Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fuck tha Police

We found a parking space at a meter in front of the Bank of America on La Cienega and Pico, directly across the street from Nick's Coffee Shop. Pauly and I were once again headed to my neighborhood diner for a bite to eat and I was psyched we found a parking space so close. Yesterday we weren't so lucky, when it was pouring rain and we had to sprint down the block, dodging puddles and getting milldy drenched. This time, all we had to do was get ourselves across four lanes of traffic-- which is not difficult at all. Just look both ways, find your opportunity, and take it. As traffic slowed and the light a block away turned red, Pauly grabbed my hand and we made a run for it across Pico Blvd.

Unfortunately for us, we ran directly in front of an LAPD motorcycle cop pulling out of his own parking space in front of the diner. He let us cross before continuing down the street.

"Maybe he's gonna just look the other way" Pauly said, just as the cop pulled into the gas station fifty yards east of us, flipped a U-Turn and drove down the sidewalk, chirping his siren.

The cop hopped off his bike and asked for our IDs. Steam and rage and bile rose inside of me as I fished my drivers license out of my jeans pocket.

"Sir, your zipper is down" the cop said to Pauly, matter-of-factly before he headed back over to his bike to write us our jaywalking tickets.

Commence MEGA-TILT.

I couldn't fucking believe it. Do I have like, some fucking overdraft on my karmic account? Isn't getting unceremoniously sacked from my job bad enough for one month? And now this fucking bullshit. Fucking JAYWALKING! IN LA!! Unbelievable. I was steaming so hard I couldn't even LOOK at the douchebag fuckface cop as he scribbled away on his little cop notepad so I turned and leaned against a parking meter, facing the complete opposite direction. My blood pressure rose and my heart pounded as I tried to keep myself from screaming obscenities and finding the closest sharp object available and stabbing him in the testicles. Fucking cops.

Pauly on the other hand, found this all hysterical. Between snickers and shakes of his head, he'd occasionally glare at me intently as my breathing intensified or I'd start to mutter expletives under my breath.

"This is gonna be a great blog. I can even write the ticket off as professional research."

When he finally finished writing us up, the cop decided I needed a lecture on top of the goddamn ticket. His blue eyes bore into me as he sternly spoke.

"There are 200 fatalities a year on Pico and thousands more go to the hospital. Bwah blah blah blah bwah bwah baaaa..." I gazed back at him with the dead eyes I usually reserve for my fiercest opponents as he said a whole lotta shit that was supposed to scare me. Whatever. Let me tell you, I've spent the last 29 YEARS OF MY LIFE living off of Pico Boulevard, dining on it and jaywalking across it and I'M STILL HERE GODDAMMIT!!!

The asshole douchebag cop handed both of us our tickets-- even Pauly's "I'm just a tourist" schtick wasn't working with this guy. As he rode away, I allowed my rage to finally escape.

"UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE! I mean SERIOUSLY!! Does he like, get cop bonus points for that!" I said as I stormed into the diner, tossing my sweater and my disgusted self into the brown leather booth.

"I'm not gonna talk to you if you're like this." Pauly mumbled. I could not yet see the humor in the situation the way he could.

With this type of ticket, I'd now be forced to navigate the seven levels of hell that constitute the beureacracy of morons that is the State of California. After watching Showcase have to reverse a $6000 judgement that was made against him BECAUSE OF A TYPO (no joke) and the six-month courtroom drama I endured last year trying to dismiss a ticket I got in Beverly Hills for expired tags because some minimum wage monkey at the DMV just couldn't manage the piece of data entry that involved recording my parking tickets as "PAID," thus releasing the unlawful hold on my vehicle registration and a nasty $718 fine. Try explaining THAT ONE to the L.A. Municipal Court's automated call-in system. So based on past expericenes alone, I fully expect to be sued, jailed, deported, institutionalized and fined six figures before this ticket is resolved.

Once we were seated in the diner, the blonde waitress came over to our table. It was obvious I was in distress. We held up our twin tickets and explained to her what had just happened.

"No way! That cop was just in here! That's terrible-- everyone jaywalks across Pico!" she said, before scampering off to get Pauly his iced tea and me my Diet Coke. My head sank into my hands and I let out a long sigh.

When the waitress returned she asked us for the cop's name along with our docket numbers. "We take great care of these cops. They shouldn't be ticketing our customers, especially when they can see they're coming here."

As we ate and the minutes passed, my tilt cloud gradually lifted, though Pauly still looked at me with trepidation, as if I was an escaped mental patient or a rabid caged animal or something of that ilk.

"I can tell a lot about people by how they deal with law enforcement. You crack under pressure." Pauly said, pointing a finger at my nose.

"No, that's not it at all. I thrive under pressure. This ticket is just so profoundly annoying and will be a total pain in the ass to deal with" I explained. "See this is one of those things you have to know about me Pauly. Bullshit like this happens to me and I'm a total mess. But just for ten minutes. And no one, I mean no one should be around me in those ten minutes. There should be a fucking force field around me or something when I'm like that. I tilt hard, and I get so fucking mad and I want to kill people and smash things-- but only within those ten minutes. Then it passes and I can laugh again."

Just as the words escaped my mouth, a tall, slender blonde in a cropped camouflage hoodie and tight jeans walked past our table, sucking on a cherry lollipop. Pauly's jaw dropped and he wiped a droplet of drool off his bottom lip before he turned to me and shook his head in bewliderment bordering on near-disbelief.

"God, I love this fuckin' town" he said, with a lascivious grin.

And I could laugh again.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Playing the Rush

I'm on a rush. My apologies to anyone who's on a bad streak at the moment, but at least for the last week, I've been beating up cash games like I haven't in almost a year. My bankroll is cresting to a new height, and if I hadn't pissed away a couple hundred in tournament buyins, I'd really be dancing the horah around the living room right now. 3-6 limit holdem at Stars has been good to me. So has the $200 NL at Commerce, despite the awful blind structure. It's $3-5 blinds with a default preflop raise in the $20-25 range. But this post taught me what I need to know.

My most satisfying gambling victories this week, however, have been in various proposition bets and heads-up matches with Pauly . A race to 5 in Roshambo won me a free breakfast, a cocky "one-shot-only, none of this race to 5 crap" Roshambo won me a free lunch, and three consecutive NL heads-up victories yielded me a lovely chicken parmesan at the Italian restaurant on the corner of the block I grew up on. I guess I didn't tilt him too much, because he made me the kickass banner at the top of the page while I was napping this afternoon. Thanks Doc!

So between the welcome distraction of Pauly's visit, some winning sessions at the tables, and all of the exciting travel plans I'm making for the next couple of months (Vegas, Bonnaroo, a possible east coast swing), I'm rather enjoying this whole unemployment thing. But I know it's not forever. I've been in and out of casinos, sleeping through daylight and partying til dawn. I've forgotten what day it is on more than one occasion. I have not read an issue of Variety or the Hollywood Reporter in more than three weeks. I haven't done that in almost 10 years.

What is going on here?

A lot of people in my life are wondering the same thing. Here's what they're asking:

The Top 5 questions I've been asked since getting shitcanned:

1. So when are you going to start looking for another job? - my father

You're on my case about this already? Sheesh. Can a girl have a break after nearly seven years of indentured servitude to egotistical Academy-Award winning billionaires? OK, I know I'm going to need to find some way to earn a living beyond the next 6 or so months. I'm not that deluded. But in Hollywood, it's not like you just open the classifieds. When Charlie lost his first executive job many moons ago, he was out of work for 8 1/2 months. There aren't a helluva lot of executive gigs out there, and when they do come around, one only gets in the door via whispers and word of mouth and intense networking. I have a very solid resume for someone my age, not to mention a lot of people who owe me favors, and I think once I do get in those rooms, I'll do just fine. I always have in the past. I just want to make sure I'm choosing the right ones. It's too important for me to take this time right now to live in the moment and slow down and breathe.

2. So you ARE going back to life as a Hollywood D-Girl? -various biz friends

Wellllll.... I didn't say that. If there's any way for me to work on a flick with Charlie or set something up myself with a writer, I'd do that in a heartbeat than going back to life in an office. It's a hard one to call right now. I'd put it at about a coinflip.

3. What about becoming a professional poker player? That's probably what you really want. -my phishy ex-intern

I have absolutley no delusions of going pro. I am too emotional, drug-addled, sensitive, and under-rolled to attempt that. You know that list in Barry Greenstein's book of all the psychological qualities that make a winning poker player? Well I have like, none of them. I will continue to play to supplement my income as I always have, but I won't be trying to completely support myself through poker. However, I will be playing live a lot more often with all this time on my hands. Hey, so far I've been doing pretty well!

4. Are you going to write more? -Pauly

Now that you've spent two weeks in this place, you can understand, even just a little, just how much this city just inspires laziness. L.A. is a city of 10 AM movies and 2 PM brunches. It's sunny every fucking day. It never sucks to be outside, even when it's raining, because of the novelty of it all. We drive everywhere and valet our cars for six bucks. It's as much a part of our culture here as Chanel bags and plastic surgery.

That said, I do want to write. I do want to find a way to work it into my life on a more permanent basis. I want to attempt a novel, even if I only have characters and themes in my head and virtually no plot. I want to just vomit it onto the page and not care. And when you slink back off to New York, that's probably just what I'll do. I hope you'll hold me to it.

5. What really did happen to that Hasidic lady's cat? -Daddy

His name was Schlomo. He was gray with long fur. And that's all I can really talk about due to some impending legal action.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

On a Freeway in Los Angeles

"When I was a kid, I didn't just want Wil Wheaton's career. I wanted to BE Wil Wheaton." -Showcase

We were passing the Normandie exit when the red truck pulled alongside my car on the 10 East. Pauly had just passed me the tiny glass bowl and I leaned in for a toke as my knee steadied the steering wheel. As I exhaled, Pauly burst into laughter and pointed at the pair of Mexican guys that were giving us the thumbs-up through the window, holding aloft their own tiny glass bowl and sporting shit-eating grins. After a little over a week in Los Angeles, I think Pauly finally understands why so many Southern Californians love weed.

"You people all have to be high to deal with this fuckin' traffic."

Even a few short trips down I-5 titled poor Spaceman to no end. My city is not for some. He showed me a series of photographs he had taken of a bonfire in his backyard, which is really not a backyard, but acres and acres of fields and rolling hills. I could see all over his face just how much he missed it.

With my temporary roommate Pauly down at the Commerce every day covering the WPT, my actual roommate Showcase on a cruise ship in Mexico with Ricky Schroeder, and really no current structure to the life I am living, I've spent a large portion of the last week playing poker, from Poker Stars (where I just turned SILVER) to the Commerce Casino NL tables, to Murderer's Row. I sat out the tournament portion of the evening over at HDouble's last Friday, but bought into the cash game and proceeded to win what a few believed was the single largest pot in Murderer's Row history.

Columbine. It's a 4-way all-in. AA vs. JJ vs. 78o vs. snowman-taterlegs on a 783 flop. Ephro of course had the taters. Rini had one of the big pairs and gazed at the felt in utter disbelief, glassy-eyed and weaving heavily from his Heineken-laced bloodstream as I tabled my top two pair to rake in a pot worth over $250. I couldn't fucking believe it. And this, after a horrible beat I put on the Geek when he got his money in with two small pair and my AA spiked a set on the turn. This must be how Katkin feels every week.

Sofia, of course, was in rare form. After all, this is the woman who had me in stitches only three hours after being shitcanned from my job. At one point after more than a few beers, she looked over at Rick Wampler, who was smiling shyly after dragging a pot.

"Oh, look at Reek. He's so cute I want to breastfeed him. Sorry, Henry."

I really should work on my Sweidish accent now that I have lots of time on my hands. Sofia tells me I always sound German when I try to do her voice.

I hit Commerce with Pauly yesterday. I met him in the lobby after driving over because I couldn't get up to the tournament room without a press pass. Gotta protect those celebs from their stalkers. He introduced me to Steve Hall, formerly of Poker Pages, who, no joke, was toting an autographed Liz Lieu poster. What a goddamn cliche.

While Wil was up in the tournament ballroom, collecting chips in the WPT Invitational and trying to bust Scientologists for $27 each, I sat in a juicy $200 NL game downstairs. A burly, vaguely Phishy dude in a black Card Sharx shirt sat two to my right. He had a shock of what looked like recently un-dreadlocked hair, and the scowl of a man already on his third rebuy.

"Goddamn it. I mean JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! All night I get these great hands and on the flop? NOTHING. You people think it's skill? It's all luck, man." He slammed his fist on the edge of the table before digging into his pocket for another two Benjamins. His friend joined us, taking the empty seat on my immediate right. Phishy guy's friend freaked me out a little bit, not because he was creepy or anything, but because he looked a helluva lot like my evil ex-boss the Big Man. Same beady eyes and leathery skin and gelled hair. There was stubble on his arms and wrists, which made me wonder if he was one of those dudes who shave all their body hair.

As much as he brought back bad memories, the Big Man's doppleganger was the fish of the table, passing his companion's lack of skill by leaps and bounds. As he talked about all the great "suited hands" he was picking up, I could see Ricardo, a jovial, thirtysomething Latino guy I'd played a few sessions with this week literally licking his chops at the thought of busting this dude. I like Ricardo a lot. He's fun to play with and I've never seen him in a bad mood, even when losing. He's also one of those guys that folds if I make so much as a move toward my checks on the river. I'd say at least half of what I took home last night was collected during that very scenario, and I rarely had anything better than an ace high.

After cashing out, I had a drink in the bar with Pauly and Wil, who was celebrating his survival to Day 2 of the Invitational. Though Wil and I had met briefly on my infamous night in the MGM Grand back at the blogger gathering in December, I had barely any recollection of it, and given the Soco-soaked state I was in, it's probably all for the best. Wil did his mentor, Lee Jones, proud-- check-raising ex-sitcom actors with aplomb and calculating his M with lightning-fast precision. He was confident about his play, save for one laydown against Jason Alexander that he questioned. Wil's a cool guy. And he really is "just a geek."

Wil would go on to outlast every celebrity in the event, finishing 23rd. His finish also managed to get Pauly out of trouble with some shifty nihilist Norwegians. Read all about it on the best damn live blog in the business.

Speaking of the doctor, I hope to get the both of us outdoors and into the sunshine this weekend. Aside from my hasidic Jewish neighborhood on the fringes of Beverly Hills, the walls of a South L.A. cardbarn and a twenty-mile ribbon of congested freeway, the poor guy hasn't been able to see much since his arrival. Though he israther fond of the palm trees outside my window. The other morning he told me he forgot where he was until he saw one swaying in the wind.

And though I have made him cookies, I still owe him a lasagna.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Family Showcase

If you haven't already, get yourselves over to the Tao of Poker for the grooviest tournament coverage on the web. While I sit here watching the rain, playling online and taking the slacker lifestyle to new heights, Pauly is out at the Commerce Casino working his ass off to bring us all the highlights of the 2006 LA Poker Classic. If there's a spectacular suckout or a quality fistfight, Pauly's gonna have the scoop. Spaceman is also in town, bad back and all, reporting live for Bluff.

Showcase's family is in town today, as they're all about to embark on a week-long family cruise to the Mexican Riviera. His brother, Hoboken, stayed with us last night. He dabbles in poker, so maybe I'll get to angle him into a heads-up match. Showcase's mom is a trip. The epitome of a nervous Jewish mother, it's easy to see where Showcase gets his sharp sense of humor as well as his entire bag of neuroses. Mama Showcase is quite the white-knuckle flier, usually requiring a cocktail of sedatives to get her onto an airplane. A little bit ago she asked me to look up a satellite weather map for the Pacific Coast in order to check the wave conditions. And not for surfing, mind you.

"Are you really doing this to her?" Showcase queried, exasperated.

"I just wanna know if the water's going to be choppy while we're at sea."

"It's a freakin' CRUISE SHIP! You're not going to feel any waves!"

Showcase then sat down with his mom and gave her a tour of his J-Date profile. This, I thought, was a terrible idea. Here's a whole catalogue of potential daughers-in-law, Ma. Take your pick! Naturally they disagreed about almost every lady Showcase pointed out.

"Hey what about this girl?"


"Tell me, Mom. What is wrong with this girl?"

"She's black."

Mama Showcase would definitely approve of the girl Showcase has been seeing over the last couple of weeks. I met her and I could see us being friends. And she's a nice Jewish girl. Even though it's only been a couple of dates for them, I already have quite a bit riding on this relationship in various prop bets with a certain doctor.
Murderer's Row game tonight. I'm skipping the tourney to have dinner with Showcase's family, but I'll be there in plenty of time for the cash game. Wil was supposed to be making a special appearance, but I've since heard from unidentified sources that his plans have changed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bad Beat by Babs

"Not as gay as I expected." -Pauly on Showcase

Yup, those two met last night. I think they got along pretty well. Unfortunately, Showcase couldn't stick around for long because he had to head out to a rehearsal for a play that he's doing next month, directed by one of our pot dealers. Only in L.A.

Pauly and I spent the afternoon at what is about to become his second home for the next couple of weeks-- the Commerce Casino. I immediately rang up Ryan upon our arrival, mentally putting him at about a 3-1 favorite to be up in the tournament room. Sure enough he was, on a break from a $1K super satellite to the LAPC main event. We chatted for a while on the upstairs terrace before Pauly went off to play in the media tournament and I jumped into a cash game.

I sat in a 4-8 game that was rockish by Commerce standards, and by that I mean four people going to the flop instead of seven. It was still relatively early in the afternoon and there wasn't even a 6-12 game going yet. In the first hour and a half I won one huge pot and lost one huge pot, leaving me $9 up before I went upstairs to check on Pauly's progess.

When I found his table, they were already down to three: Pauly, three-time WSOP bracelet winner Barbara Enright, and some sweaty fat dude in a white shirt. One of the Commerce's typically ugly horse trophies had been brought out and placed on the table. Though Pauly looked to be second in chips when I got there, he went out in third place when he called Barbara Enright's all in with K3. Enright showed Q5, but turned a 5 for the suckout. At least he got in with the best of it. Bad beated by Babs. First prize was a seat in next week's WPT Invitational, but Pauly left with only a T-shirt.

After taking a smoke break to decompress, we signed up for 4-8 and got seated at the same table, but played the whole "we don't know each other" routine. Pauly sat in the 9s, I was in the 5s. I'm not sure if I was playing looser than usual or if I was just getting a lot of starting hands worth a limp, but I was seeing a lot of flops. I missed a nut flush draw right off the bat after picking up A2d in the BB. That was a big pot. Then I won a big one with a set of nines. Then I lost all of that when my top set went down to runner runner straight. Then I won some of it back when I actually sucked out on someone rivering a higher flush than the one he turned. Then it all went away again after my 2 pair lost to pocket queens spiking a two-outer for a set on the river. I was up and down, up and down. but mostly up. I had built up a nice profit of around $130 when this hand came up.

It's folded to me in the cutoff and I raise with AJo. The fat, white-haired dude on my left folds, the small blind folds, and Pauly calls from the BB. He checks in the dark with a smirk and we're heads-up to a J52 flop. Great flop for me. I bet and he calls. The call doesn't mean a helluva lot to me because I know he'd take one off here with a very wide range of hands. He's also Pauly, and I know he'd like to beat me a hand so he can lord it over me for days to come. Either that, or he's calling with lower pocket pair or even a jack, but his kicker isn't as good as mine, and I'm gonna get him on the big streets anyway. Turn is an 8. He checks again and I bet. He raises. Rrrrrreaaallly? What's he got here? 99? TT? Those make a lot of sense to me. I'd pop it with nines or tens myself. KJ? Even better. I three-bet it and he looks at me, his jaw open in bewliderment. He calls the bet and the river is a blank. He bets and I call. I turn over my AJ, fully expecting to see the pot shipped my way. I'm mentally spending the money until Pauly turns over his J8s for two fucking pair.

Motherfucker. At least I dumped off forty or so bucks to him rather than some douchebag in sunglasses. Both of us left up, in the +70 range and grabbed a bite at the diner near my place.

Spaceman just got into town as well. He'll be covering the LA Poker Classic for Bluff. He's on his way over here and I hope my freeway directions were clear enough for my favorite Tennessee boy. Right now, though, in this moment, the scene is pretty funny. Pauly and I, side by side on my green couch, each of us on our laptops, pecking out posts. I think I've really gotta stop now and take a bong hit because it's really too geeky for words.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In the Middle of the Day

I just saw Phil Gordon's Hooters Hold'em commercial. Wow. His stock just dropped WAY down for me. I can't even imagine the shit the Tiltboys, not to mention his Canadian girlfriend are giving him for it. Don't get me wrong, he's still dreamy. But sheesh, selling out to a titty-themed corporate wing joint-turned-casino? On the other hand, the new Full Tilt TV spots are pretty great. I love the Lederer/Seidel one with Erik's seven clanking bracelets.

I cleaned out my entire office this weekend in just under three hours. I threw almost everything out and carried home the balance in four bankers boxes that are still in the backseat of my car. I don't even know what most of it is and I have to bulldoze away some space for it in the corner of my bedroom that is about to become a makeshift office. I've been writing a lot this week, but in random locations around the apartment. The dining room table. In my bed. But primarily, on the couch in the living room while exploring the wasteland of American Daytime Television.

I was sorely disappointed to discover that the cable reruns of Dawson's Creek that used to soothe me on sick days had been replaced by a slew of bad Warner Brothers movies from the late 90's. Without my Capeside fix to get me through the morning, I turned instead to jewels like The Maury Povich Show which featured a "reformed" teen bad-girl on a return visit to the show, her whoary garb of the past replaced by a demure cardigan and slacks. Maury explained that our little Lolita was about to find out if a certain pimply skater-looking boy was indeed the father of her now 3-year old daughter. AND that he was the 15th guy they had tested! God Bless America.

So being unemployed is sort of fun for now. I've always wondered who those people walking around L.A. in the middle of the day, sitting in cafes and shopping and going to 1 PM movies were. Now I'm one of them. I'm certainly in the right habitat for it. I've heard Showcase audibly growl at me in jealousy as he trudges off to his day job each morning.

Pauly is on a plane right now, on his way here. What a way to start off a couple of months of freedom than a two-week stretch of degeneracy with the good doctor, huh? I'm going to make him a lasagna. And maybe some cookies. I think he was a little cross with me last night when I doubled through him on a donkey $50 NL table on Poker Stars. He limped and I raised preflop with 88. I'd been raising a lot of pots and had just doubled through on another poor soul, so I had a bit of a maniac image. The flop came JJT. Pauly bet close to the pot and I raised. Then he pushed all in. I called in a shot. I just knew I had him-- he wanted to push me off the hand and show his two threes, but I was so sure I had him.

"How the fuck do you call there?" he wrote.
"'Cause I knew I had u beat ;) "

He got his revenge and doubled back through me later on with an ace high flush vs. my king high flush. We both left up a couple of buy-ins. I'll take it. I've been subscribing to the hit & run theory lately, and it's been working so far.

That's all for now. I have a tomato sauce to make.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dining Out in the Aftermath

I’m touched...overwhelmed...floored by everyone’s kind words, calls, and emails. Though I’ve been pushed clear out of the sky, I feel almost as if I’ve landed on feathers because of the incredible people in my life. I’ve been hugged, soothed, cooked for, smoked up, taken out, gifted with bottles of scotch, and dined on one of the most succulent bone-in rib-eyes of my life in recent days. I’ve been back to my office exactly once, to retrieve my immediate personal stuff and pick up my cell phone charger, which I’d left in the wall. Everything was exactly as I’d left it the minute I left for that fateful meeting, down to the Johnny Cash album I’d paused on iTunes when I got the phone call. I grabbed my photos, a few books, some financial documents, and a number of assorted blazers and suit jackets and Banana Republic button-down shirts that had found their way onto hangers behind my door. No one saw me, and I was in and out of there in fifteen minutes.

I was pretty numb all weekend. Not angry, not sad or depressed or anything like that. More just shocked and bewildered and unable to focus on anything really. I went on a mini-bender and played poker badly while thankfully not bleeding away too much money. I had long conversations with Charlie and Bean and Showcase and Pauly. After breaking the news Friday night, I avoided talking to my family. My mother took it worse than I did, descending into quivery-voiced hystronics, which turned into me calming HER down, which kind of upset me even more.

The sun rose on Monday morning and I officially crossed over into life as an unemployed D-Girl. I rolled out of bed around 10, precisely the same time that everyone would be shuffling into the Monday morning staff meeting. I fired up a joint and wrote for a couple of hours, returned a bunch of phone calls, and then got a bunch of phone calls, mainly from confused people I used to work with who wanted to know what the fuck was going on. By lunchtime I’d had enough. I threw some stuff in a bag and got in my car. It was warm and clear and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some sunshine and spend my first day of freedom outside.

Only my car would not start. What a goddamn joke.

The car went to the shop and Charlie bought me dinner later that night. He beat me to the restaurant and I found him at the bar, polishing off the last of the three olives he always ordered with his martini. He looked good. He always has, but since his own exodus from those hallways over 2 years ago, he’s lost maybe 40 pounds and ten years off his face. He hopped off the barstool and pulled me into his arms.

“I am so glad you’re out of that toxic fucking place ” His green eyes twinkled and I squeezed him back, laughing. Charlie flagged down the bartender and I ordered my own martini, swapping out the olives for a twist of lemon. I hate olives.

It sounds cheesy, but Charlie is like the older brother I never had. I grew up taking care of so many people that I have a really hard time allowing others to take care of me. Yet Charlie has had my back since the moment we met 6 years ago. He was a studio executive and I was a 22-year old intern for a coked-out producer with a deal on the lot. I needed a full-time gig and I heard Charlie needed an assistant. I got one of the coked-out producer’s D-Boys to hook me up with an interview. Even though I was utterly green and he had no reason to hire me, we clicked from the get-go and would stick together for over a year at the studio and then for three more at the Big Man’s. It took maybe two weeks before we were finishing each other’s sentences and bickering like old friends.

In a town where most executives are loathe to let anyone on the come in on their secrets, Charlie threw open the book. He taught me everything I know about story and structure and how to talk to writers and how to write great notes. He got me to trust my taste and not sweat the small stuff. He’s someone who truly appreciates cinema, reveres its history, stays up night after night thinking about it and dreaming up ideas. He put me on projects and took me to location and stood up for me at every turn. I drank it all in, aware at every moment how lucky I was to work for someone so caring in a business so cruel. Charlie and I fit perfectly and I loved every day we worked together, through a dozen films, three addresses apiece, two parents with cancer and the birth of both his children. After Charlie left to produce on his own and I got my promotion, we became perhaps even closer friends. We’d grown up together. And now, with both of us on the other side of our years on Wilshire Blvd., we clinked glasses over the mahogany bar of a legendary L.A. steakhouse, toasting my freedom.

We talked about surviving outside the Hollywood system while I dove into a medium-rare bone-in ribeye that moved me in ways that usually only good sex, great drugs, or winning a shitload of money can. I mean, this steak was like a religious experience. Succulent, juicy, maybe an inch thick. The garlic roasted potatoes weren’t bad either.

Charlie and I closed down the place. The valet came inside to give us our keys because he was calling it a night. The waitresses were counting their tip money and the bartenders re-racking glasses. We walked out onto a nearly-deserted Santa Monica Boulevard, a light fog blurring a string of green lights extending for what looked like miles.

“Do you remember what I told you was the first commandment of this business?”
“Never underestimate Hollywood’s ability to disappoint you.”
“That’s why you’re going to be OK. That’s why you’ll make it in the end if that’s what you want. You already get that and you’re still so young. Most people in this town will never get it.”
“Oh stop it, you’ll make me blush.”
“Call me later.”

Charlie squeezed my shoulder and headed for his silver minivan.

“Hey Charlie.”
“Is it weird that right now I don’t feel that scared?”
“No. But you’ll probably freak out in a week or two.”

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I gave Hollywood my twenties and all I got was this lousy severance check

At 5:30 this afternoon, I got fired.

Yeah, you're reading that right.

About two weeks ago, the president of the company asked me to meet with him privately and for undisclosed reasons. I had no idea what it was going to be about, and his assistants didn't have any clues to offer me. I freaked out a little, thinking it was gonna be bad news, but after a number of conversations with my ex-boss Charlie and a few friends familiar with our company politics, I changed my mind. I became convinced it was something benign. Then the meeting got cancelled. And it wasn't rescheduled. I breathed a little easier. Two entire weeks went by. Then the meeting went back on my books again this morning. I had almost forgotten about it.

One of my peers at work, a guy who was promoted at the same time and to the same level I was had the same meeting on his schedule. I was still thinking it was something innocuous, like a new project, or a title bump or something of that ilk. He wasn't so convinced.

"I really don't have a good feeling about this." His usual New York tough-guy facade was crumbling.
"I'll bet you a dollar it's nothing bad."
"OK, you're on."

Something inside of me shifted when I looked in his eyes and shook his hand after he took the bet so quickly. It's like when you're at the table with pocket nines and the flop comes king high or something and the old rock falling asleep in the 1s leads at you. Something told me my hand wasn't good anymore.

It was only 3:15 so I still had a good two hours to freak out to various individuals in my life before getting called down there. I talked to Charlie and he offered me 5-1 that I wasn't getting fired. I took the action. Showcase sent me an email letting me know he picked up freshies for the weekend and wrote as like a funny ha- ha joke "P.S. I hope you don't get fired." I read the same eight pages of a script three seperate times before giving up and flinging it against the wall.

My phone rang at twenty after five. The ex-reality show cast member assistant to the president of the company told me that I should come down. I walked out my office door, down the hallway, took the shortcut through the file room into the side hallway, and crossed myself before punching in the combination on the CIA-style keypad to get into the main hallway. Mr. President was standing right outside his office as I arrived. We went inside and he shut the door.

"I wish I was calling you down here to tell you good news, but I'm not, so I'm going to be very direct about this. We're letting you go."

I couldn't look him in the face anymore. I felt like I'd been smacked by a truck and thrown fifty yards. My brow furrowed and my eyes wandered down to this ugly little southwestern-stlye rug he had spread out beneath the coffee table. It was blue and orange and looked faded from the sun. I stared at the rug and the wooden legs of the table as I heard phrases like "It has nothing to do with intelligence or performance" and "you're not the only one this is happening to" and "The Big Man just wanted to make some big changes." I couldn't process anything. I had played this scenario out in my head dozens of times in flights of perverted fancy but I never thought it would go down like this. At 5:30 on a Friday with no warning less than two months after a stellar year-end evaluation.

We go through life often not knowing when certain moments will be the last of their kind. Not knowing that the hug you gave to your college roommate on graduation day would be the last one you'd ever share. That the half-hour visit you paid your grandmother before getting on that plane back to school would be the last time you'd see her alive. That the lazy morning sex with him on that Tuesday would be the last time for the two of you. I certainly didn't get up today thinking today would be my last day of employment at a place I've given the last five years of my life to.

I walked around Beverly Hills for a long time in stunned silence. After a few blocks, I called Showcase. He thought I was joking when I told him what happened. Then he said something that seven seperate people would say to me in the hours to come as I broke the news:

"I really think this is a blessing in disguise for you."

You know, it really may be. It's no secret I wasn't happy there. You all certainly know that. But despite my obvious discontent, I was still damned good at my job. My writers loved me and respected my notes. I'm just not a typical Hollywood person. I'm not a perfect fit into this industry. And that's fine. I like who I am. I'm not ready to change that for a bunch of showbiz fucktards.

The level I'd reached within the company essentially demanded that I drink the Kool-Aid. Give into the lifestyle. Make Hollywood more or less a 24-hour job. Make the Big Man's problems my problems and care about them deeply despite the fact that I know he's a mercurial egomaniac who will never give a shit about anyone who works for him. I resisted the Kool Aid as much as I could for as long as I could and he knew that. In an environment where no one tells him "no" and everyone bends over backwards to kiss his ass, the Big Man had to understand, even in the smallest way, that I had his number.

I'm still in a ridiculous amount of shock, but I'll be OK. I even went to play in the Murderer's Row game tonight to get my mind off it all. I have to kick my poker game into some serious gear now that I have no other regular income!

I am unemployed for the first time in my entire life. I've worked nonstop since graduating college, barely stopping for a vacation let alone an extended break. I haven't updated my resume in 6 1/2 years because I haven't needed to. It's strange having so much responsiblity evaporate in an instant. I have no idea what I'm going to do, or even if I'm going to go back to the industry. No immediate plans. For at least this week, I'm just floating free.