This is peculiar, I know. As hesitant as I’ve been over the years to be labeled a “festie kid,” I most certainly am. Never has this been more apparent than Memorial Day Weekend at Lightning in a Bottle. Because it’s not just about a fun weekend dancing in the dust with my friends anymore.
For the second year, I was an emcee for the Lucent Temple of Consciousness. I was presenting the presenters, heady folks recognized as leading experts in religion, sexuality, the environment, and much more. Being emcee is a great honor, and responsibility.
Far cry from my first festival ever, Burning Man 2006. Most people work up to the Burn. I started there, sleeping in my car and eating beans out of a can. I’d brought old Halloween costumes and flip flops. In short, I didn’t “get it.” But the experience forever changed me. A feeling of being liberated from the matrix, a peek behind the veil of society, a place of connection, sensuality, and a word I’d never heard before: consciousness.
Over the years, I’ve done festivals in different ways. With 30 friends, with a boyfriend, with a best friend and met a new boyfriend (or two) there. I’ve gone days without sleeping, experimented with combinations of…sparkles. Felt wildly uplifted and had more than one breakdown. Emotional, physical, vehicular.
These transformational festivals have lured me to different continents and different understandings of myself and my values.
And now, after 10 years of being a festie kid, I’ve become a festie adult.
During LIB, I woke up each morning to an alarm so I could get to The Mystery School where I was emcee. I skipped a dance party to listen to a talk on “The Science of God.” I didn’t even make the main stage sets Saturday, so content was I with a few choice friends watching Nahko and Medicine for the People at the Temple, and then was asked to emcee a little on the main stage! I still slept in my car however, this one a rented Elton John van with Vanessa as co-pilot.
But I still didn’t make it to yoga. Or take a shower. #goalsfornextyear
But it all feels different now. As much as festivals have given me, it’s time for me to give back to them. As I’ve said before (check my Burning Man Vid) festivals are nearly impossible to describe, you just have to go. The rest of the world is catching on. Festival fashion and culture is becoming mainstream. Bernie Sanders gave a recorded address at LIB. For me, just when I think I might move on from the scene, I get sucked back in. I’m writing this now on a plane about to depart for Bonnaroo in Tennessee. See you there. xx
Last week, I saw myself on the big screen for the first time. I didn’t realize until it happened that it was a moment I’d been waiting for my whole life. Even more radical was the fact that the screening was at the famous Chinese theater in Hollywood, and the piece I had in the festival was an episode of Girl Behind the Glass, something I’d written and created in addition to being on-camera. A surreal experience to be sure, and one I could get used to.
Along with this new milestone, the evening also marked the death of the project. Girl Behind the Glass was the series of videos I filmed as a Box Girl at the Standard Hotel, a performance art installation in the hotel lobby featuring a live model in a glass box going about whatever she feels like doing for all the world to see. I had submitted in the webseries category of HollyShorts Film Festival and by the time I was notified of my acceptance, the series had been put on indefinite hold.
In short, because I told the Standard about my lil guerilla series, hoping to collaborate with them, and their response was to fire me.
I’d loved being a part of the guests’ experience at the Standard. I’d inherited the gig from Beth, who was a Box girl for about a year before me. It was the weekly gig that got me out of my writer’s seclusion and into the glamorous buzz of Sunset Blvd. I finally lived the reality of “If only I was trapped in a box I’d get so much writing done.” And I did. I wrote the pilot of Johnny and the Scams in the Box. I also sketched, painted my nails, caught up on emails, pretended I couldn’t see people seeing me, took selfies, and ultimately — started filming myself.
My vision for Girl Behind the Glass was to create a next-era variety show, featuring clips of artists from around the world, musicians, painters, photographers, hosted by a girl in her white undies in a Hollywood glass box. I pushed myself to finish writing, filming and editing within the four hours of my Box shift, making it a practice in trusting my first creative instincts. I experimented with mediums I’d been itching to explore, like spoken word and video art. I was able to incorporate Machete’s desert video Sleepwalking into the episode that screened at Hollyshorts, so her work got the big screen treatment as well.
Finally, to put it plainly, the Box gig made me feel sexy. And interesting. I’d usually take my comp employee meal in the 24-hour Standard diner after my shift, work on whatever I’d been writing in the Box, have Beth meet me for a milkshake (best in LA!), or just observe the other patrons, who didn’t recognize me with clothes on. Look at those who’d been looking at me. A few times I was asked to model for the official photograph of that month’s installation for the Standard website.
The only thing we couldn’t do in the Box was sleep, though sometimes I got dangerously close. The biggest risk was being too comfortable, forgetting altogether I was on display. Once I remember spying a hair my razor had missed behind my knee and plucking at it, then realizing this wasn’t an attractive activity for the crowd gathered in the lobby.
For me, being the girl in the Box was the sort of artsy, edgy, sexy cool gig my inner Gardnerville girl had always wanted. Along with signing up at Central Casting and being hit on by a slimy producer, being a Box girl is almost a rite of passage, the “ingenue in LA” thing. The gig was validating, literally “be seen, not heard” which felt good in some twisted, objectified way on my nerdy, over-thinking writer’s brain. I did things I never do, like wear black thigh-highs with a bowler hat and shop at American Apparel (for my white undie “uniform”). I also thought the concept was really cool. So simple, just a girl sitting there, but so riveting. Watching a human be a human. Tilda Swinton started sitting in a box at the MOMA the same week I started at the Standard.
You get the picture that I loved the job. So you understand my disappointment when I shared my guerilla webseries with the hotel and they not only didn’t want to collaborate with me, they fired me. At first they said the videos were cute, they just had to make sure I could be filming. They’d “get right back to me.” They never did. Then they took me off the schedule. No explanation, just a stone wall. I was seriously bummed out.
My hunch is it was a legal thing, but I’ll never know. The gig couldn’t have lasted forever, I’ve climbed new rungs of the Hollywood ladder and it’s better to say I was a Box Girl than I still am. At least I went out pitching an idea I believed in. And I certainly had fun. Coming up with the title of the series was hilarious (Hot Box? Fox in a Box?), and once I ran into Josh Hartnett and friend in the lobby and had pizza and beer with them. The show has a life on YouTube, and I’m glad my first big screen moment came out of it. By the way, HollyShorts absolutely rocks, those guys are doing more for emerging filmmakers than anyone out there. The night of my screening I also loved the film Join Us, by writer/actor Brooze Lenzi. It’s about cults, in a way you’ve never seen. Check it out, stat.
I’ll always have those moments when I first hopped into the Box for the night. My shift was 8pm – midnight, and a DJ played in the lobby starting at 9pm. But the first hour was quiet, Zen-like. It was like being hermetically sealed in a fish bowl, or a diorama at a museum. “Observe the 21st century twentysomething female!” And I reflected on my life as such. What was I creating right then? Who was I loving? For much of that year, my life was a series of boxes — the Standard box, hundreds of boxes of books for my non-profit job, the mysterious box that kept popping up in a script I was writing. It’s now tempting to write a wordplay on living “outside the box.” But I won’t, because you get the idea. I do miss being a part of the art, and the vanity validation of it all. But it’s good that I’m out of the box. It’s easier to breathe out here.
I’ve always loved to party. Dances in the sixth grade is where it started. I don’t about where you grew up, but the Carson Valley was EPIC for elementary school dances. Even at age twelve, I remember losing myself in the flashing lights, the anticipation of what boy might ask me to dance, and singing with my friends to TLC (I kept huge magazine pull-outs of T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli taped up in my closet, hidden behind my clothes so my mom wouldn’t see).
Nightlife is my modus operandi, so it’s disconcerting when the pursuit of pleasure starts to feel like a drag. Today was 4th of July, and I researched myself so many options of where to go, what to do, that I had an anxiety meltdown of whatwillbemostfun?!?!, made worse by trying to give myself hashtag perspective: #whitegirlproblems #firstworldissues, etc. Add in Los Angeles traffic, and I spent probably 70% of the day driving and 30% actually reveling.
But the real issue is any time away from writing feels like throwing my mind into a black hole. I’m just not a happy, adjusted person until I’ve done some writing for the day. I’ve been “rewarding” myself from the recent accomplishment of filming my pilot with some time off, but it feels like a punishment.
My wonderful roommate Ardalan is out of town on his first Vegas adventure, so me and Chairman Meow have the place to ourselves. I got home from the 4th festivities and did what anyone with a roommate does when they know they’ll be alone all night: got naked (right?), then headed to the kitchen to eat watermelon.
Standing at the sink, letting the watermelon juice drip straight from my chin into the sink, I felt the happiest I had all day. Because chasing the party makes me malcontent, and watermelon is my absolute obsession. But most of all, because I was inspired to write this little blog ditty. But I miss my freewheeling fun-self, up to get down at a moment’s notice. Oh, well. She’ll be back. For now I must write, and write, and then write more.