The Exquisite Corpse home archives submit black market comrads hot sites search
The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
ec chair poetick kultur anti-amthropomorphism
gallery zounds the making and unmaking of person
new economics of late capitalism
diaries and memoirs translation and her retinue
working class sweat
the corpse reads classics letters the book of revelations and epiphanies
the making and unmaking of person
Working Class Sweat & The DTs (best band of the oughts)

SilverLake Sayonara
by April MacIntyre

It was May of 2001, and the Internet world had been imploding for months. After the video production company I worked for fell in like a house of cards, I moved to SilverLake, an artsy, eastern Los Angeles community from Calabasas, an affluent LA suburb.
      SilverLake isn't a real lake; it's what the Beverly Hillbillies would call a ce-ment pond. I had not lived in Los Angeles since my last apartment off Robertson in the early 80's.
      I was used to seeing women in Calabasas driving gigantic SUV's. They had great bodies thanks to the Ashram retreat, Pilates and discreet implants. Flashing pink and white manicured fingers with rocks the size of the Anaheim Pond holding cell phones to their ears, making appointments for weaves and Botox. Flipside SilverLake was a pocket of style plucked from a secret handbook, an Exene Cervenka cocktail that comes from knowing how to pull off vintage Thrift with artsy leg tattoos and accessories willed from an eccentric relative. The beauty salons along SilverLake Boulevard looked like fronts for satanic bookies. I didn't see any pink and white nails or toes, and very few blondes.
      Patrician homes with better schools are on one side of the reservoir, and quirkier homes, narrower streets and an enter-at-your-own risk dog park are on the other. The west side seemed more oriented to families and had a lusher feel than my half of SilverLake. Like Calabasas, SilverLake has a real estate value tier effect. As you go up, the homes get pricier. Older, wiser public planners put steep stairs all around the levels connecting every street to Silverlake Boulevard, enabling residents to walk to a corner store and grab a coffee and newspaper. I had grown up with public stairs, coming from a small town in the North shore of Boston. A small granite rock town named Nahant that has steps connecting the top of the island to the bottom. In my nostalgia, I instantly fell in love with SilverLake's steps.
      It lasted two days. The home I lived in was third tier up. The public steps ran parallel to it. Neighbors dished about the Three Stooges filming their comedy shorts on them. Apparently Curly once owned a house down the cul-de-sac. One of the fundamental differences between urban and suburban living is perceived bedtime. My producer friend Karen has always made fun of my need to be in bed by 10 PM. She is always up until two or three in the morning. There's a hot club called Space Land down the street on Silverlake Boulevard, easy walking distance from my house. At night the public stairs morphed into ecstasy and cocaine scoring grounds and bivouacs for area gangs with non-stop drug blather over lost jobs, cheating lovers, sex, and botched evening plans. Later, liquored-up homeless guys bellowed at each other about where their stashes of clean paper had gone. Early Wednesday mornings brought the pickers loudly pitching bottles and glass out of trashcans into their purloined grocery carts that needed at least a gallon of WD-40.
      I began my job searching online for hours daily. After plowing through the postings satisfied I had done a good day's work, the public stairs, during the light of day and empty of all people, presented an inexpensive gym replacement. Whatever your fitness level, the first time you climb these stairs is a revelation. Stair machines at the gym pale to the reality of gravity and concrete. The need to get to the final landing created a temporary state of dementia, singing the graffiti tags to the "babyback, babyback" chorus.
      I walked the neighborhood absorbing dog temperaments and the mental state of the homeowners each afternoon. One of my favorite houses I passed daily was a small one-story that had a giant prop Pee Wee Herman head that was pierced in one eye by an even bigger prop mosquito, hung proudly on the front porch.
      SilverLake is known for its Neutra and Frank Lloyd Wright inspired homes and is loaded with designers catering to the innards of such. No shabby chic or crafty, duck-y, distressed French or Italian country things on display around here. Modern, Bauhaus and mid-century retro rules.
      Further up is Netty's, a longtime Silverlake restaurant. I could never figure out where the entrance was. Each morning I'd anxiously open my email, convinced there would be a real reply, and day by day my enthusiasm and spirits were squelched. Friends forwarded leads, three or four companies returned emails expressing interest but I knew they were not positions for me.
      One interview I landed was with an entertainment attorney who had some vague movie deals and dabbled in real-estate ventures. I approached his office in the un-renovated high-rise with a sense of dread. He was running late, and wasn't even there to give the interview, forgetting he scheduled it. I walked out immediately.
      Not having central air, my daily walks became longer. Panic was starting to creep in my organized mind. Calls ensued seeing if I could at the very least pick up some production assistant work to make some dough while I continued my real job search.
      There are lots of layers in the entertainment world, many orbiting universes all connected to create a commercial, a TV show or film. Features are top dog, and above the line people, the studio execs, the director, show runners, attorneys and assorted producers are at the top of the heap in this town. Next in line are TV and cable, commercials, then the lowly music and porn industry. Lucrative, but not held in the same regard. 'Below the line' is a phrase to describe anyone who supports a production, the workers of the set. Grips, make up, AD's, Location managers, wardrobe, electricians, carpenters, accountants, set decorators, caterers, lighting techs, sound guys and drivers. Through a connection, I became a craft service assistant and began work immediately.
      Craft services are the Tea and Sympathy of any production. Choreographed platters of food and appetizers designed to keep the crew happy between tedious takes and scheduled meals. A proper craft service is a staggering array of carbohydrates and empty calories arranged on collapsible conference tables, with hot water, fresh coffee and every cold beverage under the sun. Imagine every aisle of 'Trader Joe's' all plopped before you in bowls. Breath mints, jicama spears, aspirin, Claritin, beef jerky, sun block, bug nets, candy necklaces, Emergen-C packets, anything to make a crewmember feel at home. During the mid-morning and mid-afternoon, appetizers are grilled and heated on portable ranges, and sandwich and deli platters are made along with the frozen coffee drinks. There is a ton of prep work, but I am happy. The day, for most craft service people, begins before dawn. I haven't worked so hard physically in a very long time.
      September 11th happens. Fall comes. The nights are cold. No job prospects yet, just random craft service gigs. People I meet and speak with are crying similar stories, they had a great job, it vanished, and doing what they have to do until things get better. I think that I should have become a registered nurse, always in demand and impervious to economic dips. Then mid-reverie my reality check arrives. I imagine that I have to administer something intravenously or up the back passage of a virulent, spewing patient. Nursing is more than education; it's a calling that I don't hear. In fact the more I search for work the more ill-suited I feel for anything. There are job categories that I do not understand and sound horrible to boot. Unix system administrators, network analysts, WAN operators, medical coders, open GL engineers and Linux experts. I feel inadequate and convinced I will be labeled one of the 'chronically unemployed' by social workers and census statisticians. I have begun to bite my nails.
      The novelty of craft service production work soon wears on me after working for a Director famous for one movie, hired for a high concept commercial series by a sizzling New York ad agency for their mega sports shoe client. Famous Director decides not to pay his entire crew for ten torturous days of work. After exhausting all avenues, I fax the ad agency in New York and the manufacturer's marketing execs a phony press release blasting the Famous Director and mocking the ad concept. The Famous Director calls me twice from Boston begging me not to release it and arranges my pay in cash at his Santa Monica office for me immediately.
      I am desperate to find a real job. My retired Father in Cape Cod barks at me over the computer microphone as we play Bridge with people all over the world. He says: remember the great 70's recession in New England when I got laid off?
      I recall one cold day when I was very young, we drove to Lowell, Massachusetts, home of Ed McMahon, to stand in a long line for free government-issued peanut butter in stainless cans, cheese and powdered eggs in plain foil bags. My Dad scrambled and created his own business with another laid-off engineer. Together they got their contractors licenses and first-class builder's permits and started designing high-end custom kitchens and baths. Both men had great educations, good résumés, but it wasn't enough. Dad sent his résumé all over the country, and wound up getting a great offer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We moved there in three months. I do not want to move to Florida again.
      December comes. Divine intervention has landed me back home in Calabasas. I have good prospects on the horizon. One thing I missed about Calabasas was the freedom to drive five minutes down Malibu Canyon Road to walk the beach in the golden afternoon light of day. The beach practically all to myself makes me feel as rich as a Colony resident. I am always spotting Ali MacGraw running, or Brian Grazer walking and talking on his cell phone. I fantasize at times, wanting to run up to him, catching him in a receptive moment as I deftly pitch my production skills, persuading him to hire me. My producer friend says only I would be able to pick out Brian Grazer walking on the beach. She was with me in my car when I spotted Fee Waybill, lead singer of 'The Tubes' driving down Wilshire in the mid eighties. His profile gave him away. We startled him as I yelled his name, and after the glow-y moment of fame recognition was over, the ensuing conversation became the uncomfortable black hole that happens with any celebrity and their adoring public.
      A fashion obsessed teen; I told a jetlagged Jerry Hall she looked just like the supermodel Jerry Hall back in 1980 when Urban Cowboy was beginning production in Houston. I recognized Red Adair leaning against a wall at the annual Sam Bass Oilmen's Ball at the Pacesetter in the Houston Galleria. We talked for hours about the movie "Giant", different strategies in capping wild oil fires, Cadillac versus Mercedes, Gulf oysters versus Blue Points and the French. Picking out the obscurely famous is one of my secret talents.
      Perhaps I should list it under my qualifications in my newly updated résumé.




home archives submit black market comrads hot sites search ec chair peotick kultur anti-amthropomorphism
new economics of late capitalism gallery zounds the making and unmaking of person
diaries and memoirs translation and her retinue
the book of revelations and epiphanies working class sweat
the making and unmaking of person the corpse reads classics letters

©1999-2004 Exquisite Corpse.
Site design by Compulsive Creations.