more hanging out with stuntwomen, less eating chips

I did web research on Zoe Bell and the next day we rented the documentary Double Dare.

Between the video store and home, we stopped at the supermarket for movie snacks. After we both made fun of the vitamin-fortified tortilla chips, Frank heckled me for stopping in front of the bags of Veggie Booty.

"I know you," he said, "You had to stop as soon as you saw with spinach and kale."

"Shut up," I said, "I did not."

Frank does an impression of me staring at the Veggie Booty, mouth hanging open.

We were suckered into a three for $5 deal and got Veggie Booty AND Pirate's Booty and Pirate's Cannon Balls. Hell yes. And tortilla chips and salsa. And two bottles of Lambic.

"Do you want me to take any of those?" I asked Frank, who was carrying all four bags. He shook his head and I said, "YOU DON'T MIND BEING SO FAT?"

"Damn," he said, looking at me strangely.

And I did what sometimes happens when what I say comes out wrong: laugh uncontrollably without explaining. This is sad because the other person, understandably, doesn't know that I'm laughing at myself, not at them. It's a total jerk move and I inadvertently do it on a semi-regular basis.

At checkout, the cashier sees that Frank's bag/arm ratio is high and invites him to put the snacks on the counter. I decide to make another joke because theoretically it would be funny since it would be so obviously on purpose and not a mistake. I go to whisper, "Tell him your fat arms are getting tired," but what came out was, "Tell him your fat ti...ARMS are getting tired."

Frank: "You almost just said that my FAT TIRE IS GETTING TIRED."

Which, fuck, was true. And we decided then that it was ironic to get all psyched over a film about ladies who are cool because they seem so fun and active and alive while we have a hard time just carrying all of our chips to the couch.

Double Dare involves Zoe doing crazy shit like being lit on fire while spiraling through the air as Xena the Warrior Princess's double in New Zealand, then visiting LA and wearing a PVC dress to the World Stunt Awards where she fell into the bushes.

It's about her moving to California and staying with Jeannie Epper, Lynda Carter's stunt double from Wonder Woman, and flipping off a 35-foot tower onto a air mattress and auditioning for Quentin Tarantino to be Uma Thurman's double in Kill Bill.

It's about the Hollywood stunt world and Zoe and Jeannie's friendship and it made me, just like after seeing Death Proof, want to drink beer and crack jokes with Zoe or maybe go on joy rides in other people's cars, hit punching bags, learn how to walk in plastic dresses, get things pierced, and do stunt training, though I'd probably just bounce mildly on the trampoline or read while she hurled herself off a building or something.


I want to AT LEAST hang out with stuntwomen

Last week someone walked off with the catalytic converter from under Frank's Toyota 4Runner and we learned that people do this for the platinum and other precious metals inside.

When we were told that they especially like ripping off 4Runners and that it happens kind of all the time, Frank threw down the few hundred bucks for a new catalytic converter and then rigged the shit out of it.

I believe the message that the chicken wire, chain link, and padlock sends is:


With the new catalytic converter, the engine's noise is now a teensy bit more evocative of monster truck shows and drag races. And we didn't know if we liked this, but we were immediately resigned since we'd already spent too many hours on the topic and the thought of going back to the mechanic made us want to lay down and take a couple of long, relieving dirtnaps.

This week I avoided driving the T4R and stayed out of it until we went to the Vista Theatre on Friday night to see Grindhouse.

When Frank and my super film geek friend, Matt, talked about Grindhouse before, I apparently spaced out because I knew nothing about what to expect. Not that it was a double feature sandwiched between fake trailers. Or that it was aping the 1970s 'grindhouse' theaters that showed double/triple B-movies. Or that these films by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino featured zombies and jars full of nutsacks (Planet Terror) or stuntwomen and my favorite place to get a taco special in Austin, Guero's (Death Proof).

And I didn't know about Zoe Bell. Here you see Zoe hanging on to the roof of a Dodge Challenger while being chased by maniacal killer Kurt Russell. Earlier in the movie she's a funny, laughing girl who reminds me of people I know and like. Then she turns into a bad ass of staggering proportions. I am impressed.

I want to have a beer with ZB and maybe get a back handspring lesson because I'm suddenly really bummed that I quit gymnastics and martial arts. I COULD BE A STUNTWOMAN RIGHT NOW. If I hadn't quit every sport I played and if I hadn't been afraid of heights and if I'd had a slightly different personality.

And I wasn't the only one affected by ZB and wanting to get my thug on. While driving home, Frank might have mentioned that now he's glad the new catalytic converter is a little louder, because we sound TOUGH.

How I know I live in LA - 1

Sometimes I wonder if Katie Holmes is okay.

I mean I really think about it.

Totally freaks me out.


The Pop Tart connection

What I like about this is that I've known MARTIN, who will be capitalized until I'm allowed to call him by the nickname that he doesn't care for, for 14 years and while we haven't seen each other in a long time, I just got this postcard from him telling me to drink clam juice and eat Pop Tarts.


I don't know if MARTIN did this on purpose but, ironically, Pop Tarts were my link to Hollywood. Before the summer of 2005, when I was the towel and laundry girl for the American Idol tour, I don't know that I'd ever eaten a Pop Tart and certainly had no strong feelings about them. Now I have night terrors overlaid with an announcer's voice booming, "Kellogg's Pop Tarts Presents American Idols Liiiiive!" and mere mention of the strawberry milkshake flavor, especially when followed up with the words "Freeze 'Em and Eat 'Em!", gives me mental bulimia.

That summer I was friends with Alan (nickname Milky, as in Strawberry) whose job it was to traipse around the arena floor in a full-sized Pop Tart costume posing for photos and high-fiving fans who I would like to say were kids but who were actually mostly middle aged women.

My job, in addition to leaving towels in dressing rooms and making sure someone did the laundry in each city, was also to hang fifteen 8-foot-tall Pop Tart banners in each arena before the concert. Towards the end of the tour, I was so fucking sick of those banners that I made the executive decision to throw a bunch of them in the commercial-sized trash compactor at the Portland, Maine venue.

There was no practical reason to do this unless you consider I was PRACTICALLY going to lose it if I had to deal with one more daily reminder that Kellogg's Pop Tarts was presenting American Idols Live.

It was an emotionally satisfying and therapeutic situation. Right up until I got a radio call from the Pop Tart crew leader, Marisa, asking me to hang up all the extra banners for the benefit of the executives coming to the show. I paused, had a moment of silence, and then asked her over the radio to meet me in the production office so I could tell her something.

Last summer, as assistant tour manager, I had more distance from the tens and tens of thousands of Pop Tarts following us around in the refrigerated truck. I spent more time in the office and less on the concourse, so it was easier to ignore the Pop Tart dance floor and Pop Tart karaoke machine. And there was no Pop Tart flavor request list posted on the bus so I didn't even have to trouble myself to write POO on it.

But anyway, MARTIN, thanks for the suggestion.


Serious face

I love those furrows in Mary Beth's brow.

Because we are related, I do the exact same serious face, a serious face so powerful and forehead crinkle so tremendous that today it was actually HEARD OVER THE PHONE when Jimmy called from Columbus, Ohio for a Mexican restaurant recommendation.

I was huddled over the computer looking for Abuelo's address and apparently my face creased so mightily that Jimmy felt the need to say, "You got your serious face on, huh?" and then laughed at my expense.

Whereas in this photo, Jeremy is all, "Whatever Mary Beth, I came to sit on this lawn and hear some MUSIC and I don't care if we have matching glasses and both look kind of intense and German, I am INTO THE MUSIC and am here to have fun so just let me know when I can look over without fear of your eyebrow lunging off your forehead to bitchslap me."


Dog faces

Iska, Ironton, Minnesota

What you don't see in this photo is the Alaskan Malamute licking and eating deer carcasses or tearing a mouse's head from its shoulders as I once witnessed. Gail pointed out that the mouse beheading wasn't as "bad" as I shrieked so I stood corrected and agreed that, yes, it's just nature.

But how much did I want to laugh when shortly thereafter, Iska clobbered the baby's face with a huge, wet, mouse-flavored kiss in front of Gail's mom, who didn't know about the rodent breath?

Lulu, Chicago, Illinois

Lulu is very bad.

I don't know if John Cusack would agree but I think it's hilarious that she attacked him when he came to Sunny and Shane's door. He had a scarf on his head so he was unrecognizable to Lulu who otherwise surely would have identified him from Better Off Dead and High Fidelity.

Yogi and Ariel, Jerusalem, Israel

I only met Yogi once when I helped walk him around the East Village but that walk alone gave me no doubt that this is a spirited dog who would enjoy a good Jewish holiday like Purim. Yogi is not the kind of dog to deny feasting and gladness and commemoration of the time when the Jewish people in Persia were saved from extermination.

Whether or not Yogi drank, as the Talmud says, until he couldn't tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai" is hard to say but I'm sure he stood by Ariel's side during this joyous time.


Dr. Quynh, medicine woman

Today I visited two medical offices: Planned Parenthood Hollywood and JC Penney Optical.

The first was for routine care and the second for an eye exam. I found out that my eyes are still hovering perilously close to legal blindness and that there is indeed a reason that I pay extra for special lenses in order to not look like Woody Allen.

I was also reminded that I'm not ALWAYS the nicest person in the world. Initially I was all laughs. I liked how PP Hollywood had the waiting room televisions turned to E's 101 Juiciest Hollywood Hookups. It was fitting. Not only were people's eyes glued to the screen, but many were chuckling aloud to the "hilarious" celebrity commentary. How juicy. I smiled at the carpet when the girl next to me made noisy phone calls about headshots and shoots and how very booked up she is next week.

I was even tolerant when she decided we were buddies and turned to me with asides about commercials and new reality programs.

"Why'd they cast HIM? That's BS!"

"Who the hell are Katie and Peter? Why do they get a show?!"

When the nurse called me back to ask intake questions, she seemed tired and not particularly friendly. I answered her politely and went into smile overtime so she'd know I didn't care that I'd waited an hour and a half and would wait another hour and a half to leave. I wasn't a complainer who would make her day more trying than it already was. I tried to imagine what it'd be like to work at Planned Parent Hollywood and sympathized. By the time I was following her to the bathroom to pee in a cup, she'd cracked a grin or two and I felt we'd reached the sort of truce that, in another setting, would have lead to an afterwork margarita.

Later, after shuffling between more rooms and thumbing through several copies of In Touch magazine, I biked to Glendale to find the JC Penney optometrist that 1 (800) CONTACTS said I had to see before they'd fill my prescription. I made my way through the ladies clothing and wove around the makeup counter before finding the empty corner that holds the optical department.

I filled in their intake forms and was told, "Dr. Quinn will see you in a moment." Fantastic.

Dr. Quinn, a young Asian woman, appeared. I got the feeling that it had been a slow day for her. Like she'd just thrown on her white jacket after ripping off fuzzy slippers and slamming them into her desk drawer with the Sudoku book that keeps her company. She seemed really, overly, happy to see me.

But that's cool. I was geared up and ready; I was all LET'S DO THIS, DR. QUINN because I need some fucking contacts and the internet won't give me them until you say so, so just go ahead and put in those drops that make my eyeballs numb or dilate or WHATEVER. I don't even care if I can't ride my bike home, I will crawl. That is how badly I want to get this over with.

Dr. Quinn, however, started jawing on and on about how she can't do the exam accurately unless she knows which kind of Acuvue contact I wear, because there are three kinds of Acuvue disposable contacts and for some reason - that I don't understand because it's spoken in opticalese - it makes a difference. I don't know offhand which Acuvue I wear.

I ask, "Can't you just examine me and I'll get whatever contact I need in that prescription and measurement or whatever?"

Dr. Quinn looks at me like she's not in mood to repeat herself but she puts on a huge plastic smile and measures out a heaping dose of professional condescension in tones dripping with exaggerated friendliness. Now I'm pissed. Because I don't like fake and I don't like patronizing. I'm also having trouble concentrating with my associative flashbacks involving Dr. Michaela Quinn/Jane Seymour and the television series in which she got to "befriend" the ruggedly handsome mountain man and adopt the kids whose real mom died from a rattlesnake bite.

So I think I was distracted when I agreed to pretend I wear another type of contact lens, just so she'd GET ON WITH IT.

I told myself at this point that I need to get over my irritation, that this eye exam is a dumb thing to get moody over. Maybe if I had considered how it would feel to work at the JC Penney optical department everyday I'd have relaxed, but instead I concentrated on how every word coming out of her mouth sounded disingenuous and how I wanted to smack a bitch. I was not having a Thich Nhat Hanh moment.

"Jessica, do you have any particular occupational needs?"


"Jessica. Please HELP ME so that I can HELP YOU."

I pause to take a deep breath. Then I led her to believe that I work with computers which she took as Information Technology. Haha! I almost cried last night just trying to change the masthead on this blog. I am very far from being an IT person.

Then, out of nowhere, Dr. Quinn belted out with much engineered enthusiasm and wild laugher, "IT'S ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE A COMPUTER PERSON AROUND!" Yikes. I sink deeper into the ditch of anti-compassion that I've been digging.

After I've proved I'm almost legally handicapped and am thinking about how it feels cool to touch my totally numb eyes, she tells me how nice it is to work with me, someone her age, how most of her clients are teenagers who were born the year she graduated from high school and how her brother is only a year older and married, with a family, and how she's making her way, out there in "the jungle", but "Hey, we all have our issues!"

And finally for a moment, I understood and my heart went out to her just a tiny bit. Yes, we do all have our issues don't we? I also got her business card and found I'd been spelling her name wrong the whole time.


Apocalypse cloud

Riding along the bike path last week I vaguely wondered what was up with the orange-colored cloud coming from the west.

Anywhere else I'd assume that clouds shouldn't billow furiously in shades of beige and orange. Anywhere else I'd say that a cloud that blocks the sun so urgently that I must take off my sunglasses to keep from crashing into the guardrail between me and the Los Angeles River is just not right.

But I really don't know what to expect from LA. One day a helicopter circled over my neighborhood, Atwater Village, while I was sitting in the backyard.

"Do they shoot people from helicopters here?" I asked Frank.

"This is Los Angeles, not Beirut." He said.

"So, no?"

The LA River looks placid with ducks and reedy vegetation but I have a feeling those ducks are paddling with a couple of extra feet under the water. I am not into the idea of one day birthing a child who has flippers. Nor would I want my flipper baby shot by the police helicopters but I might be overreacting.

The day of the orange cloud I watched the other cyclists the way I watch flight attendants during turbulence - for a clue as to when to start freaking out. The cyclists, not surprisingly, were being cool about it. I imitated them and cast bored glances toward the cloud, which I secretly thought was looking more and more of how I imagine the kickoff of the day of reckoning.

I asked myself why I was still riding towards apocalypse cloud and remembered September 11, 2001, when I happened to be driving a 15-passenger van full of people from Ithaca to Manhattan while simultaneously listening to the radio and shitting my pants over what was happening at the World Trade Center.

What I didn't yet know last week was that a couple of bozo kids from Chicago were playing with fireworks up in the hills and set a 160-acre brush fire that looked like this from other parts of the city. (Photo credit: LATimes)

This means that the smog here is not THAT BAD (yay!) and that sometimes teenagers are idiots. Matt's truck didn't burn to the ground though it was within 50 feet of burning to the ground, good news indeed. And finally, the cloud was unrelated to both the trumpet of doom and the tribunal of penance. Awesome.


Dear Radio Shack

Dear Radio Shack,

I would totally consider applying but that guy scares me. And while I'm sure your holiday jobs are "sweet", I'm gonna be busy.

p.s. Which holiday are we talking about again? Arbor Day? Earth Day? Thomas Jefferson's birthday? Yeah, I'm busy.