Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Alive and Well

Conrad pointed out to me it's been just over six months since my last post so I figured, "What the hell."  I think a quick update on my last post is only fair.

I'm currently reading (see: Slowly) a book called Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, which, merely 60-something pages in anyway, seems to be one of those slow-burning books of  sneakily genius insight.  Early in his life as a young man, the main character, Jayber, finds himself in school studying to be a priest when his faith is shaken by paradigm-shifting questions about God.  He goes to his adviser and shares all his questions, hoping to get answers that will put his religious life back on track.  Jayber asks him, how can he ever stand in front of people and give a sermon to people on God when these questions are a thorn in his mind.  As it turns out, this last question is the only one of Jayber's the adviser answers.  He says simply, "You can't."  And with that, of course, Jayber promptly drops out of college and begins to explore whatever will become of him next.

To some degree, that's how I feel about what the questions I was wrestling with in my last post.  Six months later, I can't answer a single one of my questions any better than when I asked them.  However, I feel much better about life than I did then because I feel less compelled to ask those questions at all.  I don't think they are any less valid in being asked, but they just don't occur to me anymore.  Okay, they do, but not nearly as much.

When I ask myself why that is, why I've been able to just sort of move on from this dilemma that only six months ago had me paralyzed, I think it's that I no longer think it matters much.  I can give up or not give up, die trying to do this or resign myself to do that, but whatever is going to be is going to be.  It's not up to me.  Who or what it is up to is another discussion I don't really want to blog about, but it certainly isn't me.  I'm essentially powerless.  I find a lot of relief and freedom in that idea.  My life is a ride and I am in a passenger seat.  Sometimes I will like the ride and sometimes I won't, but there's no point in me trying to steer a wheel that isn't there.

Not that I'm wandering aimlessly about, untethered from responsibility or choice, waiting to see whether the wind blows me onto the sidewalk or into the street.  I can see how my tone here might seem like I've simply lost all hope and dealing with it accordingly.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I'm doing great.  Life is good.  Some things are presently working out and others aren't.  I'm just doing a better job, I think, of letting go and appreciating the beauty of the whole thing.

Monday, November 09, 2015

What To Do List

There is said to be virtue in knowing and accepting who you are.  "Make friends with who you are," the song says*.  I get that.  If you know who you are, you're likely to be more at peace than someone still "finding themselves" like any college kid or Kerry Russell in "Felicity."

There is also that American spirit to never give up, never say die, never stop fighting.  You could drown in all the cliches, sayings, and anecdotes to this effect.  I agree with this idea too, obviously.  If Matt Damon can survive being stranded on Mars, why should anyone give up on anything anywhere, right?

I am confused, however, with how to reconcile these two truths.  What if who you are, objectively, is not who you feel you are or who you want to be?**  At what point do you have to take stock and own your limitations or failures?  Isn't that an act of surrender?  Is it ever okay to give up?  If so, when does giving up stop becoming a sign of weakness or cowardice?  And if not, is the virtue of being so brave worth being ignorant of a practical self-awareness?

I realize specifics would give more teeth to my dilemma.  I feel that specifics, however, would steer an innocent, open question into a whining call for help or, God forbid, advice.  This is certainly not intended to be that.  I will say there is a life I would like to live, one that I feel suited to, a simple and modest existence, which most take for granted, or suffer mid-life crises in the midst of.  Life (Capital "L" variety), however, does not seem mutually interested in my plan.

What's a boy to do?  Accept that this is who I am and this is the life I am meant to lead, meaningless as it may seem to me, or continue down a dead-end alley a la the marching band in "Animal House"?  At this moment, the most comforting course seems to try to fool Life altogether, move to some completely new place, change my name, and take on the life of a more interesting character.

*"The Age of Worry," By John Mayer (Yes, I am quoting the eternal wisdom of John Mayer.  Is there a problem?)

**I realize this sentence could easily give the impression I am enduring some kind of gender identity crisis.  I assure you, this is not the case.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Well, I mean, I'm sure there is something wrong with it in that it's incredibly difficult for a person going through it, but I'm not distancing myself from the idea because I find it embarrassing in any way.  There, that's settled.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Pallet Cleanser

I don't have anything I particularly want to say.  I really just wanted to get something else up here that wasn't such a downer.  Hmmm….Oh I got one.

Our garden is really booming.  That little 15' x 15' square on the hillside that started as a wild, overgrown mess of dirt, weeds, and a dead rose bush is now popping out Jurassic Park-sized zucchinis three at a time.  And here come the beans and tomatoes.  We also pulled some lettuce last night.  We saw Jeff Garlin do a set last weekend where he was talking about how you get to an age where you can take comfort in knowing you will never do certain things again in your life.  I completely get that and agree, but I think this is the flip side to that idea.  I never gardened.  I never even mowed a lawn until I was 30 years old.  Who knew one day at 36 years of age I'd suddenly start growing vegetables much less loving the shit out of it?  Life--go figure, huh?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dear Universe (Because, yes, I'm at that point tonight),

I need a job.  It's been five months.  I am ready to work.  I was watching the "Mad Men" finale the other night and my big takeaway was, Gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have a career.

Universe, I have searched, I have researched, I have soul searched, and I have applied.  My God, how I've applied.  I sometimes wonder if online job applications go to the same place in the North Pole as letters to Santa.

I am more than the sum of my resume.  Kids, be careful the jobs you take in your life because people will generally only expect that your past is all you're capable of repeating.  As much as your heart may lead you to zig and zag, the working world would just as soon prefer that you zig, zig, and continue to zig because, well, you have no zagging experience.  Never have I worked a job that, despite the steepest of learning curves, did not become second nature without the proverbial house burning down.  Granted, I have never worked in neurosurgery.  I'll give you that one; it could very well be over my head.  But, for the most part, I've found the actual work to be pretty easy, or at least easy to figure out.

Please, Universe, don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed the time off.  I've decompressed and re-inflated with the air of a broader perspective.  However, that perspective, which values family, home, travel, and creative and artistic exploration, requires the benevolence of funding.

Of course, it's bigger than that, if size matters here.  I would like to regain some semblance of direction in my life beyond this aimless, rudderless, powerless drift, seemingly random as a Roomba.

Dear Universe, enough is enough.  I'm ready.  I have a lot to offer.  Please, help me find the right buyer.

If it doesn't work out, I'll be okay.  With new albums from James Taylor and Indigo Girls on the way, I'll have a very big June.  I'll take each of them for a long drive so we can get properly aquainted.  A jobless July will afford me the family trip to South Dakota I've missed out on for the last five years.  Should August (And Everything After?) arrive without the hope of work, it will at least be USC football season and I am pretty sure I still have at least a year of eligibility left.

But yeah, let's go for the job, huh?

Yours Truly,


Thursday, March 05, 2015


I just really want to go shopping...

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Unemployment Chronicles

This entry is for my friend Bill and Conrad.  Here is a blog so big and bad, it'll make you think twice about asking me to write another one.

Greetings from the Land of the Unemployed!

I'll be honest, I was slightly surprised when I got laid off, although I did see it coming a few weeks prior.  I wasn't exactly devastated by the news though.  I had been daydreaming for some time about a fresh start, possibly doing something entirely different.  I hadn't had the balls to break away myself so here was the universe taking care of it for me.  What new job or--screw it, career--was I going to find that would inevitably be a better fit for me, if not immediately, surely in the long run?

It's Week 7 now, and the search continues.  You might imagine me being absorbed by the quicksand of my couch, sinking deeper by the day under the weight of frozen pizza, light beer, and binged television.  I am foolishly proud to say, I haven't had one entire day where I was that unproductive.  I have had the occasional splurge on a lunch beer and a "Friday Night Lights" episode, and who's going to sweat me a power nap if I'm able and in need.  Generally speaking though, I've kept relatively busy.  It has been so incredibly nice to live by my own schedule and not rush anything.  Having held down a job nearly every day since I was 15 years old (minus a few post-college months), it was truly surreal in those first few days of unemployment to be out in the world on a Tuesday afternoon with no place to go.  I felt like Jim Carrey in "The Truman Show" when he starts to realize something is not right and starts running into random buildings to see if people are really in there living.  As it turns out, whether I have a job or not, the world spins madly on*.

Once I got used to the concept, being job-free has been a blessing--financial hardship notwithstanding.  I realize now how much residual, generic stress I was carrying around.  I find I'm smelling the roses a lot more often now and not simply because I have more time to do so.  And just because I don't have a job, it doesn't mean there's no work to do.  I've gardened, grocery shopped, cooked, cleaned, and laundered.  There is something so right about being home before dark and taking the time to not simply heat food, but cook it.  I think I would make an ideal househusband.  Alas, that is not my fate, but I am hoping this will be my chance to find the job/career that I am suited for and that I will flourish in.

I actually went to a career workshop to see about figuring out what perfect job might be.  It was quite helpful to not only identify my skills, workplace values, etc., but to see them right there on paper, in workspeak lingo I can use in an interview, should I ever get one.  There were indeed some non-entertainment careers that interested me.  Unfortunately, the real contenders either don't pay enough for me to live, require going back to school and incurring even more student loan debt, or both, meaning I'd have to go back to school to be qualified for a job that doesn't pay enough to make the student loan payments.  To say nothing of funding a family, a house, and a cat who believes her every meal to be an all-you-can-eat buffet.  I understand the argument that says life is long and I should think of the bigger picture, i.e. sacrifice in the short term to become a psychologist or something and recoup when the earnings eventually do build up.  Here's the thing.  I can see making that sacrifice if the career in question (I don't think it would be psychology, but let's roll with it) were my actual heartfelt passion, my dream.  But I don't see the wisdom in going further into debt, going back to school, moving into a studio apartment (probably being dramatic with that) so that I can be a psychologist when what's in my heart is to be an actor.  So go be an actor!, right?  That is what I would prefer to do, to continue to pursue acting, but find a parallel career in a place that is right for me.

Then there are the dark days.  I'm averaging 1.2 days per week where I feel like a loser and a failure.  I waste time recounting the things I might have done differently, jobs I might have refused, others I might have held out for, choices I should have made, stands I should have taken.  Luckily, I don't let these days conquer the faith and hope that otherwise carry me through.  I do wonder sometimes though, if I wouldn't have been better off with a different outlook on work and career from the very start.  Maybe my problem is that I bought into the idea that you should love your job.  Maybe this idea that a person's career should be this harmonious, enriching experience in which they provide their unique talents to a task and get paid handsomely for it is a sick joke.  Maybe a job is just supposed to be a job and a person should, from the beginning, pursue whichever career they are most capable of that will provide them the most money to take care of their family, within the limits of the law, of course.  Today's my dark day for the week, can you tell?

This is where I am right now.  I reread "The Alchemist" recently, which hit home more so now than the first time I read it.  I'm out on the trail now, keeping an eye out for the omens, determined to chase down my Personal Legend, wherever it may be.

*I don't know if I am only quoting the song of the same name by The Weepies, in which case I would have put the phrase in quotes, or if this is an actual saying.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jon Stewart, Them's Fightin' Words!

I am so happy that "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" is back in season.  It has become my Thursday afternoon tradition, I get my coffee, plug in my headphones, and take a little break from work at the end of the week.  I've waxed poetic about the show plenty by now so I won't go on about that, but, rather something said in the latest episode by guest Jon Stewart.  I should preface this by pointing out that early in the episode, Jerry observes that Stewart has never lived in LA.  So with that in mind, here are his perspectives on the two cities.

On New York City:

...all these different cultures and they come together and the alchemy of it creates something really vibrant and new.

On LA:

it's all singular and that lack of bass tones and the treble's just too narrow.  It strikes me as like being in Vegas.  Everybody's tuned to the same frequency...

As is to be expected, my first reaction is to defend my hometown (or closest major metropolis) from the disdain of the East Coast invaders.  At least Stewart has never lived here so I don't need to get to riled up as to engage with my "GO HOME THEN!" speech.

Of course, what he's saying about LA is factually incorrect.  According to the 2010 Census, LA actually has a slightly higher percentage of foreign-born residents than NY (39.7% vs. 36%).  Don't get me wrong, I am not going to cherry pick demographic statistics to try and prove that the sky is in fact NOT blue.  Wikipedia informs me that the term "melting pot" was coined to describe the Lower East Side alone.  New York's long history of being an entry point for immigration to the U.S. and facts like this stand in the way of that...

The New York City metropolitan area is home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel.[20] It is also home to nearly a quarter of the nation's Indian Americans and 15% of all Korean Americans[21][22] and the largest Asian Indian population in the Western Hemisphere; the largest African American community of any city in the country; and has now become home to more than one million Asian Americans, greater than the combined totals of San Francisco and Los Angeles.[25] 

My point was only to say that LA is incredibly diverse, obviously more so than visitors may realize.  And that's where I cut Mr. Stewart a little bit of slack.  One criticism of LA that I still can't refute is its vastness, its sprawl, the isolating effect that has on its people.  No matter how much the Metro system has improved and expanded, driving around in our own little car pods is still and will always be the most popular way of getting around in this city.  For someone who comes into town as a visitor, they are going to have a far more limited and one-dimensional experience than a resident would.  It makes sense that they wouldn't get underneath LA's glossy surface of superficiality and detachment to see how people live outside Rodeo Drive and Sunset Blvd.  In my personal experience as a resident of Los Angeles, I feel I am constantly surrounded many different nationalities and cultures.  In my acting class, I, as an American, am usually the minority.  At my office, I work directly with an Irish citizen, a South African citizen, and an Australian citizen--and those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head.  At home, I live underneath a Brazilian-Finnish family, across from a Spaniard, next to Guatemalans* and our two buildings just had a huge, joyous paella party on my back patio.  The only thing "singular" about this City of Angels is our appreciation of great weather.  If your perception of LA is that it "lacks bass and treble tones," then perhaps you should take off your noise-canceling headphones and roll your windows down.  If "everybody's tuned to the same frequency," then why do we fight so much?  We're not exactly shiny, happy people holding hands over here.

Granted, what Stewart says about New York is valid.  Just based on my short time living there in college, I absolutely agree with his description and appreciation of New York's diversity and unique rhythms.  But LA does have that in spades itself, granted, less so than New York.  But a major, compelling reason for that is because, while in New York it smacks you in the face every time you step onto the sidewalk, in LA it requires the a little bit of effort and curiosity.  It doesn't help when East Coasters (even after they've lived here a little while) pass judgment without truly driving down the backstreets and stepping out of their cars.

Also, how dare anybody compare LA to Vegas**!  That's crossing the line, Stewart.


And still, it was a fantastic episode.

*I am not 100% sure they're Guatemalan.  I feel confident they're from some Central American country though and what's more fun than saying "Guatemalan?"

**Cue a Las Vegas blogger taking me to task for slighting their beloved home.