It’s Time To Be Thankful, Folks!

Superstorm Sandy was a bitch. Lucky for me and my furry animals and boyfriend, we are highly elevated and suffered minor inconveniences throughout the storm. Unfortunately, my boyfriend’s family inhabits a home on Fire Island, where the storm was not as kind to the narrow strip of Northeastern paradise. Given that the boyfriend and I hunkered down in our teeny dwelling for days without reprieve, and my dubious thoughts about the safety and resources available on the island, this year I decided to take my own adventure. Rather than accompany the boyfriend and pup to Fire Island, I thought it would be a good time to go upstate and surprise my folks on Thanksgiving. The beauty in surprises is that there are zero expectations set forth from the intended surprise victims, meaning you can basically show up whenever the hell you feel like it.

I coordinated with my best friend, who lives halfway between home base and my upstate hometown. Like me, she has felt a bit aware of the economical waste involved in driving a car and told me that after teaching her class on Thanksgiving Eve she would hop on a bus that went from White Plains to Nyack and somewhere along the route, I could hop on the same bus. The unfortunate side was that I had to wait forty-five minutes for the connection between my train and this bus. Since I was man-less and dog-less, I somehow thought it was wise to carry my Christmas presents on this trip so that I’d have less to maneuver when traveling with the “kids.” So there I waited, shivering for forty-five minutes, with a twenty pound bag of infused vodkas and various other gifts. Just minutes before the bus arrived, my friend texted me: “I am afraid the bus that just drove by without stopping was mine.” Crap. To me this was the type of thing that one calls someone for, so I instantly dialed my friend and with her suggestion, I boarded the bus and headed to the Palisades Mall, where I could at least take refuge from the cold for the hour it would take for the next bus to arrive. 

New Yorkers like myself are used to public transportation. In fact, we relish in the convenience in getting from point A to point B at times when we are scarcely conscious or sober. But boarding a bus anywhere outside of the five boroughs can be quite terrifying. Particularly at 11 o’clock at night, driving through dark streets and highways, and with a chatty bus driver who tends to skip stops even when there are only five stops on his ten-mile route! Thankfully, the mall is like a bright shiny object in an otherwise dark town, and I exited outside the Macy’s and following my friend’s suggestion, I went to the fourth floor of the mall, where the promise of partying suburbanites awaited me. The only spot that seemed to be fully functioning was the TGIF’s. I took a seat at the bar and asked for a food menu.

“Yeah, so the kitchen’s closed. Sorry, miss,” the young bartender responded. I gave him points for calling me “miss” in lieu of “ma’am” but I was absolutely famished and those points quickly disappeared with the lack of food service.

“What time do you close?” I asked.

“Midnight,” he replied.

“But it’s only eleven.”

“Right, but the kitchen closes early. It’s happy hour now. All drinks are discounted,” he explained with a smile. I smiled back and ordered a Purple Haze. It would take one 3-dollar draft to get me completely relaxed and incoherent on an empty, grumbling stomach but at least I was indoors. I drank half the pint, hoping my best friend would not be dismissed by the last bus of the night, and that we would somehow meet up. The temptation to drunkenly ramble on Facebook was replaced with a concern that my folks would see where I was located and wonder what the hell I was doing in Nyack. Twenty minutes of dwindling sobriety passed when the bartender reappeared, looking apologetic.

“So the kitchen is open actually. But you have five minutes to order.”

“Thanks! I’m starving and came up from the city but I’m stranded here for a little while.”

“Don’t tell me you came here to party. Because this isn’t the place. But when I’m done, my friends and I are going out in downtown Nyack. Come with us if you get stuck,” he responded. It was a nice offer, but the offer for food was even more enticing. I placed an order and began to wonder if I made the wrong choice, sitting at a random bar by myself when I could be looking out on the ocean while lounging in a hot tub on Fire Island. Until I got the update from my boyfriend. The Fire Island house had no running water and they were filling buckets from a dwindling reserve of pool water in order to flush toilets and wash dishes. The worst part being that the boyfriend had no option of returning to first world living until the day after of Thanksgiving because of limited ferry service. I felt better with my choice. Especially when the text came that my best friend had arrived just in time. At least before I was kicked out of the TGIF’s with the rest of the insanely inebriated patrons. 

This excursion offered some nice bonding time with my best friend and an added buffer when I walked into the front door of my parents house, praying that my mother would not be so overcome with emotion that she cried. I was happy to be spared the tears, as my friend’s yellow lab mix ran up the stairs followed by the two of us. My dad acted as if I still lived at home, not missing a beat.

“You know how I can get the HBOGo to stream on the living room TV?” my dad greeted me. I was thankful entertainment options trumped politics in our initial encounter. My mother acted as though she wasn’t particularly surprised and took out a 32-ounce of International Delight Pumpkin Spice Creamer from the fridge.

“See, I must’ve been psychic,” she explained. “I bought this for you for Christmas but it keeps so long that you can use it now!” I smiled. Being greeted with coffee creamer is always better than over-the-top emotions. I noted how funny family dynamics are. Weathered and aged, some are never outgrown. 

Our Thanksgiving together was small, quiet, and low key. The way a holiday based around consumption should be. But what my family had not anticipated was for their surprise guest to morph into a taskmaster. My parents are like so many people I’ve come to know. They buy their first home and at first can barely furnish the residence, even with the possessions that come along with their three small children. And over the years, the children grow up and leave home, often leaving boxes (or in my family’s case piles) of neglected belongings and junk just as the parents acquire more crap and take up their own special hobby collections. Out of four bedrooms in the house, only one bedroom was inhabitable and claimed by my parents. The rest had become the equivalent of Manhattan Mini Storages. Concerned I would be deprived a clean room, I spent most of the pre-dinner time with nine garbage bags, threatening to throw out or donate any belongings that my kid brother and sister had left behind without regard. Before the turkey was done, my brother and I had successfully reclaimed two bedrooms in the house as welcoming guest rooms. 

I stayed much longer than anticipated, namely to enjoy having a queen bed to myself in a freshly cleaned room. I intended to return to an empty Manhattan apartment before my boyfriend, but the lack of clean water on Fire Island, shortened his trip and lengthened mine. The unfortunate part is that my mother had planned to have the carpets shampooed and the dog euthanized during her holiday weekend.

“Mom, why do you even have carpets? Who has carpets now?” I demanded to know.

“Your father likes them. He doesn’t like his feet to get cold in the winter on a wood floor.”

“Right, but he also walks around in swim trunks and a t-shirt all winter. It’d cost only a few hundred more dollars to eliminate the carpet and then you’d never have to shampoo the floor again.”

“No. That’s not going to happen.”

“He’s just a product of the 60’s. It’s a trend that’s passed. Carpets are nasty and harbor allergens and dander,” I retorted. My mother has asthma and severe allergies and the carpet was often occupied by three cats and an elderly dog. An elderly dog with no bladder control and a sense of smell as the only functioning sense that remained. 

The carpet’s beautician arrived, scarcely making it past the cluttered junk and the over-sized living room furniture that was miraculously wedged throughout corners of the dining room and kitchen. I don’t know who decides to schedule an early morning carpet shampoo the day after Thanksgiving, but my mom said my “surprise” visit was the real interference and that it would otherwise be completely normal to do. She tried to appease me.

“Michelle, honey, you can make some waffles. I have the mix downstairs,” she replied. I dug through the freezer to find jumbo sized bags of frozen fruit. 

“No, I think I want something healthy,” I answered. Like a smoothie.

“Healthy?!” Paul Bunyon, the carpet shampoo-master declared. 

“Well, I ate enough crap on Thanksgiving,” I answered, now justifying my food choices to a complete stranger.

“It’s her job, really. She has to watch her diet for work,” my mom offered. Because clearly I would gorge myself to the point of obesity if I had chosen any other profession in my life.

“No, actually, it’s lifestyle. That’s it.” My snippy response silenced them both. But as always, family history trumps logic. My mother skeptically glanced at carpet man.

With the carpets shampooed and wet, the poor 16-year-old family dog kept blindly retreating to the damp carpet, unaware that he was getting soaked each time. Upon choosing to go upstate, I had not realized my mother had scheduled the dog to be put to sleep while I would be there. The poor little toy poodle mix was not only blind and deaf, but he also had a ping-pong ball-sized tumor on his skull, a flea infestation that no amount of treatments or cleaning could ameliorate, smelled like he was rotting from the inside, and would startle when touched by anything because he had no sense of his surroundings. What’s more, he was so afraid of falling down the stairs that he would instead jump from the landing, foregoing the three steps. It was a total leap of faith. We all looked at him with sadness and empathy.

I was still sleeping the next day when my parents took our family dog to the vet. They returned with a small box that carried his remains and I watched as my father dug his grave within the pet cemetery of our backyard. I went outside to assist, noting that the grave was not as deep as I would’ve imagined.

“Dad, you need to dig deeper,” I told him.

“No, this is deep enough. It’s not easy to dig through this clay.” The box would be barely four inches below the surface if he stopped. It made me question all our other long-lost pets and how deep the alleged four-feet graves he dug for them really were. I took the shovel and began to dig. And as I did, a 35-MPH wind gust swept by and it began to snow. There I was, bonding with my dad over the family dog’s grave, in the middle of a white mini-blizzard on a holiday weekend typically celebrated with gluttony and sales on electronics. I never thought my decision to surprise the family on Turkey Day would amount to this. I continued to carve away the side walls of clay; the same clay that humiliated me when we first moved to that house as I would run through the muck and find myself stuck in the middle of the yard en route to the waiting school bus. More often than not I would lose a boot entirely and have to run back with a muddy foot and tug my boot out of the earth.

“This mud here is pretty heavy. It sticks,” my dad reasoned.

“Yeah, I recall,” I mumbled apathetically. I thought of the day I would have to deal with my current beloved pets and their mortality. It freaked me out. But luckily my fellow gravedigger offered the same coping mechanism as his daughter. Sarcasm and pithy comments would always trump tears and sadness when it was time to say goodbye. 

We ended the rather eventful day by attending a local parade, where people adorned their tractors and pickups and fire trucks with Christmas lights, tinsel, and wagons carrying costumed adults. My sister and her boyfriend joined me and my parents as we avoided getting pelted with candy canes and bubble gum thrown from the parade leaders. After the festive soiree we returned to my parents house and had a gingerbread house decorating competition. Both my sister and parents stole my candies, or attempted to make unfair trades, but I had a secret arsenal of ruby red glitter in my purse to make up for the sugary losses. 

I returned to the city the next morning, catching a bus before the sun rose so I could beat traffic and this time surprise my boyfriend. I learned it may be best to not surprise people inhabiting your own home if you wish to return to a clean place. My sweet chihuahua and cat were vocal and energetic in welcoming me home. So thankful was I that Thanksgiving came early this year, granting more recovery time before the next big holiday comes around. 

 

Performance Art and Artless Performances

I have avoided this blog with all intense conviction, terrified by the potential grammatical errors and ceaseless bemoaning in my last post. Only now that I have a highly valued personal life do the desperately exaggerated tirades on this blog, often spun by a whim of alcoholic consumption or lack of sleep, come back to bite me with venomous embarrassment for being so needlessly chatty. Given my neuroses confessed in my last blog, leave it to me to push myself further into addressing my fear of heights, standing still, and having a room full of people stare. I casually responded to a casting for human statues for a recent event. Details were sparse, but I had agreed to having my body painted with some amount of clothing covering the delicate areas. I arrived on location, after two weeks spent dreading the thought that I could actually be booked, and then realized upon signing the contract that only an idiot would turn down the sum of money I was getting paid to basically stand still and do nothing. Just the same as not even an idiot would sign up for such a project that did nothing but draw attention to her embedded phobias.

I arrived at the location, telling myself with each minute that I could walk out at any minute and had limited consequences. I did not care if I was made the fool. I would leave at any point my mental and physical health were at risk. It started off with the worst possible scenario with my wardrobe. Being naturally well-endowed, there is nothing more alarming than being handed a flimsy piece of lingerie that barely covers your nipples, has as much support as a paperclip could provide, and being told that you should feel comfortable in it. I barely slipped into the simultaneously too wide and too tiny apparatus and showed my cascading cleavage to the costumer in despair. Since I arrived earlier than the other models, I was given the opportunity to change into a more traditional corset. It had support and could be tightened to my liking (or physical discomfort) and keep the bosom under wraps. Unfortunately, the lack of a traditional hook and eye meant that with the incorrect positioning, I could essentially snap myself out of the device, breasts flopping forward. And never does one see a stone statue with flapping tits. 

Once I was adequately snapped and tied into place, an assistant came with a “standard” agreement that insisted I accepted responsibility for my own potential death and injury during the performance and could not sue or blame the production. I asked what the hell any of these stipulations meant and inquired what I would be doing. 

“Oh, nothing. We’ll give you more details, but you’ll just be standing around the room like a statue,” the assistant responded.

“Okay, but we aren’t going to be elevated or in some precarious position? I mean, I’m terrified of heights and we’re wearing flimsy Fredericks of Hollywood heels,” I stuttered.

“No, nothing like that. This is all just standard.”

“You’re sure? I mean, before I get slathered with paint, I want to be sure I’m not going to waste anyone’s time because I can’t do heights.”

Standard or not, that piece of unsigned paper found a comfortable home at the bottom of my purse. And I continued through the hours of paint slathering, tucking, prodding, pinning, and primping that the gig required. Not a minute after the underside of my wrists became painted did I start to feel a terribly itchy, burning sensation. The rest of my body was immune but the “suicide zone” of my forearm veins and arteries were raging. I told the makeup artist immediately as a crew member overheard and essentially told the makeup artist that I was imagining burning because the paint was just drying. I was imagining nothing. Thankfully, my makeup artist was divinely kind and washed the paint off my irritated, red wrist skin and said the gloves would cover my skin anyway, so she would leave them bare.

Close to the event time, a team of photographers and a camera crew accompanied me and my fellow artistes to our stage. After a scant moment in the room I noticed two elevated planters, at least three feet high and arranged on a two foot high stage. Our newly appointed contact person instructed us to take turns standing on the planters, which I approached and noticed how feeble they were as they wobbled when the weight of my hand was placed upon them.

“Um, we’re supposed to stand on these?!” I inquired, with my heart pounding and rising well above my corseted-bosom. 

“Yes, and you can take turns. Ideally you should just hold a pose for ten minutes and then change to another pose,” she retorted.

“No, absolutely not. I can’t stand on that thing. It’s not even sturdy!” 

“Well, that’s why you have to shift your weight and balance,” she responded. Right. Stupid me.

I took what would’ve been a deep breath, had my ribs not been cinched, and slowly exhaled before responding, “Look. I was told I would be on the floor. I’m terrified of heights and there is no way I can go up there.”

She nodded and pointed to another stage across the room and said I could stand on the stage and pose and would not have to worry about the planters. Thank God. Now the easy part: standing in place for four hours without passing out, freaking out, or spasming out of control from the 18-inch high wig and headpiece that rested on my compressed skull. I assumed my position, avoided eye contact with the hundreds of ogling attendees, and thanks to the skills acquired in Pilates and yoga, I eventually managed to find a comfortable pose and zone out. Admittedly, I had to counted to at least a thousand before I felt comfortable doing absolutely nothing while simultaneously balancing on fluffy heels with a body of paint and bizarre attire. A few times I zoned out so successfully that when I returned to awareness I feared I had gone partially blind before reminding myself that all my peripheral vision was sacrificed for the masquerade mask I was also wearing. Occasionally women would try to reach out and touch me, and men would come and scream something in my ear in effort to make me break character, but the trance music was so painfully loud and the room so dark, that it was very easy to block them out. Eventually my fluffball heels got to take a walk without me and I could be painlessly barefoot like the lucky dudes who also booked the job.

The experience, though dreaded before and throughout, turned out to be a rather good experience for me as a person and a performer. The easiest way to kill stage fright may very well be to stand on a stage for four hours, and though my fear of heights has maintained its clutch on me, I have at least proven that I can stay calm and control anxieties that seem at times incurable. And perhaps the expectations on myself are higher than most people. My boyfriend teased me about being so hard on myself, expressing that very few people would find such an engagement to be normal or comfortable. So I made it through. Normal or not.

And on another artless note, I found that I made the final cut of “The Dictator.” It was an experience of an entirely different variety. But seeing the film somehow felt more innocuous than living the scene. Or maybe time has desensitized me. Still, although my “roles” most often involve being a prostitute, whore, or sexy victim, at least this one had a retro look. It’s always easier to be a prostitute from another era. Even when your john is a five-year-old boy (I believe I’m at the 0:35 mark or so). 

The Rather Unglamourous Days of Glamour

“Doesn’t it bother your ego to see other people get more camera time? Don’t you want to be where they are right now?” a young, tall black chap with hipster flair inquired on a recent shoot.

“No. My ego is completely dormant,” I replied, politely meeting his disbelieving gaze.

“But seriously, you have to be bothered by this. Not even a little bit?” he pushes incredulously.

“Not in the slightest,” I reply apathetically. I’m not lying. Neither is my ego. Perhaps it’s an overall disenchantment with the process. Perhaps it’s the sage acceptance that comes with going with the flow, staying present, and being thankful for what I have. While the country struggles with unemployed and/or underpaid professionals, we were being paid hundreds, potentially over a thousand dollars, to look pretty, smile, and have fun on a set. I was not scandalously costumed, alternately, I was not scandalously costumed for a summer shoot being shot in the middle of an arctic freeze in January, my shoes were flat, and nobody was bumping or grinding against me. I considered it an award-worthy, save for the nasty garbage-recycling facility just below the artistic loft space production had reserve and the swarms of desperate flies that would occasionally swarm us as though we too had been discarded as refuse.

I’ve discovered, as my male counterpart for the day has yet to experience, that being booked as the hero character is not necessarily the most glamorous of days. As an actor-model-talented-to-talentless-artiste, the vast majority of control, creatively and technically, is left in the hands of others. All the possible power and fulfillment that one imagines at a certain professional point just do not exist. Like a solid piece of clay, gradually scraped, adorned, and fired in a kiln to last beyond the life expectancy in original form, “talent” is at the mercy of everyone. And this realization personally to me has become a source of trauma; an unsettling anxiety that begins a few blocks before whatever booking awaits me on any given day. I can never know what dark crevice will contain a folding chair, housing me for hours or just long enough to throw my belongings aside to be scurried through the assembly line of hair, makeup, wardrobe, blocking, and repetitive rehearsals and takes that may never be seen past the eyes of production. How many hours I must have spent on these cold, dusty studio stages haunted by years of busy bodies creating art or creatively slicing together commerce as art for no sake other than collecting a paycheck and hoping that something will come and arrest me from the mundane hours of waiting. To then hurry and wait some more.

A few weeks ago I went to Kaufman Astoria studios for an audition and was cast. The following week I arrived for the shoot, spending twenty minutes with the wardrobe department and another five with props, as they took my photo for an identification badge for my character. I spent another thirty in a swirling chair while my hair was straightened and critiqued.

“Girl, I see some damage here. What you do to get those frayed ends?” my hair stylist with the namesake of a bubbly cocktail inquired.

“It was bitch-teased for a week on some 80’s film,” I replied. I did not need to hear the assessment of every individual strand of hair on my head.

“Well, girl, this is hiiiiiigh definition and I need to hide them fly-aways. This is not good.” He spent the next five minutes spraying my perfectly straightened hair with more cheap hairspray than the Long Island Medium uses in a day. 

From the dark caverns of the hair chair I was then ushered beneath the hot vanity light bulbs of the makeup room, struggling to see past the black patches interrupting my vision. I have never mastered the homeostasis to afford me the transition from shivering cold to roasting under the lights without feeling an anxious duress. I once was a stand-in on a high end beauty commercial that required only my right eye to be lit by a keno that was as bright as staring into the noon-day sun. After an hour of setting up the shot, as my right retina was being burnt like a vulnerable earthworm beneath a scorching magnifying glass on a summer day, I was relieved by the “real” talent for the shoot and she had to merely stare into the light a few minutes for the actual take. I, on the other hand, spent the remainder of the morning like Jekyll and Hyde as a I carefully walked through the shadows of the set, feeling as though the right side of my face had completely shutdown in response to the light trauma replaced by immediate darkness. 

But back to the makeup chair at my ill-fated shoot at Kaufman Astoria. The past year or two has brought me this unexplained trepidation and anxiety that I never had when I first started in this industry. The triggers are many and diverse. Standing for long periods of time in one set place can cause my head to spin as I imagine myself fainting with all the crew watching me collapse on the sound stage. Other times the feeling of entrapment, of never knowing when I will be set free from a shoot that can last as short as twenty minutes or run as long as 23 hours (thank you, Scorsese). But lately, even in the makeup chair, I can feel the desire to bolt for the door, find the nearest subway station, and never return. This day was no exception and I had to force deep breathing with control so my anxiety-control didn’t interrupt the newly sharpened eye pencil that poked and lined my eyes, which began to tear as soon as the heavy concealer was brushed beneath my lower lids. It took all my might to sit still and not panic, as every flaw in my skin was detected and I began to stress the assessment of my pores, fine lines, and under-eye circles. Thankfully, the makeup artist granted me more mercy than bubbles.

The following six hours I spent in an air-conditioned theatre, blasting enough cold air to maintain a balmy 52 degrees, waiting for my call to set. When it came I was briefly shown the sides for my scene, told I would be instructed further on the set and that everything would be set on a green screen. A green screen? Actors who deal with green screens amaze me. The stilted feel, the intense lights, and the complete lack of spacial relations is as challenging to me as walking across a tight rope after a flask of bourbon (enter two more anxiety triggers: green screens and heights). I spent a sold five minutes being shuffled about while lights were adjusted and cameras were placed and the other actor was primped while studying lines and I was instructed that I should smile. And without pause the first assistant director stormed the set, put the other actor in her spot and instructed me to go to lunch. I wandered through the sterile halls to the basement where catering was set up, eating little of the over-seasoned and over-cooked food, an absolute must on a set which I learned the hard way after getting violently ill on a commercial shoot last year. It’s better to nosh on safe foods than risk the wrath of a tormented digestive track. Throw in the unusual hours and long days and it can be impossible to stay out of the water closet. And on some sets, you’re lucky to have more than two johns for the cast and crew in excess of fifty people. 

I finished lunch and returned to the ice-chest of a holding area, where I would sit with perfect hair and in costume for another five hours, anxiously staying alert for the moment when I would be rushed to perform. Anticipation mounted with the frigid climate and I didn’t know if the inner unsettling and trembling came from the cold, nerves, or lunch. I began to pray; to imagine all the way I could handle being in front of the dreaded green screen, conjuring the spirit of Honey Boo Boo Child and her fieriness, hoping to be as “sassified” as the little pageant queen when my time came. But my time did not come and after nearly eleven hours of preparation and waiting, I was told there wasn’t enough time for my scene and I would have to come back another day. It’s hard to not be neurotic in these moments, wondering if the director or creator had second thoughts, that some how the split ends and superficial caused this change of heart from production, or if there was something I should have done differently. But this neurosis was quickly replaced with complete and total relief. I could go home, I could bundle up in a blanket with my furry chihuahua and snuggle after a long day of being paid to do absolutely nothing. 

Perhaps my ego is not as silent as I thought. It surges in battle when I leave a set, wondering why I ever wanted to be in this industry to begin with, only to be followed with a willing commitment to improve and overcome the insane thoughts that plague an overactive mind left with to much idle time to activate. And without resolution, and without much direction, comes the waves of gratitude for time. Because in spite of the worries of aging and grappling with the burning ambition to be further ahead, I’m instead left with the gratitude to continue on this path as long as I desire, but the option to transition into something else is always there for the taking. And as much as I eschew these days, the familiar faces of crews, the constant spontaneity, and the excitement are what I know. 

“Girl” Is Not a Dirty Word

When I was a teen, I remember my idol at the time, Bette Midler, describing “All Girl Productions,” her production company that was named in a tongue-in-cheek style to own the word “girl.” As if the term “girl,” was somehow derogatory and demeaning. I never felt that way, but I was a teen at the time, and figured that since youth reigns in our society, being a girl was less of a curse than being a woman. All Girl Productions served as a long-distance dream for me; a model for the success I could someday achieve. So today, I found myself walking through the halls of Kaufman Astoria studios, past the office of a well-known female executive producer. It reminded me of that hidden gem of a dream.

My hair was partially wet and my boots and jeans were saturated from the monsoon rains that accompanied my commute from Manhattan. Strangely, I can’t remember ever taking a trip to Kaufman on a dry day. I was pointed to a conference room to wait for an interview with the director of a new project and found myself surrounded by auditioning goons, Russian mobsters, models, and redheads. I was up for the model role.  Unpleasant thoughts began to enter my mind, thinking back on similar situations where a male director, occasionally escorted by his team of sycophantic assistants, gives a quick assessment on a superficial level and oftentimes asks a series of flirtatious or ridiculous round of questions to bring out the sexy sass. I was not feeling sexy or sassy. I was feeling sticky and uncomfortable. So imagine my relief when in entered a female director entered the room and began to interview us individually. It was a pleasant surprise, made even more so when I was selected and did not have to relive a story about my first makeout experience or to mention my bra size.

Lately, including my time spent waiting to be auditioned today, I have been obsessively pouring over female rock memoirs and biographies. From Girls Like Us”, which chronicles to lives of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon, to “A Natural Woman”, Carole King’s memoir,  Cyndi Lauper’s memoir (a girl who just wanted to have fun) to Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll by Ann and Nancy Wilson. As a songwriter in today’s world, where I’ve done nothing but romanticize the lives of my female songwriting inspirations, I truly had no idea how much sexism, chauvinism, and assholism that these girls faced during their most successful and powerful years as artists. I had envisioned them as warriors and leaders, who plowed through the past few decades as the valued talents that they are. I was completely naive, as I considered myself to be in this rare loop of sexual discrimination and objectification that would suddenly disappear the moment I had made a name for myself. But it’s not as if I hadn’t heard firsthand about the challenges they each faced.

A few years ago I was in the Hamptons on a rather impromptu Memorial Day weekend trip inspired by a posting on Craigslist. My friend and I found ourselves at a BBQ at a beautiful house in East Hampton, hosted by an eccentric retired millionaire. Over dinner one night I confessed, while slightly inebriated, that I would love to sleep with Stevie Nicks. In present time. At whatever glorious age she was at the time (in her early fifties). Of course, the lesbian aspect of this (particularly since I’ve spent most of my life as a heterosexual), and the age-factor, and my insistence that this crush went well beyond some superficial sex appeal, made me a punchline of a few jokes and awed faces. But this comment also led to me being invited to meet Stevie Nicks a few weeks later by a series of fortuitous events at Jones Beach, the iconic amphitheater of my performance dreams, in her dressing room. Though barely a few words were uttered between us, as Stevie was still in curlers and rushing to get ready, and I was accompanied by an old friend of hers with many things to say, I politely smiled and returned backstage with a few select people. Interestingly enough, Mick Fleetwood, entered the backstage area with his manager at the time, someone I had also randomly met one summer who had been trying to lure me with the promise of meeting Stevie if I were to hook up with him (as if he could be a surrogate for my Stevie crush). It felt like a vindication to be there, in the company of Billy Joel and some of my rock musician idols, without the help of said manager. 

While waiting backstage, I was approached by a short, older fellow, with a rather friendly and shy misdemeanor. He asked about me and I spoke of my music and he asked who my influences were. I mentioned Carole King and he replied, “Carole? I know her very well. I worked with her on many of her albums.” 

“Which ones?” I asked.

“Oh, ‘Tapestry’ for one,” he answered. My jaw nearly hit the concrete floor. Clearly he wasn’t just humoring me. He asked for my number and when he wrote it on a piece of waxy paper, it quickly disappeared. He ended up lately inscribing it on some tattered thing, so cutely inquiring for it a second time. As we later spoke he told me of how much even Stevie had dealt with negativity from men all the time. How at one point, when “Dreams” was at the top of the charts, she was involved with a guy who constantly told her she was an inadequate songwriter but was merely jealous that his own tunes weren’t reaching such success. As I’ve been reading in some of these books, their accounts portray this guitarist as a true supporter of female artists and I consider myself lucky for having crossed paths with him.

It’s almost alarming to find myself with these thoughts, but I’m almost relieved reading about the gender issues, the sexism, and the constant battles that all of my idols have faced. Maybe there has been progress, but so much of what I’ve been up against as an artist has led me to feel like we’ve gone backwards. My idealized version of the days of bra-burning and feminism at its height doesn’t necessarily mean that the women at the forefront of these movements experienced a better proceeding experience as a woman because of it. And perhaps it is better in other industries, but I can’t say it feels that much different when I’m lined up against a row of gorgeous women and our fuck-ability factor is being assessed by a room full of men (and sometimes women). Of all the memoirs, Cyndi Lauper was truly the angriest and most outrageous in her protests of the battles she faced as a woman (followed quickly behind Ann and Nancy Wilson), and it was not purely male bashing because they faced just as much trauma in the hands of women. At one point Cyndi Lauper confessed she was raped by her band members with a dildo, but it was the girlfriend of the band member who helped it happen and rationalized doing it to make her boyfriend happy. 

I love being a girl. I embrace being a woman. And as much as I romanticize leaving the entertainment industry, and possibly one day leaving New York, I know that for now I am part of this system. And I only wish that as a girl, and as a woman, I can conduct myself in a way that changes the tide a little. That preserves and promotes more than female sexuality. I found myself in near tears recently when I watched an interview with Adele on “60 Minutes.” She revealed how she never wanted her music to be about anything but her words and her talent, and not about showing her tits and ass. And I wonder if some well-off pop singer-songwriters of today could’ve played the talent card but let their insecurities push the sex button. There’s a lot to be learned from those who came before us though, and I truly recommend all the books mentioned above should you have any interest in rock, music, artistry, and some of the great female voices.

 

Archaic Deathmobiles

Cars are archaic deathmobiles. Am I the only one left to wonder why such a technologically-evolved civilization as ourselves hasn’t gotten beyond the gas-guzzling, rage-inspiring, congested art of driving? I was raised in an All-American household that loved all-American cars. Both of my grandfathers ran their own garages and my father was a body mechanic who later became an insurance adjuster, spending eight hours a day driving all over the state to look at damaged vehicles. He always chides that bad weather and idiot drivers guarantee his job security. He’ll be the first to brag about the twenty-five plus years on the road that had nary an accident (until this year when he had three in two weeks), but that long ago accident left him with a life-long limp and excuse to never work-out and left his firstborn child (yours truly) with an early memory of seeing her daddy all banged up in the hospital. Oddly enough, though I was scarcely a toddler, I still remember the day of his accident with foggy emotions of terror as my great aunt babysat me, clinging to my tiny body in panic upon receiving the news. But once I turned 16, my attitude towards driving embraced “live free or die” in the truest sense. I wanted freedom more than anything. The piles of Polaroids of totaled cars strewn across the dining room table each night from my father’s day at work had to become a distant memory because I was not going to walk five miles into town when I couldn’t find a ride.

But my days driving were briefly lived. I got my license at 16 and moved to New York City less than a year later. Short of the year I spent in Los Angeles, where driving culture reigns, and two cross-country trips I have gladly embraced public transportation and walking. As the years wore on, I began to accept fewer bookings that required renting cars and touring and in doing so, I’ve faded from the confident, brazen driver that I once was. And the same thing has occurred with my circle of friends. In fact, I now think most occasions there needs to be a financial offering to get me behind the wheel of a car. I now loathe driving. I get in the back seat of a car and I have to focus on anything to avoid from getting car sick. Last November I drove a stretch of the New York State Thruway, a route that I was happily blazed through because it bridged my small town to a shopping mall and dense population. But this time I was struck in absolute terror. Nothing feels natural to me about driving 70 MPH, constantly looking out for the moron weaving in and out of traffic in his souped-up Beamer, or the moron who thinks he/she can text and chat on the phone and simultaneously stay in the lane. I tried to breath deeply, chat to myself, blast music, find my Eckhart Tolle-calm, but nothing could replace my terror-filled thoughts. I had lost the ability to zone out and just enjoy the experience of being in control. I didn’t want to be in control. I wanted to be relaxing in the back of a bus, perusing a copy of New York Magazine with earbuds in my ears, knowing that we were in the biggest ride on the road. 

Last weekend I was upstate again, where I’m constantly shuttled around in a car as I so conveniently always forget to bring my glasses (which may or may not be legally required for me to drive) and I dreaded every moment in the car. I was more than happy to bring my dog as a distraction from the winding roads, the near-misses of other bad drivers, and the anxiety of sitting in traffic heading back to the city on a Sunday night. I started resenting my parents for living so far away from a train station run by public transit (since the assholes at Amtrak forbid pets on their trains). I obsessively used Google maps on my iPhone to calculate walking directions, offering at one point to walk the 3.5 miles home from a friend’s barbecue. This came as no surprise to my parents, who came to Atlantic City on my birthday and in honor of my birthday wishes jumped a concrete highway barricade and walked two miles to a neighboring casino because getting their car from the eighth floor of a garage seemed like a waste of time to me. And they could use the exercise.

While I know our culture (and even I tend to agree) is very keen on overcoming anxieties and being fearless, there’s a part of me that thinks we have fear and anxiety for a good reason. Cars are dangerous. They are expensive, they are terrible for the environment, and take away from the exercise we get from walking, bicycling or even taking the subway and running up and down a few dozen stairs at each station. I know in rural areas it’s not feasible to just give up your car, and that given the health of most Americans, walking three or four miles is impractical. But why don’t we come up with a better way of getting around? Cars cannot be the answer for the long term. I think we’ll become too lazy and keen on multi-tasking to have time for just “driving” from A to B. The sooner, the better. 

 

(Let it be know that immediately proceeding the writing of this blog my boyfriend and I took our second only rental car adventure to Connecticut and I found myself speeding along the random highways at night to pick him up from Foxwoods after I spent the day in Mystic. And since he had irritated me ever so slightly, my driving anxiety was completely gone. So apparently I just need to be mad when driving to alleviate symptoms of anxiety.)

Love Through Touch

It was all I could do not to pass out. I felt the familiar anxiety-induced tingling sensation running through my brain I’ve come to know too well in recent years. The pungent, stale air brought over a wave of nausea that I fought to get under control. I had just wandered through a labyrinth of linoleum floors, cluttered with food carts and mopping pails. I waited for a crowded elevator that stopped on every floor before my destination with no one getting on. Whatever good I was about to offer was losing the mental battle that wanted me to bolt to the nearest exit. But it had taken fifteen minutes just for me to get an elevator to take me to the seventh floor of this home for the aging. The definition for “subacute unit” as offered in my Google search the night before was mild in comparison to what awaited me.

In my latest effort to improve myself and give to others, I’ve committed to volunteering at least once a week. And for this week, the task at hand was to provide manicures and pamper seniors in a “subacute unit.” When I made it to the recreation room, there were eight seniors in wheel chairs (some more conscious than others) and two volunteers. An episode of “Family Feud” blared throughout the room, though only one senior and an employee seemed to be engaged.

“Name a place that’s hot, crowded, and smelly,” the host declared. The clearly suburban female contender on TV quickly piped in, “The mall!” She received a blaring, red X, while her competition scored the number one answer, of the “subway.” If the word “crowded” was omitted, the room we occupied may have scored the number one spot. The heavy air reeked of bodily fluids, decay, and a salty-rich smell I could not identify. I joined the two other volunteers and leaned against a cracked window, taking what little fresh air I could and now grateful for the same winds I bemoaned on my walk to the nursing home as they provided a sliver of relief. I ran through all the possible positive thoughts I could to somehow quell my dizziness and discomfort. I imagined myself or a loved one being in their position and envisioned how I would like to see us treated at that stage of life.

Our team leader entered. She was an older woman herself, smiling broadly and toting her own portable seat. Her energy transformed the room and she calmly took my hands and warmly greeted me.

“Thank you for coming today. We’re here to treat all our special ladies and gentlemen like kings and queens. Some of them may communicate with you, but some will just sit and enjoy being pampered. We’re here to show them love through touch.”

Love through touch. My mother has always been a touchy person. In fact, she puts such intensity behind it that I’ve been known to squirm and resist. I’ve never been comfortable with it. But she is a natural caregiver. She can handle bodily fluids, sick people, and the down and out with a loving, calming connection that was not passed on to her eldest daughter. This was one of the reasons I opted for an experience that would take me completely out of my comfort zone and push me to be more comfortable with the uncomfortable. To connect, to be aware, and to appreciate all that I have.

“You may notice the smells,” our leader continued. Thank God, I wasn’t the only one. “All of our guests are in diapers and they may need to be changed. But if you can stand the smell, we won’t be here for very long and if they have to leave right away to get changed, well, then they miss out on being pampered. So do the best you can.”

Amen. In a moment like this I needed the honesty and encouragement. I was assigned to a woman with snow white hair, who acknowledged me but could not speak. I carefully removed her nail polish, which already appeared immaculate in spite of being a week old. I couldn’t go two or three days without having to completely redo my own. I remembered how much I envied my great grandmother with her long, tough-as-steel fingernails. She used to always complain they needed a trim all the while I spent money buying potions to make mine like hers.

There were moments when I was overcome by the smell and the warmth of the room. When I felt anxious to be holding a stranger’s worn hand, as she kindly would look to me and let me do whatever I needed to. Her vulnerability frightened me. I did not know this role very well. But I committed myself to doing the best manicure I could. I left her with a vibrant shade of pink on her strong, long nails. And I left the nursing home with a new spark aglow within me. I may not ever get to the level of caregiving my mother offers the world, but I can feel myself expand just a little more each time I volunteer. As much as the studies conclude our personalities are essentially set in stone between 25 and 30 years of age, maybe there is a chance to change if we are willing. Or so I’m trying to prove this year.

 

Title-less Musings

Narcissism sweeps through today’s batch of latest ramblings, querulous insights, and status updates. Snarky sentences and critiques are so ubiquitous that I can’t even vent without feeling like I’m no longer original (insert my moment of narcissism). How I miss the days when no one I knew even had a blog and we were referring to our Xanga sites as a “new place for writers.” Now it’s a place for everyone. So I’ve abstained from writing anything to abstain from being another loud voice in a noisy forum of endless chatter. But how I miss the random entry, full of updates that only my mother would care to tune into (and maybe a few former nosy lovers along the way). Without said forum, I find my mind-chatter interferes in my zen moments of walking the dog, yoga, and banging away on my piano.

So here we go. Let’s begin with the exciting news. This year, my new musical duo, Mirabelle is performing at Night of a Thousand Stevies at the Highline Ballroom. It’s such a treat to be able to perform on a night of scarf-twirling, glitter infested, Stevie Nicks-inspired grandeur. Our project, “Crystal Revisions” has received so much positive energy (if not yet from Stevie herself) and if you haven’t downloaded it yet, go to www.crystalrevisions.com. It’s free to download and perfect for the upcoming BBQ and beach weather heading our way. 

I’ve committed to a plan, in my often unpredictable life, to ground myself in routine. This means working out more, volunteering more, learning more, and expanding my horizons. Thanks to LiveMocha, I’ve started learning German. Thanks to NYSC, I’ve made the commitment to work out every day of the week. Now, it doesn’t necessarily pan out that way, but I read that it’s better to do something every day than to convince yourself you’ll do it a few times a week. When I committed to three days, I found that I’d inevitably find a way to weasel myself out of a day here or there. By pushing for everyday of the week, no longer can I procrastinate until tomorrow. I just have to find the time today. And volunteering comes as I’ve begun to question my path and my contributions to the world. I feel we are so incredibly off course as a culture. With all the good things that can be done, so many hours are wasted doing absolutely nothing to better the lives of ourselves and others. I’ve been spending time with more seniors, who give us such a rich perspective of the circle of life and what’s important. What a lifetime will amount to. In my brief visits, it always amazes me the moments that the seniors tend to relive in conversation and regret in passing.

I’ve started to tell the truth about my age. Obviously, those in the biz who are reading this, or anyone I deal with in “that world” are getting spoon-fed lies because money is involved and the entertainment industry just perpetuates the bullshit that youth is where it’s at and we should all do everything possible to preserve the face of a 21-year-old. I turned 30 this year. And I fucking love it (sorry, Mom, who informed me that children occasionally read the f-bomb on my blog. This is NOT a blog for children and never has been, but additionally, any child in society today has inevitably heard a few f-bombs if they’ve left home more than once or twice). But being 30 is great, as the requirement to maintain a twenty-something stereotype slips away. I’ve promised to blog about my experiences with ageism that began as early as 20 for me (and I in fact began lying about my age to appear younger at 20) and will get to that at some point. But considering I still get id’ed wherever I go and occasionally hit on by young punks, I’m fine with it. And working out every day has only guaranteed I’m in the best shape of my life, as opposed to when I was a far more voluptuous 20-year-old pretending to still be 19. It’s amusing that I felt such a need to hang onto youth when every girl-crush I’ve ever had has been on a woman in her mid-forties or older. Go figure. I’d also pledged to go blonde at 30, but considering there’s nary a grey hair in my head, I may have to hold off another decade, when it will make more sense. 

Aging is also great because my objectives have changed. My source of joy has been redirected and my angst about hurrying up success has been refocused to redefine the success I want in my life. Amen for that. It’s so interesting to really look at and understand the life paths of people I’ve aspired to emulate are really crappy and miserable. And that perhaps what I wanted before really isn’t as fulfilling or fun as I once imagined. I wonder, if like many of my new senior friends, that the times I will most adore and long for will be the days I dreamt my dreams in lieu of the days I realized them. Chances are, yes.

2011: A Review, And Could You Come Back Please?

Typically I write an annual year in review, specifically highlighting the adventures, feats, and gratitude of what came to me in that year. These reflections are always accompanied by an overly optimistic zeal shining towards the new year with the potency of a “Care Bear Stare.” This year I made the mistake of not writing such an entry sooner, and whatever rainbows and money trains I imagined flying out my ass in 2012 have taken a nose-dive into the shitter. Not a few hours into the New Year did my boyfriend contract a nasty cold and eye infection that still lingers and has happily hopped from one blue eye to the next, infecting me. Although, red eyes make for blue to become even more vibrant in the gorgeous contrast of an unhealthy eye. I left 2011 with volcanic passion and a dedication to return to writing. I actually started a script on the dreadful life of a “fake girl,” a catchphrase that has become my implied moniker as I loan my body parts to films and commercials that aim to capitalize on the victims, whores, and objectified women that are written for us gals lucky enough to land a break in “the biz.” And just as smoke shot out my ears in this manic episode of creation, I was swept away into the malaise of the holidays, dragging my spirit down with excessive sodium, fat, and human interactions. My one goal was to find a quiet place of self-reflection, where I could write, find my bearings, and make some really “serious” choices. Instead, I’ve been so busy dealing with everyone else that my deep thinking days have been exchanged for incessant mind jumps and thoughts of whatever ridiculous, outrageous life change I should take. Be a flight attendant and move to Belgium? Abandon New York and live in the countryside of Vietnam teaching English as a happy ex-pat? Move to Hawaii and live in a van, selling trinkets and busking for tourists? Donate my eggs for the sum of $10,000 for a family that has the means to adequately raise a child as opposed to me, who may never have the right “time’ and opportunity to bear my own? Go kick ass in corporate America, sell my soul, only to be sliced and diced with budget cuts as my boyfriend and all the other men from my past who have been laid off repeatedly in this ever-improving economy? Or maybe I can just dig a nice ditch and bury myself with cement and sand, because whenever my heart is heavy and burdened, there is nothing I wish for myself than to be covered with the weight of something else. But perhaps I’m not so bad off. My boyfriend has been dealt a lay-off, head cold, pink eye, and pure vitriol from his worrisome girlfriend in the first six days of the year. That feels like a fucking winning year to me.

 

But alas, per my annual agenda, I must clear the disasters of the new year and reflect on 2011. I didn’t think it was such a great year, but after 2012’s shit storm, I’m beginning to think it may not have been so bad. So here we go.

 

The highlights:

#1.  I returned to songwriting. Not only did this little passion of mine resurface, it came in unexpected moments. The boyfriend and I wrote our first song together called “Cold and Incomplete.” I also wrote a song for the recent album “Crystal Revisions” that pays tribute to Stevie Nicks. It’s called “Crestfallen” and it is the first song written purely from the love and longing for a different era and the great things Stevie Nicks, and the greats before me, have managed to accomplish.

#2. I went to Jamaica. For the first time, the boyfriend and I had a real vacation and we relished in every morning swim and snorkeling session, every moment we carefully avoided the visiting teen-aged schizophrenic at the resort, and every halfway decent rum cream concoction we managed to come up with. And, oh, the sunsets. They were such a blessing.

#3. My dog became completely potty trained. Yeah, he even exceeded my goals of having him trained to a box. I gave him an easy out but this little punk chooses to hold it and await our five-flight trek down the stairs onto the often cold, wet, or smelly concrete sidewalk. And for that, well, I love him. On the other hand, he also revealed that this aggressive-territorial sense of entitlement is going to be a hell of a lot more challenging to wash out of his system. Particularly when he drew blood from the my unsuspecting, lethargic grandfather who reached to pet the distressed dog and ended up bleeding for ten minutes thanks to his tissue-paper thin skin and blood thinners upon Jack’s strike. But, what fun would owning a dog really be if we didn’t have these issues? I’d never get to test my patience on a daily basis without him. Oh, and my boyfriend.

#4.  I said fuck you to my back molar. After three root canals and crowns in 2010, my budget and patience were spent. I opted that the dentist just rip out a back molar and spare me the expense. The recovery was a bitch and my love for Vicodin has dissolved after the once miracle drug left me with a reverse stomach acid waterfall (you catch my drift, I hope) and an allegiance to ibuprofen during the hottest heat spell of the summer. And it allowed me to dive into a new year with one less responsibility. I think of each tooth as coming with the responsibility and financial burden of a child. They don’t live as long and it costs you almost as much. I just may be a little more cautious in killing off any more of these offspring because getting used to having a big hole in the back of my jaw has been a real bitch.

#5. I finished another album. “Crystal Revisions.” I love it. It’s different. It’s allowed me to explore a whole different part of my vocal range, and in spurts allowed me to tap into the energy, the spirit, the soul of a time that enraptured my imagination and desire to perform in the first place.

#6. I stopped caring. No, really, after all these years of worrying that I have not done enough, that I am not good enough, that I am not moving fast enough, I just said enough is enough. And for the most part, I’m content. I want change, but I think seriously, this has about as much to do with me as it has to do with the world around me. It’s not reactionary, necessarily, because I project light and hope for all of us. But I think there’s more to answer that than me and self-persecution wasn’t the road to anything but misery.

#7. Bye-bye to numbers. Dates, months, years, have all faded into undocumented occurrences. No longer do I remember or attribute time passing or an emotional reaction to “Holy shit! It’s really 2012!” No, I don’t keep track of the years, months, etc. with the diligence I once did, searching for numeric meaning and significance. I just live my life.

#8. I lived with a man for an entire year and didn’t kill him. I came close, namely by strangulation from time to time, but I buried the urge, bit my tongue, and let the moment slide. Or I made a nice big drink, sat at the piano and banged out my frustration because notably, this year, I could finally write songs again. 

#9. I kept my fervent hope alive. Alongside “Occupy Wall Street,” amid the disappointments, the challenges, and the doubts, I did what all us good Americans do. You can stick the Statue of Liberty up all our asses, but we will still stay optimistic and believe that indeed, “tomorrow is another day.”

 

The Ramblings of A Sick Chick

Eight days ago I convinced myself the dry air and pigeon dander at the Javits Center were to blame for my tender throat and mild migraine. A winter storm approached and my headache was attributed to the pressure changes and unseasonal snow. But when the boyfriend took a beating, clearly inundated by a no-nonsense virus, I knew I was next in line. So here I am, sequestered in my little studio apartment with a ring of autumnal-flavoured candles, hacking up a lung or two and thinking how not a single thought of my boisterous mind could meet the limitations of a tweet or status update. 

My nine-pound chihuahua, though equipped with the feistiness and ferocity of a rabid bear when infringed upon, is quite adept at training his owner. I’m so pleased that now he has a routine of pouncing at the door whenever he needs me to haul him down five flights of stairs so he can relieve himself on Broadway. Having been raised with dogs that were hardly trained, I thought training a dog was near impossible and my family possessed a genetic defect in training our pets to be obedient and do their business outdoors. But I was wrong. Nothing makes me happier than coming home and watching my dog’s painstaking efforts to sit politely, his body in a flurry of muscle spasms suppressing his impulse to jump and run up to me. Because he knows how happy I am when he sits and stays calm, aiming to keep his emotions at bay. My boyfriend, on the other hand, comes home and shouts, “Do race car, Jack! Do race car!” He’s coined the term for the greyhound-inspired trollop through the apartment the dog does, his full fan-tail tucked between his speeding legs as he dusts the floor in pure bliss. Having a dog, a boyfriend, and a triangle of glowing candles makes being ill a bit less of a burden. But it still sucks.

I’ve become infatuated with “Cagney and Lacey,” lamenting on the old New York and the television programming that opened the doors for stronger, character-driven women. My boyfriend’s first remark about the show was, “If they did that show today, those characters would be much hotter.” That’s kind of the sad point. I miss the saucy, spunky casting choices of days gone by. When I see a show like this it makes me consider being a detective or changing my career because they look like they’re having a blast. This week’s “New York Magazine” (my absolute favourite periodical) did a feature on “Ms. Magazine” and I felt a touch of sadness that we aren’t in a more turbulent time of women assessing how we are portrayed and defined. That being a strong woman today means you’re also willing to shake your booty ala Beyonce or be in an outlandish wedding-possible PR stunt ala Kim Khardashian, or half-naked and transgendered appearing like Lady Gaga. But if someone were to mirror Gloria Steinem in today’s media, she would not receive the same level of attention or respect (or even disrespect) because she wouldn’t make the same waves. When I was 19, I boldly applied to be an editor-in-chief at Ms. Magazine, which was hiring out of LA (of all places). My cover letter was brazen, explaining that the magazine needed a new voice and direction to appeal to my generation and that I had ideas to steer the publication. I received a very kind response, obviously reflecting on my lack of experience as a magazine exec, but offering a follow-up and possible position if I was interested. Of course, my mind back then changed with every Santa Ana wind and I opted for an actress-celebrity greeter string of gigs instead. 

But now, I wonder if following the figurative winds and my undying allegiance to doing what I want with my time has amounted to a less than brilliant career. Apathy tends to trump passion, until the right project comes along. What’s more is the layer of guilt I feel with my own contentment, so very much against the American dream instilled in us  all to acquire… and acquire some more. As far as acquisition goes, I’m happy enough with a new Crumbs in my neighborhood and enough candles to get me through another month. The Crumbs alone is enough reason for me to stay in this tiny apartment for years to come. That and the amazing no-frills attitude of my boyfriend, who really appreciates the simple things in life. Who would rather buy me new rain boots and five new sweaters than to even consider buying himself a few new sweaters. Who uses his sick day to take our dog to Petco for some new balls and for a romp around his favourite hills in Riverside Park. I still long for travel and making an impact in entertainment, in creating music that really inspires people, in seeing my dreams realized. But at the same time, I have such a level of fulfillment with what is in my own “backyard”. Even if my backyard is haunted by the eerie, animalistic screams of a crazy lady on a bi-hourly basis. I guess it’s to remind me that I’m in New York, as if the cozy quarters wasn’t enough of a reminder.