Animated by Henry Cram and hand-lettered by Alex Savakis. Voiced by me and Henry. We needed a better post roll for our online video. We had so much fun.
Animated by Henry Cram and hand-lettered by Alex Savakis. Voiced by me and Henry. We needed a better post roll for our online video. We had so much fun.
The bus smells like old milk today. Every day. I hate sitting in the middle of the long busses, right in the weird, hinged part that rocks back and forth as the bus makes a turn. It’s the part with accordion walls, and I’ve got no choice, because it’s the only seat free. This isn’t a carnival ride. I’d prefer the only moving parts of my motor vehicle be the wheels.
I’m headed to Brentwood School. My son hears that they don’t even really have to study there. My son hears they just sit around in circles like a bunch of hippies, and that the students sometimes just leave and go to the beach. I wonder where my son hears things like this, and I remember that these legends of other schools are as old as the day the second one-room schoolhouse opened up in one area. I roll my eyes when he starts in on subjects like cafeteria food, the things other parents let their kids do, the way things were so awful in this school or that town. He’s 14. Let him have it. In a few years he’ll be in college talking about how good his high school choir was. Then after that it’ll be job stuff, small town stuff. There will always be stories to tell about these things.
Brentwood School is beautiful. These kids are all sitting outside, eating fancy chicken kabobs and fire roasted vegetables. They’re dressed like the magazines. They look like the movies. Their voices are like the radio. The campus looks like a resort. A bell rings and they don’t move quickly at all. The teachers are dressed casually, expensively. The butterflies even act like they might not know there’s a harsher version of life out there with windshields to hit like a hobo hitting rock bottom. It’s an innocent place, and there’s not a lot of pressure to do well.
On the bus, sitting across from me, this old man has a face with lines so deep they could have been written by Steinbeck. He has white whiskers, sores on his arms, and his trucker hat is falling apart like it’s been listening to overwrought country songs. He’s holding onto an envelope that looks as worn down as his skin, but the envelope appears to be empty.
Doors of classrooms close, and a group of students stand outside of the art room, spray painting skateboards. They aren’t laboring over the work. They’re just spraying. A group of kids pass me and they’re talking about how they really wish some girl’s self esteem was better. They say that she’s really pretty, but she’s so down on herself that it makes it hard to spend time with her. This is what these kids talk about, I guess. I think I was talking about smoking weed or some guy I liked who didn’t like me back, or how much of a bitch my parent/guardian/best friend was being.
The old man lifts the envelope to his cheek, dabs his face with it, returns it to his lap, reads it. He does this again and again. The envelope has a name on it- Suzanne. Her name is written in purple, cursive like the kind your mom used when she was writing notes to the school office excusing your absence.
I sit for a minute in the courtyard of the school. I’m early. When I take the bus I give myself extra time. I am nervous. I don’t know that I relate to these kids at all. I am about to talk to them about sex. I imagine their dating lives. I imagine their homes, their parents. A boy comes running up a hill, and he’s pushing a girl in a blue mop bucket. Her legs are sticking straight up out of the bucket like carrot sticks. I see his RUNDMC shirt and I think an old person’s thought. “I wonder if he even knows who RUNDMC is.” So be it, I’m old.
Suzanne. Who is she? What was originally in this envelope? It’s possible this is just an envelope he found in the trash. Each morning there are people who come by my house with their shopping carts and dig through my trash, right outside my window. They take more than the recycling. I’ve shuddered many times at the thoughts of the junk their hands have touched. I have taken to double bagging my bathroom trash. Maybe he just needed a soft thing to rub against his face. But then he puts the envelope back in his lap, reads the name, touches it with a hard, yellow finger.
In the classroom, everything is going well. These teenagers, at the meat of it, they’re just like any others. One boy asks if I could be his mother. I tell him I’m no fun at all as a mom. I’m not just saying that. Later that night I tell my son. We talk about the kind of grandmother I’d be. He says I’d be a bad influence. I was never a bad influence on him. He just does the opposite of what I do, and it all works out well.
I’m openly staring at the man, but he’s gracious or removed enough that he doesn’t look back at me, challenge me to stop. It’s impolite, but there’s nothing else to look at. I suppose I could stare at my phone, or count BMWs out the window. He lifts the envelope to his face again. Dabs his cheek. He’s crying. The envelope returns to his lap, and he’s staring at her name as if it’s one of those optical illusion puzzles that were so popular in the 90s. What’s he going to see in that name if he relaxes his eyes just right?
The kids ask me questions. They ask me about orgasms, nipples, why some men get man-boobs. They ask me what my life was like. One girl asks if I was ever raped. They ask me why people like the things they do. They ask me about love. They ask me about love. Again, and again, they ask me about love.
I can answer anything at all about sex, the body, the way it all works, the psychology of the fetish, the medical explanation for the process of getting a boner. But I don’t know fuckall about love. What I know best is the absence of love, because the absence is around us more often than love proper. I don’t know anything about love that you don’t, kids. I want to find Suzanne. I want to find the old man. I want to fill up the envelope with whatever was needed to keep her around. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s an apology. Maybe it’s less time spent at the dog track, pissing away the rent. Maybe it’s a few more years of life, or better access to health care. I want to know what to say when a young girl with a ponytail and a striped shirt asks me “How do you know for sure that you’re in love?” I want the answer to be better than “Sometimes you don’t know until it’s too late.”
Alright, so let’s take a minute to be happy about remission. Around a year ago I came clean with y’all about the whole cancerous cells mutating thing that my body was doing. It was like my lymphatic system announced to me that it would be unavailable because it was backpacking through Europe to find itself. And, of course, one simply cannot do a lot with a MIA lymphatic system.
And yet, we did it! We made it through this year, and I got to sit in that stupid office with the various diplomas and photos of German Shepherds on the wood paneling and listen to my doctor click his pen-butt a few times and announce that “everything looks good”. In that moment, I felt nothing at all. I said, “Okay,” went to the reception desk, paid them for the zillionth time, and stepped out onto the street. It was when I started walking toward my house, the sun shining on the palm trees, my pink Chucks shuffling along, that I uttered something I have never in my whole life thought would leave my lips. With a smile on my face and an “alriiiiight” shake of my head, I said “BOOM-shaka-laka!”. And I goddamn meant it.
The main reason I say that “we” did it, is that over this past year especially, I have had the great fortune of being taken care of by so many people in my life. Some of you gave me freelance work. Some of you sent me presents. Some of you helped chip in when Dan and LA Record set up that amazing fundraiser that helped me pay off 8 grand in medical bills. Some of you bought me groceries, and my son was able to eat like a prince. Some of you spent time with me, and with Trast. Some of you gave me rides to appointments, or went to the gym with me. You all did so many great things, and when people ask me if I have a support system, I can’t even make my arms wide enough to show the “this big” of it all.
So, now I’m pretty set with not having to worry about chemo and radiation and surgery and what’s going to happen next. Sure, I have to continue to take a pretty whopping dose of prednisone for a while, but compared to the exhausting effects of the treatment, I’m doing much better.
However, I’m a bit screwed at the moment. That’s as delicately as I can put it. My unemployment benefits are gone, I am waiting to see if I qualify for an extension, and the money I’ve made on freelance jobs is gone. I’m sending out resumes daily, and shamelessly asking anyone I know to keep their ears to the ground for any work that might be out there. When they ask me what I’m looking for, I say “Anything.“, and by that I mean that I’ve got a variety of skills that I’ve honed over the years that would be of use.
Ideally, I’d have a full time position working in production in some capacity, utilizing my creativity. But the immediate need for any work at all is pressing. A friend of mine suggested that I have another fund raiser, but I feel like you already did so much to help the first time around, when I wasn’t exactly able bodied enough to do very much. So, I don’t like the idea of asking you to just hand me money.
I’d feel much more comfortable asking you if you have any work that you need done that you just don’t have the time or ability to do yourself. Do you need help doing some organizing? Do you need some writing done? Do you want me to clean your house? Do you want me to cook some meals that you can freeze and reheat later? Are you trying to put together a holiday party and you need someone to help with the nitty gritty details on that? Do you want me to be your body double in a major motion picture? (Ryan Gosling, I’m looking at you on this one.) There is no job too small right now, because every little bit is going to help more than you know.
I feel a little bit weird about posting this, because I know a lot of people are struggling to get by right now. But, as I sit here in this place of panic with $1.65 in my bank account and a lot of bills that need to be paid, and time and again all the people in my life say, “You’ll figure something out. You always do.”, I need to do something, and this is at least something.
So, please, contact me if you think of something I can do to help you. And again, thank you for being a part of my life and for all of your help.
***And if you’re wondering how to pay me for services rendered, you can always use this:
United lost my luggage.
It’s more humid than a swamp creature’s armpit.
Everyone calls everyone else baby, darlin’, and a guy last night called me mama (in a non-sexual way).
I ate grits at Waffle House. I don’t like grits, but it had to be done.
I saw a smushed turtle. That made me sad. I yelled at the flies for swarming him, further influencing the slightly amused looks I’m getting from the locals.
My computer freaked the hell out and I lost three recorded interviews I did recently.
People are really damn friendly.
I’ve got a big, bad case of nerves over giving a speech.
I don’t mean to brag, because normally I let other people do that for me, but right now my dad is in stupid Wisconsin, and I can’t fly him out here every damn time I want him to stand in a room and tell people how damned great I am. Plus, he’s old as hell, so people are like, “Whoa. Guess it was bring your WalMart greeter to the networking party day.” Anyway, thanks to my dad living far away and being old, I guess I’m going to have to be the one who pins up my accomplishments on the giant refrigerator of life. This refrigerator better have some decent leftovers inside. I’m a bit of a night eater.
This is to apologize to my dad for calling him old and to endear me to you. Our band is called “Country and Rap”. Hire us to play music for you when you’re drunk.
Anyway, being “freelance”, or as some jerks call it “Got No Job”, or as I call it when I am filling out a weekly form, “unemployed”, that means I have to spend a lot of time thinking about what exactly I’m good at. I even made a list. I’m exceptionally good at list making, by the way. Unfortunately, the stuff I am good at doesn’t always naturally (or legally) translate into me having a job. Even some of the whacky shit people hire other people to do in Hollywood is harder to come by than you think. You can’t just walk into Howie Mandell’s house and offer to wash his hands for him. I know. I tried.
One of the things I’m really good at is the thing where you write about the stuff in your head which is the stuff you think about the things you see and do and hear. That last sentence is a perfect example. I don’t know how I churn out such sensicle bits of amazing, but they flow out of me like mixed metaphors out of a unicorn diamond fountain. I’m telling you guys, I write good.
And I regularly find myself writing for free, only it’s not for free. My payment comes in the form of thumbs ups, or people rating my Yelp reviews. I’ve got, like 35 “Funny” ratings on Yelp, and I’m not even trying. Also, I’ve been reviewing music and comedy for AV Club, Beatweek, and LA Record for years now. Also, at age 8, I wrote a compelling letter to the Kellogg’s people regarding the quality of their in-box toys, which did not come pre-stickered, leaving those of us children with shaky hands to apply our own stickers and face the painful thunder of a million playground bitches mocking our slightly askew sticker jobs. That letter resulted in a whole box of pre-stickered toys, and a letter signed by Tony the Tiger.* In any case, I am rather certain that it was my stellar writing that got my message across.
So, since I’m already writing for free, and since I have a bit more time on my hands lately, I’ve decided that I’m going to start filling the world with more of my reviews. Hey, if I’m not working for anyone in particular, that means I can say whatever the hell I want, however I want to say it, and gradually build up more samples of my writing that will either cause people to hire me, or be used against me when my children have me committed.
What you got for me internet? You got a business you opened, a product you’re selling, a music you made, a book you wrote, or a sandwich for me? I like all of those things, you know? So, get in touch. Reach out. And if you don’t, whatever. I’m still going to be here, writing on the internet, until some anti-piracy act makes me stop. Stay tuned for some reviews, y’all.
*As I write this, I am wondering how the hell a tiger, with such huge, furry paws, was able to place those stickers with such precision.
Good morning everyone! I trust the day finds you all well. I don’t mean to be overly emotive, but it’s been a fairly exciting morning over here at my house. I woke around 10, which seemed a bit early for a Saturday, but something was keeping me from sleeping. I had a special feeling about the day. So, I went to the bathroom, made my coffee, and took a look at my inbox. Well, you know how people are always talking about how you should trust your intuition? I quickly found out why I was feeling the belly flutters.
That’s right. American Golf is interested in me. Amy, you’re an angel. Your golden hair and your winning smile in combination with your incredible perception for matching me with the right job make you an enviable goddess whose visage ought grace a postage stamp. I wouldn’t be surprised if you and you alone hold the key to revitalizing our damaged economy. You ought to be appointed the new Secretary of Labor immediately. And so, indebted to Amy for finding me this position, I wrote back to her.
Dear American Golf,
I’m sending you my resume because Amy, over at Career Builder, said that you would be interested in me. If you know Amy as well as I do, you’ll know that she’s pretty spot on when she figures out who would be a good match. After all, she did base her recommendation on my experience and qualifications.
While I have never in my entire life done anything even remotely related to accounting, I have a really good feeling about this. I’m sure someone from your team can explain all of that to me. I do have a son in 8th grade, so I could use his Algebra books as a resource whenever a big report is coming up.
I look forward to hearing back from you and setting up my office. What are your policies on decorating, by the way? I once worked at a place that didn’t allow us to bring our own rugs. That just doesn’t work for me. If your company has any sort of rug policy, I feel like we should discuss that up front.
So, fingers crossed, everyone. By this time next week, I may be gainfully employed as a Staff Accountant for American Golf. Dreams actualized. All thanks to Amy.