Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Up-Grade Down-Low Blood-Flow

“You DO realize that this is not a date, right?  You’re not entertaining company Pen, it’s just a service technician coming to your home in the morning to upgrade your cable” my friend Rose calmly talked me down from the ceiling where I’d been dangling in a semi-neurotic frenzied mind-loop of horrific potential outcomes for the last three hours.  “You don’t have to clean.  You don’t need to do anything.  Just invite him in and offer him a beverage.  He just wants to do his job and be on his way” Rose reassured me as I poured a voddy the night before to calm my nerves.  “And no matter what you think of the dust bunnies, trust me, he’s seen worse” she added soothingly.  “Although, how cool would it be if you propped your door open and greeted him by rising out of your coffin table?”
“I DO have a black velvet cape!” I beamed; slowly beginning to feel slightly more comfortable with the prospect of a mere mortal entering my beloved bat-cave sanctuary.

After all, how bad could it be?
But please let me escort you, dear kindest readers, back a day or two...

Served with a notification that I would be losing programming listing and most of my channels without the acquisition of an adapter for High Def, I reluctantly called my cable provider in a minor panic.

“To be perfectly honest Penny, I’m not even sure how you’ve been receiving our cable services this long without having even ONCE upgraded your system” the representative on the phone Mark marveled.  “Tell me again, HOW do you watch TV?”
“Well, cable comes through my wall and it’s plugged into my TiVo, and the TiVo is plugged into my television, land line and WiFi” I explained to the best of my knowledge, having jerry-rigged my convoluted system over the years (maybe or maybe not with some duct tape).

“Hmm...” Mark mused as he pulled up my computer records.  “Is your phone number still 213-***-****?”
“No, the area code split like ten years ago” I clarified.

“And you’re still paying the retail price of about $76.00 a month for basic cable?”
“Uh-huh” I confirmed.

“Well, I’m not sure how to break this to you Penny, but we’ve been offering basic cable rates for about a decade at around $40.00.  The HD adapter will be about two dollars for installation, and the cable card will cost $1.50 a month, but you’ll be saving about thirty bucks a month on your bill.”

So flashing forward once again, my friend Rose was quite right.  I had nothing to worry about, and whilst I’d need to be present for the miniscule amount of time for the service technician, I’d be saving bundles of money!
So seriously, how bad could it be?

Bolted awake at 8:30am by my land-line and a call from the cable company to re-confirm my appointment designated between the hours of 10 and 11am, I assured the representative that I was indeed at home, and that yes, my TiVo (from years ago) was installed and running properly – an interesting fact which apparently made the lady moderately annoyed.  

But still, I had an hour and a half of sleep in quiet solitude!

Bolting awake yet again to answer my land-line, I was alarmed to find that my service technician had already arrived on-site with cables, devices, card-adapter-thing-a-ma-jiggies and what-not in hand.  (I didn’t even have time to don my black velvet cape!) 

And “welcoming” the stranger into my dark abode, I led him into the forbidden lair wherein my LG LED TV awaited the new blood infusion of “O Positive” HD, only to discover that I would be the one in need of a transfusion...
“Doesn’t that lamp work?  Oh, OK it does work so I can see in here.  Oh, and you already have a splitter in the closet?” faux-hawk-haired cheery “Marlon” rooted through my bedroom, randomly stripping cables and stapling wires over a door; his weighty cologne wafting willy-nilly throughout my  sanctuary as I curled up into an uncomfortable ball of anxiety. 

“Are you cold or something?” he asked in confusion as I continued to shrink, grateful that I’d taken the time the night before to throw a skull-embossed hand towel (thank you, Richard!) over my underwear in the pyramid of my laundry baskets. 

“Hey, isn’t that the guy from “Full House?”” Marlon marveled as he popped up out of my closet, eyeballing an autographed photo from Comedic Actor Bob Saget on my bedroom bureau.  “He’s a funny guy!  Do you really know Bob Saget?  Is he really a funny guy in person too?” Marlon wanted to know. 

(Seriously?  I have a coffin in my living room, you had to walk past an alley of gargoyles and duck your head under a low-hanging bat to get to the inner sanctum, and the only thing you notice in the whole entire apartment is a picture of Bob Saget???)


“My Supervisor just texted me that he should be here in about 30 minutes with the other adapter.  So, are you from California?” the questions continued.  “Where’s Indiana?  Do you have a lot of family?  Do they cry when they see you?  Mine cried when I moved in with my Aunt and that was only for a year.  But you probably talk all the time, I mean at least once a week or so right?  What do you mean you hadn’t visited them for eight years before last June?  My son is one year and three months – see his picture?” Marlon offered his I-Phone screen saver of a toddler named Ivan Renaldo sporting a taupe fedora and Aviator sunglasses.  “His Mom and I fought for like a year, and she told me to leave if I was only there for my son, but now we don’t fight as much, so things are better.  Do you stay in touch with Bob Saget?  What do you do for a living?  Are you in the movies?  I don’t like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise.  I’ve worked in a lot of famous people’s houses in this neighborhood.  Are you famous too?” he raised his eyebrows hopefully.

(Good grief...)

“So you seriously started your acting career on “Saved by the Bell”?” Marlon beamed wide-eyed.  “Salvado por la Campana” (sp?) is HUGE in my country!  I’m from Honduras, and my baby-mama is Guatemalan, and we were just talking about that show yesterday!  I have to text her right now!  Zack and Mario Lopez are so funny!” he squealed, whipping out his I-Phone once again.  “Were you a teacher or something?  What episodes were you in?  We can Netflix you!”

(Oh, FFS...)

“So you only work in TV?  Why don’t you work in movies?  Maybe I’ll see you some day in the movies?”  Marlon wondered, lounging on his knees, a casual haphazard arm slung over the door knob of my inner sanctum, accidentally knocking some of my belts to the ground as he attempted to grasp both my clothing accessories and the impossibly absurd idea that not everyone aspires to star in feature films.

(For the love of God, forget the cape; just close the lid on my coffin NOW.)

“So you don’t have any children?  WHY don’t you have any children?  Do you really live all by yourself?  Don’t you get lonely?  You should be dating.  Or are you not capable of having children?” he tilted his head forlornly, now seated most comfortably cross-legged on my floor; my very own pot-bellied Honduran twenty-three-year-old unapologetic judgmental Buddha with a two inch faux-hawk clad in work boots, tool belt and reflective yellow safety vest.

Enduring the undying, on-going two hour session of soul-sucking, ridiculously uncomfortable invasive interrogation from Marlon as to his inquisitions regarding my career, my dating habits and my personal choice as to not procreate, I politely excused myself from the room, strode directly to my kitchen, and (whilst I’m not particularly proud of this moment), at exactly 11:11am, I took a hearty swig of vodka straight from the bottle out of my freezer!


“So sorry for the delay” Marlon’s Supervisor “Will” suddenly appeared through the front door as he shook my hand cordially.  “We don’t generally keep adapters for TiVo boxes in store, as of course we prefer our customers to use our company’s DVRs.  I had to drive to Hawthorne and back.”

“It’s true” Marlon piped up.  “In fact, if you don’t answer the phone when we call you like really stupid early, we just skip the job and figure you’ll reschedule.”  (WOW.)  “But you should switch to our internet service!” he rallied.  “What do you have, ATT?  Ours is much cheaper!” Marlon professionally sales pitched in front of his boss.

“And yet your company froze the FOX channel during the Super Bowl.  The SUPER BOWL” I stated emphatically, “to which I’m apparently going to receive a free Movie on Demand or a five dollar Visa gift card?” I scoffed.  (Again, not proud of it, but that shot of voddy gave me a dose of liquid courage and a voice!)
“Dude, that totally sucks” Marlon scowled, tossing an elbow over the top of my bedroom door like he now owned the place.  “They should give you like fifty or a hundred bucks for that” he scrunched up his nose as his Supervisor politely stared him down.


Now as I’m not exactly fluent in Spanish, I took the opportunity to curl up once again for the next fifteen minutes into my bat-like fetal position to hang from the ceiling wherein I could dangle in a once again neurotic stasis and observe the outré experience of now TWO cologne-wearing gentleman exchanging words in a foreign language as they crept and crawled around the floor of my beloved sanctuary.   

“Sorry for the dust bunnies” I volunteered awkwardly.

“No problem Miss.  Your place is seriously clean compared to what we usually see.  We’re just glad you don’t have any spider colonies or snakes in here.”



“Thank you again for your patience” Supervisor Will shook my hand as Marlon presented me with my new High Def cable line-up of channels numbering in the hundreds.  (HUNDREDS, FFS!)  “Please feel free to call us any time if you have any questions” they smiled professionally as I signed the clipboard pertaining to their visit and escorted them to the door.

“Where you REALLY on “Saved by the Bell?” low-key Supervisor Will suddenly “Ethel Mertzed” me in my living room before I could bolt the door shut. 

“Uh-huh” I nodded uncomfortably.

“Marlon texted me when I was driving here that you actually played a ‘Valley Girl’ on camera two times and you had some voice-over things?  My wife and I are from El Salvador and she and I just LOVE that show, and we are SO gonna Netflix you!”

(Um, thank you!)


With a white unscented tea candle lit in my bedroom to cleanse away the presence of the strangers (and absorb the invasive cologne), I was once again at peace in my sanctuary.  And unfolding the grandeur of my bat wings to embrace the solitude for the next few days, my world (if only momentarily!) finally made a modicum of sense.

Neither confirming nor denying the fact that I may or may not be sleeping in my black velvet cape this evening,

~One (seriously drained), O Positive P

Friday, February 7, 2014

My Funny Valentine


“I don’t care if you’re working or not, nor do I give one iota that you’ve been on set for yet another thirteen hour day and you’re tired”, my pain in the neck, ridiculously needy, life-force-sucking vampirific “boyfriend” whined unrelentingly.  MY needs are important too!” he puled pathetically, wildly oblivious to my ultimate desires of kicking off my shoes, washing my face and snuggling into my jammies alone in front of any manner of mindless TV.  “You’ve got exactly TEN days to explain your behavior last year to me, or I’m THROUGH with you!” he pouted.
Nag, nag, nag...

And rather than put up with being judgmentally glared at all night, I booted him mercilessly out of my bedroom, leaving him to sleep on the hard wooden surface of the coffin-table in the living room where he could miserably fester in solitude overnight.
Unfortunately, it was I who festered...

As calmly speaking face to face was clearly NOT an option at this point in our relationship (he’d long ago refused to answer my olive-branch-extending telephone calls, yet still felt completely comfortable lurking uninvited into my home), I whipped out a clean sheet of paper, a thick black ink pen and proceeded to vengefully scrawl in CAPITAL LETTERS all manner of spiteful vinegar and venom as any and every single vulgar word in my vernacular came to mind in massive waves of hostility and aggression!  (*whew!*)
Now, I must say that the personal radical ranting was ridiculously therapeutic; barfing all of my buried anger out on college-lined notebook leafs (destined for the shredder of course); as since I do believe that words are incredibly powerful when used optimally, perhaps a cheap-shot paragraph or two regarding my “boyfriend’s” Mother’s sex life may have been, shall we say, inappropriate...

And despite my thickest, maddest, black marker running out of ink as I penned the last of my psychological “primal screams” (without even making a sound!), I felt an unusual sense of calmness as I managed to scribble one last big, fat “FU” on the paper before curling up into a ball of emotional exhaustion.

“Oh, but what had happened to us?” I wondered woefully as my beloved sleep eluded me too.  “We used to be so happy together” I sighed at the sadness of the rift betwixt myself and my ‘boyfriend’.
After all, when first we met (how many years ago?), he had ALWAYS been so supportive of my career!  He never once judged me or became jealous if I ignored him in favor of choosing to spend time with my fickle mistress known as Hollywood:  He’d been my rock to help pick up the pieces of my broken heart on those lonely weeks when my mistress occasionally shunned me:  Heck, he’d even given me a couple hundred bucks now and again to make sure I didn’t have to live in a cardboard box!

Unfortunately the old adage about not going to sleep angry rang true the very next morning; as although I’d innocently toddled into the kitchen for a bottle of water before work, there he laid, still staring at me stone-faced; a scorned lover demanding to be reckoned with, whose mute presence in my home disgusted me and churned my stomach as the mere sight of him only enraged me further.

“TEN DAYS (well, now apparently NINE) to explain yourself” my ‘boyfriend’ chastised me; unrelentingly lauding himself righteously atop my coffin-table.

Having been bent over forward and backward (and every other unimaginable humiliating position in between) and all around screwed by my boyfriend “Eddy” (aka the almighty EDD Unemployment Department) for the last five months, I had little to no fight left in me for yet another lover’s quarrel.

But resigning myself to appease Eddy one last time out of gooey sentimentality for the good old days (or, as psychiatrists might label our dysfunctional relationship “Battered Wife Syndrome”), I scanned the letter on my coffin-table wearily to try to determine what on earth might finally make Eddy happy for a change.
Ironically, apparently I wasn’t the only one feeling sentimental:

“You had a prior Unemployment Insurance claim.  Benefits cannot be paid on your new claim unless you worked as an employee between 12/30/12 and 12/28/13 and condition (a.) or (b.) below is met.”
Well, to Eddy’s credit, harkening back to a time when we treated each other with respect was quite refreshing!  I was suspicious of course, but with a quick trip to a copy place, eight paystubs Xeroxed from the first two weeks of 2012 (which obviously met conditions (a.) and (b.), FFS) and the world’s nicest, most polite, hand-written unemotional letter of “please find the enclosed” blah-blah-blah crap, I made two last copies of the original letter sent to me as well as the envelope it arrived in.

Yes kind readers, it hurts me to say that Eddy had one last dirty little trick up his dastardly deceitful sleeve should I be distracted by his kindness... 
As aforementioned, I had been given TEN days to respond with my proof of employment, right? 

Ah, but therein lies the rub:  Please note the congruence (or rather lack thereof) regarding the date of the letter typed to me, versus the actual date mailed:

Now as a mightily scorned woman with which Hell hath no fury like, I was mere seconds away from buying a Sharpie and scribbling violent death wishes to Eddy all over my pristine Xerox copies, but I was relatively certain that my Battered Wife Syndrome defense wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.  Additionally, I was upset with myself for having such an emotional reaction in the first place, but seriously, how much abuse can one person take before they snap and just go bat-shit crazy???

In the end, surrounded by a sea of papers which I carefully highlighted with a yellow marker as to all of the information Eddy apparently required to drain the last few drops of my dwindling life forces, I stapled, stamped and kissed our relationship good-bye; one final touché on my part added to the hand-written note, lest he find yet one more loophole to set on fire for me to jump through before we became officially ‘divorced’:

“P.S.  I’m not sure why this request letter is dated 01/16/14 when the postage indicates it was mailed to me eleven days later, but attached please find a copy of the EDD envelope to verify my compliance within the specified ten day period.  Thank you.”
(Battered wife, I tell you!  Who else would write “thank you” to their abuser?!!!)

“I gave up years ago” one friend shared wearily as she recalled her own dysfunctional relationship with Eddy. 

“Me too” another piped up, unable to meet Eddy’s needs as pertains to most of us in Tinsel Town who are independent contractors.  “Just because I got a residual check from NBC for a television re-run, doesn’t mean I actually WORKED for NBC last week!  It’s just a freaking nightmare these days” she continued sadly.
“I think they’re just trying to make it next to impossible so we’ll all give up and they never have to deal with us anymore” a male friend chimed in. 

And so seemed to be my equally miserable future...
But hey, my fickle mistress known as Hollywood had once again welcomed me back into her loving embrace!  I’d been blessed with 13 episodes of a television show in its third season (fingers are all crossed for a back-order of more!), and with my mind re-trained to appreciate being appreciated for a change, I gave no further thought to Eddy and his spiteful will.

Logging on to the poot one quiet Tuesday evening to see if the newest version of the script had arrived for the next morning, I cocked my head in confusion at seven emails all sent to me at the exact same time, awaiting me from my bank.

And suddenly, I was “Carrie Bradshaw” in the movie Sex and the City as she unearthed the love letters from “Big” in her computer after their horrible, ugly, messy break-up.
As my “Mr. Big” (Eddy) himself also hadn’t yet found the appropriate words to make things right between us, he resorted to writers who could better speak for him.  And thus I read the following (x7):

“Dear Penny,
“A funds transfer transaction from your EDD Debit Card to your checking or savings account # ending in **** is being processed in the amount of...”

Quite frankly (although I do dream HUGE!), this weathered Penny never realistically thought she’d ever see a dime.

And whilst I believe a lady should never kiss and tell, suffice it to say that Eddy and I are once upon a time (again) on most agreeable terms. 
In fact, having received eight more snail-mail billets-doux this week confirming proof of payments which I shall wrap up in a brilliant red bow as a Valentine’s Day gift in my financial archives, I can neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not have burst into song in the solitude of my bat-cave around midnight with a rousing rendition of a video on YouTube that spoke directly to my heart.

Bring it on home, Etta!  (Video may not be viewable on hand-held devices, but feel free to look up Etta James singing "At Last" in a lovely red sequined blouse!)
~Gooey-Centered P