Monday, August 31, 2009

And Sometimes

They play along.

My doorbell rang at 2:30 this afternoon. I looked through the peephole and made out a young girl in a lanyard. And we all know what a lanyard implies. But I thought maybe, just maybe, she'd take to my proposition; so, I opened the door.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi. I have a meeting which I have to get ready for so I need you to give me your spiel in under a minute."

"Bills. Energy. Save money."



"I think we're good."

"Okay. Thanks."

I shut the door. 

The whole conversation was under a minute.

Just like that. 

Why can't it always be this easy?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

FICO High, Confidence Low

I am in the midst of  pre-pre-production. Or at least, that is what I'm calling it. I am referring to the kind of preliminary research, scouting and budget assessing more closely associated with feature films; but this time, for graduate school. My pre-pre-production has involved all sorts of things. Auditing law classes at NYU (and the answer is no, you cannot bounce a dime without the probability of it ricochetting off a yarmulke), attending an informational session at Columbia's J-school (and subsequent interrogations of a recent grad and a former applicant), late night trolling of university Web sites for programs that would "make sense," and overeating at the slightest contemplation of debt higher than the one grand I am currently carrying on my Mastercard. 

Let it be known: I loathe debt. Fortunately for me, in my short thirty-two years, I have never experienced debt. I blame my mother really (if it's not one thing, it's your mother); for she instilled in me at a really young age the value of a dollar; the art of saving; the importance of working for everything you earn; paying your balance in full whenever possible and, if you cannot pay for something outright, then you "don't really need it now, do you." 

My mother also taught me the concept of budget envelopes. A method of saving money I eventually carried into college and one that had many of my friends balking. Did I want those jeans? Sure. But I had to sock away ten dollars a week from my paycheck in an envelope until I could afford them. A would-be good practice for the millenials today to implement, but one that had me aging as fast as the current trend was before I could own them. And while I owe my mother dearly for my respectful and healthy relationship to money, it has done nothing for me during my pre-pre-production phase but make me cautious and nervous.

Several years back I wanted an MFA in creative writing. I wanted to hibernate at a University and do nothing but write in peace. I wanted solitude. And the ability to hone my writing skills without the interference of the fifteen plus jobs I had at the time. Now? Years later? An MFA seems superfluous. Sure it is a terminal degree and one that would allow me to teach, but can I really justify that much money right now? I don't know.

But here in lies the problem: I have now secured three different programs to apply for. The first is my backup plan. A course of study that would ensure a masters in twelve months and a job upon graduation. My enthusiasm? Contained. The second program leads to a masters in ten months and "most likely a job" (maybe not in that field right away and maybe in Spokane, but a job nonetheless). My enthusiasm? Think July 4th. Hooray! And then there is the last program. A course of study that would be considered superfluous, but one that would further me in the eleven years I have spent in the entertainment industry (not as an actor mind you). Though a two-year degree in a field that would be as tough as securing a job in acting was, upon graduation. But, one that interests me so much I could cry. Cry! Hence, an enormous amount of guilt; a bit of happy sighing when thinking about the courses I would take; and then some bizarre overeating when considering the amount of money I would never be able to justify. If I cannot bear a thousand dollars dangling over my head each month, how the hell am I going to handle something nearing a hundred thousand?

But my mother happened to impart a different perspective. Something I would have never expected to have come from a woman whose relationship to money is now akin to the relationship of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (they enjoy each other's company, but are not married to each other), but also akin to a single parent memory of yore (no, that is not in the budget and not a priority).

"Think of it this way, you have a clean slate and excellent credit. No debt to begin with," my mother said.

A clean slate? I mention the "superfluous" program.

"Sounds good."

I reiterate the time commitment and cost difference. Then, feel compelled to quell what I believe to be her bubbling nerves (but apparently are mine), and state that it is considered to be the Harvard of this type of program and that the chances of me getting in are very slim. There. See? Highly unlikely I assure her. (But again, this seems to be more for my benefit.)

She reiterates the clean slate and encourages me to apply.

"You're in a really good position."

I am? I am in a good position?

"You are. Clean slate!"

Well now, I never thought of it that way.

So I start to shift my perspective, ever so slightly, and feel compelled to throw out that imaginary budget envelope. The imminent one that has yet to have grad school scrawled on it in a black Sharpie.

And besides, there just isn't an envelope large enough for that kind of cost.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Releasing My Inner Child

I do not write much about the events involving the spiritual journey I embarked on years ago; in fact, I might have subconsciously chosen to leave them out because they tend to cause either a subtle or overt feeling of creepiness in some people (depending on the person of course), and because spirituality means different things to different people. For Gayle and me, the basics are comprised of meditation, energy work through Yoga and Qi Gong, and being in nature as much as possible.

Over the weekend, I participated in one of the four free meditations set up by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. A three-hour session focused on "heart center" meditation that took place at The Children's Aid Society in the West Village. The whole set-up was quite impressive: extensive meditation, philosophy, free vegetarian lunch for the morning session, snacks for the afternoon session, a free booklet and a free concert.

The meditation seminar was given by a Canadian, and fellow student of Sri Chinmoy. A lively fellow who not only imparted meditation techniques, but also some philosophy regrading this life and the afterlife. According to Chinmoy (and coincidentally many others), three of the immediate planes that exist are the physical plane (which we are all inhabiting now), the astral plane (the emotional plane accessed upon death) and the causal plane (more of an intellectual plane where there is more bliss than the astral). After we have essentially learned all we are to learn in this lifetime, death will occur and our level of enlightenment will be evaluated. Did you learn not to defalcate? Not to lie? Fill up the Brita pitcher? Depending on your status, you may have to face deportation back to earth to relive more of the same crap just so you can get to some of the other life lessons you failed to learn in your previous life.

To put this into perspective, the Dalai Lama has come out saying that he does not consider himself fully realized because he has gotten so involved with the politics surrounding his people.

Yeah, the Dalai Lama.

Surprisingly, it was during the free concert when I ran into some spiritual trouble myself. You see, as if the day was not glorious enough, the Sri Chinmoy Centre coordinated a group of ladies (dressed in saris), to come on stage before our concluding meditation to sing to us. And by sing I mean a cappella, in a high pitched voice and in a different language. For the first three minutes I was in awe of the harmonies, and enjoyed the transcendental moment the concert was providing. By the fifth minute however, this was no longer the case, as I noticed some kind of ineluctable chuckle gurgling in the pit of my belly. A kind of happy heave dying to get out. What is it? I thought. What is so freaking funny about this Amanda? I couldn't decide. Caucasian women wearing saris? Not likely. The high pitched noise? Maybe. The singing in something resembling tongue? Perhaps. By now, I was laughing through my eyes and nose and trying desperately to hold it back. But failing, as my fifth grade inner boy Kurt* was completely channeled and letting loose.

Shit, I am totally coming back.

*The naming of my inner child was a complete toss-up. Kurt was a boy from elementary school I once knew. Together, we used to speak in bizarre alien voices while doing little skits with his pencil box (um, yay). Marc is a boy I once knew in high school. Together, we crank-called a radio station and sought confirmation for a rumor we had suddenly concocted. Johnny O, the Latin singer of yore, was taking questions, so we thought we would ask him if it was true that he was in the studio collaborating on a song with Joey Lawrence (of Blossom fame). Turns out: no. In the end, Kurt won out.

Friday, August 7, 2009 1.1

Not only is my mother a trusty voice of reason when doubt or worry prevail, but she is also revered by many of my friends (including a therapist I once had), for being so funny. She is mostly unaware of this admired trait, with age seeming only to have increased her Olympian ability for wit, and observational and situational humor. 

Growing up, I used to tell people that my sense of humor came from my biological father; a humor drenched with sarcasm and dependent on boisterous storytelling. However, as I got older and gained just more sense in general, it became evident that this was so not where my humor came from. 

Several months ago I was a hand model (a huge feat considering my hands and nails are about as picture ready as Freddy Kruger's), with the faithful belief that I would be paid handsomely for my endeavor. (The confusion as to why they hired me was quickly quelled when I arrived on set to discover that I would be portraying a refugee. Oh, phew, that's more like it!

But a couple of months had passed whereby that handsome payment never quite made it into my unattractive mailbox; not the norm. So, I waited, and waited some more. My mother asking periodically about the check, perhaps in an effort to curtail any possible distraction from the nothingness that was consuming my calendar. "No, not yet. And I could really use that money," I kept saying. Finally, I phoned and inquired about it...turns out the check went out awhile back, but never made it to my new address. 

Resolved. But not before my mother had something to say about it via email. 

Nothing else, just this:  

No more hand jobs without getting your money up front.

Oh touche!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Random Ruminations Part 3

I started "Random Ruminations" in April of last year. Since then, I have accumulated just two other posts discussing such things as Steve Jobs, and candy. I don't know if this is due to my lack of ruminating and writing it down, or just that my thoughts have been less desultory. In any event, here we are.

1. Stalking: I'm not quite sure how this happened really, but somehow, as an "un" and underemployed member of society, I have acquired a stalker. Seems improbable but yet, it's true. I appeared on stage once and forever after, I have had to be careful about attending certain events. There were bizarre messages on my networking site and the odd physical maneuverings she has managed towards my boyfriend to get to me. In recent weeks however, the activity has dwindled-much like my confidence-and so the other day in a twisted realization I proclaimed, "I think I miss my stalker!" Nothing like fearing for you and your boyfriend's safety to make you feel better about yourself.

2. Jacklash: I cannot take credit for the coining of a term that so aptly expresses my state of Michael Jackson overload; that belongs to my boyfriend. "Jacklash" also refers of course to the day local and world news stopped to cover everything from Vitiligo to Demerol to giraffes once kept at Neverland. And don't get me wrong, I LOVED me some Michael growing up. I even went as far as trying to recreate the "Thriller" video with my third grade class at recess; spending most of my evenings cutting out cardboard tombstones to resemble a graveyard. (My plan was going well until at a scheduled recess rehearsal Hasaan, the closest color we had to Michael at the time, decided he'd much rather play a "game" than go over, repeatedly, my choreography. Eh, showbiz isn't for everyone.) And yes, I cried watching the memorial service and even cried some more watching stock footage of the Jackson 5 for the umpteenth time, but frankly, we've gone mad, especially Larry King. He in particular has gone insane. It seems too that you can’t even read a profile on Nora Ephron without The New Yorker overtly sticking in a black and white photo of the gloved one in the middle of it (and, you can’t, because, they did).

3. North Korea: I'm normally overjoyed at being a woman and getting to live in a free world, but dammit if Lisa Ling's documentary Inside North Korea didn't make me want to get down on my knees and praise God (and whomever else might be responsible). The mere mention of no Internet access, a ban on cell phones, and continuous and mandatory laudations of a dictator would petrify most Americans, but throw in malnutrition, severe poverty, a closed door policy to outside aid and concentration camps, and we would all surely reenact a scene a la Jim Jones. And not only are there concentration camps for defectors, but in the case of camp #22, there are camps for families of those who commit crimes. Which begs you to recall the old warning you took away from grammar school: "Don't spoil it for everyone else."

As this short documentary follows an eye doctor as he performs hundreds of operations on North Koreans who have gone blind, there are North Korean minders along the way watching his and Lisa Ling's every move. You will most likely cry, I warn you, as did I when they talked about small children fighting over a kernel of corn in cow dung, or when a woman swears out loud to "the dear leader" that she will work harder in the salt mines because he, Kim Jong Il, helped her see again. 

Nope, not a RomCom, but surely an inside look you might not have gotten anywhere else.

4. Jesus: And since we are on the topic of Godly things and the universe, I will share a scene that occurred while riding the subway a few weeks ago: I was sitting next to a woman who was cradling a small child to her breast. She wasn't breast-feeding mind you, but cooing at the young girl and turning to her husband intermittently. I, nose in book, was rereading for the fifth time a sentence that had to compete with the chorus of South Pacific's "Happy Talk" running through my head (a war that would span the rest of the train ride in and include the time it took me to order a salad, before heading into work to hear that very song, again). 

The train stopped and I heard the doors open. At which point, I heard collective gasps. I don't know how it came to be, but when I happened to look up, that very woman sitting next to me was now at the door, pulling at her child's hand which was somehow wedged between the subway car and the retracted door. People were staring and still gasping as this woman's husband (whom I assume was trying to depart before this fiasco occurred) was trying to pull out tiny fingers. Horrified by the whole situation I turned towards the door and contributed in this way: "JESUS CHRIST!!!" That's right, "Jesus Christ." Loudly and passionately, this was my contribution. I don't know if I thought this would conjure Him up and have Him in turn, shimmy down one of the stripper poles each subway car provides to save the day, but He, was apparently foremost on my mind. 

The response? Shock, and even more horror. Who knew I was such a fan..

Monday, June 29, 2009

On Friendship and Getting Older

There was the time Gayle ended up at a titty bar and had no idea. She had called me one evening from her cell phone to chat when it came to my attention.

Gayle: Yeah, I was out all day and decided to eat before going back home.

Me: Oh, you're calling from a restaurant. I can barely hear you, where are you?

Gayle: I'm at that restaurant with the "o's" that are owl's eyes. The restaurant with owls.

Me: What? Owls?

Gayle: Their sign has two "o's" in it.

Me: Hooters!?!

Gayle: Yeah, they have good burgers.

Me: Gayle, that's a bar for dudes!

Gayle: Really? You know, I couldn't understand why there were so many sailors here.

Honestly, she had never heard of Hooters.

Then there was the time Gayle moved into her new apartment and coined the term "I now know." Let me explain: In the kitchen of her new apartment there is a fake drawer. The kind that serves no other purpose except for aesthetics. I had tried to open it myself once, only to lose footing and have her cat look on disapprovingly. But while I gave up on the thing shortly thereafter, Gayle continued to be its victim. One day, I arrived at Gayle's to find the drawer looking slightly off-kilter. "What happened here?" I asked. "I tried to open that drawer again. But I now know, it's fake."

About a month ago I called Gayle for an afternoon chat. During the time she had to spare before going to a surprise birthday party, I asked her a question I have never cared to ask anyone before.

Me: What are you wearing tonight?

Gayle: (slightly thrown off) A pair of jeans and a top because I now know, when an invitation says Dress Casual, it does not mean rags. I learned this at Joie's engagement party.

Gayle went on to inform me that she showed up to the engagement party in a pair of jodhpurs, a t-shirt and a pair of sandals; something akin to a scene in David Copperfield I'm sure. Everyone else? In dresses.

Gayle: I really don't know where I get my information from Amanda. Once, I was getting ready for something and put on earrings. Right before I left, I removed the earrings because I remembered the invitation had warned to Dress Casual. I thought the earrings were too fancy.

I lived with Gayle for three years. First, in a one bedroom where the door to our sleeping area could not open all the way; rendering us acrobats just to get in. Then later, in a two bedroom Co-op where she had to endure possible food poisoning from a boxed turkey dinner I took from downstairs when no one claimed it. (I now know that Co-op does not equate to safe handling of poultry.)

With her I have gone on location to shoot a feature film; moved a queen size mattress several blocks by hand to the Salvation Army; taken in a rodeo; experienced some of my most productive years artistically; arrived to clubs as early as 9:30 p.m.; learned how to swim; explored other religions; stayed at a luxury hotel in Atlantic City for fifteen dollars by agreeing to listen to a timeshare spiel; met and dated two guys who were also roommates; failed at online dating; quit eating so much sausage and sugared cereal; discovered the importance of wine after a two show day; cried uncontrollably when she was diagnosed with cancer; and laughed harder than I could have ever expected to.

Today marks my best friend Gayle's fortieth birthday. Certainly no minor feat when thirty is considered forty and forty is the new, or should I say, old fifty. (Damn you Hollywood!) So today, this post is dedicated to my friend of twelve years. A woman I adore for being sweet, honest, genuine, kindhearted and loving; and, for giving me so many reasons to laugh.

So, with that, Happy Birthday Gayle. You are truly one of a kind...and so very, very loved in return.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Eat With These

As a resident of New York City for over ten years, and having consumed Asian cuisine nonstop for just as long, I figured I needed to do something about my disposable chopsticks problem. If I had eaten Japanese, Vietnamese, or Thai, at least twice a week for a year (which mostly likely I have but we'll minus two weeks for insanity's sake), that would equate to 100 pairs of chopsticks a year. Add that up for eight years (give two years leeway), that' get the picture. A ton of freaking chopsticks with dried up shumai and gyoza sitting in a landfill because of one girl.

So, enter my solution:

Not only did I decide that I needed to invest in reusable utensils, I also decided that my boyfriend needed to as well. Thus, two sets of chopsticks and two carrying cases with the ability to travel to the restaurants that use disposable ones, or, stay at home for take-out. 

How long did it take us to pick out said sticks and cases at Pearl River last weekend? Too long. Who knew we would be so picky; or find ourselves in an unrelenting quandary over modern design versus traditional Japanese motif.

In the end, we decided to avoid the plastic ones altogether, due to the information warning of the BPA in plastics leaching into food and potentially causing cancer. Because neither of us were in any mood for the latter, we chose bamboo. 

(Now if we could only remember to bring them to a restaurant.)