Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Panic and downtime.

After an incredibly busy April (I had two days off. TWO. All month), May is dead. I’ve gotten two days this month so far, both 8 hour days below scale.

But I was so busy last month that I wasn’t able to overspend (breakfast, lunch, and wrap meal at work mean no grocery shopping), so aside from all the food in the fridge going bad, everything was wonderful.

And if I’m working that much I can buy more food.

But now it’s totally dead and I’m trying to fill my time with the gym and home-improvement projects. Like putting earthquake film on the largish windows in my bedroom, getting the bike tuned up, selling the extra bike I never ride any more, weeding the garden (VERY important!), getting the car tuned up, and other general unemployment stuff.

And today it’s raining – in Los Angeles, we all know what that means – widespread panic and even worse driving than usual.

Although I like money, I also like not white-knucking it through panic-induced gridlock.

So I walked today.

I walked to the post office to return an Amazon purchase. I walked to the store to load up on groceries before the urge to hoard set in and the lines got too long. I walked to the recyling place and dropped off my plastic bottles (dammit, I paid that 5 cent CRV, I want it back).

And while I was walking, the rain started.

I don’t know if it’s years of having to stand out in rain all night or that over the years I’ve invested in really kickass raingear, but I don’t mind walking in the rain.

I’m wrapped in Gore Tex, I’m good. Bring it, skywater.

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , ,

Precipocalypse!

Earlier in the week, the overly tanned weather bot had predicted a slight chance of rain, maybe but probably not.

So yesterday, I watered my garden (my celery children are sprouting! I can’t wait to devour them), and figured I’d have to come back Friday to water again if it stayed so unseasonably warm.

Then, this morning about 3 am, I started having dreams about the dog eating my homework. Odd, since I don’t have a dog and haven’t had to do homework in a number of years.

I woke up enough to ID the crunchy paper sound as water falling on the battered aluminum ladder that permanently resides in the alley behind the building and thought that I’d wasted a trip to the garden to water when, if I’d just procrastinated a bit longer, nature would have taken care of it for me. I hate it when that happens.

When I finally woke up at a more civilized hour, it was still raining, but lightly. A bit more than a drizzle, but not quite what one would call a rain.

Since any sort of dampness whatsoever throws the streets of Los Angeles into complete chaos, I opted to don my rain gear and walk the 1/2 mile to the physical therapist’s office instead of taking part in the gridlock.

As I was leaving, my neighbor walked by and  said “You’re venturing out into the storm? Be careful!”

When I got to the physical therapists office it had picked up a bit,  but was still not, by any means a heavy rain.

The receptionist asked “Oh, is it still storming out there? I can’t believe it!”

Welcome to Los Angeles.

After spending an hour having the physical therapist beat me about the head and shoulders with a Flintsone-type hammer (or at least that’s what it felt like), I headed out into the superstorm of light drizzle.

Spoiler alert: I got home okay.

Filed under: Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , , , , , ,

Surprise!

For quite some time, I’ve been anxious all the time but didn’t think anything about it as just about everyone I know is anxious right now (thanks a bunch SAG), but over the past few days I’ve started to have panic attacks.

Panic attacks, in case you’ve never had one, are like a fight-or-flight reaction gone horribly wrong. It’s that thready adrenaline rush you get when you almost have a car accident or the plane drops 1,000 feet without warning crossed with the screaming heebie jeebies of a horror movie. Times 10. For some reason, mine seemed to be much worse at night, to the point that I was averaging about three hours of sleep.

So yesterday, I went to see the doctor and he prescribed some medication (which I won’t name because if I do I’ll get several hundred spam trackbacks), plus some different sleeping pills since the ones I had couldn’t stand up to Captain Midnight Freakout. When I stepped across the lobby to fill the prescription, the pharmacist told me that my insurance had been cancelled.

This was unexpected, to say the least.

We have to work 300 hours per semester in order to keep our insurance, but any excess hours can be put into a bank so that if we do come up short for some reason (like being out of work for four months because of a strike), we can pull hours out of the bank so as not to lose our insurance. Right before the writer’s strike, my bank was completely full, and I did get some work during the semester, so I figured I’d qualified and when I didn’t get anything in the mail I thought they were just being slow about sending me the new cards and forgot about it.

Turns out, I didn’t work enough hours and had to pull out of my bank. This, I’m learning, does not happen automatically – they send you a letter asking you if you’d like to pull from your bank and guess who didn’t get hers?

Yup. I never got the letter, so I never even thought to call and ask about my status. Also, as it turns out they don’t send any kind of notice when they cancel your insurance. They just kick you off.

The pharmacist has clearly dealt with this problem (and the accompanying outburst) before. She just calmly told me to give them her fax number and fax over that form that I never got in the mail so I could sign it and they could restart my coverage.

Which they did, and then I sat and waited for them to fax the pharmacist back letting her know that all was good and she could fill my prescription.

And I sat. And sat. And sat.

Finally, I called the office back and reached a very frazzled-sounding woman who informed me that they might or might not be able to do it that day, basically told me to fuck off and then hung up on me.

Normally, this would have bothered me, but I wouldn’t have started to cry.

Which, of course, is exactly what I did. Right there in front of a dozen people in the clinic’s lobby.

I hate it when I start to cry. Some women manage to just look sad and kind of moist, but not me – my face gets all red and blotchy, my nose starts running like a faucet, and I get these hiccups which make it impossible to speak coherently.

I guess it worked out, though – as I stood there by the window of the pharmacy, blotchy and blubbering and hiccuping the pharmacist gave me the prescription, charged me the normal co-pay and told me that they’d call me if Motion Picture hadn’t updated my status by late this afternoon.

Now, I’m an adult and I’m certainly not asking to be mollycoddled by an insurance company, but what the fuck?

Why couldn’t they just send me a notice informing me that I was going to be dropped? Or how about one of those creepy automatic phone messages? One of those would have been great (“Hello _health plan participant_ this call is to inform you that your _motion picture_ insurance will terminate on _July first_ unless we hear from you about your _bank of hours withdrawal_. Thank you”), and I hear those autodialers aren’t all that expensive.

The postal delivery in Los Angeles isn’t quite as reliable as we’d like, so there’s a chance the bank of hours notice that I was supposed to get is sitting in the mailbox of some abandoned house somewhere, or being digested by the mailman-eating pitbull on the next street over (he doesn’t eat the actual letter carrier, he just chases them and then when they drop the bag full of mail, he eats that. He’s also developed an immunity to pepper spray. And people wonder why I don’t get my mail half the time).

I should be considerably more upset about this than I am, though – if the insurance company decides not to update my info until, say, next Thursday, I’m going to get a bill for the full price of the medication and the doctor’s office visit, but I’m pretty calm right now.

I’m also calm about the news that martinis are now off-limits (as is all other alcohol) while I’m on the meds. Since I do love a good martini, this should make me sad, but somehow it doesn’t.

Guess that means the medication’s working.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Breaking news! Water falls from sky, entire city panic-stricken!

Los Angeles is a desert-ish city.

Sure, we have the baking heat, tumbleweeds and single digit humidity, but we don’t get the monsoonal rains like a ‘real’ desert, so when any water at all comes down, the whole place grinds to a halt.

Drainage is poor, so even a fairly light rain (by the rest of the world’s standards) will result in flooded streets, traffic jams as frantic drivers thumb through their manuals to try and figure out how to turn on those windshield wiper things they vaguely remember being on the car, and hysterical local news anchors warning the good citizens to just stay at home so things don’t get worse as civilization as we know it comes to an end.

This time, however, there really is reason to be concerned as we’re supposed to get several inches of rain overnight – although some of you in wetter climes are snickering right now, this is a big deal around here and is going to result in worse than usual flooding and huge mudslides in those burned areas.

Not where I live though – I’m just going to have to deal with car accidents in front of my house (people seem to mistake my residential street for the straightaway at a racetrack and hit the gas. Combined with a wet street this is fun) and all other news being pushed to the back burner (“Coming up next on Action News! Keeping your latte warm in cold wet weather! Plus, later in the newscast… the heartbreak of hair frizz!”)

Earlier today, I decided to wade out into the apocalyptic afternoon drizzle in order to go swim in the outdoor pool since for some strange reason people won’t swim in the rain (I can’t figure this one out. They’re going to get wet anyway) which meant I’d have an Olympic sized lap pool all to myself and all I had to do was drive a couple of miles through….The Water (cue scary music).
Actually, it wasn’t so bad except that I don’t have windshield wipers – it’s been so long since the last bit of rain that they’d gotten the dry rot and disintegrated as soon as I tried to use them. Oops. Guess I’m making a stop at the auto parts store in the morning.

Of course, Trader Joe’s was a complete madhouse – shelves emptying as people grabbed for the last package of lemon basil pasta, puddles of rainwater everywhere inside because no one wanted to leave an umbrella in the provided rack (include me in that – the last time I put my umbrella in the rack it got stolen and there weren’t any good ones left. I had to wait months before I could find a good umbrella to, um, Karmically replace the old one).

I got my coffee (I ran out this morning), more martini fixins and some fresh basil (now I can make pesto while I drink), so I’m set for the night.

Until tomorrow, when I venture out again, because I just can’t resist that empty swimming pool.

Filed under: life in LA, Los Angeles, Non-Work, , , , , , , ,

Crosstown traffic and unexpected noises

Yesterday’s work day was at Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios, which is in Manhattan Beach (bet you didn’t see that one coming). Manhattan Beach is literally all the way across town from me – and involves travel on two of the most notoriously traffic-clogged freeways in the region (the 10 and the 405) – and yet, by using the sneaky surface street route, I made in to work in about 50 minutes (if I’d stayed on the freeway, it would have taken about an hour and a half to get there). A 7 am call time helped as well – with an 8 or 9 am call time at RMBS, there’s simply no route that will get me there in under two hours.

Yesterday was also a new crew (only one of whom I’d met before) and a new stage – when anyone comes into a set that they’ve never worked before, there’s a bit of confusion – where things are stashed, the best route through the set with a big light on a stand (which is too tall to roll through a normal height door), where the distro boxes are (they’re usually tucked behind walls, and more than once I’ve run power to a box 80 feet away, only to find out that there was a box hidden 10 feet away), things like that.

Luckily, whoever designed the rig on this stage was thinking – everything was hidden from camera, but in plain site from behind the set walls, and the other folks working the set were very helpful (and nice) and the day went smoothly.

Except that I’m now on the AD’s* shitlist for making noise during a take. But it’s not my fault – it was the coffeemaker, I swear.

This particular coffee machine had a little dispenser for hot water off to the side, and since I’m still croaking like a frog, I drank hot tea all day in an attempt to soothe my throat. Since I’m usually pretty good about gauging how much time I have before they call ‘rolling’ and I have to be quiet, I ran the hot water right before they rolled, figuring my tea could steep during the take when I had to be quiet – except that this machine made a weird pumping noise right after it finished dispensing water – and right after they’d rung the bell (the bell rings once at the start of the take, and twice when they’ve cut – that way, if you’re not anywhere near an AD, you still know when they’re rolling because the bell is really loud).

Whoops. I set my tea down and walked away very quickly, but I still got busted.

The day’s main topic of conversation in between takes was the impending rain – according to the news, it’s supposed to rain today (of course I just went outside to take the trash to the curb and it’s sunny and gorgeous) and you’d think the world was ending or something. It’s astounding what we just learn to live with here in LA – earthquakes, crime, smog, traffic, Brett Ratner – and yet the threat of water throws us into a panic.
Thanks to the world’s fastest director, we shot just under six pages in nine hours, and I got off work just in time to get stuck in traffic on the way home – but it was a gorgeous afternoon, so I didn’t mind sitting still and looking at the pretty clouds in the blue sky.

Wish me luck parking at the lot today. Since I opted to sit here and write while drinking tea instead of getting over there at the crack of dawn, I’m going to have a hard time of it.

* AD = Assistant Director. On TV shows, they’re the ones roaming around trying to make sure everyone stays quiet during takes. On movies, it’s a PA (production assistant), but for some reason TV shows don’t use as many PAs as movies do.

Filed under: life in LA, long long drives, studio lots, Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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