Monthly Archives: March 2011

Day 37. Musings from a Bike Ride

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When I was in elementary school I used to write stories with my friends. I can remember one in sixth grade that I wrote with my friend, Andy, that involved us up in front of the class singing the Brady Bunch theme song. I also remember writing one in second grade with my friend, Matt, that was our own version of the Frog and Toad series. It may have been the first prequel, I’m not sure. Then there was the whodunit classic I penned called, “The Case of the Missing Nasal Spray” (See bad sinuses early on).

As I was riding my bike to Venice Beach today I was thinking about stories. Last night I went and saw stand up. Stand up is nice and funny and entertaining, but I think that mostly the audience wants to hear stories. Most all stand ups are sharing their funny perspective on the stories they’re telling. I think that on some level, the audience comes for the stories and stays for the humor. After the stand ups were done a female duo got up and did a sketch where they were pretending they were doing a radio show for moms. It was all right, but I missed the authenticity. I missed joining in their story.

This is not true just in stand up. We go see movies, which are often times repeats of stories we’ve heard before. We read books. We watch TV. We hear sermons. We listen to news ‘stories.’ We need the backstory on athletes and American Idol contestants to know who to cheer for. We even communicate to each other in stories all the time.

We want stories and we want authenticity. If it feels like an actor is acting, we’re no longer in it and we no longer buy the authenticity of the film. If someone is speaking to a group and they drone on about facts and figures, we check out. The moment that same person starts telling a story, however, we’re back in it.

Why are we so drawn to stories?

I don’t know.

But, I know we are addicted and obsessed with them. We want to be in one, we want to be vested in others’ stories, and we want to share ours. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it is the sharing of our lives that we want. We want to know that other characters are going through struggles as well. After all, our favorite stories are the ones we can relate to. Maybe story is THE way we share our lives.

These are just thoughts, no conclusions. I’ve found myself thinking about story more since I’m out here. I’m in the entertainment industry, where everything and everyone is supposed to be fake. But, maybe this is the most real arena of them all. This is where there are thousands of people on laptops, in studios, in makeup rooms, writing, acting, and editing. They’re telling stories.

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Day 36. Say Yes

March 29, 2011

The positive side of uncertainty is that you can say, “Yes” to most things. In my pre-L.A. life I didn’t feel like I had time to say “Yes” to anything anymore. I had gotten so busy. I was either working, or working on something for The Mystery Hour, or writing an article, doing an improv show, or having dedicated time with Michelle. These are all things that I loved, but if somebody came to me with something new, I would have to work to squeeze it in. I hated that tension. I liked what I was doing, but I also like being open to things.

When you move somewhere new, there is no “squeezing in.” There is no “squeezing” at all. “Hey Jeff, we’re grabbing drinks tonight? You want to come?” Let-me-check-my-calendar-yes. “Hey Jeff, are you available for an audition?” How would I not be available? “Hey Jeff, would you like to go to the roller derby match on Saturday?” Absolutely!

In my new life, friends of friends have become my friends, things I would maybe consider doing have become things I jump at, and Starbucks is no longer a place I just stop by for an iced green tea, it’s an office.

Today, I spent a good chunk of time at Starbucks. As you may recall, it is inhabited by only good looking people. Piles of them. It was very exciting because I got a lot done. I was focused. I got reels up on LA Casting, I got registered with Actor’s Access, I finished my registration with Backstage, I followed up with connections, etc. I then Facetimed with Michelle, which is amazing for long distance and way better than working on crap. She’s my favorite thing to work on.

At night, I met up with a friend of a friend, Mike. We went to a stand up show to watch a buddy of his. Once again, this friend of a friend was very nice and I could see hanging out with him again.

Also, I found out that I have an interview for a server position with a catering company. If I get the job I will become the cliche of a struggling actor. However, a big part of me wants to get a job in something completely random that I will never have the opportunity to do again. Plus, I got an audition on Friday for a host role on a commercial. People here get auditions all the time, but for me it’s still exciting. Plus, it pays, which is super exciting.

Yes.

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Day 35. The Dreaded Other Route

Monday, March 28th

I have bad sinuses. There’s no way around it. They’ve been bad for years. It’s a combination of allergies and physical obstruction. I had surgery five years ago, and it was amazing (not the surgery,the result). However, if I get stuffed up due to a cold or allergies, it is guaranteed to turn into a sinus infection and overtake the inside of my face.

Apparently, I’m allergic to something out here, so I’ve gone down the path of the sinus infection. If sinus infections are the villain, then there is only one hero available: The Neti Pot.

I use the Neti Pot every morning and I swear it does more than any medicine. Now, like any super hero, it does have its one Achilles Heel. For the Neti Pot it is clearly, grossness. Rather than describe the process for you, I will show you. Here is a video of a robotic woman and I demonstrating the Neti Pot.

This style is not quite conquering my raging sinus infection, so today, I had to go to another, more advanced route. I knew that there was another way, I was just scared to do it. As gross as the standard technique is, this is worse.

Here it are the step by step instructions I learned from the internet and my attempt:

-Enter the shower

-Pour water in nose, same as the standard technique

-While you’re pouring the water in your nose breathe deeply through the nose, sending the stream of water to other sinus cavities

-Allow the water and waste to exit through your mouth

-Cough a hacking cough

-Appreciate the sensation of vomiting because it has triggered your gag reflex

-Gargle the phrase, “Lord help me”

-Cough a hacking cough

-Bend over screaming, “Why would anybody do this?”

-Spit the kind of spit where it dangles

-Whimper a defeated whimper

-Without meaning to, enjoy your accidental grunting impersonation of Sloth from Goonies

-Fall to the cold wet floor of the shower instinctively repenting of your sins

-Arise and repeat with other nostril

I went to a different coffee shop today so Starbucks wouldn’t think I was a loser. When I left I had a flat tire on my bike and had to run it back to my house so I could make it to improv class on time. Class was great, definitely a highlight of my week.  Then I hung out with people from my class before we went to a show at UCB. I was just hanging out socially like normal people. I think I played it off cool, like I was used to that sort of thing.

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Day 34. Slow Down

Sunday, March 27, 2011

There is this place in Springfield that is as spiritual as a place can be for me. It is only spiritual while I’m riding my bike. I love riding my bike places, it is my preferred mode of transportation. I think it’s because I like to be active and I would so much rather not drive. Mostly, I like it because it slows things down. 

My brain tends to be in constant go mode, thinking of things, making quick associations, and finding myself in a few short seconds miles away from my original thought. I’ve heard that this is true for a lot of creative people and is definitely a helpful thing on the improv stage. But, I often need to disrupt that constant going with something that is deliberate and slow. For me it can be biking, or walking, or writing, or hanging out with family.

During the summer I used to ride my bike downtown, do a show and hangout, and then ride my bike home. I would ride in the darkness past the bar goers, beyond the Catholic Church, down Jefferson Street and cross over Grand Ave. I’d jump past the traffic and hop the curb to a street that angles, stopping in a circle before the intersection. I think it’s Roanoke St. At night it was all shadows and street lights as I moved through it. I would have Patty Griffin in my ears, take my hands off the handlebars and just coast down the slight decline. Putting my hands at my sides, the moments passed by more slowly.

With all of the open endedness of my experience right now coupled with the time crunch, the relationship crunch, and the money crunch, I have a hard time slowing things down in my head. So, this afternoon, I decided I needed a bike ride. What is great about being in such a large city is that you can go on a bike ride every day and never stop exploring. Today, I went to UCLA’s campus, which from where I live, is past Beverly Hills into Westwood. I took a route like I was the snake in the old cell phone game. It’s a beautiful campus. I sat by the library and wrote for a bit. Then, I got on my bike and rode back. In all it was 17 miles. I got home, had some soup and went to bed, slowly.

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Day 33. Beverly Hillbillies

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Next to nothing happened today, and I don’t really feel like writing. So I will use my friend/former coworker, Lisa’s spoof on the Beverly Hillbillies theme song that she sent to me yesterday. Did you know the Beverly Hillbillies characters were from the Ozarks? It’s true.

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jeff
A poor Iowa/Missourian, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin’ up some film,
And up through his brain came some dreams of moviedom.
Stardom that is, the Big Time, Hollywood

Well the first thing you know ol’ Jeff is unemployed,
His wife said Jeff move away from here
Said Californy is the place you ought to be
So he loaded up the Honda and moved to Hollywood,

LA that is,
his friend’s parent’s basement. Cheez Its and STARBucks

The Mystery Year!

Well now it’s time to say good-bye to Jeff and all his kin.
And they would like to thank you folks fer kindly droppin in.

You’re all invited back again to this locality
To have a heapin helpin of their hospitality

Hollywood that is. Set a spell. Take your shoes off. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

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Day 32. Sent to Solitary

Friday, March 25th

I end up spending a lot of time by myself out here. I’ve been working on videos, doing things online, just a lot of stuff on the computer. I don’t mind it too much, I can get by. I don’t think we’re meant to by ourselves too much though. The greatest example of that is the fact that we punish prisoners by forcing them into solitary confinement. Isn’t that crazy? We’re saying, “You know what’s worse than being surrounded by hardened criminals? Not being surrounded by hardened criminals. Not being surrounded by anybody.” If we need proof that we are created to be social, look no further.

Today, I went to Starbucks (again) and worked on reel stuff. I watched some basketball and then went and shot baskets with my friend, Ross. Well, we shot for awhile and then played HORSE and One Bounce, a decidedly childlike driveway basketball sort of game. As far as I know my childhood friend and neighbor, Andy invented it. It was a Friday night and I was playing basketball outside. It felt very late ’80s to me.

When you spend a lot of time on your own you crave social interaction, but when you get it it’s hard for it to feel natural. You don’t know if your’e talking too much or not enough, or if your eye contact has crossed over into creepy.

Here are examples of how social responses are between the socially well adjusted and the socially starved. I will be playing the role of the socially starved in these scenarios. These might be my recent interactions word for word.

Coffee shop patron: “Pardon me, may I plug my computer in the outlet by your legs?”

-Socially Well Adjusted Person: “Yeah, sure.”

-Jeff: “Oh yeah, I’m not using it. Actually, I’d have to have two computers to have to use both outlets, and I most definitely do not have two computers. Ha, I barely have one. Hey, it’s been tough finding work. You have pretty eyes.”

McDonald’s Employee: “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?

-Socially Well Adjusted Person: “Yeah, I’ll take the Combo #2 with a Dr. Pepper for the drink.”

-Jeff: “Oooh, I just don’t know what I want yet. I like the McNuggets, but I don’t know if I’m feeling it tonight. Burger sounds good, but I don’t want to get the runs later. What do you recommend? What do you think of Wendy’s? Are you supposed to say you don’t like it, but maybe you really do? Where do you live?”

Grocery Store Cashier: “That will be $41.82”

-Socially Well Adjusted Person: “Okay, tell me when I can swipe my card.”

-Jeff: “Oh cool, it’s half of it. See, 41 times two is 82, crazy. The price. Look at it again.How often does that happen? Like never I bet. $36.72 would be another example. If I take out the Life Cereal does it make it $36.72? That would be crazy. Go ahead, try it, just for curiosity’s sake. I like to jog, how about you?”

Person Walking Down the Street: (Silence)

-Socially Well Adjusted Person: (Silence)

-Jeff: “Ooooh,what kind of dog is that? I have a Corgi and a mutt? Who are you talking to on the phone? Can you believe the weather? I mean it’s usually nice, but this is gorgeous! Hey, have you ever seen Fried Green Tomatoes? Anyway, it’s on my Netflix queue if you want to come over sometime.

Michelle, the Wife: “Hey hun, how are you today?”

-Socially Well Adjusted Person: “Great dear, tell me about your day.”

-Jeff: “My tummy is a little upset. Today, I went to Starbucks. Oh my gosh, there was a guy there who looked just like a cross between Morgan Freeman and the guy from the old Dell commercials. After that I played basketball with Ross, it was fun. Have you ever played One Bounce? I think Andy invented it. Anyway, I’ll explain all the rules to you. First, one person throws it off the backboard…”

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Day 31. Uncertainty the Friend

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I’ve often looked back at various difficult, uncertain stretches in my life and thought, “If I only knew what was around the corner in just a short amount of time I wouldn’t have worried so much.” That’s what’s great about retrospective, you know what is coming. It’s tougher when you’re experiencing the uncertainty. But, why does uncertainty have to be a bad thing? I don’t think it’s inherently bad.

This morning was one of those, “Damn, what am I doing?!” mornings. I haven’t been able to sleep, I’ve got this sinus infection, and Michelle had had a tough day the day before. So, I took a shower. The shower didn’t have any magical qualities to it (unless you count Old Spice Swagger body wash as being magical). It seems like I can get stuck in a funk when I’m down and think I won’t be able to shake myself out of it. Then, I just do something, anything. I got rid of the emotional funk and the funky funk.

I went to a coffee shop that was not Starbucks, which felt nice for my anti-corporation leanings. It was a little independent place with cool looking people working on cool looking things. I was working on my commercial reel, among other things. You have your acting reel, then you have your commercial reel as well for getting work doing commercials. I hope to wow them.

I tried calling Central Casting about getting extra work, but I couldn’t get through. I thought it was going to be fairly easy, but apparently, it’s not. You call a recorded line that tells you what is available, then you call the casting director to follow up. It’s the second call where I get a busy signal. I guess there are too many people calling in (4 crapfirmation points). I found out that I’m able to delay my health insurance so it doesn’t start until May 25th, which is good, so we are aren’t doubling up on insurance for me, but not great because Michelle’s is more expensive (2 affirmation points).

I went to a show at UCB. It was a live talk show. I know. I was interested to see what it was like. As I sat down I asked everyone if they have ever heard of the Mystery Hour, when they said, “No,” I assured them that this had a lot to live up to. It was a very laid back show where the host interviewed a couple of comedian friends. It was very fun.

For now I will wrestle with the uncertainty and hope that it will like me and I will like it. Maybe we can be friends.

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