.

ANYHOO… I went to the box office and inquired about jobs there.  I was politely informed that there are other (read: less important, crappy, how do those people go on living) jobs at the theater, but that the box office staff is union and they don’t take applications.  Um… OK.  I’ve worked in several theater box offices in St. Louis and Minneapolis at theaters very similar to the Pantages.  Maybe this isn’t a new thing as I’ve never worked box office in New York or LA – and nothing against the lovely staff at the Pantages – but I was unaware that working conditions in these theater box offices had gotten so unbearable that unionization of the workers was required.  Do their butts get sore sitting on a padded stool all day?  Is the air conditioning causing scaly, dry skin?  Is speaking into the microphone in order to communicate with customers through the inch-thick, bullet-proof glass (yes, those theatre-queens take their house seats seriously, bitches) detrimental to the vocal chords?  Are they getting carpal tunnel typing all of 10 keystrokes to get the computer to automatically pull the next set of tickets?  Trust me, I’ve been there, and the most strenuous part is when you have to utilize a series of leg muscles to get out of the chair and use the bathroom or something.  What, the union can’t provide catheters?  Lame.

I rode down Vine and pedaled past a building called “The Production House” which was across the street from another building called “The Post House.”  Well… why not just waltz in and ask for a job?  So I did.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  Stranger things have happened.  The receptionist at the Post House, Diane, was helpful and friendly, and I think she was a little surprised when I whipped out my resume.  Ha!  Across the street at The Production House, I was met with a little less fervor.  However, the two youngsters working the reception area told me about a web site called mandy.com, which they said was kindof like craigslist, except it was ALL production work.  Sweeeeet.  If nothing else comes out of these stops, at least I have another resource to pursue.

I happened to whoosh past Eva Longoria-Parker’s restaurant, Beso, which was in a much different locale than I thought it would be.  I didn’t go in.  What’s the point, really?  She’s across town at Universal on the set of Desperate Housewives, and… well… I probably couldn’t afford it anyway.  That girl’s got expensive taste, OK?  It’d be fun to check it out someday, though, AFTER Eva and I are best friends.

Another stop was at a doggie day care place on Sunset Boulevard.  The woman working looked a little flustered when I entered, and… uh… just did not seem very happy.  This confounded me a bit – spending all day around dogs, how could you not be on cloud nine?  Granted, I haven’t lived even 5 minutes in her shoes, so who am I to pass any kind of judgment?  But still… dogs, people!  Why work there at all if you don’t love Love LOVE them?  I was done filling the application and she went into the back office for something, so I walked over to this 6′ wall and looked over at all the cuddly pups there for the day.  Of COURSE, they were all like, “Ooooo a new guy.  Let’s go sniff his butt.”  It was just like being at a gay bar.  A few came over to the wall to check me out (dogs, not gay men – story of my life).  They were so fun and fluffy (again, the dogs)!  I didn’t reach over the wall or toss them Beggin’ Strips, but there was still a bit of excitement, which brought somewhat-agitated lady out to see what the deal was.  I walked over to her with my application and said, “I couldn’t resist looking at all their sweet fuzzy faces.”

“Yeah, well one of them in there will jump up and bite your face off.”

Hmm.  Wow.  Awkward.  There really isn’t a good response to that, is there?  “So I finished my application…”  Oy.  I was DYING to say:  “Hey.  Crabby.  Do you really think I wouldn’t notice a 90-pound dog lunging toward my face?  Especially when all I have to do to avoid it is lean back 2 inches?  I got reflexes, you know.  Dayum.”  However, as I’ve said before, you have to pick your battles.  This just isn’t that important.  Regardless, I’m pretty sure she was unimpressed.  I’m sooo not getting hired there.  😦

Not much else happened in town.  It’s such a long jaunt back to West Hills, I head back to the rail station.  One last highlight:  on the way there I saw Jesus.  Seriously, he was walking down Hollywood Boulevard eating a Whopper.  Of course, I also saw Tinkerbell, Darth Vader and Jason Vorhees, so take that for what it’s worth.

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Day 41: Quiet day in West Hills

September 21, 2008

TUESDAY
16 September 2008

I stayed in West Hills today because I’ve located a Coffee Bean not far from Yvonne and Ed’s.  Free WiFi folks – it is a powerful force I can not resist.  It was a productive morning, actually… multiple applications and so forth.  I feel like that’s all I do though, and unfortunately, it ain’t enough.

On my way home, I saw the “West Hills Animal Hospital” and had to make a stop.  Not necessarily to apply for a job or to pet the animals that were in for bladder infections and what not, but to see what resource information they might have for dog-related work.  Dog walkers, volunteer opps, anything.  Asta the cat is darling, but I needs me a dog fix.  So the animal hospital attendant at the front desk asked if I wanted to fill out an application. I asked, “Are you hiring?”

“Well no, but we’re always taking applications.”  Here is where I have a mental stop-gap of my own.  My time in West Hills is temporary.  As in… in another month I’ll be back at Gary’s and then, God-willing, in my own place.  How can I in good conscience apply for a job where I’ll start, be trained in, then before the training is over, turn in my notice because I won’t be living in this area anymore?  That seems like REALLY bad karma to me.  The reverse is also frustrating… I’m living out in West Hills, so do I get a job in Hollywood?  West Hollywood?  How will I get there?  What if I have to work late?  The trains/buses (as fabulous as they are) don’t run all night.  This is one of those self-discussions that plays over and over in my own head.

Today I received a phone call from a friend who works at Disney.  See, this morning, I did a random recheck of the Disney Careers web site and had found this new job that is right up my alley – writing and production about… travel!  Loves it!  “Good catch on that,” he told me.  He said he put in a referral for me and said to expect a call this week or next about arranging an interview, so that’s exciting!  It’ll be fun to see where that leads.  He even sent me a web site link and told me to “Study this web site” because it was a lot of what the job includes.

I chatted with Ed at the house a bit and it was fun learning more about him.  Since I’m out riding my bike in the burning rays of the sun, the weather is a frequent topic.  I’m not a big sun god, but I have to admit, the weather is quite lovely in California.  I was telling Ed how I won’t really miss the Minnesota winters.  And then he said he was tired of California summers!  Ha!  It is fascinating how perspectives differ.  If Ed had his druthers, he and Yvonne would live full-time at their place in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. I’ve never been to their cabin or to Tahoe, and have only heard wonderful things about it.  I’m pretty certain my parents have gone to visit Yvonne and Ed at their place in Tahoe.  Ed loves the weather and the winters there, plus I think he gets to get in some skeet shooting whenever he goes – which is a passion of his.

Other than that, it was a pretty low-key day.  Dangit, I thought I was feeling better, but I sense the hint of sump’n sump’n tickling my throat.  I’ve had so many sore throats over the years, I know the drill.  Grrr.  I am ready for perfect health and wellness again!!

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Day 40: Another person’s Hollywood

September 17, 2008

MONDAY
15 September 2008

I didn’t sleep well last night. New place, new bed, new info to absorb.  It’s OK.  I’ll settle in fast enough.  One of Yvonne’s cats, Asta, slept with me a good portion of the night.  He’s a beast though… almost as much of a bed hog as Hank is.  These animals… I mean to tell you.  So pushy.  Thankfully, he did not flounce across my eyeballs with his Freddy Krueger nails, so that was a bonus.  My man-parts were also spared the agony.  I did wake up at one point and he was resting his li’l kitty paw on my hand.  Awww.  Maybe he knew I needed some animal bonding time and wanted to make me feel better.  I’ll take what I can get.

I took the bus and rail into Hollywood again today, as I will likely be doing for a while.  In Hollywood, I bought one of the Metro’s unlimited passes to make all of this back and forth a little easier (and cheaper).  I know I’ll put it to good use in addition to having it for these sojourns to and from West Hills.  I spent a little time at a coffee shop on Hollywood Boulevard in the touristy part of town.  It was fun watching all the tourists come and go, interspersed with the occasional Imperial Stormtrooper crossing the street.  Batman sauntered by after a while, and I saw Captain Jack leaning on a mailbox having a smoke break.  Part of the daily grind…

Later, I wound my way back to Gary’s to pick up Darrell’s bike – the one thing I hadn’t managed to get to West Hills yet.  As nice as Darrell was to lend me the bike… I honestly had not ridden it since my first disastrous, white knuckle day on it.  I wanted to see if I could make good use of it though.  Darrell thought if I raised the seat a bit, that would solve some of my issues. He just didn’t have the tool to do it.  This meant a trip to a bike shop I’d seen on Melrose Avenue.

Once they had the bike jacked up in the service area, I asked if they had some cheapy-weepy pedals to replace the evil bike clips from hell.  They also inflated the tires properly, something I had clearly failed to do.  No surprise that probably contributed to my aforementioned day of bike disaster.  I thought about additional adjustments, but ultimately decided to forego the cute little bell, handlebar tassels and pink fuzzy basket.  I didn’t want to butch it up TOO much.  Oh!  I also bought one of those oh-so-stylin’ flourescent velcro bands to put around my leg so my Chip & Pepper jeans didn’t get caught in the chain/guard thingie.  Prioroities! Those jeans are friggin’ expensive, but they’re the only ones that make my butt look delicious.  Denim-grade confidence, if you will.  There is nothing more irritating than shopping for jeans (except for maybe littering – see THIS ENTRY), so since I found a brand that works for me and my trunk, I’m staying loyal to it.

A little lunch and some time at the WeHo ‘brary and then, believe it or not, I had to wind my way up to Darrell’s and face that mo-fo hill again.  Son-of-a-bitch.  I swear I thought I was done with that thing.  The story is:  I’m continuing to use Darrell’s home as a mailing address (with his approval, of course).  Darrell’s been out of town since last Wednesday evening, and I’ve been expecting some time-sensitive docs from the IRS.  I emailed him to ask if I could use his spare key and check if this mail had come, but he’d taken the mailbox key with him.  Dern.  I did, however, have the option of asking his as-not-yet-moved-in renter Christoph if he could meet me there and let me look, since Christoph is checking the mail while Darrell’s gone (I’ve been replaced… <sigh>).  After a few phone calls and text messages back and forth, Christoph agreed, so I was going to meet him there after he was off work.  Awzum.

I didn’t even try to ride the bike up the hill again, especially since my last bike attempt upward was so pathetically lame.  I end up pushing the bike up while carrying my 100-pound backpack.  By the time I reach the top, I’m drenched, flush and my hair – like the Witch in Oz – is defying gravity.  It is actually pointing in more directions than I have hairs on my head.  I really did look like I’d been ‘ridden hard, and put away wet,’ as the saying goes.  Oh, and did I mention Christoph had worked in ‘the industry’ and had agreed to chat with me for a while about it, too?  Yes… I love taking a meeting when I look like I should be hooked up to a defibrillator… you know, just in case.

All the same, Christoph was generous with his time and we talked for about 40 minutes – which was three times longer than I was expecting. Everyone has their own experiences here in Hollywood and their own unique take on working in the industry… all of that.  I appreciated his insights, even if at one point he said, “Maybe I’m not the best person to talk to… I’m still healing.”  Hmm.  It was a thought-provoking conversation, to be sure.  Christoph had come to LA six or seven years ago with dreams and plans very similar to mine, so to hear him talk about his frustrations… well, it was hard not to let a little of it in.  I could tell it was affecting me as I rode down Sunset Boulevard toward the rail station.  During that 40-minute bus ride across the valley, more self-doubt crept in.  But on the bike ride back to Yvonne’s, all of this still in the forefront of my mind, I turned to check traffic and across the street saw a restaurant called “Follow Your Heart.”  I swear I’m not making this up, and if it wasn’t dark out, I would’ve taken a picture.  Maybe I can get one at a later date in the daytime, because I know I’ll be riding down that street often.

To me, that was a wink, telling me it was OK for me to take away the valuable information I can use from my meeting with Christoph, appreciate that his history is unique to him based on his talents and personality, and move forward with my own plans knowing that everyone has their own unique path.  Also important to keep in mind is that Christoph moved to Hollywood in his early 20s, which I’m sure presents a very different set of options than someone moving here when they are in their… ahem… mid-thirties.  Is it better or worse?  I’ll never know – I can’t adequately compare my experience now with that of a twenty-something’s life experience seven years ago.  I DO, however, remember on my trip to LA last April thinking how easily this town could mess with your mind and your sense of self, especially in your 20s when the bulk of that is still burgeoning.  I like to think that even when I was 20-25, I had my head on straight, but still… there are countless stories of how Hollywood does serious damage.  I’m grateful I waited.

Ooooo.  Suddenly I’m all deep and shit.  I’m like the TV show Scrubs.  Funny and scrappy one moment, poignant and philosophical the next.  Oh yeah… I’m layered…

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Day 39: Feline friends

September 16, 2008

SUNDAY
14 September 2008

It seems my week-long illness is at an end.  Whew!  So tired of that shiz.

Today I had to deal with the final clean-up at Gary’s before his arrival home between 11:30 and noon.  The first order of business was washing the bed linens, and it became one of those stupid games your head plays with you that gets very frustrating, very quickly.

See, AFTER my laundromat adventure from a few days ago, I discovered – voila – there is a laundry room in Gary’s apartment complex.  DOH!  So I could wash the stuff there!   Sweeeet.  But both the washes and the dries are more expensive… awww.  But with the time I’d save by not going to the laundromat, I could get through more clean up.  Sweet!  But neither Gary or I had any laundry detergent.  Awww.  SOOOOO frustrating.  Ultimately, the decision was to go to the laundromat for a single serving size of detergent, then do the laundry at Gary’s.  Yes it was more expensive, but I thought the time I would save was worth it.  Still… back and forth and back and forth.

The apartment complex cat named Mojo was having a fun time following me up and down the stairs between Gary’s and the laundry room.  He has a little bell on his collar that jingles with each step.  Mojo is mostly an outdoor cat, and he’s a friendly chap, even if he does have a questionable wart on one temple that I’m afraid to touch.  I’m afriad an alien will birth out of it, or some kind of toxic puss will spew forth and melt my face.  OR the cat will just go ballistic and claw my eyes out.   Frankly, none of these options is particularly appealing.

After leaving Gary’s, I made my way to Fairfax to catch a bus south to Beverly Boulevard.  The plan was to spend some time writing and working before heading to a movie with a friend.  I asked the old Russian lady waiting at the bus stop with me which one I needed, and she thoughtfully presented me with multiple options.  Our bus came and it was surprisingly crowded, in my opinion.  That bus driver was as serious as global warming, too.  If you weren’t there when the bus arrived and left, tough shit.  No Johnny-come-latelies on her route.  If you don’t want to miss her bus, leave home three minutes earlier next time, child.  <SNAP!>

There was one dude who got on the bus without his shirt on.  His first question to the driver was, “Is it required for me to wear a shirt on the bus, because I have one.”  I was apparent why he didn’t want to wear one because for all intents and purposes, he already had on a sweater.  There was a collective “eeeeeeeew” from the bus riders when she shook her head ‘no.’  It was like the Red Sea parting when he walked through the aisle.  Who wants to brush up against a stinky, sweaty dude on the bus??  Ish.  And THEN… the singing began.  Yes folks, he’s an artist, too.  Not subtle, under the voice while jamming on the iPod singing, but full-on Christina Aguilera vocals.  And it was a song he was making up as he went along, so that made it all the more entertaining.  I love these stranger-than-fiction moments!  I got up for my stop, and he sat down in my empty seat, right next to the Russian woman. I’m not certain, but she may have been cursing my name in multiple languages.

After working a while, I heard from my movie-friend Doug.  He owns a furniture company called Vioski. His business partner comes up with the designs, and they just recently bought the factory that makes all of it.  I thought that was pretty sweet.  It’s high-end home decor and a lot of custom work, and Doug called me late afternoon and said a client had requested a meeting with him in the showroom after he was supposed to be off work, but suggested I stop by the showroom for a short visit before then.  The place was pretty sweet, I must say.  We sat on one of the fabulous sofas and chatted about the week.  As I got up, I bonked my head on a crystal lighting fixture and it made a lovely sound.  The fixture, not my head.  The price tag on that colorful home accessory was $3900.  Yeouch.  Blessed be God my thick skill didn’t shatter that thing.

The rail and bus ride back was crowded, but peaceful and quiet all the same. On the long bus portion of the trip, there was a video monitor displaying trivia questions!  Again… loving this transportation system.  They transport, they inform, they entertain.  The only thing missing is a home baked meal and hot towels.  And a bathroom, I suppose… maybe a pool.  That’s a realistic expectation, right?  A gym… now THAT would be impressive.

Back at Yvonne’s, it became clear I was going to have a roommate. Asta.   Here he is.

He’s a sweet, fat cat, mellow cat.  At one point he wanted to jump on my lap, which is fine, except that his method was first to latch into my flesh with his velociraptor-like claws and pull himself up that way.  Thankfully no blood was drawn.  Admittedly, I’m more a dog person than a cat person, but Asta has good animal energy none-the-less.  My cousin said Asta will probably climb into the bed and sleep with me, which is fine.  I’m not allergic, but he is a furry monster.  As long as he doesn’t carve his initials in my thigh or sit on my face while I’m sleeping, everyone will be happy.

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Day 38: Another moving day

September 15, 2008

SATURDAY
13 September 2008

Today, I moved my stuff to my cousin Yvonne’s place in West Hills.  Yvonne and her husband Ed brought his SUV into West Hollywood to help transport my boxes.  I think they were probably on the road for a round-trip total of more than 2 hours.  So thoughtful!  I am so grateful that, time after time, I am meeting and dealing with such generous, thoughtful, caring people… some of whom are complete strangers still willing to help me out.  Believe me, I count these blessings every day.

Once again, traveling to a new part of the city is lending some perspective.  Part of today’s lesson:  dayum, this town is friggin’ huge.  This really isn’t shocking news to anyone, but you really don’t get a sense of it until you’re here.  It’s like the Louvre in Paris.  You’ve heard over and over how big it is, but you can’t fully comprehend its vastness until you’re standing next to it, walking through it and looking at the 10-page, color-coded map that comes with the GPS locator bracelet you are provided in case you get lost inside.

I settled in at Yvonne’s and chatted with her a while about life in California, my mother (her cousin) and some upcoming music, theatre and art events.  After all that, I needed to head back to West Hollywood to Gary’s.  I’d kept enough stuff there to get me through Sunday, which is when Gary was arriving home.  I wanted to clean the place a bit more, and also wash his bed linens Sunday morning.  With my body overheating in an attempt to kill whatever is ailing me, there have been a few nights when I’ve awakened drenched in sweat.  Ew.

I knew it would be a long trek on buses and rail-ways to get me back into Hollywood, and Yvonne graciously drove me to the first station.  Let me tell you… this mass transit system is SA-WEET.  The first leg of the trip was on this huge, smooth, spacious bus.  Here is the beauty of this line:  it has it’s own designated street.  Not it’s own lane of traffic or anything, but it’s very own, separate-from-all-other-traffic street.  No waiting for slow moving vehicles, no pushy drivers darting in front of the bus lane, and no stopping every 200 feet for another bus stop.  There were only about 10 stops on the entire 40-minute route.  Who came up with this brilliance?!  From what I gathered, food, cell phone use and loud music are not allowed on this line.  I could totally live on this thing!  Tons of people used it, yet it was pleasant, quiet, lovely… AND it didn’t smell like pee.  What’s not to love?!  I transferred to the Red Line which is an actual subway/rail line.  Who knew LA had a subway (save for the 10 million people who live here)?  It was clean, it was prompt, people were nice, and again… free of urine-stank.  Is it unnatural I was getting so much enjoyment out of this everyday experience?  Joy is where you find it, I suppose.

I’m sure the subway and buses will give me an overabundance of blog-worthy material.  On the short subway leg of today’s journey, a man sat down in front of me and, simply put, he smelled like tacos.  Not a sad excuse for taco, like you get at the Taco Bell drive-thru at 2:45am – you know, the kind that only tastes good when you’re totally smashed – but rather a good, quality, authentic Mexican food item.  Either he had just worked a shift at a Mexican restaurant, or he had been recently dipped in cornmeal and deep fried.  It wasn’t overwhelming or gross, just a noticeably distinct smell coming off another human being.  Maybe he was wearing a new fragrance called Eau de Ortega, because it was like opening a box of their taco shells.  As a side comment here:  in LA, Ortega is advertising these flat-bottomed taco shells that sit on the table so you don’t have to struggle with holding them.  Apparently, holding a taco shell that weighs .00004 ounces for the exhausting 40 seconds it takes to fill it is now too taxing on our hearts and muscles.  ¡Gracias a Dios para esta innovación!  What’s even better is that while we’re saving wear-and-tear on our fragile biceps, forearms and cardiovascular systems, we can more easily fill these table-friendly taco shells with fried beef, fried beans, sour cream and cheese.  Add a whole teaspoon of diced tomatoes and three ribbons of shredded lettuce and it’s practically a salad.

I got off the subway at Hollywood and Highland, which is right by the Chinese Theater (movies) and the Kodak Theater, which is where the Academy Awards take place.  Tourism central, AND it was Saturday afternoon.  Cra-zazy, but fun to watch.  Lots of character impersonators you could have your picture taken with:  Captain Jack (from the Pirates of the Caribbean films), Michael Myers (the serial killer from the Halloween movies), Darth Vader, Batman.  All kinds of fun.

I saw a glimpse of a dude in a Spiderman costume up the block, and for THAT… I was excited.  The fastest route to him was through a small crowd.  I’m pretty patient, so it only meant shoving one lady (with baby buggy) into oncoming traffic and three or four balloon-toting toddlers to the ground, but I got there.  Alas, the carnage was for naught, because this Spiderman… well… let’s just say he’s let himself go a bit.  Now, let’s face it:  I’m no Ford model.  Men’s Fitness magazine will not be calling any time soon with any offers, unless they’re working on a “Here’s everything you SHOULDN’T do” article and need accompanying photos.  No one wants to see my Buddha belly.  All the same, that would be why I’m not on Hollywood Boulevard in a skin-tight superhero outfit, either.  God Bless Mr. Spidey, though.  In fact, good for him!  He’s putting it out there… I’m sure there are lessons to be learned from him if I really thought about it.