Quondam Dreams

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Putting the Ow in WOW

When you attempt an activity that was once second nature for you, it's supposed to come right back. Your muscle memory takes over, the theory goes, and you're on your merry way.

I'm sure this is true about many things for many people. It might even be true for me: It's been a while since I've played piano, but I think I could still bang out a pretty respectable run-through of the first movement of Beethoven's Sonatina No. 1 in G. If I were ever to hear Balkan dance music, I'm sure I could comfortably settle into the appropriate dance and carry on a conversation while I did it. And I still do a mean backstroke.

But what if the action in question wasn't ever second nature? Does muscle memory still kick in?

I bring this up because of Saturday night's excursion to World on Wheels.

World on Wheels is a good old-fashioned roller rink that puts on an "adult skate" some Saturday nights. It seemed like as good a way as any to spend a recent evening, so a bunch of us piled into a car and made the short drive. We found parking, walked across the lot, opened up our bags for inspection (it's not in the best part of town), paid our entry fees, stopped at the skate rental counter, and sat down to lace up.

Feet securely, uh, secured, I gingerly stood up.

Muscle memory, my ass.

I was a pretty decent skater back in the day, but evidently not good enough to remember what I was doing twenty-odd years later (and, yes, it's pretty sobering that I'm old enough to not have done something in twenty-odd years).

So I found myself standing on that low-pile carpet indigenous to the foyers of bowling alleys and roller rinks, having a hard time finding and keeping my balance.

By the time we'd all put our stuff in lockers, two of the people I was with were out on the rink zipping around. Three of the others decided this was a good time for snacks. That left me.

Okay, I thought. Maybe I'm just having trouble because I'm on this carpet. Maybe I'll get my bearings once the skates are rolling like they're supposed to roll.

It was a nice theory.

I paused for a moment at the border of carpet and wood. Well, okay, it was more than a moment. Point is, I finally stuck my skate out there.

I kind of pulled myself along the wall for a few feet, and then pushed off...

And fell right on my ass.

Good thing I have no problem with making a fool out of myself in front of total strangers, because that's what I'd just done: Wiped out right in front of the railing that people leaned on to watch the skating. I laughed it off as I attempted to stand up, and they chuckled sympathetically. Or maybe they were laughing at me, and I just refused to accept it.

I heard a whistle. A guy in a referee's shirt skated towards me, diverting traffic around me as he helped me up.

"Sorry, it's been a while," I said.

"If you're going to skate slow, you need to get to the middle of the rink," he said by way of reply, indicating a cluster of couches surrounded by a low wall.

That struck me as kind of odd. I always remembered the fast people gravitating towards the middle and leaving the outside to the wall-hangers. I also remembered there being a good reason for this.

"How am I supposed to make it to the middle when I still can't remember how to make it ten feet?" I thought it was a very good question. In reply, the man in the striped shirt towed me to the bottom of one of the ramps leading off the rink.

If it hadn't all been so ridiculous, I might have felt a little humiliated. Instead, I felt kind of validated. I knew I was going to suck. It was just a question of how much I was going to suck. Now I knew: I sucked a lot.

Meanwhile, two more members of my group had jumped onto the rink and were twirling around like they'd never stopped skating. That left me and one other person. In time, she was persuaded to go out and be pulled around the rink for a while. My friends tried to get me to do the same thing, but I was done for the night. It was one of the easier decisions I'd made all week: I'd tried skating. I'd sucked. I'd been lucky not to break anything. I'd need some serious practice before I tried it again. Until then, if I fell, I wanted it to be on the carpet.

I had a good time, though. Usually, I prefer to be in the thick of the action, but this was one of those times when I was glad I stayed off to the side. The passing parade was pretty entertaining. There were people out there who must have been practicing their moves in their garages for a couple of decades, just waiting for a chance to show them off again, and I had a better vantage point along the side of the rink than I would have had if I were sprawled out on the rink itself.

WOW closed at two-ish. We piled back into Randall's car and went to Canter's. I hung out with my friends and had matzo ball soup. I got home after four and went straight to bed.

Sunday morning (okay, afternoon), I kind of wished that I had a better story about where I'd been all night and why I was slightly favoring my right foot. But, hell, I think I had a better time than I would have doing the archetypical Hollywood Thang. I probably escaped with fewer injuries than if I'd been out at shows (especially if any of those shows had been at UCB, where I always manage to injure myself), and I got matzo ball soup. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Quote I Like

"The problem with life is that we have to live it from the begining, but it makes sense only when seen from the end. As a result, our whole experience is one of coming to provisional conclusions based on insufficient evidence: reading the signs, gauging the odds. . . . We see faces in clouds, hear sermons in stones, find hidden messages in ancient texts. A belief that things reveal meaning through pattern is the gift we brought with us out of Eden."

Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan
Chances Are . . . : Adventures in Probability, pp. 61-62

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Weekend Update

At 4:30 this morning, I lay awake thinking that this was a time at which no one should be awake.

If you're up at 4:30 AM, it generally means one of these things:

1. You have a job that requires you to show up by six in the morning. Congratulations, you're a grown-up. Isn't it fun? (Note: If the job at which you are up early involves any sort of non-news radio or television, disregard the part about the "grown-up".)
2. You were out living it up until well past 4. Shouldn't you have outgrown that already?
3. There is never a number 3.
4. You just plain can't sleep.

Much as I'd like to claim that I was up because I was out doing some appropriately wild Hollywood carousing, I'm afraid I just couldn't sleep. This might have been because I'd slept so much of Saturday morning away, which was certainly because I was wiped from the Bush Twins show on Friday night. (The Bush Twins show went well, thanks for wondering. The theater management was impressed enough with what we were able to do in less than a week that they want us to come back on a more regular basis. Soon, there will be no excuse for not having experienced the magic. You've all been warned.) Or perhaps it was because of a new special-case reason:

5. There is a bird that chirps like a car alarm around the clock. It's quickly gone from cute to grating, and the nonstop nature suggests that the initial bird has recruited a few friends to take over during naptime. My roommate and I are about ready to go after it/them with a BB gun. Not that either of us own one, or have any desire to actually hurt the bird(s). It's just really tempting.

On the bright side, I don't actually have to be anywhere until Monday morning at 9. I'm in one of those rare periods when I don't have to be at any classes or rehearsals during the weekend, and I'm kind of liking it.

Of course, this means that I really should be using the time to update my blog in a more timely fashion. (I should also be using it to save the world and broaden my horizons and make lovely things, but I'm trying to be realistic here.) So for anyone who was wondering, here are the updates.

I'm off the hook for jury duty. I went in Monday and was honest: While I was certainly willing to do my civic duty, it might be hard for me to concentrate, given that if I wasn't put on a case then my weeks of unemployment could end the next day.

I was the first one excused from the jury pool. The judge and lawyers wished me luck as I left, which I thought was nice.

(I think I would have been excused anyway. The case was a civil dispute over a car accident, and when asked I couldn't promise that I could be completely impartial. Those of you who remember my old car -- a.k.a. the Blue Thing, the Blue Bomber, the Smurfmobile or Qris -- may remember how it met its end in front of the place where I was working, when someone in a minivan ran a red light. Even though there were several witnesses to back this up, the other driver initially tried to claim that I was the one at fault. She dropped it, but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth.)

The next morning, I started my current day gig. I'm spending the next few weeks in the office that produces some of UCLA's publications, doing various web site update projects. Which means I'm doing a lot of copying and pasting, with a little HTML and image formatting. Funny how when you get right down to it, the skills that get me the most work are exactly the ones that got me work in 1998.

It's busy work, really. Kind of pleasantly mindless. I'm next to a window, which is nice. There is a large plant strategically placed so that the view of my monitor is obscured by all but one person, and she's not looking. While I am not taking full advantage of this, I am able to keep a much closer eye on my email than I have at my last couple of gigs.

At least it's just a few miles from where I live. And it pays decently. That's one thing I can say for this whole web racket: The work may be sporadic, but what work there is pays pretty well. While I'm still looking for a Real Job™, and the agency is still setting up interviews, I'm grateful to have something that will give me some income for the next couple-few weeks.

I'm starting to feel calmer, finally. Still pretty agitated, but it's heading down towards normal-for-me levels. I'm really, really appreciating my friends. Even kind of appreciating someone that I have every reason to hate -- or, even worse, feel indifferent towards. Despite everything that has, or hasn't, gone down between us, the fact is that we are going to have to deal with each other one of these days. I'd rather be friendly. The person in question seems to agree, at least in theory. That's good, I guess. Better than being incommunicado, at any rate.

Last weekend, I had dinner with a friend who I rarely get to see. He asked me something that he almost always asks me: What is it that I really want to do? And I answered him the way I always do: I don't think it's been invented yet. Until then, I do what I've done since I first sat down in front of that TRS-80 in elementary school: Hone my skills, keep my eyes open, catch the wave of the next big thing and enjoy the ride.

And remember that this, too, shall pass.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bush Twinnin' It On Friday, May 19

The Bush Twins Party Hour parties on this Friday at The Actor Space in Sherman Oaks. We'll be back to the usual shenanigans -- i.e. drinking, hanging out with the family, having a hot bartender hand out drinks to the audiences, playing games like "Bush Family Scandal" for prizes which may or may not be alcoholic... you know. The usual!

I know it's kind of short notice, but look at it this way: If you start your Memorial Day weekend partying a week early, then Memorial Day weekend lasts for, like, a week and a half.

Info going up on www.bushtwinspartyhour.com as it comes in.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

L.A. Vignette: Birdsong

The past couple of mornings, I've heard a bird chirping something that sounded familiar.

I've finally placed it.

It's the rhythm of a popular multi-stage car alarm.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

About That Scream You Just Heard

As you've probably surmised from previous entries, I haven't worked in six weeks.

I lost out on a good contract gig today because I have jury duty next week, and
therefore couldn't guarantee I'd be able to start on Monday. According to the nice woman I spoke with at the court, if I'm called in then I will have to put in an appearance, even if it's just to plead for a postponement.

My agency is trying to set up another interview for me tomorrow. The same question will undoubtedly come up. I have emailed the court for guidance.

Employees can't be fired for performing their civic duty, but there's nothing saying a potential employee can't be passed over because of it. And there's certainly nothing saying that I can't be evicted if I'm not able to pay my rent, even if that's due to missing out on a job or wages because I was reckless enough to register for jury service.

I'm trying to be a good citizen here, but my savings are dwindling and I can't get by on unemployment checks and credit cards for much longer.

So, yeah, I'm just a little frustrated...

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Upside Of Stress

This whole unemployment thing is stressing me to a degree not seen since... well, since my last bout of unemployment. I've had a whole bunch of interviews, but nothing's panned out yet. I'm getting the feeling that at most places, the people who sent out the job posting don't talk to the people who will be doing the hiring -- so I find myself going in for jobs that certainly sound like they'll deal with project management or content production, only to find out that the interviewers are actually looking for someone to do object-oriented programming or photo editing. I did have a promising meeting last Tuesday; unfortunately, it was with someone who's notorious for taking an awfully long time to get back to my agency.

I spend a lot of time just trying to keep busy enough to notice that I'm not actually getting much done. I'm doing everything I can to get the work thing going again, but that knowledge doesn't keep me from feeling the stress. And I mean that physically, as well as psychologically. Usually, I just get really bad headaches. I know how to deal with those. This time, my skin started going nuts, and all the appointments necessary to take care of the situation make me really glad that I've continued to pay for health insurance I can barely afford. I'll spare you the details; suffice it to say that while it's not exactly attractive, it's nothing serious. Still, just to be on the safe side, the dermatologist ordered a whole bunch of lab tests. He called this morning with the results.

Apparently, I've never been healthier. Everything's functioning normally. My glucose levels are perfect. Even my cholesterol, which is usually on the higher side of the normal range, is at a great level. There are a couple of things that the doctor wants to double-check, but the odds of them being anything significant are pretty small. My blood pressure is a textbook 120 over 80. Meanwhile, I seem to be losing weight.

I'm never quite this healthy -- on paper, at least -- when I'm not sitting around quivering with tension.