Cloudy With a Chance of Layoffs


Land of coffeeshops, Frasier and lovesick doctors in fictitious hospitals.

Like Chicago, a U.S. destination I conquered last summer, I had my preconceived notions of the City That Birthed Starbucks. I imagined a consistently cloudy metropolis trapped in 1993, shaggy-haired songwriters sipping on mochas, donning their Doc Martens and strumming away on guitars purchased in smelly secondhand stores owned by aging Woodstock alumni who are now subscribing to AARP and slowly losing their grip on anti-establishment philosophies that once dictated their lives.

But now?

If I were to describe Seattle to someone who's never been, I would say it's a Canadian-friendly, Boston-sized San Francisco: Hilly, chilly and graced with just enough character that's based on a history unlike any other city on the West Coast.

I had flown in on a Friday night. My hostess and weekend tour guide, the marvelous Molly, picked me up at the airport, and from there we hit a couple of bars. Hard. It only took one dirty martini at Belltown's Karma Lounge to get me ripped and ready to meet some of the locals. Molly's posse arrived as we finished our olives, and I was soon introduced to a whirlwind of names, half of which I've already forgotten. Among these Seattlites: the Milo Ventimiglia lookalike, the hot Asian chick who always wears baseball caps (it's her thing), the Chuck Bass wannabe, the blonde with the drama and the former frat boy who can't quite let go of his man-whore ways.

To get the full list of who I saw, what I did and where I went, check out my "Not in Hollywood" pieces over at HIH (Thank you, Molls!).

I flew back to L.A. on the following Monday, having taken the day off to relax and give my neglected DVR some much-needed lovin'. It was shortly after watching Luann and Ramona tear into each other at a charity dinner on Real Housewives when my cell phone went off. I recognized the number. My office was calling.

My Uh-Oh sensors went off.

It was one of my bosses. "Sorry to bother you on your day off, but I thought I'd let you know before you come in to the office tomorrow..."

My department, along with those in Accounting, had been hit by a wave of layoffs, the third within the company. Four of my co-workers, including my other boss, had been let go shortly after rolling into the office with their morning coffees. It came from out of nowhere, and it came fast. Suddenly, in mere seconds, my outlook on the next few days turned dark. This wasn't going to be good week, despite my boss assuring me that my job was safe.

When I returned to work on the following day the tension didn't ease up whatsoever because three more of my co-workers were given the boot. Our division's population went from a robust 15 to an anemic 8.

It was the first time I had experienced layoffs this close to home. It was yet another item to scratch off the Things-You-Face-As-An-Adult List. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the office turned as gloomy as the weather that greeted me in Seattle a few days prior. Walking into the office on Wednesday was like stepping onto a graveyard, computer terminals silent as tombstones. The light was different. Gone was the usual morning chatter in the kitchen. Closed were the doors that once stood open welcoming any visitor who passed by in the hallway. And helping my boss pack up her office of nine years was an extremely odd experience I thought I'd never have to go through. Much like a parent to a child, the assistant is supposed to go first, not the other way around. That's supposed to be the natural order of things.

The shitty economy had finally taken a toll on the commercial production industry. Uncle Sam had given us the finger. And Death had claimed the jobs of souls now lost and left to wander the overcrowded purgatory that is Unemployment, sucker-punching us in the face with a harsh truth: No one seems to be safe these days.

The rest of the week was a blur, full of I-Can't-Believe-It e-mails and IMs from work acquaintances and freelancers whom we've booked throughout the years. There were shelves that needed to be dusted, boxes that needed to be packed and desks that needed to be moved into new offices - one of which I have now taken, a ceilingless space with ugly florescent lighting near the men's room (however, a hesitant hurrah for finally having four walls).

They say time is the best healer. So is vodka. And I plan to take a page from the fabulous Chelsea Handler and imbibe several cocktails mixed with said good stuff. It started with last night's grand opening of Knightlife at H.WOOD, the latest Hollywood venue to open and woo the wallets of thousands of Angelenos looking for a new hotspot to frequent and then flip off four months from now.

I received my invitation in the mail earlier this week, a purple pop-up card featuring the equine head of a chess pawn and a small black envelope containing a metallic VIP card. I had previously gotten on the list through my fellow blogger friend, Jon from The Couch. Apparently, the promoter had been inviting local media and LA-based cyberscribes to help get the word out.

You can check out my thoughts and what went down at Knightlife in the piece I wrote HERE.

The (responsible) drinking will mostly likely continue as I rev up for the birthday weekend (drinks at Palihouse in West Hollywood on Saturday night) and the days to follow (Disneyland on Tuesday, followed by a dinner at the Melrose Bar and Grill).

To prep myself for the festivities I partook in a tried-and-true L.A. tradition millions have practiced before me: The Great American Tanning Salon Visit.

I took advantage of a voucher I had for a free 6-minute session at Sunstyle Tanning on Robertson in WeHo. Since I was a fake-and-bake virgin, I was given a brief intro to the place by the girl who manned the front desk. I didn't get her name, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't anything vapid like Candi, Carly or Maxie. I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed by her reaction when I told her I was first-timer. There was no red carpet rollout, no hospitality team waiting to burst out in a welcome song-and-dance number proclaiming, "We got a newbie!" I was just another pale body looking to get fried behind closed doors.

Front Desk Girl led me to my private room where my glowing bed awaited. The entire place seemed sterile and cold despite the neon pink lights that reflected a warm hue off the polished cement floors. The place was quiet, too. I refrained from cracking a joke about the economy slamming the tanning industry because something on Front Desk Girl's face told me she just wanted to finish her shift and get back to her Silverlake studio and eat take-out Chinese on the couch with her boyfriend the tattoo artist. She showed me which buttons to press, the protective goggles to wear and my own personal towel which I ended up using as a pillow for my head. I thanked her, closed the doors and stripped down to my skivvies.

Pulling down the lid of the tanning coffin bed, I felt like one of the crew members on Ripley's spaceship in Aliens, getting ready for a deep, 100-year sleep. Once I was nestled in and the heat was turned up, I was reminded of that torturous scene in Final Destination 3 in which two bikini-clad bimbos get locked in and burned alive in an elaborate deathtrap. And once I completed my session and climbed out of the contraption I felt like one of the Pod People in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, birthed out of their shell, new skin and all.

I had run out of movie metaphors after that.

And then there are the side projects...because what would a struggling writer/journalist/blogger/pop culture attache be without a couple of side projects?

There's the short film I produced with HIH founder and director (and friend) Michael Medico, a one-minute character study we're hoping to get into a few festivals this spring/summer. Following that fun, little experiment was an environmental PSA we are wrapping up and submitting to with the possibility of it being aired on Current TV and screened at Tribeca. And of course there's the screenplay I need to pass around, the TV pilot I need to finish writing and several web ventures that need to be tended to. Not to mention some tidying up for a couple of guests who will be crashing at Chateau Mitsuzuka-Emert this weekend.

It's called franchising, and sometimes I don't know what I'm getting myself into.

Perhaps things won't be so cloudy anymore...

Taking some time to enjoy the View,



Space Ranger said…
That was really insightful Hiko. I very much enjoyed reading it. :)

You rock!

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