Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Nomadic Lifestyle


As I wander around the streets of San Diego, I notice quit a few homeless men and women, especially in the hood that I call home. I don't know if there is a disproportionately higher homeless population here, but it wouldn't surprise me if that were the case. Why wouldn't you pick San Diego as your homeless destination? The everyday weather here would cause a near riot in the midwest. So many people would be rushing outside to "enjoy the weather" that there would be a genuine human stampede.

The question I have is whether homeless people pick the city in which they would like to start their derelict lifestyle. Do you reach a certain point in your life where you know that you are headed to the streets? Maybe the voices in your head are getting progressively louder, or the drug addiction is becoming stronger. Maybe you are watching your bank account dwindle progressively downward as you live in your friends apartment, unable to find work anywhere...

Oh my God. Am I on this downward spiral toward eventual homelessness? Am I already there? I don't own a car, don't have an apartment lease, and have very few possessions that I can call my own. I have lived in spare rooms in my friend's apartments for the last two years, and have been unemployed for almost a full 12 months. I have moved from a terrible homeless city (Chicago/Minneapolis) to an amazing one (SD). I could be subconsciously setting myself for living in a cardboard box and collecting random bits of garbage for my ever-expanding shopping cart inventory.

I'm not sure that I can escape from this vortex. I might just have to resign myself to the fact that I am on a path to homelessness. I should probably start hanging with my El Cajon Street Crew so that I can learn some tricks of the trade. Maybe I should start talking in nonsensical phrases and give myself a nickname like "Crazy Pete". I think that I may pick one of my neighbors to harass on a daily basis. I'll begin by digging through their garbage, and work my way towards screaming obscenities at them.

It's been put in motion already. I may even have to change the name of this blog to "Life in the Food Line". Can you imagine the blogging opportunities?

-More to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coming to a Close


My current stint as a server is coming to a close. Currently, I am playing a role in a local theater as a waitress that has manly features. That's right. A woman.

When I was in elementary school, my older sister told me that if I grew my hair out and put on makeup, I could pass for a girl. It was an awful thing to say to a young boy that was already tall and awkward. It took years for me to forgive my sister for that. Somewhere between then and now, I've gotten considerably more comfortable in my own skin. Comfortable enough that I can put on a wig and fake eyelashes and not think twice about it.

For the past two weekends, I have been playing the role of "waitress" in this really small, community theater. Typically there are anywhere from 5 to 15 people in the audience, who seem to respond favorably to our short act. Even though our director is not paying any of his actors, and is charging $22 per ticket, it doesn't seem like he can make ends meet.

He sent an email yesterday, saying that even though we were scheduled to perform through the last weekend in March, we were going to be shutting down production on Saturday night. He said that he is losing thousands of dollars on this production, and he will no longer be able to put on any future plays.

I don't know how he could be losing thousands of dollars. He rents the space for $10 an hour and made me buy my own makeup. I had to walk into CVS and ask an employee where I could get cheap foundation and eye shadow, and then pay for it with my unemployed money. Unless he is using a large mountain of cocaine before each show, I'm not sure how he could be losing that much money.

Regardless, the show's over. My time as playing a woman is done....for now.

-More to come-

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Bicyclist


Last Thursday, I spent my day as a free extra on a film that is being shot in San Diego. The movie is being directed by Werner Herzog, and is starring Michael Shannon, Willem Defoe, and Chloe Sevingy. It is about a guy in San Diego that is slowly going crazy, giving away all of his possessions, and eventually murdering his mother with a sword. It's going to be an amazing romantic comedy.

So this was my first experience as an extra in any capacity. I had no idea what to expect when I showed up at 8 am in the middle of Balboa Park, wearing jogging clothes, and wandering aimlessly through various parking lots.

I eventually found a large trailer and a group of people huddled around eating breakfast burritos and drinking coffee. I approached one guy, who was talking on a walkie talkie and said;

Me: "Hey, I'm an extra."
Guy: "Alright. Thanks for showing up."
Me: "Is there someplace that I need to be?"
Guy: "No. Not for a few hours."
Me: "Okay."
Guy: "We probably won't need you until at least 10, so if you want to just sit in your car for a while, that should be fine."

So I sat in my roommate's car for two hours, listening to morning talk radio shows, and wishing that I had brought along something to read. Our beautiful San Diego weather had gone crazy on us, and was raining, cold, and windy, so sitting in the car was better than shivering in the cold.

10 AM came and went, and they still didn't need me. 11 AM rolled around, and they were still setting up the shot. At 11:30, I finally got the call to come out to an open field in the park. The assistant director approached me.

AD: "Hey, can you ride a bicycle?"
Me: "Yes."
AD: "What's your name?"
Me: "Micah"
AD: "Ok, we are going to need you to start behind the camera, and start biking diagonally across the screen. Michael [Shannon] and Chloe [Sevingy] are going to walk toward the camera, and I need you to time it correctly so that you pass behind them."
Me: "Okay."

So I was sitting on a beaten up ten speed bicycle, trying to figure out how I was going to ride it along the bumpy grass of the field, when someone yelled "background, go!" and everything started in motion. I managed to avoid hitting the lead actors, and make my way across the screen.

After the shot had finished, the Assistant Director and Director approached me. They called me over by yelling, "Bicyclist" and waving me over to them. They changed up the timing a little bit, and sent me back out. After a couple of takes, they managed to get the shot that they were looking for and moved onto the next filming location.

After several more hours of sitting in my car, I was called back out to the field. They had me change into some other clothing, and I stood with the other extras as they placed us. The director, Werner, was telling us to go to various locations. He looked at me and said, "Bicyclist, I need you to walk across the park, from there to there" as he pointed out my marks. Naturally, I was confused. Was I going to be biking across the screen again, or was I now known as the "bicyclist"?

We did the shot a couple of times, with me walking in the background, and moved onto the next location. We finished the third shot of the day in a courtyard within Balboa Park. I wasn't in the last shot, and sat around for another couple of hours until we wrapped. In total they had shot maybe 5 to 10 minutes of film, within 10 hours of working. It was exhausting, and I was just an extra.

So I left the set, and headed home. I got a call on Friday, from one of the PA's, saying that they were looking for extras on other days. Here is the conversation.

PA: "Hey, is this the bicyclist from yesterday?"
Me: "Uhh, I guess so."
PA: "So you were the one riding the bike, right?"
Me: "Yes."
PA: "We would like to use you for some other extra work..."

They needed me to work for 7 days in a row, and needed me to be available for 10 to 12 hours on those days. I had some conflicts in my schedule on a couple of the days, and decided not to do it. It was cool to be on set, and see the entire movie making process, but it wasn't worth the $0 that I was getting paid to be there.

I'm hoping that eventually I will run into somebody from the film in the future, and I will be able to say, "Hey, I'm the bicyclist," and have them remember me. Young children will say, "I think that's the bicyclist," in hushed tones as I pass them by. Evil doers will quell in fear as the bicyclist hunts them down!

I'm getting ahead of myself.

-More to come.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Working on the Weekend


When I was still gainfully employed, I would often fall into the cliched cycle of the work week. I would always catch a "case of the Mondays", called Wednesday "Hump Day", and would be elated by Friday. "Everybody's Working for the Weekend" would start to creep into my mind around lunchtime on Friday afternoons. I absolutely cherished and coveted the two days of free time at the end of each week. Saturday and Sunday meant not thinking about work, staying up late, and drinking until my brain and body couldn't function properly by the time the depressing end of the weekend arrived.

This thinking has changed dramatically since I've entered into the unemployment line. I have free time virtually every day. If I really want to sleep until 2 pm, I can (and have). If I am feeling a little under the weather, I am able to play video games all day and gorge myself on peanut butter candy products without having to worry about creating enough billable hours.

This was my life for several months. After years of trying to fit as much in as possible during the week, and relax to an absurd degree on the weekends, I was not entirely clear on how to embrace this new lifestyle. I went overboard on the relaxing portion and was left with a summer of non-accomplishment. This was all well and good until I realized that the stockpile of money that I had when I left my job was dwindling to virtually nothing.

I've started to try and move my life back in the taskmaster direction, but what I've found is that I can no longer follow my formatted lifestyle. I am constantly on-call. If I'm wasting time on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, at the same time that all of working friends are at the beach or watching tv, I start to get a little nervous. I could be sending out emails or trying to further my non-career. In addition, all of the smaller gigs that I've gotten recently, require that I work on these days that were previously held as a hallowed ground of relaxation.

No longer am I working for the weekend. Drinking myself stupid on Friday night, might lead to an unproductive Saturday, which is becoming more and more of a burden to my floundering bank account. My parents told me that one day, I would start to grow up and not need to participate in the binge drinking practices that I learned throughout college. I knew that this would eventually happen, but I thought that I would have children and a home before I crossed this transitional point. Instead I'm playing a cross-dressing waiter in a play on Saturday nights and filming scenes as a spandex-clad superhero on Sunday afternoons.

I wouldn't call what's happening to me as 'growing up'. Maybe my maturity has regressed to my pre-drinking days, when I had entire summers off from a weekly schedule and I lived in a fantasy land of GI Joe's and Mario. I guess that I've regressed to elementary school levels, however I'm earning less money now than I did then. Mowing lawns and emptying dishwashers paid a lot better than acting in community theater. Such is life in the unemployment line, apparently.

-More to come

Friday, March 6, 2009

Call and response


As I've written previously, one of the more frustrating parts of life in the unemployment line is playing the waiting game with a prospective employer. I sit in my darkened room, and stare holes into the surface of my cellular phone, waiting for it to ring. I will sometimes play peek-a-boo with my email account to force something to appear. It's a generally maddening experience.

Last Friday, I had an audition with a broadcasting company. They were looking for hosts and writers for some of the shows on their channel. I went into the interview, knowing very little about what I was getting myself into, but I thought that I did fairly well throughout the process. After the audition, a woman gave me a tour of the offices and introduced me to several members of the broadcasting team. It seemed like I had gotten the position and I left the office on an extreme high. I was so excited that I was singing along to Pink on the way home.

I was told that the producers of the television segments needed to review the taped audition, and I would hear back one way or another by Monday of this week. The woman said that they may take an extra day or two, but I would be contacted by Wednesday at the latest.

I went to sleep Sunday night, preparing for a phone call on Monday morning. I had convinced myself that I had received the part, which is the worst mistake that I could make. I don't know why I continue to do that to myself. My masochistic tendencies are starting to take over my brain. I might as well start cutting myself.

I didn't hear anything on Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday for that matter. I sent the woman an email Wednesday afternoon, asking her to let me know if I didn't get the part. I just wanted to know so that I could continue to send out desperate emails to other jobs.

I didn't hear anything Thursday or through the first half of today (Friday). In a slight bout of irritation, I called the company and asked if the woman was available. This is how the conversation with the receptionist went:

Receptionist: You've reached (this broadcast company)
Me: Hi, is (woman) available?
Receptionist: Yes she is. Can I tell her who is calling?
Me: This is Micah. I auditioned with you last week for a hosting position.
Receptionist: Ok, let me transfer you.
Me: Great. Thanks.

The receptionist transferred me. The phone rang a couple of times and was picked up by an electronic answering service for the woman. She was available until she heard who it was that was calling. All I wanted her to do was pick up the phone, say "No" and immediately hang up. I just wanted some closure on the whole affair.

I left a very pleasant message, asking the woman to give me a call back so I could know for sure about the position and move onto other things. At this point, I know that I didn't get the part, but it has become an issue of principles. If she thinks that she has gotten rid of me by ignoring my emails and phone calls, she is sorely mistaken.

It's like I asked a girl to prom. When I asked her, she seemed receptive to the idea. We talked about the group we were going to go with, maybe even discussed some post prom plans, and then a week went by without an actual "yes". I'm left sitting in my sweet ruffled tuxedo on prom night, not knowing whether or not she is actually going to show up.

So, I'm taking a stand for all of those in the unemployment line. Give us some closure people. Rejection is much easier to handle when it is a certain thing. I'll give some updates next week.

-More to come

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I am E-3


I had an audition on Saturday morning for a part in an educational video that will be used in San Diego schools. I went out on Friday but refrained from drinking excessively so that I would be somewhat fresh for the audition. While I wasn't excessively hungover, I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep and showed up with red eyes and breath that could have melted plastic. Living life in the unemployment line has afforded me the luxury of receiving ample amounts of sleep each night. When I sleep for less hours than I've become accustomed to, I am consistently on the verge of either ripping someone's face off or nodding off while walking.

Needless to say, I was not extremely confident when walking into the audition. I met with two guys that gave me a script and a couple of minutes to look it over. The part I was reading for was a character called E-3. E-3 is a superhero that goes around San Diego fighting waste and spreading the good word of conservation. There is a giant supercomputer that alerts a team of children of homes or building that are wasting water or energy. The children notify E-3, who heads to the location to turn off water taps and light fixtures.

While E-3 is fighting this battle, he also has to watch out for his arch nemesis. I've forgotten what his name is exactly, but I think it's something like Waste-tron. E-3 and his nemesis fight it out in several battles throughout the storyline.

So I read through the script in front of the director and producer of the project. My voice was a couple octaves lower than usual due to my lack of sleep, which made my audition go fairly well. I felt pretty good about my chances for getting the part as I left.

I received an email yesterday, notifying me that they had chosen me to play the role. I got a gig! I was feeling pretty good about myself. Within the email, they also asked if I could send them my measurements. I sent along a few and asked whether they needed any additional ones. They responded, saying that they needed as many measurements as possible because I was going to be wearing a full body, spandex suit.

So I received the part of a superhero, clothed in spandex, who educates first graders about conservation. I'm on my way! I'm actually really excited about the project. I can't wait to get the final version so that I can show it to my friends while we are drunk on the weekends. This may be the funniest thing that has ever happened to me. I'm going to ask whether I can keep the outfit after I'm done, and then use it for spandex bar crawls around PB. It's going to be amazing.

I am E-3; Defender of Nature.

-More to come.