Sunday, October 14, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

I feel dirty.

"That's a beautiful scarf." she said, tapping my on my shoulder while I was perusing the 5 for $5 cookie deals at Walgreens. "Where did you get it?"

I get compliments on my scarf all the time. That's not me being cocky. Buying a pretty object is not really a personal triumph. But I do take a lot of pride in telling people how much it cost. "It was five dollars. I bought it in New York's Chinatown." That's me being cocky. (And cheap.) I am a smart and savvy shopper.

"Chinatown. Is that outside of Manhattan?" she said. It was endearing how little she knew about Manhattan. "Chinatown is in Manhattan. Its south of Canal Street." I looked her up and down. She was blonde, petite, and meticulously groomed in her fitted black pantsuit. She had to be from the suburbs; she was too put together to be a product of this blue-collar city. Not to say that there aren't any city dwellers that are well-groomed, but her style was predictable. There weren’t any immediate surprises about her appearance. She was pretty, but not beautiful. We have all seen this woman before.

“I have a friend who lives in Manhattan along 7th street. She’s always telling me to go to Chinatown. She says they have great deals. Do you live in New York?”

“No,” I responded.

“You just seem to know the city.”

“Well, I go there a lot. At least once a year, usually more often. And I used to go to school just about 20-30 minutes outside Manhattan.”

“Are you in advertising?” She said, looking me up and down.

What a curious assumption to make, that I must be in advertising. I wondered where she got that impression. I was wearing the pearls my husband gave me as a wedding gift. Maybe the pearls told her I was corporate, but my outfit, mismatching bright colors said I was artsy and in a creative industry. I’m obviously a city girl.

“No,” I said. “I’m an actor. And a writer.”

Her eyes lit up. “Wow! What are you in? Can I come see you?”

For so long, I was embarrassed to tell people that I am an actor. Its not exactly a noble career. But that kind of self-censoring doesn’t get anyone anywhere, so now I say it proudly. The great part is, they’re usually more excited about it than I am. Generally, I’ve found that people are envious that I’m actually going for it, that I am willing to put myself out there. That’s not me being cocky. That’s just me being proud of overcoming my anxieties about this pretty ridiculous life path I’m on.

We talked more about the kind of stuff I’m in, the kind of stuff I write, the fact that I going to grad school. She asked so many questions I didn’t get a chance to find out anything about her.

She reached in her purse and rummaged around, “Please let me give you my card. I would love to come see you sometime. I don’t work with any actors, per se, but I do work with a lot of people in the entertainment business. The lyric opera, singers and whatnot.”

I was very curious to know what she does. Could I have just stumbled upon a connection? I was excited by the prospect that a genuine conversation could turn into a connection.

“What do you do?” I asked.

She pulled out a pen and a business card case. I noticed she had a peculiar French manicure on fake nails. She had whitened not only the tips of her nails, but also the little half-moon at the base. That took a lot of thought. It showed an extreme attention to detail.

“Now, how do you spell ‘Carrie’? Can I get your number, too, or do you have a card?” That was when a bell went off. This woman, this conversation, it was too much. It wasn’t what I thought it was. Or was it? I gave my work number to be sure.

“I work with lots of people in the industry. Like I said, I work with a singer from the Lyric Opera. And others.”

She paused while she gave me her card. I looked down at it. It said Sara Lange, Independent Senior Direcor at the top beside an image of two bright red lips. “MARY KAY” was written in bold at the bottom. The back of the card was covered with clear piece of plastic which was protecting a sample of Mary Kay’s eye color duet in Lagoon (silver and navy).

“I’m a Senior Director with Mary Kay.” she continued. “In my first year I made $18,000 PART TIME! You really should give us a call. It’s the perfect job for actors.

“Thanks. I’ve gotta get going.” I said, smiling weakly.

My friends have all told me similar stories. Apparently these Mary Kay ladies are worse than the Streetwise vendors or those college students selling salon packages. But at least their “Can I ask you a question about your hair?” is more honest than this 5-minute conversation lead-in.

I’d been had. I thought she was a nice lady from the suburbs, looking to connect with another human being in a city where eye contact is hard to come by. I thought she was impressed with my courage to follow my dream. But instead, she was preying on my desire to chattiness, my craving to be thought of as a smart, interesting person with great style and good stories. She was using my vanity, my cockiness, as a way to sell her quasi-pyramid scheme.

She was the city girl and I was the country bumpkin.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"The Rodeo"

That woman you think looks like she’s been to the rodeo. The one who gives you a free cookie for visiting her in the grocery store bakery, but who has moved up to Checkout for who knows why. The one with salt and pepper roots and orangey blonde ends, with a leathery face and watery grey blue eyes. The one who’s sparkling smile defies her tired face. She has been to the rodeo. Figuratively speaking, of course.

She was strangled when she was 20. She was coming off a night shift and getting into her delivery van. Her attacker came up behind her. The details are fuzzy, but she remembers him wrapping his bony hands around her neck and squeezing. She tried to fight him off, but she lost consciousness. When she came-to, she was spilling out of the open door of her van. There was blood on her shirt. The details are fuzzy, but she’s sure that tai chi saved her. She religiously practiced tai chi and yoga in those days. Most people wouldn’t have survived, but she was tough. They caught the guy two and a half years later. He had strangled others. To death.

The woman tells you this as you are buying items with which to make your sick husband soup. She tells you “People have been crabby today.” To that you respond, “There’s no since in making life crappier than it already is.” You didn’t mean to sound like such a cynic, but figure the sentiment is the same. That’s when she tells you the story of being strangled. Her voice is muffled but burly. She sounds like she has a frog in her throat but she doesn’t try to clear it. It is hard to hear her. The details are fuzzy.

You say, “Bless You” just as your mom might have. It seems appropriate and you’ve decided its okay to say that even though you’re not terribly religious. She shrugs it off and mumbles something to the effect that its not a big deal, she’s alive. The lady behind you, buying the Lean Cuisines and Perrier is looking impatient so you bid her farewell.

“I’m glad you’re alive. Have a good day.”

Monday, April 30, 2007

Gisele Bundchen's work is truly extraordinary. At least the world's sexiest brand thinks so.

“The long and fruitful relationship between Gisele Bundchen and Victoria’s Secret has reached a conclusion. We wish her all the best and thank her for her extraordinary work. She will continue to be a very visable part of the world’s sexiest brand through the remainder of the year.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I am not racist. I promise.

As I approached the front door of the office building where my Tuesday night acting class is held, I couldn’t help but notice you leaning on the front door, smoking a cigarette. I called the security box and asked to be let in the building. As I was buzzed up to the office and you grabbed the door behind me.

I said, “You’re going to have to be buzzed in.”

You said, “I’m making a delivery. I was just taking a smoke break.”

The lobby was dark. After hours, the building was desolate. In my head I replayed brutal scenes from that one book about misguided women who didn’t trust their instincts. I replied, “I just can’t let you in unless you are buzzed in by an office.”

You pointed to your delivery boxes that were already in the front lobby. The insignia on the packages matched that embroidered on your front shirt.

You were telling the truth.

“Oh.” I said, embarrassed. “You understand. Don’t you?”

“Yeah, I understand,” you said cynically, anger flashing in your eyes.

I wanted to explain to you that it wasn’t because you were black. It wouldn’t have mattered if you were a Jude Law look-alike; I was not going to let a strange man accompany me into a deserted building in downtown Chicago.

I am not a racist. I’m just a paranoid city dweller who isn’t going to put herself in compromising situations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Dying Flower[shop]

The Dunlop Farms subdivision used to be a dairy farm. I remember cows, then I remember a barren swath of land in a town that’s otherwise canopied by lush green trees, then a few houses seemed to sprout from the earth as whole subdivision emerged. Dunlop Farms is now complete with an emergency medical center (the closest thing we have to a hospital in my town), a Pizza Hut Carry out, a small Virginia bank, a CVS Drugstore and a strip mall with a Food Lion, a Chinese restaurant, an Italian Pizza joint and lots of locally owned restaurants and shops.

Right next to the Food Lion is a small flower shop, Hughes Flowers, where I used to get all of my high school dance corsages. They also used to make the large white snowball chrysanthemum corsages that the homecoming court wears each year. It used to be a sunny shop with buckets of fresh flowers in a windowed cooler. There were a few trinkets out front, Precious Moments dolls and other gifts. Everyone in the Hughes family worked there making corsages, arrangements, delivering or manning the counter. It was the place that pretty much everyone in town went to buy flowers.

In 1998, Mac Hughes, the owner and father of three kids I went to school with, was in a headon car crash on Conduit Road. He suffered a few bone fractures and a brain injury. Through treatment for that, he discovered he also had lung cancer. He hung on for a few years, I believe, but his body just couldn’t recover. He was the life of Hughes Flowers and thus his business also suffered.

I hadn’t been in the shop until this past weekend, when I was home to see my folks. I thought I’d pick up a sunny bouquet of fresh flowers to take to my grandmother. She’s been taking care of my sick and aging grandfather.

The front of the shop was a jungle of silk gravesite arrangements stacked so high that hardly any window light could penetrate the shop. The coolers were mostly filled with fresh flower arrangements with fern and baby’s breath to be set on church altars In Memoriam. A mother and daughter were in the shop deciding which centerpiece to select for their grandfather who loved daffodils. There were also one pre-arranged dozen roses arranged with fern and baby’s breath and an Easter vase filled with carnations, fern and baby’s breath.

“I’m looking for a small bouquet to give to my grandmother,” I said when I was greeted by the tired looking counter woman, dressed in an oversized Christmas turtleneck.

“Oh, we don’t really have many flowers,” she replied with her smoky Virginia twang. “We have a few carnations, and then those tulips.” She motioned to a cooler behind the deck that was almost empty except a bucket of 12 or so ripe tulips.

“They’re $4 a piece. Or are they, $3 a piece, Clara?” she asked the woman behind the coolers.

“They’re $3 a piece, just like the carnations,” she shortly replied, as if she’d been asked that question already.

I can get a dozen fresh tulips for $7.99 in Chicago, but I didn’t care. I sifted through the bucket and selected four violet tulips. The counter woman paired them with fern and babies breath and wrapped then in cellophane tied with a loose purple ribbon. She maneuvered behind the counter with familiarity, quickly tapping the old cash register buttons with her flower-soiled nails.

“That will be $12.54,” she said as she pierced the ticket on the old fashioned receipt collector. I could tell from the receipts that mine was only the 2 purchase made that day. It was then that I was buying flowers for my aging grandmother from an aging shop. I felt a little bad about it. But, then, after all the Hughes have been through, I felt badly for thinking that.

“Thank you,” I said, collecting my flowers.

“You come back now!” she waved.

“I will,” I said.

I meant it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Plan A

Plan B was to move to Los Angeles when our lease is up in August. Not one who is good with transitions, and not knowing exactly when I'd find out if Plan A would work, I sailed full-steam ahead with Plan B. I called my agent and told him I was moving, I told my parents, I posted a notice on my Edward Norton fan site.

Plan A was a long-shot. Plan A is expensive. Plan A is intimidating and a lot of work. But its also an honor and an amazing opportunity. Plan A opens the door to so many other Lettered Plans.

Did I mention that Plan A is expensive? I had started to hope that Plan A would fall through, so I didn't have to face the challenges (and debt) to come. The weight and drama of all that made me sure that quitting my job, packing up my apartment, moving away halfway across the country from all of my friends and clear across the country from my family, would be easier than Plan A.

Two days ago, when I found out that Plan A was a go, I had a very surprising initial reaction: I cried. Not exactly tears of joy, but painful, cathartic tears of raw emotion. Here I was, acheiving something I almost didn't dare to hope for, and at the mere phrase "I am pleased to inform you..." I was dripping tears big wet tears on my boss's expense report.

I thought, "Why am I crying? This is so great! This is such an accomplishment!" Of course, this made me cry harder. I wept on and off for about 2 hours.

Ultimately, I wept because I was surprised.
...and relieved
and scared
and confused
and surprised
and proud
and intimidated
and PMSing
and disappointed
and happy...

All at the same time.

It reminded me of the tears I cried when I was hit by a taxi cab while walking home from class. While in the ER, I kept sobbing and repeating "I don't know why I can't stop crying." My mother said, "Its okay, Carried. This is a big event." But my tears weren't logical to me. I couldn't make sense of how I was feeling and why I was reacting in such a way. I realize now that I was feeling joyful to be alive, scared i could have died, anxious for my recovery, touched by the kindness of my friends, family and strangers and about a million things all at the same time.

There was no other way to react.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I got in.

I got into grad school. I don't know how I did it, but I did. Now comes the anxiety of figuring out if I can afford it. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Pigeon Potpourri

It happened in a flash of orange and a cloud of smoke and pigeons. Wings and beaks and spindly little legs swirling about the air. One by one, pigeons fall to the ground where each lay for a few stunned moments. Then slowly their little glass-bead eyes light up as their bodies shudder back to life. They fly away unfazed, hungry for a snack of crumbs.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Celebrities take Airborne too ...

"Look, Airborne is great. I wouldn't go on a movie set without it; it's on my plane and in my house."

— Kevin Costner

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who's driving this bus?

On my commute this morning, the bus driver kept asking the passengers where the bus was supposed to go. She was shouting her questions so that everyone could hear her.

"Excuse me? Excuse me?! Is this bus supposed to go down this street, or that one?"
"Excuse me, do you know where the next bus stop is?
"Excuse me, does anyone know the last stop?"