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12:27 pm - Sat 1/8/05
An Obsessive Relationship With Myself About Myself

An Obsessive Relationship With Myself About Myself

Thurs 1/6/04 (6:02 a.m.)

Had an all-too-rare lunch with Chris S. yesterday (I always have to initiate the contact, but when I do, I know he has a great time, as do I. But that's neither here nor there). We had dim-sum in Chinatown...and the fact that I just wrote "we had dim-sum in Chinatown" is another one of my "Reasons I Like Living In A Big City".

(I get such a big kick out of dim-sum, that if and when I make it big, I'm considering having all my meals served up "dim-sum style".)

Chris has had a couple big things happen in the past year: He got to audition again for the next Superman movie (He had auditioned for a director previously attached to the project–Brett Ratner, maybe?–but I didn't know he had gotten in to read for Bryan Singer). And his mom, single for almost all his life–Chris's dad left when he was a toddler-- got married.

If you follow these things, you know he's not playing the next "Man of Steel"–They cast a guy named Brandon Routh instead (Not sure I've got the name right, but I'm in the neighborhood)–but while he was, understandably, hugely disappointed about not getting the role, I think it's pretty friggin' cool that he got seen for it.

(And really, I think getting cast as "Superman" is a double-edged sword. It's an iconic role, and immediately makes you a member of a very small, select club–there have been fewer "Supermen" than US presidents–but what do you do for an encore? And there's "The Superman Curse" to contend with: George Reeves killed himself, Christopher Reeve ends up paralyzed, and Dean Cain is now hosting Ripley's Believe It Or Not. In other words, disaster follows the men who wear the big red "S".)

Jean–his mom–married a guy some years her senior, a "great guy" whose name eludes me right now. But when I heard he was 80 years old, I was pretty impressed: If you're 80, and you're still catching the eye of 65 year old babes like Jean S., you've obviously "got it going on" (I kid, but Chris's mom is pretty cool).

Chris has various "irons in the fire"–from a line of t-shirts to writing his own film project-- but nothing that's gonna happen tomorrow, and like the last couple times I've hung out with him, I was once again struck by an ever-so-slight air of self-deprecating depression. He's not "gloomy" or "morose" or anything like that but he's not the same happy-go-lucky guy I first met back in Lansing either.

I guess almost ten years of struggling out here have taken something of a toll.


I have an audition later today, for "Party", playing a mortician (I don't know anything else about the spot, but I'm already intrigued by the juxtaposition of poker and mortuary science).

It's the second time in a week I've had use for that black suit I recently bought–On Monday, I went in to play a butler for an SBC spot–so I'm thinking that was ninety-something dollars well spent.

(Had to buy a black tie yesterday, which cost more than I wanted to pay. But again, I imagine I'll end up getting a lot of use out of it.)

When I told Chris how things had gone for me in the past year–how I'd gotten more callbacks, and more bookings, with fewer overall auditions-- he asked what I thought the difference was, between the past year and the year before. What I might have done differently.

I had a hard time answering, because I'm not really sure. But my guess, if it was something I did, and not just "the luck of the draw", is that I was more relaxed about the process now. I've booked gigs, so I know I can book gigs, and as a result, maybe I went in this year with a bit more confidence.

And the process, which is really not very "actor friendly", oddly enough, is something I've gotten more used to. I'm maybe a bit "lighter on my feet" in terms of dealing with what's thrown at me (Though I still need a lot of work in that department).

And all this talk of auditions is making me realize I'd really like to get a little more sleep before my thing later this morning...

(6:24 p.m.)

From an old email I sent Jane, that she thought I'd like to re-read before she deleted it:

I don't know exactly what I mean when I refer to myself as not being a "real person". It's just hard for me not to look around--at you and Mark, for example--and think I've really gotten the short end of the stick, with no money, no relationship, no family, etc and so forth. And since no one has been forcibly keeping me from those things, I end up thinking there's something wrong with me.

I thought the analogy of a bunch of clutter being on top of my "box of abilities" was interesting, because I thought that way for years; there was a "shiny, happy person" underneath the shit, and all I needed to do was figure out how to "fix myself" so I could be "the person I really am".

But now, I think it's pretty much all "me". I'm not sure I believe anymore that there's some more authentic "me" to go back to. Now I'm more prone to thinking that all I can do is "accentuate the positive"--and "positive" is definitely there--while knowing the negative is always going to be there as well, lying in wait for me, a hole to fall into whenever I get tired, or aren't paying attention, etc and so on. I'm getting used to the idea that I'm always going to have to "course correct"...

But "outsider status" isn't all bad. I can read a lot, I can do this, I can go to a matinee on my day off, and there's no one to tell me I can't be an actor when I grow up, if that's what I want to be.
In short, it seems almost like I was created in a laboratory in order to be an "artist".

Now if only I actually had something to "say"...

There is an "upside" to being an "outsider". But lately, I haven't felt like the "upside" is as "up" as the "downside" is "down", if you know what I mean.

And this was part of her response to my "Inner Circle" entry:

I think your Red Cross Donation was a demonstration of your place among the "haves," the "powerful," the people who are "part of the solution." I think it's part of your ongoing project to recreate yourself as a person who MAKES things happen, rather than a person things happen TO.

I like that. What better way to show yourself that you're not a "victim" than by helping, in however small a way, the people who really are victims?

Sat 1/8/05 (10:05 a.m.)

Recently finished the Peter Biskind book Gods and Monsters. I was afraid it was going to be way too smart for me when he started talking about "semiotics" and such, but that was basically just one essay; the rest of the book wasn't nearly so esoteric (I'll run into that sort of thing from time to time–Film writing way too intellectual for the likes of me. I mostly want to know how people do what they do–writers, directors, actors, etc–read well-written reviews, and get behind-the-scenes accounts of how certain movies got made, or the experiences people had on particular shoots. I don't care about "Jungian Themes In The Godard Oeuvré". In other words, I'm more Premiere magazine than Cahiers du Cinema).

Found a book that had fallen under my bed awhile back–The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors–and have been looking at that over the past day or so (The book is basically interviews with casting directors, about what their job is like, and what actors do that can make it better...or worse).

In light of the "aside from being an actor, what else am I?" thoughts in my last entry, and my general struggle with chronic low-level depression, this part of an interview with Terry Liebling jumped out at me:

Depression can be an actor's greatest enemy. Cultivate an interest outside of acting so you have somewhere to direct your energy. This way, that energy can become a positive force and not turn against you. Your other interest might be a different facet of show business–writing, for example–but find something that nurtures you and gives you hope. Also, take care of your body. Go to the gym and keep yourself in shape for when the call does come. I know, that's hard to do when you're depressed and all you want to do is stay in bed and watch television but you have to keep yourself whole. Be with people, don't isolate yourself, and don't brood..

And this comes from Junie Lowry-Johnson, casting director for, amongst other things, NYPD Blue (And yes, I have sent her a headshot. A couple times).

Actors cannot afford the luxury of trying to figure out why they didn't get a part. You can't figure out the particulars of any single audition. It is much better to prepare well, to give a genuine audition, and then forget all about it. When it's over, let it be over. The more you distance yourself at that point, the freer you will be from an obsessive relationship with yourself about yourself. To survive as an actor, keep focusing on the work and not whether you got the job or not. That may not be easy to do, but it does work.

"An obsessive relationship with yourself about yourself"? It's like she's been reading my journal!

I bought this book a couple years ago, abandoning it in the middle. And taking it up again, I remember why I stopped reading it–It got a bit repetitious, for one thing (Though part of the point of reading something like that is to get a sense of casting director "dos and don'ts" that come up over and over again), but more than that, reading casting director after casting director. talk about how actors need to constantly be acting, taking classes, attending workshops, and being in plays, and make sure they develop themselves as people, all the while keeping a roof over their head, makes me feel stressed and depressed about how I'm doing out here.

I want to keep auditioning for commercials. For now, I have to work at the bookstore. And not only should I be acting, I want to be acting (Sing along with me, now--I didn't come out to L.A. to work in a bookstore...). And I know I need to have more to my life than acting, both for my personal satisfaction and, interestingly enough, to increase my chances for success as an actor, but where is that time and energy coming from?

I feel overwhelmed. But I have to tell myself, "Right now, I'm doing what I can do. And I'm positioning myself to be able to do more" (I'm not becoming a Notary because I have a hardon for stamping documents; I want it to free me up for more acting/personal growth opportunities).

I shouldn't let all the "advice" stress me out, because when I think about it, there's not a single thing they have to say that I don't, in my heart-of-hearts, want to do. I want to feel "full" as a person, I want to be a successful actor, and I have to just do the best I can to make it happen. I don't have to be making it happen all at once, either. I just have to do the best I can at any given time.

Well, it continues to be scary, but I downloaded an application off the internet, and sent my check in for the Notary class at LA City College next month (Feb. 26th, which is a Saturday).

Apparently, the Universe is in support of this move, because when I went in to work yesterday, Joe–Who's on my shrinking list of "Favorite People At The Bookstore"–was talking about leaving.

Unlike me, Joe is a hard worker, and was fully prepared to make a go of things at the bookstore for the next number of years. But he says "It's not fun anymore", a sentiment which Tim G. (One of the other managers) has echoed.

I think John O's exit was what set all this in motion. Borders, as an entity, does not reward your efforts, at least on a store level–The pay (Even for management) is poor, Corporate often seems to actively be working against you, and the customers are, all too often, rude, demanding pigs.

And yet somehow, when John O. was there, I think a lot of people thought of the store as "a fun place to work".

But he's gone. And most of the other "fun people" are gone, or are looking to be gone.

And while David, the current G.M., is probably not a bad guy, I don't think anyone in the store thinks "he's on our side", like they did with John O.; David is at the store to do the company's bidding, to kiss corporate ass, and to advance, and that's pretty much it. There's no particular reason to "do" for him, like there was with Marie (Or there would have been with John O.), and there's nowhere near the respect for him that developed with John A., the last GM (Even if you didn't like John A.–and I did grow to like him somewhat–you couldn't say he didn't work his ass off, which isn't the perception people have of David).

Long story short, there's no "team spirit", no ésprit de corps, if you will. And without that, there's no reason to be at a place like Borders.

And as I was saying to Tim the other day, whatever is or isn't going to happen at Borders, I just want this period of my life–"the retail years"–to be over. Lacking any desire to advance, either at Schulers or at Borders, I should never have languished in retail this long. The fact that I have doesn't speak well of me.

But I don't want to get into putting myself down. The point is that there's a general sense, amongst the people I've grown to know and like at the bookstore, that it's "time to move on".

And I couldn't agree more.


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