New York, I Love You

“You know, this is what I’ve always liked about New York. These little moments on the sidewalk, smoking, thinking about your life. You can watch the buildings, you can feel the air, look at the people, sometimes meet somebody you feel like you can talk to.”

Almost exactly three years ago I was in New York, staying in Astoria, Queens, taking the N train into Manhattan, and dreaming big dreams about my future.  My apartment back in Portland had been annihilated by flooding days before, so I had no home to speak of, my heart was at least half broken, and I was on my way to Colorado afterwards, another place that was not my home.  I was sort of desperate but I had a sense of perpetual motion propelling me forward, so I was happy in a way, and elated by New York. 

The first time I got on the N train this time around, I was watching the Manhattan skyline approach before the train plunged under the river to spit me out in the heart of Manhattan to perform my culminating USC Acting Showcase, the last project of the most transformative, important, and best three years of my life, and I couldn’t help but cry.  I couldn’t stop.  The deeper under the river the train carried me, the more my tears insisted on leaking out of eyes.  I did not have the same shaky fear and deep insecurity that accompanied me the last time I rode this train. I was not the same person and yet I was more myself than I had ever been. 

On my last day in New York,  I wandered the East Village and Greenwich Village and I found myself in a quaint gluten-free Italian restaurant, a cozy sanctuary from the bitter Spring breezes where I could write and drink espresso (spiked by contraband Irish whiskey because let’s be real).  New York is poetry in motion.  There is something about this city, about the struggle combined with the triumphant moments that make it a transcendent place to exist.  

And yet the last time I was here I yearned to stay here, to exist in the fast-paced struggle and glory. But this time, my weak-ass palm-tree-loving sunshine-basking LA blood was like “daaaaamn you’re not gonna move here right?”  New York, I love you, but I also love LA.  It’s the same madness but it’s more spread out.  Plus in LA there is this:

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Observe. Sunshine, Sand, and Britt Harris

I’m from the wild west and I love the wild west. 

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Yeah that’s right, mysterious cowboy. Life has a way of giving you exactly what you need at exactly the right moments, and I trust that I am exactly where I need to be. 

After the showcase on Tuesday, I budgeted three days to be in New York to take all of the fabulous meetings and auditions I would have from all of the people who were just dying to work with me and I got…

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Ah yes. That moment as an actor when your ego gets bitch-slapped and you have to just take it in stride and trust that you are still on the right path. That moment when your friends can’t hang out because of all their auditions and meetings.  That moment that your friend calls you and asks for help preparing to audition for your favorite musical of all time.  That moment when you try to drop your headshot off at a casting office and get rejected hard. 

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So what does one do in New York when one’s dreams of working here have been snatched away by the cold, quick hand of reality?

1. Hang out with these angels.

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These are my hosts with the mosts offering me tequila and gluten-free cookies on my first day in New York. That blue-eyed Oregonian boy on the left is the soon-to-be-world-famous Connor Bond, a badass actor with whom I have shared the stage many times. 

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…Okay we also may have shared a couple shots of tequila as well.  That’s a throwback to the good old college days. 

Anyway, the blue-eyed Oregon boy on the right is the soon-to-be-world-famous Devin Olson, another actor extraordinaire with whom I have shared the stage many times. 

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That’s a college throwback to “Rumors” by Neil Simon, when I unsuccessfully tried to seduce Devin but successfully used him to make my husband jealous. Check out that hair flip y’all!  Proof of my inner PIMP. 

Connor and Devin live in the very same apartment shared by Devin and Sammi the last time I was in NYC. 

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You may recognize Sammi from my hiking adventures.  

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THE POINT IS that this family runs DEEP and this entire trip to New York would have been worth it just to see my boys.  

2. Take yourself on baller ass solo dates. 

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My favorite theatre in NYC is The Public Theatre and I got to see “Buzzer,” a sexy new topical play by Tracey Scott Wilson.  The play was great, and the guy sitting next to me most definitely had Tourette’s, which was a new play-going experience for me.  And let me just say, it was great.  We had like all the same reactions to the play but he got to have, like, BIGGER reactions.  It was seriously awesome. Shout out to you, brother. 

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This is the view from Senza Gluten, the only gluten-free Italian restaurant I’ve ever encountered, and the place from which I wrote a lot of this post. Baller. Ass. Solo. Dates. 

3. Kiss a monk on the subway. 

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That’s Khen Rinpoche, my host when I was in Ladakh, India two years ago.  I hadn’t seen him since I was in India. And it was so nice to be reunited with him.  He is just pure presence and pure love.  And he loves holding hands and giving kisses.  Even if you are getting on the subway and people look at you like you’re crazy. He also loves selfies. 

4. Go to Happy Hour. 

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‘Nuff said. Who says I wasn’t taking care of business in New York?

5. Check out an awesome independent bookstore. 

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Look at that nerd nerding out super hard in the nerd section. #winning

6.  Get drunk and ride the subway. 

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You guys. I have an uncanny homing device when drunk and alone in cities.  It has never once failed me.  Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles. BRING IT ON. Also I’m sure I’m not the first lady in a pretty dress to pee in an inappropriate place in New York.  Am I oversharing? I promise I’m not an alcoholic. 

7. See “Hand to God” on Broadway. 

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Okay so if you’re in New York maybe you’re all like, “Ooooo I want to see The Lion King” or “Maybe a nice Rogers and Hammerstein would be nice.” Let me just say, and pardon my French, FUCK THAT NOISE AND GO SEE “HAND TO GOD”.  Sweet holy crap-monsters this was like, top-5 playgoing experiences of my life.  The sheer technical mastery of the actors alone is worth it, not to mention the writing, and the subject matter, and the soulfulness of the show, and the TOTALLY UNAPOLOGETIC COMPLETELY BADASS experience.  It is not for the faint of heart but like, grow a pair of ovaries and/or testicles and fly your ass to New York and go see it.  It can and should change your life. 

8.  Write love letters to someone far away. 

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…Wouldn’t you like to know?

xoxox

Dani

guess who’s back. DANI’S BACK.

WHOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!

Exactly a week ago, my plane touched down in Los Angeles after a two month trip to India.

Landing at LAX at sunset

Landing at LAX at sunset

It’s been a whirlwind week back in the United States, and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time poring over Britt‘s posts from this summer, getting misty-eyed about how amazing and inspiring my best friend is, and pondering what I could possibly say at this time to sum up the last two months of my life AND riff off all the inspiring things Britt had to say in my absence.  It’s nuts to me how much my girl has been through in the last few months: shooting a million projects, juggling a million jobs, being in a million plays, taking care of her health, enduring major life upsets, leaving her day job, closing down a theater, and just continuing to be hilarious and charming every step of the way.  I don’t know about you guys, but it makes me dizzy just thinking about it!

And that is saying something, because India can be pretty dizzying at times.  Honestly though, the reason it has taken me a week to write a freakin’ post is that being back in America has been more overwhelming to me than touching down in India.  Look you guys, they even have a bunch of charts on google to demonstrate reverse-culture-shock:

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Aight, so a lot of that is hooey…  Or at least I can say that a lot of that wasn’t the case for me personally, but still THERE ARE CHARTS PEOPLE.  And I was only gone for two months!  That’s nothing!

But now….

And I’m slowly readjusting to bleach blonde hair and fake tits.  YAY LOS ANGELES!!  Britt, there are so many fake bitches down here! (No offense to all the fake bitches.  I am sure you are all wonderful beautiful people at your core.)

In all seriousness, folks, this city is waiting to embrace Britt Harris and lift her up to the heights of glory, because Los Angeles has never SEEN such an original, authentic, intelligent, beautiful, insightful, creative, REAL woman in all of its days.  I can now safely say that I’ve been all over the world and never met someone with such unbridled passion, creativity, and drive, and it is really, really special.  I’m jealous that you all have had internet for two months and have been able to keep up with all of her exploits.

Meanwhile, I keep going back and forth between this…

and this…

For the past week I’ve been alternating between sleeping/taking care of my self and partying-like-it’s-1999.  My body can’t decide if it wants to sleep for 10 years or take Los Angeles by the horns and ride it like a drunk middle-aged lady on a mechanical bull at a square-dancing bar trying to forget her past.

I don’t know y’all.

The second month of my trip was spent in Stok village, which is near Leh, Ladakh, in Northern India. What????

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Ohhhh! Thank you, cartoon-y map!  That’s where it is!  As you can see, Ladakh is actually part of the political province of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), which is part of India.  J&K is frequently subject to political violence and activism, since there have been border disputes between India and Pakistan for years and years and years–pretty much since India became a country when the British left. Ladakh is the part of Northern India that is largely isolated, both culturally and practically, from that political unrest, and is home to about 200,000 Ladakhi people who are mostly Buddhist and much more similar to Tibetans in language, religion, and culture.  Ladakh is often called “Little Tibet,” but in my opinion that’s kind of like calling Canada “Little United States”… a somewhat true/offensive generalization. 

Anyway!  Where was I going with this?  Are you all bored with my pseudo history lesson yet?

Oh yeah! So Ladakh is this stunningly beautiful and sublimely peaceful little slice of heaven nestled in the Himalayas between two incredibly contentious political regions:  China-occupied Tibet and the Pakistan/India territory fight in Jammu and Kashmir.  I lived there for a month with this guy:

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Khen Rinpoche Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan with me and Tarah, my friend from the USA

Khen Rinpoche is an incredible human being, and meeting him was a karmic and life-changing stroke of luck.  I am sure I will talk more about this later, but he taught me about Buddhism (and life) and taught by example how to live with deep compassion for all sentient beings, and use the life you were given to bring compassion and love to the planet.  I’m weeping now just thinking about it.  

So try to imagine with me, for a moment, going from life in a peaceful and remote village with a bunch of Buddhists where this is what you see every day, 

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To LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.  LA is essentially the breeding ground of America’s largest export:  AMERICAN CULTURE (which could not be any different from Ladakhi culture if it tried).

Thank you, Ke$ha, for personifying everything that I am trying to say. 

So yes.  Dear, sweet, beautiful blog readers.  For the next few weeks before I start the second year of my MFA in Acting at USC, I will be presenting you with a series of blogs which will attempt to share with you some of my experiences from my summer in India, to make up for the fact that I did practically NO blogging while I was gone.  I have nothing but love and appreciation in my heart for anyone who is willing to plunge down this rabbit hole with me and help me to digest these experiences and apply them to my life as an actor in the city of angels.

PEACE OUT!!

dani