Posts in Category: Semester in L.A.

Red Light, Green Light

Here’s the thing: I hate driving. I hate it with a fiery, burning passion unlike any fiery, burning passion ever seen before by man. I hate it so much that part of the temptation to not move to the center of the film industry is the fact that their public transportation is so piss-poor, and the layout so spread out, so I’d be driving everywhere. Of course, this was negated by the fact that I lived in the suburbs and had to drive everywhere anyway because of the sprawl and the lack of public transportation…

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I couldn’t have been more than seven years old when my father burst into the bedroom that my sister and I shared, waking us both from a sound sleep with the noise and sudden brightness of the kitchen lights. “Come on out here, children,” he said lightly. Though raised for 13 years in the backwoods of eastern Kentucky, my dad had lost most of his accent, but he still has certain bizarre affectations you don’t often hear in suburban Chicago.

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Things I Learn While Shopping at the Grocery Store: An Ongoing Struggle — Self-Checkout

Most grocery stores that have leaped into the 21st century have what’s called self-checkout, a marvelous new technology wherein you check yourself out, scanning the items, weighing the fruits and vegetables, inserting the credit cards, et cetera. Since it’s a new, imperfect technology, most stores also have a human monitor for the self-checkout, sitting in this raised desk that looks over the entire self-checkout area, not unlike a lifeguard station.

I’ve used the self-checkout at grocery stores in Chicago, and it’s very easy-to-use and handy because usually when I go to the grocery store, I buy a pack of gum and some coffee. I’m not buying dinner for ten, and in my experience, Chicagoans are terrified of the self-checkouts and avoid them like the plague. You never have to wait for the self-checkout, which is why I use them.

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It’s pretty well known that I fucking hate actors. When I was in high school, I used to act a bit. I was on the speech team. Performing was an interesting thing, but I always—for the most part—hated actors. It’s all part of the weird self-hate thing that I have, and I’ll argue that that was when it was at its worst: I enjoyed performing because, even though I wasn’t any good, I felt like it was an opportunity to try to “be” somebody else, which was satisfying since I disliked myself so intensely. But at the same time, I hated everybody around me—sometimes openly, usually secretly—and I’d be one of those “mysterious” actors who sat in a corner, brooding, while the rest of the people were shrieking at each other to demand attention.

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Motherfuckers on the Sidewalk

Today, I was walking along a somewhat narrow sidewalk in Century City. Now, this sidewalk wasn’t as bad as a lot of the ones in Hollywood, where you can barely squeeze two people across. There was easily enough space for four people to walk side-by-side comfortably. But here’s a little thing about sidewalk etiquette: when you’re in a group walking four-wide, and the sidewalk can only fit four people, your entire group consists of big fucking douchebags. This only changes if you, seeing somebody coming from the opposite direction (or being aware enough to know people are approaching you from behind), make room for the other pedestrians.

Having been in LA for several weeks and accustomed myself to the self-absorbed nature of this town, I’ve pretty much gotten used to this kind of thing. It’s not quite as annoying as people who very slowly merge into lefthand turn lanes and make me miss a green light, but it’s pretty irritating. Here’s how I’d handle it back in Chicago: as I approached the person nearest me, I’d slam into them with my shoulder, intentionally whacking them a little harder than necessary. I’m not sure this is a “Chicago thing,” per se. I’m just not a very nice person, and I believe very strongly in certain types of human decency.

But here’s how I’ve handled it here so far: I shy away and walk in the grass, or stand around like an idiot and wait for them to pass me, then resume my walk. This has happened to me almost every time I’ve been out walking (which hasn’t been often, thanks to this sprawling horror of a city), but why do I shy away from being as rude (ruder?) to them as they are to me? Because of the Columbia College mantra: “When you’re in LA, don’t piss anyone off, because they could be your boss someday.”

Back to today: I was walking, fresh cup of coffee in tow, to my car, when in the opposite direction came a four-wide group of yuppies eating ice cream and having an enjoyable conversation about, I assume, money and the virtues of capitalism. As I approached, the person on the end nearest me looked away from the conversation, looked right at me—directly into my eyes, even—then turned back to the conversation. He didn’t move or swerve to avoid me; no, I ended up in the grass, again, in order to avoid him and not spill my coffee.

I stood there for a moment, my “Hulk smash”-style rage boiling. I turned around and looked at their backs as they continued to walk in that “la-de-da, I’m so great” way, and I made a decision: fuck every single one of them. I’m sick of being a less-than-nothing toad. If, someday, I’m a candidate for a job and I happen to run into a guy that I smashed into and spilled both coffee and ice cream on, and he recalls the incident and refuses to hire me—fuck him, because I don’t want to work with people like that anyway.

More importantly, that led me to the decision that I’ll be who I am, because being that person is way better than being the monkey-boy to some fucking tan surfer dude. Will it lose me jobs? I don’t think so. You know why? Three cubicles away from me, the assistant to a lawyer sits there and screams at his boss all day long (his boss screams back). He is who he is, and he’s making a living, and they have a mutual respect for one another because the lawyer wants to be a ball-buster but the assistant will not allow his balls to be so thoroughly decimated.

So there you have it: I’ll bottom out in a year and return to Chicago.

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The Roxy

My friends have varying accounts of my sister’s friendship with Cameron. She always told me and my parents that they were just good friends, which didn’t explain some of his more bizarre behavior, so she elaborated to say they were good friends but Cam was madly in love with her and she didn’t feel the same way. However, in recent years I’ve come to learn from people who actually know my sister better than I do—among them, Lucy—that they actually were dating the entire time they were supposedly “friends.”

It’s not surprising she’d hide this from our parents. My dad has always been overprotective of her, and my mom never believes anybody is good enough for either my sister or me. When I was in high school, I hid a girlfriend from them until one of my sister’s friends called her up and talked about how cute we were together, so my sister called up my mom and ratted me out. I fucking hate her sometimes.

At any rate, Tracey and Cam are still friends, and as a result, he’s been kind of haranguing her for my contact info since I’ve been out here. She gave me his email, and I told him to give me a call, and all of a sudden we were going out to the Sunset Strip for reasons I still don’t fully understand.

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Moment of Clarity

A few weeks ago, on one particularly bad day of work, one of my coworkers approached my cubicle and said, “Hey, you covered Monster Truck Madness, right?”

My traditional dopey grin dissolved into a sneer as I remembered the pain—the sheer torture—of reading Monster Truck Madness. I looked up and growled, “Yeah, I did.”

“How was it?” this coworker asked, taking a bite into a green apple.

“It’s about the worst fucking thing I’ve ever read,” I responded, without hyperbole, even bearing mind that I had on several occasions read material concocted by the great Owen.

“Okay,” my coworker responded, drawing out each syllable to express either confusion or disdain, “but will it make money?”

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The Load of Shit

Over Memorial Day weekend, my sister called. We had to set up file-sharing so she could download some pictures of her house that she thought she had lost. This led, not surprisingly, to an hour-long conversation about my hilarious efforts to find a decent job (or any job, at this point) in an art-related field in which I’m competent. Since she also failed to find employment doing anything resembling what she wanted to do, it’s one of the few areas where she commiserates with me instead of condescending to me.

She gave me all these pointers about her perceived problems with my cover letter and resume (which she hasn’t even looked at—she just happened to take a class in how to make a “bitchin'” resume) and then the conversation gradually turned toward a bombshell she had never before revealed:

“So yeah, a few weeks after you left L.A., I got an e-mail from Cam asking what happened to you because you kind of fell off the face of the planet,” she said. “He said he’d e-mailed you a couple of times but didn’t hear back, so he was wondering what happened. I told him that you ran out of money and had to go back to Chicago, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s a shame, because he said if you’d stayed another week, they’d have hired you on full-time.'”

At first I was livid. Cam happens to be engaged to my school’s L.A. internship coordinator, arguably the least helpful person on the planet. I was angry first at her for again proving her uselessness by not telling me something like that, then at myself because I kinda blew her off when I got back to Chicago. I was jaded and bitter, but she did call me once; I picked up, thinking it was someone else, but got her off the phone really fast. The last thing she said to me was, “Don’t blow this off.”

In that instant of lividity, I was thinking, did she tell me not to blow this off because when I had called back, she was going to tell me an employment offer had been extended? But as the shock and anger wore off, I gradually began to realize that what my sister had told me made no sense whatsoever, and I explained to her why:

  1. As an initial side-note, I pointed out that Cam hadn’t e-mailed me at all after I had left. Not once. And, even after getting ahold of my sister and hearing back from her, I still didn’t hear from him myself.
  2. I had given notice at both of my internships. Not a whole lot, and I ended up skipping out earlier than I had told them, which probably didn’t go over well, but they were aware that I was leaving, and they were aware of one reason why. If either of them had intended to put me on full-time, they had ample time to speak up. They didn’t.
  3. Of the two internships, Cam’s fiancée only knew of one. Ironically, at the one she didn’t know about I was treated with respect, felt somewhat like I fit in, and was made to feel like I was competent in what I was doing. At the one she was aware of, I didn’t fit in at all. The people there would ignore me if they could, they gave me worse than menial tasks (I know, I know—that’s part of being a lowly intern, but at least at the other internship they didn’t make me feel like I was doing all the piddly crap they wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole), and just generally treated me like an outsider. Since this was the only one the internship coordinator knew about, I find it really surprising that of the two, this was the one that intended to offer me a paid position.
  4. Before I even gave notice, I took a half-day off from the internship where I didn’t belong so I could go to Santa Monica for an open interview at a café. When I came back thinking the interview went well, the women at the production company were excited that I’d be getting a paying job somewhere and also recommended various other places where I might be able to make more money (none of which were hiring). Doesn’t really sound like the kind of place that planned to hire me…
  5. One of my friends worked the exact same internship at the exact same place—she was Monday-Wednesday-Friday; I was Tuesday-Thursday—and she actually got along well with the people there. Yet, she interned there for a whole summer and then, in the end, was cut loose, with the typical promises about how they would have loved to hire her but just couldn’t afford it. I suspected that was how things would end from the moment I interviewed, when the women who interviewed me kept talking about how great the previous interns were, and I was just thinking, “So why did you let them go?” Answer: they didn’t plan to hire anybody; like most places, they just wanted the free labor.

I had always had the feeling that Cam’s fiancée would say or do anything to keep her job or make herself look good, so long as it didn’t involve actually doing her job well. This just seemed to me like proof of that, with the truth hidden even from even her fiancé. It’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world. If I had people breathing down my neck from all sides, saying, “What’s up with this kid who just bailed?” I’d probably make up a similar lie. But I also wouldn’t dangle the lie in front of the other person (or his sister). It’s just more of the school’s empty promises, which had stranded me out there in the first place.

Why wouldn’t I dangle it? Because here’s how I reacted: I said, “It’s a bunch of bullshit and here’s why,” but…it nagged at me. I was in a foul mood for the rest of the weekend, and I let it kind of gnaw at me all week, going back in forth in my head, with a 99.9% certainty that everything Tracey had heard from Cam was a total load of bullshit, but I just couldn’t let that 0.1% go. What if they had wanted to hire me? What if they had intended to offer me a job on the very day I stopped showing up, after giving my two weeks’ notice one week before? Maybe I was just that much better than my friend who never got hired at all. They had just hired a director of development, whom I actually clicked with, who liked my coverage—maybe she would have needed an assistant. Maybe I had fucked myself out of a nice (to start with) career opportunity for some really, really stupid reasons.

When Friday rolled around, I could no longer tolerate all this horrible, horrible thinking I had been doing. I had to take some kind of action. Should I call up the production company and ask about it? No, no, that’d never work. Maybe I should just call and try to make amends, apologize for walking out on them so abruptly. Not trying to pry any information out of them, but perhaps the information be divulged. “Sorry I ditched you.” “Oh, the only person you fucked was yourself—I was just about to offer you a job.” “Oh, how silly of me. Let us now laugh.”

I stared at their business card, which I had discovered while cleaning out a bunch of old shit, contemplating whether or not I had the guts to actually call them and—gasp!—apologize.

Not today, I thought, and instead sent an e-mail to my friend, the other half of what we jokingly called “Team Intern,” the tactic we had used to get hired together—we knew each other in advance, so we could talk to each other and coordinate the way we ran the office, to make sure everything ran smoothly. If there was something she found out on Friday would happen on Tuesday, she could call me up and let me know. Team Intern, yes, that’s the ticket.

She responded to me a few hours later, quelling my fears and neuroses by reminding me of various other factors that would have prevented us both from being hired full-time. This just wasn’t the place for that. They were a relatively small operation, they obviously wanted to keep the overhead low, so by having two interns in rotation working for three months and then replaced, they had all the additional help they really needed, and for free! In exchange, the very purpose of an internship: payment in experience and maybe—just maybe!—a shiny new reference.

My irritating conscious mind allayed, I was able to continue sending out a resume that, I assume, human resources people print out and hang up on the bulletin board in the break room for everyone to first laugh at, then sigh with the relief one gets in knowing they don’t have somebody like me working for or with them.

Let the good times roll.

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