Completely Non-Annual “State of the Words” Address

April 14, 2013 at 5:56 pm (Writing) (, )

Somehow, in the midst of starting a new job and dealing with the lingering effects of a stress-fractured foot (and, I’m not gonna lie, forming firm opinions about the contestants on Dancing With the Stars) I neglected to mention something kinda important.

I finished the first draft of my second novel a few weeks ago.

Okay, okay, that’s more exciting than it sounds. “First draft” doesn’t mean “publishable” to anyone but Keroauc. The thing is a mess, and if you read it right now, you’d no doubt politely suggest I look into a change of life goals by enrolling in Hamburger University.

But it’s a complete mess, is the thing. Complete as in finished. It has a beginning, middle, and end – and all within 384 pages. My first novel meandered on for upwards of 1,000 pages on any given draft and still never really reached a conclusion; I’m pretty sure I was under the impression that if I just kept stacking up pages, eventually a publisher would have to take notice because they’d be literally buried by the avalanche of paper that was my novel overflowing into the streets.

I’ve decided to chalk that first novel up to a six-year-long learning experience. Which really just means, “Oh, my god, don’t make me look at that thing ever again or I will throw an avocado at your head.”

So Novel #2. Draft #1. 384 pages. 103,204 words. About 4 months of work (not counting the few months I took off in between to be unemployed and completely freak out about my ability to continue, you know, surviving and eating and stuff).

It’s done.

Just be aware that if I die before I get a chance to revise it, I will haunt the hell out of anyone who tries to publish this thing as is.

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Silly Rabbit, Gymnastics are for Kids

March 2, 2013 at 3:52 am (Embarrassing) (, )

So I hear Aly Raisman is going to be a contestant on the new season of Dancing with the Stars. I’m pretty sure this is the universe telling me it’s time to share my Really Embarrassing Aly Raisman Story.

I get obsessed with Olympic gymnastics, okay? You should just know and accept this. There’s no logical reason for it, especially considering I managed to seriously injure myself each year in the gymnastics portion of elementary school Phys Ed. Do a super easy somersault over a foam block onto a mat, you say? Cool, I’ll just inexplicably crush my neck every time I try! I really should hate gymnastics, or at least associate them with chiropractors and intense physical pain. But I don’t. I’m obsessed.

And, yes, I’m aware that most people obsessed with gymnastics are 9-year-old girls. That will contribute to this story shortly.

I thought maybe I could break my obsession last year and not watch/care about the London Olympics gymnastics competitions, but of course that didn’t happen. I rushed home from work to watch them on TV. I YouTubed replays when I was twitchy in between doses and needed a hit. I learned everything there was to know about those freakishly tiny humans, otherwise known as the Fierce Five, doing should-be-impossible-unless-you-are-a-CGI-character flips through the air.

Team captain Aly Raisman wound up being my favorite, I think because she did her floor exercise to the tune of “Hava Nagila.” I have occasionally thought of converting to Judaism just so I can hear that song more. It is that catchy, guys.

Quick pause while you watch, if so inclined. The best video quality I could find is actually from the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, which, out of obligation to my gymnastics obsession, I attended. Just a tip: don’t ever go to the Kellogg’s Tour if you are not accompanied by a child. Parents will look at you like you’re a lurking pedophile. Not that I would know. *cough* What? Anyway:

There are a few steps in my descent down the 2012 gymnastics rabbit hole that I’ll skip. But by the time I found out Aly was going to be doing a meet-and-greet at a store near my office not too long after the Olympics, I don’t think a sledgehammer to the head could have kept me from going. Okay, maybe that would have stopped me from going because it would have killed me. But you understand the sentiment.

The Kellogg’s Tour hadn’t happened yet, so it didn’t occur to me until I was at the store how truly odd it was for a 32-year-old childless woman to be standing in line to get an 18-year-old gymnast’s autograph.

If you’re wondering, it’s odd.

The line consisted of 150 squealing children/teens, a handful of elderly Orthodox Jews, and me.

Maybe I should have left then. What was I going to say to Aly when it was my turn to meet her, anyway? I couldn’t believe I hadn’t considered that before. What was I going to say? “I want to be like you when I grow up”? “You’re doing the Jewish culture proud, young lady”? Dammit, no! My fellow line-waiters had those markets cornered.

When Aly arrived and the line started moving, I sent frantic texts to various friends about how creepy I felt. I don’t remember exactly what I texted, but the general idea was:

I THINK I AM STANDING IN LINE TO TELL AN 18-YEAR-OLD GIRL I LOVE HER. OH, MY GOD. I CANNOT TELL AN 18-YEAR-OLD GIRL I LOVE HER! THAT IS NOT OKAY! HOW DID YOU LET THIS HAPPEN TO ME? YOU ARE A TERRIBLE FRIEND!

Then I realized the line was moving faster than I had anticipated and I was the next one up.

Then I snapped a photo with my phone because it’s a reflex.

Reflexive photo. It's fuzzy because I am a spazoid idiot.

Reflexive photo. It’s fuzzy because I am a spazoid idiot.

Then the person behind me was shoving me toward Aly, who was smiling up expectantly from the table where she was signing photos. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I panicked. There she was. What could I say that wouldn’t make me feel like a creepy old stalker lady?

“This isn’t for me!” I finally blurted out. “It’s for my niece! She loves you!”

“Oh.” Aly’s smile faded a little. “Thanks.”

I nodded, grabbed my signed photo from her, and ran.

*     *     *     *     *

“So you basically implied that you’re not a fan at all and were only there for your niece,” a friend pointed out to me later.

“Yep, pretty much.”

“Also, you don’t have a niece.”

“I know.”

“You don’t even have any brothers or sisters to give you a niece.”

“I’m aware.”

“You invented an entire branch of family just so you could tell her you don’t like her.”

“Yep.”

*     *     *     *     *

I’ve vowed to do much better if I ever get a chance to meet Aly again.

I’m going to eliminate at least some of my imaginary family and just tell her my sister loves her instead.

Whatever. My niece thinks this is awesome.

Whatever. My niece thinks this is awesome.

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It’s Me or the Oranges

February 23, 2013 at 1:48 am (Crazies, Jobs) (, , )

“I don’t have that information,” the woman, Ingrid, told me on the phone when we were arranging a job interview. I’d asked her what the name of the company was.

“You don’t know the name of your company?”

“I’m just scheduling the interviews for my boss. His name is Alan. I can tell you it’s a copywriting position at a marketing firm. We received your resume.”

“But you can’t tell me what the company is?”

“I don’t have that information.”

Okay.

I probably shouldn’t have gone to the interview, I realize this. Especially after I looked the address up on Google Maps and it zoomed in on an area of suburban L.A. that seemed to be comprised entirely of car dealerships and repair shops. Sure, those places might need writers, but if so, I’m fairly certain I’m not the writer they seek. I can’t even change a tire, let alone compose elegant prose about the process.

But I went to the interview. Because I make bad decisions.

The address led me to a reinforced, tinted door on a nondescript building in the middle of a bunch of rundown little auto repair shops. There was no company name on the door or building, no identification of any kind. The only windows were high up and covered with security mesh. One of them was cracked in the corner. I stared at the building for a long time from my car, trying to process my thoughts.

My thoughts, as it turned out, were all some variation of, “I am about to be human trafficked.”

But I went in anyway. Because, again, I make bad decisions.

2:57 PM

The door opened to a large room with walls of painted cinderblock, the carpet old and stained. The room was divided down the center with a portable cubicle wall. On one side, there was a big, empty space with some metal shelving along the perimeter boasting piles of fluorescent t-shirts. On the other side, two guys sat talking to each other. No desks. No computers. Just two 20-something dudes on office chairs facing each other and chatting. They looked up at me when I entered, whispered something, and then motioned to a pile of boxes in the corner. A girl who looked all of 19 emerged from behind these boxes and came out to greet me. She was wearing jeans and looked very sad, as I would expect anyone to be if stored behind boxes.

“I’m Ingrid,” she said as she approached. Ah, Ingrid from the phone who doesn’t know where she works. Off to a promising start.

She led me to a little room in the back corner. It must have served as their break room, because the only things in it were one chair and a mini fridge with a pack of bagels and a bag of oranges on top of it. (Sign me up for those breaks, by the way. Whoo-hoo, party time!)

“Have a seat,” Sad Ingrid said, motioning to the chair. It was in the exact center of the room. I moved it to the side and sat down tentatively. “Alan will be with you in a moment.” Then Sad Ingrid left me alone.

2:58 PM

The room, I should point out, had only two very small windows near the ceiling and they were covered in security mesh and impossible to see into/out of. The teal-colored paint on the walls was peeling in big scabs. After I’d been sitting there a moment, Guy #1 scurried into the room, snatched the pack of bagels, and scurried back out.

Just me and the oranges then. Cool.

Again, I was pretty sure I was about to get human trafficked. I started contemplating whether I should just make a run for it or wait to see what happened and assume I could effectively knee someone in the groin if needed. The guys looked kinda little, and Ingrid was certainly too depressed to be a threat. My knee was feeling strong. I decided to wait.

Finally, Guy #2 wheeled another chair in. He left it there and went back out into the main room without a word. Then he came back in and asked what my name was. Left again and returned with an iPad that presumably had my resume on it. He sat down and hunched over the iPad like The Thinker.

3:00 PM

“I’m Alan,” he said when he looked up.

“Hi.” It was becoming clear I should put minimal effort into this stunning career opportunity.

“So you worked at NBC Universal,” Alan said, emotionless.

“Yep.”

“Have you written direct mail before?”

“Yes, at the job I had before that.”

Looooooooong pause. Alan continued studying the iPad. I’m not convinced he could actually read. He might have had kitten photos on the screen for all I know.

I cleared my throat. “So what do you guys do here exactly? What’s the company?”

“Oh.” Alan looked shocked that I would wonder about this information. “We, uh, basically we’re a third-party marketing company. So places contract us and we get leads for them and stuff.”

“Uh…huh.” I waited for him to give the name of the business, maybe list some clients, get into more specifics. No dice.

“Have you written any lead generation emails before?” he asked.

“Nope.”

“Oh.”

“I don’t think I’m the right person for this job,” I said abruptly, standing up. “I didn’t even know what I was getting called in for.” Also, I would rather live jobless in a cardboard box than ever work in this horrible, depressing office, which probably markets porn. Or wait, there were t-shirts out there. Maybe they market t-shirts with porn on them? Something like that considering NO ONE WILL TELL ME WHAT THE COMPANY IS. I kept those last few sentences to myself, but I feel like the message got across.

Alan stood up, unfazed. This was possibly not the first time he’d experienced the phenomenon of someone literally running away 90 seconds into an interview with him.

“Okay. Sorry for wasting your time,” he said, trailing behind me as I bolted. I got myself into attack mode as I walked, still not convinced I wasn’t going to be jumped and sold into human trafficking. But nothing happened. I made it back outside into the world alive and unkidnapped.

The clock on my car read 3:02 when I started it back up. Five minutes I was in that building. They were hands-down the most ridiculous five minutes of my life – and I frequently find myself in ridiculous situations, so that is saying a lot.

My biggest regret, aside from going to the interview at all, is that I didn’t take the bag of oranges with me when I fled.

Not even fruit deserves that kind of life.

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Some People Dream in Color, Others Dream in Basic Cable

February 17, 2013 at 1:33 am (Hollywood, Jobs, TV) ()

A somewhat serious post today, or at least one with a lower quip content than usual. I’ve never written about this before, or even really talked about it. Thought it might be a fun story to get out there.

Style won an Emmy. Now you know.

Style won an Emmy.
Now you know.

Until recently, I worked at NBC Universal – specifically for E!, the Style Network, and the now defunct gaming/guy network G4. In reality, I spent about an equal amount of time working on shows for each of those three networks, as did a lot of people in the office. None of us ever really thought about it that way, though. If you asked most of us where we worked, we always answered simply, “E!”

It’s not that we disliked the other networks or were ashamed of them. Among other things, working for G4 meant getting paid to watch old episodes of Quantum Leap and frequently riding elevators with Chris Hardwick, while Style paid me to watch A League of Their Own and transcribe a Celine Dion special. I tip my hat to both networks for the awesome experiences. (Well, mostly awesome. Celine, as it turns out, says a lot of gibberish.)

It’s just that E! is…well, E!. Of the three networks, it’s the big brand, the one everyone knows. Because the networks only became part of NBC Universal after a merger, they’re in their own building far from the Universal lot, and E! dominates that building. E! News, The Soup, and Fashion Police all tape in studios on the ground floor.

Soup

The Soup set

Fashion Police set

Fashion Police set

Ryan Seacrest does his radio show in a glass-encased studio that opens up to the building’s courtyard for the benefit of teen girls flocking to declare their love for the Jonas Brothers or One Direction. Kardashians abound on a daily basis, as do a whole rainbow of celebrity guests looking to peddle their latest wares.

That building is E!, as were most of us who worked there.

At E!, you can have meetings in Central Perk. For real.

At E!, you can have meetings in Central Perk. For real.

Now, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: even though I got laid off, I’m not bitter. It’s the most fun job I’ve ever had or probably will ever have. For almost five years, I got paid to wear jeans and hoodies to work in a building that was chock full of video game consoles, HDTVs, foosball tables, and celebrities. On my fourth day of work, there was an afternoon keg crawl on three different floors of the office during which we all just stopped working and drank. B.o.B. and Lil Jon played at our summer courtyard parties, and Andy Grammer sang acoustic sets at our balcony parties. Our Christmas parties had open bars and donut walls. Even when there wasn’t free booze or a party happening, I got paid to literally watch TV. That was my job: watching TV.  (Well, okay, what I did was a bit more complicated than that, thankyouverymuch, but watching TV really was the gist.)

Working there didn’t even feel like real adulthood. It felt like the version of adulthood Tom Hanks gets to have in Big. And like Big, it couldn’t last forever. I get that.

I miss it, but I get it.

The part of the story I’ve never told anyone is this: E! was much more to me than just a fun job. It was sort-of the fulfillment of a prophecy.

Inspire and entertain the pop culture fan in all of us.

A wall near my old desk at E!. “Inspire and entertain the pop culture fan in all of us.”

I didn’t even realize it was happening at first.

I didn’t seek E! out specifically. I was just looking at job postings because I’d been working a writing job that wasn’t in entertainment for quite awhile, and it occurred to me that I really should be working in entertainment, seeing as that’s why I’d moved 2,000 miles away from home and all. The E! job just happened to be there at the right time, and I just happened to apply for it, and I just happened to get it (oh, 2008 job market, how simple you were!).

When I started working there, I got so caught up in the newness of it all that it seriously must have been at least six months before it finally dawned on me: Whoa…hey…wait a minute…

E!

E!, you see, was actually directly responsible for me wanting to move to L.A. in the first place. It had just been so long that I’d forgotten.

When I was younger, probably starting in the 12-13 age range, I used to babysit my little cousins while my aunt and uncle got out for a bit of fun on the weekends. Since the kids were asleep most of the time I was there, my duties mostly consisted of staying awake to check in on them and make sure things were okay. Otherwise, my time there was my own, and I had a system for occupying it.

I started off the evenings by watching one, or sometimes two, of the many movies my aunt and uncle had on VHS. What About Bob? and Beauty and the Beast were among my favorites. I watched them so many times that I had them memorized and could just half-watch them while doing other things like writing in my journal or writing stories. Writing, in some form, was always the other thing I was doing.

I made sure to finish the movies before midnight, though, because occasionally my aunt and uncle got home around then, and I liked to be ready to go when they did. Sometimes they didn’t get home until later, though, and I was left with time to kill channel surfing through cable stations.

That’s how I first discovered E!.

The network was only about ten years old at that point, and it was a little different than it is now, a little less glossy. It had the same focus, though: Entertainment. Celebrities. There was a program called The Gossip Show in which Downtown Julie Brown and other C-Listers took turns frantically relaying the week’s juiciest celeb happenings. There was Talk Soup with its actual soup-bowl graphics and original host, Greg Kinnear. There were behind-the-scenes looks at movies and TV shows. A few years later, there was Jules Asner bringing us the latest scoop on the rich and famous via E! News and Wild On.

At some point, I started turning on E! even earlier than midnight. I loved movies and TV so much. It was fascinating to see how they were made, how their stars lived. I’d never really thought about it before. I guess until then, I thought movies and TV just sort-of…happened. Like winter or water.

I remember the exact moment it happened – the moment I connected movies/TV with something I could do.

I was 14. I was babysitting, and I’d been writing a story earlier in the evening while I watched my customary movie. I wish I could remember now what the story was about, but I don’t. I just know it was something I was really into at the time, writing with the fervor of a mini Joyce Carol Oates.

When I turned on E! that night, The Gossip Show was focusing on Nicole Kidman, and I happened to be somewhat obsessed with her at the time thanks to Far and Away. (“No! Jooooseph, please come back! Jooooseph, no! Don’t leave me alone. Please! I loved you. I loved you from the first time I saw you!”)

“Oh, man,” I thought to myself as I watched the gossipers gossip about her onscreen, “Nicole Kidman would be awesome as a character in this story I’m writing. God, I hope someone writes her this exact story as a screenplay someday so she can star in it.” I started daydreaming about what filming would be like, about the locations they’d use, about the behind-the-scenes specials that would air about the movie on E!.

(beat)

“Wait a minute.”

(beat)

I could write that screenplay.”

(beat)

“I could go to L.A. and I could be the person who writes that.”

The next 18 years, and counting, of my life were born that instant. Born because of E!.

From that moment on, I dreamed of moving to Los Angeles and working in Hollywood. I stopped watching E! with any regularity when I stopped babysitting my cousins, and it kind-of dropped off my radar. But when I was 21, I finally did exactly what I’d been dreaming of all those years. I moved to L.A. I did an internship in development at a big, fancy movie studio – complete with soundstages and script-reading and driving a golf cart around the lot.

That internship scared the crap out of me for several reasons and made me shift my focus (novel-writing is now more my game than screenwriting, although I probably still write more indie movies in my head than Charlie Kaufman).

But I stayed in L.A. because I love it. There’s no other city like it in the world. Los Angeles deals in surreality. Living here is like living in a thousand stories all at once, the characters walking and breathing all around you.

My own story is a part of those now.

E! was the reason I realized this was a life I could have. And then 14 years after I realized that, E! was actually the place that finally fully gave me that Hollywood life in the flesh.

Again, I didn’t plan that. I didn’t even realize it was happening right away.

But it did happen. And even though I have no idea where life is taking me now and I completely recognize that it may be going in an entirely new direction – maybe even away from Hollywood, away from entertainment – I’m grateful for having had the experience, for having had the chance to live even a small part of my dreams.

The writer in me will forever love the fact that E! came full circle in my life.

I feel like Downtown Julie Brown, wherever she is, probably approves, too.

Me E

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When In Doubt, Lick

February 12, 2013 at 10:01 pm (Crazies, Jobs) (, , )

And then there was the time I interviewed for a writing position at the Kabbalah Centre. (I’m not even going to try to give them an alias to protect me from the Google gods. I mean, come on. Kabbalah. You need to know this.)

My friend “Kayla” worked there a few years ago and didn’t have the greatest experience, and I’m certainly no Kabbalah nut. So I was hesitant when I saw the ad. But after conferring with Kayla, we decided it couldn’t hurt to apply. Maybe her unhappiness there was an anomaly. The chances of making it to the interview stage for any job in this city are fairly slim, anyway. I’d probably just send my resume and writing samples into the void and then never hear anything back, as with most gigs.

Except I did hear back. Right away. I had an interview set up within days. Thanks, universe! Super fun of you.

Now, in case you’re not familiar with it, Kabbalah is the spiritual practice that involves string bracelets and Madonna. I think this is a good time to link to an educational Will & Grace Kabbalah clip:

I have nothing against it. Before I got this interview, I had no intentions of ever rushing out to study Kabbalah in-depth, but a lot of its principles are actually pretty interesting. And it’s not a scary cult like Scientology. I figured I could work there for a year or two and not feel like I was helping usher in the End Times. I’d probably get some good Facebook/blog posts out of it as well. (Priorities.)

Fast forward to the interview.

I arrived a few minutes early and sat down in the lobby, which contained several chairs and a completely abandoned receptionist’s desk. This alone troubled me. How was I supposed to let my interviewer know I’d arrived? Just scream “HEY, I’M HERE!” as loud as I could? I pondered this as I waited, but luckily I didn’t have to resort to the strategy. At exactly my appointed interview time, a woman descended the stairs by the lobby, smiling at me. Instinct told me this was “Darcy,” the woman I was supposed to meet with.

“Hello,” I said, standing up to shake her hand.

“Lisa?” she asked.

“Yes. Darcy?”

“Yep. Great.” At this point, she started to walk away, so I gathered my purse and portfolio so I could follow. I’d made it a few steps when she turned back around and said, “Oh, wait here, please. I just need a second.”

Oooookaaaay.  Confusing, but no problem. I ungathered my things and sat back down to wait. And wait. And wait.

“A second” in Kabbalah time is apparently 15 minutes. And “need” means “want to go shoot the breeze with my friends.” For 15 minutes, I sat alone in the lobby, listening to Darcy – just a few steps down the hallway in an office – laughing and talking with her coworkers about Incredibly Important Business like their Candy Crush scores and their plans for the weekend. Darcy did reappear in the hallway and walk toward me once, but she diverted at the last second into the restroom.

I started glancing around the lobby, looking for the hidden cameras. Clearly, this was a test. Someone was monitoring my behavior. What was I supposed to be doing? Frantically, I picked up a Kabbalah pamphlet from the side table and began studying it, making all sorts of “Wow, interesting,” faces.

Then a little old man outside walked up to the glass door, peered inside, touched the door reverently, licked his finger, and then pressed it to his forehead.

What…the…? Is that something people do in Kabbalah? Lick? I made a mental note to stock up on hand sanitizer if I got the job. And possibly tongue sanitizer.

Finally, Darcy finished her Incredibly Important Business and came back to lead me upstairs to the conference room. I couldn’t tell from her expression if I had passed the behavioral test. Maybe I should lick the table or something to show my commitment? Nah.

The interview consisted of the following:

1)   Darcy showing me what I’d be writing (pamphlets, articles, blogs).

2)   Darcy complaining about a pain in her neck.

3)   Darcy accidentally snapping her neck back into place in the middle of a sentence and making a near-orgasmic sound of relief.

4)   Darcy talking more about what I’d be writing.

5)   Darcy asking me one question about myself (“So can you describe your writing style?”) out of the blue in the middle of everything and catching me so off-guard that, for all I know, I may have answered, “Purple.”

After 20 minutes of this, Darcy leaned back in her chair, nodded at me, and said, “Well, I think I have a good sense of who you are as a person.”

Really? Do you? Okay.

I interpreted that to mean she’d read my aura. And since I didn’t end up getting the job, now I’m worried about what my aura may have revealed.

Do I have serial killer potential? Am I lazy? Am I going to die next month? Do I not like Madonna enough? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME, KABBALAH LADY?

I bet it’s just that I didn’t lick anything. Dammit.

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Gonna Make You Sweat: A Job Interview in Three Parts

February 11, 2013 at 5:03 am (Crazies, Embarrassing, Jobs) (, , , )

Almost immediately after I learned of my impending layoff and started applying for jobs, I got an interview for what seemed like the best gig ever. It was at a renowned film society that I won’t name here in case the Google gods bring this post to their attention. Since they go by a three-letter acronym, though, we’ll just call them BFO (Big-time Film Organization). You’ve heard of them.

The job was literally watching movies full-time and writing up the plots and production histories for the BFO online film catalog. The pay was a bit lower than I needed, but come on – watching movies and writing about them. Pretty much the only way that could be better was if they hand-fed me chocolate, too. I was willing to make it work.

So a-interviewin’ I went.

PART ONE: OUR HERO ARRIVES

Phase 1 of the interview was with the Human Resources manager, and it went well. She was laid-back. We had some laughs. We discussed Starbucks and earthquakes, and she offered me a Diet Coke. You know, the usual interview stuff.

Then she picked up the phone and called “Serena” to come get me for Phase 2.

Now, not once had anyone mentioned the name Serena to me before. As far as I knew, I was supposed to be interviewing with “George,” the head of the Catalog Department with whom I’d spoken on the phone. Who could Serena be? I pondered as I waited in the HR office for her to arrive. Eh, probably just an intern or assistant sent to shepherd me from one location to the next, I decided. No big deal.

Five minutes later, a small, angry young woman stormed into the HR office and looked at me over the top of her hipster glasses. “Lisa?” she demanded, frowning as if I had personally offended her with my presence. I nodded and stood up, preparing for a handshake. Instead, the woman whirled around and stomped back out of the office, leaving me scrambling to follow. God, I hope this is Serena, I thought wildly as I ran, aware that I might also be scurrying off to get murdered in the janitor’s closet.

PART TWO: OUR HERO DEPARTS ON AN EPIC QUEST

Halfway down the hallway, I finally caught up with her. Then the questions started.

“What interests you about BFO?”

“What kind of writing have you done?”

“Do you have a film theory background?”

“What do you think about Fellini?”

Each one was fired at me like a torpedo that unleashed silent judgment upon impact instead of exploding. Serena didn’t even make any encouraging “Oh” or “Okay” sounds after I answered; she just blasted the next question. This was not small talk. She was interviewing me. As we walked. WTF? Who did this intern think she was, an Aaron Sorkin character?

Then we left the building.

BFO, as it turns out, is comprised of a cluster of structures on a big, steep hill. For the purposes of this story, we’re going to refer to that hill as The Mothereffing Mountain. The Human Resources building is at the bottom of the mountain. The Catalog Department, I kid you not, is in a little trailer at the very top. It looks like it got picked up by a tornado in Arkansas and plunked down in the middle of nowhere on this random California peak.

So not only was I being interviewed by a strangely hostile little intern, but now I was doing so while hiking up The Mothereffing Mountain… at a rapid pace… in 85-degree weather… while wearing a business suit and heels.

I’m pretty sure not even wannabe mountain-climbing guides have to do that. The scientific term to describe me when we finally reached the top is “nervous, panicking sweatball.”

And things did not get better from there.

PART THREE: OUR HERO DIES A FLAMING DEATH

Serena proceeded to usher me into the (non-air-conditioned) trailer, where I was met by four sets of staring eyes: three women and one man. Serena didn’t introduce any of them. No one introduced themselves. We all just stood there looking at each other for several seconds like we were posing for a portrait.

“Hi,” I finally said.

The man stood up. “All right, let’s go in the back office.” This was George, I deduced, although it could have been reclusive British street artist Banksy for all I knew.

“Well, uh, thanks for your help,” I said, turning to Serena, assuming she would be returning to her internly duties now that she had successfully retrieved me and bestowed upon me a refreshing cardio workout. Nope.

“I’m coming with you,” Serena responded with a withering glare.

I knew then I wasn’t getting the job.

I’ll spare you the rest of the painful details. Just picture me sitting in a tiny, hot room with George and Serena staring at me as sweat poured down my face, and you’ll get the idea. I must have looked like an escapee from the Sweat Disorder Research Clinic. And really, it was less “interview” than it was Serena lecturing me for 20 minutes about why I could never do the job.

The rejection form letter I received from BFO a month later informed me that it had been a “very difficult decision” to choose amongst such wonderful candidates.

Huh. Sure.

If I ever interview there again for anything, I’m wearing hiking boots and boxing gloves. Maybe I’ll have a better chance.

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It’s Called “FUNemployment” Because You Make Fun of It on Your Blog, Right?

February 10, 2013 at 4:52 am (Hollywood, Jobs) (, , , , )

All right, time to say it: I am now an official participant in that grand American tradition, that time-honored rite of passage that I always naively believed I could just skip right on past singing, “Tra-la-la, don’t mind me!”

I got laid off from my job in December, along with about 400 other people at my office. It is now February and I remain unemployed.

“Tra-la-la” my ass.

It’s okay, though. (Well, mostly it’s okay. Some days my brain, if printed out, would just be a reproduction of Munch’s “The Scream,” but that’s often true even when I’m employed. I should probably just be medicated in general.) Financially, I’m cool for a while yet as long as nothing catastrophic comes up, and I don’t even harbor any ill will against Former Employer for laying me off. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had – a dream job, literally, in a way I hope to blog more about soon – and I’m grateful that I got to do it for almost five years. Most importantly, my eventual memoir will be infinitely more interesting because of it. My memoir will also be pronounced “mem-wah,” because that is the way people at Former Employer pronounced it, and I will never not make fun of that. WE ARE NOT IN FRANCE, PEOPLE.

I digress.

Anyway, here I am, in month two of this great adventure called unemployment. And since we found out about the impending layoff way back at the end of October, I’m actually in month four of job hunting. Month four and counting, I might add. I’ve learned two very important things about the current employment landscape in Los Angeles these past months: (1) It’s a bitch, and (2) It’s a bitch. I was going to wait until I obtained gainful employment to write about the whole experience, but now the only two things left on my once lengthy “Things To Do To Pass Time” list are “blog” and “figure out what to do with 401(k).” Yeah. I’d much rather blog, thank you.

So here’s the thing: my goal is obviously to continue working in the entertainment industry since that is the entire reason I moved to L.A. in the first place. But that’s the reason everyone moved to L.A., so there’s a bit of competition on that front. Nabbing a steady job in Hollywood can be a bit like winning The Hunger Games. I already won once, and I’m not going to go threaten Tina Fey with poisoned berries until she hires me as an assistant on whatever she writes next (unless you think that would work…?). So it seems smart to apply for any other writing/editing gigs I can find just in case.

That is how the following have all almost wound up as my new life:

1)   Writing about Kabbalah

2)   Running social media for a mattress company

3)   Editing AAA travel brochures

4)   Writing web sales copy for medical supplies and scrubs

5)   Writing web copy about closets

6)   Answering customer emails for Hulu (okay, technically the entertainment industry, but still…answering emails, not writing Citizen Kane: The New Class)

7)   Writing up cases at a law firm to get actors/actresses/directors their immigration papers

8)   Writing sales copy about makeup

No joke, I got called in to interview for all of those and more. Stay tuned for details about some in future posts. But for the moment, just let me say: I am one of the least qualified women on the planet to write about makeup. Tom Arnold would probably be a better choice for that job than me. (And in a future post, we’re also going to examine in detail why in the hell Tom Arnold was the first person who came to my mind when I tried to think of a dude’s name.)

Hands down, though, the worst interview I’ve had – possibly the worst interview anyone’s ever had – was actually a Hollywood job.

I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Trust me, I’m not going to want to deal with my 401(k) then either.

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Ryan Lochte is Worth More than a Squashed Sister, Sister

August 17, 2012 at 1:52 am (Crazies, Hollywood, Weird Celeb Happenings)

Just another morning at work, just another return from an early-morning Starbucks run across the street. As I approached the office courtyard, I noticed a black SUV parked in front of my building letting someone out. Any black vehicle parked there automatically means celebrity alert, because celebrity = driver = black SUV or Town Car (why black, I always wonder? Do celebrities hate color? CELEBRITIES HATE COLOR!). Also, celebs are the only people that Security does not see fit to kick out of the no-parking zone.

So of course, I looked. I’m not starstruck (usually), but I’m not above looking either, all right? So I looked, and I registered a hot guy in a suit posing for a picture in front of the office for his publicist. Hmm, I know that dude, I thought. Why do I know him? Why, why, why? Then he started walking toward the building entrance at the same rate of speed I was walking, which quickly led to us falling into step for a few moments, at which point I looked closer and realized:

Huh. I’m walking to work with Ryan Lochte.

As one does.

Now, I’m no great Lochte fan, mainly because swimming kinda bores me (gymnasts, on the other hand — if I’d been walking into the building with a gymnast, I would have flipped out like a 14-year-old girl and asked her to sign my Hello Kitty Trapper Keeper). But I do know who he is and probably way too much about him, simply because I exist in this country right now. I also knew my coworker Z’s obsessed with him.

So like the thoughtful human being that I am, I went upstairs and gloated.

After Z finished literally running in little circles like a cartoon character who can’t decide which way to go, she sprinted down to the lobby to see if she could catch him, but she quickly returned looking as if her favorite child had died. No Ryan.

While she was gone, I had utilized my super covert spy skills to determine, via half a dozen shrieking female assistants nearby, which TV show Ryan was in the building to tape. And it just so happened our in-house cable system provides us a live feed of that studio right to our very own desktop TVs. I relayed this info to Z when she returned, but I needn’t have bothered considering approximately 50 females in the vicinity were now screaming it to one another as well. So this is what Beatle Mania was like, I thought.

But Lochte Mania got even more intense. Because Ryan proceeded to strip to a Speedo within 20 minutes or so of the taping. (I’m pretty sure the Beatles never stripped.)

This is when the female, and probably gay male, population of my office decided to do their impression of a drunk Chippendales audience. Speaking as someone who has been dragged to a Chippendales show recently, it was a really damn good impression. Like, they should probably win an Oscar or something. If the Oscars start giving awards for Chippendales audience impressions. Which they should.

Ryan wasn’t content to let Lochte Mania end there, though. Oh, no. As if he knew the effect he was having on half the building and just wanted to test us, he proceeded to head outside with the show’s host for a bit in the courtyard.

This is when 500 women sprinted for the elevators.

Actually, that’s when 498 women sprinted for the elevators, because Z had suddenly developed a perplexing sense of professionalism and was torn between Ryan and her heavy workload. (Also, I may have assured her that she had plenty of time to get down there, as TV takes forever, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen, la-di-dah — oh, look over there at that shiny thing!)

This professionalism and my assurances lasted approximately three minutes. Then Z panicked and morphed into Usain Bolt as she made for the elevator, me trailing behind in more of an anthropological role.

And then the elevator stopped on every floor.

Z wasn’t having it. At the second stop, she let out a little snort of frustration at the ding that signaled we were stopping. The doors slid open. Z looked at the people waiting to get on, one of whom happened to be (not even kidding) ’90s sitcom star Tia Mowry. Z decided Tia was not worthy of a stop. Z hit the “close” button, essentially closing the door on Tia, who had started to walk in.

In case you’re keeping score, Ryan Lochte > a squashed Sister, Sister.

Luckily, Tia is ninja-like and managed to both evade death-by-doors and prop them back open for her posse. Much to Z’s dismay, we then stopped on yet another floor on the way down. At least she didn’t try to murder anyone there.

By the time we finally got down to the lobby, the bit was just ending in the courtyard and Ryan was heading back into the studio with his show host, camera crew, and 500 women trailing behind. Z just barely missed seeing him before he ducked inside. She stood at the window for several seconds in shock.

“You could get your picture with Tia,” I pointed out helpfully, motioning to where Z’s failed murder attempt stood near us smiling for cameras. Z just shook her head and joined the crowd headed back to the elevators.

Later we learned that another one of our coworkers had managed to Mission: Impossible her way into the studio with a camera during taping and get a few shots. Meanwhile, the network executives — pretty big-wiggy, mature people — spent a good 30 minutes giggling like little girls over Ryan outside my cubicle. If they had lockers, they would have been decorating them with pictures of him from Tiger Beat. At 3:00 this afternoon, a good six hours after Lochte Mania, assistants could still be heard exclaiming:

“Oh, my god, I love Ryan Lochte!”

Celebrity is a weird, weird thing, man.

I want that to be the epitaph on my tombstone after Z kills me in my sleep for my part in keeping her from seeing him.

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A Conversation With Myself

July 22, 2012 at 8:42 pm (Writing) (, )

Me 1: This is absurd. I haven’t written anything in over a year.

Me 2: Well. You should do that.

Me 1: Like anything. I haven’t written anything. I “took a break” after a draft of my novel. That break was supposed to last a month and now it’s a whole damn year later. I don’t think I’ve blogged. Have I written a grocery list? I don’t even know if I’ve written a grocery list.

Me 2: Well. You’re just sitting here with your computer. You should write now.

Me 1: But… it’s hard. I kind-of hate my novel now and I’m not sure if it’s worth pursuing.

Me 2: So write something else.

Me 1: And give up on my novel?!

Me 2: You just said you hate your novel.

Me 1: But I spent forever on that thing. Years of my life! I’m just supposed to give that up, Me 2? Really?

Me 2: Um, yeah, I didn’t say that. You did.

Me 1: Maybe my novel is actually really great and I just can’t see it anymore because I’m, like, “too close to it.” Maybe if I don’t keep going with it, I’m depriving the world of the next War and Peace or something. Or maybe I’m depriving Reese Witherspoon the chance to star in the next great American book adaptation! Did you ever think of that, Me 2? Did you?

Me 2: So keep working on it, then.

Me 1: (sighs) But…I don’t know if I want to.

Me 2: You’re an idiot.

Me 1: That’s called bullying, Me 2. I don’t have to take that.

Me 2: Fine. You’re not an idiot. So… just put the novel aside for awhile and work on something else while you decide whether to pursue it.

Me 1: But then what’s Reese Witherspoon going to do?

Me 2: I’m pretty sure Reese Witherspoon has other things going on.

Me 1: She’s not gonna wait forever to adapt my book.

Me 2: You’re losing touch with reality here.

Me 1: I am not. I’m a writer. It’s called imagination, asshole.

Me 2: Now you’re bullying me.

Me 1: Whoops. Sometimes my passionate writer nature gets the best of me.

Me 2: Stop calling yourself a writer if you’re not writing.

Me 1: No way. I’m a writer. It’s in my soul, Me 2.

Me 2: (sighs) Idiot.

Me 1: BULLY!

Me 2: Ohmygodareyoukiddingmewiththat?

Me 1: We’re getting nowhere here.

Me 2: We’re really not.

Me 1: So what am I supposed to do?

Me 2: GO WRITE SOMETHING. ANYTHING! ANYTHING, OKAY? JUST STOP BEING SUCH A BABY ABOUT THIS!

Me 1: You’re scary when you yell.

Me 2: I’m sorry. You frustrate me.

Me 1: I don’t mean to.

Me 2: I know. It’s okay.

Me 1: Should we hug?

Me 2: No. You should just go write something.

Me 1: Okay. I will.

(long pause filled with the tapping of keys)

Me 2: Dude. That’s Facebook. You’re commenting on stuff on Facebook!

Me 1: I bet Julia Roberts would adapt my novel if Reese won’t wait around. She doesn’t seem too busy these days.

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The Pigeon Population of L.A. is Going to Hunt Me Down for Revenge

July 31, 2011 at 10:28 pm (Car Stuff) (, , , )

There are many reasons for slow- to non-moving traffic in Los Angeles. Accidents. Idiots not knowing where they’re going. Busted traffic lights. Rubberneckers. Absolutely no good reason at all.

All of these are frustrating, especially when one is in a hurry. So I think it’s not unreasonable that I be forgiven for murdering a pigeon yesterday. Or at the very least maiming it.

The light at Lankershim was green. Green, I tell you! Yet the five or six cars in front of me were not moving at all. The lane to our right was sailing swiftly. There were no sirens or swirling lights on the horizon. There was no mother-loving reason for this hold-up as far as I could tell, so I assumed the problem was Option B: Idiots. And clearly the only acceptable option for dealing with idiots is to surge forward and past them at the first given opportunity to show them that cars can go faster than 5 miles per hour, you jerk.

Finally, we started inching forward. The cars ahead of me slowly made it through the intersection one by one. It was my turn. Traffic started actually picking up speed. And then…

PFFFFFFTTTT!!!!!

I saw the reason for the hold-up, the pigeon, strolling across the lane just as it was about to go under my tire. And then I heard that. And then I looked in my review mirror and saw feathers flying and the pigeon stumbling around like a melodramatic actor in a death scene.

“OHHHHHHHH!” shrieked a woman idling in a car nearby. Which immediately made me feel like a serial killer. In fact, it confused me so much that I gunned it out of there before anyone could get my license plate number and was half-way into making a turn toward a Rite-Aid for a disguise until I realized most people don’t do time for hit-and-running a pigeon. (And that I have probably watched too much Alias if this was my response to hitting anything.)

I thought about going back then, of course, because animal suffering ranks right up there with genocide, global warming, and Republicans on my list of Things That Suck About the World. But I didn’t because (A) I really don’t think that poor bird stood a chance, and (B) if there was a woman willing to scream that loudly about it getting hit, I’m pretty sure she was on it, anyway. Also, potentially, because (C) I’m a terrible person.

Anyway, I repent to the pigeon world for my actions.

And from now on, when traffic is crappy, I will not get upset. Instead, I will automatically assume it’s because there’s a bird out for a leisurely stroll across the road. Because, really, in a city this weird, why wouldn’t it be?

R.I.P., Sir.

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