Monday, January 17, 2011

Does This Halo Make Me Look Fat?

Although I couldn’t verify that there were actual cloven hooves hidden inside his Converse sneakers, I could sense the horns and tail emerging from our apocalyptic Guest Director who was clearly displaying all the warning signs of a demonic possession ready to annihilate everyone in his presence.
We were on rehearsal day 3 of 5 (his symptoms baffling the majority of lay people surrounding him), when he finally reached out to me -- a humble Stand-In that he knew and worked with on a series back in 1993, who recognized and was sympathetic to his weakened disposition.  And pulling me into a clandestine confession, he spoke openly from his heart:
“I quit smoking…  But can I please bum a cigarette?” he pleaded, miraculously transforming into an absolute Angel minutes later in an American Spirit Mellow Menthol nicotine haze.
And rifling through his wallet ever so pleasantly on stage afterward, I blanched as my old friend handed me TEN DOLLARS for the three smokes he bummed by the end of the day.
Perhaps a deal with the Devil might prove to be most profitable!
Emerging quietly from the ladies restroom after lunch on a camera-blocking day (4 of 5), I was startled by a handful of my crew members eager to please and appease our agitated Director, who had apparently been calling out my name.
And wrangling me back on stage like I was a heretic who had disdainfully abandoned the Church of Saint Sit-Com, I was presented as an offering, a gift to be sacrificed by my crew, the likelihood of my dismemberment almost imminent by the throngs of dedicated masses determined to avoid any personal persecution.
“Here she is!” a co-worker burst out excitedly, aggressively shoving me towards the temporarily vitriolic Guest Czar.
“Let’s take a walk” the Director wrapped an affectionate arm over my shoulder, heading toward an isolated corner of the stage wherein he could surreptitiously pocket a much-needed PFST (Post Feeding Smokey Treat). “Thanks Pen” he whispered, borrowing my lighter and amiably kissing the top of my head.
“Go ahead and take two!” I suggested cheerfully (hoping to thwart any such further witch-hunts by my co-workers).
“Sooo…” a crew member (whose pay scale is approximately ten times higher than mine) eyed me skeptically on day 5 of 5.  “You two seem to have a rather intimate working relationship” he continued, sizing me up as the Stand-In Whore of Babylon who had privately consorted once more in the corner with our reigning monarch Director.
“Oh. That we do,” I nodded ‘beatifically’; accepting my fated role-of-the-week as a misunderstood patron saint of the arts, punished by malicious criticism behind my back, misjudged mistakenly for supposedly inappropriate behavior, and most certainly next in line to be crucified by those who were not yet enlightened enough to appreciate my humble sacrificial good deeds on behalf of all mankind (um, on our stage, anyway).
“But just so you know…” I offered a small revelation, leaning in close enough for my accuser to share my shroud of a hoodie sweatshirt; “our Director is a closet smoker and a helluva nice guy if you just give him a cigarette” I whispered, walking away, gleefully knowing that my pure-of-heart reputation would be restored within a few gossipy minutes.
And observing our Fearless Leader after lunch laughing in the camaraderie of fellow crew members all enjoying PFSTs, I smiled ‘beatifically’ once again, knowing that my sacrifices for the crew were worth the benefits that they would receive on a hectic show night in front of a live studio audience.
And with that, my angelic deal with the Devil was done.
While I could verify that there were no cloven hooves to be seen, (she wasn’t wearing Converse sneakers), the tail was already evident and the devilish horns couldn’t be far behind.  The symptoms of demonic possession were already emanating and there was little for me to do but try to appease the conflict within her.  And lowering my gaze in yet another humble act of submission, I could feel the burning glare searing through my forehead…
“Milk?” I offered; a mere servant in the hierarchy of good vs. evil.
“NOOOWWW!” my feline sidekick (a five pound bully) demanded, yelling in my ear and authoritatively shepherding me down the hallway to the kitchen for a lactic hit of the great white nectar.
Still waiting to be canonized,
~ “Saint P”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For Here or To Go?

*Tic* my right eyelid spasmed as I crept uneasily towards the tunnel.
*Tic, tic, tic* the flappy fold of my ocular skin amped up the tempo of its flutter-dance the nearer I got; a possible primordial “fight-or-flight” instinct kicking in as I came closer and closer to breaching the secure boundaries of the highly guarded walls. And mere feet away from the escape route, I paused in unexpected meditative speculation as to the potentially life-altering decision I was about to make…
“Do I dare hazard the chance of freedom, or should I just quietly back away?” I fretted, poking a pinkie at my twitchy eye, weighing the risk versus reward. And in the heat of the moment, only one immediate solution presented itself:  I had to move forward.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” a Guard suddenly yelled authoritatively, stopping me dead in my tracks.
Having never learned the fine art of prevarication, I confessed immediately without so much as being handcuffed in a dark room with a blinding spotlight focused on Lefty (the only eye that was currently under my control). “I’m actually going to try one of the cheap trucks outside” I admitted, an odd sense of pride wafting over me in honor of my valiant courageousness.
“You’re a brave woman…” the Guard shook his head worriedly, wheeling away in his golf cart towards the other end of the studio lot.
*Tic* my right eye replied politely.
Exiting the aforementioned tunnel however and walking outside to the street, I realized that the odd sense wafting over me wasn’t so much actual pride as it was the thick oily emanations from the grill of the first food truck; most appropriately named “The Greasy Weiner” (I kid you not). And ambling past “The Yummy One”, “Patty Wagon” and finding my co-worker friends Dev and Brian awaiting their lunch orders at “Great Balls on Tires”, Dev hugged me for taking a chance on (what may be a world-wide Twitter/FaceBook phenomenon but new to me) the orchestration of specialized gourmet mobile menus.

“I guess I’ll try the ‘IncrediBalls’” (again, I kid you not), forking over $7.50 plus a dollar tip (what ever happened to food trucks being notoriously “cheap”?) for two Applewood Smoked Bacon wrapped Kobe beef spheres with Gruyere cheese, Wild Arugula, and Garlic Aioli on Toasted Brioche.

“Comin’ right up!” the lady winked back at me.
Given a half hour break the next day before pre-shooting a scene while our cast were busy getting prettier in the Hair/Make-up room, I escaped with Dev and Brian back through the tunnel, curious to see which culinary opportunities happened to be available that afternoon. And whilst the options of Cuban food from one portable ‘restaurant’, dumplings from another, ice cream cookie sandwiches from a third and Hawaiian cuisine from a fourth seemed harmless enough, I winced at the Filipino wagon at the end of the block, creepily titled “The White Rabbit”. After all if one vehicle offered “IncrediBalls” on the menu, who’s to say that that one might not recommend “Deep Fried Bunny on a Stick”? (Don’t sue me; I didn’t actually read their menu.)
*Tic, tic, tic, tic, tic* my rebel eyelid jittered to its newest rhythm, a possible improvisational tap-dance homage to Sammy Davis Jr. (Hey, some things just can't be explained.)
In my ongoing quest as One Red Cent Trying to Make Sense, I couldn’t help but stop and wonder what on earth in my subconscious was, as it were, ‘getting under my skin’.  
But then like an oily waft from a suppressed grimy memory it hit me: the last time prior to this month that I patronized a mobile eatery was five years ago…
Clad in an orange safety vest and hard-hat, fulfilling a legal responsibility to the great state of California for a painfully stupid lack of judgment, performing brutal labor in the name of highway beautification, reeking of dirt and sweat, and dismally resigned to eating peanut butter out of the jar while squatting on the curb as cars zoomed by, our Caltrans driver rallied the hoodlums’ spirits with her personal craving.
“Who wants Mexican?!” she beamed, loading us up in the van and depositing our foul-smelling crowd of twelve on a corner, somewhere in the Valley where carne asada tacos were available for only a buck at a travelling vendor. “Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness” she continued, demanding that we buy our food as quickly as possible, get back in the shuttle and wait to eat until we were back on the side of the freeway. “I will keep you ALL DAY LONG if I find even ONE drop of salsa on the seats!” she admonished us, the aroma of freshly grilled meat battling for ambient control over the less-than-pleasant previous stench of a dozen armpit deodorants failing miserably in unison.
But we were a grateful (albeit stinky) clan of hooligans in the moment! (And may I stress the word “moment”?)
Suffice it to say (if I haven’t completely creeped you out already) sharing the port-a-potty on the back end of the trailer with eleven other people who had ‘digested’ their lunch, was ABSOLUTELY NOT AN OPTION FOR ME.
While I may never fully recover from that most unpleasant afternoon (one of too many to count), I must say that with a lot of help from friends and family, I believe I’ve successfully shaken the shackles of my past.
And wrapping up a short rehearsal today until we will receive the script rewrites for tomorrow, I escorted Dev to the street for a late lunch, almost eager to partake of something new, something exotic, something gourmet!
“Oh look…” Dev innocently pointed at “T’s Chili Wagon – Anything but a Tease”; a spicy jalapeno pepper adorning the graphics of the food/hot sauce-themed vehicle.
“Ooh, and they have TACOS!” he beamed hungrily.
Twitching at you affectionately,