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!