Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Birthday Wishes

I wished for my boyfriend, Mr. Foxypants, and he came true. No really. It happened.

No, I didn't manifest him into being. It's not like I'm Oprah or anything.

I've had a crush on Mr. Foxypants since the moment I met him five years ago. "You have the best eyebrows EVER!" I blurted out when we were introduced. His eyebrows have high, swashbuckle-y arches and curl up at the end like Snidely Whiplash's mustache. They give him a distinctive, super-villain glamour. He is fun to look at. I gave him my best googley eyes. He returned my compliment with a blank stare. That's when I noticed his wedding band.


As we've got plenty of mutual friends, I would to run into Mr. Foxypants several times a year at parties around town. Our conversations usually began with him busting me for checking him out when I thought he wasn't looking. He was always funny, and charming and totally unavailable.

Flash forward to last year's birthday. I was turning 37 and had been single for approximately 54 years. As I blew out the candles on my birthday blueberry cobbler a sad, lonely feeling swept through me. "I wish I had a boyfriend like Mr. Foxypants." I know. Desperate and pathetic. An attractive combination.

Five days later I saw Mr. Foxypants at a party. His marriage had ended and he'd been single for several months. "I've been thinking about you." He said. Nine days later he moved into my house.

The incarnate being in charge of birthday wish is bad ass! I should really only use this power for good.

Tonight, as I blew out the candle on my birthday cupcake, I wished for a boyfriend for my friend Penny and a safe pregnancy and delivery for my friend Carolyn.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't Ever Change

My high school boyfriend is my favorite ex-boyfriend. He is the only ex-boyfriend I'd ever think about having sex with again. And not because he's so hot (and he certainly was extra delicious in high school), but for comparison purposes. "I'm so much better, right?" Is really the question I'd like to ask. Yes. I'm that competitive. And that insecure.

He's married to an aide to a senior republican senator and leads the happy life of a 1950's housewife in suburban Virginia. So even if Mr. Foxypants weren't the avatar of all that is good and beautiful in my life, my comparison would still not happen any time soon. My ex is still cool though. The last time I called him was right after 9/11, which is the last time I checked in with a lot of my pre-college friends. Although he now shows in galleries across the country, at that point in time he had just been written up for the first time in art publications for a large painting entitled "People I hated in High School." No. I didn't make the list. The source material for the piece was his high school yearbook which he chopped to bits.

In my seemingly endless purge of stuff from my house I came across my old year books, which I'm sending to my high school ex. Maybe more good art will come out of bad 80's hair.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Coffee for Parking

Let me just start out by saying that I'm so grateful for the DJ gig. It really has made the difference financially for us this year. But I will be so happy when we no longer need the additional $300 a week.

I'm sure I'd be crabbier about our six hour set that takes all of our Friday night if it weren't for the parking valet. He works an eight hour shift, outside, inhaling exhaust for probably minimum wage. So it's hard to stay grumpy about a job that consists of playing music of our choosing for $50 an hour when we see him, wearing his regulation bow tie, at the entrance to the garage, ready to start his night of reporting drunk drivers and giving change for twenty dollar bills.

He's always super friendly when we pull up. I get the feeling that most drivers don't have much to say to him, which is really too bad. Because like every other new immigrant, it's pretty clear from even the most casual conversation in broken English/Spanish that he had a much better job back home in El Salvador and is way to smart for the jobs he can get here.

Last night was really chilly and he was bundled up and sniffling. I gave him the cup of coffee I'd bought for myself so he could warm up. It totally made his day...which consists of another part time job as a security guard. I'm going to start bringing him a midnight snack every Friday, if only because he's always nice to us and reminds me that I'm so lucky that even my part time gig that I can't wait to give up is a dream job for most people.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pictures of Lily

Today, while cleaning out a cabinet, I discovered an envelope full of negatives and test prints of from Lily's wedding. Lily was once one of my best friends. We became friends right out of college, when we were still interns. I was one of her three bridesmaids. I haven't spoken to her in over a decade. Lily really pissed me off.

Lily is super smart and charismatic. She was on the fast track at an agency, working the desk of a powerful talent agent...who asked her to do extra work...after work...if you get my drift.

Lily sued for harrassment. Her stories of abuse were atrocious. It was like a bad Lifetime movie. You know, television for women? I totally supported her all the way to court as her agency friends began to shun her one by one. Yeah, she was the victim and all, but the perpetrator is the one who hands out the promotions. You should have heard their ugly rationales. It was so yucky and wrong.

But then weird things began to happen.

Lily had a miscarriage that she told mutual aquaintances about in great detail, but failed to mention to me, ever. She wrote a letter to the head of security at her sister's company alleging that her sister was a kleptomaniac who stole clothes from high end department stores. She romanced a female friend via email on a dating site pretending to be a man, and then spent hours counseling the friend on how to "move the relationship from the internet into real life."

I began to doubt Lily's credibility. Which made me feel like a terrible human being, like those horrible people who blame the rape victim.

Then the head of HR at the studio called me into her office to show me the hilarious letter that had been sent to her anonymously. It detailed my longstanding career as a shoplifter. According to the letter, I like to steal clothes from high end department stores. "Luckily for you," said Ms. HR, "This was obviously written by some nutcase."

I called Lily's husband at work. "Lily's having some sort of breakdown," I told him. "I think she's in real trouble."

It was at this point in the conversation that her husband threatened to sue me for slander.

About five years ago I ran into Lily's sister, ironically, at a high end department store. Big surprise, neither of us were shoplifting. We had a pleasant conversation in the shoe department about her recent promotion and my summer vacation plans. Neither of us mentioned Lily.

Today, when I looked at the pictures, I was surprised by how young and skinny everyone looked. I was even more surprised to realize that none of Lily's bridemaids are still friends with her. She had burned each one of us over the years with her increasingly bad behavior.

I thought about throwing the pictures and negatives in the trash, but somehow that didn't feel right. Those photos documented a happy time between friends. Instead, I sent the photographs to Lily's husband at his office address.

I wonder if they are still married.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Feeding the Homeless

I am $21,273.47 in debt. Yes, today I borrowed $3000 from my little sister so I could pay my January and February mortgage. It's not that humiliating, seeing as this is not the first time I've hit her up for money. She's obviously the responsible child in the family. Now all I have to do is figure out where March payments and my property taxes are going to come from and I'll be good to go.

Last week my friend gave a me a huge cache of fruit roll-ups. Her kid got five new fillings at her last dental appointment which finally convinced my friend that any food that boasts "10% Real Fruit Juice!" on the label probably isn't that good for you. Actually, she didn't give me the 40 count box of fruit roll-ups. I pulled them out of her kitchen trashcan.

I hate wasted food. Even yucky snacks that I'd never eat. 50% of the food produced in this country is thrown away. Rotting kitchen waste in landfills is a major cause of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, people are starving to death across the planet.

I pack the roll-ups into the glove compartment of my car. On the way home, I give some to a homeless man at a stoplight with a "Will Work for Food" sign. "Empty calories," I warn him. He laughs.

As I pull into my driveway it occurs to me that the only thing that really separates me from being that homeless fruit roll-ups man is the fact that I (barely) own my own home. Then it occurs to me that the homeless fruit roll-ups man owns the cardboard box he sleeps in. He also owns his own home. The only thing that really separates me from him is the fact that I am $21,273.47 in debt and he probably made at least $20 begging on the street today.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Crispy Needs a Lawyer

My former assistant Crispy called me today to ask for help finding an entertainment lawyer to represent a new TV project he's working on. Crispy left the business over two years ago to become a pharmaceutical salesman. And by "pharmaceutical salesman" I mean "sales rep for a multinational conglomerate," not "crack dealing corner boy." And by "left the business" I mean "stopped earning minimum wage for the privilege of working in the film industry 80 hours a week and started working a normal 9 to 5 job so he actually has time to write the great American screenplay and afford to eat meat more than once every two weeks." Ironically, he actually gets more writing done as what The Daily Variety terms a "non-pro" than he ever did as a Hollywood denizen. We set a lunch so I can listen to his pitch for a half-hour comedy series he developing and hear what it's like to make a lot of money working just 40 hours a week.

Crispy asks me how I'm weathering the strike and I give him a brief audit of my life:

1. My house currently looks like a crime scene because I've been selling off my belongings piece by piece to pay for flashy things like property taxes and car insurance.
2. I am more than sure that several of my friends suspect that I have a drug problem because as the months go by, my house gets emptier and emptier as my definition of the term "necessary object" gets narrower and narrower. I'm sure the producers of "Intervention" will be calling me any day now to sign my junkie ass up.
3. My whole life is on sale. Today my friend Jane called to tell me that she recognized the Jadite dinner set that I'd posted anonymously on Craigslist as the one she'd given to me as a gift. That's not embarrassing or anything.

Lunch is on Crispy.

After we hang up, a horrible thought pops into my head:

"What constitutes working in the industry?" Like the old Crispy, if you add up all the 80 hour weeks I've worked at being a Hollywood producer in the last year, it works out that I'm earning less than minimum wage. If I haven't made a movie in over a year and have even stopped getting unemployment, can I really call myself a producer? At what point does my dream job just become a really expensive hobby?

I get Crispy a lawyer.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

No Sex Please, We're Army

I'm still feeling annoyed over the fact that I still have a huge box of bootleg movies and tv shows in my house. This annoyance is slightly overshadowed by the guilt I feel about being annoyed that Kate, my awesome bootleg DVD pipeline to soldiers in Iraq, died before she could help me declutter my script library.

I was retelling my sad tale of woe and too many directing samples to my friend Diana today. She cut me off half way through my whine with this statement:

"Stop complaining. You could have a porn surplus."

Diana is one of those girls you want to grow up to be. You know, those girls who write about sex, laundry, whatever, and get paid for their writing services because everything they do and think about is fabulous. I hate her just a little bit sometimes.
Apparently, Diana has written enough articles about porn that the "other" film industry finds favorable, that she can't get off the New Releases list of several porn production companies. So, every week another box arrives from Van Nuys filled with DVD masterworks with titles like "Holy Sploogey! Hot Gushie Nuns: 4" and "Trannie Granny: The Return of the Silver Fox."

So I decide to be nice. I drive over to Diana's office and take epic amounts of porn clutter off her hands. Even without nice Kate, how hard will it be to track down another person who is sending movies over to Iraq? And who would appreciate a nice box of factory sealed wank material more than a bunch of bored 19 year old soldiers? I can kill two birds with one stone. I can help out my friend Diana and I can I can be just as nice as Kate. Being nice is a cinch!

I email and call about 10 charities who put together care packages for soldiers. None of them want porn. I get hung up on twice before I can even ask about my ton of bootleg directing samples. Finally I get a nice lady on the phone who explains that the US armed forces frowns on pornography because they are trying to be sensitive to the values of the local muslim population. While religious tolerance is something I respect, why am I doubtful that the local Baghdad population ever gets invited into the Green Zone for movie and pizza parties?

I am now stuck with Diana's porn collection. Which cannot be freecycled or sold on ebay if I want to use paypal. And really, do I want people who are buying nun porn to know where I live?

I've now wasted six hours of my day trying to find a worthy home for all this porn when my friend who works at the Pentagon calls me with a brilliant sollution: Donate the movies to The Walter Reed VA Hospital for patients who are recovering from amputation. What doctor wouldn't want their patients to have satisfying sex lives?

I call Walter Reed and talk to the Army liaison in charge of getting portable DVD players donated to patients. When I tell her about the porn she laughs, "Hon, there's no sex in the Army."

And, now in addition to having too many director samples, I have a porn surplus.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Dub Club

I think I am the only person in the history of Hollywood to return directing samples to the agencies. Directing samples are sometimes a highlight reel of a film maker's work, but more often, directing samples are bootleg DVDs of feature films and tv shows. That's right, bootlegs. Agencies don't bother to buy copies of their clients' work to send out to studios and producers who could actually employ their clients, because most people in Hollywood are so cheesey that they'd turn around and resell the DVDs for money. Or give them to their underpaid assistants. Or their nannies. So every agency is set up with their own dub room where they churn out bad pirated copies of their clients' movies and TV shows. Ironic, I know. When I was an executive, back before the earth cooled, I used to wait until I had a huge collection of reels from an agency, and then messenger them back in a big box. (Other than getting free xeroxing, the only thing I really miss about being an executive is not having to pay for Go-Between service). In those dark days before Tivo, reels were on VHS tape and even though every agency stamped reels all over with "PLEASE RETURN AFTER 3 DAYS," executives generally saw reels as a free source of VHS tape on which to record their favorite TV shows. See. I told you Hollywood people are cheesey. Now that everything's on DVD, people probably just throw the reels away or use them as party coasters. Naturally, since I still live the fantasy that I should respect the work of film makers, I feel tremendous guilt about throwing reels away. As a result, they pile up in my office, my house, and my car.

So, I was just thrilled that I had the opportunity to give away all these DVDs that were cluttering my life when I answered a posting on freecycle from Kate, a nice lady who was collecting DVDs for Operation DVD, a charity group that sends movies overseas to troops in Afganistan and Iraq. Apparently, war is boring. So boring in fact that troops will actually wander out of the Green Zone in search of entertainment and end up getting killed. Movies are an incentive for the troops to stay in the safe area. By donating my directing samples I could possibly prevent a soldier or two from being literally bored to death. Kate was fine with bootlegs. I spent the afternoon putting together a huge box of movies, feeling pleased that people whose lives depended on such things would be able to use what was clutter to me.

Today a friend of Kate's emailed me with bad news. Kate just died from cancer.

Upon hearing the bad news I immediately thought of two things:

1. Kate was a much nicer person than I. She was dying from cancer, but still took time out of her day to help keep total strangers alive. Suddenly my pleasure in decluttering seems petty and self-centered.

2. It's January 5th, and this is the second post that ends with death. Obviously, Kate's death is more tragic than the disappearance of Plic and Ploc even though she's a total stranger, but geez, it's like Cabot Cove here. All I need is Angela Lansbury skulking about asking nosey questions. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Jessica Fletcher, Angela's detective character on that show, was the angel of devastation? Everywhere she went, someone would drop dead. You'd think that after 12 seasons, someone would notice that Jessica was bad news and stop inviting her over for bridge. If the bodycount of this blog continues, I'm going to have to quit writing. And not because death by blogging sounds like a stupid movie idea that gets pitched to me every month, but because it's the nice thing to do.

Friday, January 4, 2008

It's January 4th and Already I'm Behind Schedule

On New Year's day I hosted a book exchange party at the my home. I do this about once every six months so everyone in my online book group has the opportunity to meet face to face and I can purge my bookcase of all the good books that I can't sell on for cash. Everyone brings good books that are taking up shelf space and toss them on the communal pile. The books that get left behind after the swap are donated to the public library for their book drive. Yesterday I donated 44 books to the Los Angeles Public Library.

I'd like to say that the endeavor of sorting, packing and delivering the leftover books to my local library branch took all day and left me no time for blogging, but the real reason I didn't post is that I just could't get my act together.

Which is just so ironic considering that my entire job is about organizing people and things through time and space.

Luckily a friend from back East called me at 5pm frantically looking for a prop master in Baltimore area. It just so happens that I know two prop masters in the Baltimore area and referred my friend to both of them.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Bad Beginning

Yesterday, as my first good deed of the year, I allowed some family friends to release their daughters' goldfish into my koi pond. The fish, who I will call "Plic" and "Ploc" to protect their identity and so I can make a pretentious Francois Truffaut reference, had quadrupled in size since their adoption at the county fair ring toss last year, and their Spongebob Squarepants fishtank was getting cramped.

It was a bittersweet moment when Plic and Ploc swam out of their tank into the koi pond to meet their new neighbors. The kids stood stonefaced at the pond edge watching their former pets inspect the borders of their new 3500 gallon home. Their mom was upbeat. "Look at how big the pond is girls!" She chirped, "Plic and Ploc will be so happy here."

This morning, when I went out to the pond, Plic and Ploc were nowhere to be found.

Is it still a good deed if the favor ends in death or dismemberment?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Striking out in the new year

It's the start of a new year and, once again, I'm broke.

Actually, that statement is a lie.

The term "broke" implies that I have zero money. Which, I don't have. I don't have zero money. Right now what I do have is $18,273.47 in debt. As of today, my mortgage payment is officially delinquent. At the precise moment that I rang in 2008, my Directv service was discontinued. Honestly, I can't decide which of these three facts make me feel more like a loser, and less like a responsible adult, although I do feel compelled to tell you that I voluntarily turned off my Directv and my service wasn't cancelled for late payment. I'm not that much of a deadbeat. No. Really.

What's worrisome is that there is no big-ticket producing job on the horizon to bail me out of this self-inflicted debtor's prison. Nor, is there a little-ticket job. And, if I get financially terrified enough to consider taking one of those studio executive jobs, that I cannot even describe as being sucktastic without being redundant, there's none of those jobs to be had either. And that's not because I was fired from my last executive job. Which I was. But that's another story. There are no jobs for me on the horizon, because there are no jobs for just about everyone in Hollywood. The writers' strike, which is now in its third month, has brought the movie business to a standstill.

What isn't a lie is the "once again" part about me being broke. I've had no income for over a year now. Since November 2006 when my unemployment insurance from my last producing job ran out to be exact. Actually, I have been working in Hollywood since 1990 and have never been rich. I've always been either broke or almost broke. As an executive, I was always underpaid. As a producer, I don't get paid until the movie gets greenlit. Which can take years. No. Really. You know how producers always announce that, "This movie took eleventy years to get made," during their Oscar acceptance speeches for Best Picture like it's an important piece of trivia that film audiences should hold aloft and cherish next to their hearts like the fact that Rosebud is a sled? What that proclamation really means is not, "How stupid is the studio for not making this important picture about the Holocaust/alcoholism/horses sooner," but, "I got paid! After eleventy years I finally got paid!"

I have been broke longer than it takes for a movie to get made and win Best Picture.

Actually, it's the impending financial ruin of my fellow film professionals, that is really making the writers' strike suck for me. Typically I earn just enough money in Hollywood as a producer every year to qualify as a member of the economic class commonly known as "the working poor," so I can deal with the lack of a paycheck. What I'm having a hard time dealing with is the siege mentality that has taken over the industry, which is weird, because in Hollywood it really is who about who you know. In an industry based on relationships, day-to-day business runs on a currency of favors. Since the strike began, people have stopped being nice to each other. So, along with the work and the money, this underground economy of controlled sharing has stopped. Most of my business calls now involve someone who is angry/screaming, or frightened/crying, or depressed/self-involved. No. Really. Even answering the phone has become an unpleasant chore.

This whole blog idea started the other day when I was in the shower contemplating the new meaness of Hollywood. I do most of my contemplation in the shower. I know. This is kind of pathetic. Especially since I take short showers. I live a largely unexamined life. So shoot me. At any rate, I was in the shower and had this thought:

What would happen if I started being nice?

No. Really. What stops people from being nice? Why is nice so hard? Do nice guys really finish last? What would happen to me if I made a concerted effort to be nice? Not the nice where I expect niceness in return. Not the nice that's commonly referred to as "common decency" where I feel compelled to be nice, lest have people call me a jerk and use me as an example of what not to be to their children. Not the nice that is the path of least resistance because what I should really be instead is caring, passionate, or outraged. But that genuine kind of nice that exists when a person commits an of kindness and charity without the expectation of getting anything in return.

As my New Year's Resolution I resolve to do something really nice every day. And by really nice I mean "with no direct benefit to myself."

What's the worst that could happen as a result of this decision?

I'll see.