Midweek Rant #21: The New York Times

February 22, 2010

The Los Angelification of Jesse Gavin is damn near complete: new lease, new phone number, new bike.

Yes.  I ride a bike in Los Angeles.  And no, I didn’t mean to say “Californiacation”.  Copyright issues aside, it refers to an entire state, and I’ll be damned if I start getting all “NorCal”.

One ghost of my life in New York City still haunts me, however.  But as I was deciding which newspaper I wanted to get delivered to my new apartment for the morning read, it occurred to me that the choice is neither geographical nor cultural.  It’s a question of dignity.

The Los Angeles Times is – just – so…bad.  Part of why I started reading the paper in the first place was so done could get myself a bit more smarter.  I was blessed to live in a city where anyone that was willing to spring for more than a quarter would reflexively go for the New York Times.  Better yet, if you didn’t get it for a dollar at the corner bodega in the morning time, you could get it for fifty cents on the street at 3pm for the Afternoon Special.  And there you were, reading some of, if not the, best in-depth investigative reporting around.

Regulations of prep school basketball teams.  Recruitment practices of Pharmaceutical Companies for sales reps.  Slumlords keeping off heat during the winter in Bronx apartment buildings.  These are just a few of the exposes I read over the years that went on to bring about massive overhauls.  The New York Times didn’t just report news, it made it happen.  And every article, regardless of the section, went above and beyond, making up for any agendas or slants with fecundity of information.  My decision was not about New York versus Los Angeles, it was about Journalism versus Dibbity Doo.

Sometimes when I see people reading Us Weekly, I kneel down and thank God for the Freedom of Press.  To think that famed 18th Century Shakespearean actor David Garrick could sell out an entire run of Richard the Third without having to hold a press conference owning up to his infidelities.  It makes me shudder.  Not to mention his slouchy posture when on holiday.  It’s just good to know that all these celebrities now understand that just because they’re on vacation, doesn’t mean they can get away with a little flab hanging out while they’re on the beach.  Suck it in, Ewan McGregor.

I’ve always cut the New York Times a little slack when it comes to advertising because a business is a business, and they’ve gotta make some money to keep prices down.  And given that they place the bulk of the emaciated models sporting jewelry in the main news section, perhaps it’s more of a reflection of their personal belief that the well read ought to be pressured into materialism and eating disorders just like the rest of them.  What, you think your fancy college degree means you shouldn’t hate yourself when you look in the mirror?  Our readers don’t get special treatment…

Walking to the bus from my apartment in West Hollywood, I got a New York Times for two dollars and twenty cents at a newsstand outside the Kings Road Café.  It’s not 2005 anymore.  Two dollars for the paper and twenty cents for the Governor of California.  Walking past the Hollywood types taking turns pitching ideas, I felt proud of my decision.  Everyone at this Entertainment Biz haunt was trying to spin something; sell an idea that’s probably no good.  Buzz words and bullet points flew as talk avoided addressing the script in the entirety, but rather the five trailer moments.

The thing is, I don’t like a news article with less than 30 paragraphs.  12 paragraphs ain’t news, it’s just a really long headline.  Just because I’ve decided that LA people are in fact my people, doesn’t mean I have to get my news from the LA Times.  I can have both.

And wouldn’t you know?!  First page on the Arts Section there’s an article about a bunch of Filmmakers based in Los Angeles called Blue-Tongue Films.  I’m completely engrossed in the article, having just walked by the hotel they did the interview at.  I’m on the first sentence of Paragraph 8 when it’s interrupted by Continued on Page 4.  The sentence ends up looking like this:

“None of us could get into film school; I tried,” said

Continued on Page 4

It’s times like this when I think of the slogan “The New York Times: All the News That’s Fit to Print”.  It’s not “All the News That We Can Format Into a Pretty Layout”.  Sentences are arbitrarily cut off where they’re cut off and the article will be continued where they can fit it.  Because it’s fit to print.  It’s not fit to be formatted.

This was a particularly good “cliffhanger”, if you will.  I took a quick peek at the five guys in the picture before I turned to page four, devilishly wondering which one of these young chaps said this delightfully ironic statement.

“Maybe it’s the one with the fedora!” I thought loudly in my head, scanning the occupants of the 720 Bus to make sure I had in fact said it in my head and not aloud.  I turned one page, focused on keeping my train of thought while checking out what articles were waiting for me on Pages 2 and 3.  “Ooh!  A theater review by Jason Zinoman – he tells it like it is!”.  My brain still holding onto the cliffhanger, I turned the page and quickly searched for the remainder of the article on Page 4.

Wha?

Page 4 didn’t have the rest of the article at all.  All it had was a giant ad for Up in the Air with George Clooney.  The ad was full of sensational quotes from glowing reviews, none of which were from the New York Times.  I always chuckle when this is the case, because A.O. Scott isn’t in the business of handing out gems to the marketing team the way Peter Travers is.

Surely this is some mistake.  I quick go back to the first page and in fact it says “Continued on Page 4”.  I then turn back to Page 4 and look up at the top left corner to see if in fact it is “C4”.

C3A

Turning my attention to what I once thought would be page C5, my eyes painfully drift upwards along the giant Avatar ad touting the masturbatory Time Magazine quote towards the top right hand corner, where the page number C3B was shamelessly printed.  My muscles, weakened from my dimming outlook on the world, managed to make a turn-of-page happen.

Oh, sad day.  As my eyes focused on the horror of “C3C” and “C3D”, I started to wonder if the day might come when a page of the Thursday Arts might be named after a droid from the original Star Wars Trilogy.  Oh, sad day.

Fortunately it’s only 2010: the year I decided to hate the New York Times.  The page after C3D was in fact the coveted C4, followed by the equally sought after C5.  What made these pages so in demand?  Why they contained the follow ups to every single article started on C1.  Way to go, New York Times!  Filled with rage, I imagined a real life person running things over at the Times, so I could hate something more tangible than an entire newspaper.

We personify so we can cope:


Thank you for reading.  I really appreciate you being there for me.  But despite all this abuse, I’ve decided to subscribe to the New York Times anyway.  It just feels so comfortable, and I’m sure I can get it to change.  And truth be told, there’s a part of me that knows deep down I can’t do any better.

Oh, sad day.


Midweek Rant #20: The Ambiguous Red Zone

November 30, 2009

When I got a job in Santa Monica, I was warned.

“Everyone walks around with yoga mats and reusable shopping bags – dude, it’s the worst.”

While I don’t fully get the problem with people doing yoga and/or bringing along a reusable bag, I understood the point.  I was about to start working in the Liberal Elite Capital of Southern California.  It’s hard to say whether it was the four year old daughter or the hippie wife of the founder of Santa Monica’s Bus System that got to come up with the name “The Big Blue Bus”.  Either way, it’s fitting for a city where a hybrid trumps a Corvette in terms of status symbols.

I can’t say I have all that much issue with the people of Santa Monica.  People are either really friendly or they’re in some sort of zombie state (whether induced by a chanting circle or a good old fashioned pass-the-doobie session).  You get the occasional crabby rich person, but a smile can easily put them in a happy place – something I was never able to achieve in Manhattan.

So do I love Santa Monica?  Am I going to marry it?  Huh?  Tree Hugger?

I wish I could say yes, but there exists one major hurdle for me to ever consider marrying it.  Fortunately it won’t be expensive for the city to fix its major flaw.  At Home Depot you can get a can of paint for about 14 dollars, which means for 28 dollars, all my woes can go right out the window (assuming they already have a paint brush).

So how ‘bout it Santa Monica?  Buy a couple cans of paint and get to work on the sidewalks so I know where I’m allowed to park.  Then we can talk marriage.

For those of you that have never had the pleasure, I’ve included some pictures.  You’ll notice the paint job from 1978.  It’s chipped away, so it’s only half red.  Does that mean I only get half a ticket?  Or do the newly painted hash marks in the street trump the color on the sidewalk?  I just don’t know!  But I’m guessing the guy in the hybrid parking enforcement car knows, so I make sure to always avoid the ambiguous red zone.  This can be rather difficult sometimes, since the non-ambiguous white zone will usually leave enough room for my compact Jetta plus four inches.  Maybe it’s meant to send a message to people with big gas guzzlers?

 

For anyone interested in policy making in general, I dug up footage from the 1982 Santa Monica City Council Meeting, the first of 28 consecutive years in which a motion for repainting the curbs was denied.  Check it out:

 


Chapter 30: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

July 20, 2009

As you may have read in my cliffhanger of a final chapter, I decided to become an actor again.

(throw scarf over my shoulder): An Actor

I assigned myself an arbitrary date to begin being an actor again (July 6th) and wouldn’t you know that just three days into my return to the actor state of mind, I landed myself a commercial audition.

 

 

The mental and psychological vacation I took from acting was truly wonderful.  That fire that led the nineteen year-old version of me to cut down on the Physics classes and start packing in the Theater electives had returned, and felt stronger than ever.

But that didn’t mean I was back to smooth sailing.  No, no.  I was in Los Angeles, where all the things that drove me nuts about acting were amplified to cartoonish levels.  The beautiful people were more beautiful, the skeezy people were skeezier, and white teeth were straight up blinding.  I had given my brain the resting time I knew it needed, and only while waiting for this audition did I truly understand how important that time was.

“Up next, huh?”  Came a voice from a scruffy looking fellow in plaid shorts.  No doubt I’d be seeing a lot of this guy if my hair remained so unkempt and people kept writing commercials for no-good couch slobs.

“Yeah”

“On deck”

“Yup.”

“They should have bats” he said, miming a swing to keep me from going that furry-flying-creature route.

“Haha, yeah” I said, deciding to join in to the banter.  “Or what or those things called – donuts?”

“Yeah.  By the time you get up to the plate your shoulder is sore.”

“Yeah.  Ha.”

“That’d be hilarious, if like a prima donna baseball player got up to bat and was like, no I’m tired.”

“Yeah” I forced some laughter, suppressing the Larry David side of myself.  “Or like he throws out his shoulder and they have to get a pinch hitter.”

“Yeah – that’d be hilarious…”

 

Now before I can finish the sentence, I need to make sure we’re on the same page.  If you’ve ever taken an acting class you probably heard the teacher talk about the importance of “the ellipsis”.  In laymen’s terms it is called “dot-dot-dot”.  It implies something is going on in the head of the speaker.  Something is coming.  Something is brewing…

Having lived this actor’s life before, I knew what it was.

The first major antagonist in ”TLOJG:Actor” was an insidious one.  There were so many things about it that were infuriating.  The feeling that this conversation was nothing but a networking ploy.  The feeling that my part in this conversation was merely as a sounding board, or perhaps the wall that an aspiring lacrosse player throws the ball against when he lacks a partner.  And even worse, the feeling that that which you hold so dearly in life has been reduced to a desperate attempt to produce something that somebody might like.  During the painful three dots when it was clear I was speaking to a villain, this is the reduced play-by-play of what went down in my head:

I consider jumping for cover.  Realizing that there is nowhere to hide, I consider running away as fast as possible with my hands over my ears.  Remembering the audition that I was about to go in for, for the high paying commercial, I scratch that and consider quickly punching this guy in the face before he can say it.  Noticing the casting director’s assistant in my peripheral I remember that old adage about treating everyone with respect since you don’t know what they may become, I consider not punching him just in case in ruins my professional relationship with her.  Not really doing it for me, I realize that the urge to punch this guy far outweighs my longing for a successful acting career.  About to punch the guy in the face, I remember the other old adage my grandmother told me about not punching people in the face.  So I don’t.  I let him say it, and I respond the way an actor has to.

The aforementioned ellipsis only actually lasted about two and a half seconds.  But I’ve been here before, and can go through such an elaborate thought pattern in the blink of an eye.

Rewinding so as to include the entire phrase:

“Yeah – that’d be hilarious…that’d be a great sketch.”

Yes.  Just in case you don’t know this, every conversation you ever have with a comedian or, God forbid, an improv actor, will ultimately lead to a phrase along these lines.  Other options are “that would be a great skit/bit/web-series.”

This makes me want to stab my eyeballs out.  I have resisted getting involved in sketch comedy all these years, ever since the party I went to where I realized that every single conversation happening around me was in fact a structured long form improv scene.  Is there no turning these people off?

But as I write this I can’t help but wonder what makes me think I am above this.  Here I am, writing a blog about what happens to me in my life.  What the deal, Gavin?  Huh?  You think you’re so much better than all them and here you are, with the blog you say you’re gonna turn into a show.  What a hypocrite.

Good point, voice of hypothetical reader.  That’s why this was my answer:

“Yeah man.  That’d be a great sketch.”

That’s right, I played the game.  I winced in anticipation, having opened the door for the follow up phrase: “hey, we should get together and flesh something out.”  Here it comes.  Here it comes…

“Jesse Gavin?”

Saved by the Casting Director.

I walked into the audition room, and into safety.  Exiting the room I was once again saved when the other guy got called in.  I gave him a wave whilst walking with the kind of pace that indicated I had somewhere I had to be.

This whole “being an actor again” thing is going to be harder than I thought.


Chapter 29: Judgment Day

June 29, 2009

Time had been passing, and I had been meeting all sorts of people that were their own unique mixture of wonderful, interesting, crazy and fun.

But what the heck was I doing here?  Didn’t I move to Los Angeles to be an actor?  Sheesh, I’d only been on one audition since arriving, and I got it through my friend from High School.  What was I doing in this town?

I started asking myself these questions as “Judgement Day” approached.  May 7th would be my six month mark.  You may recall from my first week of being in Los Angeles that I damn near walked to the airport to buy a one way ticket to New York.  I instead made a pact with myself to stay a solid six months before I made any decisions.

But what decision would I make?  I had stopped pining for NYC some time ago.  But was Los Angeles really where I wanted to be?

One month before Judgement Day I took a very definitive step in moving into a guest house-style room that was offered to me by my old pal, singer extraordinaire Jes Hudak.  As Jes was a friend, and not some random Colombian dude, renting a room from her was a little different.  If I decided I wanted to bail in four weeks, I’d be inconveniencing a friend as opposed to a landlord.  So taking this step more or less solidified my place in Los Angeles.

But what for?

I certainly had to stay for a while just to restore my bank account.  I started looking for a second job, which would be necessary regardless of what my decision would be on Judgement Day.

As opposed to looking for a job in close proximity to my new place, I opted for just the opposite.  I wanted to work in a completely new neighborhood, so that I could explore even more of LA.  The thing is, I really love LA.  There are so many areas and so many amazing people.  I loved going to Kings hockey games at the Staples Center.  I just started going to baseball games at Dodgers Stadium.  I loved checking out new venues to see music.  New restaurants, new coffee houses, new parks.  There was so much, and I was fully aware that I had just started to scratch the surface of it all.  I loved LA – all of it.

I secured a second job in Santa Monica and started training at the end of April.  Although I had yet to reach Judgement Day, I officially started a new phase of my life I projected would last about two months: Operation Sanity.  The goal was to not go insane, given how busy I would be.

I had yet to actually step foot in Santa Monica before my interview.  It seemed so far away, despite the fact that it only took about forty-five minutes to get there.  It may as well have been in Japan.  But walking into my first day of training, I could tell it was a part of town I was going to really enjoy.  My coworkers were beyond lovely, and I was happy with my new place of employment.  Walking out onto the street at 5pm, I took a deep breath of the crisp air and a smile came over my face.

“Hey man” asked a teenager passing the other way, perhaps prompted by my big grin.  “You wanna do some ‘shrooms?”

I was a bit thrown off.  “Uh…”

“Yeah man, I’ve got some shrooms, you wanna do some?” he repeated, this time calling attention to the brown lunch bag in his hand.

“Um – oh.  No thanks, man.  I appreciate it though.”

Noticing the perplexed look on my face, the kid felt the need to explain his unsolicited offer.  “You just look like the type of dude that likes to do shrooms.”

Welcome to Santa Monica, Jesse.

Unfortunately this was the only time this happened to me.  Not that I wanted to actually do shrooms with this kid, but I would’ve liked it if he was always kind of hanging out outside my work, hoping that this would be the day that I’d be down to shroom with him.  He just seemed so excited about the prospect of it.

Reflecting on this bizarre run-in, I was only further reminded of the lack of purpose I had in this town.  Sure, I didn’t want to do shrooms, but what was it I that I ought to be doing to keep me from a nice little hallucinogenic trip after working my day job?

Acting?

Ah, jeez.  Acting.  I’ve been avoiding it for so long.  But if I’m not here to act, then what the hell am I here for?  Where’s the kid with the shrooms?  May as well, right?

Since I’d been in Los Angeles the only thing I’d been sticking to was this blog.  I’d dabbled in music a bit, but not to the extent to make me think I can do it day in and day out the way that’s necessary.  Should I quit acting and be a writer?  Ah jeez, that would mean I wouldn’t get to act anymore. 

Feeling a bit lost, I attended a Casxio concert the night before the 7th.  That would be the 6th.  Judgement day looming over me, I thought it best to just dance the night away.  And dance I did.  One thing I love about LA is how much more socially acceptable it is to dance.  That’s not to say everyone does, or even most people do.  Rather that if you decide to you won’t be as ridiculed as you would in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

After the show, I decided to stick around and have a drink.

“Dude, how’s it going?” I hear behind me, a hand gripping my shoulder.

This guy?

There he was: Jay.  I’ve talked to this guy a net total of seven times in my life, but for some reason I always thought of him as a really good friend.  Sometimes you just get that from people with no way to reason it. 

“How’s LA treating you.”

Funny you should ask.  I broke it down for Jay, explaining to him the circumstances that led to me needing to leave to New York to my uncertainty about why I should be here.

“I’m not going to tell you what you should do, but I’ll just say this – you have to love LA.”

Yes.  Go on…

“You can’t look at this town as a place you’re going to just live for a while ‘til you can build your career and make enough money to move somewhere else.  People smell that shit.  That’s what I did when I first moved here, and nothing went right.  But if you love this town.  If you love everything about it – it will love you back.”

Well, shit, Jay.

I can’t help but think it was fate that Jay just decided to give me advice that night.  It was the fourth time I’d seen him since I’d been in LA, and he didn’t bother on any of the other occasions.  This was just what I needed to hear.

If I was going to stay in this town, I needed to embrace everything about it that it had to offer me.

Feeling as though the problem was solved, I went to bed only to wake up the next morning thinking to myself – so what does that mean?

Feeling kind of crappy, I decided to hit up a yoga class before work.  I was hoping to take some time and sit down with myself to assess everything as part of Judgment Day.

I guess it’d have to wait.

So there I was, mid-yoga pose, when it came to me.

A TV Show.  Based on my move out here.  Based on this blog. 

No!  Don’t do that, Jesse!  You hate stuff like that, right?

I do.  I hate when people essentially turn their life into a screenplay and expect other people to give a shit.

Feeling a bit deflated, I took a deep breath while in child’s pose (the yogi maverick was doing Warrior 2).

Then it came to me – the economy.

“The Economy”.  A show about a guy that loses his job and moves to a crazy house.

There it is.  And so this lame and crappy post puts an end to the Chapter portion of my blog.  I thank all of my readers from the bottom of my heart for reading.  I’m off to start writing something that will only be of use in Los Angeles…

‘Til the next wacky experience necessitates a Chapter – Jesse Gavin


Midweek Rant #19: Organic Getting the Jesus Treatment

June 25, 2009

I went to Church for the first time for anything other than a wedding or funeral when I was nineteen years old.  A kid had died at my college and I was feeling a bit weird about mortality.  I had also just read, for the very first time ever, parts of the Bible as part of my required Humanities I Class.  Expecting the Bible to be all about judging people and starting wars, I was pleasantly surprised that the focus was instead on love and forgiveness.  Who knew?

Neither of my parents were big fans of Religion.  My dad doesn’t speak much on the topic, occasionally pointing out that the only thing the Nuns at his Catholic School taught him was how to take a beating.  My mom recounts being scolded and humiliated by a priest when she was a kid with a wacky idea (life on other planets).  The last straw for her was when my oldest brother, four years old at the time, kept assuring my mom that she couldn’t find her keys because the devil was hiding them.  When she finally found them, he rejoiced that God had guided her, and without Him she would still be looking.  By the time I was born, we weren’t a Church-going family anymore.

There was no vendetta happening here.  We just didn’t go to Church is all.  Given how busy we were with sports, there was never a Sunday in which we weren’t running around from soccer field to soccer field or hockey rink to hockey rink.  Sunday was the day of sports, as opposed to the day of not-going-to-Church.  But throughout the years I heard the comments, not so much from my family, but from people in general.  The derogatory explanations of what Church is all about.  It’s a bunch of hypocrites, they’d say.  I started to notice that the people that actually did go to Church didn’t seem to be any more moral than people that did.  Then George Carlin pointed out that 90% of all the people ever killed in War were fighting over God.

Hmm, I thought.  But here I was, sitting in a wonderful Church, making sense of a terrible tragedy that had happened at my school.  I felt a warm sense of welcome from the other Church goers.  I went back home and read more.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more inspired than I was when I read about Jesus.  Chocked full of love, forgiveness, and strength, I was really starting to get why He is such a big deal.  Then it happened.

I don’t know if it was the age I was at, or if it was a shift in general sentiment, or if perhaps it was just my relocation to New York City.  Everyone started to hate Jesus.  They’d quote the telethons and pretend they were preachers.  “Oh, Jesus is going to save you!” mocked the Emo kid.  Like anyone trying to sell an idea, the Church was only fueling the fire with billboards that said “Got Jesus” and “WWJD” bracelets showing up everywhere.

Because I hadn’t been raised in the Church, I didn’t have particularly strong feeling about it.  I didn’t get beaten like my dad, I didn’t get humiliated like my mom, and I didn’t get molested like an alarmingly high number of friends I’ve known throughout the years.  I was never given any reason to hate Jesus.  At worst, I would just ignore Him.

After years of holding my tongue I finally started asking people what it was they hated about Jesus so much.  After all, Jesus was the name that was being mocked all the time, in response to the fact that Jesus was the one that was being praised all the time.  What I found was a whole lot of answers that had nothing to do with JC.  I’ve yet to actually talk to someone that actually has an issue with Jesus.  People will go off about the Church and about Sunday School and about Rod from down the street who judges everyone and then (insert terrible thing).  But JC?  Scratch free.

I like to call this phenomenon the Jesus Treatment.  Basically, it happens when something is great, but those people surrounding or promoting it are sometimes not so great.  It doesn’t take much for something to get the Jesus treatment, and I see lots of stuff getting it today.

 

 

There’s many many examples out there, but what’s been bugging me as of late has been “Organic”.  The idea of organic is that you make food, like, for real.  You don’t add anything a chemist invented in a lab, whether it be in the fertilizer or as a pesticide.

What a bunch of douche bags.  I like chemicals in my food very much.  No chemicals?  Oooooh – la dee da, Monsieur Organique.  Organic this, organic that.  A bunch of rich liberals going to Whole Foods trying to be better than everyone else.  Oh, and I hear it’s good for the Environment!  Wah, wah, wah, the Environment.  I need to save the planet, because I love hugging trees and rolling in dirt.

Organic is a good thing.  Just because advertisers abuse the shit out of the word, and people tend to get their panties in a bunch over it, doesn’t mean that it’s not good.  People get annoyed by this Organic idea.  But consider this – why is it that Organic food is labeled as opposed to non-Organic food being labeled?  Like a sticker on every banana telling you how much pesticide was used to make it, or if it’s genetically modified? 

Then there wouldn’t be such a thing as “Organic” food and people would have nothing to give the Jesus Treatment.

I’m just sayin’.

 

With all this talk of religion, I feel it’s necessary to include this video of Jesse Gavin singing Amazing Grace:


Chapter 28: War Stories, Part 3

June 22, 2009

When we last left off, Space Cadet Sharon had just belittled Connecticut Chris and me for being so concerned about the battle of wild beasts taking place on the roof.

“My village got bombed once a week when I was a kid” was her simple and concise explanation.

How do you argue with that?

What was so intriguing about Space Cadet Sharon was not so much her childhood spent in a war torn Middle Eastern Country, or her subsequent move to Germany where her family lived in a refugee community, nor was it her move after high school to San Antonio, Texas, not the most ideal place for a Muslim to settle down in the United States.  What was so fascinating about Sharon was that it was hard to imagine her having ever stepped foot out of the city limits of Beverly Hills.

A beautiful girl to say the least, Sharon’s striking looks were meticulously enhanced with what sometimes seemed like hours of doing her hair and makeup.  I’d imagine this is a bit of an exaggeration, as is bound to happen when 11 people share 1 bathroom.  But man oh man did she seem to take forever.  It paid off, however, as she seemed to always look “camera ready”.  It was easy to forget that her life had not been spent in the part of LA with the White Street Signs, but from time to time you’d get a sobering reminder.

This was one of those times.  Sharon got her yogurt and went back to her room.  Connecticut Chris and I looked at each other in emasculated shame.

You kind of had to be careful what you said around Sharon.  One time someone mentioned that the food they were eating was organic and the volcano erupted:

“Ugh!  You people with your organic.  Organic, organic, organic!  Everything has to be so – ugh!  Why can’t things just be things.”  Feeling the need to justify her outburst, she reminded everyone: “I’m sorry, I just – I work at an organic spa, and I get sick of it sometimes.”

Note to self: Ease up on the O-talk.

Sharon’s frustrations were countered by her child-like enjoyment of messing with people.  I noticed a few times she had strung people along with some sort of white lie, getting that twisted sense of satisfaction that we all enjoy from time to time.  Ha ha – I fooled you!  (you know the kind).  Despite having noticed this quality about her, I still wasn’t able to tell whether or not her being pregnant was just a plot to mess with me or was in fact a complicated matter she was dealing with.  It came up so naturally.

Talking about one of the new roommates, she mentioned that she didn’t feel comfortable around him yet.  “He doesn’t even know I’m pregnant.  I just don’t see him as, like, that kind of a friend.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit.  “Pregnant?”

“Shut up” she said, playfully hitting me with that extra oomph to let me know that I should really not joke about that.  Seeing a mystified look on my face, she felt the need to check in: “I told you I was pregnant, don’t start with that.  Oh what, did you just think I was getting fat?”

Come to think of it, I guess I had noticed that Sharon had put on a few pounds.  I’m not the sort that goes out of my way to keep tabs on my roommates’ physical appearance, so the fact that I had noticed speaks of how noticeable it must’ve been.

I decided to let it go, as the subject quickly changed back to the new roommate.

I felt like there was a 50/50 chance that she was really pregnant.  There was no indication whatsoever that she was trying to pull a fast one on me, and the only reason I thought she might not be pregnant is because she had also told me she was celibate as part of her faith.  Who knows with Space Cadet Sharon.   I decided to keep my ears peeled and not bring up the topic.

A few nights later a typical scenario went down.  Sharon was hanging out by Chris’s computer as he was retouching her headshots and editing a reel for her.  I was on an earlier schedule at the time, so I was in the habit of falling asleep with the light on during their boisterously fun conversations.  I had decided to turn in, but was unable to actually fall asleep.  After  few minutes of silence, I hear Sharon quickly shift gears.

“I think Jesse is asleep” she said in a somber tone, allowing me an opportunity to speak up with a very long pause.  “I hate him.”

I could tell in the way she said this that she was not talking about me, but rather someone that had previously been discussed between the two of them.

“I know it’s wrong to hate, but I really hate him for what he did.”  I could sense the awkwardness on Chris’s part as he chose not to say anything.  “It’s not too late for me to get rid of it” she said after a long pause.

Whoa.

Chris kind of chuckled at this out of discomfort with the topic and was quickly quieted by an “it’s not funny” from Sharon.  “I’m only ten weeks, I have until twelve before I have to decide.  It’s going to make my life miserable.  Miserable.  I can’t afford to raise a kid.  I know that sounds terrible Chris, but it’s really going to make me an angry person, but the only other option is…it’s wrong.  I can’t do that to a living being.”

So at this point I am technically supposed to be asleep.  This being a common scenario, it’s safe to say that Sharon was just waiting for me to zonk out ‘til she had her talk with Chris.  The two of them were pretty close, and maybe she felt comfortable confiding with him on such subjects.

Or maybe she is an incredible liar. 

How could I think this?  What a horrible person I am to think that the pickle this poor girl had found herself in was actually a fabrication created solely for the purpose of having fun with me.  What a jerk I am.  I finally managed to doze off, not wanting to hear any more of this without knowing if it was meant for my ears or not.  I’d have to wait this one out.

“Jesse, you got something from Screen Actors Guild and something from Progressive” said Lamar as he handed me two pieces of mail a few days later.  Several us were hanging out in the living room working on our respective laptops.  I took my two pieces of mail and went back to my email.

“Whoever ‘current resident’ is got sent a magazine on pregnancy” I heard Lamar say as I was typing away, a clear bemusement in his voice at the idea of someone in this house actually needing such a publication.  The same type of bemusement I heard in his voice when “Life Extension” Magazine came addressed to me, compliments of my grandmother.  Not that we don’t all want to extend our lifespans, it’s just an odd magazine to see show up in the mail is all.

“That’s mine!” chirped Sharon.  I looked up to see a big smile on her face as she took the magazine and retired to her room. 

No one said anything about what had just happened.

Hmm.  At this point I’m starting to think myself a bit of a jerk for ever doubting the veracity of her claim.  A few nights later, however, when she lights up a cigarette on the porch after it being proffered by a new French girl, I got to thinking.  I got to thinking why she was smoking a cigarette, especially since she had always given Celeste such a hard time about how bad it is for you.  And here she was smoking.  That was odd by itself.  Add in the fact that she allegedly pregnant, and I couldn’t help but see the light.  This was clearly being done to test me.  Would I tell her to stop smoking because she is pregnant?  Did I even believe it at this point?  She was testing the waters, and it was necessary for her to do something she had always been so adamantly against in order to do it.

This girl isn’t pregnant, she’s crazy.  And she is messing with me.

Or was she?  Oh dear God, it’s an odd thing to accuse someone of, don’t you think?  And the way everything was happening was so natural that it would have required very careful calculation. 

I decided to rest on it.  A few days later she came into the house and seemed very upset.  A bit wary, I asked her what was wrong, fearing the possibility that it would be something about the “baby”.

“I had my heart broken tonight.” 

I didn’t like where this was going.  Get to the point, Sharon!  What about the baby broke your heart tonight?  Huh?!  I regretted asking.

“What happened?” I reflexively asked, biting my tongue just a moment too late.

Now that I had set the ball rolling, she’d be able to run with the pregnancy thing and it would once again seem unforced.

“This big time talent manager that comes into my work found out that I was an actor and told me I’d never be able to be an A-List or even a B-List actor because I’m Persian.”

Whoa.

Ostensibly Middle Eastern, Sharon was constantly having to hear people’s thoughts on how her ethnicity fit into her acting options.  It’s odd that I never gave this too much weight, as I am well aware from my time in New York how important external appearance is, Hollywood obviously being worse.  All I ever thought of Sharon as was beautiful and seeming like she’s from Beverly Hills.  How could I not realize how big of an issue this was?  She went on to talk about how she didn’t even ask this guy’s opinion or anything and how Slumdog Millionaire cleaned up at the Academy Awards and how it just plainly sucked that people couldn’t have an open mind about things.  It killed me to hear all this, as Sharon was terribly talented and worked extremely hard on her career in the little spare time she had from her two survival jobs at the aforementioned organic spa and as a greeter at a gym.

As Sharon vented her frustrations, I thought to myself that it might not be the right time to ask if she was really pregnant.  When I found out weeks later through Connecticut Chris that she wasn’t, it made it even harder for me.  Clearly this lady is a great actor.  She’s also smart enough to think of ways to not make things too obvious.  If the great lengths she went to to play a trick on me is not indicative of a great sense of humor, then I don’t know what is.  And here she was in Hollywood, the best place for her to be.  A place where people are accepted for who they are.  And yet…

Something she’d never be able to change would be the first thing people would think of when they met her.  And it wouldn’t be the Beverly Hills quality she exudes.  It wouldn’t be the hours she spent hogging the bathroom in order to do her hair and makeup.  It wouldn’t even be the crazy brain of hers that devised a plan to make me think she was pregnant, just for kicks.  It would be her ethnicity.  And this would be her battle.


Midweek Rant #18: Telling Old People They’re Going to Die

June 18, 2009

It’s safe to say we’ve reached that point where it’s socially acceptable to tell people they’re going to die from smoking cigarettes.

I myself fall into the very large category of “only when I’m drinking” smokers.  This, the largest group of twenty-somethings, would be willing to name their first-born children after you if you were to bum them a cigarette at a party or outside a bar.  Fortunately there exists this arena in which smokers can not only avoid vilification, but also achieve ‘hero’ status by providing a fag to someone that’s totally jonesin’.

Outside of this arena, however, the “only when I’m drinking” smokers will keep quiet and be of no assistance as the “never would I ever” smokers sling rocks of Truth at poor, defenseless, and helplessly addicted smokers.  Clearly not having enough will power to beat their addiction, they are no match for the self righteous do gooders on a quest to rid the world of this awful plant…tobacco.

I have known “never would I ever” folk that would do hard drugs – mushrooms, cocaine – and yet they would go out of their way to scold someone for smoking.  Lots of people smoke pot, which contains as many if not more carcinogens than tobacco, and for some reason they just don’t “get” how people could smoke cigarettes.  Someone might be an absolutely perfect citizen and do nothing wrong at all, and yet still they will be an asshole and a hypocrite if they choose to berate someone for exercising a God-given freedom in a legal manner, when done in a courteous and respectful way.  Yes, cigarettes are terrible.  But two wrongs don’t make a right.  

People are people, and we like to put each other down when possible.  It’s a bummer, but it happens.  But regardless of how much veracity there is in the attack, I find it completely unacceptable when this is done to old people.

Here’s the thing.

Old people have lived much longer than you, and no matter how smart you think you are, they are smarter…because they lived longer than you.  Sure, they don’t even know how to turn on a computer, let alone send an email.  They don’t know how to do that crazy hard Calculus problem you got right on your last exam.  They may have only been educated through the 8th grade, but trust me – they’re smarter than you.

They understand that smoking is bad for them.  If you were as smart as they were, you’d understand that telling them they’re going to die from smoking is not going to help them quit.  Please stop talking down to them and let them enjoy the rest of their lives.