Ericson Just

Comedian, Podcaster, Etc...

A Rough Draft: What's Missing Is The Chase

    The thing I miss most about Los Angeles is my first year here.

    There’s something about that first year, that beginning that is so whimsical no matter what age you are. For me, I was twenty-five and I had finally mustered up the courage to do something that terrified me.

    At the time I thought it was leaving home. Migrating out of arms reach from parental units whom I’d already estranged myself from a year earlier. Even though I didn’t talk to my family, I still needed to be close to the familiar parts of my past that I had become so dependent upon. The idea of trying to assimilate, and make a name for myself in a new place without anyone to fall back on was terrifying. I had already made a trek out to Vegas five years earlier only to be denied lodging by the only relatives I knew in the area on my first night there alone. I was twenty, with little work experience and no degree, and really no business being in Las Vegas in the first place. I had an opportunity at the time to make a move further west to Los Angeles, but feared the city of tinsel-town would only be harsher on me and I couldn’t bear the rejection. Instead I returned to Philadelphia in hopes of rekindling the relationship that kept me there in the first place.

    But that’s the thing: I’d actually already had lived on my own. I live two full months in Sin City with little support from my parents and friends. I only had left because deep down I had no interest in being a poker dealer at a casino or a life guard at a hotel. But I couldn’t go to Los Angeles because the thing I was more afraid of was failure. I couldn’t bare the idea of striking out at something I loved. It was bad enough my relationship was on the rocks.

    That first is so exhilarating. Funny enough, my first gig here was as a poker dealer for private parties. I job I thought I had done fairly well but never got called in again to do. I slept on couches and drove a car that had no air conditioning. I got parking tickets, and moving violations and almost towed twice. I incidentally pushed Kate Beckinsale out of my way at her own movie premiere and had purchased a tuxedo to attempt to infiltrate the Oscars. I drove all around town. Worked part-time at a robot store and for one week as a promotor for debt collections. I looked forward to free improv workshops on the weekends and acted in awful student films. Slept in my car some nights. I met all sorts of people. And got high and ate bread-bites as I tried to focus on how to create momentum in a career I already felt was starting much too late.

    I finished that year with a desk job that paid $42,000 a year and a complete digression from what I’d came to do. A digression that would slow me down by three years. But I still remember that first year fondly. A year that began in November on Black Friday with me sitting in a near empty theater showing “The Muppets” and tried to calm my nerves, worried that my car with all the belongings I had to my name would be towed by the time the movie ended, my eyes half focused on the puppets on the screen and half focused on the small group of friends enjoying themselves a few rows in front of me. They seemed to have what I was longing for: belonging. 

    

Running Ahead A Week Of Chasing Fear

I’m going to try to get ahead of this one while I have some free time.

Two thirds of the team I work with is out of town for a wedding so my workload has lightened enough for me to find more than just pockets of opportunity to get things done.

I’ve been spending the weeknights slipping out to go to at least one open-mic to practice bombing. I should be more specific: because the act of bombing is incidental. You can attempt to bomb but that’s not really in your control. What I’ve been doing all week is actively avoiding using any prepared or tested material. Just getting up on stage and forcing myself to get comfortable just saying whatever is on my mind without worry of boring or offending the audience. It’s a hard feat. I’m naturally geared towards making sure the audience is having a good time. This is the ideal as a comedian: these people get me and we’re enjoying ourselves. Problem is being on stage, in the spotlight, with a time limit no less makes one sensitive to noticing the subtle ticks and clues as to what the viewer is experiencing. It’s usually wrong. The immediate thought when people aren’t laughing is: they hate me. This is boring. I suck. But the reality is we’re just not doing as good as we’d expected to do in our minds. And that’s what I’m combating.

The point is to make sure I’m comfortable working the audience with a blank head so on the off chance that my material doesn’t rock the fucking house I won’t go into panic mode. A week of playing the audience with no material sets the nervous systems expectations to a very low degree so when I’m on stage throwing out jokes that have worked in the past I’m not going to lose my nerve if they don’t laugh. I’ll hopefully just pivot.

This is the theory at least. I don’t know if it’ll actually work but lately I’ve been following the path of most resistance in getting myself to where I want to be as a comic (and in general a professional entertainer). Essentially: if it’s scares me, I should do it. 

 

Here's To Deadlines

Best advice I got about getting something done was from Merlin Mann about two weeks or so ago on his podcast talking about task management and to do apps. 

I'm down to the wire here so I don't have time to look up the exact quote but essentially what he said is: the deadline has to be a do or die condition. Basically it's a critical failure if the task isn't done by that time.

And I thought that was genius. A deadline doesn't mean shit if you can say "It's cool if I get it done five minutes after the buzzer" because the deadline is the end of the game, it's your final shot and if you get a point in a minute after it doesn't count (don't start picking at the metaphor, I know how it works -- this is part of your problem). 

We don't keep deadlines to do things well. We keep them to get things done. Keeping ourselves accountable through practice. That's it. You're not going to make any more money or any better quality shit you're just going to maintain a credible and effective behavior. So when the time comes and it's down to the final minutes and you didn't expect to get to this point: you're still ready and you can still pull out just enough point out of your ass to score.

If we fail. If we miss. There's only one thing we can do: observe the process, figure out where we went wrong, and plan for the future. What you do not do is see you're thirty minutes away from the clock running out and figure "fuck it, it's not worth even trying". I mean, you can. It's your life. Do what you want to do but the results are just as binary as the choices: get something done or don't.

A Rough Draft: The Unaccountable Amount Of Birthdays

    I’ll tell you what’s weird about Birthdays… Even though mine isn’t even here nor were we even on the subject…

    It’s weird how few you actually have and yet still how few you actually remember.

    Maybe I’m being hard on myself. Maybe I’m not giving myself enough time to think about it. Maybe I just live a very boring existence. But I can only recall a small handful of birthdays. Almost all of them with a varying degree of disappointment.

    All my childhood birthdays have coalesced into a single moment. My mom and dad, brothers and sister, all circled around me in our kitchen on Meadows lane as I am presented with a chocolate on chocolate cake with those supermarket bought birthday candles plugged in around my name. There would be as many candles as years I had lived, plus one more for good luck. There was always three roses on the cake, made complete of icing, and while my siblings would always choose to have the slice with the roses on it for their own birthdays, I never even wanted to try it. I just wanted a pure, unadulterated slice (I was the kind of kid that liked plain pizza over pepperoni). We’d sing, we’d eat, we’d go to bed.

    I’d had birthday parties around that time too, but never on the day. Parties were always scheduled to benefit parents and kids school schedules. They started big, at first so big that I had to share them with my siblings (which I secretly — but probably not as secretly as I thought — hated). By the time I reached fifth grade I would go to the movies with a small group of what I considered to be my closest friends and looking back I only still talk to one of those people.

    The last birthday I remember having in the suburbs of Philadelphia left me rather traumatized. My mother had decided to take me to the orthodontist of all places that afternoon and had supported him in the decision to install metal bands on my back molars for future braces. I fought tooth and nail against this decision. This is not how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. But with the compounded pressure of my mother and the callous Orthodontist (my father was still a dentist, and I believe this is after we had moved to Gainesville — it’s all very hazy how we ended up here) alongside the empty promise that I wouldn’t even notice they were there: I allowed them to be put into my mouth. Tearing up my inner cheeks and making my birthday dinner of cucumber sushi rolls and iced tea an absolute nightmare… I think I cried a lot that day.

    That’s the only birthday I really remember of my early teens. I didn’t have friends anymore and I didn’t enjoy celebrating with my family. Sometimes we’d go see a movie but even then we’d split up as my brothers and sister would go with my father to see something more mainstream like “Gladiator” as I went with my mom to see “Screwed” (I was a big fan of Norm MacDonald) a movie we ended up leaving half-way through due to a morgue scene with Danny DeVito that his too close to home after having lost my mother’s father and my first best-friend earlier that year. At this point there were no parties and I didn’t want them.

    When I turned sixteen is when I believe my father took me to my drivers license test and I failed — I also cried that day too. The worst part of it was that I had cut my hair that day in agreement with my father that my long hair, going all the way past my shoulders, was obscene and should be cut in exchange for me getting my license.

    I have no idea what happened when I was seventeen.

    Things perked up at eighteen. Legally able to drive, dressing better, and finally reconnected with my high-school secret crush / best-friend we spent the day together getting sushi on my mothers credit card and going to the Philadelphia Art Museum to look that the view of the Schuylkill River. I remember feeling the urge to kiss her in that moment but knew better to wait, patience was becoming a virtue for me.

    We ended up together by the next birthday and spent quite a few together that my mind seems to throw in the farther recesses of my memory. Twenty-one I remember was spent waiting till midnight to finally gamble legally at a casino in Atlantic-City. A foolish decision that ended with us driving all the way back to Philly at 3AM in a haze of exhaustion. 

    Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four… I’m sure I must have eaten sushi those days, but I can’t remember them for the life of me. I suppose I could go back to my journal archive and find out. I use to write wrap ups of my day the following day, but right now it’s the fact I can’t remember them at all that is so daunting to me.

    Some people attempt to party, some attempt to just find something new to make it memorable, some people work on their birthdays and I think those people are the worst (to themselves). I stopped celebrating the day with so many people because it gives me anxiety over wether they’re enjoying themselves which ends up draining me and leaving me feeling depleted. I much rather just spend it with someone special and do whatever I feel like that day — or whatever they have planned.

    The most memorable birthday I’ve had happened two years ago, when my girlfriend at the time took me out for a day of pampering, getting a mani-pedi and a massage followed by Wendy’s and Iron Man 3 and, of course, sushi. It was a great day: from start to finish. Never had anything like it, but that was when the realization hit me. We only get so many of these days and rarely know what to do with them. 

    

April Fools - A MySpace Memory

April Fools has always been my favorite holiday (you know, right after my birthday). 

I love the idea of a holiday devoted to clowning and practical jokes. A day where getting the best of someone is just seen as well planned spectacle. No greeting card company invented this holiday. There’s no candy on sale at rite-aid… well, there is — but it’s for easter. My point is there’s something pure about April Fools Day. There’s nothing you put into it other than ingenuity and effort and there’s nothing you get out of it other than a good story. 

The sad part is I don’t even typically pull very good pranks — if any at all. I lack the inspiration to plan that far in advance. I don’t have the will power to devote a whole day to one person’s foolery. I wanted to make a youTube video for the channel I work for but I got overloaded with work and they didn’t seem to keen on the idea anyhow. 

I did get it right once though. I’m grateful for that. 

It was either my senior year or the year after that I pulled it. This was the time of MySpace and password free wi-fi. Where if you had a Mac you had both the best computer on the market and also the most esoteric. You also had the disappointment of one of the worst presidents all time being re-elected into office after the Democratic party couldn’t elect a candidate that could appeal to the common man (oh the simpler times). 

I had managed to hack a friends MySpace account. In his trusting naïveté he had told me the password to get into this student account in the High-school Library. A harmless thing nowadays what with the way we have four fucking personal questions to answer just to pay our internet bill, but back then it wasn’t uncommon for a person to have one password for everything. And sure enough my friend was just such a person.

It was a very puerile joke too: just make his myspace very gay. You know: gay by the standard of an eighteen year old living in the aughts and having just discovered how to use toxic masculinity as a method for bedding women. Real typical juvenile alpha male shit — but this is also MySpace so…

I think I had expected a bigger win when he found out. Maybe some sort of congratulatory bow of submission. A bend of the knee perhaps. Something public and grand acknowledging his defeat at my hands. Instead he simply sent me discreet Aol Instant Message that it was a “nice trick” and then immediately, within only hours of my having vandalized his online altar, changed it back to how it been — as if nothing had ever happened.

I guess there's always next year.

This Years Resolutions - Status Update 001

    The trick is to set reasonable goals that you can incrementally adjust as you go.

    I started this year with four weekly goals: one podcast, one blog post, one video, and one open mic. It’s been roughly three months and I’ve kept to that commitment. In fact, I increased the dosage: this week I’ve gone to at least one open mic (if not more) every night of the week except Tuesday (Tuesday’s are dicey — I have therapy and acting class goes till 11:15 at night… I suppose eventually I could stop at a late mic somewhere in the city but I’ve learned not to push myself harder than necessary: before I started doing this six nights a week I aimed at doing it three times a night, four nights a week). I’ve reached 27 of my 100 sets I intend to accomplish over the course of the year. 

    I maybe have two or three solid jokes. 

    I’ve even added two new commitments to each-day at the beginning of this week: one instagram photo and one tweet — yeah, I’m working on my social media presence. So far I haven’t missed a day. I’m also adding a very hokey practice of writing down at least three things I’m grateful for to boot.

    This has worked well. It’s a good way to get me to create things but also a good way to help me not be too precious and become more and more comfortable failing. I even thought I’d come short today with a video but still pulled something out of my ass last minute by just sticking to my promise. I guess that’s the trick: showing up to do the work so you can get comfortable failing so you can get comfortable taking chances and eventually start making something worthwhile: at least I hope.

An Open Thought On What I Don't Know Involving Women In Hollywood

A.K.A the kind of thing I hold back from writing about because of my limited knowledge and the way we seem demonize each other. 

Okay. I’m going to sort this out in my head live on a public forum cause it’s a subject that means a lot to me and it just seems to keep on becoming a bigger topic of conversation. But if anyone is reading this and wants to point out where I am wrong or misinformed, please do.

So as I understand it there is a set minimum on the Screen Actors Guild that is universal for performers of any gender and it’s adjusted by budget. That’s how I remember it. Any rate paid above that is negotiated by the artist with the producer. Which means Chris Pratt get’s paid what he gets based off of what his and his management team are able to convince the filmmakers is worth investing in him, what the market will bear (a very Republican idea). Same goes for Jennifer Lawrence and Lawrence Fishburn. 

It’s a free market and the actors can choose to work for more or less as long as they don’t go below the union minimum which makes sure they’re making what is considered a reasonable wage for that actors (which is already more than I make in a week). But at the end of the day it’s an contractual agreement much like any other freelance job.

So accepting the premise that women make less on average than man in the field of ACTING alone… what are the causes of this? My only two assumptions are that it is true that women aren’t negotiating as hard as they're make counterparts or that Hollywood Producers are undervaluing female names in contrast to their male counterparts (i.e: Bradd Pitt and Angelina Jolie headlining is more valuable than Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie headlining which is less valuable than Brand Pitt and Marion Cotillard). And maybe it’s a mixture of both.

But is there any other factor I’m missing? 

Because if that’s the case it seems the answer is rather simple: we just need more people who value female talent to work in these industries. We need more people who care about equal pay to be producing these films. We need a movie going public who is more vocal in the female talents they want to support… And with the way the majority works… I don’t know if that will ever happen in mainstream film… because to me mainstream film is a lot like pornography. Sure, some people make pieces of art that transcend the medium but the majority of what is produced for the masses is self-indulgent pleasure fantasies made to rub the brain’s pleasure button into dust. And while it’s a noble idea to make people value character over charisma and beauty it’s not as guaranteed a sell — for fuck sake everyone I talk to who loves La La Land don’t it because of the writing but because Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters are so charming, so attractive. 

This year a friend of mine came back from Sundance and observed that all of the three films he saw featured main characters that were women making choices that moved the entire story into motion. And while I was upset he didn’t see the movie I told him to see I realized mine fell into that category as well. There’s a movement in the independent film market that is demonstrating the kind of progress that so many people seem to be fighting for. There’s a good chance that may enervate the mainstream in the future but taste isn’t something you can force in people, however base and puerile their own taste may be. 

I guess what I’m saying is… what are we actually fighting for today when it comes to women in Hollywood? Why do I feel like I’m missing something?

Maybe I'll Write Something Else, But Today, I Decided To Get Ahead In My Work

 

    Samuel sat alone at his table in the cafe looking out the large shop window as the cars passed by. Around him were people of various types of professions and ages. There was even a child in accompaniment of a older man — most likely between thirty-nine and forty-five, Samuel wagered in his mind. His mind actually satthese two, whom he assumed was a family unit, for a good several seconds longer than the cute brunette sitting not ten feet away from them as she worked on a medium sized touchpad, propped up and accessorize with one of those foldable cases that have a built in keyboard attachment that connects wirelessly and drain the battery. She hand on a trendy leather jacket and sharp heeled boots. Her jeans were fitted and cut off just inches above her shoes showing some leg (she must either be wearing short socks or none at all). He hair cascaded over her shoulders as her eyes seemed laser focused on whatever her fingers were creating on the screen as they dances from key to key. She wasn’t Samuel’s type, but she was cute and Samuel always noticed. 

    But then the father and daughter — a little girl, also brunette, her hair tied up with a nylon band at the top of her head, dancing around her father in a bright neon pink t-shirt and white slacks with pink flowers printed all over them. Her feet making soft clacks on the ground with her plastic… jellies were they called? Clear clogs made up of some polyurethane compound with a shit-ton of glitter added to the mix to give them a whimsical play aesthetic. She seemed to have an unbridled sense of joy and excitement for the world around her and her father, a tall man with the classic five o'clock shadow accompanied with a plaid button down and khaki ordeal, looked on to her with that kind of relaxed appreciation Samuel could never muster in any exchange. At least he never felt that.

    He turned back to the window. Watching the cars go by as they reflected sunlight off of their pastel colored chassis and right into the eye of the observer. Little flashes of punishment and pain as he tried to enjoy the view of the outside world.

Thoughts Of A Narcissist

So, I passionately believe that a lot of our time is spent considering identity. Our identity. The identity of ones self. And I believe we approach it in two ways. One: we look at people and see what we would like to become. These people are usually celebrities, athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs. Sometimes TV characters if you have an unhealthy understanding of the world and think a fictional persona can be as full and well rounded as a real person. But that’s what we do. We see the characteristics of a person and want to exude those. To be in that “category”. 

Two: The other thing we do, when we’re not looking at all the people we wish we could become and could be: is noticing the people we would rather avoid becoming. This takes up the most of our time. And it’s way easier. And far more debilitating. Because the thing you fear becoming seems so much closer and likelier than the things you’re so confident you could become. And what’s even worse: the people who exude the qualities you so desperately wish to avoid — don’t seem to even notice they’re there. They’re just blissfully ignorant of all your scorn, and distaste (I mean, unless you’re like me and make a point of telling everyone your honest opinion to the point that people see you as some sort of sadistic psychopath). 

So you’ll never know if you’re the thing you fear becoming but you’ll also never feel like you’re the thing you want to be. Because those two things will always exist inside of you. Part of your spectrum of taste. They’re your metrics. But no one else sees or feels them other than you — because they are not real (no realer than you… okay enough of that). You can’t beat them and you never will.

A Rough Draft: My First Bit

    I think the year was… 2006? 

    The ex-wife wasn’t the ex-wife yet and she was she still finishing college… hell, this might have been when were both attending university but I remember— no, I was definitely not attending because I was sleeping in her bed the night before I left for set and the night I got back. 

    I remember the audition process solely because it was one of the only two times in my “adult” life up to that point I had worn a jean jacket. It was an awkward audition in that way that even though it was going well I could tell on the inside weren’t kids I was going to vibe with. I mean. the title of the film was clue enough “Night of The Living Drunk”. As a straight-edge kid who found drugs and alcohol as diversionary tactics to avoid the awkwardness of true intimacy (such an odd kid I was for someone who couldn’t finish a single college essay) I figured I was dealing with run of the mill reprobates. 

    I’m a good actor though, and they enjoyed me at the time of our meeting. But — as would become a normal behavior of mine throughout my life — as soon as I got the gig and was headed to set I had morphed back into my quiet judgmental self, quietly observing the scene from a distance, only contributing when it was my job.

    I was probably a pill. And probably someone everyone felt unnerved by onset. The shoot lasted three days and I recall every night the entire crew and cast would go out in the backyard and party hard by getting high and drunk and silly while I just slept on a couch in the living room. I just wanted to be an actor. I didn’t come to make friends. And I didn’t trust the people I was with. I also felt like this whole entire enterprise might have been a mistake.

    Look, I was going through things.

   

    It was the second night of the shoot and something had happened that brought production to a stand-still and we all sat in the kitchen as we waited with an unusual silence hanging around us. We had been here two days already and I guess a lull had finally found it’s place among the chattery minds of over a dozen energetic college kids. My senses immediately perked up as I noticed all the mindful faces trying to think of something to break the awkward silence. And it just came to me. An opportunity to entertain myself:

    “Anyone know any racist jokes?”

    Every eye of every white pale face locked on to me with perplexed confusion. A guffaw escaped a gaffers lips and unbelievable question that had been asked by one of the most quiet and yet seemingly righteous people in the room. I just started back at them, not an ironic grin to sooth them, just my eyes looking back in innocent ignorance.

    “No?”

    This is the hardest part of the bit. I’m not even sure this was the way I lead into the punchline. Truth be told in that moment I didn’t have the whole thing figured out. I was just doing my usual thing of testing people’s boundaries and seeing how they reacted to counter-social behaviors. 

    “What do you call a black guy that flies a plane?”

    This was my favorite moment. I’ll never forget the subtle shift in body language as every body in the room slightly tilted forward in morbid curiosity of what this derange sociopath was about to say next. My heart skipped a beat and I thanked whatever god of irony had granted me this moment since I was sure someone was going to tip my bit but no one had a clue what I was going to say next and the waited with baited breath. 

I sold the line perfectly, “A Pilot you fucking racists.”

A Rough Draft: On My First Rainbow

    I recently edited a video where the host suggested a rainbow isn’t real it’s just an illusion we see from the light reflecting through the prism of water in the air after a sun shower. I thought that was bit ludicrous to say: that it doesn’t exist because it’s just light. Everything we see is just light. 

    The first time I saw a rainbow I had a huge backyard that served as the perfect insulating sand-box for allowing me to continue being sheltered but I assume I was actually experiencing the world. I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time outside in my entire life as I did that back yard. It was the picture perfect upper-middle class acre of land. Starting off with about ten to fifteen yards of flay grass slowly inverting upwards to create a small accent perfect for winter sled rides and rolling up and downwards in a Playskool push car in the summer. At the top of the hill to your far right stood your standard two swing slide combo playground. I remember my father building it shortly after we moved in — installing the rungs of the monkey bars that would rest over two meters from the ground just over the swings. An insane design flaw I’m not quite sure if was intentional or I’m mis-representing. This all sat right on the edge of what I considered to be a forest. Large, wide trunked trees populated the backstage portion of the yard creating enough shade to outspend the hottest summer sun. It’s incredible looking back in my memory just how drastic the contrast was between the two halves of the giant green sandbox. I remember the first time I traversed the enchanted growth of the backyard, my life seeming to imitate the Disney movies I had grown up watching. Although for some reason those films always depicted little girls going on such adventures. 

    At the far back was the shed. Where we kept the lawnmower and yard tools that my father always seemed so fond of. Gray walls and a set of barn doors that I don’t believe my dad ever felt the need to lock. I never knew the key to the ignition was and I was well behave enough to know that even if I found it I should probably not be messing with a machine my mom had made very clear was known to cut peoples arms off from misuse. 

    Beside the shed was a compost barrel you could hide ten bodies in. It was massive. Large enough to hold all the leaves that would end up littering the expansive courtyard and that my father, all on his own, would rake up into insanely gigantic piles that my brothers and I would run through with reckless abandon and a carefree ignorance of the many definitions of garbage — which is what dead leaves could be considered: rubbish.

    My dad would load all these leaves into the large sarcophagus of the composter and with a might I could not fathom — for the activity was impossible for myself — turn the single lever that would slowly spin the barrel like giant rock tumbler. I never ever saw him take anything out. I never really understood the compost. 

    All of this was surrounded by a wooden fence. Not picket white: that’s too WASPY. A nice old wooden fence you’d find surrounding an old log cabin. Something representing human hands had chopped the wood and assembled the perimeter long before a house ever stood there (which is preposterous: this was the suburbs). 

    I saw the rainbow sit over this splendor. Not while outside, though. I was in the dining room. Connected to the patio that was so common in the nineties east coast suburbs you wouldn’t be foolish for thinking they should exist in Chicago, although you would, because it would reveal your limited experience with inner city housing. The dining room was home to a large… the largest it could be without being considered a wall… window. It was like the precursor to a 200 inch wide screen. This large panel of glass that gave view to the majestic vista that was our picturesque upper-middle income white suburban backyard that in these days I thought everyone had the pleasure of owning. 

    It was the first rainbow I saw and to my memory it was not like the rainbows I’d seen in the movies. 

    I think my grandfather was there. I think everyone was there. You would have thought we were all witnessing Halley’s Comet for how excited it seemed everyone was. I know I was. 

    I also remember the fear that if I didn’t keep an eye out I’d miss it. I had a habit of doing that shit already in my early age and I didn’t want anything else keeping me disconnected from the mutual experience of family.

    Inevitably it came. And we saw it together. Not hanging over the backyard in a perfect arc like my mind chooses to remember it. But like a jet stream shooting across the sky in seven pastel colors, sitting motionless, apathetic, as though it been there the whole time and didn’t even realize we could see it.

A Rough Draft: On Sickness and Guilt

    I’ve been in bed for well over 24 hours. I’ve missed an audition and I’ve been unable to focus on even the simplest of tasks. This one itself is already becoming a drudge. My brows furrow over my eyes at the light from the computer. My mind aches with every vibration of the brain pan. There’s this disgusting film all over my mouth and no matter how many times I brush I only need to wait a few minutes and I’ll be waking up again from another fevered nap with a sticky tongue.

    I have no idea how I’ll make a video tonight.

    I guess I should be grateful this happened on a weekend.

    I don’t even remember what I was going to talk about in this post. I just realized that if I didn’t write something soon, before I knew it, I’d be waking up in my bed on a Sunday morning. Cursing myself for not fulfilling my New Years resolution. And it’s only February!

    The problem with being sick is that I have a history of being told I was always over doing it. In fact more often than not I was accused of faking it. I remember on time in high school before I had a car I ended up spending the entire day in the nurses office trying to rest on one the so-called mattresses they had in the back. It was all against her own wishes. Throughout the entire day she attempted to send me back to class, to get me out of that bed. In a way I couldn’t blame her because I did spend an unhealthy amount of time going to the nurses office to avoid social interaction. But I also found it depressing she didn’t understand that this time was different. I was sick.

    I laid there, head aching, stomach churning, the nurse feeding my orange juice but unable to vomit, till 5:30pm. That was real twisted part about it. The nurse had been calling my mom to pick me up: but she wouldn’t. She didn’t care. She normally ignored the phone. It got to the point where I had to take the last late bus or risk being locked in the school overnight (I mean, not that they’d do that — but the point was that if I was getting home it wouldn’t be from my mom). 

    That bus ride was always depressing. All of them were. Regular bus, short bus, late bus. Something about riding with a bunch of people you share no comfort or personal connection with feels worse than alienating. 

    When I finally arrived home, my mom was the only one in the house. I only needed to walk through the door when I felt it. That stinging pain in your stomach that reaches upward an around your throat letting you know you’ve got limited options.

    I made my way to my room. If I could just get to my bed.

    I felt my bones go weak as my body started sending all of it’s energy and heat into my digestive system. I could hear my mom mom talking on the phone in here room.

    “mom…” I mumbled as I fell to my knees in front of the Penguin Wastebasket in my room I still to this day don’t recall having past fifth grade. 

    “Maaoomll”are my words as the vomit fills my throat and comes pouring out in a pathetic drip in to the trashcan.

    She’s still on the phone.

    I yell between breaths for her to come. My body convulsing over the cheap trashcan I will never see again after this day — who knows what happened to it, my long hair getting in the way of my mouth as I feebly try to control it while holding on to the basket.

    She never makes it. I get through the whole thing without her assistance. She’s still on the phone. For all my yelling and begging you think she was across two acres in east wing of the house. But she was just in her room which sat right next to mine, and which she would later expand by knocking out my wall and leaving me to live the study.

The Best Piece Of Homework I Never Did

    My first experience acting — like realizing it was an art form — was in sixth grade.

    Up to that point: I had never known of theater as a class. I had performed in one school musical in elementary school but my character was had simply one line and was nothing more than a plot device to allow the other child to begin singing. I had co-hosted a talent show in fifth grade but hadn’t the slightest confidence that saying anything I was thinking beyond the words written on the intro cards would be appreciated by my audience.

    I don’t even remember the teacher. I barely remember the first lesson. 

    We were instructed that at some point in the class we would have to perform a monologue on any subject matter we wanted. The only rule was we had to be arguing for or against something.  The monologue could be prepared but if we wanted to we could be gusty and do something “the french called, impromptu”.

    I’d like to think even if I’d known what I was doing I would have elected to take the riskier route. But the truth is I just didn’t realize it was a homework assignment.

    The very next day we had to perform. I wasn’t even sure this was the same assignment. What I did know was that everyone had a subject chosen. And while everyone claimed they had prepared their arguments were not only weak but their presentations utterly dull and lacking any showmanship (yeah, I was a judge mental prick at birth).

    I took the stage at the front of the class praying I had remembered that french word properly.

    “I think I’d like to perform an impromptu.” I muttered. 

    “Okay,” the teacher replied, a hint of scandal in her smile as she thought up a topic for me, “Sell us on Plutonium Doghouses.”

    I was new. This was a private school of high reputation and it was suggested that I may be a prodigal genius by people other than my mother. It was already hard enough to make friends being so socially awkward and ugly and I didn’t want to come off as a fool so early in my career but my only knowledge of plutonium was limited to short mentions in Back To The Future. I was pretty sure it was radioactive. But I wasn’t even positive I had heard it right in the movie.        Still, this was it: I had chosen my poison and I had to say something. I smiled, straightened my back and put on my best salesmen voice as I acted like I knew exactly what I’m talking about.

    I must have seemed like a genius for suggesting their radioactive glow would help you seem them in the dark. 

    They all laughed and I learned charm and a little bit of cunning can get you out of having to do almost any kind of planning.

A Rough Draft: On Groceries

I’m not good at grocery shopping.

    You can put me in front of an editing bay with a loaded hard drive of random video clips and sound files and I could easily come out with some sort of a narrative achievement. Give me a typewriter and blank pages and I can pull words out of thin air and find a cogent point. But walking through the isles of Ralph’s (for me) is like looking at the periodic table of elements: I just have no idea how these things go together. 

    I can cook two things: spaghetti and eggs (and I only recently leveled up my egg game — pro tip: stir’em as you cook’em). Every attempt I’ve made to create anything beyond these two culinary rookie recipes has resulted in a sub-par if not arduous dining experience. I recently purchased some pre-made stuffed mushrooms that simply required being heated in an oven for a short period of time and end up choking down the chalky fungus the way kids attempt to swallow awful medicine. It’s embarrassing but even worse: it’s expensive. 

    Most of my disposable income goes to food… which might not be considered something you file under “disposable” but that’s the only way I can highlight the amount of money I spend on dining in a single week — let alone a month, a year. And I want to fight it but it’s tough and downright unhealthy to live off of peanut-butter sandwiches and processed meat the majority of your life especially as you get older. 

    When I was a kid I couldn’t imagine ever being turned off by Wendy’s and their insanely delicious hamburgers but now I can’t walk into one without shuddering at the displays of Christmas-Future standing in line around me. I try not to look past the cashier into the “kitchen” area for the sake of my conscious but I can’t help it. One time I saw a fly chilling out in an oregano container: I still ate my meal tho. I couldn’t even look at a Carl’s Jr. without shuddering at this point. 

    So the only other option is eating healthier. But there’s also time and effort to factor in as well. 

    Because you see: simply I don’t like to cook. I know: it’s like the most unattractive thing a person could say. Right up there with being cruel to your mother and not tipping. It’s one of those things that people are so easy to judge your moral fiber for without considering all the complex and personal reasons you may have for going against the grain.

    It’s especially awful when you’re a guy. And yeah, I’d like for it not to be sexist either but considering it practically expected for a woman to cook up until a little over a half a century ago it’s not exactly profound if anyone’s daughter brought up in the patriarch has learned to take a joy in the practice (there were even some slaves who enjoyed cotton picking — oh no: he did not just go there). 

    But as a guy: not liking to cook sends out bad signals. It’s so regressive. So blue-collar “I expect my dinner to be hot and ready when I get home”. Not just in the context of partnerships but just relationships in general. Nobody speaks well of the guy who comes to the communal dinner and doesn’t even lend a hand peeling potatoes. Bringing the wine only gets you so far. At that point its a matter of not being able to contribute on a fundamental level. It’s saying “I’m fine just being an observer of this” which isn’t even acceptable when doing drugs let alone making dinner. 

    Although do we really need seven people peeling corn? How many of us does it take to stuff a turkey? Why should I help if I’m just going to make things worse?

    Because I’m the kind of person who can’t open a bag a flour without leaving a mess. I can’t cook a chicken breast without it coming out dry. And I certainly can’t make cookie dough without eating half of it.

    So I still wander the isles. No idea what I’m looking at. No understanding of how any of this could be put together to make anything as delicious and savory as something I could just easily purchase: leaving it to the professionals.

You Have Every Right To Judge

    Okay let’s do this.

    I’m tired, I’m exhausted, I’m strangely less anxious than usual although I still have plenty to get done this weekend, not least of all: this.

    Let’s talk about timeliness aye? That thing we all seem to reach for but never manage. A concept we use to judge others as unprofessional but excuse ourselves from as “I’m just creative”. 

    I live in Los Angeles, capital of “I’m always 15 minutes late”. This whole city seems to run a clock that’s half an hour fast (or slow depending how you want to look at the metaphor and where you consider the center of the universe). Nothing here starts on time. Even movies have a tendency to begin a few minutes late. And it’s not a low-key thing either. It’s not a factor of an easy-going San Fran style philosophy of taking it easy. This whole city in competition with New York of being the most strung out metropolis of the country. Everyone is busy. Everyone has got multiple plates spinning. Everyone is doing their thing and interested in collaborating and seeing your one man show: if only they could find the time. Just having a social life in LA is it’s own hustle™. 

    And yet, here I am, constantly getting props for always being on time. To auditions, to meetings, to parties: doesn’t matter where I’m going, I will usually be at least 15 minutes early if not more. Rare is it that I’m late enough that I actually arrive exactly on the scheduled minute. I’m just there at the time promised. 

    Now granted, it doesn’t amount to much. Everyone is still always late. The rest of the city still runs on it’s schedule. Sure you get props for being so timely but at the end of the day no one is usually there to appreciate your dedication.

    Benjamin Franklin is credited for having purchased a wheel barrel he would push around town. An old noise thing he would lug around during work hours to provoke the attention of those around him. He didn’t work very often at all, but when people saw him, he was usually working and there for assumed him a hard worker. 

    Being on time is a practice. Something that is worked on with attention every day. A lot of it isn’t in your control: traffic, natural disasters, slow service. But what you are in control of, like any task, is the amount you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.

    That’s what I realized this week in a conversation with someone I could easily call a stranger as hopeful I am they we’re going to become close friends. She was fifteen minutes late… well, maybe ten. Point was she didn’t plan on it. Which is funny because I was twenty minutes early and I had assumed I was going to be late.

    “I’m always late,” she told me. Despite her efforts to be otherwise.

    “That’s odd, I am usually always on time.” I said, genuinely surprised by the realization.

    “I just never seem to find time for everything.” is what I remember her saying.

    “Well, that’s the thing: you can’t do everything. You’re going to sacrifice something and it’s just matter of whether or not you’re going to sacrifice something for being on time or sacrifice being on time for something else. In the end it all about what you’re trying to accomplish.” 

    Ok it wasn’t that eloquent but it was the general gist and it helped me enforce a certain notion: few things are in our control but our choices still say a lot about what matters to us.

Week Two

    There’s no such thing as writers block. There is only aversion. 

    So much of what we do is deception. Mostly towards ourselves. It’s probably the most practiced behavior in the human species. I mean, I don’t know for sure. I might be just making this up to serve my own agenda. 

    You never know.

    One night, while living in Gainesville, my bed being nothing more than a mattress on the floor for reasons I can not remember (it’s not like we were poor my dad was a dentist learning to be an orthodontist at the time) I sat awake all night writing a really silly script for a movie that was basically “what if Jackie Chan played a tv-news camera man and got caught up with the local mob and had to fight his way to salvation — but in high school” kind of ordeal.

    In fact, I think I had to have written this post Gainesville because I distinctly remember using the architecture of Radnor High-school and the existence of it’s TV-studio as a big inspiration for the film. 

    It was my first full screen-play. And for all intents and purposes a complete piece of adolescent trash. Odd-ball character names, by the numbers plotting, and practically no stakes: because it was taking place in high school and the villains were also high-schoolers I couldn’t have anyone committing murder (or at least, did not want to) and therefore had being spray painted on your face as the ultimate price. Like I said: adolescent. 

    The funny thing is I never intended to compete the thing. I had only started out the project as an exercise in premise. I had a scene in my mind of a character using various camera equipment in inventive ways to take out his pursuers and wanted to see if I could at the very least complete the first of act of a movie I knew I would never make. And so I did. And for some reason kept going. I just wrote the whole thing in one night. From start to finish. My first screenplay which — as I remember it — was between 62-80 pages. Which in action terms is like and hour and forty minutes. 

    I never showed it to anyone. I never read it over after that night. I don’t even know if I still have it (as I recollect the memory I may have actually written it on my second computer: a Sony Vaio I had somehow convinced my father into giving to me rather than my brothers so that I could finally begin to start cutting movies of my own). But what matters is that it proved to me that there’s nothing standing in my way other than my own bar of quality. What allowed me to finish that script was how little I had invested in it being good. Because I was just having fun. Trying to pass the time. Trying to be productive…

    This week I procrastinated quite a bit on my commitments and now my work is suffering. But I don’t know if it’s the encroaching deadline as much as it is a desire to make something of “value” and a lack of confidence int “what I want to say”. 

    I guess this is better than nothing. There’s still fifty weeks to go.

    

Step One

    I might as well talk about the thing I don’t want to talk about because that is what will most likely set me free.

    I did my first stand-up set in over a year at a local open mic the other night. It’ one of five commitments I need to fulfill each week now in an attempt to jog my creative juices but also get over my biggest issue: my fear of failure.

    Where to start. It’s the top of the New Year so let’s begin with the five resolutions. At the start of 2017 I committed to completing five things a week: a stand-up routine at an open mic (do not try to find me), a 300+ word blog post (hello), a podcast episode (something I’m already doing but want to maintain), a video segment (about anything, I just have to be in it), and… okay actually now that I look back at my resolution list it’s only four things but I think that’s already enough to be committed to each week when you already work a full time job editing internet videos, are currently editing two narrative projects (one feature and one feature into a short), writing two screenplays, and trying to find anyone who might want to put you in front of their own camera. 

    The point is this is a lot. The point is for this to be a lot. The point is to fail. To fail miserably by maintaining a commitment to execution.

    My first feature film is by no means a masterpiece. I mean, I should really let the aliens that find our remains decide but I’m pretty sure they’ll agree it’s little more than a strong effort with the hints of a new voice. What matters is that I completed it. I got it done. I told myself I would complete it in three months and didn’t stop until I had finally completed it in six. It wasn’t great. And had I spent more time and certainly more money it’s easy to argue it could have been levels better but the point of the endeavor was not to make Reservoir Dogs (although you can be certain I may have acted as though I was) but to make something. To see what I was capable of. To see what I made and make more from there. To fail and learn from my failures.    

    Just moments before polishing this turd of a fucking blogpost I had the pleasure of finding out the UCB not only grades your performance in each class but actually has a way for you to view those grades should you be so inclined. As someone who considers themselves adept at improv and also just naturally funny, you can imagine (or maybe you can not but just as well easily surmise) my emotional turmoil at finding out I had not only passed my last two courses with “B’s” (which is to say acceptable enough to pass) but my first class I had only scraped by with a “C”. A grad point that is accompanied by the descriptor or “Conditional Pass”. The meaning of which I can only imagine is not particularly positive. This was devastating for me. It’s bad enough I wasn’t a savant but apparently I’m not even gifted. I’m just “so-so”. Three years and $1200 later and what do I have to show for it?

    Perspective.

    This was actually something a good acting friend once brought to my attention and while I often forget it it’s moments like this that I realize how this may not only be the most valuable thing you can achieve: it may be the only thing.

    You can have an intention and a drive and goal of what you want to accomplish but the outcome is only so much in your control. The best you’re going to get is a clearer understanding of where it is your at and where you might want to go from there. No one picks up an instrument and immediately knows how to create a symphony (despite what popular myth would have you believe) and even if one could, you’d still only be as good as you were then and who knows what direction your choices would take you after that.

    And that’s the point. You can’t dwell on the failures just as your shouldn’t rest on your accomplishments. There are only three directions to go and the most enlightening path is usually forward. Sure the cosmic boulder may get thrown back down to the ground every so often but it’s the conscious choice to start pushing it back up the hill that is the better, more productive course than cursing the powers that be for tormenting you. More productive than dreaming what it would be like to find a way to not have to push this boulder at all. Because that is true procrastination.

    This is not a place for perfection. This is not a time for excellence. This is workshopping myself to the point of exhaustion. Getting all the shit out. At the end of this year I should have made at least fifty-two blog posts. Fifty-two videos. Fifty-nine podcast episodes and experienced fifty-two open mics. This is a mere handful but with over two hundred individual creative exercises and the few extra ones that will inevitably fall into my lap through day to day experience, even if they all end up amounting to a huge failure: I’ll at least have a hell of a lot of perspective. 

    And yes, I expect it to be hell.

    Back to the stand up act: I don’t know if it went well. It was my first time back and furthermore I tried some racey off color material I hadn’t ever workshopped. But I did it. And was even better was instead of running off the stage the minute I ran out of material I just decided to keep going. See what I could pull out of myself. See what I could find to amuse. I got a giggle. 

    I have a lot of problems with stand-up but I think it’s at it’s highlight when it feels impromptu and present. There’s that sense that you’re watching a person as they discover their ideas right in front of you. A lot of the comedians that I see that irk me are the ones that clearly have a strict sense of what a routine is. They wrote a joke down, organized it set-up and punchline, memorized it, then hit the stage hoping the words would do the work for them. This actually happens a lot with actors I see as well. This belief that the trick is having the right thing to say rather than understanding what it is you’re trying to convey. It’s the difference from being a technician or an artist. 

    I’m far from having the art of stand-up comedy down. There’s a lot going when you’re on stage under the hot blinding spot light, your voice projected back at you with the fury of god, as you speak your thoughts out to an anonymous void, praying you’ll hear something back. It’s haunting at first. You can get intimated. It’s rare you’ll come out completely unshaken the first time or the second. I know it’s been that way for me. But regardless if I call it failure, I know I learned something, and that I have so much more to learn, and that is a very long road ahead of me, and the hardest part if going to be sticking to the commitment to take the next step.