Chapter 4: Job Hunting

December 25, 2008

I’d been looking for jobs pretty regularly since I stepped foot in Los Angeles, but with no success.  I came to the realization when I was making my resume that I am only really qualified for one line of work: waiting tables.  Maybe I could stretch that into some sort of other customer service gig, but it’s been over eight years since I was paid to use my brain as opposed to my smile. 

I’d been employed at the same restaurant for over five years in New York City.  One of the great things that came from this was that I never had to exert an ounce of energy into finding a new job.  To explain…

The job of an actor generally has very little to do with acting.  It’s a big old business, and there are a million ridiculous factors involved in whether or not you get a job, and that’s in the rare case that you actually get seen for a job.  It’s a non-stop hustle.  You’re sort of like a drug dealer, I guess (I’ve never used this analogy before…but I think it might just work).  If you sit at home with a bunch of drugs, no one is going to know you have them.  So you have to get out there on the corner and approach people and say things like “coke smoke”.  And most of the people that walk by you look at you weird and think you’re kind of scary or desperate.  But you keep hustling, because you know you’ve got “the shit”.  But you start to find out that most people don’t want to pay you, because it’s just not in their budget.  So sometimes you give the drugs away for free, so that they get a “taste”.  Then when they come back for more, you have more leverage to demand money.  And you keep hustling in the street like that for the hopes that one day you’ll be one of those dudes that can just hang out at his house and have people come over and buy from you without ever having to leave home (Meryl Streep).

It’s scary how well that analogy works.  Sheesh.

My point to all that was that as an actor I was constantly having to hustle and look for work, some of which didn’t even pay.  My schedule was always crazy and things would constantly be popping up last minute.  So it was a huge blessing to never have to waste time looking for a Restaurant job.  And I never had to pretend like working in Restaurants was something that I had always aspired to do. 

So when I went to interviews, and people would ask me why I wanted to work there, I would say:

 

 

OK, OK, I sugarcoated it a bit…

 

The owner George, and the cave man, Jesse.

The owner George, and the cave man, Jesse.

Another benefit of working at the same place for five years is that I never had to worry about how I looked.  After paying my dues for some time, I achieved the status of “good employee” and could get away with stuff.  Sometimes I just felt like growing a beard. 

“Jesse!  What the hell is this?!” inquired George.

“Oh…uh…it’s for a role.”

“I’m never hiring an actor again” muttered George as he stormed away.The thing about George is that even if he got annoyed with it, he always allowed me to put my acting first.  So during a particularly gruesome stretch where I was growing a beard for one project and keeping my hair long for another, he let me do what I had to do even if it was really driving him nuts inside:Now that’s a good man.  Can you imagine if you were staying at a four-star hotel in Manhattan, came down to get the Chilean Sea Bass, and this guy walks up to your table?

So here I am in LA.  Going on interviews.  Doing my best to be enthusiastic about waiting tables.  And I notice something happening to me: 

 

Did you notice it?  Ah, it’s so subtle, and I think I’m better suited to pick up on it than most.  Let me explain.

My oldest brother is the King of accomplishing things in unorthodox ways.  For example, he taught me how to make an origami rose out of a napkin before I went to college, suggesting it would make up for the fact that I brought a girl to McDonald’s for the first date.  It worked.  And if it didn’t work, then the girl was probably no good anyway.  Talk about a win-win method…

Another one of his methods was taught to me with a disclaimer that it should rarely be employed.  It was specifically to be used on girls that you wanted to piss off.  For example, my good buddy in college had a girl that really treated him like trash, and wasn’t coy about it at all.  So instead of telling the girl what I thought about her, I just had a regular conversation with her at the bar one night.

What’s the trick?  A very subtle glance at the girl’s hair.  Every twenty seconds or so.  Make sure to hide it: if it’s too obvious then you will look like a jerk.  But if it’s quick enough to look like you just couldn’t help it, then the girl you are talking to will be convinced that her hair looks ridiculous and that you are being polite by not staring.

No look in the mirror can put the girl’s mind at ease.  Her night is ruined.  Perhaps the rest of her semester until she can get back to Long Island to see her hair dresser, if she even trusts her anymore.

This subtle glance is something I am aware of, as I’ve used it.  So when I noticed that pretty much every person interviewing me for work was doing it to me, I started to wonder what it was I had done to them.  What did I do to deserve such treatment?  We weren’t Saints, but at least my brother and I respected the power of this method, not just using it on some random person we had just met.

Then I realized that it wasn’t a trick at all.  They were doing what the trick was trying to imitate.  My hair looked ridiculous enough that they couldn’t help but glance up at it.  My hair was getting particularly shaggy and out of control by this point. Perhaps this is what was preventing me from gaining employment!  I needed to get a haircut, fast.

Now the thing about Jesse Gavin is that he is cheap and wary.  For example, doctors.  Why would I go to a doctor, when I have to pay lots of money to see him and he’s probably just going to write a prescription for something that will cost me even more money?  To make it worse, most doctors don’t even glance up from their clipboard when you visit their office.

Same thing with Barbers.  One key difference though – I can cut my own hair (After several attempts to surgically remove a hernia myself two years ago, I capitulated and had an MD do it). 

The year was 1989 and my mom told me I had an appointment to get my haircut the next day.  I calmly retreated to the bathroom with a pair of scissors and did the job myself.  I was sick and tired of having my neck shaved a bit too close for comfort.  I couldn’t stand the old yank they gave my hair before cutting it.  So I took matters into my own hands and went with my instincts.

It’s possible that my 8-year old instincts were a bit off.  My brothers laughed for a day straight and my mom had to apologize to the Barber, asking if there was any way to make me look reasonable without having to completely shave my head.

So yeah, I got off to a rocky start, but I knew what my destiny was.  It wasn’t until 2005 that I made the official transition.  Sick of having people give me terrible haircuts for 12 dollars, I decided to go to a place that charged 55.  I figure if they’re going to charge this much, they must know what they’re doing.

First time, success.  Second time, crappy haircut.  It was an expensive lesson, but I learned that perhaps it wasn’t the technical know-how that was the issue.  People that do it for living might just not give a crap sometimes (like doctors).

So I decided to become a self haircutter.  If I do a bad job, I have no problem giving myself a piece of my mind.  And I’ll even fix it for free.  And I’ll keep fixing it until I’m satisfied. 

As gratifying as this is, there is a down side.  There is the three to four days between my First Cut and my Last Cut in which I look like a complete idiot.  I’ll be out in public and notice myself in a mirror – “Gooo!” I jerk back in repulsion, aghast at the job I’ve done, unable to relax until I can get my hands on a pair of scissors. 

This particular cut lasted four days, and I went to the gym on each one.  The great thing about the gym is that there are mirrors everywhere, so I was able to assess from all angles.  I also used the frustration of looking like such a doofus to get that extra rep.

Finally I felt satisfied.  I looked in the mirror after the Final Cut and saw a guy that I’d be comfortable with coming up to my table and asking me if I wanted to order a bottle of wine.  I was ready to get myself employed. 

“Jesse.  You cut your…hair?” asked my housemate Florian, in his thick French accent. 

“Yeah.” I smiled, enjoying the fact that someone noticed.

“Oh.  I like this better before”.

Leave it to the French to shit on your parade.  Ok, Ok, I have to take that back.  Not that the French don’t like to shit on people’s parades (literally, it’s an odd custom), but in fact he was giving me a compliment.  He liked my old look, which was in fact much more “me”.  He wasn’t shy about telling me he liked this “new” Jesse, that was just a plastic version constructed in order to gain employment as a waiter.

Over the next day, everyone in the house asked me if I cut my hair, and told me in their own way that they liked my hair better when it was longer (the Americans were less overt, resorting to the aforementioned “glance”).

Now I had to do what I did so I could get a job, and I don’t regret it.  The haircut turned out fine, but I got to learn that it wasn’t my style.  But more than that I got to learn that I lived in a house where everyone cared about me enough to notice I cut my hair, and that they liked it better before.  A warm, fuzzy feeling in a wacky, wacky house where people are constantly coming and going.

“Jesse?” Kristham knocked on my door.  “I leave next week, so we can video…more?”

Ah crap.  I’d been so busy that Kristham and I hadn’t been able to schedule anything.  We had eight days left before he would depart for Madrid.  To once again quote Kristham’s hit single “My Turn”:

“I no wasting time/ I must hurry up”

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Chapter 3: In walks Kristham

December 21, 2008

 

Into my room walks an excited Spaniard. 

I started to pick up some Spanish when I worked at the Barking Dog Restaurant back in New York.  All the guys in the kitchen were from Mexico, as well as the bussers and food runners. My education began when Arturo the busboy taught me how to say a phrase, and suggested I practice it on Marcos, the intimidating head chef.

“What?  Don’t fuck with me man, I kick your ass.” threatened Marcos as the rest of the kitchen laughed.  Arturo was nowhere to be found, and I had to explain to Marcos that I had no absolutely no idea what I just said to him. 

From that point on the kitchen loved me.  I learned all sorts of slang.  When someone would say “Que Pasa”, I would reply “dos que tres” instead of the usual “nada”. 

Instant laughter.

I asked Arturo to explain what “two what three” meant and why it was so funny.  He struggled to come up with an explanation and finally settled on, “it’s just funny when a Gringo says it.”

One of my Spanish Professors, Olegario

One of my Spanish Professors, Olegario

Over the years I started to learn stuff that would help me while I was working.  I had quite a few busboys over the years that didn’t speak a word of English, so I had to learn the basics of communicating for my job. 

 Bring two waters to table thirty-two.  Two spoons with the soup. Where is the mustard?

I never made a huge effort to learn, but picked up some useful words along the way.  For example, I know how to say “here” versus “there”.  Pretty much the first two months of seventh grade Spanish Class.

Back to the resident Spaniard at the house in North Hollywood.  Kristham was on vacation in Los Angeles, staying at the house for four weeks before he headed back to Madrid.  It is safe to say that my Spanish was better than his English.

This wasn’t the first time I had met him.  We first conversed before I left for New York.  He was sitting outside on the patio with a Boombox, blaring the new Usher CD.  Now, I use the word “Boombox” to not only describe the physical nature of the stereo, which had no doubt been purchased on Craigslist for under ten dollars, but also the manner in which it was being used.  A Boombox is to be played at maximum volume, in an inappropriate location.  The volume level of “10” is more than the shoddy manufacturing was really cut out for, so the speakers have that “blown out” characteristic.  Any other stereo user would turn the dial down to improve the sound quality.  But those that have Boomboxes keep it cranked up, and play them on Wednesday afternoons in a suburban setting, when the neighborhood is nice and quiet.

Remember my car alarm going off?  What made that whole situation even more stressful was how peaceful the area was at the time.  I could just imagine a neighbor of mine enjoying a nice cup of herbal tea while reading the current selection on Oprah’s Book of the Month Club.  “Jeez, that car alarm has been going off for a while, and is ruining my lovely afternoon.”  I felt so bad about spoiling this fictional person’s reading session.

This same fictional book-reader was now thinking, “boy, someone really wants me to hear the new Usher album, so much to the point that they don’t have any regard for the long term use of their stereo speakers”.  This thought is in line with that had by anyone who has ever come into a 200 foot range of a Boombox.

As I was walking into the house I smiled and nodded at Kristham. 

“Hey, what eez up man?” he greets me.

“Not much, how are you?”

“What I can say.  This is thee life, huh?”  Kristham gestures to the general surroundings, but in a way that somehow emphasizes the music.  “Usher.  He’s good, huh?”

I ended up sitting with him on the patio while I read my newspaper.  From years of living with people, I’m pretty good at focusing on what it is I’m reading when there’s lots of noise and activity going on.  Although the blaring Usher did not distract me at all, Kristham’s occasional singing along at random and seemingly arbitrary times forced me to re-read a few sentences.  As Kristham was not manufactured in a cheap factory in China, he was able to sing at an even higher volume than the Boombox without his voice acquiring a crackling quality.

We hadn’t really talked much as it was clear that communication would be difficult given the language barrier.  So when he came into my room my first night back from New York and asked me if I was a musician, I did my best to explain.  “I write funny songs” I said slowly.

“Funny?” he asked, not sure exactly what I meant.  I realized that if I played a song for him, pretty much all of the humor would be lost.  So I decided to show him the Mary Louise Parker video, with a brief explanation of what the joke was, hoping the video would give an idea of what the words were.

After I showed it to him he asked who made it, and I told him that I did.  Within two minutes, I had agreed to shoot a music video for him.

How to explain?  After listening to Kristham’s music, I decided that Justin Timberlake should be my inspiration for how to shoot it.  I tried to tell him that I thought we should shoot in widescreen, but that was a bit too much vocabulary.  In order to tell him what I meant, I showed him my reel.  When it was a widescreen clip, I would say very loudly and excitedly, “widescreen!”.  Then on the other parts I would yell at a lower octave, “regular!”.

I’m not sure why I talked so loud.

I showed him a Justin Timberlake video that was widescreen, and he said – “yes, this is my idol.  Idol?”

I nodded to confirm that he was using the word correctly and I knew what he meant.

He had six songs on his MySpace page, but knew exactly which one he wanted to make a video for.  It was the one with the Hook in English – “My Turn”.  Without further ado:

 http://www.myspace.com/kristhamdance

 You love it, don’t you?

That night we talked about the video.  The song was a story of him realizing he had to leave his friends behind in order to pursue his dream, as they were holding him back.  Him coming to LA was a big step in this, as he was actually studying dance at a very prestigious studio.

I told him the next day we should shoot the sequence where he is walking to class, as it would be easy to shoot.  This way if the shoot was a failure and we needed to rethink it, we would only have to re-shoot the easiest part (other locations included LAX, his dance studio, and possibly a club).  Explaining this to him took roughly forty-five minutes.

This was going to be tougher than I thought.

What gave me hope was that he knew exactly what he wanted.  He is an insanely passionate guy and a pretty amazing dancer.  I explained to him that I really don’t know what I’m doing and that my camera costs less than three hundred dollars, but he still wanted me to do it. Perhaps it was that he didn’t understand what I was saying.

The first day of shooting was a success.  By the evening I had a fifteen second clip edited together.  The dancing was pretty simple, as it was really more him just walking to class.  It was a great start.

Anyone who has ever worked with me as a director knows that I can sometimes ramble and get too complicated with my notes.  I get into my head, and try to find the precise way to explain something to an actor.  This wasn’t a problem for this particular shoot as I had the following notes available for me to give:

1)    Bueno

2)    Otra Ves

3)    Corte

I occasionally added in “Dios mio, man!” after he did a really cool dance move.  The other option available was non-verbal direction.  Quite a few times this required me to copy his dance moves with a slight variation that would look better on camera.  I’m hoping the neighbors weren’t watching.

Later on while I was editing the first day’s footage, I got a call from Carlos telling me that my car was ready to be picked up.  I was so excited about working on this video that I forgot all about my lovely Jetta!  He had told me over the phone that it would be 750 dollars.  When I got there I said, “so it’s 750 dollars right?” as I reached into my pocket.

 

“Eh, 700 is OK.”

 

I think I mentioned last time that I really like Carlos.  Things were starting to go smoothly. As a matter of fact, I was finally feeling like everything was pretty much settled.  I had hit that sweet spot where I could just start living.  Working on the music video had put me back into my element in a way I hadn’t felt since I was in Jersey City.  And once you start being creative and doing some work (any kind of work), other things tend to start happening too.

 

As I drove away with my smooth-running car, I could finally hear myself think.  As my mind achieved clarity over the caramel-purr of my engine, it hit me.

 

Not a car.  But a realization: I still don’t have a job.  I suddenly thought of lyrics from Kristham’s hit single My Turn:

“I no wasting time

I gotta make pay

This is my life

I’m out of time”


Chapter 2: Finding Peace

December 13, 2008

When we last left off,  I was sitting in the middle lane of freeway 110 with cars whizzing by me on either side.  Many of these cars were opting to lay on their horns.

Ain't she a beauty?

Ain't she a beauty?

For two of the longest minutes in the history of the human race, I alternated between trying to start the smoking car and broadcasting a stream of blasphemous adjectives into the general area of mile marker 84.5.  The adjectives described either my car or the city of Los Angeles.

I decided to give it one more try before I would call Triple A (this would be call number three of my allowed four).  I was well aware that if the car did not start, I may opt instead to simply get out of the car and reenact the movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas.

It started. 

I got off the freeway and took it to the first place that looked like it fixed cars.  I went inside and told them my car had overheated and asked if they could fix Jettas, as I didn’t see any Volkswagens in their lot.

“We’re an Auto Body Shop.”

This answer meant nothing to me, especially given my current state of mind.  The tiny bit of knowledge I had concerning cars slipped right out of my noggin when I decided to never own one again.

I replied, “oh…so you can’t fix Volkswagens?”

“Only if it needs body work.  You need to go to an Auto Repair place.”

So what, you’re like a dermatologist, and I need a surgeon?  Great!  Thanks a lot, buddy.

I did not say this aloud, thankfully, because it was a pretty stupid analogy.  I asked him if there was a place nearby that could help me out.  He made a call and gave directions. 

I rolled up to the Auto Repair place.  After some (stereotypically) rude customer service from the head of the place, we finally walked out to my car.  One of the mechanics looked at it and started to get queasy.  He begrudgingly told me he would call me back later in the day after he looked it over some more.  I hopped on the subway and went home.

For the next few hours I ruminated over the possibility that I had made a grave error in judgment, and that the car I had bought was really only good for scrap metal.  I thought of how I was going to get my money back.  I thought about whether or not I would get a car again.  I also thought about whether or not I should return to Los Angeles after the weekend.

Que?

Two days later I would be flying back to New York to finish a film I did over a year before.  I got an email the night before I flew to Los Angeles asking if I’d be around the following weekend, which was hilarious timing.  I ultimately knew I’d have to come back when they finished the project, but the fact that it was a mere eight days after I moved was completely in line with The Life of Jesse Gavin™.  I already had my living situation set up in LA, and was in NYC for an audition, so delaying the trip probably would’ve been more complicated than getting it started.  Plus the wheely system on my suitcase was malfunctioning so I kept crashing it everywhere I went.  Ah, The Life of Jesse Gavin™.

So as I headed back to North Hollywood on my beloved Metro System, I decided to envision the worst-case scenario.  What would I do?  I could end the entire excursion with very little thinking.  Figure out something with the car super fast, pack up my stuff and go.

I decided against this.  Beyond the fiscal irresponsibility of such a decision, there was my destiny with this city.  This city has been nagging at me from three thousand miles away for the last five years.  I bought a one-way ticket here for January of 2005, but cancelled it and went to acting school instead.  I started the process of moving here in the spring of 2007, but got back-to-back acting gigs through the end of the year and ended up signing a new apartment lease.  I don’t think I’ve gone an entire week in the last five years where someone hasn’t told me I should move to Los Angeles for various reasons.  Not that these people necessarily knew what they were talking about, I just found it interesting is all.  It never happened with Chicago or London or even Scranton.  If nothing else good comes out of this excursion, at least I’ll know that this city is not for me.  But I know for sure that I won’t be able to know that if I don’t stick it out for a while and give it a shot. 

 

I had told myself to give it six months.  So six days is a bit short of that goal.

If it turned out the engine of the car was made out of old soda cans and cockroaches, and the guy I bought it from picked up and moved to Montana, I would just have to suck it up and get by on my trusty Metro.  That’s not the way I wanted to do it out here, but hey I’m still giving it a shot.  Maybe things would work themselves out and a car would be in my future, but maybe not.  I made peace with the worst-case scenario, and felt rejuvenated.

I got off the train and began to really take in North Hollywood.

I went to a vintage store and bought a funky shirt for fifteen bucks.  I tried on a bunch of random stuff, and talked a lot to the outrageously cool girls that work at such stores. 

I went to the Hot Dog place and had a Veggie Dog.  The guy across the counter said with  a thick New York accent, “my name’s Willy”.  I said, “hi, Willy”.  He said “Hey, how ya doin’? what can I get for you?”.  

Willy makes a delicious veggie dog

Willy makes a delicious veggie dog

I said, “I’m thinking about one of those veggie dogs”.  He asked me if I had had a veggie dog before and I said yes, and he said “thank God” as he clasped his hands and looked towards the heavens, “cuz you’ll be able to appreciate how much better mine are than everyone else’s.”

Willy was right.

I went back to the house and hung out with my roommate, the freewheeling guy from Rochester.  He’s kind of like Matthew McConaughey’s character from “Dazed and Confused”.  We were talking about missing the seasons and he said the following phrase:

 “Yeah man, there’s no seasons here.  Oh, man – Santa can’t come.  There’s no snow, his reindeer can’t drive the fucking, the uh, the sleigh – you know what I mean?  Ha Ha.  Dude.”

I started laughing uncontrollably when he said this, and I feel like for the first time since I had arrived I was able to just relax and enjoy.  I was waiting on the mechanic, so I couldn’t really take any steps forward until I knew the situation.

My roommate, Danny, was talking about playing hockey growing up.  He played for the club college team at University of Colorado, which is pretty impressive.  But he quit after three games: “yeah man, I was going to school, and working and playing hockey, and shit I had to party, ya know?  So I scored a goal in the third game and then I told the coach, hey man, I got my goal, I’m good”. 

The “I’m good” referred to his feeling satiated by his accomplishment, not to his skill as a hockey player.  He showed me a Trophy he had from high school.  This guy has been living out of his truck for two months, carrying along pretty much just the bare essentials as he traveled across country.  One of those essentials was his high school hockey trophy.

Later that night I went over to Eric Saez’s birthday party.  We went and saw the midnight showing of Quantum Solace – the new James Bond movie.  It was pretty good – I only fell asleep for about a half hour of it (this is actually a compliment – I’d been up since 6:30am and the movie is two and a half hours long and I don’t care much for action movies).

The next morning I got a call from the car place.  They said they couldn’t fix it – it was too messed up.  I was mentally prepared for this, so I calmly asked if they could refer me to someone who would be willing to try.  I took the subway down and drove it over to Silver Lake.  I left my car with Carlos, who is the greatest mechanic and person in the world.  He seemed excited about fixing it.  I listed all the things that the other place told me was wrong with it, and he said, “Yeah, ok, we fix it, no problem.”

So I left the car with him and walked around Silver Lake.  This is where my friend Kari Kurto from High School lives.  It’s very similar to the East Village in New York.  Kind of what North Hollywood is aspiring to be, but it’s already there.  Walking around there got me into a good mood.  I took the subway home and stopped in Hollywood.  Later that night I just hung out and got mentally prepared for the shoot.  I’d be leaving for New York the next afternoon.

I woke up in the morning and got a call from Carlos.  He’d have it ready for me on Tuesday morning.  I got a price of 750 from him, which is a lot of money.  But not for all the things he did.  I also like to look at this from the perspective of my initial searching price.  I planned to spend 2500.  If I had spent 2500 and the car needed to 200 dollars in repairs on something, that’d be 2700.  I bought a car for 1600 and it needed 750 in repairs.  It was still in my original budget.  I also was planning on having a chat with Fernando the car seller about contributing to the repairs, which I was confident he would do as he seemed a decent person, and I knew what he originally paid for the car as well as where he lived.  I called him quite a few times through all of this and he seemed really upset that this was happening.

I decided to go see a movie on my way to the airport.  A really beautiful movie called War Eagle Arkansas that a friend of mine directed, that was only playing in LA.  Put me in the right place for going and acting – kind of like watching “Don Cherry Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey” before playing a game.

I took the red eye out to NYC.  The shoot was fun.  I couldn’t sleep on the plane, so I ended up napping whenever I wasn’t shooting.  It was cold in New York!  Sheesh.  I stayed up most of the night and had beers with my buddy from college Danny Fischer. I had a 730am flight on Monday morning back West. 

I finally got home at 3:30pm.  Walking into my crazy hostel-house in North Hollywood, the thought occurred to me, “man, it feels good to be back home”.

I broke out my guitar and started playing, something I really had not done since I left my place in Jersey City on October 7th.  It felt good to play.

Knock knock. 

“Hey.  Joo play da…geetar?”  In walks Kristham, the aspiring hip-hop artist and dancer from Madrid…

 


Chapter 1: My First Days in LA

December 9, 2008

 

I had a Gum Ball Machine waiting for me when I got off the plane.  Ya gotta love Sky MallThey had a Gum Ball Machine waiting for me when I got off the plane. It seemed like a smart purchase at the time. 

I flew out of New York on Friday, November 7th.  The flight was fun because there was internet for my laptop.  I got off the plane and was picked up by my good friend Eric Saez, who got me my job five years back at the Barking Dog.  He’s been in LA for more than three years now, and plays guitar in a really amazing band called Casxio that is being looked at by some major record labels.

I decided to try to find a place to live before I actually moved, and lucked out by finding a peculiar arrangement through Craigslist.  Every time I explained it to people, I got weird looks and skeptical inquiries, and rightly so.  But my instincts were right as it’s exactly what I had imagined it to be in my naïve little head.

A guy named Andre Bauth from Colombia rents rooms of his house out hostel-style.  So that means I have a roommate, and there’s about nine or ten other people living in the house.  Andre finds most of the people through recommendations to cut down on the skeevy factor.  Living in the house are people from Spain, India, England, France, and Ecuador.  And of course, my roommate is from Rochester, New York and went to the same high school as my cousins!

Everyone there is in the same boat.  They’re trying to establish themselves, and need a place to be grounded for a while as they get things going without breaking the bank.  Everyone is really cool and gets along real well.  Quite a few actors, including Andre:

 

Pretty good, huh?!

So sure enough, the place is a few minutes away from my buddy Eric Saez!  So that is convenient, and it’s nice to know I have a friendly face so close.

The first full day I was there I went and bought a car.  I was looking to spend 2500 and found something for 1600.  I took the subway down to Long Beach (yes, subway…you can take the kid out of NYC…).  I was at this guy’s house for like three hours as he fixed stuff.  A real cool and nice guy, he buys cars and fixes them up and sells them.  And it was cheap.  A ’96 VW Jetta, Green, stick shift.  I got a good feeling from the guy. 

One of the quirks of the car was that the starter was funky in that you had to turn the key and push up.  It took me quite a few tries before I could get it to work.  Fernando told me he could fix it, but wouldn’t be able to get the parts until Monday.  So I decided to take the car and make a date for later in the week. 

I drove away, and pulled up to the next block to get gas and brace myself for some Los Angeles freeway driving.  I pulled up to the wrong side to get gas, and so I went to start the car to swing it around and it would not start. 

I kept trying and trying, but for some reason I couldn’t do it anymore.  So I called Fernando and he walked over and helped me start it.  You have to have the key facing a certain way, and I kept trying with it in the wrong way.

I drove back home and was a bit terrified as cars weaved in and out of lanes at 70 mph.  I only missed two exit ramps the whole way, which I considered to be a victory.

I got home and ate some food and then passed out hard.

The next day I woke up and walked around the neighborhood.  I’m living in North Hollywood, which is a really cool, funky, upcoming place.  There’s a lot of coffee shops and second-hand/vintage stores.  I ran some errands and hung out with Eric Saez at night.

The next morning I was prepared to go job searching.  I had a nice outfit, got some resumes printed out, and had a list of restaurants to hit from scouring Craigslist.  I unlocked my car, which was parked on the street across from the house, and the car alarm went off.

Sweet mother.  If I’ve not expressed this sentiment to anyone yet, I just want to make it clear that I have always hated cars.  I vowed to never drive one again when I moved to New York City, and I was a bit uneasy with the idea.  This is exactly the type of thing that reaffirms my intense disdain.

I don’t think I’ve popped a hood in over five years, so even that was hard for me to figure out how to do.  I have NO idea what to do, other than try to start the car (which you can’t do b/c the alarm is going off, that’s the point).

After a few excruciating minutes, the next-door neighbor walks out.  He’s a real cool guy in his mid-thirties, and he seems to know more than me about cars (he knew how to pop the hood).  After about a half hour of trying to take this node off the battery then that node, calling Fernando, etc, we give up and he suggests I get Triple A.  I decide to wait til that night.  I hop on the subway and take it to one of the five places I was going to go.  At least I got one.

The next day Triple A came and found a kill switch.  Score.  He told me that when the switch was to the left, the alarm would be disengaged.  It puts my mind at ease, and I go about my day.  Later that night I went to a Los Angeles Kings game.  I took the subway there so I don’t have to deal with parking, and I score a ticket for 10 dollars flat.  That’s the advantage of the team being in second to last place in the league.  I drink a few beers and feel much better.

The next morning I head to the Laundromat.  I lock my car door before I go in and hear a little honk.  I’ve heard that little honk before!  When I finally leave, I know what’s going to happen, and it does, the alarm goes off when I unlock the door.  Nothing I try in this cramped parking lot at a busy intersection will work.  I do exactly what the guy told me to do the day before.  Over and over.

Call #2 to Triple A (you get 4 per year).  The guy comes and does something completely different.  He tells me how to do it again.  I get my ass to the alarm place and have the thing disarmed.  Fifty bucks.  Bummer, but no big deal.

That night I decide to go get the car Smog Tested.  Yep, California.  As much as I like this kind of law and wish it existed everywhere, I didn’t particularly like it when my car failed it.  The guy told me what I needed to have done and sent me on my way.  I called Fernando and he said I could drive it down there the next morning and leave it with him until he had the starter fixed and the stereo fixed and the car ready to pass the smog test.  Sweet.

I had gotten pretty good at getting around by public transportation, and I was going to be going back to New York for two days, so it was fine by me to leave the car with him for four days and pick it up when I got back. 

I hopped in the car at 9am, directions printed out on the passenger seat.  I had to take three freeways to get there – the 101, 110 and the 405.  The 101 was pretty congested, but I got through.  I almost missed the exit for the 110, but some nifty maneuvering got me over there.  Score one for Jesse.

As I got onto 110, three lights started going off under my odometer and I noticed that the hood of the car was piping smoke.  Score one for Los Angeles.

I started to panic, and realized I needed to get off the road as soon as possible.  Traffic had brought me to a complete halt.  After ten seconds the car in front of me started to go.  I went to follow but nothing happened.  My car was completely dead, and I was in the middle lane of the highway, smoke billowing out from under the hood.

I tried to start it.  Nothing.  Cars are honking at me. 

This is the part where I lose my “gee golly it’s all part of the LA Experience” attitude and I start screaming expletives at the top of my lungs.  Had I been on a Broadway stage, the folks in the back row would have appreciated my effort.  I start to consider getting out of the car and walking to LAX airport with no intention of ever stepping foot in this cesspool again.  One last try…

It starts.

 

 

How about a little Casxio before you go?  Here’s video from a live show, with Eric Saez on the guitar: