Punching Out

When a big event begins to peek over the horizon (and seems to be getting exponentially closer by the minute), you start to think about all the “last time” moments you’re experiencing in the days leading up to the event itself.  where-does-the-time-go

For example:

This is the last haircut I’m getting before California. Hope it doesn’t come out looking like I’m auditioning for the “Dumb and Dumber” remake.

Hey, last week before I hop on the plane. Make every day with the family count, pal.

Here’s the last dinner over at my Dad’s house before I split. Hope he’s going to be okay while I’m gone.

And then there’s today. Last day of work.

office-cubiclesFor a bit of background: I’ve been working in offices, on and off, since I moved to Chicago in 1987. I’ve done temp work, secretarial jobs, receptionist gigs, logged time as a sales assistant, been a paralegal- whatever they’ll pay me to do.

For almost thirty years.

And for the most part, it hasn’t been that bad, as far as day jobs go. I mean, I’ve worked in some real shit-shacks, for sure, and toiled under some of the most loathsome people it has ever been my displeasure to meet. (Seriously, I’ve met some stone-cold sociopaths in my time behind a desk and it has been downright chilling to say the least.) Siwmming

But generally speaking, I’ve been very lucky. Genuinely good people, welcoming, friendly environments, fair salaries…I have very few complaints. It has allowed me to buy a house in Oak Park, for Pete’s sake, and raise two kids.  We went to London for almost two weeks a couple years back.  Not too shabby.

However.

I attended a staff meeting here at the office about four months ago and, as a morale booster, the office manager wanted to show all of the support staff here at the office just how valued and important we were. To do so, she wrote down all the years we had each put in at the firm, passed them out on separate sheets to each of us and said: “I’ve added it up and, collectively, you all have over a hundred and thirty years here!”

I flipped over my sheet. It said simply: “Kevin Theis- 5.9.”

I had been at this office for 5.9 years.

And I suddenly thought: “Oh my dear God. That’s a fucking prison sentence.”Computer-in-Prison

The gesture was intended to raise our spirits. But instead, it turned a fire hose on mine. And if there was ever a moment that truly solidified by decision to go to Los Angeles, that was it.

And remember: I’m working in an office I really like. This is probably the best day job I’ve had in my entire career. I enjoyed working with the people here. They paid me well. They treated me fairly. Gave me every benefit and job perk.  They did all the great things that successful offices do: office outings and parties and special events. Day-job wise, I hit the jackpot.

But in that moment, that frozen moment of horror, seeing that hideous “5.9” staring back at me, I suddenly could not wait to get the hell out.

There’s an old saying in show business: You’ve got to pay your dues. Before you become legitimate and are allowed to make a decent living in the industry, you have to work hard, put in your time, take your lumps, carry a few spears and then, eventually, you slowly work your way up and up the ladder until one day…you’ve made it. You’ve paid the dues you were required to pay and have earned the right to live by the sweat of your artistic brow alone.dues

Well, I’ve paid my goddamn dues. I carried the fucking spears. I worked as hard as anyone I know in this business, I clawed my way up the ladder as far as I could go and…I still cannot pay my mortgage on what I earn as an actor in this city. Few- very few- can.

So the hell with it. I’m heading off into the yonder that is blue. I’m taking the biggest risk of my life, playing the longest-shot lottery game imaginable and I’m doing so with the full force of my family’s approval to guide me and keep me sane.commercial-airplane-taking-off-and-high-resolution_227318

And I’m taking one thing out of this office at the end of the day.

It’s a piece of paper. And it simply says:

“Kevin Theis- 5.9”

I’m going to tack it above my computer in L.A.  It will serve as an inspiration to write, to learn a new monologue, to hit the gym.  To press on.  To never succumb.  To succeed no matter what.

It is very simply the greatest motivation I’ve ever had.Leaving Office

Okay. Time to punch out.

Here we go.

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Here’s Your Hat. What’s Your Hurry?

Chicago is doing everything it can to make me feel unwelcome in the days before my departure. It’s like the whole city is saying “Are you still here? GET OUT.”Winter Chicago 2

It started early yesterday, when the unseasonably warm Christmas weather finally came to a crashing close with the onset of the nastiest ice storm I’ve seen in years. (Those of you living in sunny climes will love this next part.)

Freezing rain- alternating between actual sleet and an unrelenting, seemingly endless, drizzly downpour- coated the entire Chicagoland region yesterday and simply would. Not. Stop.Winter Walker

With temperatures hovering at or slightly below freezing, this meant that there was a thin sheet of ice coating every outdoor surface, making it nigh on impossible to get anywhere out-of-doors. It was windy, wet, gray, depressing and stubborn. Just when you thought the onslaught might be coming to an end, another roar of wind would sound, rattling the windows and sending a new shower of sharp, spiky, frozen rain pitter-pattering across the roof. Most folks just hunkered down and, if they could avoid it, didn’t even set foot outside.

Winter Bean

Cool beans.

I was not so lucky.

First, I attempted to take my dog, Dodger, out for our usual morning run yesterday morning and was rightly horrified by the arctic blast that confronted me. To be clear: it wasn’t even all that cold, comparatively. But when the wind is unrelentingly driving tiny icicles deep into your eyes and turning the sidewalk surfaces into glaciers, you start to rethink the whole “exercise is good for you” idea.

Things did not improve as the day progressed. If anything, it got far worse. The rain/snow/sleet/icy-death-from-above continued unabated far into the evening. Poor Milo, who shoveled out the sidewalk to the garage, tweaked his back while hefting shovelfuls of slush and could barely move all night. We didn’t bother to try and go anywhere, as the alley resembled nothing so much as a bad day at the Shackleton camp.

<> on January 7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

By morning, little had improved. The temperature was now just above freezing, so everything that had turned to ice overnight was now slooooowly thawing out. This meant that the trees- drooping under the frozen weight of all that clinging ice- were shedding icicles left and right and the slush, now doubled in volume, seemed to have taken over the city like a wet, wintry rash.

Every step you took seemed likely to be your last, as you were in danger of either sliding down into the icy muck never to resurface or, alternatively, slipping and falling ass-over-teakettle, banging your noggin on the sidewalk and succumbing to a lonely, frigid death by the roadside.

It was that kind of morning.

That’s not to say things are cheerily bright and sunny on the West Coast, LA Forecastby the way. I’ve been monitoring the weather in supposedly sunny CA and things out there are getting pretty ugly. Did you know it was 41 degrees in Los Angeles this morning? I mean, sure, that was the low for the day (and for the week) and it is likely to climb to a much more enjoyable 61 by this afternoon, but it’s not like they’re nipping off to the beach while we tough out the polar vortex here. Things are bad all over.

winter BikiniYes, it is supposed to average 68 degrees in L.A. this February. But 68 degrees in California is like…ten degrees here. They’re not built for the cold in Los Angeles. Because it is one thing to have to…shudder…put on a jacket. But a hat? A freakin’ HAT? That is simply unthinkable. Get it together, weather. Stop being an asshole.

And don’t get me wrong.  I love winter.  Hell, you can’t live in Chicago unless you are a card-carrying member of the “Winter is Awesome” club.  But this is different.  This isn’t “winter.”  This is God’s freezing piss. There’s no nicer way to put it.

So as I pack my little suitcase and put my thermal socks aside (“Won’t be needing those…”), I am thinking of all I will miss about my beautiful town.

But this nasty, wet, sticky shit hailing down from the sky?

That you can keep.

T-Minus Seven Days

Seven days away from launch. I should be more nervous. Or I’m just numb. Or in denial. Take your pick.Seven Days

One week from today, I will step on board a plane in Chicago and, a few hours later, will touch down in Los Angeles, ready to begin my California adventure. And here’s the thing:

You can plan for this sort of journey all you like. You can try to pack the right clothes, to remember the essential supplies, make all of your financial arrangements and keep comprehensive lists of everything you’re supposed to accomplish before you leave.

You can plan, plan, plan all goddamn day.

But the truth is: once you get off that plane, all the scheming and plotting you’ve done becomes almost irrelevant. Because what will happen over the next few months is a complete and utter mystery.

In all likelihood- if the past is prologue, that is- this trip will be more of an education than a triumph. Trying to break into the movie, television or voice over industries in Los Angeles is something that takes years, if it ever happens at all. I know friends who have gone to L.A. and enjoyed varying degrees of success (some have struggled, some have given up, some have done well and some have done very, very well), but in each case, wHard-work2hatever they achieved in their various fields took them a loooong while to accomplish. Years of auditioning, wheedling agents, cultivating a resume, making connections…it doesn’t happen overnight. Building a career can take a lifetime of devotion, sweat and toil.

And here I am, trying to nail down a job in twelve weeks or so.

Good luck, sucker.

On the other hand, it isn’t like I’m showing up without any experience at gottadance_singinintherainall. The stereotype of the rube stepping off the bus with a shoeshine and a suitcase full of dreams…that ain’t me. I’ve got almost thirty years of experience in my pocket, a spiffy reel, some terrific new pictures, a long resume and a fifty year old mug. So I’ve got a few things going for me, too.

By the way, that last point?  The fact that I’m *ahem* an older old mangentleman?  That, to me, is a sword that cuts both ways, the respective edges being equally as sharp.  Allow me to explain:

First, it helps that I won’t have as much competition. My younger colleagues- guys in their twenties and thirties- they are as common out there as silicone implants. The acting business, after all, is a young man’s game, which means that most people looking for work in Hollywood aren’t just younger than me, they are a lot younger than me. And I’m more than happy to let those boys slug it out. Be my guest. I’ll be over here with the rest of the quinquagenerians (look it up).

But the other edge of that sword…yikes, she is dangerous. Because while double-edge-sword-300x228most of my competition is younger, the number of roles available to me is also much, much smaller. You might thing that there are just tons of parts for Irish-looking guys in their 50’s lying around but…there are only so many concerned fathers, corrupt politicians and angry cops out there for guys like me to play.

Plus- and this is the really bad news- I’m also diving right into the largest acting pool in the country. Sure, most of the actors in L.A. are a generation my junior, but the number of actors who are my age (or thereabouts) are legion. There are thousands of guys just like me, all trying to do what I’m doing, all hustling, all banging on doors looking for work and most of them have the advantage of having been on the Coast for a long, long time.

I’m going to try and elbow my way to the front of the line Long linebut…that’s a long fucking line.

You can do this all day, by the way: the good news and the bad news. The bad news? You’re from out of town. The good news? You’re a fresh face! The bad news: You don’t have an agent. The good news: You know a lot of working actors who can introduce you to their reps!

It can drive you nuts. And keep you up nights. No kidding.

So it helps, first of all, to have reasonable goals. You can hope for the call from Spielberg, fine. But in the meantime, having something a little more concrete- an ambition that is actually within your grasp- is going to go a long way towards keeping your day-to-day sanity.

With that in mind, here are my basic, semi-reasonable goals for the next few months:

plans
1. Audition. Everywhere. Go on as many auditions as possible, either through an agent or otherwise. Some of these may involve the “pay-to-meet” type of seminars discussed in an earlier posting (see: Secret Agent Man), but there will be other opportunities that will, no doubt, present themselves. And you can’t get a job unless someone sees what you can do so…key goal number one: Be seen.
2. Write. I’ve got a pocketful of writing projects (that will be discussed in a future post) that I have never truly had the time to complete. Now, I will be handed a gold-plated opportunity. Unless I’m suddenly super-busy, with agents and directors knocking down my door, I should have a cubic shit-ton of time on my hands starting in about a week. The trick wWritet-essay-workill be staying disciplined and writing every day. For hours. No excuses.
3. Stand-Up. What, you thought I gave up on that? Not a chance. The first two times were so fascinating, educational and, frankly, painless that I’m going back for more. And then a bit more after that. (Look for me this Wednesday at Cole’s in Chicago!) Then, once I arrive in sunny CA- I find every open mic available in the city and go nuts. What’s the worst that can happen?
4. Stay in Shape. The first thing I will do when I land in California is to find a reasonably priced gym. I did not get into the best condition of my life here in Chicago only to go to the West coast and plump up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Poppin_Fresh_(Pillsbury_Doughboy)

“I’m back from L.A.!”

5. Learn the Territory. I’ve done my back-of-the-matchbook research on the basic layout of Los Angeles. Now I need to learn it first-hand. There is a lot to explore so…explore it. Should be fun, actually.
6. Write. I know, I’m listing it twice. That’s how important it is.

And that’s it. Those are the essential, reasonable goals. Get seen, write, put my face in front of strangers, keep fit, get to know the city and, oh yeah, keep writing.

I’ve made my plans. And beyond that, there is little more I can do. All that remains is:

Step on the plane.

And then: Step off into a new world.

And then:

See what happens.

Excelsior.

Los Angeles. Proper. (Pt. 3)- In the Beginning

When it comes to history, people are divided. Some people love it, others nod off almost immediately.History Class

In the spirit of fairness, I will now try to briefly explain the history of Los Angeles AND attempt to keep it lively enough so that not too many history-adverse readers fall asleep mid-page. To do so, I will be randomly dropping in bits of Los Angeles trivia into the post to keep it engaging. (The history lovers, of course, will not require such puffery. But they’ll get it for free anyway.)

EARLY, EARLY HISTORY

How early? How about 8,000 B.C. early. That early enough for you? Because there were seafaring folk based in L.A. as early as eight millennia before Christ came along and invented making fishes and loaves appear out of nowhere. (These early Angelinos did it the hard way.)

By 3,000 B.C., the natives had been replaced by migrants who drifted there after the Great Basin Drought. These migrants spoke the Tongva language and dubbed the area “Yaa,” leading to such conversations as:

“You going up north today?Abbott_and_Costello_9396
“Yeah.”
“Great.  Where you going?”
“Yaa.”
“No, I’m looking for the place you’re going.”
“Yaa.”
“But where are you spending the afternoon?”
“Yaa.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Third base!”

The place was untouched by Westerners until the Spanish finally arrived in the 18th century and…well, you can imagine what happened after that. Yes, that’s right: They introduced surfing, cocaine and gluten-free pasta and everything went straight to hell.

No, actually, they did what settlers do: they established missions, converted the locals and then started humping the living crap out of everyone who lived there.

In case you were wondering, the man most responsible for the founding of Los Angeles was a Spanish governor named Felipe de Neve (see below). And when this guy founded something, it stayed founded…er, found.

And easy on the eyes, too, Senor de Neve.

And easy on the eyes, too, Senor de Neve.

He is responsible not just for L.A., but for the establishment of Santa Barbara, San Jose and, for good measure, oversaw the building of the Presidio in San Francisco. This guy didn’t mess around.

Now, the way you founded something in those days (if you were a Spanish governor, I mean), was to establish a “pueblo.” These were military installations that were created to leech power away from the missions. And they worked. Enlisting settlers from Mexico (oh, the irony), the city was officially established on September 4, 1781. (There is some disagreement, however, over how the area got the name “Los Angeles.”)

After that, the area exploded pretty quickly. They built a chapel on the main Plaza in 1784 which grew to 29 buildings by 1800. By 1821, Los Angeles was the largest self-sustaining farming community in Southern California.

And you’d think that would do it. A large, agrarian society in SoCal grows up to become Tinseltown, right? Wrong. First, they were going to have to switch flags.

Joe_Ardizzone

TRIVIA TIME!  Did you know that the first Boss of a Los Angeles crime family was Iron Man?  Not Tony Stark, of course.  I am referring, instead, to Joseph “Iron Man” Ardizzone, a mobster who ruled L.A. with an iron grip (thus his nickname) and provided the entire region with booze during Prohibition until, as often happens, he was shot by his own men, escaped the assassins, survived a second attempt on his life, retired as a crime boss and ultimately, despite his early retirement, was snatched from his car in 1931 and mysteriously “disappeared.” 

What, you though Jimmy Hoffa was the only one?

BANDERA NUMERO DOS

In 1821, Mexico split off from Spain to become its own country and, to celebrate, they absorbed most of Southern California, including Monterey, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The Mexican flag now flew over L.A. feature_mexican independence day_feature

The new Mexican government wasn’t exactly crazy about the indigenous native population, however, and took pains to marginalize them. Meanwhile, the Europeans and early Americans were rushing in and buying up land.

By May of 1846, the Mexican-American War broke out and the Mexican government was unable to keep a grip on its Northern territories. The American forces drove the Mexicans out of the area (it’s a little more complicated, actually, as the area changed hands a couple of times during the war), but by February of 1848, the war was over and California was now the property of the U.S. Government.

Long story short: Flag #3.

California Wine...born in L.A.

California Wine…born in L.A.

TRIVIA TIME! Do you like California wine? If so, you can thank Jean-Louis Vignes, who bought up a bunch of land in the Los Angeles area in 1831 and planted the region’s first vineyard. He first tried the Mission Grapes that had been imported from Spain but wasn’t crazy about them and decided to import vines from Bordeaux (including Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc). By 1840 had made the first recorded shipment of California wine. Frustrated by the fact that not enough people in L.A. drank his stuff to make it profitable, Vignes started exporting his vino North to the San Francisco area and, by 1849, he owned over 40,000 vines and was producing 150,000 bottles (1000 barrels) per year. So…you’re welcome. (BONUS TRIVIA: Vignes also planted L.A.’s first orange grove!)

LOS ANGELES BECOMES LOS ANGELES

You’d think that, after the U.S. took over, that Los Angeles would grow exponentially. Shows what you know. Despite the 1849 Gold Rush (which drew people to Northern California) L.A. remained relatively small. In fact, during this era, the city was mainly known as the “Queen of the Cow Countries” because it was best known for supplying beef to the miners up North.

L.A. was, for all intents and purposes, a cow town!

Sexy Cow

Southern California cow.

Not only that, once it took over the area from Mexico, the U.S. Government (being the U.S. Government) quickly seized almost all the land and started re-selling it back to the locals, making a packet in the bargain. Then, after the land was sold, the regiment that had governed the area pulled out and the entire region (now without any legal system or form of government) fell into chaos. Gamblers, thieves and prostitutes (driven south out of San Francisco) were now flooding into L.A. turning it into the most lawless city west of Santa Fe.wild west

And it got worse. The native residents of the city (formerly Mexican citizens), who were inclined to resist their new Anglo overlords, began regularly robbing the “gringos” and by 1850 the city had established “Vigilance Committees” to deal with the problem. Over the next 20 years, mobs lynched over 35 Mexicans and the murder rate skyrocketed.

Also during this time, (and despite the Wild West atmosphere of the place) Los Angeles became an official American city (on April 4 of 1850) and, five months later, California was admitted to the Union. (Interestingly, California would not grant the Indians from the former Mexican territories citizenship for another 80 years. Big surprise.)

Still, by the 1870’s, the population of Los Angeles was only 5,000 people. Think about that for a minute. Five thousand. These days, that’s how many people pass you by on the 405 every five minutes.

But after 1880, the place blew up. Several factors would lead to its rapid growth: the railroad, the discovery of oil in the region and the explosion of industrial jobs. By 1900, the city had grown in size to 100,000 residents. That’s a pretty big jump.

And soon, the East Coast movie producers began arriving, snatching up Nickelodeoncheap land and establishing studios (among them, Mack Sennett- who established his eponymous studio- and Louis B. Mayer, who set up MGM in Culver City). In love with the climate (which allowed them to shoot outdoors all year long) and the union-free labor atmosphere, the movie producers kept flooding in and within a short amount of time Los Angeles became- drum roll, please- the movie capitol of the world.

1941TRIVIA TIME! Ever heard of the “Battle of Los Angeles”? Did you know that it took place in February of 1942 and that people actually died during the incident? Here’s the scoop: After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, California was in a panic. The residents were convinced that, at any time, the Japanese fleet would start attacking the West Coast. At the height of this panic, at 3:16 on the morning of February 25th, the 37th Coast Artillery Brigade began firing .50 caliber machine guns and 12.8-pound anti-aircraft shells into the sky, shooting at a reported aircraft. In all, 1,400 shells would be hurled skyward throughout the night. Buildings and cars were damaged and, by the time the all clear was sounded at 7:21 a.m., five people were dead: three from car accidents and two from heart attacks. The entire incident was later explained as being a result of “war nerves.”

The number of people who suffered from severe pant-shitting during the night was not reported, but is rumored to be very high.

CONCLUSION

I have skipped over a LOT of information in this brief synopsis of the history of Los Angeles. Entire books could (and likely have) been written about the wars over water, the labor movement, the 1932 Olympics, the post-WWII population explosion, the real estate craze, the radical changes in demographics, the establishment of Disneyland (which sounds trivial but absolutely is not) and, of course, the music industry’s boom but… I feel like I touched upon most of the important points.

Today, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States (after Greater LANew York) with almost 4 million residents. It has the third-largest economy of any city in the world, after Tokyo and New York, generating $831 billion every year. And, as previously noted, it is really, really, really big.

And now you know (generally speaking) how it got that way.

Los Angeles. Proper. (Pt. 2)- Getting Around

Editor’s note: Although today’s posting has a lot to do with geography and traffic and stuff like that, I promise you a treat. By the end of this post, the uninitiated will finally learn- once and for all- where “Cucamonga” is. Promise.

The first thing you need to know about the city of Los Angeles is: It’s big.

How big? Consider this quote from Douglas Adams: “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

Now, substitute “Los Angeles” for “space” and you start to get the general idea of just how large this city really is. But seeing as how I could either describe it in a thousand words or, alternatively, show you a picture, why don’t we go with the picture instead, eh?

Here is a graphical demonstration of just how vast this place really is. I particularly love this shot because it is one of the few aerial views of Los Angeles that really shows the entire metropolitan area in one, perfect frame.  Los Angeles Basin

Another great thing about this picture: You can see exactly why people would settle here. Yes, the weather is perfect and all that, sure. But it also is a geographical miracle. A port city with beautiful beaches. A tropical paradise just a few miles from snow-capped mountain skiing. A desert community that sits on the waterfront. Hiking, boating, camping, every imaginable outdoor activity, all within a stone’s throw of one of the most jam-packed urban areas in the country.

Plus the annual mean temperature is 66.6 degrees. So, yeah, it became a little popular.

Now let’s take a look at the same map, but this time let’s throw some place names on there for a little context (to see the map better, right-click on it and open it in a new tab):  Los Angeles Basin (Labeled)

As you can see, Downtown Los Angeles is just a bit north of the very center of the region. Just to the North and West of downtown are where Hollywood and Beverly Hills are located, forming the nexus of the entertainment industry (although the film and television studios now stretch in almost every direction).

The San Fernando Valley (or, more simply, the Valley) is located just North of the Santa Monica Mountains and the fascinating history of the Valley will be explored at length in a future post. But suffice it to say that this is the area that was so brutally maligned (fairly or unfairly, depending on your perspective) by Frank Zappa in the 1982 classic “Valley Girl” (featuring the phrases “Gag me with a spoon!” and “Grody to the max!”) and then explored further in the 1983 Nicolas Cage film of the same name. But, again, we’ll get deep into the Valley (and its scandalous reputation) at a later date.

Okay, I’ve said the area is huge, but I haven’t really explained exactly how huge it is. In the next two pictures, I should be able to give you a bit more perspective on this. First, we’ll take a few of America’s most populous cities and jam them ALL into Los Angeles and see what we get.map_of_la_eight_cities

Take a careful look. Pretty wild, huh? That’s St. Louis, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Boston and all of Manhattan put together and jammed into the Los Angeles metropolitan area. And you still have plenty of room left over.

For my Chicago friends, here’s another map that superimposes the Chicagoland region onto the L.A. map. In this case, you can see that the entire city of Chicago (which is pretty vast itself) fits into Los Angeles like a size 8 foot into a size fourteen shoe. Just to get from Rossmoor to Sherman Oaks would be the equivalent of driving from the far South side all the way to O’Hare airport.LA v. Chicago

“Big,” I think, is the word you’re looking for.

Needless to say, because of the vast distances needed to get around this burg, transportation is one of the main topics of conversation in L.A. (To use another cultural touchstone to make my point, see Saturday Night Live’s “The Californians” sketch, which is famously accurate in its portrayal of traffic route obsession.) Every person I’ve talked to about moving to the West coast has cautioned me about leaving for my destination in the city about two hours earlier than I think I should.

But it isn’t just the distances between places, of course. It is the congestion. There are millions upon millions of cars in L.A. and they all seem to want to get to the same place as you at the exact same time.

I can attest to this first-hand, having been caught in L.A. traffic on occasion (and I am sure I will follow up this thought in subsequent posts). So I’m here to tell you: If you’ve never seen a six-lane superhighway completely jammed with vehicles as far as the eye can see and not moving at all, there are truly few more depressing sights

traffic

Every.  Day.

that the human eye can behold. This is a daily occurrence in Los Angeles and if there was ever a place that begged for a public transit system, this is it.

So…they built one. In fact, they are continuing to build their mass transit system. It stretches every direction and appears to be modern, clean, affordable and semi-convenient (if not entirely dependable).

Too bad no one uses it.

Well, that’s not strictly true, but it is accurate to say that Angelenos love their cars and the idea of taking a bus or train to get anywhere important is anathema to most city residents. Those who must take it use mass transit. But if you’re given the choice, generally you hop in your car.

So, naturally, a deep-rooted knowledge of the freeway system is firmly imbedded in each resident’s psyche. If you live in Los Angeles,
you know the 405, the 10, the 101, the 5 and the 110 like you know the immediate members of your family. More importantly, you know when to avoid these family members and when these routes become impassible.

It is a delicate balance between knowledge, luck and planning. Sometimes you arrive half an hour early for an appointment because the traffic gods

Angry God

Thou wishest to take the 405?  Go fuck thyself.

smiled upon you and cleared a nice path for you. And sometimes those same gods are displeased by your offering and smite you with a ten-mile stretch of idling, fume-spewing parking lot masquerading as a highway and you’re two hours late. You never know.

So, for today’s final view of the city, let’s look at a super-simplified map of the highway system. I drew the lines myself so they are not strictly accurate, but you’ll get the general idea. First, there are two major routes that cut diagonally across the city, from the Northern and Southern portions of the San Fernando Valley all the way down to Orange County in the far Southeast corner. These are the 405 and the 5.Los Angeles Basin (405 and 5)

There are also three major highways that crisscross the city horizontally: the 10 (from Santa Monica to Pomona and beyond), the 101 (from the Southern San Fernando Valley sloping South to downtown L.A.) and the 210 (from the Northern Valley through Pasadena and East to Rancho Cucamonga).Los Angeles Basin (10 and 210)

There it is! Cucamonga! Hard to believe it’s a real place, isn’t it? I mean, “Where are you from?” “I’m from Cucamonga.” are things that people actually say to each other! Unbelievable.

Okay, back to business: Finally, forming a sort of “Letter H” in the middle of everything are three more connecting highways: the 110, the 710 and the 105.Los Angeles Basin (105 and 710)

There are others- many, MANY others- connecting this or that highway: routes 170, 2, 91, 60, 170, etc., but I’ve cluttered this map enough with my grossly inaccurate sketches. Here, finally, is an actual, accurate map with place names included.LA-Arpts-FreWa

And those are the very basic basics.

The takeaways, of course:  Los Angeles is big.  And the traffic is awful.

But Cucamonga is a real place.

Hard to believe.

Los Angeles. Proper. (Pt. 1)

I haven’t traveled the entire world or anything, but I get around. And one of the things I like to do before going anywhere is to get a lay of the land.

Before my family and I left for London a couple of years ago, I delved into the street maps, the sights, the historical markers, the “must see” places and the little known urban gems. I wanted to give my kids the full experience of what it’s like to travel abroad and visit a world-renowned city, especially one with so much human history behind it.

Plus, I wanted to know where all the good pubs were.

Similarly, I’ve been doing my homework, trying to find out as much as I can about Los Angeles prior to my trip. The more I can learn in advance, the less time I have to spend peering at a map and trying to figure out the difference between the 10 and the 405 (which is something that you apparently need to know. Urgently.)

What I’ve discovered along the way is that, while L.A. doesn’t exactly have any Roman walls to brag of, it has as many famous places associated with it as any city in existence. I’m sure that you and I have heard these places mentioned over and over again in movies:

Rodeo Drive. The Sunset Strip. Beverly Hills. The San Fernando Valley. Mulholland sunset-strip-Drive. Santa Monica. Pasadena. Sierra Madre. Compton. Hollywood. Sherman Oaks. Redondo Beach. Encino. The list is endless. And those are just the place names.

There’s also all the famous buildings: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Grauman's ChineseGriffith Observatory, the Capitol Records Building, the Hollywood Bowl, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, L’Hermitage, Whiskey-a-Go-Go, Nakatomi Plaza…on and on and on.  capitolRecords

I won’t bother looking up the best restaurants in the city, as I don’t want to torture myself. On my budget, my idea of fine dining will be more along the lines of In N’ Out Burger than Spago. If I really want to treat myself, that is.

So…I know all the names- the places and buildings that have been drummed into my head for my entire life- but I don’t necessarily know how all the puzzle pieces fit together. Which is north or south of what? How do you get around? And how bad is the traffic, really? (Apparently: Worse than you think.)

This is far different than New York City, which I know well. I went to school in upstate New York and my father lived in Manhattan for over 30 years. When I go back to New York – as I did recently for a few days- it’s like trying on an old suit that still fits perfectly. The city has changed a bit, but I still knew my way around.

Los Angeles? Completely different story. I’ve been there a few times, but I don’t know my Reseda from my Long Beach, if you know what I mean.

Did you know, for example, that there’s a Studio City, a Culver City, a Universal City and a Century City? And that they’re all pretty close to each other?

Do you know how to pronounce Cahuenga, Sepulveda and La Cienega?

Do you know where to find the Bat Cave? The Cunningham’s house from “Happy Days”? The Vasquez Rocks where Captain Kirk battled the evil lizard-man Gorn?

Gorn Fight

“Before you kill me…how do you pronounce ‘Cahuenga’?”

Neither do I! But I’m sure as hell going to find out.

For today, let’s talk about where I’m going to be living for the first month I’m there: Tarzana.

Tarzana is located in the southern portion of the San Fernando Valley, which is Northwest of downtown Los Angeles. (If you’re from Chicago, think of Tarzana as being like Schaumburg.)  Tarzana is bordered by Reseda to the North and Encino to the East. Nearest highways (which we will explore in another post) are the 101 and the 405.  tarzana-map

Now, when you hear “Tarzana,” you may naturally think of the fictional jungle man “Tarzan.” But the two couldn’t have anything to do with each other, could they?

Wrong! Actually, Tarzana is named Tarzana because the previous owner of the land was none other than Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of the Tarzan books, who named the area “Tarzana Ranch” after he bougTarzanht it in 1919. Burroughs wound up subdividing and leasing the land to developers and today…it’s Tarzana.  (Fun fact: Burroughs also moved to Tarzana from Oak Park, Illinois…just like me.)

And no, it is not next to Janesville. Stop that.

Notable people from Tarzana: singer/actress Demi Lovato, filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, comedian Jon Lovitz and someone named Selena Gomez.

"I'm from Tarzana!"

“I’m from Tarzana!”

Other than that, Tarzana is kind of a sleepy place, though the guy who is letting me use his digs- my dear old school chum Paul Stroili– swears that the best sushi in L.A. can be found at the Kushiyu restaurant in Tarzana. I’ve eaten there with him and…he just might be right.

Of course, talk to a real Los Angeler…er…Angelolio…um…Angeleno? Angeleno. And they’ll tell you that Tarzana is pretty far afield. But then…everything in Los Angeles- and I mean EVERYTHING- appears to revolve around how much time it will take you to get place to place by car. Because the public transit system…

..will have to be dealt with in a different post.

The Business of Show

Old joke:

A guy goes to the circus and sees a friend he knew back in high school out in back of the Big Top shoveling elephant dung into wheelbarrows. The guy is sweating buckets, performing what is clearly a backbreaking, disgusting job. circus

The first man calls out to his friend and the two of them greet each other warmly. They spend a few minute talking over old times until finally, the first man says “Bill, listen: You don’t need to do this for a living. I’d be more than happy to give you a job in my company. You’ll make a lot more money and you won’t have to shovel shit anymore.”

And the second man looks shocked and says “What? And give up show business?”

Like I said. Old joke.

The truth is, though, that when people outside of the profession think of acting (or actors), they generally tend to think of the glamorous side of the profession. Getting cast, rehearsing, performing, the roar of the crowd, the camaraderie of the Green Room, the ensemble work that makes the best shows that much better and, of course, the after-show drinking. You know- the fun stuff.

(They also think of us romantically and poetically starving to death, but that is a post for another day.)

There is another side of acting, however- the shoveling shit part- that is far less exciting and not at all poetic. It is the business side of the profession and it is just as tedious and mind-numbing as the business of any other profession, including the pachyderm waste removal business.

This part of the job involves keeping resumes up to date, monitoring calendars, organizing mailing lists, scanning the trade papers for job openings, filing, accounting and, of course, tallying receipts.

Whoo-hoo! Show biz!

In addition, there are a number of profession-specific things you need to do as an actor. For example, you need to ensure your resume picture actually looks like you. Sounds obvious, right? You’d be surprised. Having sat through years of auditions, I’d say that roughly half the actors I see need new pictures. They get woefully out of date very, very quickly.

Very nice, Mr. Pratt.  Do you have anything more recent?

Very nice, Mr. Pratt. Do you have anything more recent?

Sadly, there are actors who are so in love with their resume pictures from the mid-90’s that they cannot bear to part with them, so they show up to auditions and are surprised when the director sees their headshot and blurts out, “This is you?”

Rule of thumb: If your pictures were taken during the previous President’s administration (or, worse, the one before that), you need to call a photographer. More accurately: Get new shots every 2-3 years whether you think you need them or not. Because you really, really do.

Then there’s your wardrobe. Generally speaking, you want to have an outfit that suits almost any profession. You never know if that next audition is going to be for a cop, a lawyer, a lumberjack, a soldier or a grease monkey. So having a wide array of clothing options to choose from is a big plus. I have shown up at casting calls where I’m auditioning to play a doctor and I’m the only person in the room without a lab coat. You don’t want to be that guy.

If you do voice-over, as I do, you also have to have at least one or two demo reels- one for straight commercial/announcer roles and one for “character” parts and silly voices. (If you do a lot of animation work, or would like to, then you’ll need three demo reels- commercial, character and animation. I’m working on getting that third one.) Putting together a demo reel can be very costly, but the good news is: Booking just one job can more than pay for it. (Though booking that one job…that’s a neat trick.)

Voice-over is an incredibly competitive industry, however, so getting involved in it can be very risky. (That, too, is a story for another day.)

Then there’s your personal website. It isn’t required, by any means, that you have one but…if you do? It’s pretty sweet. You can keep it updated with your current jobs, your upcoming gigs, your new pictures, reels, bits of news, bookings, reviews…everything.

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I enlisted professional help to create my site- the wonderful Renegade Websites folks- and I think the results speak for themselves. If you haven’t already, you can take a look at my personal site here.

Oh, but we’re not done yet. Because if you’ve also done commercials or TV shows, web series or movies (either independent or studio), you’re also going to want to put together a video demo reel. These are generally short, between 1-2 minutes, and should highlight your best and/or most prolific on-camera work. I’ve got one that I edited together myself, which you can see here.

You should also have monologues, one or two at the very least, that you can whip out and perform at a moment’s notice. Contemporary and classical. Funny and serious. Two contrasting pieces that show you off to your best advantage. (And replace those every few years, too, if you can.)

Make-up, too (yes, even for the fellas). And dance shoes, if you’re a dancer. Character shoes for the ladies. An earpiece if you do long-form narration and need an “ear” to whisper your lines to you. And pens and highlighters and printers and…well, you get the idea.

The list of STUFF you need and things you need to remember goes on and on. Just when you think you’ve shoveled quite enough, another elephant unloads and then…back to work you go. (And it’s far, far worse for the ladies, of course. Because everything is.)

Now, here’s a little something I invented myself: it’s a plastic USB flash drive holder that I’ve tricked out as a marketing piece to showcase my own work. The graphics are by my friend Paul Stroili of Touchstone Graphic Design and it features, on the cover, pictures from a

couple of my network TV appearances and shots on the back showing the shows/movie I have appeared in. Once you open it up, you can read resume excerpts from my theatre, TV/film and commercial work, plus more pictures and, of course, contact information. Jammed into the center of everything is the flash drive itself.

Plug it into your computer and you’ll have- at your fingertips- everything you could ever wish to know about me. Headshots (6 total), resumes (commercial and theatrical), voice-over demos (commercial and character), video demo reel (in two formats), uncut scenes from my TV appearances (3) and selections from some live radio work I’ve done over the years.

USB Case Three

There it is, practically my entire career, in one neat little package.
I have no idea if this thing has ever gotten me work, but I think it’s a pretty nifty little item. It could be argued that you could get all that information by just going to my website but…my theory is that my website can’t sit on your desk as a constant reminder of my existence. This little beauty can do just that.

I’ve prepared a few dozen of these and shipped them ahead to Los Angeles and plan to hand them out like tissue paper to anyone who might be interested. Here’ s hoping they actually do some good.

So there you have it. A little backstage look into the business-side of the acting profession. And that is just the iceberg’s tip. Once you actually become successful, you then have an army of agents, managers, lawyers, publicists and others, all of whom are tasked with promoting, selling, grooming and preparing you for the Next Big Thing.

At least…that’s what I hear. Let’s find out together, shall we?

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee.

Thanks, Everybody! G’Night!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

So I drove out to Aurora, Illinois last night to participate in my first open mic at the “Comedy Shrine” nightclub, billed as the place “Where Comics Go to Feel Bad About Themselves” ™.  (Full disclosure: this is not their actual tag line).

To get on the list to perform, the Shrine requests that you submit a request via email and wait for the management to send their approval.  Based on the evening’s lineup, the criteria for acceptance appeared to be “Must be a sentient being willing to abide by the two-drink minimum.”  Present company included.

The club itself is fascinating.  The lobby area is a veritable museum of comedic tchotchkes – bobbleheads of famous comedians, lunch boxes, movie posters, statues, movie props, action figures- everything you can imagine.  There isn’t an empty space on any wall. Shrine 1

In addition, there is an unrivaled collection of autographs from famous comedians.  They appear to have signatures from every major comic performer of the last century: W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers (all of them), you name it.  From Jackie Mason to Jackie Gleason.  Milton Berle to Sid Caesar.  Not to mention every SNL cast member and much, much more.  If you appeared in a comic film or on a sitcom in the past 100 years, you were on that wall.  Very, very impressive.

Finally, the witching hour arrived and our host, Jason, corralled the assembled wannabe comics and gave us our order of appearance.  There were about twenty of us and, unsurprisingly, we made up the majority of the crowd itself, which totaled- at the most- about thirty or so.  The performers ranged in age from early twenties to late sixties.  I was thankful not to be the oldest guy in the room.  I was even more thankful to be slated as third-to-last to perform.  I’d have a chance to see what kind of place it was before actually getting up to perform.

Jason got us into the club itself (explaining the two-drink minimum rule) and started us off.  He did about two minutes of warm-up and explained to everyone assembled that each comic would get five  minutes to perform and that, four minutes into the set, each of us would get a warning light telling us to wrap things up.  And off we went.

Things got off to a rough start, to say the least.  The first guy up was probably the oldest guy on the list.  He was a heavy guy wearing jeans and an old T-shirt who proceeded to do a long-form monologue in the voice of a little kid about his “Mommy” and her various dalliances with the postman, his schoolteachers and basically anyone else who was interested in her.  It was…disturbing, not at all funny and I kinda felt like taking a bath afterwards.

But the next guy almost made us forget the “Mommy” guy entirely.  Because comic #2 wasn’t a comic at all.  He was a man with a mission.  He started off by handing his camera to a guy in front of the stage instructing him to take a video of his performance.  He also refused the host’s offer of a microphone, opting to read his entire “act” from an iPad he held up in front of him.  He then spent the next five minutes issuing an angry challenge to the entire field of Presidential candidates- Republican and Democrat alike- who he dared to come to Aurora and debate him.  He assured us that if the “cowards” had the guts to show up, he would verbally eviscerate them and they, in turn, would each drop out of the race.  And he was dead serious.  He was absolutely convinced that the video he was shooting would go viral and he’d be an overnight Internet sensation for his bravery in confronting the terrible field of candidates.

It was truly awful. And it went on forever.

Eventually, the host was forced to drive him off the stage, as he refused to acknowledge the warning light or stop talking at all when his time had come to an end.  The guy left the club immediately afterwards under a hail of mocking laughter and catcalls.

At which point, I thought “Is this how these things usually go?”

ComedyBricksThankfully, no.  The rest of the evening had actual comics on stage, though their styles, delivery and joke-telling abilities were widely varied and, frankly, mostly awful.  Honestly, I began to think that the entire night was designed to be an exercise in how to fail spectacularly on stage.

The material from some of these guys was- and I can’t stress this enough- unbelievably offensive.  And I don’t mean in the Lenny Bruce, oh-how-shocking-that’s-disgusting-how-can-you-say-that kind of way.  I mean just…oddly derogatory and mean spirited.  And not funny at all.

One guy went after the Amish.  For some reason.  Another tore into feminists.  Because apparently they’re stupid.  Another guy ripped “faggots” in general and a different guy talked about how he let another guy blow him and his lack of enjoyment during the act was how he knew he wasn’t gay.  Still another talked about how he knew he wasn’t racist because he liked to bang black chicks and had “jungle fever” for a while.  No kidding.  And he did this with a big party of African-Americans sitting right in the middle of the club who remained stone-faced during his entire set.

That’s not to say that everyone was a failure by any means.  At least four or five guys out of the twenty had “good” sets, but the bar that had been set for “good” was not exactly towering above us.  Basically, if you didn’t say the n-word or drop your pants to defecate on the stage, you were killing.  It was very, very strange.

And, oddly, the lack of anything particularly humorous going on up there put me more at ease than anything else could have done.

Driving over, I hadn’t the slightest idea what to expect.  Would anyone even show up?  If they did, would I be surrounded by experienced, hilarious amateurs or rookies like myself?  Turned out that most of them had done many, many open mics before and yet…this was what they had to show for all their experience?  My anxiety slipped away.

Right up until the moment when it was my turn.  Then, my heart jumped into my throat as I took the stage.

Now, I’d like to report that this newbie comic just took the room by storm and showed those folks exactly how comedy was supposed to be performed.

I’d like to say that, but it wasn’t the case.

I did not, by any means, bomb.  I actually got some good laughs, which was a lot of fun.  But I made some mistakes early in my little mini-set that, in hindsight, I should have avoided like a comments section.

For one thing, I was overdressed.  Sara and Milo had selected a nice pair of pants, a button down shirt and a dark jacket.  I looked very sharp.  Too sharp, in fact.  Half the guys who got up there (and they were all guys) weren’t wearing much more than cargo shorts and concert t-shirts.  So here comes middle-aged, button-down, coat wearing guy, which doubtless put them off.

Next, I used the WRONG opening line.  My routine was about how, because I went to a private, Christian school growing up, I never attended a sex-ed class and only discovered recently how much information- way, way too much information- was imparted to kids in these classes at public school.  There’s a lot more to it, of course, and I’m not going to write out the whole routine for you here, but starting off by saying that I spent my whole life as a kid going to private school…didn’t exactly endear me to the crowd. Especially as I was dressed as a prep-school teacher.

As a result, they took a while to warm up.  Once they did (and they did) I started to get some of the laughs I was looking for, but they were a long time coming.

Another thing:  I went way too fast.  My actor instincts kicked in and if I know one rule as an actor, it is:  Pace is good.  Fast is always better.  Go, go, GO!

This rule does not necessarily apply as a comic.  When you lay out a punch line and it dies (as I did early on), it isn’t wise to ignore the dud and race on to the next bit.  Sometimes you need to let the dud sit or, even better, acknowledge it.  “You loved that one, huh?”  Hell, Carson made a career out of acknowledging jokes that died.

As a result, I was done with my set about a minute before my time was up.  And though I felt I did pretty well (some of it landed quite nicely, as planned), I did not finish with the big laugh I was hoping for and got off the stage as quickly as I could.

Two comics later and the night was done.  I got out of there fast and raced home to report on the evening’s events to Sara and Milo, who were pleased to hear that I hadn’t crashed and burned.  The whole experience had been scary, highly educational and, at times, painful to watch.  But it hadn’t been a disaster.  Not by the longest of shots.

That is to say:  I hadn’t been the best guy up there that night, which was disappointing, but I had taken the risk, gotten up on the stage, told some jokes, gotten some laughs and, most importantly, survived.

And rest assured- I’ll be back for more.

Next On Our Stage…

As promised early last week, tomorrow night, December 14th, 2015, I will make my debut as a night club comic (albeit briefly) at the Comedy Shrine in Aurora, Illinois.

Open MicThey have an open mic night every Monday, which you must sign up for in advance and, as luck would have it, I am among the chosen few who will be allowed to take the stage tomorrow night.  They give you between 5-6 minutes and demand a two-drink minimum which, I have no doubt, I will desperately need.

I will also do my level-best to get video of this momentous occasion and post it here if I do.  It should be, at the very least, fascinating, cringe-worthy, hilarious or some hybrid of all three.

Here’s the link.  Let’s see what happens, shall we?

The Comedy Shrine

In For a Penny

In my experience, when the subject of money is addressed, people tend to become very protective and unusually tight-lipped. Discussing personal finances with other people is the most sacred of sacred cows and bringing up another person’s affluence (or lack thereof) can end a conversation faster than loud fart on a first date.ManageFinances2

I don’t know why, but bringing up money is, for most people, more inappropriate than talking about anything else. This includes sex, about which people will sadly overshare without hesitation.

No joke. Ask a guy about how his evening went with a certain young lady and oftentimes you will get a more detailed answer than you hoped to get.

“Last night? Oh, man. It was great. I took her back to my place and we [insert unnecessarily descriptive carnal act here].”

But…ask him how much he made last year?

“Hey, come on. That’s a little personal, don’t you think?”

So I’m going to doubtless make some people feel uncomfortable in today’s post because- hold on to your hats- I’m going to describe how Sara and I are planning to pull off the next three month’s adventure in Hollywood from a financial standpoint. And I know for a fact that some people are going to react as if I opened my bedroom window and invited them to peek inside. Money is that private a thing to certain people.

However, the stated purpose of this blog is to be as open and honest about this process as I can possibly be and, sorry to say, that means eventually bringing up the subject of moola. Besides, I’ve never considered my net worth to be an accurate reflection of my self worth, so talking about money doesn’t bug me as much as it does other people. So here we go.

First, part of the reason it is so comfortable for me to talk about money because, frankly, I have so little of it. Almost every dime I have is somehow invested in some instrument or other (my house, my stock portfolio (such as it is), my 401(k) plans or my kids’ college funds). So I am not, in the parlance of finance, very liquid.

That said, how does one prepare for a three month trip to California with almost no anticipated income when you have a mortgage to pay and two kids to feed?

Here’s how: You become very frugal. And you make plans to go deep into debt.

See, in order to pay the bills, I’ve got two choices- sell off some of the few assets I have (the ones that aren’t tied up in IRA accounts) or…run up my home equity line of credit, essentially maxing myself out, credit-wise.

** Quick side note: Feeling uncomfortable yet? Because some people, reading this, are absolutely horrified. “How can you discuss such things in public? Have you no sense of propriety, Theis? You’re talking about money! Out loud! In FRONT OF PEOPLE!”

Yeah, yeah, I know. Relax. And get ready. Because it’s about to get worse. **

I should mention that we do not plan to go three months without any income at all. Sara is planning to work (and already has some part-time jobs lined up) and I, thankfully, have two bookings already- one in January (in Dallas) and one in February (happily, back here in Chicago), that will be tremendously helpful in keeping the wolf from the door. Still, those jobs are not going to cover our nut entirely so…into Debtsville we go.

Looking at the budget we drew up, it appears that this entire adventure will, if we’re careful, run about $20,000, give or take. That’s covering everything: mortgage, school fees, union dues, cocaine…the works.

And I figure I can probably get the majority of that cash by running up my home equity line. But I’m going to probably have to sell some stocks, too. What I will not do, and hope to never do, is to put the debt I’m running up on my credit card. Here’s why:

In my opinion, there are two kinds of debt: Smart Debt and Stupid Debt. Smart debt is pretty easy to spot: it is based on your equity and has low interest rates- preferably interest you can write off on your taxes (i.e. my home equity loan). Stupid debt is your credit card- high interest that you cannot write off and that grows by leaps and bounds, compounding month after month until you’re in a whole lot of trouble.

Credit card debt- along with student loans- can be an absolutely killer, financially. I got deep into credit card debt exactly once in my life and it took me years to dig out of it. Never again. So maxing out the credit card is off the table. Which means: selling some long-held stocks and running up my equity line to the fullest.

Well, that and prayer. Because honestly- if I don’t find some kind of income from acting in California for three solid months, I may have to pull the plug early. Instead of staying through March, I might just be forced to toddle home a lot sooner. We’ll see. A lot of it depends if we can stick to our budget.

To prepare for all this, Sara and I have cleared the decks. We owe exactly zero on our credit card. We’ve beefed up the savings account in case of emergency. And if the shit really hits the fan, I have the option of going to my Dad with my hat in my hand asking for help. (And if you think people are uncomfortable talking about money in general, that’s nothing compared to talking about borrowing money. Lemme tell ya, folks: Polonius knew his shit.)

But it should not come to that. We’re are as prepared as we can be to take the biggest financial risk of our lives.

Which, remember, is betting on a pipe dream that an actor can find work in Los Angeles in just three measly months.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t think about the odds of success. It will keep you up at night. No kidding.

Okay, you can relax now.  We’re done talking about money.  And it really wasn’t all that bad.

Was it?