Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thus Spake the Halloween Pooh

With a mere few days left leading up to my High Holy Holiday of Halloween, I beamed like a fiend at all of the dark and devious decorations adorning my darling of a delightful neighborhood.  There were Jack-o-Lanterns on doorsteps!  There were tombstones in front yards!  There was even a home-spun ghost dangling from a tree across the street from my local McDonalds!
Yes, these are the moments when my world truly makes sense!

Having read my latest entry here, my beloved friend C2 wanted to contribute a “family photo” to add to my previously posted picturesque gallery.  And so with great joy, I’m heartened to present her most awesome Halloween addition to my personal collection:
Hmm...  She could be a relative... 

Yet I couldn’t quite place her face...!


And as the enervation continued to build, I surveyed my bat-cave for whatever else I could ghoulishly embrace to celebrate the best ever macabre holiday, before the world becomes overrun with the “Fa-La-La-La” commercial hoopla that inevitably ensues the next morning and pummels us mercilessly for the next three months.  
Granted, there was “Mabel” (if I haven’t mentioned this recently, all kitchen corner-dwelling spiders are named “Mable” – so sagely sayeth my Aunt G when I was young and impressionable); and whilst I have the highest tolerance for spindly-legged arachnids who dangle quietly in a niche (ASIDE FROM THE BATHROOM, BEDROOM OR CEILING!), I absolutely will NOT tolerate ANY sort of aggression, movement or artistic web-weaving beyond a two inch perimeter past the dishwasher.  (Sorry Mabel.  But a double-ply wet paper towel trumps your freeloading antics.)

Ah, but there were still plenty of spooky delights hovering about my world to keep the spirits up!  A wart-nosed witch hag doll snarling on her broom, lurking over the 50’s themed jukebox which offers a lot of Elvis Presley music (‘Nuf said?) at my nearest Astro Burger (I took a picture with my not-very-smart cell phone); a monstrous black velvet three foot wide bendy spider looming ominously over the ATM machine (I took a picture of that too!); and of course the horrifying realization on my walk home from said restaurant that if I chose to upload the photos from my Frankenstein cell, a metaphorical financial wooden stake would be driven through my checking account since I don’t actually have a data plan...  (YIKES!)
But as The Universe is collectively never One to let me down during the brief time of the year when I’m blessed with the gruesome, the morbid and the grisly, I snuggled under the covers for a delightfully wonderful mid-day cat nap –- the autumnal winds billowing noisily outside my window; the occasional “Dun-Dun” of Law and Order on the television cradling me into a soft sleep, as well as one very gentle eco-friendly lamp still lit to guide me back from the delicious depths of dreams.


Something was wrong.  Oh, something was very, very wrong indeed.  And bolting awake to the most unnerving silence – the likes of which I’d not heard (not sure how to quantify “not hearing” here), I sat rather paralyzed in the deafening quiet of a power outage.
“But, but, but, my TV is my noise and companion!” I whimpered.  “And, and, and, my clock is blinking midnight, so I have no idea what time it is!” I fretted helplessly.  “Plus, I’m kind of hungry!” my belly growled aggressively. 

Oh, bother...
Whilst I could certainly make my way in the dark of my bat-cave to the kitchen for a PBJ and a glass of milk, just what fresh Hell might that bring about?  Good Heavens, not only could I risk exposing refrigerated perishables, but what if Mabel had “connections”?!

And yes, I could always open up my Kindle tablet for local information, but, um, I may or may not have chosen to play an online game for a few (SIX) hours the night before and didn’t remember to plug Mr. Kindle back into the charger...
But as The Universe never dishes out more than you can handle, I actually enjoyed the solitude of doing nothing more than solving a crossword puzzle by candlelight!  (Kind of spooky and fun for me!  And YES, I could’ve just opened the blinds to let in the sunshine, but where’s the challenge there?)

Meanwhile, still adamantly determined to milk the last of my High Holy Holiday to the max, I toddled well-refreshed into the light yesterday at 7am in search of a breakfast burrito and some apple juice as “Son of Deceased Landlord Yang” politely held the gate for me. 

And despite my probably unlikely illogical angst of asking for any assistance in my rent controlled bat-cave - lest they find some reason to evict me and charge double what my apartment is worth, wherein I end up a creepy bag lady on the street, living in a cardboard box, trying to stay warm as I cuddle with my deceased kitty’s urn of cremains – The Universe saw fit to provide me with an actual spine, perhaps in honor of my “spine-tingling” holiday!
“My kitchen garbage disposal isn’t working” I informed the Son of Deceased Landlord.  “The sink isn’t bad, but it’s just not draining properly and I don’t want anyone else’s plumbing to get backed up.  I don’t even cook!” I apologized profusely, contemplating just how many plates of McDonald’s ketchup might be curdling about in the ancient underbelly of the building.  And despite a wee bit of unsuccessful mechanical fiddling, I was promised a professional plumber the next morning to replace the disposal altogether.  Yay! 

What I hadn’t entirely thought through however, was the fact that a complete stranger would be escorted by SDL through the security gate, presented at my front door at 8am and set loose upon my sanctuary to bang noisily around the kitchen pipes for over an hour.  (Years and years of online shopping under my belt, and it never ONCE occurred to me to purchase a poison ring and a cyanide capsule?  Tsk!)
What I’d also not properly mentally processed, was the fact that SDL possesses technical aptitudes which would likely be equivalent to a chimpanzee with a monkey wrench.  (If you will.)  So frankly, I really shouldn’t have been terribly surprised that SDL hired an early-to-rise eager day laborer saturated in ‘no-I’ve-not-yet-bathed-today-cologne’ to refurbish my medieval laboratory’s basin.

Oh, bother...
And yet surprisingly, the horror of the morning had yet to reach its ultimate pinnacle.

“Ahem!” the wafting gentleman’s aromatic cloud filtered down the hall.  “I’m all done out here!” he beamed happily, shaking my hand. 
My hand!  Dear Lord!  My HAND!!!

(Granted, I’ve spent the usual girlie amount of time clawing the occasional gag-inducing wet hair ball out of my shower drain (with perhaps more double-ply paper towels than necessary accompanied by neon orange elbow-length rubber gloves); but the guy had just spent 72 minutes touching God only knows what with his bare paws in the depths of my building’s intestines, and he SHOOK my HAND???)
But hang onto your seats people, as The Universe had YET to execute perhaps its most frightening Halloween experience thus far in my life:

“May I use your restroom before I leave?” the odoriferous plumber wondered, wafting his way in his sturdy work boots as he trounced down the carpeted hall to urinate in my toilet.
(Sometimes there are no words.)

To my friend C2:  Thank you so much for your most excellent and thoughtful photo to add to my collection!

To my friend “Rose”:  Your box of Halloween treats arrived today!  I shall feast on “The Day” like Winnie the Pooh with my head stuck in a jar of “hunny”!
And to The Universe:  I’m still petrified at your cosmic proficiency in your ability to find infinite new ways to properly terrorize me during the celebration of our High Holy Holiday.  I think I used up an entire bottle of hand sanitizer, a full can of Febreze Air Effects, and a massive vat of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes to allow me to scour all potentially touched surfaces and finally eventually lower the raised toilet seat after the plumber vacated his bladder.  (Goodbye, terry cloth hand towel on the dowel.  I can’t be sure that you were used; but in the trash you go.  Give my regards to Mabel.)

Wishing you all Halloween hugs (pay no mind to my sanitary neon orange rubber gloves!),
~Penny the Boo
p.s. Convinced that having survived my anxiety-riddled morning with SDL and the oblivious-to-potential-malarial-disorders plumber, I deemed myself worthy of purchasing some groceries to celebrate the afternoon.  After all, with what could The Universe possibly scare me at this point?

Oh bother...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cinder Ella - A Proper Ghost Story!


Having toiled for approximately eleven hours with a clinically diagnosed sociopath named Kevin behind the scenes on a television reality show, I ponied in line behind the crew to Craft Services to load up a plate of free food and attempt to rejuvenate my soul.  “So, is this a documentary that we’re filming?” I asked one of my fellow Stand-Ins.  “What channel will this be airing on?” I continued to pry.  “Is that Actor a real Psychologist or Psychiatrist?” I wanted to know.  “I’ve never worked on a one-hour drama before!” I smiled stupidly, hoping to gain some sense of insight.  “That kid Kevin is one seriously scary child...” I prattled on, completely oblivious to my actual surroundings.

“You’re only here for this evening.  Try to keep up.  Let us deal with the government.  You have enough to worry about” a co-worker tipped his cowboy hat amiably.
Bolting awake at a few seconds later (Whew!  It was just a dream!), I shook off the effects of working all night in a state of hard core REM sleep (to the point of exhaustion!) and one drooling puddle of Craft Services imaginary free food slash real live toothpaste spittle.

Granted, my own stupidity was at fault for choosing to drift off to the dulcet lullabies of a marathon of Criminal Minds on TV.  And yes, I was also to blame for the ensuing endless strain of commercials which morphed in and out of my endogenous circadian rhythms as my pea-brain incorporated 30 second televised ads from the law offices of “Binder and Binder”; but the fact that I was truly haunted could not be denied...
As my High Holy Holiday of Halloween grows nigh (my favorite day of the year, when the world finally makes sense!), this little ghoul, despite all of the “zeitgebers” (I just learned that word from Wikipedia, which is basically an environmental cue that screws up your light/dark cycles), this little ghoul battled against the closed blinds in the luxury of my darkened boudoir sanctuary to run a couple of mundane errands in the harsh and most unforgiving glare of the sun.

Sure, I was delighted to trail behind a white Lexus on Santa Monica Blvd. with a fake bloody hand and foot protruding from its trunk.  (Those are my kind of people!)  And yes, I still have oodles of yellow “crime scene” tape should I wish to barricade my car or front door with eerie rubber claws dripping red slime down the windows. 
But to tell the truth, my heart just wasn’t in it.

Heck, even my zombie-like-absolutely-un-killable Philodendron “Boo!” was looking pathetically forlorn with only three leaves sprouting in the darkness where he generally thrives all sprawled out aggressively.  (Yes, I tend to get rather “Edward Scissorhands” on his foliage, but that’s for his own safety prior to eerily climbing the wall.)

But by all available accounts, my yearly High Holy Holiday of Halloween was teetering on the brink of being totally sucky.  Could nothing scare me anymore?  Had the Universe sucked all the joy out of my beloved celebratory day, leaving me holding an empty orange plastic pumpkin with no candy inside?  Would I never again let loose with a blood-curdling “EEK!”?

Slashing open an envelope from Sacramento, I was invited once again to the Senior Prom, the official Dance of The Dead, i.e. the dreaded hours attempting to connect with the few remaining decaying corpses at the Unemployment Department - during which I would need to justify my reported income to whomever is decidedly NOT answering the phone from 8am ‘til noon – i.e. the meager window of time when they are supposedly out of their caskets and open for business.

Say it with me:  EEK!!!

Apparently, my whopping $6.34 for the weeks during their head-hunting Inquisition hadn’t satisfied their Fiscal Unemployment ledgers, and once again, I was somehow to blame as an out-of-work Actor with absolutely no control over the payroll companies who write residual checks to the SAG/AFTRA Union. 
(Yeesh...  Even Charlie Brown at least gets a rock at Halloween...)

But I digress!
I refused to let my spirit be broken!  After all, this Penny is mightier than the Sword of Injustice!  And despite my 7:30am alarm clock two days in a row; despite my inability to get past the automated zombie telephone recordings of the EDD; and despite feeling like a total zero outcast from the working force, I was going to defend my $6.34 TV residual from a rerun of “Saved by the Bell”, even if the zombie apocalypse sent me to my grave!

And with a seriously unheard of ridiculous amount of self-restraint provided by the Unknown Forces of The Universe who tempered my typing and metaphorically whispered in my ear (“this is the Government, Pen.  They won’t appreciate either your biting wit or political sarcasm regarding fiscal budgeting with a smiley-face emoticon...”), I do believe I successfully submitted a properly completely emotionless email defending the claim in question.  En guard!  (She types here privately, cowering in her Fortress of Solitude.)   
But as to my High Holy Holiday spirits?  I do believe The Universe and I are finally back in sync.

Perhaps it was the Halloween card from my friends RJ and Richard that not only made me laugh, but also included a crisp ten dollar bill for treats at my local 7/11.  (I’m not gonna lie – I squealed like a five-year-old!)  And perhaps it was the comfort of my parents sending a very thoughtful gift card to Target to allow me the freedom of purchasing Kleenex WITH LOTION (again, not gonna lie – I have allergies, and generic tissues are just plain cruel unless you’re only cleaning your glasses.)
But I tend to think that there were even more Universal Forces in the works...

Without any forewarning whatsoever, the envelope from my Mom and Dad happened to include not only the Target gift card; but four completely haunting photographs, as my parents are currently sorting through our family antiquities while they continue to compile massive albums of photos, documents and gazillions of related historical items for proper preservation of our heritage.
May I please introduce you to my Grandma’s high school graduation picture?

And here is my absolutely DASHING Grandpa at roughly the same age:

But what probably freaked me out the most was not only this photo of my Great Grandma Ella – whom I never met, and whose turn of the century diamond from her wedding ring (married in 1907!) – I now possess book-ended on a necklace with two of my Grandma’s small diamonds:

But also Ella’s unbelievably soulful looking husband, Hiram:

And whilst I found myself almost unable to stop staring at the photos, the most wonderfully inexplicable happening occurred...
I actually fell effortlessly into a deep sleep - sans the noise of the television for comfort for the first time in many unemployed weeks - in lieu of the hovering ghosts from the past; collectively, protectively surrounding me.

With you all (in spirit!), and wishing you a properly eerie Halloween,
~P (Woooo!)

Author’s Addendum:  Having made peace with my familial haunters, I was startled to arrive home yesterday after some errands to find myself face to face with a brunette lady calling my name from the street.  “Do you remember me, Penny?  I’m Daniela!” she air-kissed both sides of my face.  “I used to live in this building years ago!” she beamed.  “I just flew in from Italy this week, and I saw your car.  It’s so good to see you again, bella!” she raised her palms upward jubilantly. 

Talk about ghosts...

Backstory:  I couldn’t quite remember if she and the handsome man Mattia lived together or not, but for all of about a few months in 2006 (?), my apartment building had housed four delightfully artistic Italians including Mattia and Daniela; all of whom I officially met late one night on the back patio as Mattia was finishing up his final pieces for a local gallery exhibition.

With my Bachelor’s degree in Art History, two and a half years of working in Art Galleries on Rodeo Drive (thankfully a lifetime ago), and having spent a summer abroad studying Art and Literature in Italy (again, a lifetime ago), suffice it to say I was immediately welcomed into the fold, offered a hearty glass of vino and introduced to Mattia’s vision of the “The House in Tar” as he literally dipped various pieces into a boiling cauldron of black bubbly goo.  (I’ll say it again, my kind of people!)

Present Day:  Whilst I had the most awkwardly unpleasant conversation about why Daniela would be unable to say hello to our (deceased) landlord, we air-kissed again as we parted ways while I strode silently into my bat-cave for a wee bit of spelunking.

Granted, I’ll probably always live with the ghost of Mr. Yang (my previous landlord) hovering about the property (making sure that I don’t become a hoarder!); but I can live with that.

And yes, there will always be remnants of my own existence that may not come to anyone else’s mind (my parents found boxes and boxes of photographs with no way to identify the people), but I can live with that too.


As I delved into the far reaches of the back of a file cabinet, I happily “EEK-squealed” once more as I unearthed the following.  Please meet a yet another “ghost” (still alive, I hope!) from my past; the now internationally known Artist Mattia Biagi and some of his work:

...along with my one and only affordable piece purchased from his collection which still dangles proudly on my wall:

Rock on, my tiny, eerie, non-sticky, tar-drippy Pink Panther!  Tis the season to be creepy!



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My "Should've", Ought to", "Have-to-do" Ado

“So where the hell is Sherman Oaks...?” I wondered, hunching over my poot and sparring with the internet for the precise location of the café where I was to brunch on a Sunday at noon (oh for the love of God, NOON?!) with two dear Birthday gals and three other Industry professional women.  “OK, so Laurel Canyon over the hill (I know that route!), hang a left on Ventura Blvd., and then go how far?”
Yes, kind readers who are familiar with Southern California, for the sake of two of my cherished friends, I agreed to lunch in The Valley.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the territory, just crank the summer heat up by a minimum of ten degrees and attempt to breathe normally as if facially shrouded by a woolen blanket.)

But piling into Cecilia (my 1997 Toyota) with festively wrapped Birthday presents, Cecilia positively purred over the canyon as we were committed to accomplishing good deeds.  And despite a few panicky premature attempted left turn jabs before we crossed the Canadian border (seriously – how much farther North could we possibly travel without a passport?), we successfully wheeled (after a U-turn into an abandoned lot a city block away) into the proper valet attendant for the café.
“Oh, I should’ve left ten minutes earlier if I wanted to arrive early” I fretted to myself.  “Oh, I ought to have stopped at the store and bought individual birthday cards with gift bags and tissue paper” I continued to mentally beat myself up.  “Uck; and I really should’ve had the presence of mind to dress more appropriately” I punched myself for stepping out of my safety corner (clad entirely in black) in the swelter-weight heat.

But handing Cecilia’s keys to the parking attendant at the charming restaurant that (according to my online research the night before) prides itself on celebrity sightings, Tuscan white bean and kale soup with kabocha squash (if I can’t pronounce it, I’m not gonna eat it); various salads with organic mixed field greens (what am I, a goat?), and filet mignon omelets (Seriously?  Oh, my Indiana-born heart wept for the utter disrespect to the cow...); I, the ever-so-adaptable/resilient Actress, with humble gifts in hand, was prepared to enter the arena!
“Um... excuse me sir”, I caught the valet before he could whisk Cecilia away and tend to the impatient couple in the expensive luxury convertible behind us.  “Um... where do I go to actually enter the restaurant?” I whispered somewhat embarrassed.

“No problem!” he beamed, happy to step out of the role of car-fetching-guy and into the heroic position of helping a damsel in distress who was obviously uncomfortably out of her league. 
Breezing through the throngs of people waiting to be seated at the popular restaurant, I was immediately cock-blocked (if you will) by a protective Hostess who upon witnessing my wrapped Birthday presents, decided that I was deemed worthy to be seated at one of only two Birthday parties.  And confirming that I was indeed with the latter, I held my chin up high as she led me to the table.

(Ahem...  Wee adjustment to the story...  Having woken up early enough to properly groom myself in order to be presentable, I lithely hopped into the bathroom for a shower, and attempting to dislodge the fluffy, light-as-air loofah off of the wall, I inadvertently clocked myself in the face with the rubber suction cup.  (OW!)  Yes, that would make for pleasant conversation:  “Hi ladies.  I would’ve been here earlier, but I lost a boxing match with a dangerous suction- cup-wielding puffball.”)
But with make-up properly applied on said chin, I thanked the Hostess for directing me to the party as I settled in with three Script Supervisors (two of whom I‘ve been blessed to call friends for decades), a Post Production Editor (who I only met a year ago at the previous Birthday lunch), and one well-respected Director (who I worked with maybe 18 years ago). 

And as a gathering of feasting ladies are wont to do, we initially made only as much pleasant talk as necessary before burying our heads into the massive multitude of menus highlighting breakfast, brunch, lunch and café specials.
(Ahem... Wee adjustment to the story...  The lovely ladies who earn anywhere from five to a gazillion times my general pay scale, cooed at the selection of options as I “Scroogely” scanned the prices vis-à-vis my previous two weeks consisting of mostly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at home.)

And that’s when my own pea-brain punched some sense into me.
Hey, this little fighter didn’t have anything to prove!  Our mutual work in Show Business by no means defined our friendships!  I was there for the sole purpose of celebrating two cherished Birthdays!

And with the “should just get a salad”, “ought to have gotten gift bags and cards” and the “have-to make sure I order a cheap item off the menu” nonsensical noise defiantly rejected from my inner chatter, I decided to splurge on a smokey B-B-Q bacon cheeseburger with fries, as my lovely friend Ellie laughed out loud and shouted across the table, “you’re my hero!” 

Unfortunately, as the hefty menus were whisked away, the light-hearted conversation inevitably ensued as “Hollywood” infiltrated The Valley...
“I know you from somewhere, Penny.  Are you a Writer?  Are you a Producer?  Were you my Boss?” the Director wondered honestly, searching her mental archives as to where our paths might have crossed.

(And, here we go...  Round One:  *Ding*)

“I know you too!” the lady to my left beamed with a hug, equally baffled at just where on earth we might have met.

(And the hits kept coming...  Round Two:  *Ding*)

Yes, there it was:  Show Business in a nutshell:  Festive birthday celebrations TKO’d by Hollywood and a polite pissing match of who worked on what with whom.


Had my druthers, I would have preferred to spend more time actually catching up with my Birthday friends.  “I should’ve pulled up a chair there” I mentally re-blocked the setting as my inner Director attempted to make better sense of the day.  “And I ought to have raised my hand in utter defiance at the possibility of attending a “Sound of Music” sing-a-long  group event (let me double check Dante’s “Inferno” for just what level of Hell that would be); but as for the “Have-to-do” list, I was pleased that I’d chosen to throw in the towel.

Sure, I’d taken a few more sucker punches as I attempted to bond with the Director who casually mentioned that she had done an episode of one of my favorite “dramadies” (I was sooo ready to Ethel-Mertz her!); until she abruptly ended the conversation with the information that the lead actor is still “a dear, dear friend who drops by the house for dinner all the time”, and immediately changed the subject before I could ask any hard-hitting questions.

And yes, my fragile ego had also been bruised by the lady to my left who had recently inherited an apparently fabulous villa in the south of Spain and was looking to rent the property for blah-blah euros a week if anyone was interested (Hmm...  Where DID I misplace that helpful “euros to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches” conversion chart?).

So, not surprisingly, I was quite ready to feign major head trauma and hit the mat sacrificially as the time to open gifts had arrived.


“I love this card!” my friend squealed joyfully to the Spanish villa-owning heiress.

“Oh my gosh!  I KNOW the lady who designs that artwork!” the Director chimed in.

“Of course you do” I sighed internally, slurping the last of my water.  (Seriously, could someone just whack me on the skull with a bat?  They could always pin the murder on my loofah!)


Awaiting the arrival of Cecilia in the outdoor oppressive heat, my ears were still ringing from the heavy-hitting beat-down.  “The valet cost is three dollars and seventy-five cents.  I’ve got some change if you need it, Penny!” the Director politely informed me, generously plopping three quarters into my hand to accommodate the fee.


But hopping into Cecilia and handing the valet attendant a five dollar bill, he nodded subtly, as clearly he had chosen to park my car into a pleasantly cool and shady spot.  (Again, my hero!)


Perhaps I’ve become a bit more sensitive to the underdogs of the world this year.  I’ve not worked nearly as much as I would like to; and whilst I trust The Universe that I’ll find my next niche in the Hollywood ring - whatever arena I’m tossed into - I’m looking forward to approaching  that chapter with my feet on the ground.  (Chin up!)


As for what I “should’ve” done? 

Well, I “should’ve” known better than to order a burger at a place that’s oblivious to the utter aberrant behavior of serving a spectacular cut of filet mignon mixed with eggy stuff and miscellaneous accoutrements.  (Oh, the HORROR!)
As for what I “ought to” have done?

I seriously “ought to” have sent the burger back to the kitchen immediately, as three bites into what “should’ve” been a culinary delight, made itself quite known as not only particularly distasteful, but also a most unpleasant burgeoning, churning-belly case of food poisoning.  (I’ll spare you the details.)
Finally, as to my “have-to-do” ado, Cecilia and I beamed all the way home over the canyon as I reflected on my chosen presents for my friends.  Granted, mine weren’t the most expensive gifts, but they were thoughtful and meaningful to my friends which is all that truly mattered.

(Ahem...  Wee adjustment to the story...  As altruistic as I would like this tale to be, my competitive pea-brain was absolutely delighted that my gifts ROCKED!  Take THAT, little miss scented-soap-giving heiress and equally-wealthy orchid-bearing lady!!!)

Working on rising above,

~Underdog P