Thursday, January 26, 2017

This is 30

The night I turned 20 was a Monday.

I remember because Monday was one of the only nights in college that it was tough to get people to go out. My parents had been in town the previous weekend to take me to dinner, likely give me four new North Face fleeces and enough cash to get me through another semester at Kilroy's. I figured my birthday celebration was essentially over.

But then I got a text from some girls, "We're coming over to pregame in an hour, wear pink."

And so it was that on my 20th birthday, I went out with my roommates and about seven chicks in a full pink out like only a true asshole could. I believe i put $20 in the Jukebox to ensure that nothing but Britney Spears would play all night.

And I proceeded to spend the rest of 2007 behaving as said asshole. I would write Facebook statuses such as...

SFP of course stands for Sorry for partying!













I mean just look at that shit! I was throwing around words like 'facey' and 'a-list' and I wasn't even remotely kidding. I had girls addressing me as 'king of frat.' Quite honestly when anthropologists discover my 2007 Facebook wall some day they will certainly diagnose me with some advanced form of mental illness. Seriously it's just pages of pictures of me and hot chicks with little diatribes about how awesome frat life is, how much spring pledges suck and how I wish I was from the North Shore.

And then of course there are the glorious pass out pics...

And probably 748 pictures of me in some variation of these two shirts because i refused to leave the house without a fresh horse or a gator.


Christ look at that fucking caption...

But in fairness, social media was weird in 2007. Facebook wall flirting was a thing before BBM flirting was a thing. Everyone was so public with their lives and we all lived in a glorious stakes free utopia.

And I'm sure if I could ask that kid in the pink outfit where he saw himself in 10 years, he probably wouldn't have said living in Venice with two roommates and a cat.

I'm sure back then I thought I would be married by 30. I would have a 401k and maybe own a house. I would be well on my way to fatherhood. I would spend an irrational amount of time making sure my son was good at sports so I could form an alliance with the other cool sports dads.

Honestly, I didn't ever think I would leave Indiana, let alone the Midwest, I was prepared to be a total shithead in college, pop culture prepares us with films such as Animal House or PCU. But then I just kind of assumed that after graduation a light would pop on in my head and I would be ready to move on. Ready to grab life by the horns and really make a difference in the world.

But what I found out along with all my fellow Millenial snowflakes is that light didn't pop on for all of us. Contemporary shows such as Girls or Love, even slightly older movies like Garden State strike a chord with some sort of 20's angst that didn't seem to exist 30 years ago. Almost every person I know had some sort of quarter life crisis at 25 and did something rash: quit their job, ended a relationship, moved to Denver, this seems to be a recent phenomenon. I don't think my dad had a quarter life crisis, he married my mom when he was 24, kicked it for 6 years, bought two houses, had a kid. At the same age, I have gone through a dozen jobs and share a bathroom with two grown men (and a cat.)

I know not everyone hit this rut, I have plenty of friends who got married, bought that house and are ready for kids. I often think to myself, 'is there something wrong with me?' because while I acknowledge that those things are nice, I'm not really driven by them. I am driven by a desire to create. (Oh god that is so pretentious, my address is 627 westminster venice, ca 90291 please someone cove over here and punch me in the face) But more over I am driven by a desire to make enough money to live the life I desire.

People always ask me where I see myself in five years and it's a question I never really consider. If you look up at the pictures of my younger self you will see the face of a guy who is clearly living in the moment. Back then I wasn't thinking about the next 5 days, let alone the next 5 years. I always kinda thought everything would just work itself out, and I suppose it has to a degree. Although I'm probably not where society deems I should be at this age, I am happy.

I haven't cleaned my room or made my bed in 3 weeks. The last girl I dated broke up with me because I didn't text her at all during a two day hangover...but I did see the suns set on the ocean last night.

Youth is a subset of life insomuch there is a large degree of give and take. I sacrificed a traditional path for the story. I may still be very much a fledgling writer in LA when I probably could have done better elsewhere, but I have seen some shit.

As my mother puts it, "you're definitely living life."

And so as I reflect upon entering my fourth decade I wonder what it is I'm really looking for? Is there still a path for me that includes marriage and kids as well as a rewarding career? Sure.

Is it equally likely that I will live out my days as a starving artist type bachelor? Maybe.

The truth is, I don't know. I suppose if I could change one thing with my current situation I would give myself a nice Executive Story Editor gig on a show like 'Love' I would make $6,000 a week and it would be awesome.

But I would probably still stay in hostels when I travel abroad. That's just how I role I suppose. If I told you this was exactly how I drew up my life, it would be the biggest lie I ever told., but I think for the first time in my life I am OK admitting that I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm just hoping for the best. Maybe it took me ten years to realize it's ok not to have the answers. Living life one day at a time and praying for better results isn't an entirely terrible way to go through life.

So as I spend these last few days in my 20's reflecting on the past 10 years of my life, I'm reminded of something a good friend told me the day I turned 20.

You are now a Sophomore in life.

"Huh?"

Well if you assume an 80 year life, you are now in the 2nd quarter of that.

It's a fairly prescient metaphor. Freshman year of college you are really figuring out your place, just as the first 20 years of life you are trying to find your way in the world. The next 20 years or so you rise up. Junior year you dominate. Senior year you coast and wait for it to end.

It's always delighted me at what a perfect microcosm college is for the real world.

I'm heading to Vegas tomorrow for my 30th birthday and although I probably won't wear the full pink outfit, there is a strong chance I'll end up at a Britney Spears concert. I may pass out on a couch, and there will almost definitely be a photo of me with an inappropriate amount of buttons dropped.

Perhaps I haven't changed that much in 10 years.

But the good thing is that I'm still a Sophomore in life. I've got plenty of time to find my place, determine my path and no matter what that path holds I can learn to accept that. Sometimes I think I get too stressed out in my own head, worrying about these arbitrary checkpoints as life passes me by when I know that everyone finds their own way in their own time. I may not objectively have a lot to show for my 20's yet I find myself in a city I love surrounded by people that I deeply care about, and maybe you just can't ask for much more than that.

So instead of taking this time to write my own epitaph, I will embrace 30, the best lies yet ahead. It would be a real shame to have peaked already, so I eagerly anticipate the challenges that await me.

Because now at 30, I am second semester Sophomore in life...

And judging by my 2007 Facebook wall, this semester is going to be fucking lit.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sweat


There are a lot of things I could address in today's blog post. There was an incredibly inspiring event this weekend, I got a cat, this is my last week in my 20's and I may have some incredibly exciting job news on the horizon.

But in spite of all of that, I wanted to take a moment today to discuss something very near and dear to my heart: male perspiration.

Saturday night started out like any other in LA. I was having a few drinks counting down the minutes before I was to Uber to a birthday dinner. I put together a near flawless outfit of dark red jeans, a Blue Lacoste shirt under a Cream Polo quarter zip. I even matched the undershirt with some blue Chucks.

I looked fucking great.

Dinner wasn't a problem. I sat and had polite conversation for two hours. I asked the people in my table radius what they did for a living and what their hobbies were. I showed general interest in their answers. I told some PG-13 jokes and smiled big in the group photo at the end. If my performance were to be rated in a mobile app I'm sure I would have received 5 stars.

But then we went dancing.

I should state now that usually this would be a good thing. If I were to give myself a 'self review' and have to grade myself on 5 things that I do well I think I would give myself a B+ at writing, an A- at sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces and an A at dancing. I wouldn't be able to think of two other things I'm good at.

But I am without question a phenomenal dancer.

I don't know why. Perhaps it is because I liked to hang out with the black kids at the middle school mixers and the only way to gain their approval was by being a somewhat competent dancer. Perhaps it is because I drink way too much and let all self doubt fly to the wind, or maybe it's because I am afraid to talk to girls and my coping mechanism is to express myself in a different way...

I ordered myself a cocktail when we got to the bar and posted up in a solid dance floor adjacent spot with my friends. Dance floor adjacent is a great spot to be because while you are not ON the dance floor, you are near enough to it that if one of your favorite songs plays or you make eyes with a pretty girl you can get to the dance floor without hesitation.

They were playing 90's rap on this particular night, one of my stronger genres. I was feeling very confident about this situation. Furthermore, some of my friends were already on the dance floor trying to talk to young women, setting me up for one of my favorite ice breakers 'Sorry about my friend, he's been drinking all day."

So I did that thing where you kinda half dance and watch out over the dance floor when I made eyes with her; a girl dancing with a group of her friends staring right at me. Maybe she thought my hair was cute, maybe she liked that I was tall, but she was almost definitely summoning me to the dance floor with her gaze.

I took one more shot and waited for the next song to play. As if I had willed it with my mind the Ludacris power ballad 'Get Back' plays over the speaker system. I know almost every word to this song and certainly when to break out the most advanced dance moves.

I confidently stride to the dance floor and start dancing with a girl named Sheila. She's 27 and works at Snap Chat. We are having a fantastic time. And then it hits...

I moved to Los Angeles to chase a professional dream, but also for the climate. I hated that Chicago was cold and grey 8 months of the year, I also hated losing a pea coat every time I would brave the elements to get to a bar, only to throw the coat down in a booth because it was too hot inside.

Los Angeles has been unseasonably cold and rainy this month. I hadn't worn that Cream Polo quarter zip in probably four years, so I forgot the danger of heading to a bar too bundled up.

The song came to a close and I realized a little moisture was gathering near my hair line.

"Oh my god," I thought to myself, "This is about to be pure water works."

In a last ditch effort, I pulled off my quarter zip and tried to resume dancing with Sheila. The next song was Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean?" a great semi-quick song to dance to with someone you just met 4 minutes ago, but it was too late. I was sweating, profusely, it was only a matter of seconds before I would become drenched.

I don't think Sheila could process the severity of the situation, but she certainly saw the terror in my eyes.

"Is everything OK?"

Ya...I uh, just have to...my roommate is calling me. I'll be right back.

So I rush outside for some fresh air and will myself to stop sweating. I pace back and forth among the smokers. The bouncer eyes me curiously as if trying to decide if I'm acting too funny to be let back into the bar.

After a few minutes I'm cooled down a bit, I hand him my ID. He looks at me suspiciously before letting me back in.

I run to the bar and order two drinks and return to Sheila on the dance floor.

"Was everything OK?"

Yes. Everything is great.

It's a slower song so Sheila and I talk a little and I tell myself I might be out of the woods on this one before the DJ fucks me by playing possibly the most high energy song of the past 5 years in "Uptown Funk."

I don't stand a chance. By the first chorus I know that my night is over. I could try to kiss Sheila but the drops of sodium infused moisture on the tips of my hair would just fall onto her dress as if I was trying to recreate a romantic moment from Spiderman.

Maybe she would understand if I just told her.

"Look, I have a really athletic dancing style and it makes me sweat a lot."

Maybe she would say we should leave and get ice cream. Maybe she would say she 'thinks it's hot.'

I'll never know because I simply said. "My roommate is locked out. I have to go home.'

I didn't even wait for her number I was so embarrassed. She probably thinks she did something wrong.

God dammit today was the women's march for fuck's sake. I could have at least given Sheila an explanation before I ran, but much like Ryan Gosling in the opening act of La La Land. I grabbed my coat and disappeared into the night.

***

I don't remember when sweating became uncool.

In Elementary School I would unabashedly destroy kids in gym class basketball, I would run a 7 minute mile like it was nothing, but then I remember Freshman year of high school I would build in an extra 10 minutes to 'stop sweating' so I wouldn't be disgusting for my next class. By senior year I never exceeded 20% effort as to not sweat at all.

In college I would go out in a t shirt and shorts even in 30 degree weather because I knew that the concept of frost bite was nothing compared to the shame I would feel if I would sweat on a sorority girl inside Kilroy's.

Sometimes now I will go to a bar and now dance at all which KILLS me. I love dancing, LOVE IT. Not just because of the fact that it is a perfect ice breaker, I just thoroughly enjoy it. Yet my affinity for dancing is often eclipsed by my desire not to sweat.

I'm not sure why I sweat so much. Anecdotally I have a theory that it is tied to my incredible metabolism. I routinely order fast food in excess of 10 times a week. I crush calories harder than Michael Phelps and I exercise far less than I should. But somehow I avoid getting morbidly obese due to in part my long torso (for someone who is 6'3 I have fairly short legs, but a very long chest. I theorize this gives the fat more places to go) but I also think that my body just runs hot.

Think of a car engine, when you are around 5000 RPM you burn more gas. I think my body naturally runs at higher RPMs.

Now of course I enjoy not being fat but I also hate coming up with excuses to leave a bar when I'm having a good time. Every time I start to sweat and I am forced to leave a bar, I think of the girl who doesn't want to go out because she is feeling unpretty on that particular evening. The person who refuses to leave their room because of an unsightly pimple. The truth is, I do not want people to associate me with the human embodiment of precipitation.

I straight up cannot go to my favorite bar Townhouse anymore because the basement is a sauna. I have thrown in excess of 10 shirts away during my walk home because I figured they were too sweaty to salvage. There is no greater devastation than walking into your apartment shirtless and your roommate not asking for an explanation because he is well aware of the events that led to this.

In closing, I do not know what the future holds. I am unaware if there will ever be a cure for my affliction but I've heard that the first step in any battle is acceptance. I accept that I am a sweaty guy. I accept that it is gross. And I accept that there just may not be an amicable reconciliation with my affinity to dance to Bieber songs in hot divey bars and my desire not to sweat.

And to my fellow sweaters out there, you are not alone. I've gone home before midnight, I've lied to friends about feeling sick, I have turned down invites because I did not want to put myself in a vulnerable position. And maybe I'm taking myself too seriously. Maybe I should just, as the rappers say, 'make it rain.'

But in a year where I promised to be more honest to myself, I needed to talk through my emotional journey on here. Perspiration is my cross to bear.

Maybe I'm destined to just attend nothing but pool parties where I can secretly sweat in peace and no one will know. Or even desert raves where everyone is just too fucked up to care. Sheila if you're reading this. I'll see you at Splash House in the Spring, or who knows maybe some day I will learn to talk to women without drunkenly jumping around like an idiot to poppy tunes on a Saturday night.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Birthday Week


I don't know how it happened but I turned 30. I'm not happy about it.

Somehow the guy that has a blog about three day hangovers, about staying up all night, step by step instructions on how to ghost a chick, detailed accounts of drug and alcohol benders...

I can't believe it either.

I suppose I'm not actually 30 yet. I still have about two weeks of telling girls at the bars I'm in my 20's, two weeks of feeling OK about flirting with Seniors in college because half my age plus 7 is 22 if I round down and of course two weeks of planning my funeral aka 30th birthday.

I have a storied history of botching important birthdays.

In 1997 for my 10th birthday my friend Todd Wollack invited me to a taping of the Reggie Miller show. I came down with horrendous strep throat and had to miss the taping. I remember watching on TV and crying when Todd got to ask Reggie a question. Todd asked Reggie if he knew our mutual friend Drew Storen.

'Ya I know Drew!'

Jesus, what a stupid fucking question Todd.

Years later, when I was a Pacers ball boy I would often tell Reggie this story during his pregame warm ups.

"I don't get it," he would always say. "You get to see me like twice a week now. You know how many kids would kill to rebound for me? I gave you a pair of shoes last week, who cares about a stupid local talk show?"

I cared Reggie.

In 2005, I spent my 18th birthday in Virginia skiing Snowshoe Mountain with my two best friends on the Cathedral Ski Trip. All we wanted to do all day was ski and then smoke black and milds in the hot tub as 18 year olds are wont to do. Of course I left my driver's license in Indiana.

In 2008, my first night in Italy studying abroad, I turned 21, not that they give a fuck in Italy, but I gave a fuck. I made a Tri Delt make me a shot paddle and I drank all god dam 21 of those shots before we even left our hotel. I then proceeded to fall down the stairs of noted shitty Florence night club YAB (You are Beautiful) and got detained in a coat closet until they could find one of my friends to carry me home.

The point is (aside from lots of humble bragging) that I'm almost certainly going to fuck up my 30th. If we go to Vegas I'll probably pull a Jarret Stoll. If we go to Mammoth, I will almost certainly break an ankle and die on the mountain. Part of me thinks maybe I should just go the bars, black out and wake up on the floor of my apartment like I always do. Birthdays suck, the people that make a big deal out of them suck worse and at this point, who the hell wants to come celebrate a new decade of my terrible behavior?

Then one day I was driving around listening to Pardon My Take when noted 'scrappy' running back Danny Woodhead was the guest. After fucking around for a while Big Cat and PFT brought up the idea of 'Birthday Week.'

I turned the dial a little louder as I was turning into the Universal lot with 15 writers' lunches.

As it turns out Big Cat, PMT and Danny Woodhead were all born within a week of each other, the last week in January. I cocked my eye because I too am born the last week in January...the 29th to be exact. My 30th birthday would be the Super Bowl this year if it weren't for the asinine bye week to air the Pro Bowl and allow the media proper time to get to Houston.

Big Cat and PMT will be spending the week prior to the Super Bowl partying it up in Houston the week before the big game and everything hit me at once in an astounding moment of clarity...

My purpose on this earth is and always has been to join Big Cat, PFT and Danny Woodhead (and of course Hank) at birthday week 2017.

So please esteemed hosts of Pardon My Take, hear this as my feeble plea to join you on your adventure. I don't bring a ton to the table. I'm tall so I can reach things, that's an underrated talent. I also have a history of sleeping in horrible conditions so I wouldn't mind sleeping on the floor or sharing a cot with Hank. I've been told that I'm a somewhat good hang and I rarely say no to anything.

You would also get the full power of the following behind this blog, a pathetic 400 readers, but that's conceivably 400 new award winning listeners to keep that pesky Bill Simmons podcast at bay on the sports charts. Also by adding a fourth birthday guy we would be upping the birthday swag by 33%.

Maybe we could make PMT shirts that all said "Blow me, it's my birthday" and then there was a little cupcake with a candle on it. It's a hilarious double entendre, the people in Houston would love it. Full disclosure, we may get sued. I stole that idea from a bar in Bloomington. You know what? Fuck it, the management there liked me, I'm sure they would let it fly.

I've never been to Houston but I'm sure we could get into a fair amount of trouble and have a good time. Maybe this is just the break I need for my entire writing career to take off, it sure has the feel of a movie doesn't it? Unemployed writer takes too much Adderall on a Wednesday afternoon and invited himself to the Super Bowl with his favorite podcast hosts? I bet @Kcrittenberger would watch it.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Long story short I'm appealing to your senses of spontaneity. Wouldn't it be hilarious to bring some random dude from Venice Beach to birthday week? I mean what is the worst that could happen? Some connecting the dots, some locker room talk? I suppose we could all get arrested, but that would probably make for a better story anyway right? Think of it as a good deed. A Make A Wish for some idiot who is finally going to be forced to enter adulthood after this week. You do this one thing for me and I'll promise not to suck.

In closing, I do not wash my apples. The most famous person in my phone is Mindy Kaling, but there is a better chance Ike Barinholtz will answer. Cheers boys, hope to see you in Texas.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Someone in the Crowd



The last thing the internet needs is another think piece on La La Land as a movie. While one interpretation is that it is a perfect LA Story, a cynical reading is that it's about two kinda flaky people that dated and then broke up in the face of adversity.

Then again, isn't that the perfect LA story?

Something that is often brought up about New York but less so Los Angeles is the uncertainty of it all. The possibilities on a night out in New York are endless, mainly because it is the city that never sleeps. You could end up watching the sun rise in Montauk. You could go on all night scavenger hunt looking for a secret show that your favorite band is playing. You could steal your father's cab, have sex with a drug addict and get accused of murder.

The same however, goes for Los Angeles. You could end up on a yacht in the marina, a palace in the canyons doing shrooms with Zac Effron. You could end your night sucking Quentin Tarntino's toes.

In fact I'm sure everyone that has ever lived in Los Angeles has THAT story; a night that began so innocent and through some unforeseen twists and turns ended as one that you will never forget. Maybe there were celebrities involved, possibly alcohol, ok definitely a lot of alcohol.

I never had these feelings when I lived in Indiana, Chicago even Europe. About the most exciting place I woke up in Europe was the back of an Italian ambulance and most of my nights in Chicago ended at 5 o clock in the morning as I was finishing my French Dip at Nookies Too and trying to remember the name of the girl I was with.

Not that those aren't exciting in their own right, but I firmly believe there is a magic to New York and Los Angeles, the unexpected nature of every single night which the song 'Someone in the Crowd' perfectly encapsulates. If you are unfamiliar, I'll briefly break it down for you.

Emma Stone's Mia comes home from a bad audition and an all around shitty day. Her three gorgeous actor-y roommates try to cheer her up by telling her they scored a sweet invite to a party in the hills. She declines, but after they dance around her swigging Rose for about 15 seconds she gives into peer pressure and joins them. The house party is kinda cool, someone jumps off the roof into the pool fully clothed (that would be me) she loses her friends and her car gets towed.

Shitty.

But then she walks down Franklin and hears Ryan Gosling playing the piano inside a jazz club and that starts the entire events of the film in motion.

Magic.

Now obviously this is a plot device to push the story forward, but it parallels the decision making process of everyone I know in Los Angeles.

***

Friday night I had agreed (with myself) to take it easy. I got back from an interview and met up with a friend to catch up and have cocktails. I get a call from a buddy telling me they are planning a big night in Hollywood.

I politely declined because I am an adult that doesn't give into peer pressure. The next stop is a small dinner party where I'm having polite conversation about travel, wedding planning and the sort. It is all very mature, I feel good about my life decisions.

But also...there's a little voice in the back of my head saying...

"You got your invitation, you got the right address
you need some medication? The answer's always yes..."

NO! Shut up, stop it Emma Stone's attractive roommates. I am at a dinner party in Santa Monica. I am going to drink a responsible amount and wake up tomorrow feeling great. Then I may even go for a Saturday morning run. It's going to be wonderful. Then I can watch football guilt free and maybe make a chicken salad, that would be cool!
"A little chance encounter could be the one you've waited for"

See that's not even a good argument voice in my head. If I go to Hollywood, I'm going to end up playing blackjack with 3 dudes, wagering shots of whiskey. It's not like I'm going to see any famous people. I'll be blacked out by 10 o clock and probably end up on a couch. Now leave me alone, I'm learning about the difference between a Doula and a Midwife. It's fascinating.

"Tonight we're on a mission, tonight's the casting call, if this is the real audition..."
Oh god, the Doula makes the placenta into a smoothie?

"Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know, the one to finally lift you off the ground.  Someone in the crowd could take you where you want to go, if you're the someone ready to be found..."
 Ok, maybe just Ubering to Hollywood wouldn't be that bad of an idea. UberX is so cheap now and I just won that benefit review. I can go have a couple drinks at my buddy's place.

This will be fine.

So I'm literally sitting there on an apartment off Sunset Blvd playing blackjack for shots of whiskey (called it!) It's midnight, still a pretty tame night. I suppose it's MLK weekend. Everyone I know is celebrating a great black man by doing the whitest thing possible by skiing in Mammoth. Not like much will be going on in LA.

"Let's go to Soho House."

Ok this could be fun, we'll have some cocktails, play a board game, go fuck around in the photo booth. Soho House LA isn't like the one in Chicago where you can be a fraud on the first floor, you have to be a member to enter at all. I shouldn't turn down an opportunity to go on a Friday night. Maybe we'll see someone famous.

We exit the Uber and walk into an elevator that opens into an opulent reception with vaulted ceilings at the top of a tower in West Hollywood. No one there necessarily knows who you are but there is a lowered guard like a pregame. You either are a big deal or you know someone who is. That said, you can pretend to be anyone you want to be.

We ascend the stairs into a lively bar full of Hollywood elites stumbling around with glasses of champagne, women in short dresses, wannabe writers drunkenly pitching scripts and of course a bunch of guys like me who are just happy to be there.

As I float from one room to the next, I subconsciously juxtapose this life with the times I sneak a flask into Canal Club. I do not belong here.

But no one knows.

I could play for the LA Kings. I could be a senior creative at 72 and Sunny. Fuck it I could probably convince half the girls in here that I'm Damien Chazelle.

"Want a shot man?"

I snap out of my own personal dream sequence and remember that I'm with my friends. A couple of them have already split off in conversations with strangers. I come back to Earth and I take one. I take another. So much for taking it easy tonight.

"Come on man. There is another bar where the kids hang out.

"Kids?"

"Well you know what I mean...LA kids"

(LA kids refers to people 21-35 I guess)

I descend a spiral staircase, go through a dark hallway, take a twist, another turn, WHY ARE THERE TREES IN HERE, up a staircase, down a staircase, did I get back in an elevator, maybe past a screening room until I come across a dark curtain.

"Come on, push through."

At this point the shots and the several whisky drinks have caught up with me.

For a moment before I move the curtain aside, it's quiet. I've never been in this portion of the building before. I didn't know it existed.

But then I pull the heavy black cloth and see a bunch of people that look like me, dancing, screaming girls spilling drinks all over each other on a slightly raised stage. And wouldn't you fucking know it...they were all jumping and singing every single word to...

"Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know, the someone who could lift you off the ground. Someone in the crowd could take you where you wanna go, if you're the someone ready to be found."

I rolled my eyes. Only in Los Angeles would a bunch of rich white kids dance to a musical number about how awesome it is that on a random Friday night you could go out and meet the person that could make you famous. But then someone handed me a drink and I took it and disappeared into the crowd.

Oh fuck is that Lea Michele over there? I guess I gotta find out, you know, for the story. Wait, is someone playing with my hair? Oh God, I've done it. I've given in to the inner musical monologue in my head and gotten shitfaced. DAMN YOU EMMA STONE!

Next thing you know my mind fades to black and I wake up on the floor of my apartment. My wallet is gone and my roommates are staring at me. The sadness kicks in.

"Is someone in the crowd the only thing you really see, watching while the world keeps spinning round..."
I should have stayed in. I would still have a wallet, my head wouldn't be throbbing...and

BUZZ BUZZ

What now, not my phone. It's probably going to be someone I wronged. Puked on their shoes, left them at the bar...fuck maybe I drunk texted an ex...

310 number: 'Hey, it was fun meeting you last night. We should hang out some time. Smiley face'

I met someone...and she (presumably) sent me a smiley face...that means...that it was a positive encounter?

And now there is sheet music playing in my head.

Ab Ab Ab Bb C Bb Bb Bb C D Eb Eb Eb

quite slow at first....but now its speeding up.

and it's starting to crescendo 

Duh Duh Duh Duhhhhh Du Duh Duh Duhhhhh Duh

"Someone in the crowd could take you, someone in the crowd could make you, flying off the ground, if you're someone ready to be foooooooooooounnnnnnnd!"
God Los Angeles is weird. Someone get me a water while I debate whether or not to text back that number.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Dream Girl


I almost died yesterday.

Wow, that's a dramatic way to start off a post. But it's true! Let's back up.

Yesterday morning I was laying in bed watching weather updates on my phone as I witnessed massive weather systems moving in over mammoth, Big Bear and even Mountain High. I cursed the gods that my current financial situation and lack of employment was preventing me from a long weekend full of constant powder shredding.

I pulled up Twitter and saw that basically everyone I know was already driving North and as I do so often I took action with absolutely zero planning. I threw my skis in the back seat of my Mini Cooper, dug my boots out of the depths of our Winter Closet and started driving toward Mountain High.

I may not be able to drop $1000 on lift tickets and a chalet this weekend bu god dammit I can afford $30 night skiing. I saw advisories on the road about slick conditions but really gave no thought to it. I grew up in Indiana, I am a professional at the E-break power slide through snow.

I started seeing signs informing me that 'Chains are required' just east of Palmdale and took this as more of a suggestion. As I started to scale the mountains outside of Wrightwood, the driving rain turned to near white out conditions. I was in the middle of a blizzard. Still no problem.

Around 4 o clock, my Apple Maps (yes, I will drive 3 hours to go skiing by myself but I'm too lazy to download Google Maps. i am a sociopath) asked me if I would like to shave 2 minutes off my journey by taking a new route.

Fuck ya I want an extra 2 minutes on the mountain. DETOUR IT IS. I turned off onto a road called Big Pine Rd, there was a police officer there signaling me to roll down my window.

"Hey you need to put on your chains. It gets nasty ahead."

Now a prudent person would have done one of three things.

- "I don't have chains officer. Do you know where I can get some?"
- "I don't have chains officer. Is there a safer way to the mountain that doesn't require chains?"
- "Fuck this I'm going home."

So what did I do?

"I have all wheel drive."

That's a lie. I have used tires and a failing traction system. But I blew past anyway and began climbing the steep narrow pass. Cars all around me, some 4x4 with chains failed to stay on the road. Stranded motorists were everywhere, but I kept climbing. No force on this Earth would prevent me from getting my ski selfie on instagram this weekend. My GPS informed me that I had less than a mile to go...and that's when it happened.

I started slipping. I lost traction, my wheels were spinning but I was not moving. I was on an uphill climb with no control of my car...and of course there was now a large plowtruck blasting toward me as I was drifting into his lane. There was no doubt in my mind that the large metallic blade on the front of his trailer would rip through my tiny car and me so fast the driver wouldn't know what happened. I tried to brake, I tried to honk but it was too late. Impact was imminent. An unsafe solo drive up a snowy mountain, just to get a photo with 50 likes.

My life flashed before my eyes. I was destined for greatness they said (they being my mom and maybe one other person) and I'll end up dead from a driving accident shy of 30. Maybe my friends will get together on January 12th and get really drunk together and take a shot of Fireball in remembrance of me. 10 years from now I'll just be a hazy memory. I thought of all the things I didn't accomplish. professional failures, personal shortcomings. I never even had a Facebook official girlfriend. I tried to picture the face of a person i could have spent the rest of my life with and I thought of...

Belle.

Ya, the character from beauty and the Beast.

No not Emma Watson playing Belle. It would be less weird to be into a beautiful woman dressed as a princess in a yellow dress.

I spent my last moment on Earth thinking about a piece of 2D animation from 26 years ago.

At the last minute my tires caught and I drifted harmlessly into a snow bank as the plow passed by. As soon as my heart stopped racing and I caught my breath I turned around, drove back down the mountain and asked the police officer a safer way to get to the mountain...

It was my original intended route. Fuck you Apple Maps.

I got to the mountain and strapped into my skis but as I boarded the first lift I couldn't shake the fact that in my last moments on Earth I was thinking about a fictitious character and the life we could have lived together. I started thinking of other ideal fictional characters to choose as a mate...and well this intro has gone on long enough so let's just get to the list.

Jasmine- I forget 99% of the things that people tell me, but a man named Bill Larkin once told me to marry up. And I fully intend on doing so. There is no chance I will pop the question to any girl whose father doesn't have a net worth 4x that of my family. Jasmine certainly checks that box. And while the life of a Middle Eastern royal could be a little sketch (coups, suicide bombers, living in the middle east) many governments there still act as absolute monarchies...like what England had in the 1300s where a king could order you killed and shit. That kind of power would be dope.

Furthermore, Jasmine is obviously the most beautiful of all the Disney princesses and seems like a homie too. Jasmine is 'cool girl' from Gone Girl without the murderous tendencies. She will watch football, eat pizza, have morning sex, all while maintaining a size zero. Also she has a pet tiger which is always a plus.

Hermione Granger - Hermione is kind of like the girl that grew up next door that you were always friends with. She was kind of annoying but then one day you realize that you've been in love with her all along. Also both of her parents are dentists and dentists are low key rich af. Aside from being a total babe, Hermione is also arguably one of the most knowledgeable if now powerful witches in the world, seems like a good person to have on your side.

I also consider it a benefit that Hermione is a mudblood. If the magic world ever completely went to shit we could just move in with her Muggle cousin in Chelsea and get fucked up at Tiger Tiger on weekends. You could do worse.

Crysta the fairy
Oh you didn't think Fern Gully would make the list? How dare you sleep on my girl who has been rocking the off the shoulder look since '92. I think as someone that has been tasked with protecting the rain forest, Crysta would appeal to lots of my outdoorsy sensibilities. She would be equally happy hiking Machu Picchu as she would shredding Aspen Mountain.

Bonus points for being able to fly and shrink things. As someone who has always been tall I think I would get a kick out of navigating some small spaces.

Jessica Jones
I mean, she just gets it. Wanna bust out some narcotics on a special occasion? She's down. Knock back four bottles of wine on a casual Tuesday? WINE NOT! I'm sure a relationship with JJ wouldn't be without its flaws. She may throw me through a wall from time to time, but isn't that what keeps love interesting?

Yuna from Final Fantasy X
Nevermind, this is getting too nerdy.

April from Definitely, Maybe
Believe it or not, before Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds had a career and this may be his best rom-com. In the movie he essentially spends his 20's deciding which of 3 women to marry and part of the frustrating part of this movie is that April (played by Isla Fisher) is CLEARLY the best. Now this may seem like a cop out, because I could just list actresses that I'm obsessed with and name their characters. I would counter that April from Definitely Maybe > Gloria Cleary from Wedding Crashers (though I wouldn't mind that Christopher Walken $$$)

Serena van der Woodsen
'You can't be worse than the guys I do know.' Words she says before going on a date with a complete stranger show the reckless and spontaneous to a fault character traits I love about Serena. Serena wouldn't have tried to talk me out of driving up a mountain yesterday. In fact, when we got stuck she would have probably argued that we should leave the car and then fly to France, spending the next three months boozing in Nice.

Now that's a girl after my heart.

Marissa Cooper
The entire point of The O.C. season 4 is that Marissa was broken beyond saving but I still think I could fix her. I could whisk her away from The OC all the way to Venice Beach where my roommate Sarah could get her a job at Bungalow and we could surf on the weekends and have fun dinners with our good friends Seth and Summer EVERYTHING WOULD BE FUCKING SWELL.

But poor Marissa just couldn't stay away from trouble; Oliver, Alex, VOLCHOK, Trey UGH. Honestly, compared to that lot I am a wholesome gentleman...and I know she has a thing for guys in puka shells.


Princess Zelda
Did you know that through EIGHTEEN games, Link has not yet kissed Princess Zelda? I sometimes don't get through the first song when I'm with a girl on the dance floor. What the hell is wrong with him, shy? Performance Anxiety? Is Link secretly gay?

Fun fact: I started a live action Zelda script like 4 years ago with Zac Efron playing Link...but he was basically Troy Bolton, just better than everyone at everything. I think that movie would have made a billion dollars. But anyway Zelda is a babe and Hyrule is dope. I would love to dick around a castle all day riding horses and shooting monsters with my bow.

Ok I need one more. Should I go Keira Knightley from Love Actually? No you guys are sick of me talking about that. What about Amy Adams from Enchanted? No I've already got too much animation. People are going to start assuming I'm into Hentai. Oh...I know. I'll go super topical.

Mia from La La Land
I'm sure I'm not the first to point this out, but the ending of La La Land is hilarious if you assume it takes place in a shared universe with That Thing You Do! Mia ends up married to a guy who had a huge hit in the 90's and then led a successful career as a session drummer. No word on whatever happened to Liv Tyler.

But isn't this the most realistic option? I'm just a guy struggling to make it happen in LA. She wants to be a star and then we live happily ever after. PLUS eskimo bros with Ryan Gosling!

Ok this column needs to end, this has been very strange, but I suppose this is a window into the mind of a preoccupied writer on the slopes after a near death experience. Please carry tire chains with you this winter.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My 10 Favorite TV shows of 2016


I made two drastic mistakes in the past 48 hours. The first was not booking a round trip flight to Iceland for the first weekend of Coachella. Sure I don't have a job right now and it would be woefully irresponsible to plan international travel without one but I know exactly what is going to happen.

I'm going to get a job in the next two weeks. The round trip flight to Iceland will have jumped from $250 to $700. I'll end up going to Coachella instead in April to see a bunch of bands I don't like because it's something to do. Ten years from now I will not remember what song Beyonce closed with on Saturday night but I would have remembered the one night stand with a Shieldmaiden (girl viking) that bought me 20 beers on a wild night out in Reykjavic. It will haunt me the rest of my life.

Alas, I suppose there will be cheap flights to Iceland again some day.

The second mistake I made was forgetting one of the best movies of the year in Everybody Wants Some!! Honestly my list of pretentious bullshit can go eat a bag of dicks. The only movies from 2016 that you need to concern yourself with are La La Land, Sing Street and Everybody Wants Some!! Everything else was melodramatic and depressing. But I won't screw up again. I'm not a movie guy anymore, I'm a TV guy, so I promise you this list will be much much better. Here are my favorite seasons of tv from 2016.

A few things to get out of the way first:

-Outside of The Bachelor franchise, no reality was considered. Reality television is garbage for garbage people. I would rather watch Overwatch porn than the Great British Bake Off. I would rather read 1000 think pieces on Trump and the Russians before submitting myself to an episode of The Voice. I watch the Bachelor because it is a reason to drink wine on Mondays and distract myself from how far away the weekend is.

-I don't watch anything on network TV. I didn't watch This is US. I'm not going to watch it. The twist is that the dude who lost the OJ trial was adopted by white parents? Neat. And Bubbles from The Wire is involved? I seem to hear there is a sub plot about a fat person not wanting to be fat, I'll be sure to put that in my next pilot to really tug at the heart strings. Network tv has been taking some risks lately, especially in the sci fi and fantasy genre and I'm really pulling for it in 2017. I'm going to give Emerald City a shot, I want 24 to be dope again, but in 2016 network tv was atrocious.

-I don't watch Girls or Transparent because they are extremely realistic shows about shitty people and they remind me too much of my real life.

10 (tie)Love - Netflix
10 (tie)Narcos- Netflix

I'll start by saying this. Love is not a good show. It features extremely unlikable characters acting terribly to one another.

But.

It also has a scene in the pilot where a Studio Teacher living in the Oakwood has a threesome with two Ithaca students 'studying abroad' in LA. If you are familiar with the entertainment industry or Los Angeles at all that joke works on about 5 levels for you.

If you are not, it is just an unrealistic scene with some dorky loser scoring with two hot chicks and that is why I both cannot believe this show got made and also can't get enough of it.
I can't wait for season two where a writer's PA demands a story by credit on a back nine script or he will go to the Writer's Guild with the fact that the 'native american' diversity staff writer forged his Tribe Enrollment card.

Narcos is also a bad show. It features more exposition and voice over than a community college student's first 80 page screenplay.

But.

Shows about cocaine are awesome and Wagner Moura is the tits. Check him out in a couple of my favorite Brazilian films Elite Squad and Elite Squad 2. No, they are not quite as good as City of God or City of Men, but they get close and remind me never to visit Rio.


9. You're The Worst -FXX

Another show about shitty people living in Silverlake, but this one does it in an endearing and humanizing way that I think shows like Girls and Transparent have failed in. This show exists one absurdity level removed from real life putting it in between a show like Always Sunny and the hyper-realism of Girls. Furthermore, this show really does great work with fleshing out its secondary and tertiary characters and somehow provides a lot of laughs and heart when addressing issues such as addiction and mental health.

Also I'm in love with Aya Cash

8. Search Party - TBS

Search Party is the result of some fascinating crossbreeding of genres. What if we took the terrible people trope (which is clearly a hot thing right now in television, or at least shows you my tastes) and set it against a back drop of a very earnest mystery?

What we get is some sort of Serial season one meets Arrested Development? Or perhaps I can just only see Alia Shawkat in that role. Tune in for some truly raunchy jokes (There is a sex scene in the pilot that almost gave me a heart attack I laughed so hard) stick around for the strangely compelling story.

7. Flea Bag - Amazon

You've probably read about it at this point, hipster adaptation of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's own one woman show. At 6 episodes and under three hours of total run time, I would say you could easily knock this out in an evening, but there are parts of this show that take an unflinching look at modern life in London, that make me have to walk away for a moment. The show features a young woman (fleabag) navigating her life as a young woman and in this case it features sex scenes that would make Joe Swanberg blush, but the show certainly made me laugh, I really enjoyed its usage of the fourth wall and this is just a bit of a spoiler alert, I'm a sucker for British TV.

6. Westworld- HBO

There isn't much I can say about Westworld that hasn't yet been said. Thandie Newton was a 1:5 favorite at the Golden Globes and lost. That's a bigger upset than the Browns beating the Patriots straight up on a moneyline. So maybe people didn't actually like this show as much as I thought, but I found the set-up and eventual payoff of this show very satisfying.

It would be easy to draw parallels to another Crichton inspired piece of art in Jurassic Park. Cool futuristic idea, exploited for profit, chaos ensues. If you are new to this show, which sets lifelike robots up in a wild west amusement park for the rich and famous, I would urge you to stick through the earlier slower episodes.

When you eventually reach the finale, I believe you will find the last crescendo to be quite cathartic.

5. Game of Thrones - HBO

As Ringer staffer Juliet Litman said on my favorite podcast 'The Watch' this week, 'They make a movie every week.' And it's true comparing Game of Thrones to other tv shows feels unfair, like pitting gods against mere mortals and yet it lost the Golden Globe last week to a low stakes show about Queen Elizabeth called 'The Crown.' That's because we have come to expect greatness from 'Game of Thrones.' Year after year it is the mark of consistency. This year's episode 9 gave us a war movie the likes we haven't seen since Braveheart and in episode 10 showed the rise of a truly perfect villain.

Enjoy these last 13 episodes my friends because it is going to be a long time before we see a fantasy show as strong as the gift that Benioff and Weiss gave us.

4. Love Sick - Netflix

This is a show that only the people that stalk my Facebook timeline will be familiar with so I'll give you a bit of a set-up.

Dylan goes to the doctor and finds out he has chlamydia. As such he has to call every sexual partner he has ever had and urge them to get tested. What follows is a list of self contained episodes told primarily in flashback to the time Dylan met each female while also juxtaposing with Dylan's current struggle to deal with friends, relationships and adulthood.

If you love rom coms, specifically those in the vein of Four Weddings and a Funeral you will love this show. Originally called Scrotal Recall, Netflix wisely renamed it. A bit of a three hander (3 main characters) I'm not sure you can find a more likable cast on TV right now.

3. The Night Of - HBO

2016 really was the year of Riz Ahmed, a star making performance in The Night Of, a blockbuster turn in Rogue One and his rap group even got a verse on the Hamilton mixtape. You can imagine my surprise when ya boi pops up in Britt Morling's The OA as an FBI agent. Riz MC stays busy!

But the show...it's not perfect, but as far as crime based procedurals, it doesn't get much better. All of the performances from the police, Naz's parents and of course Jesus and Omar, my God, they were magnificent. By the end of the season I didn't care if he was guilty or not, I was just sad I would no longer get to see John Torturro do battle with a cat.

2. The People V OJ Simpson - FX
I've long had a love/hate relationship with Ryan Murphy. Love: first season of Glee Hate: All other seasons of Glee Love: The Idea of American Horror Story Hate: Whatever the hell Scream Queens is supposed to be. (Which was based on the cunt punt girl which I too wrote a pilot about)

Say what you will about Mr. Murphy's writing, but he has a preternatural ability to direct and cast talent. When I heard that David Schwimmer would be portraying Robert Kardashian and  John Travolta playing Robert Shapiro CUBA AS OJ!?!? I couldn't wait to see how much of a train wreck it would be. What followed was an enchanting re-examination of a case I was barely old enough to remember yet captivated me the entire way. Courtney B Vance should be in everything moving forward.

A quick honorable mention before we move on to a truly great episode of Black Mirror in San Junipero. While the season had ups (San Junipero, Playtest) and downs (Nosedive and to a lesser extent Shut up and Dance) San Junipero was a truly incredible hour of television. For those unfamiliar with Black Mirror it's another British import that imagines life in a not too distant future. San Junipero focuses on...well let's just call it a very very real VR world where you can chose to spend the rest of your life instead of dying. What follows is a fantastic love story that traverses decades of space, time and dimensions. Even if you aren't into Sci-Fi, it's worth checking out.

I'd also like to do a quick honorable mention for Peaky Blinders which continues to be bad ass and also a shout out to Gilmore Girls year in the life. I like the experimentation with format and I hope other tv shows consider it moving forward. But without further ado...

1. Stranger Things - Netflix
When the trailer for Stranger things (fka Montauk) dropped in June, I had a feeling we might be in for something special. Some waved it off as a couple film school nerds doing their best impression of JJ Abrams doing his best impression of Steven Spielberg, what followed was the surprise hit of the year.

Say what you will about Winona Ryder's complete batshittery, but there is just something about little kids in the 80's going on an adventure that will always suck me in. The show features an incredibly talented and incredibly likable young cast that made viewing the show just a real pleasure. (Let's just hope we're not all sick of their overexposure by the time season 2 rolls around.)

And enough cannot be said about filmmakers The Duffer Brothers who are trukly young rising stars trying to do something different in an industry full of reboots and existing IP. I don't think I had a more enjoyable 8 hours this summer than following around the Strangers Things kids and Davod Harbour trying to figure what in the fuck the department of energy was up to.

Oh and Barb sucked and the right boyfriend won.

Looking forward to more great television in 2017, thanks for checking out my picks!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Audition


There's a man wearing a bath robe. There is a guy in full Native American head dress. Perhaps he is proud of his heritage, maybe he's just trying to be memorable.

The guy next to me is holding a cane, so he's either a hippy or a pimp. Check that, he has Lyme disease. Holy fuck Lyme Disease makes you require a cane? This is why I camp in the desert, no ticks at Joshua Tree.

I'm pretty sure Robby from the Bachelorette is here. How far has his star fallen in the last three months. He was in a honeymoon suite with Jojo Fletcher and now he is here with me at an open casting call for a TV Dinner brand.

They call numbers, mine is 262. People go in for their 'interview' or sometimes a casting PA taps you. I think this means you are special or something. But one of the guys that got tapped was literally wearing cargo pants, maybe these people are just being told to leave.

I don't know what possessed me to come here, the story I suppose, certainly it has given me a degree of empathy. I understand now how soul crushing it can be to attempt a life as an actor. Any time I am up for a job or some sort of writing pitch, I imagine the absolute maximum amount of people I'm competing with is 9. 1 in 10 chance, not great odds, but certainly a chance nonetheless.  In here there are hundreds of people, some look like me, some do not, but the truth is there is probably about a 1 in 1000 chance that any person in here will secure this gig.

They just called number 240, shit man. Still 22 away. The guys next to me are all becoming best friends, I legitimately think one of them just suggested they form an improv group. He's got almost 800 followers on Twitter but if they collaborated maybe they could double it! Meanwhile all I want to do is smash some Taco Bell and go watch last night's episode of The Bachelor.

Why the hell didn't I bring a book? Or download a podcast. Instead I'm staring at my phone trying desperately not to make eye contact with any bored thespian that might want to strike up a conversation with me. I peek again at my information form:

Height: Tall
Hair: Blonde
Hand Size: Um big enough to hold a basketball?
Brain Color: (oooh what zany answers are they expecting here) haven't checked
Three words that describe you:  Currently Over This

I've done this before you know...not a casting call of sorts, but real professional acting. I was working on a movie once and an actor called in sick. The producers panicked, 'THE BUNNY CALLED IN SICK!!!! WHAT WILL WE DO? THE BUNNY COSTUME WILL ONLY FIT SOMEONE WHO IS 6'4!!! WHERE WILL WE FIND A TALL MAN IN LA ON NO NOTICE??"

Uh what?

All eyes were on me as I was instructed to drop the craft services in my hand and put on the bunny costume. I killed three people that day, two by axe and I was paid a $300 bump to my regular PA wages. For real, check me out playing a murderous bunny on 'The Houses That October Built." It's a micro budget horror movie on Netflix.

The worst part of my current predicament though has to be the fact that I am rotting away in the valley, which means after I do NOT get this commercial spot I will have an additional hour to drive home. Honestly if North Korea wants to conduct their nuclear test at the intersection of Victory and Alameda, by all means go ahead.

Everyone is on their phones telling their friends they are at an 'audition.' I chortle as in my mind an audition implies you were invited to come perform your craft. This was an open casting call posted on the internet for a Superbowl commercial featuring DEVOUR frozen foods, a glorified TV dinner for men that comment on r/GoneWild.

'Ya mama, it's a national ad...this could be huge for me!'

I was finally called in for an interview, along with one other hopeful named Pierre. Pierre was French Canadian and did not speak English. The young casting associate in front of us simply said 'Pretend like you just had the world's greatest bite of Mac and cheese.'

Well I have eaten lots of Mac N Cheese in my day. I would peg my consumption of Kraft Mac N Cheese boxes in the low thousands. It is one of 3 foods I would allow my mother to cook for me as a child (chicken nuggets and Lunchables Pizza)

I knew this was a super bowl commercial because one of my advertising friends had suggested I go, with this info in mind I did a touchdown dance. The casting associate seemed unimpressed.

Pierre's performance was much more memorable. He fell to the ground and had a seizure and then feigned death to the point that the casting associate flew out of the room to call for help.

Pierre popped up smiling.

'So good you die!'

Advertising must be wild in Quebec.

As I return to the waiting area there is a short man hitting his head against the wall fighting back tears.

"I CHOKED I CHOKED! I SHOULD HAVE GONE BIGGER!

A man with glasses consoles him.

"You can't Monday Morning Quarterback yourself bud. Every performance is unique."

A slight gay man walks out looking very confident. He tells me he thinks he nailed it because he has done the entire UCB improv program and is now in an independent study with a professional acting coach. Part of me is impressed by his confidence, I don't have the heart to tell him that I  think he might not be the target market for microwaveable dinners. 

A little later a production assistant came and found me and told me I had been released. I walked out of the office curious if I had just wasted two hours of my life or if it had been a fun character building experience. I looked down the hallway to see a room full of large black men sitting in a lounge.  This was the holding room for people that had advanced to the next round.

'Guess they wanted diversity this time. And they're doing open calls in Houston, Miami and New York City today too."

I look up and it's...holy shit it's Robby.

"Hey man, did you seal the deal in the honeymoon suite?"

He looked at me puzzled for a moment and then a sly grin.

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."

"Sorry, thought you were someone else."

As I leave my first ever commercial audition feeling like a dejected Emma Stone. Today will not be my big Hollywood break. I see the following sign. Follow us on Twitter and take a box of buffalo chicken mac and cheese to go!

I grabbed a box and I gotta be honest with you...that shit was dope.


Monday, January 9, 2017

My 10 Favorite Films of 2016


I woke up this morning with no internet and no hot water. I've had a few bad breaks lately and the old me would have taken this as a sign that the world was conspiring against me. I would have gone back to bed and stare at the ceiling while I let the crippling anxiety wash over me in a cathartic way. Similar to the days I would skip class if my horoscope was below a 4, it's easy to take something small and let it snowball into a stress monster that can ruin your whole week.

But I called the internet company and I called the plumber and both problems were resolved quickly. Who knew that if you address your problems head on sometimes they come to amicable conclusions quickly?

Something Dean the plumber said though will stick with me.

"Sorry about the water heater man, did you have to come back to let me in?"

"It's ok, I'm actually not working right now. Just sitting around here being worthless."

"No you're not man, you're here and that's all that matters. I was a class A idiot when I was your age. I watched all the people around me get corporate jobs, families, two story homes and I was living in a tiny apartment. I didn't get my act together until I was 40. I started this plumbing company and now I have a reason to get out of bed every day. Something to take pride in. Every time you start to get a little low just remember that you're out here trying to make something happen. A lot of people said 2016 was a bad year, but it was the best year of my career and I'm only looking forward."

Sage words from Dean, my trusty handyman.

But sometimes in order to look forward, we have to look back and with last night's Golden Globes now in our rearview, now seems like an appropriate time for me to share my favorite films of the year with you. 2016, while not an overly strong year in film was an important one and for all those that sometimes look to me for advice on what to check out, well here you go. Hopefully this goes better than my list of best Christmas movies.

10. Moonlight
While it may seem that I am trolling you right off the bat by not having this film higher, I think Barry Jenkins small indie was a good movie that could have been great with a few adjustments. The pacing of the movie felt strange to me in which we see three actors play a growing man over three thirty minute vignettes. The movie also had a very abrupt conclusion which could have been a creative choice or perhaps a victim of budgetary constraints. That said, Moonlight is an important film and while many will point out its importance in LGBT circles, I found the most devastating portion of the film to be the times it was focusing on the cycle of poverty and the despair of addiction. I can't wait to see what Berry Jenkins does moving forward and Mahershala Ali's 15 minutes on screen may have been my favorite performance of the year.

9. Manchester by the Sea
I'm not sure if this would be the best or worst movie to show to a person with depression because no matter how bad you think you have it, I assure you the protagonist in this film has it worse. Famously developed for Matt Damon, scheduling conflicts did not permit him to eventually star so he implored writer/director Kenneth Lonergan to give his friend Casey Affleck a shot. After seeing the finished product, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the starring role. Whether or not you give credence to the accusations that Casey Affleck behaved inappropriately on the set of 'I'm Still Here' one thing is for certain, this guy is a fantastic dramatic actor. Michelle Williams also gives a brief but heartbreaking performance in the Massachusetts based drama. It is a great film but be warned it will take a lot out of you. My mom bought a ticket to this just because La La Land was sold out. I still don't think she has recovered.

8. Fences
Denzel Washington is truly one of the greatest actors of our generation and Viola Davis proves once again that she is a national treasure. What I found truly striking about watching this film is how many issues of the day (the film takes place in 1950's Pittsburgh) are still relevant now over 60 years later. Family tension and how was chose to express ourselves among those we love most is a truly timeless struggle. I very much look forward to the partnership between Denzel Washington and the film's writer August Wilson (adapted from his own play of the same name.) Denzel has agreed to bring 10 more of August Wilson's stories (all plays dealing with African American life in different decades) to the screen. At age 62, Denzel Washington, who also directed the film, is possibly still peaking in his craft.

7. Nocturnal Animals
It was weird. It was meta. It had a chilling score. But those performances. My God. What is it that makes so much Hollywood talent want to bring their A game for a guy who designs eyewear? But I suppose that isn't fair criticism as Tom Ford is now very much 2 for 2 as a director and any time you assemble talent that includes; Amy Adams, Isla Fisher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Michael Sheen, Aaron Johnson and Laura Linney I'm probably going to have a good time. Artie Hammer was just OK. I'm still not sure I understand the ending, but I'm always going to be a sucker for a film about writing.

6. Hacksaw Ridge
I've always been extremely interested in American History specifically World War II, and I'm also probably the one person in the world who preferred The Pacific to Band of Brothers, this was a movie right up my ally. Furthermore, I've been squarely in Andrew Garfield's corner since I saw the haunting Never Let Me Go seven years ago. You know the story by now, a conscientious objector volunteers for the Army but won't shoot a gun, but it's the second half of the film which largely consists of one sustained battle sequence that really blew me away. Mel Gibson has a long way to go to earn the respect and forgiveness of many, but there is no denying him as an artist. Hacksaw was perhaps the most powerful war film since Saving Private Ryan.

5. Weiner
I enjoy documentaries in the same way I enjoy a podcast. This is some passive entertainment that I can absorb while doing something else with my time, like driving to work or cooking dinner.
Not this film. This had me captivated from the opening scene. As much as we all dove face first into the political machine in 2016, Weiner shows what can happen when a seemingly good guy with personal demons really goes off the rails. I rode a wave of emotion during my hour and a half viewing experience. I'm rooting for him to, actually this guy is a creep...to OMG this clown cost Clinton the election? Required viewing for anyone that has even the faintest interest in political science and a reminder that your 2016 wasn't THAT bad.

4. Hell or High Water
Chris Pine is a lovable anti-hero. Ben Foster is a foul mouthed villain. Jeff Bridges is a grovelly voiced Sheriff. Put this all together and you have a modern day Western/Heist film set against the barren landscape of the sweeping nothingness of West Texas. This film was refreshing for me because I knew absolutely nothing about it going in and proved that you don't always need complex character motivations to drive a story. Sometimes you just need money fast so you rob a bank, or banks in this instance. The film served as a reminder to me of how good writer/director Taylor Sheridan is at playing in a sandbox that combines the classic feel of a Western while updated to Modern Times. Sicario was one of my favorites last year and I am very much looking forward to 2017's Wind River.

3. La La Land
The hot takes are already swarming in about this movie and how overrated it is.
"It's a movie about a guy mansplaining Jazz." "Ryan Gosling can't sing." "Do cell phones not exist in Damien Chazelle's Los Angeles?" "Is Emma Stone's character unaware of how a concert tour works?"
Shut up. All of you. It's a movie about two young adults trying to make something happen for themselves in a city that can simultaneously be so magical and so cruel. Perhaps my plight as a struggling writer living in Venice Beach make me biased. Perhaps the fact that I'm a hopeless romantic who is obsessed with singing and dancing and that blinded me to criticism. Or maybe I saw Emma Stone vowing to stay in on a Friday night before getting dragged out to a party in the hills and I saw every single one of my weekends for the past 5 years. I took issue with the ending, but no one said that in Hollywood everyone lives happily ever after.

2. OJ: Made in America
This feels like a cop out. It is technically a movie and will be eligible for the Oscar come February, but it played out for me like a TV series. That said, it would feel unfair to leave this off my list as OJ Simpson dominated the headlines in 2016, from FX's fantastic dramatic series The People v OJ Simpson to the huge wave of renewed interest in true crime. And whereas I felt unengaged by Pablo Larrain's Jackie (A Jackie Kennedy biopic) because I didn't live through the events, Ezra Edelman's documentary played out in a captivating way showing the rise and fall of a giant; truly an American story. While at times it can feel gross watching the events of a story like this unfold, revelling in the high drama, it serves as a reminder that there is no greater story told than that of real life.

And now with apologies to 20th Century Women, Hidden Figures and Loving (none of which I have seen but I have heard great things!) and further acknowledgements for Arrival, Rogue One and Zootopia (which just missed the list!) we arrive at number one:

1. Sing Street
It was a Tuesday night in April I believe and I was on my couch watching Begin Again for the 7th time. I pulled out my phone to see what Irish writer/director John Carney was up to. He had a new movie apparently: Sing Street. Terrible name, I thought, but it was worthy of checking out the trailer.

Before I had even finished I found the film playing at a local theater at 10:30pm, the only showing of the day. Although I don't typically fancy staying up until 1 am on school nights I couldn't go another day without viewing this film. I was rewarded with perhaps the most charming and hopeful film I saw of 2016. Without giving too much away the story is as such Boy changes schools. Boy meets girl. Boy starts band to impress girl. Chase ensues. Picture School of Rock but set in 1980s Dublin and you should have a general idea of what Sing Street is about. John Carney is consistently putting out films that make me feel something and that is high praise for a medium once thought was meant only to help us escape. At 44 he is just entering his prime as a filmmaker. So do yourself a favor tonight when you get home. Fire up Netflix and then watch Sing Street, I promise you won't turn the soundtrack off for the next couple weeks.

That's it guys! Hope you enjoyed the list, I'll probably be back later in the week to do it for TV which I promise will be a tad more obscure than my film picks.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Venezia

It was a cold February morning when Venice first came into my life.

I awoke like always on a twin mattress in a flat on Viale Matteoti. As I arose I saw on my nightstand (that was actually just a stool) my pay by the minute Italian phone and a half full liter of wine that I had purchased for 1 Euro on my walk home last night, or rather this morning.

I took a swig as one is wont to do 5 days after their 21st birthday at 8am on a Saturday before checking my phone. I had a message.

-Carnivale?

I put my phone away not knowing what to make of it. I stepped out into the common area where 2 of my 9 roommates had awoken. We had no internet or TV but we had boxes of DVDs our parents had sent us. I think Jack was on the couch watching One Tree Hill on his laptop.

'Do you guys know what Carnivale is?'

'It's a party in Venice.'

'When is it?'

'Today. A girl in my wine class said Coolio is supposed to play.'

Now I've never lived my life by many rules, but I think if you have a chance to see 'Gangsta's Paradise' performed in Italy, you have to take it.

Within 15 minutes we were walking to the train station. We hadn't even been in this country for a full week and we were already going on an adventure based on a rumor.

The day, like so many around that time, was full of possibility.

Upon arriving at Venice Santa Lucia it was raining, it was cold, most of the locals looked miserable. But not us, we purchased 2 Euro Zorro masks and disappeared into a crowd of likeminded heathens.

For those that have never been, Venice is a truly ridiculous city, a never-ending labyrinth of logjam pedways and eerie canals. I understand why it has such a bad reputation among tourists. Once you get past the water taxis and gondolas the town is a logistical nightmare. But for three twenty somethings in search of a good time, it was paradise.

We had no map, no plan, no place to stay, just a positive attitude and a general inclination to follow the crowd in front of us. When we finally found St Mark's square we purchased 4 bottles of champagne and began to look for Coolio. Our version of a road trip film, a poor rip off of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.

Along the way we met other travelers who shared our goal.

"I heard he's performing from a gondola."

"I think it's rained out."

"No he's just playing at a random bar."

At some point I slipped and fell into a canal, a right of passage I assume. I drunk dialed my mom because for the first time in my life I was halfway across the world from her and when I could handle no more of Venice's mysterious twists and turns, I demanded that we go for pizza. We were in Italy right?

After a day of pointlessly wandering around a city drinking wine straight from the bottle we decided we better catch the last train back to Florence lest we be forced to pass out under a bridge.

As I waited in line to buy a cup of Sangria from a 10 year old boy outside the train station I finally ran into my friend Amy, the one who had sent the text that started this whole journey.

"Hey, did you guys ever find Coolio?"

"No, turns out he played LAST week."

Of course he did.

***

I was at an Apres Ski at Breckenridge Brewing Company when I found out we had lost our apartment in Venice. We had such high hopes for 2346 Pacific. We were going to put a couch on the roof so that we could watch sunsets over the ocean.

Our future landlord informed us that we had been outbid. But how could we be outbid? We signed a lease.

"Well then i suggest you find a place to live during the 9 months of litigation."

Bluff called.

My roommates and I had 2 days to find a place to live. I had recently moved out of a hippie commune in Encino and they had been evicted from a place in the Hollywood Hills for um...excessive noise.

The Venice Beach experiment was over before it had even started. We would have to do like we did in the Summer of 09 and live in a combination of fraternity houses and 1 star motels.

But then at the 11th hour Jack found an ad on Craigslist for a 3 bedroom unit at 627 Westminster. With myself and Nick at work, jack was the only one that could tour the apartment.

"We have a place to live. The landlord gave the unit with the front yard to this girl, but she seemed cool."

I didn't care about a yard, or a shower or anything. For really the first time in my life I was going to have an apartment with my own room...something everyone should experience by 25. The Venice experiment was back on.

That first night I laid on the floor, I had no mattress, no chair, no desk. I had one suitcase full of everything I owned but I had a 100 square foot bedroom that was all mine. And that's all that mattered.

Things were interesting in those early days. There was a  body found on my block the first three months that I lived here. I soon learned to check the Twitter account Venice311 to find out if the 'fireworks' I heard were actually gunshots. Venice was changing. The old guard that had spent their entire life here was being forced out due to rising costs and gentrification.

Crack was openly dealt two doors down from me and I had the general idea that this really wasn't a safe place. But I never cared. I was paying $800 a month and I could walk to the beach. I made a deal with myself the first year that I would go to the beach every day so that I would never take it for granted.

People would visit, I would show them the colorful people on the boardwalk, the serene majesty of the canals. I would dazzle them with tales of Abbot Kinney the developer who gave us Venice Beach. Show them maps before 'Venice of America' had any roads. Point out the old racetrack for which 'Speedway' bears its namesake and even show them where the old pier had burned down that had given rise to Skateboarding.

Walking past murals of The Doors, Arnold and his muscle beach cronies, down Windward under the glorious 'VENICE' sign tracing the famous steps from the opening shot of 'Touch of Evil' I sang the praises of this strange Bohemian paradise to friends new and old.

Over time the small beach cottages were torn down in favor of large post modern townhouses. Abbot Kinney (the street) became flooded with high end menswear stores and chic dining options from the Pacific Northwest. The long haired surf bums gave way to guys named Chad that work at Google, Snapchat took over my favorite bar and it seemed a place I loved was taking a turn for the worse.

But Venice endured.

For every Silicon Beach bro that moved into town a VNC member would work twice as hard tom preserve our neighborhood's unique history. Development would boost property values for existing owners, reinvigorate long dormant patches. Rose and Washington exploded, rumor is that Lincoln is next.

So while some people 'don't get it' I understand. Perhaps you feel unsafe walking down 3rd at night and seeing a tent camp. Perchance it annoys you that you have to pay a 50 cent tariff to the homeless man that stands outside the 7-11. Maybe you think the streets are too narrow and the character too colorful. It's a bubble they say. Once your friend moves to the west side, they're gone forever. Always West of Lincoln.

Well I would argue that I never leave is because this is where I want to be...where I'm meant to be.

Not a Sunday goes by that I don't crave a slice from Abbot's or at least casually suggest a group outing to Mao's. I knew about the Canal Club/James Beach stamp trick YEARS ago and wrote a television pilot entirely based on Townhouse.

I bike to the Santa Monica pier every Thursday of the summer taking full advantage of the lack of open container laws and I still never miss a chance to catch that sunset in the spring when it dips over those gorgeous mountains.

Ya, Venice is an amazing place with more in common with its namesake than we give it credit for. It's this really odd piece of the world that just so happens to call out to a unique few, and when I'm walking home down Sherman Canal after a turkey burger from Hunan's I understand how lucky I am to be one of those people called Venetian.

I'm coming up on five years here, still at 627 Westminster. Some of the faces change (cycled through 8 roommates!!!) and while the set dressing may change a bit, the city really doesn't,

I still wake up every day and walk down 6th to get a coffee with the same wonder I did when I first showed up in 2012 or when I got off that train 6000 miles away. This truly is a marvelous place. I told myself when I moved here from Indiana that I would not get to LA and stop 5 miles short of the beach.

Well I didn't...and on a clear night sometimes when I'm alone with my thoughts I'll go for a little swim and talk to the moon.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Other Side

I know a person who is in pain. It could be a man, woman, boy or girl.

You may know this person, you may know several. They could have the world if they could just, if even for a moment, get out of their own way.

We forget a lot of things in our lives, some of the good, some of the bad, but most of what we forget is in the in-between. But I remember when I was 14, I said one of the worst things I think I ever said in my life and I'll never forget it.

A girl in my class discussed an uncle that had died of alcoholism in the framework of a conversation about deadly diseases.

"Alcoholism is not a disease," I offered, "It's a problem."

Now this was 15 years ago. I don't remember where we were as a country in regards to mental health, and it's possible that at the time, my opinion was a popular one. Regardless, it was a callous thing to say and one that haunts me to this day.

We never know how we are going to react to something until we go through it. We can prepare, we can brace for impact, but until that moment comes, we never truly know how it will catch us. Many of my friends, friends stronger than me, have had to deal with the loss of loved ones, some expected, others unexpected.

I've watched brave colleagues fight through disease, disease that has no business attacking people so young, but I was truly caught blindsided when addiction came into my life in an unexpected way.

See I am no an addict, at least I don't think I am. I fall into the category of people that like to have a really good time (sometimes too good) but understand when it's time to shut off the jets. As such many of the people I surround myself with are cut from the same cloth.

We chalk it up to 'being young' and 'living life to the fullest.' We tend to view our behavior as mildly Sophomoric instead of reckless and dangerous.

And maybe it's true.

But sometimes people lack that safety valve, that thing in the back of our mind that tells us we need to settle down and that is when things can spiral down a very scary path.

Those that know me well will know that there is a person close to me who is battling some demons. They are doing their absolute best to win the fight, but there are setbacks along the way. It rips me apart inside because as badly as I want to fight this war with them, it is largely a battle fought from within.

I worry now. I never used to worry about anything.

I never called my parents when I was a kid. Whatever, I was out late, I fell asleep watching a movie in a basement. I didn't understand what it meant to be scared, really scared, about the safety of a loved one. I went through a period last year where I dreaded every phone call. And not dread in the way that my boss is going to make me come in this weekend or my girlfriend found out I lied about being sick so I could watch football. Actual life and death dread.

Phone call at a weird hour? This could be it. This could be the call that changes everything and my life will never be the same. Or it can be just another checkpoint in the long heartbreaking saga.

And of course I feel a tremendous amount of guilt because of the way I live my life. What pedestal do I have to stand on when I make the decisions that I do? Who am I to criticize the way anyone chooses to lead their life? But then what do I do?

Do I change?

I don't want to change. Sure I stay up too late on Saturdays, but that was a conscious choice. I fully intended to sit on my couch the entirety of the next day eating pizza. Maybe I'll grow out of it, but that's what I wanted to do.

It isn't about me, but I've tried to use words to work through my feelings. I did a 6 minute Monologue at The Moth about the conflict I feel inside. Where did it go wrong? Am I to blame, is there yet more that I can do now that I'm not already doing.

While writing this I wonder if this is my story to even tell. Sure I worry, I dread anytime the phone rings and I struggle with the daily choices I make, but that is nothing compared to the pressures felt by the person going through the depths of addiction.

And yet I am helpless.

There is no physical manifestation of this disease that I can lobotomize from this person's brain. There is no magic phrase that will make everything ok, so I continue to say I love you and I believe you will get through this even on the days that I'm not so sure.

I've read the forums, I've attended the meetings. They all say the same thing, there is no magic elixir, everyone fights at a different pace. We depend on the power of prayer and positive thinking, encouragement to take it one step at a time.

I know there will be bumps in the road, but all I can offer is my unconditional support that one day things will get better because I know how strong this person can be. Maybe you are going through this now as well, maybe you will some day, if I can offer you one solace just know that there is hope.

Hope for a day that things will get better, hope for a time that all can be forgiven. And in the mean time I will do what works for me. I will press onward and try to be a beacon of strength for this person, to tell them that I do not blame them for anything. I will try not to look back because that in itself is an exercise in futility. I just keep three phrases in my back pocket whenever I go to a dark place, they help remind me that there will again come a day when this star brightly shines.

"I love you."

"I believe in you"

and lastly...

"You will get better."