As the World Turns

I wake up in the morning, still drunk from a night spent drinking whatever was put in front of me, an endless stream of red wine and pink champagne.  At this point, I am feeling tip top, mostly because my brain is still drowning in booze and desensitizing my body to the perils that await it.  I fall asleep, noting the way the room is spinning ever so slightly, but still, I’m too drunk to care.

At ten-something in the morning, I wake up, overcome with the appropriate punishment for my nocturnal behavior.  I look around the room, thinking how on earth I am going to find the strength to put on a pair of pants and go forage for food.  I have a Lara bar in my bag but the thought of its sweet chewiness makes me want to wretch right there and then, so I put it aside as a non-option.  “Bread.  Bread is what I need,” I think to myself, still lying in the same place, looking at gray Paris outside my window.

Eleven a.m. approaches and I haven’t moved for fear of arousing some beast inside of me.  I stumble towards the closet where the menu for room service is, my back hunched over in an instinctual standing fetal position.  I thumb through pages of variously prepared eggs and other fancier fare.  I assess the options for the continental breakfast: pastries, juice, coffee, toast, tea.  I have four minutes to order before the breakfast window ends.  I keep staring at the word “pastries” and that even makes me feel ill.  Fuck.  Knowing that it is now or never, I call down to the front desk.

Front Desk:  [Says something polite in French, but I can’t focus on anything but my nausea].

Me:  Parlez-vous Francais?

Front Desk:  Oui.  Yes.  Yes.

Me:  I would like to order breakfast.  The continental breakfast, please.  But could I just have wheat toast?  No pastries or anything?

Front Desk:  Hmmm…wheat toast?

Me:  Cereal.  Integral.  Um…brown?  You know, brown bread?

Front Desk:  Brown bread…let me see if we have.

Me:  Yeah, just toast.  Like a lot of toast.  [Laughing]  I drank too much last night.

Front Desk:  [Laughs] Do you want pan au chocolate, too?

Though the thought of chocolate for breakfast, especially breakfast on a day like today – the worst day in the last decade, sounds less than appealing, I agree before hanging up the phone.  Thirty minutes into my continued in-bed coma, my meal arrives and I sit in front of a tray of fresh squeezed orange juice, a French press filled with coffee, and my requested bread, wondering what I will be able to keep down.  I sit there, motionless again, for another ten minutes.  “Toast,” I think finally, and I pick up a piece, tearing it in half.

I slather my wheat toast rather generously with some strawberry jam, munching contentedly until I am overcome with a sweeping urge to, well, not keep the food down.  I scurry to the bathroom, where The Sickness takes hold of me.  The Sickness and I become loathed enemies over the course of the next eight hours.  It takes away the desire to keep my eyes open, the ability to walk in a straight line, swallow water, etc.  For fuck’s sake, I can’t even touch the coffee, and I live for coffee.

After me and The Sickness have had our first official date, I sit back in front of my food, determined to eat something to soak up the booze from last night.  There are three remaining pieces of toast, “Practice Toast” I call them in my head, hoping that eventually I will get a piece down without incident.  This, however, does not happen.  Each and every piece of cereal…integral…brown…wheat…what-fucking-ever toast refuses to do its duty and make me feel better.  Kill me.  Someone please just kill me.

I take a shower, wondering what I am doing with my life, feeling momentarily relieved since The Sickness has now emptied my stomach of all of its contents.  Nothing to worry about when there’s nothing there, right?  Wrong!

Foolhardy, I think I am ready for a trip to the local Starbucks where I can order my Tall Latte Extra Shot with “soja.”  I’m still feeling vaguely human when I sit down at my own little table, but The Sickness sits down across from me, telling me whatever I do, I better not even think of drinking that coffee…because “you know what will happen.”  I close my eyes and contemplate running into oncoming French-car-and-moped traffic.  Don’t throw up.  Don’t throw up.  Don’t throw up. The room spins.  Before I’ve even had a sip, I am running for the restroom and puking in a public space.  I have officially reached my all time low.

I’ve felt this bad before.  Once.  Almost.  This was back in 2001, a decade ago, while still in high school.  My mom went to Chicago for work and I invited a few close friends over to drink cheap booze and dance around the house like the asshole teenagers we were.  That was the night Captain Morgan and I forever parted ways.  I woke up on the floor of my bathroom, a pillow under my head and a wet washcloth above it, stumbling to my feet while the world spun viciously.  It was a dark day by my standards; this one is worse.  Infinitely worse.

I leave the Starbucks, once again feeling the tiniest bit better, though completely disgusted with myself, thinking that now, now is the time to find something to eat.  You can do it.  You can do it.  You can do it. I’m walking around Paris and all I can think of is food that won’t make me throw up.  I mentally award myself with the honor of Best Tourist of All Time.

I walk into a patisserie, hoping to find more wheat bread for me to experiment with but there is none.  I scan rows of baguettes and this girl with a tong in her hands stares at me and stares at me and I can’t even look at the pastries to my right.  In a thoughtless haste, I point to a sugar crepe.  For anyone who knows me, I haven’t had a sugar crepe or anything like a sugar crepe in the last eight years.  It’s not what I do.  I eat cardboard and bird seed.  I leave the store, munching away at the sides of this papery thing made out of bleached flour, crunching down on granules of refined sugar to my heart’s content while taking mindful sips of my soy latte.  The air is mildly refreshing and I think it might be best to keep moving, lest I sit down and feel the world spin once more, which, if I ventured to do, it surely would.

Standard

Los Angeles: The Vortex

I sit in a coffee shop on Beverly Boulevard where I used to write, back when I used to live with someone and didn’t take my life seriously.  For two hours a day I worked on something I enjoyed, which was never quite enough.  They serve the best eggs here – poached and covered with parmesan cheese and chili flakes, served next to the best roasted potatoes you’ll ever have.

I drink my iced coffee, burnt and strong, listening to two women in their fifties talk about Casey Affleck in a way that makes you think they know who he is, but of course they do not.  Soon, they move onto another entertainment topic: some train wreck of a film called How Do You Know?  It’s like getting the channel stuck on Siskel and fucking Ebert the day after their double lobotomy.

 

That Legally Blonde girl.  Wither… Reese Witherspoon.  And you know who directed it?  A big comedy TV guy.

What’s it called?

You Think You Can Know…or How Do You Know?

 

I don’t miss this about Los Angeles.  Intense conversations about the industry (and its often lackluster products) by laypeople are a hazard of living in an industry town.  Everyone here works in film.  Once, at my weekly yoga class I took at my friend’s house in the Hollywood hills – usually held at 10 a.m. on a Monday – I looked around a spacious room with a beautiful room filled with beautiful people doing things Normal People would consider silly.  Model.  Model.  Actress.  Actor-turned-photographer.  Director.  Writer.  Actress. I laughed at myself for living this (very blessed) cliché, but such clichés are an inevitability of living in the city.  I never met anyone who worked in finance or medicine or the non-profit sector.  Those people live in New York or San Francisco.

The pair move quickly and at the hurried pace that accompanies superficial knowledge derived from tabloids and movie previews in TV advertisements.  “Zach Gafahfalakis or whatever his name is…” the older woman in the pink sweatpants muses.  I suck in my coffee through its straw suddenly, hoping it might freeze my brain and hinder its ability make my hearing function.  It does not.

Behind me, a young man writes a screenplay using Final Draft Pro.  Normally, there’s at least four others doing the same.  Los Angeles has this uncanny ability to make your extraordinary dreams seem ordinary.  Everyone is doing what you want to do and your passion inevitably seems misguided and silly.  “I’m a writer,” you’d say and you’d feel like you just told someone you were the janitor at a local elementary school.  “I’m an actress,” you’d say as you served someone their coffee and you’d feel ashamed.

The girls sitting out front drink Diet Cokes and smoke cigarettes, wear baseball caps and too much makeup.  Their sweat suits match and they carry bedazzled cell phones.  It’s January and it’s 76 degrees outside.  This shit is real.

A pickup truck passes, carrying stacks of unseasonably green sheets of sod.  Another passes with the tall prop walls from a set.  Living here, you see the mechanism and the mechanism is as boring and real as anything else.  Brad Pitt is just a man with good bone structure and the house in your favorite sitcom is made of collapsible cardboard.

The older woman in front of me reads an independent movie review from her iPod and I wonder if these women moved here to be actresses and stayed thirty years too long.  “He’s a mental hospital mentor,” she says, and I allow my attention to be diverted by the hangnail on my thumb until she starts on The Fighter.  “To me, the movie is just another version of…The Town.  I’m done with it.  Irish Catholic.  Ben Affleck.  Mark Wahlberg.  Martin Scorsese.  All that.  I don’t know…is there too many, too soon?”  Her pink manicured hand with its sad silver wedding band flicks up and down on its place on the back of a chair in emphasis.

It’s three in the afternoon on a Tuesday and all these women have to do is meet in a coffee shop in their gym clothes to talk about how they think Christian Bale’s performance is “beyond.”  There aren’t enough people in this city actually doing things.  There’s plenty of people wanting them.

 

Standard

Pre HLS: Young Love

She walked into the house, passing photographs of pictures that didn’t look like her anymore holding dogs that had died years ago.  Her parents held onto such things.  Her parents held onto each other even though they should have been letting go.  They didn’t get along anymore and they all knew it.  It hung over the dining room table and was the ribbon that tied their birthday presents together.  “To: Lisa, Love: Mom and Dad.”  These cards were lies.  Her dad never did anything for them but pay the mortgage.  Lisa wondered if he knew what month her birthday was or that she didn’t like waffles or that she had passed the SATs with admirable scores.  No.  Her mom knew that.  Her mom knew all of these things because her mother was capable of love in a way that men were intrinsically incapable.  It was the type of relentless love that kept going no matter what, no matter the heartbreak.  “Zombie love,” Lisa called it, though the term was one she kept to herself because she didn’t know if it was any good.

Her mother was sitting on the blue chenille sofa they had purchased from the Pottery Barn four years ago.  Lisa hated that sofa.  It had begun to pill within the first year, despite the fact that it was expensive.  Her dad had paid for that, too, but he wasn’t waiting up for her.  Her mother looked up from her square sheet of paper from the Wall Street Journal.  She was a housewife hellbent on educating herself and when she told people what she did for a living, or didn’t do for that matter, Lisa knew it embarrassed her.  In her mother was a great potential that had died out long ago, transferred onto her daughter in a way that made Lisa nauseous to think about.  There was too much riding on her.  Grades and college and boys and boys and what was wrong with that boy tonight?  Didn’t he like her?  He had kept staring his clock and not at her face.  He had been staring so hard that he had missed the way she moved her hair off of her shoulder, exposing her neck and her tank top with the laces that tied at the knobby bones above each shoulder.  She wasn’t sure what these bones were called; she thought they were part of her clavicle or she didn’t know what.  Anatomy had always been her worst subject – that and flirting with boys, apparently.

There was a bottle of wine sitting in front of her mother and most of its contents had been consumed.  She was friendly and that bothered Lisa; she hated to see how the wine loosened her mother up because it made it obvious how much she was repressing in her real life.  When drunk her mom was easy and confident and silly and funny and Lisa wouldn’t have a problem with all or any of these things if her mother had been like that in real life, in the mornings when they woke up, in the car on the way to school, when she was cooking dinner for Lisa and a husband who didn’t love her anymore.  “Was it great?  He was cute!” her mother said and she said it in a voice that felt familiar in that way and Lisa hated it.  “It was fine.  It was whatever.”  And she walked up her stairs to a bedroom, leaving her mother on a sofa made in China and a mouth full of wine and bitter heartbreak.

 

 

Standard

Good Company and Expensive Red Wine

We sit down in the corner of the covered garden, facing outwards towards patrons talking quietly.  I will forever love the seemingly dignified pretention of the Chateau Marmont.  V orders a glass of wine and so do I.  Red.  Our friend works there and we catch up while he stands above us wearing a double-breasted pea coat and dirty blonde hair.  He looks British and suited for some sort of trip through the countryside in a German car wearing leather gloves.  M arrives, not as late as either of us anticipated, her hair appropriately disheveled and her hands covered in gold jewelry.

A famous musician who is currently trying to look like Johnny Depp is sitting at the table across from us and I laugh into my wine glass because he has a big head.  My friend used to be convinced that he had undergone massive amounts of plastic surgery after he got rich and famous.  “No way,” she would say in her under-educated, midwestern accent, “This guy was so fucking ugly in 2004.  There’s no way that is his real face.”  And so I catch glimpses of him over the course of the evening, talking and not talking to his friend, both occasionally taking social breaks to sit next to each other in silence while they type away on their Blackberries.  Friendships in the wireless age.  If I stupid, I could tell him that I used bar-b-que to his album in my mother’s backyard after I dropped out of college, but that would mean I’d have to admit to have occasionally listened to his KIIS FM friendly jams.

V and M and myself give each other the two-hour abridged version of our lives – work, Los Angeles, New York, boys who suck and boys who suck less.  V’s in love and that makes me happy.  M’s getting over love and finding more boys who look like Jesus.  I’m out of love and easily getting introduced to every asshole in New York.

An older woman in a black shawl approaches our table and bends down low to ask me if I’m Julia Stiles.  I laugh and try to play off the fact that my skin is crawling; I hate this comparison, though I get it on occasion, along with Kate Hudson, Kate Moss, Keira Knightley, and Joan Allen.  Most of these don’t make sense, with the exception of Joan Allen.  I’ll take Joan Allen; she’s a hot babe.

The woman looks back over at her table filled with three men, one of whom is an older Swedish actor whom I have a crush on like I have a crush on Colin Firth or Liam Neeson – the fifty-plus, dignified-gentleman category of dudes I’d like to make out with, but if push came to shove, probably couldn’t get the balls to do it.  “She’s not Julia Stiles,” the woman says to a man who leans forward in response.  “I used to represent her,” he tells me, and I think either I look like the spitting image of this girl who I absolutely don’t want to look like the spitting image of or this guy never knew his client very well.  After I laugh awkwardly a bit more and try to avoid eye contact with the Swede, we return to our respective discussions.

Dinner comes.  M gets her overpriced kale and quinoa: a fifty-dollar meal you could probably get at the hot bar at Whole Foods.  I’ve got some beet salad with cheese I push to the side of the plate and a pumpkin soup that’s a nice shade of orange.  V gets something; I can’t remember what.  Everyone orders another drink.

The wind is fierce and it bumps wildly against the clear plastic tent covering the garden for winter.  The walls lurch and push and pull with the whims of a California winter, mild by all of my recent east coast comparisons.  Red lanterns sway subtly with the motion of the tent and we continue to talk and eat and drink while our lives change slowly, greatly, and without due notice.

Standard

The Brooklyn Workout

I walk into the ancient stone building and hand my guest pass for the gym to a woman sitting behind a wooden cubicle of a sour yellow color.  The place reminds me of any public school in America and I am overcome with the strange sensation that I am checking into the nurse’s office at my old elementary school.  I hated being sick at school; there was little light in the recovery room and the mattresses were lined in a thick sticky plastic that made you want to throw up if you didn’t already.  I scribble my signature on a waiver that basically states that if I accidentally saw my arm off with their vintage Nordic Tracks, I will be responsible for my own medical bills.

“Thank you,” she says, not looking up at me.

The place stinks.  Not just one particular smell, but a variety of offenses that change depending on the room in which you are in.  There is no relief once you enter the doors of the YMCA.  The smell is part of the reason I have been avoiding working out, in addition, of course, to general laziness and below-freezing temperatures.

I walk into the “Cardio Room” – a less than remarkable affair hosting a series of out-of-date treadmills, two elliptical machines, and a rower.  It smells like burning rubber and chemical disinfectant.  I tuck my belongings into a locker and say a quick prayer that my jacket doesn’t come home with bedbugs.

True to my boring workout that I have been subjecting myself to for the last eight years, I hop on the elliptical machine situated behind a row of treadmills.  There are no televisions.  There is no Top 40 music pumping sweetly through ceiling speakers.  Air hardly circulates.  Occasionally, I will feel the passing puff of a fan, though I cannot locate its precise whereabouts.

Back in Los Angeles I worked out in the center of Hollywood, in a glass box off of Sunset Boulevard, just above an overpriced – though admittedly superior – movie theater.  I preferred to go in the mornings, around 9 a.m., after the people with real jobs had already crammed in their “Me Time” before chuffing off to kill themselves in an office.  The gym, however, was never empty; at any hour of the day you would be surrounded by people, and when I say “people” I mean “out of work actors.”

The men in Los Angeles were a vain and beefy variety that held little appeal for me.  I watched them mouth dialogue from their highlighted sides, pumping their tan arms back and forth, sweat dripping down their chiseled jaw lines.  Some read off of simple, stapled stacks probably from acting class, but others – the lucky few – had the more prized items – full scripts with CAA stamped on the cover like a top secret document for the not-so-secret asshole.

Taking to these man/boys was always a tortured experience and I avoided it at all cost.  Even if my iPod had unceremoniously run out of battery before I arrived, I would keep the ear buds in so as to avoid any inadvertent chitchat.  Once, I made the mistake of wearing my NYU gym shorts, which initiated a conversation starting with, “Hey!  I’ve been to New York.”  Fucking idiots.

By far my biggest fan there was a blonde boy, probably nearing the thirty-year-mark, with square teeth and a sparse beard.  He always wore baseball caps and long shorts and he was never, ever deterred by how involved I was in my own workout; I could be running at 9.5 on a treadmill, sweat dripping down my reddened face, and he would just stand in front of me, waiting until I took my headphones off.  “Hey,” he’d say, and I would be forced to respond.  My hate for him soon developed into absolute abhorrence.

He was an odd boy, one who felt comfortable telling me about all of his problems.  He told me about being broke, getting kicked out of his apartment, driving cross country in a minivan.  He shared horrific breakup stories that were perhaps ways of mining my interest in him, which, needless to say, was zero.  These interactions were always the same, delivered at me from the base of my workout pulpit – me, standing on an elliptical machine while he spoke up at me from below.  It was possible he had a mild case of Asberger’s.

There are no such people like that here, here in my Brooklyn hell hole filled with second-hand equipment stolen from garage sales and mirrors reflecting rows upon rows of bodies you should only ever be subjected to one of.  The crowd is decidedly lumpy and vampirish in color.  Twilight: The Workout.  I try to keep my line of sight steady on my left elbow in the mirror, but keep finding myself staring at the square bottom of the woman in front of me, who has unfortunately decided to work out in a pair of leggings with elastic struggling to encompass her whole ass.

I inhale the strange smell of sweat and cigarettes, the detoxification from a life in Williamsburg bars and other generally unhealthy behavior.  My machine attacks my knees with each thrust forward because I am apparently too large for things built in the 1980s.  It screams at me with a pixilated heart to place my hands on the bars to get my heart rate, but no one here is required to use towels and I expect to get a staph infection by the month’s end.

 

Standard

A Poem from Claire Jane

The following is by a dear, wonderful friend of mine by the name of Miss Claire Jane Wolterman.  She sent me this in a creative response to a blog I had written that made me think of amazing women such as herself.  And so, I bring you Claire.

no one leaves me go for certain+


my ache.

of where my

heart is suppose

to be chained.

i feel un

announced.

that i stepped before those that

left the train.

me by the side

pushing to get in.

and those faces.

of disgust.

looking upon

my wrong move.

she did it again.

she is too eager.

she is too lame.

she is unwanted.

and i say.

hey.i am growing.but why everyday do i feel ashamed.

and then no more. i say.

look. i’m taking my vitamins.

look. i’m  folding my clothes.

or at least hanging them in one pile.

and nobody knows. it doesnt show.

and hey.i stopped after my second glass.

oh and i can get by

with four hours and still pass

as somewhat

of

a

human

being.

and words still come out.and i may be sharp half the time.

but those other places. that no one sees.

but me.

those i keep hidden.

my other shes.

you can’t believe

what you feel

because someone

will steal away

your moment

and say

what?

no matter what occurs

you look out for you.

and i look out for i.

always waiting for the sentence that begins at but.

it’s never real.

only in that

moment.

discard after one use-

i am a one time

piece

that looks more expensive.

but i am cheap.

i cheapen myself with these thoughts of lasting.

everything i see

deter mines me

deters me

my bathroom is

never clean

not my hair on

floor

but i shower to be

cleansed to

be dirty

yet again.

why cant i accept

my insecurity

my imperfections

be.

half of the days

i wake

wanting to be

somebody else

half of the other

days

i can’t remember

my foggy mind

if i tried to

be somebody

else.

obsolete

days

of

feeling

fine.

what are those?

a fresh sandwich

on a baguette

eaten on a windy day

with a scarf

tied whimsically

to me

and a smile

passed

between

company.

perhaps.

+clairejane.

Standard