Friday, April 30, 2010

Fiction Friday: Girl on the Go, Part 2

Click here to read Girl on the Go, Part 1

In another week, his wish came true. He was just stepping out of a deli carrying a while plastic bag with a gourmet sandwich he couldn’t really afford when she power-walked past him, long brown hair swishing behind her like a flag. He stopped, stunned as she disappeared into the sea of New York bodies moving along the sidewalk. He hesitated for the briefest (or longest) of moments and then started to run. His long legs stretching and breathing, despite their confinement in his cheap label jeans. The sandwich in its bag bouncing around noisily, the laptop case slung around his shoulders getting heavier and heavier.

Still, he ran. Repeat encounters like this didn’t happen in New York. There must be a reason. Some destiny he was fulfilling by chasing after this girl. He didn’t think about what he was going to say. He just had to catch her.

He dodged through the oncoming foot traffic, throat too dry to ask people to get out of his way. So he panted and waved his arms and turned his wiry frame to the side to slip through the cracks in the crowd. All the while, locking his sights on the girl that wasn’t going to get away this time.

Finally, he found her standing at the corner, waiting to cross as soon as the light turned. This was his chance. This was the moment.

He approached her carefully, trying to temper his breathing so he didn’t sound like a crazy person. Mouth and lips dry, he willed the saliva to come so he could speak. He circled around her until her soft profile filled his view. She turned to him instantly and smiled.

“Hi,” she said. He stared at her, mind still processing the sound of her voice while also taking in her warm, open smile. She was looking at him in a way that made him confused and dumb. She was looking into him, through him, up into his brain, down through his organs. She could see him, he was sure of it. And he was seeing her. And it felt like home.

He stared, unable to speak. What could he possibly say at this moment? It felt so much bigger than his little life. A monumental connection in a city of disconnect. A life disconnected. He had nothing to say.

Her smile widened as she stood there, feet on the ground, looking right at him. She reached out with her hand. “You have a hole in your jacket,” she said as she stuck her finger into the hole and brushed against his hot skin. Her fingertip was soft and smooth and cool as silk. He closed his eyes, drinking in the feeling. She was here. Touching him. He was complete.

He heard a ding. The light had changed. He opened his eyes and she was still smiling at him. “Bye,” she said, and hopped off the curb and crossed the street. He watched her go, too tired to move, too overwhelmed to call after her, too…everything.

She was a girl on the go, that was for sure. And he stayed just where he was. Stuck in New York, in his life, unable to go. He lived in reality. But he’d glimpsed the other side. And it was beautiful.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Loco for Coco

I heart Conan O’Brien. When my then-boyfriend introduced me to The Late Show with Conan O’Brien in the early 2000’s, I was doubtful. How funny could this pasty white Harvard graduate possibly be?

Wicked funny, I discovered. Conan’s comedy was fresh and smart. He genuinely fit the overused descriptor “out of the box” and appealed to me in a time when my comedy palette was growing more and more sophisticated. I couldn’t help but laugh every time he drove his desk around New York or challenged Martha Stewart to take a shot of hard liquor followed by a bite of some disgusting fast food burger. Probably because she always did it!

Conan also gave me moments that will live forever in my memory. After the tragedy of 9/11 overwhelmed the country, Conan faced a unique dilemma. When is it okay to make people laugh again? What is the place of a comedian in a time of nationwide mourning? Conan eased into it gracefully and hilariously, starting from the basics – a baby lifting a six-pack of beer. I laughed and felt grateful.

Watching Conan take over the Tonight Show was delicious. The joy continued – Twitter Tracker, Conando, puppies dressed as cats, Cody Devereaux, stunts with Hollywood stuntman Steven Ho. I attended a taping and saw firsthand Conan’s focus and commitment to making every moment of his show magnificent. This was not a self-absorbed comedian generating laughs to feel accepted. This was a professional entertainer skillfully developing his craft…and succeeding.

So imagine my excitement after the late night war finally ended when I heard Conan was going on tour! The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour – A Night of Music, Comedy, Hugging, and the Occasional Awkward Silence. His show at the Gibson Amphitheater last night was equal parts tribute, celebration, and group therapy.

Conan opened with a killer monologue in which he described the 8 Stages of Grief After Losing a Late Night Talk Show. One of the stages – 36 hours of Red Bull and Halo. He played a few tunes with his band, shared the stage with Andy Richter and former Tonight Show writer Deon Cole, and launched into a power ballad only to be interrupted by Jim Carrey dressed as Kick Ass. Seth Green, Aziz Ansari, Jack MacBrayer, Sarah Silverman, & Jonah Hill all came out to help him pull The Walker, Texas Ranger Lever. And he closed out the night with a cover of Cake's cover of Gloria Gaynor's hit "I Will Survive."

As Conan prepares for a new late night show on TBS launching in November, his live show seemed to say to his fans, “Thanks for everything. Now, let’s have some fun.” That we did, Conan. That we did.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fiction Friday: Girl on the Go

She was a girl on the go, that was for sure. The first time he’d seen her, he was sitting in Starbucks with his laptop open on the tiny table, screen fixed on a blank page. The words were not coming, so he was busying himself by counting the mugs for sale along the wall. Then she appeared.

Swinging the door open with a full body yank, she was at the door, then suddenly at the counter, swiping her card for a bottle of water. She was wearing what looked like a professional cycling suit, the black and hot pink spandex hugging her tight body, littered with logos and phrases. The white block letters across her ass read, “Allstate.” And just as soon as she was there, she was gone.

The second time he saw her, he was trudging up the stairs from the 4th Street station, headed to Joe’s for a slice. And there she was again, running past him in a blur of brunette joy. She wasn’t jogging for exercise. It appeared more as if she was running to tell the man of her dreams that she’d left the stodgy boyfriend that had been in the way and they could finally be together. The spring in her step was undeniable and he felt as if he’d walked into a movie. One in which he was the guy who was meant to chase after her.

But he didn’t. As the moment passed him and hung in the air, he began to feel foolish. He lived in reality, didn’t he? He had a crappy apartment in the worst part of Brooklyn, a part-time job at an accounting firm that sapped the energy out of his life, and a hole in the only winter jacket he owned. He was just another pseudo-artist attempting to write a script while really wasting a lot of time searching for inspiration.

Yet, there was this woman. A lovely, though basically everyday pretty woman who breezed in and out of his field of vision like a fairy, light and swift. A woman on her own trajectory that had intersected twice, but likely wasn’t destined to align with his. He began to think about her, attempting to manifest another sighting. One more opportunity to see her, so he could ask her about herself. Who was she? What did she love? How did she seem so grounded in a city where everyone was a loose leaf in the wind? And where was she going?

Click here to read Girl on the Go, Part 2

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ten Thousand Fireflies Elude Me

My pen was poised, but nothing came out. I stared at the tip, willing something to come. It did not.

Why do I feel most creative at times when I don’t have a pen in hand? While in the shower, driving on the 405, or trying on dresses at TJ Maxx, the ideas flow freely. A short film about a man realizing his wife is having an affair with one of her students. I came up with that one while sitting in the Del Taco drive-thru.

Yet when it’s time for me to sit and write, I often struggle. I look at the single sentence I’d scribbled into the ideas notebook I carry in my bag, and it looks like nonsense. An angel who grants wishes before a person’s death. What was I thinking that would be?

I’ve realized ideas are like fireflies floating in your backyard. Their light is mesmerizing and as you stare, you feel like you’re actually seeing them. You can follow their flight pattern, count how many are gathered, and observe when a new one joins the dance.

But go inside your house and close your eyes and you’ll find that remembering what you saw is almost impossible. The paths of their flight become wispy thin in your mind. Did you actually see them? How many were really there and how many are you making up in your head?

I have this theory that prolific writers – the ones who have more ideas than they know what to do with, in their words – these writers are that way because they’ve learned how to catch these fireflies. They capture them in clear glass jars so they can bring them inside and create on command.

But my inspiration still escapes me if I’m not careful. Thoughts come and go and when I sit down and close my eyes, I strain to remember the light from those fireflies. And I don’t always remember.

I need to get a clear glass jar for myself and learn how to use it well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fandom in Peril

When I heard about the exclusive early screening of the Glee spring premiere at The Grove, a singular thought came to my mind. “I’m frickin’ going.”

Certain individuals have suggested that my love for entertainment and pop culture is the reason I’m currently single, which is a difficult idea to face. My passion for compelling characters and brilliant storytelling is deep and mighty. I’ve been this way since I can remember, cycling through various television and music obsessions over the years. Everything from Scarecrow & Mrs. King to Barry Manilow to The X-Files.

Simply put, I’m a fan.

Take Glee, for instance. I don’t just watch the show. I rewatch it. I post my favorite quotes on Twitter. I discuss the show with Facebook friends who are also fans. I listen to the songs on my iPod. I do these things because I enjoy the show immensely, so I find a way to continue drawing joy from it in between episodes.

A close friend recently said to me, “I can’t wait until you no longer act like a fan, because that will always keep you separate from the things you want in life.” I can’t stop thinking about that one. It’s hard not to feel like my life is now at a crossroads, where I must choose between my lifestyle of fancy and the future reality I long for – a creative career, marriage, and motherhood. Why stay in a fantasy when I can just make it happen, right?

So here I am, holding Will Schuester and Doctor Who close to my heart, knowing I need to release them to make room for new prospects, but not wanting to let go. Not yet. But soon, I fear. Soon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A beautiful song stuck in my head

Discovering new music is never an active endeavor for me. It usually looks something like this:

During a late night, time-wasting binge on YouTube, I stumble across a video of Asian-American kids singing a cover of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” to promote Kollaboration. Wonder to myself who’s Train and what’s a Kollaboration? Decide to watch the video. Feel instantly impressed by everyone’s voice. Damn, these Asian kids can sing! Who knew?

Find and watch the original song by Train. Feel instantly unimpressed. Go back to listen to the Asian kids again and again.

Realize that the cherubic-faced Asian girl is catching my eye and ear repeatedly. Find her name – Clara Chung, aka
Clara C. What’s her deal? Visit her YouTube channel to listen to more, including a fantastic cover of “Fireflies” by Owl City. Think she sounds like an Asian Colbie Caillat.

Find the video for her original song, “Offbeat.” Sweet and catchy. Listen to that over and over. Decide the lyric “You put the art in my heart” is the most gorgeous sentiment ever.

Download the song for $1. Listen to it on repeat for two days straight.

I wasn’t looking for a new obsession. I wasn’t actively seeking an Asian-American singer to support. I wasn’t working off a recommendation from a friend. Finding Clara C just sort of happened.

Because that’s true discovery. “Offbeat” is a beautiful treasure at the end of a random journey through the Internet. How many other fans have discovered her this way? Who knows. One thing’s for sure - Clara C has a new fan in me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Diorama Envy

Everyone made dioramas in grade school. Take a shoe box, throw some art supplies at it, and end up with a scene from the American Civil War or Animal Farm. Not sure if this is still done, but I made plenty in my day.

Of course, my diorama projects were often trumped by my classmates’ projects. For a desert scene in 3rd Grade, I spent a day mixing Play-Doh colors together to make an adobe house and cutting out green cacti from construction paper. A classmate’s arctic scene featured an enormous igloo built with sugar cubes, snow banks of fluffy white cotton sprinkled with glitter, and an icy pond made out of crackling blue cellophane. He clearly had superior art supplies with which to create. After one look at his masterpiece, my adobe house fell over and refused to stand up straight again.

But when I saw the photo gallery for The Washington Post’s fourth annual Peeps Diorama Contest, my diorama envy hit an all-time high. Take a gander for yourself and you’ll feel the same way. The winner? Disney/Pixar’s Up recreated with bunny Peeps. Sweet genius.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Out of the Gate Running Away

Leave fast, walk slow. This is what you do at the end of an audition. I’ve also heard it put this way – don’t leave until the door closes on the person after you. Why? Because if the casting director needs to call you back for any reason – camcorder malfunction, to read for another role – you want to be within finding distance.

I auditioned for Grey’s Anatomy a few days ago and witnessed the importance of this advice firsthand. I signed in, clocked the names of the people ahead of me, checked that my sides were still current, and went outside to wait. A lovely African-American woman (who I’d just heard reading the same sides through the window) came out of the door, giving me the obligatory half-smile as our eyes met. That “I’m being polite but I hope you don’t get the job over me” look. (I’ve perfected it myself.)

Moments later, one of the casting directors came out, calling for her. He ran to the end of the sidewalk, cupped his hands around his mouth, and screamed her name. No luck. She was out of sight. He shrugged and said, “Oh well. Who’s next?”

I watched this happen two more times. These actors went in, did their audition, then high-tailed it out of there as if they were escaping federal arrest. Each time, the casting director came running out, yelling after them, but these actors were gone like the wind. All three of these people missed opportunities to read for additional roles that might have gotten them a job.

So after you finish your audition, say thank you and get out of the room fast. Then, stop and check your text messages. Better yet, send one! Put your sunglasses on your head. Find your keys. And don’t go anywhere until the next person is called in and the door is closed behind them. You’ll be glad you did.