Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Continuing my great acting career…

I have some news for you, which I found out last night. People say “The worse they can do is say No.” They’re wrong. There is worse and it pissed me off.

I went to a theater in Newport Beach last night to audition for Social Security, a farce I’d seen produced at Long Beach Playhouse once upon a time. My friend, Annie, had been in it and it had been performed with subtlety and class. I really enjoyed the show and was eager to audition.

There are, essentially, two parts for a male my age. David is a suave, New York art dealer. Martin is his nebbish brother in law. My ego told me to audition for David, and I did. I filled out the audition form: Part you’re auditioning for – David. Would you accept any other role – NO. I was extra intense when filling in the NO box. See, I’m too tall to be nebbishy. You’ve got to think about who you’d be acting against. I’d have to work off of someone taller than me and someone with a smoother style than me – I’m not saying I’m smooth but, as an actor, it’s important that I feel that in order to play the underling. As I said, it’s mostly ego. It’s also, I think, because I don’t see myself as a nebbish. I don’t want to spend ten weeks of my life doing that. So, there you are.

I began reading opposite this guy with a goatee and a great sense of timing. He had a great New York accent – mine came across more like a Boston Jew – and I knew this was the guy. It was obvious. I figured, “Okay, they should just let me go home.” They didn’t, though. The director started having me read as Martin. Now, I knew she had to have seen my audition sheet so I figured: a) she needs guys to read for Martin so I’ll help her out, and b) she may just be testing me to see how easy I am to work with. So, I read as best I could. But then, this other guy, a short, balding guy who sounded just like Richard Dreyfus, read for Martin and I figured that was it. “Okay, they should just let me go home.”

But they didn’t. And the evening grew later and later.

About a half hour before we finished, this actor came in that I knew from other shows. He’s a big, fat, balding guy who can’t pull off an accent and couldn’t act his way out of a used condom. This guy they had reading for the part of David. He read horribly and didn’t even try to pull off an accent. I was shocked! I thought, “You have perfect people for David and Martin already!” But I didn’t say anything. The director might have been being polite, give everyone their chance, etc. etc. etc.

Then, just after 9pm, the stage manager came out. She said, “I’m going to read a list of names. If I read your name, please stay. If I don’t, you can leave. This doesn’t mean you haven’t been cast, though. You might still be receiving a call.” She started reading off names. She read mine!

Great, I thought! And when the guy with the goatee left, I wondered, “Am I David?” Then, the guy who sounded like Richard Dreyfus left… and I wondered, “Am I… wait a minute…” Something was very wrong. And I realized the only two males were myself… and the big, fat, balding guy who can’t act. Now, call me egotistical… I’ll wait… but I did the math. Surely, I figured, they must have cast me as David because the thinner guy would be the more suave, yes? And surely, they couldn’t have cast me as Martin because I was taller than this asshole, right? But here’s the part of the equation I’ve left out: The asshole knew people. He was friends with the director and the woman who runs the theater, who was there at the audition. So, when we were called in to see the director, I was leery.

See, I would rather be in no show than a shit show. That’s just me. I would have much rather the director cast the two actors who were obviously better suited for either role. Because the asshole would suck in either role and I knew the guy with the goatee would have been far better than me.

I waited for the verdict. I knew the outcome if I was Martin. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if I was David.

The director kept making jokes about how suspicious I looked. I wanted her to get to the point.

I didn’t have to wait long. The part of the suave New York art dealer was given to the fat, balding asshole who didn’t even attempt an accent. And I was to play his nebbish brother in law… me… who was taller, thinner, and had more hair than the guy who was supposed to be the suave one.

The director kept joking around but I walked right up to her. I felt bad, too, because my friend Tony was sitting next to her. He’d been laughing every time I delivered a funny line. I could imagine him when I was outside the room saying, “That Ken La Salle guy reads really well.” I regretted fouling up his support. But I put the script down in front of the director, gritted my teeth, and said, “I want you to know I appreciate your faith in me. Thank you very much. But I can’t take this role.”

She was shocked. “What?”

“I’m sorry. I really am. I appreciate the faith you have in me but I can’t take this role.”

She scoffed. Really. She scoffed. She said, “Have an open mind!”

I gritted my teeth further. I told her about the guy who sounded like Richard Dreyfus and how he was much better suited for the role, especially if they were going to cast the fat asshole. (Granted, I gave his name. I didn’t say “Richard Dreyfus”.) I thanked her again and I apologized again for not being able to take the part. I knew this would probably mean she’d never cast me again and that I’d probably be blacklisted at the theater, so I was as gracious as possible. “I’m sure you’ll have a great show. I’m sorry I can’t be a part of it. I’m going to go now.”

“What?” she shouted.

In the quietest voice I could muster, I replied, “I’m going to go.” And I left the room without another word.

Richard Dreyfus was outside. “What happened? Didn’t you get cast?”

“Let’s just say I’m not in the play. I hope you get a call though.”

They worse they can do is not just to say NO. They can say YES and put you in a pile of shit. This happened to me at D-Link. I’ve been there before. But I really pissed me off last night. After all, theaters produce the same rotten shows over and over and over – you’d think that, at the very least, they’d want to do it well.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Submitting yourself…

Sometimes I wonder what people must think of my “writing career.” After having written 16 novels, 7 plays, and god only knows how much other stuff, even I tend to think “If you’re really that good, wouldn’t you have been published by now?” Of course, I haven’t been. All that work has only brought me rejection and disappointment.

And so, another week passes. In the past 7 days, I’ve send out 34 submissions. These are query letters for books or plays that go out to agencies, publishers, theaters – you name it. Vicky has been an incredible help getting some of these out through regular mail. Most of them go out via email. One way or the other, though, they end up in someone’s slush pile and all I can do is hope someone sees just one and finds it interesting enough to take a chance.

There have been a lot of near misses over the years, plenty of times when things have almost come together. And I can’t lie to you; I haven’t a clue as to what keeps me going.

It’s more than just a big depressing. Perhaps this is on my mind today because I’m also thinking of all the resumes I’ve been sending out for jobs – resumes that also fall into someone’s slush pile. My only option is to just keep trying and keep hoping and keep sticking with it. And I consider how much work I put into this with no reward, with no hope of success… and I’m pretty amazed.

To think of all the girls I never asked out because I was afraid of rejection. To think of all the auditions I’ve avoided because I was afraid of rejection. To think of all the things I haven’t done because I was afraid of rejection.

Who knew I was actually so good at rejection!

… oh well…

I know a few people who have the same dream as me, who have dreamed since they were young about becoming “a writer.” I’ve probably come closest to achieving that dream… which is kinda scary because my achievements have been fleeting at best.

But they’ve kept me going, still chasing that rabbit…

So, to all you folks still out there trying to make things happen – this goes to you. I’m with you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not smoking… really…

I woke up this morning from a dream in which I was standing out on the patio with Jeff, sharing a smoke.

Actually, I had my own cigarette and he had his. “Sharing a smoke” in this context just means we were sharing the experience. There we were, talking about this and that, enjoying the smooth tobacco flavor… and I woke up. And I could taste that acrid… wonderfully acrid taste of burnt refuse on my mouth.

That alone would be weird except it was the second night it happened. Night before last, the dream was about a killer who was leaving me bizarre clues as he hunted me down. In the midst of all of this, I was there with Jeff and used-to-be-Clostio. And they figured I needed to relax and distress and “Hey, would you like a cigarette?”

“Sure,” I told them. After all, there was this mad killer chasing me down. Who knew how much longer I’d live, right? I mean, the justification was entirely… justifiable!

Only, last night, there was no killer. No, Jeff and I were hanging out and I was telling him how I planned to quit smoking but it was just so difficult… as I lit another cigarette. And, once awake, I had to remind myself that it’s been over a year and a half since I quit, not just a few hours. But, lying there, with the familiar aroma of burnt Camel filter in my nose, it seemed as though I had just been out there… and the feeling was oh so good…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t spend the day thinking about buying a pack or anything, or even bumming one for old time’s sake. But it’s funny how much it holds on to you – even after all this time… but I don’t mind. I got all the enjoyment of smoking without any of the rotten side effects.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Things that scare the hell out of me…

These may come as some surprise.

1) Making breakthroughs in philosophy.

I like to think I’m pretty good at finding cracks in arguments, loopholes in reasoning. For the past several months, I’ve been working on a theory of ethics that fills in the cracks and loopholes of traditional ethics and brings ethics into the 21st century. So, today, I sent a professor I respect a short email explaining my theory, asking him where my problems may lie… and I feel like a jerk. I can’t help but be reminded of what my ex and my mom used to always tell me back when I first decided to study philosophy: “Why do you think you’ll come up with something nobody else has so far?” That’s exactly what I’ve been saying to myself as I dragged myself, kicking and screaming, to send this email.

2) Writing comedy

I like to think I can write comedy but, so very often, I remind myself, “You’re not funny. Nobody thinks your funny.” This is why I’m always so surprised when someone laughs at something I wrote, because I have such a negative self-image. And I recently sent a film idea to a guy (who knows a guy) involved in film and he said he laughed out loud and I thought, “Why?”

3) Acting

I’m not even going to explain this one because you know where it’s leading. I really need to have a little more confidence in myself and this is kind of my own way of reminding myself of that. Because the fact of the matter is I am a good actor and I am a good writer and I am smart enough to figure out new wrinkles in philosophy other people haven’t… well, maybe… I guess…

I’ve had a lifetime of people trying to kill off my dreams and this is what it brought me. So, fair warning. If I see you trying to wipe out someone else’s dreams, I’m gonna hit you… and I won’t even tell you why…

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who spends a lot of his time considering what comes next. I know this might come as something of a surprise, since I also spend so much time considering what came before – where do I get the time for now? – but as important as the past is to me, I’m also obsessed with the future. But not the far future – I rarely think in terms of the next decade of my own life – I’m talking about the near future. The next day. The next week. Or the next month.

What’s next?

What’s next?

What’s next?

It’s after midnight as I’m writing this, in an evening in which I’m fairly certain I’m won’t get much sleep if any at all, and I’ve just finished writing seven more pages of the new play. I’m 31 pages in. It’s a silly play, a very dark play, about a murder that the characters are responding to as an oopsie. It’s almost like they spilled milk, except the milk is blood and they spilled it by shooting someone several times at point blank range. It’s a dark comedy, of course, something new to me. It’s a style I admire, though, and I’m very pleased at how easily it’s coming along. Of course, later they raise the dead, have to put down a zombie, and call on the devil. Very strange.

I told Stephanie and Tony and Robert about this at today’s reading and they looked at me as though I was nuts. (Call me typecast.) I feel like people often typecast me as either an serious actor or a comedic actor or a novelist or a playwright – and then a certain type of playwright or a certain type of novelist – but really, I’m all those things. I’m more, too. And I like to grow. I like to surprise myself.

For instance, after this play, I’d like to write a book on ethics. I know my friend (who was first Vicky’s friend) Jennifer, from up Seattle way, won’t like it much. I tend to put her to sleep with stuff like that. But that’s okay. Not everything I write will please everyone. But that’s what’s next – at least, so I thought. More on that in a minute.

The reading of After You Fall went very well today. My writing was received as funny and meaningful, which I like quite a bit. Vicky read and, though novice, did good work. What struck me, though, was how quickly she moved, after it was over, from “that’s over” to “what can I do next?” She immediately started asking me questions about acting. Now, I’m not sure about Vicky as an actress; she doesn’t really strike me as the type. I feel like she’d get her fill very quickly and tire of silly actor people. I don’t know if she’d ever find the fulfillment that’s there because she doesn’t need it as much as I do. To her, it would be intangible and, dare I say, cheap. But you never know.

Anyway, I thought my next thing was going to be a book on Ethics and it might be. However, after the reading was over, I told the actors about this idea I had for a short film. It’s a silly idea, really, not at all meaningful. But it made them laugh and they immediately encouraged me to call a couple of contacts and pitch it. So, I guess I might do that. You never know.

Right now, being out of work as long as I have, the world has become a much larger place. Opportunities can come from any number of directions and I’m trying not to limit myself with how things are usually done. I’m applying for jobs but I’m also trying to sell books and plays, writing new plays, starting new books, and on and on.

Every day, I find myself asking “What’s next?” And every day, the need for an answer becomes that much more urgent.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cronkite’s passing reminds me of a life in journalism…

Or, I should say, one that almost happened.

I grew up on Walter Cronkite. I remember the news in the evening, the gravelly voice, and “that’s the way it is”, but I especially remember being in awe of the idea that one person could be so in touch with the world, so in tune, to actually know what was going on and its context, to see the world honestly. And though my first writing was far from journalistic, I took an early plunge into journalism in Junior High School, writing for the school paper.

I wanted so much to be able to speak with authority. I wanted to tell what happened, to say something important. Sadly, though, I didn’t have what it took. I always fell back on easy one-liners and wit because, despite my love of journalism, I wanted to make people laugh. So, by the time I was on the high school paper, I’d eschewed real journalism for my own brand of opinion pieces, embracing a column I called My Side.

I loved journalism from afar and yet now I stand on the brink of writing my next book of philosophy and find that, though I’ve written more than my share of material to make people laugh, I’ve also learned from the example Cronkite (and so many others) set for me. And I will try in my own way to be in touch with the world and put things in context, honestly. I may not do it in front of a camera – not many of us do – but I think if more of us strived to do that the world might be a better place.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And quite frankly, I love it!...

And a Brit shall lead them...

Britian is teaching "An orgasm a day keeps the... I'm not sure really, but who the fuck cares?"

An orgasm a day? I can't imagine a single problem - Hell, let's all get on the same schedule. "It's 1:30. Orgasm time!"

Of course, there are those who suggest that it will encourage underage sex... really? Do they remember being a teenager? I do and I can promise you I never needed encouragement!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I like Corona but I’m not crazy… or am I…

Did I tell you about the Santa Ana River Trail website? It shows you, step by step, how to make your way all the way up the river trail. When I first saw this, I thought, “What a swell idea! I should try this!” And immediately, I started riding my way east.

This week, I did a twenty mile ride up to La Palma. Then, I did a thirty mile ride up to Coal Canyon. Then, I was ready to make it to Corona, just like the website showed, and here’s how that went.

You should know that the river trail heads east from Featherly Park beneath branches heavy with shade. There’s a water fountain. It’s deceptively serene – because it gets fuck-all tough shortly after. Okay! Point of fact! It gets fuck-all tough FOR ME. I rode out of there in the lovely shade up and down little hills and only my previous experience kept me from thinking it was going to be easy. I knew that shortly before Coal Canyon there’s this hill… it’s not really steep or scary… but it keeps going up… and up… the fucker doesn’t stop… it says “if you were in shape, you’d be able to do this”… and you pant and wheeze… or, at least, I do… and then I got to Coal Canyon feeling like I was going to die but knowing that the hurting was far from over.

The trail drops sharply downhill and the riding is fairly easy again until the trail dumps me out at Green River. This is as far as I’d gone before but I could see the ugly hill the road leading up and steel my nerve and my legs for the climb. Up and up and up I ride until I pass the cars parked on the north side of the 91 freeway. When I reach the summit, it is with stomach-dropping exasperation that I watch the road descend. Downhill is bad because I know it means uphill again and, sure enough, I can see the road ascend once again at the bottom of this hill. It goes up and up and up and appears to level off but that’s a trick. It doesn’t level off. It just turns. And I ride up and up and up and I ride into the turn that goes around and around and around. It looks like it’s never going to stop and, with disgust and dying legs, I dismount and begin to walk my bike. There’s no disgrace in walking, just in quitting.

I walk my bike up and up, around and around, and finally see the hill rise over the 91 freeway. Ain’t that a bucket full of suck. It takes a while but I walk my bike to the top of the overpass and climb back on again for the downhill ride. I should mention that I’m riding my old Mt. Shasta mountain bike/road hybrid. With its Kevlar tires, it’s not getting any flats or any votes for world’s lightest bike. The thing is a tank. I ride it because I think it’ll help condition me. Sure, condition me for walking!

Down the overpass I ride. My legs are rubber. The hills have taken everything out of me. Finally, I reach the Welcome to Corona sign and I’m more disgusted than relieved as I snap a picture for Vicky to let her know I made it and to tell her I’d never make that mistake again… I hope…

Returning now, I can’t even make it up the overpass. My legs have given up the ghost, destroyed by the hills. I’m in such rotten shape! But at the top, I ride again and make it back through the hills without dismounting. I’m thinking I should stop, though, and refuel with one of my Kashi Rolls – but there’s a cyclist coming towards me. Vicky and I make the distinction about cyclists being the hardcore – so this guy really isn’t a cyclist. (For the record, neither am I. I’m just saying…) He’s just a rider out for a ride. He’s cycling on the wrong side of the road. No helmet. No clue. He’s not getting out of my way, even as I flag him down. He’s a moron, so I give him a wide berth lest I catch what he’s got. Back on the trail now, I’m thinking about how tired I am and how much I need to eat. I figure I’ll eat at Coal Canyon but what I forget is that the downhill slope that made the trail such a relief in the other direction is going to make it hell this way… damn!

Up and up I go, seriously questioning my activity of choice at this point – but I make it to the top and ride wearily to the “rest stop”. I lean in the shade and pull out my snack and realize that I’m almost out of water. What to do? Well, I know Featherly has a water fountain and – fuck it – I’m thirsty AND I’m going to be eating Kashi, which requires generous lubrication! So, I much and gulp my water and think, “Shit, I’m tired. I’m taking tomorrow off.” And that’s good because it’s 1am and I can’t sleep so it’s not like I’d have the energy for cycling anyway.

It’s going to take someone in better shape than me to make that ride again… I hope I get to be that person. We’ll see…

Monday, July 06, 2009

Another day… another play…

This is true. It really happened.

I’m going to start a new play. It’s about a married man who figures out that if his friend kills his wife for him and he kills his friends wife for him – because he’s fucking sick of his wife – it’ll be the perfect murder. Ignoring the fact that he got this idea from an old movie, he suggests this to his friend and takes the most passive acknowledgement as agreement and, so, shoots the man’s wife dead. This, of course, exposes his own marital problems and so he is forced to come to terms with his wife. Meanwhile, his friend is a bit distraught that his wife has been killed, so the guy and his wife bring out a copy of the Necrominicon and raise the wife from the dead. But she comes back as a zombie… so they kill her again. The dead woman’s husband, becoming ever more agitated, demands resolution. This is when the killer and his wife call over their next door neighbor who is, in fact, the devil.

And here’s where the true part comes in.

I said to Vicky, “I’m not really sure why the devil’s there. I think once I figure that out, it’ll all come together.”

… seriously…

Because at that point the important thing is making sure you understand why the devil is there… you know, get his motivation straight.

Bloody hell.

And I guess the point of this story is to help you understand why I decided to say “Fuck all” and just start the damn thing and let it sort itself out… because, really… the devil can get his own motivation. I’ve got 11 pages of jokes and if I can’t get just the right motivation, at least he’ll get some good jokes.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My Michael Jackson connection…

No… seriously…

Michael Jackson was so distraught over insomnia that he begged for powerful drug, this is what the headline read. And it is with some irony that I write this at four in the morning. Insomnia is a thing with me, has been for years.

In high school, insomnia was no big thing. I was a teenager and every extra waking hour meant more trouble I could get into… and often did… But then, my twenties were accompanied by the relative calm of marriage. So, I slept. My thirties brought meningitis and marital strife, which fucked things up pretty good. And then, my divorce hit towards the end of my thirties… I might as well have had a farewell party for sleep right then and there, because it’s been a relationship that is, at best, rocky.

A few years after my divorce, during one particular summer, I slept only one or two nights each week and when I did sleep I sleepwalked or suffered from nightmares. By the end of that summer, I tried to kill myself. So, I can understand begging for a drug to get some sleep. My drug of choice was vodka.

Summers are especially difficult due to the heat – I don’t sleep well in warm weather. But recognizing this has helped quite a bit. Knowing it’s seasonal helps. I know it will pass.

But then, I saw this headline and thought, “There but for fortune….” I’ve been there a few times.

Now, instead of fighting it, I play WoW. I watch TV. I blog.