Friday, September 29, 2006

LA Traffic, Chuck Klosterman and Audience

I have not been in LA very long. About 4 weeks to be exact - and at least half of that time has been spent going to New York (for readings) or going to Ashland (to see my wife).

Still, I've been in LA. And now I'm noticing that something about me has changed.

I have come to have an appreciation for being something that I didn't before.

It's an appreciation that starts with listening, but is bigger: it's an appreciation for being part of an audience.

And it is all LA traffic's fault, with a little help from Chuck Klosterman.

You see, in LA, there is a well-known thing called "car-time" which can be defined as a period when your mind is available for stimulation through the ear and you are in a space in which, transparent as it may be, you are still free to react as if you are alone.

There's lots of this time. You bascially can do several things with it:
1. Nothing.
2. Listen to music.
3. Listen to the radio.
4. Make phone calls.
5. Get a book on CD and listen to it.
(Some say there's a 6th thing - reading - but I find this too dangerous.)

After initially starting with 1, I quickly moved to 2 and 3 with a lot of 4 in between. But eventually, music and radio grew tedious and chatting on the phone while driving, well, it's gonna lead to a crash.

So, I finally landed on the decision to try 5.

It was a reluctant decision to say the least since, as far as I had been concerned, these devices, books on CD, had always represented something of a sad thing for me culturally. A kind of laziness on the part of people who wanted to be in the know but didn't want to read.

But, then, I'd never had any real "car-time" and so, being a little desperate, to the "book" store I went to find something to listen to.

There are a lot of books on CD. Lots. And at first I was a little mystified about what to chose. On the one hand I was predisposed to fiction since I do love a good story, but on the other hand, I didn't want to be hearing something in 20 and 30 minutes dispatches that was meant to be heard in a long 4 hour sitting.

Luckily, I discovered that Chuck Klosterman had put something down and I thought, now, here is soemthing perfect. I knew his work would come in discreet little packages that could take me from LaBrea and Olympic all the way to Santa Monica and more if I wanted without ever feeling cut up by stops and starts along the way. Plus, I loved reading him when he was at SPIN. (He was the only real reason to get the magazine. I still think they were stupid to redesign the magazine without him.)

I got more than time-filler for the car.

See, aside from the being brilliant (and few are more brilliant than Klosterman's on the state of our culture, the nature of cool and the effect the Star Wars movies have really had on us) listening to him at stoplights and speeds of 70 mph and more, I have been completely re-awakened to the pleasure of listening to ideas.

Sure, I got it occasionally listening to NPR while in the car, but with Klosterman, the ideas are more pointed and put together. It's not just an overheard conversation happening between a DJ and someone on a phone, but something constructed after reflection, something that I'm hearing after it has been distilled by a mind.

Yes, that is to say, it's more like the reading of a play, or even like seeing a play, sans visuals.

This "listening" is something I think we sometimes forget, especially when there are so many ways available to us for response. In fact, I feel sometimes, that rather than just hearing something, taking it in, I often sit down at a movie or, particularly a theatre show, and think, even before it begins, what my potential repsonse to it might be.

Books on CD obviously makes this impossible. My repsonse is actually more direct because there's nothing else there - either I take to what I'm hearing or I don't. Its value to me is dependent on much I let it in RATHER than what I might possibly yell back at it.

In my car, I can only be a member of Klosterman's audience.

If only I could remind, not only myself, but everyone else at a theatre show how pleasureable that can be. That sometimes things are better when there's no talkback, no response cards, no "hey, what did you think of this" crap. It's just there for you to get something from or not.

Not that you don't talk about it, don't tell people what you thought of it. You just don't make the purpose of what you're about to see little else than what you're about to say.

Anyway, once again, thanks Chuck.

Not only for being the finest essayist of my generation, but reminding me that being in the audience, being part of an audience, well, it has its rewards, too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Platypus Theory.

Television. Novels. Radio. Movies. Print. Theatre plays. Outdoor. Interactive. Text messages. Emails. Blogs. Phone videos.

Used to be, when you told someone you were a writer, they assumed you meant something like "a person who puts words on a page."

And it was assumed that a page - a piece of paper - was also going to be the place where those words would be consumed for comprehension by someone called a reader.

I don't have to tell you, those were the good old days.

Or at least, the old days.

Nowadays, a writer tends to put words on a glowing screen first and often those words never even get close to paper.

That's why, driving around LA, talking to people about what I do and want to do and what they need and where they think it's all going, I've decided I'm a platypus.

Yes, a platypus.

That's right, I'm a web-footed, egg-laying, duck-billed, part reptile/part mammal animal that lives half on land, half in the water.

In short, an ass-ugly creature that sits at the crossroads of evolution when it comes to word-work.

I'm a playwright in TV-Land. An ad guy in Hollywood. A story teller in a nation of non-reading, reality TV watching people.

Of course, it might be argued that I should specialize in one thing or another, but, I don't believe survival lies in that direction.

Which is why the platypus is so special. See, the platypus found that there wasn't enough food in any one spot alone for it to make it. So there was only one thing it could do: Adapt to fit in all the environments.

It makes for a weird business card, all right.

Christ. A platypus. A fucking platypus.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006



Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

4 days in New York; A peek into the world of the New Dramatists selection committee

In the midst of all this blogging about why someone would choose (or not choose) to work in NY - I went to the great city for two readings: DRESSING THE GIRL and BEYOND THE OWING.

DRESSING THE GIRL was first on Thursday. It's a play I've worked on quite a bit and while there's no such thing as finished, I'm not working on it anymore.

Somehow, I convinced Olivia Honegger at the Relentless Theatre Company to not just do it, but do it in a dress shop. She, by some miracle, got Montmartre to host the show at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. This little site-specific idea turned out to be a good little gimmick to get people interested in the show and I felt it proved something to me about the feelings that rise up in people when they think about theatre: That the idea of going to a black box to sit in rows of uncomfortable chairs is dreaded. Moreso when they consider how bored they were watching the show they'd come to see.

Fortunately, boredom and dread did not happen on Thursday. In fact, putting it in the store gave it something different that was a real turn on. Though I'm not the first to do this, I know there will be more of this in my future. It may mean that I never do a show in a space that can hold more than 40 people, but theatre is not a mass medium, so, perhaps small invitation only "events" is the way to go.

It seems like a step backward to "parlor theatre" on one hand, but it offers an intimacy and closeness that cannot be replicated by any other art form I know of.

The second reading was a closed reading of a play I'm still working on: BEYOND THE OWING. It took place at the NJ Rep.

The actors were terrific, but I was unhappy overall with my own writing (I hate discovering how much work I need to do in front of other people). Though this play is a very big play with some real heat on it, it needs work. I'm hoping one of the theatres that's currently looking at it will see the value in it and help me develop it further.

The other exciting thing that happened during all this activity was meeting one of the people who served on the New Dramatists' selection committee two years ago when I was a finalist for admission. It was the first year I'd ever applied, so I thought it was actually an accident that I had gotten so far in the selection process - that they'd lost my application and rather than admit they'd forgotten to write me a rejection letter earlier, they just said, let's give this guy a little hope.

I was relieved to know there were several people on the committee who loved my script FIRE BABY and that the committee was split along hard lines over it. The people who got it were quite taken with the play's crazy bravado - if you want to call it that. The people who didn't get it found it "hateful" (a direct quote). But apparently neither side could stop reading the play.

This is how plays should be.

It gave me renewed faith that there are people who can see what I'm trying to do. Some even like it.

It also made me go back and look at the people who got in the year I was rejected in the first round (last year) and realize my writing is simply not like theirs in any way. Whoever was on the committee last year (it changes every year which I think is a good thing) was simply interested in a different kind of theatre.

It confirmed the fairness of the selection process, which I've read about - and been told about - from two different sources.

Naturally, I'll keep applying.


I also spent a lot of time seeing friends in New York, though the thing that sticks with me most about this trip was (unlike San Francisco) I was never struck by the feeling that I wanted to come back. If anything, knowing that the place was behind me for good, I was able to enjoy it more. It somehow inured me from all the grinding on 42nd street. It had none of the heaviness that can come with knowing you'll return to it tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow with no end in sight.

It was fun.

And the imporant part of that sentence (and this trip) is the verb tense.

Now it's all LA. All the time. From here on out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Buffalo and Iowa City are the only towns outside of New York

This is NOT the Elizabethan Stage in Ashland, Oregon. It is actually somewhere in Buffalo. Or Iowa City.

AS YOU MAY or may not know, there's been plenty of interesting discussion recently on different blogs about the idea of whether theatre is too "New York-centric" and questioning the idea that "all good things in theatre happen only in New York."

Being someone who's already made my decision about that, and acted on it, I've over-commented about it already on several of the blogs where it's hottest. However, I do find it interesting how little some seem to understand about what's going on in the regions. Particularly considering how much new work is created elsewhere and then brought to NY.

Even weirder is the straw dog argument occasionally floated that makes a comparison between New York and Buffalo and/or Iowa City. Occasionally Chicago's mentioned as a place that might have a scene but somehow LA, Seattle, SF, Boston, DC and Minneapolis (home of the Playwrights Center!) have disappeared.

Yep, it's just Buffalo and Iowa City.

I don't think that's really the kind of framing anyone wants on this conversation, but it may also help explain why few have talked about one of the best things to happen to the New York theatre scene in the last few years: The Summer Play Festival (SPF).

You see, the festival is basically a month-long showcase of work by writers who've not been seen so much (ie, had a big production of major note though they have been around) in Gotham - people like Kelly Stuart, Sheri Wilner, Alex Moggridge, Laura Schellhardt, Michelle Carter, Victor Lodato, Karen Hartman, John Yearly, Carlos Murillo, Liz Duffy Adams, Heather MacDonald, etc, etc. In some of these cases, the writers got some decently noticed productions in NY afterwords, so one has to think the Tepper concept may be working - Beeber, Martinez and Hudes are only a few that I seem to have noticed more of following their shows at SPF.

(Oddly, the existence of the SPF proves how much is going on West of the Hudson - as well as how difficult it is for new writers to get a decent production in NY.)

Anyway, it's all a little silly and there's, occasionally, a sense of defensiveness happening on both sides.

But please, feel free to decide for yourself, here are links to the comments - they provide a pretty good snapshot of how people in and out of NYC see the Big Apple and its children who aren't living at home anymore.

A Poor Player, New York Centrism
Parabasis, What it takes
Laura Axelrod, GASP.

Ulimately, I'm just glad to be on the west coast, still sober, still writing and, most importantly, closer to my wife.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dresses are dangerous: Proof.

Please come to a reading of my play, DRESSING THE GIRL

WHEN: Thursday, September 21 at 6.30 pm (6 for food and drink)

WHERE: The Montmartre Dress Shop in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, NYC

Featuring, Sarah Elliott, Laura Marks and Kevin Stapleton

Directed by Charles Maryan

Produced by Montmartre and the Relentless Theatre Company

Dressing the Girl was given a closed reading at the Magic Theatre in 2003 as part of their inhouse lit dept table series. It was their inaugural script. It was subsequently developed at the Soho ThinkTank and later given week long workshop at the 78th Street Theatre Lab (both directed by Matthew Arbrour). The play was then developed further with Michael Kenyon at the Public Theatre where it was shortlisted for the fall 2005 New Work NOW! series.

I'm off in the morning to the Long Beach Airport to fly to NY and see the reading myself, so I'll be there.

Hope to see you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Observations about Ashland + Shows

I'm going to admit it.

The first time I ever visited Ashland, I was not in love with it. Of course, I was also visiting it with a woman I did not love and I had such a terrible bout of insomnia that I found it more fun to read all of Aeschylus on the library steps than hang around in the room with my "not-right-for-me" companion.

Also, I was a playwright. A living playwright. And feeling the lack of productions for living playwrights work, I was also fond of saying stupid things like: Playwrights who are dead shouldn't be produced. They don't need the money. They're dead. (For the record, I still throw this molotov cocktail out at parties occasionally just to provoke the actors and directors who make a living off Bill's body of work. When I'm lucky, no-one takes the bait.)

It helped a little that, during that trip, in addition to the requisite Shakespeare, I also saw the OSF production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (which I loved).

Still. There was a lot of the dead guy's work. A lot.

But I am a very lucky man because this first unhappy visit to Ashland, was not my last.

In fact, I returned to Ashland two years later with someone I did love. (And still love. And will always love.) And even better, it turned out she was not only an actress working at the festival, but someone who had grown up in the town of Ashland. So I got a view of what Ashland was not just from a visitor's perspective, but from a native's perspective.

And, for all my aesthetic problems and pickiness (I like Shepard and Kane and Churchill and Ravenhill and McDonagh and Fornes - writers you don't/won't usually find on the bill here), I even became envious. (To the OSF's credit, they currently do produce some work by living writers (and good ones, too) - and more to their credit, they often produce work they have commissioned. This "putting your money where your mouth is" thing should be practiced by more theatre companies if you ask me.)

You see, this woman I love took to me to a breakfast to meet the people she'd grown up with and over waffles and sausage I listened to them talk about productions of Macbeth and Hamlet and R&J and on and on that they'd witnessed over a 30 year period.

It was impressive. It was amazing. And all the more so because it was regular talk for these folks. Ie, while an evening at the theatre still has something special, for them it was also just part of life.

I sat in awe as I realized that there is probably no other community like it anywhere on the planet. Enclaves to be sure in places like NY, but a whole town? A whole valley?

I'll be lucky if I ever have a theatre company, or work for one, or join one, that can even have one 100th of the potential to do what Angus Bowmer was able to do in a small town in south central Oregon.


As I said, I was able to run up to Ashland for the weekend and I saw two shows worth noting.

Here are my shameless plugs for them.

This play isn't done very often. And it's not read very much either. In fact, I wrote a sketch once that made fun of its obscure status. Plus, it's full of language like "controlment" and "endamagement" - words I'm prettry sure Microsoft's spell check will tell you don't exist. But the way it's directed here by John Sipes will have you wondering (if/when you see it) why the play isn't done all the time. The performances are great and the blocking of the play is so well-thought out that I had no trouble following the complicated geneology at the root of the play's plot, let alone all the political maneuvering going on. Plus, the scene where Hubert must put out the eyes of a child with a hot poker was/is draw-droppingly modern.

Man, let's get more of this on stage.

The boys are Amish. They go to a country club. They get banished to a forest full of Goths from the Mad Max movies. The playbill's notes suggest that some dismiss this as an "early" play. If only I could write such an early play. Full of love and wit, I was re-awakened to the Bard's abiltiy to say so much so well about the emotional lives we have. And the production locales lend the show a playfulness that keeps some of Shakespeare's less than truthful turnabouts working in ways they really shouldn't. In a word: charming.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Playgoer: Playwrights in TV land

Apologies about not getting something fresh up over the last few days. I will post more later, but I shot up to Ashland for the weekend. Between that and some freelance and a screenplay, well, I've had trouble sleeping.

However, I've seen couple of plays that I want to write about and have a few mental notes about OSF and the community around it, so I'll definitely get that all up in the next 24hrs or so...

I haven't forgotten. I haven't forgotten.

In the meantime, this is an important article in my adventures to make it in LA. Take a look: The Playgoer: Playwrights in TV land

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Please come if you can. I'll be in New York for it and am very excited.

From Broadway World, DRESSING THE GIRL.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I have a strip mall in my heart that I'd never driven to until last night

strip' mall"
a retail complex consisting of stores or restaurants in adjacent spaces in one long building, typically having a narrow parking area directly in front of the stores.

"Los Angeles is one giant strip mall. You'll hate it." This was the assessment I got in advance of our move from NY to LA from a close friend in the arts.

She also, it turns out, had fled the world of suburbia for the streets of New York as soon as she was legally able to.

While certainly she wasn't completely wrong about the Los Angeles world of stores, what she was implying about the character of LA was completely wrong.

Which is a long way of saying that last night, while driving past Johnnies Coffee Shop (pictured somwhere below) and Bob's Big Boy and the 7-11 and a Hollywood Video, I realized that I did not hate LA because it was/is one giant strip mall.

Oh, contraire, my friend, I had in fact become a lover of this architectural and commercial sign of cultural blight.

Yes, that's right, I discovered that in LA, I think the strip mall is kinda amazing.

But perhaps that's because the strip malls in LA are, in fact, for the most part, amazing.

Sure, at first glance they seem little more than a series of stores laid out unimaginatively one after the other, but every once in a while you come across a place like Johnnies - which, while closed to the public, can still make you fantasize (while sitting at the light) about Caddies with suicide doors and women with hips and torpedo breasts that can take an eye out if you're not careful.

And closer inspection reveals that even in the malls with less spectacular architectural anchors, there are things that are mighty interesting. Like karate studios that promise to teach you weapon use (what weapons? does the president know about this?) right next to Armenian travel agencies where skinny women wearing hip chains and high heels smoke cigarettes right next to a taco stand run by a three foot high old lady who's hung a laminated almost-hologram like photo of Jesus over the salsas.

These strips are, in fact, socio-economic portraits of the neighborhoods that surround them. From the cars in the lots to the languages that dominate the windows, there are strong clues that tell the discerning where in LA they actually are. (50s structures like Johnnies are likely to be found in places that have been established longer, for instance, while strips populated by FatBurgers and Nextel stores are more likely to be found in newer malls and then the 99 cent stores, well, if you're finding a lot of them in your life, you probably can guess what that means.)

Of course, it all harkens back to the days of the Old West when a town was defined as a strip of stores layed out horizontally against the scrub and you rode up to the place where you were shopping and tied your horse to the post outside.

And that means the strip mall is, in its own way, a statement about the way dreams work out here versus Manhattan: Here, dreams expand outward, not upward.

So, yeah, that's right. I like the strip mall. I like it good.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Optimism vs. Real World - outcome to be determined

A week ago Thursday, I started making calls looking for work in LA to people in advertising.

This week I had my first meeting with someone who might be able to help me along those lines: a woman I'll simply call, M.

(A quick review of events so far - to be read in a quickened hushed voice: I'm playwright who makes money writing ads. I've moved to LA from NY to start a new life with my wife, an actress named Heather. I'm the advance guard - she's joining me down here in December when her duties with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival end. Until then I've found a temporary apartment and we have a small financial cushion - which I, being a very middle class guy, worry about constantly.)

From the start it was an adventure: M lives up in the hills off Beachwood, which, if you're not familiar with the terrain, cuts up toward the famous Hollywood sign off Franklin. The streets to her house were twisting and narrow, made narrower by cars parked against retaining walls that ha what's going to happen except that the journey is about to really commence. It was a sweetly exciting feeling of going to a place where I'd never been before - and never expected to go in my life.

And then, near the top, I passed a home with a slightly French sense of architecture and an exterminators truck parked outside. As I passed, I noticed the door was already open.

A few yards later, I turned around to find a parking space closer by - in front of the pest guy.

M came out of the house to greet me.

She extended her hand and smiled and, immediately, I liked her.

"Sorry about the exterminator," she explained as she showed me into her home, "As long as you don't plan on going into the bushes it should be fine."

I promised her there would be no freelance weeding.

Then we sat down to business - a long conversation about the different neighborhoods in Los Angeles, the new subway system here and the differences between the LA in our heads and the LA that is actually lived in.

It was about an hour before we got to the realities of the Los Angeles advertising marketplace. While M was by no means pessimistic, she also didn't paint a portrait of a healthy, growing boy. In fact, using the 90s as a reference - when the World Trade Center still stood and our biggest worries were meetings between interns and presidents - the advertising business in California is a shell of its former self.

The number of agencies here have been halved since 1996.

Over a half-billion dollars in billing has disappeared from advertising in California since 2001.

This is part of a larger trend, of course, in which cable and internet media have shattered the power of traditional forms of commercial engagement between companies and human beings.

It's also a winnowing of opportunity in the commercial arts that is weirdly mirrored by a change in the way work from writers and art directors is shown. Once we all used to carry around a thing called a "Book" or portfolio of work that was often oversized and included a big fat tape that had our TV reels on it. They were impractical to ship and heavy to cart. But they said you had something to look at to those who were supposed to be looking.

Now almost no-one shows a "Book" that can't be tucked under the arm. And no-one, but no-one, has a "reel" made of tape. Instead we all have DVDs or CDs with QuickTime menus to be viewed any old time you need. And/or, you have a website. (Mine is

This reduction means it's all a lot easier to look at.

And thus easier to throw away, dismiss and forget.

Just like so much of our already over-messaged world.

Nonetheless, I showed M my portfolio and left her two DVDs and one CD with different arrangements of pieces to be viewed later. And she seemed pleased that I'd made the trek all the way up there to her house and started to map out a course of action for my job search that would mean that we wouldn't get in each other's way as we embarked on this journey for work together. (After all, when she finds me work, she gets work, too - that's how it works.)

Then, before I left, M offered to show me the view from her back porch. I naturally said yes and followed her through the sunfilled house, up some stairs and through an office.

There, on a small wood landing, I looked at all of Los Angeles below, from the Hollywood sign on the left to the northernmost beaches of Santa Monica on the right. It was breathtakingly beautiful. So many people down there, I thought. So many lives flowing through its arteries. So much money moving around inside that basin.

Would my wife and I find a place in it?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

NY to LA - the bill from Caesar

We moved everything from NY to Ashland, so we're not really finished yet, but this gives you a rough idea of what it costs to move a one bedroom apartment 3,000 miles - from the banks of the Hudson to the shore of the Pacific Ocean.

By the by, the apartment was "boxed up" and UPSed. How 'bout that?

55 boxes weighing - in total - 1702 lbs, total shipping cost (UPS): $2674.57

1 Dining Room Table top - 145 lbs, total shipping cost (Fedex): $645.00

1 Queen Bed, headboard, footboard, slats (no mattress or box) - 100 lbs (special boxing required)(UPS): $965.00

20 boxes of books, sent book rate via USPS, bookrate: $200 (est)

1 Mini-Cooper, shipped via DAS: $1635.00

Tape, Boxees, Bubble wrap and the annoying styrofoam peanuts that we now find everywhere: $350 (est)

1 Jet blue airline ticket, one way from JFK to Portland: $254.00 (bought on short notice)

U-Haul for getting boxes from my mother-in-law's drive to a storage unit in Medford: $45.00

Back brace, chiropracter, spine specialist: MILLIONS.

TOTAL: $6768.57

It should be noted that the storage unit in Medford costs us $70/month and that we'll need to rent another U-Haul to get everything down to LA once we have a permanent place to live there.

Did it cost a lot?

Sure. But we're both happier already than we were in NY, so, there you are.

Also of note - check out my advertising work website: Ideas from a Platypus

PLUS - a parody I made of the recent timelapse art projects that have been showing up on youtube has made it to the toprated list for comedy on youtube; Take a look. one picture of my cat every second for 16 seconds

Tuesday, September 05, 2006



Just when I thought it would be all LA all the time, I get a reading in NY of DRESSING THE GIRL.

Appropriately it's being done in a dress shop. Details are below.

What happens when a man buys a dress for a woman over and over again eventhough it doesn't fit? How do you say no to a dress shop girl who wants to try things on for you?

Just how dangerous can a dress be?

Find out at the reading of DRESSING THE GIRL.

WHERE: MONTMARTRE (the store that inspired the play) in the Time/Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

WHEN: Thursday, Sept 21 at 6.30 pm

It's free and there will be refreshments (served at 6) And, I'll be there, so I hope to see you.

Presented by the Relentless Theatre Company
Directed by Charles Maryan
Featuring: Sarah Elliott, Laura Marks and Kevin Stapleton

Monday, September 04, 2006

A reader who is a writer dreams

I am a playwright.

I've also been a play reader. (Three years at the Public - among other places.)

Last night I had a dream that floated through both these worlds.

I dreamt of all the plays I'd read that I liked and had sent up the food chain eventhough they weren't appropriate for the places I was working. I dreamt of all the plays other readers told me about that they'd sent up the food chains of their theatres even though it made no sense for those places. I dreamt of all the good plays sent out by their creators to the wrong theatres where, good as they might have been, they were set aside like forgotten toys.

And then I dreamt that all the reader reports for these "good - but not here or now" plays were put into a giant database accessible to any literary department anywhere so that perhaps theatres could find what they needed and plays found the homes they deserved.

I dreamt, that readers everywhere added their own favorites (never negative reports since what good would that do) to this growing pool so there was a beautiful organic body of shared knowledge of plays that were good.

It was a good dream.

PS. I once worked at a bookstore (Stuart Brent on Michigan Avenue) where the owner kept books in stock that didn't sell. I asked why. "The person who this book was written for just hasn't come in yet. But they will," he said. "Now go stock the poetry section."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Finding an LA apartment

When you say you're moving to LA, the first thing people ask is: "Where you going to live?"

They often go on to answer their own question with, "I always thought Santa Monica was nice. I love it there."

People who already live in LA approach the issue differently. They tell you where to live.

“I live in Mar Vista. It’s great. You should live in Mar Vista, too.”

A friend of mine, James, said this would happen right before he told me there was no place like Silver Lake.

This informal neighborhood advocacy program is born out of the very real - and always present – fact: LA is a vast, vast land.

I suppose this would be one way to judge how much someone likes me – the stronger the advocacy, the stronger the relationship - but I prefer to look at it as a way to understand the personalities of each neighborhood.

Like the aforementioned James – and his wife, Jessica – they are San Francisco people. They like hills and walking and funky bohemian stuff. Their neighborhood in SF was Cole Valley – a nicer, less grungy part of the Haight (if you’re from Chicago, think of Lincoln-Paulina area in the early 90s).

Silver Lake is just like that. Only with less walking – a phrase that can be attached to any comparison of LA to another city. (I.e., “That LA diner is just like Sarge’s in NY, only with less walking.”)

My old friend Abby and her man John live with their two kids in Santa Monica. They’re laid back people, actors and writers both, who occasionally stress themselves out trying to avoid stressful situations. And they like nice stuff.

Voila! A passable description of Santa Monica.

The bad thing about this word-of-mouth real estating is that it can be a little self-segregating. If you don’t know anyone in Korea-town, no one’s going to tell you to live there so you don’t look there and you don’t live there.

You end up in Silver Lake. Or Santa Monica.

At best, you might look in an adjacent area to those neighborhoods being advocated – which is one way undiscovered areas get hot. But, if you’re not friends with someone who might be deemed a social pioneer for your set, well, there you are.

In Silver Lake. Or Santa Monica.

(About the only people who didn't do this were Aram and Sarah who have given me their couch while I search for places to live. They live off the 210 between Pasedena and 5 and they know that the only people who live there beside them are horse people. They are beatiful people and terrific musicians that I will write more of later - but here are links to their band-sites: Aram's Orphan Train and Sarah's Ladytown Check them out. You will not regret it.)

All that said, I do like this “Hey, you should live here” chatter that I’ve come across. It tells me people really like where they live in LA and that the city, despite its vast vastness, is not some big impossible to understand welter of streets and places run by Vic Morrow and other thugs on The Shield.

That does not mean, however, that you’ll be able to find a suitable place in any of those areas friends have told you to check out.

Moreover, the other major, major thing to consider when looking for a place in LA is where you work. Turns out that being too far from THE MAN is a huge disadvantage. (Thus, someone’s address also starts to make suggestions about what is done for a living – the West side has a lot of commercial production, etc.)

The areas my peeps pushed were already quite full, and quite expensive. And, being naturally cautious, not having a job, and not knowing who I really am or really knowing anything, I put all the advice of friends into a bubble gum machine with handfuls of information from Craig’s List and the apartment agency everyone recommends (after they tell you where to live), West Side Rentals.

What came out was a place at Olympic and Hauser – about 6 blocks from LaBrea – an area near Miracle Mile that is conveniently (or not) located in the sort of middle of everything.

And it’s a roommate situation. Naturally, he’s an actor - Louie - who’s bicoastal and going back NY to do a play at the Rattlestick. (Can you believe?)

There’s a big pine table for dining and even a refrigerator (which not all apartments in LA come with, shockingly enough).

But more importantly, it seems to be a neighborhood you can leave a car in and where many people like me land when they first arrive in LA because, due to it’s “in the middle of everything” area code, it’s not a commitment to any lifestyle whatsoever.

It’s what Minnesotans call “nice.”

And so, this is where I’ll start. In the middle. To look for work. To look for more people like me. And the place from which I’ll continue to look for a more permanent apartment.

In Silver Lake. Or Santa Monica.



1. The Thomas Guide (leant to me by Armando, living here without this would be like trying to get around NY with a blindfold on - you'd have to figure out where you were by the sounds alone)
2. An account at West Side Rentals and some serious Craig's List time
3. Patience - you'll be driving, so, uh, you need this big time
4. A couch while you look (thank you Aram and Sarah!)
5. Intelligent Trust OR a refrigerator - whichever you need more/first