Sixth Street

There is a stretch of Sixth Street that makes me forget where I am when I’m driving on it.  It helps me to think outside of my current circumstances.  When I turn onto the road, I roll my windows down and allow fresh air and nostalgia to take hold of me.  Sixth Street, through Hancock Park, is lined with trees.  I love to drive under the green canopy that they create.  Sometimes it reminds me of Washington in that way.  It reminds me of driving out to Holly Beach with my family during the summertime.  We would know that we were getting close to the beach when we could smell the salt water.  We had a black dog named Bucket then, and she could always smell it first.  She would bark until she could see the water.  Bucket was a sweet dog.  There are moments when coasting down Sixth Street reminds me so much of that drive that I swear I can smell salt in the air that blows in through the car window.  I choose to drive on Sixth Street every day on my way to work, and every day on my way home to my single apartment, where I have been anchored for the past eleven months.  It’s valuable to have even small joys to look forward to, especially if you’re on house arrest and it’s easy to let your world fade into a depressing haze of monotony.

Sixth Street in Los Angeles winds through the historical Hancock Park.  The neighborhood that movie stars used to call home, during the first golden age of Hollywood, when movies were new and flappers and dapper gentlemen in suits ruled the silver screen.  My great-aunt was a silent film star then.  She was a contract actress with Paramount.  Her name was Wanda Hawley.  She has been all but forgotten by Hollywood, but I think of her often.  I will never forget her, though I never knew her personally when she was alive.  I have one of her old headshots framed on my wall.  On the back of the photo, she signed it with love, to her brother.  When I’ve searched her name online, I’ve read her resume that includes half a dozen films that she starred in by the prolific director Cecil B. DeMille.  Wanda even starred opposite Rudolph Valentino in a film called “The Young Rajah.”  I visited her grave a few months ago, during an Earned Leave.  My parents were in town.  We went to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to find her ashes encased there.

Wanda Hawley

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is directly across the street from Paramount Studios.   This fact was piercingly obvious to me as I stood among the gravestones and looked up to notice a clear view of the famous Paramount water tower.  It’s bizarre to think that the studio where Wanda spent her days in life is so close to her final resting place.  What is even more bizarre is that Paramount Studios has recently optioned the rights to the Rolling Stone article about the events surrounding my arrest, in the interest of making a movie based on the life story.

There were no flowers at Wanda’s grave when we came upon it, but there was a beautiful, single flower there when we left, along with a prayer for her rest in peace.

I wonder if Wanda drove down Sixth Street when she was alive and in her prime.  I watched the movie “The Artist” last year.  It was loosely based on Rudolph Valentino.  The film showed an actor who was loved and sought-after during his time in the silent era, and then abandoned in disinterest after movies were being made in sound.  Many silent actors experienced this cold shoulder.  My great-aunt Wanda was one of them, sadly.  On IMDB, her biography says that she was among the most loved silent film actresses of her time, yet with the advent of sound, her career ended.   It’s a shame, because I think that she was quite charming and lovely in the old films that I’ve been able to see her in.

I was already performing in local theatre in Washington when I first found out that I had a descendant who had been in silent films.  It made me wonder if my own journey to Hollywood was predestined, because I was already planning it.  Now, I don’t know.  I plan to continue acting after I’m off of house arrest.  It’s something that I’ve always been passionate about.  But, after being unable to audition for an entire year, the distance has helped me to have a different perspective on the industry.  I’ve taken this year to find other things that I am just as passionate about, and I’ve been grateful for that.  I don’t want my happiness in life to rise and fall with my successes or failures in Hollywood.

30 days to go.

Illegally Blonde

I think it’s good to embrace change.  Not just to accept that things are different now, and that they will never be the same.  I mean to embrace the idea of moving on from what you have grown accustomed to, whether it was reality, or perhaps your own skewed impression of it, toward something that could really be good.   To embrace the possibility that things could be great after this, even if “this” was a complete disruption of what you had planned, in your perfect little world.  I’m talking about actively trying to make life good.  We have that choice, don’t we?  To make it good?  To decide to pluck the last cells of life from the scorched wreckage of what may have felt like a cold death of the life that we knew, or of the ideas about ourselves or our circumstances that seemed good to us, and to decide which parts are worth carrying with us into the next phase, in the interest of enjoying it to the fullest.

I am almost done with house arrest.  It has been almost one year.  I have fifty-one days left to go.  I feel so close to it.  To be honest, getting closer to the end has scared me a little, because I know that it also marks the beginning of something I have yet to know.

I have changed so much over these years and in these months.  My criminal record changed, too.  I have one now.  My ability to vote changed.  I no longer have it.  My freedom to do as I please, and to go as I please, has been stifled.  However, I am about to get many of these freedoms back.  For that, I am grateful.

I like to externalize change.  I always have.  It helps things feel fresh to me.  For example, I am constantly rearranging my apartment furniture.  I once spent an exhausting, house-arrested afternoon trying to fit my futon into my kitchen.  It made a lot of sense at the time.  Alas, it didn’t fit through the door frame, and I had to give up, short of a decision to dismember it.  I moved on and rearranged my vanity corner instead.

Now, as I find myself in the midst of some of the biggest change of my life, I decided that I needed an especially big change…  A big, blonde one.

With the help of a very resourceful, talented stylist named Amy (at Jessica’s From Sunset on Larchmont Blvd.), I went from brunette to blonde all within the small hours of an afternoon Earned Leave last Wednesday.  I have a follow-up appointment this Wednesday to do some finishing touches on the color that would have been impossible to do last week, given the time constraints.

I’ve never been blonde before now, and it has indeed been a huge change for me.  I’m still getting used to what I see when I look in the mirror.  I posted a photo on Facebook to debut my new look to friends.  I had someone from my home town ask me in a comment, “Is this for a new role?”  When I read what she wrote, all I could think was, “Yes.  Yes, it is.”

51 days to go.

Heat

My air condition-less apartment has godlessly morphed into a slow cooker this week.  The beast it’s been cooking is me, and I’ve been as greasy and helpless as a rotisserie chicken, roasting under the heat of LA’s hottest week of the year.

 

Of course, it also happens to be the one week that I’m not scheduled to work.  I usually work five days, so going from five to zero is quite a change.  House arrest has taken on a new meaning for me, as I have now lost count of how many consecutive days I’ve spent inside the walls of my apartment.  Any innate sense of time I had seems to have been melted away.  With it has gone any motivation to slug down to the apartment gym for my usual release from the monotony of being imprisoned at home.  Instead, I hulk to the kitchen in search of carbs and full-fat butter to fill the void where my self-respect used to be.  It’s been too long since my last approved trip to the grocery store.  I’ve run out of desirable food.  I’ve stooped to pillaging the salty, processed remains of a Nutrisystem order that I made the misguided decision to purchase after a convincing late-night infomercial a few months back.

I haven’t been to the backyard for sunlight this week either.  I almost never go out there now.  My days of taking the ol’ lawn chair for a sit have all but gone since I caught my neighbor (aka “The Mystery Masturbator”) greasing his own meat while staring down at me from his window.  He felt some heat that night too, after my friend and I called the police on him.  The thought of him perched above me as I try to soak up a tan has induced enough nausea to dissuade me from returning.

I’ve been keeping my shades shut in an effort to block out the intensity of the sun.  I can’t tell if it makes it better or worse because I’m also blocking airflow into the apartment.  I just sit all day with my small, drug store fan aimed at my face.  I feel an obligation to shower twice daily now.  Even so, I wake up in the morning so sweat-covered that I can spin my GPS bracelet around my ankle like an oiled-up dreidel.

Lethargy has set in.  It is almost five in the morning, and I’m wide awake.  I’m sweating like a hippo and watching Tosh.O on DVR.  I just polished off a head of raw garlic because it was the only fresh food in my apartment.  I needed antioxidants.  I just peeled it and ate the cloves like popcorn.  Then, after some research online, I swallowed two tablespoons of mustard to mitigate the damage.  A dangerous routine.  At least, a socially dangerous one.

I slept until the afternoon today.  And yesterday.  And the day before.  I can’t imagine what things would be like if I didn’t have a job and the ability to work outside of my apartment this year.  Confinement can breed madness.  I will be returning to work this week.  That should help.  I mean, at least there will be air conditioning.

59 days to go.