Mary Lynn Rajskub – Don’t Tell My Mother

I LOVE Mary Lynn – Every time she comes to our stage, she’s just so effortlessly cool.

Last time I saw her, she greeted me with this buttery-melting personality – it destroyed my usual awkward anxiety. Plus, she’s just a damn good storyteller.

Check out her story here about a terrible roommate situation:

 

 

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The Agency – Chapter 2

Hi Friend.

Losing my first internship ignited something in me – a burning yearning. I wanted to prove Entertainment Now wrong and show them how successful I could be. I was determined to nab a replacement internship immediately.

Jez trudged into the kitchen around 7 a.m. that morning, surprised to see me fully dressed. Warily ,she furrowed her brow and said, “You were fired. You are officially unemployed. What are you doing up so early?”

“Thanks for that perfectly stated reminder,” we exchanged knowing glances before I winked and continued, “A paid entertainment gig doesn’t just fall out of thin air, Jez. I had a dream stolen from me yesterday.”

Jez craned over the counter and yawned as she hovered over my coffee. “I remember. So why are you so happy and perky today then?”

“I’m going to steal that dream back. I’m going to get a new internship. I won’t be broken down in one swing. Maybe, this slight speed bump is part of my story.”

I stared at Jez who was still sniffing my freshly brewed cup of Joe. I didn’t want any of her more of her morning breath germs, so I snatched the mug off the counter with a kick of sass, and continued, “Oh, and I discovered coffee.”

Jez shook her head and laughed. She was the only girl I could be this kooky around without feeling judged. I love the vulnerable intimacy we shared. It was an intimacy that was built quick with sturdy bricks but would require much force and time to break apart.

Jez pushed herself up, “So I take it you’re going to do it? You’re going to take the temp interview?”

I beamed proudly, “I’m going to do it.”

“What about all your protests?”

“Protests?” I asked, my chin cocked towards the sky.

Jez rolled her eyes and taunted, “No, Jez. Don’t hack into that agency’s calendar. Don’t delete some poor girl’s interview and replace it with one for me. It’s not right! What about all THAT?”

I shrugged, “You did it anyway, might as well take advantage of the situation.”

Jez smiled proudly, “I thought you would do as much, that’s why I didn’t listen to you, it was in your best interest. So remember, your one day at Entertainment Now has to have been at least a six month stint, got it?”

“And you’re sure the temp agency won’t check into my references to uhh, I don’t know, confirm?”

Jez smacked her lips together, “Girl, you’re sitting down with some employee who is not there out of passion. He or she just wants to get through the day and get a paycheck. Hell no they don’t care about your references. You just need to ace that interview.”

I carefully sipped my coffee and reflected.

This was my opportunity for redemption. Maybe I could get a new internship before my school even found out I’d ever lost the first. That was the plan, at least.

As I rushed out the door, I glanced back and whistled to Jez. She whistled in return and shot her thumbs in the sky, calling out, “You can do it!”

 

The We Can Do It! Hiring agency had the same sullied carpet and flickering fluorescent lights since it opened its doors in 1986. The coarse, cigarette-stained voice of the administrator gritted, “Fill this out, sweetie, I’ll call you when an agent is ready.” Her hair was wiry and red. Lipstick smudges stained her crooked smile. Her skin was leathery and makeup was caked in the many, wrinkled valleys of her cheeks.

I imagined this woman as a doe-eyed twenty-two year old sitting down at that desk for the very first time in the eighties and lighting a cigarette, only to find she was wafting in the same brand’s fumes, at the same desk, thirty years later.

There were other interviewees already sitting down in the many plastic chairs lining the waiting room. One by one I watched them all placed with friendly recruiters until I was the only one left. Three Judge Judy episodes later, the receptionist croaked, “Honey Butter, you’re going to interview with Chris. He’s at the desk in the very back.”

I was ushered to the final desk in the farthest third row. I’m not going to lie, that coiled stomach, nervous feeling arose again. Why is “no” such a scary word?

Chris Heinz squeezed like a bulbous puffer fish into his restrictive desk chair. Rolls of skin and fat hung over his armrest. A forty-eight ounce drink rested on his mouse pad next to an oily burger wrapper and a tub of artichoke cream cheese dip.

When I sat across from him at his desk, or I assumed it was a desk, though it looked like he was using it as a cafeteria line, Chris was inhaling a turkey-bacon sandwich on a crescent roll. A thick goop of mustard launched at his shirt as he handled the meal and demanded, “Where’s your resume?”

He rifled through my application papers with his grubby hands.

I shuffled in my chair uncomfortably. Resume? I left it at the apartment! Of course I’d need a resume. Why wouldn’t I need a resume? You know what type of person gets jobs and internships? People with resumes.

My face flushed. “I actually don’t have a resume.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “This is what they give me? I have a quota to fill, Missy. How can I fill that if you can’t even complete the first step to landing a job? Step one, bring your resume. It’s not rocket science, sheesh. You pretty girls think the world will just hand you everything.”

I blushed at being called pretty.

Chris, now sweating from the exhaustion, grabbed a handful of Ruffles, soaking each one in a heavy glob of cream cheese.

In between chomps and mouthfuls of food, Chris said. “I’m this close to being fired, you know.” Chris pinched his greasy thumb towards his cheesy index finger. “I need to start filling some jobs. Do you have any skills? Any experience?”

My face lit up. “Yes! I’m smart, organized, and driven, despite what this initial gaffe might indicate. I’m a quick learner and know office software well. I recently interned at Entertainment Now – as a producer’s shadow.”

Chris interrupted. “Entertainment Now?!? Now THAT’s something. I can get you a job with an Entertainment Now on your resume. What do you want to do?”

I managed to refrain from admitting I’d only been at EN for one day. One day was enough to learn I didn’t want entertainment journalism as a career, so I said, “I just want to do something in entertainment.”

Chris rolled his eyes once more and shot me a very judging eye, sighing, “Entertainment. Figures.”

I really didn’t like Chris.

Not because he was a misogynistic pig (literal sense of the word pig of course) but because Chris automatically assumed I wanted to work in the broad sphere of ‘entertainment’ because of its glitz and glamour – or at least I projected him to hold these thoughts. There was something in his tone when he mentioned the whole pretty thing. His smug manner indicated he assumed I was a gold-digging airhead. That’s what it had to be, right?

But just to clarify, that is so not the case. I decided that after eating his chips, his burger, and his tub of cream cheese, I’d make him eat his words. I’d show him I didn’t want to ride on the industry’s coattails. I would become an industry powerhouse from my own work ethic and success. Then, years after this interview, after I’d already made it and he’d forgotten who I was, that would show him.

As I reflected on him, Chris reflected on me, evaluating for a moment as he seemingly contemplated over his options. He lowered his voice, “You’re sweet. I can tell. A bit pathetic, so unaware and in need of help, but sweet. Maybe we can help each other out.”

He looked around to make sure no one was listening. The other eleven job seekers were professionally interviewing with their agents. The scenes were buttoned-up and corporate, a stark juxtaposition from the scene where I’d found myself.

Chris continued, “There’s this job we can’t seem to fill or keep filled. It’s a new entertainment agency that’s seeking a temp assistant – three months. It’s an odd one. There’s not much face-to-face interaction and the work itself seems pretty dry – a lot of reading and writing recaps. But it’s entertainment. If you take that job and keep it until completion, the company sets you up with a week to shadow its CEO. This would be a huge win for the temp agency and it would be ME who filled the spot.”

My lips stretched to both ears, I was brimming with excitement.

Before applying for internships, I used to spend all my time at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, reading everything about the industry. I was too broke to buy the books, so reading them in the store sufficed for me. During one of these reading sessions, I learned that agency internships are extremely hard to come by unless the candidate knows someone already working in the industry. Whether it was serendipity or just dumb luck, I once again couldn’t believe an industry internship fell in my lap.

I stood up and cheered, “I’ll take it!”

A slight moment passed. Chris didn’t share in the enthusiasm and I began to feel stupid standing there. I smoothed out the wrinkles from my pleated pants and sat back down.

Chris droned, “Good. I’ll email you the location and information later. For now, I want you to go home and study up on all your office software – try and make it look like you know what you’re doing.  The pay is $10 an hour – not much, but better than an unpaid internship.”

I nodded and said, “Absolutely. I’ll study all night and look for your email. Thank you so much!”

In my excitement I jumped up and hugged a surprised Chris. In doing so, a goop of mustard transferred to my teal blouse but I chose to ignore it.

I flittered down the row of desks towards We Can Do It’s front door and before swinging them open with great élan, I turned around to wave goodbye to my benefactor.

 

But Chris and his desk of food were no longer there.

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The Agency – Chapter 1

Hi guys.

 

I wrote a book, which I think is AWESOME, but after pitching to nearly every agent I feel is a fit, I’m getting no interest. Well, while waiting for agents to respond, ANOTHER genius novel idea came to me and I HAVE to begin writing this. But The Agency is definitely on pause.

The Agency follows Emma Martinez as she begins her internship at a new boutique talent agency. Before long, strange occurrences force Emma to question the legitimacy and true intentions of the firm. After some investigating and a little help from new-found friends within theAgency‘s walls, Emma learns the CEO is a fairy queen who is using The Agency‘s talent to brainwash society into becoming her consumerist slaves. Emma realizes only she can stop this evil plan – all while balancing a scholarship, best friend drama, and the scary new world of dating.

Some of you may have read a version of this before BUT I wanted to put it here just in case. Would love your comments / feedback! Enjoy chapter 1:

 

Book Cover

 

­

Chapter 1

Hi Friend,

 

I’m calling you that because I don’t know your name and writing “friend” helps me feel like I’m not messaging a stranger.

 

I don’t normally leave letters behind for individuals I don’t know, but this exercise is mostly for my own benefit. I need to process what went down at The Agency. I also need to know someone knows about what happened to me.

 

It started the way any story would –  at the beginning. My beginning was on the first day of my first internship, when I left that unflappable Latina teenager behind and dove into the scary abyss known as #adulting.

 

As my dumpy Honda carved its way through the Hollywood Hills, a tinted Oldsmobile trailed closely behind. This wasn’t your irresponsible L.A. driver who was scrolling through his or her Instagram feed and following too closely. This wasn’t some granny driver who couldn’t see that her bumper was about to put its name to use. This wasn’t a near-sighted person without glasses, either.

 

This driver was different. This driver zeroed in on his target. This driver was spying. Had I known the implications of this little and hugely important fact at the time, I probably would have pursued every tactic to ditch my pursuer.

 

But playing the role of Ignorant Annie so perfectly, I dialed up my speakers’ volumes and blasted thrashing drums to help tune out the troublesome scraping noise of grinding metal my car was wont to make. You see, that noise meant my Honda would have to visit the auto shop soon and even with the discount Pablo gets me, I still didn’t have disposable cash to be spending on repairs. So I increased the sound level until I could tune anything out: honking horns, that irksome grating, and apparently stalker Oldsmobiles.

 

So I obliviously carried on, with my window all the way down, wind whisking through loose waves of thick hair. Feeling like a rock star, I nodded my head to the song’s beat. You wouldn’t know the band. It was frighteningly early in the morning and I hadn’t had my Rocket Fuel energy drink yet, so I appreciated the rock music and cool air’s caffeinating effect.

 

Bile swilled in my stomach, along with a jittery nervous feeling that only swelled as I handed the nice geriatric security guard my ID and he granted me access to the Entertainment Now studio lot – where I was about to begin my first internship.

 

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know what you’re thinking:

What happened to that Oldsmobile? You just caught my attention.

 

Well, have patience. My stalker will be right back in the mix of things soon enough, adding surprises to my life as if he were making a smorgasbord stew.

 

For now, I was navigating my way through the sleepy Tinseltown, all the while mulling over the anxiety and excitement bubbling in my stomach.   Eventually I found a giant parking structure where I proudly stationed my tin can-on-wheels in between an Audi and Tesla and scurried towards the Entertainment Now hangar.

 

 

Before entering, I ducked into the alleyway behind the studio and gazed into my compact’s mirror, taking time for a reflective moment.

 

I was nervous, nervous enough that I could feel my palms sweating profusely and dreaded the moment I’d shake my first colleague’s hand. After fishing around in my oversized purse, I popped a couple Tums, took a deep breath and pulled open the glass door of Entertainment Now.

 

This was it.

 

Inside the surprisingly small and dated lobby, a perky receptionist greeted me, “Welcome to Entertainment Now! May I ask whom you are here to see?

 

I gleaned the receptionist’s name from the placard affixed to the desk: LUCY.

 

Lucy’s bright blue eyes looked like sugar dot candies. Her hair was the color of cornhusks and a candy-shell coated her voice so that it was sickly sweet. She reminded me of a baby doll and immediately annoyed me.

 

Leaning over her desk, I said, “I’m new and it’s my first day. Donna’s training me.”

 

“Donna’s the internship supervisor and a producer here. Hold on.”

 

Lucy tapped the phone board quickly and sang into the receiver, “Hi, it’s me. You have an intern.” Lucy glanced my way and I mouthed my name as she repeated, “Jenna’s ready for you. Right. Okay. Will do. Thanks.”

 

She hung up and offered with a hospitable, but fake, tone, “Donna will be out shortly, would you mind waiting here?”

 

Of course I didn’t mind. I was at my dream company, waiting to be greeted by a PRODUCER. It was an honor just to sit on their flimsy Ikea couches.

 

By the way, in case you didn’t catch it, our friend Lucy over there misread my lips. My name is not Jenna. It’s Emma.

 

Emma Josefa Maria de Martinez.

 

But just call me Emma Martinez.

 

Everyone else does.

 

As I sat in the reception, I perused entertainment magazines while producers connected from head to butt through Walkie Talkies bustled about, seemingly late for a —-

 

“Jenna?” A crisp voice entered the room, followed by a tall, Frappucino-sipping woman, who I deduced was Donna.

 

Donna stood tall in red stilettos and a black baby doll dress. Her bun was so taut, that I imagined her face collapsing each night after she released it. I didn’t especially j’adore the bawdy necklace of gigantic white beads she festooned around her neck, but hey, we each architect our own unique vision of style. I was wearing a red checkered shirt over a grey tank top and sporting loose denim jeans. Next to her, I looked like lumberjack’s assistant. So it’s not like my vision of style is the pillar to endeavor towards.

 

I glided to my new internship supervisor, leading with strong eye contact and a handshake firm enough to crush bone, “Hi! Yes! Actually, my name is Emma. I’m so excited to work here and with you. Please know even though I’m a USC student, I’m not entitled at all. I’m here to work and learn as much as you’re willing to teach me.”

 

Ugh, do you see what I did there? I dribbled incoherent, anxious syntax. Where Sally had that irksome scraping, I was wont to have those word vomit episodes. I quickly shut my mouth before anything else could come out.

 

Donna ignored my strong handshake and scrutinized me like a suspected spy, eventually saying, “Rule one: come off as a seasoned professional at all times. Even if you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, act with confidence. You just came off as a desperate fan girl. Follow me.”

 

Donna hadn’t finished her sentence before she slithered out of the reception, leaving me alone with my mouth open. I quickly shook off the biting scene and followed.

 

“You of course have to want the job,” Donna said without turning to notice if I was following, “you have to always be hungry. Oh! And that reminds me; you literally have to be hungry.”

 

It was clear what she meant, but I couldn’t tell if she was serious. This woman’s dry tone was indecipherable. Donna smirked as she turned around, re-examining me to ensure I was indeed, not too plump for Entertainment Now. After I passed the test, she clucked her cheeks and carried on with a self-satisfied walk.

 

As we rushed through the newsroom, a large chamber lined with television screens and rows of desks, I noticed everyone’s eyes were baggy and puffy. I noticed everyone had a coffee in-tow, as if controlled by caffeine. I also noticed a lack of contentment floating like a thin cloud of misery over the entire hangar. I swear I could feel an ulcer of disappointment forming within my stomach, even just five minutes into the job.

 

We passed a glass panel dividing the newsroom from a producer’s office and I noticed a blonde bombshell lying facedown on a massage table. A brawny Swedish hunk rubbed her topless back as the bombshell lifted her botoxed head to scream out to her assistant, “Get me Beyoncé! I want the exclusive!” and we continued on, as if the topless woman in the office was not out of the norm.

 

Finally, Donna stopped at a corner desk and sat down in front of her computer. A second chair had been propped up but when I sat down in it, a vein popped from Donna’s forehead, throbbing violently as she hissed, “Why are you sitting down? Is your work done for the day?”

 

I stuttered, “I, oh, I’m so sorry. I thought – training?”

 

Donna turned back to her computer and clicked, clacked away at her keyboard. She muttered under her breath, “Did they even screen you?”

 

Donna’s mouth was pursed as she focused intently on an email, ignoring my presence for three minutes before she said, “Okay, let me tell you what I expect. I want someone who knows what they want. I want someone seasoned and experienced, but green, cheap, and ready to pay her dues. I want someone who eats, breathes, and sleeps entertainment news. But I don’t want you to sleep because that’s a waste of time. You should be working, planning, or planning on how you think you want to start working.”

 

As Donna spoke, she scrolled and typed, never actually giving the courtesy of eye contact. Her redundant monologue clearly indicated that I was not dealing with a sane person.

 

“If you want to work in this industry,” Donna continued, “You need to be willing to give up your personal life. There’s no such thing as a family emergency, BUT, if you are at a family emergency and news hits? Well, you better know your priorities. So tell me, Jenna, could you ditch your grandmother’s funeral to cover Lady Gaga’s pregnancy announcement?”

 

Donna stared at me, unflinching, waiting for an answer to her absurd questions, but I failed to say anything, assuming them to be rhetorical.

 

“It’s Emma.”

 

The vein engorged so much so, I thought it was going to explode before she fumed, “Sorry. I don’t teach entertainment 101. I need someone ready to hit the ground running. You can finish out the day, but this will be your last with Entertainment Now. Speaking of now, coffee machine is behind reception. Coffee – stat.”

 

Her words shot through me like bullets, and I was in a catatonic stupor after their impacts. How could I be fired so quickly? I hadn’t even been an intern a full hour. There wasn’t even enough time to prove how well I brewed a medium roast. None of her words seemed serious.

 

Donna’s mascara-laden, dark eyes didn’t imply jests of any sort. She was cold, stiff, and deadly serious, like a fashion-forward Judge Judy.

 

Mustering the last ounce of bravery I possessed, I asked with a high pitch, “You must be joking, right?”

 

Donna smiled and said, “I’m not one for comedy. Yes, you are fired. I’m sorry, but take this lesson and use it on your next shot in Hollywood, if you ever get one. Now while you’re still an intern here – coffee.”

 

I floated out of my body, trudging my way mindlessly towards the coffee station stationed behind the reception. I went over every conversation in my mind, unsure what I did that was so horrific.

 

As the coffee drained into a mug, my dread, feelings of serendipity, and excitement drained alongside. I felt myself breaking as my dreams cracked beneath me.

 

Donna didn’t want to give me a chance. Donna was a deranged producer on some sick power trip. Contempt expanded within me, and like the scalding coffee, I was fuming.

 

Donna didn’t deserve fresh coffee, Donna deserved earwax. So I licked my finger, stuck it in my ear, and gooped out a waxy coat. I shoved my finger in the mug, immediately shrieking from the burning sensation, “OUCH that’s hot!”

 

Lucy squealed in surprise behind me.

 

Damn.

 

I was foiled again.

 

The day passed as a blur, but at some point I rose once more and found it within myself to attempt another tactic: to work diligently.

 

Perhaps if Donna could fire a girl in the first five minutes, she could rehire her in the first eight hours. I decided to win Donna over through work ethic and a charming spirit. I made copies, pulled footage from the tape vault, and transcribed monotonous interviews. All my work was done with a sense of urgency and a smile.

 

At two p.m. the end of my first shift rolled by. As Donna packed her purse, she leaned in my direction and whispered, “You ended up doing a good job today, kiddo.”

 

I graciously responded, “Thank you.”

 

Then I stood there expectantly waiting for the announcement as Donna stared with a ‘you can leave now’ expression. Finally accepting defeat from the dragon-y producer lady, my shoulders slumped. I dragged myself towards the exit of Entertainment Now carrying with me a bit of that cloud of misery.

 

Before I reached the glass doors and fully exited, Donna ran into the reception and yelled after me, “Wait!”

 

I quickly swiveled and a smile beamed across my face.

 

This was it.

 

This was my Ugly Betty moment. Pollyanna paid off! Of course I proved my worth. My passion for this internship emanated from me. There was no way I could have worked so hard, dreamt so long, and pleaded so much for it all to be swept away like dust in the wind on my first shot. I beamed with pride, envisioning my True Hollywood story:

 

I was going to make it after all!

 

But Donna said unapologetically, “Before you go, will you remember to leave your parking pass at reception? We can give it to your replacement.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The universe never gives us more than we can handle.

 

I’ve certainly heard that motto enough in my life, but the words resonated with me clearly for the first time as I drove back to my shoddy apartment in Koreatown.

 

I didn’t live in K-town just because it was close to campus. It was also the only place I could find an affordable apartment that wasn’t in the valley (ugh, the valley) while also being moderately safe. I mean, very rarely there are random drug shootings and car break-ins in the vicinity of my apartment, but hey, there’s laundry onsite. It all evens itself out.

 

Luckily my rich best friend didn’t mind slumming it in K-town and agreed to move with me. I just couldn’t afford the swanky places her mother’s money could, so there we were, relegated to the Fairville Estates, renamed shortly after moving in to the Dingeville Estates. The parking sucks, but we live above an awesome cook-your-own-food, all-you-can-eat restaurant, which is pretty rad when you get the munchies.

 

It was early afternoon, but there was still plenty of traffic on the road, thanks to LA’s many rich, fun-employed kids.

 

Spoiled pricks.

 

Traffic was actually a saving grace; I wasn’t in a hurry to get home. I needed to mentally process the day. I needed time. My best friend and roommate, Jezebel “Jez” Johnson was home and I wasn’t in a hurry to recount my humiliation to her. I hadn’t even figured out my own POV on the matter.

 

I had some time to ride around in my dumpy Honda and free myself. With that being said, it was comfortable knowing that when I did end up divulging the news to Jez, she’d offer the best advice out of anyone in my social circle.

 

True, my social circle really only consisted of Jez, but still.

 

Jez was technically a fun-employed kid, but she wasn’t like the other FK’ers who attended the University of Southern California. To start, she didn’t have that glossy, ennui-glazed personality. It’s so strange to me that the kids who have it all, the kids who grow up with every opportunity, they seem to be the most bored. Jez’s fun-loving eyes sparkled and her smile was contagious. She was still fascinated and astounded by life, despite her (as all filthy rich people seem to label it) fortunate upbringing. I appreciated that.

 

I feel like if I were a FK’er, I’d take advantage of the advantages, but maybe there’s something about growing up with a silver spoon in your mouth that prevents the development of that burning “oomph” we call drive. I don’t know; I’m not a psych major.

 

My point is, Jez wasn’t like those other FK’ers at all. Jez was the kind of girl who would walk in to the ice cream store, ask the about every exotic flavor, requesting for a full SWOT analysis on each choice before finally settling on something classic like vanilla. It was her nature.

 

She was a tormented soul who cared not about visceral materialism, but was captivated by artistic endeavors. I’d never met someone so driven by passions, and it was our mutual respect for our determined dreams that sealed our friendship. Basically? She was my BFF – even though I’d only known her a year.

 

But she was more than a BFF and the year felt like an eternity. She was family. She was like a sister.

 

She was all I had.

 

I drove around for about an hour until the rush hour traffic was just about to hit. My angry music made me less so. Eventually I reached the mental space to find peace. Losing Entertainment Now was a good thing. It was the next step in my journey, leading to something bigger. It had to be. I had to hang onto that belief.

 

And I was ready to confront Jez with the news.

 

When I parked tandem to Jez’s BMW, I failed to notice the same Oldsmobile from the morning had parked across the street from my apartment complex.

 

Strike two for oblivious Annie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jezebel Johnson’s bedroom served as a vast emporium filled with artistic bric-a-brac and scientific oddities: fractal renderings, robotic machines, lines of codes, molded art figures, half-painted easels, telescopes, and other such bewildering things.

 

My knock was drowned out by the Jez’s stereo, so I quietly entered. Once inside her artistic lab, my eyes had to readjust. Jez covered the windows with blankets, closed the curtains, and kept the lights off. Her room was completely dark. I blindly felt my way towards the light switch and flipped it on.

 

At this, Jez shot up and squealed, “What the hell, Emma, you can’t just barge in and disrupt the process! You scared me!”

 

At this point I was dying of laughter. She screamed so loud, her eyes about popped out of her head as she fell back, falling onto her squishy, big butt.

 

Jez quipped, placing one hand on her hip and hoisting herself up the other, “It’s not funny! I could have really hurt myself, or even worse, broken an art piece.”

 

Gasping for air I said, “You’re right, you’re right. I’m sorry. It was just so…”

 

I then cackled and mimicked her scream and fall.

 

Jez jabbed my rib with fingertips and teased, “Careful, Martinez, you’re just a skinny little chick. You couldn’t take me even if you tried, so don’t try me.”

 

We both were breathing heavy now, red faced and laughing in the fallout of our taunting match. Just like sisters, right?

 

When I’d finally calmed, I sat down on her flaccid mattress and deflated a bit. Jez sensed my energy and sat down next to me. She grabbed my thigh and looked me in the eye with concern. “What’s wrong, Emma?”

 

I sighed and said, “Life. I suck at it.”

 

“Okay, girl. I want to help you, but I’m going to need you to be a bit more specific.”

 

I whined, “I lost my internship today. They fired me!”

 

Jez gasped and said, “That’s impossible. You’re a genius with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture. A top outlet like Entertainment Now would see the value in someone like that.”

 

I assured, “It’s possible and it happed.”

 

I went on to share the tale of Donna and the coffee burn and the Swedish masseuse, up until “and then, they asked me to return my parking pass.”

 

Jez gasped, “Ouch. Entertainment Now is a well-oiled machine, isn’t it?”

 

I nodded, “Chewing up and spitting out people like soggy sunflower shells since 1982. What am I going to do? I CAN’T lose this internship.”

 

I really couldn’t. The University of Southern California was hosting me on scholarship, there was no way I’d be able to afford community college, much less one so prestigious and private as USC. With a school so competitive, poor smart girls are a dime a dozen and once one fails the internship class, the funds dry up quicker than a flaked off scab.

 

I grimaced at Jez in despair and she smirked at me. It was devilish and I knew what she was thinking.

 

I said, “Jez, no.”

 

Jez propped herself up and hobbled to her laptop, rubbing her bum’s sore spot. When she’d sat down, she inhaled deeply, shook out her hands and bent forward, frantically pouring code into the computer, each finger constantly in motion, typing, hacking.

 

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Alison Becker’s Sleepover

I loved this show. The energy was incredibly high.

As were the owners.

Yup, when we got to our venue, the hipster twenty-something owners were sitting in a bathtub … in an alley behind the building, toking it up. The lights were all messed up, there was rubber tarp covering the beautiful stage, no toilet paper in the bathrooms, and we hadn’t heard from one of our flakier talents.

I was in crazy producer mode, solving the toilet paper emergency when Alison Becker walked into Cafe Fais Do Do (this strange theater off Pico Blvd. that feels like a Bayou Cabaret Bar shot straight from the swamps of Louisiana). You know Alison as the VJ from VH1’s Top 20 Countdown, MTV’s Boiling Points, and Parks & Recreation.

 

Alison was calm and just cool – the whole night. Her energy was full of positive vibes, as they say, and it shows in her stage presence the way she easily and confidently can share a simple growing up story that involves Cheerios and handcuffs.

 

Please enjoy Alison Becker’s Sleepover.

 

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Teddy Margas – Touchtone Thespian

 

First – on a totally unrelated note, I’m writing again and this time instead of keeping it separate from my blog, I’ll integrate it. Check back for some more fun stuff soon!

For now, please enjoy Teddy Margas, a comedian who’s graced many prestigious Los Angeles stages, including a repeat offense at The Laugh Factory, and his story, “Touchtone Thespian.”

Teddy’s passion for storytelling and his imaginative reenactments completely enthralled me the day we produced this show.

At this point, we were producing at Cafe Fais Do Do, a fun cabaret theater in the ghetto. It was hard to convince people to go there, so we switched venues but shows here always had a special magic to them.

 

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Don’t Tell My Mother: Grant Cotter

 

Don’t Tell My Mother aspires to attract known stars to our stage but we also enjoy discovering talent and giving them a platform.

Nikki Levy discovered Grant Cotter simply by attending a show at the Laugh Factory, where Grant was known to perform. She fell in love with him and his comedy, and well, the rest is history.

 

Without further ado, here’s:

 

A Mi Mama Adriana

 

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C a i r o

There was no escaping the sweltering heat, and while it wasn’t that rivulets of sweat were running down it, it’s just that my forehead was constantly damp, no matter how many times I wiped it.

 

Couple that with the extreme pollution and fog of dust clouding the city, it basically felt like I was a dirt catcher as I followed Mohammed (Who? Well read about him here, dummy!)) to a cement office building. He unlatched a squeaky gate and led me inside the building, through a hallway that smelled of mothballs. The florescent light flickered above us as we sauntered up the narrow and oddly carpeted stairs, climbing eleven flights in a hoisting, heaving silence.

 

My suitcase wasn’t just stuffed with six weeks’ worth of clothes. It also contained all my textbooks. The one con to online school as a vagabond was the textbook situation when it came to packing.

 

We did reach our destination though and Mohammed proudly led me to a door with a red, plastic sign affixed to it, welcoming passerby’s and neighbors to the Wake UP! Hostel in Cairo, Egypt.

 

 

After entering, it turned out that the hostel was indeed a private apartment-turned-hostel in this complex. The place was … cozy to say the least. And all you folks in the rental market know what that means.

 

The “kitchen” consisted of a tiny stove – like literally polly pocket sized- packed into a minuscule closet. The bedrooms also felt claustrophobic: each bed was less than an arm’s length from the next – the owner’s attempt at making a single teen’s bedroom sleep six grown men for a $240 a night profit.

 

Usually Hostels had travelers hanging out, milling around the hostel common quarters when you arrive. Not at the Wake UP!. Nope, instead there were just burly Egyptian men sitting in a ring of cigarette fumes, chain-smoking and watching soccer.

 

I stood awkwardly, waiting for Mohammed to begin checking me in.

 

But Mohammed didn’t do that. Nope, instead he left; like, I mean he exited the building, without so much as a bye.

 

There wasn’t an official check-in anywhere stand so I limply deflated in the corner of the common area while the copse of Egyptian soccer fans ignored me.

 

At the first commercial, I cleared my throat loudly and called, “Checking in.?”

 

Mohammed only drove for the hostel, he did not work there. The man on duty was named Abu, the same name as the monkey in Aladdin. He separated from his pack and offered a scalding cup of tea.

Jake in Egypt 1

Abu and I

“Yes, check-in is easy. We check-in when you check-out. Cool?”

 

I shrugged and answered, “Cool.”

 

The tea was scalding my insides and bouncing back off the equally scorching air. There was no escape and as I sweat my body weight, Abu asked,

“How do you get an elephant into a refrigerator?”

 

I stared blankly and he answered with a dead-seriousness, “You push him in.”

 

But it wasn’t long before his eyes, the wrinkles on his face, and his lips began to beam widely as he cracked up.

 

Gasping for air, he followed up, “And how do you get a monkey into a refrigerator?”

 

I stared blankly again and as I contemplated, he answered, “You take the elephant out and push the monkey in.” He guffawed even louder.

 

“Oh, but I kid. I only kid. Yes, Jake I expected you. Let me take you to  your room. Once you finish your tea of course!”

 

 

I was taken to a dingy room of twin beds, all with tousled sheets just waiting for their sleepers to make them. Black-out curtains were closed, only allowing a slit of yellow light into the room. The light glinted off a mound of wild brown hair that immediately shot up when I entered.

 

“Whoa, whoa! How long have I been out?”

 

The crazy-haired man suddenly woke up from a daze but didn’t seem to have a sense of time or place. There was a strange twang to his voice, which I’d only recognized from movies featuring Southern Californian surfers.

After waking up, he began to tell me his story:

The bohemian was named Ari, and he was an eclectic UC San Diego student who was only there in that exact moment due to dazed and confused happenstance. You see, Ari found his San Diego apartment on Craigslist and upon moving in, he learned his roommates happened to be hardcore drug dealers. Luckily, Ari was a dedicated stoner. So, he woke up, rolled a joint from his roomies’ stash, and smoked it all himself. In a stoned haze, he surfed the Internet for “cool shit” and ended up booking a plane ticket to Cairo.

Jake in Egypt 2 title

Ari and I in our Jellabiyas – yes, we were photoshopped onto a heard of camel. The other background sucked.🙂 You’re welcome.

 

Then, after wandering to the markets of Cairo and finding his hashish dealer, he took a big old hit and booked a private pyramid tour through the hostel, which would be cheaper if someone else joined. There in that cave of a room, he invited me to join his adventure.

 

I of course accepted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You have private car with air conditioning waiting downstairs. When you are ready of course.” Abu informed as we inhaled the free hostel breakfast of hardboiled eggs and pita.

It wasn’t just a car they’d booked for us. They ordered a huge German-made conversion we van with the most magical and spectacular air conditioning I’d ever seen.

It turned out our driver was a new Mohammed who didn’t speak English, which made me wonder how informational the private tour was going to be. But it allowed time for Ari and I to get to know each other.

“Dude, I’m super excited to see Gaza, right?” Ari said/asked.

I answered, “No, and I’m not going… but I think Giza is going to be cool.”

“What?” He paused, looking  confused and cocking his head for a moment, then smiled, and said, “riiight.”

 

 

 

 

Our van dropped us off at a ranch which was oddly right in the city. Here, Egyptian versions of cowboys kicked dirt as horses roamed about, neighing and eating hay.

A teenager pocked with purple acne came up to us and explained we were going to ride horses around the Pyramids of Giza.

Like everything else in Egypt, we received a cheap price after some stubborn bartering: twenty dollars for a ninety-minute ride – of course no helmets, training, or waivers neither. Ari and I both boarded our horses. Mohammed hung back at the ranch drinking an orange Fanta and smoking with the ranch’s owners – the teenage boy we bartered with instead jumped on a horse and led us to the tourist trap.

As we crossed the road, a child that looked to be about eight years old jumped in front of us and asked, “You have cigarettes?”

“No” Ari and I sang together again. The 8-year-old then grabbed his own pack out of his shirt pocket and began to puff.

What a little gangster! He looked all hard with his little cigarette and puppy pal that ran along side him. He wasn’t none too thrilled with the greedy tourists who refused to share cigarettes, though…

 

 

 

Our guide’s accent was so incredibly thick that I could not even make out his name when he introduced himself. Once again, I was wondering how informative the private tour would really be.

We slowly sauntered up a yellow hill as a huge monkey-fly was buzzing at my face and each time I batted it away, I nearly lost my balance. Desert winds whipped us from every direction, also testing our handle on balance.

All the while, our guide spoke into the wind with his gibberish. These grievances meant nothing, however, when we arrived at the crest of the hill, as a set of three gargantuan pyramids seemingly shot suddenly out of the dusty desert below.

Egypt Horses

As we made our way down to the pyramids, we edged along a limestone wall, away from the main mass of tourists and eventually stumbled upon two police officers.

One of the guards approached Ari with an intimidating power stance and blurted off Arabic, as if he expected these two incredibly white boys to understand him.

We looked to our guide to translate, but oddly, he ignored the officer, and continued on his way. Indignant and forceful, the officer stomped towards our guide and pulled him off the horse, as if he were light as a sheet. The guard turned to us and again blathered some Arabic and while we didn’t understand, the emotion in his face was universally understood. This man was not happy. The guard turned to us and held his hand up, rubbing his thumb with his middle and pointer fingers.

Ari whispered, “Dude, I think he’s asking for money!”

I whispered back, “I think so too but I’m not giving his ass anything!”

Damn, I was a defiant little guy! Still am… ;P

 

I shook my head and the man then pushed back his jacket to reveal a pistol. Things then became serious.

This was it. I was going to make it in the Darwin Awards. A dumb tourist who did no research and blindly trusted everyone and every adventure that tempted him – only to die during a scuffle about stolen horses. And how ironic, I was born in the year of the horse. Fucking life, man.

Ari said, “Woah, he’s like, showing us his gun, brah!”

Umm, no duh. That weed slowin’ ya down, boy?

Our guide was now standing up and had come in between the two horses. His face muscles twitched, revealing a worried expression. His tone was different now too. He was way less confident and instead seemed to be wheedling his way out of something with the guard.

Now again, I have no idea what was said or what arguments were exchanged BUT I do know our guide seemed defeated after he handed the two horses to the police officer.  Some bills were exchanged and our guide turned back to us, continuing to lead us to the pyramids and speaking his gibberish in the wind, as though nothing had happened.

Baksheesh Egypt Sponge

And no, after returning to the van, we were not held responsible for the lost horses and the mystery of exactly why or where they went was never solved.

So, while Cairo wasn’t exactly on my list because I felt it too safe and westernized, it turns out, if you get a little cocky, life will be ready to give you a quick little bitch-slap, as it did to me.

Lost Horse Photo

Us at the pyramids and me like – umm where’s my horse, man?

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