Sunday, November 29, 2009


It’s been three months now that I’ve lived in my current apartment, and Nuku and I have not been the only ones living in this 5 room vintage abode. Since before I moved in, the kitchen has been claimed by a hive of roaches that seem to be based somewhere behind the stove. I am not a fan.

I didn’t have my cooking gas turned on when I first moved in, so I mostly ate microwavables. I believed the lack of crumb collection and stain production for the first two weeks I lived here would put a damper on their ability to persist, but I was wrong. I still find them creeping around, and the regular cooking habits I’ve been employing have only served them further.

I’ve tried baits. I’ve tried poisonous sprays. I’ve tried seek-and-destroy operations involving a paper towel. I’ve considered napalm, propaganda flyers, converting them to Islam, signing them up for military service, and exorcism. Sometimes they go on hiatus for a week or two at a time, but they always return looking refreshed. Little bastards.

Really, they’re not hurting anything. But they’re supposed to be gross. I haven’t gotten sick or diseased. They only eat what I’m finished with; I’ve never seen them encounter food I hadn’t taken to first. Indeed, when I enter the kitchen, they scurry away immediately, polite as can be. They realize they aren’t wanted, but a bug’s gotta eat.

In truth, I don’t even know that they ARE roaches. They’re little critters who scurry when the lights turn on, and they’re interested in my leftovers and stove stains. They may even be what restaurant managers like to tell customers are water bugs, something to mollify the masses by claiming what crawls in the kitchen are cute little misunderstood Disney creatures that sing and dance when we’re not looking. Personally I don’t find them to be all that intrusive, but it’s not inconceivable that a Pretty Girl will be a welcome guest at some point in my (near?) future, and she may not have a similarly enlightened (slovenly?) attitude about the difference between true tragedies and a pesky nuisance.

Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that I want them gone, and they won’t go. My personal characteristic of perseverance has been presented with a puzzle, just the sort of thing to focus and heighten my deep, inescapable need to solve it. This happens every time I’m faced with a challenge, a dilemma, or just about anything that needs to be corrected, fixed, or untangled. I achieve a state of Attention Surplus Disorder, virtually unable to move on to another task until the current one is accomplished. This focus typically persists to the exclusion of all other stimuli, such as eating, bathing, or being lit on fire. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and I have picked it up and embraced it. I’m going to chew up iron nails and spit out bullets and Hellfire until the only inhabitants not on my lease are the dust bunnies. And those fuckers are next.

Also, I have little to focus my attention upon for the next five weeks while I wait for the next quarter to start.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


I used to get terrified about doing schoolwork. Anxiety attacks over doing the simplest assignments were crippling, and I had to drop out of college for a semester and deal with it. It was the thing that made me a bad student as an undergrad, it’s the thing that made me miss an opportunity to go to UCLA for grad school five years ago, and it’s the thing that made me terrified I would do horribly at DePaul.

But I guess it’s different when I’m spending my time and efforts doing only that which I want to be doing with my life. I’m not forced to get that well-rounded Bachelor’s degree, taking classes that have little to do with my interests; all the reading and studying I do is for the sole purpose of following my heart’s desire. I go to the theatre two or three times a week, notepad in hand, and I get to go as more of an active participant than a passive observer. Most of our reading materials were designed to entertain the masses, which makes the subject of my fifteen page thesis (due next week, better get started) more of a hobby than a chore. Once upon a time I had one of the secrets to happiness whispered into my ear – find what you love to do, then find how to make your living doing that. I can verify that this is absolutely true. I only wish I’d realized it wasn’t supposed to be easy, so I wouldn’t have been so discouraged by my many failures before I got here. Not that I wasn’t told. I just didn’t realize.

There’s something else I’ve heard many times, many ways; sometimes things go wrong in life so we can tell the difference, and appreciate it, when things go right. By the time I decided I needed to go back to school and get what I’d cheated myself out of the first time around, I had been out of college for longer than it took me to go through college. I had a debt equivalent to more than a year’s pay. I was still going to work wearing a unitard and a cape. I cringed every time a customer was certain I was really a professional actor just moonlighting as a waiter, because I knew the opposite was true. Fear and doubt held me stronger than any ropes or chains ever could.

Inspired by the words of two artists I admire, Stevie Ray Vaughan and J.D. Challenger, I knew if I spent one more day compromising my dreams I’d be doing it the rest of my life. The fire of my soul would have vanished with neither a bang nor a whimper, but rather I’d wake up one day wondering how long it had been since I’d remembered what it once had been like to dream that particular dream. I decided being a failure was far, far more appealing than being a quitter. At least then I could respect myself for having tried. But it turns out I’m not too shabby at this “acting” business. My time spent with MXAT verified this. After that it was just a matter of progressive choices, fortune, perseverance, and patience as the pages on the calendar fluttered away before I found myself landed in the right place at the right time.

Upon reflection, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I didn’t get started sooner, and I may even be grateful for it. I’ve seen the abysmal consequences of quitting without devoting myself fully to theatre, leaving my heart to suffocate under the oppressive weight of a discarded dream. I’ve come to learn exactly how passionately I love what I do. If I had pursued this path before I made these realizations, I may never have had the tenacity to make the most of the opportunity which now envelopes me like a warm blanket.

Failure is a tool. When used incorrectly, it’s nothing more than a dead albatross around a sailor’s neck. When used properly, it defines the edges of capability and provides a map for improvement. Follow the compass within your heart, keep your bearings, and keep propelling yourself, and soon you’ll discover you’re living in the land of your dreams during your waking hours instead of merely visiting while you sleep.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shaping Up

I hurt my back in the move. It wasn’t serious, and I honestly doubt I would have noticed if I still worked in an office chair all day without giving myself the opportunity to explore any possible damage I’d done to myself. But the movement intensive nature of an acting program means I’m moving all day in nearly every class; rolling on the floor, running and jumping around a classroom, climbing on and over objects (or my classmates), and that doesn’t even include the intensive movement-specific classes of yoga or Feldenkrais.

It kept hurting no matter what I tried, so I decided to try going for a run. I stopped exercising on my own when the quarter started (note – school here is done in three quarters instead of two semesters from early September to mid-June), partly under the assumption that school would give me all the exercise I needed, and partly because finding/making the time to get it done was nearly ridiculous. Running has been known to aggravate my lower back (which is the part I hurt in the move), but I was so sick and tired of hurting all the time, I felt like taking back some control. If I was going to hurt, I wanted it to be because of a specific action I’d taken, something to which I could point and say, “That’s it, that’s the reason.” I wanted to take ownership of and responsibility for my pain instead of simply being affected by it.

I wasn’t prepared for the result, however – the next day I quit hurting at all. No back pain whatsoever. I could twist, bend, flex, raise and lower myself in any direction for any duration. Having spent six weeks in mild to moderate agony, I felt like I had discovered superpowers. I was elated.

So elated, in fact, I found a place in the building of The Theatre School where I could put on my grappling gloves and shadow box again. Punching bags are annoying because they move too much. I have a half-hour routine of hitting something to the beat of the songs I’ve put into a playlist, and a variable, mobile surface doesn’t let me keep the pace I prefer. So I found a support beam in the room where we have yoga three days a week, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays before yoga class, I spend thirty minutes driving my (lightly) padded knuckles into the wall to the music of Korn, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, and Faith No More. The constantly scraped flesh and gently bruised bone serves as a perfect constant, daily reminder that I’m alive.

And every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening I spend 34 minutes pounding the pavement in attempt to get as far north as possible before time runs out, and then another 34 minutes coming back. The total distance I cover in this time is just over eight miles.

Between the heavily aerobic nature of these routines and three days a week of yoga, I’m looking pretty good in the mirror these days. I started losing weight almost six months ago, and with the exception of a six week hiatus when school started, I’ve kept it up through sheer discipline, determination, and motivation. I’ve finally lost enough fat that my musculature is showing through, and I’ve been surprising myself about once a week. Last night I even put on one of my favorite suits to go see a play; I haven’t fit into it properly in more than five years (if I ever did; I have no memory of not having to squeeze into it), but now it fits like it was tailored for me.

This is the first time in my life I’ve lost weight purely through self-direction. In the past it’s all been a part of financial circumstance, extreme depression, or a class I’m taking (BJJ or TKD). Admittedly I’m a poor grad student who can’t afford to go out to eat, I did suffer the most devastating breakup of my life earlier this year, and my acting class curriculum isn’t exactly lackadaisical. Nonetheless, these things combined with what I’m doing purely on my own are taking a wonderful toll on my physique, and I’m proud.

Now if I could only quit smoking…