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:

Graphs mean SCIENCE

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????

ladakh map

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

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

dani channels her inner gypsy power

Dude. So before, when Britt and I talked about being gypsies, I was being somewhat facetious. I mean, yes, I do tend to move around a lot and I do really feel like myself when I’m traveling, but am I really a gypsy?

I mean, technically I’m not.  Technically I’m German and Swedish and Irish.  But let’s think about this for a second! Humanity started in Africa, right?  So my ancestors migrated from Africa so far North into the cold frigid Northern European lands that they lost all the pigment in their skin and became weird crazy Albino humans.  You know, like me and Britt.

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“I’m gonna eat this horse!”

Then they got pissed off from being so damn cold all the time and so got on some boats, put on some silly hats, and pillaged a bunch of other people.  Even then they weren’t satisfied, so they moved all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to America. And THEN my predecessors STILL were too antsy to stay put and migrated all the way across the continent to the wild wild West.  So maybe my ancestors weren’t gypsies but they were some nomadic mofos!

Johnny Depp as a gypsy in Chocolat

Don’t look at me like that gypsy-Johnny!  I’m not trying to insult you!  This is SCIENCE, yo! ………Okay let me try another angle on this……

I would be lying if I tried to say that the movie Chocolat is not, to this day, one of my favorite movies.  Maybe it doesn’t have the reputation of The Godfather, but it does star Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Lena Olin, Alfred Molina, and Johnny Depp, which is an incredible lineup. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s about a French/Mayan woman with a nomadic soul who moves to a conservative French town and tries to open a Chocolaterie. Of course, she meets a gypsy and falls in love, blah blah blah.

But watching this movie as a kid, the thing that called to me most achingly from the movie was the concept of this North Wind. Whenever the North Wind blew, something in (the main character) Vianne’s bones told her it was time to move on to the next place, and she packed her bags and moved on, forever. It was a sort of blessing and a curse: She had to abandon any relationships she’d built, but she also got to fulfill this deep primal urge to move on to whatever’s next.

When I was a kid in Boise, my absolute favorite time of year was the Fall. Literally, the North Wind started blowing: the air turned crisp and fresh, the leaves turned, and their was a sense of campfires, hot cider, and impending winter on the way. The winds of change started blowing, a new school year began, and the frigid winds promised that snow and holidays would eventually come.

Extrapolating this out to my adult life, for the past two years, I can’t seem to stay in one place for more than three months, on average. At first I blamed it on circumstances of living situations, on being in my 20’s, whatever. But this Spring I came to realize that, damn. It might just be Me. I think it’s in my blood.

“That’s deep, Dani.”

Awwww Thanks, empathetic Oprah!  You’re the best.  But as soon at March 20, 2013 rolled around, Spring officially became the Season in season, the Santa Ana winds started up in LA, and I started feeling antsy as fuck.

It makes no sense. I LOVE everything I am doing. Lately, the ole Grad Program has been piling on material, and every time I get another scene or sonnet or project or whatever to work on, I get a sick pleasure out of adding it to the pile of stuff to memorize. But another part of me is waking up in the morning and making the same damn drive to the same damn parking structure and trying to force myself to eat the same damn healthy foods and be such a good girl with such good habits and LOSING MY MIND.  Routine is killing me.

I’ve come to realize that I literally have NO habits. Good or Bad. I have tics, maybe, mannerisms, but habits?  Not really.  I think I am incapable of doing something consistently. I can do anything with a Puritanical discipline for two or three weeks. Then I get bored and distracted and feel restricted. So I guess I have a bad habit of not having good habits. Or I habitually break habits.  

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Curses!!

But here’s the thing that this realization has helped me realize… (Shut up, y’all, I didn’t major in English.)  I can actually turn this quirk to my advantage!  You know why?  Because there are only 3 1/2 weeks left in the semester!!  WOOOOOOOO!!!!!

tumblr_mh9h4kstQA1qhg3z2o1_400If you had talked to me a week ago, or even two days ago, you would have encountered an antsy, dissatisfied, grumpy chick whose mind already had flown across the globe to India.  But no more!  Today I am re-framing my life:  3 1/2 more weeks of hard work, then 3 weeks of preparation, then 8 weeks of India!!  I can do anything with Puritanical discipline for 3 weeks, remember?  So maybe that’s the secret for me.  I’ve just gotta bite off life in 3 week chunks, so I can really be present in devoting myself to whatever I am doing.  It is incredibly empowering to me to acknowledge the fact that, maybe my inner nomad starts to call to me with the change of seasons, but that also gives me all this great energy to pour into my work.  

So with that said, I have no choice but to leave you with this song.  I’m not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, but baby, I was born to run. 

dani talks portland vs. la

Here I am back in the big L.A. after kicking off the New Year in the hometown of my heart, Portland, Oregon.  And guess what?  IT’S COLD!  It has been in the 30’s and 40’s here for the past week and the locals are calling it a “cold snap.”  Meanwhile, I was chatting with my Mom (who lives in Idaho) and she informed me that it was 1 degree up there.  As in ONE DEGREE.  Why is that degree even hanging on?  It should just give up already. Make it a clean Zero.  Anyway, enough about Idaho!  Focus, Dani!

It was a fascinating experience being back in Portland for a week and then coming back to my new home in LA, and I’m sure that anyone who’s ever moved anywhere can relate to the complex emotions and nostalgia that come up the first time you visit old stomping grounds.  This time, though, I don’t think it was just reunions and old memories making me feel like an emotional live-wire during my trip.

There is something about the city of Portland that makes me feel alive, vibrant, driven, focused; incredibly creative and clear.  There is a rawness to it, partially because of the people–the whole “Keep Portland Weird” unapologetic, creative, go-my-own-way attitude, which is called “hipster” by many, but which can have a certain authenticity to it depending on who wears it. But mostly I think it’s because the sheer environment of Portland–the 9 months of pure gray clouds and drizzle and cold and rain–gives you something to fight against.  The sheer monotony of the weather produces the existential angst that hipsters are famous for, and the wind and rain make you want to go inside, drink a lot of beer, and come up with a lot of “really great ideas,” some of which might actually be awesome.  Like maple bacon doughnuts and arcades for grownups.

I was chatting with my USC classmate Michael about this, and he had something similar to say about New York:  “New York is a physical battle, and Los Angeles is a spiritual battle.”  Hey, Los Angeles is freakin gorgeous, despite the fact that it is slightly colder than normal at the moment.  Yes, it is a huge metro area of about 16 million people, and it has a notorious smog problem. But when you factor in fresh ocean breezes and the vast expanses of farmland around it, the air smells fresh and the city is spread out over almost 5,000 square miles.  When you consider that New York has 9 million people in 300 square miles, it makes sense that the city vibe of Los Angeles is completely different.

To be honest though, it is pretty isolating.  Los Angeles is a huge collection of little cities, and it takes conscious effort to leave your little bubble and engage with other parts of the city…or even other people, for that matter.  There’s no common enemy to rally against in LA, no constant rain or fierce snowstorms or rogue werewolves or anything.

Well, I should say that there is no OBVIOUS common enemy, because as stated, it is spiritual warfare here.  The deceptively fresh-smelling air and all that serotonin-inducing sunshine can mask or distract you from the fact that LA, like any industrial city, has major problems.  There IS a smog problem, there IS a lot of crime, there IS socioeconomic stratification, there IS racism.  All of those things, like, totally still exist, brah.*  For the first months that I was living in LA I was living in Hollywood at an intersection where the transvestite ladies of the night peddled their wares, as they say, and other shady characters liked to conduct their business.  I discovered that, on the drive to school, I could choose to drive up the road which was McDonald’s turf or the road that was Burger King turf, and either way I was driving past like 10 fast food burger joints on a 4 mile stretch of road.  Eventually, it just starts to wear on you.  This constant tension between the beautiful weather and scenery and this culturally repugnant undertone can create a kind of numbness, blurriness, ennui, or listlessness, which is a tougher enemy to fight.  Instead of a down and dirty, in-the-trenches battle, it’s spiritual guerrilla warfare.

To be honest, though, at this point in my life I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I love Portland–it is an inspiring place and I’m relieved to know that it is going strong and living the dream of the 90’s.  But living in LA is a new kind of challenge, and it feels good to be part of the mucky soup that is American life right now, in the present.  It really forces you to fight for what you believe in and how you want to live your life, because there are plenty of ways to live your life here.  There is crazy wealth and crazy poverty, crazy consumerism and crazy hippies, and like 10,000 cultures from all over the world, all smushed together in this very American, fossil-fueled city.  If you are not living your life intentionally and with conscious awareness, you will either become isolated or get swept up into something that’s not you. 

So when it comes to Portland vs. LA, there is no clear winner.  They are cities with good and bad like any other city, but the juicy part is fighting for however you want your life to be, no matter what kind of warfare you’re engaged in.  And right now I feel like I am in the right battleground.

*Insert California accent here.

~Dani

//

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.

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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.  

//

We are BORN!!

Hello bloggernetsphere, I am Britt.

And I am Dani.  We are lady-gypsy-actors.  And we have things to say.

…Mostly to each other, but we hope that you will take something from our thoughts too. We are pursuing careers in a field with no roadmap. This is frightening, exhilarating, confusing, and liberating, and we are so thankful to have each other as partners in crime. We are adventurers.

Since the creative lives we have chosen have no roadmap, we hope that this blog will serve as both a survival guide and an invitation to come on this adventure with us. 

Meet my friend Britt.  She is a blond powerhouse of a woman who is simultaneously hilarious and deep, witty and crude, awkward and beautiful; a wayward wanderer and the most loyal of friends.  She’s pretty much the most charming person I’ve ever met and she is the sun that lights up my world.  Britt is currently living in Portland, Oregon and conquering the world of indie film, fearless theatre, and artistic badass-ery in the Pacific Northwest.  Check out her website at www.brittharris.com for deets on her professional life.  Check out this blog for all the juicy stuff. 

Meet my Dani. She is my beautiful chosen-sister, hero, and finisher-of-sentences. Her fearless spirit, immense talent, and infinite love for this world inspires me daily. My favorite thing about her? How she can make me laugh until I pee. My least favorite thing about her? That she lives so far away from me. Dani is currently located in Los Angeles as grad student and Resident Super Hero at USC, pursuing her MFA in Acting. She works approximately 935 hours a week and could tame a unicorn with relative ease.

Thanks for tuning in!  We look forward to sharing our adventures with you. 

With love from your new partners in crime who are both the Evil twin,

two evil actors

Jack Kerouac