Riding the rollercoaster

5th of March, 2012

What an absolutely mental week. Almost 5 weeks into living in LA and I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I know the adventure has only just begun, but it’s feeling like the hardest move EVER. Bonkers, with a capital B.

It’s a balmy eve, the first after a week of wearing jumpers, taking a wheat bag to bed and cranking the heater to full. But not today. Today was summery, and gees it felt good.

From the end of my street I can see both snow-capped mountains and the Hollywood sign. Palms trees and beautiful craftsman houses line the street. I’ve settled into my new abode. It’s a big old house in Korea town, or K town as us locals call it. Built in 1917, it’s wonderfully airy and spacious.

I finally have a desk after weeks being parked up on the floor trying to get ‘business’ rolling. I’ve grown accustomed to my slippery polyester bed sheets, picked and eaten an avocado from a huge tree in our splendid backyard, witnessed a hummingbird collect nectar as I sip my morning coffee, night watched the curiously blind resident opossums navigate the yard, and run excited to the window as the daily ice-cream truck playing La Cucaracha wheels by. Taken morning walks and met Papa Christo at the local Greek taverna and discovered the local church is called Saint Sophia. I’ve been taken aback and infuriated by my housemates – one who talks to himself, another who paces the hallway to think, and a household practise of each housemate having their own toilet paper every time they need to go to the loo. I’ve wanted to bash my head against the wall with the daily challenges and frustrations that peak and fall. The stories I tell from one perspective are so out there, they become hilarious, on another hand I’ve returned home on some days and felt the heaviness and struggle of creating a new life.

I’ve slowly been setting up shop – a house, bedroom, looking into buying a car and putting the acting wheels in motion. I’m living with 4 others – a Brit actor, a Chinese girl working in events, an older American who came to town to be a comedian and now works as a security guard and a Russian real estate agent who owns the house. They are the most eclectic bunch of people I’ve ever known or lived with. Coming from an amazing share house in Brixton, London, this home is somewhat more segregated, everyone kind of does their own thing. The Russian seems to play chess online a lot, but is a Buddhist with a full shrine complete with fruit offerings and incense burning daily, the American seems engaged in a perpetual monologue whilst holed up in his room so chock full of belongings one might assume he’s a hoarder, the Chinese girl has just returned from spending the New year period in her home city of Beijing and the Brit has been incredibly supportive and full of advice after 3 years in the big smoke of LA.

I think I’ve pretty much been in culture shock – little things – words, acting expressions, manners, plastic cups and plates at restaurants, the smell of weed and marijuana clinics everywhere, people’s stories, even shopping for bed linen with bed sizes being different and a mind-boggling variety of options – quilts, comforters, coverlets. Can I just get a regular duvae please?

I’ve been here before – 4 times. Yet living here and really feeling the reality of life/survival, doing the basics; has been testing. In moments I’ve felt the rich poor divide like no other city I’ve lived in. As if I’m in a third world witnessing a little man at the traffic lights selling bags of chopped pineapple, or seeing Ramona (who lives on my street and must be 70 plus) pushing her trolley round the neighbourhood selling flowers. I’ve seen more young people begging with signs reading; starving and in need of a dollar, or simply, wanna get high, than ever before. It’s in your face, there’s no escaping the brutal nature of a town – where dreams run rife and you’re either the hunter or the hunted. Scams and crooks run deep. The vulnerable sit waiting on every corner for their moment to shine and be elevated. Daily, people are spun into the web of disaster or promise. A town where anything could happen, seduction licks like a sticky trap and you can be whoever you want to be. If you want to dress like a woman but you’re a man and dance the cha-cha at the traffic lights whilst waving an American flag, no problem. Or get kitted out like Lady Liberty and kung fu kick street lamps, no problem. Climb fences and pretend you’re Superman, no problem. Pierce and tattoo your face to oblivion, no problem! It’s a land of La-de-da. Of fakers and makers, takers and money shakers, believers and preachers, leeches and teachers, dreamers and hopers, ethnic mash-up and brokers, creative heads and the walking dead. It’s raw, it’s alive, bubbling and full of dives. It’s one of a kind and I’m blown away by LA like no other land ever trodden.

In two weeks I’ve had 1600 bucks accidentally withdrawn from my bank account. I’ve auditioned for a variety of projects and been cast in a play with the most sketchy theater company (that’s a whole nother blog) and bailed out once I’d fully detected the madness. Been assigned a talent scout job that sounded oh so glam, only to find out three days later from the guy that hired me, that the place is a big scam. Apparently Denise – the creative directors name is actually Vanessa and they’ve been posing under numerous company names over a period of time and are pretty much breaking the law. I’ve been for hospitality job interviews that you’d think would be a breeze and felt no love. I’ve been offered a restaurant position for $8.50 an hour with no tips and wondered how anyone could survive or pay rent on such a dismal wage. I’ve learnt to be humble, that I’m starting again, but starting in a city so competitive, so full of illegal immigrants and people willing to work for minimum wage that my experience seems to count for nothing.

Today alone I’ve heard stories of a guy working for Sam Worthington’s agent – a wee aggressive Asian lady that was fond of throwing her stapler at him, of a girl working for the Armenian mob in a medical weed clinic and her fear of being raided and not asking questions when dodgy men come through with great stuffed duffel bags, of the dating scene and psycho girls sending explicit pictures, of holistic dentistry, a new friend stealing a girls belongings when she invited them over, of a guy working for one of the biggest management companies in town and earning less than 400 a week, of people in his company fake signing celeb client fan mail and photos and sending them back to fans with condoms enclosed ‘for a laugh’. Real and shocking, I know.

It’s a strange and hopeless feeling when you compare everything you know to your current situation, and when you do, it somehow doesn’t quite match up. When it is all so foreign, the way people talk, the food, the taxes, tipping, the products in the supermarket, the bus routes, the surroundings. Don’t get me wrong – it is all exciting in its newness, but also very challenging. When you want to run, but only seem able to manage a crawl. Sitting on Facebook looking for something familiar – some connection with home – both homes of Melbourne and London. Feeling like that alien they described me as on my visa (:

I think what’s happening is called transitioning. A rebirth, a changing of cloaks. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu) and this is the road I am on.