dani tries to figure out wtf country she’s in

I just got off the phone with my very favorite Britt and as usual, I felt instantly inspired to write (and make movies and make art and make fun, but I have this blog to write and so I am going to WRITE).

I have felt somewhat at a loss for the past couple of weeks since being back from India because, as I mentioned, I have been experiencing REVERSE culture shock. As in, you leave your country for a while and go experience another culture and then you come back home and you’re like:

wtfamerica

And it’s hard not to go into a downward spiral that goes kind of like…

WTF is wrong with this country?
WHY did I come back?
CAN I just go back to India forever? Is that throwing away all of the opportunities I was given by being born in this country?
HOW SOON can I go back?
WHY do I feel this way?

nobodyunderstands

Except that’s NOT TRUE, Emo-Dani, it’s just NOT TRUE. We live in a global age and bajillions of people have traveled and moved and immigrated and gone through this stuff over and over again and it’s just NOT TRUE!!

So let me rewind a little bit.

INDIA IS AWESOME. It is this incredibly diverse, chaotic, beautiful, crazy UNIVERSE of possibility where there is quite literally a billion different ways of living your life and being in the world. Total FOOD for my actor-brain, and the best kind of nourishment for my soul. For the first month, Tarah and I were traveling around India like the twentysomething backpacking bums that we are:

Dani and Tarah arrive in Rishikesh

Dani and Tarah in full backpacker mode

We spent a couple of weeks doing yoga in Rishikesh when intense flash flooding hit the state of Uttarakhand, upriver of where we were staying. Seemingly overnight, the big, beautiful Momma Ganges River turned into a rageful and torrential stream of destruction.

Right as the floods started, our new Canadian friend Kelsy happened to leave for the mountains which would soon become incredibly dangerous, Tarah and I had AMAZING astrology readings with this spiritual guru lady named Amodini, and I got horrendously sick with the flu. We were completely safe in Rishikesh, but there was no electricity or internet anywhere for days, so bad news from upriver trickled in slowly–corpses of wild elephants, cars with bodies still trapped inside, remains of ancient temples… It all flowed by somewhere under the raging river a few hundred yards down the hill. And I was pretty much bedridden with a fever and no voice, the words of Amodini echoing in my head with talk of my birthright, my spiritual relationship with Jesus and Buddha, and god knows what else. It was a surreal time.

Tarah took these one day.  See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.

Tarah took these one day. See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.

After a few days, Kelsy came back with some terrifying tales of spending three days and two nights on the road fleeing the floods, and while she was happy to be in the safety of Rishikesh, she needed to get the hell out of the mountains and out of sight of the Ganges, and so we decided to go south to Udaipur:

IMG_0906

ISN’T IT FUCKING GORGEOUS??

Wait wait wait I’m getting ahead of myself again. So we decided to flee Rishikesh:

I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.

I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.

No really, I swear Kelsy is not ACTUALLY as upset as she looks in this picture. Or maybe she was. But I’m pretty sure we were just messing around. Anyway, here are some of the sights we saw as we left Rishikesh for Delhi, and they really help paint of picture of what I mean when I say India is a place of POSSIBILITY.

Donkeys moving bricks!

Donkeys moving bricks!

Oh sure, GIANT TRUCK you can pass that tourist van on the shoulder of this one lane road next to these stacks of bricks. Just make sure you don’t run over that unsupervised donkey that is in charge of moving all of those bricks.

Typical street scene

Typical street scene

Check out that food stall. These food stalls pop up about every ten feet and feature a cooler (or cardboard box) with some cokes in it, and a giant wok. If you own a wok, you can own a restaurant. Can you imagine trying to do that in the US? Also check out the mish mash of Indian and “Western” clothes that people are wearing, and the ratio of men to women in this picture. Both are pretty typical.

On the road...

On the side of the road…

“Hey guys I think we should start a custom cabinetry business.”

“Yeah man, I think we can set it up between those trees where the pigs hang out.”

……yeah!

Paharganj, New Delhi

Paharganj, New Delhi. Quintessentially chaotic

Amidst all this chaos, Tarah and I managed to stand out; Tarah with her pale skin and me with a mane of blond hair. We made a ton of friends, people openly shared their kindness and hospitality, and we occasionally had to avoid a hustler trying to make a buck off of the “rich white ladies.”

heid_I'm-Rich

ERMAHGERD I’M RICH

But you know, who can blame them? As you can see, if you have ANY idea of a way to make a living or a way of living your life, then India is your oyster. Being there felt completely liberating. It didn’t matter what we wore or how we acted or what we did because we stood out whether we were quiet as mice or completely ridiculous. I know that we were excused from a lot of social expectations because we were foreign tourists, but I think that in general Indian culture is more accepting of differences; the Indian imagination is much bigger when it comes to humanity…when it comes to the things they think people are capable of.

Imagine going from that to Los Angeles: the judgiest place in the human universe.

becky look at her butt

Within my own culture, and especially as one of a million blond actors in LA, I am keenly aware of the fact that people I don’t even know (without even thinking about it or without even trying to) are constantly judging and classifying me depending on my weight, on my skin, on my eyebrows, on how expensive my clothes look, on the car I drive, blah blah blah. This Sunday I was at a coffeeshop in Silver Lake watching a parade of hipsters trying so hard to BE something or to NOT be something, and then later in the day I was at a jazz night in a fancy hotel watching a parade of supermodels and wannabe starlets also trying to BE SOMETHING and NOT be a failure or something…

I guess ultimately it’s the same thing…. The people struggling to survive in Delhi are the same people trying to find there place in the world in LA. It’s just difficult. It’s not easy for anyone–from the skinny eighteen-year-old model at the bar in the fancy hotel to the skinny twelve-year-old kid in India with more tattoos than my musician brother. In the end I guess it’s just about accepting that I am another gypsy soul trying to find my place and my purpose in the world. Trying to find meaning in it all.

An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan

An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan

AHEM.

…..

Man, people with Emo haircuts are really keeping this blog in check today. Thanks, dude.

So I got sidetracked and only really talked about 1/4 of my trip so far… Let me explain something real quick: For the first week that I was in LA, I was LOSING MY MIND. I felt like sleeping all day (as the nice British man explains) so for some reason I decided to combat this by doing a bunch of crazy shit during the daytime in order to stay awake, but then at nighttime I was wide awake so I just continued doing a bunch of crazy shit and not sleeping. So I have not been on top of my blogging game.

yeah… like that.

Anyway! To round out this edition of Dani-tries-to-figure-out-WTF-country-she’s-in, I’m going to call in the aid of another dude with an Emo haircut to tell you about jet lag. After two minutes he changes the subject, so feel free to go about your day after that.

….Yeah. India. Jet lag. Transitions. Emo-hair.

mic drop

–dani

dani goes to india

In two days I’m getting on a plane and leaving for India for 2 months.  

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Wheee!!!

 As Britt and I have mentioned about 10,000 times, and as is currently evident by the fact that Britt is living on an air mattress on our friend’s floor after losing her house, we are gypsies at heart.  Because that is the case, when I chose to go to grad school until 2015, I made a deal with myself.  I could only go to grad school if I used the two honest-to-God summers that grad school includes to travel.  I had to find ways to go places in this big crazy world before life sets in and bitches start coming after me for student loan payments.  

To be honest though, India wasn’t really on my radar.  Despite things like this…

And this…

Taj Mahal, India…

And this…

…It had just never crossed my mind to go there.  

But then, back in January, I got to talking to Tarah.  

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This is Tarah. (And Britt and Sedale and Amaka)

Tarah has just finished year 2 of her MFA in Acting at USC.  Put another way, she’s a year ahead of me in the program.  Here’s a picture of Tarah without sunglasses on, lookin’ all serious n’ actor-like n’ whatnot.  

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she’s amazing. just try to deny it. impossible.

Tarah was telling me about how for years now, her good friend Khen Rinpoche has been trying to get her to come up to Ladakh in Northern India and see the school that he runs there–The Siddhartha School.  She decided she was finally going to go this summer so she could attend the school’s anniversary celebration, but she was nervous about traveling abroad for the first time alone.  We talked for a long time that night, and somehow, in her infinite generosity and love and wisdom and amazingness, she invited me to go with her.  

OmigodOmigodOmigodOmigodOmigod. Seriously?  What?  I said to her what I usually say when people say things like, “We should get lunch sometime” or “We should be friends” or “You should come with me to this cool place” which is

“Be careful about inviting me.  Because I’ll go.”

5 months later, we’ve done all the preparation we can muster and now we are itching to get on the plane and just go.  

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Okay well we’re not actually going to paaaarty.  As they say.  We’re actually going to do some of this:

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yoga!!

As Tarah and I planned our trip, we realized it’s not actually cost-effective to go to India for a short amount of time, because the flight over there is expensive, but it’s super super super cheap once you’re there.  So the longer we stay, the further my tiny summer budget will stretch.  Cause let’s be real, I’m living off my leftover student loan money, y’alllllll.  Anyway, we both had an interest in studying yoga, and Rishikesh, India is not far South of Ladakh, and it’s the yoga capital of the world.

So.  We fly into Delhi on Sunday night, and after a brief visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, we’ll journey North to spend a month studying yoga in Rishikesh and a month visiting Ladakh.  We’re hoping that by the time we fly home, we’ve figured out how to levitate so we don’t have to take a plane.  

Flying - GIF

In all seriousness, though, I could not be more grateful and excited and humbled to be making this journey.  We’re as well-prepared as you can possibly be, and I feel so blessed to be Tarah’s companion on this trip.  I’m ready to go to India with a savvy mind, a free spirit, and an open heart.  Let’s doooo it. 

I will post as much as I can to TwoEvilActors while I’m gone, but I’m sure Britt will have plenty to tell you about until I come back, and once I am back in the U.S. it won’t be long until the Two Evil Actors are reunited in sunny Los Angeles.  Until then, namaste…

xoxo

Dani

bitches get shit done

I called Dani on the road today to brainstorm what the eff we were going to write about for our Friday post. I was en route to Seattle (by way of an overnight stay in Tacoma at my parents’ house) to catch an audition first thing in the morning in the fair (rainy) Emerald City. I was not surprised to find that she was on the road too, making the trek from the USC campus back to her home in Silver Lake.

As Britt and I chatted (safely, using hands-free technology**) we laughed at the fact that we always talk while we are both in motion, because we both have a hard time NOT being in motion.  As stressful as that may sound… it’s not. We both thrive off of moderate insanity. It’s been that way for both of us since our time at The University of Portland. In fact, I believe that it’s the constant motion that moves us. 

Britt and I actually didn’t hang out a lot in college until her very last semester.  Everyone may not know this, but Britt has a B.B.A in Accounting as well as managing to major in theatre, and aside from doing shows and being artsy and whatnot, she was hired by Deloitte while she was still in school.  I double majored in Music and Drama and also nerded out in Honors and E-Scholars  We both got our jollies from 21-credit semesters and sleep deprivation, and didn’t hang out hardcore until we were working on artistic projects together.  

Let’s just say…D and I, we get stuff DONE.

At my desk job, I have this image hanging on the wall of my glamorous cubicle:

Tina, bitches

BREAKING NEWS, WORLD:

Tina & Amy, bitches

Damn, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler sure look fly in those suits… I wonder what these powerful beautiful women will get done next??

emilyelectionshirt

What’s that, Emily Schmidt? RUN FOR PRESIDENT??  My beautiful housemate in Los Angeles, who also happens to be an incredible writer and comedian, was sporting this lovely campaign t-shirt just the other day.

And I got to thinking how D and I LOVED reading this:

bossypants

And how we LOVE watching this:

Parks & Rec

…And how during our 1-5 late-night driving conversation yesterday, we gushed about our mutual love of Tina and Amy. Sigh. BeOurFriendsNowPlease

be my friends NOW

And so, as we run off to a day full of class and rehearsals and auditions, and endless driving, we can’t help but think:

Bitches. Get. Shit. Done.

**Hands free cellphone technology=Phone on speakerphone shoved into bra.

gypsy life

Big Fat Gypsy Weddings poster

As soon as I arrived at the airport a few weeks ago and watched my housemate drive away, I felt more like myself than I’d felt in months.  My bag was packed, I had the bare essentials, and I was plunging into the adventure that is traveling.  Britt and I have talked a lot about being gypsies, and it’s certainly true that as long as I’ve known her she lives out of her car half the time, and I have moved every three months for almost two years now.

It’s true. I do use my car as a locker.

I think I’ve always had a strange desire for impermanence. Also– why does the word impermanence have such a negative connotation?! I want things to grow and move and shift and change. I think it’s awesome. And thrilling.

I agree!  Probably the first questions that people ask you when they find out you are pursuing a career in acting are, “How are you going to make money?” and “What about job stability?”  These are good questions!  But honestly, the idea of knowing what my career will look like over the next 20 years is just as terrifying to me as the prospect of instability may be for you. 

I’ve tried the whole “GetYourActTogetherYou’reAGrownUpNow” thing and it doesn’t really work for me. The parallel between “stability” and tying yourself to a single place has never made much sense to me. I’ve always found my truth in mobility.

I think I’m the same way.  I feel centered when I am in transit, my thoughts become crystallized, and I know exactly who I am and what I want. 

I don’t know if it’s something in my DNA, if my ancestors kept pushing further and further away from the cradle of human existence until they ended up in the Wild West of the United States, and now I can’t help but feel that inherited urge towards locomotion.  Or maybe  it was backpacking through seemingly endless mountain ranges with my family as a kid and feeling that our freedom was only limited by how self-sufficient we could be.  And when you’re out there in isolation staring at a trillion stars you can’t help but also feel yourself in your truest, most naked form.

Romantic notions aside, this urge toward nomad-dom is one thing that has drawn me to pursue acting as a career.  The professional theater actors I know spend a lot of time on the road going from regional theater to regional theater around the country and sometimes around the world.  Film actors get to shoot all over the place.  …That’s what she said. 

That is what she said.

One of my most peaceful and self-aware moments has been in transit. In 2009 I took the train from San Diego to Irvine, CA. I spent the whole ride with my face glued to the window, drinking in every whirling landscape. I wanted to explore everything. As the sun went down outside, I wrote in my journal: “There is something so liberating in not having a plan”. I don’t know what it was about that moment, but from then on I was constantly dreaming of motion. I took this snapshot in a moment of euphoria and have not been able to get the image out of my head since:

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The more I am in motion, the more I am alive. The more I move, the more I write. The more I sing. The more I laugh. The louder I get. The more things make sense. 

I would like to leave you all with a visual of me and D’s victorious wandering moments.

Dvictorious

Dani, victorious, conquering a mountain.

oregonfail

Me, fighting like hell to get the eff out of the Oregon Coast and to someplace warm. Yes, that is a stuffed animal in my hand, (dont’ worry about it).

I can’t help but think that this desire for transience is what draws us to a creative life. And with all of these unknowns, I have to say…I’m pretty damn excited about it.  

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