Carl AKA The Creeper. Awkward auditions. Part 2.

It’s about 6 months or so into my LA experience – a casting comes through for a short film about a white girl who’s never dated a black man. This character has a love of hip hop, and figures it might be time to go beyond her usual dating preferences and try something new. It said it was a paid comedy, and I thought it had the potential to be quite a laugh.

I submitted, and not long after the phone rang. A Russian sounding man introduced himself, “Hey, I’m Carl, I’m the producer on the project you submitted for”. We had chats about the film, and he explained at the audition I’d be meeting with a guy who was playing the male lead, we would interact a little to see what the chemistry was like, and then go into the work. I was told to dress nicely, like I was going on a date. OK, seemed pretty straight forward.

Come audition day, I had no car, so was on the bus in all my dressed up glory. High heels, full face of make up at midday and a tight-ish dress. I didn’t have too far to go, but once off the bus, the street I needed to get to was blocked by a fence of sorts. The only option to get to the street without doing a massive detour (which would result in me running late), was to climb the damn thing! Picture me, in heels, hoisting myself over this waist high wire fence, whilst attempting not to flash myself at any passing cars. What was I thinking?!

I get to a gritty looking prefab apartment complex and walk into the dusty looking courtyard. I hadn’t anticipated it being a private residence, have no apartment number and start to wonder what to do. Did I save Carl’s number? My instincts are screaming dodgy, but I’m here, so I wait it out for a minute or two, looking up to the landing that squares the courtyard, when a tall black man in black slacks and a white shirt slinks into sight, and comes casually down the stairs.

He shakes my hand, introduces himself, confirms I’m here for the ‘audition’ and we proceed to stand there and banter a little. It feels somewhat awkward, but I’m just trying to go with the flow.

Then he asks me, “So, what do you know about this project?”. I tell him I spoke to the producer Carl and he told me a bit about the production. He queries “Ohh, you spoke to Carl did you?”. “Yup, yes I did. He was a Russian guy, I think”. His face lit up. ” He sounded Russian?”. “Mmmhmm”, I responded.

THEN, he does the BIG REVEAL!

“That was actually me! I was testing out my accents, and that’s so awesome you thought I sounded legitimately Russian”.

Cue, back up against the wall. “Whha, whaa, WHAT!? Are you being serious? Because right now you’re starting to freak me out.”

He goes on, “Oh, I don’t mean to freak you out, it’s just I’m not having a lot of luck with online dating, so I thought this would be an interesting spin on meeting girls and doing something different, ya know..!?”.

I can’t believe my ears. I feel frozen, stunned to my very core. At this point, I’m grateful a neighbor walks through with his child, providing me a flash of security it what now feels like an out of this world scenario.

I proceed to tell this guy what an ass he his, deceptive, dishonest and a waste of my time. I turn my back and start walking away when he says “Noo, but I seriously do have other projects I’m working on, there’s a bunch of stuff I’m doing”. I keep walking.

I call Actors Access – the reputed website where the casting originated, and report this scumbag. Then comes the email from ‘Carl’, apologizing, asking for another chance and sending me a link to his current project – him reciting poetry over moving black and white footage of naked women by rain stricken window panes – suggesting maybe this is something I’d be interested in!!!!!

Jesus wept.

As they say, the rest is history – lesson learnt, the hard way. And, thank goodness I’m still alive to tell the tale…

 

 

 

 

 

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Be water, my friend

Wow, I haven’t written in a really long stretch, despite having every intention. It’s been on my ‘to do’ list countless times, but it’s always a case of where do I start when there’s so much to say?!

I am now 3 and a bit years into living in LA and it has been one of the most epic and interesting chapters of my story yet.

I s’pose I need to start somewhere, and the obvious option is this blog post that I wrote a year ago (but never shared). Time for it to see the light of day I reckon…

Here are some reflections after 2 years living in Los Angeles.

April 11th, 2014

It’s 2014.

I remember applying for my 3 year ‘O1 Alien of Exceptional Ability’ visa and looking at August 10, 2014, the date my visa expires, as a lifetime away. And look where we are!

I’ve been in LA just over 2 years. It’s flown by, yet been so dense, so chocked full of life. One incredibly rich, rewarding, maddening, crazy, humbling journey. A pathway that has often felt lonely and stupendously alien. A pathway that has been electrifying, engaging and often breath-taking in all senses of the word.

The first year was hard. Perhaps one of the hardest years ever. I felt tested. I didn’t love it and the more people asked ‘Do you just love it? Hollywood?’, I somehow knew I wouldn’t have the response they were looking for. My experience was far from the razzle dazzle one might imagine, and more a case of survival and learning to trust my intuition. Through trial and error my inner compass has become finely tuned. I reckon if you can navigate this city, you’re set for life. LA is a city of extremes. A jungle. Cue Guns N’ Roses…

Two years deep I’ve really come to know this city. The many corners of it’s vast sprawl. There’s a lot to love, and a lot that’s foreign. LA has so many faces. The gloss and glitz, the fancy, the gorgeousness of the hills, canyons, coastline, historical areas, mish mash of architecture, incredible food, the dank dark pockets, seedy underbelly, the Mexican heritage, weed culture and so much more. What greater Los Angeles and California has to offer seems boundless. It’s a love hate relationship at times, but one I’ll never regret stepping into.

Being here has made me grateful to have Australia as my home. It’s made me value family and old friends on the deepest level. It’s allowed me to ascertain my priorities and seriously up my acting game. There is so much talent and competition here in LA, you must constantly stride, push, pull, go with the flow, trust, know, be ready, game, bold, fearless and generally try not to give too many shits, when sometimes that’s all you can do. Being here is like a right of passage…and somehow I feel like I’ve crossed a major bridge…I no longer feel like a rookie.

I’ve recently decided to go through the process again to renew my visa. A decision I’ve been tussling with for months. All I know is I’m not quite ready to roll out of LA yet. I am only now starting to feel at ‘home’…and see my networks developing and acting world gain wings.

This city is seductive. No doubt. The opportunities are infinite. I love being a ‘Californian girl’ and I think it suits me.

We all know LA is a city of dreams – where people come to try and make it. Get the ‘big break’. But I’ve come to see first hand how fleeting and desperate that can be, and what does it mean anyway?? What is a break? I don’t think you can say anything is certain in this town, or generally within the industry. Breaks can come and go. Opportunities present when you least expect it. Being surrounded by the constant hustle, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get to the top…whatever that is. Don’t get me wrong…working your butt off, shooting for the stars, recognising achievement, committing to being your best, and encouraging one another to keep on keeping on, is vital.

Living in LA has forced me to think long and hard about the acting game. For the most part you’re surrounded by it, it some shape or form, and for this I am truly grateful. It’s the very reason I decided to make the move. To be a part of the buzzing hive. To be surrounded by people with creative dreams.

I’m learning to take myself and the actors journey less seriously, growing less attached and remembering it’s essentially about playing and finding the fun. I’ve realised the industry is a circus, an unpredictable beast, a constant rollercoaster, a marathon.

It can be so easy to stumble into holes and focus on the wrong things. But through my trips, falls and resurrections I’ve discovered an essence of what’s important when on this creative path, that can most definitely seep into general life.

It’s about doing what you love and being excited about it, on whatever scale. It’s about finding and creating the opportunities to do whatever this thing is, to the best of your ability. Creating relationships with people who speak the same language. Releasing expectations. Doing, sharing, discovering, practicing, experimenting, and knowing you’re but a tiny seed in this infinite cosmos, and why not express yourself to the fullest? That to move forward, you’ve got to work hard, every day. You’ve got to stay inspired and motivated. When you know and love who you are, find your truth and follow your intuition, then you can razzle dazzle with the best of them, and simply ‘be water, my friend’.

MY HOOD: Harvard Heights

A huge part of what I love about traveling and living in a new country and city is exploring – discovering the cultural differences, the never seeDSC00311 (2)n before, having my senses brought to attention by images, sounds, smells and tastes that are different to what I know, experiencing a new style of life, finding excitement and inspiration. It’s both rich and rewarding to thirst for the new, to weave colorful pathways and vivid stories into the life journey. This to me is worth its weight in gold.

Harvard Heights – the little pocket of neighborhood with roots back to the turn of the 18th century where I live, speaks my language for this very reason. Located in the deep south of Korea town, near downtown LA, the area is like a mash up of Central America, and then just up the road, Korea.

DSC01707IMG_20130522_105325Once, one of the wealthiest districts in Los Angeles – it was an area that in the early 1900’s was home to a large Greek American population. A little east of here they now call the Byzantine-Hispanic district and there is still some distinct Greek presence. ‘Craftsman’ homes and a grand variety of architectural styles were built – beautiful double and triple storied, lofty, detailed looking gems. So many of the DSC01710surrounding streets are a vision, like West Adams, another little pocket (formerly known as Sugar Hill) a few blocks up the road. From the 1920’s – 50’s this area became the hot spot for the wealthiest of African-Americans; many entertainers and celebrities lived here, including Ray Charles. Seduced by the stunning mansions and properties. Interesting huh? IMG_20130528_123736 (2)

This influx of residents seemed to really establish the neighborhood, until the second world war hit. Post war the Greeks started relocating to West LA, a large working-middle class African-American population came and went, and over the decades the Hispanic community developed and never left.

Harvard Heights is definitely not Beverly Hills! It has a somewhat dilapidated feel, but then so does a lot of LA. Beautiful old homes in need of a lick of paint or some that have been separated into 2 – 4 apartments.

Sometimes when I walk around my neighborhood I feel like I’m in another country, somewhere south of the US border. IMG_20120225_155108 (2)The largest billboard for McDonalds at the end of our street is in Spanish. There’s a huge cemetery close by with rolling lawns and some interesting pyramid like catacombs. A beautiful Jesuit school (the oldest of it’s kind in California) is a local highlight, as well as a great Greek Orthodox cathedral with an incredibly ornate interior named St Sophia. Tom Hanks and his wife have donated huge amounts of money to this church I discovered recently at the local Greek Festival. During the day Mexican traders wheel by with food trolleys ringing bells or honking a horn selling corn, drinks and other Mexican goodness. It’s such a novelty!!!

Eenie meenie minee mo! Ice cream truck decisions!

Eenie meenie minee mo! Ice cream truck decisions!

The ice cream truck cruises the streets daily playing tinny electronic sounding theme songs (La Cucaracha is the main stay), men on the corner at the Uhaul truck hire gather outside whistling, hissing and greeting you as you pass by, mobile food sellers hang at the bus stops with bacon wrapped hot dogs sizzling, fruit sellers can be found on random corners, with mangoes and avocados stacked neatly, or there are those that have ice chests with a range of peeled and ready fruit to be chopped into a bag with a sprinkle of chilli on top.

On Friday nights and the weekend there’s Mexican style bbqs outside the stores, DSC00410delicious aromas wafting down the street, the sound of Pentecostal prayers, whooping and congressional praise and cars honking, the Hollywood sign hangs like a halo from the hills and some days there’s a great mist that rolls in from the ocean and clears the vista to grey. Nightly great lights beam into the sky from the Staples centre, Downtown,  and when there’s a game on there’s a great blimp that hovers above with a gigantic movie screen on it’s belly! On weekends Latino dance music pumps from neighbors yards, often jumping castles are erected for celebrations and glimpsed between houses, young and old hang out on their stoops chatting, drinking, smoking, listening to the radio and bbqing. Packs of young boys skateboard and fixie bike it around the streets with studded and plugged ear lobes and great Bieberesque sweeping fringes. I practice my basic Spanish greetings daily and have a number of trader friends that share a wave when out and about. I love the sense of community.

DSC00412DSC00407I am an avid lover of Mexican food and have been all my life. Everyday in LA is like paradise because I know, should I need a taco fix, I won’t have to go far, no matter what area I’m in. My local Tacos Loco DSC00401serves up delicious $2.50 chicken tostadas with salsa so good I’d write home about it. There’s an amazing Greek Tavera/Deli with Papa Christo running the ship – a man knee high to a grasshopper with a moustache so great it’s wider than his very own face. The cheese and olive selection alone in this joint results in serious  salivation. There are Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, Ethiopian, and Japanese restaurants, plus the regular plethora of take out outlets all in a ten minute stroll – burgers, chicken, donuts, burgers, donuts, smoothies, bagels, etc.

The minute you start heading north from my area the gallerias as they’re called – small to large style malls – start popping up everywhere in between Korean bbq houses,IMG_20120413_224601 Pho kitchens, Korean style cafes with interesting names like ‘Cafe Toe Bang’, massage places, acupuncturists, and a distinctly Korean population. The streets that span off from the main street hold some of the most beautiful art deco and French chateau style, mouth opening homes. The architecture draws me off track, just for another little look or to show a friend whilst I ooowoo and ahhhh, isn’t it beautiful?

IMG_20120605_201542IMG_20120408_161959DSC00051A trip to the local Korean mart is almost a weekly outing. Since my recent time in China I’ve become TOTALLY obsessed with dumplings! Thank goodness I can feed my devotion so easily! Aisles of foreign produce, frozen goodies, pickled fern fronds and exotic looking delights tempt me. If you time it right at the end of each aisle some days you’ll find a lady cooking daily specials – steaming delicious parcels or wee cups of broth with chopped fishballs. Inspiration for the next meal!

Welcome to my hood, Harvard Heights and it’s wonderfully diverse surrounds. Come pay me a visit some time… I’m a superb tour guide!

Pieces of the puzzle

JUNE 2012

Propped up at the front desk of Meridian Day Spa I write. Today I am both receptionist and massage therapist. Last Friday I was a journalist. These are not acting roles, but the ventures on which I ride and survive. Coming to LA was more than just living the dream. It was a window to making creative dreams a reality – acting, writing, singing, recording and making my own projects. Giving birth to all the ideas that knock about in my imagination. I think I’m off to a good start.

Exactly five months have passed since I made my home in the City of Angels. It’s been a bumpy journey, full of highs and lows. Starting again is both delightful and fraught with doubt. There’s been an ebb and flow of excitement, promise, loneliness, frustration, fulfillment, magic, madness and exhaustion. As I type, I think of how much I’ve achieved in this short space of time. My cravings seem neverending; a hunger and curiosity that drives me forward. 7 years since graduating from acting school and many personal and creative mountains climbed.

When reflecting on my journey here in LA and the weeks and weeks of struggling to find work, a home, being offered measily wages, dealing with nut jobs on a daily basis, trying to understand the Hollywood brush off (where people literally say I’ll call you back in 5, and then don’t) I feel I am now gaining some stabililty. My head is slowly working out this city – a city unto it’s own. A rule book that changes it’s margins daily or on days can be non existant.

I managed to find work finally and have a part time position as a massage therapist at a lovely spa in the gay epicentre of west Hollywood. I work with a fabulous and friendly group of mostly gorgeous gay men and am developing some loyal clients that love the Brabenec style massage. ‘Dang girl, that was better than sex!’ annouced one happy client and another simply clapped as I exited the room repeating ‘Bravo, bravo’. Hilarious! The 50% pay cut is hard to swallow and relying on tips a whole new world of earning, but I am so very grateful to have this stability and appreciative customers. Up until recently I had a second job at another massage location very close to home in Koreatown – it was actually like working at a circus. Way too many indians and not one chief. It was a new business,  losing money hand over fist. Somedays I’d sit for 7 hours and see no clients and as my wage was based on commision and no flat rate, I would leave without a penny in my pocket! A depressing and time wasting exercise. Korea town is dotted with cheap massage spots – the competition is rife and prices low; an hours relaxation massage at Lotus where I worked, cost a bargain price of $29. I was making $15. My fellow therapists were a Korean guy named Golden in his late 50’s with minimal English skills, a love of wearing fishing style or silky vests always emblazoned with an American flag stick pin and a tool belt with all sorts of unnecessary tat hanging from it. Golden was a character who somedays tried to have 3 massage clients on the go at once, bouncing from one to the other in a frenzy of hands and oil, pummeling and pinching. He had no second thoughts about having a chat on his mobile whilst massaging, or switching up the relaxation music to blast Korean talk back radio whilst I was in session. Then came Essence, the cherry on the cake. Essence started just as I was in throes of bailing out. A 22 year old, with sugar daddies in Beverly Hills that ‘pay her bills’, 2 kids and a completely uncensored manner meaning I heard all about her sexual exploits, family drama and fisticuffs. It was entertaining for about 5 minutes.

I keep busy auditioning – I’ve booked a few great projects, submitting for acting work, networking, writing odd articles for an online magazine, studying, exploring LA, dating, tapping away at my personal projects, pottering in my vegetable garden and working out. I’ve joined the gym across the road from work that has an outdoor pool and after 5-6 hours of solid massaging I slip across and do some night swimming under the Cali stars, then soak in the jacuzzi surrounded by gossiping gay men and serious faced, gold laden Europeans.

I’ve become a dab hand on the public transport system and somedays have traveled all compass directions and home again without a hiccup. Public transport gets a bad rap, but it’s served me at the best of times. It seems so many people have never ridden on it as it’s perceived as too difficult or inefficient. It’s certainly not the London underground, nor uber sophisticated, but it works and is cheap. A weeks pass for train and bus costs 20 bucks. Unreal! Although travel can be long and annoying at times, I relish the chance to read, script study, chat and look out the window.  The character study one can do is priceless (: Saying this the convenience of a car is undeniable and in the coming months I’ll be looking to hit the road in my own vehicle, including home visits with massage.

So the smaller pieces have fallen into place. Hallelujah! Now it’s working towards something bigger – a break, some kind of in. A game of patience, hard work, luck and determination, plus a healthy sprinkling of faith. My life as an actress in LA.

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.

 

The Next Step

3rd of February, 2012

There’s some strange far off sound, an annoying cricket like chirping, beeping, electronic cheeping. Oh Jesus, it’s my alarm! What a hideous noise to start the day. Then there’s another sound, a more tribal like drumming. I look at my recently purchased phone – an incoming call. ‘Hi this is Nikki about the Favera apartments in Korea Town. You left me a message’. Deep in the heart of Korea town I’ve discovered block after block of stunning 1920’s and 30’s repainted and refurbished blocks, all leasing, and all calling my name. Although I think it’s too early to be getting my own apartment or even something unfurnished, it doesn’t hurt to enquire! Something for the future perhaps?

My entire worldly possessions this side of the globe are sitting in 3 large boxes at a LA shipping port having arrived from London, and will soon need to be delivered to an address. I’ve made a decision in the past couple of days. I’m moving to Korea town to live with the Russian, Yank, Brit actor and Chinese girl. Despite a reservation or two, the need to start my own life is overwhelming and this is a good beginning. One big decision made, one huge hurdle jumped.

I’m up and racing! Today is going to be productive and NOT about house hunting. I go for a run through Weho (West Hollywood). I am not the greatest fan of running, so this amounts to more of an upbeat shuffle. I pass a man complete with a great big bushy moustache, a long mane of soft blonde, rock star like hair and a yellow terry towelling head sweat band. Mmmm sexy. He’s striding along the pavement (probably listening to some 80’s classics) and makes me giggle. I pass a big mural (LA has got lots of these) reading ‘Life is Beautiful’ on the side of a derelict and abandoned 10 storey warehouse and I think, well yes, yes it is. I wonder if they have squatters living up there? I wonder if squatting exists here, in the same magical way it does in London?

Then, I find the 99 cent store. Boom! With my short-lived morning run now over, I gain great joy in perusing kitchen implements, shampoo, vegetables, Valentines Day paraphernalia and hundreds of bags of candy. I have a thing for supermarkets, and a thing for bargains. This scenario reads bliss. I pick up a few pieces and then head across the road to Target. Man, Target is the bomb! I buy an Aztec bikini, a tie die dress and 3 different coloured towels, all in my mind, before heading to Rite Aid, the pharmacy. I don’t need anything specifically, it’s all part of discovering my surroundings and which shops provide what type thing. I find instant amusement in the alcohol aisle (in the pharmacy) right next to where you can get your prescription filled. Marvellous. A bottle of vodka as a side to my Valium please. God bless America! Then further exploration at Beverage World. The wine selection is never-ending; complete with a dazzling centrepiece – a multi tiered wonder of cured meat, cheese crackers, crisps, pork rind. It’s way too much visual stimulation! A little drool rolls from the corner of my mouth, my knees become suddenly weak, I have to leave.

Once home I chuck a load of washing on and head round the corner to get a burrito. Sweet. I love Mexican food and boy oh boy am I in the right city for that. Whilst there I scribe a loving message on a ginormous Valentine’s day card for my Mum, then head home to start working on my acting resume and the like.

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.