I was in a car accident last Wednesday night. I am fine physically, but I found out yesterday that my car is totaled and so emotionally and financially, I went into a tailspin. Yes, the accident was not my fault. And yes, I have insurance. And yes, I have no injuries. But the fact remains that no matter what they pay me for my car, it won’t be enough to buy a new (even if it’s used) quality car. I had a 2005 Prius that I LOVED and it was paid off. Ugh. It’s just not a good time for this to happen. When is a good time? I have no idea. Maybe when you are retired and live on a lake? Anyway, my parents are coming to the rescue to help me. You might think that at 39 I feel bad about taking their money. You would be wrong. I need help and they are willing to help me. This is not a time for pride. I should find out from my insurance company all the details today. This is a new experience for me. I should look at it as an adventure!
[sigh]
Yesterday I went to the body shop to make sure all my little things (cds, receipts, floppy temporary sandals from having a pedicure) were out of the car. I was pointed toward the back of the lot. Specifically, “Total Loss is a row of cars behind that rusty dumpster.” So true. I burst into tears when I saw my car. I know they had to take it apart to find out what the problem was, but it was still in pieces. It was like going to identify a body after an autopsy only they hadn’t put all the organs back in and sewn it up. They didn’t even cover it with a sheet. They thought, “Well, this one’s dead. No point in makin’ her look pretty.” I recognize that my car is an inanimate object, but I had a lot of memories in that car and they were all there behind that rusty dumpster, too.

I still love going to the Y here. It’s funny because lots of people don’t lock their stuff up. They don’t leave it out, but they put it in a locker. So when I go to put my things away, I open about 6 or 7 lockers stuffed with purses and coats before I find an empty one. I find the whole thing strange.

The Coen Brothers are going to be shooting their next movie here and they had a call for extras about a week and a half ago. I have heard through the grapevine (one exists in every city) that some of the background actors would be [potentially] getting the chance to read for roles. My ego would not let me attend. This IS a time for pride.

I got my hair cut on Monday. I will not be returning to the dame who gave me this chop. My hair looks like it’s in an “in between stage.” Nobody wants a hair cut that looks like something they are growing out. It’s short. Shorter than I have had in about 15 years. It’s too short to put in a pony tail but not too short to have bedhead that looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie. Sometimes I look at myself and I think, “Hmmm, this hair cut would have been really cute in 1994. On a man. Behind a dumpster.”

My new life continues. Not a whole lot to report. I have found it surprisingly difficult to find a job here. I had a fairly unrealistic understanding of what the job market is. I have been out of it for so long. Well, I wasn’t so much OUT of it as I was in a different part of it. A part that required me to tote around large photos of myself wherever I went and dress “nice casual.” I had thought that I would be able to find SOME sort of job easily. That simply has not been the case. Most places are not hiring. End of story. BUT, I did get offered a part-time job with a nationally recognized weight loss company. I’ll give you more details when it’s all confirmed. In any case, I’m happy about it and it’s the start of something! I will be volunteering for South by Southwest (SXSW, we call it here…..) for the festival. The thing I’m most excited about is that I’ll get to wear a badge with my photo on it around my neck and look super official.

I don’t really care for my French class all that much. I can’t even really pinpoint what’s wrong, but it’s not gelling with me. I don’t know how to say that in French.

I’m out of the habit of seeing what the weather is going to be like daily. Los Angeles was so often “light sweater, jeans and flip flop” weather. That explains why I have been caught outside without an umbrella when it’s raining, without a heavy coat when it’s 29º and then wearing that heavy coat when it’s 61º. I’ve made big changes and the weather is seeing me on those changes and raising.

The other night I went out with some of the ColdTowne folks after I taught. We went to a place called The Grand: A Social Club. Doesn’t that sound dreamy? It’s a pool hall where women were definitely in the minority and UT garb is the majority. I had a beer and listened to a fairly intense conversation about whether or not Sondra Locke ruined Clint Eastwood’s films.

The traffic here is not nearly as bad in general as Los Angeles, but I’m going to say that the natives were right about one thing in particular: I-35 is TERRIBLE between the hours of 4:30PM and 7PM. The freeway is simply too small for the amount of cars on it. At one point, it’s TWO lanes. And the on ramps are, I’m not kidding you here, 20 feet. Somebody better let you in or you are going to run into the wall if you have any speed built up at all. But you probably don’t because you were only going 5MPH because the person in front of you is hedging about taking the freeway or the access road. Nobody here honks either. The other day I honked at someone on Barton Springs (the light was GREEN- why are you sitting there?) and I swear to you, everyone from every lane and every building and every Whataburger looked at me like I had just said that the North had won the Civil War. People, the light was GREEN.

My water pressure is lower here than I’m used to. That’s a fascinating observation, no? What a bore! Seriously, I just bored myself with that sentence. I can’t decide if I’ll edit it or leave it in. You know who else is boring? Lily and Cane on the “Young and the Restless.” They are SO BORING! I get it: she has cancer, can’t have a baby and her “chemo friend” Harry (a hammy actor who was on twice- just twice!) died. Yes, he’s Australian, lied to her about his identity and needs to wash his hair. Who CARES? Go back to Sydney, take your boring child bride and be boring there. Stop clogging up Genoa City. I am honking at both of you right now. HONKHONK. Move it!!! The light is GREEN!!!!!

Man, I’m going to be GREAT at SXSW.

Everyone here calls me ma’am. At first, I thought that I had suddenly aged. But then I realized that EVERYONE calls me ma’am. Even the old lady next to me waiting to cross the street. It’s a Southern custom I had forgotten about.

Finding a job has become a bit of a challenge. I haven’t been in the “Work Force” in many years and the whole process for getting a job has changed radically since the last time I was here. Now, for many jobs, you apply online. And upload a resume and references and letter of interest. My interest is in getting a job. The upside to this procedure is the saving of trees and gas and time, since I can do it from home. The disadvantage is that nobody gets to see my smiling face as I drop off that application. Also, I would get out of the house. I actually went to one of the places I had applied online to actually drop off a resume and the girl I spoke with said that there was no one to give my resume to and that all hiring was done from the online submissions. I really think that employers are doing themselves a disservice. You gain a lot of information from someone in person. Like whether or not they are CRAZY. Also, my business resume is not too impressive. There is a fairly large gap in my work history because I was supporting myself as an actress. I’m not sure how audition skills translate. “well, if you give me some sides, I can memorize them really quickly, you can film me performing them without any props and then I can leave.”

I have become obsessed with two things: recyclable grocery bags and Zumba. Almost every time I go to the grocery store, I buy more recyclable bags because I am embarrassed that I forgot the ones I bought the last time. I now have 14 recyclable bags. I used to have this obsession with recyclable travel mugs. The bags are much cheaper. And ZUMBA. You guys, it’s so wonderful. I do it at the YMCA that I joined. Seriously, if you like So You Think You Can Dance then I say So You Think You Can Zumba. It’s a workout and I feel absolutely sexy and sweaty when I’m done. I even bought Zumba shoes. I’m that serious about it. If only they had recycled ones, ma’am.

Observations:
1. Parking lots here are the equivalent of the 405. There is no rhyme or reason to the way people drive and once people get INTO the parking lot, they drive faster, with more intent and on their phones. Lines on the pavement? Don’t pay any attention to them, they’re probably for hopscotch. Which would infer that children are around which the aren’t because they have been killed in collisions. Really, sir? You REALLY need to get to Plucker’s Wing Bar THAT fast? Sheesh.
2. I have been disappointed in the amount of cat fur that my feline children are shedding. I had convinced myself that once we moved, they would shed less or even stop. They haven’t. And they still don’t try to clean it up themselves. I have asked multiple times and they usually just turn over and go back to sleep. Or drink my bourbon.
3. I sometimes have moments where I can’t remember where I am. I think it comes from seeing certain familiar things (Starbuckses, Floyd’s Barbershops, McDonaldses) next to unfamiliar things (Randall’s, Town Lake, Mopac) and then I become disoriented. It happened this morning. I was driving on Bee Caves and visualizing unloading my groceries at my North Hollywood apartment, and suddenly, I was genuinely frightened. It probably lasted less than a second, but it was a true moment of panic.
4, This disorientation also applies to listening to the radio. The Texas School of Culinary Arts was having a gingerbread house competition during the holidays and EVERY time I heard it in my car, I thought (or said out loud to myself), “Why are they advertising in Los Angeles? What a waste of money.” And then I looked up and saw the top of a cowboy hat driving a huge, shiny pickup truck in the lane next to me and I remembered where I was.
5. Living in Los Angeles, I had become accustomed to NOT checking the weather. At all. That particular habit has bitten me in the pants quite a few times here. Yesterday there was ice on the car when I woke up. Today it rained a little bit. And last week it was 70º. I don’t get it. My routine of wearing a t-shirt with a light sweater and jeans is not going to fly here.
6. My skin seems to be changing. It’s not as dry. I may have to replace my entire skincare regimen. The HORROR.
7. I have never met so many people who like breakfast tacos.
8. Okay, that last one is just about me.

Things are chugging along here in Austin. Earlier in the week, I had lunch with one of my professors from undergrad. He was so encouraging to me and gave me several job leads. He even paid for lunch! (And I had wine.) I also learned this week that I will start teaching a class at Coldtowne starting in the next two weeks. And on Tuesday night I went out with the Austin Ladies Temperance Society and Etiquette Club. All 17 of us went to Black Sheep Lodge and drank and swore for about 3 hours. And ate Tater Tots, God’s perfect food.

Today Shannon and I ate at Threadgill’s (where one of my brothers is a waiter) and happened to run into my other brother who was there (he’s an eater.) We had some great food and then we went to the LBJ Library and Museum. Who wouldn’t do that on New Year’s Day? It seemed perfectly logical. A Presidental Library always follows cheese grits and black-eyed peas.

For New Year’s Eve, I went to the Austin French Language Meetup party (actually it was a joint party with the Austin Rocks Meetup. When pressed about what Austin Rocks is, I was told, “it’s just a group for people who like to rock.” Fair enough.) Do you know about Meetup.com? You can find almost any kind if group on there in your area. Do you like Nude Yoga? They’ve got it. How about Ghost Hunting? Yes, Ma’am. What about just “rocking”? You bet. I was originally wait listed, but then got in when somebody dropped out. I like adventures, even adventures where I don’t know a soul, and if there are foreigners involved, even better. I was about 20 years younger than almost everyone there. There were a bunch of foreigners there (again, which I love) but they can be SO WEIRD. I met an Italian lady who refused to give me her last name for privacy reasons. I’m not sure what she thought I was going to do with it. She also would only tell me the general area in which she lives here in Austin but told me that any information beyond that was not “pertinent to the conversation.” I agreed.

I did actually meet some wonderful Brazilians. One of the ladies invited me to visit in Rio. Again, we are talking about a woman who is roughly my parents’ age.

There were some Asians there that I could not understand, even when they spoke French. And then unfortunately, there was an American girl (who I could understand) who told me about her recent breakup. FOR 2 HOURS. That is not hyperbole. When I would escape, she would find me and say, “Oh there you are, anyway……” I realized she just needed someone to vent to, but C’MON! I guess Americans are weird, too.

Bu the weirdest part was that I was coaxed onto the “dance floor” (ie. living room with the furniture pushed to the wall) to dance and the song that all 3 people were jamming to was “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins and that other guy. The ONLY people who still dance to “Easy Lover” are foreigners (well, and me), am I right? And as I swayed back and forth, I thought, what the hell has become of my life? I’m in a house in South Austin, surrounded by NO ONE that I know, wearing a name tag, which will be my identification if one of these people kill me. And then I laughed and ate a cream puff with such verve that I bit the inside of my mouth. I figured some wine would disinfect it.

Earlier in the day, my friend Martin and I had had some coffee and he mentioned that although sometimes he’d like to be more like me, he realized he isn’t. I’m almost positive that if he spent his New Year’s the way I did, he’d be glad. Because I’m really weird.

First of all, a cat update: My kitty is not dying. After having some mouth surgery on Friday, she is doing much better. She’s even eating! It’s such a relief. Even my mom said, “you sounded so DEPRESSED!” My mother is not a cat person at all. Until recently, she referred to my cat as “the creature” or “the animal.” The last time she was here George jumped on her lap and she continued her conversation with me with her hands in the air until he got the hint and jumped off.

I’ve had a few realizations while I’ve been here. I was driving up Congress last week in the evening to go to Happy Hour for my friend Emily’s birthday, and as I saw the Capitol, I got a rush like I was seeing the Hollywood Sign. It was beautiful and majestic and regal. It took my breath away. And I thought, ” I LIVE here.” And I was relieved.

I feel that there are MORE different opportunities for happiness here than there were for me in Los Angeles. I think that there, my only road to contentment would be through professional success. And who even knows what that means? I actually HAD professional success there and I wasn’t happy. But HERE, there are so many more roads to take. I think I don’t even know the map yet. I still have to find a job, but I’m not worried about it. It may take some time, but you know what? That’s a-okay with me. You know that Beatles’ song, “Getting Better”? That’s what I’m all about at the moment.

On Sunday night, I went to see some shows at Coldtowne with Graham and Darcy. I really enjoyed myself. It’s an improv theatre with tremendous spirit. It’s BYOB, there are sofas and laughter and support and everyone really seems to enjoy each other and the art of Improvisation. It made me happy to be there. It had a very “Austin” feel to it. I don’t really know how to define that. But basically, it’s pretty damn cool. And I was relieved.

I’m going to register for a French class at the Alliance Français d’Austin right after the New Year and I also joined the French Meetup here. C’est magnefique. People here are happy to be here. It’s not a stop on the way to something Bigger and Better. And therefore, je suis très heureuse! And relieved. Joyeux Nöel et Bonne Année!

Well, I made it. To Austin, that is. I’m doing okay. That’s about it. Okay. I’m extremely exhausted and I’m living out of suitcases and bags until my furniture and stuff gets here later in the week. The trip here was uneventful. Oh wait, no it wasn’t. My mom and I did a 360 on the icy freeway outside of Van Horn, Texas and ended up in a ditch. I started crying. My mom called AAA. The cats slept. We ended up staying an extra night in Van Horn. Population: 1 Dairy Queen, 1 Ramada and a stoplight. Car is fine, mom is fine, daughter is fine, thanks to the Sheriff of Culberson County.

Last night was my first night in my new place. I was sleeping on a “very comfortable” air mattress in the middle of the living room. I put my head on the pillow and immediately started tearing up. That fairly quickly turned into full-fledged crying.
I cried:
-because an air mattress is never comfortable no matter what it says on the box
-because I’m not sure what I have done
-because you can get lost, no matter how small the city is
-because everyone has been SO KIND to me
-because Southern Hospitality is a reality
-because although I found some comfort in Target, it’s not the North Hollywood Target. That one MADE SENSE to me
-because it took me 35 minutes to find Saran wrap in my new grocery store
-because I have a new grocery store
-because I have SO much work ahead of me- in so many facets
-because I thought that Leaving Los Angeles would be the hard part and now it seems that Arriving in Austin will be
-because I don’t have internet until Friday so I have to go to Whole Foods to use their WiFi
-because the guy who had the apartment before me was not as good a tenant as me and he didn’t leave the mail key and I had to call a locksmith to put a new lock in
– because Austin is not a grid. These streets make no sense!
-because I’m not sure who I am without the direction of being an unsatisfied actress
-because Happy may take a little/lot more work than I thought it would
-because I miss my friends so much
-because I’m crying
-because my cat George keeps getting locked in cabinets and then I can’t find him.
-because my cat Georgie keeps falling off of things because of her epilepsy medication
-because of the amount of breaded foods I have eaten the past 5 days
-because my mom and I weren’t hurt in that icy accident.
-because I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake.

Now, I’ve only been here 48 hours and when I was feeling all that, I had been here 24. And truthfully, all of it boils down to the last one. So, if you are one of the people who thought this idea of mine was crazy, please don’t tell me to come back to Los Angeles. Right now I simply won’t be able to take it. I just have to live it out somehow.

I auditioned tonight for a production of “Our Town.” That seems like a start. I just don’t know where “My Town” is right now.

PS. “The Doubtful Guests” are a great improv show that I saw in Los Angeles. I don’t know if they still perform. I saw them at Bang.

Well, I’m living my last 72 hours in Los Angeles. Here are the haps: packing, hangnails, misplacing my scissors, cursing how much crap I have, eating odd meals of left over food (V8 and applesauce, anyone?) and trying to make sure that everyone feels okay about me leaving. That last one is the most exhausting. At the risk of sounding conceited, I’ll say this: too many people want me these last few days. Any other time that you move, people (myself included) back off for about 2 weeks. But right now, at very the point where I am getting my most stressed, it appears that everyone else is, too, and I feel tugged in a million directions. I love my friends so much and I know that they care deeply about me, but people are treating me like I’m dying. They gaze at me for a little too long and their touches linger. I console them on their loss like a funeral director. Maybe they know something I don’t. I was venting to Karen about how many people have wanted to make their last interaction with me “special” and to be frank, that’s exactly what I don’t want. I want just normal whatever time. I don’t want some experience with a good friend that I’ve never had. I want to do the things we always do- like sitting at Starbucks and chatting it up til we both yawn with satisfaction. Last night I went to Gillian’s and saw her, her sister and their 4 kids. It was wonderful because it was just life. Kids playing, wine drinking, laughter and pie. And I didn’t have to take a shower. That’s my kind of night.

In talking to my friend Monica, we came to the conclusion that I am in Tech Week. Anyone who has done a play knows what I am talking about. The show I’m producing is called “My Big Move” and it opens on Wednesday and right now there are a lot of things to do. And as one knows with tech week, you have to disconnect emotionally in order to get the job done. I feel that way. I have no tears left. About two weeks ago, my tears were right under the surface ready to make a break for it with nothing more than a mention of a Sig Alert. Now I can’t work tears up for anything or anyone. I try to squeeze them out, but end up feeling foolish and acting like there is sleep in my eye. When I’m saying good bye to someone now my brain is already on to the next thing. This morning I saw my friend Thomas and as we were hugging and saying we would miss each other, he said, “You’re thinking about Bed, Bath and Beyond, aren’t you?” Um, yes I was. And God Bless him, he sent me on my way. On Thanksgiving, David Iserson, the host with the most, simply waved to me and said, “I’ll see you later.” I appreciated it immensely because I start to feel like I’m dying when people treat the parting as so IMPORTANT and FINAL. And that’s not what I want to feel when I’m so excited about this new adventure. A different David stopped by for 5 minutes to give me some fantastic coasters that he made for me, like it was no big deal and my apartment did not look like a storage unit. That felt good. And Dave (I know a lot of Davids…..) and Ben had me over to their place to drink wine on the couch while some football game was one- no, I don’t know which one and neither did they. Those are the moments I want. Nothing fancy. Nothing IMPORTANT. Just you and me and me and you. Cause we can do that anywhere. Even Texas. And nobody has to shower.

6:14PM, November 22, 2009.

I’m writing this on a pad of paper. I’m in my trailer. My call time was 1PM but I got a call at 8:15AM asking me to “be here NOW.” So I drove from the Valley to Culver City and made it before 9AM. That’s Sunday traffic, for you. It’s now 6:15PM. I have done nothing. Not completely true- I’m in hair and makeup. But aside from that……zip.

If I were staying in Los Angeles, this would make me mad. This would be a situation where I sit in my 8’x3′ trailer (actually they opened up the other half for me so it’s 8’x6′!) all day and rail against THE INDUSTRY. “I had THINGS to DO today!” I would scream in my head. Which is true. But I see how futile that is. Yes, my day has been spent alone in a small metal box trying not to fall asleep on my french-twisted hairdo. It’s not easy to do. I didn’t bring enough things with me to maintain my focus. No TV. My phone battery is almost dead and I cannot read any more of The Artist’s Way. I’m simply TOO inspired, Julia Cameron.

Being in this box reminds me of a particular episode of Law & Order: SVU. Detective Stabler checked himself into prison to see what all the fuss was about. Chris Meloni acted his pants off. He had visions and night sweats and started talking to himself. When the guard came to let him out, he was beside himself. I was, similarly, relieved a little while ago when a fly wandered in here and I got to try to make him leave. It only took about a minute (again, it’s not a large space) but at least it was variety. Most of the day, my excitement has been waiting for my bladder to fill so I can walk the 10 feet to the bathroom. Craft service is far away (which is good). I’ve been over there only twice today. Not bad for 9 hours. I’ve had some almonds, a very hard pear, some Snackwell’s and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Yes, I’m hungry.

What else? Well, my tailbone hurts. And earlier today- maybe 6 hours ago?- I did manage to take a 20-minute nap. I found the precise position that did not disturb my hair or makeup. I was on my stomach on the padded bench in here with my face gingerly propped on the top right corner of my forehead. I may have slipped a disc in my neck, but by God, my lipstick was still intact.

I feel forgotten about. The security guy said to me, “You’re still here? Hey, why are you here anyway?” Good question, Ramón. And one that we should ask ourselves every day. I have an irrational fear that the Honeywagon driver is just going to close up shop for the night and drive away with me in here. By the time the Terrified Maid gets to the set she will be the….God, I don’t know, I can’t think of anything glib. I just want to go home. It’s now 6:29PM. That only took 15 minutes?!?!?!?!

UPDATE: I got called to the set about 7:30PM. We wrapped at 8:20PM. We did two shots of Seth in which my rump passes by. Glad I didn’t disturb my hair. Oh, Hollywood!

UPDATE: I had a good night’s sleep and reread this. It sounds ungrateful. I’m not saying that being in a movie and sitting in a trailer is like being in Darfur, I’m just saying it can be lonely and boring. Oh, blogs!

I leave here in a week and a half. WHATTHE?!?!?!?!? It’s true, y’alls. After a year of theoretical dreams, it’s now happening. Lots going on. I got an apartment in Austin. I’m living in boxes. I think I have a mouse. I’m auditioning for “Our Town” two days after I get to Austin. I’m freaking out and can’t cry anymore (isn’t that a song?). And finally, one of my cats has epilepsy.

Yes, I got a place in Austin! I really think I’m going to love it. It’s walking distance to both Barton Springs and Zilker Park. It’s a one bedroom and it comes with a washer/dryer. And a dishwasher. I feel like an EMPEROR! While I was in Austin, I had a bit of a freak out. I mean, MY LIFE AS I KNOW IT IS ENDING. I know, I know, it’s really just CHANGING. Yeah, but it’s also ENDING. I also realized for the first time that I am going to have to find a new grocery store. I know that seems pretty obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me. I’ve gone to Ralph’s for 13 years! What am I going to do?!?!? But then I got over that and freaked out about how far away I’ll be from a Target. Which is silly because earlier that same day, I was freaking out about how small Austin is (1,000,000 people vs. 10,000,000) so chances are, I’ll be CLOSER to a Target. I also recognized, for the first time in my life, that I have been living in a state of URGENCY for about 17 years (since I graduated from college, basically.) My life here is DEFINITELY mired in urgency. That needed to be done YESTERDAY and by the way, you need to be at that audition NOW. And that particular sensation was missing in Austin. Kind of refreshing, but mostly disorienting. Nobody there seemed to be urgent about anything. Not about my apartment application (which took 5 days to process,) not about getting breakfast (almost 30 minutes after ordering,) not about getting through that red light (pull OUT into the intersection when you are turning left!) Nothing. I know I will get used to it, but right now I feel very “Uptight City Girl goes to the country and has a fish out of water experience with the po’ folks.” Of course, we know that after milking a cow or helping some bumpkin have a baby, Uptight City Girl recognizes her Uptight Ways and starts to Slow Down. So, I have to be patient. Which I’m trying to do Urgently.