buy the time …

Last week was a great kickoff to turning twenty-nine.  I started a new part-time gig that pays more, allows me some time to write, and the people I sit next to are thoroughly entertaining.  Hopefully one of my co-workers doesn’t provide too much entertainment as she is bound to give birth any second now; seriously her due date is this Sunday.  All and all it’s not too shabby of a desk job.  Locked in a chair for eight hours makes having the internet a gift from God.  Between searching for animals gone extinct and finding out that an Oscar isn’t so great for a relationship, I answer a phone call or two.  As the saying goes, “idle hands make for the devil’s playground.”  I’ve had to find other things to do with my time and avoid FB telling me to “catch up with” an ex or some random guy who I met for five seconds who decided we should be BFF’s (and uses that term). 

I’ve tried to make this time productive.  Writing my blog has been a great after lunch activity but what I find the most painful, the three-to-six slump.  I try not to look at or the trips to Cabo.  Now I know who those pop-ups are for.  I decided to find something to help bolster my career as a writer, so I turned to the wizard, Craig.  Craig has a list of all the answers.  You want a no-fee apartment you have to pay for, craigslist.  You want to find a completer stranger to hook up with, craigslist.  You want to find the answer to The Secret, craigslist.  There is nothing you can’t find on craigslist.  I was on the hunt for anything to do with film and television.  I found it a little difficult promoting myself as a twenty-nine year old inter.  There weren’t many takers. 

One of my kind co-workers and I started chatting about writing.  She was looking to get distracted from actually working, I needed a distraction from internet surfing.  She told me about and organization called Script Frenzy.  They challenge writers to stop talking about that amazing idea and just do it.  Without judgment or prize money, the contest is thus: write a script in thirty days, the month of April, 100 pages.  You simply log in your page count everyday.  The goal is to write, write, write.  The group sponsors “Write-Ins” where you gather with others passionately, angrily type or stare at there computer.  Maybe communal frustration brings about progress, at least that’s the theory it seems these days in Washington.  A nothing to lose situation, except of course, for time and sanity.  I have no time and little sanity, nothing to lose, I signed up. 

After I sat there pondering what the H-E double hokey sticks I was going to write, I checked my email as a distraction.  There it was, a response.  Someone actually sent a “Re” to my application.  I submitted to a position as a reader, non-paid, for the film industry.  I was finally being ‘re’garded.  I had “the kind of background they were looking for.”  They want to try me out so they sent a sample script that I was to read this hundred and nine page script, evaluate using their guidelines and send back within three days.  I sent my coverage (that’s what the call it in the biz) back in less than 24 hours.  Five pages ripping apart the screenplay.  I disliked it on so many levels.  When asked if I would recommend the script, I said pass.  When I asked about the writer, I said consider.  I thought the dialogue was strong and the idea was different but I felt disdain for the script.  Maybe I felt guilty about “passing” on a fellow writer.  I slammed the work of a fellow scribe.  Here I was joining a couple thousand writers in the camaraderie of creative catharsis but thanks to craigslist I have become a critical cannibal .

Last night I went, as usual, to the Tuesday theatre meetings where writers hear their work read for the first time.  I’m still pretty intimidated by the environment, but over the past 5 weeks I’ve made friends and brought friends to help bolster my confidence (or make me look less like the girl who didn’t bring a date to prom).  Just last week a gentleman came over and said, “You look, like I feel.  This is BS, right?”  In this business we are constantly told to get ourselves out there.  We write and act less but drink and schmooze more.  It doesn’t seem like a bad tradeoff but being able to hold a glass of wine and not say anything stupid is exhausting.  I often look at my closet and decide which outfit will show the least amount of sweat.  Going through the gauntlet of charisma, connections and chemistry is equivalent to speed dating with a bunch of people who would rather spend time with their cat.  Only the dogged survive.

I have this affinity however for older gentlemen who have nothing to prove.  They sit, they listen, they watch.  No, I don’t have daddy issues and I’m in a relationship with a younger man.  But with age comes confidence, with years – experience, and with sensible K-Swiss shoes, comfort.  A great patriot of the theatre sat beside me last night.  Well into his seventies, with his thick bifocals and snowy hair, he settled down to sit, listen and watch.  He said, “I’m a director looking to snatch up writers while they’re young.”  I happen to be a young writer.  I found out quickly he was more than just a director.  His life story read like a bucket list.  Amongst his reincarnations – the only photographer allowed in the Actor’s Studio to take picture of Lee Strasberg and partied with Jim Morrison in Barcelona for the film in which Jim would star and my new friend would direct.  Too brilliant to be fiction, he shared the history of an artist’s life.  He is the Forest Gump of New York, has met everyone and done everything.

Knowing the great Doors performer, he believes as Oliver Stone does, that Jim lived long after he was put to rest in France.  My new friend posed the question, “If he did fake his death, why do it when at the top?”  Was fame, adoration, and rock-stardom too much for this god amongst men?  He posed this question while we were surrounded by aspiring actors rubbing shoulders so hard they might hit bone.  What is the cost for the glory of ultimate fame and fortune?  We know not the price but we are all willing to pay it.

Trees fell, the wind howled and just short of being in the tropics, upon the isle of Man-na-hat-ta fell a monsoon.  Let’s just say gale can really blow.  Amongst the weekend deluge of rain and roughage marked the breaking of water early mourning on March 14, 1981.  My mother was in labor for a relatively short time especially when compared to my brother’s attempted escape from vaginal eviction.  My father said I came out quickly, “You were ready to see the world.”  (Either that or I was getting a shoulder cramp.)  This weekend was very fun and not at all like the big bad number I was afraid of consuming me at midnight.  In fact, the weekend was beautifully calm, minus the apocalyptic weather.

I came at my birthday swinging, literally.  Saturday mourning I went to the Women’s World of Boxing.  There is something so cathartic about punching something over and over again.  I always thought boxing was a brutal sport but you experience this calmness after.  Eye of the TigerMaybe boxing is Mike Tyson’s rock garden.  When at the punching bag, the ladies always talk about who they picture as they jab.  I looked at the bag and saw no one.  I’m not jilted by past relationships, I have a confidant who champions my daily nonsense, my parents are wonderfully supportive, and I have an eclectic group of friends who have become a secondary family to me.  During shadowboxing I found my rival.  In front of the mirror I would box myself, see the enemy that I had made.  The answer throwing punches back at me, I was getting in my own way.  We all beat ourselves down but the strikes fall on the spirit leaving bruises on the guts of passion.

Later on that evening I met with a group of friends who managed to hitch a ride with the arch to share a drink and watch a world champion fighter from the Philippines break another record.  The fighter, Manny Pacquiao, the PacMan, is barely 145 pounds, short and Asian.  This description would remind most people of the computer engineering major who couldn’t drink to well in college.  But Manny is a fighting machine once underestimated because of his lack of training and body mass.  He had to work his way up to under a buck fifty.  He’s not just a fighter to most Filipinos; he is also a karaoke super-star, a politician and a symbol.  A symbol that with passion anything is possible: once a poor scrappy boy in the barrios now a Boxing World Champion to a presidential hopeful.   There is no room for self-doubt in his schedule.

As I pummeled away the demons of disbelief I found hope again.  I could see the changing winds blow open a new surge of courage.  In the past week I got an additional job that will help pay for a future move and a new laptop.  I also received a compliment from a well-respected playwright on my new theatrical literary venture.  Twenty-nine is looking fine.  I look forward to the future and leave apprehension with twenty-eight so the only place to go is up.

Thank you so much for all the kind birthday well wishes and may we all go ARRIBA, ARRIBA (UP, UP)!

There are a few things I want to accomplish over the next year: make a million dollars, lounge on the beaches of South France…see if P90X really works (those infomercials get me every time).  On the more realistic and immediate side of goals getting met are purchasing a new computer (for you to receive more blogs from) and move to my own place.  I have a lovely roommate but there is something wonderful about dancing naked to old school Janet Jackson that may not be appreciated by all.  It will also be nice not to ask at the most inopportune moment, “Do you think we’re being too loud?”  All these things require one major component, MONEY!  To quote Sports Night, one of my favorite shows by one of my favorite writers (Aaron Sorkin), “All my money is tied up in food and shelter.”  I should also add alcohol.  The job I have currently pays the bills and very little of my college loans, so like many of us I am left with little to no savings for the more realistic goals I’ve set.  In my quest for privacy to “dance when I want to” and other physical activities, I’m currently searching for another part-time gig.

‘Gig’ is a word artists use in reference to a show, performance, concert but more often we use the word ‘gig’ to describe the random paid work we get while we search for a real ‘gig’.  To find employment I’ve turned to friends, craigslist, God, but my favorite at the moment is CareerBuilder.  I only say this because of the exceptional post I found yesterday.  The full job title was thus, “Housekeeper/Companion Weekend Only (Live In).”  The job boasts, for strictly weekend work, a salary of $31-$39K a year.  Now before you get ready to sign the application, let me tell you more about your duties: “Prominent mature individual seeks a Housekeeper/Companion to live-in Friday through Sunday and assist with healthy cooking, cleaning, care, laundry, and maintenance in their Upper East Side residence (as well as looking after the gentleman and tending to any needs he may have).”  I get nervous when people use a parenthetical, parenthesis, or air quotes when describing my “job” requirements.  This is the very stuff urban myth’s are made of for your Aunt in Roseville, California to forward you just after her lunch break which she spent getting Chinese with your father.  Next thing you know, you are in a tub of ice water with your kidneys ripped out brought there by a car that never turns on its taillights.  This is the very thing people warn you will happen when coming to New York.  I was stunned to find this company had forty-two posting for catering their executive customers.   The only other jobs listed, not with the same company, with the tile of “companion” all dealt with work in veterinary care. I guess some dogs pay for their best friend.

What are we willing to do to get what we want?  How far disposed?  How often do we sell ourselves to the highest bidder and at what cost?  While the new MacBooks are so shiny, I’m not sure I’m willing to service anyone for a fancy new keyboard without peanut-butter stuck on the shift key.  (Maybe for an iPad.)

I enjoy searching cheep ways to stay fit, or should I say I enjoy finding great ways to distract from my inner monologue, which for some reason is being voice-overed by a male.  As a member of the fastest growing, over-populated and uncomfortable gym in New York, I enjoy the bargain basement fee of $20 a month.  The gym equivalent of two-buck-chuck, you get what you pay for, something you convince yourself isn’t that bad.  I try to expand my exercise experience away from the fitness center and the fifty-year-old man dressed in a red mesh shirt accompanied by matching lycra shorts who sports more than just his biceps bulging in front of the portable DVD player he uses to play “at home” workouts.  To get a breather from circulated gym air, I opted for a three-hour walk listening to the Jack Johnson station on Pandora.  The station plays a great mix of introspective frat boy friendly music, feel good wacky-tobaccy inspired anti-war songs with just a hint of awkward displaced yearning love ballads.

As I strolled along on Sunday, I saw very simple things: the sun shining, lovers holding hands, kids discovering the coolness of sand, friends catching up, snow melting, kissing on a bench, rocks becoming playgrounds, making memories marked in snapshots.  Life always seems simpler under the joy of light.  What caught my eye the most was these two women in their late sixties playing a game of Scrabble not far from the Alice In Wonderland inspired statue.  Surrounded by youth and noise they were focused and serene.  In that moment, the question of  “accomplishment” was about making a 14-letter word that had ‘m’ as both the fifth and the eleventh letter.  Knowing that the answer was staring them in the face, they continued in silent bliss.   Was it time that made them content or was it achievement?

Braving the shin shock of that 160-block walk, I went to a free salsa class yesterday.  The class takes place on stage in a middle-school auditorium.  I use to attend the classes three years ago and just recently came back.  It was comforting to see many of the same faces and have a face that was recognized.  One of my favorite dance partners is a gentleman who worked thirty-one years as a technician for NBC.  He knew all about gadgets and at seventy-two had his new Motorola Droid strapped to his side.  Before class started we got into a chat about what it takes to succeed in life.   Maybe it was the lost look on my face or what he sees as youth and I perceive as age, but he began kindly expressing his golden rules to enjoying life.  “Discipline and good habits,” he assured, “keep it simple.”  No matter how crazy life got or how distracted we may get, if we simply have “discipline and good habits,” that would guide us back to our goals.  “When you’re young, you say, ‘maybe this or maybe that’ but when you’re old you say, ‘either or neither.’  You make decisions.”  He’s my guru at seventy-two.

Often in our waffling, we find ourselves lost, walking without purpose.  Going for a light stroll but needing shin splints because we did too much.  If the letters are all in front of us, then so are the answers.  It might just take “discipline and good habits” to sort it all out.

Since I’ve moved to New York I have worked as a recruiter, admin, receptionist, jewelry specialist intake/outtake coordinator, an event coordinator, outreach coordinator, candidate coordinator, and currently I have a job as an after-school sports coordinator.  I can “coordinate” anything.  With all that work experience I’ve learned superfluous titles sound important but pay very little.  I think the word “coordinator” was invented to give those of us on the bottom rung of the totem pole something to put on our resume when we are looking for a new job.  If coordinator is in the job title, the work is definitely temporary.

When you get out of college you either get a job somehow connected with the actual field you studied, but if you are something like an English major you take what you can get since there aren’t too many jobs as Reading Coordinator.  I wanted to be an actor – I couldn’t be weighed down by any commitment to a corporation, I needed something just to pay rent before Michael Bay discovers me and decides that I was the perfect person to have stuff blowing up around.  I’ve spent six years of deferring loans, jumping job from job, turning down corporate offers to stay tied down and secure.  I thought not having a stable job equaled suffering to do what it takes to be a STAR.  The STAR’s appeal has lost it’s luster and I find myself afraid to be locked down by work in hopes that my big break is just on the horizon.

Currently I work part-time wrangling children into throwing, swinging at, kicking lots of balls.  I get my balls kicked everyday.  The job is random and when I tell friends who have witnessed my athletic prowess that I teach kids how to play sports, they laugh and then laugh some more.  The job didn’t pay enough for me to stay in my old place so I moved, but it did afford me the time to pursue my writing.  Now that I am turning 29, I realize that all these little jobs I’ve held provided flexibility but no savings.  In fact, like many New Yorker’s, I live past my means.  Hell, I live past my ends.  Even though having little money holds me back in many ways I fear that a better paying job would serve as financial cuffs.  If I got a stable corporate job, I would be able to afford a better apartment, nicer places to eat, shopping Loeman’s more but then the wheel would spin and in order for me to keep those nice things I would have to stay in that job, buy more nice things, get more money, buy really, really nice things and spin and spin and spin.  As the Wheel of Fortune turns and the dollar signs and prizes start to blur, so do my dreams.

This past week I thought I might leave my part-time job to take the wheel for a spin. Debating between having a permanent job and living life La Bohemia is an absolute luxury.  A luxury that was made possible by my parents, a higher education and luck.  Many people are not lucky enough to have the choices I’ve been afforded.  Choosing to be a starving artist is indulgent, with it lies merit and integrity, but yes, I am LUCKY enough to have options. After sleepless nights, countless conversations I’m not ready to buy a vowel.  I think the other part of my time is better spent chasing the horizon.

In the past two days I have participated in a ritual that we all must endure to get higher in our careers, the dance of schmooze, booze and prostrate.  Every week I attend gatherings for a prestigious theatre company who opens its doors to allow a pool of talent to overflow.  Actors and writers swim about the stage chatting hoping to be plucked out of obscurity into shallow waters where there is better lighting. I suddenly feel like the sharks begin to circle and I become kelp, inconsequential.  The following day I go to a wonderful gathering of those who brave to get wet.  Fellow friends and artists boldly navigating the waves of webisodics launched the second season of Live in 5.  In these friendlier waters I could stay afloat because I knew people, people knew me, I was referred to as a writer.

When I mention to people back home, “back home” being a place often called “cow-town”, that I now live in New York City pursuing a career in the arts, I receive many different reactions.  Some punch me in the arm, some scream “You’re so lucky, I hate you,” but most simply say, “Good for you.”  At times it feels like a verbal pat on the head for almost getting a soccer goal and other times it feels more celebratory in a life choice well pursued, yet statistically unfavorable to obtain.  We are given so many labels and comments.  When it comes to our career, some of us still search for what to lay under our name on a business card used more often to get dates or a free lunch.   Occupation: Professional Hustler doesn’t work in too many situations.  We become sensitive to the labels, to the words, searching for definitions in casual conversations.

At times words from whom English was a second language became a huge comfort.  As my grandmother’s years grew, her English dwindled.  Communicating with my grandparents came with a translator, my mother.  Often times I would wonder if Mom simply lied when they asked if I was married or had kids, but then my grandfather would respond in his bit of English, “You’re getting old.”  I guess my mother didn’t lie.  My sage grandmother who was pregnant 18 times, all to full term but only 14 survived to adulthood, would giggle, cough, look at me, “Good.  Don’t yet. Have fun.”

I don’t know what my grandmother thought my “fun” should entail, but I hope my parents never discover the liberties I take with her words.  When my Grandmother started bouncing from hospital to hospital, I would visit on my trips home.  As her hearing, sight, breath slowly became more and more difficult my mother had to translate more than words.  She would assist my Grandmother up, help clear the building bile in her lungs and yell, “Nanay (mother), it’s Marisa, from New York.”  She knew my name, my face blurry, but still sharp she says something to my mother.  My mother responds to the question, “Artista”.  Grandma would repeat, “Artista, Artista, Artista.”

Looking for a little inspiration.

Many young people with a direction for bigger and better believing in a world without limitations, head to the sweetest land of opportunity, The Big Apple.  All of a sudden after struggling to actualize your dreams or fight against a cascade of cookie cutter drone like jobs.   You wake up 7 years later realizing you turn twenty-nine in fourteen days, living in Harlem’s Sugar Hill (most known at the moment for the guy who got shot outside your stoop because of an argument at a local deli) praying that your temp agency will call with some nice entry-level job where their internet security hasn’t yet cut off FB. I am in such a position. 

There are so many things I was told I was destined for and hope I might still be, but there is this gnawing anguish of heightening self-disappointment that is both comical and so self-pitying that at times I want to crawl up in a sphere and dissolve like a little Lush bath ball.  That very act however is just so self-pitying that I couldn’t empathize with myself. 

You may have dreamt that by this time you would be at your mansion by the pool with Oompa-Loompas serving Firefly ice-tea out of the Stanley Cup (this might just be me). Jostled from reverie into reality, realize we can’t afford the life we dreamt, in fact the life we dreamt never involved paying student loans, staying with a job for health insurance, finding out 401K isn’t the arch nemesis of 007. 

We realize that most of us will never achieve that dream, so we start deciding what we can afford to dream about. We had these grandiose life markers in our teens and college years that dictated “by the time I” turn thirty, which was so-so-so old when we pounded down red cup after red cup of mystery mix.  Our accomplishments: having that perfect someone, indulging in an amazing million dollar career, owning a townhouse on the Upper West Side, living very comfortably. As I stare down the barrel of 29 with 30 a hair trigger away, I realize that sadly, foolishly, or valiantly, I haven’t given up my dream. 

So how do I break from the feeling that I need to know what I’m doing for the rest of my life, erase this dread of disappointing my loved ones, or stop staring at the wall wondering if that spot is a critter or simply a spot gone unnoticed (that moves on occasion)…I give it unto you. I will have you hold me accountable for my accomplishments or lack there of, by simply putting out…my thoughts, not my body (hopefully it won’t come to that). Hopefully you will find yourself laughing, understanding or sharing in my struggle because you are getting ready or know what it’s like to turn twenty-nine in fourteen days. 

This past week I yelled at a guy while wearing nothing but my bathrobe and anger as he unjustly almost shut off my power, frightened a fellow brethren of the Pacific (who TimeWarner was kind enough to outsource a job to) because of the $26 monthly charge for premium channels that the company “accidentally” put on my bill, and scolded my dad for not drinking enough water, the straw I grasped when I learned he was unusually sick and going to the hospital for tests. 

As the clock has turned pass midnight, I turn twenty-nine in now less than fourteen days.  Let the good times begin…

Yes “buy” is spelled that way on purpose.  I just can’t figure how to make the “buy” italics in the title/header.

buy the time… is a blog about how we, and when I mean we, I mean I pay for the dream to come true.

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  • Jessica: LMFAO.. How ever, Flavianas ass is REAL! shes from Brazil they are ALL genetically mutated that way... and Beto, he is from brazillian ac
  • mia: Hi, cracked up! flaviana does appear randomly and knows how to hog the camera....but i must say she did have her "15 minutes of fame" in Latin America