Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Starving Artist Reflects On a Doozy of a Year (In Music)

I'm a storyteller, yeah?  That's, like, the core of Me, it's what I do.  I am always looking for a better way to tell a story and, certainly, am looking to be inspired by new stories every where all the time.

Sometimes yeahhhhhYes of course, that just means sitting back and observing the life and the wacky little individual lives all around you.  And you have to.  


Sometimes, guys, it's just all about listening to music.  It's the music.  You know?

My parents did an extraordinary job of turning me into a music junkie, and they started me young.

I remember being three years-old, distinctly.  My Mom's house meant WHAM!, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Madonna & Heart.  And our ritualistic MTV-dance party in the living room.  And we danced feverishly.

My Dad's house meant Phil Collins, The Pointer Sisters, Prince, Peter Gabriel (all the P's!), Tina Turner, Sade & Whitney.  All day every day.  

Even then, even being really really young, I understood that I had a very specific and very eclectic soundtrack to my life.  And it was thrilling.  And I became obsessed with the diversity of it.

And, throughout my childhood, I made a point to listen to absolutely everything.  If my mom and I were cleaning the house listening to Erykah Badu and Barenaked Ladies (which we frequently did), I would run upstairs to my room and turn up Lauryn Hill as loud as I could, followed by an 80s anthology, followed by Dave Matthews, followed by a hip hop anthology, followed by Smashing Pumpkins, followed by "Magical Mystery Tour", followed by this collection of orchestral Gershwin arrangements that would lull me to sleep.  Then, I would wake up, and get ready for cheerleading practice listening to our local indie rock radio station. 

My taste was all over the place, but I couldn't help it.  There were too many different stories to be told and too many different ways to tell them, and I needed to inundate myself with all of it all at once.  I guess I still do.

(Sidebar:  I'm 32 now--ugh--and, to this day, the single very best thing that you could do for me as a friend is make me a mix-tape.  Honestly.  I will love you forever and always.  I would also love you forever and always if you invited me over for homemade risotto.  If, however, you invited me over for homemade risotto AND handed me a mix-tape...I mean, prepare for me to move in, I guess.)   

I guess my point is that music has always been, to me, the best most immediate form of escapism.  I want to jump into another story altogether, another life, some grand fantasy, music lets me do that.  But then, if I want a clearer understanding of what the fuck is happening in my life, incidentally, music all too frequently does that, too.  I have found that, throughout my life, every single pivotal moment and every single pivotal relationship that I've had has a song or entire soundtrack linked to it.  Frankly, I'm sure that most people do, whether they realize it or not.   

And some times, many times (most times), it's simply been because of the storytelling.  That's what got me all music-obsessed in the first place and that is, again, the core of Me.  It has to be.

But each time (every time, all the times), it has 150% been about how that song just instinctively makes me feel.  And I'm sure that sounds dumb, and obvious, but it's in earnest and, truly, listening to music is, very potentially, the most in-tune with myself that I ever ever get.

... ...Huh.

And so, in a year where sooooooooooo much crazy and excitement and upheaval has happened, music has played a particularly big role in both my staying sane and getting real with myself.

It's December 31st, 2014.  This year is ending in a matter of hours (!!!!!!!!).  Wanna talk about it? :)

**Angela's Top 25 Songs of 2014**

(Also: you're welcome in advance)

(Also:  I apologize to my dear sweet friend Mike in advance for pretty blatantly ripping off his review format.  It just makes an awful lot of sense and IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY SO THANKS, MIIIIIIIIKE!!!!)

Now...OK, real quick, about this list:

Sometimes, the Best songs are super super difficult to listen to, they're so large and emotional that you can only handle their weight so often.  And so, a few songs can't necessarily be played on repeat.

Some of them, however...I mean, of COURSE you can, and should, and all the times.

ALL of them mean a great great deal to me, and I 100% urge you to instantaneously add them to your library OK ENOUGH OF ALL THAT HERE WE GO!!!

**Honorable Metions**

Sam Smith, “Money On My Mind”


25.  Spoon, "Inside Out"

24.  Sylvan Esso, "Coffee"

23.  TV on the Radio, "Careful You"

22.  alt-J, "Every Other Freckle"

21.  Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea, "Problem"

20.  Tegan & Sara feat. The Lonely Island, "Everything is AWESOME!!!"

19.  The War on Drugs, "Under the Pressure"

18.  Lykke Li, "Gunshot"

17.  Charli XCX, "Boom Clap"

16.  Foster the People, "Coming of Age"

15.  tUnE-yArDs, "Water Fountain"

14.  Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"

13.  Ingrid Michaelson, "Girls Chase Boys"

12.  St. Paul & the Broken Bones, "Dixie Rothko"  (Friends, GO BUY THIS ALBUM!!!!)

11. Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"

Alright.  Now?  Let's talk.

10.  Bleachers, "I Wanna Get Better"

I heard this for the very first time the moment that we started our drive cross-country.   It was like "Here's the open road, here's the great unknown, here's a bunch of cymbals crashing and a man slamming the keys of a piano screaming at the top of his lungs about wanting a better life."  It felt exciting as hell.  And then, when shit got scary within my first couple of months of being in LA, this song seemed to come on the radio exactly when I needed it to every single time.  And it felt desperate, and manic, and like a call to get off of my ass.  And it became a kind of mantra.  And I miss the days of a life still permanent/Mourn the years before I got carried away/So now I'm staring at the interstate screaming at myself HEY/I wanna get better!   


9. Perfume Genius, "Queen"

My very first love was a boy named Alan Wyffels.  I first met him when I was 5, and we finally began a verrrrrrry serious year-long relationship in the fifth grade.  We would roller skate together, play the piano together (he had the longest skinniest fingers that I had ever seen), we had an award winning (!!!!) OM-team together, and we would hold hands and watch my mother make us french toast.  Together.  He felt epic and was everything to me.  Today, he and his long skinny fingers play the keys for his boyfriend, solo artist Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius.  You don’t know Perfume Genius?  How ‘bout you go ahead and get on that train, and stat.  He is beautiful, and haunting, and wonderfully poetic, and just feels New.  “Queen” is his first ginormous single.  I don’t need to tell you why.  Just listen.

8.  Beck, “Waking Light”

Beck is brilliant.  Every album sounds wonderfully different yet appropriate and totally unbelievably exciting.  “Morning Phase” is, in my opinion, his best yet. It is such an obscenely stunning album it almost feels unfair, and it was released at just the right time in my life that I could never sit down and listen to it straight through.  I couldn’t make it, I would just fall into a puddle of myself.  “Waking Light” feels so deeply personal that I couldn’t understand how he hadn’t written it just for me.  No one sees you here, roots are all covered/There’s such a life to go and how much can you show?/Day is gone on a landslide of rhythm/It’s in your lamplight burning low/When the memory leaves you/Somewhere you can’t make it home/When the morning comes to meet you/Rest your eyes in waking light.  Ugh.

7.  Kendrick Lamar, “ i 

Kendrick. Lamar.  Kendrick Lamar, 27, genius-and-a-half times infinity.  The last musical guest ever on The Colbert Report.  I… ….I could talk about who he is and why he is so revolutionary and amazing and necessary and stupid exciting for a really really long time, but I will at least cite this much:  You cannot call Kendrick Lamar a “rapper”.  You can’t, because he doesn’t.  Kendrick Lamar is a writer and, incidentally, a masterful storyteller.  " i " was the only single that he dropped this year and, holy shit, it is damn near perfect.  We are told over and over and over again just how much we need to learn to love ourselves first, but actually putting that into practice?   It’s a fucking battle.  No one illustrates that bigness of that battle better than Kendrick Lamar.

(Also: it's catchy as hell.  Try to fight it.  You'll lose.)

6.  Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, “Fancy”

…We don’t really need to talk about this, I don’t think.  Song of the Summer.  Makes everyone feel like a badass.  It's the funnest.  You got down to it, Jimmy Fallon got down to it, a dad and daughter became YouTube-sensations getting down to it, there were a hundred million spoofs…Whatever.  You alrea-dy know-ow.

5.  Sia, “Chandelier”

Remember Zero 7?  Wonderful super sexy act from the late 90s to mid-2000s?  Remember the awesome lady vocalist on so many of their tracks?  Sia.  Remember the devastating song that soundtracked the finale for “Six Feet Under”?  Sia.  Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts”, Rihanna’s “Diamonds”?  Written by Sia.  This lady is and has been EVerything for years.  I have purchased every single album that she’s released since ’04 (admittedly, I’m missing her ’97 and ’02 releases) (admittedly, I'm a little embarrassed by that much) and thought to myself HOLY SHIT, WHY ISN’T THIS WOMAN CONQUERING THE WORLD YET?!?!  Apparently, because she needed to make this song first.  It’s easy to get lost in that insanely amazing music video and, fuck, just to get lost in that insanely amazing voice of hers and forget that this is a deeply personal story about her struggle with alcoholism.  But, don’t.  If Sia has ever done anything, it’s attacked her music and her musical storytelling with absolutely 100% of her heart.  This is the primest example of her approach, and of her passion, and of her.  And this song is the reason why Sia is going to be at the forefront of the music industry for a very very long time.

3 & 4. D’Angelo, “Sugah Daddy” & “Ain’t That Easy”

If we have been friends at any point since 1998, then you are probably well aware of my fascination slash pseudo obsession with this man.  I can rattle off about 8 albums that I have officially played into the ground throughout my life, and D’Angelo’s 2000-release of “Voodoo” is most certainly one of them; that is some perfect PERfect soulful and sexy shit from front to back, ON TOP of the fact that his voice is a miracle, ON TOP of the fact that he is a damn fine musician, ON TOP of the fact that he’s a DAMN fine storyteller…and yes yes yes, on top of the fact that he is just damn fine.  So, his silence over the past 14 years (14!) has been rough.  Stories came out regarding his going into rehab, his going to jail, his struggles with depression and being an absolute shy recluse, and I became disheartened over the very very real possibility that this amazing musician might never release another album.  And then, immediately before my birthday, there was a quick blurb online that an album was coming.  And then, days later, there it was.  If you have not sat down to listen to “Black Messiah” yet, you are missing out on a stunning actual work of art that, no shit, was well worth the 14 year wait.  It is sexy, it is funky, it is political and bold and inventive and goddamn timeless.  “Ain’t That Easy”, the opening track, is a fascinating way for D’Angelo to have broken his silence after a decade and a half.  You don’t think that it’s going to be a bombastic entrance, and then the vocals start; it’s like if old D’Angelo and George Clinton and TV on the Radio had a baby.  My boyfriend who, bless him, in no way shares my complete and utter fascination with this man, completely stopped what he was doing when this song came on and just said, "Holy shit," and I just sat there, grinning like a huge fucking idiot and swaying with all of the imaginary swagger I could muster.  “Sugah Daddy” (the first official single from the album), on the other hand, is vastly to the contrary of most of D’Angelo’s anthology, and it is FUN.  AS.  SHIT.  I mean, the lyrics are as sexy and filthy as you would hope, but sexy and filthy and ever-so-slightly jarring with the most fun and funky and plunky beat imaginable.  The song is as wonderfully complex as he is.  I could not be more psyched to have him back.

2. Hozier, "Take Me to Church"

I guess we were somewhere in the middle of Ohio when we first heard this song.  It was the first day of our trip, and I distinctly remember seeing that we were fast approaching a pretty nasty storm (Midwestern storms, for the record, are just the nastiest).   The song began, and we turned and actually made faces at one another.  This is awfully grim.  But then, the gospel kicked in.  And we were hooked.  This is the song that soundtracked our voyage cross-country, through that nasty fucking storm in Ohio (where I was CERTAIN that we were going to run into a tornado), past the vast plains and wind farms of Kansas, over the Rockies and through the San Rafael Swell, and through the desert, Vegas, and into California.   We are in no way religious, but that drive was, arguably, the most religious experience that either one of us have ever had.  No song could have been more perfect for the occasion.  And it was.

AND #1!!!!!!!

1.  Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

This.  This goddamn perfect, weird, stunningly beautiful song.  I remember hearing it earlier this Spring and just thinking Ohhh, myyy god, this is just gorgeous.  But then, a few months later, I got it on a mix-tape.  (Mix-tapes, friends.)  And then, I actually got it.  And I was floored.  There is something incredibly universal at the center: People change/You know but some people never do/You know when people change/They gain a piece but they lose one too.  And then, there’s this: As it breaks, the summer will wake/But the winter will wash what is left of the taste/As it breaks, the summer will warm/But the winter will crave what is gone/Will crave what is gone/Will crave what has all... gone away.  To say that it hurts is an understatement, and then you add the score behind the lyrics, and it's just fucking devastating, and then you add the desperation of Samuel T. Herring's vocals and your gut is wrenched beyond all possible comprehension.  And yet?  The song ends on this note with the faintest shred of hope in it, and it is absolutely everything.  This song is so damn beautiful and yet so simple and beyond relatable that you can’t help but be grabbed by it.  I was more moved by this song than anything else this year.  Still aren’t quite sure?  Click on the link above and watch the performance on Letterman.   I was reading SPIN a couple of days ago and they were citing their case for this being Song of the Year, claiming that it was as complete and satiating as any pop song and that, even if you don’t watch their ridiculously perfect performance on Letterman, “ ‘Seasons’ would stand alone as the most purely satisfying song of 2014, not a second or word wasted, and utterly impossible to get sick of.”  I could not possibly agree more.

When I think about my year or, really, my life in terms of music, it's tough to get down.  It's tough to look back and think about what a bitch this moment was and that moment was, difficult to linger on regrets, moments wasted, chances not taken.  When I think about my life in terms of music, regardless of the pitfalls, I can only see it as full, well-lived, epic, sweeping, & beautiful.

Oh dear, what goodies might 2015 bring?


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Starving Artist on Hanging Up Her Apron

I was raised in an uber-compassionate albeit pseudo-strict household.

PS, Regarding the second half of that statement: my brother, I'm sure, feels entirely otherwise.  Being the youngest and a GIRL, I had to call home to check in with my folks whenever I was out for more than a few hours at a time, had a curfew until I was 20--that's a real thing, and I never drank more than two drops of likker until I was safely in college and away from the parent phone-chain that my mother was a proud member of, tracking any and all of the shenanigans that my wonderful and relatively do-gooder friends and I might be (see "definitely were not") getting into.

My brother, meanwhile, would stay out until whenever, no questions asked, and have sex with girls in swimming pools.  It's fine.

...I digress. (Ugh.)

My parents' rules weren't necessarily plentiful, but, boy, were they steadfast.

The rules of thumb, however, and ways of achieving world domination/"this is how you get by"s of my childhood home, these were plentiful and abounding and were as repeated and resounding in our household as "Put your dishes away!"  Three highlights being:

1)  Work.  You have to work.  You have to earn your living, and you have to understand what that means, and you have to work hard and continually in order to not just survive, but make the best of your situation.  Some people have things handed to them, the rest of us don't.  (This, of course, was never stated in these precise terms.  I think my parents' actual phraseology was always something more along the lines of "Gotta work, Ange!",  said with a smile and a "Go get 'em, Tiger!"-enthusiasm.)

2) Stick to your guns.  (Which is another way of saying "Stand up for yourself and for your beliefs, and don't ever ever back down.")

3) Know when enough is enough.  (Self-explanatory.)

The first of these rules was first instilled in me pretty much when I started growing boobs, and I became fairly obsessed with keeping it in practice until OHHHwaitIstillam.

The latter two:  these were also first instilled in me around the the same time.  I have been struggling with them ever since.

Marrying these three rules of thumb tends to be fairly tricky and difficult.  I mean, for me, anyway, a relentlessly energetic overachieving Yes-girl.  But I am coming to realize exactly how clutch it is to do precisely that.

Allow me to explain:

I started babysitting in sixth grade, like you do. Sporadically, sure, but enough for me to understand what a job kinda sorta felt like.

(Sidebar:  I would like to apologize to both the Riciotti and Dombrowski families for what I'm sure was a white knuckling-experience having me, an awkward awkward preteen, watch over your children, your boys, nonetheless.  ...AND eat all of your pizza.  Every single time.)  (Ugh.)

Within months, I had my first paper route.  It was a weekend gazette and my particular route was in a fairly ritzy part of town, which meant that I spent a lot more time unsubtly peering into the homes of rich people as opposed to, you know, doing my job.  What my parents actually did sitting in the car each weekend for the nearly four hours that it took me to drop a newspaper in front of 80 homes, I will never ever know.

And then, just shy of my 13th birthday, my mother approached me with a proposition:

"Hey, Ange!  Patty's diner needs a busser on Sunday mornings for breakfast.  Wanna try that?!"

What's a busser? I asked.

It was over.

I've been in restaurants ever since. And what I've found in the wayyyyyyyyyyy too many years that I've been in and out of the restaurant biz is...god.  A lot.  For one, it's easyWELL.  OK.  It's not "easy", so to speak, not at all.  You get yelled at and ordered around by an awful lot of people who like to play bully in their professional lives and JUST WANT A GODDAMN MEDIUM RARE BURGER WITH SOME FUCKING SWISS CHEESE ON IT, NOT THIS GRUYERE SHIT!! in their down time. GOD!

Your back and your feet turn to shit out of what feels like absolutely nowhere.  And then, you have to buy Crocs.  And then, you throw them away to maintain some semblance of dignity about yourself.

And then, you get a Costco card just to grab bath salts, heating pads, & some black market-like Excedrin in bulk.

Your work hours are the exact opposite from everyone else's, and, the kicker:  your job is To Serve which means that, essentially, you are getting paid to be someone's bitch.  (To a degree.)  Occasionally, you're the bitch to 40 different someones at once.


It's "easy" in that I don't need a PhD to do it.  It's "easy" in that, depending on what business is like that day, I can phone my performance in.  It's "easy" because it's flexible, it's cash in hand, it moves quickly, and, frankly, I'm good at it (if I'm not in a corporate restaurant and I can lean on your table and get away with winking at you and turning your table as opposed to wining and dining you).

It's easy because I've been doing it for wayyyyyyyy too many years.

However, there was a point during my last 6 months in New York in which I was deeply evaluating essentially EVerything about myself?  I guess?  Like.  Which life choices I'd been making that I'd actually want to stick with post this move out west? And I started to look at my life as a Server.

And I started to hate that I had a "life as a Server".

And I started to realize that I was nearing the end.  That I'd almost had it.  That, soon enough, I was going to have to throw my hands in the air and say Fuck it, I'm done.

But, I knew that that time hadn't quite approached.  So, I made a pact with myself:

I'm giving myself a year, quoth I.  I'm giving myself a year in Los Angeles to do this and buckle down and make some money.  Then?  Then I'm done.

I don't know what will be next, but I know that I'll be done.

I made that promise with myself, and I believed in it.

And so, then, I moved to Los Angeles.

And so, then, I COULD NOT FIND A JOB.  NOT EVEN SORT OF.  And I hunted like a fucking crazy person applying to every single restaurant that I could while every single person in Los Angeles was doing the precisely same thing blah blah blee blah blahhhhhhh until THEN.  LIKE A HAPPY LITTLE BEACON IN THE SMOGGY SMOGGY NIGHTTIME SKY.  I saw this happy little light shining just for me and only me and I.  Got.  A job.  And I fucking jumped on it.

(And then, I landed two other ones, too, one getting film permits signed, and the other, catering.  And then I promptly dropped the catering gig because it would require me to drive 70 miles roundtrip on the regular and only paid $10/hour.)

(Hey, Friends:  don't ever get a job that requires you to drive more than 6 miles roundtrip if it's only going to pay you $10/hour.)  (Ever.)  (Ugh.)


Here's what I would suggest about accepting job offers:  Even if you're desperate for a job, even if you think that this particular job looks shiny and exciting and particularly so because it's a 4-minute drive away from your house, ask up front what you're likely to make each week, and ask things straight away like, Hey.  So.  This is the dead season, yeah?  When does it start to pick up around here?

Ask these things directly up front, like normal people do, and you can avoid the surprise of "I don't think I understand what you're asking me right now," coming at you 2 months in.

I mean, I just presumed that this was our dead season?  So.  I didn't know when we were going to start picking up business-wise.  Ish.

You ask these things up front, then "Oh, Honey.  It always looks like this," won't smart quite as much.  And you won't feel like quite as much of an asshole.  And you won't panic and desperately scramble to find yet another job to cover your ass and help you afford the world.  

There are few instances in which I've ever felt more foolish or generally floored in my life.

Fucking hell, I have to start this whole search all over again and I cannot afford to start this search all over again fucking. hell. puking. jesus. criminy biscuits oh my-lan-ta god. DAMmit.

And I jumped back on Craigslist, rehighlighted the "food / bev / hosp"-section, and proceeded to tear out approximately 17 clumps of my hair.

Fortunately, it (somehow) took me only 72 hours to be saved from myself.

After eventually sending out a slew of hyper-panicked "I'm gonna try to play it reeeeeeal cool, though"-texts to a large handful of folks who had various Ins to various serving opportunities here in LA, SUDDENLY.  LIKE A HAPPY LITTLE BEACON IN THE SMOGGY SMOGGY NIGHTTIME SKY.   My dear sweet friend informed about an opening at his badass, crazy busy, crazy LUcrative all-steak-all-the-time-restaurant.  They had an obscene wine selection, they had LOBters, LOTS of them, and they were located directly across the street from the Staples Center, which meant all the Lakers and Clippers and Kings games I could handle and it was Corporate?  But.  Whatever.   In other words, this new restaurant looked something like this:

$$$!  $$$! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $ $ $ $ $!!!!!!

And I was psyched.  I GET TO LIVVVVVVVVVVVVE, and presumably, live WELL!!!! SWEET JESUS CHRISTO!!!!

And I screamed like an ecstatic little banshee in thanks and praise for this dear sweet friend of mine, and then, I got an INTERVIEW, and THEN!   I got HIRED!!

Sort of.  Rather, I got "hired" to train.  For a month.

(... ... ...That's a reeeal lonnng time.)

"We suggest that you hang onto your current restaurant job while you're training."


"I only say that just because, I don't know, you might not like it."  (Pfft, well, THAT won't happen.)  "Or, you know, we might not feel like you're a great fit.  ...THAT won't happen."

I mean, that won't.  But, sure.  THANK you!

"Thank YOU!" 


And I thought, Sure.  I can vacillate between two restaurants for a month.  And, do this third job.  And, hopefully, audition, and, maybe, have a life.  ...It's only a month, yeah?  It's totally fine, it'll all be worth it.

And why?  Because $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $ $ $ $ $!!!!!!


And I began making plans as to how many credit cards I was going to pay off at once and whether to get a pair of Frye's or make a substantial run to IKEA first.  Aw god, I HAVE been wanting to go to Brazil...Are Frye's cheaper there? Huh.

First day:  GREAT!  Great fun!  Cute little lunch shift, 5 hours long, busy enough, we sold a nice bottle of wine, and then a second one (Yessssssss $! $! $!).  And then, I got yelled at.

"You need new pants.  You need a new shirt.  You need new shoes, you need to tie a better double windsor, and you need to do something about your hair."

About...?  About this bun?  (I regularly pile my hair on top of my head with an arsenal of bobby pins, just to...I mean, just to do SOMEthing about it.  Bitch has a crazy head of hair.)

"Yeah, it's too much.  Too crazy."

Oh.  (Oh.  Well, this feels shitty.)

"It's off-putting.  You have to learn to be presentable."  (Oh.  Wow.)  "And study this."  And I was handed a packet of steak info/lobster facts/liquor list/wine/beer, and sent out the door, fairly shamed.  I began my hour-long drive home, stopped to drop $100 on my new work wardrobe, and then, drove straight to my other restaurant.

This is fine, thought I.  Par for the course, I'm sure.  And it's allllll gonna be worth it.

Three weeks, two work shirt/three hairstyles/fifteen double windsor-failures later, I found myself sitting down to take four tests in the manager's office, the first two of which were redos that I had failed miserably the first time around.  When has there been any kind of time to study?, I thought.  And I was anxious.

"You have to know the steaks," the GM had said.  "You have to know what's in casino butter.  You have to know what garnishes all of the different fish and what's in each salad and, you're a really sweet girl, but you have to care.  And if you can't pass, and if you can't care, then I don't think we can continue together."

So, I sat there.  Filling out factoid after factoid about steak cuts and molting and French-service, and answering each and every question completely and thoroughly and perfectly and, simultaneously, asking myself Fuck.  Do I care?  Do I care this much?

And I walked out into the dining room in a haze, and was passed off to my trainer, a lovely Argentinian lady who smiled at me all tired-like.  "You ready, Mami?  Let's go."  

And as we paraded around the room, water pitchers and pepper mills in hand, I looked around the room at all of the other servers on the floor.   They were all of varying ages, but all in these identical, pristinely pressed jackets with their names embroidered on the front, and a different number embroidered on each person's right sleeve:  8, 9, 12, 15.  These numbers stood for the number of years that they'd been with the company.

My trainer had been with the company for 9 years.  9.  Years.

And I realized, Oh god.  This is a career.  And, suddenly, an entirely new kind of panic flared up inside of me.

I understood that I needed to live, and I understood that I needed to make substantially more money than I had been, but, I also understood that I had not moved to Los Angeles to start a career as a Server, and I didn't want to fake my way around that.  And, then, I thought back to the promise that I had made myself months ago while still in New York.

And I thought about the grander reason why we had moved out west.  It wasn't just to find a place to make a good and decent living as an actor, although, certainly, that was an enormous part of it.  Really, at the heart of it all, we packed up our lives and moved out west to live in a place where the living could be incrementally better.

I didn't want a life as a Server, not anymore, so what was the sense in starting in somewhere new?  Why not start a new thing altogether?  A thing that I could be proud of.

Oh god, I thought.   It's not just that I don't care.  I don't think that I can do this.

"Mami.  Careful with that table.  They're very nice, but they get fresh with the ladies when they've been drinking.  And.  They're in the you-know-what.  Their bookie is over in the bar."

(I can't do this.)

And I went home, stewed, and secretly started looking at other jobs (because I couldn't tell my boyfriend yet, HE'LL BE DESTROYED).  And then, continued to debate with myself whether or not I was doing a stupid thing.

Two days later, I ran home from restaurant job #1 with 20 minutes to change and depart for the train and head 40 minutes downtown to start my last week of training at restaurant #2 and I just stood there.  And something snapped.

And then, underneath the wide-eyed and confused (and horrified) gaze of my boyfriend, I quit.

"I mean, Angie, this is entirely up to you, this is your call, this is your job, but.  I mean.  You're almost done training, and this is, uh, this is a lot of money."

I know.

But, I was done. 

Money, suddenly, wasn't as important, well, everything else.   I'll figure it out, we'll figure it out, I told him, We always always doLet's just get happy first, and find something fulfilling to do instead of this.


And we went to the movies.

And the next day, I picked up more film permit-gigs.  AND had a particularly busy day at the restaurant (that really isn't terrible and it's only up the street and is fine as supplemental income.  And definitely isn't forever.)

And, the next day, out of nowhere, I giddily became a tutor.  And, suddenly, I felt like an adult.

I understand that to most people, this won't sound like much of anything.  "Yeah, great, way to almost not be a waitress anymore, Lady."  First of all, eff yourself, the correct term is 'Server'.   Secondly, listen:

It's about breaking away from a certain way of life.  Breaking away from a thing that you have come to know, and have since decided that you are better off without.  It's about finding a day-job that will help you grow as opposed to remaining grossly stagnant (and perpetually smelling like steak).

(As long as you need a day-job, that is.)

It's about finding something else that will bring you joy.

And it's about understanding when enough is enough, understanding that you and your own convictions are far more important than acquiring a jacket with some numbers embroidered on the sleeve.  I mean, unless that's your particular end goal, in which case, that's awesome.
It's about recognizing that the key to achieving world domination, or, at the very least, just getting by & with a flourish, is by working hard, and not compromising ourselves.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Starving Artist Revisits 'Anonymity'

I have a newfound goal of, someday, being on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.  It’s legit.  And earnestly, at the nuts of it, I think it’s really just about my crazy pseudo obsessive desire of being asked to have an epic lip-sync battle or play Box of Lies.  Which, I suppose, I could really play either of those things at anytime just, essentially, in my kitchen, of my own volition, with my friends or with my dog, but, let’s be real:  I want it televised.

The problem here is that these people, these people who play this game?  They’re all, like, SUper famous.  …. …OK, I guess there’s two problems with this:

A)   I don’t ever want to be SUper famous.  I just want to be a working actor who makes her money and her living exclusively as a working actor.  So, there’s that.

B)   The unofficial Merriam-Webster definition of ‘SUper famous’ is: 

SUper Fa·mous
/SOO-purr ˈfāməs/


EVeryone knows who you are.  EVeryone. 
“Did you hear that the paparazzi caught Miscia giving John Mayer an HJ in the middle of a Starbucks? She’s gonna be SUper famous!” 

synonyms:  real popular, kinda big time, Wikipedia-worthy, trending

(Deviating, Angela.)

What’s the problem?  Presently, I’m the most anonymous that I’ve been in a really really long time.

It’s marginally terrifying.

On Being Anonymous:

Now, OK.  I know that this is a topic that I’ve discussed before, and I think that ‘anonymity’ is a fascinating topic to visit and revisit and, frankly, attempt to wrap your brain around.  And I’m sure that I’m going to be dealing with it in various aspects throughout various portions of my life and it has, most certainly, taken on a brand new face as of late. 

Thing is that when you pack up yer shit and you move across the entire country to a town where absolutely no one knows your name (professionally speaking), it’s a foreign and ugly feeling.  It is.


This is not to imply that EVERYONE knew me in New York, obviously, OBviously this was not the case.  Au contraire.  But, a few people did, and they knew me well, well enough to call me into their office with pseudo-frequency and know “Oh.  Yeah, Angela can get the job done for us.”

They knew my name, for god’s sake.  And they knew what I could do.

I have made some introductions in LA and that much, admittedly, feels good.  But, no one actually knows me here. Yet. 

So.  What’s a girl to do?  What do you do when you’re anonymous?

Par exemple, how do you get out there and audition more often (see “all the time”) and straight away? 

(Which, naturally, as I’m saying this, I’m recognizing that that’s an entirely unrealistic expectation.  But.  Also, I like to defy expectation?  So.  There’s that?) 

(… … … Deviating.)

But, you can meet a person, a casting director, an agent, a writer, a peer, and you can say to them “Yes!  I’m your quirky best friend next door.  A younger Judy Greer-type.  Not quite your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, more like your Manic Pixie ‘That Could Potentially Be Fun’ Girl.”  You can say these things.  But.  You still have to prove it.  And, now, you have to prove it to absolutely everyone.  You actually actually do.

Because you're new.  You're anonymous.  No one knows you yet.

And THEN.  Someone (your agent) says that you need new headshots.

First of all, this is a terrifying realization to me.  Terrifying.  Headshots are TERRifying to me, again, as I’ve mentioned before.  And here I am, having spent a stupid amount of money on some pretty swell ones 2 years ago, (see “In actual fact, it’s been awhile”) now I’ve got to turn around to do it all over again and NOT JUST THAT.  But, I’ve got to turn around and do it all over again in a city where ABSOLUTELY NO ONE KNOWS WHO I AM TO BEGIN WITH AND I’VE GOT TO START TELLING THIS STORY ALL OVER AGAIN FROM SCRATCH.

So then, you resume the following debate with yourself:  How am I going to sell myself?  Whose photography is going to capture that the most for me?  Whose photography is good, and whose is trying too hard?  And how much money is too much money, and PS how am I paying for this?!, and should I risk having a really awesome friend shoot these as opposed to a known photog, how much does name and renown matter in THIS regard?  Have I been eating ok, is my face going to be tremendously bloated, do I have to go shopping, CAN I even go shopping right now? Are this guy and I going to jive?

Is this going to be a waste of my time and money?

(Also…wait.  Remind me how I’m paying for this?)

And you begin to hope that it, this picture, is going to be the answer to your everything, and fear that your lack thereof has been the road block.

Your brain races as you begin to wonder whether or not this is why you haven’t been sent out on an audition yet, whether or not you and your picture have been standing in your own way.

You begin to wonder whether or not it’s too late.  And you panic.

For 30 seconds.

And then you realize “too late” simply isn’t an option for you and you get over it, kinda, and it’s fine.  But, such is the stress of being an anonymous bitch in a beeg new city:  Every everything begins to sound ever-so-slightly insurmountable because you don’t own anything.  As of yet. 

And you continually try to remember that “as of yet”-part whilst mowing on your peanut butter & jelly, researching alternate day jobs, and Actors Accessing your face off.

On Shaking Hands Anonymously:

I ponied up to a workshop place the other day for my first time since moving to LA, which felt both glorious and utterly utterly shameful.  (WHY ARE YOU ONLY DOING THIS AND SETTING OUT TO MEET THESE PEOPLE NOW WHEN YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN HERE FOR A MONTHoh riiiiiight you’re broke.) 

(Also, too?  I have begun to accept that this is going to be the story of my life for the foreseeable future.  I’m coming to embrace it, really.  I meeeean, even P. Diddy in all his prolific wisdom warned us “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”, so, you know,  am I right or AM I RIGHT?!?! …Guys…?)

(... ... ... ...Deviating.)

But, I met a casting associate the other day, the SWEETEST lady ever, and she works on a particularly booming sitcom.  I would give my left arm just to breathe on that set.

I signed up for this particular paid meet-and-greet with her knowing that she calls people in, just to do it, to read, and to be a reader.  She’s hooked multiple friends of mine up. (Barf.)

I could not resist.

And, thing was?  I killed it in that room.  I killed it.  So hard.  And knew it, and was told as much.


“I have seriously seen that scene hundreds of times, and I’ve never seen That.  You actually made it funny.  You actually found the beats that no one else ever seems to get, and yet, you did your own thing with it. “

(BARF!)  And my BRAIIIIIN explodeddddd.

“Have you been into our office before?”

No.  No, actually, I just moved here a month ago.

“Ooh!  From where?”

From Brooklyn. (Said with alllllll the braggadocio and shoulder-dusting)

(Sidebar:  To the BK’s credit, that announcement will potentially always be, for whatever reason, made with some semblance of braggadocio.)

“OH!  Oh, well, wel-commmme.”

And so, we shoot the shit, and it’s fun and lovely blah blah blah blah blahhhhh.  

And then, she notices my agent at the bottom of my resume.

“Ooh!  And these guys are GREAT!  Be sure to have them submit you to me.”


Oh.  Actually, uh, I’m just with them commercially.  I don’t, uh…I don’t have theatrical representation quite yet.  (I am new.  I am anonymous.  No one knows me.  …Yet?)

Silence.  Utter utter silence.


BUT!  Um, I will absolutely see what I can do about…them…submitting me to you, I will certainly try my best to, uh, make that happen.  Soon.  (Honestly, I’m almost impressed with how completely awkward I’ve become in the last year and a half.  It’s staggering, really.)

“Yeah, uh.  Do that.  And, you have my email, so, try to submit whenever you think you’re right for something.  You get the Breakdowns and whatever, yeah?”

YEAH yeah yeah yeah yeah for sure, ABsolutely!!  (Stop.)

“Great.  Nice meeting you. “


“Yeah, and REALLY, though, great great work.”

So.  There’s that.

When you’re anonymous.  When you’re new, and anonymous, and attempting to build relationships…I mean, how do you do that when you don’t completely have your shit together yet?  Because you’re new.  And anonymous.

I guess it’s about shaking hands.  I guess it’s about doing that a lot.

I guess it’s about being patient with yourself.

I guess it’s about taking time to allow everything to get aligned and really really really being actually honestly ok with starting over.  Completely.  With clean slating it.  With knowing what story you’re trying to tell, believing that it’s going to be a damn good one, and recognizing that no good story has an early climax.

They build gradually.

I guess it’s about being receptive to surprising turns, and remaining open to where the turns take you.

I guess it’s about staying resilient.

I guess it’s about understanding that every anonymous person only remains as such as long as they refuse to do something about their station.  I guess it’s realizing that ‘anonymity’ is as often a circumstance as it is a choice.

I’m choosing to not be ok with remaining sedentary.

And I’m choosing to buy cheap wine and have you over to watch me perfect my lip-synced rendition of St. Elmo’s Fire, in the interim.

I guess, we’ll see.

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.