Monday, December 2, 2013

The Oh no, minnow! Incident

I really, really hate fishing.

Of course, it's Dr. Dad's favorite pastime. And one of Lil Watz's tops too. For about five years, if you searched Lil Watz's real name on Google, there'd be a picture of him and Dr. Dad, holding a giant shad or something that they caught in a competition. I don't understand. I've been exposed to the slimy creatures (the fish, not the male half of my family heh heh) since roughly birth. Fishing is boring and fish are gross.

Making us learn how to properly hold a rod, cast, etc. It's a miracle Lil Watz never got a hook in the eye.
One day in my idyllic angst-ridden teenage years, we went down to the river. Lady Mother claimed her spot on the towel, brandishing her SPF 1000 sunscreen tube like a scepter of uncool-paleness. [Lady Mother would insert that her and Lil Watz are terribly sensitive to sun, and she's gotten sun poisoning on more than one occasion. I say: LAME.] She would read her specifically-for-the-beach trashy mysteries or "bodice-rippers," which I think is a much more to-the-point name for the "Harlequin Romance" genre.

Dr. Dad manned the multiple rods, some for trawling, some with special bait, some fly-fishing (what we are probably practicing in the above picture). Dr. Dad totally RUINED the hip new style of feather hair extensions for me, because I'd been playing with those bright neon strips of feather (and let's be real, probably accidentally super gluing them to my head) since I was a wee babe. I bet Ke$ha's dad made her learning how to whip a rod for fly-fishing when she was a wee stripper babe and she got the fly stuck in her hair.

I sulked around the perimeter of the beach. NO, I didn't want to talk to Lady Mother about my friends and life. NO, I didn't want to cast a line. NO, I don't want to gut a fish. Can Lil Watz and I walk down to the tackle store for another ice cream sandwich? WHY ARE THERE NO CUTE BOYS HERE WHAT IS THE POINT?! Laying out was dangerous because Lady Mother would try to spray me with sunscreen and ask about my personal life; swimming was dangerous because I could get a hook in the eye. Ughhhh family times sucks I hate everything geeeeez.

I'm so glad to be done with my teenage years.

After sufficiently bitching through the entire trip, we finally packed up to drive home. Dr. Dad, that cruel fiend, would not stop at the Burger King to get me a milkshake. What a JERK. Can you believe this family? Cruel and unusual punishment.

We finally got home and I had somewhat of a change of heart. I guess it wasn't that bad... I got a bit of a tan, and I think the college-age cashier winked at me. Also, if I helped unload the car, that meant I would garner enough good-daughter points to get out of the next trip. Or at least get $10 to go to the mall later that night. Clearly, I had great motivations for helping my parents unpack.

I skipped around to the back of the car, suddenly soOoOo cheerful and helpful and productive. Aren't I the best daughter ever? Don't you just want to forget my entire day of complaining and avoiding you and shower me with rewards? Teenage logic is the best!

I carried in probably one beach chair and a towel before I realized carrying things sucked and Lady Mother probably wasn't going to drive me to the mall afterward because she was TIRED and wanted to READ MORE. So selfish. Ugh. Whining: resumed.

"Why do I have to carry stuff / I didn't even use any of this / YOU were fishing so YOU carry in YOUR fishing stuff / I hate you / I didn't want to go to the river anyway / Why can't we have a cool beach house on Topsail / who even goes to the river / you are so lame / I hate everything / wah wah wahhh"

Finally, in his never-ending patience (ha, just kidding, more like to shut me up because I can be REALLY ANNOYING), Dr. Dad consented if I'd carry in one more thing to the garage, I would be done. It was a trip of probably ten feet, since we were parked right in front of the garage. Ugh. Usually I don't negotiate with terrorists, but I GUESS I can do this huge act of service and go so totally OUT OF MY WAY to do this HORRENDOUS TASK.

I dragged myself around to the back of the car, to see a pile of fishing gear and assorted styrofoam containers. Everything smelled and everything was slimy, especially my family. Lil Watz hoisted the heavy styrofoam containers of tackle/wire/line/parts/who knows what else, like a jovial little imp, because he is the best child and I am the mean awful horrible teenager. I set my sights on one decent-sized styrofoam container and prepared for a heavy load of tackle and... knives? I don't know. I yanked it up and suddenly realized it was far too light to be gear...

so light that my yanking far overshot the balance of the contents, flipping the container upside down and right onto my head.

What did I dump on myself? Not hooks, not knives, not wire - though all of those things would have been preferable...


Hundreds and hundreds of minnows, in just enough water to keep them swimming, dumped squarely on my head. I'd grabbed the live bait box.

Minnows down my shirt. Minnows in my hair. Minnows in.. my mouth? I screamed with full bodied-teen rage and flung the empty container across the driveway, jumping and shaking and trying to scrape the minnows off of my suntan-lotion-sticky body... while my jumping crushed them underfoot.

"R.Grace NOOOOO.... SAVE THE MINNOWS..." I could vaguely hear Dr.Dad yelling at me from the confines of my personal hell. I didn't care that this was probably $40 of fresh bait and that he was going fishing again tomorrow - I was covered in slimy fish water, surrounded by dying fish wiggling and hopping around the pavement - every time I stepped or moved, I squashed another one. I was trapped. Trapped and oozing and surrounded by little flailing bodies gasping for air.

Dr. Dad and wunderkid Lil Watz ran up with another styrofoam container filled with water and started scraping the fish off the ground and off my body. My shrieking and wailing brought the neighbors outside (probably less concerned about abuse and more general entertainment). I ran into the house and up the stairs to my shower - minnow bodies flopping off and leaving a trail of fish guts stuck to my feet.

I could not get the water hot enough to burn off the fish slim (though I definitely burned off a few layers of skin, making the angry eczema monster awaken in full rage). I actually did the "Rinse, Repeat" that the shampoo bottle recommends. I punctuated the entire shower with "I HAAAATEEE YOUUU"s I wailed out, to no one in particular, as the rest of my family was still unloading the car / holding hundreds of tiny funerals for the fallen fish.

After scrubbing my flesh raw, my heart softened ever so slightly. Maybe this harrowing ordeal wasn't my family's fault. Maybe togetherness and family time wasn't that bad. Maybe if I showed some repentance, I could still get a ride to the mall after all.

The Watz family is weird and awful and embarrassing, but maybe they aren't really that bad...

I crept downstairs, clean and clothed, with the right mix of remorse but-really-I'm-right on my face. It appeared my family was just finishing unloading the car (whew, at least I dodged carrying all that crap). Lil Watz turned around with a smile - maybe if I could make peace with the "better" sibling, my parents would be more likely to bend to my wishes and take me to the mall...

Lil Watz held out something to me... a peace offering? Wait... why were his hands all red...

"Look, R. Grace! A minnow heart! It popped right out of one of the fish you stepped on! It's still beating!"

I was holding a minnow heart in my hand.

A beating, bloody heart, on my just-washed hands.

I screamed and flung the heart on the pavement. It squashed and subsequently stopped beating, but splurted fish blood on my feet. Lil Watz loudly wailed at I always ruined everything. Brat.

I sprinted away, through the backyard and up the stairs, back into the shower. My parents' laughter drowned out my infuriated yelling and the pounding of the water. I didn't even want to go to the mall anymore, because how could I ever wash off the filth? How could I ever go out in public again? How could my family be so incredibly gross?

The Watz fam really was THE WORST.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The very worst date ever incident

Sometimes first dates are awkward.

Sometimes first dates are bad.

Sometimes they are the VERY WORST.

A shining pillar of awfulness, that you can forever compare future sushi/italian/ethiopian dinners with unappealing starving artists/office drones/actuaries so no matter how bad, no matter how hopeless you feel the dating scene is in your mid-twenties, at least it wasn't THAT BAD. This one particular date I'm about to describe... it was that bad.

Halfway through college, I found myself suddenly single, after my super-serious-totally-going-to-be-together-4ever relationship dissolved. Although I ended things, I didn't take it well.

Like the protagonist no one likes in a Thomas Hardy novel (I'm looking at you, Tess of the D'Urbervilles), I took to my bed. And moped. And moped some more. And then slept twelve hours. And moped again. I think I cried some, too.

Then I got really bored of being sad, but I couldn't quite snap myself out of it. Since I don't do "moderation," I swung wildly in the opposite direction and bought a one-way ticket to New York City for the next day. I was sooo bohemian and cool, sleeping on a friend's couch in Greenwich Village and wandering the streets by day. I visited the kickass theatre company I'd interned with the summer prior, where I received the best life advice I've ever come across:

"I know you are sad but you look GREAT. You should breakup with people more often. Especially if it brings you here."

I was strong! I was cool! I was empowered! I was bold and fabulous and like sooo New York! I was never, ever going back to North Carolina to face reality!

Just kidding, I had a project due on Tuesday and my partner was furious with me.

So back I went, but with a full heart and empty bank account! Yes to trying new things! Yes to saying yes!

In theory, at least. In reality, I was still crying A LOT and sad A LOT and eating A LOT of frozen yogurt.

A few days later, a guy friend (We will call him... Jean-Claude, because I'm obsessed with the JCVD volvo commercial right now. Those LEGS.) suggested we grab dinner before my play rehearsal so we could catch up.  Nothing signaled "ALERT DATE ALERT." Jean-Claude was twice my age and getting a PhD in some sort of science I can't even pronounce. We'll say it's ADVANCED MATH. He was cool and smart and European (swoon) and "just wanted to cheer me up."

Okay, maybe I should have gotten a hint.

The dinner location was a surprise (red alert! red alert! chances of this being a date = HIGH) but I had four hours of play rehearsal afterward so we only had about an hour. He arrived at my apartment in a button down and nice shoes. I was wearing sweatpants. It dawned on me that this might be a date, but I immediately shook off that ridiculous notion.

We arrived at a little vegan restaurant tucked away in the back of a shopping center. I think it was named Blooming Lotus or Tofu Rivers of Desire, something earthy and creepily too-sexual-for-a-restaurant. Because we were eating around my rehearsal schedule, it was about 4pm and the place was completely DESERTED. The one other person in the restaurant, our waiter, Herman, also happened to be in my acting class, and seemed shocked that people were actually in the building. He explained the specials in excruciating detail, down to the last bean sprout. I bit my lip and examined the fancy plates and multiple forks, suddenly hearing the Akbar-ian shriek in my mind: IT'S A TRAAAP.

I was on a date.

Growing up in the south, I always admired the possum's approach to confrontation: play dead. I decided to keep acting as if I had NO CLUE that this was DEFINITELY A DATE and thankyouheavensabove that I had a strict gotta-be-at-rehearsal deadline.

"Sooo... why'd you choose a vegan restaurant? It's really cool; I never would have thought of something like this." I was praying Herman would come back so I could have him re-explain the appetizers or talk about vegan cheese.

"Well I noticed your eating habits are disgusting so I wanted to teach you a lesson."



To Jean-Claude's credit, my eating habits ARE disgusting. I mostly survive on macaroni and pizza. Jean-Claude had made a similar comment a few months earlier, at my beach birthday party, as I was touting the merits of beanie-weenies (which are freaking amazing, thankyouverymuch). And he is a health nut. But still. We were alone in a restaurant, and he was wearing nice shoes, and he called me DISGUSTING. Also, "teaching someone a lesson" should be reserved for grandpas. Or kinky bdsm things. Neither of which were going on at this dinner.

Herman the waiter magically appeared, saving me from trying to come up with a response. I had him compare and contrast the soups. I asked HIS favorite dish. I asked about our homework and how his final project was coming along. I asked about his family.  Maybe I could stall for another forty minutes. But alas! One other couple had entered and needed to be seated. They were young and in love and looked like they probably loooved zucchini noodles.

I ordered a "loaded baked potato," which was an insult to baked potatoes everywhere, as it contained neither cheese, nor sour cream, nor bacon bits, nor hearty meaty chili.  I think it was a potato FILLED WITH MORE VEGETABLES. What a travesty. It's not like I was living in LA yet, where everything is kale and quinoa (even our vodka!) - there were at least two burger joints within walking distance.

Our waiter left us to pluck our meal from the tender grasp of God's green earth. Trying to keep the conversation off of myself, lest he find anything else wrong with me, I tried to ask a lot of questions about his life. That's a great date thing, right? Be interested, try not to roll your eyes too much? I am NAILING this single thing.

"So... ADVANCED MATH... PhD... that sounds... very intensive. What is your dissertation on? Or is it a comprehensive project sort of thing?" I know nothing about ADVANCED MATH, and if I were to get a terminal degree it would be an MFA in theater, so I have very few touchstones for either academia or science. But I thought my questions belayed the right amount of polite interest, and I might learn something.

"You wouldn't understand. It's very theoretical and requires a complex understanding of quantum mechanics and calculus and -" My eyes began to glaze over as a wave of pretentiousness crashed over me, threatening to drown me with how much smarter/better/healthier he is. I zoned out to the charming lilt of his European accent, pretending it was compliments or something - love may cover all wrongs, but a fancy accent definitely covers a couple on its own.

You may be wondering why I've stayed and put up with this foolishness for so long. The R. Grace of previous stories would have zinged back with a couple witty retorts, accidentally spilled tofu all over herself, and left in a blaze of glory and tahini sauce. I was snarled between two pathetico strands of thought: 1) Maybe this was how normal people dated, and I was overreacting, and 2) Causing a scene and leaving would require a whole lot of effort that I'd rather reserve for moping later. Both of these were incorrect, and I should have just stormed out in full gusto. However, I stayed, paralyzed in my uncomfortableness. Well, paralyzed except for picking at the saddest baked potato sitting in front of me. What the hell was on it? Squash curls? Bean sprouts? It tasted like grass.

Oh no oh no oh no. I had paused too long silently bemoaning my sorry estate. Jean-Claude took it upon himself to move the conversation forward.

"You're double-majoring, right?" Aha! That makes me sound intellectual and well-rounded. Maybe this date is salvageable! 
"I'm getting a degree in journalism and a degree in dramatic art, and I'm in a documentary theater production right now that really gets to combine those two!" Drawing connections between my two fields, showing that I'm actually pursuing them, A++ maybe this date could turn around!

"I don't understand why you're in the arts... it's not like you're benefitting society in any way."




I thought nothing could reawaken the old R. Grace from her heartbreak stupor. I was destined to drift, a shell of a girl, whining and weeping through every froyo place in collegetown. I assumed coming across my true love might rouse me from my haze (jk I'm going to die alone, sadness), but I was wrong. Insulting everything I loved / basically saying I was useless shocked me back into the world of the waking.

I put my fork down. I was done with this baked potato with a side of bullshit.

For the remainder of the dinner, we loudly argued about the merits of culture, human experience, academia (as my first response was, how are YOU benefitting society if you're in school for a decade? Not my best line. I was rusty.), work, money, etc. Our worldviews directly clashed in almost every way. Everything I held dear, he thought was frivolous and wasteful. Everything he valued, I thought was arrogant and self-serving.

I glanced at my phone and realized rehearsal began in five minutes. For those not in the theatery world, being late to rehearsal is unacceptable. Like, 20 lashes and walk the plank unacceptable. I'd just been brutally arguing for twenty minutes; I didn't want to be yelled at for the next twenty. I strongly urged that we get the check and leave now / like right now / like we should already be in the car / let's go / right now / no I don't want dessert / especially vegan dessert / can we go / right now / NOW

To his credit, Jean-Claude did pay for dinner. Considering I had three bites of the award-winning lamest potato, I thought the restaurant should have paid me for a thoroughly underwhelming dinner.

We drove to the theatre in near-silence. I anxiously writhed in my seat, praying that maybe his advanced math skills could time warp us there faster. He slowly pulled up to the curb and I bolted out in ecstasy to finally escape...

"R. Grace?" I turned, thinking maybe I had dropped something in Jean-Claude's car like my dignity, ugh.

"I want to take you on a real date next week."

What was this? A fake date? A clever ruse? A deconstruction of my self worth? And now he wanted to repeat this experience with... more vegetables? Absolutely not. I'd never been so insulted and angry and now I'm definitely late to rehearsal. No! Never! Beyond not every going to happen nope no way no no no....

"uh yeah sure gotta go" and then I sprinted away into the theater.

What? I don't know how to say no.

After rehearsal, I went out with my castmates, reveling in art and whatnot. We stumbled upon on of the best burger places in town / the world. After my blahpotato, I thought I deserved it.

I got a burger. Rare. Extra cheese. With an egg on top.

And it was good.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NO-maste, or The "Om Mani Padme WHUMP" Incident

Yoga is still a really, really cool thing to do in Los Angeles.

I thought it would have fallen by the wayside, with all the crazy hybrid pilates classes out here. Do you know what Piloxing is? Besides sounding like a weird sex move (totally got piloxed last night), it's a combination of pilates, boxing, and  DANCE. I still don't entirely understand, because I've been too afraid to try it out. The only people I know who pilox (is that a word?) are my super beautiful model friends. Maybe piloxing makes you more beautiful... but I'm more afraid I'll show up and everyone will be all "WHO IS THIS UGLY TROUT WITH NO RHYTHM?"

(Have you ever thrown a fish on a mat and watched it flop around gasping for air? That's me. Maybe that's a visual only my southerner friends will understand. Not sorry, y'all.)

Yoga is wildly more accessible because it's 1) easier to cheat on difficult poses and 2) at least half crunchy granola people, so classes are usually less expensive. However, this being Los Angeles, they gotta make it a hundred time more complicated. Because in LA, exclusivity = more fun.

And thus, Bikram Hot Yoga was born.

Bikram Hot Yoga takes all the things a person tries to avoid when exercising (being hot, being around people, being reminded that you are exercising) and exacerbates them. It's really, really hot. It's really, really crowded. You're soaked in sweat and smelling others' sweat and being cajoled to move in ways that produce more sweat for everyone, thus reminding you constantly that you're really, really working out, in case you're able to forget for a milisecond.


I've so far been able to avoid yoga in LA by being "busy" which is usually code for "napping" or "guiltily eating pizza alone so no one knows my shame."

But I have a secret.

It's not the sweating, or the people, or the Enya that's keeping me away. It's the yoga itself. Yoga tried to kill me once, and it scarred me for life.

I started college with a lot of lofty/ridiculous ideas of "cool college me." For example, I joined like five Christian campus organizations so life would be one big youth group. Then I realized they were either marriage mills (Ring by spring! lol jk BUT SERIOUSLY.) or just boring as toast. But another "cool college me"action was going to Vinyasa Yoga at the student rec center at 8am. Obviously, I was going to be like, so flexible and enlightened and at peace with my strong core and meditation skills.

Also, I liked a boy who talked about yoga sometimes. That might have been a small motivating factor.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would force myself awake at the cruel hour of 7:30am (which is funny now that I have to be at work by 6am most days. 7:30 is a laughable luxury). I would chomp on some cardboard/protein bar and chug a juice on my solitary trek to the studio, before forcing my body through rapid-succession motions for 45 minutes of dolphins squeaking in the background. Cool college me had a weird idea of "fun."

One morning I woke up at probably 7:55. Oh No(ga)! I contemplated skipping but knew discipline was key to physical and mental health. Also, what if I saw that cute boy at the cafeteria today and had nothing to talk about? THE HORROR. I dashed out the door, still in pajama pants, past the cardboard/protein bar sitting forlornly on my dresser.

By college, I had a pretty good grip on my hypoglycemia [For the record, that's low blood sugar,  NOT a type of cancer. I clarify this because my eye doctor's assistant saw it on my chart and said I "looked pretty good for someone going through chemo." What the hell sort of backhanded compliment is that?]. I knew the basics, like I probably shouldn't eat just Little Debbie Marshmallow Supremes as a meal. I skipped the breakfast bar partially out of lateness but moreso out of taste (cardboard is EFFING GROSS especially first thing in the morning). However, I reasoned that I'd had a huge, cheesy burrito at 1am (I miss you, Cosmic Cantina) that was still probably in my system, and I still had water.

Do you hear the ominous music booming below the dolphin squeaks?

I arrived to class a little shaky, but chugging water like a pro. Morning workout classes were why brunch was invented, probably. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw that cute setting up his mat in the corner. I of course did the logical thing of not actually speaking to him, or looking at him directly, but setting up front and center immediately facing the instructor. I mean, obviously I would impress him with my great yoga prowess and then he would talk to me and we'd go get brunch, and probably live happily ever after. That's how dating works, right?

We started with some floor stretches lead by our very calm, zen instructor. Ah, yes, sitting down, I can do this. Besides mildly dozing during child's pose, I felt extra fuzzy and warm and bendy. TOTALLY impressing this cute boy with my stretching abilities.

Then, we moved on to a lot of upside-down poses. Downward-facing dog. Warrior 3. Downward-facing-dog-peeing-on-a-fire-hydrant. The usual. Ahh, I was doing great. So calm, so focused, so much blood rushing to my head.

We were serenely encouraged to slowly transition to "mountain pose" (aka just standing up), stacking our vertebrae one at a time. I still don't know what that means. Like our spine is one of those child's ring toys? My vertebrae, at least, are all connected (poorly, crookedly, but still in one piece), so I just jumped straight up. I am mountainous, I am strong, I am... unable to see?


I am collapsed on the floor.

I am sooo uncool right now.

I opened my eyes to my totally calm, zen, yogi FREAKING OUT. Am I alright? Do I have a concussion? Should he get the nurse? An EMT? He was definitely harshing everyone else's mellow.

I tried to laugh it off and said I just needed some water, and to carry on. I think I also started to say I was overcome by enlightenment or something, but trailed off because I forgot where I was. I semi-consciously comforted my yoga instructor, who looked to be near tears, and picked up my stuff to go to the hallway water fountain. In the hallway, I leaned on the wall to steady myself. Then, I slid down the wall to get a little more stability. Then I kind of just laid on the floor next to my water bottle. Close enough.

Somewhere in the fog, I managed to call my lady mom, probably to say my goodbyes and reaffirm that Lil Watz couldn't take over my bedroom even if I passed on.

"R. Grace WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Get up. Go to the cafeteria. Get food. Now." Lady mom wisely realized that my fog-brain could only process short directives. I weakly tried to argue.

"My stomach hurts. I think I just need to sleep. On the floor. Right now."

I should have been on the debate team.

She forced me, entirely through three-word-or-less sentences, to get up and cross the courtyard to the cafeteria. I think I argued with her about wether or not ice cream was an acceptable breakfast food. I settled on an omelet and some fruit. With each bite, I slowly regained brainpower and also the ability to feel humiliation. What had I done? Who had seen me?!

I ran into that cute boy later in the day. He said hi and I immediately launched into some stammer-y explanation about the events earlier in the day. He looked at me, baffled.

"Oh, R. Grace, I don't do yoga in class. I do it outside in the park by myself."

I was briefly relieved that I hadn't embarrassed myself in front of him (and thusly, anyone who mattered) in class that morning. Following that realization, I had embarrassed myself just now, with my long story, retelling everything in graphic detail.

So obviously I never went back to yoga again.

Go on with your yoga, my dear Angelinos. While you're cultivating superpowered yeast infections (yoga pants and intense sweat? HELLO.) and climbing the rungs to self-awareness, I will find my own path to inner peace and bliss.

And it most likely involves pizza and air-conditioning.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The funemployment incident

Job hunting sucks.

Job hunting fresh out of college, in a new city with a high unemployment rate, without a soul-crushing internship to drag you into an office drone position, sucks you into a hazy endless despair devoid of self-worth and runneth over with expensive coffee.

I found myself jobless last year after abruptly quitting a job as a server-ish at a sketchy bar. And by "ish," I mean I was paid under the table for four weeks, seemingly random sums of money. I don't suggest quitting with no backup plan. However, I also don't suggest telling your employees they "really need to dress more bar-sexy-cute-club-girl" when their uniform already consists of booty shorts and shirts "artfully" shredded to just a few strips of fabric. I would say the shirt only covered the necessities, but I found mustard in places that I certainly hope wasn't visible to the public. Eek.

So I embarked on the adventure of finding a new job in Los Angeles. My first one was super easy to get, so obviously jobs would just rain out of the sky onto me. I had a college degree! I had marketable skills! I had an A+ resume and quirky, eye-catching cover letter! The applications began and I realized...

I had... nothing to offer. Sure, I had a degree and relevant work experience and an internship once, but who cares about that? I'm pretty sure everyone at my corner Starbucks has no less than a Master's degree and have been working in coffee for 5+ years. I can't compete with that. Furthermore, 99.9% of the office/reception/etc jobs I sought out required "1-2 years of industry experience," which you can only obtain by... already having an entertainment industry job. It is an endless loop of YOU'RE NOT GETTING HIRED.

I applied to roughly 5-6 places a day, at least five days a week. That means by the beginning of October, I'd applied for over a hundred jobs. Besides one or two "thank you for your application" emails, I had nothing. Now this was the calm before the holiday storm, so retail and food/bev places were dead, but still. Over one hundred not-even-worth-responding rejections can do a number on one's self-esteem.

I am not a special snowflake.

At least in all this struggle and doubting of self-worth, I had the uncommon luck of amassing a really tight-knit group of friends. To keep our spirits up, we started an elaborate prank war on social media. I came back from running an errand to find no less than eight facebook statuses about feces and my bowel movements one day. Really high-brow humor. The worst/best at this prank war was a certain friend whom I will call the Buffalo, because he's actually a centaur-like creature - half-man, half-buffalo. That may seem hard to believe, but my life in Los Angeles is pretty much a magical realism fantasy, so just go with it.

Finally, finally, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I got a phone call! Not an email, not an automated response, but an honest-to-goodness HUMAN BEING who wanted me to come in for an interview the next day. I would be interviewing for a receptionist position at a talent agency less than a mile from my apartment. Seriously, the best possible job I could find and it was within my fingertips!

In my excitement I told everyone - my soon-to-be gentleman caller, my redheaded twin, my roommate, the Buffalo. I would finally be a productive member of society! I would finally be able to order drinks when we went out!

I wore my best professional chic black dress - pepulm and peter pan collar and HIRE ME heels. ("Hire me" heels are like "F-k me" heels, except slightly more subtle). I carried my designer bag that my aunt got for me after graduation, specifically so I would look fab for interviews. I reviewed potential interview questions with my friends beforehand. I splurged on a *grande* latte as I got ready that morning. I walked in to my meeting with the two main agents with my head held high. That job was mine.

They proceeded to tear apart everything on my resume, as if they hadn't seen it before calling me.

"So two years in a performing arts box office... you haven't *really* been a receptionist before?"

"So you don't have industry experience?"

"So you don't have advanced Excel knowledge / mutli-line phone / weird specific human resources software experience?"

"So... you have archery listed as a 'Special Skill'?"

The first three I managed to stammer through justifications and explanations of how my other traits transferred over, but the last question got me excited. We were always encouraged in college to throw in a hobby or outside skill on your resume to show well-rounded and drawing connections. TIME TO SHINE.

"Oh yeah, I'm pretty handy with a bow and arrow! It'll cut down on your security costs, ha ha. It requires attention to detail and focus, which are traits I will definitely bring to this position. And also I'm really good at 'hitting my target' goals, ha ha ha..."

They didn't laugh.

They proceeded to explain that they didn't like to hire anyone who had any interest in acting whatsoever, because they'd had trouble with girls stealing breakdowns and submitting themselves for projects. However, they really liked me (maybe the archery jokes won them over), but they were skeptical and did I have anything to say?

Did I have anything to say?

You can reject me. You can not laugh at my jokes. You can think I'm unfit, and a loser, and not right for the job. But don't question my integrity.

I stood up in the office and eloquently argued that my journalism training forbid me from compromising secrecy of information, that journalists had been imprisoned for protecting the anonymity of their sources. I stated that I was a Christian, and maybe that didn't mean much in LA, but that I strove to adhere to a strong moral code of honesty and truth. Never has a receptionist position been held with such a sense of duty and responsibility.

When this was my only job prospect for weeks, I really did treat it as if my life was on the line.

They loved it. Their whole demeanor changed and they continued talking with me for a couple more minutes in a much more relaxed, pleasant manner. They told me that I would definitely hear from them soon about scheduling a follow-up interview. SUCCESS. Kinda.

I scooted out of the tight parking lot on cloud nine. A few hours later, my phone lit up with a call to them. I shrieked to my roommate that "THIS IS IT / it's happening / a real job / a grown up job / time to start shopping at J Crew / I'll have my own desk and everything / la la la."

I answered to a very strange, very angry voice.

"You hit my car in the parking lot today / I saw you / White car / my car is ruuuuuined"

Oh. No.

I was almost a gazillion percent certain I hasn't sideswept anyone, but then doubt crept in. It was a tight parking lot, after all, and they had the description of my car. If it was something like a BMW or a Porsche (stupid Porsche drivers), then even the slightest mark could be cataclysmic. Especially since this person had a really weird accent and sounded very hoity-toity important Hollywood type. My entire career could be over.

I started to apologize and they hung up abruptly. The Agency. My job. Car insurance. Oh no oh no oh no.

I called them back immediately and began apologizing as soon as the current receptionist answered.

"Um... whaaaat." She stopped me with the Southern California vocal-fry that makes my ears bleed.

"Someone from the agency just called me on this number and said I hit their car when I was leaving. I interviewed this morning for the reception position, I'm R.Grace. I was just their a couple hours ago. Um, um, please connect me to whoever called / I am so sorry / I didn't think I hit anybody / but if I did I want to apologize / and I'll fix it / I'm so sorry / I've never hit anybody before / omg omg"

She put me on hold to check with everyone in the office. Werk that multi-line phone, girl.

"Uhhh like no one here called you?"

"I... but... I got a call from this number. They knew my car from this morning."

"R. Grace? From this morning? Like... let me check again."

After an agonizing two more minutes, she confirmed that like, no one there had called me. Unless someone had left early. But she didn't have a record of a call to me anywhere in her system. I hung up, shaking and on the verge of a complete meltdown, and saw a missed call from the Buffalo. I immediately called him back to relay my tale of misery and woe.

The Buffalo:  "Hey R. Grace, how's your car? Heh heh." Wait, what?

Me: "Oh my gosh were you near the agency / did you see something happen / I just called them back / I don't know what happened / omg omg omg / life ruined / how could I have hit someone's car / omg"

The Buffalo: "What do you mean, you called them back?" I detected a slight note of concern in his voice.

Me: "I got a really weird call from their number so I called them back / I hit someone's car / but they were gone from the office / oh no oh no / I have ruined my chances / I am a failure / might as well move back to North Carolina"

The Buffalo: "R. Grace, didn't the voice sound super weird and fake? Wasn't it strange that someone would freak out on you on the phone without giving any personal information? And then I called you immediately after?"

Me: "I mean yes but this is Hollywood. People are weird. Some agent wants to sue the pants off of me."
The Buffalo: "R. Grace... the agency didn't call you. It was me."


Apparently, there is a nifty little app (I had a dumb phone at the time) that will disguise your number as another number for less than a minute of call time. Our friends had discussed this about a week before but I hadn't paid any attention, because it wasn't something I could use. He chose a number I would recognize so I would pick up, and then adapted a terrible accent and an outlandish story just to rattle me for thirty seconds or so before he called to laugh at me. However, he didn't take into account two things:

1) I take everything literally.

2) Crazy situations like that ACTUALLY HAPPEN to me all the time (see: any previous story on my blog.)

Had I taken a minute to think about the situation before calling, I would have realized how fishy the situation was. I was deeply embroiled in a prank war. I *knew* I hadn't hit anyone. The voice was laughably weird. There was no actual information exchange or way I could have contacted the angry car owner. I just so happened to get a phone call from the Buffalo immediately after. And yet. I fell for it. And I fell hard. In the midst of processing this, I realized:

The agency had no idea about any of this. they just had a nearly-hysterical interviewee call them about a call that they CLEARLY didn't make, that the entire office now knew about. I could see them marking my name off of the list.

Cue: complete sobbing breakdown


Yelling, sobbing, yelling, sobbing. This was very dramatic.

He offered to call the agency and explain that it was a joke gone awry, and that he never imagined I would call them, and it was all a silly, silly, misunderstanding.
I wonder which is more undesirable, a crazy girl who thinks someone called her in a rage, or a crazy girl with crazy friends who play elaborate games? My guess is both get a big red line through the name.

 I told him it wasn't worth the effort, and stormed out of the house, absolutely convulsing with tears. My life was an abyss. I was never going to get hired and would have to move home with my parents. My mean ex-boyfriend would be proven right, and I would live out the rest of my pitiful life in obscurity.

The next day, I heard from the super cool bakery that I'd contacted back in MARCH, that they wanted me in for an interview. And shortly after that, two retail stores called me to say they were starting their seasonal hires early. My funemployment was drawing to a close.

I decided to look up the agency online to wallow a bit longer, and found terrible reviews of shadiness, additional fees, and dishonesty.

You know, all the things I so ostentatiously orated against.

Well nevermind then.

The Buffalo (after much apologizing), points out that he inadvertently saved me from possibly getting tangled in scams and who knows what else. What seemed awful in the moment was actually a saving grace.

Meanwhile, I'm looking into pursuing a Master's in British Literature so I can move up in the world and start serving coffee.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Real Cinderella Story Incident

I finally understand the phrase "so broke it's not even funny."

Maybe it was working an eight hour shift followed by six hours of babysitting. Maybe it was picking up last-minute babysitting on my first (supposed) day off in eight days. But as I sat in the gas station serious contemplating just sleeping there instead of spending half of the evening's babysitting money on gasoline to get home, I was not laughing. Not even an ironic chuckle.

Everyone makes the whole starving artist thing sound glamourous until you actually calculate cost-per-bite of your frozen pizza.

I sat morosely in the light of the Beverly Hills gas station, surrounded by BMWs and Porsches and people who could afford appetizers with their meals. I glumly flicked through my work schedule on my phone, trying to calculate how many days I could cut out my beloved Starbucks and/or food overall. Somewhere in the distance, a tiny violin played a sad, sad song.

I finally filled my car up (okay, a quarter of a tank) and gathered myself to leave... when someone pulled up right next to me - uncomfortably close for late at night and a gas station in general.

I thought maybe it was a Porsche, because all Porsche drivers are dicks. I'm not sure if the car begets the sense of entitlement, or the sense of entitlement begets you buying the car. I just wanted to begettin' out of there - but when I looked back, the car kept going. What's more pretentious than a Porsche? A glossy, black limo.

The tiny violin played a little louder.

But then, out of the limo stepped... a man (what where you expecting? A velociraptor?). This man totally had the whole old-world seen-it-all Eastern-European-wise-mystical-grandpa thing going for him. He was decked out in a full classic chauffeur outfit complete with DRIVING CAP. But all of that was far less interesting than what he held in his hands. He walked right toward me, extending a huge, white envelope.

The tiny violin switched its tune from pity to a lively 18th century waltz.

He knocked on my window and I rolled it down, subtly wiping caked-on baby drool off of my shirt. His wize, godfatherly face looked genuinely excited -

"I am so glad to have found you!" He exclaimed. Um, me too, dude.

He then extracted from the envelope an invitation so ornate the paper alone probably cost more than my frozen dinner awaiting me at home. Gorgeous pink marbled paper, embossing around the edges,  gold script trailing the edges... I scanned the top to discover...


And suddenly it hits me.

I am Cinderella.

Like, forreal.

I've seen all the Disney movies and 90s Rom-Coms. Ever After taught me that the fairy godmother could be a clever old man. A Cinderella Story taught me that it could totally happen to just a girl like me. The Little Mermaid taught me that I didn't even have to speak the same language as my prince. I was ready for my big, magical reveal. Bippity-boppity-boo me up, captain.

"Map on phone? Can you find this address?" He pointed halfway down, to an address barely legible in all the swoopy script.

"Uh yeah... sure?" I fumbled with my phone. Maybe this was the modern-day equivalent of the glass slipper? I hope my future prince didn't expect me to be technologically adept. Wouldn't we have servant to update our twitter statuses and instagram our breakfasts? I anxiously typed the address in... and it was so close I could practically walk there! Obviously, I could quick change in the gas station bathroom, they could just drop me off at front, and then pick me up and take me back to the gas station by midnight...

"Oh thank you. Good." And then he abruptly shoved the invitation back in the envelope, marched back to the limo, and sped off into the night.

Wait! What about me?

I briefly considered following him and just turning up anyway, but then I surveyed my sorry estate. A half-eaten turkey sandwich and worn flats with a hole in the bottom sat shotgun. Weird yellow streaks wrapped around the front of my car from a run-in with some poles. I smelled like Desitin and my hair was matted in one place with milk.

I sat there a couple minutes just in case. The roaches skittering about didn't suddenly become anthropomorphic and commiserate. None of the sliced mangos at the fruit stand turned into a magical carriage. And my fairy godfather did not come back.

I drove off, trying to drown out the tiny violin with some awful sex-you-up-real-good song on the radio. Some day, my priiiince will come...

And then a Porsche honked at me.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Very Awful October Incident

October is my favorite month. I love everything about it – pumpkins, leaves, Halloween parties, sweaters. The beginning of my first October in LA was rough. The temperature hung out in the upper eighties and the trees stayed bright plastic-y green. I didn’t pack any sweaters in my one meager carload of stuff when I drove out to LA, anyway. I wanted to make snickerdoodles (because they are the best autumn cookie ever), but between the carbs and the gluten and dairy, almost everyone I knew couldn’t/wouldn’t eat them. Not only was October failing me on multiple levels, but I’d just quit my job at a super skeevy bar and finished my first level of acting classes with no money to continue – so October started out as a month of failure.

I refused to let circumstances get me down. One morning, on the second or third day of the month, I decided to wake up super early (before 11am) and go for a run. Starting the day/month off right! After a refreshing, invigorating run, I would apply to a couple high-profile PR agencies and spend the afternoon leisurely choosing from job offers.

Because unlike the hundreds of other places I applied (screw you, starbucks), today was going to be different. Today, I was going to be awesome.

I even felt so cool and hip and “totally California” that I decided to run in only a sports bra. ~Edgy~, I know. But with the temperature creeping toward ninety and the unfortunate fact that I sweat like a morbidly obese man, it made sense.

I trotted down to the underground parking beneath my building to grab my iPod. I bounced around the garage, singing Call Me Maybe, and did a dramatic turn –

And saw blood dripping from the trunk of my neighbor’s car.

A clump of scraggly blond hair hung out from the end, matted with the same blood that was drip, drip, dripping on the floor of the garage.
You know, just your average dead-body-in-the-trunk-of-a-car, happens all the time in Los Angeles, right?

Three thoughts instantly played through my mind.
1-    I am going to die.
2-   I am going to die in Los Angeles, and my dad is going to say, “I told you so” approximately 700 times at my funeral.
3-   I am going to die not wearing a shirt, and everyone is going to think I’m a total skank.

I bolted upstairs to my apartment and locked the door, shaking so hard I dropped my keys twice. Dead body. Murderer in my complex. What if someone saw me? What if the murderer saw me? Who was the girl? Was I a witness? Why did I ever decide to live with someone I met on the internet?

I picked up my phone and panicked about who I should call. I had a bad experience with 911 being utterly useless during a break-in once, so they were out. I considered calling my crush because he lived nearby, but even in what I thought were my final moments alive, I thought mayyybe he would think I was kind of weird/crazy and I WANT HIM TO THINK I’M COOL. Discovering a corpse would probably put me in the “too weird to date” category. I mean, I guess getting murdered would put me in the “too dead to date” category, but obviously I wasn’t ((/am never)) thinking rationally.

So I called another guy friend, who already knew I was weird.

As soon as he answered, I started yelling/weeping – not so subtle if there was a murderer hanging outside my door.


As I gasped for air (my final breaths?), he asked if I’d tried to shake my roommate.

- “What? She’s not home, that’s why I’m calling you!”
- “Wait… who’s dead? Are you in your apartment? Carbon monoxide poisoning? You should go outside.”

He again reiterated that I should go outside where there was open space, and then lurk around and get the license plate, and finally call the police. I crept outside and slunk against the wall, with one hand by my neck so I couldn’t get garroted (shoot, I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera – “keep your hand at the level of your eyes”). He told me he needed to get ready and would head over immediately, and to call back if anything changed.

I flitted around the outside of my complex like a hummingbird on speed. Who needs drugs when you have the fear of imminent, painful death looming overhead? Suddenly, I noticed a man exiting one of the apartments. I flung my body behind a tree and prepared for the worst. Should I confront him? What if he had a gun? The murderer appeared to be a skinny Asian hipster in a purple V-neck. Not what I was expecting, but those hipsters do have a lot of pent-up rage at society. From my spot, I watched him walk up to the corpse car and get in – not even bothering to check and see if anything hung out of the trunk. His first murder, for sure. Very sloppy.

The garage gate opened and I prepared myself to memorize the license plate – 911 already typed in my phone. I’ve never been more focused in my life then when that car turned and headed toward me…

Until I noticed two perfectly placed neon-red handprints on the top of the trunk.

In the sunlight, the smears of blood around the trunk also appeared bright red. And as any crime-TV-junkie knows, blood turns brownish when it oxidizes (ooh big words!) The hair flapped limply, suddenly appearing like a cheap, ratty wig.

Wait, what?

My phone buzzed.

-      - "Did you get the license plate number? I’m headed over soon!”
-       -" No…”
-       - "What?”
-       -“I don’t think you need to come over anymore…”
-       - “WHAT??”
-       - “I think it was fake.”
I explained the situation, but only grew more confused as I tried to articulate it. In the dim lights of the parking garage, I was completely certain that I’d been standing four feet away from a fresh corpse – it was DRIPPING BLOOD ON THE GROUND, for crying out loud. But in the sunlight, something seemed suddenly but severely off. We briefly debated whether or not to still call the cops before he stopped and swore –

-       - “I hate October. Stupid people.”

I took offense to this. How could you hate the best month ever? If someone would just eat my damn snickerdoodles, health concerns be damned, then these stupid Los Angelinos would appreciate the wonderfulness of October.
-       - "That’s a bit harsh. October is my favorite month ever and just because this happened to be an unfortunate way to start the month – ”
-       - "R. Grace, it was a Halloween decoration.”

The revelation took a moment to sink in. And then it made sense. Well, except for

-       - "People with poor taste, I assume.”
-       -"I seriously doubt they’ll get too far before someone makes them remove it.”

But once my rage subsided, my fears crept back.

-       - "What if it’s real, though? I mean it really is too early to decorate… and the perfect time to hide a body in plain sight is around Halloween so maybe everyone assumes it’s a decoration when actually it’s a body and I thought the killer was so sloppy but maybe he’s very smart omg there’s a killer next door and he saw me looking omg omg he knows where I live omg…”
-        - "R. Grace, that’s quite a stretch.”
-       - "Do you know how elaborate serial killers can be? Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie; I KNOW THESE THINGS.”

After a couple more minutes of assurance that I wasn’t going to die, my friend told me to go ahead and go on a run anyway. It would burn off all the adrenaline and make me a little less jittery. Sage advice. I got this, right? A brush with the macabre wasn’t going to stop me from having ~the most productive day ever.~

I ran past maybe four house before a giant flash of black fur and teeth came charging at me. This effing beast came out of no where, jumping and flailing and definitely going to kill me, probably to save my serial killing neighbor the effort. What do you do when a giant dog targets you for a kill?

Probably not stop and scream, “HELP HELP IM GONNA DIE,” but that’s exactly what I did.

(I once had a large dog take a solid chomp on my bottom, so I do tend to freak out and panic around dogs. Just a little bit.)

In my one stroke of good fortune for the day, the owner came outside and called off the ferocious beast before it could shred the flesh from my bones. I then had to listen to a sob story about animal shelters and abandonment issues for a good five minutes. I wanted to mention that I’d have some serious abandonment issues if my leg abandoned me inside the creature’s vicious jaws, but decided to smile and nod and go on my way.

Running: round three. Two brushes with death were plenty for one day. I could overcome these obstacles. This was a test! I got this, I got this –

And then I stepped dead-center (ha) on a rotting squirrel carcass.

Squirrel entrails and sneakers are not a good mix.

I gave up.

I staggered back to my apartment, leaving a little trail of gore to the garden hose. Murder car had yet to return. I didn’t even care. Squirrel guts seemed a more pressing issue than certain death.

I finally returned to my apartment, somehow alive, and went straight to look up a recipe for snickerdoodles. My computer had at least six tabs open on how gluten would kill me, dairy would kill me, carbs would kill me… close, close, close.

Out of all my options, death by snickerdoodle seemed the most preferable choice of the day.

October is the worst.