Monthly Archives: August 2011

Day 190. Hobbies

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yikes, I’m late on posting anything. Actually having a job really messes with my blogging schedule.

When I was a kid I collected baseball cards and bottle caps. Baseball cards are pretty standard fare, but the bottle caps were my thing. This was back when soda bottles were glass and had metal bottle caps. I had a shoebox sized box that I had them in. My favorites were Diet Rite, because the didn’t make them anymore, and Sunkist, because they were orange. My grandpa, Bud, was the president of a bank, and one day he surprised me with a huge box full of bottle caps. There were all kinds in there, and just so many of them. How easy was it for him to score Grandpa points with me, by essentially brining me metal garbage? I was fascinated with them for awhile and then put them down, only to bring them out in high school as poker chips substitutes.

I’ve been thinking about hobbies lately. I think especially since I’ve started working at a computer store. Computers are a huge hobby for a lot of people. They will know everything about new products that are coming out, and about everything that came out previously.

Some people are enthusiasts about tennis, or about movies, or about craft beer, or photography, or cooking, or any number of things. I’ve never been that way about anything really, even bottle caps. I guess improv might fit into that category, but I just never really looked at it as a hobby.

I suppose a hobby is something that just captures your attention, for reasons beyond what you can explain, and you want to spend time with the hobby, and learn all you can about it. Have you ever been witness to two computer guys talking? It will very quickly move into areas where you wonder if you speak the same language as them.

I thought I never really had a hobby that I was that into. Then, I realized that I do have a hobby along those same lines.

My hobby is people.

I love meeting new people and taking the time to find out about them. The more unique the person, the better. I get really excited by people. Michelle can attest that when I meet someone new, I will excitedly tell her everything I learned about the person when I get home. I think you can tell a great hobby by the amount of discrepancy between your excitement about it, and the lack of excitement for other people you are telling about it.

I like knowing where people are from, I like their stories, I like hearing their perspective on things. When I used to freelance for 417 Magazine, I would always like to interview people for the sake of interviewing, and for the hopes of becoming friends with them. I think it comes across in my love for acting, in that I like to get inside a character’s head and view things from a different perspective. I loved it for hosting a talk show because I didn’t have to feign interest when interviewing someone.

It’s been great for me here because I meet new people all the time. Some people I’m only fascinated with for awhile, and some people I’m fascinated with for longer and they become friends.

I think the more I have my hobby in my life, the better I like it.


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Day 189. Bad Words: Not Always Bad

Monday, August 29, 2011

When I was a kid I never swore…well, almost never. We had a deal with my parents, who would often be creative raising four kids. We weren’t allowed to swear, and we would get in trouble when we did, except for certain occasions. We didn’t know when those occasions would be, my mom was in control of that.

Basically, it went like this, we would be driving in whatever station wagon we had at the time, often coming home from the pool, and after some requests, my mom would say, “Okay, kids, you can have swearing time for the next three blocks.” The Houghton kids crammed in the back seat would excitedly yell out whatever swear words we wanted as fast and as loud as we could, we only had a certain amount of time and that window was closing quickly. People walking on the sidewalk must have heard a muffled cacophony of prepubescent  “s#@ts!” quickly come in and out of earshot, wondering what was happening in that Ford Taurus.

It worked. I guess it was cathartic. We got our swear time in, and we didn’t do it when we went to school. It set me up well, I haven’t really cared too much about swearing since. I don’t mind it at all, and I’m not offended by it, I just choose to pick my spots when I really want it to be effective.

Sometimes it is just the right time though.

Sometimes there just aren’t any other words that will do.

I’m generally a considerate person, or at least I try to be. Sometimes, I really restrain myself from what I want to do because I try to be considerate of too many people (I’m sure there are some that will dispute that). Generally, it’s true. What I’ve found recently is that I tend to do that with thoughts of all kinds, inside my own head, positive or negative. What this means is that I fully consider negative thoughts, which tends to lead to doubt. Does that make sense? I give full consideration to thoughts that end up producing, and fostering, unnecessary doubt. I shouldn’t do that.

This whole experience out here is a battle with doubt and with confidence. The thoughts, “You’re not good enough to be doing this,” or, “It’s not going to work out for you,” or “You’re messing up your life by trying this,” frankly, do not deserve to be considered thoughtfully. Yet, I do.

I just realized the other day that I do this.

How much better would it be if I didn’t give those thoughts the time of day?

How much more healthy would it be if I just nipped those thoughts in the bud?

It would be so much more effective and satisfying say:

“Fuck that idea.”

Ooh, did you feel that? I have certainly never written that word in this blog before. Scandalous. Those thoughts are worthy of that word though, and it’s about time I start dealing with them in that way.

“You’re not good enough to be doing this acting thing.”

Fuck that.

“There is no way that this is going to work out for you.”

Fuck that.

“You are messing up your life by trying this.”

Fuck that.

It feels good. Fuck is such a powerful word, and that is why I use it so sparingly. This blog post is my swearing time. I get to do it for this post, but I have to stop when I’m done, and I only get to use it occasionally after this.

Try it for yourself. You, the nice, considerate person reading this. You know that nagging, hurtful, untrue thought that pesters you and gets you down about who you are and what you’re doing with your life? Okay, think about it, acknowledge it. Now, rather than sheepishly saying the normal thing you say to it in your head, “Oh, hello, welcome.” Don’t. This time, turn to it and as harshly as you can muster inside your head, look it up and down with disdain and say, “Fuck that.” Then, mentally turn and walk away. (Disclaimer: if that nagging, hurtful, untrue thought comes in the form of a real person, please do not heed my advice, unless you are of the same gender, near the same age, and considerably larger than the person.)

If you are already someone who swears a lot, that’s okay, you can still do it. Just come up with a combination of swear words that you’ve never used before, and just say it really firmly, like you’re trying to shoo a stray dog away who is pooping in your yard. “Get out of here, you shitty fucktooth.”

The thought will turn with it’s tail between it’s legs and run home. Those thoughts aren’t very tough, they just need to be confronted. It works, and is occasionally just necessary. I am actually doing that in my head now when those thoughts come up. I have no idea what a trained therapist would say about this theory, but it works for now.

I will now step out of the station wagon.

*I am now concerned to see what new Search Engine Terms will bring people to this website.

**My apologies to my grandma who reads this everyday.


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Day 188. Hollywood Signs and Coyotes

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I’ve only got a few minutes to write this one because I’ve got to get to work. I’m just going to write whatever flows out of my head. I have to set alarms now, that is no fun. This morning the woman in the house right next to me had her Blackberry alarm going off for about an hour starting at 5 am. Yuck.

I hiked up to the Hollywood sign today. It taught me two things. Hey, what a fun hike, and, I’m a wuss.

Let’s join the action.

I’m walking up  the trail. When I say trail, it is actually a wide thing that one car could rive on. There are people around in some places, and in others, not so much. I’m walking, I’ve got my Camel Bak on, I’ve got my headphones in, and I’m listening to some Iron and Wine. I round a corner and I walk about ten yards, when right in front of me is a coyote pooping in the road. We look at each other. I’ve never encountered a coyote before. All I know is that they’re supposed to run away when they see people.

Not this one.

The thing starts trotting toward me, so I start walking briskly back from where I came. I keep an eye on it monitoring it’s distance behind me. I look and another one has emerged from the brush and is coming my way as well. I start to wonder, “Do they hunt in packs? Am I a dead man? I start walking faster without looking hurried. It’s kind of like when you’re in college and you want to catch up to your crush while you’re walking behind them on campus. You want to hurry, but you don’t want to seem like you’re hurrying. Only, in this scenario, I’m the chasee, not the chaser, and the chaser wasn’t going to strike up an awkward conversation, he was going to strike up an awkward gnawing of my thigh.

I get around the corner where they can’t see me an I start running. I get a little ways to where the trail meets up with another one and there is a couple walking up.

Man: Is this the way up to the Hollywood sign?

Me: Yes, but I just ran into a couple of coyotes, and I don’t know what you do with coyotes.

Man: Oh yeah, I don’t know.

The coyotes come around the corner.

Woman: Usually they just run away.

Me: That’s what I thought.

Man: I’ll just start going toward them to see if they run away.

Me: I’m glad there’s a man around.

He starts walking toward them and, sure enough, they run away.

Me: Don’t tell anyone about this, I don’t want it to hurt my street cred.

Why were they afraid of him, and not me? Even coyotes know I’m a wuss. I followed them up the rest of the way and made it to the Hollywood sign. It was pretty cool. It’s fenced off and there are cameras, so you can’t get real close, but it was still very cool. The letters are huge. I stayed for awhile. Fun fact: Did you know they were originally constructed and put on the hill as an advertisement for a nearby planned subdivision called Hollywoodland?

I made it home without anymore coyote confrontations, Facetimed with Michelle for a bit, which is so much better than phone. Then, I made it to my friend, Gio’s, party. He’s going away back home to Greece for six weeks. He has a new boy in his life he’s excited about, I gave him my approval. For a diversity geek, like myself, I loved it. At one point, I was talking to people from Greece, Lebanon, India, and Philadelphia, all at the same time.

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Day 187. First Day On My Own at Work. Don’t Mess it Up.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I was driving through Beverly Hills on my way to work for my first real day on my own of my new job and all I wanted to do was turn around. I felt unprepared and I was certain that I was going to look foolish(er). I’ve started a lot of new jobs before, but I knew I was going to be facing a lot of questions, and I knew that the people asking the questions would assume that I am an expert. BSing stresses me out, and if I got something wrong, it could be a many thousand dollar mistake.

But, like everything else, the time will come where it happens and there is nothing you can do about it. I  went out to the floor and tried to look both friendly and you-probably-don’t-want-to-talk-to-me at the same time. First, I had to ring somebody up who wanted to by some accessory. Now, we have, essentially, little handheld cash registers for each employee. I rang the guy up, gave him his product, and watched him walk to the door, hoping he didn’t set off the alarm because I had done something wrong. Phew, he made it.

Next up, a man who owns a website dealing with videos. He talked my ear off. I listened, and then eventually passed him off to someone else.

By the end of the day, I had sold a few mp3 players, three tablets, two laptops, and a desktop computer, as well as a lot of accessories. It wasn’t so bad, I just asked for a lot of help. I guess I will find out on Monday if I actually sold them and didn’t just give them away because of my idiocy.

I was very comfortable approaching people, although I would say there was an inverse correlation between my friendliness to people and my ability to answer their questions.

Also, the clientele at this particular store in this particular mall is made up of people that I have not really interacted with before. They have a lot of money. They don’t necessarily flaunt it, but they are unconcerned with having to spend more, or just the ticket price in general. For me a $2,000 purchase is something I have thought about and planned for for a really long time.

It turns out that working on your feet all day is tiring. The first three hours of work felt like twelve. I could have gotten a job doing something I know about, but this was the one available, and I might as well just put myself in more situations where I have no idea what is going on. This is my current life mission. It is not so bad. People should be more open to it in big ways and small ways.

I went to my friend, and co-worker, Jeremiah’s house afterwards where we invented a fun game. It was me, Jeremiah, and his roommate’s friend, Jemma. She’s from Australia, like a kangaroo. If you have Netflix streaming, you bring up the screen with the thumbnails of the movie poster and movie title, then you each get a chance to guess what the plot of the movie is based on the title and poster. Whoever is closest wins. It turns out that A Shine of Rainbows is not about a paraplegic boy overcoming all odds, nor a leprechaun and a boy,  but as Jeremiah predicted, it does have something to do with an orphan. Jeremiah wins. As we progressed, our predictions had to be shorter and shorter, from a whole synopsis down to a sentence, down to a word, and finally a noise describing the movie plot.

Someone alert Hasbro.


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Day 186. Random Tidbits & A Rebuttal From My Dad

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today is a random tidbit sort of a day.

I’ve been upset with Central Casting since I got here, just because there seemed to be a lack of background roles, for people who look like, you know, the background. I called them up yesterday to listen to the outgoing messages of what is available and there was way more up there. I think it is because the TV shows are filming again. The only problem is that now I have a job. It is part time, but my schedule is not totally open.

One of the things I heard fit me perfectly, and it happened to be for Mad Men. Only problem is that it was shooting on the 9th, and I will be in Springfield for a wedding. Michelle would have loved me even more if I could have done that.

I haven’t auditioned for anything in several weeks. I went on vacation with my family, and then had two weeks worth of training for my new job, it feels kind of weird, but I think Abraham Maslow would be proud of me.

I went out to eat last night with some friends at a restaurant I’ve wanted to go to forever. It’s a place called Church and State, and it’s in the old warehouse/industrial area of downtown. A lot of the area is desolate and scary, but random buildings here and there are renovated. I had ratatouille, which was very good. As we were leaving we were walking down to look at an alley because I like alleys, and I like to show people alleys. Two guy came up to us and started talking. Well, one guy talked and the other guy stood behind us and took his jacket off. The front man was talking about random things to us, but the hair definitely went up on the back of my neck. The area a block away from the nice restaurant started looking less like a nice restaurant neighborhood and more like the scary industrial area. I started thinking about how if anything happens my instinct would be to run, but there were girls, so I would have to stay and get beaten up. I am a hero. We ended up being safe.

The problem about writing about your life and telling stories is that the people you write about hear about or read the stories. My dad responded via voice mail to my outing of him as a technophobe. 

Here is his rebuttal:

“Former J-Man (his nickname for me), it is only now that I have recovered from your lampooning of my technological challenges. Getting back to you now, calling you former J-Man. First off, my chiropractor (reader of this blog) mentioned right away as I got down on his chair, talking about my technological problems in various ways, so I thank you for that.

But, one thing I’ve thought about is really, I was way ahead of my time, you neanderthals just didn’t get it, there were going to be disposable cameras, there was going to be take a picture with your phone, there was going to be all that stuff I anticipated where film became useless. I’m a futurist. I don’t apologize for how I’ve been misinterpreted over the years. That’s all I can say, J-Man. You’re back, you were just former J-Man for about 30 seconds. Good bye.”

Fair points by my dad. I had it all wrong. He is a futurist. He should not apologize.

That will be my exact excuse when I talk to customers Saturday who are disappointed in my knowledge of computers. “What? I’m a futurist. I do not apologize.”



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Day 185. What is the Sound of One Forehead Smacking?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I am not a computer guy. I’m just not. Computer guys are guys who have been into computers for years and just build up knowledge bit by bit over years. Sure, I played me some Oregon Trail back in the day, but I’ve never been up on things, nor cared too much about the latest and greatest in technology.

Today, I finished my last day of training.

Saturday, I’m released to the hounds on my own.

By hounds, I mean, people who are more knowledgeable than me seeking new computers. They’re going to ask me questions. My only plan, so far, is to ask them Zen like questions in return.

Customer: “What can you tell me about this laptop?”

Me: “That’s a great question, will you tell me what you know about this laptop?”

Customer: “How can I upgrade the RAM my computer?”

Me: “How do you think you can upgrade the RAM on your computer?”

Customer: “Can you tell me about the accessories that are available for this?”

Me: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Hopefully, we will both reach enlightenment, because Buddha knows, I need it. I think that tonight I’m going to cram, like a procrastinating freshman who has a history final in the morning. I know that I’ve felt like it’s trial by fire with most jobs I’ve started, but for this one, I feel like I have a lifetime of nerdery to make up. I don’t begrudge nerds, I’m just jealous of them in this moment, and, let’s be honest nerds are hip now.

I’ve got to say, though, I think I’m going to really like this job. The store is always busy, and I love interacting with people in a relaxed environment (i.e. no commission). Once I get all the information down I think I will really like it. Plus, I drove to work today and it took me the same amount of time as it does on my bike, which is great because I love to ride my bike to work.

I’m off to go look up what a Jigabyte is.*

*That is my dad’s joke.

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Day 184. Variety Show! Part 2. The Results.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Okay, so typing on my iPhone was completely maddening. To recap: In the story, I’m performing in a variety show in a theater at a huge housing community. This is the preliminary round, with the finals in a couple of weeks. Two people from my round will make it on to the finals. The winner of the finals gets $1,000, or as I call it, more money than I have made in Los Angeles (That paragraph would have taken me roughly 45 minutes on my iPhone).

I mentioned in the last post who my competition was. The way I saw it, my biggest competition would be the little girl, and the blind girl. I just thought they would both win the crowd over easily.

The show was patterned after America’s Got Talent, where there were industry judges who would give feedback after each performer did their thing. There was a guy who is on the board for AFTRA, a woman, and a British guy. Each performer had about four minutes.

The 100 seat theater is about half full when the show begins. I have two friends out there. There was Catherine, my friend who I met on the plane that works for the show Community, and Bill, who I just met on Saturday who is a college friend of my brother in law. No one else could make it of my friends here.

6:48. The first contestant is up. She’s singing some country song that I don’t know. I’m in the tiny backstage area. I’m quietly talking to the little girl who is performing after me. I’m trying to get in her head so she’ll screw up.

6:53. The first contestant is done and the judges are giving her feedback. They think she is awesome and that she has a real future. This would become thematic for the rest of the night.

6:59. I’m up! I walk out nervously. I can tell in the first 20 seconds of my set whether it’s going to be good or not, usually. I can’t tell so much tonight. Then, I start rolling. Everyone is into it. Since I always share when things go poorly, I think it’s alright when I share that things go well. This went really well. People are eating it up. By then end, the board member of AFTRA judge stands to give me a standing ovation.

7:04. The judges are giving me feedback and asking me questions. I step out of character to interact with them. In my previous life in Springfield, I did a ton of public speaking, even more improv shows, and a lot of hosting. Since February, I’ve been on a stage fewer than 10 times, and only twice since the start of June. You guys, I had forgotten that I am good in front of a crowd. I had just completely forgotten it. The roller coaster of confidence is crazy here. I thought I would be above that, but I haven’t been. Hey, it was a short set at a theater in a housing community, but it felt really good to be reminded that this is what I’m good at. Before I moved out here, I wouldn’t have understood that feeling at all.

7:08. I’m walking off stage telling the little girl, “Good luck.” It sounds nice, but I intend for it to get inside her head.

7:16. Phew. The little girl wasn’t that good. I silently cheer. One down.

7:25. Next up is Rusty Balls. Yep, Rusty Balls. He is the guy from New Zealand intent on wowing the crowd with juggling and whatnot. I’ve got to say, he was pretty darn impressive, but I had a hard time liking him by the time he was done because we were all supposed to do 4 minute sets, but by the end, he had done more than 20 minutes. Seriously. I’m sure he has a Google alert that will bring him to this website, but I don’t care that much. The judges think he has a career in the business. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about him.

7:55. Next up is the other comedian. She is a woman who just looks like she is funny, plus, she has mini bongos strapped to a belt around her waist. She is weird and energetic. She sings a song she made up about LA traffic. Her large contingent of friends are going crazy for her. The judges think she has a career in the business. I’m worried about her. The crowd votes determine the winner, and she has a lot of crowd.

8:07. The blind 16 year old girl is up. I’m concerned that she is going to get a lot of votes both because she is blind, and really really good. She plays a song she wrote on guitar. Please do not judge me for cheering against the eight year old girl and the blind girl. Everyone is competition here. This is Hollywood. Nevermind, it’s fair to judge me. The judges love her and are convinced she has a career in the industry. I’m worried.

8:15. The Beatle Hybrid. He looks like Ringo and George Harrison had a baby. He was a really nice guy in the green room and has only been playing guitar for less than a year. He has a really cool voice, and the song he wrote was so-so. The judges love him, convinced he has a career in the business. I’m not too worried about him.

8:30. The last contestant. The weird and strangely sexy girl singing Aretha Franklin. When I last saw her before the show started, she was crawling on the floor excitedly examining the inconsistencies of the carpet pattern while her dress strap was breaking exposing her bra. She brought her own keyboardist and the girl can wail. She was very good and, indeed, very weird.  The judges love her and think she has a career in the business.

8:45. The host comes back out and it’s time to count the votes. Everyone gets to vote for one. I’m wondering if I brought enough friends. When they announce the contestants so everyone remembers, I look around at everyone all friendly like.

9:03. They bring all the contestants back up to the stage. Will I get the chance to win $1,000? Did I bring enough people? Will the random people vote for me?

9:06. The first person moving on to the finals is….The Crazy Sexy Lady who went last. I knew it. There is one slot left. It’s got to go to the blind girl.

9:08. It’s an upset…

9:08. The last contestant moving on is…

9:08. The Beatles hybrid guy. I had no idea he would be going. I think I could have made it through if I had more people come. Oh well.

Afterwards, I had a lot of people come up to me to tell me they liked me. I have not at my ego stroked in a long time. In fact it hasn’t been petted, or touched, or brushed up against, or glanced at for a long time. So, honestly, I really liked it. A lot of the random people there not to cheer for any one person told me they voted for me. One woman asked for my autograph. I gave it to her. I should have charged her for it.

I also talked to the producers of the show, who are British, so carry a weight of importance. They want to use me for future shows. I’m going to take a meeting.

The lessons learned:

-A show in a strange situation like this is actually really entertaining in LA. There is just so much talent wanting to get in front of people. In equal measure, there is weirdness. A show like this back home would have had far less talent and far less weirdness.

-My outlook can be changed from something small like this. Again, I wish I was less affected, but it just came at a good time. On my ride home I looked at the same life circumstances in a more positive light and I was reminded that I can do things well. I understand the dorkiness of that statement stemming from something so small, but that’s okay. I don’t write this to be impressive all the time.

-Karma will bite you in the ass if you cheer against a little girl and a blind girl.

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