Friday, May 28, 2010

Too close for comfort

I sat in the small room, nervous, waiting for her. I’d been waiting for some time now, but the thought of leaving never crossed my mind. I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

She finally came in, looked at me, smiled. I smiled back. She dimmed the lights, closed the door. Her face was suddenly close to mine, too close for someone I’d just met five minutes earlier. But from the moment we saw each other, we knew this could end only one way.

She pulled off my glasses and broke the silence.

“Read the bottom line for me, will you? Without squinting.”

Thus began my recent experience at the eye doctor’s. I’ve always found those visits to be a strangely intimate experience. You’re in a small, dark room. It’s quiet. There's some serious eye contact going on; the doctor is all up in your business and/or grill. It’s weird. My time there is usually split into trying to a) listen to the doctor’s instructions, and b) not giggle like a madman.

So I only go by necessity: Either when my glasses have broken, or when I have to start judging road signs by context alone. This time it was the former, much to the relief of motorists everywhere.

Let me explain to all you pansy “low-grade prescription-wearers” out there. I really, really can’t see without my glasses. My friends like to test me by holding their fingers about a foot away from my face, and I usually have only the vaguest guess as to how many there are. (A fact that, I believe, some of my friends take unfair advantage of.)

In this case, though, it wasn’t that bad—the right stem snapped, but I was able to hold it together with scotch tape. “Like Harry Potter, but nerdier” was the look I was going for. I think I pulled it off.

My plan was to go into Lenscrafters, have them get the prescription off my current glasses and make me a new pair. But, as Life will tell you, nothing is ever that simple.

“Oh, we can’t make you a new pair of glasses without a visit to the eye doctor,” says the frustratingly cheerful saleswoman behind the counter. “It’s California law. Fortunately, we have a doctor on the premises. Can I make an appointment for you?”

At first the answer was no, on principal. But two minutes later, I came to the realization that my glasses were still broken. So I went back and made the appointment.

It wasn’t as much of an ordeal as it could have been, but I still hate going. I’m squeamish about anything going in my eyes (it’s the reason I don’t wear contacts). So I don’t particularly appreciate having puffs of air shot into them (for some reason, this is a real test) or having drops put in.

“Good survival instincts!” the doctor said, trying to pry my eyes open for the third time in an attempt to drop me. It was a valiant attempt at making the best of a bad situation. Because, no matter how much my brain insists, my eyes simply will not open if there are eye drops in the vicinity. “Not today, brain!” they scoff. “Do your worst!”

Ultimately, the doctor had to use brute force. I don’t blame her; it was the only realistic option.

The drops eventually made it into my eyes. Shockingly, I survived. Now I have new glasses, although they’re ridiculously small. So I need to exchange them for new ones, which I’m sure will be a process in and of itself. I just hope I can get that done without another doctor appointment. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Like Jane Goodall, I recently immersed myself in another society. I did it by taking a road trip with a couple people who are, technically, way cooler than I am. They have their own language and everything. In order to communicate, I was forced to adapt.

The trip was to San Francisco, a city known for its breathtaking scenery, its incredible bay, and someone named Bush Man, a guy who jumps out of bushes to scare tourists who then, I guess, pay him. He’s a local legend.

The idea to shirk my responsibilities for a couple days was inspired by JetBlue’s 10th anniversary sale. For two days, every ticket was only ten dollars, which meant every ticket was sold out. But still, I’d always wanted to see San Francisco, and the dream seemed tantalizingly close. So a couple friends and I decided to just rent a car and drive the thing. (To all my employed friends: Ha ha.)

With our iPods, GPSes and laptops all packed, we were ready to rough it for a few days. The drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is about is about six hours if you go up highway 5, the boring way. It’s about nine hours if you take the Pacific Coast Highway, which hugs the California coast. We chose to take the PCH for a few hours, until we got lost and had to switch over to the 5. (And yes, we got lost despite our GPSes. Even the most experienced navigator would be hard pressed to make the same claim.)

With all those hours on the road, staring at more cows than you would expect California to have, my friends and I were forced to make conversation. And it soon became clear that I was out of my element. They were saying things like “stoked,” and “dawg.” They kept trying to bump my fist with theirs. It was unnerving.

I slowly came to understand their primitive yet beautiful language. Take this example of a Coolspeak sentence: I’m totally fiending some coffee. This means, “I currently have a strong desire for coffee.”

Another example: Man, I’m so cracked right now. That would roughly translate to: “I am tired and unable to focus.” (This also meant that it was my turn to drive, although that’s more of a contextual thing.)

One of the more peculiar words is “chill,” which roughly translates to “smurf,” which, as we all know, can be anything you want it to be. I’m digging this chill would be “I am enjoying my environment.” But you can also say those were some good chills. That would mean that you had a pleasant time during your previous activity.

But combining some of these ideas can lead to tricky situations. Dude, I’m stoked for this chill but I’m completely cracked—I’m seriously fiending some mad sleep right now, you hear me? Those types of sentences were hard to decipher. (Although in case you were wondering, the answer was “yes.”)

Despite the language barrier, the trip was great. We didn’t see Bush Man, unfortunately, but we did see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and even a couple forests—I had to explain what those were to my Los Angles friends when I got back. And the drive along the PCH is genuinely beautiful. Car commercial beautiful, even. Do it, if you get the chance. Dig those chills, dawg.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Job-Hunting at a Professional Level.

A question on the Coffee Bean employment application: “What makes you simply the best?”

My answer: “The ability to determine that this is the vaguest question in the world. Also, I can fly.”

I’m currently unemployed.

So goes the recession. I’ve been trying to drag myself out of the 10% unemployment rate in Los Angeles for a while, now. At first, I was looking to find employment in my field—on a TV show, ideally. Preferably in the writers’ room, working as a writer’s assistant. (For those who care, yes, those apostrophe placements are apparently accurate. I’m not sure why it works that way.)

In Hollywood, a writer’s assistant job is the Holy Grail for us aspiring TV writers. You’re a secretary, basically. You sit in the writers’ room and take notes. It has the disadvantage of, well, having to sit and take notes all day. But the advantage is hobnobbing with the writers. And maybe accidentally sneaking a joke or two of yours in there. And maybe the writers try to figure out where it came from, and maybe you say it was yours, and then maybe they hire you on full time. And then you become the showrunner, maybe, and then maybe Lifetime makes a movie about you and the breakneck speed with which you conquered Hollywood.

So there can be pros and cons. Unfortunately, those jobs aren’t only incredibly rare; they’re stab-your-neighbor competitive. I was barely able to find any job openings, let alone get an interview.

So I expanded my search to your typical Hollywood job. You know the classic image of a lowly assistant fetching coffee for his boss? I’d love one of those jobs. Answering phones, making coffee, organizing the file cabinet and so forth. Simple stuff, but in Hollywood, assistants are like stem cells—they can become anything. Lots of (basically every) producer, writer and director started as an assistant. And so, once again, these jobs are highly competitive. 

But I didn’t have any luck there, so I started looking at unpaid internships. Unpaid internships are the unpaid internships of Hollywood. You’re basically the same thing as an assistant, except with less responsibilities and no money. They are—you guessed it!— extremely competitive. There can be hundreds of applicants for the same non-paying job.

Now, I’ve gotten a few of these internships along the way. Each has been a great learning experience, but it turns out my landlord still wants rent every month. So I moved on to the Big Box stores. Target, Best Buy, Starbucks, Coffee Bean, etc.

The problem with applying to these places is that they make you fill out a long, boring questionnaire that’s designed to filter out the riff-raff. All the questions basically boil down to “will you steal from us?” but phrased in different ways. For example:

“While at work, you hear a fellow employee speaking disparagingly of your manager. This behavior:

a)     Is to be expected.
b)    Should be discouraged.
c)     Is a good opportunity to bond with your co-workers.
d)    Occurs in the workplace.

And so forth. There’s rarely a good answer, and I’m notoriously bad at these tests anyway. (The technical term is “red-flagged. Guess how I know that.)

The next step, unfortunately, is finding creative ways to make money. Thinking “out-of-the-box” in “new, creative ways.” Unfortunately, the only sort of ideas I seem to be able to come up with are “moderately illegal” and may land me in jail for “insurance fraud” and other “miscellaneous illegalities.”

I'd like avoid that. So, uh…let me know if you hear of any jobs, will ya?