Being (and nada-ness) in LA

The day I decided to leave LA, I was stuck in traffic on the 405 frontage road. I went on the frontage road to get away from the 405 but there I was — stuck —  and I could see all the cars above me on the freeway were stuck, too, and I got this overwhelming feeling of dread as I realized that I was locked in a canyon with no way out for god knows how long and I thought, ‘This is fucking ridiculous and I’m not going to keep living here anymore. I’m going to get the hell outta here just as soon as I can.’ And then I went back to sitting in my car for another three hours.

Now I am back here visiting for a week and it’s the same. I don’t know how people do it. The only things different are that the food is more expensive, eyebrows are more pronounced, and everyone is skinnier and more stylish than me but I don’t give a shit.

On the positive side, I will say this. People here are actually way friendlier  than I remember. And I mean genuinely friendly. Even the seemingly superficial ladies at the makeup counter at Nordstrom’s seem very caring underneath all of the gobs of makeup. I shit you not.

I still can’t handle people walking up to you as soon as you walk into a store and hounding you nor can I handle the fake ‘Oh you look so wonderful in that sweater’ comments from the sales people who work for a commission, but those are pretty universal experiences. [I should have used the word ‘ubiquitous’ instead of ‘universal’ because ‘ubiquitous’ is a word that hardly gets used enough stage time these days. Fancy words are a dying breed. I say we resurrect them not to be snooty but simply to make sure we don’t start finding words going extinct in the English language.]

But when two frozen yogurts add up to $16 plus dollars at the mall, I go out of my fucking mind and there is no way in hell I am going to leave a tip. Now, at the time, I felt terrible that I didn’t want to rub my finger on the screen and accept the preordained tip that the machine told me to give her. Instead, I picked ‘No tip’ and then hung my head in shame while the LA yogurt lady gave me the stink eye. When she wasn’t looking, I pulled out a $1 from my wallet and then waited for her to turn and watch me insert it into her tip jar but I could tell that, by that point, she had lost all faith in women who definitely are not skinny nor fashionable enough and who are CLEARLY an out-of-towner since I appeared to have no knowledge of proper tipping etiquette.

Still there are certain things I can say with certainty that I enjoy about LA (hard to say ‘love’ but I can say ‘enjoy’ without feeling inauthentic). I love the breezy way you can spend most of the year outdoors with just a sweater at most to keep you warm. There are endless people to watch and study wherever you go. Even the snazziest, best dressed, most put together upscale dude who looks, at first glance, COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY superficial can surprise you by having genuine manners to boot. I was waiting in line at a coffee shop and – surprise surprise – this guy, who could have clearly stepped in front of me, let me go in front of him simply to be polite. I was floored. I probably wasn’t skinny enough or stylish enough for him to ask for my number, but still. At least he had manners! I was impressed.

No, I know. I’m being pretty harsh about this town but still… I do think the sun brings out the best in people here despite the focus on money and glamour that abounds. LA may be mostly about money and fame and working out and eating out at expensive ass restaurants (and I’m the first to admit that I do relish a good ‘eating out’ at a fancy ass bistro…no puns intended), but it also has an openness of heart that I like, and miss. Sunshine opens up people’s chakras in a very nice way indeed. And I miss it.

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Hollywood can kiss my bottom

It’s so weird traveling. I love it and despite it at the same time. I love it because it reminds me that there is a whole world out there beyond my usual four walls. That there are endless possibilities. That there are people with minds and ways of seeing completely foreign to me. Whose voices are voices that I never normally hear. Who have weird senses of humor that I can’t believe they get away with. Like this guy on the airplane sitting behind me who loudly exclaimed that he was glad that this other (slender) guy was sitting next to him because – thank god – he’s not another Jabba the Hutt.’ I mean, come on!!! I could never say that to a total stranger. Who can? It takes a certain kind of person who can say that. Not sure that that’s a good or bad thing, but still. Almost a Trump-like person. Again, not an admirable person to be compared with (IMHO) but I was intrigued. So I kept listening and it turned out that this guy was anything but a Trumpite. He was a Hollywood exec type who liked to do a lot of name dropping. He was a co-producer working for Cameron Crowe and every other comment outta his mouth was  ‘Jerry Macguire’ this and ‘Tom Cruise’ that. I was intrigued at first. I wanted to know how the mind of a Hollywood exec sounded. I listened for a long time but then the plane started going through some serious turbulence. So much so that I was gripping my book and saying my prayers (and I’m agnostic unless a serious emergency is at hand – I figure God has enough on his plate and s/he doesn’t have to listen to me unless there is a really bad situation to deal with). Anyway, there I was panic stricken and all this guy did was interrupt the flow of his conversation for half a second by saying ‘Yeah, turbulence is a bitch sometimes’ and then he was back to his nonstop monologue of self-glorification.

When I finally got off the plane and my dad picked me up, we drove along the 405 freeway and I started remembering the good ole days when I first got out of college and started working little jobs on movie sets. There was one job I got that totally turned my stomach in regards to ever wanting to work in Hollywood (stop reading now if you have any genuine dreams of ‘making it’ in Hollywood – I’m not here to crush your dreams. Really, I’m not. I just want to set the record straight and offer a different version of the Hollywood story. Sure, some people are cut out for it and that’s awesome. For me? I felt guilty for years because I wasn’t interested in getting into that ratrace. I thought there was something wrong with me. It turns out: nope. There are just different strokes for different folks and I prefer doing the freestyle.)

So anyway, back to the main point (sorry but I like taking meandering paths at times). I was working as a prop person (I think the term ‘prop mistress’ is demeaning and sexist) on this set. And I found myself doing a lot of standing around waiting for the director and cameraman to take a certain shot. A lot of primping and fluffing and talking and eating from the appetizer table and then more talking and more standing around and more chitchat and more networking and namedropping and then more eating. And then maybe…10 seconds of a scene was shot. And then more talking and standing around…. You get the picture.

I’m sorry but with several identical experiences on movie sets within about six months, I was done. I didn’t get it. I didn’t know how on God’s gradually less green earth that would be remotely interesting to anyone but I’m glad, for some people, it is. And I’m not saying this to be all ‘sour grapes’ and Aesop’s fables-ish about it. I just am honestly glad that I made that decision a long time ago to get the hell outta dodge. No guilt. I do not want to live here. EVER. I love my family but this town? No way no way no fucking way. I love the warmth. I love the sun. I love the open skies. I love even the tinsel town aspect. I love the new eateries that pop up and I love the people watching opportunities. And not because care to sound disdainful. I am genuinely curious about people and I want to know what all kinds of people are like…. With the proviso that I can get faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrr away when I need to. Very far away. Writing helps me get away.

P.S. There are sweet and kind and nice people in LA, too. I ran into several already. And I will write about them as well. Next blog.