Nov 14, 2004

Time, Writers Block and Scams

It's been a crappy day. When you go to sleep at night, do you have that list of vows you make to yourself? Things you WILL do or things you WON'T DO EVER AGAIN. Like you'll never stay up to play Snood for an hour. Or you promise when you wake up, you will have a quiet time before you do anything else. Oh and you'll wake up early.

Well, it was another one of those days. I did get up early, but I didn't have a quiet time. I couldn't. The owners of the house were here at 7:45 jack hammering the concrete outside my window. We are getting a new drain pipe to the sewer. Yay hooray! They're doing it at 7:45 on Saturday. Not so yay hooray.

I managed to find things to waste my time until 10:45 (what do you do for three hours, you ask? I don't know. I should videotape myself) I got out of the house. I needed to go write.

But first, I would treat myself to a few garage sales. You know, Saturday morning, a bit of fun before the work kicks in. I found a couple of sales advertised on Cool people advertise on craigslist. I needed a good stew pot, maybe kitchen gadgets. One sale advertised Franciscan Desert Rose china for sale. That's my mom's pattern. I inherited four luncheon plates, two salad plates and a gravy boat. Maybe I could find a relish canoe.

Well I couldn't find that garage sale. Or was already closed up. You know those garage sales, you say start 9am no early birds and those Hispanics from Boyle Heights are at your door looking for Franciscan Rose dinnerware. I went looking for another and got stuck in some strange cubbyhole of Westdale that got cut off from the world when the 405 and 10 connectors were built. It was noon and I was feeling anxious. The way you do when you've been window-shopping for more than ten minutes and that little voice in your head says, "GET OUT NOW!"

So I forced myself to go to my favorite home away from home for writing: The Un Urban coffee house. It was hot. The tables were full. The tables that weren't full either had kiddy chairs next to bar counters, or had no working light bulbs in their lamps. Get out now! Before you have to buy a latte made with stale coffee beans. Okay then. I'll go home. Uh oh, maybe the landlords will come into my house and steal something. What? The TV? My checkbook? I better go back home.

I did. There were now TWO vans at the house, a buttload of new sewer pipe on the lawn and six workers huddled around a woman planning their next offensive. Forget it. It's too loud. And they are too busy to go steal my incomplete Franciscan ware.

I had a yoga class at four PM at a studio near the 3rd Street promenade. I could go really early. Ah but I'd pay a butt load on parking. I drove around looking for free spots in the streets north of the promenade. Nothing. I stopped at Wild Oats to get a fresh vegetable juice and a shot of wheat grass but the customers were mobbing the deli area to sample the Wild Oats Thanksgiving meal samples. If it's free people will eat it, even if it's mock turkey loaf.

I parked the car and walked over to the promenade. Where could I write? I went to Borders and there weren't any tables that were free and at least ten feet from the homeless men who came there to hang out. Nothing wrong with the homeless. But these guys were either psychotic or had a 20 foot diameter force field of BO surrounding them. I tried Starbucks. Too many people, no tables. I finally went to the Coffee Bean and found a foot-square table that sat on an incline. I wrote for a whopping 25 minutes and it was time to go to my yoga class. No actually I went a half hour early, laid out my mat and tried to sleep I was already exhausted. It took much of t yoga class to undo the frustration of the day.,

I got home about 6:30, and there was a message on my machine. "Hi, this is Caroline, you hit my car. Please give me a call."

HUH? I called the number and didn't know what she was talking about, I didn't hit your car.
No, I have your number here, you left me your number.
Uh, you must be mistaken. I have a white Acura, I didn't hit you or give you this number.

She said I had left a note: she was parked on Second Street in Santa Monica, came back, there was a big dent and a side mirror was gone. And there was a note on her car reading: "Hi, I'm SO sorry your car got hit. Call me at 310-314-2683 and we'll sort this out."

I told her someone gave her the wrong number. She didn't believe me. She went on about the damage to her car and her surety that this was the right number.
Well, someone gave you the wrong number. You want to see my car? It has no damage on it. I suggested she tried flipping some of the numbers and calling around.

She called back a couple hours later, said, "I don't know what to say, the paint on my car is white so I got hit by a white car and yours is definitely the number on the piece of paper." I called back and left a message saying I was going to call the police and give them her info, she could take it up with them.

I started to worry: Maybe I DID hit someone's car and didn't know it. Did someone see me hit the car and rat me out? But how would they know my phone number, it's unlisted. I don't have my phone number logo'd on my car. No, if I did hit her, I'd have to have written the note. Did I write a note and not remember? Do I have amnesia? Post Trauma Memory loss? Then who wrote the note?

Then I really started to worry: Maybe it's a new scam: someone has access to DMV records, so they spot a car, get their license plate, look up their phone number and then call them with this scam. Maybe they'll drive by my house, hit my car in the right place and then file a claim.

I called the police dispatch. After a few holds and transfers I got a dead line. I called back and got a real live person. I told her what happened. She connected me to the desk. No one answered. She put me through to the front desk dispatch.

I told the dispatch lady what happened. She sighed. "You can't file a report if nothing has been done to you."
Well but she's saying I damaged her car."
Go out and take pictures.
You got a camera, don't you?
No I don't.
Then go buy a disposable camera with the time stamp on the film, keep the photos in case she files a lawsuit against you.

So I can't do anything to protect myself? I gotta wait for the lawsuit?
No, nothing's been done to you except a few harassing phone calls.
Well then can I file a complaint I'm being harassed telephonically?
The lady sighed heavier. Maybe I got her at a bad time. It was 10:30 PM, Maybe this was her popcorn break, or I was cutting into her rerun of JAG.

So I guess the police can only help you after you've been screwed.

SO now I'm on edge until I get that Kodak disposable and take the photos. Maybe they'll come by and hit my car to make it look like I did it. I should park up in the driveway. How late is Rite-Aid open? Would they have a camera with a flash bright enough to photograph the car in the dark? What if the photo guy doesn't put the time stamp on the photo? Maybe I should wait and get a Sunday paper so I can hold it up to the car as I take pictures. Like terrorists do with hostages.

I hate this. I know I'm innocent but until it's resolved, I'm on edge. I want to defend myself NOW. But then if I get antsy or pissed it will just make it look like I am guilty. The thing is, I AM guilty. Of something. Sometime, somewhere. And whenever I act out of defensiveness, that residual guilt hangs on me like old cigarette smoke in an ex-smoker's suede jacket. This is awful!

Wait. This would make a good "Desperate Housewives" spec script. I should just go with it.

Oct 17, 2004

The Party's Over

I got invited to a party; a house warming out in Silver Lake. I love the guy who's warming his house. I know him from New York, aspiring film maker, lots of fun. When he invited me last Sunday I was gung ho. I had it on my calendar all week. But when it came time to leaving, I bailed. I did the same thing on a perfectly good party the previous week.

Today I had a bit of an excuse. At the last minute, I was invited to a matinee screening of I Heart Huckabees, with a Q&A with the director. I was so looking forward to seeing this film, I love the director, love the cast, loved the trailer.

Hated the movie. Interesting questions, inventive, laugh out loud funny. And too precious and annoying and not only wasn't enough at stake. Didn't know what was at stake. Where it was going. Or when it got there, why I should care. The Q&A started right afterward and I was trapped. The director came out wearing Hugo Boss suit and sneakers. I guess he was going for the serious-but-informal look. Or formal-but-funny. Or "Nice Casual" as they say in my business. But when he sat down and removed his Reebok Hi-Tops, I lost respect. This ain't no dojo, buddy. Well maybe it was, because he started rattling on about studying Buddhism with Uma Thurman's dad. An Asian of indeterminate gender sat next to me in billowing black, indefinable attire, head shaved and hands open in prayer as the director talked. It was exhausting. Now I realize the film was about existentialism. But it didn't so much articulate modern man's existential ennui as much as it created existential ennui in my stomach.

I stumbled out of the theater, disoriented by the fading autumn light, felt a pang of melancholy for the end of summer. And got in my car.

I had printed out a map to the house warming party. It was all the way over in the hills of Silver Lake; in "20 something-Beck wanna be-wiccan-alternative Groove Ville. Freeway inconvenient. Stuck in a cluster of winding streets not even the highest Map Quest zoom could identify.

I thought of all the parties I'd gone to over there, anticipating a good time and coming home depressed. So I went through the party in my mind. My friend is a good 15 years younger than I, so are his friends. Their behavior will be too. (Hey, this guy got spanked at a church retreat's after-hours camp fire). There's going to be a lot of alcohol. In the Lord. But alcohol. And music I don't know. And lost of post-acne pre-wrinkle smiles of those young artists with their whole lives, in front of them -- and all their eggs and sperm. And I'll look around and see lots of hot guys, of babysitting age. No one in my age bracket except the other fabulous talented single women in their late thirties early forties, who showed up at this party for the same reason I did: because they're still single. I'll have to go through one more conversation about what do you do, where do you live, what do you think of predestination? And bow out looking for diet drinks and not finding them because it's a guy's beer party. I'll wish I were still a smoker. I'll say I'm going out for air and race home, stop to get a single serving box of Barnum's animal cookies and watch Dr. Vegas at 10 pm because all the crappy shows get relegated to Saturday night.

I think of the parties I went to in Silver Lake that I went to when I was 15 years younger, when had my whole life and ovaries ahead of me. There was a journalist who had a Christmas party every Halloween. Friends from the Groundlings that I wrote with, whose names I don't remember. I flip through the faces of the people. Most of them are married with families and established careers. I work a survival job, shop at the 99 cent store and come home to a cat. I wonder what string of bad choices has left me single, I wonder if my married mortgaged friends wish they were still single going to parties in Silver Lake. And I realize that it's a long hard fall over the cliff of naivete into the chasm of experience.

According to scientists, the universe started with a bang, and a clump of matter no larger than a beach ball has been expanding ever since; expanding into stars and comets and water and people and empires. But some day it will reach terminal velocity, contract and implode into a black hole.

My father died a couple years ago. Up until then I saw life as being ahead of me. Opportunities were still coming. I was writing. I was dating healthier men. Heck that I was dating at all was an improvement. I moved to New York to pursue new things. I started a comedy group, I wrote and fell in love. Some things were ending; but more complex and mature opportunities were coming my way.

But around the time Dad died, I was hit with a profound sense of loss and regret. Not just losing my father, but losing life itself. The matter and energy allotted to me was starting to cool and contract. I thought of the opportunities I had missed. I thought of all those friends I had, close friends I shared my soul with, whose names I can't remember. I thought of all the goodbyes I have had in my life. And I thought of the choices I made that I erroneously thought I could undo later.

You hear the phrase, "young people think they're immortal." And if you're young you think, "I do not. Of course I know I could die any moment." But how about the incidental mortality? The little choices you make every day that can kill a relationship or an opportunity or faith? I'll write that script later. I'll work on my 12-step program later. I can date this cad for a while, it's just for now. It'll be a learning experience. But some experiences should be laid down and avoided.

I hate that phrase, "everything happens for a reason." Yeah, the reason Joe Smith is in a wheelchair is because a drunk driver hit him head-on at 70 mph. The reason I gained weight is because I overate. Everything DOES happen for a reason. Sometimes the reason is human stupidity and rebellion. It's not 'all good.' Sometimes it's all shitty.

You'd think that being religious I would have been more responsible. Didn't work that way for me. I was possessed with this idea that God Had A Plan For Me. God was in control, He'd work it out. I didn't have to work so hard. After all, 'all things work together for good." But I used that as an excuse to slack off. Entitlement.

I was in New York a couple of weeks ago. I called up my close group of friends to see who was going to The Haven (a weekly fellowship group for people in the arts). None of them went anymore. Most of them were married. And the few singles left, well as my friend Alf said, "The Haven got younger and I got older." I felt a huge sense of melancholy. You go back to the past and it's not there anymore. You can't go back. You can't recreate it. It's decayed, like Miss Havisham.

It's a long hard fall down when you realize that some of the mistakes you made, you can never undo them. That life precarious. Love isn't a given.

You'd think that would make me run to the party. No, instead I came home with my single serving of Barnums Animal Crackers. I checked the Yankee game, turned off the TV and wrote. I don't know if what I write tonight will matter in the short or long run. But I figure, before my creative energy reverses and disappears into that black hole, I might as well use it. And besides, the words and the desire to write them will be gone tomorrow.

Sep 15, 2004

Books on my Bookshelf


Someone said that the books on your bookshelf say a lot about who you are.

I don't own many books. I don’t even own a bookshelf. Which, I guess, says a lot about who I am.

In the last 18 months I've stayed in 13 different places. Between a cross-country move, house sitting, subletting, trips back to New York, finally finding a permanent place in LA, discovering my roommate was nuts; more house sitting, subletting, couch crashing, more trips to New York ... REALLY finally finding my own place. A sublet that ends next June.

I'm subletting a bookshelf.

One good thing about being homeless is, you realize what is really essential, and what you can survive without: like boyfriends, skin care systems, and heavy books.

With all that moving, heavy books are the first to go. I rarely keep a fiction book. Once I've read it, I give it to a friend so they can enjoy reading it. Nonfiction books are harder to get rid of. Like the reference books that threaten me, "You might want to refer to me some day!" But who needs a French dictionary when most of the expressions you hear don't need a translation. Like, "Super-chuette!" Or, "Jessica Simpson est une idiote!"

The books I still own fall into two categories: Spiritual Help and Career Help. When I'm done reading, I don't give these to friends. That's cruel. Friends don't let friends give self-help books.


Of this category, I've held onto The Tools of Screenwriting , written by a professor who makes his living -- not by writing screenplays, but from collecting book royalties and sitting at his tenured job, stoned.

Then I've got The Writer's Journey. Author Chris Vogler distills Joseph Campbell's teaching on myth down to a 12-stage story structure he calls The Hero's journey. It's good book for screenwriters, but everyone in Hollywood got a hold of it. Now EVERY TIME I go to a Hollywood film I can see Vogler's formula all over it. "Oo, look, Van Helsing just met his Threshold Guardian!" ... "Look, Batman's reached his innermost cave!" Which happens to be a cave.


There's The Transformation of the Inner Man, Inner Healing, Listening Prayer, Listening for the Healing Inner Man, … No, I don't have these. These are books I read in my twenties, back when I thought knowledge could fix me.

I refuse to buy these books any more. Still, my brother manages to buy me one every year, despite my protests. It doesn't matter what the title is, they can all be boiled down to this:   How To Be Better. Funny, the premise of Christianity is: Jesus Paid It All. But here's a book to improve on what he did!

Let Jesus Sex Up Your Marriage!
Jesus, The Ultimate Life Coach.
Lo-Carb Cooking In The Lord.

Here's a gem my brother gave me. The Sacred Romance.The premise is that God is the Ultimate Romancer. Now, I forced myself to read the first chapter, and the only link I could find to romance was that the style resembles a cheesy paperback you'd find at Sav-On.

I first remember the Romance calling to me when I was a boy, just past dusk on a summer evening. Something warm and alive and poignantly haunting …

"Poignantly haunting?" Why not just haunting? Isn't haunting poignant in this context? Anyway.

Something poignantly haunting would call to me from the mysterious borders of the farm

Why were the borders of his farm mysterious? Didn't his family know where the property line was?

where the tall grasses swayed in silvery response to the moonlight's embrace.

I can't even touch that. They have Darwin Awards for that kind of writing.

There at water's edge the voices of crickets, katydids, cicada would sing to me. The surface stillness of the pond played host to the shiny green lords of the young river, the deep-throated bullfrogs ..

This is where I put the book down. Isn't there a decent editor who can spot a syrup bomb? No, the editor is some divorced Baptist with red beehive at Charisma Publishing in Tulsa, crying over froggies and fairy princesses.

This is why I detest Christian pop culture. The medicocrity.

I want to honor my faith. But I also don't see a lot of beauty or honesty in anything produced from that culture post-CS Lewis. The only example of a Christian in the arts today is Jessica Simpson. And Elle est une idiote!

Actually there is one book on my bookshelf I really love. Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul. But it's only the book sleeve. Someone stole my book at the gym. Think about it. Stealing a book about saving your soul.

The last book falls under both Spiritual and Career help. It's The Artist's Way. I've gotten some good things out of it, like writing three Morning Pages every day to clear my head. I can even glean some of spiritual nuggets from the book. But sometimes it feels like a glorification of the Self. Stanislavski said, "Love The Art in yourself, not Yourself in Art." We artists can be so self-absorbed. People are dying in Iraq, and being shot in South Central, the health care and education systems are bankrupt. But don't ask me to help because I gotta take myself on my Artist's Date!

But is it them, or is it me? Well it has to be me, because I am part of the art and faith cultures; so I'm part of the problem. And even if there is mediocrity and self-absorption, there's also goodness. Isn't there? All things being equal, shouldn't I strive to be better? Or work in a field I love as opposed to one I detest ? Isn't the world that Jesus came to save worth saving? Worth living in? Worth writing about? My criticism eventually comes back to criticizing God. And to be an eternal critic is the antithesis of being a creator.

I know this visual artist. He's very serious, very religious, a genius to be sure. He paints very serious, very religious, genius paintings of painstaking detail. Once went to the LA Craft and Folk Museum, and I noticed a hand-blown glass bead necklace for sale for $800. I was appalled. Then again, I'd never priced Jimmy Choo shoes. "$800 for a beaded glass necklace?" I cried. "You could sponsor ten World Vision orphans for that kind of money!"

He shrugged lightly. " But the artist put time and effort into creating beauty. And that's worth something. Art is worth something, in and of itself."

I need to remember that.

You know, If there's one book I think I'd benefit from reading, it would be How To Resign from Being Theological and Cultural Policeman of the World.. That's what I'd like to do: not turn OFF my bullshit detector, but turn it down a few notches. I'd like to enjoy art and life just for its own sake … in whatever hobbled and cobbled form it comes in.

That's what I need help doing. Just don't ask me to sway in silvery response to the embrace of Jessica Simpson.

Jul 23, 2004

I'm tired!

Not tired from a day well used, but exhausted from an overworked spirit. Did I pray enough? Did I sin too much? Did I deal with my anger? Was I envious? What about my persistent sins? Did I eat too much? Why didn't I go to my 12-step meeting? Because sometimes I feel like, this is as good as it gets. I mean, why bother? Why read another book? Why do another inventory? Why go to another meeting or date another guy? Because I think next time is going to different?

That was the big lie of the yuppie culture of my twenties: Things will get better if … You go to church enough. Pray. Go to this seminar; do this inner healing conference, read that book on discovering the will of God. We're the eve of a revival! The Prophets are Coming, the Prophets are Coming! get ready! Do all these things and some place in your immediate future, you will find the fountain of Spiritual Health. Whatever.

Know what? You will never find those kind of promises in the Bible. There is a promise of peace, but not the absence of suffering. Or ever arriving either. Look at God's hall of Fame: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah. They were all screw ups. Abraham tried to pass his wife off as his sister to save his ass. Jacob finagled his birthright out of his brother. Moses killed a guy and was sent to the backside of the desert for forty years. The day after Elijah called down fire on the prophets of Baal, he went into a tailspin depression. "I wanna die." Talk about a crash and burn. And let's not forget Jesus; penniless, social outcast, died on a horrific death at age 33.

No, the Bible never promised me happiness. Why did I not see this before? Well I did. But why didn't I accept it? Maybe it's a relief to accept that it is what it is. If you accept the fact that life is hard, that not all of your longings will be completely fulfilled, this side of heaven, it kind of takes the pressure off (that is if you believe there is something afterward. Otherwise you're screwed)

This blind pursuit of spiritual heaven on earth is everywhere. Today I was at Whole Foods Market: the latest temple to the worship of Self, disguised as "health." I’m in the check out line, buying some internal cleanser/blood purifier/metallic remover, and there is Sting on the cover of Yoga Journal: talking about being rich, spiritually enlightened, and better than us. What a tool. Another article features a yoga retreat center where you can get intestinally and karma cleansed for a thousand bucks a week.

So what if yoga relaxes you? So does a coma. So what if I feel better in an AA meeting or in Bikram Yoga or at church. What happens when I leave the meeting/church/sweat lodge? I'm still me. Where is the life in between? I can't live my life stuck in child pose.

God, is this what my faith is supposed to be about: this exhaustion I feel at the end of the day? God, are you ever going to be OK with me not being OK? Or is it me that needs to learn how to be OK with not being OK? or, is that giving up. Oh god, I'm tired already.

Maybe my ancestors had it better off. They spent their entire waking hours consumed with washing and cooking and canning and feeding the baby and changing diapers and getting the potatoes in before the frost and burying the dead. They didn't have any time to self-obsess.

My spiritual quest hasn't been completely bankrupt. I did benefit a lot from things. Things did get better. I worked through issues with my dad, got recovery from various addictions, but I'm talking about microevolution, not mutation. I wasn't a lizard that suddenly sprouted a wing. I just shaved off a few scales.

I was with a group of friends the other night, talking about this very issue: this rude awakening that all those things we thought we were gonna get by pursuing God and trying to be holy, was a crock. And mostly because of our attitude of spiritual entitlement and self-service. We are sleepwalking through life here. People all around the world suffer and are killed for their faith. Or for no reason at all. Suddenly I felt ashamed of myself. For being so shallow.

I went to the bathroom in the middle of the conversation, knelt onto the Restoration Hardware rug and stuck my my face to the ground … kind of like the Muslims we are so afraid of. I whispered that old Benedictine chant: " 'Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. Have mercy on me a sinner. ' Have mercy on me for my shallowness, short sightedness. And anyway, enough about me." For a brief moment I had my eyes off of self and onto God. Not answers, not nirvana. Just freedom from having to have them. And you know what? I felt peace and rest rather than exhaustion.

Have mercy on me a sinner.

May 29, 2004

on Failure


Success has escaped me for most of my adult life. Not that I have had no success at all. I've had some. I've even done one particular thing, really well, for a short time. Or I've done a lot of things, for a very long time, only so-so. I could claim my dilemma is that I'm so multi-talented it's been hard to choose between one thing and another. But really, it's just a form of sloth; defeat by abdication. It's easy to fantasize how incredible you'd be "if only" ... rather than going for it and finding out for sure.

If you lark about long enough, the verdict comes in without your vote. Such was the case in most areas of my life over the last year. Love, career, home, even faith. Everything I believed in, everything I relied on for security and identity went bankrupt. I felt angry, betrayed, abandoned, rejected. Especially by God. Then I felt embarrassed and ashamed for my contributions to the state of affairs. Which was probably 95%. It's only now starting to seem funny. But for the most part, sucked to be me.

One of the benefits of failure is, you get to see who you really are and what your heart looks like. I'd recommend this experience like I'd recommend a coffee colonic. It is a grotesque and painful experience. But in the end, the shizznit comes izznout. It's a horrible relief.

Then you get to ask yourself some things. Like, of the persons places and things you relied upon, how necessary were they? How did your expectations exceed the capability of the person place or thing? In other words, just how big a bitch were you? How did I get here? This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful car. My God. What Have I Done?

Another side benefit. When everything gets taken away and you realize, "Wow. I'm still alive;" you experience relief and freedom. And then actually, perhaps those desires of yours (before ambition sullied them) might be okay. Like, the desire for love, safety, accomplishment or creativity. Doing them for the joy of doing them might actually be a good thing (unless your joy is in prostitution or theft).

CS Lewis, that slouch, wrote a letter to a friend, when his publishing credits had yet only amounted to a few essays and poems.

From the age of sixteen onwards I had one single ambition (to succeed as a writer), from which I never wavered, in the prosecution of which I spent every ounce I could, on which I really and deliberately staked my whole contentment: and I recognize myself as having unmistakably failed in it. The side of me which longs … to be approved as a writer, is not worth much. And unless God has abandoned us, he will find means to cauterize that side somehow or other. If we can take the pain well and truly now and by it *forever* get over the wish to be distinguished beyond our fellows, well: if not we shall get it again in some other form.

Being cured, with all the pain, has pleasure too: one creeps home, tired and bruised, into a state of mind that is really restful, when all one's ambitions have been given up. Then one can really for the first time say "Thy kingdom come": for in that kingdom a man must have reached the stage of not caring two straws about his status before he can enter it. Think how difficult that would be if one "succeeded" as a writer: how bitter this necessary purgation at the age of sixty, when literary success has made your whole life and you *then* had to go through the stage of seeing it all as dust and ashes.

Word.' I often prayed that God would purge me of my selfish desires, that I would want His will above all things ... so THEN he could bless me with fulfillment of those selfish desires. Like the way Solomon asked for wisdom, and received wisdom AND booty.

Maybe this necessary leveling of my ego will get me a step closer to humility. But frankly, the older I get the more I realize how "full of it" it I am. And how often I need those coffee colonics. Spiritual and otherwise.

Jan 30, 2004



Hello Friends and Creditors.

As you may know, I competed in 15 MINUTES OF FEM last night at the Egyptian Arena Theater ( 32 women: actors, stand-ups, storytellers compete for the top spot. One winner from each night goes onto the final show in front of lots of industry big wigs, and the ultimate winner gets private meetings with all sorts of casting and agents. Which will probably amount to a "Whoa, now that I see you in tungsten lighting, you are WAY over 30. Sorry." NO seriously it would be a great opportunity.

Well my show was last night and boy was it nerve wracking. First of all, the elastic gave way on my bikini, and my sash "Miss Palms" started to slip off my shoulders. My shoulders are very narrow, despite doing a month of that "Radical Rotator Cuffs" video. I'm always going to be petite up top.

Well onto the big question, if we were Miss Femme, what would we want most in the world? The first girl said, Free Net Flix. Ooo! That was so pandering. And clever man, I would have said Starbucks or Peets, but NetFlix! She must have a publicist. The next chick said, "world peace." they went straight onto me and I said, "world peace? Shaa! Like that's ever gonna happen." It got really really really quiet. I think people were thinking deeply about that. So I'm glad I made an impact.

But when we each got to our 15 minute program, the woman who went on before me, STOLE MY WHOLE ROUTINE. I swear, right down to the cartwheel. I knew it was weird when she asked to borrow my pants before she went on.

Well okay then, I said to myself. I did not come this far to be ripped off. So I went out there and performed my entire piece in Latin and Aramaic. WITH NO SUBTITLES. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Once someone booed when I said, "did you ever notice ...?" I think they thought I said, "Jew ever notice." I'm going to cut that part out next time.

When I got home they called me. Indeed, I WON MY NIGHT! WOO HOO!


I am privileged to be a finalist, and to go on to the finalist show on March 1, along with the seven other winners from their night. Which will be on March 1. That is march 1. You are getting very sleepy. You are very relaxed. When you wake up, you will write in your Palm Pilot that you have plans to go to my show on March 1 and vote for me.

I will be performing 8 to 10 minutes of my show, 'A LUTHERAN OVULATES.'
A slightly refined and edited version of what I did last night. But I would sure love your support up to the end. I mean, just because you vote for Nader in the primaries, doesn''t guarantee he'll lose in November)

Mark your calendars and call for reservations!


Monday, March 1, 8pm
Egyptian Arena Theater
1625 N. Las Palmas, Hollywood

Go to or call 323-692-9601

Thank you so much! Susan

PS to all the New Yorkers: I am only including you because I know how cold and crappy it is out there right now, and just all this good news would cheer you up, or make you envious and force you to move out here! (By March 1 so you can vote)

Jan 26, 2004

Professional Rejection

Professional Rejection. The Actor's Daily Pill.

January 22, 2004

To: (agent Name and address omitted)
(but they're in Sherman Oaks
On Van Nuys Blvd.)

Dear ( ):

I got your Xeroxed "Dear John" letter that the agency is dropping me. Hey, no hard feelings. The day you sent me, a 5'5" 118-pound woman, to audition as a construction worker on a failing cable drama, I knew you didn't get me. But as a parting gift, I would like to offer you a few suggestions to help your business look more professional.

1. Use real stationery: real, 25 lb. bond paper with matching envelopes. Staples copy paper and Rite Aid envelopes don't work as formal correspondence. If you can't afford embossed stationery like other agencies; at least --

2. Use a letterhead. A letterhead is an identifying logo and your business address at the top of the page. It just looks tacky to have a Xerox with no sender identified. Especially if the Xerox went in crooked. And no, that rubber stamp doesn't cut it.

3. "How do I get a letterhead?" Easy. Scan your logo as a jpeg. Then you can insert into any document you want: stationery, letters, labels, you name it. If you don't know what a jpeg is, refer to your recent downloads from

4. For the love of God, Buy a copy of Microsoft Word. One disc will install on all the office computers. Your Microsoft Works barely has spell check. You cannot compete in the 21st Century if you are still using WORKS in DOS.

5. Spelling. Your rejection letter misspelled the word "for." Not even the common there/their/they're conundrum, but a simple three-letter word. "We will be closed foe the holidays." "Foe?" Who's your typist, P. Diddy?

Remember, it's not only who you are on the phone, but also what leaves your office, that is a reflection on you. The fact that I am leaving your office is also a reflection on you, but that's another story.

Speaking of phones: Hire a receptionist. The automated system that plays the same tinny music loop I hear when I call Fed Ex just screams C-LIST! And the prompt, "Please speak your name so I can announce who's calling," only reinforces this industry's wild insecurity, that the Called is deciding whether the Caller is worthy enough to be answered. God forbid Mr. Spielberg ever rang your office.

While you were not sending me out this past year, I was writing and performing at various venues in LA and New York. You know the postcards I sent? Or did the automated postal chute redirect them to "actor crap?" I performed alongside several TV writer-producers, (the ones I called and left a message for you to send them my stuff but you never did). Long and the short, I've gotten some writing gigs and I'm performing my solo show at a big theater in Hollywood. So I'll be fine.

Thanks for everything, ( ). Especially for teaching me what every actor needs to know: you cannot wait for someone else to get you work. You have to get it yourself. More importantly, you can't expect anyone to get you. You have to get yourself. Otherwise you'll be sent out to play construction workers.

Respectfully, Well, sort of,

Susan Isaacs