Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hollywood Ending

It's New Years' Eve and I can't find anyone to be nice to. No one is around. Even the homeless people I want to give my recycling to are not hanging out at their usual spot by the dumpsters in back of the corner liquor store. Mr. Foxypants and I will be ringing in the New Year by watching a marathon of MAD MEN episodes and eating Chinese take-out like the crabby shut-ins we are.

Okay. I admit it. I'm too lazy to find someone to be nice to today. I just want spend all day in relaxed contemplation.

Oh, why is it that I cannot talk about self-reflection without sounding like a self-involved twit?


I am a failure. As far as my 2008 pledge to be nice every day...well, I didn't do it. Finding 365 new and inventive ways of being nice for no good reason is much harder than I ever anticipated. That, and I'm a crappy memoirist, so even when I was nice, there were many days that I just didn't get around to writing stuff down.

But even though my resolve was shoddy, and my follow-though haphazard, being consciously and actively nice had many unintended positive consequences:

1. Not only did I pay down my debt, but unlike everyone else I know, I can actually say that I am better off financially than I was last year.

2. My charity allowed me to downsize my material possessions by a whopping 85% without feeling a sense of deprivation or guilt. In fact, I found the entire process liberating. Less things = less things to dust. Duh. Simplifying my life by getting rid of my stuff has brought me a level of mental peace I've not had in years.

3. Being nice has brought me new friends and strengthened my relationship with the friends I already had. There are many ways to be rich that don't involve money!

So, the experiment was a success?

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Umbrellas of East LA

She looked miserable.

Selling fruit as a curbside vendor in this city has to be a terrible job to begin with. All day long you face the rejection of hostile LA drivers, car exhaust, and a multitude of other annoyances that come with using a traffic median strip as your workplace.

I drove past the fruit seller on my way to the video store. She looked like a grumpy toadstool, squatting on a parched strip of parkway lawn, hunched under a small black umbrella that didn't even shade her feet, behind cardboard flats of mangos and sweaty bags of oranges. Today was one of those freakishly hot December days in Los Angeles that just makes me want to slap everyone who doubts the reality of global warming. The sun beating through my windows had turned my car into a sauna, so I knew that the fruit seller was not having a good time. She had perspiration stains that dipped halfway to the hem of her shirt.

Back at the house, I pulled a large nylon umbrella that I use to shade my chair on set out of the garage and put it in my car. I drove back to the fruit seller's corner and bought a flat of mangos before giving the fruit seller the big umbrella. "I thought this might give you better shade and it's very light" I said as I passed it to her. She took the umbrella exactly how she took my $5 bill for the fruit, without a word and without changing her sullen expression.

As I drove away, I watched the fruit seller in my review mirror. She tossed the big umbrella aside unopened and crouched back under her black umbrella. At that moment I realized that I had unintentionally insulted her dignity by bringing her unasked-for charity. I should have asked her if she wanted a larger umbrella before assuming I could just solve a problem for her. Or, maybe she's just rude. But the nice thing to do in this situation is to just assume responsibility so I don't repeat the possible offense to anyone else.

As I unpacked the mangos in my kitchen I discovered a surprise hidden in the bottom of the cardboard box:

A dozen cockroaches.

I spent the next 30 minutes, shoe in hand, staking out the corners of my kitchen and pantry, having visions of what horrible poisons I am going to have to bring into my house to conquer my possible future roach infestation.

That fruit lady sucks.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I found a random rubber stamp in the garage that says "cinnamon."

Where did this come from and why do I have this?

Today I walked it down to my local vegan restaurant, which just happens to be called CINNAMON, and gave the stamp to the very startled counter girl.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Wish I Had Thought of This!

In addition to a rash of people leaving presents and thank you cards on the doorsteps of fellow freecyclers, Leslie, a woman on my local freecycle group, has taken Christmas spirit one step further:

"Hope you all had a Merry Christmas. If you didn't get all the chocolate you wanted in your stocking, I have two Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate bars imported from Belgium.

Why Day 7?
Freecycle has been very helpful and generous to me over the years, so in the spirit of the season I am going around my house to find little presents that might brighten your day and give me the joy of giving it away...I will be offering 12 days of Christmas."

Wow! What a great idea. I wish I had thought of this!

I wrote Leslie a fan letter:


I'd just like to say you are awesome! What a great idea to pass along to other freecyclers! Thanks! I think I'm going to have to steal this one for next year."

She wrote me back:

"Yes, please feel free to freecycle the idea!! Spread the love...a ripple effect is awesome!

Here I am, spreading the love.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Paying (The Difference) Forward

December 19, 2008

I'm splitting the cost three ways on a $100 gift certificate for a journalist who has been indispensable to one of my projects this year. Yesterday, I sent the screenwriter, who is in charge of procuring the House of Pies legal tender, a check for $34.

I had a college room mate who ALWAYS shorted me on the extra penny whenever the bills were an odd amount. During the time we lived together, I probably spent only 80 cents more than she did on bills, but's the principle!

What irritated me most about that situation was that I never felt like I could confront her about her pettiness, without being, well, petty myself.

Since graduation, I've probably spent $8000 in extra one dollar increments on odd numbered payments because I was that annoyed by that extra three or four penny gouge I felt every month.

Today I received an email from the screenwriter: "You get extra points for sending the 100th dollar by sending in $34, not $33."

I'm pleased that he noticed my gesture, but sad that paying the difference is so unusual that he had to thank me for it.


December 20, 2008

Today I ran into Helen, a really old friend who I haven't seen in years, at Trader Joe's. She tells me that Pablo, the five year old son of two of our mutual pals is fighting cancer. Which is just the worst news. My heart just breaks as she gives me the horrible details of his chemotherapy.

Helen is running the direct donation blood bank for Pablo. Pablo is Type O. I am Type A+. I'm totally bummed I'm not a match, even though I'm too anemic to donate whole blood anyway.

Helen tells me that she's also short on platelet donors. "Oh my God!" I yell as I yank up my sweater sleeve, "Check out my track marks!" The two annoying women who were trying to shove by me to get at the German Wheat Beer, turn abruptly and skitter away before I can add, "I donate platelets twice a month!"

(Because there are no red blood cells in platelets--the clotting element in blood--it doesn't matter that I don't have the same blood type as Pablo).

I feel strangely honored to be able to donate my sticky blood product.

Go here for details on how to donate platelets to Pablo or another kid:

Go here to find out how you can help Pablo fight cancer:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do Nice Gestures Make Up For Mean Thoughts?

I know I sound like a jerk when I say this, but Margaret is dumb.

She's that person who asks you for directions, but never writes them down, insisting that she'll remember them and then calls you in a panic when she can't find your house...even though she's been there a dozen times.

Maybe she's had a stroke that I've never heard about or was in some terrible accident that damaged her brain. No. Really. If I found out that she'd been lobotomized as a young girl...well, that would explain a lot.

I hate it when Margaret shows up to book club. She never reads the right chapter or, on occasion, even the right book. But, that doesn't stop her from asking endless questions about what happened in each book, because she can't be bothered to finish any text. She appears startled every time someone suggests that she actually read the book that is up for discussion. And by every time I mean EVERY ding dang time.

This evening, I packed a bunch of my knitted hats into my book bag. I was hoping to get some last minute holiday sales from my fellow book worms who are fans of my needle work.

Then I left them, by accident, in my trunk.

My own personal dumbness made me slightly more tolerant of Margaret during the book club meeting, even though she fell asleep for about ten minutes, woke up with a start, and proceeded to ask the exact same question that someone else had asked during her nap.

I was on my way out the door when Margaret walked up to me. She usually accosts me on the way out the door, generally with a question about what I thought of x, y, or z. She usually tries to argue some point that I made during the meeting, even though she didn't read book.

"I'm collecting hats and scarves for children who are going through chemotherapy," she said. "Would you make one for charity? Their bald heads get cold easy."

Margaret, who makes me crazy with her dumbness, is collecting knitted hats for children with cancer. I stand there with my mouth agape as I try and gather up the pieces of my blown mind.

Then I give her my three softest hats.


December 15, 2008

Today I heard the most delicious gossip. The Fat One, a producer who has been pure evil to me, cried every day on the set of his last movie. He just couldn't take the pressure.

I try and rid myself of the pleasure I feel in the small, petty little lump of coal that is my heart. Knowing that he suffers really does make me want to clap my hands with glee and jump around.

But it doesn't make me a nice person.


Friday, December 12, 2008


Yep. That's me!

Today, Chase restored my $100,000 line of credit.

Ah! It's so nice to be out of financial quarantine.

Maybe I will be able to fix up my house enough to rent it out next year and not be so reliant on Hollywood for my main source of revenue.