House hunting 101

28th of January, 2012

HUGE day in LA. Oh my Gawwwwwdddddd! Time to find me a new home.

My dear friend Frankie very kindly offers to be my driver and wing woman for the day. Little do I realise what a God send she’ll be! As we traverse LA in it’s near entirety, encountering in every port of call a new story and massive education in the share house market, I feel more and more grateful to have a compadre by my side.

We head to our first stop in Hollywood to meet with Dana. The first impressions of this potential home are not looking good; unless it’s a half way house you’re after. As I look down the drive way I realise the Californian bungalows so charmingly described on Craigs List are surrounded by filth, a dumpster and shopping trolleys laden with dirty blankets and plastic bagged personal items used by the homeless as mobile homes. I’m sure she said a lawyer lived here?! The bungalows of which there are 3 are an absolute disaster; they look hurricane ravaged and derelict. A loud voice diverts our attention. ‘Miss Aussstralliaaaa!’. Here is she is – our friendly host Dana with a scabbed up, half beaten and bloated face, wearing a ripped guns and roses t-shirt.  ‘Come on in!’ she cries. Two steps into this place, one glance at the rusty cess pit of a kitchen and we have to get out. I don’t know why or how we even made it this far. ‘I’m so sorry but this is NOT what I am looking for’. ‘OK, nooo problem’. She seems to vanish into a side room, or perhaps down a trap door as we rapidly step back into the driveway. Frankie and I quietly roll our eyes, until we’re in the safety of her car to momentarily ponder what the hell was that?!!!! Acceleration station and we are hooning up the street.

We navigate our way to a lovely looking house in the heart of Hollywood. I meet Nate who’s not long in from the airport having picked up his wife and kids from the airport. They’ve just returned from visiting relatives in Japan. He’s a musician and knows Australia well. He casually drops into conversation he’s been out there a lot to see his old friend Kate Cebrano. I take a look around, but despite his charm, the location and nice house, it doesn’t work. I’d be living with 8 people in total. Him, his wife and two adorable kids occupying the upstairs, and 4 random people, whom I didn’t meet, living downstairs in tiny bedrooms. There’s a pokey kitchen and dark communal living room. I start to think I’m never going to find something quite right.

We take a brunch break and head to a favourite spot of Frankies; ‘Toast’.

We enjoy a sumptuous feast and ginormous iced coffee, whilst contemplating the local fashion. Between a beige bandana worn as a sweat band and a man in a two piece matching camel faux suede suit with geometric patterning cut from its breast piece, I don’t know where to look. It’s like an early 90’s flash back. Later Frankie comes out with a magnificent quote; ‘LA is the place where fashion comes to die’. I wish I had photos to bear witness.

We head on to the next meet, north to Sherman Oaks (north LA). It’s a good location in terms of being near the studios (because of course I will be required to work there sooner rather than later), but it’s just a little bit away from all the action. I meet with Kelly, who seems normal. We climb the stairs of her apartment and there’s a plastic hospital like screen covering off an area and a sign that says Keep Out. I assume there are renovations or something of the sort going on, so I ask. Kelly responds that behind the curtain is where she lives! A la Wizard of Oz! She shows me the room. There are views of the majestic LA mountains, it’s an ok size, so I ask to see the kitchen. ‘Oh no, there’s no kitchen, one of the last tenants burnt it down’ she says. ‘But you’ve got a microwave right there sweetie’. I let her know that I like cooking and a kitchen is important, to which she seems put out. ‘Most of the people who live here are on the go. You can get ready meals from Trader Joes up the road’.

OH dear.

We’re back in the car and heading to Korea town (East LA). An area that’s fast becoming the new place to be with cheaper rent, great Korean bbq restaurants and close to the vibing Down town district. I meet Chris who writes recipes for a living. The house smells like cat piss of which he owns two and is extremely grotty. He’s a cool enough guy, but the gobs of hair in the bath tub make me quietly retch and the black near burn marks all over the carpet doesn’t really do it for me.

I feel deflated. I feel like my criteria is somehow too demanding. I want for too much. The right price, right area, cool people, a little outdoor space to flap my wings, transport near by….is that too much to ask for?!

We head to Frankie’s mate Sam’s house. Her and her bf have recently moved into a 1920’s Chateau style apartment block. There are a number of these stunning buildings dotted round LA with divine courtyards and artsy boho vibes.

We have some tea and chats. It’s a necessary breather in a mammoth day. So many thoughts are whirling round my head. What to do, what to do???

We head home and decide on a little unwind time at a nail spa just around the corner. There are two in one block ( not uncommon I discover, nail spas are everywhere). We take our pick and very gratefully kick back with feet soaking in hot bubbling water, magazines in hand and start the massage option on our reclining lounges. Ahhhh, bliss.

With toe and fingernails painted and recent celeb goss caught up on; we head home for a little down time before heading to a local bar called Winstons. It’s rammed, sweaty and big banging hip hop tunes fill the space. The crowd sings along to tunes I’ve never heard before, booties drop, hands wave in the air, couples gyrate. I’m dazed. The wicked illustrations on the wall catch my eye. I quietly take it all in. A beer or two later, I’m busting out power moves, taking it to the floor and back up again.Then it’s 2am and home time. Hallejuah, this gal is ready for bed! It’s been one seriously long day.

 

Craigs List – You’re a hell of a beast!

27th of January, 2012

A restless nights sleep. Tossing, turning, I’m exhausted, but I just want it to be morning. You know that feeling? Like a kid at Christmas. Excitement, anticipation. What does the day hold? I can’t wait. I want  to get the LA ball rolling. I want results and I want them now!

Straight onto the internet. FB, Twitter, hotmail, gmail, Craigs List – GO GO GO! All day at the computer, attempting to start my new life. Coffee percolates. Cup after cup, down the hatch. Furiously scribbled notes, numbers, addresses start to fill my new journal. It’s mid afternoon, I’m still in my pj’s when I realise I’ve had nothing to eat. I head up the street, now out of my pj’s and take an afternoon stroll. I’m familiar-ish with the area, as I’ve couchsurfed here 2 years back with a wonderful American girl Jen. The area is very Russian and I fill the next hour ducking in and out of Euro delis with names like Svetlana buying cheap rye bread, veggies and admiring smoked fish and olives.

Back home with a full belly I start making phone calls to prospective share houses. Frankie is sitting across from me as the hilarity begins.

First up I speak to Dana, whom I’d had contact with before leaving Oz. She seemed hunky dory via email; offering a Californian bungalow in Hollywood living with four other people working in film. Sounds perfecto, no? When I speak to Dana on the phone, she sounds like she’s from the wild west. Somehow I feel she may be missing some teeth. We make a time to meet tomorrow morning.

Next up. Skyler with a house in Hollywood. I think Skyler is going to be female, but she’s male and full of surprises. ‘It’s not a house, it’s a studio’ he explains in a slow country pumpkin like drawl. ‘You’d be sharing my double bunk boat’ he continues. ‘Your what?!?’ I quiz him. ‘It’s like a double-decker bus’ he goes on. ‘Like a double decker bus???’ I repeat somewhat confused, but highly amused. Frankie gets the giggles, then me and then Skyler. The giggles intensify to the point that I’m gasping as I continue with, ‘So what you’re effectively offering me is the top deck of your double-decker bus?’ ‘Well yeah’ he says. I am trying so hard to say thank you Skyler, but I don’t think this is going to work, but the laughter has taken control and the only thing left to do is hang up.

NEXT!

I speak to Scott. Scott goes on and on and on….and just when you think he’s going to take a breath, there it is, a little more dribble. He’s a middle-aged man who has been to Australia and stresses at least 3 times in our conversation that his one big mistake in life was not buying land in Geelong. He bores me to tears. I finally manage to get off the phone.

Maritza is my next convo. She requests we meet over Skype. She’s about 24 and starts off by telling me a little bit about the house rules!!! OMG. This is getting more and more ridiculous. Rule number one – no drugs. Rule number two – NO SLEEPOVERS! EVER. What the hell?? It’s almost insulting having this conversation but for mine and Frankie’s amusement I probe further and ask in all seriousness ‘Why, have their been some issues?’ ‘The walls are thin’ she explains, ‘It’s just an agreement we’ve come to.’ With my head almost in my hands I politely excuse myself from the conversation ‘ Thanks Maritzia, but I don’t think this is going to work’. I understand her reasoning, but house rules? Whatever happened to common sense and a little understanding?

In between I have a few normal email and phone convos, though they seem to be rare. So many ads have super specific requirements. Many include a non smoking rule, even if you’re outside! As I am currently a smoker, the thought of creeping around to have a cheeky one whilst watching guard for house mates simply doesn’t work. Another ad goes so far as to mention housemates only have occasional conversations. It’s exhausting reading such nonsense. I manage to line up a few viewings for the next day and have one last phone chat that ends on a rather abstract note.

I talk to Christina. She works for the home shopping network. It’s all fine fine fine until I query a note in the ad about not sharing kitchen bits and bobs. She explains that everyone has their own section in the kitchen with their own cups, plates, cutlery, etc. I query that as a newly arrived resident I didn’t bring such items abroad with me, would it be expected in a sharehouse to purchase such things? Sympathetically she offers ‘ Well I only have one mug, one plate, knife, fork and spoon, but I spose I’ve got some paper plates you could use’. Unbelievable. I am stunned to my inner core. Paper plates?! Get a grip woman.

I suddenly start to remember how odd this town really can be.

Link

10th of February, 2012

I’m up with the sun to take a walk into the Hollywood hills and get my LA fitness on. Passing mansions, manicured lawns, glossy cars, an incredibly awesome mix of architectural styles, decking jutting out on stilts, a huge oriental carp pond, Roman columns, homes with 4 different garage doors, Mexican gardeners, views over the entire city; it’s really a splendid melting pot. I come across a film shoot, a police woman booking cars (in the middle of nowhere at 7.30am) and a dead-end. I’m at the top of the hill. I see a cyclone fence with an obviously abandoned huge home. There’s a sign that reads; this house is under litigation. Curiosity kicks in. I lift the chain a little, pick up the fence and I’m in. I peer through the windows to see a dark wooden book shelf and desk covered in dusty plastic. I want to hop over a little railing and see if there’s a pool in front, as I’m sure there is, but as I have this thought, I hear a rustle in the bushes. I remember a recent story of a head found in a plastic bag in this very area and somewhat spooked, swiftly dash back to the gate and bounce down the hill.

I receive a phone call once home from a lovely Australian guy who’s just set up a management company in LA. I’d left him a message days before and he’s on the line telling me what he does. Not that he’d immediately want or be able to manage me, but he wants to help – to introduce me to people, connect me with other Aussies. He’s had such an amazing run since arriving in September, landing an assistant job at one of worlds biggest management companies – he wants to share his knowledge. It all sounds too good to be true, but I agree to meet for coffee this weekend.

I bus over to Silver Lake to see a guy I met a couple of years back who works in editing and coding for Dolby. He’s agreed to help me cut my demo reel. We sort through clips and make swift process. He’s a freaking computer wizard!

Then I bus all the way back to Culver city (opposite sides of town) because I’ve researched a student beauty school that do 6 buck haircuts and my fringe has been hanging in my eyes for weeks now and needs immediate attention.

I find the salon. It’s shabby and not a patch on Harringtons in London – the spot I’ve been frequenting for years for free haircuts. I pay my six dollars and spot a dishevelled rock chick with a mess of hair and hideous bright red highlights. I pray she’s not my stylist. A little Asian man announces over a microphone to the awaiting students, ‘Haircut at front desk, haircut at front desk’. I turn and who’s beside me? Punk rocker chick, to cut my hair. She’s shaking as she tries to find her required brushes. She looks unstable, nervous, on drugs? I’m concerned for my hair. ‘Someone has stolen my brushes’, she declares. ‘One of the girls here before has taken them, she’s stolen my brushes!’. Okay, we are off to a roaring start. She finally gets herself sorted. I initially try to be nice and understanding, but this girl is a straight out weirdo and I can’t wait to be done. She takes forever trimming my hair. She might have OCD or just be scattered. In between minute snips and an hour and a half later, she’s requested, upon her colleagues recommendation that because she’s so tall, and my hair so long, that I must STAND UP to get my hair cut! I do this for a couple of minutes and then coolly and calmly explain; this is not normal practise and perhaps she should get a stool to sit on. I am doing my best to breathe and read a magazine when she starts rambling. ‘You know I used to work for a legal newspaper. It was so cool, because we could read the obituaries and see who had died before everyone else’. What do you say to that? I didn’t even blink. Mute and staring down, I pretend I’m deaf whilst thinking this is getting more and more bizarre. She continues; ‘I used to be a lawyer’. ‘What kind of law did you practise?’ I ask. She mutters some mumbo jumbo about the adult entertainment industry and having to visit premises. ‘Mmmhmmm, that must have been entertaining’ I reply dryly. After almost 2 hours has passed and she’s finally finished my trim, she explains Morita, a really experienced stylist will cut my requested layers and fringe and she’ll look on and learn. Well, Morita starts hacking into one side and then the other. The woman is in some kind of Edward Scissorhands frenzy. My right side looks moderately fine, doable at least. The left has just been butchered. I have a chin length bob 4 inches deep. I am devastated. ‘STOP!’ I cry, ‘Enough, Enough! What are you doing?’. I am freaking out. ‘I have to leave, I just want to leave’, I plead. The rock chick is massaging my shoulder saying ‘It’ll be ok’. I’m about ready to punch her. ‘Please get me the senior stylist. Who’s in charge? I need a senior member of staff here’ I demand. A small crowd has gathered. The senior stylist has arrived and rectifies, as much as possible, the current botch job. I’m horrified. In all my years of student cuts, I’ve never seen such a disaster. I pull my damp hair back in a bun and storm out of there. I may have even ran to the bus stop. Never again!

On the bus home I have an assortment of loonies waving at me, giving me death stares and shaking an empty cup in my face. I feel sad for them. For the collected mass of seriously deranged individuals. I reflect on just how desperate the health system is in America and feel inspired to jot down some new song lyrics – a rap about needing a guardian angel in this crazy town. My patience is worn. I just want my trackies and a warm meal.

I return home frozen to recall the days events to the friends I’m staying with, drink some wine and chuckle over the madness.

I’m going going back back to Cali Cali

26/2/12 AUSTRALIA DAY

I finally arrive. OMG. LA touchdown!!!!!!!!! Tooooooooot tooooooot toooooooottt!!!!!!!! Super excited, I speed out of that God forsaken Air China 20-year-old plane. Drop a little thank you; ‘Xie Xie’ (said like Sheay sheay) and hot foot it to immigration.

I flip out my passport and present my fresh pressed US O1 visa. ‘What is your purpose of business Ma’am? A serious faced officer stares me down. ‘Acting’ I respond. ‘You have some films you’re working on?’ she asks. ‘Well yes, a few projects lined up and a theatre production, next year’. Thinking I’m about to get grilled, a little internal flutter takes place. ‘Good luck Ma’am!’ she flashes her pearly whites whilst I mumble ‘Oh, ok, that’s it? Thank you’. One finger print later and I’m out of there. Off to live the dream baby! The swiftest US immigration process ever.

Out the front doors. Gorgeous winter warmth. Goooooood morning LA I feel like shouting. It’s 1030am. A huge black limo pulls up to the curb. Unfortunately not my ride. It’s going to Vegas – apparently a courtesy car from MGM Grand. With no phone and no number for my friend who’s due to collect me, I start thinking oh no, what if I miss her, what if she misses me? I find a friendly bystander. ‘Excuse me, I was wondering if you had the internet on your phone? It’s just I need to get on facebook to find my friends number who is picking me up’ I explain. They’re incredibly obliging and as we are in the throes of intrawebbing, there she is, Francesca, in her sleek VW convertible. Lil Wayne and Drake on the stereo. It’s begun…the American rebirth. We chat, chat, chat, all the way home to her West Hollywood apartment. Diving straight into the LA scene. But first a little power nap.

Hours later I’m up and I’m dressed. The last rays of the day sink behind the neighbours papaya tree and fade behind the hills of Hollywood. The adrenalin is propelling me to a pre arranged dinner date with 2 acting mate’s of Frankie (Francesca). Straight to hipsterville Silver Lake (east side LA) We’re meant to go vegan, but the place is booked out, so next door we head to Mohawk Bend. A wickedly slick American diner, killer beer menu and to die for burger makes me feel very happy. My eyelids slowly start to sink post dinner. Here comes the food coma/jet lag combo. Sleep is a callin’ my name.

PRE LA DEPARTURE…

As always a last minute dash to get bags packed and the current bedroom restored to it’s former glory. I’ve been staying at my Mum’s and she’s been the ultimate host, as always. I’m the guest of honour, and now it’s time to go.

Rolling clothes tightly. Positioning them just so in my 14 year old backpack. The backpack that I bought at the age of 18 to take with me to Europe. This could well be it’s last ride -as the zips have grown weary and seams bulge and fray. A little panic- how’s everything going to fit???  What if it’s overweight?

Somewhere in the middle of this I finally connect with my beautiful English boyfriend. It’s been perhaps 2 weeks without real communication. On skype we have ‘the’ conversation… One that has been  brewing, one that unfortunately has to happen and breaks my heart (though in the mayhem I hardly have time to feel it). We no longer reside in the same city OR country…and the idea that we would be together forever has crumpled and the logistics have become too complicated. It feels all too rushed. And just like that…after a year of magic, it’s over. I love you Philly Benoir xxx

Next thing you know Mum and I, we’re in peak hour traffic going to collect my best buddy from town as she’s kindly offered to come out to the airport to see me off.. Mum’s stressing and I’m quietly anxious.

Eventually I am on my Air China flight. But! I am not flying direct to LA – I am going via Beijing. 11 and half hours worth of detouring. I’m in the aisle seat, someone sat next to me and no visable spare seats to sneak into for a little lie down later. The phone rings – it’s my mate Bianca, and Mum – saying a final farewell on speaker phone….awww, bless their cotton sox. I indeed feel loved.

The sun sets – a massive orange orb wrapped in thin Melbournian clouds.

Having flown Air China previously I have very low expectations, so when there is a digital touch screen on the back of the headrest in front, I feel a rising sense of  joy. Not the greatest selection of flicks and tv episodes…but it’ll definitely work for the journey ahead.

Read, eat, movie, read, tv, tv, tv (Bear Grylls-yeahh), eat, sleep for 2 hours, arrive.

Beijing – I was here just under 6 weeks ago on my way out from London (my former home) to Melbourne (my original home) for holidays. It’s clear and hazy. Long grey stretches of tarmac sail towards the horizon whilst multi layered plastic wrapped boxes strapped to whizzing cars deliver goods to planes.

Through immigration and the transit area to the next terminal.Now to find my hotel where I am going to spend the next 10 hours until my continuing flight departs.

I have been given a travel voucher that entitles me to 2 meals, a bed and a shower in a hotel – or so I think. For a 6 hour stop over or more this is a granted priviledge, I am told. I get to terminal 31 – hotel found, elevator, reception. “Lounge or hotel” I am asked upon presentation of my voucher. “What?, What??” I reply. “Sleep in lounge with snack, or hotel room four hours” she offers. These are the options and not what I was told to expect at the Air China Melbourne office. After much to-ing and fro-ing, a trip across the airport to the Air China desk and this ‘hotel’ receptionist is not backing down. I take the 4 hours in the hotel room.  The room is not much bigger than a closet, but I am truly grateful to see a bed at this stage and in the to-ing and fro-ing, combined with immigration, I’ve managed to kill an hour and a half.

Before you know it, I am back in the airport and hungry. Air China did not provide the 2 meals promised on my ‘hotel stay’, but I must admit I’m quite excited to explore the eating options. I am somewhat obsessed with Chinese food, and the following feast did not disappoint!
Starter – pork and radish steamed buns, followed by fishball and wintermelon soup, beef steamed dumplings with a main of chicken, veg and rice…it’s lunch, breakfast, dinner combined (God only knows what time of day I am on!) accompanied by steaming mugs of jasmine tea – and I am in heaven (:

Onto the next plane – it’s packed with hundreds of Chinese school children between 12-16 years of age on their way to America. I swiftly discover the plane has no inflight entertainment system, just a large sized TV screen for communal viewing in each plane section. Soon after I also discover my seat struggles to stay reclined for more than five minutes. I’m down and the next thing you know I’m back upright. Oh no… this is not looking good. I try to connect my headphones into some bang  bang action film now showing on the communal screen and despite flicking through multiple channels; there’s absolutely no volume. I find a friendly, fluent, English speaking airhostess             ( now this is a first on Air China) who takes my head phones and tries other seats for volume. Nothing. She apologises and explains she’ll go and reset the entire planes entertainment system whilst my fellow travellers are locked into their Ipads playing computer games and oblivious to my current pain. Boom, just like that and we are back on the airwaves. I take a moment to thank my friendly air hostess, but also express my disappointment in the lack of personal screen and viewing options on this flight. She apologises and explains the plane will be updated in a month or two (no good to me as this is the last Air China flight I’ll be taking) as it is coming up to being almost 20 years old. At this point I have a vision of one wing falling off, balls of fire and our plane plummeting into Eastern Siberia never to be heard of again.

The next thing you know there is a jamboree in the aisles. I’m trying desperately to sleep. I’m being knocked, my chair is still up to it’s old tricks, I’m deep breathing, I’m pacing, I’m counting the minutes and wishing for LA in a big way.

The sun rises. The west coast becomes visable. The ocean shimmers looking diamond studded. Tiny islands pop. The water turns golden. A wave of excitement and anticipation trembles. We’ve touched down. I’ve finally arrived. I’m sleep deprived, but oh so ready! GOODMORNING LALALAND! Buenos dias to you, to you, the City of Angels xxx

 

DREAM WEAVING

Years ago when first starting at The National Theatre drama school in my home town of Melbourne, Australia…I had a thought; WHAT IF I could be an international actress? IMAGINE. What if I could perform in LA, London, Paris, New York, the world over – in film, in television, in theatre, writing my own work, collaborating… The vision was and is huge, but I believe in dream chasing,  I believe in challenging yourself and expecting the unexpected.

So my journey began…

For the past four years, up until 2 months ago, I’ve been living and working in London as an actress in theatre and film – though let me tell you MANY other roles have been played offstage to  fill in the gaps between acting gigs. I’ve worked at a circus, as a spruiker, a host, an event manager, a nanny, a carer, a caterer, a leaflet distributer(barrel of laughs that last one), a waitress, a massage therapist (fielding regular calls about happy endings and body to body services – gross), a mystery shopper, a nightclub door bitch and sometimes I’ve worn three different job hats a day.

I’ve been lucky. Like Charlie Bucket in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is how I describe it. I’ve got a golden ticket. An EU passport thanks to my gorgeous (now deceased) father and his Czech heritage.  A gift not to be sneezed at.

5 months ago I obtained my O1 artist visa; allowing me to live and work in the USA…and here I am. Kaboom! In LA. West Hollywood to be precise; staying with a friend as I type. I’m feeling open and ready for this next chapter. Tired from drinking too much rum at the Superbowl celebrations yesterday. Anxious to get everything organised. Overwhelmed by this new life and the reams of foreign information and culture that comes with it. READY to become an Aussie actress working in the USA (:

It is high noon in the garden of now.

Watch this space.