Monday, October 31, 2011

Anybody Got Any Garlic?

Moderately disappointed not to find a spooky marathon of serial killers on “Criminal Minds” anywhere on the TiVo on a Saturday before Halloween, I scanned the on-screen viewing guide in search of something appropriately eerie.  And clicking on the History Channel for a potentially interesting nugget titled “Vampire Secrets”, I hit the pause button before cleaning up the carnage that had been the McDonald’s Angus Burger shared with my feline carnivore side-kick Pretty on our 16th Anniversary together.  :)
Sure a lot of the show was familiar enough, recounting the usual folklore surrounding the Transylvanian- born Vlad III Dracula “The Impaler” and his notorious blood-lust, as well as his likely inspiration for Bram Stoker’s most famous novel.  Creepy, of course, yet strangely so deeply-embedded in our current books and movie culture that there seemed little to add that could deign to shock or scare me.

Admittedly unfamiliar with Hungarian-born Romanian Aristocracy of the 16th century, I nearly barfed up my lunch at the History Channel’s reenactment of perhaps the most prolific female serial killer of all time, Elizabeth Bathory aka “The Blood Countess” wallowing in a tub of thick red goo, the likes of which she sponged wickedly on her body in an effort to retain her youth, before biting a chunk out of the arm of one of her (possibly as many as 650) virgin peasant servants brought to the castle under the guise of being taught how to become “proper ladies”.
“It’s just a reenactment!  It’s just Hollywood fake sugar syrup!  The servant is just a Background Actor!” I cringed to my intuitive kitty who had already heard quite enough and had surreptitiously disappeared into her favorite plastic baggie for comfort.

But with the introduction of Certified Forensic Biologist Dr. Mark Benecke (Ph.D.), who offered scientific explanations for all things “vampire-esque”, I managed to crawl back into my skin (and out of a fetal position). 
Yes!  Science!  Logic!
Apparently the whole “wooden stake in the heart” lore came from the excavation of buried bodies, wherein the villagers would see the corpse with red fluids coming out of the mouth or nose; the “seemingly dead” would appear bloated as if having fed on something; hair and nails continued to grow, and as ‘the earth would not reclaim the flesh nor the heavens accept the soul’, the body was nailed to the ground and the head decapitated.
*click TiVo pause!*
Snugly tucked once again back into a comforting fetal position clutching my bag-o-kitty for fifteen minutes or so, I eventually tackled watching the last half hour of the show (remote control at the ready should anything more become too gruesome).
As it turns out, a decaying body that may appear slim at burial eventually expands as all inner gases make their way out, which may often include the expulsion of reddish fluids from the face.  Plus, human beings are made up mostly of water, and as the water dissipates, the skin tends to shrink revealing the hair and fingernails that are already in existence.
And, um, “icky” as the explanations were, I was profoundly proud of myself for taking a logically scientific approach to the matter, lending an open ear to the higher pursuit of knowledge!!!
Intent on sharing his expositions, Dr. Benecke appeared once again to visually prove his findings; with a few fresh REALLY DEAD CORPSES ON AUTOPSY TABLES.  (*gag*)
*click TiVo off!*
A sincere “thank you” to the History Channel for imparting chronological information previously unknown to me (that will likely give me nightmares for weeks…)
And as to the High Holy Holiday of Halloween, well, you successfully vampirifically sucked the living joy out of my marrow!!!
Humbly reduced to buying cheerful socks at my local Rite-Aid store on sale for $1.99,

~Spine-tingled P

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zen and the Art of Timing

With one Second Teamer busily stapling together head shots and her lengthy resumes for an upcoming showcase, another one away who has a steady weekend side gig as a flight attendant for an airline, I felt a tiny pang of guilt. 
Mind you, it wasn’t a throb by any means, but there lingered yet a twinge that perhaps I should be more proactive in the pursuit of additional income and/or exposure in The Biz…
Was I striving to achieve my full potential?  Was there more that I could offer the world?  Had I become complacent in the face of the Network gift of receiving constant (albeit irregular) employment on my sit-com until March?
Surely I could at the very least stay for a couple of show nights, remain on the clock and bank a bit of overtime pay…  But hearing “THAT’S LUNCH!” at 2pm on a Tuesday audience taping and knowing that I was free to go if I wanted to and wouldn’t hit any OT until 9pm, I couldn’t scramble to find my car keys fast enough!
And motoring home to attend to nothing more than a few baskets of seriously-crying-for-help laundry (including an unfortunate handful of thrice-worn jeans that were ready to get up and walk around the room by themselves in their own food-stained personal denim militia), I mulled over the situation logically:
A:  Most of my fellow co-workers are in their hungry twenties and thirties, with years and years of all kinds of experiences still ahead of them.
B:  Whilst there’s no such thing as “resting on your laurels” in this Industry, there IS some comfort in knowing that you’ve established yourself with a small community of people that actually know your skills and keep you in mind for employment.
C:  I would have to be OUT OF MY EFFING MIND to not embrace every single day off as a gift wherein I could sleep, write, or do nothing more than to hone my craft by simply watching other actors on television!
So with a mind at peace, my Zen in tact and a heart free of guilt, pangs, and twinges, I splayed happily on my bed; my feline best friend curled up equally content by my side. 
The work would come, if the work was meant to be.

“It’s probably a wrong number this early in the morning” I assured my kitty who heard nothing and continued to snore like a lumberjack.
“Probably a FAX machine…” I sighed, reluctant to remove my arm from underneath the sacked out five pound bag of fur flopped over my limb cutting off all circulation to my left hand.  (People who love their pets know the feeling – or rather the lack thereof…)
“If it’s my show with a call time, it’d be a text” I added to my four-legged companion, who only raised her head momentarily to give me the stink-eye for obnoxiously yapping while she was napping.
But eventually dislodging myself from the clutches of the jungle cat clinging to an imaginary dream tree branch somewhere in the Serengeti, I managed to answer the phone with my wearily/cheery voice, fully prepared to politely inform the caller that they had the wrong number, and pleasantly wish them a nice day.
“Hey Pen!” the voice beamed, identifying herself as the Director of my previous series.  (WTF???)  “Are you coming back in January?” she wanted to know, as I scrambled (still half asleep) on the spot for a politically correct response.
“Well… um… I’m actually booked on a Network show until March…” I finally blathered as to my unavailability – knowing full well that whilst ‘honesty is the best policy’, I may have unintentionally been burning a critical bridge by blurting out the truth.
“I’m booked until March too!” she laughed.  (whew!)  “But anyway, I’ve got this uncast part in the sit-com that I’m directing now; it’s just a featured Background Player, but she’s been in a car accident and crying uncontrollably, and I just KNEW you could nail it if you had the chance and I thought of you immediately!  Any possibility you can play the role this Tuesday?”
“I’m not on hiatus until Wednesday, the very next day…” I added for clarification (should the scene happen to be able to be pushed back in their schedule by 24 hours.)
“Well that’s too bad, but I completely understand” she sighed, duly respectful of the first and foremost important loyalty to my current crew.  “I guess I’ll just have to start searching the barrels of people who aren’t quite as talented as you!” she laughed as I thanked her most profusely for thinking of me.
And curling up once again with my kitty, I mulled over the situation:
A:  With a mind once again at peace, my Zen in tact and a heart free of guilt, pangs, and twinges, I splayed happily on my bed, proud to have owned the Truth.  Sure, I always prefer to say “yes” to every opportunity availed to me, but in this case, the decision had already been made.
B:  Clearly I’d made a decent impression on a consistently working Director, and whilst I may never rest on my laurels, I did own the right to rest on my pillows.  And I was almost back to sleep until…
C:  In just what kind of a bizarre screwed-up Universe does a well-credited veteran Director physically pick up the phone sans an assistant or casting personnel and call someone in my lowly job capacity PERSONALLY??? 
Oh, perhaps I’d made a horrible mistake!
Had I not joyfully stayed up so late the night before, maybe my slothful pea-brain could have come up with a magnificent quickie solution wherein I could get someone to fill in for me on my current show for one day?  Maybe I could’ve rearranged my schedule in order to accommodate the Director’s request?  And maybe I could’ve had the chance to prove my acting abilities to an entirely new group of people?
But let’s face it:  I have a gift horse with my Network sit-com, and I’d be a complete FOOL to look that pony in the mouth!!!

If ever I doubted The Universe and Its Exquisite Sense of Timing however, It proved Itself most fantastically last week:
A:  Freed from my job at 2:45pm and spiraling down the parking structure at Sony Pictures (aka the old MGM Studios), I screeched from the 6th level to an immediate halt on the second, happening to make eye contact with a pedestrian walking towards the lot.
“Narvel?!” I squealed, rolling down my window, confirming the identity of the fabulously musically talented husband/Manager of the one and only Reba McEntire (whom I had stood in for, for six and a half years on her sit-com).  And playing a five-minute verbal catch-up until I needed to move my car, we wished each other well before heading our separate ways.
“Please give my love to Reba!” I shouted as he headed off to perform on a stage directly across from mine.
“Will do, Pen!” he yelled back with a friendly wave.
B:  Having crept along Santa Monica Blvd. in an effort to spy on my recycling center and its approachability at a local gas station, I deemed it finally the right time to recycle some (translation: a monstrous load of) accumulated aluminum soda cans. 
And waved like a VIP to back up my unobtrusive Toyota towards the truck on a slow afternoon when a lot of, um, less-organized people were continually sifting through their multitudes of shopping carts, I unloaded seven pristine gargantuan sanitary garbage bags which were weighed quickly and lobbed like free-throw basketballs into the hands of the receivers inside the processing center.  “Please sign here” the helpful gentleman smiled, clearly enjoying his job as he disappeared to retrieve my CA deposit money.  ($24.65, thank you very much!)
C:  Scooping the weighty plethora of solicitations out of my tiny apartment mailbox slot – not sure which mailing list I’ve landed on, but every single charity known to animal/mankind seems to be pressing me for a first and forever monetary contribution – I sifted through the envelopes to find a paycheck, as well as one residual payment from a few repeat performances on the original tweenager series known as “Saved By the Bell”.  (Almost $75.00! – well, before taxes…)
All things considered, I still think The Universe does conspire to assist us. 
After all, I probably would have made about the same amount of money as a “sobbing Background Performer”, minus all the fun I had that day!
Personally, I think we can strive for all we want to be, to get to where we think we need to be; but I also believe that we’ll always end up finding more happiness when we simply embrace the unexpected joy of appreciating the moments in our lives where we’re meant to be…
Esoterically yours,
~Philosophical P
Author’s Addendum:  My parents are HUGE fans of my current show, and after having watched our season premiere, I think they got a taste of just how weird my job may be on any given week. 
Cheers to having crawled into bed (fully-clothed of course) with our tiny blonde actor, pulling the sheets over our heads, and quietly lying side by side in the darkness with said actor until the Producers and Network Execs made their way onto the set, as only one Zen thought occurred to me…
“Hold your breath in case he farts!”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Time; and Time Again

(I think everyone should have a magic wand!)

Knighting the cremains of my friend Laer in his Health Department-sealed Treasure Chest plus two plushy bats on the back of my couch with my brand new scepter, I trotted rather giddily about my apartment reveling in the simple joy that comes from wielding a Halloween toy prop.  And faced with my heroic feline kitty sitting and staring at me like I was bat-shit crazy, I happily tapped her on the “shoulder”, regally  dubbing her the “Duchess of Yak”, having cleaned up a hairball of hers a half an hour earlier.
(FYI, Duchess Pretty was NOT amused by the title and skulked off to the bedroom, apparently hoping that 6:30pm would arrive sooner rather than later and that cocktails would eventually calm me down…)
But as I’d received a text that I had the next day off from work, I found no reason not to thoroughly enjoy the afternoon!
Truth be told though, I got a bit bored after about twenty minutes; and Knighting the six foot black pine box in my living room “Sir Coffin Table”, I eventually put away the scepter. 
I was six years old, and nobody wanted to play with me!  (Duchess Pretty didn’t even bother to kneel!)
But hey, I had some grown-up tasks to tackle anyway: balancing the checkbook, maintaining logs of employment, hours worked, pay scales etc., and transferring a few notes into my daybook, I remembered that I had missed my Aunt G’s birthday.
Now if there’s only one human being on the planet that shares my love of the High Holy Holiday known as Halloween, it’s my Aunt G.  And picking up the phone to call with belated birthday well-wishes, I told her about my scepter.  Equally excited, she told me of her most recent exquisite find; a whiskbroom that follows you around the room!  She also had her eye on a particularly eerie witch head, but until she was certain that it cackled wickedly, she wasn’t prepared to shell out the cash.
“Understood” I nodded simpatico; sharing her intolerance of the commercialized mass-produced ‘happy’ Halloween merchandise that has a knack for creating “friendly” versions of a celebration of the macabre. 
“So, how’s work?” I asked casually, wondering how life and death were proceeding at her local mortuary. 
And although we hadn’t actually spoken in a few years, we continued to chat and laugh until my cell phone died three hours later, with an additional twenty minutes on the landline.  :)
(Memories... like the Coroners of my mind...)

Invited to join friends for a “last hurrah!” over the weekend at my old watering hole before the new owners take over and re-title the West Hollywood landmark, I swallowed a swig of chilled voddy liquid-courage and hopped on the bus.  And walking into the hole-in-the-wall pub, I waited for my eyes to adjust as familiar faces began emerging from the darkness. 
Having habituated the premises on and off for fifteen years (not so much in the last six), I couldn’t quite knock the feeling of ghosts all around…
How many acquaintances had passed away? 
How many friends had come and gone? 
How many boyfriends did I meet there?  *insert spine-tingling shudder*
Yet truth be told, I fell in love with my Rock Star Ex-Boyfriend at that pub.  *insert melancholy sigh of “what might have been” were we “meant to be”* 
And I even got to introduce my friend Steen to her current husband of 9 years!!! *insert beaming smiley face that they are still madly in love!*
Sure, I met some exciting celebrities there too (Oh, how I had horrifically ‘Ethel Mertzed’ Cindy Williams from “Laverne and Shirley”…  In fact I may or may not have drunkenly sung “Schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!” to the tiny sit-com icon after gushing like an idiot, whilst she smiled most graciously and likely re-thought the necessities of hiring a private security guard…)
But I’d also made some true friends – those who will always be there for an “orphan’s holiday”; the times when our families are half way across the country and we would otherwise end up ‘celebrating’ all alone.  (Or, you know, at home with a Duchess.)
Yet I found the entire experience incredibly surreal; and stepping outside for a breath of a fresh cigarette, my pal Big D joined me as we mused over the weirdness of the time-capsule inside the bar.  There were many familiar faces to be sure, but occasional names were elusive to me as though we were attending a high school reunion…
Nevertheless I pulled out my digital camera, stealing a few photos to capture the moments; a small but very significant record of a lifetime ago.

(That would be me, the camera-monger on the left, with five dear friends that I hope to never lose!)

And with a couple (?) more cocktails (and a very considerate drive home from a sober friend), I closed that particular chapter of my life, realizing that the people that matter to you the most will always be but a mere phone call away.
Cheers to my fellow “Spooners”; thanks for the fun, the laughter, the drinks and the dart games - may your cups always runneth over!  :)
And cheers to my Aunt G for getting shot between the eyes by a ricocheted bullet at a cowboy firing range and still maintaining her sense of humor!  (Let’s hope she wears a helmet next time!)
Forever exploring the past to help make sense of the future,
~Medieval P (and the Duchess)

(Yes, she emanates her own halo... no trick lighting involved!)

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Cast of Thousands!

Willing to make a few cheap bucks for pizza and beer money at Indiana University in 1986, a few of us thought it would be a great idea to try our hands as non-union “extras” in a feature film shot on location wherein we might get to see some celebrities, experience the glamour of Hollywood by proxy (if only as stadium members), and also celebrate the fact that we could be a small part of cinematic history.
Yet absolutely bored out of our minds three (?) hours later, we ended up slinking out of the crowd surreptitiously, deciding that “our characters” had opted to leave our seats in favor of hitting the imaginary hot dog stand.  After all, we could give blood on campus, get an equally small payment for lying on a table for about twenty minutes, plus also receive apple juice and a cookie!  (And talk about getting a cheap beer buzz when you’re a pint low on platelets!)
But aside from our brief stint in the movie, and one or two exceptions to the rule where an AD pleaded with me for an “extra” body (and of course some extra money), I’ve been blessed to be able to avoid a job that Industry outsiders might not quite understand, and that working crews in the Biz may not always fully appreciate. 
So here’s to the unsung Background Actor heroes; and the recognition you so richly deserve for all that you do.
Warning:  The following video contains mature language that may not be appropriate for all ages.
Disclaimer:  I had no hand in the making of this video nor am I affiliated with the creators, so please don’t sue me!
Forever cheering on the underdogs to DREAM HUGE,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

So, What Gives?

Gently nudged by a co-worker writer friend to further explain details regarding my last post, I sat uncomfortably hunched over the keyboard for half an hour, fingers hovering as to whether or not I was capable of appropriately conveying in one email why a pair of boots were wielding such inexplicable power in my world.

Obviously I didn’t wish to replay the PTSD trauma in my head, but clearly if I was still bothered emotionally, I was gonna to have to eventually suck it up and deal with my issues. 

Granted, it’s not like I have throngs of readers here lining up to understand why I continue to “Try To Make Sense”, but since the boots were actually a stimulus for getting me to write my first blogs on Yahoo!, I do owe the few of you who have followed so loyally, the ugly truth.

After all, I made a promise to myself five years ago to own my mistakes, and (with minimal editing), I typed the following to my friend (a back-story for those of you unfamiliar with the birth of this blog):

“Since you asked - and frankly they (re: my boots) are a part of why I took up blogging for my own therapy! - I got arrested for a DUI after a wrap party in 2006.  My blood alcohol content was through the roof, and I'd hit a parked car on the street somewhere in the Hollywood Hills.  Not pretty, but at least no one was physically harmed.  Appropriately escorted in handcuffs to Van Nuys for booking and tossed into the drunk tank overnight, I thought the worst was over (aside from not knowing how the f**k to get home from Van Nuys the next night) until I went to court two months later... 

“Not only did the Judge slam me with 9 months of alcohol awareness classes for a first time offense (which the Owner of the School ended up making me teach the class (???)), but also a minimum of 30 AA meetings. 

“Oh yes, and 29 days of hard labor serving for Caltrans, wherein I had to take two buses (my driver's license yanked for a few months) to get to "The Yard" under the freeways at Elysian Park by 7am in the dark to "qualify" to load tools, hop in a van with other criminals and a port-o-potty; to strap on the icky re-usable sweaty orange vests and hard hats, and hoe the side of freeways, tossing bagfuls of litter and foliage into the back of the dump trucks, whilst occasionally cleaning up vile "bum" camps that really should have been handled by a Haz- Mat team...  And let's face it, I'm not really a Schwarzenegger when it comes to upper body strength, so it took me MANY months to complete 29 days...

“Caltrans requirements:  bring your own lunch, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, gloves, work boots.

“Yes, I became the creepy, stinky, freeway-exhaust-covered raccoon-face in my eyeglasses on my two bus rides home that NO ONE wants to sit anywhere nearby, reeking of God Knows What, with peanut butter breath eaten out of the jar with a spoon whilst sitting on the side of the 134 freeway!!!!  YAY!!!!   And all I could do was stare down at my shoes in complete humiliation.

“I think my parents had to financially support me for about a year or more, until a friend/Life Coach reached out to me and finally dragged me out of my robotic mind-set of fear of absolutely everything...

“And thus, my Comedy/Drama blog was born!!!” 
Still hunched over the keyboard in the moment, I had to take a minute (actually many, many, more) to breathe…
I immediately recalled the fumes of the freeway, and reliving one specific PTSD afternoon of sitting under an overpass in the shade on a particularly unkind hot August sunny day (sweating profusely whilst hungrily scarfing down peanut butter on a lunch break); my temporarily ungloved hand felt something soft next to me lying on the curb.  There were well-worn bead-like items attached at the ends; maybe an adorned bandana flown out the window of a passing convertible? 
But starving after hoeing absolute filth with a dozen of my “co-felons”, I took comfort in the moment, giving up a ciggy to a “co-worker” who offered in exchange for the smoke to throw the last of my bags of crap into the trucks.
Elegant?  (Most definitely NOT.)
And the soft “bandana” next to me with the beaded trimming?  Yeah, that turned out to be a deceased animal carcass with its toenails still in tact…
(Hand sanitizer, NOW!)
Not pleasant, nor particularly eloquent.
But sometimes you gotta own the past, to fully appreciate the future!
And having unintentionally sparked an entire philosophical discussion with my last post, I’ve discovered that there were throngs of people in my life that have very specific opinions! 
Some say that it’s imperative to throw away the boots and take away their inanimate “power”.  Some say it’s impossible at this point to ignore the journey.  Some have even cheered me on to defy the past, and wear them like a badge of honor!
But for now, for me, I’m happy to keep them in a bag in the hall closet; harmless friendly soldiers who got me through the rough stuff (literally!) and were eventually able to prance with me on a Hollywood soundstage!!!  :)
Opening the mail box a few days ago, a pay-stub and check sat patiently waiting.
Apparently I’d gone into some Network/Union Contract Overtime the night I got to play my on-camera role…
And as The Universe would have it, I had a wee bit more to deposit in my checking account than I’d anticipated!
$9.99 at
Soon to be the proud owner of my very own scepter!!!
Making My Own Sense (if only in the present moment!),