120 Hours

I have five days of house arrest left to go.  My ankle and I are scheduled to be released from captivity on Wednesday.  It won’t come a day too soon.  And not a day too late, either… hopefully.

I’d like to think I can hold on until then without sawing my foot off at the ankle and crawling to the border–  a bottle of cheap tequila in one hand and a bloody Swiss Army knife in my teeth, muttering about freedom as I drag my mangled body into Tijuana moments before I am seized by members of the Cartel.  Yes, I believe it’s best to wait.

I can honestly say, after everything, that I remain optimistic about life after house arrest.  This experience hasn’t ruined me.  I am also happy to report that it hasn’t made me fat OR a slave to chronic alcoholism either, though both scenarios seemed inescapable at the beginning of the year.  It appears that I’ve beaten the odds.  Thank God.  It will be one thing to come out of this year a felon, but the idea of re-entering the Free World as an obese, raging alcoholic felon would have really added insult to injury. One horrible turn of events at a time please, life.

I’ve been on the home confinement program for 360 days.  I’d be lying if I said that every one of those days was easy.  I want to thank everyone who has been there for me along the way, many of you who have kept up with me here, on my blog.  I could never put a price on what your support has meant to me.  But, if I had to put a price on what your support has meant to me, I’d say it’s somewhere in the pocket of five hundred dollars.  Maybe more.

I have managed to avoid leaning on destructive habits for passing the time this year.  Instead of allowing myself to sink into depravity (Though, how bad could it have really been?), I started this blog and let writing about my experience be my escape from it.  In the end, it truly has been my escape.  To those of you who have read and responded with support, I am sincerely grateful.

6 days to go.

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.