Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do I Smell Cheddar?


Clad in a buttoned-up stark white coat, I walked amongst the human lab rats enthralled by their simplicity. Haphazard Christmas shoppers passed me unnoticed, purses unzipped, arms heavily loaded with holiday packages crying out to be swiped by any grifter who should happen to ‘accidentally’ bump into them – Oh, such easy targets!
But they were mere linear-thinkers, blind to my superior genius-ness and not surprisingly painfully oblivious to my master plan.
“Do you have any questions?” the blue-vested gentleman named Dave abruptly interrupted my scientific research.
“Why aren’t people smarter?” my enormous brain wondered judgmentally, clearly mounted atop one of my occasionally recurring High Horses (I have a whole stable for those of you new to my writing).
And reining in my chosen steed of the day “Einstein”, I struggled to grasp why anyone in their right mind would randomly wander through a store like a mouse in a maze in search of cheese, floundering handbag agape.
“Yes” I replied ever so smartly. “My parents would like to buy me an LED TV for Christmas.”
>>><<<
Floundering handbag agape, talked into purchasing additional cables for optimization of picture clarity in High Definition as well as a power surge bar, “free” cleaning cloths and a two year warranty; an embarrassed Einstein and I spent another hour at home idiotically bungling our way as to how to properly install the base with the doohickey thingy (you know, the twirly stick with the four pointy tips*), a couple bags of screws, a paper manual, reading glasses and a flashlight…
But declaring my newly constructed television set an iconoclastic asymmetrical eclectic piece of artistic brilliance with its daring post-modern angular base pointing East in a radical yet freshly poetic reinterpretation of Zen in an age of technological waste versus wonder, I gave my High Horse Einstein a metaphorical High Five.

Hunh…
(Hey, did you know that TVs these days swivel?)
>>><<<
“You’re Logitech wireless mouse batteries are critical” a less than threatening (to my genius-ness) warning bubble appeared on my computer screen, whilst I smugly emailed the above photo to my parents as a “Thank You” – categorical proof that my supremely empirical mind is as clever as ever (*although it didn’t happen to recall that the stick with the four pointy tips is called a Phillips Screwdriver.) (Thanks Dad!)
What I hadn’t anticipated however, was a complete lack of ability a couple days later to maneuver around the internet without a working external mouse…
Celebrating my 45th Birthday I looked forward to opening e-cards from family and friends, and ‘delicately’ sliding a finger across that intimidating silver panel on the laptop, I ended up accidentally shopping for Bounty paper towels.
(Innocent enough, but rather annoying.)
Making my way back to Yahoo, I glided towards an email from my niece, only to wind up having unintentionally double-tapped on an ad for Kotex and a free offer should I happen to be suffering from bladder leakage.
(EEK!)
By the time I skated involuntarily onto ads three and four – “Meet Singles in Inglewood Who are Looking for YOU” (creepy!), and a “Pre-Approved Medical Prescription for Penile Enhancement” (double creepy!) I was done.
Whistling for Einstein, my High Horse and I trotted to the store for a pack of AA batteries only to discover that despite our combined massive cerebrums and brand new pack of batteries, the stupid wireless mouse still didn’t work.
However, such opportunities are mere fodder for astute problem-solving minds…
As I’d disconnected the Mother Ship Doodad with the three prongs that was connected to the computer that somehow allows the wireless gizmo to function, I logically plugging that external thingamajig back in, rebooted, clicked on “connect”, re-ran the software twice and allowing the laptop to shut down and restart itself while I randomly clicked on every prompt to “run” or “allow program” I was once again confident in my genius-ness ability to master the bastard technology!
But two hours later I sighed in defeat, my High Horse having retreated humbly to the stables, myself resigned to spend an eternity (or a day until I could get to an electronics store) randomly landing unintentionally on uninvited internet roll-over banners…  
Yay.
Pills for Clinical Depression.
“Click here”
Pouring myself a Pity-Party of One cocktail, I poked disagreeably at the brain-dead Logitech mouse.
“Stupid contraption, stupid reset button, stupid battery container” I huffed as the back panel disengaged itself.
Hunh…
(Hey, did you know it apparently significantly matters which direction of the chamber you aim the + and sides of the batteries?)
Forfeiting my Nobel Prize for now!
~P

Monday, December 20, 2010

Perky!


“Ooh, it’s sooo verrrry nice to meet you!” I gushed unprofessionally, my sweaty palms shaking her hand far too long; my diligently repressed Ethel Mertz persona bubbling uncontrollably to the surface, horrifically betraying my starry-eyed gazing at a real live Movie Star making a special guest appearance on our TV show.
“Penny, let’s have you stand-in for the anorexic teen model in these three scenes until we get the other actress on Wednesday” our Director proposed, orchestrating the blocking wherein I would have the opportunity of a lifetime to perform with said Movie Star.
“OKayyeE-E-E-E!” I piped up in some sort of alien dolphin-esque warble.
But thankfully after years of working in show business, I do tend to snap to attention when I hear the word “ACTION!” And rehearsing our first scene together was surprisingly easy peasy. By scenes two and three that she was appearing in I felt like we were pals, having exchanged dialogue, gotten laughs at a Producer Run-Thru, and if I knew how to Twit or Book a Face, I was certain that she and I would be BFs. (Mock my technological savvy if you will, but even Captain Steven Hiller* accidentally backed the ship up…)
While my job may require actual acting on any given occasion without so much as a minute warning wherein one can only hope to make the crew laugh while you’re reading a script “cold” (i.e. having never performed the scene before, but now you need to replicate it to the best of your abilities out loud and in brutal zit-enhancing microscopic High Def), there is also the dreary technical aspect of tedious camera-blocking.
Frankly the whole process tends to vampirifically suck the life out of the crew as my fellow Stand-Ins and I spend endless amounts of time STARING at each other while the Director makes adjustments and the DP checks the lighting.
But prepped for pre-shoots and more than happy to stand-in for herself, I found myself suddenly staring eye-to-eye with the aforementioned Movie Star in full make-up, hair and wardrobe.
And who should emerge on my behalf, but freakin’ Ethel Mertz…
“You look sooo beautiful!” I gushed once again.
“Thank you” the veteran Actress (my age) whispered, quietly meeting my gaze and waiting patiently for instructions from our Director.
>>><<<
Perhaps my encounter with the Movie Star had provided me with a new sense of self-awareness. Perhaps I had learned that the playing field was more level than I thought and that all of us are equals as human beings.
Or perhaps my eleventy-third cocktail on a Friday night before Christmas hiatus provided me with just enough stupid liquid courage to send my blog link to my favorite Author, Christopher Moore.
And I, in true Ethel Mertz form, vodka-logically typed the following:

 Hi Author Guy,

As a loyal fan of your writing and a die-hard enthusiast, I just wanted to say thanks for your ridiculously brilliantly warped brain. 

I work in Hollywood on television sit-coms, and have now effectively drawn a new following of "lambs" (if you will) into the Collective of Christopher Moore Admirers who are buying your books like nylons and chocolates. 

I even encouraged a few of them to write to you via this email address, and every single one was absolutely astonished that you replied to them quicker than any of their family members. (Thanks for living up to your hype Mr. Moore!)

I HIGHLY doubt that you would ever have time to read something as simple as a blog even though you are my inspiration as a writer, but here's my link nonetheless:


By the way, I was handed a Carl Hiaasen novel in exchange for "A Dirty Job"...

No offense to Mr. Hiaasen, but he doesn't even begin to hold a candle to you!

With admiration and best wishes for Happy Holidays,

Penny


What I neglected to remember however, was the fact that Mr. Moore always responds to his fan mail…
Penny:

I liked your blog. It's very, well, perky. And I mean that in the nicest way. If I had to work in Hollywood I'd probably have a collection of human heads and one of those bulletin boards with the yarn and the Polaroids showing the progress of my collection of people who had flipped me just a little too much shit on their way to being headless.

So, you know, props to you for toughing it out with a good attitude. It's probably best I'm not working down there. But you seem to be doing fine.

Have a great holiday break. I'll be finishing up a book. (And working on my map. Oh no, Mr. Hardware Store Guy, I don't think you will be condescending to me again over which kind of washer I need for my drippy kitchen faucet. Here, let me take your picture...)

Onward!
Chris

>>><<<
Hmmm…
So my blog has been deemed “perky” by a professional writer, albeit a potential serial killer…?
Well, Merry Christmas to ME!!!
Gushing unabashedly and wishing you all Happy Holidays,
~"Perky Ethel P!"
(*p.s. That’s the only clue you get, C2.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cirque de so L.A.




There but for the Grace of God...
Lumbering onto the stage on all fours like a hungry grizzly bear after a six week hibernation hiatus from our sit-com and rising up on my hind legs (as it were) in search of helpless campers’ picnic baskets, I sniffed the air and surveyed the land.
There were friendly faces. There were holiday stories of over-indulgence of turkey and trimmings. And while there wasn’t a hot breakfast available on our first day of rehearsal, there were DONUT HOLES…
“Welcome back!” one of the office people (?) embraced me in a maternal hug as I was attempting to extend an outstretched paw toward the tongs in order to procure a deep-fried ball of glazed Heaven-on-Earth. “How was your Thanksgiving?!” the overly-indulged story teller asked sweetly.
“Uh, just fine” I smiled, uncomfortable with spewing the rather Charlie Brown details (i.e. nuking a single package of Kraft “Easy Mac (‘cheesy, pleasy!’)” microwavable macaroni and cheese for myself and my semi-toothless feline companion who has taken to clacking her lack of teeth like she’s wearing ill-fitting dentures).
“How was yours?” I inquired politely, having already heard the details.
“Well…” she launched into her lengthy tale again as I listened, responding with proper hearty laughs and all due respect.
(What can I say - being the trained bear in a tutu at the three-ring circus known as Hollywood, sometimes you have to dance before they feed you.)
***
Wearing an imaginary red-sequined spandex bodysuit (with a built-in tummy tuck apparatus!) and carefully checking my financial balance, I walked the tightrope in anticipation of a tent full of applause as I reached my final destination of stepping onto the platform and finding a belated unemployment benefit in the mail box after the holiday weekend.
Sure I had a small savings account equivalent to a safety net below, but what’s a highwire act without the drama, the suspense, or the possibility of injury whilst executing a death-defying stunt?
And eyeing the familiar envelope from the government that would ultimately assist me in keeping The Big Top over my head for another month, I tore open the paperwork with a dramatic flourish.
“TADA!” I announced ostentatiously in the face of my Ever-So Ferocious Man-Eating Lion. (Well, OK, maybe not ‘man-eating’ without all her teeth, and perhaps not ‘ever-so ferocious’ since I adopted her with front paws already declawed; but given the opportunity, I wouldn’t put it past her to lick my bones clean should I happen to have a tragic “accident”.)
“Heydewhaddayahunh?” I blurted a minute later; frightened by the notification from Chuckles the Bureaucratic Clown who had lured me into smelling the fresh fragrance of his boutonnière, only to squirt me in the eye with the following statement:
“YOU HAVE RECEIVED ALL BENEFITS PAYABLE ON YOUR CLAIM. YOU MAY QUALIFY FOR EXTENDED BENEFITS. IF YOU QUALIFY, THE CLAIM WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE FILED. NO ACTION IS NEEDED ON YOUR PART. YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED BY MAIL OF YOUR ELIGIBILITY. YOUR CLAIM BALANCE AFTER THIS PAYMENT IS $0.00”
(Never did like clowns…)
***
But thankfully I’d learned how to juggle years ago.
And wrapping coins from my piggy bank ($6.00!) as well as taking in some recycling to the center ($11.16!), I, “The Flying Pennendo” took comfort in the ankle hang from the swinging trapeze, knowing that paychecks would be arriving in the near future – yet another safety net in place!
***
What I hadn’t counted on however, was my grand finale as The Human Cannonball.
The text message was innocent enough – “Can u talk 4 a min?”
But had I known the consequences of dialing the phone I would have at the very least strapped on a helmet and protective padding.
“I’m moving to Florida December 14th” the Ringmaster of the Rock Star Ex-Boyfriend Circus informed me.
“Heydewhaddayahunh?” I blurted for the second time in one week.
***
I learned awhile back (thank you Ellen) that life isn’t so much about how we can control uncomfortable situations, but more about the choices we make when faced with them.
And I for one, am looking forward to strapping on my tutu for the next five days before Christmas hiatus!
With love (and best wishes to the Ringmaster),
~P

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Hollywood Thanksgiving


As an Actor by name and most often a Stand-In by trade, I learned decades ago that as long as you believe that you ARE the role you’re playing, your performance will come off with complete honesty and an audience will buy it. Take all the classes you like, but if there’s no commitment to the part you’re playing it simply doesn’t matter how much money you spend with acting coaches teaching you to be an oak tree or a slice of sizzling bacon.
“Are you studying with someone?” the very first Director that I ever worked with asked me squarely on the spot.
“Um, no Sir; never took a lesson in my life” I confessed, staring uncomfortably at my gym shoes and waiting to be canned after my first week of employment in Hollywood.
“Well thank God for that” he smiled. “Don’t. Then you won’t screw it up!” he chuckled, patting me on the back, his Italian tasseled loafers carrying him away to his directorial podium.
>>><<<
In hindsight, that was probably the best advice I’ve ever been given in my career. Standing-in for multitudes of characters over the decades, as long as I honestly believed it, so did everybody else!
Well, with one slight exception: Having rehearsed a scene all day with my ADs and PAs for back-up a few times as we stormed into a restaurant as ‘an Angry Mob of People’, I suddenly found myself waiting alone outside the main door of the set while every other crew member was tending to their regular jobs for a Network Run-Thru.
But mustering up the proper amount of fury and blasting through the entrance on cue all by myself as ‘an Angry Mob of People’ I raised a resolute fist in the air and shouted the only word that happened to occur to me:
“GRRR!”
OK, so, not my finest moment…
But darn it, I BELIEVED I was ‘an Angry Mob of People’!
(And rather rewarding to hear the laughter of the writers and producers who were trying desperately hard to believe it too!)
>>><<<
Reassuring my heroic feline sidekick Pretty that I had to get up early for work (untrue), I set the alarm clock, went to bed on time and took a shower in the morning. Drying my hair, applying make-up and squirting on some perfume, I almost believed the lie myself.
But scooping up my cat in her relaxed trusting snooze, stuffing her into a crate and motoring boldly to the veterinarian for her tooth extractions, I realized that the brave face I had put on was even less convincing than my absurd one-woman performance as ‘an Angry Mob of People’…
“Where’s Pretty?” a technician called out, stopping to pat the head of a mangy-looking dog with cataracts that was currently urinating on the floor.
“Um, over here” I squeaked, (momentarily distracted by an odd random thought that should Disney or Pixar ever need someone to do voice-overs for an animated spineless jellyfish, I’m their gal!)
But mustering up a pant-load of courage before handing over the carrier, I took a deep breath and looked at the technician squarely in the eye: “You WILL take good care of her” I stipulated in a low voice with a raised eyebrow, “and I’ll tolerate nothing less.”
“Yes of course” he replied meekly, an intimidated audience of one, succumbing to my less than perfect (yet still apparently effective!) impersonation of Sean Connery.
(HA!)
>>><<<
Retrieving my heroic feline sidekick (minus five teeth that they creepily gave me in a plastic baggie as souvenirs – EEK!) I curled up with Pretty as she napped on a blanket.
Yes, The Universe was almost beginning to make sense again when the telephone rang.
“Package from UPS” the driver announced as I buzzed him through the security gate. “It’s kind of heavy” he added, handing me the monster box after I opened the door.
“The calla lilies are in bloom again!” I swooned ala Katherine Hepburn.
“Hunh?” the delivery guy responded waiting patiently for a signature.
“Sorry, this is my new TiVo Premiere” I shook my head, scribbling my name on a computerized tablet.
“Well then your world just got a whole lot better, didn’t it?” he laughed, casually walking back to his truck. (Oh, the irony!)
Gingerly unwrapping the World’s Greatest Technological Advance in the History of All Mankind Whatever Was Ever Created, I stepped outside the realm of my normal acting abilities to channel a completely different persona. Yes, this performance would require an entirely different skill set…
And in the blink of an eye, I became what my friend Mike Taylor – a professional Hollywood Electrician – refers to as a “Juicer”.
Dust bunnies be damned (although they were more like a tufted colony about to unionize and kill me in my sleep), I dug in and got my hands dirty. And once the path had been cleared, all that was left was to hook up the proper cables. “This goes here, that fits there, this is input and that one’s output. All that’s to be done now is to plug it in!” I beamed to my dentally-challenged kitty (whose face currently bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack Nicholson as “The Joker”).
And humming Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” whilst dancing a minuet in my socks in the kitchen, I threw my arms in the air in gratitude as my coneless companion feasted on a saucer of milk, and my TiVo Premiere recorded TWO SHOWS at the SAME TIME, while I was paused on, and watching ANOTHER ONE!!!
Wishing you all the true meaning of a Thanksgiving, whatever you believe it to be,
~P

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Looking For That Finish Line!


Working in the television entertainment industry is always a bit of a gamble. Will I get a pilot? Will the pilot go to series? Will the Network order more episodes?
Feeling like I hit the Trifecta on my current show and knowing that I’ll be gainfully employed well into next year, I expected nothing more than the equivalent of a relaxing pony ride in the park during my current hiatus.
Instead, I found myself to be the lagging nag in a six week race for the money…
A major part of working in Hollywood is anticipating the unexpected and socking away some spare cash for the random weeks of unemployment. Crew members come and go from show to show, locations change from studio to studio and while one might occasionally pine for the stability of an office job and the constant reassurance of a paycheck, I learned long ago that this little Trotter (me) simply can’t compete with dedicated desk jockeys. I admire and respect them and acknowledge that they are lengths ahead of me in the race, but as my friend Ellen so aptly stated the other day, “Yes Penny, you could be pulling in $200,000.00 in a different career, but you’d be spending at least $100,000.00 on therapy.”
Good point!
***
Meanwhile, having spent an entire afternoon whinnying and kicking up my hooves obstinately in my stable whilst trying to unfreeze my TiVo, unplugging and re-plugging, swatting away icky dust bunnies, chatting online with a representative and eventually ordering a new unit from the TiVo people, I chomped at the bit knowing that the ETA of the new DVR would be arriving in three to five business days.
“And the supposed benefits of this upgraded box I’m receiving as a loyal customer is what?” I pawed at the floor, aggravated at the inconvenience of having to shell out my hard-earned hay.
“Well, you’ll have complete compatibility with High Def recording should you eventually choose to upgrade your analog television set; and while you currently have/had 40 hours of storage, with the new unit you’ll have 450 hours of storage.”
“Whoa!” I think I heard myself mutter stupidly, followed immediately by the noisy scrounging around for my nearest available credit card.
***
But neighing at my sudden inability after six years to pause or fast forward through annoying advertisements on TV, I was flat out ready for the glue factory. The career that will ultimately pay my pension in old age at the stud farm was driving me bat-sh*t crazy…
“How many millions of times do I have to sit through the same stupid commercials over and over?!” I snorted to my feline sidekick Pretty (whom with a plastic cone still strapped on her head and an abscess tooth had absolutely no pity.)
***
I suppose I was still reining in some pent up frustration when I finally settled in to watch my favorite Thursday night CBS television line-up. And while I’ve never personally worked on any of the shows, I couldn’t help but cheer for the on-screen credits of my friends!
What I hadn’t anticipated however, was my complete inability to coordinate my personal timing with live airings on television…
Now if you’re comfortably seated, the commercials seem to linger for EONS – “Buy this!” “Eat this!” “Drive this!” “Take this pill!” “No, take THIS pill!” “Shop here!” “Buy this!” “Shop here!” “Take this pill!” “Don’t drive that, drive this!” “No, take THIS pill!” all of which after six years of having TiVo had become a blessed fast-forward blur.
But reconciled to suffering through the countless ads I attempted to adapt myself.
Seriously, how difficult could a simple hiccup in my TV viewing be?
***
CRIPPLED!
Sauntering into the kitchen for an evening cocktail and finding the ice bin low, I emptied two trays, filled them with water, placed them in the freezer and poured a drink. Meanwhile, meandering back to the TV I discovered that the first third of “The Big Bang Theory” was already over.
What the…?
Vowing to make better use of one of the next commercial interruptions, I ran like a race horse for a bathroom break, realized I hadn’t yet washed my face for the night and by the time I had cleansed and moisturized, I ended up missing the middle third of “Bleep My Dad Says”.
What the…?
Not surprisingly, by the time “CSI” and “The Mentalist” rolled around I had (necessarily) emptied the kitty litter box, poured another cocktail, and spent five minutes (times three!) gently holding saucers of milk under my coned feline companion’s chin who after two weeks still hasn’t become accustomed to her big-headed parameters.
And it seemed that every time I finally made it back to the television, all that was airing for the next gazillion minutes was the constant “Buy this!” “Eat this!” “Drive this!” “Take this pill!” “No, take THIS pill!” “Shop here!” “Buy this!” “Shop here!” “Take this pill!” “Don’t drive that, drive this!” “No, take THIS pill!” stuff.
Say it with me, “What the…?”
***
As I no longer have a cable guide until the new unit arrives, I’m currently being held hostage by the only three channels I know, i.e. CBS, TNT and USA…
But betting on the long shots, my heroic feline will have her dental work done in the morning, my TiVo will arrive tomorrow as well, and aside from flicking away icky dust bunnies, hopefully my corner of the world will begin to make sense again.
With love and gratitude to all who have been checking in,
~P

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight


Ding, Ding, Ding!
“In this corner, weighing in at 123 pounds (on a good day!), wearing blue and white striped boxers and a t-shirt from a television show that she worked on but was cancelled two years ago, give it up for our challenger, ‘Penny the Preposterous!’”  *insert polite smattering of ringside applause*
“And in this corner, weighing in at five pounds and eleven ounces, let’s hear it for our reigning Champion, ‘Pretty the Punisher!’”  *insert raucous uproar*
“Letttt’s get readddy to rummmble!!!”
Round One:
Trying to stuff a resistant cat into a travel carrier is kind of like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Four legs dart out in protest, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on the situation, another arm or leg shoots out of nowhere and firmly blocks any progress you’ve made in the last twenty minutes.  But with a bit of luck, you occasionally manage to succeed…
“You’ll have to wait since you’re a walk-in. Next time you might want to make an appointment” the friendly receptionist recommended who clearly never battled the indefinite time-consuming challenge of attempting to confine a feline in a box.
“Thanks for that.”
Round Two:
“Seriously, it’s not that hard” the completely androgynous technician attempted to assist me in the proper manner of squirting antibiotics into the back of my cat’s throat.  “It helps if you have someone else to hold her down – I have cats too – but basically just put the plunger in her cheek, then aim it backward. OK?”
“OK” I responded, my head spinning and pea-brain quite unclear as to whether or not my response should be politely qualified with a “Maam” or a “Sir”.
“Here’s Pretty!” the technician added, handing over the carrier, my wide-eyed companion mad as hell and eye-balling me like the devil for allowing heathens to strap a plastic cone on her head.
“Thanks for that.”
Round Three:
Underestimating my actual fighting strength and stamina, I fearfully cocooned my kitty in a hefty throw blanket, managed to hold her relatively tightly in a bear hug, and with one lightening fast maneuver squirted a complete dose of antibiotics down her gullet.
Ding, Ding, Ding!
“Ha!” I shouted triumphantly to the invisible ringside crowd, bobbing and weaving as my worthy opponent headed to her respective corner of the bed.
“AAH!” I screamed two seconds later, rushing to the bathroom to sterilize the eight bloody claw marks drizzling in a red river down my left arm.
***
Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say that Round Four consisted of some frightfully scary side effects of the antibiotics (which involved lots of spot cleaning of carpeting, if you get my drift), Round Five included a few panicky calls to one Rock Star Ex-Boyfriend should worst come to worst, and Round Six required yet another trip to the vet -- wherein my worthy opponent weaseled out of her headgear before I got her into the carrier; but was given a two week injection and a brand new cone tied with a lovely gauze bow.
For now, I’m calling this match a draw. There was no TKO, and Pretty’s still got a lot of fight in her!
With gloves off and fingers crossed,
~P

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Scariest Halloween...

I’d considered attempting to suck the snot out of my congested kitty’s face with a toddler’s aspirator, but despite her subtle disguise as a mild-mannered domesticated companion I had no assurances that I wouldn’t wind up clawed to death in horrific disfigurement and left to bleed out on the carpet…  
Los Angeles had been cleansed by rain for a week, blown free of smog with high winds, and with what I can only describe as observing my beloved city in High-Def outside the window, my heroic feline sidekick Pretty and I wheezed, snorted and took turns wiping gunk out of our eyes.
“I’b gunda take ah allergy pill” I sniffled, rationing Claritin on a ‘need to nose’ basis as an unpleasant stream of mucus began making its un-lady-like descent from my right nostril.
“Fhewt” Pretty responded, a significantly more elegant sneeze.
My high holy holiday of Halloween was almost upon us, and heading out the door to shop on my “black Wednesday” (aka when all manner of spooky decorations are 50% off!), I was disappointed to see all the best items picked over or gone. Cheery green and red Christmas items already lined the shelves of my local Target, seasonal carols played over the intercom and any hopes I had of replacing my dancing skeleton bath towels was out of the question. “This isn’t going to be much of a Halloween” I sighed, heading back to my car empty-handed.
>>>Friday, Oct. 29<<<
Having mastered the fine art of sleeping ‘til noon on hiatus, I accidentally woke up at 9:30am being stared down by a feline version of Frankenstein’s “Igor”.
With one chipmunk-like puff of a cheek above her right whiskers making her squint unpleasantly, her normal left eye suddenly looked like a bulging Marty Feldman orb in comparison. “What happened to you?” I worried, trying to get a closer look at my cat’s face who immediately became Houdini in her brilliant ability to escape any kind of lingering restraints.
But remembering my friend Ellen’s advice a few years ago when dealing with anxiety, I took the emotion out of the moment, procured Pretty’s travel carrier from storage, and cleaned it with meticulous care should I need to escort her to the veterinarian. The logic made sense. I had adopted my kitty 15 years ago to the day. And at the grown up age of 44, I did what any grown up woman would do.
 I called my Mommy!
“I’ve been staring at Pretty for the last two hours. She’s napping on the bed, she doesn’t seem to be in any pain and she purrs when I pet her. It almost looks like a paper cut on her cheek, and I’ve been reading a couple of books lately, and she wipes her face on the pages when she wants attention, and, and, and…” I blathered on frantically. “What do I do?!”
Having raised two daughters and a handful of household pets, my Mother’s cooler head prevailed. “Cats are smart when it comes to such things. They tend to take care of themselves. Just keep an eye on her, and I’ll call you tomorrow to check in.”
And keep an eye on her I did.
Whilst I have no official proof of such vigilance, I’m relatively sure that I clocked in approximately 36 hours of doing nothing more than staring at my unusually lethargic sleeping feline sidekick for two days…
>>>Sunday, Oct. 31<<<
“Happy Hallowhat the hell…?” I bolted upright, spying the blood on the linens and Pretty looming ominously over my head, a small chunk of fur and chipmunk face clawed out and missing from her right cheek.
“Mowww!” she greeted me brightly, green eyes shining, a normal wet nose running down the length of my arm that had sufficed as an adequate substitute for an overnight pillow. “Mrrrowoww” she continued affectionately pawing my shoulder, an effective albeit transparent craftiness in which to hopefully obtain a saucer of the Great White Nectar (milk). “Nowww” she demanded, taking long stretching strides to the foot of the bed.
And granting her wish of a bit of cow juice, I threw away the older sheets (ironically I’d ordered a new set the night before online) and replacing the linens, Pretty embraced her kittenish favorite games of ‘Bed-Surfing’ (sliding along the top of the slick duvet), ‘Where’s the Kitty?’ (purring in a curled-up ball under the fitted sheet), and ‘Cat-Bat-Napped!’ (where she realizes she’s pinned underneath everything and uses echolocation to find the closest corner out of which to escape and land triumphantly on top!)
Yes her Spirit was back, but half of her face was missing, and I was still a basket case.
“Mom?!”
“Leave her be. She’ll keep it clean with kitty spit” my Mother calmly reassured me.
***
Banking approximately 48 more hours of staring at my heroic feline sidekick, I’m relatively convinced that she’ll be just fine.
Sure she’s occasionally annoyed that my constant silent eye-balling her while she sleeps seems to be somehow louder than a helicopter flying overhead and wakes her up intermittently, but hey, that’s the price she’s gotta pay for scaring the crap out of me on Halloween!
Exhausted, (still staring!) but with utmost respect and admiration for those of you known as an actual real Mom,
~P
p.s. Special thanks to ‘Delirious’, and my friend Cyn for holding my email-hand this week!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where's George?


Absconding with containers of blackened salmon, pasta and vegetables, four freshly baked cookies and one spectacular looking strawberry yogurt granola parfait (with whipped cream and a cherry on top!), my friend Lori and I darted around the side of the building like raccoons hiding from a farmer with a brain-mashing shovel.
It was headed right toward us, but we were relatively certain that it hadn’t actually made eye-contact. Yes, we had been officially signed out at work by our Second AD “Diddy” as the audience loaded into the house; we were free to take food to go, and there was nothing preventing us from driving to our respective apartments, except for the fact that the farmer (aka our temporary First AD) seemed to be hovering…
“I think the stairs are over here!” Lori whispered, as we ducked behind a private bungalow, ferreting our way down through the trees to the obscure parking area where the Security Guards had guided us that morning.
“See you tomorrow!” we waved quietly, slinking into our cars, a waft of steamed broccoli lingering in the air.
 ***
“Whaaaat now…?”  I sighed despondently as Diddy’s name appeared on the caller ID at 7:35pm that night on my landline. “This can’t be good” I whimpered in my pajamas to my heroic black feline sidekick ‘Pretty’ who had lurched onto the coffin table in my gothic living room ready to take on the world (or at best, a saucer of milk, should her purring coercion and eerie vulture stare manage to eventually wrangle me into the kitchen).
“Would you like to buy yourself a big bottle of vodka?” Diddy asked after I had tentatively answered the call.
“Is that a trick question?”
“You won Dollar Day!” he laughed. “I’ll text you when Ken’s finished counting your winnings.”
In what’s become a bit of a Hollywood sit-com tradition, actors, crew members, office workers and even the highly paid Suits have all taken an interest in defacing “George” by writing their names on bills and stuffing them into a jar in hopes of winning a few extra bucks on show night. And to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t exactly smacked anyone in the face with my ponytail while racing to my purse in an eager desire to cough up one bit of my meager paycheck to the cause…
But the thing is, sometimes helping a crew pull together is just the right thing to do.
And paroling two crisp bills from the confines of the back of my checkbook (ultra-flat and mass-transit-ready should I ever need to hop a bus!), I scribbled my name with the rest of my co-workers.
***
A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore hardcover book for you!” I smiled at our Camera Coordinator the next morning, who deftly returned my grin with an equally weighty hardback Carl Hiaasen novel in exchange, ironically entitled “Lucky You”.
And with eighty-three dollars in my hot little paws from Dollar Day (OK, $73 after I insisted Ken take ten bucks to go to McDonalds on me), I did feel lucky!
It was our last day of filming in front of a studio audience before a lengthy hiatus, and sure, it had been a difficult schedule doing two separate live tapings in two days; but as the Entertainment Industry demands, “The Show Must Go On.”
***
Now, as far as recurring anxiety dreams go, I’d had this one dozens of times.
There I am, planted on stage, partially naked, script in hand, but for the life of me I can’t remember the words I’m supposed to say. Looking down at the papers clutched in my sweaty palm is always fruitless; I’m either eternally on the wrong page, or gripping an old draft that’s been rewritten over and over. But this particular scenario was even wonkier than usual…
250 zombie-like audience members had silently filed into the house, staring creepily as my fellow Stand-Ins and I (signs hung obligatorily like albatrosses around our necks) moved quietly about the stage with absolutely no dialogue, all under the careful guidance of our Director. And taking a seat on the couch as my Actress had done, I glanced at my legs just to make sure I was actually wearing pants. (*whew!*)
But where was George?
See, usually in the nightmare, George Clooney eventually makes a grand entrance, hands me a martini, and bantering some terribly charming Cary Grant-esque witticisms, skirts me away from whatever mayhem lay before me. But unfortunately Mr. Clooney was nowhere to be seen: Only the farmer with the brain-mashing shovel.
“So you guys need to hang around tonight! Nobody leaves early! And make sure you give the actors the notes from the Director before each scene, OK?!” we were admonished, as if the unprofessional act of camera-blocking in front of the live studio audience was somehow our fault. But like five toddlers allegedly caught eating paste during recess, we nodded obediently.
After all, a crew has to stick together.
***
Unfurling the wad of bills later that evening, I smiled at each of the written names of my co-workers who had all patted me on the back, glad-handed me in congratulations for winning Dollar Day and cheered me on in the spirit of one of the ‘little’ people collecting the Show Dough. “Don’t try to deposit them all at once in the bank” an audio guy piped up, as audio guys are apt to do. “That’s defaced money, and they probably won’t accept it” he added helpfully. (Frankly, I was more concerned with the appearance of looking like one painfully lousy stripper in front of a teller…)
But scanning through the dollars, I belly-laughed out loud to see the last bill rubber-stamped with the official “WheresGeorge.com” website imprinted on the back.
Wherever the “L4499---7E; Series 2006” dollar may be these days, he gets a hearty “Spasibo!” (i.e. ‘thank you!’), for helping to pay for a quart of milk at my local Russian Deli for my feline sidekick.
And wherever my crew may be during our hiatus, I owe them all a hearty “Spasibo!” too, for reminding me what it feels like to have an extended family, no matter where my place happens to be in this world.
With love and best luck to you (and not eating paste!),
~P

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Woof!

As I'm new to this site, I thought I'd share a bit of my Hollywood history blogging.
(Nov. 2009)
***
Although I couldn’t quite make hide nor hair of the situation in the moment of standing in front of four television cameras, I felt the most compelling urge to jut out my lower jaw ala a Bulldog with an under bite…
Sure the desire may have been accredited to a few unsightly wrinkles, tired puppy eyes, or the fact that I was feeling a bit “stocky” after feeding relentlessly on free food (hey, I will LICK that bowl CLEAN if you leave it out!); but having been trained to be a champion, I stood perfectly motionless on my designated spot.
Our Director of Photography was pacing about, staring up at the lights, down at our faces, up at the overhead lights again and then waving us around to saunter over to our next position.
“Psst, Penny!” I heard him whisper, catching my eye and motioning for me to move my bangs away from my forehead.
And suddenly, the desire to have an under bite was further enhanced by an indescribable longing for a Pekingese (?) Pomeranian (?) accoutrement to hold the front of my hair straight up in a tiny pink bow.
“Next” he directed us with a flick of his fingers, as we all obediently trotted the well-rehearsed oval in the room.
“Hello?” I began the scripted dialogue, answering my fake cell phone and glancing compliantly at the floor as my Actress had done all week.
“Psst, Penny! Chin up… CHIN UP!” the DP chimed in yet again, motioning with his hand and an imaginary squeaky chew toy. “Favor B and C cameras, but stay ear-level with Chris while he listens in to the conversation!” he continued with hushed enthusiasm. And squaring my hind legs (if you will) like a Pug for the vertically challenged actor, we managed to finish the scene with all proper jumping about playfully.
I was just about to metaphorically lick myself congratutorially after a few more hours of bounding around like a loyal Labrador in the park, setting up three different camera angles on location, perking up my ears and barreling towards whomever was calling my name at any given moment; when at last my Actress arrived.
And territorially shepherding her (in her treacherous five inch heels) to her first mark for the opening scene onto some perilous rocky terrain, I stood guard ala a protective Great Dane until the cameras were ready to roll.
*Sound Speed: Scene H, take one, Cameras A, B, C and X. Marker.*
“Thank you my Precious!” she smiled, statuesquely bending down to plant an affectionate kiss squarely on the top of my head.
And skittering away, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps there might be a miniature sweater and a large designer handbag somewhere nearby for me to hop into…
***
As no official ribbons or trophies were handed out, I suppose I’ll never know if I won the title of “Best in Show”; after all, no one examined my teeth, stroked my belly or even bothered to fondle my tail. (Darn it!)
But still slobbering lovingly,
~Penny