Full disclosure. I am drunk-blogging at my local watering-hole, as I am pushed to the brink with Eternal Summer, always on the quest of finding air-conditioned establishments to seek refuge in (this is SURVIVAL, here, people, REAL SURVIVAL). At this current … Continue reading
Hello friends back Stateside and elsewhere, As promised, here is an extended account of my amazing Land of Oz Roadtrip in photographic form!
When I left the the US on June 2nd, I originally had a return ticket booked (for soon-ish). But this week I thought, fuck it, I want to stay longer! Instead of the original plan, I am now going to embark on an … Continue reading
Friends, as you may have noticed, I have gone a bit off the grid and am currently living in a strange and glorious land. A land where bars are often referred to as hotels, where coffee is taken white, and I am … Continue reading
…Well, I suppose that TECHNICALLY this is my 29th trip around the sun, but Earth Culture assures me that I am 28 years of age. My Saturn is returning. And all that stuff. Planetary. Thank you, Neil.
And now, today, on this, the 4th Day of the Month of May (it rhymes!), about 7 weeks after my actual, special Friday-the-13th birthday (whoops), and about 970 weeks since my last post (sorry), here are a few things to catch you up on in the incredibly not-boring goings-on of my life:
1.) I’ve got Homes in Different Zip Codes.
Read as: “Vagabond”.
I currently reside in Park La Brea, Altadena and Echo Park (I promise you I am not joking), with pit-stops in places like Culver City, Silverlake, and Hancock Park in between. What can I say? My sterling house-sitting reputation precedes me. As a wandering artist subletting her room, I am not complaining.
2.) Continuing on with the vagabond theme: I’ve been on more airplanes this year than ever. (And I hate flying.)
… I think I’m getting better at the whole flying thing, though. I’ve got a supplement-popping, face-covering, booze-in-flight drinking system that works for me, so don’t worry about it.
‘Cuase let’s be real. I’m not flirting with that bitch mono again.
I just got back from Arizona International Film Festival in Tucson, where Birds of Neptune won the award for Best Dramatic Feature!! Holy CRAP! And if that wasn’t an honor enough, the film was also selected to screen again on the final night of the festival for the “Best of Fest” celebration. …An encore screening? Yes, please!! Thank you, Tucson! 😀
Up next on the festival trail? Mammoth Lakes Film Fest at the end of the May. Hopefully you’ll be seeing me all over the globe promoting this film. This is just the beginning! 😀
WOOOOAAAA! I am on cloud 9 from this, truly. Tucson was such a special, surreal, magical place, and this recognition is such an incredible honor.
5.) I still self-employed and loving it.
6.) Dani and I went aboard The Queen Mary to witness the marriage of our dear college friend Hillary:
…Which made me think that perhaps I should live on a boat at some point in my life. Because, COME ON.
So, basically — Two Evil Actors, the Content Creators, are stampeding your way SOON, betch!! Mark my words! FEAR US!
8.) I am writing a lot of music these days. I hope to record my stuff later this year, so I will keep you posted on that. All of this material is all super personal to me so it is SCAAAAARY. Which obviously means that I have to do it. 9.) Speaking of recording music, I had the opportunity to record music with my very talented brother for the first time in March.I was lucky enough to be in Seattle for an audition when my brother Nate and my cousin Cameron were recording the first EP for Nate’s music duo, NW Passage. (Think of Nate Harris as the Ryan Lewis to NW Passage’s Macklemore. He is a genius.) They asked me to record vocals on some of the tracks. It was SO fun.
Look! Cute photos of me and bro in the studio!
10.) STILL speaking of recording music– I have finished recording basic vocals for the first No Vanquished album! It won’t be long now ’til we release and UNLEASH this music into the world!
And I am in a constant state of reconciling this emotional and geographical dissonance.
12.) I took a few covert Portland visits this year to feed my heart.
Short and sweet and sad, it hurts me a bit to come back to Portland now. It confuses me and makes me wonder where I am supposed to be. I don’t think it will always be that way, but…. what is it they say in that one song?
Yeah, something like that.
Anyway. My heart is in Portland. Y’all knew that.
13.) Surprise, Mom! I got a new tattoo. I was born ass-first on Friday the 13th (it ALL makes sense now, right?!) and my birthday happened to fall on Friday the 13th this year. So, naturally, I needed to get a Friday the 13th tattoo.
I must note that Dani and our good friend and housemate Raisa got Friday the 13th tatts that day as well. Because we are part of a gang.
14.) I am officially the USC MFA program’s biggest stage-mom. I could not be more proud of my Dani, who recently completed her THREE SHOW REP (AND NY & LA Showcase!), each of which, I saw two times. Trust me, I would have seen these shows every night they were running if I could clone myself. This girl inspires me everyday. True to her nature and talent, Dani killed it in each show with every character she lived in, but her portrayal of Nina in The Seagull especially took my breath away.
Nina is SUCH a difficult role to nail, you guys, and it takes a REALLY gifted, insightful, brave, and effective actor to be able to play the arc of this role. It was one of the most incredible performances onstage I have ever seen and I wish I could show each and every one of you her incredible work. I feel stupid even talking about it because I can’t quite find the words to quite articulate how much I look up to my best friend and how proud of her I am.
So, I’ll just dumb-it down by saying: “YOU ARE AMAZING, DANI!!”
15.) As if the film fests I am already going to haven’t been enough, I decided to party-crash a good chunk of the Newport Beach Film Festival with my new Aussie friends that I met at the Arizona International Film Fest.
I drank a lot and ate a lot and consumed 7 s’mores at one event and had a very nice time, thank you.
Also, I felt fancy.
16.) I am really itching to travel. I hope that the stars align to grant me an international trip (or five) this year. I think the odds may be in my favor.
(Come on, come oonnnnn Birds of Neptune International Premiere..!!)
17.) I’ve decided that I really want a pet but am truly TOO VAGABONDY and poor to be a good dog or cat mom (see #1 & #2 above).
18.) SO I’ve made many new dog friends around town. (Also my ulterior motive for all of the house-sitting I do.)
21.) Okay… uhh.. god… thinking of 28 things is actually pretty hard… let’s see, um.. ….I’ve been eating a LOT of pizza lately? Like, a lot?
25.) Okay, let’s get real here for a second. Because 2EA believes in that shit.
After all, we are real humans with real feelings.
So… sigh. Okay.
Though the external evidence of this post may suggest otherwise, I have a pretty sad heart right now. For the first time in, well, ever, I am unclear of what is next. My internal compass, which is usually pretty strong, is not so strong right now. I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean or what I am supposed to do. I feel sad and scared and slightly stupid. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain and weird to talk about. Depression has been a thing. Top Tier / Grade A / Boss-Level Heartbreak has been a thing. Crippling anxiety spiral has been a thing.
And yet, here I am. Still bravely loving, still going hard at my dream, still refusing the conventional day job…
I am doing my best. I know that one day I’ll crack the happy code. One day I won’t feel so misplaced and scattered and alone-on-an-island-y.
Luckily, I have learned more about myself and what I truly want out of life during these weird heart times. I’ve had to make some really hard decisions, decisions that more often than not have left me with the exact opposite outcome of what I thought I wanted, and through this, I am learning to trust. I am learning to trust my instincts and the order of the Universe. I am learning to breathe into my decisions and into my follow-through. To tell those I love that I love them. To not expect anything back. To be vulnerable. To be a voice of reason. To be a hard-ass. To be a softy. To be what I need for myself in this moment. To acknowledge that no one and nothing is forever, yet allow myself to take comfort in the feeling that some people and some things never truly leave.
Perhaps knowing what I want has somehow made the path I travel seem more indirect or treacherous. Maybe I’ve finally realized the true challenge of committing myself 100% to living the life I want. This is not a life of allowing cop-outs and stifling my feelings and feeling obligated and beating myself up. I realize now that there is nothing more challenging (and more important) than taking care of myself and taking care of my sweet dear heart in the same way that I wish to take care of those I love. It’s no easy thing.
And let’s be real, being a human is just fucking hard.
26.) I’ve also had the feeling that this year may be the kick-off to some very important self-discovery:
I’ve discovered that I feel the most myself when I am on the move. In transit. Exploring. Adventuring. Wandering (I’m sure you’ve picked up that vibe in this post so far). This is also when I feel the most lonely.
There is still so much to discover within myself and sometimes (most of the time) that internal terrain is so rocky. I cry every time I am in an airport. Every. TIME. It’s an odd feeling: always leaving the ones I love, always coming back, this weird ping-pong sensation — but there is truly no feeling that compares to the huge hug feeling from a loved one upon arrival or departure — that pure happycryjoy or happycrylonging –that is the shit that makes me feel alive.
Sweet sweet incredible Dani threw me a surprise party the night of my birthday in March and I seriously had no idea. I felt so loved.
28.) Let me say it again: I have the very best friends in the world. We build slip-n-slides in our backyard out of trash bags, tarp, and baby oil.
In closing, so far, 28 is looking like this: A little bit scary. A lotta bit fun. I may accidentally sprain an ankle trying to get a running start down that Big Slippery Blue Tarp of Life, or belly flop in a way that fucking HURTS and knocks the wind out of me, and I may cry about it for a while, or curl up in the fetal position for a sec, but I will always get up.
And, let’s just call it like we see it, folks: Really. I don’t even take that shit off for slip-n-slides.
Thank you for reading, friends. And for your love and support in my life. You keep me going. ❤
“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:
I’m from the wild west and I love the wild west.
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…
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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.
You may recognize Sammi from my hiking adventures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘Nuff said. Who says I wasn’t taking care of business in New York?
5. Check out an awesome independent bookstore.
Look at that nerd nerding out super hard in the nerd section. #winning
6. Get drunk and ride the subway.
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.
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.
…Wouldn’t you like to know?
If you came here searching for some sexy gossip, I’ve gotta be up front with you. Imma be talking shit.
You know what I’m talkin’ bout, y’all. You had those big Christmas dinners last night, you had a big cup of coffee this morning… Okay I promise that I won’t spend this entire blog post talking about shit. I mean it is the Christmas season after all, but technically Christmas is over so let’s get down and dirty.
Like shit, this story begins with food. And like both food and shit, this story is deeply personal.
We are omnivores, which means we have a huuuuuge range of food to choose from. If you live in the USA, you live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. This gives you, theoretically, even more choice when it comes to how you feed yourself to stay alive. But the weird thing about the USA is this:
- 2/3 of adults in America are overweight or obese.
- 1 in 8 adults live in a home that is food insecure. (Meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.)
In other words, America suffers simultaneously from both hunger and obesity. On a large scale. Now, I’m citing research compiled by the Food Research and Action Center, but this fact jumped off the page at me from Michael Pollan’s book almost 7 years ago because it just seemed so weird. How can so many Americans be so unhealthy? And why are people suffering at both extremes? What does that mean? How is that possible?
I am an average American, and a 90’s kid. I grew up with Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast, milk and cookies after school, and the food pyramid to guide me. This food pyramid:
Check out all those grains at the bottom. Those will come back to haunt me later. This whole thing will, actually. This is the USDA food Pyramid from 1992, when I was 3 years old. About ten years later, in beautiful, stark, sparsely populated, highly Republican Idaho, the concept of global warming will enter my young consciousness. A concept which I discover is related to food in ways I never considered. Al Gore came to speak at the Boise Pavilion, and I discovered that the American meat industry is responsible for more of our greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars and trucks on the road combined.
But for a dumbass teenager living in a land where vegetarianism is a totally foreign concept in the early 2000’s, this became the “Doritos and Coke” diet, and was both socially isolating and unhealthy. I was the weird kid at Shari’s who wouldn’t order bacon, but I was eating soy products 3 meals a day. I gave that up; broke down and got a bacon cheeseburger and wild fries at Good Times by the mall. But on my way to college, The University of Portland Honors Program handed me Michael Pollan’s book and told me to move to Portland a week early to study food sustainability. Something inside me was set on fire again, and I guzzled down information about government food subsidies, big business lobbyists, and all of the stuff that goes into making your food before you even walk through the doors of the grocery store.
I began to reprogram by brain. Food is incredibly personal, and way more emotional than food activists and fitness enthusiasts like to admit. I am passionate about the evils of industrial food, but where do I put that memory of my Grandmom emptying her pockets to buy us a big bag of cheeseburgers from McDonald’s? What do I do with the sense memory of the bacon cheeseburger my best friend bought me when I was sobbing from my first breakup? Chocolate milk that your Mom used to mix for you. Baking a Betty Crocker birthday cake from a box and then eating the leftover frosting with graham crackers. I felt like Monsanto had been bribing me with emotional currency and poisoning me with corn syrup.
By Junior year of college I had become a vegetarian again, and most of my diet consisted of home-cooked meals that my roommate and I concocted out of our CSA box, also known as Community Supported Agriculture. My friend had started a small organic farm after graduating from college, and he delivered huge boxes of beautiful organic veggies to our home once a week. My fond memories of Cap’n Crunch and Mac n’ Cheese became nothing more than fond memories, and I was the healthiest I have ever been. I still drank beer, ate grilled cheese sandwiches (Tillamook Cheddar on Dave’s Killer Bread, obviously), and ate cake when I felt like it, but I was more at peace with the way I was living on this planet.
Fast forward to Monterey, California. July 2012.
Or as I like to think of it, the month that I stopped shitting. I’ll never forget the friendships I formed, the mentorship I received, or all of the stuff I learned about improv and art. But mostly, I’ll never forget the gastrointestinal trauma that began that month and that has not stopped since.
I moved to LA and began grad school.
I forged artistic bonds and deep friendships with sweat and blood.
I stopped dating. I am a 20-something blond actress living in LA–you’d think there would be a little bit of romance in that, but it is hard to feel like putting on a dress and going to a bar when you are thinking about your own shit. Literally.
Yeah, y’all. I told you this shit was personal.
Fast forward again to India, summer of 2013.
A life-changing two months of spiritual growth and self-discovery. I rode a camel, a horse, and an elephant. I played with children in the Himilayas. I did yoga in the middle of a flash flood. And I got super, super sick. Repeatedly. My GI problems were exacerbated by the stress of traveling, eating unfamiliar foods, the vengeance of an angry god, whatever. When you don’t poop, your body starts to fill with bacteria and viruses.
I got the flu three times while I was there, and the third time ended with my host family driving me from doctor to doctor in the extremely under-served region of Ladakh, trying to get me some medical treatment. Despite being sick so much, I had an incredible trip, and I had actually canceled my return flight and bought a new one for three weeks later in order to extend my trip and see more of the country. But with a violent fever racking my body, deep circles under my eyes, and no color left in my skin, crammed in the backseat of my family’s car as we crept along the base of the Himalayas, I decided it was time to go home. I changed my flight back and returned home, my head and stomach swimming after two months of extreme paradise.
After I got back to the United States, I felt defeated. For over a year I had been trying every possible modification to my diet I could think of. I stopped eating wheat, I cut out dairy, I cut out alcohol, I tried eating meat again, and nothing seemed to help. The doctor that I saw when I got back shrugged his shoulders and referred me to a specialist, who could see me in about a month. I walked out of the doctor’s office with a referral sheet, an appointment for a month later, and a feeling of helplessness.
In India, Ayurvedic medicine is very popular. In Ayurveda, you eat foods which specifically help balance out your body, and the treatments are things like massages and colonics. The idea is to detox your body of things that you’ve had to make you sicker, and food is the medicine which keeps you healthy. It is a long term health regimen. Naturopathic medicine, which is much more common in the United States, draws from both Western Medicine and more holistic medical approaches like Ayurveda. Western medicine had shrugged its shoulders at me, so I called a Naturopath.
After a million questions and a thorough examination, the Naturopathic Doctor told me that I had a leaky gut. Ummm… gross. That sounds gross. What else is new? Basically, my intestines couldn’t absorb certain food molecules. So the rejected molecules were taking revenge on my picky intestines by slamming through the walls of my intestines and breaking into my bloodstream without permission and without being properly broken down. Then my immune system had to create antibodies to attack and break down the rogue molecules. Then the antibodies got super paranoid and just started attacking a ton of stuff in my body that didn’t actually need to be attacked. It’s called an autoimmune response. On my blood test, it shows that my body has autoimmune-levels of antibodies for Gluten, Corn, Dairy, Coffee, Hemp, Sesame, and basically all forms of joy and happiness. My gluten test looks like what it would look like if I had full-blown Celiac Disease.
At last, I knew the truth. I knew what the problem was. …And the problem? Where do I begin?
Food intolerance like the one I have develops over time. Our genetically-modified and industrially-bred wheat crops have an unnaturally high amount of gluten. This is because if the wheat you grow has a freaky amount of gluten in it, you can grow more calories per acre, and you can make more money per acre. Ultimately, this benefits not the farmers but the seed companies and the food manufacturers. The problem is that the human body has not evolved to break down gluten in that quantity. Now scroll back up to that food pyramid. Eat your wheat, 90’s kids.
And corn!! Oh my God I’m allergic to corn! Apparently, while I was watching Supersize Me and King Corn and reading Michael Pollan’s books, MY INTESTINES WERE LISTENING!! How freaky is that? Every time I ate wheat or corn my intestines were like, “No we don’t want any of that industrial bullshit” and then the wheat was all, “Fuck you, intestines, I’m gonna get into that bloodstream anyway” and then my body was like, “GTFO” and then there was an epic immune battle waged in my bloodstream.
It’s kind of amazing when I think about it. Activist intestines go on a poop strike to end industrial agriculture! Angry bowels stop pooping in protest to irresponsible farming!
…Or something like that. To cut a long story short, this journey as been a huge part of my 2013. I ended up going on an intense detox diet of ONLY VEGETABLES in the middle of my hardest semester of grad school yet. No alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar, no grains and 16-hour days of lose-your-mind acting training. I confronted a whole heap of memories and emotions tied in with food. And actually, what I discovered is that I’m a lot stronger than I think I am. I didn’t need coffee to get through the day, I just wanted it because it reminded me of a million beautiful moments and made me happy. I didn’t need a million things that I thought I needed, and in their absence I didn’t experience despair. The million beautiful memories I have tied to food didn’t just disappear when I became gluten intolerant. They are still just as visceral and beautiful and important to who I am, and now I have the opportunity to form new memories. Memories that aren’t tied to a food system that my intestines can’t handle and my heart and mind can’t get behind.
I made a large portion of the Christmas dinner last night for my family, and beside the turkey and the gravy, it was all vegan and gluten free. I told them all at the end of the meal, after belts were loosened, the stuffing was praised, and the kale was lauded. It was a beautiful meal that created lots of beautiful memories, and my family was happy to feast with me in a way that I could enjoy it with them. No one missed the butter or the wheat or the corn, and the quinoa stuffing was the first thing to get gobbled up off the plates.
Needless to say, Britt and I were active in a group text all Christmas day with our besties, and I feel the need to round out this post with a photograph that Britt was foolish enough to send to all of us. I don’t have any pictures of myself on the toilet, but I do have a picture of my twin of the toilet, and I believe it encapsulates all I’m trying to say about memories, food, touchy-feely stuff, and of course, shit.
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:
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?
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:
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.
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:
Wait wait wait I’m getting ahead of myself again. So we decided to flee Rishikesh:
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Exactly a week ago, my plane touched down in Los Angeles after a two month trip to India.
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:
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!
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…
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????
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:
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,
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.
I met an Australian travel writer at Anand Prakash yoga ashram in Rishikesh who told me about a certain profession. In this profession, your job is to go to India and bring home young Westerners who went to India on vacation and never came back. Worried American mothers can hire this sort of bounty hunter to go track down their kid who went to India on some kind of spirit quest and ended up staying illegally as a Sadhu (often-stoned ascetic holy man) or otherwise finding an excuse never to leave this incredible country. Keep your eye out for Nina Karnikowski’s book on this subject sometime in the next couple of years. She kicks ass.
Anyway the point is: Mom, I’m not saying you need to hire a bounty hunter quite yet, but I really fucking love it here. In my mind I was going to be blogging about India as I went, but I’ve been too lost in the experience of experiencing it to blog a whole lot. But I promise I will do a lot more when time allows! I think what I’ll do is a trip-in-a-nutshell thing right now, and get deeper once I’m back in August. It’s hard to want to spend a bunch of time tracking down an internet cafe and staying inside when there’s so much to see!
So here is one of the main things that I’ve learned so far:
People are people.
We arrived yesterday in Leh, Ladakh and were picked up at the airport by Kunzom and Chauldin, our hosts for the next month. Kunzom is the sister of Khen Rinpoche, the founder of the Siddhartha School who invited Tarah to come to India in the first place, and who subsequently invited me to come to India. Kunzom is a woman-about-town in her village of Stok and in the nearby countryside, doing treasury work for the government, helping villagers settle the distribution of land, taking classes from a nearby lama, and hosting guests for her brother Rinpoche as he goes around the world making friends on behalf of the Dalai Lama and his beloved school.
For people this amazing, it’s hard to imagine them being… normal. But as we hung out in the family room last night, the sixteen-year-old daughter Chustik and the father Chauldin bickered over whether to watch the juicy drama or the cricket game on TV, and the mother Kunzom subtly moved closer to the TV whenever the Bollywood soap opera prevailed. Dinner got started late, and although Tarah and I didn’t care and were enjoying th process of making vegetable “momos” by hand, the hostess was embarrassed and the host’s impish Ladakhi jokes made everyone giggle and kept the mood light, despite language barriers.
As another example, the young yoga teacher at our ashram in Rishikesh was quite imposing with his uncompromising expertise, strict classes, and deep baritone voice. Then I found out that he had gotten his undergraduate degree in Acting at SUNY Purchase with Michael, who is now one of my classmates at USC. I was going to include some sweet media here, but I’m at an internet cafe in Ladakh and nothing is working now, hopefully I can still post this blog. Imagine a hilarious picture of a Chinese-American yoga teacher/actor right here.
Kids are kids. Before the flooding in Uttarakhand that decimated the banks of the Ganga and washed away the Shiva statue in Rishikesh, Tarah and I liked to go down to the river to play with Sanjee, my “little monster.” He was pretty much the funnest. It made me excited to come up here to Ladakh and spend more time with the kiddos.
The most sobering part of knowing Sanjee, though, was knowing how unlikely it is that he will make it to adulthood. He had a deep cough and lived along the river, and I don’t know what happened to him during the floods. The water rose over the course of a few days, so I’m assuming his family was savvy enough to move uphill, but I don’t really know.
Death is death. In my opinion, Indians have a much healthier relationship with life and death than Americans. Tarah and I were on a camel ride in Pushkar, and we saw a dog eating the entrails of a dead cow through his…well…you know. Our camel guides, who happened to be 20-year-old boys dressed like hipsters straight out of Silver Lake, shrugged and kept moving. We did the same.
But it wasn’t upsetting. Life and death coexist here very honestly. It causes pain, of course. We made a friend who was telling us that he won’t go swimming because his friend unexpectedly drowned on a swimming outing, and the memory still causes him immense pain. But death is part of life, and like life it has something to teach us. I don’t sense this sort of desperate need to cling to this life and make something of it hat I sense is fundamental to American culture. My running joke here is “YOLO… No wait… You Only Live Infinite Times Until You Reach Moksha.”
Prayer is prayer, and Love is love. We met a group of young American women in the Delhi airport traveling with Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization doing volunteer work abroad. We had a really inspiring conversation with them about the bottomless nature of God’s love, and I thought about touching silence and bliss during Osho meditation in Rishikesh. I thought about talking to an astrologer in Rishikesh about Jesus and Buddha and their lessons on love. I thought about crying at the end of yoga class as something holy pulsed through my veins. I thought about dancing with the kids at the Hare Krishna temple and sitting up late smoking cigarettes under the light of the full supermoon in Udaipur. I thought about taking off my shoes and feeling the intricate marble work at a Jain temple that took 69 years and hundreds of lifetimes to build. As my mind flashed back to the present moment the Christian girls in the airport were asking Tarah and I if they could pray with us. Why not, I thought. Prayer is prayer.
Anyway, like I said I was going to include a lot of sweet media in this post, but technology has thwarted me, so I’m going to stop here. Tarah and I start teaching regularly at the Siddartha School tomorrow morning, and we’ll be working with the kids for a couple of weeks, until the school hosts a big celebration for it’s 20th anniversary and then the kids go on summer break for a couple of weeks. Not sure what we’ll do after that, but that’s okay! Who knows?? More news to come!
Lots of love and light and joy and stuff,