Friday, April 22, 2011

A Casualty of "Whoa!"

Unwittingly recruited into participating in the Special Forces Black Ops (my battle-scars from years ago not entirely healed), and less than quasi-comfortable with the idea of returning to the front line, I accepted the patriotic duty placed upon my weary shoulders and geared up for the mission at hand that would ultimately take me once again well out of my comfort zone…
But owing the patriotic regime of young recruits standing boldly by my side for thirty episodes of our Sit-Com I eyed the cross-hairs on the ‘site’, poised my finger gently on the trigger, and with a lung-throbbing exhale sniped the RSVP “yes” box for attending our Season One wrap party.
Plopping down on the bed the night before the festivities with maps of the world on my computer (a coping tool I often use when having to traverse more than five miles deep into the Valley), and consulting my highest-ranking most trusted confidant, we put our heads together in an effort to plot the perfect stratagem:
Task #1:  Arrive at work in the morning in normal attire despite complete exhaustion from shooting five episodes in a row of our Sit-Com.  Critical note - maintain sunny disposition.  Check!
Strategically, this was the simplest part of our tactical planning, as having a limited number of scenes and no more pre-shoots for our final show, there was no critical need to conspiratorially whisk away my lovely Actress into the Hair/Make-Up ‘Head Quarters’ prior to the audience arrival.
Task #2:  Remember that “an army travels on its stomach” – i.e. procure food from final catered meal at 2:30pm with which to take home, feast, and most importantly, feed kitty sampling of “people food” in humble pagan ritual so as not to incur the wrath of feline contempt for staying out on a late-night mission (the corporeal punishment for which is usually the one-step-too-late discovery of a carefully deposited ‘land mine’ on carpet or bedding).
Again, strategically, the thought process was infallible on paper, but what I hadn’t counted on was the rapidity with which our well-organized troops completed the camera-refresh day, and my dismissal from work an hour early.  And slinking home empty handed, I surreptitiously snuck in the door of my humble bat-cave, only to be immediately stared down by the oppressive glare of my feline sidekick Pretty (aka my high-ranking strategic planner), standing guard, rowrring cheetah-esque and licking her lips in anticipation of the usual Friday fare of salmon, whitefish or cod. 
But I was a soldier!  Brave!  Fearless!  Adaptable!
And resorting to Plan B, I did as any proper operative would do under duress:
Task #3 (Plan B):  Take a nap!
Snoozing most contentedly under the gentle breeze of the air conditioner on a warm afternoon in Los Angeles, my feline companion tucked neatly into the crook of my arm (snoring like a cantankerous Longshoreman); my mind quietly prepared for battle.
Task #4:  Select appropriate ninja wardrobe for combat.
Hmm… Black tee-shirt?  Check!
Task #5:  Await sundown, then prepare to greet the enemy…
Arriving to the gala of our TV show’s wrap party around 9:30pm in an armored tank (OK, my friends Lori and Tim's Honda) I surveyed the territory, checked in as mandated with all proper identification and smiling at the ‘generous’ gift of two free drink tickets stealthily made my way towards the bar.  The hi-def screens overhead offered a slide-show of all the hard-workers behind the scenes, a well-intended collage of the below-the-line crew, intermixed with an odd collection of high-ranking officials feasting on designer cakes somewhere in the need-to-know-only base of the Producer’s HQ. 
And scanning the power point presentation for at least one recognizable person from my humble department of Stand-ins, I was actually saddened to see that not even ONE of us had been included in the array…
Newly Motivated Task #6:  Deploy first strike.
Recoiling at the shrill initial Call-To-Arms I lingered behind the troops, taking the time to pluck a few dastardly pieces of mint leaves off my teeth from the unfortunate choice of indulging in a vodka mojito.  (After all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Federal Agent friend “Rose”, you never rush into a potentially dangerous situation; and number two (that I’ve learned from working in television), try to avoid at all costs having creepy leafy green things lodged in your dental work.)
Ultimate Task #7:  TAKE NO PRISONERS.
Having chewed my way through a second mojito like a billy goat on a fresh lawn, I spat some foliage into a napkin, tossed it aside and hitching my pants up ala Barney Fife, confidently made my way into the Briefing Room. 
And there, crouched malevolently in the dark, with an eerie ruby spotlight overhead which sharpened only half of the indiscernible features, the enemy clad in black looked up at me with glowing eyes as crimson as the devil incarnate.
“Hey…?” I offered cowardly, gently stepping closer to re-con the assessment of danger, only to find myself gripped in a frighteningly powerful maternal hug by our reflectively-bespectacled, mild-mannered Unitarian church-going on-set teacher whose violent tendencies throughout the season appeared to be limited to wielding a dull needle whilst cross-stitching avian themed throw pillows. 
“Hey!” I hugged her back (knowing full well that in the trenches of laser tag war, her ass was mine!). 
“WOOOOO!!!” the men scurried in, high-fiving each other, claiming seats under various lights and cheering testosterone-astically. 
“WOOOOO!!!” the female corps followed seconds later, bursting in estrogen-astically.
“WOOOOO- EEK!!!” I chimed in terrified-astically.
“So who hasn’t played laser tag before?” the bubbly Game Master girl inquired as I slowly raised a solo tentative hand.  (Leave it to the Unitarian to sit quietly and sacrifice me to the lions.)  “Well, then I’m required to start from the beginning!” she began again cheerily, much to the groaning chagrin of all the previous hard-core players who had already suffered through the safety speech three or four times.  “Sooo, what’s your name?” our hostess wanted to know.
Penny” I whispered, hoping to maintain some secrecy with regard to my Covert Op.
“Let’s welcome Penny!” the Game Master cheered enthusiastically, encouraging everyone to bring me into the fold with thunderous applause.  (Bloody hell!)
Yet convinced that I could still pull off the mission successfully, and ready to arm myself for battle, I steeled my nerves and hoped beyond hope that sitting under the golden light bulb of “Team Yellow” (yeah, that’s a name that clearly arouses fear), no one else would be able to discern just which shade of pink embarrassment my cheeks were sporting. 
Unfortunately however, the mortification didn’t end there, as the hero of our Sit-Com suddenly felt the need to share my full name with his all of his family.  “No, seriously guys, that’s her real name!” he laughed.  “How cool is that?!” he continued, fist-bumping his brothers as my face effectively achieved government level Code Red.
During what had seemed like the longest twelve minutes of my life in a black-lit labyrinth, I shot the embroidery bird-lady repeatedly (who merely cowered in a corner and refused to budge); jumped up and down every time I heard my vest announce “Target Acquired!” (not realizing that I was the one who had been “acquired”); and bolting out the door at the buzzer to check my brilliant stats on the monitor, scanned for my super secret code name “VORTEX”.
Alas, Team Yellow came in last; alas my official rank was #27 (of 30?) and a final alas that for what should have been a moderate exercise in adrenaline, cunning and guile, a non-military-trained bead of minty mojito perspiration seemed to be meandering its way down my tee-shirt, pooling most unpleasantly in the small of my back.
But climbing into the armored tank (OK, OK, the Honda!) preparing to head back to Camp West Hollywood, I couldn’t help but smile.
After all, the hero of our Sit-Com – 1990’s teen idol heartthrob Joey Lawrence – shot me dead in laser tag SEVEN TIMES!!!

Photo courtesy of Tracy Wilcoxen
Wishing you the best outcome with whatever battle you may face today,
~Vortex P

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tarot de Toilette

Clad in a black hooded cape and wielding a scythe, my AD Diddy patted my knee and whispered dauntingly into my ear “I hope you’re ready to act, because it looks like you’re on!” he chuckled menacingly, floating away on the invisible hover-board cloaked beneath his shroud of doom.  And there it was (actually clad in a blue plaid shirt and jeans), the Hollywood “kiss of death”.
Diagnosed with bronchitis and sent home immediately before the Producers Run-Thru on a Tuesday, the youngest female of our cast members left the stage against her will, leaving me with the awkward task of playing her part (against MY will!) on our happy little dog and pony Sit-Com.
But these are the situations that I find most challenging.  Can I pull off portraying a seventeen year-old girl?  Can I replicate to the best of my abilities the persona of the actress and the youthful angst written so carefully into her dialog?  Most importantly, could I do all of the above “cold” (unrehearsed) with conviction whilst holding the script at arms length because my eye-sight is failing? 
Pfft.  “Easy-peezy” I convinced myself, choosing not to spend too much time trying to master a role ultimately not my own.
Having ad-libbed my way through two of maybe twenty lines (a big, fat no-no if you ever work in television), I cowered off to the side, hoping to avoid eye contact with the writers who desperately want to hear their dialog written as is.  And scurrying into what I thought were the shadows, I was mortified to find myself suddenly face-to-face with our UPM (Unit Production Manager, aka, the top dog money guy).
“Great job!” he smiled, patting me on the back – the ultimate kiss of death…
But as luck (and the creepy internet) would have it, after beating myself up for my lack of complete perfection at work, the Universe sublimely planted the following (spam?) into my computer’s in-box:

“The Knight of Wands card suggests that my power today lies in rising to the occasion.  I keep my options open and am ready to “use it or lose it.”  I set trends and initiate exciting opportunities to get attention, conquer fears, enhance reputation or image, or to express or inspire liberation – often by extreme measures.  I am empowered by ambition or the “zest in quest” and I transform through charismatic communication.”
Now surprisingly, I’m not actually one to dabble in the “occult”, but I’m also not one to ignore the signs if the Universe is trying to assist me.  And opening my paychecks for the week, I was astonished to find that not only was the UPM sincere but he had even approved an additional $25.00 to my Tuesday voucher.  (WTF?) 
So with one eye askance (the other having already declared Happy Hour after a tediously long-ass camera-blocking day at work), I logged onto the poot Thursday night to check the validity of the ongoing tarot card spam, only to discover the following:

“The Two of Wands card suggests that my power today lies in attraction.  I have a vested interest or am committed to sharing my vision, ideals, or game plan in order to make a connection.  I am willing to step up because it takes two and I can’t win if I don’t play.  Anything is possible.  I am empowered by the passion of my own potential and I transform through self-discipline.”
While I was convinced only hours earlier that at any moment my thighs would collapse under the duress of crouching arm-in-arm with my friend Lori in the stall for what felt like a lifetime, I smiled pleasantly at the crew who felt the need to whip out cameras and take photos of our awkward situation.  However, yes we had “stepped up”, yes “it takes two” and spot-on, “I can’t win if I don’t play”!
And while some “self-discipline” may have kicked in, I do believe the photo below of my middle finger on the script (accidental as it happened to be) tells the full story:

Cheers to the idea that “anything is possible”.  After all, despite the fact that Lori and I (and my career?) were literally in the toilet, we booked ourselves a pilot!
Kissing you all deadly (as it were),

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Degenerate Gamblers Guide (Part Two) to the Post Traumatic Distressing Online Order

Unloading my nifty new skull and crossbones backpack on top of the coffin in my living room after work, I plopped down on my black leather couch and wondered just how the heck the rest of the world had turned so topsy-turvy weird. 
“They all LOVE the ‘Here Kitty Kitty lounge pants’” I sighed to my friend Laer miserably, filling him in on the morbid details of the flood of supportive emails I’ve received regarding my last blog post and drunken choice of the now-renowned, most beloved iconic ostentatious cat-themed pajama bottoms in Hollywood. 
As usual, Laer listened quietly. 
“On one hand, I think it’s wicked cool that the post got hits from Belarus, China, Germany, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Finland and even Iran!” I perked up (hoping at least one person on the planet got a chuckle for the day); “But on the other hand” I withered, “my earnest, provocative, well-meaning Public Service Announcement against SUI (Shopping Under the Influence) was apparently all for naught” I sighed.  “I was even kind of relieved that our guest stand-in Christi hadn’t yet read the post, but before I could begin to describe the visual monstrosity, the youngest of my department – tech-savvy Brian – had already pulled up the photo on his smart phone.  And what do you think Christi said, Laer?” I asked petulantly.
Knowing better than to interrupt me when I’m prancing around atop one of my metaphorical High Horses (a squatty yet defiant territorial little pony named “Napoleon”), Laer said nothing.
“She thought they were cute!  Can you believe it?” I fretted.  “Even my on-set dresser (who dresses sets, not people) told me she could totally see me wearing the pants and enjoying a cigarette in the rain under my matching pink Betty Boop umbrella!”
(Granted (in my on-set dresser’s defense), I didn’t mind the visual so much, but in my defense, I was seriously hoping to stave off that particular phase of life until well into my 70’s…)
But I digress!
“I may have to write another post” I tapped my chin thoughtfully, determined to rectify the aberration that had become of my last blog entry.  And with a rebellious “click click” to both Napoleon and my computer, we settled in to tackle the sequel post that could ultimately save hundreds of dollars for future SUI victims.
(Frankly I wasn’t surprised that Laer didn’t jump up and bolt to my side.  For one; he’s never been a big fan of Hollywood sequels and two; as my best collaborative writing partner, he’d never offered input until I’ve completed the first draft, and three; had the small cup of his cremains that I keep in the treasure chest on my end table managed to reassemble themselves into a fourth of the living breathing entity that I once knew as my friend, well, let’s just say that four quarters of this Penny would likely be resting in utter terror nearby his niche at the Hollywood Forever Mausoleum.)
Hmm…  But where to start?
Surveying the aggregate collection of items purchased in my previously inebriated state the week before, I was certain that aside from the “Here Kitty Kitty” neon pink abominable loungers, at least ONE other item would assist me in the prevention of fellow on-line shopping gamblers wasting away their paychecks.  And with Napoleon by my side, our tyranny would surely prevail!
Acquisition Object #1: Nifty Skull and Crossbones Backpack:

Made in China!  With some chemicals that are known to the state of California to cause cancer!  (Which would all be terribly nefarious were I not smoking a cigarette whilst reading the label…) 
Acquisition Object #2:  Red Isotoner Convertible Women’s Glove/Mittens:

They…, um…, they… are actually perfect, and having paid only $16.00 (including shipping!) for the suggested retail price of $32.00 were quite the bargain…
Acquisition Object #3 (a late arrival):  Four pair of “Gold Toe” Argyle socks:

Searching my pea-brain for something to deter future SUI victims, again I had absolutely nothing by way of helping anyone…  The quality of products received was beyond expectation and sporting my first pair of beige-grey footwear to work I was painfully humbled by compliments…
“I’m beginning to doubt the validity of my ability to prevent people from randomly shopping on-line” I worried to Napoleon, taking a final photo of my last acquisition.
But as The Universe is not one to let me down, I studied the photo closely:

Zooming in for a closer look, I couldn’t help but focus on the odd little puff ball which seemed to be staring right back at me…

Whistling for Napoleon, we clomped into the bedroom to log onto the website that had sent the package (via to research just what the terribly soft fluffy accoutrement was all about.  And there, midway through the product description that I hadn’t bothered to read in my previous moderately intoxicated shopping frenzy, laid the dreadfulness, the shock and the repulsion that sent me scrambling to my checkbook to mail an immediate donation to the local ASPCA:
  • Hat glove scarf set created from fleece for extra warmth
  • Soft faux fur trim featuring a stylish heart print accents all three pieces of this set
  • Free Bonus - Genuine Rabbit Fur Accent Pin included to wear on scarf or hat
  • Lining inside hat and faux fur trim are both created from soft 100% acrylic material
  • One size fits most. Available colors: Black and Brown
Sending Napoleon off to the stables and oblivious to the irony of slumping down on my leather couch next to my deceased friend/muse Laer, I struggled with my blameworthy conscience over the poor, helpless, forsaken lil bunny rabbit…
And sober as a judge, that’s when I swear I heard Laer whisper the following solemn words from inside his treasure chest:
Guilt???  Now THAT’s how you write a Public Service Announcement!  My Catholic Grandma would be so proud!”
Placing my last bet that at least something will make you laugh today,