Friday, February 26, 2010

Fiction Friday: Missy

The covered bridge was dark, like a cocoon, with only pieces of light poking in from here and there. Like God had cupped his hand over the road. Missy walked slowly through its dark insides, brushing her hand along the wooden planks as she languidly moved toward the bright opening at the end.

The ground underneath her feet was paved, though the covering surrounding her was older, more solid, more for beauty than function. The darkness here was safe, comforting. She didn’t want to step into the light just yet. She knew what was out there and the thought of it terrified her.

Missy reached the end of the bridge and squinted in the bright sunlight. She realized now how disoriented she was. Looking around, nothing looked familiar. Not the trees, not the creek that rushed beneath the bridge, not the road that crept out of sight ahead. Where was she?

A red pickup truck appeared from the woods and rumbled towards her. Slowly, she moved out of its way, her side striking the safety railing behind her unexpectedly. As she turned to look at the rusted metal bars, rubbing her bruised hip with her hand, the truck rolled to a stop. She turned just as the passenger window rolled down.

A young man with dark curly hair, dressed in a plaid shirt, leaned over toward her. “You look lost,” he said with a flirtatious grin.

She stared at him, confused, finally answering, “No. I fell.” She raised her hand to touch the back of her head. She didn’t know why she did that, but when she brought her hand back forward, her fingertips were streaked with bright red blood. The sight made her panic and she started to hyperventilate.

Suddenly, the young man was at her side, opening the passenger side door of his truck and helping her inside. She climbed in with his help, still staring at her fingers. She didn’t hear what he was saying. All she could do was stare at the streaks of red, bringing her hand closer and closer to her face until she could see the dark liquid resting in the crevices of her fingerprints.

Her mind raced with one thought - “Is this my blood?” It was such a simple question, yet she didn’t know the answer.

Click here to read Missy, Part 2

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I examined my own heart, and there you were. Never, I fear, to be removed…

When my friends ask me to describe what I want in a partner, my response is usually, “I don’t know.” It’s a simple enough question – I suppose I should have a simple answer – but I don’t. When I attempt to throw out a few descriptive phrases – financially capable, wants family, able to fix things – my words seem to land in the air with dull, petty thumps. The man of my dreams can fix things? Ugh. I wouldn’t date me.

The truth is, when it comes to love, I’m a romantic. I believe that my perfect mate is out there and that finding him will feel like coming home to myself. Our energies will align in an effortless, sparkling way, and we will laugh and eat and be gorgeous together.

But when my friends bring up the topic, they don’t want to hear my mushy ramblings. Especially my male friends. They’re asking because they’re thinking of setting me up with their co-worker/friend/enemy, or they’re trying to figure out why I’m still single, or they’re just making conversation until the movie starts. Sometimes I fear that revealing my inner thoughts doesn’t do anything but paint me as an overly sentimental dreamer with no grip on reality.

So I try to remain vague and breezy about relationships, with others and with myself. I am open to infinite possibilities in my future, but describing them in words seem so…not enough. So I leave them unsaid.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hey Romeo! Juliet's not really dead!

I screwed up my line. While performing with the hereandnow theatre company at a high school leadership conference at SMU, I said, “A bad thing about being Asian is: studies have shown we are the least likely to report cases of physical, emotional, and physical abuse.” A male student in the audience immediately shouted, “You said physical twice!” Amid uncomfortable gasps, a student in the front turned and yelled, “Shut up, dude!” And the performance continued.

As an actor, I blame myself. I meant to say “physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.” I should have been more focused, said my line correctly, or delivered it with such conviction that no one would notice the error. But I didn’t do any of those things. I made a stupid mistake.

Still, the whole experience made me wonder – when did live theater become a conversation? Are my expectations for an audience unrealistic, or has the younger generation missed a lesson in decorum at the theater?

When I was in grade school, my parents took me to see summerstock at the Corning Summer Theater every season. I remember being mesmerized by A Chorus Line, even though I was too young to understand “Tits and Ass” or comprehend why Paul was crying in his monologue. I barely had a clue what Evita was about, but I knew I loved going to the theater. It was a grown-up event in which I had the privilege of being a player. Matching the number on my ticket to my seat, following the list of songs in the program, hearing idle opinions while milling about in the lobby during intermission. There was a routine to going to the theater, a certain way you had to behave, and it made me feel just as special as the actors on stage.

But to this kid in our SMU audience, was our performance just like any other piece of entertainment in his interactive, on-demand world? A momentary diversion for him to digest and comment on? Was he thinking how many stars he would give us on YouTube? Whether or not he’d “Like” it on Facebook?

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but an audience member’s opinion was always reserved for after-show discussions. At least in my world. This other world that seems to be growing up around me seems a mystery.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fiction Friday: Bobby Morrow

Bobby Morrow had a routine. He strolled into the LA Fitness in Marina Del Rey at 7:15 am every morning, carrying a black duffel that he’d stash in the same locker farthest from the locker room door. He ran for 45 minutes on the treadmill, lifted weights for an hour, then finished with another 30 minutes on the elliptical. He never had a towel of his own, using the paper towels from the wall dispenser to wipe away the sweat he earned from his workout. He was black, tall, and muscular. The type of man who you’d assume was a bouncer at a club or a college basketball coach. But Bobby Morrow was neither of those things. He was homeless.

After showering and changing into the clean clothes in his duffel bag, he would walk to the Jack in the Box on the corner and have two breakfast sandwiches with coffee. Customers who saw him through the window while waiting in the drive-thru probably wondered how such a handsome man could eat such vile food. A thought that would be soon be replaced with sheer delight as their own bag of vile food was delivered.

Bobby didn’t understand how handsome he was or how women would gaze at him as he passed. He had no concept that his grooming practices made him look like an above average man. Mirrors scared him, so he avoided them altogether. He’d memorized his face, so he never missed a spot with his electric razor. The crappy haircuts they gave at the soup kitchen somehow looked okay on him. He looked normal.

What Bobby did know was that he’d get confused if he walked past Centinela, so he stayed on the west side of town. Cars were loud and frightening, so he looked both ways ten times before crossing. Dogs were angry beasts - best not to look them in the eye. But these few things that Bobby knew weren’t enough to keep the panic attacks away, so he developed a routine. Gym and breakfast sandwiches, followed by a full day of collecting cans so he would have enough coins to wash his clothes at the corner laundromat.

(to be continued)

Freewriting for a character in the latest pilot I’m working on. What do you think?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We’ll always have that time we went to Pizza Hut…

What is it about the idea of the One That Got Away that takes on an almost mythical quality? What is behind this designation, this significance, this honor we give to one individual from our past? It’s as if we’re crowning a royal, giving this person dominion over our history.

When I think about my own OTGA through the eyes of reality, we never really had a chance. He was a devout Mormon and I was…not. Yet in my memory, our time together was filled with such sweetness, such possibility, that my life without him seems slightly less golden.

He got married several years ago, but his face still appears in my dreams as a powerful symbol of love lost. Last night, I dreamt he was my cubicle mate at a desk job and the longing I felt for him was so distracting, I went to my boss and asked her to move me to a new cubicle. But in a twist worthy of daytime soaps, my OTGA revealed that he’d gotten married to this boss over Christmas break. Shocked and anguished, my half-hearted congratulations to them revealed all of my true emotions.

Yeah, I have sappy dreams. And maybe I place too much weight on a person I knew over 20 years ago. But perhaps we create these myths as self-cautionary tales. Life can be unpredictable, so take your chances while you still can. Because I know the next time I feel that way about someone, I’m not letting him get away.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I Don't Know the Ancient Chinese Secret

I could stand to be more Taiwanese.

Take Chinese New Year, for example. Here is everything I know about it:
  • On Chinese New Year’s Eve, you have a special dinner that must include a whole fish.
  • You must have leftovers of every dish in this meal - this represents the abundance you will have throughout the new year.
  • On Chinese New Year, you say “xīn nián kuài lè” to other Chinese people.
  • If you’re a kid, the older generation will give you red envelopes filled with cash.
Later in life, I also learned two different stories about why Rat is the first animal in the Chinese Zodiac. One from my years on KidStage, another from hereandnow.

That’s about it. It’s no surprise I don’t know more. Celebrating Chinese New Year as a child was about two things – food and family. My mother always cooked an amazing meal, whole fish and all. My sister would eat the fish eyes, which I thought was gross until I tasted them myself. Yum!

Chinese New Year also meant driving an hour to the mall to join with the few other Chinese families in the county for a potluck in the community room next to the food court. I’d get my red envelope and immediately go spend it on skee ball at the Time Out arcade. It was one of the only times of the year I saw other Asian people.

The rest of the year, my Asian community was my family. There was no Chinese school for me to attend, no Chinatown to see the lion dance, no Asian comic book stores. I played with She-Ra dolls and watched The Monkees on TV. I became a true Asian-American kid.

Now that I’m grown, food and family are still my strongest connections to my heritage. My Taiwanese is spotty and the only characters I can write are my name. But when I’m home, setting the table for another amazing home-cooked meal, I remember where I come from.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In the Rage of the Night

They say you should never go to bed angry. (The enigmatic, headless “they” that also tell you to wash your towels every week and not eat carbs after 8pm.) But is that just a couple’s thing? Don’t be angry at each other before you go to bed, or else…what? Or else you’ll forget all your arguing points in the morning and have a very unsatisfying continuation of your fight? I really don’t know what the big deal is, but I’d like to figure it out, because I went to bed angry last night, and I have no idea how to feel about it today.

The anger bubbled up right before turning off my bedside lamp. It swallowed me up like the ocean, and I was suddenly swimming around frantically, anxious and frustrated. I had to let it out. I beat the mattress with my fists as I kicked my legs like a 3-year old throwing a tantrum on the floor. My downstairs neighbors probably assumed something kinky was going on, but no, I was just regressing to base childish behavior because I didn’t know what else to do.

I suddenly wished I belonged to a 24-hour gym. I could picture myself storming in and hopping on the treadmill for an angry run. The schmuck at the front desk would see my fire and make a mental note to avoid eye contact. Or maybe I’d go into the room where the boxing heavy bags hang from the ceiling and smack them around – all with the poise and power of a lightweight champion, of course. I would be fierce.

After several minutes, I felt slightly more able to breathe, and I turned my attention to the question of the night. Why was I so mad? Was it directed at a person? Perhaps the asshole that verbally attacked my friend for having an Obama sticker on her car. Her story made me angry, but it didn’t feel like the source. Was I mad at myself for, oh, let me name the reasons – procrastinating, self-doubting, not taking my vitamins, or not getting a haircut yet? No. I was truly baffled. Still, this rage inside of me twisted and turned until I was crying, pounding my fists on my pillow.

Finally, and without relief, I drifted off. You would have thought my dreams would be filled with furious images, but I’m pretty sure I dreamed about a Pinkberry opening up in my living room. When I woke this morning, I felt spent and tired. All day I’ve been trying to make sense of my sudden nocturnal anger and looking for signs of residual rage. Thankfully, I’ve found none.

This whole experience has led me to this futile conclusion - humans don’t make sense. We’re balls of emotion that change and shift when we interact with people, but also when we’re alone in our homes. I would say I know what’s going on inside of me about 40% of the time, and I consider myself enlightened. The rest of my time is spent working through one emotion or another and then trying to figure out why I feel that way. And I’m often unsatisfied.

Sigh...I’m never going to find a husband.

(Cancel that.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When in Hawaii, Eat as the Locals Do

On Tuesday night, when the
2nd AD from LOST gives me my call time, I mention that I’m going to Leonard’s Bakery in the morning to get malasadas. Surprised and with an extra lift in her voice, she asks, “How do you know about Leonard’s?
You a local girl?”

In Hawaii, being “local” isn’t just a geographical distinction. It’s a point of pride. It speaks of a camaraderie and connection to the spirit of Hawaii that no tourist can ever have. A reverence that comes from honoring the cultural heritage of the land and its people.

The 2nd AD’s question was just as much a compliment as it was an inquiry. The fact that I wanted to eat like the locals set me apart from most tourists. For me, it was a no-brainer.
I didn’t fly all the way to Honolulu to eat at PF Chang’s.

So while tourists crowded into the Yard House for lunch, I was walking to Ono Seafood, a little fish counter that serves fresh shoyu poke piled on top of steamed rice, accompanied by a can of soda for only $5.50. And while the wait at Denny’s was 25-35 minutes, I was sitting at the counter at Liliha Bakery enjoying a steaming plate of Loco Moco with Coco Puffs for dessert.

I headed to the North Shore for garlic shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, feasted on fresh from the oven manapua and pork hash from Libby Manapua Shop, and strolled through the Diamond Head Farmer’s Market washing down pork and shrimp lumpia with ice cold lilikoi lemonade.

I’m not a local girl, but for six days I ate like one. And I’m still full.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Perception and the Art of Jack Shephard

I step out of my triple banger just as Matthew Fox is getting out of his car. Ashley*, the quintessential set PA (petite and whip-smart) calls out to him. “Hey Matt, I know you just got here, but John wants a quick rehearsal so they can start lighting.” No eye contact, just a silent nod, and into his trailer he goes. Seconds later, he emerges in wardrobe and heads straight past us into the studio. “Matt and Teresa flying in,” Ashley announces on her radio as we follow behind.

Rehearsal is fast and serious. Matthew mapping out the scene with the DP and director. Take out this wall and go over the sink for my close-up. Are we wearing gloves yet? No. Still scrubbing in. Need a nurse extra to hand Matthew a towel.

About five minutes into this, Matthew turns and looks at me for the first time. “Are you with me in this scene?” I introduce myself quickly, extending my hand. He shakes it and gets back to business. Let’s upcut into this. Need the medical advisor to show us where the dural sack is located on the x-ray.

Once the scene is mapped, second team is called in and Matthew disappears. I’m not offended he didn’t welcome me more warmly, because really, why should he? He’s #1 on the callsheet for the #1 show on television. He’s at work, trying to make the final season of LOST the best ever. Perception can be a subjective mistress, but as a working actor, I appreciated and admired his focus. He was a consummate professional throughout the day, always striving to make every moment authentic, believable, and compelling.

This is not to say that actors who are chatty and relaxed on set are not professionals. Every actor works differently. Success comes from knowing what you need to do your best work and making sure you get it when you need it.

A commitment that could stand to be stronger in my personal life. I’ve never been good at asking for what I want for fear of judgment or loss of approval. But the reality is, I can’t control anyone else’s perception of me, so why try? People see what they want to see. Some actors might perceive Matthew Fox’s demeanor as cold or unfriendly. What I saw was a professional with a strong and unwavering intention – make the show great. For the producers, for the fans…for himself.

And just like that, Matthew Fox has one more devoted fan in me.

* Names have been changed to protect the awesome that was the LOST crew. All names except Matthew Fox, of course.