Sunday, June 30, 2013

This Wasn't Supposed To Be My Summer Camp...

        9:35 on a Friday night. 

        Cue the ohhhh yeeeeah music, to play in the background for me. 

        I was at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills – the swankiest of the swank, having a fabulous time, knowing that I looked great. (The ohhhhh yeeeeeah can come in again, here.)
                …What’s that? Am I wearing Herve Leger? Oh stop it, you old dog, you! A lady never reveals her secrets! (I’m about to reveal one right now.)
                I  "felt great" because I was wearing Lululemon: they can make anybody feel like a million bucks, for not quite the cost of a million bucks. But NOBODY WORRY: I wasn’t sporting the Wunder Unders at a lounge (they’re called lounges, right?) at the Sofitel, at the side of Jeremy Renner.

I was at the side of…
               A bathtub.

Because I was puking my party guts up, having just come from Jeremy Renner’s side?


It was because there was a sleepy four year old in the adjoining hotel room, and the bathroom was the most logical place to camp out until he fell asleep. And I wasn’t simply twiddling my thumbs while I waited to hear snoring on the other side of the wall, I was cutting out decorative letters that I’d stenciled. 
I’m gonna give Jim and Lou credit for this one: it was their insistence that I grow up without cable (and with limited television watching) that turned me into a MASTER of entertaining myself.
I would like to point out: nothing, NO-THING about this night was out of the ordinary for me. I feel compelled to share it because it has been my experience that such a crafty tubside Friday night doesn’t seem to be the usual… For anyone else… Anywhere. And therefore it is entertaining to most.
                I was babysitting for a friend of a friend, who was in town for a wedding, and needed a sitter for the night. (Also not unusual – I did this in college when someone’s family would come in town to see a show and needed a sitter.) I was cutting out decorative letters because in two short days, I would begin my reign as the Craft Lady, running a Craft Camp that was aptly called “Artsy Tartsy.” (Again, not unusual because, well… have you ever seen my room? It looks like a craft glitter bomb went off in there, most days.)
Although seeing what happened at the beginning of the night, perhaps I’d already begun my reign as Craft Lady: my friend Kimberly (friend of the woman for whom I was ‘sitting – if anyone has ever met Kimberly, they will agree with my suspicion that she is, in fact, a fairy princess) was also going to the wedding, and as she was getting ready, she asked if I could take the tissue paper and spruce it around the Crate and Barel box she’d put in a gift bag, for the bride and groom. If I’d thought it through, I would have been subtle in my next move of whipping out my scissors to evenly divide the tissue paper, so as to appear more like a normal 23 year old who didn’t carry around craft supplies, but the Craft Lady was in full throttle and it was without shame that I hauled the scissors out of my backpack and got to work on the gift bag.

                …Back to Artsy Tartsy.

Besides being a real-life fairy princess because she is beautiful and sparkly, Kimberly has put me in touch with a lot of the people that I work for, out here. (We never saw Princess Jasmine networking in the movie, but I am sure she passed out Magic Carpet’s number to get him work. Kimberly’s a princess, y’all.) One of the women I work for is her friend Kristy.

Kristy is my spirit animal. 

This puts her in an elite league of women who include (but are not limited to) Tami Taylor, Jen Vellenga, Jessica Grano and Katie McClellan. Ok fine: I totally stole "spirit animal" from my friend Catherine, but it somehow sounds more poetic than "People at whose altar I worship."
I knew I liked Kristy right off the bat when she told me that her kids didn’t watch too much TV and said, “You are looking at the woman whose primary source of entertainment for them is a CD player. We don’t have cable.” (If there are any further questions on my philosophy about cable, please see paragraph 4.)
It was probably due to the fact that as a child, my artwork was just too abominable to display, or perhaps they didn’t want to encourage my already-alarming hoarding tendencies, but Jim and Lou didn’t display a lot of my artwork. By all means if I made something out of clay, they put it on the mantle for a while, but Kristy hangs up a serious percentage of her kids’ art, and I’m pretty sure this is exactly how it should be.
…And did I mention her craft cabinet? Close your eyes and imagine Michael’s Arts and Crafts. As Bachelorette Dez says, “Now times that by ten.” That is basically what her cabinet is. I didn’t even know glitter hot glue existed until I encountered this craft cabinet. (Which, let’s face it: is saying a lot, for me to discover an unknown facet of the craft world)
All this to say: Kristy is moving and she had some craft goodies of which she needed to be rid. We’d had a peculiar exchange a few weeks before; I don’t even remember what the craft was, that I was working on with her daughter, but she said, “You are… You’re crafty…” in a tone that indicated that I didn’t give myself credit, where crafting was concerned. I had more reserve in this moment than I did in the tissue paper moment with Kimberly, as I responded, “Yeah, I… do crafts. I like crafts.”
I say “reserve,” because I held myself back from saying, 


Apparently we’d had a misunderstanding somehow, because I’d given Kristy the idea that I wasn’t into crafts…
Once we cleared this up, there was no turning back. “Artsy Tartsy” was born. She called me a few days before we started and said, “I’ve got a few more kids who want to sign up…” and I said, 

“Well that’s good: I’ve got a few more twenty-somethings that hear I’m running a craft camp and want to sign up, too…”

          I will later discuss the Fifty Shades of Crafty that happened at what turned into three weeks of Artsy Tartsy (so far) but I would like to note: if anyone runs into Big Daddy around town, please ask him how “Art Time with Miss Grace” is going. Because he literally busts a gut and belly laughs every time he says those words to me. Even Princess Kimberly caught onto this and sent me the following, after I stayed with her cat for a week. (Who is just as magical as she is, but didn’t necessarily love all my crafts…)

If you’re a bird, I’m a bird...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

This Wasn't Supposed to be my Competition

        “I was born Origanian, raised on a farm, grew up eating bunnies, ‘coons, whatever was on the land: we ate it.”
        As I listened to this woman who sported an appearance not unlike Lady Gaga, I thought: Well what’s an Origanian? I’ve never even heard of that term before. I’ve certainly got a lot of catching up to do… Fortunately the woman who was interviewing Gaga had the same question, which then allowed Gaga to clarify: Oregonian. She was born in Oregon.

Ohhhhhh now I get it.

        But Gaga didn’t stop there. She continued describing her agrarian childhood. Or perhaps more fitting: life back on the farm. “I came into the barn one day to find my Dad crackin’ bunny skulls and he just said, ‘You gotta eat the bunny, honey… ‘ SO I LEARNED TO EAT THE BUNNY! Next thing I knew, I was in there, crackin’ skulls next to him…”
        I must have blocked out the rest of what she and her compatriots said because before I knew it, we were on a break and I was shrugging out of my, ahem, shrug, anxious to peel it away from my arms. I turned to the girl next to me and offered a weak grin, “I just need to air out my pit stains, that’s all.” Through clenched teeth, so as not to draw attention to the movement of her mouth, she replied, “I can feel the sweat dripping down my arm. You tell no one about this.”
        How did I get here? Who were these people? (Besides the Lady Gaga wannabe, that we all now knew was born on the Oregon Trail…) How is it that I wound up here, instead of somewhere more appropriate, like a Lilly Pulitzer convention where we could all braid brightly-colored Lilly ribbon into each other’s hair? THIS WASN’T SUPPOSED TO BE MY LIFE.
        For those of you that have been speculating since the first quote: no, I wasn’t checking into rehab. And let me apologize for not being forthright with my location at the top: it’s just too much fun to construct this piece otherwise.
        Actually, to the surprise of very few, I was at an audition. And the sweaty girl next to me was my roommate.
        We were at an audition for a new reality show that is being pitched as “The Amazing Race… In Middle Earth.” I am under no legal obligation to keep the name of the show from anyone, but it is perhaps in the wake of Michael Bluth driving the Something car and Ron Howard telling us that “all you have to do is something it,” that I find myself paranoid of some kind of lawsuit and I will say that you can something the tagline of that show, and figure out the rest pretty easily… I should also mention that Carolyn got this audition - I was merely riding her coattails. (or maybe "Hogwarts cloaktails" is more appropriate?) People were encouraged to bring partners to the audition, and this wasn't the first time Carolyn and I put the odds in our favor by forming a partnership. 

See: One Acts, Senior Year. It went something like this:

        Remember how I said that Lady Gaga had some “compatriots” in tow? That wasn’t by accident. A compatriot is defined as “a fellow citizen or national of a country.” And again, surprising very few: these three did not seem to be citizens of Los Angeles, the United States, or really even Planet Earth. In addition to the Mother Monster, there was a guy named Jared, who hadn’t brushed his hair in at least ten years, may or may not have even known what the word “comb” meant, and a guy named Steve. Jared rambled a bit about yoga and chakras and Steve was unusually quiet, except for adding the genius tidbit, “I believe in the world of real.” (In case there is ANY question, anything written in quotation marks here was absolutely 100% actually said. No embellishment. Steve believes in the world of real, people.)
        Carolyn and I observed these three as they sat down during the break (which we were using to try and cool off, without calling attention to ourselves) and somewhere around the commentary about serious pit stains, Carolyn (also through pursed lips, so as not to broadcast her remarks) commented, “I think there are actually homeless people here…” Please hear me when I say that I’m not judging. To each his own. Eat the bunny, honey. (It was at this point that Steve and Jared pulled out a miniature game of chess and started playing – this was of course another move that pointed to homelessness: the bizarre ability to make things materialize out of thin air, for none of the three vagabonds seemed to be toting a bag of any kind…)
        As one might imagine, we heard from a slew of colorful characters before Lady Gaga and her posse stepped up. It was unusual to be able to hear from each of the potential contestants: normally we’d all go into another room, one by one, to talk to the casting people, but the Questers kept it real, and everyone was in front of everyone when they introduced themselves. The two women who were running the audition got up and gave a brief spiel about how they were curious to hear about how we all geeked out, what our interests were, and “while I’m sure you’re all actors, we want to know what you do that really pays the bills.” Which, in hindsight, was kind of insulting to imply that CLEARLY IF ACTING PAID YOUR BILLS, NONE OF YOU CLOWNS WOULD BE HERE.
        The first set of partners was two girls that were both 19, wearing matching Buzz Lightyear t-shirts. It is not for the sake of touting my own appeal when I say that these two were seriously a snooze fest. A little while later we heard from a 28 year old guy named Daniel, who had dreds practically down to his knees. When asked about his eccentrically gothic (or gothically eccentric?) get-up, he replied that yes, he does wear clothes like that all the time. He was followed by a band of fellows I like to call “Martin and the Pirates.” Martin was from Britain and while I definitely zoned out a time or two during his long winded story about how he got here, the parts I did hear told me that he basically came over to the States for a sci-fi convention and never left. Before he sat down, he informed an inquisitive audience member that those weren’t cowry shells on his hat, but in fact tiny monkey skulls. It was up to us to determine if they were real or fake skulls. He was with another man in his mid-fifties, and a young college student, neither of whom said very much until asked how they all knew each other, and the other mid-fifties guy said, “Oh we’re pirates, together.”
        Again, I zoned out, but something about an actual live re-creation somewhere, that involves all three of them playing pirates. Whether they are joined by many other pirates or it is just the three of them, I do not know. Like I said: no judgment from me. Where I come from, people reenact the War of Northern Aggression all the time.
        Next up was a girl named Megan, who was with four other people, although they hardly got a word in. One did pipe up to tell us that they met Megan’s soulmate at the last Sci-Fi convention they went to: he was a Mexican lad who 5”1’ and his name was Pizza. But before she dropped the Pizza Bomb, Megan caught everyone’s attention when she said, “I’ve always been into sci-fi and fantasy. I saw aliens when I was six…”
        Fortunately the casting woman took the words right out of my mouth when she stopped Megan and said, “I’m sorry, can we go back to that, for a second? You saw aliens?” (At the time I was thinking: well what kind of supernatural being can I say that I’ve seen, when I get up there? Geez, I didn’t have any crazy talk prepared…)
        Equally as fortunate was Megan’s revelation that she was, in fact, speaking of the movie “Aliens.”

To quote Forrest Gump: “…that’s all I have to say about that.”

        Then there was Lord of the Rings Girl. I didn’t make up this name for her, it was one of the first things she said: “My friends at school call me Lord of the Rings girl.” She held up her hand, “This is my one ring to rule them all. It wasn’t forged by Sauron, but I can actually wield my own rings…”

This is what I have to say about that:

        At this particular juncture, I will choose to spare you all of what on earth was said when Carolyn and I took the stage; perhaps that shall be revealed at a later time. I will tell you that we didn’t make it to the second round, which wasn’t that surprising, given that we couldn’t compete with Lord of the Rings Girl. (I have a drill, but I certainly have never attempted to forge my own ring…) I will also say that we were lively enough to have Dred boy comment when we sat down: “And we have our first contestants, ladies and gentlemen! That’s gonna be a tough act to follow…”

We knew going in that we wouldn’t be able to compete with people like LOTR Girl, so all we could really ask for was to be memorable and enjoyable. Which, based on our discussion of Joseph Campbell, the Horsehair Worm Parasite and the Emerald Jewel Wasp, I’d say was a success. If you’re even beginning to doubt the validity of all of those references, just quit reading. Quit reading and watch this video of how an Emerald Jewel Wasp turns a cockroach into a zombie to lay her eggs. It’s real.

        Most potential contestants spoke to the casting people about LARRPing (ahem, that would be Live Action Role Playing, for those of you who didn’t know) and Carolyn and I talked about Emerald Jewel Wasps.

Oh, we also mentioned my coloring book. Cause I definitely had one in my bag that day. For those of you who haven’t heard the Jim Carnahan story, this wasn’t my first audition in which I brought up a coloring book. And if you'll notice in the photo below, English isn't the first language of this coloring book. That's right. Helloooooo CHEAP CRAFTS FROM THE 99 CENT STORE! 

(Come on… Did you doubt me?) 

If you're a bird, (Sauron) I'm a bird.