Leap Day.

Today is February 29th.  A day we only observe once every four years, during what we call a ‘Leap Year.’

(For more information about why we observe Leap Years, look here)

Leap Day is an oddity in an odd month.  I mean, really, did you ever stop to think about why February, with only 28 days, is 2 to 3 days shorter than every other month in the year?  A bit silly, if you ask me.  Why should we single out February to get the short end of the calendar?

But for whatever reason, we do single out February as different.  And in this odd little month, there’s no escaping the fact that today is special.  I like to think of it as a bonus day; a gift, really.  And as such, I think that’s cause to shake things up a little bit.  Stand on your head (or in my case, attempt to stand on your head and fail miserably).  Meditate.  Write a poem.  Step away from your computer for 10 minutes and take a walk.  Laugh out loud for no reason.  Call a friend you haven’t talked to in forever.  Go to the kids’ section of your local crafts store and buy a paint-by-number.  Read a Dr. Seuss book.  Pick a flower and wear it in your hair.

Whatever it is, do yourself a favor and do something, one thing that’s different today.  And if you find yourself getting caught up in the daily garbage that we so often get caught in when going through the motions of our day, stop, take a breath, and read this:

TODAY ONLY HAPPENS ONCE EVERY FOUR YEARS.

Act accordingly.

Until next time, friends.

Play Noir.

She was a real classy dame, a siren in silk stockings.  The type of broad whose shade of lipstick alone could halt the traffic on Sunset Boulevard. . .

O.K. so I just made that up.  A bit ridiculous, perhaps, but random phrases like that have been popping into my head lately, as I’m currently immersed in all things noir.  For those not in the know, here’s the 411 from Wikipedia:

Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood’s classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s.

Crime, usually murder, is an element of almost all film noirs; in addition to standard-issue greed, jealousy is frequently the criminal motivation.  In other common plots the protagonists are implicated in heists or con games, or in murderous conspiracies often involving adulterous affairs. False suspicions and accusations of crime are frequent plot elements, as are betrayals and double-crosses.

 Film noirs tend to revolve around heroes who are more flawed and morally questionable than the norm, often fall guys of one sort or another. Certain archetypal characters appear in many film noirs—hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, corrupt policemen, jealous husbands, and down-and-out writers.

That’s right.  Murder!  Suspense!  Mayhem!  Oh my.

My husband James and I are currently at work on a slate of film noir-themed one-act plays aptly named Play Noir, scheduled for production in June at our artistic home, the Actor’s Workout Studio in the North Hollywood Arts District.  Scripts have been chosen and casts and directors are being nailed down as we speak.  We’ll produce (through our company, Punk Monkey Productions) five short plays, all revolving around classic noir themes like greed, lust and betrayal.  Expect trench coats and fedoras, slinky black dresses, ruby red lips, and lots and lots of mood lighting.

Over the next few months, I expect you’ll hear a lot about Play Noir as James and I are not only producing the show, but acting in it and directing a piece or two as well.  It is, as we say, a real passion project.

So brush up on your Maltese Falcon, your Third Man, your Big Sleep, and stay tuned for all things Noir.

Until next time, friends.

Cocktail, interrupted.

I have a confession to make.  Me, the girl whose blog is named Extra Dry Martini, the girl who loves dry (I’m talking, rinse the glass with vermouth and that’s it, dry) martinis more than any other cocktail, the girl who knows that the sound of a cocktail shaker means it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, this girl, is currently taking an extended break from drinking.

It started on February 6th (the day after the Super Bowl, which was not a coincidence), and will continue through March 31st, for a grand total of 55 days.  (Yes, I counted.)

For me, drinking is a huge part of my social life.  Whether it’s looking forward to happy hour after a stressful day, meeting over drinks to catch up with a friend that I don’t see enough, or kicking back and enjoying a bottle of wine (or 2) while watching something on Tivo with my husband, consuming alcohol has become, more often than not, a part of my every day.

Which is why it was time to take a break.  I’m not going to lie:  the first week off was not easy.  The universe decided to challenge me and threw a couple of particularly stressful days my way.  The type of days where you want to bury your head in the sand, or in my case, soak in a bathtub full of Grey Goose.  Restraint was made even more difficult by the fact that our wine rack is stocked with wine left unconsumed from our Super Bowl gathering, as well as the recent arrival of our (delicious) wine club wine from Moonstone Cellars in Cambria.

But I’m tough.  I’m stubborn.  And when I say that I am going to do something, by God, I’m going to do it.  And so, I refrained.

And now, nearly 3 weeks into my detox, I feel effing fabulous.  I am sleeping better, getting up early, have more energy, am enjoying better workouts, and am more productive.  All the time I was wasting unwinding over wine is instead being poured into creative projects like finally starting this blog, and focusing on producing a festival of film noir themed one-act plays that my husband and I are launching this summer. (More about that soon!)

And while my weekends are a bit duller than normal since I find it difficult to stay up past 11 p.m. without a buzz, the payoff is that instead of waking up with a hangover, I’m waking up early and getting more done by noon on a Saturday than I typically accomplish all day.  And the even bigger payoff is that when cocktail hour does resume, that first martini in 55 days is going to taste soooo very good.

Until then, vive le hiatus!

Stop being so hard on yourself.

Los Angeles is a town obsessed with success.  ‘Success’ comes in different forms.  For some, it’s a house in the hills, a luxury car, a development deal, a much-younger trophy wife.

I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by an abundance of amazing friends – intelligent, talented, creative, ambitious peeps who inspire me every single day – and when I look around at my circle, whether they’re leading enviable lives or coasting a bit still trying to find their way, there’s one common thread among nearly everyone near and dear:  they’re not satisfied with where they are.

It’s human nature to always want more, to strive for something bigger and better.  But at a certain point, when is it enough?  When I watch interviews with larger-than-life celebrities, something that comes up time and time again is that those who have achieved the pinnacle of success – tremendous wealth, fame, influence  – don’t seem to be all that happy.  They got everything they wanted, and it turned out that it wasn’t what they thought it would be.  The empty feeling they thought would go away once they got the TV deal or the $10 million per picture paycheck is somehow, still there.  Which begs the question:  if, in our great quest for success, we can never truly be satisfied, then how do we get happier?

For as long as I can remember, my friend Kate has had a mantra:  choose to be happy.  I used to think this was a ridiculous concept, but as I’ve gotten older and (arguably) wiser, I see the value in it. While you can’t control the things that happen to you or the actions of others, you can control how you interpret events in your life and how you choose to react to them.  And you can, if you work at it, actively decide whether or not to be happy.

While I’m still a serious work in progress in this department, I have some ideas as to how to get started on your way to a happier life:

1.) Stop comparing yourself to others.  It’s a waste of time.  You’ll always find someone better looking, skinnier, richer, with a cooler job, perfect hair, etc., etc. The comparison game never ends and it will only make you feel bad about yourself.  Accept the fact that everyone’s path is different and you’re not meant to live the same life as anyone else. Celebrate your uniqueness.  Which leads me to #2 . . .

2.) Stop spending so much time on Facebook.  I know, I know, I’m guilty of it too.  Yes, it’s a great way to keep in touch, share photos, promote your business, etc.  But nothing invites the comparison game like gazing at someone’s ‘fabulous’ life by way of their amazing vacation photos (they’re always having so much fun, don’t they ever work?), the # of ‘cool’ friends they have, their hot boyfriend, etc.  Let’s keep this in perspective, O.K.?  Facebook is not reality.  My acting teacher calls Facebook pages ‘magazine covers,’ and he’s right.  When was the last time you saw someone post an unflattering profile picture?  So unless you work in social media, do yourself a favor and limit your surfing time to 30 minutes a day.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s NEVER a good idea to stalk ex-boyfriends/girlfriends on Facebook.  Especially not at 2 a.m. on a Saturday after you’ve had one too many cocktails and are feeling sad.  If this is you, PUT.THE COMPUTER.AWAY.)

3.) Look outside of YOU.  Nothing takes the focus off your problems like caring about other people.  I’m not saying you have to pull a Mother Teresa.  There are a million tiny ways you can make a difference.  Counsel a friend through a problem.  Help someone move.  Offer to help a little old lady carry her groceries. Hold the door for someone.  Pick up someone else’s trash and throw it away.  Seriously, it may feel like you’re the one doing a favor, but you’ll reap the rewards for your kindness in dividends.

4.) Celebrate the small victories.  You got a compliment on a nice outfit you wore, a funny joke you made, a great idea you had?  Yay!  Traffic was lighter than usual?  You had an inexplicably good hair day?  Life is a series of moments, so make sure to acknowledge and celebrate the good ones, even if they seem mundane.

5.) Keep a gratitude journal.  One way to help you celebrate the small victories is to keep track of all the little things you’re thankful for.  Have your health?  A roof over your head?  People who love you?  Plenty of people don’t, so practice being thankful for the things you take for granted.

6.) Vive le difference!  You’ve heard a million times that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  Well, it’s cliché because it’s true.  If you find yourself having more bad days than good, shake it up!  It could be something as simple as trying a new hair color or taking a yoga class, or as major as ditching a toxic friend or quitting your job and starting a new career.  Even making small, incremental changes in your everyday life can have a major impact on your overall perspective, and as a result, your overall happiness.

Parking Enforcement

With so many people living in Los Angeles, congestion is inevitable.  Crowded roads and jammed freeways are a given.  And with many neighborhoods enforcing permit restrictions, parking can be a real challenge.

It’s even a problem at my gym, where an 11 a.m. yoga class can turn the place into utter chaos.  A relatively new facility, they recently decided to implement valet parking.  Gah.  Another one to file under the headline, Angelenos aren’t like everyone else.  Now there are even fewer spaces (all the best parking spots are reserved for valet), and I’m sorry, I just refuse to tip someone to park my Prius when I’m dressed in grubby workout clothes and am perfectly capable of doing so myself.  Valet at a fancy restaurant?  Sure.  Fred Segal?  O.K.  But the freaking gym?  Seriously?

With all the good spots being eaten up by valet, apparently I am not the only one who has trouble finding a place to park.  This inventive guy (or gal) decided to create their own parking space.  Because when you’re late for Pilates and there’s no parking, you have to get creative:

Which brings me to the real reason for this post.  In a city with so many parking challenges (and let’s face it, so many terrible drivers), we truly have an epidemic of bad parking on our hands.  I suppose some people simply can’t help it (I am, admittedly, a pathetic parallel parker), but most of it is the result of laziness and selfishness.  That’s why I am so in love with the genius website Youparklikeanasshole.com.  If you live in Los Angeles (or any other parking-challenged city), I highly recommend visiting the site and printing out some of their parking ‘tickets’ to keep on hand when you encounter offensive parkers.  These tickets offer a variety of offenses to choose from like ‘two spaces, one car,’ ‘umm. . . a little too close,’ and my personal favorite in the land of Hummers and ginormous SUVs, ‘that’s a compact?’  Simply check the box next to the offense, and slip it on the offender’s windshield.

A bit snarky?  Perhaps.  But if you’ve ever had your driveway blocked one too many times, or can’t find parking at the mall because of too may people taking up 1.5 parking spaces, then you feel my pain.  So visit the site, download some parking tickets like the ones pictured below, and together, let’s help make the world a better place, one parking spot at a time.

L.A. is weird (and it’s home)

2012 marks my 13th year in Los Angeles, which is pretty much the longest I’ve lived anywhere, save the first 14 years of my life spent in Anchorage, Alaska.  And since I was in the 9th grade when I left, does it really count?

I moved to L.A. in 1999 – fresh out of high school in Olympia, WA – to attend the University of Southern California.  I still remember USC move-in week, and how every store, restaurant and place of business had bars on the windows, the jarring nightly sirens from the neighborhood fire station, and my Mom’s worried face when she asked, ‘are you sure you want to go to school here?’

Having spent my entire life in small towns, I was sure, and I embraced the excitement of my new home.  A lot has changed since those wide-eyed days of freshman year.  I’ve lived all over this fair and sprawling city, from rundown college apartments in the ‘University Park’ neighborhood adjacent to USC’s campus, to the (in my opinion), eerily Big Brother-esque gated community of Park La Brea, to a tiny guest house/bungalow in Culver City, to the artist district (read:  cheap rent) in North Hollywood.

I have navigated mazes of freeways and get a little depressed when I think of all the hours of my life lost stuck in gridlock cursing other drivers on the 405.  I’ve taken embarrassingly bad acting gigs, thinking they’d be my ‘break,’ and worked as a verbally abused, unpaid intern in the bowels of the entertainment biz.  (For you creative types, I’d recommend the former.  It builds character.  The latter?  Not unless you’re a masochist.)

And somewhere along the way, I became what all my family in the Pacific Northwest warned me not to:  an Angeleno.  Not the siliconed, Botoxed, peroxided, spray tanned version (though I will confess to whitening my teeth and a gym addiction), but someone that has, in spite of myself, made a home in this crazy place and grown to love it (eccentricities and all), more than I ever thought I could.

But before you start thinking this is some sappy love letter to the City of Angels, rest assured, I am just as aware of this city’s shortcomings as it’s plusses.  L.A. is, in fact, a very weird place, and it only takes a little time (read:  a day) visiting friends and family outside of the L.A. bubble to remember that Angelenos aren’t like everyone else.  In future blog posts, I’ll attempt to show you what I mean by pointing out specific examples of ways that Angelenos are, well, different.  But just to give you a little taste, below is a (fabulous) car spotted in the parking lot of my gym, the L.A. Fitness in Universal City.  You’ll be hearing more about this place in future blogs too, as this ginormous, 2-story, Hollywood Hills adjacent fitness center is ground zero for ‘only in L.A.’ weirdness.

Until next time, friends.

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