It was 10 years ago today that I set out on a plane with two bags and an unknown future ahead of me. I landed at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in Studio City for a week long “audition for the LA agents” week that ended up being the next decade of my life.
I remember I woke up early the next morning and took a walk down to Ventura. I was looking for something to eat and stumbled upon the big Ralph’s grocery store. I went inside where I immediately saw William H. Macy in the produce section. Wow, stars really are everywhere! I smiled at him but was afraid to say hi.
Next I’m walking down Ventura Blvd and I pull my phone out. I dial my ex. We were broken up but still enmeshed.
I’m not leaving. I state it simply and emphatically. Huh? I’m not leaving. I love it here. I’m staying. And he says the only thing that would truly, in an instant, let me go. Cool. Yeah! You should. Oh. Ok. It’s settled then. So easy, huh? Just like that. And I decide on the spot, once and for all, that yes, I should.
Over the next four days I audition with some casting directors, get an audition for a play in Venice which I miss, because I don’t know how to get out there, spend a weird overnight in a seedy motel with a guy from my agency I barely know and then take a bus out to the West Side. 3 hours later I’m at the beach and looking for a hostel. I decide on the Venice Beach Cotel because it’s right there on Windward overlooking the ocean. I get a bunk bed in a girl’s dorm room with a window view of the sea. I am home.
I spend the next two weeks walking the beach, having a brief and steamy tryst with a strange and funky Jamaican hippie who I suspect is both homeless and certifiably insane. I smoke pot with drifters and store owners and accept charity from complete strangers. A guy takes me out for sushi one night and seafood the next, no strings attached. I feel pretty and exotic and free. A dude thanks me in a coffee shop for just being me. If I wasn’t already, I am now falling madly in love with California.
One day I’m walking along the boardwalk and I see a sign for a free yoga class on the beach. I think why not and I do it. In the middle of the massive beige expanse, we do asanas and talk about our lives. Why are we there? A guy admits that his brother recently died and he is getting over it. I say I just came out here and I think I’m staying but really, I have no idea what I’m doing. The yogis invite us to a free dinner as the sun goes down. I’m pretty sure they are Hare Krishnas but I can hang with that; a free dinner is a free dinner.
I end up sitting next to that guy who’s brother passed away. We start talking. What kind of music do you like? he asks me. Lots of stuff, but mostly heavy psychedelic rock n roll. Really? He looks over at me with curious eyes, surprise and delight palpable. Yeah. That’s cool. You would probably like my band. Right on. Listen, I have to go to the bathroom- do you think there’s one around here? You don’t want to go to the bathrooms around here. I live right down the street- you can go at my house. And I know, I just know, this guy is not a serial killer. Or a rapist. I’ve traveled around the world. I can feel these things. Ok sure. We go back to his place and wow, his place is cool… Art all over the walls. Musical instruments. I am feeling this. Did you do these paintings? Yes Nice I go to the bathroom. He burns me a cd of his band. He writes his name and number on it. He invites me to a party they’re playing at in two weeks. Call me if you want to come. Ok cool. Thanks for the bathroom! And I sink out into the cool oceany night.
I’m running low on money. I pull my last cash together and head to Rent a Wreck, where I indeed rent a wreck. I make it across town to my only friend in LA’s place. It’s in Silverlake. She is super freakin cool to put me up in her little guest suite. I am so grateful. That Friday rolls around and I remember the party invitation. I’ve been listening to the cd and I’m intrigued. It’s surprisingly good. Really. I call the number on the cd. Hey this is Rachel, that girl from the beach. Are you still having that party? He is. He gives me awesome A-plus directions from my doorstep to someplace called Highland Park. My friend doesn’t want to go to the party. I say fuck it. I want to go. I don’t know anybody here and I’ve got to meet people somehow. I go. I get there. I tell the guy instantly, You don’t have to take care of me, I have traveled all over the world, I’m cool. I can take care of myself. My mantra. I meet all these people and somehow feel like I’ve been here before. I talk to everyone and have a blast. It finally feels like time to go, somewhere around 2 am. I find the guy and say hey thanks I love your friends I had a really good time! Wait there’s one more person I want you to meet. He’s an East Coast Italian just like you. I think you’ll really like him. He grabs my hand and walks me across two rooms. “Rachel, Joe, Joe, Rachel”.
The rest turns into the next decade of my life. It’s a good decade. A freakin great decade. The best one of my life, by far. It is a decade that started with lots of magic. Magic born of risk taking and instinct following. Magic synthesized from willingness and a pure desire for change. The energy and positivity of new beginnings and second chances. The purity of strange frontiers.
The next ten years are fun, challenging and beyond my wildest dreams. We get married. I sing and tour with a horror punk band. We write and record our own music and finally my troubled poetry has a place to live. I give up on-camera acting and explore careers. I wait tables and manage restaurants. I almost go back to school a thousand times. I create and host an internet radio show. It does well and spawns an internet tv show. It gets cancelled. I dance. I find voiceover and my life changes again dramatically and for the very best. I finally begin making money doing what I love. We get a dog. I get an agent and then a better agent and then an even better one. I book national commercials. I study my butt off. I make friends and become part of a beautiful community. I break into audiobooks. I get back into yoga. We walk through personal struggles and medical scares I never in a million years thought would be ours. We get stronger. We find ourselves here.
Now many of the puzzle pieces are in place. There are still so many more to find homes for. It feels right to be starting a new chapter and it’s comforting to know, this time, I’m not starting from scratch. If the last ten years were foundation building, these next ten are dedicated to deepening and growing my dreams even further. Here’s to a brand new decade of discovery, with all it’s unknown mysteries yet to be revealed. Happy Anniversary to me.