26
Aug

Lately I’ve been dreaming about the demise of Los Angeles. Not daydreams, mind you. Real dreams. The subconscious kind.

Sometimes the dream is set right before the imminent destruction of the city. Sometimes it’s right after, and all I can do is survey the charred carnage surrounding me. Sometimes the dream focuses on Los Angeleans fleeing the city, trying to escape our collective doom. I once even dreamt that all the downtown skyscrapers were getting swallowed up into the earth. Pretty messed up, eh? Yet no matter the details regarding these dreams, one variable remains the same: I’m as cool as a cucumber throughout the whole thing.

I’ve been experiencing these twisted visions for nearly a month now, but have no idea what it means. Am I a modern day Nostradamus who can actually see the future? Am I perhaps tapping into some forthcoming LA disaster? Will it be an earthquake? Fire? Nuclear war? Or maybe this is just a subconscious outlet for my sometime frustration with the City of Angels and the parts of it I like least such as the awful drivers, the disgusting smog, Jay Leno. I may not love this place 24/7, but hand to heart, I swear I don’t want to see it wiped from the map forever. Where would I get my Cantaloop?

Yet most alarming is that I never get upset in these dreams. Just what the hell is up with that? I’m witnessing the deaths of millions of people, but it doesn’t faze me. Shouldn’t that be a red flag? Isn’t having no regard for human life the mark of a sociopath? During one dream, I was viewing the ruins of the city from a military helicopter, but you’d think I was on some touristy aerial tour of the Hawaiian Islands, I was so zen about the whole thing. Maybe I can write that one off as a “no use in crying over spilled milk” kind of deal, but I’m just as emotionally void when dreaming about LA prior to Armageddon. And it’s not like I’m clueless about the approaching catastrophe either; I just can’t be bothered about it. Instead, I choose to watch everyone else freak out while sipping on a refreshing mojito. (Okay, the last part’s not true. Come to think of it, I’ve never had a dream where I’m eating or drinking anything. Have you?)

At times I wish I didn’t remember my dreams. I have plenty of friends that make such a claim; they can’t recall a thing about their subconscious adventures the night before. Not me. I think it might be genetic – I come from a family that values the almighty REM cycle above all else – so rarely does a night go by where I don’t wake up the next morning and think, “What in the world was that about?” or “Dammit, alarm clock! Things were just getting good!” I suppose there could be worse afflictions.

Alas, I remember everything… And aside from my “LA becomes a smoking pit of misery” dreams, I frequently conjure the classics as well. There’s the one where I’m taking an exam, but of course I didn’t study at all. Or I oversleep in my dream and wake up in my dream to realize that I missed the exam altogether. Sometimes I’m running to class with the pathetic hope that I still have enough time to finish the test. As you might have noticed, I have these dreams quite a bit as well. They in particular are extremely upsetting, as I was a HUGE nerd in school. Then there’s the dream with my teeth falling out. I really hate that one because my teeth actually did fall out – or rather were shattered – and I’ve been severely traumatized ever since. (An very unfortunate pompon incident my sophomore year of high school.) Or there’s the dream where I can’t run away fast enough from whatever deranged serial killer who wants to chop me up into a million pieces. That’s a good one.

Some dreams are rad, though. Ever dream that you can fly? OMG, I love those! I would definitely choose flying to be my special power. A close second? Stopping time ala Out of This World. But even more awesome would be if I could actually tell that I was in a dream. How exactly do people do this? I have never, never, ever experiencing lucid dreaming. And given how much I do dream, it’s such a tease. Of course, then I had to go see Inception. Pour salt in wound.

Regardless, I love my dreams. Even the ones that make me wonder if I might just be one precarious notch down from Dexter. They remind me that the human mind is amazing. A mysterious, complex machine capable of so much. And if I could just figure out how to manipulate my dreams, then I could become Ultimate Ruler of Los Angeles. I would definitely implement some major changes. No one over the age of 65 and/or with an IQ of under 65 could drive. Period. A two-bedroom shack with questionable plumbing and termite issues would cost $60K, not $600K. And Leno would be reassigned to do public access in Hatchechubbee, Alabama.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

19
Aug

As a teen, I babysat like a mofo. (This also sadly points to my lack of a social life back then.) Thing is, I had no experience with children. At all. I was the baby in the family. My littlest cousin was barely three years younger than me. Sidenote: Her sister and I once locked her in a closet just because she was bugging us, forcing my aunt to threaten that Santa would bring us no presents that year. As I already knew there was no Saint Nicholas, I then proceeded to crush my other cousin with that life-changing fact. But I digress… Most of my schoolmates also had siblings just within a year or two of them in age. However, I do remember one friend whose parents had a baby girl when we were eight years old. I usually referred to little Jordan as “it.” I was confused because I assumed they named the baby after Michael Jordan… But she was a girl?

Yet when I hit fifteen, I suddenly became the Kid Whisperer to any parent that knew me. They innately trusted me with their progeny. I got paid like a mofo, too. That part was sweet. (Thanks again, Dad, for never making me save any of it. I could be a LA homeowner right now.) I guess I faked my lack of experience pretty well because I kept getting asked back, too. I even babysat for Jordan, as well as for her younger brothers not named Michael or Jordan II or any combination thereof (more confusion). But no matter how much time I spent with the little darlings, I was always a shallow breath away from full-on panic attack mode since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Is Natural Born Killers not kid-appropriate? Are two hotdogs and a fudgesicle not considered a well-balanced meal? Did I mention that I don’t know child CPR? It was this acute anxiety that eventually led me to believe that maybe – just maybe – I was being watched.

I could never shake that feeling. And I don’t mean being watched through the windows by some pervert neighbor. I mean surveillance. Like the parents had a camera in every room watching my every move. Perhaps that sounds a little crazy, but – heaven help us – if I ever have kids, that’ll be the first thing I’m buying when that test comes back positive. Or maybe the second thing. I really want one of those kid leashes… But seriously, parents were once teens, too. How can they so easily forget how stupid adolescents are?

So what kept me coming back? Hello, the money. I was sick for the Benjamins. And the kids themselves were a riot. Although completely inept to be their temporary guardian, this is also why I was so good at watching cartoons and digging up worms and doing monster cannonballs with those cute little tykes… Oh no, here come the waterworks. Moving on… Then there was the food. This just reinforces my belief that parents should absolutely keep cameras in the house; they would have totally valid reasons for it. Case in point? I annihilated the fridge every time I babysat. You’d think they were paying me in groceries. I couldn’t help it, though. Is it just me, or does everyone else on the planet buy the most appealing, most scrumptious, most delicious food? I also feel sorry for my childhood friends. Or rather, I feel sorry for their parents. Every time I had a play date, I would clear out the pantry within mere minutes. In particular, my apologies to the Wong family. I’m surprised they still even talk to me. I’m also surprised I didn’t weigh two hundred pounds as a ten year old.

Which leads me to house-sitting. When I’m just visiting someone – and they happen to be in the house with me – polite snooping is my main objective. I’m not alone in this, am I? I love checking out everything: books, photo albums, DVD collections, you name it. I’m fascinated by other people’s homes. I also have this weird thing with needing to know middle names, but that’s beside the point.

Yet when house-sitting, I don’t care anymore about what they have. Essentially their house is now my house is now a boring house. That’s when the freak out begins. I’m not spying on them, but are they spying on me? I blame every reality show that ever aired – Big Brother, The Real World, Dancing with the Stars – for this phobia of mine. What if they really do have a camera rigged somewhere to watch my every move? What are my moves? I begin to second-guess everything I do, trying to figure out if I have any – ahem – compromising behavior. Is it odd that I brush my teeth in the shower? Should I not belt out a teary-eyed version of “On My Own” while cooking breakfast? I don’t care to know the answers to these questions, so instead I morph into The Perfect Houseguest. Is the bed made? Check. Are the dishes washed? Check. Are the couch pillows fluffed? Check check. I even Windex the coffee table if I see condensation rings. (But I’m also OCD, so I’d probably do that anyway.) No one’s gonna YouTube me pouring out the finer details of my love life to the cat. I can wait. Just a few more days until I’m back home, and then I’ll unabashedly sprawl out on my couch, devour my pint of Cherry Garcia and sob uncontrollably while watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

09
Aug

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned this ad nauseam, but I’m not a regular at the hip joints around town. Don’t care about Sky Bar. I have no interest in Katsuya. Not a fan of Chateau Marmont. Basically any place that the dudes from Entourage might frequent.* I refuse to go anywhere that has a cover charge and/or I have to wait in line to enter and/or I won’t be able to make rent if I dine there. Ridiculous. However, my self-imposed quarantine isn’t so much about time or money. It’s about douchebags. I avoid these places because of the celebrity wannabes.

They’re everywhere… But I get it. I do live in Los Angeles after all. It’s the Holy Land for all those wanting to see themselves projected in pixel form on a screen of any kind. Let’s get something straight, though. I’m not talking about those folks who are seriously trying to make a living at their craft and eat, sleep and breathe acting. No, the people to whom I am referring are those who have OD’ed on one too many seasons of The Real World and now secretly – or not so secretly – want to have their own fifteen minutes of fame.

It’s pretty easy to spot them, male or female. Brows waxed. Hair highlighted. Skin spray-tanned. Usually decked out in bebe or Ed Hardy. However, this meticulous self-grooming isn’t the most obvious clue. It’s the searching eyes that are the dead giveaway. Those eyes that are forever darting from side to side no matter where they are or what they are doing, wondering if anyone will realize they are The Next Big Thing.

If you do what I do and perpetually ignore the Sunset Strip, you’ll have an easier time in avoiding these individuals. However, you can never truly escape them. I had this sad epiphany the other week while attending a taping of Last Comic Standing. Though having lived in California for nearly six years now, I’ve only gone to one show taping. It was for the sitcom Yes, Dear, and I have never felt the need to relive that particular horror ever again. The show itself wasn’t terrible, but I swear they held us captive for about two days to tape one twenty-two minute episode… Maybe it was closer to four hours, but every hour felt like twelve. FYI – I did break my vow of abstinence for one very special man: Conan O’Brien. Last fall, I went to a taping of The Tonight Show and have absolutely no regrets. I heart Coco.

But then I broke it again to see Last Comic Standing. Anyone who knows me knows that I also love to laugh, so I figured it would be a fun time with friends. Yet once there, I began to take note of just who else was showing up. First, the tourists. Those sweet folk who drive out from Middle America to take in the sights of La La Land. Most always attired in jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt from the Grand Canyon or Gettysburg or Cape Cod, they arrive with big smiles and big eyes. They too are on the look out. However, they’ve come not to be noticed, but to notice. They want to see everything and everyone – i.e. a (real) celebrity sighting or two so they can brag to friends back home.

Then there were the aforementioned wannabes. These peeps actually live in Los Angeles and I’m guessing have been to many show tapings, but they don’t care about what they’re watching. Rather, they’re desperately hoping that some producer will see them in the crowd and pluck them from a life of obscurity.

I just so happened to be sitting behind one of these individuals at the taping. She was tall and blonde and wearing a dress so tight that she had to forcefully pull it back down over her thighs every time the audience was asked to stand up and cheer. Granted, we all were told to wear formal attire, but this chick looked like she was working nights on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Know what I mean, eh? (I’m calling her a prostitute – just so we’re all on the same page.) And when she wasn’t adjusting her dress, she was almost obsessively combing her fingers through her hair. I wanted to hit her. But then I’d be thrown out, and she probably would get her fleeting moment of glory. I could see it making the local news. “Tonight at eleven… A reality show gets a whole lot more real!” I refused to give her that satisfaction.

Look, I get the whole “wanting to be noticed” thing. In a world of almost seven billion, it’s damn hard to separate yourself from the crowd. And who doesn’t want to feel special? I’m not above that. However, I do draw the line at whoring myself out before noon on a Monday… But I could make an exception for Conan. If he ever saw me in the crowd, he would know that we were destined to be together. For-ever.

* The irony is not lost on me that although I do not frequent these establishments, I am still well aware of their existence. I can’t help it. It’s like LA smog – you try not to think about it, but you know it’s there. You also know it’s not good for your health, but you just keep your fingers crossed that it won’t take too many years off your life.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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