At Second City, having a blast is mandatory... and so is staying safe.
Dear Los Angeles,
I've been here 4 short weeks, and feel really lied to. I was prepared for such a different experience than you've given me. Not knowing how to properly communicate in my bewildered state, I've lumped my confusion into a few categories:
What is a “vegan,” and why do you have options for it at every restaurant? Also, why does it not cost more than anything else on the menu? I feel like this gluten-free veggie burger and bun should really cost more than $10, but just to piss you off, I'm going to order one, no cheese.
What's that, you ask? Am I a vegan? Sure, why not? Oh, you'll leave the butter off the bun? That is so, super-nice... wait, why aren't you mad about all this at all?
Everyone here eats this way? I'm losing my mind right now, and I feel really comfortably full and much, much healthier. Weird. I hate it.
Also, the taco trucks are absolutely amazing and cheap, and the fish tastes really fresh. (Or so I've heard-- I'm totally vegan now.)
Nice try, friend. I'm going nowhere near the mountains. There are surely to be rattlesnakes, ticks, mountain lions... and a safe, well-trodden trail option with children and dogs on it.
Okay. You've got me. I'll try your version of the pre-set, interval treadmill workout, but I'm going to complain about it. I'm sure I'll eventually find a reason to complain about it.
L.A. Public Transit
I was told you didn't have one. If you didn't have an adequate system, why have I only taken the Metro since I've been here? Sure, the busses are typically 10 to 45 minutes late, and the trains don't run all night, but for $20/week and a tap card system that actually works, I'm going to try.
And just to really sock it to you, I might even take my bike. That's right, L.A., I'm going to bike places, and I don't care if everyone's looking at me like I'm crazy. There are a few bike lanes, and I'm moving faster than every car on this safe side street, so I don't really see the problem.
WHY IS EVERYONE SO NICE? Are they sun-sick? While waiting at Penske, I was offered a ride home by some random guy and his wife, who also offered to bring me as a guest to their yoga class.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Like I would get into a car with people I don't know (though I have been hiking with them since)! One dude, having drinks on the patio, had the NERVE to tell me he was having a great day and hoped mine turned out just as wonderful.
People I barely know offered their second bedroom until we found an apartment; friends were eager to help move us in; neighbors stop by just to introduce themselves. Sure, I've had the few encounters with people who assume some real importance, but most of those people love answering the simple question, "So, what do you do?" Those people can talk for hours; let 'em.
Furthermore, I don't want to brag, but (since I have neither an agent or manager) I have been fortunate enough to pay lots of money for workshops in order to receive feedback from local casting directors and agents.
I know, I know. I've had "meetings" (that I paid for in order to keep fake-auditioning). Those people are just as nice! Why are they wearing hoodies and trainers? Where are their suits? Why are they actually paying attention to my performance and not staring at their phones or computers? Why do they seem eager to see what I bring to these stock scenes that they've seen hundreds and hundreds of times? Why did he just ask a question about me as a person? HOW DO I ANSWER A QUESTION ABOUT ME AS A PERSON? I only know my lines!
This confusion segues nicely to my next category...
Everyone here is an actor. Everyone is a writer. Everyone is a musician. Everyone here is living their dreams. Pretty cool, right? This city gives off a pretty great energy. There's an abundance of opportunity, a sense of artistic community, and you feel a commonality in struggle.
But here's something that's getting my goat-alternative:
Why didn't the guy selling me furniture ask me what big movie he'd seen me in when I told him I was an actor? He didn't even ask what I did "for work," or "how long" I was giving myself before I went to Plan B. It's like he understands my job, and that makes me uncomfortable.
Also, the other actors/improvisers/performers here have been completely helpful-- giving advice on how to submit and where to submit (grab a Call Sheet by Backstage-Formerly-Ross Report and go to town); notifying me of showcase opportunities in order to be seen by agencies that don't allow submissions; giving me lists of theaters that accept producer slots in order to put up my own shows; listing workshops that they felt were the most bang for their buck and classes they really enjoyed; introducing me to people they know in the community-- and all for the sole reason that they've been the new kid before.
Most people are transplants, and they get it. This city is big and confusing, but I've only gotten the sense that people want to help you. Where are all the assholes that want me to fail, L.A.? Where do you keep those people? I vow to find and expose every single one. As soon as I finish re-learning how to skateboard.
I was prepared for the worst. Not one person said, "Beware! You might really like it there. You might even wake up early-- without setting an alarm-- and, for no reason at all, go outside and sit on your porch."
I was told things would be very different, and while I do currently love everything about LA, I feel a little betrayed. Turns out, this world is our soy-based oyster alternative, and don't think for a second that I'm not going to eat it all up.
Nikki Pierce (@nikkinikkip) is a recent L.A. transplant (via Chicago) and has not yet experienced the D.M.V. She currently spends her free time researching cures for sun delirium. If interested, you can properly stalk the rest of her work at nikki-pierce.com or nikki-pierce.tumblr.com.