Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Greatest Man I Ever Knew

When people say they don't make men like that anymore it is true. The one I knew was a sports fan, storyteller, gardening expert, fixer of the unfixable, and an adventurer in his own way rolled up into the form of a man that I called Pop. Pop was a simple man who came from a humble background. He worked from the time he was 16 helping his father in the grove care business here in Florida. He worked hard, rarely took a vacation but it didn't matter he loved his life. I met him long after he retired but loved hearing his stories of life in Florida when he was young.

One afternoon, he asked if he had ever told me about how he met Al Capone. I didn't know what to say. How could a man who rarely left Florida, have met Al Capone? He told me when he was in college, he and a friend hitchhiked back home because they didn't have train fare. The were a few miles from home when a big car pulled over to give them a ride. They readily climbed in only to discover the sole passenger in the back was none other than Al Capone.

I should say, Pop recognized Al Capone but his friend didn't. He found the man was from Chicago and proceeded to ask him if he knew Al Capone. When the man said very well, the young man told him he didn't think Al was that tough. Pop said he kept hitting his friend in the leg to get him to shut up. He finally was able to tell his friend who the man really was when the car pulled into a parking lot of a diner. They went into the diner, leaving Pop and his friend in the car. He finally told his friend that the man he said Al isn't so tough too was the real Al Capone. Pop said his friend turned and almost fainted. They were finally dropped off and ran the rest of the way home. When he told his parents who gave him a ride home, his parents were livid. From that day on they made sure Pop had train fare to come home.

Like most Americans of his generation, when the country called to go to war; they went. He thought he would go to Europe or Asia but instead was placed on an island in Alaska.
There were events he wouldn't go into detail about because they were horrific and I never pushed. He would get quite and then return back to his normal self a few minutes. He did tell me about how his unit captured some Japanese and the first thing they had to do was burn their lice infested uniforms. During down time, they did the usual things like making their version of moonshine called torpedo juice. He said it was very lethal to drink but there wasn't anything else. The food wasn't that great and it was where he learned to hate carrots and peas because that was the only vegetable they sent them.

Besides his family, his greatest pride and joy were his camellia bushes. He even had one, that his parents' planted when he was born in 1919. When visitors would come over they would be asked to take a tour of his garden. With pride, he would point out ever bush and tell them when the camellia was planted and the name of it. He had a memory for plant names and how to care for them. Plants were his passion but not the only one.

His other passion was baseball, the Cubs to be exact. I love the team too so we would sit and watch Harry Carey announce the games. The Cubs rarely won but that didn't matter. My best friend and I would sit with him watching the game and during commercials we all would talk. It was during a commercial that he told me to call him Pop. I have never been able to call a friends' parent by their first name and he said Mr was to formal. So Pop it was and Pop it would always be.

As with all things, time flies by and we get older. In 1998 my best friend lost her mom to cancer & brain tumors. The light sort of went out on him because Maggie was the love of his life. For people who think love does not continue with age are so wrong. I loved watching them walk together holding hands. They had hospice come in to help but he was her main caregiver and never complained about it. After she died, he started to look older. He was tall but now walked a bit stooped over.

I don't remember the year, but he started having trouble breathing. He used an inhaler but still continued working in his garden and yard. His doctor finally had to put him on oxygen because the inhalers no longer worked. He had emphysema. Yet, he still went outside and did as much work as he could. What he couldn't do his daughters and I would help. We were all worried about him but the worst was yet to come.

When he went outside he tripped and fell and broke his hip. While in the hospital recovering from that, they discovered not only did he have emphysema but he had advanced lung cancer. He had quit smoking 10 years earlier but it was too late. He had smoked since he was 16 and now it took its toll. After running tests they discovered his cancer wasn't treatable. He came home and tried to keep his garden and yard up but it got harder and harder. During this whole time he never complained, never did why me God. He just went about his life. He came from the generation of people who lived during the depression and just accepted things without complaint. I would go over to see him as often as possible. He got weaker and weaker but he still retained his sense of humor. It broke my heart to see this man who was so strong and now had lost so much weight he was shadow of his former self.

Eventually, he was placed in a home that cared for terminal patients run by hospice. They loved him and took great care of him. His family and I were with him everyday. We were told not to cry and just hold it in until we left. The last time I talked to him was when he called me at my job. My best friend was with him and said he wanted to talk to me. His voice was very weak but I could hear him. He told me that he never thought of me as just his daughters' best friend but as one of his own daughters. As someone who had a horrible father this was the best gift I could have ever been given. I held it together until I hung up the phone and then I lost it.

July,3, 2005 is a date I will always remember. That is the day this wonderful man left this world for the next. I knew he was in heaven with his beloved wife and God would take care of these two wonderful people, but it didn't make it hurt any less. I thank God everyday that this man came into my life so I could see what it was like to have a good Dad instead of the one I had. I would give everything to be able to sit with him and watch a Cubs game again. He would give his last dollar if you asked for it without knowing why or when you would pay him back. He was the greatest man I ever knew.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sometimes Ice Cream Is Better Than A Relationship

Here are the reasons that ice cream is sometimes better than a relationship or should I say wrong relationship.

1. You will never hear a carton beg you to wear an outfit that even a $2 hooker would say no way.
2. You won't have to shave your legs for a carton and then wonder why you did it.
3. You won't have to hear the I'll call you and never hear from the carton again.
4. You won't have to go on a blind date with a carton only to discover the carton was stuck back in the 70's. You know the whole polyester shirt unbuttoned to the navel with the gold chains and enough cologne on to cause a world wide shortage.
5. You won't have to answer the question from the carton that has been asked since the beginning of time. "Was it good for you?"
6. You will never ever find out on a cold winter night that the carton forgot to put the toilet seat down.
7. You will never find out the real reason the carton was nicknamed Sasquatch
8. You won't find out that the carton has been on Jerry Springer 12 times.
9. You won't go to meet the cartons' family and discover their family tree doesn't fork.
10. Lastly, a carton will never tell you I'm just not into you. And if they did who cares there is always other cartons out there waiting to be picked.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Chocolate Is Also Better Than Some Relationships

I had a request to do a blog about chocolate and relationships so here goes:

1. Chocolate won't ever stand you up for poker night with the guys.
2. Chocolate won't ever wake you up at 3 am and ask you "How about it?"
3. A Chocolate Kiss unlike some regular kisses will never leave you feeling like the dam just burst.
4. Chocolate leaves you feeling euphoric instead of WTF was I thinking.
5. Chocolate helps you get over bad cramps instead of telling you "Oh how bad can they be just suck it up."
6. A box of chocolates will always be a fun surprise unlike the surprise of finding out your guy is on Maury Povich having a DNA test because 3 women claim he has fathered their 8 kids.
7. Chocolate can come with nuts unlike your man who may just be plain nuts.
8. When you are done with chocolate it is over unlike the guy who thinks you are just joking with him.
9.Chocolate doesn't care if parts of you aren't in the same place as they were when you were 20.
10. And lastly, Chocolate will never ever tell you that you have gotten fat even though they haven't seen their feet in years.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Life As A Wannabe Actress In Hollywood

All adventures begin somewhere, and mine began in Akron Ohio. Acting was something that I wanted to do as long as I could remember. I couldn't wait till I grew up and moved to Hollywood. Little did I know that a dream and reality were two different things. It would be a decade or more before I would realize that. But for now, I was a little girl who used her mom's makeup to try to look like Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.

College was where I felt most like a racehorse waiting for the race to start. I studied theater arts. They taught me how to move, how to do a character etc but they failed to tell me the reality of the acting business. They need to offer courses in the reality. I was unprepared for what I was to encounter. So on June 1977, a month after I turned 20 off I went into the unknown that was Hollywood. My friends from school were surprised that I would do it but I wasn't. I was the one who would climb a tree just to see how high I could get. Now I was off to climb the Hollywood tree wondering would I reach the heights or would I fall off the first limb?

What I remember most about the trip was when the plane was landing in LA. I saw the brown sky as we got closer. What the heck was that? Smog is what it was. Smog wasn't something I had ever seen before. The skies in Akron were always blue never brown. Well, I was in LA and off I went, straight to Buena Park Ca. Yep, the friend I was staying with didn't live in LA but in Orange County. Her apartment was right next to Knott's Berry Farm. She told me it would be no problem because I could get on the freeway and drive to LA. Freeway? I have never been on a freeway in my life. But hey, I was in California so after I got a car, I got on the nearest freeway heading to LA.

One of the first things I had to do was not only find a job but an apartment. The thought of driving on the freeway everyday was out. People called it bumper to bumper traffic, I called it a long parking lot. As my luck would have it I found a job and apartment at the same time. All right a day or two apart. The job was as a sales clerk at the Broadway Dept Store and my apartment was a studio near Universal studios where I paid $190 a month. How can I remember the rental price after all these years, you may ask? Easy, it was the last time in my life that I paid that little for an apartment.

Life at the Broadway was interesting. Along with seeing celebrities shopping, I encountered a group of people that I discovered I belonged in. The wannabes. At the Broadway, you would find wannabe actors, writers, director etc. Basically, if there is a job in show business there would be a wannabe at the Broadway. We all wanted to grab the brass ring of fame but most rarely did. I was told by other wannabe actresses who to avoid at auditions. What man was a grabber or just a plain old perv. Never heard about this in my Acting 101 class in college. I made notes and prayed I would never meet these guys. They told me I need pictures and a resume. Resume? All I had to put on it was my high school and college experience. But that was a beginning.

A co-worker who was a photographer on the side took my pictures. They came out fine and another friend helped me with my resume. My resume barely filled a page but I was told don't worry after a while you will have stuff to add. Armed with my photos and my resume off I went to start my career. That was when I hit the wall. The wall known as the Hollywood Catch 22. In order to get a job you have to have an agent and in order to get an agent you have to have a job. No one in acting class told me about this. Another wannabe actress told me to try open casting calls they would have listed in Dramalogue. Open casting calls for those who don't know are a more polite term for cattle calls. Cattle is right, you signed in given a number and waited your turn. Did I get a job that would give me the brass ring from one of these. Nope. I did learn patience when waiting for my number to be called.

The next thing I discovered was that courses in college weren't enough on a resume. I had to find an acting coach to help me. So armed with the latest copy of Dramalogue I went looking for a coach. That is when I discovered another reality, the acting business can also be very, very expensive. I remember being shocked at how much they charged for classes that lasted just a few weeks. I wasn't a trust fund baby nor was I married to a 100 year old millionaire so I was stuck. Or so I thought,another friend from work told me that several people got together to work on scenes and I was welcome to join them. It was where I discovered there was a second level in wannabe land.

When I went to the first session, I met people who had come to LA decades ago to try their hand at acting. One was a man, whose name is now long forgotten, but the sadness in his eyes won't ever be. He had come to LA as a young man several decades earlier to be an actor. His biggest role as I remember was as a background actor, no lines. He showed me his portfolio that had pictures that were taken when he was a young man. In the picture, his eyes were eyes of hope and excitement. When I looked at his newest pictures the glow in the eyes were gone and had been replaced by the look of sadness. He had been through the mill of Hollywood and the only thing he ended up with were a few memories. I am a talker so I ended up during breaks talking to him. He told me to not count on anything as far as Hollywood went and to never take anyone's word for anything. It seems in Hollywood a man's word meant nothing unless it was written into a contract that was signed and sealed. The first crack in my dream had started. This wasn't what I had thought it would be like.

I did encounter some famous actors and actresses at events and would ask them for advice. They all said the same thing. It was luck over talent. What!!!! I wasted all that time in college when it was just a matter of me being in the right place at the right time. The crack in my dream just got even bigger.

While I was trying to figure how to turn things around in my acting career my living situation took a turn that should have been on a soap opera. The apartment complex got a new manager. He turned out to be an Elvis wannabe long side burns and all. Anyway, there was an empty apartment between mine and a woman with 2 kids. He moved his mistress into this apartment and his wife had no clue. I can never listen to Elvis music because of that guy. To make a long story short, Elvis Jr decided the woman and her kids & I might tell wifey about the girlfriend so he told the owner we were nuisances. How could I be a nuisance since I was rarely home? Along with a struggling acting career I now had to find a new home. Entering from stage left is my best friend.

When I found out I was being evicted and the owner wouldn't listen to my side, I was depressed. I had only a few bucks in the bank and it wasn't enough to find a place. My best friend from my job came to the rescue. She had room in her apartment and my part of the rent would be less than what I was paying now. The only problem was that the place was in Hawthorne and my car had gone to that great scrap heap in the sky.

No problem I thought, how hard is it to take the bus? Or I should say how hard is it to take a bus where people smoked marijuana in the back and the driver didn't care? But I did it and that is when I encountered the person who would shatter my dream of acting. I never knew her name I just recall her being in her 50's but dressing like a woman in her 20's. She said she was an actress too, who was waiting for her big break which was coming. She showed me her pictures and they were of a older woman dressed up like Ellie Mae Clampett etc. She also had the same sad look in her eyes as the man from the Broadway. Encountering this woman made me think but talking to my best friend changed the course of my life.

The name of the movie is long forgotten but a bunch of us had gone out to see a movie. Later, we always went to a nearby restaurant to talk about what we had just seen. I mentioned something like if I had written the movie I would have changed this scene and done the ending differently. That is when my best friend asked me if I ever considered being a writer. Writer? No, acting is what I loved or so I thought. She is a writer and said when talking about movies, actresses will talk about the parts they want to play but I always talked about how I would rewrite scenes. This put the seed in my mind that maybe I was going the wrong way. While I love acting, I hate the business. The bottom feeders who would feed on the naive made my skin crawl.

If you expected to read about the darker side of my Hollywood life, there isn't any. I was lucky. While I did encounter a bottom feeder at a club who swore to me he could get me a huge acting career if I would come to his apartment to discuss it. I may be naive about some things back then but I wasn't stupid. I don't remember what I said to him but the encounter left me wanting to go take a shower to get the scum off of me.

I knew it was time to leave because if I didn't I would end up like that woman on the bus. So I packed my bags and stuff and moved back East. Do I regret, not sticking around and trying once more. Nope. As soon as I was settled in Florida, I bought paper and started writing. I sent in stories but so far haven't sold anything. That's ok though. As a writer, I don't have to be a certain size, or have work done on my body to fit what Hollywood dictates as suitable for an actress. I feel freer as a writer and am enjoying my life. Do I regret my time in Hollywood? No, I think I needed to go there and experience what I did in order to be prepared for life as a writer.

This blog wasn't done to dissuade anyone who wants a career in acting. It was done, so people wouldn't go with their rose colored glasses on. See it for what it is warts and all. I did get a brass ring but it was one that led me to a wonderful life that wasn't acting. I always was told that I would take the long way around things instead of the easy way. It just took me 10 years to discover that my real dream was that of a writer. To not go after a dream even if that dream leads you to another life is a waste. Just take the leap you never know where you may land.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Being NonTechno In A Techno World

I am probably the only person left in the world without a cell phone. I lived in my happy little cell phoneless world until recently. My new pay the bills so I can pursue and acting and writing career job is an hour away from where i live. And I work at night so I will need a cell phone for emergencies. I have looked at cell phones and they look so foreign and strange to me like a lighter would to a cave man.
So off I went to check out cell phones. The IPhone has all the bells and whistles that any techno geek would love. But for me it is too much. The price alone is too much on my budget. I just want a plain phone that is simple enough for this library nerd to handle. And a friend came up with the solution. She suggested I get a prepaid phone. Hooray!!!! Finally a phone I can handle. So that matter is settled. A prepaid phone for me.
The next techno thing my friends want me to learn is text messaging. I almost flunked shorthand in high school because I couldn't remember what all the marks meant. There is no chance i can learn to type without vowels etc. To help me, a friend sent me an email that was done like a text message so I could get used to it. I will admit I finally caught on but for a while it was like I was deciphering a code from WWII. Now they are after me to get a Blackberry. The only Blackberry I am familiar with is the berry which I might add makes a fantastic pie. But that isn't the one they mean. They meant the Holy Grail of text messaging. THE Blackberry used by the likes of Paris Hilton, and every celeb who wants to be cool. Do I want to be cool like Paris and others or do I want to retain the feeling in my thumbs and not end up with carpal tunnel thumbs? Hard choice there but I would rather retain use of my thumbs. So will I get one or will I be Blackberry free. I must go ponder that and decide how far into technoland I want to go.......