Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Starving Artist Goes Onward

My original plan was to write a post about exiting the Apple, immediately before exiting the Apple.

My secondary plan was to write a post about exiting the Apple immediately following exiting the Apple.

There was a tertiary plan in which I would discuss exiting the Apple on our way across the country, the Apple growing smaller and smaller until it just disappeared behind vast midwestern nothingness and mountain ranges and desert-like swells but let's be real:  There just wasn't enough time.  Why?

Because the process of exiting the Apple is overwhelming.

It is an overwhelming process that eats up every single ounce of your time and then some, like, all of the time that you had on reserve, and it depletes you of all of your energy, hurling all of these stresses on top of you out of nowhere and in such a high volume that it feels fictional.

The only thing more overwhelming?

Settling into an entirely new city all the way across the country.

I'm nearly four weeks out and three weeks in.  Let's discuss it.  Let's discuss the whole damn thing.  Yeah?

First of all, there are things that you should just kinda know when you're attempting to move out of New York.  Things that no one would ever think to tell you but are, nonetheless, universal truths that would behoove you to have some pre-warning about.

And you have to be patient.  Fact.  Because whatever that thing is that you need?  It'll pop up when you need it most.  (It's the dumbest.  ALL of these points are the dumbest, I know they're the dumbest, and the dumbest part is that they're all remarkably true.)  We signed our lease the night before we left New York.  I've been offered seven jobs in the past three days, and the calls aren't stopping.

And we'll get bookcases eventually.  And I'll get cuter sandals.

And I am (somehow) getting bills paid.

And I made us ridiculous breakfast sandwiches on store-bought garlic bread the other day, so living tight can't be all bad.

And regardless, regardless of the hurdles, there are things that are just working:

There's the beach.

There's hiking, in what's essentially our backyard.

There's friends that we've been able to run out and see at a moment's notice because it only takes ten minutes to get to them as opposed to an hour.  Or more.

There's avocados.

There's suntans(burns).

There's the fact that I haven't seen my boyfriend this happy in years.

There's the fact that I'm signing with an agent tomorrow.

There's Adventure.

There's the fact that we drove 3150 miles to get here.  From the Apple to my hometown, across the midwest to Kansas City, past a million and seven windfarms and over the Rockies, across prehistoric looking landscapes and the wide wide desert and into Vegas.  We moved our life across the country.  And we're here.  And we earned it.

And somehow, despite the rocky journey behind us and the potentially rocky Unknown before us, we know that we're precisely where we need to be.  That's the one thing that is Known.  And for now, that's plenty.

And, for the record, New York?  I can't thank you enough.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Starving Artist Takes New York

While the rest of my friends barbecued and beached and boozehounded their way through the long weekend, I found myself working back-to-back doubles at my place of employment.  Like you do.  (Rather, "Like I do", who are we kidding, that horseshit wasn't on your agenda.)  And it was at some point on Friday night betwixt crumbing that one guy's table and pouring that other guy's Don Julio Margarita Up With A Twist No Lime No Triple Sec Add Agave ( that I realized Jesus christ.  Jesus fucking christ, I'm leaving New York exactly two months from today.

And it gave me Pause.

And some momentary panic.

And I took a deep breath, licked the remaining margarita off of my fingers (What?)(I wasn't in plain-sight), crossed those same fingers in the hopes that I'd make $1700 before the night was out, shrugged and moved onward.

Later, while on the train ride home, I resumed my place with Pause.

Two months,  thought I.  That's an overwhelmingly short amount of time.  The two month-mark preceding any occasion makes everything feel inevitable and, therefore, ever-so-slightly terrifying, and absolutely just around the corner.

I think about all of my friends who have been seven months pregnant:  they're unspeakably beautiful and glowing, to me, to the rest of the world, but to them, they feel absolutely enormous and over it in a very "Are you serious?  There's more?  How am I supposed to wait out another two months of this?"-fashion. 

I think about my brain two months before graduation, and it was all like "How do you expect me to sit through another lecture on this thing that I don't care about and will never use for the rest of my life when I have finals to think about and tequila to think about and then I'm leaving this nest and I have no idea what I'm doing I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING YET."

I think about where my friends have been at two months before their wedding day.  And the conversations have always gone something like this:
Hi, Honey!  How are you?
"... ... ...Good."
"Um.  Yes."
What's going on?
"Um.  You know.  Work.  Wedding things."
Yeahhhh?!  How's it...
"...It's A LOT.  You know.  It's a lot.  I just want it to be here and happening and done, but meanwhile, I have seating charts to think about, and a florist to pay, and I'm dieting, and I don't really want to be dieting anymore?, and my in-laws have been so great but my mom is acting nuts and everyone is yelling at me about everything all the time but this is our wedding...Ugh, I just want it to be here already, but there's all this...stuff, first."

Which is precisely my sentiment about moving across the country.

And so I'm sitting on this train at 12:30 on Friday night and my brain starts running with all of the professional things that I "neeeed" to accomplish within the next two months:
--...Do I have enough crap for a legit reel?
--My wardrobe looks like crap.
--Holy crap.  Should I print off a different headshot?
--Speaking of crap, I should probably try another cleanse before I go out there.  What if I'm not skinny enough?  But then, what if I need to poop in the middle of one of these networking-things?
--Aw.  Crap.  I need to tell my manager that I'm moving. ... ... ... ...

And then, I stopped myself.

Because the thing is, my brain could have easily kept running with all of the professional caca that I need to/should/might want to think about accomplishing before this move.  Easily.  And, frankly, (obviously,) this has been so much of the bulk of my year.

But.  Fuck it.

I live in New York.  I live in New York for another two months.  And there is so much that I simply have not done.

I remember when I first moved here and how astonished I was to discover that so many of my New York-native friends had not done so many "quintessential New York"-things.  Like, how dare they!

How have you lived here your whole life and never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge?

How have you lived here your whole life and never been to Brooklyn?

How have you never gone in the Empire State Building?

How have you never gone skating at Rock Center?

How have you never....The list went on and on and on. 

I have now lived here for over five years.  I can now succinctly answer that question:
Because it's here.  Because it has always been here, and it will always be here, so I can see it whenever I want.

And so, you take it for granted, all this great awesome stuff. And I have.

But now, I have two months of This left.  Two months with all of this awesome in my backyard.  So, yeah, I have to buckle down and make a fuckton of money and, yeah, I have this career that I'm moving across the country for to think about and further hone and, yeah, I should probably be a bit of a cheapskate over the next 8 weeks to save up for this big crazy journey to the other coast.   But, by gum, there is just so much to see!  And I want to see it as a local instead of as a tourist.  I want it all while it still belongs to me.

I need:
--The Whitney
--The Guggenheim
--Ellis Island
--a Yankees game (and I dont even like 'em!...Sorry, New York.  But I still wanna go!)
--Spumoni Gardens
--the Cloisters
--the Bronx Zoo
--the Brooklyn Botnical Gardens (two blocks from my house.  ...Two blocks.)
--Jones Beach
--the Rockaways
--the opera
--the ballet
--movie nights in Bryant Park
--movie nights on the pier

And that's all just as a first timer.

I want refreshers of:
--The Met
--The Museum of Natural History
--Coney Island (down the street)
--the Brooklyn Flea (up the street)
--Celebrate Brooklyn
--a little Broadway
--a little Off-Off-Broadway
--stupid luxurious strolls in Central Park
--stupid luxurious strolls on the HighLine
--stupid luxurious strolls down the Brooklyn Bridge, which is arguably my favorite thing to do in the entire universe.
--Carroll Gardens
--Park Slope
--South Slope
--Windsor Terrace
--Red Hook
--Ditmas Park
--Battery Park
--every single neighborhood that I've ever even sort of loved
--I want to do a food and pub crawl around my old stomping grounds.
--I want to go to the West Village to get a pedicure and a cosmo.  At the same time.
--I want to take a snobby walk around the snobby Upper East Side to spy in on the snobbiest brownstones and the unattainable snobdom sliming around inside of them.  And scoff.
--I want to canoli my way through Little Italy.  Both of them.
--I want to run through the fountain in the middle of Washington Square Park and scream at the top of my lungs.
--I want to stand at the top of the Empire State Building on the 4th of July and watch the city stand in awe while the sky erupts around me.
--I want to perch myself in front of the Flatiron Building, in the center of the Meatpacking District, on a bench in Chinatown, at a bistro in Cobble Hill, a beer garden in Queens, a coffeeshop in Williamsburg, on the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park and just people-watch.

I want it all.  "I want it fast and right through me," like Dave Eggers says, but I want a fragment of it, of each moment to lodge itself in my chest, to just sit there and stay warm forever and always.  I don't want to just remember that I was here.  I want to take it all with me.

Because I've earned it.

Because I've both hated New York to a degree that I can't articulate, and loved her beyond all possible measure.   Because I've run myself ragged inside of her walls, and found a way to slow down to a stop.  Because I've grown up inside of her, and now, out of her. 

And it's a lot.

It's a lot to take in.  And, as much as I'm growing more anxious by the minute for this next step, and as much as I find myself going Jesus christ, can we JUST get this over with?! all too often, I need to remember to remember This. 

I've had over five years to make myself a part of New York.

I may be moving to Los Angeles, and absolutely know that that's right.   But. I'll be damned if I don't walk down those streets without having made a point to make New York a part of who I am. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Starving Artist on Your 56th Birthday

I think that it's an important thing to go forth in your everyday life knowing not just why you do what you do, but who you're doing it for.  And.  I'm speaking both personally and professionally,  of course, but, I do.  I think that it's a hugely important thing to take note of.

Like, every Sunday, right?  You walk out your door at 10am, or 1pm, and before the end of the afternoon, you will have found a pick-up game of basketball somewhere and played yourself into the ground.  Why is this a thing?  Or, you've known since you were a Sophomore in high school that you wanted to be a lawyer, and here you are, and you're killin it, and of course you are.  But why was this so important to you to begin with?  You had to kick off your 30th Birthday with a Maker's Manhattan, neat.  You had to read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" to your first graders, first and foremost.  You had to roast a chicken as your first home-cooked meal in your new place.  You had to do these things, and without question.  Awesome.

What's your rationale for all of this?

I just feel like we go about our everyday lives inspired by a variety of different people all at once, and man, I don't know, just take a second to swallow that concept, if you will.  The idea that you get to carry around this network of inspiration with you all day every single day?  I don't care if you think that sounds cheesy, that's an awesome awesome thing, honestly, that's a friggin gift-and-a-half.  But, then, if you reeeeally think about it?  I believe that there is very nearly always one central person outside of yourself that you do these various things that you do for.  A person whose influence stands so tall that it dwarfs your self-importance. A person to whom the voice in the back of your brain goes "Aw.  Man, You would just love this." 

For that person?  I have my Mom.  In all things.

Some words about her:

My Mom never made any sort of money, but she was always the busiest person for miles, the most generous person for miles and, hands down, the happiest.

She took pictures of everything.  No kidding, she single-handedly kept Kodak FunSavers relevant.  I didn't understand it when I was younger, but I understand now that she just didn't want to miss anything.  She didn't want to forget.

She could not cook or bake to save herself, but she loved doing it.  So hard.

She was thrifty.  To a fault.

She loved white zinfandel.  Boxed.  And she pretended like she "wasn't a big drinker.  Do you know I've only ever been drunk twice?"  ... ... ...

She was a terrible liar.

She had an intense shoe obsession (and the fattest feet in the universe...Sorry, Mom).

She came to every single game/team meeting/rehearsal/show/field trip of mine.  She'd bring snacks, and she'd offer rides home, and she'd make us feel like we'd just done god's work.  Every time.

She never questioned anything that I wanted to do.  Ever.  Rather, she supported me without question, relentlessly, and bent over backwards to do so.

She talked about dreams.  She talked about practicality.  She talked about the importance of maintaining both of those things, evenly.

She talked about the importance of resilience.

She talked about the importance of "sticking to your guns".

She talked about how I needed to tell her when I was considering having sex for the first time so we could, "...You know.  Just talk about it.  I won't try to talk you out of it.  We'll just.  Talk."

She consistently aspired for "Better".  I don't know if she ever felt like she got there, but I do know that she never backed down from the fight.

She loved like it was her job.  I believe that to her, it was.

Today, my Mom would have turned 56 years old.

I can't remember what her voice sounds like anymore, but every day, I attempt to walk about my Everdayness in an effort to make her proud.  In the hopes that I could potentially hear a "Good girl!"  or "What a fun thing!" from somewhere out in the ether as opposed to "Well.  I don't...I mean, I'm not sure if that was the best idea?"

I carry her around with me because she was the kind of person that you just always wanted to keep around.

I aspire to do that, to keep her around, as long as I am able.

I aspire to reach her level of Badassery.  Be half the Warrior that she was.  Half the Woman.

I aspire.

And strangely?  That's very nearly fulfilling.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Starving Artist on Strokes of Luck

There is an unspoken rule-slash-motto when it comes to auditions:
"Aim to get the Callback."

You get the Callback, you've essentially won.  You've already done your part, you've given the casting director what they wanted, and everything past that is beyond your control. 

It's a real good rule-slash-motto to live by. Wanna know why? :

For one of the things, it just keeps you sane.  You end up focusing on your one small task to worry about (just doing whatever's at hand in the initial audition room) versus 72 different things all at once (the initial whatever at hand, What if I change shit up if I get my Callback?, HolyFuck-what-if-I-don't-get-a-Callback?!, Is it bad that I didn't go to Carnegie Mellon?,  Is it bad that I haven't worked-out yet today?, Am I wearing the right thing today and should I wear something different tomorrow and could I look better?, How will I spend my money if I book this thing?,  Should I be reckless and blow it on that sexy pair of Fryes that I've been wanting for forever or should I be responsible WHY AM I SO IRRESPONSIBLE?!).  Stuff like that.

For another of the things, it keeps you from taking all of this audition-stuff too personally.  You can do your thing in the room and you can KILL it, but ultimately, once that Callback happens, if they decide that they don't want a girl with (large)(LARGE) curly blonde hair or (large)(LARGE) blue eyes, ain't nothin you can do about it.

You get the Callback, you don't book it, it's not your fault, and it's not the end of the world.  Period.


Unless you're moving to Los Angeles.

Unless you're moving to Los Angeles and have been, for the past 3 months, On Hold/Availability Checked/First Refusaled/Thrice Read/CAST only to have the project axed for (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...yeah) at least eight different projects.  No kidding.  NO. KIDDING.

Because once THOSE words are thrown in front of you, see, you start to actually plan on the gig.  For real.  You begin to believe that you've booked it, and you have every reason to believe as much.  You begin to imagine where on your reel you're going to place that footage and what an awesome credit that will be on your resume and how much easier this money will make your life and your move and your acquiring a car--which is a thing that you have not had to think about in (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...thirteen) at least thirteen years, and once this opportunity has been snatched from you at least eight times in three months (... ... ...), you're not just bruised anymore, you're starting to feel ever so slightly insane.  You start to lose it.

And I started to lose it about an hour ago.

I had gotten a First Refusal for a gig last night and instantaneously forwarded the email to my boyfriend with a "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!" headliner as THIS EMAIL WAS INSTANTANEOUSLY SOLVING ALL OF MY EVERYTHING BECAUSE THIS BITCH, THIS FUCKING GIG WAS MIIIIINE.  And I had an evening of goodness and relief and breathing deeply and going "What?  Moving is panic-inducing?  But I'm about to have all of this money come in.  Why have I been so on-edge about this whole thing again?  That's weird."

Until it wasn't weird anymore. Until this afternoon, when I got an email:
"They revised the Callback list and you didn't make it...sooorry, next time."

(God.  Fucking.  Dammit.)

And I began to hyperventilate.

And I began to pace like a maniac.

And I called my boyfriend.

"How's the dog today?"
"But. You got First Whatevered."
"Isn't it yours?"
"Honey.  Honey, are you crying?  Don't cry."
...Almost.  Al-most crying.  (I was crying.)
"You're crying.  Don't cry.  Call your manager."
"Ask him what happened."
...'kay.  I hate this.
"I know."
Do you?! (I'm a girl.)

And so I did.  Which, truthfully, still feels weird even four-plus years into our relationship.  I should probably get over that.

"I am so.  Sorry."
Yeah, no, I know.  ...I just want to know if I'm doing something wrong.  Am I doing anything wrong?
It's just that this exact thing has happened so many times since January...
"...I know..."
...Right.  And I just, I didn't know if there was something else that I should be doing in the room.  If you were getting any kind of feedback about any of this?  Or something?  I don't know.

And then, he said one of the worst Absolute Truthy-phrases, the answer to 98% of Starving Artists' professional problems.

"It's just Luck.  It's just Luck, Angela."


That?  It's a fucking gut-punch.  And "Luck" is the worst because it sounds like a cop-out, and when you're feeling remotely desperate, remotely scrapped for cash and remotely scrapped for more things to throw on your resume, it will always sound like a cop-out.  But.  It is the undeniable truth.  And the gut-punchiness of it all is the fact that there just ain't nothin that you can do about it.  Not about Luck.  Not nothin.  Not shit.

"Ever think about taking some pictures of you with glasses?  Just for variety?"
... ...Maybe...? (Uhhh...)

I mean.  Maybe.

But maybe the one thing you can do is hope that the next room will be looking for a youngish-looking 31 year-old with (LARGE) curly blonde hair and (LARGE) blue eyes.

Maybe you can just continue picking up a million and seven shifts at your day-job to get that cash, and just not plan on booking anything.

Maybe you can continue doing research on car dealerships in the greater Los Angeles-area running deals for "$0 down, 0% APR"...and hope that it's still standing in three months.  ... ...It's fine.

Or.  Maybe you can find a way to just say Fuck It.  Do what you can in the everyday, and then, do what you can in the audition room.  Because you know that there will be another.  And you're savvy enough to know how to fucking bring it at this point.  (Right?)

Luck will have to take care of the rest.

And she can't always be a tease.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Starving Artist Vacates

I’m extraordinarily specific about how I like to fly:

-Take JetBlue, if at all possible.   Which, strangely, has kinda become the domestic flight-equivalent of bougie flying (without taking first class and, you know, actually being bougie).  Take it.

-Get a window seat, if at all possible, but a window seat situated just behind the wing of the plane.   It helps you to focus on the horizon even better.

-My departing flight will always be, if at all possible, at the crack of dawn.  This way, yeah, you’re up like an asshole at an entirely stupid hour of the day, but then, you will still have the entire day ahead of you by the time you reach your destination.  Common sensie stuff, really.

I’ve had years of perfecting my personal method of flight, it is simply how I prefer things. 

And so, Tuesday morning at 6:45, I’m lifting off from the runway.  I am tired, I am freezing, and I am giddy, and my face is pressed up against this window that’s gotten all steamy from the wing exhaust.  Queens is disappearing beneath me under a blanket of early morning winter shadows, all dark grays and blacks and blueish shades of black, all cold.  Sterile. 

When I look up, the sun is rising into the tip of the wing.  This big yolk of a thing, that’s a million different colors at once, casting out a million different colors at its side.  All bright, all invigorating, all spread before me as far I could see. 

I am a permagrinning, goosepimpled, elated-beyond-all-possible-comprehension sonofabitch.

It is easy and simultaneously cheesy and wonderful to look at a horizon like this and think “So, I guess that’s what possibility is. “  And we flew further into it as I fell asleep.

I opened my eyes over a series of desert canyons.

I woke up when I saw the first palm tree.  And I practically ran off of the plane and into Los Angeles.

I’d tell you that I came here for the week to take a vacation, and that would only partially be true.  If you want the whole of it, I came here to hug a series of friends, soak in a stupid amount of Vitamin D, and attempt to get comfy with the neighborhoods.

What’s the sense of apartment hunting unless you know where you want to live?

The Dirty Truth is that I have just less than four months left in New York, and less than four months before we’re starting a new life here.  That’s what I’ve been sitting on for the past 7 months.  

I suppose it deserves a little backstory:

This past summer, I went on vacation with my boyfriend’s family to Souuuth Texas right on the Gulf of Mexico.  I was psyched for a countless number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was my first vacation (of length and without any kind of agenda) in 8. Years.  That’s not an exaggeration:  8 years, actually, eversoslightly longer than.  So, I felt like I was potentially overdue.  …In truth, I was pretty sure that I’d just forgotten how to do it, and these sweet Texans were set to get me drunk on Shiner and give me a week-long reminder.  It worked.  All of it.

I had not realized how much I had needed one.  I had not realized just how stressed and wound-up and tense and out-of-my-brain run-down I’d been until I was sitting on the beach with my boyfriend in absolute silence and realized that I just wasn’t anymore. 

How long did this transition out of Crazy take?  24 hours.  Let that sink in for a moment, if you will.

So, there we are, sitting on the beach in absolute silence, sun-baked, blissed-out, actually feeling our muscles snap and release and like slime their way down into the sand, and chugging Coke Zeros at a trashily impressive rate.  We just sat.

I could get used to this, says I.

“Right?” says He.

Riiight?  Seriously, what would happen if we could have this every day?, says I, staring out at the water, probably looking for jellyfish.  I can’t imagine.

“Well.  We actually could have this every day.” 

My boyfriend has been dangling the idea of us moving here pretty much since we started dating 7 years ago.  (… … …7 years.)  His “Man, it’d be cool to move to LA someday,” became, “Yeah, camera-stuff is pretty cool. What if we moved to LA someday?” became, “You’re reeeal good at this camera-stuff, it’s where you belong, when do you think we should move to LA?”  It has essentially always been talked about as if it were a Queen-sized mattress, you get older and it inches its way from a far-fetched wouldntitbenice and onto your potential-priority list.

And, for the past 7 years my response has remained the same:  Yeah, yeahhhh, I’m sure that you’re right.  But, I really don’t feel like I should be going to LA unless I have a gig that pulls me there.  Unless an agent or someone tells me to go.

Point is, I knew what the guy was getting at as we sat on this beach being the happiest of slugs, and I had my response on the ready.   I was on auto-pilot for it.

(Blah blah blah blah blahhhhh) Unless someone tells me to go.

And for the first time, he smirked at me in reply.  He smirked like something was up.  I was alarmed.



“How old are you?”

(… … …) 30. …?

“How long before you’re of age for your type do you think?”

I didn’t even have to think about it.  Some stuff is starting now, everything else should start in the next 2-3 years.  I’ll probably look age-appropriate in the next 5.



“You know all of that?”


(drum rollll)  “So why are you waiting for someone to give you permission to go?” 

(And then all of the cymbals crashed and the gong in my brain went crazy.)

I had no.  Response.  None.  Because I knew that he was right. 

Vacation-brain offers you a unique kind of clarity, right?  And, here we were, sitting all sandy-assed and BS-free and, for once, able to actually very clearly assess what were doing with ourselves.  I suddenly saw that this hadn’t come down to a question of “Should we quit New York?”, rather “Do we deserve something better?”  I knew that I was just sitting on a great opportunity when I should be running with it. 

The possibility of Los Angeles instantaneously became very real and very likely.

But.  I made us sit on it a bit longer, waiting to actually make any real decisions until we got back to the city.  Real life might change things, says I.

Wanna know how real life changed things?  It amplified the need for us to go.

Conversation A:
Man, the quality of life out there is so much nicer.

“Yeah.  Like, I could deal with The Grind so much better if I were dealing with it in my car and could just escape to a beach or a canyon if I felt like it.”

Instead of just staring at a ton of concrete buildings?

“Instead of just staring at a ton of concrete buildings.”

Conversation B:
This agent just freaked-out over me and said that I have “30-minute sitcom written all over my face”.


Yeah!  But, none of those shoot here.

“…None of those shoot here.”

Conversation C:
“Wouldn’t a yard be nice?”

Conversation D:
I have spent my whole fucking life with fucking Winter, I am so.  OVER it.

Conversation E:
“How far south are your brother and sister-in-law from LA?”

Two hours.

“Can we hang-out?”


Conversation F:
So-and-so seems sooooo happy.

“I knowww.”

Before I knew it, I was on Craigslist searching for apartments and avocado trees.  A year in advance.  (Overkill, I get it, but I was excited.) I established a firm and amazing To Do-list for myself of things that I needed to accomplish professionally before the move (which all kinda came to a head in February, as you know, and depleted me completely…it’s fine).  But the more time that passed and the more that we attempted to plan things and not quite tell EVeryone about the fact that we were peacing out, the more anxious we became to just PEACE-THE-FUCK-OUT.

But, we couldn’t.  We needed to be methodical, ready, and strategize a bit.

And all of this leads me to here, to this week.

I stepped off of the plane and into my insanely expensive rental car that I didn’t even think twice about price-wise because I was IN it, and needed it, and was gaining points for it (thanks, JetBluuuue!), and was perched in the driver’s seat with my North Face off and windows down and sun in my face in the middle of March.

I spent the next hour driving up and down a million hills.

I spent the next week getting lost in a million different places.

I ran a mountain and had a stare-down with a coyote, ate more pastries than I have in years, drank more wine than I have in…weeks… , did morning yoga in a canyon, hugged a million friends,  went to a book club, saw my family, saw the best Transformers-musical ever, asked a million benign and boring questions and was jazzed about all of them.

I took a week to vacation.  And realized that life here actually looks a lot like New York.  Just sunnier.  With more breathing room.  More palm trees.  More Happy. 

I feel like I’ve earned these things.

And now, I finally have the permission to make it mine.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Starving Artist Looks Into Adulthood

I can see it now:

Hi.  My name is Angela, and I'm a jerk.

"Hiiiii, Angelaaaa."

I'm 31 years-old, and every morning, I wake up to put hot chocolate mix in my coffee.  That's a real thing, and I do it every.  single.  day.  But, in my defense, I put coconut milk in it, too, which is both soy and dairy free, so, I guess, in a way, I'm still aiming to be nutritionally sound?  And also, at least it's coffee.  Which I could drink black and just choose not to, but my point is that I'm not, like, chugging a thing of Nesquik through a twisty straw as my morning ritual.  Although that sounds delicious.  ...I'm an adult.

"Let's pause on that for a moment.  When you say 'I'm an adult', are you saying that because you believe it to be true, or because you're trying to convince yourself of that much and, essentially, force it?  Are you forcing the idea of Adulthood?"

... ...I'm an adult?

I war with this thing in myself pretty much all the goddamn time.  And I have been.  I'm sure that's a thing, like a symptom of "I'm in my late 20s/early 30s", assessing how to find that balance and all that jazz.  Still.  It's unacceptable and I don't like it.

HOWEVER.  Over the past... (....1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7nope) like 6 1/2 months...? (Which, if you'll notice, is how long it's been since I last wrote which, admittedly, is disappointing to me however, I swear, there's a reason for it, and I've been avoiding it, and I still can't get into it quite yet, but I will...JESUS CHRIST WITH THESE PARENTHETICALS AND THE EXTENSIVE COMMA-USAGE!).  Over the past 6 1/2 months, I've been upping my Adulty-game at hyperspeed.

Professionally.  Strictly professionally.

And therein lies the rub.

I feel like I literally woke up one morning sometime at the beginning of September and went "Fuck.  I'm not doing anything!"   And I decided to start doing EVerything in an attempt to get ANYwhere.  Which, sure, everyone goes through bouts of this.

My particular bout was 6 1/2 months-long.  And my 6 1/2 months looked like this:
-Let's take this workshop.
-Let's take THAT workshop.
-Let's do a reading.
-Let's pimp myself through a mailing.
-Let's run to four auditions.
-Let's work 6 shifts.
-Let's close this week, and hit Repeat.
-Let's film this awesome month-long project.
-Let's work 24 more shifts when I'm not shooting.
-Let's immediately run from this project to another one where I direct.  For two months.
-Let's immediately run from rehearsal to work almost every day.  For two months.
-Let's start pimping that project.
-Let's figure out how to fit a double in this week.
-Let's record a voice-over.
-Let's pimp myself again.
-Let's take 3 workshops.
-Let's question my day job.
-Let's start working 7 shifts a week.
-Let's run a fundraiser.
-Let's open a play.
-Let's do a sketch show.
-Let's do a reading.
-Let's take 3 more workshops in 2 days.
-Let's punish ourselves for not having done a mailing in a bit, and pimp EVen harder.
-Let's start another improv class.
-Let's audition for a big huge role on a big huge show and then still wonder why I haven't: booked anything like that yet/shot a short film/finished writing a webseries/gotten into class with Bob Krakower/started making more money/landed an agent/found a way to not have a day job/finished improv classes by now/started sketch/made my website cuter/handed out more business cards/written a pilot/done something of worth with myself.

Even though I had.

I was running myself ragged and exhausting myself through exhausting all of my options in how to get myself professionally Awesomer.  Because, that's the Adult-thing, right?  If you're not kicking ass professionally, if you're not 100% succeeding, you're not living and you are, otherwise, a waste of space and this big crazy succubus to the grown up-potential of the people around you.  Right?

Not right, though.

And meanwhile, I began to realize that I was doing absolutely nothing else.

I couldn't remember the last time my boyfriend and I had been on a date.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd found a chance to go running.  I couldn't remember the last time that I'd adequately cleaned my house, dropped off a load of laundry that hadn't been accumulating for 4-5 weeks, took a day to read, go to a museum, hang out at a bar with friends just to do it and get stupid drunk just because OR not, or just meander and I live in NEW YORK FUCKING CITY AND I SHOULD PROBABLY BE DOING THIS ALL OF THE TIIIIIIME.  I was putting so much extraordinary effort into being an "Adult" that I was doing nothing in the way of being just a fucking "Person".

I was slowly, and without even realizing it, becoming that chick that I never wanted to be:  The Actor.  (Horror, Gasps, and Shock and Awe.)  I knew that if I let it go on much longer, I would slowly evolve into the girl who doesn't ask "Ohmygod, how ARE you?", rather "Ohmygod, soooo, what are you working on these days?"

These people are not necessarily asking this question for a competitive purpose (...ok, fine, some definitely are, but), they're asking this question because they have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ELSE TO TALK ABOUT.   Because "What're you working on?" is all that they know.

And that's the saddest.

So, with the official entrance of "New York Winter Dead" at the beginning of February, I just decided to stop.  I was going to take the month off from Professional-Me and do, I mean, pretty much everything else.

And I did.

All of a sudden, friend-dates were happening, boyfriend-dates were happening, exercising was happening, reading was happening, tax-organizing was happening, SLEEP was happening, the cleanest house in the universe was happening, a whole lot of Nothing was happening, it was All.  HAPPening.

And I felt complete.  I'm not kidding, shit felt glorious.

And my world didn't end, and my professional world didn't stop.  It just, I suppose, relaxed.  And man, it was a welcome change.

There are, however, two problems with this approach:

For A ) This Relaxation/Let's-Just-Be-A-Fucking-Normal-Person-thing is JUST as addicting as the former.  And, therefore...

For A2 ) You have to determine how to find this stupid Balance-thing.  Rather, I have to determine that.  Which, naturally, I'm assuming is just going to be a fancy work-in-progress for a good long while.  It's a funny little struggle when you sit back and really think about it:
      -Wound-up/Professionally On Fiii-yuh -Me   -versus-   Just CALM THE EFF DOWN AND SIT THE HELL DOWN AND GO GET YOURSELF A GAH-DAMN MARGARITA -Me.
      -& You're 31 Be a Fucking Adult Already -Me    -versus-   Nooooooooooooooooooooooope!  Nope -Me. 

Truthfully?  This lil warring-thing could, actually, get kind of hilarious.

For B ) UNhilariously, there are lots and lots of people who will just never be ok with your taking this approach.  And they will let you know.
      -"So!  What're you working on right now?"
      -"Wait.  ...What?"
      -No!  It's great. I'm actually just kind of taking some time to just kind of slow down and, I guess, be better to myself.  For lack of a better non-cheesy-sounding term.
      -"NO, just.  You'll be ok, things will pick back up."
      -No no no, TRUST me, I'm fine!
      -"OK.  ...I just took class with someone from Bowling/Miscia, by the way, she was SO great."
      -That's awesome!  
      -"You should totally look into it."
      -Sure.  I will.   But, I'm fine.

Look.  Just know that this happens, and know that this happens from more people than you'd expect.  And know that it's happening just because they're even more lost in their own shit than you are.

(PS, These are also the same people who will warm up the loudest in the lobby of the Equity-building, and freak out on YOU when they shatter their compact of blush before a commercial audition.  Nutshell:  they're the last people in the world that you should actually worry about.)

(PPS, WHAT'S! UP!  PARENTHETICALS!!!)  (For real.)

But.  In my humble opinion, you owe it to yourself to try it.  In my 31 years of garnering life experience and wisdom beyond all possible comprehension (dusts shoulders off)(FUCK!), I feel like the best Actors, nope, the best Artists, Starving and otherwise, are the people who take the initiative to live beyond their craft.  In other words, the best Artists are the people who take the opportunity to actually live.

(You should totally look into it.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Starving Artist's Other Voice

Sometimes, I like to just sit around and daydream about potential future titles of my potential future memoir.  Like, Title-titles and chapter titles.  And I dreamt up a particularly brilliant option at 7 Monday morning while sitting double parked as alternate side parking (slash the bane of my existence, slash why don't I EVER bring a book, slash OR coffee...hashtag Gross) crept into effect:

"Broke, But the Gorilla Tape Had to Go."

Granted, the idea seemed rather obvious, looking in the back seat and noticing that both windows were still off the track, still had not fixed themselves, and were held up rather precariously and increasingly ineffectively by said Gorilla Tape.  But, it felt right.  It felt apt, as if it could be an awesome metaphor for...something, I don't know.  Everything, all the things.


Blargh. Guys!  This is a prime example of what my Writing-life looks like, rather, what it's begun to look like. Things happen to me, all sorts of ideas and creative fodder pops into my brain and I think YEAHHHHH!!!! WRITE ABOUT ITTTTTT!!!!  And I don't.  Largely just because I honestly--honestly!--haven't had the time.

(Sidebar:  Someday, I will happily discuss with you exactly what the past 6 months have looked like.  The half-marathon, the new job, the BABY-BIRTHINGthatwasnotmine, the vacation, the class with Kathleen Turner KATHLEEN TURRRRNERRR!!!!, the commercial shooting, the web-series, the ministering, sooooo many things.  ...Someday.)

Sometimes, however, I think writing can just feel scary.

And with THAT, let us segue into one of the best nights of my professional life which, just to give you a hint, had nothing to do with acting.  Well, my acting, anyway.

Backstory:  A little over four years ago, I was sitting in an airport in Kansas City waiting for an NYC-bound flight and, as per, people-watching.  If you have never been in the Kansas City International (I mean, they have GOT to be using that term loosely) Airport, it feels pretty much empty pretty much all of the time.  And so, I'm sitting at my gate with only two other people, this couple.

They are the most fascinating two people I have ever seen.

They had to be somewhere in their late 50s/early 60s and they had clearly gone out of their way to uber-closely resemble Elvis and Priscilla Presley.  I mean, he kinda looked like a bespectacled-version of Elvis that had just left a rodeo, but still, their hair was just so, his tan was just so, his sneer was just so, her plastic surgeried face was just so.  It was odd, you know, and completely amazing.

But even stranger still was their behavior.  The three of us sat at this gate by ourselves for no less than 45 minutes, and I watched them (albeit creepily, I've no doubt) having this increasingly intense conversation with each other.  However, they were having this conversation entirely through their teeth, never moving, and never even looking at one another; they continually stared out the windows, scanning the tarmac.

Who the shit are these people?!  I thought.  They were too outrageous to not be real, too strange, too theatrical, and I knew that I had to figure them out.

I knew that I had to write about them.

Once I was home, I sat down and just started writing all stream-of-consciously just to kind of see what I could see about them.  It didn't take me all that long to draft up an intense character breakdown of the pair, and it didn't take me long to have Waiting for Godot pop into my head, and it didn't take me long after that to decide that I needed to write a play.

And so, I did.  And I wrote it feverishly and excitedly.  The words just poured out and the story just kept growing and I thought UGGGGGGGH, yesssssssss!!!!  I knew that I was creating something new and different, and weird, but it was Mine!  This little nugget was completely Mine, and it felt completely amazing.

And then, I finished it.

Aaaand I hated it.


This doesn't GO anywhere!  This dialogue doesn't sound real, nothing's really happening to these people, and I sound like I'm trying too hard.  I hate it, Nope!, I hate it. 

And I was devoid of ideas.  So, I saved the file, upturned my coffee table with a FUCK this, I can't write a play!!, and walked away.  

For four years.

Fast forward to a month and a half ago.  I'm at work folding napkins all Zen-like when my sweet sweet lady friend Ashley approaches me with this genius idea.

"So.  I'm gonna host a night of One Acts in August, and we want all of the pieces to be written by people who aren't known writers.  Like, directors and actors who happen to write things."

A celebration of new work in the best of possible ways.   My brain started to buzz.

I LOVE it!  I love it.

"Right?!"  It sounded so exciting.  "You write, right?"

NO.  ...The word just kind of ran out of me, so I, naturally, felt the need to qualify it as I tend to over-qualify all the things all the times.

Well, OK, no.  I wrote a thing once, a play, but it was...terrible.  I seriously feel like if you asked me to write anything else, I could absolutely do it, but just, I don't, I don't think that I'm a playwright.  

And she just nodded, said "OK!"  and that was that.

...Except that wasn't that, because she reapproached me five minutes later and said, "What was your play about?"

And so I instinctively told her.  And it felt so foreign to talk about it.  I hadn't discussed it with anyone in eons, hardly anyone in my New York-life even knew that it existed.  I started to get anxious.

But all my friend said was, "Yup!"  (...What?!)

Um, yeah.  It's silly.  Because it was silly!  Because I'd already written it off as a thing that I couldn't do, an idea that could never ever work.  I couldn't believe that I was even talking about it, let alone that someone sounded even pseudo-interested in it.

And my sweet friend just smiled.  "Angela.  Maybe you take a second look at it.  At your play.  I don't know."  And walked away.

And so, that was that.

And that night, I begrudgingly sat down and opened the thing up for the first time in four years.  It was terrifying.  I was certain that I wouldn't even remember what it sounded like and, frankly, I was ok with that; I wasn't sure that I wanted to remember what it sounded like.

...It wasn't bad.

I mean, of course it needed work, but I could actually see where to fix it.  And so, I did. 

Within 72 hours, I'd completed an initial round of editing, received Ashley's go-ahead (WHAT?!), and gotten a director for the piece (What what WHAAAAAT?!). And then a cast (... ... ..).

And not a lick of it made any sense to me, at all.

Over the coming weeks, I edited and cut and rewrote and cleaned-up and sharpened like a madwoman.  But, the more concrete my words became, the more my fears just grew and grew and grew.  Because that was the thing:  I'd never been responsible for what someone else had to say before.  I'd always been responsible for the acting-part, the telling of the story, I'd done that a hundred thousand times, and had gotten, you know, pseudo-decent at that.  But, I'd never before been responsible for the actual story, I'd never been in charge of the blueprint and, consequently, was terrified that I was building a structure that wouldn't hold up.  A structure of my words and ideas, and I truthfully didn't know if those words and ideas were solid enough.  Pulling this thing together was, in all honesty, the most vulnerable thing I've done in an exceedingly long time.

And it is terrifying to be vulnerable.

However, it is humiliating to be a coward.  And I tend to think that Bravery is fun.  And so, I forged ahead. 

I met my two actors and my director on the night of the reading.  THE Night Of, as in a little more than an hour before the curtain went up.  I didn't know what it would sound like, I didn't know if they would get it, I didn't know if it would come off as stupid, or trite, if I was going to look like an absolute fool, I just...I just didn't know.  Anything.  And it was fucking scary.

With my heart racing, the four of us sat down at these rickety tables in the back of this gloriously dimly lit bar.


And I took a deep swig from my Tangerine SkinnyGirl Cape Cod, because I am nothing if not the epitome of class when under pressure.   

Before we jump in into this, talk to me.  Do you have any questions for me?  Does anything not make sense, read a little unclear?  You tell me, I'm seriously open to any and everything you got. (Fuck.)

"It's really fun."
(WHAT?!)  Did.  Did I give you enough to work with? 
"You're kidding, right?"
    "You're kidding."
"It's.  Pretty clear to me."
    "Yeah.  And, like, colorful."
(It's colorful?!)
(OH SHIT, REALLY?!Oh SHIT!  Really?!

And they both just sat there grinning.
    "Yeah.  I'm only sorry I couldn't tease my hair more for this.  I tried."
I THINK THAT YOUR HAIR LOOKS AMAZINNNNNNG!!!  It did.  Shit was huge and glorious.
    "OOH!  One thing.  Southern accents?"
YES!  Yes! I love it!!

And with that, they read the thing.

And I simultaneously held my breath and giddily perma-grinned throughout the entire 15 minutes.

I can't.  Tell you.  How ridiculous crazy and completely humbling it is to sit by and watch two people breathe life into a story of your own creation.  I can't.  And these guys didn't just seemingly get the story, they trusted it.  Really.  They made it live, and they made it live pitch-perfectly.  I mean, how did that even happen?!  I will never know what I did to deserve any of that.

Shit was surreal. 

And it only got surrealler when they did it for real--and KILLED it--in front of a house of almost 100 people.

If you'd asked me when I'd last attended a reading of any kind with more than 30 people in the audience, I wouldn't have been able to answer you.  There were three times as many people crammed into the back of this bar to hear these one acts.   On purpose.  On a Monday night.  All in absolute support of five new, not perfectly finessed, and damn hungry voices, and these words that they'd never publicly shared before. How risky.  How fucking exciting.

How sweet and generous of this sweet sweet crowd.  And absolutely terrifying.

But, man, they were with us.

And man, every actor up there GAVE it.  And to stand in a room chock full of both so much stupid talent and so much crazy support is the singlemost wonderfully overwhelming thing in the whole wide world.  It's beautiful.  It's uplifting, and inspiring.

And truthfully?  It becomes impossible to feel afraid in such an environment.  Because Fear can't thrive in a place where Love rules.  

It just can't.

I want to figure out a way that I can take that feeling with me all the goddamn time.

I want everyone to feel what that is.  And soon.  And often.

I want to give everyone that was involved in that night in any and every way--from my darling Ashley, to my fellow writers, to the actors, to the directors, to every single sweet audience member, to that glorious chick Linda running the bar--the biggest hug in the universe.

And I want to scare myself more often.    Run the risk of failing, and failing better, and then surprising myself with Failure's lackthereof.

And I will.

And I will write.