I checked my wallet for a Metrocard left over from my last trip to New York.  I wasn’t sure if I had one, and not having one would mean I had literally lost my status as a card-carrying New Yorker.  It would signify a change in my city girl status from ‘displaced’ to ‘former.’

Last Thursday I was back in the City for little more than 24 hours, landing at JFK at 11:PM Tuesday and departing at 6:AM Saturday.  I was auditioning for a new Flaherty/Ahrens musical going up at the Kennedy Center, a well-paying gig directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.  It was a good reason to return, almost justifying the expense of the last-minute plane ticket.  But in my eagerness I’d forgotten that “emergency” trips to New York were almost never a good idea.  Without time to prepare, without enough sleep, and with so many hours in transit, on audition day, my usually-reliable voice cracked on the third note.  I started over, but I’d already blown the audition.  In this industry, you have to be 100% all the time in order to be competitive.

But  remarkably I left my crap audition feeling better than I would have in years past.  After all, I had done my best, given the circumstances.  And I have other things in my life right now, like, I don’t know, a baby, and I couldn’t work myself into a state of despair and self-loathing the way I used to.  I just shrugged it off.  I should have remembered that when it comes to auditions, there really aren’t any emergencies.  There will always be another opportunity.

What there isn’t is another New York.  When I returned last summer I found the place stultifying and overwhelming.  This time I found it familiar and friendly, inasmuch as New York is ever friendly.  After a year or so in the urban jungle of LA– if one considers a patchwork of highways and beachfront “urban”– I found the closeness of the City comforting.  I know how to get around in NewYork, and I don’t just mean the subways.  I know how to get home from JFK in 30 minutes flat for less than $20.  I know just where to get coffee in the morning in just about any neighborhood.  It killed me not to have the time or the calorie allowance for a greasy bacon, egg and cheese sandwich from the street vendors when I got off the train at 57th.  I walked into my audition knowing two people in the room and at least one person outside it.  Even when I blew my audition, I was aware that I was blowing it.  In LA everyone’s so fakey that it’s hard to read the room.  I’ve been assured that I would be called back “like, Thursday” only to have Friday come and go without my phone ringing.  (This is unnecessary, LA.  Just thank me for coming or say, like Susan Stroman said to me, “That was a great audition,” the subtext of which is “but we aren’t going to hire you.”  I’m a big girl, LA.  I can take it.)

Andre and I don’t know where we’re going to end up come the fall.  We could move back, and I could do the type of work I want to do in New York, but life up until this point has seemed easier in LA.  There’s the weather, for one, and you can’t beat warming up in your car.  And as my friend Stephanie says, “It’s easy to live anywhere after New York.”

Or is it?  Despite my long flight, despite my terrible audition, despite the humidity and the crowds and the expense, this time around I felt like I belonged in Manhattan.  In fact, for the first time in my long, destructive, frequently soul-crushing relationship with New York, I felt like New York wanted me back.


My senior year in high school I worked at Expressly Portraits in the Ashtabula Mall.  I didn’t work there for very long; in fact, I frequently forget that I worked there at all.  But I was reminded last Friday when we drove Puddin’ to the Lakewood Mall to have her picture taken at JC Penney.

In this digital age, mall and department store photo studios find themselves seriously endangered.  With easy-to-use, high quality photo technology available, why pay a whopping $9 per person to have a “professional”– a high school senior, in my case– take photos of the family?  But Andre and I come from the South and the Midwest, respectively, which means we were raised with more appointments at Olan Mills than at the dentist.  Photos of our child selves line the walls of both our mothers’ houses, with subjects posed precariously over draped stools and boxes against a faux-nature or generic gray backdrop.  The expressions on our faces range from beaming to puzzled to enraged and upset.  Professional mall-quality photographs are a family tradition we intend to uphold.

I know now that my parents went through hell to get this picture.

I know now that my parents went through hell to get this picture.

Plus, we wanted good lighting.  We wanted coordinated outfits.  We wanted wallet-sized photos we could send to relatives without smartphones.  And more than anything, we wanted a picture of our new family.  Thus far, one person had invariably held the camera to capture the other two.

But why we thought Puddin’ would be down for this at four weeks old, I’ll never know.

“Good luck with that,” my mother said, chuckling, when I told her our plans.  For those who don’t have children, let me explain four weeks old.  The first two to three weeks, the baby sleeps a lot.  If she isn’t sleeping, she’s easily lulled to sleep by the stroller, the car, or the rocking chair.  At six weeks, apparently babies fall into a little schedule, with (slightly) more predictable nap, feeding and wake times.  (Or so I’m told.)

But four to six weeks is hell.  “You’re IN IT,” my friend Stephanie, mother of two, explained over the phone.  “But it gets better, I promise.”

By noon Andre and I were ready for a drink.  All three of us were washed, fed and ironed.  We packed Puddin’ into her car seat, where she screamed for ten (avenue) blocks.  We were hitting too many red lights for her to fall asleep, plus she felt like being difficult.  In the diaper bag we had fruit and protein bars, her elephant pacifier, burp cloths, a change of clothes (for me), water, and of course, several diapers.

We arrived on time for our 1:00 appointment to be told we had one more family ahead of us.  Puddin’ was in a good mood by then, cooing in her stroller like an angel, despite the fact that she’d only had a ten minute nap on the way over.  She would be hungry soon, so I took advantage of the lull to feed her.

Mistake!  She resented her lunch-time getting cut short once the photographer announced that it was our turn, and she resented being posed tummy-down on the (adorable) baby-sized wagon we brought along that had been a gift from our friends in Australia.  Within minutes she was screaming.  The overworked, exhausted photo professional, who had the advantage of being over 18, suggested we take a break while she took in the next appointment, a two-year-old named Madison who was also running behind.

Puddin’ continued to scream until she fell asleep on Daddy’s chest, then she went in her diaper, woke up, and screamed some more.  I took her to the women’s room to change her, then returned.  Meanwhile, the two appointments ahead of us were reviewing their digital photos, with the sole employee/photographer attending. A line of people picking up photos was forming.  After about 30 minutes, Puddin’ got fed up and started crying again, so Daddy walked her some more.  Thirty minutes later with Puddin’ still screaming, I opted to feed her.  Three minutes after Puddin’ really got going, it was our turn in the studio.

Once again Puddin’ was furious to have her meal cut short, so after trying to take one or two shots, I asked if we had time for me to finish nursing.  That took about 15 more minutes.  But even after eating, Puddin’ was not happy to be there.  “Maybe she had a problem with JC Penney,” my friend Annie suggested when I relayed the story.  Puddin’ whimpered through every shot, and though she was not crying outright, she was giving stank face. Puddin' giving stank face. Andre pulled the plug at 2:30.  “We’re done,” he announced.  The photographer looked relieved.

Puddin’ did her Baby Jesus routine the entire ride home.  Perfect behavior.  (Still no nap.)

Once home I collapsed on the bed, exhausted.  Not Puddin.  She could eventually be cajoled into sleeping on Daddy’s chest for about 20 minutes.  Then she was up, crying.  I fed her, not because it was her time to eat, but because I needed to get it out of the way so that I could have a drink.

We still haven’t gotten a good picture of the three of us.  Maybe sometime soon we’ll take one of our visitors to the beach with our digital camera in coordinating outfits on a not-too-sunny day.  But for now, I need to wrap up this blog.  Puddin’ is starting to cry.

Day 5:  2.23

Homeopathic Remedy:  Evening Primrose Oil

I woke up Sunday morning feeling very much Over It.  I had posted the first part of my blog the day before, and the advice I got was that Puddin’ was going to come when Puddin’ was ready to come.  Irrefutably true, but still just as frustrating.  While I couldn’t do anything about it, obviously, I could adjust my attitude towards it.

So on Sunday morning my attitude was that I was done putting my life on hold and just waiting.  I texted two friends about lunch plans later in the week, I swept and mopped the floors, I cracked out my to-do list.  No more wasting afternoons watching Hepburn movies.

I also started to take evening primrose oil in capsule form.  I added it to my pre-natals, which I purchased from Wal-Mart that make me sick, but I’ll be damned if I spend one more dime on pre-natals when Puddin’ is overdue.  Evening primrose oil worked for my friend Jamie, so I’m hoping it will help me.

Day 6:  2.24

Homeopathic Remedy:  Oh, fuck it. 

By this point I’d pretty much resigned myself to Puddin’ being induced ten to 14 days after her due date.  According to Facebook, pretty much everyone who’s had a baby in the last ten years has been induced, so I tried to stop caring.  At my doctor’s appointment on Thursday, we can plan a time.  It’ll be nice to have a definite date for her arrival.

Meanwhile, I scheduled a visit to the dermatologist, the dentist, the accountant, and the acupuncturist for the days and weeks coming up.  I still did pre-natal yoga and took a hot bath and drank some raspberry tea and took my evening primrose oil.  If Andre doesn’t have too much work, maybe we’ll go for a roll in the hay.

Day 7:  2. 25

Homeopathic Remedy:  Spicy Food

The one thing, other than sex, that everyone recommends is spicy food.  So today on our way home from fetal diagnostic testing– which annoyed me since I could have told them that Puddin’ is plenty active without having to haul our cookies out to the hospital– we stopped to get a burrito at our favorite taqueria.

“What’s the spiciest one you have?”  I asked.

“We’ll put extra green chile sauce on whatever you want,” the guy replied.

But unfortunately the burrito didn’t seem all that spicy.  Maybe they tempered it for the pregnant gringa, I don’t know.  Tomorrow I’ll head to Panda Express for their firecracker chicken, which set my mouth on fire the last time I had it.  Screw the calories these days!  I’ll lose at least six pounds if I can just get Puddin’ out.

Day 8:  2. 26

Homeopathic Remedy:  HOT HOT HOT HOT Bath, Sexy Sex

I had enough time Wednesday morning to take a hot hot hot hot hot hot hot bath.  Our auto mechanic had recommended it.  I was a little annoyed at the time– I mean, I had been taking hot baths, but the words used were “as hot as you can stand it.”

So Wednesday morning I got in the bath and boiled myself.  I had a short story lasting approximately 80 pages, and I thought I would get through 40 of those pages, then get out.  I got through ten.  Then I made myself stand up, take a shower, and shave my legs in equally hot shower water.

I had my short hair about halfway dry by the time I burst out of the bathroom to get some water.  I felt weak and thirsty, very seriously overheated.  I was sweating all over.  I lay down on my still unmade bed in my bathrobe.  I could see Puddin’s heart beat pulsating through my stomach, and suddenly I was worried that I had put Puddin’ in danger.  We lay there very still, waiting for our hearts to stop racing.

After about 20 minutes I got up and SLOWLY got dressed and pulled myself together.  I felt fewer kicks from Puddin’ throughout the day, like the experiment had worn her out.

I did not go into labor.

Andre and I did try to remedy the situation later that night.  (Masturbation had already proved ineffective for inducing.)

Day 9:  2. 27

Homeopathic Remedy:  Membrane Sweep

This one almost doesn’t count as homeopathic because it requires a medical professional to execute it.  At my most recent checkup, as we were finishing up the cervical check, I asked Dr. McNulty if she would do a membrane sweep.

“I just did,” she said.

Dr. McNulty is nothing if not efficient.

“What’s a membrane sweep?” my husband asked.

Basically, a membrane sweep is where the doctor takes her finger and detaches the amniotic sac from the uterine wall.  A lot of people had recommended this, citing good, consistent labor-inducing results within 24 hours.

A day later, I’m still pregnant.  Sigh….

In my twenties when I was waiting tables in New York, I worked with a lot of Irish bartenders.  I don’t mean Irish as in ancestry, I mean Irish as in born and raised in Ireland.  This particular breed of bartender is dying out, even in New York; every time I sit down in front of some hyper-cool “mixologist,” my heart breaks a little. Anyway, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the classic Irish bartender is that he or she can find a cure for any ailment behind his or her bar.

Nagging cough?  Brandy.  Sprained ankle?  Vodka compress.  Indigestion?  Bitters and soda.  Toothache?  Whiskey (to be swished, not swallowed, but whatever).  Hangover?  Heineken and raw egg.  (I never had the strength to try that one, but I watched people do it plenty of times.)  Induction of labor?  Shot of gin and a hot bath.

Homeopathic remedies for inducing labor are not solely the Irish bartender’s domain.  There are dozens upon dozens, and curiosity, coupled with impatience, has me determined to try them all.  Women in my family tend to deliver late.  My sisters and I were all induced when we were about two weeks late.

Perhaps if my mother had known some Irish bartenders, I would have been a Capricorn instead of an Aquarius.  And maybe if I give Puddin’ some natural stimulation, she will be an Aquarius too, instead of a Pisces.  (Lord knows what to expect from a Pisces!)

So herein I attempt to record every labor-inducing wives’ tale– er, homeopathic remedy– until Puddin’ comes out.  Almost none have been validated by science.  I started two days before Puddin’s due date because I scheduled a massage that day, and Mimi, my masseuse, got the party started by doing some pressure point work that “maybe might help.”  Then she suggested I have some tea and a hot bath, so that kicked it off.

Day One:  2.19

Puddin’s Due Date:  2.21

Homeopathic Remedy:  Pre-Natal Massage, Gin, Hot Bath, Red Raspberry Tea

Mimi did a great job releasing pressure in my lower back, and throwing in a little sacro-cranial massage at the end, which is supposed to induce labor according to the internet.  However, Mimi was skeptical, claiming it only really helps with headaches.  Puddin’ was thrown by all this and kicked the entire time.  She hates when what she considers her “space” is invaded.  She can literally kick a book, a lap desk, or a ukelele off my belly at this point.  This time, the pressure was coming from a different angle– the back– and I sensed she wasn’t happy about it.  Good.  I don’t want her too comfortable in there anyway.

Since Mimi instructed me to take a hot bath to relieve the soreness I was already starting to feel, I decided it was time to test the bartenders’ theory.  I had bought a bottle of Hendrick’s earlier in the week, but I was a little nervous.  I hadn’t had hard spirits in nine months, and I don’t particularly like gin.  I wondered why the Irish don’t propogate whisky and a hot bath, since I’m much better off with whisky, but maybe Irish moms don’t give up whisky in the first place, so the gin is something new?  Anyway, the hot bath part I knew to be true because throughout pregnancy you’re not supposed to get in a hot tub because there’s, like, a 2% chance it could induce labor prematurely.

It was also 4:30 in the afternoon.  Having had a small lunch, I decided to eat a banana with some peanut butter, so the gin wouldn’t go down on an empty stomach.  I poured myself a shot and eyed it cautiously.  It didn’t look remotely tempting.  But I slammed it anyway, the way my ancestors would have, and climbed into the tub with the short stories of Daphne DuMaurier to keep me company.  (Side note:  I nearly returned that book to the library the next day.  I’m kind of high-strung these days, and her short stories are beautiful, but creepy and terrifying.  I was scared to get out of bed at night to pee.)

Mimi had also suggested tea post-massage, since fluids are essential for flushing toxins released from deep in the muscle tissue.  So I brought a mug of raspberry tea into the bath with Daphne and me.  There is no scientific evidence behind the tea, either, except that midwives have been recommending it since the Dark Ages.

Unfortunately, labor did not begin on February 19th.  But the combination of massage, bath, gin and tea gave gave me a Zen-like sense of relaxed euphoria.  And that’s good for both me and Puddin’.

Day Two:  2.20

Homeopathic Remedy:  Organic Raspberry Tea Leaf, Hot Bath

The next day I woke up sore from my massage, so another hot bath was in order.   However, thanks to the massage I had slept very well for once.  I would have slept even better if I weren’t worried about dead midget children murdering me in the bathroom when I got up to pee, but that’s what you get when you pick up duMaurier.

This time before my bath– as I write this, in fact– I decided to try the hippy dippy organic red raspberry tea I had purchased, instead of the Zingers brand raspberry tea that my husband already had.  He was running kind of low on it anyway, so I didn’t feel that guilty about opening a new box.  (I didn’t realize we already had raspberry tea when I bought the organic shit.)  I didn’t do the gin shot this time.  I actually felt kind of guilty about it, which is not like me.  I have done enough research to know that alcohol in moderation, particularly with food, has not been proven to harm one’s baby, but I just felt a shot a day was a little excessive.  If she’s still here ten days from now, I might be guzzling the stuff, but for today, I decided to skip it.  I also upped the temperature on the bath.  We’ll see what happens.

Day 3:  2.21 (Puddin’s Due Date!)

Homeopathic Remedy:  Walking

No studies have been conducted that prove that walking induces labor, but just about everyone recommends it.  It has something to do with gravity.  Additionally, it was 75 and sunny on Friday, so a great day for a walk, regardless.  I spent about an hour tooling along the beach, then came home and had a hot bath, this time with lavender epsom salts,  a mug of the organic raspberry tea, and what the hell, a shot of gin.  I felt wonderful when I got out, and I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in front of a Tracy/Hepburn movie.

Unfortunately later that night I was incredibly sore.  Walking kills my lower back and inner thighs these days due to Puddin’s (and my) extra weight.  I had an extremely uncomfortable night.

Day 4:  2.22 

Homeopathic Remedy:  Sexy sexy sexy sex

This was the one you were waiting for, right?  Everyone recommends sex as an induction method.  It sounds so fun and carefree!  The catch is that at 40 weeks pregnant, sex is not fun and carefree.  It requires elaborate choreography.  And, unlike my second trimester, when I was in the mood all the time, by 40 weeks I just didn’t feel like it anymore.

However, sex is one of the few methods that has been proven to have some scientific benefit.  There’s a chemical in semen that causes the cervix to soften and dilate.  But for those women without partners, or for women who feel like sex is too much trouble, masturbation is supposed to be effective as well.  Orgasms are key, apparently, regardless of how they’re achieved, because they cause the uterine walls to contract, giving your body a hint as to how to get the baby out.

For the sexy record, nipple stimulation has also been scientifically proven to be helpful.  Stimulating one’s nipples releases oxytocin, which is a hormone that is supposed to trigger labor.   Sounds like fun, right?  The catch is that in order for it to work, the nipples must be stimulated for, like, a full hour every two to three hours.  Who has that kind of time?  I’d rather drink gin.  So we’ll be skipping that one.

As of Saturday night the 22nd, still no Puddin’…

Baby BooksThe combination of being an avid reader and a total sucker makes any trip into a book store or library as dangerous for me as, say, a trip to Claire’s for the average tween.  Eight months ago I bought up a slew of baby books, excited that this time the main character’s journey would be mine.

That’s when I discovered that baby books are dumb.

I wasn’t expecting brilliant writing.  The overtly sentimental, how-to style of the books allowed for clear, concise, and mostly stupid advice.  There’s only so much to be said about pregnancy and the developing baby, so each book had more filler in it than an American Idol finale.  To pad out the book or possibly to terrify new mothers, each book also went to great lengths detailing every possible disease, defect, or abnormality before revealing that such affliction affected 1 out of every 200,000 babies.  I also felt that each book operated under the assumption that women know nothing about basic diet and nutrition.  (Or maybe some women really don’t know about basic diet and nutrition.  Do some women still live in caves?)  When each book ran out of things to say, we were given glaringly obvious advice.

Here are some jewels of wisdom taken directly from the pages of various baby books:

“Wear your seat belt every time you drive, never drive while ‘in a hurry,’ or when you’re distracted, stay within the speed limits, and drive defensively, watching out for other motorists.”— from “The Pregnancy Journal:  A Day to Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy.”  It should be entitled “The Pregnancy Journal:  A Day to Day Guide for Privileged, Idiotic White Women.”  This book attempts to tell you something new about your baby every day, like the quote listed above, just in case you thought your baby bump was a good excuse not to drive with your seat belt on.  However, the book is  as addictive as crack, I’m not gonna lie.  I open it every day, and invariably roll my eyes.

“Eat tree nuts every other day (just not daily.)”— from “The Pregnancy Journal.”  I swear to God.  Are they trying to drive you crazy?  No information is given as to why daily tree nuts create a health hazard.  I happen to know that while nuts are in many ways very healthy, they are also high in fat, resulting in about a gazillion Weight Watchers points per handful.  So maybe that’s why you shouldn’t eat them every day?  But baby books in general love to give you a rule with no explanation.  I hope the same editors don’t work on parenting books.  (For the record, this nut issue is one of Weight Watchers’ flaws.  Believe me, if you’re doing WW, you can go over your Points eating nuts and still lose weight.  Sometimes on WW, you have to use common sense.  Has anyone ever said, “God, what a fatso.  She really should lay off the tree nuts.”  No.  No one’s ever said that.  Partly because who says “tree nuts?”  But also because no one ever got fat eating nuts.  I digress.)

“The peel on fruits like bananas, melons, and oranges is not an absolute barrier to pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizer.  Eat organically grown fruit whenever possible.”  –“The Pregnancy Journal.”  Obviously written by Gwyneth Paltrow.  Also, wrong.

“I worry that our cat, who has always slept with us, may be jealous of the new baby.”  — from the Q&A format of “What to Expect the First Year,” which, after perusing for a day, I informed Andre that I no longer wanted Puddin’, and he informed me it was too late.  I’m sure I didn’t read the answer to this question because why would I do that.  I mean, I love cats, but cats can deal.

“Food-borne illness occurs when you eat food that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins.” –from “You and Your Baby Pregnancy:  The Ultimate Week-to-Week Pregnancy Guide.”  I don’t know how anybody could get to child-bearing age without realizing where food poisoning comes from.  The book then goes on to offer helpful tips to prevent food poisoning, such as:  washing hands, cooking meats thoroughly, and checking expiration dates.  Filler.

Of course, all my books weren’t duds.  The most useful ones I read were “Bringing Up Bebe” by Pamela Duckerman, “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster and “The Shitty Mom Handbook” by four hysterically funny comedy writers.

“Expecting Better” somehow became very controversial because economist Oster actually relied on scientific studies to debunk a whole lot of myths, and America hates that.  I found it incredibly informative, especially the chapter on A, B, C, D, and X category drugs, and the details on how studies of pregnant women and babies are actually conducted.  (Did you know a doctor is more likely to prescribe Vicodin to a pregnant woman than Advil?  And that, in one frequently-flouted study, 45% of women who drank once a day during pregnancy also admitted to using cocaine?)  Anyway, I frequently refer back to that book, and I will reread some of the final chapters again soon, now that I’m closer to my due date.  I think I’ve forgotten why I’m supposed to resist an episiotomy.

“Bringing Up Bebe” (I don’t know how to make accent marks on my keyboard, but there should be one over the final E) was written by an American woman raising her children in Paris, where apparently kids behave a lot better than they do in New York.  It had a lot of parenting advice I’d like to try out, but mostly it addresses the culture of self-sacrifice that American mothers seem to embrace, which, frankly, I’ve always found annoying and resulting in spoiled, entitled kids.  So I felt like someone was speaking my language.   Also, since the title riffs on my favorite Katherine Hepburn movie, I was obviously going to read it.

But the best book by far was the Shitty Mom handbook because it made me laugh.  It featured chapters like, “Yes, the Babysitter Is Judging You,” “How to React if You Think Your Child Might Be Gay (Hint:  Celebrate),” “He Wants Sex, You Want to Sew Your Legs Shut For Ten Years,” and “Is Your Child Slow or Is He a Boy?”

In fact, I’m going to re-read that book right now.

I cannot believe I’m writing this.  I really can’t.

Like most actors, I have spent most of my career bemoaning the existence of a casting director, which most of us view as a “hurdle” to getting cast.

“If only I could get seen for that,” we’ll moan over a few drinks.

“So-and-so never calls me in!” we’ll say to one another, or simply to ourselves, when we learn that [insert dream musical here] is being revived on Broadway next season, and that so-and-so is casting it.

Of course, for every casting director who “won’t” audition you, another casting director loves you, goes to bat for you, and calls you in with regularity.  Each casting director keeps a stable of people:  regulars, like on Cheers, who presumably audition consistently and well for their respective offices.  As actors we know this, and we appreciate their loyalty.  But still, most of us are in this profession because we’re passionate about it and it KILLS us when we can’t get seen for a dream project.

And sometimes we’re not even happy when we do get seen.  “If only I could get in front of the creatives!” actors say when they have gotten the audition, but haven’t gotten the callback.  By “creative,” we mean someone from the directing, music or dance team who can see how truly great you are, someone who knows talent!  The casting associate sent to the first round of auditions is frequently a 22-year-old liberal arts major from the University of God Knows Where.  (If you’re a CD and you’re reading this, you’re probably like, “That’s not true!”  And you’re right.  I am exaggerating.  But that’s how it feels!)  Especially on an open, first, or replacement call, offices tend to send the lower-ranked associates.  Not the interns, exactly.  But a step above.

What we forget, of course, is that this particular not-quite-an-intern has been extensively schooled in What the Creatives Want.  He or she may not have any experience (or imagination, for that matter), but that person is looking for something specific.  What we also forget is that these 22-year-olds have nowhere to go but up, should they choose to stay in the field.  And many of them do, working their way up the office ranks or branching out into directing, managing or some other aspect of the business.

But, like ’em or lump ’em, casting directors have always been part of the business for me– a hurdle or a conduit, depending on the project.

Until I moved to L.A.

Not only am I blown away by the number of casting offices in this city, but I am also blown away by the number of projects without a proper casting director.  In L.A. the business is bigger.  Much bigger.  This is because the city of L.A. is a one-trick pony.  It’s got the entertainment industry, and that’s it.  New York is the epicenter for finance and fashion and journalism and architecture:  reason 4,024 that NY is the best city on Earth.  But in L.A., all they’ve got is Hollywood.  Now, I came to town well aware of my position at the bottom of this giant totem pole, which was good.  If I weren’t aware, I would have been made aware in a soul-crushing manner.  Of course I fit right in to L.A.’s theatrical totem pole; however, compared to NY it’s more like a pogo stick.  (For NY actors:  I can walk into any EPA and get a slot 20 minutes later.  In line behind me is a non-union kid auditioning in character shoes.  To sing.  Bless her heart.)  But of course I don’t go to many theatre auditions because a.) there aren’t any, and b.) I can’t do theatre till after Puddin’s born.  This has also been a problem for the handful of agents I’ve met with.  My lack of TV credits, coupled with my questionable ability to work over the next, like, nine months, have added up to a lot of “Nice to meet you.  Maybe get in touch once the baby’s born.”

So to build a reel and get some film experience, I have been auditioning for non-union projects and student film.

And that’s how I learned the true value of a casting director.

A casting director is the hallmark of true professionalism.  A casting director will not waste your time.  Yes, he or she may send you 41 pages of material to learn in three days (unlike last time, I am NOT exaggerating), but he will not have everyone “just show up at 11:30.”  He will send you detailed and specific instructions about the audition; you will not have to email him to find out if an accompanist will be present or other such nonsense.  If a casting director is present, you will not be auditioning in someone’s home.  You can safely assume that the creative team is looking for talent, and not just somebody to sleep with.  A casting director won’t call in a million people.  They will wade through the submissions and eliminate those who aren’t right for the part, as well as the amateurs; i.e., those who show up without a headshot.  (“Do I need one?” I heard somebody ask.  You always need one!  Even in the age of digital submissions, they will need to make notes on something.  Like a picture of your face.  At the very least, give them something to file away for later.  Even if they don’t take it, bring it!  Eye roll.)

I’ve learned that casting directors exist for good reason.  I’ve always known they make the casting process easier for the ones doing the hiring.  What I didn’t know is that they make the casting process easier for the actor, too.  I’ve learned to steer clear of any project not helmed by a professional CD.  I’m just too old for the bullshit.

And I miss being a part of somebody’s stable!  Come to think of it… I miss the whole barnyard.

I began my court-appointed community service at 6 AM on October 29th.  The only problem with working blood drives– and I do mean the ONLY problem, as I’m very happy to be assigned to this post– are the hours.  Most drives start quite early.  In this case, I set my alarm for 4:30 to make sure I left by 5:30 to get there slightly before 6:00.  I can’t remember the last time I was up before dawn, but it was probably a travel day during Billy Elliot.

The advantage to getting up early is that I still have half the day to myself by the time I get done.  And morning hours tend to go faster than, say, the 3:00 to 5:00 slump, during which I can summon no energy or enthusiasm for anything.  This blood drive was no exception.  Six to ten went quickly.  My job was very simple.  I sat at the registration desk outside a conference rom at the hotel where the drive was being held.  When people showed up for their allotted appointment time, they either scanned their donor card and/or signed in manually.  I made them read the legally-required reading documents (or at least skim it), wrote their name on a tag, and sent them on back to donate.

I actually enjoyed it. Everyone was very nice.  The volunteer coordinator had told me during my orientation that I didn’t need to tell anyone that I was there as a result of a court order.  “It’s not anyone’s business,” he said.  And everyone treated me as if I had chosen to wake up at the crack of dawn and pitch in, which, in a way, I had.  I could choose my own schedule and had the freedom to complete my hours over the course of several months.  A few times I committed to hours, only to get an audition or a gig and have to change it at the last minute.  I felt really bad about this, but the coordinator didn’t seem to mind too much.  At the donation site I usually manned the registration desk.  At one location they had movies playing in the waiting area.  I actually felt kind of guilty watching the movie, but they encouraged me to do so.  That was great.  At another location I worked at the refreshment table.  My job was to talk to people and make sure they weren’t getting woozy or about to pass out.  One person did, which was exciting!  (She was fine.  She just didn’t eat breakfast.)  Every day was interesting, and I managed to get a lot of reading done during the times when it wasn’t.

I completed the last of my hours this past Tuesday.  (This drive began at a much more reasonable hour of 9:00.)  I have already signed up to volunteer after Christmas.  I’m not doing much else, especially with Puddin’ on the way, and it makes me feel good to be helping.