Sunday, June 04, 2006

Au Revoir. (Or as the French would say, Le Revoir.)

Well, Dear Readers, the time has come for me to finally put my money where my keyboard is. In several hours, I will be catching a flight to Washington, DC, to officially register with the Peace Corps for volunteer service in Burkina Faso. Come Tuesday evening, I will be settled on a plane, flying out to West Africa, along with a few dozen other breathless, terrified volunteers. I'm scared. I'm excited. I'm not ready. But it's time, so I'll pretend to be ready.

On another, exciting note, reclusive blues legend Emphysema Jones recently emerged from semi-retirement with an offer to take a stab at recording my opus, "The Agency Blues." This was quite a surprise, and a great honor as well, to receive such a tribute before my departure. Apparently my first attempt at songwriting touched Mr. Jones personally—he informed me that he, too, got his start in the bowels of a talent agency! Oh, the irony. Anyway, please check out the track—I hope you enjoy. I know I certainly did.

Okay, back to business. It has been a lot of fun, kids. I cannot express how much I have appreciated your dedication (and tolerance) in reading my posts. And for those of you who are curious about my ensuing adventures, please look up my overseas blog, A Dabbler's Diary: The Burkina Files. I shall continue to dabble my way through life—as only I can—with a running commentary. Okay now, I'm getting emotional... partly from writing this last post, and partly from the effects of that last glass of scotch. Gotta run... I have to finish packing, as well as get at least a few hours sleep before my flight.

Ever yours,


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Love, Sex, and Q-Tips.

I shall, if you don't mind, briefly take a break from my usual patter of sarcasm. Normally I don't like to write something along the lines of a public journal entry... I have a personal diary for that kind of stuff; in this case, however, it sort of has some pertinence to all my preparations for my imminent departure to Africa (less than a week away now). If this bores any of you, Dear Readers, fear not—I promise to be back to my usual form before this post is through.

My family is going through all the stuff we have kept in storage in the attic, the idea being that this is a good time to take another look at what warrants saving, before I start my oversea service (what with a lot of my personal possessions cluttering up the place). Yesterday, it fell upon me to go through a big box filled with old pictures and notebooks from my high school and college years. I reclaimed several packets of photos that I had given up for lost a long time ago, sifted through old letters from school friends and family members, and then I came upon It. I don't know why, but I don't usually keep mementos from past romantic relationships. I don't even make a grand gesture of burning letters or gifts from exes, I usually just thoss them in along with the other things headed to the trash. It came as a surprise, then, to discover one solitary letter from the first (and, thus far, only) girl I have loved. Now, that may not sound like much, but the significance of this letter was that it was the catalyst for our relationship; I won't get into all the details, but suffice it to say this letter had forced me to realize that I was both head-over-heels for the girl and an idiot for not being with her. My dilemma now is what I should do with this recently-discovered artifact. On the one hand, I would have to be at least partially dead inside to simply crumple up the letter and throw it away; on the other, isn't it a tad bit obsessive to hold onto something that is a token (no matter how sweet) of a relationship long-over and ultimately soured? Consider the positions reversed: I know that whenever I have dated a girl, it has made me a little wary if she overly treasures something that an old boyfriend gave her... it's not always the case, but the relationship may be in trouble if I have to compete with a ghost for her affections. Still, I don't want to lose this letter again now that I've found it; the memories it invokes are intoxicating. Man, I really don't need this kind of internal debate right before I leave the country. Don't worry, Dear Readers: I am not asking for your pity, or for any sort of advice. This is just something a little more personal than my usual stuff, that I decided to share.

Now, speaking of love, and of sex (more the latter than the former)... does anyone else out there experience a degree of difficulty in buying condoms? I hadn't made such a purchase in a long time, but I did the other day, and I'm embarrassed to admit that it hasn't gotten any easier for me. In some ways (said the blogger), I am a very private person, and I really don't like for the rest of the world to know when I am getting—or at least hoping to get—lucky. Maybe it's the fact that I was brought up in a state founded by puritans, or that I went to Catholic school for a couple years, or that I am half-Jewish, but apparently I've got a LOT of guilt swirling around inside me. I get slightly uncomfortable just going into a pharmacy and walking past the condom section in an aisle when I'm only trying to buy soap. So when my reason for being in that particular aisle is to actually get condoms, and not soap, I probably pace up and down that walkway about 5 times, intently looking at everything BUT the rubbers, trying to find the right moment when absolutely no one is looking at me so I can quickly snatch a packet from the shelf, my secret safe from prying eyes. I'm unfortunately also one of those people who tries SO hard to be casual about buying these things that I'll buy a bunch of other random items too, like toothpaste, batteries, pens, and gum—making it all the more obvious that my sole reason for entering that store was to attain a pack of Trojans. I even tell myself, mid-charade, "Well, I needed a giant pack of Q-Tips anyway," and sometimes I even believe it. Then, inevitably, when I finally make it to the check-out line, the area is swarming with little kids, and I feel like even more of a perv; I do not want to be the very first person in their lives to introduce them to the concept of sex, safe or otherwise! As I endeavor to hide my shameful purchase behind the deluxe package of Q-Tips also in hand, I grow even redder, and I start to sweat. I don't want to know what I must look like to the cashier by the time I arrive in front of her. Naturally, it's the pack of condoms that needs the price check, and gets separated from everything else, held out on display for all the shoppers behind me. After hurriedly paying for my goods, I stumble out of the store, promising myself that next time—next time I will have overcome this handicap.

Gosh, sometimes I wonder why I am so often single.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Cell Wars: Cingular Strikes Back

Hello, one and all! (Mostly one, I imagine, because that's probably how many readers I have after nearly 2 weeks of bloggerly silence.) I am back from my adventures in New York City, and am scrambling to tie up all loose ends before leaving the United States for West Africa in roughly a week and a half. Just a heads-up: I have made an administrative decision to start a new blog during my volunteer work overseas (the Peace Corps has several stipulations about blogs run by their volunteers, and I am afraid that this one is a little too irreverant to make the cut), which shall be titled "A Dabbler's Diary: The Burkina Files," a sequel of sorts to this little rag. From what I have observed in blogs run by current volunteers in Burkina Faso, they are able to update them roughly every few weeks to a month... since I hardly expect everyone to be obsessively checking my blog day after day, waiting with baited breath for a new entry, you may, if you like, send me your email address, and you will receive notice of when the blog is updated. Tune in again soon... I'll have a link to this new blog up and running shortly!

And now, enough shameless advertising of my soon-to-be new blog. I'm back, and I've got a story to tell, involving a boy, his cell phone, and a bunch of $&@%!'s who run a cellular company.

I really do have to hand it to the folks at Cingular Wireless: they know when they've got you by the balls, and they're not afraid to squeeze. You may remember my earlier issues with them, the last time my cell phone went on strike. In the spine-tingling conclusion of that harrowing tale, sheer determination triumphed over the unholy alliance of corporate greed and bureaucratic red tape, and the little guy - me - won; I got a new phone, and I did not have to pay a dime. But now, Dear Readers, Cingular has opted to continue the saga... with a vengeance. Just yesterday, my new phone - barely a month into its young life - learned a new trick: simply put, when using it, I can no longer hear what the person on the other line is saying, unless I put them on speakerphone. This makes holding an ordinary phone conversation incredibly awkward, as everyone within 20 feet of me can hear everything I'm shouting into the phone, as well as the recipient's response. On the upside, there is now no further reason for the government to tap my phone - all they need do is stand near me. I took the phone into a Cingular store to see if they could fix it (not exactly holding my breath), and while there learned that: a) the ear-piece speaker had blown and was impossible to restore; and b) my 1-month grace period to return the device had coincidentally just ended days ago, and if I wanted a replacement phone I would have to pay full price. Dear evil geniuses at Cingular Wireless: disregarding my previous threats of sodomy to your persons with your own electronic gadgets, can we not agree that you already charge me more than enough each month (what with phone bills, "government fees," and whatnot), that it may be a little excessive to specifically design your hardware to expire a day after their warranties expire? I deal with all the other technological glitches of this phone quite passively... from the interrupted service, to the sudden loss of signal, to the mysterious connection with another person's phone conversation when I'm in midsentence. Is it the money? Or is it the perverse pleasure you gain from knowing you screwed over yet another long-suffering customer?

Fear not, Dear Readers, there is a light at the tunnel. I took this latest development as a sign that I should finally look into terminating my cell phone service, as I will be leaving the country in - let's face it - a matter of days, now. Now, pay attention - this is why it is a good reason to join the Peace Corps (or at least tell people you're joining the Peace Corps): when I called to cancel my account, I still had over a year left on my "agreement" with Cingular... however, the lady I talked to on the phone was so impressed with how "noble" and "brave" I was by volunteering with the Peace Corps, that she offered to cut my termination fee in half. I didn't even ask, she just threw it out there. Now, how often does THAT happen in the cellular business world?! (Ok, you don't have to tell me... trust me, I know.) Yeah, yeah, she didn't waive the entire fee, but it's not like I discovered a cure for cancer or the secret to flight. I mean, an evil empire has got to pay the bills like everyone else, right? All the same, this very nice lady made me reconsider my death wish on the entire workforce of that corporation... so I proclaim here and now, she alone may live when the revolution comes.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Le Plan.

Bonjour! Since le French is le national language of le country in which I will be stationed, I have begun brushing up on my language skills in order to better my chances of le survival (and of le sexy conversation). I am proud to say that at this point I have mastered le words “the cat,” “the table,” “the man,” and “the woman”; as well as le phrases “the cat is on the table”, and “the man is on the woman.” This is going to be easy as pie - or as the French would say, easy as le pie.

For those of you who have asked, the country I will be volunteering in is Burkina Faso, a small, landlocked state in West Africa, just above Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. It is one of the 5 poorest nations in the world; interestingly, however, its capital Ouagadougou is the home of FESPACO, which is (to quote Wikipedia) the biggest regular cultural event on the African continent. It is also the largest film festival on the continent... which strikes your humble Dabbler as a coincidence of some note, that, upon quitting his job at a Hollywood agency, he should be assigned here of all places. Perhaps he shall, in the future, help pave the way for the company's West African office. What? Too sinister and opportunistic for a Peace Corps volunteer to be considering, you say? Perhaps you are right. Still, I am looking forward to checking out this event in Burkina's capital city next February!

In the more immediate future, on Friday I will be driving down to New York City, where I plan to catch up with all the good friends I have missed since moving to California; I will perhaps also be meeting some of the new friends I have made through writing this blog, such as the great minds behind Tales of a Delectable Redhead and This is What We Do Now. Sadly, I will be missing White Dade, as he concludes his own series of Big Apple adventures just a day before I swing into town. Dade, I will be drinking an extra glass of beer (or 3) in your honor. Dear Readers, I honestly cannot wait to return to NYC, and once again shove my way through the crowded streets, glowering at everyone I pass as I blast music through my iPod. By the way, here's a quick iPod tip to anyone visiting the City: go to Grand Central during rush hour, and play the song "Brazil" while watching everyone bustle past you. Trust me, you will understand if you try it. Perfect soundtrack.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why the Peace Corps, You Ask?

I received the following comment on my last post from an anonymous reader:

"Is there a 'peace corp' in the United States? Cuz i wonder..why so many people do the peace corp. why not just stay in the U.S. and help the areas that need it here...(areas that were hit by Katrina, EVERY urban/ghetto city,etc.)? Just so u can say 'yeayy i went to some 3rd world country and it was amazing!!?? For that, just visit. I dunno, i just see so many areas here that need help too. (sorry for the bitchiness)...."

I had planned a lengthier response to these questions, but some other readers beat me to it in the comments section, and stole all of my points. Still, Anonymous #1, as you took the time to write me, I feel I should respond. I actually did not feel your comment was bitchy, although I did find it somewhat presumptuous of my motives. You do make some valid points about the urgent need for aid within our own country (and Mancini is right that there is a domestic version of the Peace Corps for the United States, Americorps). However, the Peace Corps is more than a foreign aid program; its existence promotes mutual understanding between cultures with different lifestyles and values, which is something that I believe to be incredibly important in the world today. You may be right, that it is selfish of me to want to travel and see some of the world outside of this country, but a large part of why I want to volunteer is to experience another culture - and not merely as a vacationer with a camera; I want to fully submerge myself in another way of life, in order to fully understand and appreciate it.

Since graduating from college and having lived in the day-to-day “real world" for nearly four years now, I have come to realize that nearly everything I know about the world outside of my immediate experience is taught to me by films, books, or the media. As time goes by, I am becoming more and more consumed with a need to experience these things personally, from my own viewpoint, rather than rely on some other source telling me “this is the way things are," and having to accept it at that. In addition, the international events of the last few years have convinced me that no person can - or should - be an island, and that it is important to understand and converse with those around you, especially those who are very different from you. So, in serving with the Peace Corps, I aim to learn about a culture different from my own by embracing it rather than observing it as a tourist; to pursue work I believe has some meaning and purpose beyond merely supporting myself; and to teach others about my country in the same way I hope they will teach me about theirs.

Thank you, Anonymous #1, for forcing me to look within and remind myself of why I need to do this now and put my career on hold. Thank you, Anonymous #2 and Mancini, for bolstering my convictions that what I am attempting to do is both crucial and honorable.

And to the rest of you: I promise to be funny again soon.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I Love That Dirty Water.

My plane flew into Boston from LA a few days ago, and I think I am finally beginning to adjust to the time zone difference. I have been absolutely useless until this afternoon. (Some one would probably argue I've been useless a lot longer than that, but that's why I don't return their phone calls.) Everything went very well on the flight, except for right before take-off, when I was chatting with the people sitting next to me and I innocently announced, "I can't wait to crash," then - noticing several heads suddenly jerk around to stare at me - I lamely added, "Uh, I mean, you know, sleep. Because I'm so tired. Because I haven't slept in 2 days. Because...." Assured that I was merely an idiot, and not a terrorist, the other passengers glared then returned to their upright and locked positions watching the stewardess (er, flight attendant) perform the safety dance. Not one of my better moments in public speaking... but then again, unfortunately, not one of my worst, either.

My apologies for not posting sooner since my departure from LA, but well... ever since I arrived at my parents' house I really have had nothing too interesting to share with you. I do not wish to bore you, Dear Readers, with the details of my trip, or how my mother has slowly been killing me by zealously over-feeding me since I stepped foot off the plane. On the upside, I commence my Peace Corps orientation in Washington, DC on June 4, which leaves me plenty of time to suffer a panic attack or do something exceedingly stupid that will bar me from leaving the country. Rest assured, should either of these two possibilities occur, you will be among the first to know. At the moment, I am alternating between researching the information the Peace Corps has sent me about my country (which makes me very excited so begin my volunteer work) and reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man... in which the author claims that for at least the past 50 years, all United States foreign aid has been merely a front to help destroy third world countries' economies and make them dependant on our own, thus enlarging our global corporatocratic empire (which fills me with self-loathing for being a part of the machine). Needless to say, my recent choice of reading materials has made for a pretty interesting way to prepare for foreign service. I don't know what possessed me to combine the two.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Some Star-Spangled Banter.

As I was driving in my car earlier this morning, listening to my favorite latin music station (Latino 96.3), the DJs began discussing a song that was released a few days ago, a Spanish language version of the American national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The song in question, "Nuestro Himno," has created quite a lot of controversy in its few days of existence (due in part to the timing of its release, right before this coming Monday's "Day Without Immigrants"), to the point that even our illustrious President has been asked to weigh in on the subject. The man behind the the new song, British music producer Adam Kidron, claims that the song is not intended to put up language barriers or divide Americans, but rather to serve as a unifying force, enabling immigrants who have not yet achieved fluency in English to understand and appreciate the message of the anthem. What exactly is the problem with this? Look: no one is suggesting that "Nuestro Himno" replace "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the national anthem; I sincerely doubt people will be expected to stand at baseball games and sing in Spanish, and this isn't the first step in an insidious foreign plot to subvert the national language. This is an intercultural celebration of what is great about the United States. Why do we Americans have such a chip on our collective shoulder? We complain incessantly about how the rest of the world doesn't appreciate what we do and what we stand for, but if someone tries to love us slightly differently from how we demand, we spit their face. There you have it: America is officially The Worst Girlfriend Ever.

Thinking about the furor generated by the release of this song got me to reflect on another relatively recent controversy concerning messages of American patriotism: the argument about the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance. I don't quite understand the uproar that has been caused by the suggestion of removing the words "under God" from the line "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The Pledge has actually gone through 3 incarnations since it was first written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. In fact, until 1954, the Pledge did not even include the words "under God" - they were inserted into the oath by Congress after some aggressive campaigning on the part of various Christian groups. So you see, it's not really disrespectful to suggest changing the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance, if it has already been revised multiple times since its conception. Plus, the last 2 changes were made almost exactly 30 years apart from each other, the last one being in 1954; you could say that it's now past time for another verbal facelift.

Let us not ignore that when this country was still a collection of colonies, many of them were founded by people trying to escape persecution of their respective religions. They came to this land to freely practice whatever religious faith they followed, without fear of reprisal. (Granted, whether or not they wanted Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, and Hindus to share in this freedom is up for debate.) I know that some of the more extreme Christian groups in this country are fond of complaining about how the United States is being turned into a godless nation and their right to worship freely is being threatened; I would point out to them that no one is infringing on their ability to worship how they please, and in all fairness they should extend the same courtesy to those who follow a different faith, or even no faith at all. History has shown us that you do not necessarily need to be Christian to be a moral and upstanding citizen, and vice versa.

On a side note, it seems to me that pledging allegiance to an inanimate object - such as oh, say, a flag - comes dangerously close to practicing idolatry. So, to those who are scandalized by the blasphemy of attempting to merely remove what was awkwardly added in the first place, I would suggest that you read your Ten Commandments before you cast the first stone.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Color Me Your Color, Baby.

Well, we’re now up to the latter half of season 10 of Friends, and the apartment is slowly coming together. All furniture (aside from my bed) has been sold or donated, my kitchen has been emptied of all food and pots and pans, and stacks of papers, books, and DVDs lean precariously throughout my little studio. Yes, Dear Readers, I know: this all must be just fascinating for you.

Okay, okay... here's a little Hollywood bitchiness for you, one last hurrah before I start going on and on about Africa and the Peace Corps and kissing babies and my impending run for Congress in 2021. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the famed flakiness of Californians, and Angelenos in particular... Now, I ain't being a hater when I say this, because, honestly, it's all true. And boy, is it hitting home for me, now more than ever. You see, on top of packing and my other preparations to leave LA, I am also attempting to schedule last-minute, last-time hang-out sessions with many friends and acquaintances all over town. These very nice people are threatening me with everything up to (and including) castration if I leave without hanging with so-and-so one more time, but when I try to nail these eager friends down on a specific time or even DAY, I get the ol' "Yeah, I might be free sometime later in the week... Dude, you should totally call me!" Dude. I been callin', I been textin', in one case I even holla'd. Seriously, I really don't have the time to play these fun little Hollywood mind games right now. If you want to see me before I leave town, how about this: you call me.

Man, if only I had another 2 months left in town, so we could do this little dance properly: you have your assistant pencil me in for a lunch sometime 3 weeks from now (no, I'm not available anytime before then, it's impossible), we'll reserve a table at Spago; I'll reschedule the morning of, because I'm absolutely swamped with the responsibilities of my powerful, incredibly demanding job; but maybe we can move lunch to sometime next week (of course we can't, because now it's your turn to cancel, so you don't look too eager or unpopular). A month-and-a-half from now, you say? Something just opened up? Fabulous, hook it up! (But call back in a minute, so you can tell my assistant, because I don't deal with the scheduling.) But let's not do Spago - too trendy, too many industry types there... shall we say Barney Greengrass? Oh, and I'll bill it to the company, but I'm going to have to change your title to executive vice president, because it looks just a tad more impressive to those snoops in Accounting. Love you, mean it, ciao. Now... when should we have drinks?

Ah, I'm really going to miss this place.


P.S. Points to anyone who gets the reference in the title.

P.P.S. Without googling it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Escape from L.A.

My big LA send-off shindig was a few days ago, and my lungs have finally stopped feeling like ash. It was all I could have wished for: a glorious night under the stars, with nearly all the friends I have made in this town (as well as quite a few new people whom I regret I will not get to know better), crowded onto the top deck of the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood; I am proud that I was able to put together an event like this all by myself. I am also proud that I behaved myself the entire night... no black-outs, no drunken tackling of unfortunate women, no destruction of burger restaurants. Yes, this time I was a perfectly affable host, right up until the bartender announced "Last call," whereupon I slammed down several shots and inhaled the last of my cigarettes. (What? I had to get my kicks in somewhere.) And now, with less than a week before I fly out to the east coast, it is time to get organized. Yeah, okay then.

A big part of how I have made such a successful career of dabbling is that I am a compulsive procrastinator, with a diagnosed case of adult ADHD. I know, everyone delays, everyone puts off... but no one can claim to have made as much an art of it as I. For the past 3 days, despite my honest-to-God best efforts, I appear to have accomplished... well, nothing, in all of my multiple aborted attempts to pack up my studio apartment and sell off my furniture. Right now, it looks like I have at least managed to move everything in my apartment around quite nicely - to the point that it looks like I experienced a violently psychotic episode. Tables and chairs lay strewn about, halfway taken apart, because in the middle of removing the legs from my glass-top coffee table I decided I needed a break and spent the rest of the afternoon watching Entourage episodes. Then I needed to take a break from that to order pizza with my next-door neighbors, and eat until the food coma washed over me so I had to retire to my bed to nap it off. My first official day of unemplyoment, and I'm already falling apart.

Well, not tomorrow! Tomorrow I will work: I will sell my furniture to thrift shops or donate to charities; I will call to confirm my appointment to ship my car; I will put aside the cigarettes, but not the booze (never the booze); I will pack, I will clean, I will be productive with what little time I have left, so for once in my entire life I am not left panicking at the Zero Hour! Or, maybe instead I will finish watching the 9th season of Friends. I don't know, it's a little early to tell right now.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Topic of Cancer.

My departure from Hollywood and all things Californian is imminent; my last day working at the agency is this Friday, and a week after that I fly back east to spend some quality time with friends and family before shipping out to Africa.

I have a trusty new cell phone, which I have already managed to drop once. I have sturdy, trendy Ikea furniture I am hawking to bidders, an expensive item of which shattered on its way to a buyer last night. After obnoxiously harassing my car insurance company and the California DMV for weeks, I am now cleared to get my car repaired of all recently-incurred damages before I ship it out east next Friday. Utilities are in the process of being cancelled, apartment is (kinda) getting organized, and I am training my replacement at the office, desperately pretending I know what I'm doing. In my little free time, I am starting drink like a fish and chain-smoke like a chimney, before going back to multi-tasking 20 different personal matters while maintaining the phone lines at my Hollywood job. Stress: it’s what’s for dinner.

Change is in the winds, Dear Readers. I am not panicking yet, but I can feel the storm building in the back of my brain. My star sign is Cancer, and in many ways I am a classic example of the type: I am sentimental, nostalgic, and I crave security and familiarity. With all these tendencies, the current happenings in my life are for me a whirling nightmare of anxiety – and yet, I am simultaneously exhilarated by the events I have set in motion. In 2 months, I will have been living in Africa for over 2 weeks. I have no idea what awaits me, which terrifies my inner control-freak; but I am about to embark on a grand adventure into the world, which thrills the wanderlust dreamer within me.

One evening a few weeks ago, as I was killing some time before a party, staring into the fountain at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, I came to an epiphany of sorts. When I was very young, perhaps around 6 years of age, I wanted to see as much of the world as possible, to see all the wonderful things I had seen in movies for myself, with my own eyes. I wanted to live in New York City and feel the city rush, to live in Los Angeles and see the Hollywood Sign rising above me in the hills, to explore castles in Europe and savannahs and jungles in Africa. Now, in my mid-20s, I have braved the teeming streets of Times Square during rush hour, brushed shoulders with the power players of Tinseltown, crawled through ancient strongholds in England, and come within a few tantalizing feet of touching the “D” of the Hollywood Sign with my hand… right before being pursued by an LAPD helicopter for trespassing. And now I am on the verge of traveling thousands of miles to live and work in West Africa, to begin a whole new set of adventures and experiences. I realized in that moment, gazing into that fountain, that I am incredibly lucky. Despite my perpetual frustration with not yet figuring out what I want to do with my life, or finding that one person I want to spend it with, I have been blessed with the chance to make my childhood dreams reality. In fact, it is perhaps because of my dissatisfaction and curiosity that I have been allowed to experience so much; if I had found what I wanted right away, I never would have gone any further. And viewed from that perspective, I am damn thankful for everything that has led me up to this point.

I realize, of course, that I won’t be thinking of this tomorrow, when I’m cursing my miserable lot in life because I have misplaced a crucial contract, been overcharged on my electricity bill, or scalded myself with another cup of coffee. But it’s important to sometimes take a step back from the minutiae of your life and look at the puzzle as a whole.

See? Quintessential Cancer.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Great Cell Phone Massacre of '06.

Apologies, Dear Readers, for my relatively sparse correspondence this week. I have been distracted as of late, with annoying "real world" problems, such as preparing for my replacment at work, trying to sell my apartment furniture before the big move, and organizing a kick-ass going-away party.

And then there is my cell phone.

In recent weeks, many of my possessions have been spontaneously falling apart on me. Until today, I was handling it all with (what I thought was) remarkable patience and poise. There was my car, but its damages can be easily attributed to the 2-accidents-in-1-weekend phenomenon from a month ago, rather than to some malicious cosmic entity. Then my VCR broke a few weeks ago, followed by my DVD player 1 week later, and I resorted to watching movies on my laptop computer. Around that time my wristwatch also broke, so I started keeping track of the time on my cellular phone instead. Then one day, the phone suddenly stopped getting a signal in my apartment, so I began stepping outside in order to have a phone conversation; a week after that, my phone refused to receive a signal even there, so I had to walk to the edge of the street outside my building in order to continue enjoying cellular service; then, 2 weeks ago, my cell phone's display screen stopped working, which made calling people in my address book difficult and reading text messages impossible. And here is where the fun begins...

Finally deciding that something must be done, I visit a Cingular store (for my service is "supplied" by Cingular Wireless) this past weekend, in order to get my phone either repaired or replaced. It is there that I discover my 1-year warranty on the phone expired literally The Day before its screen died, and I am thus expected to pay over $100 to get it replaced. I point out the fantastic coincidence that my phone stopped working 24 hours after its insurance coverage ended, and the Cingular employee there takes pity on me, types something into his computer, and informs me he has extended my warranty for an additional week so I can send my phone in for a free replacement. All I need do is call the number he hands me, and a new phone will be mailed to me within days. As a matter of fact, this is not the case, because upon trying the number I learn that Cingular's repair hotline is closed on the weekend; however, I am content to wait until Monday to try again, pleased with the knowledge that - for once - my cell phone company is not going to try to screw me.

Come Monday, I call the service hotline and, after being on hold for over half an hour, am informed that, regardless of what the Cingular store employee promised me, my warranty was not extended, and I will have to pay the $100-something fee for a new phone. Re-explaining my situation, I am able to convince the sympathetic customer service representative to make an exception in my case and extend my warranty, and he transfers me over to the exchanges department. After being kept on hold for another 20 minutes, I speak to yet another operator, make all the arrangements, and then am I told once again that there is no mention in my file of any warranty extension, and I must pay a hefty fee (ballpark figure of $100) for any repairs or exchanges. At this point, my patience runs out, and I demand to speak to a supervisor. On hold for 5 minutes, then the operator gets back on the line and announces they will extend my warranty after all. Flushed with triumph and pride for taking charge of the situation so awesomely, I agree to pay extra for express shipping, thrilled that in 2 days I will receive a brand-new, fully-functioning replacement phone.

Cut to 4 days later: Friday, today. Have not received my phone, have not received any updates. Start to worry that maybe I was not so triumphant or awesome after all. Call Cingular Wireless, give them my confirmation number... and I am told that the order was CANCELLED the day after I made it, because phones that have been owned for less than a month cannot be exchanged. Blood begins pounding in my head as I explain... as... calmly... as... possible... that I have owned my current phone for over a year. The operator checks his records and then sees "someone" made a mistake and cancelled the order because they thought I purchased my phone in April 2006, not 2005. They apologize for the confusion, and assure me that the phone will be sent as speedily as possible -- but I am aware that I will be charged $115 because the warranty expired, right?

Memo to corporate executives of Cingular Wireless: may you and all your kind burn in a hell run by your very own "customer service" operators. I cannot possibly express how much pain and sorrow I wish upon your heads right now -- simply know that I am usually not a violent person, but right now I would gleefully sodomize each and every one of you with samples from your line of cellular products, your screams for mercy sweet ringtones to my ears. Until I leave the country, sleep with both eyes open, you miserable bastards.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On Free Speech and My Blog.

Unlike some people, such as my more controversially-inclined comrade White Dade, I do reserve the right to delete comments from my blog. I have no problem with allowing comments to be posted that are critical of me or my opinions, or express thoughts that I personally disagree with, but there is a line. Anything I find overtly racist, sexist, or generally hate-mongering will be allowed no commenting space. Who determines what is offensive and what is not? Why, me, of course. To those who ask, "Isn't that subjective reasoning, and a conflict of interests," I reply, "Yes, and get over it." This blog is a Dabblocracy, Dear Readers, which I rule with a benevolent-yet-iron fist.

Please pardon my outburst, but I hate trolls.

The Mark of Irony.

How cool is this?! I knew those French were good for something! Do you know how much easier my life would be if I could include this symbol in everyday conversation? Hell, think of how much easier everyone's life would be... you could write things like "I think President Bush is doing a great job؟", and no one would misunderstand (or misunderestimate) you. Sure, most of the fun in using irony is in its subtlety (broadcasting the fact that you're being facetious kind of weakens your point's impact), but think of what a boon this would be to stupid people everywhere, who just cannot comprehend irony - or its lovely stepsister, sarcasm - no matter how hard they try. We should demand that this symbol be integrated into popular use, for the good of the whole. The language barrier would finally be breached! Come on! Who's with me?!


P.S. Am I the only one excited here?

P.P.S. I am not a French-hater. They have contributed many other wonderful things to the world: baguettes, champagne, pasteurization and rabies vaccinations (both inventions of Louis Pasteur), the literary works of Alexandre Dumas, mimes, the guillotine, and those funny little hats.

Apparently I am not the first to reclaim this wonderful innovation. Kevin Larson beat me to it by 3 entire months. I think I'll blame the French for this...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

MYspace. Not YourSpace.

Dear Girl-I-Dated-for-Several-Weeks-but-Have-Not-Heard-from-in- the-Few-Months-Since-You-Stomped-on-My-Dignity-with-Your-Uggs: if you want to try to be friends now, I would prefer it if you returned my last phone call, instead of contacting me on MySpace with a request to add you to my friends list. Please keep in mind that I haven't heard from you since the beginning of January, when I left you a phone message asking if you were okay, because I knew that you had left work not feeling well; I never got an answer. I tried to be friends, I made the effort, and you shot it down by playing the silence card. And now, this is how you get back in touch with me. How quaint. Understand this: I don't add strangers to my friends list; why would I add someone with whom I actually have a reason to be angry? I am sorely tempted to not even give you the courtesy of denying the add request, and just let it hang unanswered. I would call you to explain all this, about how you hurt and embarrassed me, and why I think your request is inappropriate -- but I deleted your number from my phone a while ago.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Glamorous Life of (Waiting on) the Stars.

I received the following question today from an anonymous commentator:

"Do you think being an assistant at an agency can eventually get you a position as a personal assistant to an A or B list actor? Bc that's what I want to do, and u didn't mention that in ur list (agent, producer, executive, director, etc.)"

Well, Anonymous, I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but here is my opinion after over a year of toiling away in Hollywood: yes, working as an assistant at an agency can eventually land you a job as a personal assistant to an A- or B-List actor. The way this usually happens is an assistant working for a big agent forms a bond with his/her boss' clients, and they may either try to recruit him/her ("What are you doing working there? You should be with me!"), or the assistant might ask the agent to recommend him/her if a client is looking for a new assistant. A friend of mine did just that several months ago, after having given his agent boss a year of good work, and is now the assistant to the writers behind one of the biggest movies coming out this summer. (A third possible route is when the assistant stupidly decides to solicit clients without first asking the agent's permission, creating an unnecessary enemy of the jilted boss.)

Be warned, however: there isn't always much opportunity for growth in a personal assistant job. Such a position rarely develops into a producing or directing deal (although there are exceptions to the rule), and an actor boss will almost certainly feel threatened by an assistant who also wants to act. If I may be so bold, I would recommend that you pick up a copy of the book, It's All Your Fault : How To Make It As A Hollywood Assistant, which gives a detailed breakdown of how to get and what to expect from pretty much any assistant job in Hollywood. Another veritable fountain of useful information is Assistant/Atlas, the patron blogging saint of Hollywood assistants, who was able to escape his indentured servitude at an agency and find employment as a writer for television.

And now, that's quite enough of me playing the wizened Hollywood sage. Please stay tuned for more posts of the dabbling persuasion! Some Bat Time, Same Bat Blog.

I should add that when interviewing for an assistant position, it would be best not to mention the fact that you plan on using the job as a springboard to another. No prospective employer likes to hear that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Dabbler ♥'s His Job. (Kinda.)

My recent attempt at songwriting seems to have struck a chord, so to speak, with my audience; suddenly I am receiving all kinds of attention and comments, ranging from a pastry chef in Wisconsin, to a creatively weary New Yorker, to the mighty Assistant/Atlas of Hollywood. I am simultaneously thrilled and apprehensive about the response; I knew that poking fun at my job, even in a joking way, had its risks… After I posted The Agency Blues I showed it to a fellow assistant at the agency, a man whose opinion I trust, and watched him blanch as he read it. After he was done, he gave me a look and said tactfully, “It’s a little… angry, isn’t it?” Uh-oh. There is now the remote possibility that my sudden blip of blogging fame may have some previously unforeseen consequences, should word continue to spread (i.e., me getting fired from the agency before I can quit).

In light of this new development, I have decided to take the time to point out some of the positive aspects of working in an agency, in order to mollify any injured fellow assistants and encourage future sharks in suits to take the plunge, as well as to unabashedly cover my ass. And yes, there are positive aspects.

Benefits of being a talent agency assistant include: it is The perfect entry-level job to transition to anywhere else in the entertainment industry; having the opportunity to mix with famous people on an almost daily basis (by "mix with" I of course mean "fetch their low-fat, no-sugar, iced mocha latte"); receiving advance notice on the best new movies and shows coming out; and, perhaps most importantly, attractive actresses are more likely to sleep with you. Out of all of these, the first on the list is - in my opinion - the biggest reason why anyone headed to Hollywood should strongly consider applying to become an assistant at an agency. Whether you want to eventually become an agent, producer, executive, director, or writer, the job experience is invaluable, as working for Hollywood’s middlemen exposes you to a generous portion of the inner workings and important names of the business. Finally, for all the crap agents get in this town (and on this blog), if you get yourself a good one, one who really believes in his/her clients and will fight to get them what they deserve, you've got the best ally you could ever possibly have... doing all kinds of things for you that you'd really rather not know about.

Now, all that being said, I do not wish to retract anything I wrote in The Agency Blues. I got the blues, and I got them bad. It is time for me to take a breather from Hollywood, to rejuvenate my creative drive and ambitions, and gain some more experience out there in the “real” world. I'm tired of dabbling here -- when I come back I want a definite idea of what I want to be and how I'm going to do it. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll come back wanting to be an agent. Doubtful... but possible.

So, Dear Readers, please read on... your humble Dabbler is not yet done with the land of sun, stars, and sin. And Dear Boss (and Boss’ Boss), please don’t fire me.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hollywood Is the New Olympus.

It's 3:30am and I can't sleep, so I will take a moment to reflect on a conversation I had with a good friend earlier this evening. We got to talking about a certain, now-infamous, couch-jumping movie god, and how his very public antics over the past year have forced us to look at him in a whole new light. My friend asked what had happened to the man, and I replied that he had probably always been that way but until now had stayed more private about his life. Then we considered other celebrities out there who, in the last several months, have seemingly thrown open the doors to their closets and let the skeletons come sashaying out; from the ones who have embraced extreme religion, to the ones who have made reality shows chronicling their day-to-day bizarreness, a trend seems to be forming. Instead of the old days in Hollywood, where stars would do anything but murder their mothers* in order to convince you they were 100% healthy/normal/perfect, today's crop of celebs appear determined to show you just how, er, unique they can get.

The thing is, they probably all were already crazy to begin with. It's not like some switch suddenly flipped in their heads... they have been hiding their inner freak and have only just now decided to invite the rest of us along for the ride. There probably comes a point in an A-List actor's career where they figure, "Screw it: I'm rich enough and successful enough to stop caring what people think of me!" And then they break out the floral tutu they've been hiding in the mothballs. In a way, you've got to admire it -- they have transcended the human condition of social anxiety. They are going to let all their eccentric habits and fixations hang out there in the open, for all of us to see, because they can afford to longer be embarrassed or scared. Ah yes, the American Dream.

When you think about it, celebrities are, in a way, like the new Greek pantheon; they're all partying it up in their bungalows and mansions on their Mount Olympus, while we mortals watch them enviously, worshipping them yet secretly relishing it when they fall. I mean, the Greek gods really only were a bunch of beautiful, powerful people prone to extreme fits of jealousy and rage. And the whole immortality twist? Our Mount Hollywood group has the next best things: botox and collagen.

Back to the conversation with my friend... eventually, I asked him, "So if you got to that point where you were famous and rich enough to let your craziness out of the closet, what would you do?" He responded immediately that he would stop wearing pants. He would go out in public wearing nice button-down shirts with stylish footwear and the works -- but no pants, no boxers, no briefs. He said he would also hit the talk-show circuit to aggressively push his theories on the dangers of wearing pants. I kid you not. I really do have the most interesting friends.

And you, Dear Reader, what would you do? What sick, harmless, hilarious little obsession would you let loose, once you had finally bought everything you could possibly want and earned the love and adoration of the little people? I bet you money that mine's better...

I should add that some stars of the past did do anything up to and including murdering family members in order to maintain their wholesome public image. My apologies for giving any impressions to the contrary.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Agency Blues

I may regret this particular post, but I've spent too much time on it to scrap it now. It's a little song I've been working on, a glimpse of that glamorous Hollywood life, à la Swimming with Sharks. Granted, I'm no lyricist, but bear with me. Oh, and to any of my agency friends who may be reading this: I kid, I kid.


Well I woke up this mornin',
Hit my clock's snooze.
Already feel them:
The Agency Blues.

Eat some cold breakfast,
Tighten my tie,
Who's that square in the mirror?
I try not to cry.

How long must I labor here,
Payin' my show bizness dues?
My life's in development hell,
Case of the Agency Blues.

Pick up the trades
When I get into work.
Don't even read them,
'Cause they're boring as dirt.

I help to make deals,
For shows I don't see,
Repping the people
I once wanted to be.


A night out with friends
Sure would be sweet,
But I left work at 10
And God, am I beat.

I try to stay cheerful
'Cause whining's for wimps,
But the people I work with
Are glorified pimps.


A man's got to work,
Success is the goal,
But piece by small piece
I'm selling my soul.

Someday I'll make it,
Escape from this grind,
Get discovered or maybe
Just go out of my mind.

Wonder... how much longer,
How much pride can I lose?
My friends, they're calling me sell-out,
My parents are starting to have their doubts,
And I'm just trying to shut them out:

Those straight to video,
Unscripted gameshow,
Hacktastic, gimmicky
Ta-lent A-gen-cy Blu-ues.

Happy Friday, everyone! Great weekends to all... as they say in this town: Love you, mean it, lunch.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Zen and the Art of Milkshake Madness.

Yesterday at work, I could not get those damnable lyrics to the Kelis song "Milkshake" out of my head:

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
And they're like,
It’s better than yours,
Damn right its better than yours.
I can teach you,
But I have to charge.

Reasoning that if I was going to have to suffer like this then I wanted some company, I spent a good part of the afternoon IM'ing these same lyrics to other assistants throughout the agency, hoping the song would dig itself as deep into their brains as it had mine. And wouldn’t you know it? It worked. At one point, I had half the assistants on just my hallway alone, muttering angrily (yet softly) to themselves, "La la-la la la,” as they rolled calls, filed paperwork, and tried desperately not to let their agent bosses catch them chanting that irresistible mantra-from-hell. I just grinned the sweet grin of self-satisfaction and went back to my work.

I just may be starting to snap. Or, perhaps I have passed beyond the mental boundary of merely not caring anymore, and reached another state of consciousness. Oh, I'm still laboring away dutifully, but there is now a sense of giddiness - almost glee - behind my actions. This is a whole new level of apathy… but here's the irony: now that I am no longer feverishly invested in my work, I'm doing it better than I ever have before. My confidence and performance levels are up absurdly high, and I'm multi-tasking like a fiend. Others are noticing this change within me, and assume that it's merely excitement at my impending departure. This may be a factor, but it can’t be the only one; I’ve left jobs before (oh, so many), and while I may have been euphoric shortly before leaving, I've never been uber-productive.

Hell, when I’m done with the Peace Corps, I might come back to this agency and apply for another assistant position... Someone needs to keep things lively in the halls with a healthy combination of inner peace and insolence.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Clarification: Business vs. Pleasure.

Some of my friends are finally starting to pay attention to the fact that in very short order I will no longer be in this country (USA), or even on this continent (North America). As they ponder this, they are also beginning to pore over some of the finer details of my situation.

Yes, I am working in a program titled "Girls' Education and Empowerment," and yet I, your humble Dabbler, am not (nor have I ever been) a woman, so my assignment is a little ironic in that respect. To my credit, I did actually bring up this concern to my placement officers when I accepted the invitation, something along the lines of: "You do realize I'm a guy, right?" They do.

Additionally, a number of my college friends are getting a real kick out of my assignment location, because in the past I have dated several women of color, and I myself am (very) white. *Gasp* So, now I am going to join the Peace Corps to work with young, underprivileged, African women for 2 years. Yeah, laugh it up, you freakin' comedians. Suspicious coincidences notwithstanding, I swear to you, Gentle Reader, that I am going to be good. Or at least try really hard. I am not going overseas in order to get laid; I am going to learn, and to take some pride for once in the work that I am doing. If I wanted to get laid, I could just walk the few blocks up to Sunset Boulevard from my apartment any time of night, wave a few 20s, and find out if awkward British movie stars really do have all the fun.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Definition of "Civil War."

Officials in the Bush Administration are fond of using the same argument tactics popular in preschool playgrounds everywhere: if someone says something you don't like, you immediately counter it with the answer "NO," with no need for piddling details (such as logic or evidence) to back up your point. They might as well start adding insults to their arguments, along the lines of "poopy-mouth" and "stupid-head." The President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense all insist, in spite of three years of a bloody stalemate with an insurgency that shows no signs of giving up, that the nation of Iraq is not currently in the throes of civil war. In fact, they claim, the country is making great strides towards democracy and stability. This naturally begs the question, for all those not thoroughly familiar with the term: what exactly is the definition of "civil war?"

The most commonly accepted definition appears to be fairly broad, according to Princeton University's WordNet ("a war between factions in the same country") or Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online ("a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country"). However, to really give this issue a thorough assessment, I will turn to a much more detailed and particular definition of "civil war," as supplied by the acclaimed news site,

"A war between factions of the same country; there are five criteria for international recognition of this status: the contestants must control territory, have a functioning government, enjoy some foreign recognition, have identifiable regular armed forces, and engage in major military operations."

Now let's go down the checklist for criteria, shall we? The contestant currently known as "the insurgency" does indeed control territory, as multiple areas in Iraq are cited as being militant strongholds. I dare say the insurgency also enjoys a great deal of foreign recognition, not the least from our own President, who references the group in nearly every speech he makes. As far as engaging in major military operations... well, that all depends on what you define "major" to be. Do daily bombings and ambushes (not to mention regular discovery of mass executions) count? The last two requirements for certified civil war status - possession of a functioning government and identifiable regular armed forces - are where we get a little hung up. To my knowledge (although the CIA or NSA may dispute me on this one), we have no idea if or how the insurgency is organized; it could be made up of independent groups all working separately towards a shared goal, or it could be an elaborate organization with an intricate chain of command. Furthermore, the difficulty our troops regularly experience in distinguishing enemy combatants from civilians is perhaps the chief reason why we are having difficulty overcoming the insurgency. Still, I would argue that the "legitimate" Iraqi government is itself hardly a functioning one, and the insurgency's forces' resistance to formal identification is perhaps the largest contributing reason to their continued existence and effectiveness. Thus, I am inclined to cast my vote in giving the conflict in Iraq the official title of civil war. Knowing our President, however, I am sure he would rush to point out that because two out of the five requisite distinctions for bestowing this label are not present, then it cannot be termed as such.

The Bush Administration is indeed waging a successful war: one of semantics and euphemisms.

Bottom line: no matter which end of the political spectrum you subscribe to, you really must admit that our country is currently being run by jackasses.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Casualties of Coffee.

Coffee: 1
Dabbler: 0

It has happened again: I am seated at my desk at work, trying hard to clean the stains on my tie, and my left hand is sporting yet another burn mark.

I have this "thing," wherein when I carry hot beverages, I must spill them. Usually on myself. I am not joking, and I am not exaggerating: literally every time I go out to buy coffee, at least some of it ends up out of the cup and on my shoes. This is not a compulsion -- it is not as though I feel some sort of need to bathe my hands in searing hot coffee; nor do I believe I have a subconscious desire to punish or hurt myself (well, at least not with coffee). It is simply one of those laws of nature, much like the famous Murphy's Law: "If Dabbler is holding a cup of some hot liquid - be it coffee, tea, or chicken noodle soup - then he must spill a portion of said liquid, preferably upon his own person." And it really is only with hot stuff. Cold drinks? No problem... I can carry several at a time, with no fear of dropping or spillage (unless they're alcoholic, and I've had a few).

And yet, I love my morning coffee. I love it so much, in fact, that I am willing to suffer this masochistic ritual on a daily basis. It is as though God is telling me: "You can have your coffee... but you must pay for it in blood."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sign of the Times.

Query: if Imette St. Guillen, the New York City grad student whose recent murder has created a shockwave of media coverage, had been less attractive, would the crime have been less horrendous? Every time her story comes up in the televised news, the reporters repeatedly emphasize how beautiful she was, immediately following up with how horrific her slaying was. Is the message they are trying to convey that ugly people do not have as much a right to live? Or is it just not as tragic when they die?

Please do not mistake my sarcasm for lack of sympathy for Imette, or for her poor family. I am honestly appalled, not only by how her life was ended, but also simply that it was. The fact that she had just finished studying to pursue a career in criminal justice just makes the whole affair more heartbreaking. However, I am also disturbed by the media frenzy that has resulted from her murder, and the obvious relish some of these news anchors appear to take in the gory details of the affair. Yes, people, I know that a combined package of sex and death sells, but can you at least pretend that you are not enjoying it so much?

The Sweet Link of Success.

Ladies, gentlemen, and the guy who mistakenly opened this webpage thinking it was a porn site: I have received a link from a genuine blogebrity! Larry, the brains behind This Is What We Do Now, has heard my plaintive electronic cry for love and acceptance, and has generously offered to link to this here weblog. I am flattered, honored, overcome, and ecstatic (and pretty happy, too), and so I thought I would publicly acknowledge his gesture. Oh, and you should probably check out his blog... love him or hate him, the man always gets an extreme reaction from his audience, and he's a damn good writer. That being said, you really should check out all of the pages I have linked to, because I am a truly discerning (i.e., stuck-up) reader, and these guys and gals all have interesting and/or hilarious things to say.

Okay, enough with the blogger love. I need to get back to work. By "work," of course, I mean "surfing the gossip sites to find out if it was Jessica Simpson who did that thing with this guy in the bathroom stall of that club, or if it was really Paris Hilton with that other guy... all the while simultaneously juggling phone calls and typing up actually relevant documents for my boss." You know that point you get to at a job where you begin to resent being asked to perform the tasks you were allegedly hired to do? Yeah, me neither.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A City Scorned.

Like any angry girlfriend who makes known her displeasure at the end of a relationship, Los Angeles has just thrown her equivalent of a frying pan at me in our domestic dispute. Over this past weekend (i.e., the past 48 hours), I have been involved in 2 vehicular accidents, both coincidentally on my way to breakfast. This is what I get for waking up early and trying to be productive on a weekend. Needless to say, I was especially wary this morning as I walked to Coffee Bean from the office to pick up a bite to eat; I find that things tend to happen in 3's, and the cosmic irony of me getting hit by a car - while perhaps hilarious - is rather low on my "Things to Do Before I leave Hollywood" List.

Oh, LA... can we not progress to the next stage of breaking up, that of denial and one last romp in the hay "for old time's sake?" Know this: although I may be moving on to see other cities, you will always have a special place in my heart. We've had our fun, haven't we? Remember the time I sneaked up to the Hollywood Sign, and then the LAPD chased me in a helicopter; or my birthday party last year where I made a drunken fool of myself on the roof of the Formosa Cafe in front of all of my coworkers, and then proceeded to cheerfully tear apart that local burger joint; or when I decided it would be fun and not at all potentially disastrous or awkward to date a fellow assistant at my agency? Yes, we will always have the memories... and unfortunately, the pictures to prove it, too. But this is something I have to do by myself now. As much as it hurts me to hurt you, I have to be selfish and see if there's someone else out there who fits me better.

And hey, we can always still be friends, right?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Oh Africa, Brave Africa."

"It was... a laugh riot." -Patrick Bateman, American Psycho

It is official: I am going to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Last week I received and accepted an invitation to serve in a small, land-locked country in West Africa, to work in their relatively new Girls' Education and Empowerment program. In essence, my job will be to assist in improving the literacy rate of women in the area, by working with schools and community groups to improve access to, and the quality of, education for girls. My secondary objective will be to serve as an AIDS awareness educator, something that apparently all Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa take on as a responsibility. Needless to say, I will be receiving a few months of on-site training before I am released into the figurative wild to go forth and do good.

Right now I am simultaneously excited and terrified. My family has been very supportive, as have the few friends who know thus far. Even The Guy Snoring Above Me is excited for me (he has been extra loud as of late to show his enthusiasm). Now that it's officially official that I'm going (officially), I feel very adrift -- the fact that in several weeks I will be leaving this country for 2 years does not seem real at all, even though I have given notice at work and am making preparations to pack my apartment and sell all my furniture. Speaking of which, anyone want to buy a bed? Some chairs? No? It's all quality Ikea... nothing but the best!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

There is No Way This Town is Giving Me an Eating Disorder.

Lately a few of my friends back east have expressed concern over some recent photos of me they have seen. You know, the usual jealous, anti-Hollywood reactionary garbage: "You’ve dropped a lot of weight fast,” “You don’t look so well,” “Are you sleeping at all,” etc.

And, of course, the best one: "Do you have an eating disorder?"

Everyone, please, calm down. I do not have an eating disorder. So what if when I first moved here I hated diet coke, and now I drink it regularly? I’m just broadening my horizons, and I have discovered that diet coke is an acquired taste; the 0 grams of sugar is just an extra benefit. Plus, the caffeine kick you get from drinking about 6 cans of the stuff is better than crystal meth -- which, while we’re on the subject, is a great way to kill your appetite if you feel like you need to lose a lot of weight in short order... although I have found that cigarettes are a much cheaper appetite suppressant, plus you look really cool when you stand around smoking them -- at least, all the stars in movies look cool when they're smoking, which is great because I'm in Hollywood so when I smoke I probably look like a star. Unfortunately, I'm too damn FAT right now to be a star, which is why I have to smoke even more cigarettes, or meth if it's payday and I can afford it, but if I can't I have to go back to guzzling big gulps of diet coke. Which tastes great, incidentally, even though it is an acquired taste.

Disclaimer: I am in no way making light of anyone suffering from a true eating disorder; it is no laughing matter. In addition, I am not knocking anyone who likes diet coke, or who smokes. Also, crystal meth really does help you lose weight.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Introductions are in order, I suppose.

Since some people appear to actually be reading this thing, I should probably take a moment to give a little more detailed description of who I am and why I am writing here. I debated for months about whether or not to start a blog. Everyone thinks they have something to say, everyone wants to be heard... but did I really have what it took to be an engaging writer? The answer is I still don't know. I got myself a blogsite at the beginning of the year, but only sat on it until just a couple weeks ago, when I was at work and my frustration with my ongoing application to the Peace Corps had reached its boiling point. With no other viable/legal way to vent my anger, I wrote my first blog entry, aka "Stupid GODDAMN Peace Corps." And a couple weeks and a few entries later, here we are.

A little more about this humble Dabbler, should you care... in my current day job, I work as an assistant at one of the more powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, where I spend most of my day answering phones and helping my boss look over entertainment contracts for our clients. I do this without a law degree, so I'm not as qualified as I could (or probably should) be. I don't find the work especially stimulating, but I have learned a lot about contract negotiation, and I figured working in a big agency would be a good jumping point into a more interesting job in show biz. I have been living in Hollywood for just over a year now -- before that I lived in New York City (okay, Brooklyn), temping and working in theater and television production. I started my application to the Peace Corps while I was still in NYC, but put it on hold when I moved out here because I had always been curious about life in Los Angeles. Half a year into life in California, I re-opened my application: I realized that if I didn't at least try the Peace Corps I would forever wonder "what if," and if I really miss the entertainment industry I will still be young enough to jump back in upon my return.

I don't want to bore my newfound audience to tears, so I will leave the exposition here. Should any of you have further questions, feel free to leave me a comment. I promise to do my very best not to be boring, or too angry, or try too hard to be clever. Being very codependent, I will pretty much do anything to ensure you do not leave me. I am truly flattered that you took the time to visit my blog, and I hope that it lives up to both of our expectations.

Most sincerely,

A Blushing Dabbler

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Word or Three on American Diplomacy.

According to today:

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and warned 'the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime.'"

So nice to know that we're considering all our options, that we're going to go through all possible routes of diplomacy before we invade them. Because we are going invade them. As we did with Iraq, after going through every other single, possible, plausible solution. That whole thing where the Iraqi government wanted to talk? Yeah, we knew that was just a cunning ploy, a "diversion," if you will. So we're going to invade Iran, and just like in Iraq the country will fall (er, I mean "be liberated") in a matter of weeks. Just like in Iraq, the people will welcome our troops with open arms and rose petals strewn at their feet, with nary an uzi nor a grenade launcher amongst them. Just like in Iraq, an unjust tyranny will again fall, and a shining bastion of democracy and stability will again rise. And please, don't worry your little head about such inconsequential matters such as "Where the hell are we going to get enough manpower to pull this invasion off?!" or "You know, the last time we pulled this shit it didn't work out that well, maybe we should rethink and revise... perhaps using an actual plan." Because we are the United Fucking States of America, and simply put, we rock. Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker, and all that jazz.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of Iran. Hell, I very recently threw a tantrum when the Peace Corps attempted to place me almost right next to them. I think that country is run by a government with dangerous goals, and the implications of those guys getting their hands on a nuke scare me very, very much. I just think we should perhaps gather some international support before we go around making threats like this, because eventually we will be called on to back up those threats, and frankly now is not a good time, neither practically nor politically. It seems to me that a lot of the rest of the world hates our guts right now, and the last thing that will restore everyone's trust and respect for America is us invading yet another sovereign nation and forcibly imposing our will and ideals on a wholly different (and unwilling) culture.

Perhaps we should reflect on the results of our actions from the past four and a half years, take some time to truly consider all those options we're keeping on the table, and do this right. Let's lead the world by our example, not by force.

Or let's let the CIA do its job and sabotage this whole nuclear program secretly and silently, instead of loudly swaggering around and proclaiming our intentions like a global John Wayne. Whichever America you want to be.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Traveling Rant.

Pet peeve: have you ever noticed how everyone and their mother puts "traveling" under their interests or hobbies? Who exactly are all these amazing pioneers who haven't even reached the drinking age (that's 21 for all you non-Americans and college kids out there) yet? I mean, sure, I bet we would all like to travel, but who among us actually does it often enough to say "yeah, I've got a lot of hobbies: I like golfing, finger-painting, poetry, and a couple times a week I like to travel... oh, to Europe mostly." So, is it really a hobby, or is it more of a goal? I will admit, I am guilty of putting some similarly annoying and arbitrary hobbies on my list, like saying I enjoy watching movies. Who doesn't? Everyone puts that on their interests list. To rip off the comic, Dane Cook: "Who doesn't like movies? Who has ever said, 'Hey, you wanna go see a movie?' 'Fuck that and fuck you, movies! The whole idea of it, it's just wrong and fake and no.'" (Thanks, Dane, you had me in hysterics with that bit.) But at least I'm actually doing that activity which I claim as a pastime!

Prove it to me. Prove to me that you love traveling and that you actually do it. I want to see the photographs of you enjoying international foods with international people, and I want to see your plane and train ticket stubs, too. If you can't, then take that damn "traveling" off of your list. And don't get all cute and technical -- "travel" means the same thing as "traveling."

Or maybe I'm just bitter because you're all traveling and I'm not.

It's the same thing with writing. Don't tell me you're a writer, so when I say, "Great! I would love to see what you've written," your reply is "Well, uh, I haven't actually written anything yet." If you don't write, then you are NOT a writer. Get it? A writer is a very special thing... I aspire to be a writer, but I certainly don't feel ready to call myself one at this point. Don't sully the name of that calling, just because you want to sound cool at a bar. I can't begin to tell you how many "screenwriters" are out here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Mystery of the Semicolon.

Okay, I will finally admit it: I honestly have no idea how to use this grammatical tool accurately, but I love it. I use it all the time, arbitrarily assigning semicolons to various sentences, feeling my sophistication grow with each alluring symbol planted.

I live in fear of being called out on my inappropriate use of the majestic semicolon, that someone will notice it and realize that I do not even have a grade school-level education in punctuation and grammar. Sure, I may have nearly gone to the National Spelling Bee when I was 11, but I cannot form a proper sentence.

Does anyone know what these things do? I have made an effort to understand them, I really have, reading multiple grammatical texts in my quest for knowledge; however, the result is always the same: upon looking up the definition of semicolons and their uses, I nod knowingly and sagely, close the book with satisfaction, and then immediately forget what the hell it was I just read.

In the end, however, I think I would prefer it if no one spoils the mystery for me. I will sleep more easily at night (The Guy Snoring Above Me notwithstanding) knowing that there is yet a little magic in the world, something I cannot explain.

; ; ;

P.S. The one instance in which I used the sensual semicolon in this post is appropriate. I cheated because I wanted to impress you.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Guy Above Me is Snoring Again.

By "guy above me", I mean the one who sleeps in the apartment above mine, not the guy on top of me. Because I don't sleep with guys. Usually. Unless you're a guy who looks like Halle Berry. Or I'm drunk and think you look like Halle Berry.

*ahem* As I was saying, the guy is snoring again. Honestly, this is getting ridiculous. He didn't start snoring until a couple weeks ago... at least, not so as I noticed. Now, every other night, right as I'm getting into bed I hear the most impressive (yet highly annoying) sound of someone enjoying the sleep I will never get because "someone" is snoring too DAMN LOUD!

And now it's 8:45 in the morning, and he just started snoring again! What the hell, man? Can't you at least keep it to evenings only? I don't want to be that neighbor who kicks the wall repeatedly to wake you up -- although I already did that once, last week. This is getting as bad as summer camp!

Sudden thought: how do I know The Guy Snoring Above Me is a guy? Ugh. I hate the thought of a woman making sounds so unholy and irritating.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Here's the fall-out from my Peace Corps situation, o captive audience...

I decided to turn down the assignment to Georgia, did it this morning. Had a suprisingly good chat with the placement officer, and it looks like I am instead going to be considered for community development positions in Africa. In spite of my earlier venom, I did put a lot of thought into this: Georgia's lands look beautiful, and the culture is really interesting (I did a TON of research over the last week), but it's too close to a volatile area right now. Parts of Africa may not be the safest places either, but several countries around Georgia have a hatred that seems reserved specifically for Americans. Chances are I would be perfectly safe, but we are literally talking about my life, so I thought it best to walk away. Besides, it's not like I'm not doing the Peace Corps, I'm just going to a different area (I hope). Perhaps in my vacation time I can backpack in Europe instead.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Stupid GODDAMN Peace Corps!

So last Friday, after 6 months of paperwork and medical clearances I finally got my Peace Corps assignment. I was supposed to go somewhere in Eastern Europe (Romania, went the incessant litany in my head, please let it be Romania), and I learned that I was to work on an NGO in Georgia. (Georgia?! WTF? Is that even in Europe?)

Well, it depends who you ask. It's apparently right on the border between Europe and Asia, but most maps seem to place it in Western Asia. Me, I put it right fuck in the middle of Asia, because separating it from the rest of Europe is the Black Fucking Sea. More importantly, it is one tiny nation (Armenia) away from Iran in the South, and on its northern border is Chechnya. Now, I know I'm no diplomat, but I do believe that both these nations HATE Americans with a burning passion.

So, let's see... I was not given an assignment in the area that I was supposed to be sent, and where they DO want to send me is easily within kidnapping distance of anti-American enthusiasts. Great. So I write my Peace Corps placement officer and politely explain that I am very nervous about being stationed in this country as a peaceful volunteer, and besides which this isn't the geographical region I'm even supposed to be considered for. His response: either I can turn down the assignment, and maybe - MAYBE - be considered for placement somewhere in Africa, or I can shut up and take it, and basically stop wasting his time. Oh, and I have to make my final decision by Monday via mail, so really I have to make my final decision by tomorrow.

To all those people out there who think that the Peace Corps is a bunch of tree-hugging hippies, think again. It's a branch of the American government, a PR machine to make our country look better to the rest of the world... no mean feat, considering how we're pissing the rest of the world off on a daily basis. But I still want to do it! I want to travel, and not as a tourist... I want to learn about the world, learn at least 1 new language, submerge myself in a different culture. I would also like to do it in an area where I'm not mildly concerned about being snatched up and broadcast on TV wearing an orange jumper, begging my fellow countrymen to get the hell out of Iraq.

P.S. For the record, I have nothing against Africa, and would not be averse to being assigned to work in a country there, but for the last half year I had been assured I would be working in an Eastern European country, and well, I had made plans. Tough shit, you say? Suck it up and deal? Well, gentle reader, that is exactly what I am trying to do by venting right now.