Living the Dream

I’m sitting in Happy Girl Kitchen in Pacific Grove, California, because it’s as close as I can get to my kitchen at the moment. Three weeks into my four week stay and all I want is tea, toast, to write, and listen to music on Saturday mornings and, though some of that is possible from my room at the Hyatt, I prefer the long wooden tables decorated with mason jars of peonies, along with a dirty chai, at Happy Girl.

The boats, whales, and otters of Monterey Bay are just a few blocks away, visible past rows of pristine Craftsman and Victorian houses and a fresh, fishy smell of ocean permeates.

I am up early after dropping an actress’s dry cleaning, needed for Monday, at the cleaners.

The espresso mixed in my chai has yet to kick in and I’m groggy after a long week.

Later today I will go to the grocery store and stock up on my last week’s supply of daily salad ingredients and morning yogurt accessories, berries and such, to stuff in my mini fridge. There is a method to fitting one week’s food into such a small space and it has taken me fifteen years to figure it out. I also remembered the knife, fork, spoon, and sponge this time around.

“You bring your lunch every day?” co- workers ask. “You wash your dishes in the bathroom? I’d be too grossed out,” one replied. “How do you find the time?” others wonder.

“I have to,” I reply. It connects me.

For the first week of my current month on location, the anxiety that somehow the life I love had been erased, yet again, and replaced with nothing but work and a hotel room consumed me.

How to integrate the lives we live, to always feel connected, no matter the circumstances?

I wake early to chop veggies and make hot water with lemon. It is my meditation. Along with my other meditation, preparing food, writing, taking walks, pulling my daily tarot cards, and documenting it all with a camera are the ways I connect back with myself when it seems that my periodically all consuming costuming career will suck me in and forget to spit me back out.

When I remember to connect to myself in these small ways, the anxiety subsides and I am present, able to enjoy whatever may be around me, wherever I may be. And lately I just happen to be in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

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Who Am I?


I’m standing on the side of a rural highway in Georgia. And it is hot. Sticky. The humid air is visible,  something I’m not used to coming from the desert. A small breeze tries to blow periodically, but then gets tired and gives up, not that I would be able to feel it anyway. I (the girl who grew up running around on the prairie, playing in arroyos, camping) am covered head to toe in every bug deterrent clothing item made and sold by REI, to the point that only my face is visible.  Stories of ticks and chiggers run through my head. I stand on the paved shoulder, afraid of the grass and what might lurk below. Who am I and when did I turn into the type of urban princess I used to scoff at?

Early in my costuming career, in New Mexico, I would smile quietly when the LA part of the department arrived on location wearing cute, clean, impractical shoes, complained about the local restaurants, or were scared of the bugs.  Buck up, I’d think. 

Standing on the side of the highway, I look across and see a young girl playing on a slip and slide in her front yard. She runs back and forth with her brother as their mom sits on the porch, watching, drinking a coke and smoking a cigarette. Every once in a while they turn to watch us; dozens of people who just appeared on the side of their road, filming a car driving back and forth, all covered head to toe. Periodically the girl or her brother slide too far and end up in the long grass at the edge of the yard, the same grass I’m scared of. I watch them scream and slide and, very slowly, I lean over, untuck my pants from my socks, and unzip the legs. 

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Home

I’m sitting in an airport for the third time this month, reading my horoscope. Home, home, home. My fourth house is all lit up, hitting the domestic vibes/homefront notes for the next month, just in time to be outside of Atlanta, for work, living in a hotel.  So, how to avoid going crazy and give myself those homey vibes, while on the road? What does home mean? Where is my home? 

I recently had a reassuring realization while in Northern California for a couple of weeks, again for work and again living in a hotel. I missed LA. Having only lived there for six months, after repeatedly trying  to adapt for ten years and but always eventually fleeing for the clean air and calm of my previous home, New Mexico, this was a huge shift. And a welcome one. I missed the assortment of healthy food, the mass of stuff to do on weekends, the hipster adventuror spirit which can be both annoying and awesome,  my classes, friends, apartment, stuff and my morning routine. I was officially homesick for my new city. So, that’s a good thing! 

But, what to do to create home when away? My yoga mat, many books, music, a big bag of food and tea, journal, and tarot cards are traveling with. I’m heading out with an open attitude and belief that seeing different parts of the country and world will give me some good stories to tell and a greater appreciation of my own city when I return next month. 

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Money/Distraction

I had an aha moment this week while sitting in the wardrobe trailer, in the middle of the night, shopping for expensive sneakers online… The more hours per week I work and the more money I make, the more I spend and look for distraction and satisfaction in things and stuff. 

Since October I have been working just enough to pay the bills and keep “it” all going, with plenty of time to cook at home, eat well, exercise, write, take classes, and create things, but without enough money to buy a lot of extras. And I feel absolutely no lack or scarcity, only abundance and the freedom to do as I wish with my time. Like when I was in college, I’ve returned to shopping at consignment shops, furninshing my house with treasures found at flea markets, and making stuff; things I always enjoy doing, but which fall by the wayside out of laziness when money is plentiful and time is scarce. 

For the past two weeks, I’ve been on location, working 70-80 hours a week, eating junky food because I’m tired, not sleeping enough, not exercising and, incidentally, shopping online. Why??!!  Because I am bored, uninspired, not feeling connected to my life, and looking for any kind of satisfaction. Chocolate and shoes fit the bill. 

I lived years of my life in this kind of circle until I finally realized what was happening. Time, Freedom, Health, Fun, Travel, Friends and Family, Community.. these are the only things I really care about anymore or that help me to truly feel satisfied. What else could I use that fancy sneaker money for? Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while there is a pair of sneakers capable of bringing joy! But, overall, when I find myself shopping online at two in the morning, eating chocolate, I am usually looking for distraction and satisfaction that should be coming from other sources. 

So, the past two weeks have been a good reminder of what my life used to be like versus what it’s like now. And, I’m grateful to fill the coffers a bit. But, how can that money serve me and help me get the things I truly value rather than a bunch of stuff? That’s the question to remember and to answer. 

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Solo Roadtrip in B&W

“You don’t really like people, do you?” a coworker asked me yesterday upon realizing I would be making our final drive north,  to Colorado, by myself. 

“No,” I responded and smiled to myself, though that’s not entirely true. I do like people. I just like being alone in my car, with my music, camera, and thoughts, more. 

I had a flashback to the time I randomly decided to drive to New Hampshire to be a camp counselor after meeting the owner of the camp at a dinner party in Santa Fe. It was the summer of 2000, I was in college, and it seemed more fun than working in a restaurant, so off I drove. As one of only a few counselors who had cars, I would sneak away on my one weekly day off, hiding from the others who wanted to hitch a ride, and head up the coast to Maine, or into Boston, or down any small road that struck my fancy. Before the days of cell phones, GPS, camera apps, and blogs, I did exactly what I do now, but in analog form…. Postcards, my old Pentax K1000 camera, and scratched CDs ruled. 

Now, as I sit in the costume trailer on our second to last day of filming, the sun is coming up over the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Westcliffe, CO, it is fall, another summer has come and gone, and there is static in my ear from the walkie talkie headset. I slept in yet another motel, my eighth of this show, woke in the dark, and at wrap will look for somewhere to eat and drink a beer with my coworkers. 

It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that 75 hours a week spent with 150 people is as much as I can handle. Upon wrapping this show, I look forward to my upcoming drives to California, possibly up the PCH once there, and to having time to myself once again. 

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Nostalitude.

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It was drizzling when I woke in Chama, NM, this morning and as I stepped through my screen door and onto the shared front porch of the Vista del Rio Lodge, it smelled like the mountains as rain covered newly fallen leaves and still blooming flowers.  After chatting with the women at the front desk and getting my free cup of coffee, I turned right and headed south, towards Santa Fe, to begin our last few days of filming.

The first day of fall, rain, Bob Dylan on the radio, another show coming to an end, many changes on the horizon… It was some combination of these factors that filled me with a mixture of gratitude and nostalgia.  Gratitude for all that has led me to this point and nostalgia for all that has been.  Never happier than when I am behind the wheel with my camera, good music, and no plan for the day, I felt full to the point of tears.

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Viva Las Vegas! 

No, not that one. The other one, in New Mexico, just north of Santa Fe, off of I-25. The once bustling, now somewhat abandoned railroad town, the one in which I have spent months of my life working on location, that is full of architectural beauties, albeit mostly boarded up. Yes, that one. 


And, here I am again. Because of its location in Northeastern New Mexico, where the Great Plains meet the Rockie Mountains and the High Desert, Las Vegas can pass for many places, hence its popularity with movie producers and location scouts. This evening, as I left the ranch where we are shooting and drove down the frontage road towards my hotel, I couldn’t help but think of all that has and hasn’t changed in my life, career, and in the town, over the many years I’ve found myself on location in Las Vegas, NM. 


In 2005, we used the Victorian houses as the backdrop for a small Minnesota town in the movie “North Country.” While working, my then boyfriend and I rented a “suite” at the Palomino Motel for $22 a night and pocketed the rest of our housing money. I turned 26 in that motel room and somewhere there exist photos of a party that included very tall grip holding a piñata above his head, while crew members swung at it with a machete until a bunch of porn fell out. 

In 2006 we were back with “No Country For Old Men.” Same boyfriend, same suite, room number 6, at the Palomino Motel. Weeks of filming, mostly nights, ice cream cones at Dairy Queen on the way to work in the afternoons. A shootout in the Plaza Hotel, my Trader Joe’s shopping bag full of different types of fake blood. An overpass turned into the Mexican border by the Art Department that made it onto the front page of the local paper because drivers on I-25 were freaking out, afraid they’d taken a wrong turn somewhere. 


Then there was “Paul” and an exploding farm house. “True Grit” in 2010 and then “The Homesman” in 2013, with six weeks of living in the Plaza Hotel, pretending the plains north of town were 1850’s Nebraska. 


And I’m back. It’s 1894 this time.  And again, a bag of fake blood. Another movie. Another hotel. Another year. And yet, so much has changed. This blog gives me a mission and instead of taking my  wacky career for granted, I find the beauty in the random places it brings me. I appreciate the experiences it has given me, I laugh at the bizarreness of it all. 


And I dedicate this post to my ex with whom I spent so much time here, who passed away in 2009. I think he always liked it in Las Vegas. 

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