April 23, 2007

Text, Lies & Videotape

I've hit a personal record. And not in a nerdy-cool, I-saw-69-movies-last-year kind of way.

Last month I had received 84 text messages on my trusty little Nokia.

My plan with T-Mobile only covers 50. The overages were not pretty to look at on paper. The dollar sign on my last statement taunted me, laughing at me as if to say, "Those friends of yours? They must hate the sound of your voice."

One morning I finally sucked it up, calling my carrier to request an upgrade in my service. My text allowance has now quadrupled for a mere $4.99 a month.

Before the upgrade, I had found it annoying, having friends send messages to my phone several times a day to communicate a plethora of trivialities. A sampling:

a) The new Maroon 5 sounds like Hall and Oates merged with Simply Red!

b) OMG, watch Tori Spelling's new reality show. Sooo good.

c) Ali Larter's waiting in line at Pinkberry and looks pissed.

d) Happy Hump Day.

But then I appreciated the gesture, the effort taken while punching in all those buttons to let me know I had crossed someone's mind.

And then I realized how much of a de-evolution in human communication this proved to be. First, it was e-mailing. Then came instant-messaging. Now, texting has consumed a good portion of our daily lives. No longer can we grace each other with the sound of our own voices. If you ask me, texting compensates for the fact that most of us, especially those darn kids nowadays, lack the proper communication skills necessary for face-to-face interaction with our human brethren. Canceling dinner plans with a friend and need to bypass her disappointment? Type away and send! Trying to avoid feedback after that first date with the cute guy you met last weekend? Message him an I'm-just-not-that-into-you smiley face. Copping out has never been easier.

Another reason for altering my plan was to accommodate the texting habits of my future roommate, fellow BU alum/Lost fanatic/party partner-in-crime, Matt.

Yes, after nearly four years of living in the area usually known as Beverly Hills Adjacent, I am heading further west (well, 3 miles at least), just past Century City, to the nicer hood of 90024.

What does this change in address mean exactly?

1. My car insurance premium goes down; I pay less.

2. My commute to work will extend from nine minutes to fifteen (still, a rarity in LA).

3. I will be blessed with triple the closet space in a bigger bedroom.

4. I can no longer rely on my anonymous neighbor for a free wireless Internet signal.

Moving ain't no easy feat for sure. I'm sure there's a laundry list of items I've overlooked that will come back to bite me on the ass come Saturday morning.

Moving can also mean getting acquainted with the intricacies of Craigslist in order to get rid of crap you no longer need. And that's what I did this past weekend.

If you post it (Kitchen Table and Chairs! $40!), they will come.

I am a consumer; I own a lot of shit.

Knowing that I own a media library rivaling that of any Blockbuster Video or Barnes and Noble, I prepared well in advance to get all of my DVDs, CDs and books packed away in boxes weeks before the big day. I had closets to clean out, old shirts to donate to Goodwill, CDs to sell back to Amoeba in Hollywood.

But little did I know, before my TiVo, before my DVD obsession, how many videotapes I had accumulated since discovering in the early 90s how to fully utitlize a VCR. Apparently, growing up, I liked to record broadcast television premieres of mediocre movies. Who remembers that Danny Glover-Martin Short gem from 1991, Pure Luck? How about that heavily-edited CBS broadcast of Parenthood? Actually, the latter is about to be released on a special edition disc, and I may not be able to resist revisiting that hilarious blackout/"giant ear cleaner" scene.

I recorded movies as if that glowing red "REC" light were my own private lifeforce; if it didn't shine bright, my chances of living to see the next TV Guide were weak. Videotape after videotape would eventually stack up in my parents' entertainment center, each Maxell label meticulously printed in pencil for the purpose of recycling and erasing any easily forgotten flick. I was also a fan of keeping a record of final episodes of the shows I loved and cherished.

Last Monday, after clinking champagne glasses with Adam Brody, Rob Reiner, and JC Chasez at the red carpet premiere afterparty for Anonymous Content's In the Land of Women, I came home to a living room in disarray. My apartment had turned into a labrynth of Office Depot cardboard boxes and giant Tupperware storage bins. I expected the dust bunnies from every nook and cranny to fuse together to form one giant dirt monstrosity and smother me in what little sleep I've been getting (thanks to the anxiousness that's included in the whole, New-Chapter-of-My-Life package).

Next is reserving a U-Haul truck on which I can load up my entire life and drive it four miles through the city without plowing down pedestrians and rear-ending Brentwood housewives on the way to their Pilates appointments. Obviously I can't afford to hire professionals. Instead, I prefer to chain up my closest (read: willing) friends and whip them into submission as they lug my bookcases and dresser up and down flights of stairs.

And then there's the deposit I hope to get back from my landlord in some form or another. True, the carpets have seen lots foot traffic. Yes, the walls have gotten scratched and bruised. And of course, I'll have to paint the wall in my bedroom back to its original color (remember that shade of red I bought four years ago, Estate Vineyard?). This Hollywood executive assistant needs all the cash he can scrounge up to lay in (relative) luxury.

I just want to get it over with. I just want this week to pass. I just want someone to condemn Alberto Gonzalez to "serve at the pleasure" of a coked-out crossdresser named Melinda DooMuch. Not a lot to ask, no?

Deep breaths, I remind myself. Deep breaths.

Bags packed. Rent check ready. Doors wide open.

Listening to and loving "Umbrella" by Rihanna and Jay-Z,

April 02, 2007

Me Day

I am an only child.

I am an only child who was raised during the decadent 1980s.

Only Child + Lavish Decade = One Spoiled Brat?

I realize my desire to acquire more and more friends and acquaintances in my life stems from the fact that I am only child. Do I constantly surround myself with smiling faces and warm hearts because I never had brothers and sisters to play with, or do I yearn to have everyone focus on me because I am that attention-hungry, spotlight-hogging, sibling-less sycophant? Or is it also a combo-manifestation of living in a city where, in order to survive, connections are more important than oxygen?

I also get high off seeing every person I know (or just met a few weeks ago at a cocktail party) interacting in one place. I love the eclectic mix of personalities, introducing people to others who wouldn't normally find themselves sharing the same space with each other. I like throwing everyone together and seeing what happens, like one of those abstract artists who slaps different colors of paint onto a blank canvas to see what sticks.

It's only natural that I submit myself to this self-analysis during this time of the year.

The days leading up to my birthday are usually filled with rummaging through my contacts to make sure my party guest list is in tip-top shape. I live for RSVPs during the month of March. Giddy am I whenever an email from a "friend" I haven't seen in months (typically, since his/her birthday) falls in my inbox, gladly accepting the invitation and adding a plus one or two to the list. Haven't seen you since that Valley barbeque in '05? Come on over! Haven't swapped studio secrets with you since that Clive Owen screening in the fall? Come have a mojito with me!

Together, my birthday and the new spring season are refreshing reminders to enjoy life and not take anything for granted.

'Tis also the season of brushfires and brown skies in sunny L.A.

(Taken the day before my special day; you can just make out the Hollywood sign below the pillar of smoke. You'd think Los Angeles was built on a volcano).

Most importantly, however, my birthday is also a history bookmark, signifying a time when New York single gal Sandy Riehm met Japan transplant Tatsuya Mitsuzuka while standing at a bus stop in New Rochelle, circa late 1977. Little did they know they were also neighbors in the same apartment building on Stonelea Avenue.

Tatsuya was short a nickel for the bus fare, and wanting to help a handsome stranger, Sandy offered some extra change. That connection, that glint-in-the-eye, was born right there and then. Next came phone number exchanges, home-baked cakes left on doorsteps, and other wooing I wish to leave to the imaginations of others.

The wedding was in January of 1979, the honeymoon followed at Walt Disney World, and on the last day of March of the following year, yours truly, weighing in at seven pounds and four ounces, entered the human race via a moderate Caesarian procedure.

And that happy day was celebrated for the 27th time, this year at the posh, poolside Circa 55 in the Beverly Hilton of Beverly Hills, California.

I had arrived at the hotel fashionably late. In the history of birthday bashes, I don't think I've ever seen the guest of honor arrive before the first couple of guests. The reason for this is either due to the host's desire to "make an entrance" or uncontrollable circumstances said host could not forsee.

This time my excuse was the latter: First, dinner at Cheebo on Sunset had run late. Second, to make matters much worse, the original room my bosses had booked for me as a birthday gift (awesome, right?) was given away, and the room I was to receive instead was not ready. "Just twenty more minutes," Shalam, the front desk clerk, told me as I stood there, pre-costume change, holding balloons, a weekend duffel strung over my shoulder, and a plastic bag full of plates, forks, a birthday banner, and a giant bottle of Malibu for possible afterparty prospects. Karim was behind me carrying the mocha cake.

"Um, but I'm supposed to be hosting a party and greeting guests downstairs right now."

Dear blue-eyed, olive-skinned Shalam then offered a solution - give us a temporary room in the Wilshire Tower, and when our other room was ready, move our belongings sometime during the night...during the party. There wasn't even an offer to have a bellhop do the switch for us. I was not pleased.

I started to panic about getting the cake into a cooler. I started to panic over the fact that guests were waiting for me at the bar. I started to panic about the music not being set up in time as people streamed in. I started to panic over which pair of jeans was supposed go with the Express button-down I bought the day before (Should I go with the tight, faded black, or slip on the butt-hugging, hole-in-the-crotch blues?) Beads of sweat were already making their way down my forehead.

And then came the phone call from Doug, reminding me that overnight street parking in Beverly Hills is a no-no.

My Focus? It was sitting outside on Wilshire...

Boys and girls, Item #5 to add to the List of Things to Stress Me Out.

With the help of the observant Jen Cross, who flew in from Chicago for the festivities, I further analyzed myself and came to the conclusion that I am most likely one of those Type A control freaks. If the slightest detail falls through, if the ribbon color doesn't match the balloons, an annoying gnat will buzz around my head until it's swapped with a phone book and things are as they should be.

Jen and I grabbed the keycards to our temporary room. I wiped my brow, lugged my crap into the elevator and made a beeline for the bathroom to change.

I rushed downstairs, greeted the arrivals and took a deep breath. The glass doors were open wide, letting in the crisp air that bounced off the glowing pool and filtered through the spaces of the dimly lit venue.

Here I was.

In between glasses of vodka tonics and Malibu Cokes, in between some Nelly Furtado and Lily Allen, I welcomed everyone who walked through the doors, received dozens of hugs and kisses, and enjoyed the remaining rhythms and beats of my iPod playlist booming through the soundsystem (thanks to Mark, the hospitality manager). A co-worker of mine, the ever-festive, ever-lovely Eleni, offered to take my car keys and move my Ford off the street and into valet.

I would later demand the front desk to comp my parking fees to make up for the lousy handling of my room.

Delightful Surprise of the Evening: not one, but both of my bosses showing up in time for cake and some PG-13 debauchery by the pool (for the record, I had invited them, not expecting an attendance). Cassie and Sue Ellen, the wonderful women I assist Mondays through Fridays, showed up to extend their birthday wishes to me and partake in a late-night cocktail (for purposes unknown, I'm sure they would appreciate their pictures being omitted from this blog).

Just one of many reminders to show how fortunate I am to work with such amazing people at such an awesome company.

Circa soon closed up shop around 1AM. The lights brightened, the music stopped, and March 31st had seamlessly bled into April Fools' Day prank-free. Some friends of mine stuck around because drinks needed to be finished, certain amenities needed to be taken advantage of.

An afterparty up in my room needed to be had:

I had welcomed my late 20s with open arms, one more shot of rum, and a plush pillow that eventually carried me into a slumberland where things always go as planned, finances are never stressful, and bliss is neither ignorant nor short-lived.

And just think: Had a certain Japanese twentysomething carried the exact change for bus fare in 1977, none of what you have just read and watched would have existed.

Happy Easter,


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