The last hurrah

January 31st, 2012

I’ve never had issues sleeping, but these past few days I’ve been super restless. My brain feels overloaded with so many things that need to be done and the challenges of house hunting.

When I awake at 10.45am, I am both grateful and surprised. I’m rapidly up, coffee drained from the pot and onto the computer – my IV drip of life. Picking through Craigs List with a fine tooth comb, I wonder how many hours I’ve spent trawling this site? Phone calls across LA. I speak with Solomon in Beverley Hills who works at the plush Mister C hotel as a concierge. We have a lovely chat. His parents are looking for someone to rent a room in their home. They sound elderly and although initially an attractive offer, are perhaps not the flat mates I am looking for. ‘Regardless’ he says, ‘We should meet at the hotel for a drink. I want to introduce you to some people’. Let’s see how that one pans out!?

Today I have more house viewings and have decided to hire a car to get me around town. As I’m leaving to collect the car I can feel the back crunch of period cramps kicking in. A couple of pain killers down the hatch, and off I go with my new smart phone in hand. A local bus through Hollywood, over the hills to Burbank to collect my hire car, watching my GPS navigator all the while and marvelling over my new toy. Ahhh technology.

By the time I get to the rent a car outlet (a fair mission) and right in the middle of the customer service man explaining the 6 different lots of tax about to be charged to my credit card, my vision starts to blur. My brow and upper lip break into a sudden sweat. I feel like I’m in a street fighter video game and I’ve just received an upper cut to the jaw. Kapow! I’m light headed, woozy and can no longer concentrate – here come the cramps in full effect. ‘You looked stressed Ma’am’ the customer service man says. ‘No I am actually feeling really ill, I need to sit down’ I reply. I stumble to the edge of the reception area, find a seat, whilst desperately wanting to lie on the cold floor. He looks on alarmed, disappears and then comes back with a security guard. A few minutes later I muster my energy. I’ve signed all the forms in a haze of pain and bought 4 different kinds of insurance ‘God forbid Ma’am you should have an accident and someone winds up in hospital’. I have the keys. I make for the car. Lot 1B I chant in my mind. I’m in the car on the back seat, eyes closed, sweat now pouring off my forehead and from the back of my neck. I open my eyes and view a spinning air vent on the roof in front. I focus on the vent and deep breathing whilst meditating on the thought; I am not in pain, I am fine, I am feeling fine, everything is going to be alright. Then there’s this overwhelming feeling of being so very alone. I take my pulse. It seems very slow. I have a dramatic moment of thinking what if I die in the back seat? (I know, I know, ridiculous) followed by the more practical, I have house viewings in an hour and half – I’ve got to be fine! Within 45 minutes I’m sitting up. The back of my dress is drenched. I get myself together and head back into the hire reception, apologise and explain the situation. I reassure him, ‘I’m fine to drive a vehicle. Now could you please explain what all these taxes and insurance charges are?’. The cost of the car was supposed to be $9 a day, not $48! Californian tax, airport tax, this tax, that tax. Boom. By this point, what’s done is done, I’ve signed the papers. At best, I am no longer in pain. I hop in the car and take the 2 freeway heading east.

6 house viewings ahead of me. The first is in a great big old house in Korea town. I discover on arrival that the Russian owner is out of town and has the key to the room, so I can’t actually view the room. Great. Peter greets me. He’s 50 odd and came to LA to be a comedian. The long and short of his story is, it never happened. Peter is now a security guard in a bank. He cracks bad and slightly inappropriate jokes whilst talking in a defeated tone. Jonathan appears and kind of saves the day, simply by acting in a normal fashion. He’s a Brit actor, who has been in town many years. We share a cup of tea. I marvel at the huge yard and great space. It’s got a lot of potential, but I have a feeling Peter is going to do my head in. As I’m about to depart, I realise my phone has died and I need it to navigate my way to the next viewing. Thankfully Jonathan has the same phone. I get charged enough to find my way to Silverlake; an area I’m told was the once a hot spot to buy crack, but now a haven of trendy hipsters and cafes. The house is sat behind a big gate. A gate which is locked. I check my phone. It’s dead. Oh no! What to do? I am shouting into the darkness as dogs start barking from every direction. ‘Spencer? Spppeeeennncerrrrr?’. No response. I start wolf whistling, as you do, feeling like a right royal lunatic. A head pops from the upstairs landing as I’m giggling at how silly this all is. They live in the top half of this house and are renting out a small room for top dollar. I can do better than this, I think. Before leaving I get help directing me to my next destination. I meet two gorgeous girls, also in Silverlake and luckily just around the corner. They live in a lovely apartment with killer views. You can see the hills, Hollywood sign, and over Silverlake. One girl is an architect, the other a film producer. I take a rental form and think this could be home. More directions and paper maps drawn to get me to my next stop up the hill to Mt Washington. I’m driving round and around, but can’t find the place. I pull into a service station at the bottom of the hill hoping they might be able to help and end up using the attendants phone to call the next potential flat mate. ‘I’ve been texting you’, he says. ‘I’m not home yet. Can we reschedule?’. Moving swiftly on to the next viewing with Heiko the German from Stuttgart. He looks as if he’s been wrestling with an electricity socket and hasn’t slept in days. I am running out of time, my schedule is out after being lost. I need to be back in West Hollywood for my final viewing in 30 minutes. This has got to be snappy, but this guy does not understand my rush, even though I explain ‘I’m sorry but I have to be…’ Blah blah blah. He talks at a snail’s pace about random things. A housemate comes out, says a brief hello and disappears. Heiko is very serious, very German and there’s something vaguely unsettling about him. The room available is a dream. The closet is so large the current tenant has a double blow up mattress in there for when guests stay. If only the house wasn’t quite so far away from everything and Heiko didn’t linger in the strange department. I got the feeling he was perhaps lonely and craving a good conversation. I finally get out the door and am sitting in the car when tap-tap-tap on the window in an almost pitch dark cul-de-sac Heiko’s standing at the window. ‘I thought you might need directions’ he says. ‘Jesus, you scared the shit out of me. Sorry, no I’m fine. Thank you. See you’, I mutter feeling a bit spooked. I drive round the corner just to be away from the house. I’m sure he was watching me from the balcony. Eeeekkkkk. I proceed to get incredibly lost, drive in circles and am on the verge of tears. Exhausted, I find myself cursing loudly, before somehow navigating my way home.

When I finally arrive back in Weho it’s too late to do the last viewing. I share the day’s events with the girls and then get back on to Craigs list. It feels relentless. I get into bed hoping the girls in Silverlake come through, or perhaps the house in Korea town could be a starting point. I am so ready to move on to the next LA mission. Acting.

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Finding my way

30th of January, 2012

I’m on a bus to see a potential share house in the east Hollywood/Korea town district. I ask a man sat next to me for directions and the next thing you know he’s telling me in epic detail about his journey inwards; towards enlightenment. He explains he was an accountant, that rapidly lost all his clients and at some random point in conversation adds, his daughter choreographed the MTV awards in 2008. I don’t get a word in edgewise. I am finally off the bus, and find my way to the desired destination. I arrive at an ok looking place and meet a young girl named Nicki who seems cool. She interns at a music studio and her boyfriend looks like some kind of punk rock dinosaur with a tri coloured mohawk. I meet the crew, everyone is lovely, but when I notice a bong above the sink and they talk about the weekly parties, I realise this is not what I want to sign up for.

I walk up the street and withdraw cash from my new travel card – the card that holds my initial savings – to be spent wisely. The first big necessary purchase is a phone; so that’s the next mission. I go via a taco one stop shop and inhale a taste bud popping pork and beef taco with a side of corn chips and salsa – stamina giving food – and I’m off to the phone shop. Three shops later, armed with a whole lot of internet, gig, phone provider, big screen, small screen information and offers, I head back to my Hispanic amigo and get me an android smart phone. As a gift, he offers me a selection of gaudy floral phone covers and says ‘pick one’.  I am lost for words, and then politely murmur ‘Are there any other colours, by any chance?’ I am sure he’s blushing, but he comes back with a plain black one and we’re sorted. Home to Weho with my new smartphone! Yehaaaww!
My first phone call is to a mate Saskia whom I met 4 years ago. We were both in LA doing a film and television intensive at an American acting institute called TVI. I head round to her Weho pad later in the evening. I get lost, walk south rather than north and a 15 minute journey turns into an hour. I’m frazzled. It’s dark and cold. I finally arrive at a beautifully lit building, that looks like something straight out of New Orleans.

We speed chat. There’s so much to catch up on! She’s been here 3 years on the O1 artist visa and has had a hellish journey, but not all bad. In a nut shell – after a mammoth and expensive mail out, she signed to an agent that committed suicide a week later, she busted up her knee and ended up with a 20 grand medical bill not having health insurance and then had to head home to Australia for the next good bit to sort her finances. Once that was sorted she returned to LA to work for TVI in their counselor program. Her job – to advise potential foreigners coming to LA on TVI programs and how to make the move.

Saskia and her mate are working on a web series and all her time currently is devoted to editing and preproduction; a stressful venture. Her flat mate is a casting assistant and looks online at my headshots and gives me feedback and advice. We eat crackers, cheese and salami and drink some Captain Morgan and coke. Saskia fuels me with so much information I feel as if I’m flailing deep out at sea. The crawl towards finding my LA feet has only just begun.

Creative pots a-brewing!

29th of February, 2012

Despite the late-ish night out, I’m up super early thanks to the neighbour who seems to be tap dancing outside my window at 7.30am. Joy o joy! I get on good old FB and a friend Alexx, whom I met through the great international network of couch surfing has emailed and is keen to meet. Alexx hosted me four years ago in his central Hollywood apartment – a beautiful 1920’s building with rattling elevators, that was once a hotel to the stars; like Marilyn Munroe and Humphrey Bogart. It was this experience with Alexx that introduced me to a side of LA that I’d never seen before. I’d been to LA years earlier, but it was more of a touristy adventure. The LA he showed me was alive, breathing creativity, off the beaten trail and very exciting. We’ve been friends ever since. As a side note – If you don’t know about couch surfing, check it out! It’s a phenomenal way of experiencing a place and meeting locals. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

Alexx collects me from West Hollywood where I’m currently staying with friends and we head to his new Los Feliz pad (east side LA). Alexx works in the film/tv biz as a set painter and his home is an example of his artistic flair and vigour. He also runs a collective called Central Elements where all kinds of creators, movers and shakers are promoted. The trademark logo/photo of him and his brother as kids at Halloween in Kiss makeup I love, and can be found on stickers all over LA. He is one super interesting guy and knows LA like the back of his hand. We head to a spot called Alcove; a gorgeous cafe with outdoor seating, shady trees and a bustling brunch crowd. The only seats available are inside where we pull up a stool at a marble bar and catch up on life, love and creation. A heavenly feast of smoked salmon, potato rosti, creme fraiche and poached egg has my mouth watering with every bite. It’s a beautiful start to my first Sunday living in LA.

We head back to his gaff. There’s a beat he’s been working on and we talk about making a track together, with me potentially doing the hook. The tune plays and chilled rapped lyrics (that Alexx has recorded) bounce rhythmically. Inspiration tickles my ears and my mind; a creative whirlwind brews. A social interval when a couple of Alexx’s friends drop over to borrow a camera; acquaints me with some of his inner circle. He’s a painter, and she’s an extremely talented jewellery maker whose stunning, suspended architectural pieces with detachable air plant fittings I find breathtaking, spectacular and unique. The afternoon hums along with luscious creative brainstorming and sharing. Alexx talks about his cousin; a singer, songwriter, musician and producer who has worked with people like Janet Jackson, Bette Midler and numerous others. There’s a possibility that his cousin might help with production of music Alexx wants to make and create. We drink vodka and cranberry – Alexx’s signature drink and end the day discussing human vulnerability and power.

I am wrung out by the time I get home, after the early start and maybe some jet lag, but I push through it and take a big walk around Weho (West Hollywood). I head up Santa Monica Blvd, west, past shops into a distinctly gay area, with slick groomed men holding hands, heaving bars chock a block at 4pm, writhing buff and sexy dancers on bar tops wearing nothing but underpants. I make my way back through suburban streets under twinkling dusk stars, soaring palm trees, past a lemon and then a lime tree, from which I pluck some fruit. As I am thinking about a lime and spring onion dressing and how I should have picked up some spring onions on my earlier supermarket venture – badabing! I look down to the nature strip, and there before my eyes are not only leeks, but spring onions. A quick moments realisation at what lies in front of me and I am uprooting dirt and all! Nothing like a little urban foraging on a Sunday I say. The universe answered my very need! Amazing. Spring onions in the bag.

Frankie (my current host and dear friend) is having some friends round tonight to watch the pilot episode of ‘Touch’ that stars Kiefer Sutherland and her friend Sam. Sam joins us. Her performance is beautiful and the show truly mesmerizing. It feels a very artsy, actors night in, as they chat the biz – directors, acting classes, teachers, casting. A lot of it seems utter mumbo jumbo to a newcomer like me. Emma; Frankie’s flatmate, tells stories of her job as a PA for Brittany Murphy’s mother. Stories of the dog being walked in Ugg boots and socks are hilarious and other stories are simply heart breaking. It all feels very dramatic and very Hollywood. Tragedy and comedy combined.