Sunday, June 28, 2009

The place after “What’s the use”…

That’s where I find myself today, in the place after “What’s the use.”

You see, writers – and by “writers” I mean “me” – often have to talk themselves into doing what they do that makes them writers… that is, writing. They have to talk themselves into it because they’ve encountered hundreds upon hundreds – hell, thousands – of rejections, and can’t bare one more. At the same time, though, this manic need to write keeps pressing on them like a twelve-pack on your bladder.

There’s a spot between “I need to write” and “What’s the use”… and this is it.

I just finished my seventh play and the success I’ve faced has been minimal at best. And if you don’t think all the rejection from publishers, theaters, and friends is hard, please share your stash! It hurts – a lot. So, you start to tell yourself, “Maybe I can just ignore this need to write, because actually writing never leads to anything good.”

So, you do. But this doesn’t last. Because that feeling of “What’s the use” is nothing compared to the need to write, which is as strong as the beat of your own heart… and it sucks.

So, I’ll probably start this new play pretty soon. After all, I have little say in the matter.

Anybody tells you they want to be a writer, slap them.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Worry warts…

Here are two personality types you don’t want to put together: The Worrier and The Complainer.

I’ll preface this by saying my unemployed status is really beginning to get to us. I’ve never been out of work for this long and I know it has me very stressed. I can’t imagine how Vicky must be feeling and – as you’ll soon see – I don’t think she’s imagining much, either.

I’m a worrier. I worry about everything. It’s just how I am. During the best of times, I don’t worry so much but it’s the nature of the beast (and I’m the beast) that when things get bad the worrying ratchets itself up. And things are bad. Without going into too many details, no work and little money have eroded our dreams like sand castles on the beach during a hurricane. My car is in desperate need of service. Our savings are long gone. We are forced to have to decide if we can afford Del Taco.

Vicky, on the other hand, is a complainer. She bitches and moans about everything – even if it has nothing to do with her or if there’s no way to fix it. I guess she figures it’s her way of contributing.

So, she got home last night and I was already very stressed out and she starts bitching – the sprinkler outside is broke, the washing machine is a mess, and on and on… And all I hear is, “If you had a job, we could move somewhere where the sprinklers aren’t always broke.” “If you had a job, we could get the washing machine fixed.” And on and on.

And I lost it. And I started yelling like a crazy person – because that’s pretty much what I am right now. Everything is falling apart. I can’t catch a break no matter how hard I try or what I do.

My bad.

I don’t know how many other people are there are in this boat but I’m trying to keep in mind I’m not alone. It just feels a lot like it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunblock - or, I married the smart one...

Vicky and I were watching Stuff Happens, Bill Nye's great new show on Planet Green. In this particular episode, he covered the importance of using environmentally friendly sun block. Why? Because that stuff gets into the ocean, into the fish, and back into you. So, if for no other reason than self preservation (a reason most people overlook when they think of the planet - as if we don't live on it), it's a good idea.

So, I said, "We should do that."

And that's where I stopped. Why? Well, because we weren't in a position to buy sunblock at the time so, you know, why worry about it? I tend to wait until action is necessary to take some.

Not Vicky. And that's one of the reasons I like her - she's smart. She found sunblock that isn't just made in an environmentally friendly manner, but can also be purchased in a way that's better for the environment because it's local. Too, it's a way to support small businesses and local communities.

So, what kind of sunblock is this? Surf-vival! It's made locally by Smart Girls Who Surf and can be purchased locally or over the omni-useful Interwebs! They've got a great website you should check out.

And that's product placement for today. Thanks Vicky and Bill and Smart Girls Who Surf!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sometimes We Find Our Way...

I just finished (the first draft of) my seventh full-length play! I'm very pleased!

You can read more about it over on My Side, which I'm putting over there due to references to a certain person I don't mention here...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Joke's on me...

So, this was unexpected... I got called back!

Now, this is probably a fluke. There's no way I'm getting cast at Long Beach Playhouse, but I'll go make an ass of myself anyway.

I don't know what I'll do if I get cast and still can't find a job, though... cause I really need one of those...

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife is coming...

I've listened to this book a dozen times and every time I cry like a little girl... Vicky and I will go with a box of kleenex...

Now I remember why I’m not an actor…

This is all Stephanie’s fault. She told me to audition. She said, “Hey, are you going to audition for Fools at Long Beach?” And I said, “Yes.” Damn her. And it’s Vicky’s fault, too. I said, “I don’t think I should go; I’m nervous.” And she said, “Oh, go ahead.”

Fucking women.

So, I went to my first audition in (mumble) years today. I got myself all psyched up at home… and then Vicky said, “Oh, go ahead.” So, I went anyway. I wanted to wear just the right thing. So, I put on my jeans and a white dress shirt. Of course, I’m so fat, it looked kinda like a mumu… so I tucked it in… that didn’t help, either.

Driving out there, the early evening was unseasonably cold. I was concerned that I might freeze at the audition and kicked myself for not bringing a jacket. I parked as this beautiful blonde was getting out of her car. I didn’t want anything to do with the beautiful blonde; I was sure she’d be one of those conceited bitches that are so stereotypically… you know… conceited. (Also, I felt fatter and uglier just looking at her…)

I waited before I got out of my car. I was early. I hate being early. Because that means, you know, you’ll be called to audition… you know… early. Oh well. Eventually, I walked up. The beautiful blonde came around a corner and asked, “Do you know where to go in?” Actually, I did. I felt very smart. I opened the door for her and showed her in to the theater’s lobby.

Like a gentleman, I let her sign in first – hell, at that point, I would have let anyone get in line first… but there was no one else, so I stepped up next.

And I started signing in on the wrong form. And then I missed the sign-in forms I was supposed to sign. And then, I realized a line was forming behind me as I hurried to filled out said forms… Things weren’t turning out well…

Then, I gagged. And choked. And gagged. I realized a horribly smelly person had entered the theater lobby – and he was walking towards me! I tried to write faster.

“I’m in SAG. Where do I sign in?”

Of course, the unwashed was union. Behind him, a woman said, “I’m in equity. I shouldn’t have to wait.” Oh Lord.

So, I finished signing in and hurried away so I could breath. Next thing you know, I hear, “Ken? Ken? Ken La… Ken?”

“That’s me,” I said, cause really you don’t want to make things difficult, and found out I was being paired up with Lauren, the beautiful blonde. Of course. “Can we read outside?” I asked. “It’s a little hot in here.” It was, too. It was like 400 degrees in there. I had already sweat through my white shirt – LOVELY! – and was pitted down to my waist!

Turns out Lauren had aspirations to be a director… of me, at least. But that was okay because she was actually, you know, good. I noticed her face moved; I wished I could do that. And she gestured and… you know, acted. I just kind trembled and muttered.

And then, we were called in. We were called first… of course.

The director looked at my resume. “Oh, look! Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” I felt like the kid whose mother still has the finger-painting he made when he was two on the refrigerator door… only he’s 19 now… and his mother is showing his date. You know, he might as well have said, “I see you have no talent whatsoever!”

Then, he looked at Lauren’s resume. “Oooh, you played Cruella Deville? What was that like?” “Oh, it was wonderfully evil,” Lauren told him. “It must have been,” he moaned, creaming his pants.

And, of course, no one killed me.

So, we auditioned and I screwed up my lines and Lauren, who I hold nothing against because she was very beautiful and very talented, did just fine. And I wanted to die.

“Okay, if I call you back it’ll be via email,” the director told us. And at this point, I swear to you, I said, “Can I write my email address down again? My handwriting is pretty bad; I want you to be able to read it.” It was like, “Here, let me rewrite what I am sure will be the first email address you send a gushing acceptance to… cause I’m so fucking cool…”


Meanwhile, he’s telling Lauren – because seriously, he did not need to tell me this – that callbacks would be all improv! Great! Please do not call me back! If there’s one thing I’m worse at than not sweating and fucking up auditions… it’s improv!

God, what a miserable night. I know we all have auditions like this – all of us who strut upon the stage – but, damn… I’m just glad it’s over.

(PS. Vicky told me I had bad breath, too! SCORE!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Garden mid-mortem…

Cause it’s not quite over, yet… kinda…

Where did I leave off? I planted three tomato plants, a couple of herbs, and a jalapeno bush/shrub/thing… the herbs had all of their sunshine blocked off by the tomatoes as the tomatoes took off and the jalapeno plant/tree/thing grew like crazy. Was that about where I left off?

So, I didn’t get to tell you about the painters. Our building was painted recently, a process taking over a month (it seems), what with the prepping and washing and painting and what all. The painters were of the “kill all plants” variety. So, they proceeded to… well… kill my plants. Someone stomped one of my tomato plants and the others were lightly beaten to a pulp. I don’t want to sound racist/ethnist/or anything but the jalapeno vine/weed/thing was left perfectly alone.

The result has been an endless font of jalapenos – so many Vicky doesn’t know what to do with them while I’m thinking long and hard about making chili – and just a few tomatoes from vines struggling so hard you want to weep.

Part of this has also been my fault. After all, I’m growing in planters so I wasn’t expecting some of the problems with crowding. Also, the last time I grew tomatoes, I never had a single bug. That was Orange. Here, in Anaheim, it’s bug city! I’m crazy with bugs! It’s very frustrating. (Vicky was kind enough to turn me on to some organic bug killer, though. That's worked pretty well.) Again, though, jalapenos like crazy. I’m going to start bringing them to parties, I swear. They’re of a milder variety, too – Vicky hates it, of course. I find it rather nice.

Oh well. Summer’s not over, yet. The tomatoes may still bounce back… though I doubt it… but I could get three or four more. You never know.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to transplant this jalapeno thing because it’s growing into redwood proportions! That’ll be around for a while!

(… providing I don’t kill it when I transplant it…)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Oh the childrens books I could write...

(I just found this jotted down on a piece of scratch paper, hidden amidst a bunch of old stuff...)

Cynthia Contrerez Alonzo Jones
Never ate nothing
No, nothing with bones
She loved to eat scones
because scones were a treat
but she wouldn't eat anything
made out of meat...

A new coat of paint…

Writing the first words of anything is, to this writer at least, like laying down a first coat of paint must feel to a painter or making that first chisel mark must feel to the sculpture. Characters who did not exist but moments ago are now speaking! And somehow, a void is filled.

This time, I’m starting a play rather than a novel. Novels begin as narrative threads and landscapes of possibility. But when I begin a play, I feel as though the words belong to the characters who speak them. As if the words are more theirs than mine. Sure, they come through me but I get the sense that I’m relaying them more than saying them.

I laid down the first coat for my new play, Sometimes We Find Our Way, yesterday. It’s a play about the toxins in our lives that keep us from being healthy. Sometimes, they are real, sometimes they are imaginary, and sometimes they fall into a third category where you can’t really tell and it’s up to the person to decide. I think it’s also about wanting love so much you’re afraid you’ll get it wrong – so you miss out, instead. To some people, love comes at such a high price they can’t imagine it being real.

So, I’ve begun my seventh play and I’m hoping I finish it. What separates this from the others? In a way, it’s a return to my autobiographical form of writing but it is more so a leap into something new. I call it autobiographical to some degree because I can feel my father in there – one character you never see is the father who just died – and I know I’ll be talking about what it was like to lose him having never had him. But it’s new because while the other autobiographical plays were a way for me to hold on to things, I can already feel this one allowing me to let go.

It’s going to be a bit of a comedy but also a drama. It should be fun.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Wisdom tooth… post mortem…

I think I offended the surgeon just a little bit with my level of suspicion. After all, how could it go well? He was removing 1/36th of my mouth!

Typically, I arrived with Vicky all jokes and quips. This just got worse as the procedure neared. Some people shake when they’re terrified. Some people cry. I crack wise.

They took me into a little waiting area with a recliner and a video monitor where they showed me a tape from 1987. It was a “scare you out of your mind” kind of tape. “You may develop a serious infection after the procedure.” “Your jaw may need to be broken.” GREAT! I mentioned this to the doctor afterwards, trying to explain that the old tape didn’t really ease the patient into the procedure – but he got a bit defensive. A new tape (I’m hoping it would be on DVD by now) would cost him $1,100 and he had to play it for full disclosure! Only later did I work out the four or five bullets he could have on a 3x5 card to deliver the same information in a more personalized, sympathized manner. I miss marketing so much I’m doing it at the dentist!

Actually, he’s an oral surgeon. Dr. Paul Braun in Orange. Great guy. The receptionist told me, “He’s just like a doctor.” I replied, “Point of fact, he really is a doctor. Right? He’s not just kidding?”

They were backed up, so I was asked to remain on the recliner and try to relax. Try to relax? How would I do that? Well, the receptionist (Phyllis) dimmed the lights and brought me a blankie. That was nice. So, I waited. When my time came, I was brought into the procedure room, where I was met by two young ladies named Erin. After they told me their names, I promised to try not to get them wrong. I lied down on a comfy looking bed and the Erins got me prepped. A nitrous oxide mask was strapped onto my nose and EEG tape was put on my chest. The girls and I were joking around so much that I wasn’t getting the nitrous oxide – you have to really breath it, you know?

When Dr. Braun came in, he set up my IV and I huffed nitrous while he give me my general anesthetic.

“Oh yeah,” I said, feeling something happen. “That’s it.”

As they prepped, one of the Erins asked, “You feeling it?”

My body slipped down into itself, that feeling you get when sleep is pushed upon you. I replied, “You bet. G’night folks.”

“What did he say?” Dr. Braun asked.

“I think he said, G’night folks.”

I tried to laugh. “That’s right. G’night folks.” And that was it for me.

Next thing I knew, I heard the doc say, “Okay, Ken, you can wake up now. We’re done.”

And I did wake up. I wasn’t groggy. I wasn’t medicated. But best of all, I wasn’t in any pain at all. That’s the important part. As we were walking out, I asked one of the Erins (who can tell them apart?) what happened to the tooth. She said they provide them dental schools to help their education. That’s nice. Still… I wanted to see it. “Can I see it?” I asked. “Sure,” she said, and went and got it. Holding it in gauze, it was a mother of a tooth. It came out in one piece, perfect, and huge. No wonder my mouth was hurting. I had a rhino molar in my mouth!

I went home, started taking my vicodin, and eased back with Vic to watch some TV. (Oh wait. She went to the store and bought me Orange Cream sherbet! Apparently, ice cream is good for this too! What doesn’t the magic of ice cream cure?) At around 9pm, Dr. Braun called to see how I was doing. I was grateful that because I wanted to thank him for the great job he and his people did. They really put my mind at ease and made the whole thing go smoothly.

So, there you have it. Well, at least, there I don’t any more.

(This blog is dedicated to those folk still nervous about their wisdom teeth. Get a good oral surgeon and you’re set.) (This means you, Jenn!)

Friday, June 05, 2009

Wise teeth and otherwise…

I’m going to be stepping back through the mists of time a bit for this one.

My only first-hand experience with wisdom teeth extraction comes from my ex-wife. She had all four of hers pulled – you know, the traditional way. She was about 20 or so, we may not have even been married yet, and I was there for her through the procedure and after. I remember doing everything I could for her – that’s just how I was.

And as today has approached, I’ve reflected on that day. I mean, her face was SO PUFFY and she was so miserable. It gives me some idea what to get all neurotic about. But more than that, I guess I’ve been thinking that old thought: I was there for her, she should be here for me. Because, you see, I was there for her, doing whatever I could to help her through, and I never got a return on that investment. You never do.

It took a while, fortunately before Vicky came along, for me to learn that you never get a return on some things because some things are not investments. That’s just the wrong way of looking at relationships. You give not in the hopes of a return but as a gift. You are giving yourself to the other person out of love, not fiscal opportunity.

Of course, one of the downsides of second marriages – at least, from my experience – is that you tend to lose the capacity to give like you did the first time around. There’s that “Been there, got burned by that” feeling. I always feel like I’m short-changing Vicky, and let’s not get started on the whole unemployment thing. If she was having her teeth pulled, would I be there for her? I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

Fortunately, I don’t have to. Vicky had hers removed during a very bumpy rollercoaster ride back in the 90’s – but we won’t get into that.

Now, you may have already figured out that I’m the one getting his tooth pulled – not teeth, just tooth – and you’d be right. (For some ungodly reason, they’re leaving three little toothular time bombs in my mouth.) She’s the one taking care of me. And here I am talking about how jaded I am towards giving! Vicky would probably be justified in making me walk home from the extraction!

But, fortunately, that’s not how things work. Vicky has said she gets tired of hearing me say “I love you” without saying why (even if, you know, tough luck). So here’s a reason why. Vicky’s capacity for giving inspires me to give more. There are a lot of things Vicky isn’t but one thing she definitely is is the engine that keeps us going. I don’t even know if she realizes it; that’s just part of her nature. And I am fortunate that it’s so.

After all, I’m gonna be a real pain in the ass after this tooth is pulled.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's "Idiot Religion" Day...

Check out more religious idiocy over on My Side...

Sweet 16…

It’s odd when I say it. I have written 16 novels. I mean, that’s crazy in a way, right?

Today I finished rewrites on my latest book, Last Ditch, a book about a serial killer meeting his future in-laws, only to find they’re more fucked up than he. It’s a suspense-thriller but it’s not just about killing and fucking. I’ve been impressed by how complex the characters are and how much this book gets under my skin.

Now, the process moves on to proofreading… more specifically, me finding someone (cough – Vicky – cough) to proofread it. Then, I’ll send it around and see if people like it before I consider submitting it for representation and/or publication.

Next on my plate, I’ve got three plays in mind. One of them is so “You don’t want to do that” that I actually only have two. One is called Murder, Zombies, the Devil and Stuff and it’s about… well, like the title says. The other is a “dramedy” that I’m calling Sometimes we find our way. I don’t know which will come first, so I’ll probably work on both at the same time. Hell, it’s not like I’ve got too much else going on.

Monday, June 01, 2009

In this context, better than Double D’s…

It was “Backwards Semester”. For the past few semesters, I’ve been taking two classes each time: one philosophy class and one to fulfill my general education requirements. Usually what happens is I tolerate the GenEd class and look forward to the Philosophy class… not this time.

Perhaps it was because my Kinesiology course fit so well to where I am in my life. After all, after quitting smoking I was getting more active, cycling, taking slightly better care of myself. What better time to take a course to help solidify my attitude towards living a healthy lifestyle? And it did. It got me thinking more positively about lifting weights, watching what I eat, maintaining a positive attitude, the whole shmeer!

Actually, it wasn’t quite that. When Sharri walked into her course on 19th century philosophy, she said, “If you’re used to getting A’s, you’ll get a B. If you’re used to getting B’s, you’ll get a C. If you’re used to getting C’s, you do not belong in this class.” I thought she meant we had a lot of material to cover and a lot of material to ingest. I wasn’t entirely right. She also meant that she reserved the right to quiz us on stuff we didn’t study and to expect answers to questions she didn’t ask – and to be able to ask questions on her tests that weren’t even a part of the class!! Every test became an exercise in “What could she possible ask us about?”, the world’s toughest trivial pursuit game.

I got a B in both classes. Double B’s. And I’m happy I got them. Granted, as Sharri explained, I was used to getting A’s in philosophy classes. As for my Kinesiology class, well, I’m a little disappointed in myself – not much but a little. It was a great class. The instructor, Tom, was thoroughly engaging; he made it fun. But with all the crap going on – and having to study for a philosophy class that was about as predictable as the instructor – I guess a B ain’t too bad.

I’ll take it.

Now, back to writing. At least, until fall… I hope…