Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Weekend expectations

Just received an invitation to attend a renowned drag show for a stagette party. Thailand notwithstanding, the only other time I've wanted to see lady boys and queens perform was when a friend of mine visited me in Montreal. We looked up at the sign, saw a patron smoking outside in a hard hat, and quickly realized this was the kind of establishment that catered to, shall we say, straight men who enjoyed playing in the basement on occasion.

And where, we presumed, money exchanged hands beyond the stage.

Looking forward to this one though, but I don't know how comfortable I feel about prancing around in lingerie for the sex toy shindig beforehand ...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Occasional cheques don't pay for organic groceries

I didn't get the job. The woman who did was a friend of someone with whom I'd worked and who had, a month earlier, been given the position for which I'd also interviewed.

Cursed luck! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. I called Paul and rehashed my now familiar monologue about being a perpetual loser and destined to pick choice cuts from dumpsters. He calmed me down and told me he landed a job interview at a photography studio next week. Woohoo! That cheered me up.

So on the one hand, I am saddened by yet another rejection. On the other hand, I realize I am also being called in for openings through personal recommendations. I suppose that's progress.

I know both my former work colleague and her friend are more qualified for the jobs anyway. Furthermore, while I crave the atmosphere of a film set, I'm also aware that being a celeb personal assistant (even a big shot's) isn't the ideal route to that goal either (i.e. "Look but can't touch").

Oy! Underemployment is the insistent shit stain on my life. I feel like I can't move forward with other plans, while the alternative -- that is, looking back -- would only elicit dark thoughts.

I must confess, however, that being in a relationship lessens the burden. Remember how I used to complain about relationships hindering ambition? I've changed my mind. It is, in fact, the dating game that sucks up time easily spent being focused and clear-headed.

I was hanging out with Ray last night. He's one of my best buds. (Tall, handsome, and in med school. Ladies? He's single.) We were shooting the shit and I was describing to him the opposing positions Paul and I held in regards to the G20 clashes, when I blurted something out that caught even me off guard. I said that despite venting about Paul's failings (as, ahem, a sparring partner), "I'm gonna end up marrying him."

The words sort of lingered in the air like a laundry line, squeaking back and forth in perpetuity. Ray looked at me in disbelief. The truth is, if it happens, it happens. Paul and I have occasionally addressed it during commercial breaks for Rich Bride Poor Bride (he loves the scandal) and HGTV programming (ditto house hunting). It's a topic that is approached with an air of inevitability.

And that's comforting because it makes me put less pressure on myself to be achievement-orientated. Through stretches of poverty and missed opportunity, unemployment and lay-offs, we know this is as bad as its gonna get and there's nowhere to go but up.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yellow Blue Bus

Paul in Beijing (2010)

There, I feel better now

I don't know how to start this post because I am upset. For many years, my family has been the major source of friction in my life. It's not a topic I ever discuss because I'd feel, well, naked. Sex in public places? Big deal! But one question about they-who-shall-not-be-named and I'm struggling to change the subject.

My parents are, in short, a reflection of my weaknesses.

My relationship with them has, for awhile, been this side of frosty. Partly because they consider me the black sheep of the family, extended and otherwise. I'm artsy, opinionated, and read books, which is apparently enough reason to lose faith in my prospects. (Even the way I dress is dissected by nosy queens.)

I feel like my parents' frustrations are warranted in some way because I have yet to meet my own expectations. From their perspective, they are surrounded by overachieving accountants and prolific salesmen, while I, their oldest, only just figured out what I wanted to do with my life and have yet to secure steady employment.

"All you need is an office, a desk, and a computer," my mom says, inspired by my aunt's stupid philosophy.

This is a stunningly textbook example of both a generational and cultural gap. My parents are immigrants and very thrifty, so my decision to make a career out of a passion rather than the pragmatic need to earn lots and lots of money grates on them.

I generally don't take their behaviour seriously because I instinctively know that neither of them are great at communicating their internal worlds; they weren't brought up as armchair psychiatrists and don't speak the language. Additionally, both my parents and sister are extremely impulsive. This means they say hurtful things and forget all about it the next day. Unfortunately, this awareness has not prevented me from closing myself off so much that none of them have witnessed me cry in nearly a decade.

I know my mother's family has a penchant for boys, so a part of me also believes that had I been born with more obvious plumbing, things would've turned out differently. But I'll never know.

Overall, I think I've channeled these frustrations into positive experiences outside the immediate familial unit. The more they try to enlighten me with Confucian doctrine, the more confidence I gain in embracing the unknown. (My mom wonders when my teenage rebellion phase will ever end?)

If I had to be truly honest, I'd say my parents tolerate a lot of backtalk and ungratefulness on my part too. When I am home, I close the door to my room and read for a third of the day without ever joining them downstairs. I am also loud, apathetic, and easily annoyed. In fact, I can be a horror to live with.

Anyhow, I don't know how to break the cycle because at this point, even my siblings routinely call me a loser for moving back home and having no proper income. This was what ignited the argument we all had tonight. The problem in a nutshell: I'm not especially well-liked by my family and my presence is irritating them. (Although, they assure me, I am loved.) However, my avoidance tactics (i.e. staying in my room, staying over at Paul's, etc.) also come off disrespectful as it appears that I am intentionally breaking away from them.

Clearly I need my own place, but my temporary bouts of employment in film do not produce enough money to allow me to do that. Fortunately, I am staying positive and remembering that ...

... shit, I have a job interview with an A-list celeb tomorrow. Where's my A-game when I need it??

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Animals

Paul and I visited the Toronto Zoo last week. Manure, closed patios, and shrieking peacocks, oh my.

Neither one of us had visited the place in over a decade and overall, it is quite beautiful, but frankly, not really my thing.

Paul brought binoculars with us so we could see giraffes and bald eagles up close and personal. It was a hot day. Parents dragged along their screaming toddlers and school children made every effort to make the experience unbearable, climbing over each other to point at snakes and jibba jabba about things being "cool" or "gay".

Anyway, the highlight of the day was eating BeaverTails. Apple cinnamon with caramel sauce on a crispy fried piece of dough. Truly, a Canadian treat.

So Paul and I have a running joke about me feeling "instantly energized!" whenever he kisses my head. He does it when he sees that I'm dragging my feet. Well, let's just say, not even that made me want to see where the buffaloes roam. Not to mention, a lot of animals stayed indoors because it was just so friggin' hot.

But Paul was upbeat the whole time. He loves animals. Like, if love was measured in Sanrio plushies, he'd be the owner of the Hello Kitty theme park.

Once, before we met, he stopped his car in the middle of a two-lane road because a baby raccoon was injured. It was late. Paul made all the cars behind him go around his vehicle and called emergency animal protection services. The lady on the line told him help was on the way and that he should leave. Well, the little guy died in front of him, so he had no choice but to return home. Once there, the lady called back to inform him that everything was fine, that they had found the raccoon's body. Well, that prompted Paul to start crying, asking the operator, "How do you do it?" This, in turn, prompted the operator to cry, "I just take it one day at a time."

Surreal, innit?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The irony of shopping after losing a gig

I went sunglasses shopping the other day at WINNERS and scored a pair of DEREK LAM Sabrina frames for a third of the retail price (with original leather case!). The old lady was restocking the racks before closing and I found them, in mint condition, beside a pair of sapphire YSL's that made me look like Jigsaw from the Saw series.



Cute, right? I remember reading in American Vogue that cat-eye sunglasses were in this summer. While I generally don't follow trends, I thought the classic shape would blend into my retro wardrobe nicely. It helps that I also scored this pair for 3 to 10 times less than the stuff Vogue was advertising. Paul said they were ugly, but he changed his mind after 4 separate women complimented me on the street the next day.

***

I quit the men's fashion magazine gig last week. The publisher is a scumbag. Didn't pay me what I was owed, then asked me to contribute articles voluntarily as he didn't want to lose a "talent with great ideas." Blech! As for the webisodes, he told me my budget breakdown wasn't realistic for him as he had imagined the whole project could be done for free or close to nothing. Seriously, using a rotating staff of interns and not even providing air conditioning in a stuffy office in 30+ degree weather?

CHEAPSKATE!

I'm not going to run after him, but what a seriously poor excuse for a so-called budding entrepreneur.

*sidenote: I wrote this for him when I returned from China. Enjoy!

Musings on Love

Part of being in a complementary relationship means having to compensate for qualities the other lacks. For instance, Paul takes care of my daily needs (i.e. cuddles, affection, and perspective) while I try to tamp down the gut-busting urge to fight his battles for him.

Last week, Paul was working on a film shoot. It was horribly disorganized and, on one occasion, he returned home horribly disgruntled because he wasn't sent home until 5:30 am. I awoke to the sound of his cellphone vibrating in my hand, which had been there for the past 3 hours since I'd dozed off in my sweaty dress.

I had visited him earlier in the evening to make sure everything was alright on set, having just come from a tv wrap party celebrating the end of production. I rolled down the window of my car and we wiggled our noses against each other (it's our thing, okay?) and I sensed that he was frustrated.

So when he slipped into bed with me that following morning, I vowed I'd set the production straight. (I told his mom afterward that, "No one overworks my boyfriend like that!")

On the last day of shooting, I drove down to the set and handed Paul a thermos of tea and introduced myself to the crew.

"Have we shot anything yet?" I inquired.

"No," said Paul.

"So you've been setting up this scene for three hours?"

"Basically."

I walked up to the production manager and promised him that I could get everyone out by 8:30 that night. He said, he'd been trying to get everyone to hurry up since the beginning and told me this was the pace they'd been going the whole time. Paul told me not to bother meddling. I responded that I wasn't going to be sucked into a 5:30 am wrap time, especially if it wasn't designated as a night shoot. I also agreed to be their script supervisor and take notes.

The PM eventually relented and said, "Look, I've tried being the asshole, but if you can get us all out by that time, you have my permission to be the asshole as long as you don't affect morale."

Agreed.

By 9 o'clock, we were all sipping beers in the alley. I had banged out a shooting schedule and effectively gave order to the set and was thanked by all. Made some professional contacts in the process, too. (To be fair, with the exception of the AD and director, everyone else was more than competent.)

Anyway, the crux of this story is to demonstrate that I've never felt more like a "team" in my relationships; the feeling that my partner's well-being is pertinent to my own. I think in the past, it was simply assumed that a relationship would displace the effort required to build a professional career, and for that reason, must be prioritized second (if not last).

Eventually, I realized having a relationship means turning down an overseas opportunity if it means being away from each other for too long. It means having realistic expectations as to how distance and time can break up the strongest of couples. And, in our case, how one of us (mostly him) might have to seriously consider going into real estate so we're not dependent on the irregular cheques doled out by the film industry.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Petty people and petty cash

We wrapped the reality series yesterday. A few of the crew, including myself, headed home, but not before ...

... a fight broke out between one of the contestants, her fiance, and her ex-boyfriend right there on the street in front of the venue. Too bad the cameras were already packed!

... I went on a midnight McDonald's run with Stacey MacKenzie, supermodel extraordinaire and, apparently, a Big Mac hound. She and I exchanged insults like we'd known each other for years. (Although, she did mention I'd "make it big in the [entertainment] industry." Uh huh, I wish.) Very fun, except for the fact that my boyfriend had been waiting to pick me up for an hour. Paul only got 3 hours of sleep before he had to operate the camera on another film. Last night also caused me to be an hour late for work at the magazine this morning (which I'm starting to lose interest in).

Fashion writing is so ridiculously boring and asinine. I mean, there are only so many ways you can say "sharp", "chic", and "seasonal". I'm justifying staying at this gig because of the web series I'm developing, which is still in the brainstorming stage. At the TV shoot this week, I met a videographer and fashion designer who want to work with me in the future. I've already contacted the former about partnering up with my boyfriend to do the web series with me.

If I'm on board to do this for the magazine, I'm going to make the editor really pay for the services I'm gathering for him. The way I see it, he can nickel and dime me, but I'm not going to be his lackey and do it to my professional and personal contacts. He has no idea how much it takes to do a show and I feel like he thinks he can complete this with Craigslist-recruited interns.

In other news, I don't think I can continue living in Toronto anymore. My aunt's toddlers are driving me nuts and everyone is always screaming in this family, which echoes through the whole house due to the high ceilings. The kids also break into my room and annoy me to no end. Actually, what really convinced me to get the hell out happened today. My grandma tells me I received a parking ticket while I was out of town.

Someone had moved my car out on the street and didn't put it back in the driveway, so I received a parking violation. She says my car had to be moved because the renovations contractor needed to have his dump truck there. I said, "Alright, so shouldn't whoever drove my car be obligated to pay for the ticket?"

She says the contractor had done it. So I said he should pay for my ticket. She told me not to give anyone trouble. I said, Fine, I'll go over to the Ministry of Transportation, explain to them the situation, and have someone revoke it.

She said, What if someone in the family moved your car?

Well then, someone in the family should be forking over the money.

At this point, I realized she was trying to save face and protect the perpetrator guilty of causing all this. (Who, I assume, was also listening in nearby.) Considering I'm living under someone else's roof, I stopped arguing, told her I'd pay for the damn ticket, finished my supper in silence, and went to my room.

Sometimes, a lesson gained is worth more than staying self-righteous. In this case, I learned that relatives, by blood or marriage, can be bigger fuckers than your boss.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Birthday

Paul came to visit me for my birthday today. He gave me a Kobo eBook reader while his mom had bought me a purple pashmina encased in a fuchsia pink department store box, both elaborately wrapped in fancy ribbons. I'd already known about the eReader because he'd been anxious to get me one since we returned from our trip to China. Every time we'd go to the Indigo bookstore, he'd lead me to the display table to explain the various features to me. (The pashmina I only suspected after he asked to be reminded of my favourite colour.)

We didn't do anything particularly special by my request as I'm not big on being the center of attention. So we strolled by the lake, talked and kissed, watching families of ducks and geese play house. We saw daredevil kingfishers arise from the water clenching fish too weak to escape, their iron beaks mirroring the angular precision of nearby smokestacks hissing to life.

By nightfall, we had made it up the mountain to take in the view, witnessing the city flicker awake. So we walked, hand-in-hand, past lovers in the getting-to-know-you stage, nervously sucking on their cigarettes to prevent words from edging through their lips.

Farther and farther we ventured until we hit a grassy clearing lined by knotted trees.

I squeezed his hand and ...

Cut to: Me, leaning against a gnarled trunk. Him, with his hand up my dress. Us, breathing, fucking, panting in the dark.

To paraphrase Larry David, We respected the wood and it was prettaaay prettaaay pretty good.

***

A former AD I worked for requested that I come out to Kitchener for two days next week. It's going to be at a live stage performance to finish off the second season of a TV show. Not gonna lie: The daily rate is attractive, and hotel accommodations are included. What's not to like?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sorry for the hiatus

My friend keeps pestering me to write in this blog as it's been nearly a year since my last entry. (You know who you are!) So here's a summary:

Soon after landing my job as a television news producer, I was fired. A "lack of enthusiasm" was the formal reason, but I suspected it had to do with standing up for myself to the abusive senior producers. One yelled at me for a mistake she made during a live news broadcast. The other yelled at me to do better unprovoked. I told them both to please speak to me civilly.

"Why you so stupid?" said my mom. "When Chinese boss yell at you, you say nothing!"

Oh well. So I moved back home soon after and got in touch with a locations manager for a UFC movie being shot in the back lot of my mom's store. He flaked on me on the day of our appointment, so I walked to the set and talked my way in. At first, the third assistant director put me to work on the craft truck making sandwiches and cookies for everyone. As I got to know the crew, some of them advised me to request work as a PA so I don't get stuck serving food in the industry.

I returned the next day as a production assistant and stayed for the remainder of the movie. The assistant directors suggested that I join the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) so I can work with benefits. I retrieved their recommendation letters, sent it in, attended 3 days worth of classes, and I was suddenly a union member a month after first setting foot on a film set.

Since then, I've AD'ed on more features, attended fashion and film festivals as a photography assistant, mingled with directors and celebrities, etc. I'm currently writing for a men's fashion/lifestyle magazine and developing and directing a web series for the publisher.

But the single most important thing that's happened to me as a result of being fired is having met the love of my life.

Paul and I met on the set of the first film I worked on. He liked the way I shook his hand and smiled to introduce myself. I thought he was beautiful-looking and his charming social gaffes tugged at my heart. He was awkward, frank, and vain and would inadvertently cock block anyone trying to hit on me. I couldn't help but be delighted to have met someone so refreshingly human.

But I behaved badly and badmouthed him on set, referring to him as a lazy shit and quipped insults to his face. He was unmoved and later confessed that he'd never sensed any malicious intent.

At the wrap party, I once again went through my schtick: "Wasn't Paul such a lazy shit?" This time, my routine was met by scorn. With liquid courage in his veins, the man said to me, "No one should be considered useless. We're all deserving of respect."

The guilt arrived fast and hard. I was ashamed of my behavior. And I left the party determined to make amends.

So I asked Paul out for drinks a week later.

On our third date, we met a middle-aged man whose parting words to Paul were, "Hold on to this one. You're a lucky man. She's a special girl, I can tell. Hold on to her tight."

He didn't know it then, but I wasn't planning on letting go either.

Unfortunately, our compatibility also prevents us from experiencing the ups and downs that would justify a self-revelatory rant. Good times just don't translate into very captivating material.

In any case, I will try to update more frequently, but I suspect the entries will be of a more benign nature.

And as for my friend who'd repeatedly requested that I write here: Thanks. It was nice :)