There’s a War on Women and Apparently I’m Not Helping

PG gun

I’m naked. I’m also standing in my kitchen, eating a chicken taco at three in the afternoon when I hear someone bang on my front door. She shouts through the window, “There’s a war on women!”

I hear “war” and I rush to the door – no time for clothes. I should mention, I’m not naked by accident. No, I’m unemployed. Which means I spend about 75% of the day naked as the day I was born, less the placenta and blood and whatever else comes on a newborn.

I open the door and standing before me is a girl with a clipboard. She’s wearing a purple shirt that reads: PLANNED PARENTHOOD.

yo apoyo

“Tell me more about this war. What can I do?” I ask.

She tells me that our male driven society has objectified women since the beginning of time. Sure, for a while there women had some rights and good things were happening, but we’ve regressed and now we must stand up against very old and largely biologically illiterate men who want to repossess women’s bodies as if they were defaulted on mortgages.

“I’m not sure I follow the analogy.”

“Forget the analogy,” she says. “I was improvising. From now on I’ll stick to the script.”

Her ability to maintain eye contact is incredible. For a second there, I forget that I’m exposed and simply enjoy a breeze I’ve seldom felt.

“What can I do? Volunteer? Sign a petition? I never sign anything, but I love your cause. In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life doing what William Faulkner referred to as killing my little darlings. Of course he was talking about something else entirely, but for the sake of this conversation…”

“That’s perverse and offensive,” she says.

“Hey, listen, I’m just trying to level with you.”

“By level, do you mean drop down to my level because I’m a woman?”

“It’s just an expression, but for your sake, no. I’m trying to reach the great height that you reside at with all other women so I can help your cause.”

“We are not victims,” she says, pointing a finger at my chest.

“Never said you were. Like I said, big fan. Would love to help.” I reach for her clipboard, “Where do I sign?”

“We’re collecting donations today. There’s nothing to sign. War is expensive. Ask the President.”

“Ah, donations,” I slap my own ass, where my wallet would be if I was wearing pants. “See while I’d love to help you, you’ll notice that I’m home on a Wednesday at three o’clock. I’m here because I don’t have a job. Ergo, I don’t have any money to contribute.”

“That’s a lot of Latin for a guy who doesn’t have a job.”

“It was one word,” I said. “I’m not even sure if I used it correctly.”

She steps up and we’re toe-to-toe. The contact is slightly unsettling and if she’s not eighteen, probably illegal. “You fucking LINO.”

“Lino?”

“Liberal in name only,” she scoffs. “I know your type. I can spot you from a mile away. You hate women, ethnically diverse people, the continent of Africa. You even have the gall to hate poor people from your glorious mansion up in the hills.”

“Mansion? This place is like 500 square feet, and it’s a rental. And I’m unemployed. My straights are dire. I’m living in squalor. Want to see my bank account?”

“I’ve wasted enough time here. I don’t want anymore of your Hobby Lobby breath on me.” She walks away and I remember I’m naked so I stay put.

But I call after her, “Okay, not part of the Hobby Lobby. That said, still a big fan of your organization!”

“Fuck you, Johnny Tea Party. You nephew of some oil baron who hunts gay people for sport!”

“My uncle is gay.”

“Sure he is.” She spits on my glorious 500 square foot, rental mansion in the hills then skips off, probably back to the eleventh grade.

“Have a great day!”

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Life After TV

homeless at home

Today marks the beginning of a new era. I’m preparing to enter the next phase of my life as a member of Los Angeles’ transient community.

Four months ago, the show that I was working on was canceled. In the months that followed, I quickly spent all of my money shooting a short film that risked the lives of five or six of my friends plus several hundred strangers who were driving north and/or south on Highway 1 near Big Sur in mid-May.

Then one day, about two months ago I was in the red. I took my dog for a walk, applied for four hundred jobs and then it was June. I was still in the red. I took my dog for another walk, went on three hundred job interviews, and then it was July. That was Tuesday.

But the past is the past and what’s the point in dwelling? Insert quote about being fiscally responsible and thinking ahead and not being any happier, but being generally safer and more stable if you do. C’est la whatever, bruh.

In preparation for my new life, I’ve been looking at living spaces. In a lot of ways it’s similar to apartment hunting: identify a neighborhood, list the things you must have (parking, on-site laundry, proximity to grocery stores, gym, etc) and then drive by at night to see if it’s as nice as it was during the day.

When you’re looking at outdoor living spaces a few obvious places come to mind: under freeway overpasses, Skid Row, Cahuenga Boulevard, industrial side streets, shrubbery off of the freeway. I’ve decided I don’t really have the heroin problem it takes to live on Skid Row, and I’m too old and not punk enough to join the Hollywood homeless, so I’m basically limited to living near the freeway in a bush, or in some abandoned building in the warehouse district that doubles as a brothel/stash house. Now that I’ve identified the area, it’s time to consider the things I can’t live without.

Silver Lake Youth Hostel

Ideally, I’d like to be close to a center of commerce so I have a short commute to where I’ll do my panhandling. Secondly, I’d like to be close to the L.A. River so I’ll have access to some wild life and a place to bathe on a regular basis even if the water is only a couple inches deep.

Since I’ve never been much of a camper or an outdoors person, in preparation for my life outside I plan on buying everything I’ll need to live comfortably under an overpass near the L.A. River (so far Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Boulevard bridging Silver Lake to Atwater are my top contenders). “Everything” includes a 16 person tent because I like my leg room, a gun because I’m scared of raccoons, five boxes of Uncrustables because their life expectancy is longer than mine, and a gym membership because just because I’ll be homeless doesn’t mean I am going to become a lazy, out-of-shape fuck, too.

In a lot of ways, this is like when a doctor says, “You’re dying. Go home and get your affairs in order.”

Getting my affairs in order looks like this: designing my panhandling signs so I’ll be able to compete in the cutthroat climate of trying to get people to give me money.

Design

Getting a haircut.

Haircut

Breaking the news to my fiancée that we’re going to be in a long distance relationship from now on: her up in the hills, me down by the river drinking prescription cough syrup and fishing for alligators.

fishing on actavis

Once I’ve done all of that, I think I’ll finally be able to focus on the important things in life. I’ll get to be one of those people who is like, “yeah man, one day I was just like, what am I doing with all these material things? This isn’t how humans are supposed to live. So I just gave everything up and now I only have what I need on a daily basis. A toothbrush, an air guitar and my integrity.”

And it’s not like I’m just going to fall off the radar. It’s not like I’m moving to Humboldt County and giving it all up. No, I’ll still be in L.A. I’m just adjusting my lifestyle to my cash flow. So if you’re ever down by the river, don’t be a stranger. Come say hey!

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A Brief Encounter with the Future

The Future

Yesterday, I saw the future.

They piled out of a 274 million dollar building made of swooping steel waves, and poured onto Grand Avenue between 1st and 2nd. They wore maroon and shiny white gowns with wide-brimmed caps, and tassels bobbing in their faces.

They were excited. There was whistling and pictures were being taken and everyone was so proud. Mudslides of mascara ran down mothers’ faces. Fathers in cowboy hats beamed with pride, though it was clear they were ready to leave. They ready to celebrate properly, not with hugs and tears and photos, but with tequila and tears and handshakes that last too long. Like a real familia.

The King

In the future, for every fifty-three Hispanic children, there are two black kids and .50 white kids. There are no white parents and there are no black parents. Yesterday, the one or two white kids in attendance walked around disheveled and purposeless. No one took their pictures. No one wanted to document their sad and incredibly patchy beards, their pepperoni pocked faces.

The future is heavily tattooed. Of course, this is nothing new. But in a cap and gown, most tattoos can’t be seen, yet I saw plenty. The neck tattoo appears to be all the rage. Scrawled letters with boyfriends names or street names or set names. One kid had Stewie from Family Guy on his forearm with a message that was missing a comma. There were also the tattoos peeking out from their sleeves and lining their knuckles. The girls, who carried themselves much more professionally than the men/boys, all seemed to have some sort of image or word spilling out of their high heels, around their ankles, sliding down the front of their feet.

The mothers, who have given birth to the future, are my age. Or they look my age only they’ve been raising a child so maybe they’re younger and look worse for parenthood. If I were to guess, and I’m going to, the mothers were exactly ten years and six months older than their graduating sons and daughters.

While the fathers bestowed upon their sons mustaches, the mothers bequeathed their eyebrows. The lines are sharp. Paint on top of hair with incredible precision. There’s also a hint of purple everywhere: in the eyebrows, the lips, the hair. Or maybe it’s red, but it looks like a shade of eggplant to me.

Operation Graduation

The daughters of the future do not date the sons of the future. The daughters’ boyfriends are not wearing caps and gowns. Their mustaches are thicker, their tattoos are more prominent and they can’t be bothered to dress up. Yet they are proud. They wrap their arms around their girlfriend’s waist as if they were fending off an opposing team with their forearms.

The wearers of caps and gowns spotted me early on: a boyfriend handed me an Android and asked for a picture of him, his girl, Disney Concert Hall and the sunset. I got two out of four. After that, people just started handing me their phones. All sorts of phones that I’d never seen before. Some were the size of iPad minis or burner phones, some looked like a late nineties GameBoy. All I know is I got really into it.

Soon I was dropping on a knee, having people move out of shadows, asking mothers to drop their chins a little bit, asking cholo boyfriends to smile. I took fifteen, maybe twenty family portraits before I had to retire. I’d spent an hour trying to get from 1st to 2nd street. I made for the crosswalk, batting away the advances of potential subjects who wanted to trust me with their phones and their documentation. I had to decline.

As I reached crosswalk, I turned back to wave at all my adoring subjects, but they were not waiting to wave back. They had returned to smiling, to crying, to hugging and aggressively instagramming while the fathers waited patiently for permission to drink.

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The Afternoon Beer Dilemma

Das Boot

I’m triangulated between two bars. A right triangle. Or maybe it’s another kind. Regardless, this coffee shop’s patio is hemorrhaging charm as I watch the sun lift itself higher, watch my work stay exactly where it’s been, watch the clock tick and with each tock make a case for relocating to a proper wateringhole.

It is technically the “afternoon”. It wouldn’t be completely uncivilized to have one, maybe two beers then continue with my day. It might be just the change I need. Beer: The Afternoon Delight. Beer: Better Than An Espresso. Beer: Go from Meh to Delighted!

There are other considerations. It’ll be a late night. After this work, there will be other work. I’ll be in a dark room with a bunch of screens watching take after take after take of actors saying the same fucking lines over and over again, only sometimes it’s slightly better and other times it’s slightly worse. In light of that, maybe a beer is a necessary retreat. A pat on the back. A lollipop after an inoculation.

vaccine

The bars haven’t moved.

The World Cup is going on and although I’m not following it, I could always sidle up next to some Belgians, some Germans, some Grecians; I could paint my face in the bathroom then reemerge a fan. I’m not picky about the country. Not when I know there will be beer and camaraderie.

The other bar will not have the World Cup, but my feet will stick to the floors. It’s like walking in tar, but it gets stickier and stickier as I move closer to the horseshoe where they dole out cheap liquor and beer. It will be dark, very dark and the minutes will slip into hours and the day into night. No one will be cheering. There might be a couple co-workers huddled around sad margaritas celebrating whatever people who sell cell phone plans might celebrate.

The bartender will be somewhere between thirty and forty. A retired hipster, banished to a hipster bar where he must watch the clientele get younger and younger. Where he can read Rilke in the afternoons and wait for his girlfriend to show up with her just-of-age friends. He can hide his book too slowly, hoping to be asked about it, then give them shots of Fireball. Which is what they came for. They do not care about Rilke or how hard it is to retire from hipsterdom.

Future Bartender

I’ve decided to train my eyes on the work ahead. It’s important work about conjoined twins: what it’s like to have your own brain, heart, liver, but have to share a dick. Yes, it’s deep and philosophical, and though the audience for conjoined twin comedy is small, I think I’ve cornered the market. I understand their plight because while organs divide them, I’ve got organs in revolt; micro revolutions happening within my brain, my liver, my heart. The lines have been drawn, declarations have been made. One will take no more afternoon beers, one will take no less. One wants to write deeply important conjoined twin comedy, the other wants to catch up on Louie. One suggests that I train for a marathon, the other thinks a nap is in my best interest.

The bars, of course, still have not moved. I appreciate this.

Once, I saw the Salton Sea from a mountain and I was told the San Andreas fault line was getting closer. 6 inches a year; an impressive pace. This wasn’t the ayahuasca. These were the facts.

SA

But the bars still have not moved. Despite fault lines, yoga studios, coffee shops, forthcoming luxury condos. Or maybe in spite of them. I’m not clear on the distinction or their reasoning. Maybe I better pop in, have a word with the proprietor, really wrap my head around the plan and the stand that’s been taken. If it happens over a beer, so be it. Someone has to carry the torch.

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Enterprise-Rent-A-Car and the Gotye Conspiracy Theory

Van Steez

I’m answering questions, checking boxes, wondering why I’m renting a fifteen passenger van while simultaneously realizing… I don’t need a fifteen passenger van. Then Ray, employee-of-the-month Ray, slaps down about fifty, maybe a hundred pages that need to be signed and initialed.

Ray looks like a pock-faced Hugh Jackman with a really bad sunburn. He’s wearing a crispy Van Huesen wrinkle-free shirt and what I can only assume are wrinkle-free khakis. “Hey,” he says, “you listen to Gotye?”

And I’m like, “No, bro. What is this—2012?” Actually, I just say, “No.”

“Good. Because you know he stole that song, right?”

Dutch Recreation

“What?” I look up from my initialing and signing and Ray points to a box that’s both highlighted and marked with an X. “That one’s supposed to be a signature and it looks like you initialed.”

“Oh,” I add a few more letters, some of which may not even be in my name.

“Haha. But who am I? The John Hancock Nazi?”

“I don’t know what that means,” I say.

Gotye Apples

He thinks that’s hilarious, so I smile the way you would smile if you were biting down on a metal spoon. He turns around, then turns back to me and in a voice that’s all nose and fingernails on a chalkboard, he sings, “You remind me of a girl… that I… once knew.”

My hair is kind of long. Even with a beard, Griselda at CVS will occasionally call me ma’am.  So I respond cordially. I say, “Good to know.”

“No. Not good know!” Ray smashes his fist on the counter, “Usher!”

Usher Neon

Ray grabs me by the shirt and pulls me in like he’s going to tell me he loves me. Instead he belts out, “SOMEBODY!” and a little bit softer now, “that I used to know,” and a shitload louder now, “SOMEBODY! Now you’re just somebody that I used to know!”

Ray lets me go. He actually pushes me away and says, “Tell me he didn’t rip off those lyrics from Usher!”

“I’m really not sure. Do they have Usher in New Zealand?”

Beads of sweat fall from his nose.  “This is a joke to you? This is copyright infringement. This is some Kiwi-foreign fuck infringing upon Usher’s creative content. Where’s your sense of loyalty? Patriotism?”

“Where it’s always been—abysmally low, but even so, I’m sure Usher’s legal team is on it.”

Usher

Ray looks at me a long time, then he fires a snot rocket into his palm, and wipes it on his wrinkle-free uniform. “Yeah, maybe.” He pulls the paperwork away from me and he says, “So what do you need a this big ass van for anyway?”

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Pumping Iron!

chiraq

At my local 24 Hour Fitness, I discretely listen to music that glorifies violence and preaches misogyny. The goal is that by listening to teenagers from Chi-raq shout about murder, I’ll be motivated to do, like, one more set.

This morning, while laying on the mat half-napping, half-studiously listening to what it’s like to be a young black male living on Chicago’s Southside, I spot Ricky. He’s carrying a basketball, and is flanked by a small entourage of big Armenian men.

Ricky is in his late twenties, has short dreds and he’s built like a guy who spends all day at the gym. After hi-fiving his way through all the forty-year-old men in stringger tanks doing concentration curls and incline bench, Ricky gets beckoned over to more men in tank tops doing lat pull-downs, twirling kettle bells, grabbing each other’s biceps.

roid gut

At this point, I realize I’ve been laying on the ground for a bit too long, listening to a song that consists of gunshots and Chief Keef in autotune declaring that all he cares about is money. Which is a little much, even for me. I proceed to finish whatever exercise I was in the middle of not doing, and then hit the showers.

It’s a joyous locker room. As it turns out, Armenian men love to sing in the shower. It’s also not uncommon to see a man standing in front of the mirror blow drying his balls in the middle of the locker room at say, 11:30 in the morning.

“My man,” I turn around to see the most popular man in the gym standing behind me. “You interested in a personal training session?”

“No,” I say.

“You looking for gear?”

While I google search “gear” in my brain, Ricky ushers me to the other side of the locker room, which doesn’t seem any more discreet. “I mean, you’re a fit dude. Kind of small, on the weakside, a little flabby but with some assistance, I’m talking about high quality, pro shit, you’ll be putting up big plates. You could go from zero to hero. Tell you what, it’s your first time, I’ll cut you a deal.”

At this point, three men walk over to Ricky and shake his hand, smiling, proud to know the man. Proud to be associated with him.

“Not that I’m interested in either, but are we talking about personal training or the other thing?” I ask.

“The other thing. And I want you to know this: there’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not the lazy way out, you’ll still have to work hard, watch your calorie in-take. You’ll have to be accountable if you want to reach your goals—”

“Goals?”

“I’ll make sure you’re pushing your limits. I’m here for you, bro.”

“I—uh…”

“Let me dispel facts: one, your dick isn’t going to shrink. Your testicles, yes, probably, but as soon as you’re off it’s reversible. Two, no one has ever died from taking steroids. Three, the results are real and that can’t be disputed. Also, roid rage isn’t a real thing and your sex drive will go through the roof.” Ricky puts his hand on my shoulder, looks around then says, “Sometimes, I’ll fuck my girlfriend like thirty or forty times a day. No joke. No exaggeration.”

If there was an appropriate response, I didn’t have it.

boardwalk

“So,” Ricky spins around his fanny pack, “we can do this with cash, Paypal or I’m actually using Venmo now. It’s pretty dope. You use it?”

“I do.”

“Cool. I fucking love technology. Do you watch that show Silicon Valley?”

“I do.”

“Awesome. So we’ll use Venmo.”

“Sounds good.”

“Pills? You seem like a pill guy. It’s your first time. Let’s go with D-Bols. You should be able to gain like four to six pounds of muscle a week. Minimum. Although, I should warn you that pills are for pussies and they’re mainly water-weight so when you’re ready for the real shit, you just say the word.”

“I will.”

Ricky looks around then hands me a small bottle that’s been stripped of its label. “This is going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, my man.”

“Great. Thanks, Ricky.”

He pulls out a piece of paper and hand writes a receipt. He keeps the carbon copy for himself. “Uncle Sam was on my back last year.”

“I totally get it. Thanks a lot.”

“Anytime, or in six weeks!” Ricky laughs. “By the way, you might experience some male pattern baldness, oily skin, backne, and after the initial increase in libido, a gradual decrease.”

With that, we shake hands. Ricky turns on his heels, slaps the guy next to him on the shoulder and says, “My man, you looking to get serious about your fitness?”

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Finding the Next __________ of American Cinema: Casting!

CastingHard work. Mining for coal. Chopping firewood. Patching a hole in a submarine while it’s submerged. Picking lettuce. Casting iron. Casting actors.

It’s all hard work, am I right?

There was a time when I was open to the casting couch. The hopefuls would come flooding in at the chance of the glory that comes with being paid with “Meal + Credits” or, if we’re really going for broke: SAG Ultra Low Budget. It’s not pretty. I’m not proud.

But they are. They’re pretty and proud, and they love living in Studio City or by the Grove or Santa Monica. Something about the salt air makes it easier to book commercials for allergy medication.

The Real Casting Couch

This time I’ve stayed away from the couch. It’s all word of mouth. There are four actors. Three of the roles have been filled, but this final role, well, it hasn’t been easy.

It’s the title character. She’s the star. Or at least, it doesn’t work without her. She has to be great. She has to be everything that’s likeable about Scarlett Johansson, only without the bedroom eyes. And eight years younger. She has to be at once ethereal and authentic and preferably American. And we don’t have her, so I’ve been writing love letters.

Actually, they’ve been emails. They’ve looked like this.

SJ

Dear Scarlett Johansson,

Do you have a sister who looks like a version of you without the bedroom eyes who is preferably seven or eight years younger? If so, I’d like to cast her in a short film we’re making. I know she’d be perfect.

Or the one I wrote to Melanie Laurent.

ML

Dear Melanie,

I hope this email finds you well. Speaking of finding and well and you, I’m looking for an actress, like you. How’s your American accent? If it’s great, what’s your schedule like in May? And what’s your stance on a team of special effects superstars trying to make you look ten years younger? Well, that about sums up my requests. Looking forward to hearing back!

And then, I thought of Emma Watson.

EW

Dear Emma Watson,

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that you’re not right for the title role in the short film we’re making. I wish you nothing but success going forward, but you’re not getting a job from me.

Finally, I landed on it. It was so simple, so obvious.

EO

Dear Elizabeth Olsen,

Will you work for cheap or for free? If so, I’m relatively, kind of, nearly, or with very little doubt, thinking that you probably or might be suitable for the role in this cinematographic masterpiece that lives on my desktop. Your sisters can come and watch, but don’t expect us to feed them.

The responses came pouring in.

Scarlett Johansson: Funny that you should email me. I was just thinking of you. Here’s a picture of my sister and I. She’s a bit younger than what you were originally looking for, but she’s only getting older. Let me know if you think she’s right for the part. Xo

Fenan

Melanie Laurent: “Au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai découvert en moi un invincible été.”

Emma Watson: I’ll do anything. This would be the role of a lifetime for me. Please. This could be my THE WRESTLER. My THE GODFATHER. My DALLAS BUYERS CLUB!

Elizabeth Olsen: There’s nothing I’d rather do in this whole world than to work on one of your short films for cheap or for free, but I have an appointment at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar regarding my MacBook Air, which has stopped working. Like completely. It won’t turn on at all. Do you know what’s wrong with it? Anyway, I can’t reschedule. I hope you understand.

And just like that my prospects came crashing down.

Scarlett, God bless her, is too pure at heart for her own good.

Melanie, I had to strikethrough because I hate Francophiles, even if they’re actually French and that quote reads like, well, I don’t know. I took Spanish in school.

Emma’s too desperate. Too wrong. I feel bad saying this, but this isn’t some Sophia Coppola movie we’re trying to do. We need star power. We need…

Elizabeth Olsen. But that fucking Genius Bar appointment. And don’t get me wrong, I know where she’s coming from. Rescheduling an appointment at the store at the Grove? At the Beverly Center? At the one on the Third Street Promenade? Not going to happen. You might as well just drive out to fucking Glendale and we can’t expect Mary-Kate and Ashley’s sister to do something insane like that.

genius bar

I’ve put one last email in the interwebs. It’s an offer to Gwyneth Paltrow. We want her to do a cameo as a meter maid. It’s a non-speaking role, but I know she’ll be perfect for it. I can see her now: getting out of her little meter maid go-cart, chalking the back of a tire, getting back into her go-cart and driving six feet forward to the next car to do it again. Then she’ll be off.

We’ll roll credits. People will laugh. People will cry. We’ll lock hands and take a bow while getting slaughtered in the comments section of anything with a comments section. Well, that’s enough hard work for one day. This is where I say goodbye.

 

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