Thursday, November 24, 2011

Spilling the Beans: A Hollywood Tale of Giving Thanks

With a long-established history of, well, let’s just say less than ideal Thanksgiving dinners away from my family back in Indiana, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have my friends RJ and Richard fly out from New York to Los Angeles! 
RJ had already asked me to select a restaurant that doesn’t necessarily have a “set” menu for the holiday (maybe a nice steakhouse?), and I had leapt at the challenge.  “Maybe even a place where Richard might get to see a celebrity?” RJ added thoughtfully, as his life partner had never been to LA before.  “Oh, and if you don’t mind Pen, I’d like to treat us for Thanksgiving dinner if that’s OK with you.”
(Well, slap my ass and call me Thankful Sally!!!)
With a few days of computer research, telephone calls and some delicate probing of my co-workers on the set for their input, I was confident that I’d nailed the perfect place for us to celebrate the holiday; not a far drive from my friends’ hotel, and with the options of both traditional turkey as well as filet mignon and other steaks, I was certain that this would be a Thanksgiving to end my cruel trend!!!
But alas, as The Universe would have it, RJ’s postponed work-related trip to Brazil the week before had been pushed to the week of Thanksgiving; and with Richard’s reinstatement at his University, they had no choice but to cancel their trip to the West Coast…
As always, however, I looked for the sunny side of making a proper holiday for myself and my feline companion!
Whilst turkey may be the traditional staple in American households for the once-a-year belly-busting extravaganza, I’ve always been more of a side dish gal myself.  And finding a few items at my local Rite-Aid, I prided myself in my ability to prepare a week in advance for the Feast.
Oh, I would be the Galloping Gourmet on my High Horse named “Resilient”!  There would be macaroni and cheese!  There would be corn!  There would be fluffy mashed potatoes (made from a packet), but with REAL BUTTER!

Well, that is, until I turned over the box and read that I actually needed to ADD real butter  (What’s up with THAT, Betty Crocker?)

But hey, certainly I had some sort of oleo or margarine in my fridge, somewhere:

(Not too sure about expiration dates...)
Still, I was determined to make the situation work.  Four foil wrapped packets are almost like two whole tablespoons, right?  I mean, they may have actually been even larger than whatever precise measurable tablespoon appliance thingies usually recommend; so if my mashed potatoes happened to not fluff up to the potential whipped, um, desired ‘whippy-ness’ suggested by Little-Miss-Know-It-All “Betty C.”, then, well, all the more buttery savory-esque-ness for me! 
But I had already gotten ahead of myself.
I hadn’t even started with Step One of my actual Holiday cooking challenge!
And reining in “Resilient” who was snorting like a wild Mustang pinned inside an acre of fenced-in farm land, I attempted to focus my gnat-like attention span to the task at hand.
“Heat one and a half cups of water…” (OOH!  I actually still possess a real measuring cup from my condo at Indiana University that I used to use to drink beer from our keg parties, so good start, Betty Crocker!  I’m with you so far!)
“…and two tablespoons butter or margarine…”  (Pfft!)
“…to a rapid boil in 2-quart saucepan.”
Two quart sauce pan, two quart sauce pan, two quart sauce pan…  I knew I had one somewhere, but when had I used it last? 
Vaguely remembering that I had warmed up a can of barbeque baked beans sometime around the Fourth of July, I thought to myself “well I can get a few more meals out of this.  Beans last forever!”  And recalling stuffing the extras inside the lower depths of the refriger… 
(Well, let’s just say, that was a compartment I didn’t look forward to opening…)
Oh my:

(So long, two quart sauce pan... Not eating anything in the future out of THAT!)
Let this be a health warning that we all need to check that OFTEN IGNORED bottom level in the fridge now and again!!!
So this Thanksgiving holiday, I choose to embrace my ridiculous inability to provide a Cornucopia of fruits and vegetables…

(Not really sure how watermelon, grapes and strawberries putrify into yellow liquid)
…acknowledge my equally inept talents at preparing a proper meal…

(Hmm... And yet, it looks a little bit like a turkey with red wings!)
…and revel in utter JOY at my kitty making “yummy” noises whilst slurping a simple saucer of milk to wash down our shared McDonalds Angus burger; purchased with my Unemployment Debit card!  :)

Feeling particularly thankful in my own unconventional way,
~A Happy Charlie Brown P

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Don't Burst My Bubble!

Whose time?

Finding an unexpected FedEx door tag slapped on my outer security gate with the missive “We’re sorry we missed you”, I reveled in the thoughts of what might be on its way! 
I’d just appeared on-camera on my Network sitcom the night before, so naturally I assumed that whatever item was to be delivered must have had something to do with my job as it required my personal signature.
A congratulatory bottle of Champagne?
Ooh, I could hardly wait!!!
And carefully reading the door tag info, I showed up like a salivating puppy at 7:20pm half way across town with a Government issued photo ID to retrieve my FedEx package, clearly available after 7pm.  (See below.)

Fun fact!  FedEx closes at 7:00pm!
Just TRY to step through the mechanical security doors and be mocked for your own apparent stupidity at attempting to walk through glass!  (Color me embarrassed…)  
But hey, Pollyanna Penny that I strive to be, I sloughed it off, knowing that heroic wanna-be Santa Clause aka FedEx would make two more attempts at doing their job and actually enthusiastically transport my parcel as their current blockbuster-esque commercials have been advertising of late.  :)
Blissfully working ten and a half hours the next Monday night, I pulled into my parking spot anticipating yet another FedEx door tag notice on my security gate with a 2nd attempt, and yet one more “We’re sorry we missed you” wherein I had an excellent reason for not being available.  (Call me crazy, but I kinda doubt that I’m the only person with a job who isn’t home between 9am and 5pm.) 
Yet amazingly, no such tag existed…
With nearly half of our television episode pre-shot the day before and very few scenes left to camera-refresh on Tuesday, I barreled like a mad woman (at almost 30 miles per hour!) through the crowded streets of LA. 
Ooh, I could be home by 2:30pm!  Ooh, there was every likelihood that I’d receive my gift only four days after its scheduled arrival date!  Ooh, what would I write in my thank you note to the sender?!?!
Yet, once again, no FedEx…
By 5pm (and the end of scheduled delivery hours), I’d become thoroughly annoyed.  Someone, somewhere in the world had taken the time and effort to ship something to me, and I’d be hard pressed to waste any more precious gas tooling around town, trying to accommodate the company that supposedly SPECIALIZES IN SHIPPING.
So scooping up the phone, I tackled the 1-800 phone number to track my container, which after THREE frustrating computer messages of the equivalent to ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that’; I was finally patched over to an actual human being.
“This call may be monitored for quality-control purposes”.
Well hell’s bells, thank God for that!
Taking a few deep breaths to center myself and not express any negative emotions to whatever innocent person would be saddled with my incoming call (no reason to make their day crappy too!) I explained the door tag situation from Friday and asked when I might receive said numbered item.
“That’s scheduled for sometime tomorrow” the ‘helpful’ apologetic tech advised me.
“May I ask why there was a door tag on Friday, which said I could pick up my package after 7pm, when you’re actually closed at 7pm?”
“My apologies again, but our records show that the truck returned to that FedEx location at 6:10pm, and you could have picked up the article after then.”
“And yet, I couldn’t have really known that, could I?” I nudged gently.
(Who’s on First?)
“So, I’ve had no delivery attempts either yesterday or today?” I confirmed quizzically.
“Again, my apologies, but if you’d like to pick up your packet today, you may do so at approximately 6:10pm this evening.”
“You know what; it’s fine.  I’ll just wait until tomorrow!” I added ‘cheerily’.
“Oh and our records show that you’ll need to sign for it personally” the tech continued as I assured him that I would indeed be at home.  *sigh*
Feeling like a hostage in my apartment waiting for the driver, my kitty eyed me hungrily as both our bellies were seriously looking forward to our usual Angus burger treat when I’ve got a day off.  Hours had passed since she’d meowed me awake; and hours continued to pass as the land-line sat quietly…
Oh, our tummies were digesting their own linings!
Oh, we were in desperate need of sustenance!
Oh, we were weakened, frail, hapless carcasses of our current selves!
“Are you Penny?” he asked as I nodded wide-eyed, not so much from the debilitating hunger, but at the um, unpleasantness looming before me. 
“Sign here please” he offered the stylus as I stared most uncomfortably at the implement moving toward me in a bizarre Hitchcock-type ‘racking the zoom lens whilst adjusting the camera whilst maintaining focus’ on what should have been a completely innocuous object…
Now, as my humble talents don’t happen to encompass the vast science of dermatology, I’m not entirely certain as to the distinction between psoriasis and eczema, of for that manner, leprosy. 
However, it didn’t take a Ph.D. to notice the physical signs of enormous patchy red blotches and white scales on this man’s hands and arms…
And frankly it was all I could stomach to pinch two fingers together to scribble my name, tweeze the envelope from his flaky molting paws and bolt the door shut!
Whilst some things cannot be “unseen”, at least some unseen things can be mentally scrubbed away with loads of soap, hot water and egregious amounts of anti-bacterial sanitizers!  And I must say, it was only after proper disinfecting (and donning latex gloves) that I was finally able to open my “gift”.
If this was a publicity stunt, I applaud you, Warner Bros.  WELL DONE!!!  Clearly he couldn’t have been a real FedEx driver, right?!?!  I mean, FedEx employees don’t actually slack off for days and then distribute parcels at random intervals with disturbing flesh-eating skin diseases, right?!?!
And as to scissoring open the “Padded Pak” wearing a surgical mask just in case? 
Yes, kind readers, I found precisely one item inside:  a gift that had absolutely nothing to do with my premiere, but a gift nonetheless:  a DVD movie screener for my nominating consideration, most aptly titled “Contagion”.  (EEK!)
Determined to one day construct and dwell inside my very own sterile bubble,
~Soon-to-be-hermetically-sealed P

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's Been Fun!

Pumped full of giddy adrenaline like a child who grew a crucial inch taller over the summer and finally met the height chart for the humongous-est rollercoaster in the Amusement Park known as Hollywood Television, I buckled up securely for the long-anticipated ascent to the top of the crest and waited breathlessly for my premiere on my Network sit-com!
The tram seemed to take forever to get there, but with every moment approaching the apex, one or two (hundred) arm hairs stood at attention, ready to shriek with glee as I prepared to squeal in exhilaration!
Oh, I would be seen by approximately 12 million viewers!
Oh, my “STARmeter” on had already jumped up by 54,117!  (I don’t really know what that means, but it seemed exciting at the time...)
Oh, and my two scenes were just minutes away from airing on national TV!!!
And as every well-constructed carnival ride in Tinsel Town is prone to do, I experienced the sensation of glory slash nausea while watching my telecasted performance…
Not particularly fond of my on-camera presentation (I have serious control issues), and choosing to beat myself up ala “Whac-A-Mole” with an imaginary mallet, I braced myself for the flood of displeased email responses from about sixty friends who had promised to watch and/or record and watch later.
Dreading logging onto the poot with a full on Tilt-A-Whirl upset belly, I must say I was equally surprised and emotionally overwhelmed by the loving support, congratulations and well wishes from dozens of people;  as was my antiquated flip phone overwhelmed at receiving extended congratulatory text messages sent from Smart Phones with full qwerty capabilities!
Not only had I passed the height requirement, but I’d made it to the top of the rollercoaster and had nothing more than the thrill ride ahead!!!
Now whilst my antiquated cell phone may not possess all the hoo-ha apps available to the “I” world, nor can it revel in a game of angry birds or landing artificial aircrafts, it can at least discern a restricted caller’s ID with a unique ringtone – a thoughtful tool which has thus far prevented me from stupidly answering only once with “What’s up, Buttercup?” to a Producer.  (Oops!)
“Hi Pen” my UPM called with some unfortunate news.  “The Network has cut down their order to 13 episodes of our show; so our last day of production will be December 6th” she added sadly.  “Just wanted to give you a heads up so you can start making calls” she continued, thanking me for my work and apologizing that we wouldn’t be finishing the anticipated full season together in March.
And there it was…
The thrill was gone…
So long, Network:  Hello, Unemployment…
The rollercoaster had settled into its Tinsel Town Carnival housing, and I’d been given the time to unbuckle, embrace and kiss the sweet ride goodbye.
Frankly, there was only one thing left to do…
Shooting off an email to the first Producer to ever hire me in this crazy cotton-candy world with my newest availability should he need me on any production after December 6th, I sat weepy, dejected, and all around forlorn. 
‘Yes, welcome back to our last series!  It starts Jan. 16.’  (I’m paraphrasing, but it looks like I’ve booked my next job!!!!!)
Strapping in for my next rollercoaster, but enjoying the current ride for now,
~Hands in the air P :)

(And THANK YOU my friends!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011