Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Shaky Ground


Rumbling my way amidst a few earthquakes this past month throughout Southern California, I didn’t mind the tumblers so much as the one that jolted me out of bed.
After all (if I may speak broadly on behalf of Los Angelinos), we’re generally accustomed to the occasional ground quiver now and again and tend to pay little attention to anything that doesn’t shatter glassware.  But woken abruptly by a seismic tremor as I watched all the Mardi Gras beads on a closet door flap willy-nilly to their own New Orleans rhythm?  Well (and no offense to my deceased black kitty of course, who crossed my path a million times), this particular quake seemed to bode a bad omen…

Sure, there might be aftershocks, but if “THE BIG ONE” hits, most of us are relatively prepared.  In fact, I for one, have TWO kinds of peanut butter (Creamy and Extra Crunchy) as well as an emergency can of Van Camp’s “Beanee Weenee” to trade to fellow survivors (God knows I don’t eat chicken hot dogs, but I failed to properly read the label when I bought it); plus toilet paper, water and a back-up bottle of vodka!
But miffed at the interruption of my beauty sleep, I pleaded to my swaying bat cave “I’m still on hiatus!!!” as the Earth quietly settled itself.

Now, as well as one can be prepared for natural disasters, I must say that I was decidedly NOT EQUIPPED to watch an episode of a reality show on cable called “Hoarders”.

DEAR GOD!!!!!!
Sure, I’d seen a few clips here and there before (which perfunctorily inspired me to take out my recyclables!); but attempting to watch this particular episode, I seriously thought I was going to blow chunks…

And with lightning speed in my bat cave, I barreled into the kitchen to take out a bag of the usual trash.  Granted, it wasn’t brimming over the edge or anything, but still, I had to get it out of my home! 
And settling in for another five minutes of the show, watching in horror as the owner was apparently sleeping on top of pizza boxes, I bolted out of the room and rushed one (of two) recyclable containers to the proper bin (every speck of paper and cardboard, including crossword puzzles and empty rolls from Bounty paper towels)!

Feeling significantly better about the cleanliness of my home, I believe I made it through all of three more minutes of “Hoarders” until a drawer of used diapers were revealed, as well as human excrement atop a non-flushing toilet.
And like THAT, I was DONE!!!!!!!!!

Barreling once again into my kitchen to discard the other half a bag of more recyclables (aluminum and plastics); I was horrified to discover some gunky brown seepage on the floor.  (WTF???) 
With all diet 7-Up cans hurriedly tossed in the bin outside, I surveyed the situation, trying to maintain a level head.  After all, I rinse out everything, and when the heck did I ever have anything sticky and goopy that could have formed such a horrendously thick oozing caramelized puddle?

But donning my “Barney Fife” cap (Google him, kids), I ascertained that in the throes of one of our recent earthquakes, a tiny plastic container of God-knows-what from God-knows-when had toppled over in my pantry, splattering its guts all over the inside of the laver door and was drizzling down the wood like some sort of prehistoric ectoplasmic residue.
And with the “Hoarders” marathon still blaring on the television in the other room, I immediately took to task to scrub down everything with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers until every single tile was sanitized.

Ironically (as we Southern Californians are supposed to maintain our Earthquake kits), I peered into my pantry to see just how many of my canned foodstuffs might have been affected.  Most of them looked untouched (the spillage occurred on a lower shelf), and walking back to the TV, I observed a woman hoarding chickens, who had eggs all over her “home” (some of which were half-hatched), whilst various species of vermin scurried about her “kitchen”…
Now, while I said I was “DONE” before, NO!!!  This time, I was OFFICIALLY DONE!!!

Whether or not the foodstuffs deserved it -- frankly, I didn’t give a crap (no pun intended!) about the shelf life of corn nibblets in the moment -- as EVERYTHING had to go!  Jell-O pudding packs with a layer of dust on the boxes?  Toss!  Canned refried beans I’ve kept for over two years?  Toss!  A tin of water chestnuts?  (Seriously, water chestnuts???  In just what delusional decade did I plan to buy a wok and learn how to stir-fry???)  Toss!
And lugging approximately four plastic bags of unopened inedible food out of the house (hey, full tin cans are heavy, and I wasn’t about to open and release any potential flesh-eating bacterial spores in my home!), I finally felt at ease. 

OK, sure, my stay-up-late and wake-up-early elderly Eastern European (?) neighbors who leave their front door open when it’s warm outside may suspect me of dismembering a corpse in the middle of the night.  (I have to walk past their apartment on the way to the gated trash bins.)

And yes, perhaps I could have chosen NOT to wear a t-shirt usually reserved for at-home hair coloring which happens to have multitudes of permanent blood red stains dripping down the neck, sleeves, shoulders and back…
But in my defense, must I constantly witness my neighbor standing outside at all hours, who randomly sweeps the sidewalk shirtless???  EEK!  (Dude, spend a dollar or two, and treat your lovely wife by turning on your air conditioning once in a while!)

Whether or not my neighbors might deign me an axe murderer, and whether or not any more aftershocks would rock my world, I was still on shaky ground.

Despite the fact that approximately 23 million Americans are unemployed, the EDD (Unemployment Department) had once again selected me for a delightful telephone interview regarding my residual checks.  I’d been notified in advance that I’d be called between 1 and 3pm yesterday, so having spent the weekend placing all of my paperwork on the coffin table for quick reference when the landline rang, I knew I would be prepared for anything.
And contacting me at 2:45pm (thanks for being so prompt!) I sat patiently through all the questions, confirming FOUR times, that I’d not received a check until September 13th, as residuals are sent to the Union, and thus may take months for me to ever see them.  “So, SPE cut you a check on June 23, but you didn’t get it until when?”

Oh, for the love of God…  What am I, the FIRST Actor in Hollywood EVER???  YEESH! 
“Well, since you haven’t filled out the forms for that week yet” (withheld from me during my inquisition) Rodney informed me (after a few minutes of telephone muzak while he conferred with his supervisor); “you’ll probably be OK.  I just need to confirm your story with the payroll company” he added, with all due bureaucratic empathy.

Well, that’s a fat load of comfort, thank you very much!

Meanwhile, I’m mostly looking ahead to going back to work on Monday. 

I have no idea what to expect from our new Director for the first three episodes (whom I’ve heard can be a bit, um, volatile), but my fingers are crossed that the earth will stop shaking beneath me.
Wish me luck!!!

With enormous gratitude and appreciation for my summer vacation,
~Back-to-the-grind P


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Social Butterfly Effect

Relieved to discover that actual blood wasn’t streaming down my arm, I secured a bag full of flowers onto Cecilia’s (my 1997 Toyota Tercel CE) front seat and strapped them in with the passenger’s safety belt.  Giant pink lily gunk had streaked all over me (what did I ever do to piss off their stamens?), as I saw a strange note fall out of Cecilia’s door.

“Aloha,” it read.  “Do you have any interest in selling your lovely car” someone named Beverly wanted to know.
Frankly, Cecilia and I were flattered by the billet-doux, but as she’s been on television three times already, Cecilia has become quite accustomed to fan mail.

Meanwhile, traipsing back into my home for my purse, washing pollen off of my arm and checking my watch, I was looking forward to a “Ladies Who Lunch” Birthday party brunch at a charming establishment just off of Vine Street in Hollywood.
I’d already procured the aforementioned lilies (all pink) for one friend, a delightful bouquet of purple calla lilies for another celebrant, and even small token roses in tiny square vases for the other women (whom I didn’t want to feel left out).  And arriving to the Valet parking early in order to unload, I asked where I was supposed to angle Cecilia.

“It’s Valet only” he reminded me, pointing at the kiosk.
(Good grief, had I not properly socialized in so long during my vacation that I forgot that they just take your car?!?!)

“Yes of course” I smiled, unlatching the bouquets and exiting my vehicle with the abundance of flowers.  And stuffing the ticket into my handbag, I watched uncomfortably/protectively as a complete stranger hopped into the driver’s seat and motored away to a neighboring lot.

Approximately two and a half hours later (with the lovely addition of another lady I’d never met before, yet we all work in Hollywood show business and had many stories to share), I reluctantly dismissed myself from the table after our celebratory brunch and a communal chocolate soufflĂ© with individual cups of real whipped cream.  (DEE-LISH!!!)
But I admit I had some things on my mind.

My “Ladies Who Lunch” had been a plethora of resources assisting me with my new cell phone (not the predominate technology, so my simpler cell was a breeze to them); but I was still a wee bit panicky as to whether or not Best Buy could retrieve and upload my contacts.  And with love, hugs and half of a gigantic bacon cheeseburger in a doggie bag, I headed out to retrieve Cecilia.
“Would that be the green car?” Mr. Valet wondered as I nodded proudly.  And upon leaping out and opening the door politely for me, I paid the man as necessary before driving off.

“Good grief…  You reek of cheap, pungent cologne!” I snarfled to my automobile, who apparently did not disagree.  And whipping Cecilia’s A/C on high, we attempted to blast the stink out her carriage as we made our way down Santa Monica Boulevard.  “Do you mind if we make a couple of stops while we air you out?” I asked aloud, as Cecilia spectacularly concurred by ironically playing the band Weezer on her radio station.
Now whilst I’m not particularly proud of my half a pack a day addiction to smokey treats, I must say that after two and a half hours of lunching with the gals, I was JONESING for a ciggy.  And wheeling Cecilia into our local 7-Eleven for my American Spirit Menthol Lights (I know the owner, and he gives you a fair discount if you buy two packs at a time), I enjoyed a much desired cigarette which seemed to effectively remove the final stench of Mr. Valet hovering in her upholstery.  *whew!!!*

(You may think that ciggy smoke is vile; but Mr. Valet’s heavy cologne mixed with his sweat from a hot day???  I have three words for you, parking guy:  “Deodorant and Febreze!!!)  
“So, how about one last errand today to Best Buy to upload my contacts from my old phone?” I politely asked Cecilia; whom with her on-going intuitive timing began playing the song “Holiday” by Green Day.

As no parking spots were available on the street (yeah, no big surprise on a Sunday), we wound down into the bowels of the dank basement, and nestling Cecilia into a dank niche, I hoped the task wouldn’t take too long.  She’d already made herself perfectly clear by refusing any radio further contact underground, and sulking in the structure as I locked her door, I could almost swear I heard my car pout.

Approximately three customers deep for the five Best Buy Mobile Employees, I stood patiently until I was eventually beckoned to the desk.  And confused beyond belief by my antiquated cell phone, the young girl assisting me found herself on a mission to figure out just how the heck the gizmo ever functioned!
But bound and determined to connect my ancient phone to the new model, she fiddled for about 45 minutes before eventually making the proper connections.  “I’m not sure what I just did” she admitted, “but I am NOT moving a muscle, because this is finally working” she sat immobilized as the gadgets interfaced with each other.

“I know, I know” I apologized.  “I haven’t upgraded in over eleven years” I sighed miserably, feeling like a doddering old fool.
“Oh my goodness…!” she squealed a few minutes later.

“What now?” I worried.  “Is this a lost cause?  Do I have to manually input all of my phone numbers?” I asked, bracing myself for the painful truth.
“NO!” she yelped.  “Everything is transferred, but WOW!!!  You have sooo many CONTACTS!!!” she gaped at me, all wide-eyed like she was staring at a cat video that’s gone viral on You Tube.

Heading back to my automobile in the belly of the cavernous parking structure, I had to admit that I was feeling extraordinarily grateful.

I was a social butterfly!
I’d been out and about, and had fluttered my wings appropriately!  I even seemed to have acquired more friends and work connections over the last two decades than the tech assistant had in her combined social Medias!  And I don’t even Tweet!

And whilst my Ladies Lunch had cost me a tad more money than I’d anticipated (I had to bum a couple of bucks from my friend Jeannie to pay Mr. Stinky Valet and get my car out of hock), I was glad to have brought a bit of floral joy into the hearts of some friends that I love.

Piling into Cecilia who was eager to get out of the bowels of the parking garage and back to her throngs of fans, we circled the up-ramps as she continued to deprive me of music until she saw the light of day.
“Are you kidding me?” I scoffed, as her radio finally kicked in with “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses.

“TAKE… ME… HOME…!” Axl Rose belted out of her dashboard.  (Yikes!)

Now, for those of you (like me) who may be a tad rusty on your Physics (aside from the occasional episode of CSI or Big Bang on television), there exists Edward Lorenz’s theoretical  example of a hurricane’s formation that may be contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks earlier.
“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state.” ~Wikipedia

Was mine the simple act of procuring flowers to celebrate the joys of spending yet another of many Birthdays to come with people so dear to my heart?  Was it keeping the memories alive of all of my contacts – some who have passed away, but I can’t bring myself to delete their numbers?  Or was it merely the flapping of Cecilia’s Diva wings that altered The Cosmos???  (Seriously, we listen to Alternative Rock, not Heavy Metal!)
And gathering my snail mail, I bolted the door to the bat cave shut after a busy day whilst mindlessly sorting through the pile of postal deliveries.

“Not a bill, not a bill, not a bill… Hmmm…:  Two envelopes from the Residuals Department at SAG-AFTRA?  That’s odd” I scrunched my face in confusion, as one return address was printed in standard black and white, whilst the other gleamed tantalizingly in black and gold:

Suffice it to say (though it didn’t actually classify as a hurricane), I DID receive a small windfall in my mailbox!!!
Sending a warmest “Thank You!” to SAG-AFTRA for paying my next month’s rent!

And wishing you all a moment today to stop and smell the roses,

~Flutterbug P


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Luddites, Unite!

“Luddite: one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly:  one who is opposed to esp. technological change.”  ~Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition.

Yes, yes, yes, I can hear you all grumbling and kerfuffling at the utter hypocrisy of even thinking of publishing a post such as this on a blog (trust me, the irony is not lost), and I can already hear the harrumphs about “why doesn’t she pick up a quill pen and a well of ink, scribble her annoyance on hundred year old parchment paper and attach it to a carrier pigeon?”  (Trust me, I’ve been humiliated by the best, i.e. one particular stand-in at CBS who had the misfortune of listening to me attempt to send a text message on my faithful old Captain Kirk-esque flip phone, and who took a moment away from playing his game of “Angry Birds” to ask me if I was typing in Morse code…)
But out and about with my friend Gus on Wednesday (and not in my pajamas at Mickey D’s drive-thru!), we enjoyed an afternoon of pizza on Melrose, some shoe shopping a few doors down (he was looking for some new Pumas), and at my angst-ridden request, a stop at the local Best Buy (luckily, Gus loves gadgets).

I wasn’t entirely sure that I was ready to lose one more thing dear to my heart (stupid as it may sound), but I’d had my cell for over eleven years, and while it may be antiquated, it was still a trusty friend. 
Oh, how many chapters of my life did that little fighter and I experience together?!?!

But unfortunately, my little flip-phone seemed to be on its last leg…  Four times last month, it just sighed and turned itself off for no apparent reason, then would randomly turn itself on, with the ringer blocked as if it was simply done with connecting to the world. 
But with me going back to work Oct. 1st, I really couldn’t chance missing a call time, and God knows I was going to need at least a month to figure out a new technology!

(Quick side story to let you understand my mindset of the day:  I already had to reboot my TiVo twice that morning as it had failed to connect with its Mother Ship, wherein I sat like a protective hen on her egg waiting for my television to reconfigure and chirp itself out of its shell as it negotiated with my landline.  We achieved success in the end of course, but all in all, a bit nerve-racking when I’ve become accustomed to that background noise in the house in lieu of the meowing presence of my heroic feline sidekick, Pretty.)
Meanwhile, back to the new adventure…!

Whilst I’m never particularly at ease in large stores, I’ve come to trust Best Buy (enormous and intimidating as it may be to me), as last year I purchased a contract to have The Geek Squad at my disposal for twenty-four months.  Tech troubles at 9pm?  They’ve got my back!  (Or, um, my UPC?  CPU?  HTML?  ISBN?  It’s all Geek/Greek to me…) 
And wandering around stupidly looking at phones that baffle me, I relied on the help of my friend Gus and the knowledgeable BB Associate “Robert.” 

(Having experienced a swarm of people asking me to take their photos with a real live giraffe (I kid you NOT!) outside of the studio next to mine months ago, I discovered only far too quickly that I DO NOT possess the gentle touch necessitated by Smart Phones, nor am I capable of the eloquent tap, tap, tapping of easily pulling up menus of options.  Handfuls of audience members from the neighboring stage whined that I didn’t hit the right button on the screen or that their picture was blurry.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Just because I have a Studio Lot ID hanging around my neck, I’m supposed to know how to operate your camera phone that goes to a screen saver in like two seconds?  Hello, ask a friend!)
But I digress!!!

Back at Best Buy and understanding my tactile lack of ability, Gus and Robert took to task to help me upgrade my phone – nothing terribly challenging – but at least providing me with the minimum requirements that are most important to me.
Calls?  Check.  Texts?  Check.  Alarm clock?

Kind of befuddled by the question, young Robert disappeared into the hearty depths of the enormous conglomerate to search for information regarding my simple query.  “It’s probably so common these days that they don’t even mention it” Gus shrugged.

And returning a few minutes later, Robert informed us that he was 99.99% sure that I would have an alarm clock, even though it wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the website.
“Well then how about you open a box and look at the information manual and confirm it?” Gus asked straight out on my behalf as I plopped down wearily.  (My Hero!)

As an excellent compromise to my technologically-challenged abilities, I selected a phone with a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, and minimal touchy-screen-thingies.  And entering my info into the computer database to activate my new phone, Robert started chuckling.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, fanning myself like a Southern Belle suffering from the vapors.
“Your plan with the phone company doesn’t even exist anymore!”

Oh, for the love of God…
But $28.91 later, I walked out of BB with my shiny new appliance (the phone was free – but CA still makes you pay the tax), holding it out in my palm like an alien being:   “I’m one of them…  I’m one of them…  I’m one of them…” my pea-brain chanted, staring at the eerie glow emanating from my sweaty paw.

And dropped off around 4:30pm by Gus, I took a few moments in the bat-cave to stare at my new phone thingie. 
I had to admit, it was attractive.  It didn’t really cost me much money.  Plus, if I brought old Captain Kirk into BB with its charger (they had throngs of gizmos in a thick padded container, but none that fit my model anymore), they could transfer all of my saved numbers.

And pulling out the manual to the newly purchased gadget, I immediately scoffed at how to plug in the adapter and charge the battery.  Seriously, who couldn’t figure that out?  Pfft!  What am I, stupid???
Smash cut to three hours later:

Yes, kind readers, it took me EXACTLY THREE HOURS to figure out HOW TO ANSWER MY NEW CELL PHONE FROM MY HOME LANDLINE!!!  What’s with the ‘unlock’ doodad?  I read the manuals over and over, but nothing refers to the tappy, tappy, slide unlock module!!!  Plus (as I had forewarned Gus and Robert as to my inelegant abilities of effortlessly skimming around touch screens), I accidentally set one of my ringers to “Cat” which electronically meowed endlessly until my clumsy fingers stumbled upon a different menu.  (I suspect the prankster Ghost of my heroic feline sidekick Pretty may have meddled in that moment for her own amusement…) 
But for now, I’m still baffled.

At least my cell plan has miraculously stayed the same (albeit “non-existent”, but I’m apparently a loyal customer), which means I won’t be one of the “constant-face-staring-into-a-phone” multitudes who spend endless hours on the internet whilst walking blindly through intersections!
And hence – my post.

It’s only taken me 46 years to re-learn how to answer a phone call that my 95 year old grandma could have done by picking up the receiver from her rocking chair.
I’m just sayin’…

With love to all,
~ Dinosaur P-Rex