Friday, September 24, 2010

Can't stop loving that man of mine.....

He was the new assistant to my talent manager, and I was the aging ingenue. He answered the phone after an horrendous audition and made me feel better.He called me two days later to tell me that I was the second choice,which was really nice to know.Usually nobody cares unless you got the part. We had a get-to-know-you lunch in April, a movie date in May ("Welcome to the Dollhouse"), and a concert date in June (Natalie Merchant at the Greek). Three dates in three months we were official- in secret, of course, as he would have likely lost his job. It was kind of fun in the beginning. We had sleepovers and then would see each other at a function the next day and make polite small talk so no one got suspicious. Eventually he left the company, and I followed suit. Everyone had warned him not to date an actress,as I must have been using him to further my career. He was living in a foul apartment in Mariner's Village with a roommate and making four twenty five a week,so I wouldn't exactly call myself a gold digger. I just liked him instantly because he was handsome and sweet, with beautiful brown eyes and an infectious laugh.

After nine years of dating, he decided to pop the question on May 7th, 2004. He purchased the ring by himself, after tireless stealth research to determine what the finest of the three C's was available and affordable. He called my father to ask permission and planned a surprise attack that remains unmatched by any other engagement story that I have heard:

He was a partner at a literary and talent management company. At the time,he had a writer client whose pitch had sold for an unprecedented amount. It literally broke records. Everyone involved was beyond ecstatic. On Monday, he mentioned in passing that the writer wanted to get together on Friday to celebrate-some sort of picnic in the park thing. I made a mental note and,as the week wore on, had no idea what was about to occur. Friday arrived and he came home early and told me that we were going to hike into Griffith Park, from the top of Beachwood Canyon, on the horse trail.We were to meet up with the writer's family and have a celebration in the woods. They had a babysitter coming to help with their new baby, and we were supposed to meet just south of the trail head on the road. The whole idea appealed to my hippy dippy side, as most things Hollywood are celebrated at the Chateau Marmont, which is the polar opposite of a rendezvous under the trees.As the sun started dipping,we walked up the dirt trail for about forty five minutes, my boyfriend limping along for some unknown reason, and arrived at the top where the road appeared. We began to walk down the road and were greeted by a poncho clad red haired man named Dean aka. the babysitter.I remember thinking that this was the first "manny" I had actually had the pleasure of meeting. He apologized in advance, but the family was running late and he had been sent on ahead to make sure we found the location and weren't wandering around the park all evening. He led us off the road and down a secluded trail where the sounds of acoustic guitar wafted up into the air. We hiked down a short rocky path, which ended right next to a gigantic boulder with small flat area beneath it that overlooked the western side of the park. The view went all the way to the ocean,which was shimmering gold in the distance. Before us lay an Indian blanket covered with terra cotta pots of all shapes and sizes;huge vases of sunflowers, throw pillows and champagne. I quickly realized that this was a set up for two and that the guitarist perched above us on the rock was not some dude coincidentally communing with nature. I remember thinking that this was such an original way to thank someone for their hard work(usually a whopping commission check does the trick),and how could we ever thank the writer enough for this wonderful evening? We sat cross legged on the blanket, as the sun began to set,and Dean knelt down to explain what we would be eating. He lifted the lids off each pot one by one to reveal delicious ethnic food tailored to our weird eating habits. The last dish was dessert and for some reason, I was really hoping for tiramisu. He lifted off the lid and said "and last but not least...." to reveal a dish filled with enormous red strawberries. I was momentarily disappointed until I saw the most beautiful diamond ring I have ever seen nestled in their midst. I looked up at my boyfriend and clapped my hand over my mouth. He burst into tears and choked out the words "will you marry me?" and I said " Of course!" and we hugged and kissed and cried and drank champagne and watched the sun set. It was all ridiculously perfect and romantic, and I was truly fooled until the reveal. A white horse even galloped down the trail in the distance as we ate strawberries. He told me that he was limping because he had been hiking into the park daily in his dress shoes scouting the perfect location with Dean, the manny, who was actually an event planner.

I have been asked by people afterward if I saw it coming. I suppose the set up story was a bit of a stretch,so I guess that makes me gullible.
The answer is no. I had no idea. We had been together forever, and I guess I figured we would discuss it more before hand and have it be more of a mutual decision. Most of our big decisions until then had been mutual (except for investing in that racehorse,dear), and considering that I didn't want to get married or have kids when we met, he really took quite a risk that day.

I actually remember the moment I fell in love with him. We were at the beach one Saturday,back when I could wear a bathing suit in public, and a baby seal wandered up out of the surf and lay on the sand. The lifeguards set up a cone perimeter to keep the throngs of people away. We asked what it was doing there and the lifeguard told us that they have less and less space on land to rest because people are spreading out so much. "they get tired and need to rest" he said. My boyfriend looked stricken "That's awful," he said, his voice cracking just a little. He shooed a few kids away that were getting too close, and I knew then that he was a decent man, someone I could spend a lifetime with. It didn't hurt that he turned out to be such an amazingly thoughtful, generous, funny, smart, sweet person. He is a wonderful father and an attentive husband, and why he has put up with the likes of me for going on fifteen years, I will never know.
So Happy Anniversary, Honey! I love you more than anyhting. As much as it irritates the crap out of me, thanks for making everything you do an event. It has been an amazing decade and half, and a wonderful five years of marriage. I may be the luckiest person I know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Emotional Rescue

When I was twenty three, I dated a commitment phobe. If you haven't had the pleasure, let me elaborate. A commitment phobe is a fabulous man who seems to be the perfect catch in every way,but he doesn't really want to be caught.He will act like a boyfriend most of the time and suddenly,out of the blue, start acting single by not calling you back on Saturday to make plans or by spending way too much time with his friends. He acts like a boyfriend about eighty percent of the time,but when you try and get an idea of where things stand,he gives you the emotional equivalent of a friendly sock in the arm. Mind you, this wasn't simply another case of "he's just not that into you". He asked me to move to New York with him after two weeks of dating. I said no, naturally, because I am not insane, and then spent the next eighteen months trying to figure out how to date a Pushmi-pullyu.
When someone gives you emotional scraps, you are always hungry.You are always waiting for them to drop something under the table where you wait patiently for them to realize how amazing you are and invite you to join them for dinner. He wasn't doing it on purpose, but he really didn't want anything serious. I didn't know how to have a relationship that wasn't serious, so I probably tortured him as much as I tortured myself.
One Saturday, we had made separate plans yet again. I had gone out with friends and had planned on surprising him with a frisky evening back at his house afterward. At the time I had been reading too much Cosmopolitan Magazine and not enough Camille Paglia. I had asked him to be home by midnight for the big reveal. He agreed. I arrived at his house a few minutes before twelve and waited. I fixed my Viva Glam red lips, repostitioned my cleavage(thanks entirely to my Miracle Bra)and popped breath mint. Twelve ten rolled around, and he wasn't home. I waited for five more minutes and drove to the nearest payphone. It was was several blocks away in a deserted mini mall off Ventura Boulevard. It was a double sided phone with two phones back to back. I put in the coins, as my newly acquired garter belt cut into my thigh, and dialed his car phone. This was well before everyone on earth had cell phones, so if he wasn't in his car, he wasn't picking up his phone. I didn't leave a message. I tried the home phone next, hoping he'd been waiting for me to call. It rang and went to the answering machine. I heard his friendly voice telling me he "wasn't here right now" and hung up the phone. I waited in my car for a few minutes. It was now almost twelve thirty, and I was beginning to feel foolish and pissed. My feet hurt from the ridiculous heels I was wearing, and it had suddenly gotten really cold. As I approached the phone once again and began to dial, a guy pulled up in an orange Datsun Z and got out,presumably to use the other phone. He looked like a short, scrawny Russell Brand, with stringy rocker hair and unecessarily tight skinny jeans. I was pissed enough now that I wasn't afraid of him. I figured I could always stab him with my really uncomfortable stiletto if he tried anything. I dialed both numbers again.No answer. He approached the phone on the other side and picked it up. He made a call, pushing the buttons really fast and, as he was waiting for an answer, swung slowly around to my side with the phone pressed against his ear.
"What are you doing out here by yourself?" he asked giving me a once over. He sounded like a nasal Bruce Dern. I could see his breath hanging in the air as he spoke.
"I am calling my boyfriend" I replied curtly, emphasizing the word boyfriend.
" Boyfriend?!" he snorted,"What sort of boyfriend leaves you out here at one in the morning on a Saturday night?". He was shaking his head a little and laughing.
"He didn't leave me out here. We are meeting up", I replied flatly,"we had separate plans tonight". Why I felt the need to explain anything to this weirdo,I will never know.
"Separate plans?!" he said,as if I'd told him that my boyfriend was sacrificing virgins under the full moon instead of taking me out to dinner. "That doesn't make sense, separate plans on a Saturday night? What kind of boyfriend doesn't want to be with you on Saturday night?"
It was becoming evident that he hadn't stopped to make a phone call. He stopped because he saw what he thought was a young desperate female, alone at a payphone, in the middle of the night,trying to call her boyfriend. He was one of those types that prey on a woman's insecurities by deriding what she says until she becomes convinced that what she has is a sham and that he is somehow the answer to all of her problems.
"I dunno, if I had a girlfriend like you,I would never leave here out here on a freezing cold Saturday night alone,I can tell you that much". At this point he had hung up and was leaning on the side of the phone, watching me dial,and shaking his head at me as if I were trying to patch my tire with nail polish. He gave me a few more once overs as he spoke.
Resisting the urge to say "well, you obviously don't have a girlfriend, so who are you to say?", I said nothing.
He laughed a little and repeated himself. I cut him off.
"He didn't leave me out here,I came to meet him and he wasn't home yet", I said without looking at him.
"Well, where is he?" he asked with mock incredulity,as if I told him my boyfriend had been adbucted by leprechauns.
"Probably on his way home", I said pointedly. This guy was starting to annoy the shit out of me. I didn't want to leave and drive to another pay phone, but I didn't want to be sitting in front of the house either,in case he really wasn't coming home until four in the morning. I also didn't want to let this guy think he got to me. The problem was that he wasn't wrong,exactly,but he was still a creep.
Our conversation went around in circles for about ten more minutes-he insisted that my boyfriend wasn't that great and I insisted that he didn't know what he was talking about. I called several more times and, finally, he picked up. He was tipsy and had just gotten home.It was twelve fifty, but it felt like six a.m. Once I heard his voice, I gave the guy a triumphant glare and told my boyfriend that I would be there in a few minutes. I hung up.
"Finally home,huh? Well where was he?" he asked snidely. He shivered a little.
"I am about to find out," I said,and turned toward my car.He watched me walk away.
"Yeah, well, that's a nice zit you got on your chin..."
I froze for a split second at the sting of the remark, then got in the car and locked the door. He turned and walked to his car and screeched off into the night.
I sat there ruminating on what had just occurred. He had definitely made me feel lousy, but mostly because a lot of what he said was probably true. The part about the zit certainly was. I peered in the mirror to see if the concealer I had painstakingly applied earlier had come off. It had.
I reapplied it and started the car. I drove slowly to the house,feeling like an idiot in my supposedly sexy get up, which I removed before I went into the house. I put on the clothes I had brought for the next day-jeans and t-shirt-and wiped off the red lipstick. I was mad and sad and not in the mood to be frisky anymore. He was dozing on the couch when I knocked. He took my hand, and we went into the bedroom and crawled into bed. I was still wearing my clothes because I was freezing and, huddled there in the dark, he mumbled something about being sorry he was late and fell asleep. I was sorry,too, because the damage was done.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

African Queen

The Hollywood Bowl is the most amazing concert venue on Earth. It is such a perfect way to enjoy music,with the open air and the beautiful stars
(granted there's only nine of them) in the Los Angeles night sky. It is all so civilized that it makes a concert at the Forum seem like going to prison. Having lived in LA forever, I have a long history with the Bowl. I have seen some amazing shows there and have always had an exceptional time despite the schlepping and walking and crowds that are simply unavoidable due to the Bowl's design.
We went to the Hollywood Bowl with a friend last weekend. His mother bought him four box seats for Earth, Wind and Fire. We arrived last Saturday at seven thirty for an eight thirty show. We brought our own everything, still used to the years where there really wasn't much to buy when you got there. Now there are wine shops and good restaurants and catered dinners to choose from-a far cry from the overpriced rudimentary concessions of the previous decade. We were directed to the box by a teenage usherette,dead center just below the main aisle. It had six seats. We were four people, so the other two would be an unknown. I was suddenly reminded of the one bad experience I had at the Bowl. I hadn't thought about it in years but this brought it all rolling back like a giant wave of nausea.
In 2001, my boyfriend and I bought two tickets to see Maceo Parker and Femi Kuti at the urging of my father, who has excellent musical taste and a thing for African music. It was part of the World Music Festival at the Bowl and it had the makings of a great show. We arrived at the box, much like last weekend, and found six empty seats. We sat and had our picnic and drank some wine,watching the people arrive. I had just packed it all up, because the show was about to start,when when four tall African American women stopped in front of our box, their arms full of baskets and bottles. All of them were dressed in beautiful bold African clothing, and two of them had amazing head wraps that made them look six feet tall. They were being greeted by another woman in African clothing who gestured to the box. She was with a young boy who was probably six or seven. It became apparent from their conversation that they were personal guests of the second musician, Femi Kuti. It was also apparent that they weren't that keen on sharing the box with us. The largest and most formidable of the bunch was the last to arrive and, upon seeing us, asked loudly "What are these white people doing in our box?". I am sure my eyebrows shot up reflexively. I looked over at my boyfriend, and he shook his head slightly, as if to say, don't do anything stupid. The other women ignored her comment and proceeded to settle in with all their stuff. Not one of them made eye contact or even aknowledged us in the slightest,giving me the impression that her comment spoke for all of them. They spread out as much as they could without actually putting their Cristal bucket on my lap. The boxes are the size of a public restroom stall, so personal space is kind of important, but they seemed uninterested in the concept. The large one sat right next to me,of course, and her face was ten inches from mine. If I had been taller, her head wrap would have knocked the sunglasses right off my head. They laughed and talked and carried on quite literally as if we weren't even there.
It was a bit surreal, really. Aside from the glaring political correctness double standard issue, it just didn't make sense. I mean, if we had gone down to a local blues club in Compton to hear some music, I could see getting this reaction from the other patrons. I wouldn't like it there either, but it wouldn't be a huge surprise. However, in the box seats at the Hollywood Bowl? Are you kidding me? The place is supported by the patronage of the oldest whitest crustiest people on the planet, and this sort of behaviour is very unusual.
While I am certain that every woman in that group had the converse experience one too many times, being Caucasian, I hadn't. The closest I'd come to discrimination was when I was bar tending at a lesbian bar in West Hollywood. I had served a Bettie Paige lookalike a drink after ignoring her advances, and she took the drink and said "Ugh, you're straight!" before storming off. I thought it was kind of funny at the time because she thought she was being insulting. This Bowl situation, on the other hand, felt wrong and kind of dangerous. The large one was emanating some sort of hostile ray of death at my head without even looking at me. I just couldn't ignore it. I turned to her and said "You know, we paid for our seats, just like--", but, before I'd finished the sentence, she put the palm of her hand directly in my face, giving me a first hand understanding of exactly what "talk to the hand" means. I was floored. Her friends ignored the interaction and one of them distracted her with a piece of cake. My boyfriend hissed "don't.. they have a fucking knife...". I glanced at the cake knife that was lying next to the cake box and wondered how fast security would come if she came at me with the knife, or how long I'd last if I came at her with it. Probably not something I'd like to test considering that all she had to do was sit on me and I was pretty much done for.
The show began and they kept on talking and laughing as if they were in their back yard having a tea party. While everyone around us gave us empathetic looks, there we were, trapped in the box from hell. At intermission we decided to move up to an empty box directly in front of us. We had to ask them to move aside so we could get out of the box. The woman nearest the front pulled her belongings aside and looked up at me blankly as I passed her. I tried to return the gaze, but I am sure she saw the confusion and rage on my face. A huge collective cackled went up as we sat in the new hostility free box, but we didn't care. The man next to us nodded and said something like "those gals giving you some trouble?". I just rolled my eyes and tried to enjoy what was left of the show. They talked and shrieked with laughter through the second set,which was mostly drowned out by the music.
Naturally when the third couple showed up last Saturday,to see Earth,Wind and Fire, I gave them a good once over and determined them to be as harmless as we were: middle aged, middle class and probably middle management. No match for an African Queen and her subjects, and that's quite alright with me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A prayer to Vinnie and Frank

Being on the board of the charity I had no choice. I offered to watch the kitties,and immediately had a pang of regret- was I insane? Offering to watch five six week old kittens who'd never had a feline mother? For five days? I had witnessed some of the chaos of their human mother's life after they were found in a garbage bag and delivered to her house just two days after they were born. She woke very hour to bottle feed five little ratty hairless mewling kittens, and would emerge, from what was once her office, covered in poop, pee, vomit and teeny scratches, to stagger down the stairs for some fresh air. The allergy to cats was a killer and it made this ridiculous task of keeping these kittens alive almost insurmountable. This work is a calling, so not a chance that she would simply give up, but, much like the intensity of having a human child, her mind was blown by the reality of the daily grind of motherhood. She was vigilant in their care-bathing, feeding, playing, napping- and they have grown into five genteel adorable kittens-Patty,Pearl,Brutus,Tupper and Gus Gus. All distinctly different personalities:Patty is loud and confident. Pearl has the coloring of an abalone shell and is sweet and confused. Brutus is the big boy who eats,poops and plays hard. Tupper was the homage to their first home-a plastic bag- and is small and curious. Gus Gus is like his namesake- bashful and darling.
Despite their amazing progress,they still bear the figurative scars of abandonment.When compared to the younger litter that was born in the pajama drawer in the next room-six lush, gorgeous, velvety soft fur balls- that have been living solely on mother's milk for three weeks,the Garbage Bag kitties seem, well, scrawny. Don't get me wrong, they are very cute, but are more funny looking than cute. They could also be a different breed and just look more spindly than furry in general.
Anyway, we had them for five days and life was never more serene. They were kept in the upstairs bathroom when no one was home and taken to the yard for most afternoons. The kids spent all of their free time playing outside and watching the kitty pen so our resident cat,Milo, didn't hurt them. He stared and growled and got all puffy when they came outside. We let them out,one at at time to sniff the grass and play and see the world. They wrestled and snacked,then collapsed into a big pile for a quickie nap. My friend already did all the heavy lifting, so this was akin to watching some else's four year old for the week. The difficult part,aside from the constant cleaning of their dual litter boxes and their little food footprints that decorated the bathroom floor, was monitoring Big's interactions with them. She loved them all, a tad too vigorously.She channeled Lennie from "Of Mice and Men" a bit, petting their fragile little heads a little too intensely and occasionally swinging one or two by the tail. She might have even said "But, I didn't do nothin'" after I heard a shrill little meow come from the bathroom and yelled for her to be more gentle. No one got hurt, but it did cross my mind that she might have the makings of a serial killer.
After watching what my friend went through, I have a lot more respect for feline mothers.They are the ultimate single parent and literally eat drink and sleep it for eight solid weeks. There are no nannies in nature. I can only imagine the terror of foraging for food and knowing your defenseless babies are sleeping somewhere with no one to protect them. The drawer in my friend's house, where the next batch was born, is immaculate, contrasted with the bathroom where the other batch stayed at my house, which still smells like eau du kitty. Nature truly is amazing.
Well, my friend now has seven different kitties-all rescued from the street. The others were adopted by people that we hope will cherish them as we did. I haven't met the new batch yet, but my friend is going away for three weeks this time, and our virtual village must provide. We have a small team of volunteers and a few new board members to share the labor of love. The kitties also have their own home. My friend has reclaimed her office and slapped a shingle on a cute little trailer that sits in the back yard. It is there that the volunteers that were culled from the Internet will do their magic by showing up when they are supposed to. There will be a camera installed and a live feed at some point down the road. There are shared online files for determining a schedule. It is all very high tech for such a low tech endeavor.
Even though I am not religious, I will say a little prayer to the patron saint of volunteers,Vincent de Paul, and to the patron saint of animals,Francis of Assisi,to protect the little trailer filled with hissers and purrers. May they bless those fur babies with the love and attention that they deserve for the three weeks that we are really relying on outside help. May the volunteers please not flake, and may they honor their commitment to do the work. I did it for five days and it was extremely rewarding. I hope that everyone else feels the same way.