Carless in LA, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles #13: Always Tell the Truth, but never tell it on the bus…

August 7th, 2009

Yesterday, I found out what it was like to be the crazy lady on the bus.

A woman at the bus stop was making conversation with me. She started by complimenting my heart shaped sunglasses. I decided to turn off my ipod shuffle (which was playing MP3s from T. Harv Eckler’s “Secrets of a Millionaire Mind”) and make conversation with her. After all, I am supposedly going through this carless martyrdom to create a show about my carless martyrdom. This discussion with this stranger was all part of my “oral history gathering.”

She told me she’s going through a divorce and her husband is taking the car. I explain to her that I used to have a pink Mercedes that ran on vegetable oil but it caught on fire on the 405 and I decided to go carless because of car-owning phobia and also because I travel the world half the year so no need to own a car.

Then she tells me that she’s a student a UCLA. And like the overcompensating egomaniac that I am, I volunteer my story: “Oh yeah? I went to UCLA too! And last year they invited me to be the commencement speaker at the English Department graduation!”

And then she shoots me “the look.” A look I’ve often given to other people on the bus.

It was the “THIS BITCH IS OUT OF HER MIND” look.

Can I blame her? I’m this messy haired Asian girl with heart shaped sunglasses, pulling around a suitcase filled with VHS tapes (I’d just come from converting them into DVDs at the SAG Building), yet somehow she is to believe that I’m a world traveller? I’m listening to self help recordings on how to be a millionaire (not that she would know this), I’m talking about my pink car that ran on VEGETABLE OIL, my car ownership phobia, and how I was once the commencement speaker at UCLA… and worst of all, I’m telling her all this ON THE BUS.

Why does the truth always sound like complete horseshit when told to you by a stranger on the bus?

I wasn’t sure if I should keep talking at that point. Because any more truths about my life would only sound more crazy given the setting of the moving bus which already implicates unreliability and insanity in the truth teller.

“What do I do for a living? I’m a PERFORMANCE ARTIST!”

“What’s my next show about? Cats! Pick-Up Artists! And Cat pee!”

“I made a yoga bag out of my old pants!”

I sat quietly in my seat, awkwardly waiting for my stop to come up, pretending I was distracted by my Ipod shuffle so I wouldn’t have to talk more. I gave her a sloppy wave goodbye as I exited the bus. I don’t know why I did this, perhaps to further add to the illusion of my insanity.

So ok. We can’t trust every thing we hear from a stranger on the bus. Can we trust what we hear from a stranger on the plane? Can we trust what we hear as it comes out of the mouth of a stranger standing next to his pimped out ferrari? Can we trust what we hear from an established corporation with large buildings and thousands of employees across major metropolitan cities…. Like AIG?

I thought that I could trust the hipsters at Lovecraft Biofuels to sell me a good car and make good on fixing it so that it was safe to drive. I thought, Why would eco-hipsters lie and swindle me? But they did.

Can we trust any stranger in transit who tells us something?

And the most important question of all…

Why do I insist on overcompensating for my lack of car by offering up laundry lists of my previous achievements to complete strangers on the bus who are probably in the same situation as me?

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Category: The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles

Making Out with Kristina Wong #1: Turning an old Pair of Pants into a Yoga Bag

August 2nd, 2009

I’ve been re-reading a couple years worth of old blog entries where all I seem to do is pine about work, how I’m trying to get more work, or how I’m recovering from work… and I’ve decided I need more creative stuff to share on the blog.

Now that I have a sewing machine, it’s time to start a new series of blog entries where I make new things from old things! I’m calling it “Making out with Kristina Wong” but if you have a better suggestion for a title, I’m open to change.

Today! Turning an old pair of pants into a Yoga Bag! (Or tripod bag or cue stick bag…)

From this:

To this!

After what I thought was my brilliant idea alone, I discovered there are quite a few tutorials for making yoga bags from old pants online. But my yoga bag uses the existing leg, belt loops and back pocket of your pants to cut down the sewing time and is a very easy project for beginning sewers!

One pair of old pants (I used old cordoroys. You can use any pants with belt loops and a backpocket. Even pants with no loops and a pocket can by used but you will have to make modifications.)
Straight needles
Sewing machine (you can handsew this project but it takes a lot longer)
Needle and thread
Good scissors
Chalk or marker

Time: Less than 2 hours (with food and bathroom breaks)

Step 1: Select a pair of pants to transform. Make sure your yoga mat can comfortably slide from the top of the waist through the entire leg of the pants.

These pants have been with me since high school! I think they were actually pants that belonged to my aunt. I loved these old cords, so much so that I wore a big hole in the ass that even my patching and pinning efforts could not save. I’d been holding onto them for years trying to figure out how I could save them.

You can always make the legs more narrow, but you can’t make them more wide, so if your pants are too narrow, you will want to find a wider pair.

Check and see how easy it is to slide the mat in. Some material is “too sticky.” Wool pants may get stuck to your mat. Also, check for holes in the fabric of your pants. A hole along the buttcrack is ok (hey now!), but a knee hole will need to be repaired before you do this project.

Step 2: Cut the pants in half so there are two separate legs. Cut a generous seam allowance on the leg you will use for sewing purposes.

It doesn’t matter which half of the leg you use. I chose the side that was less worn out. I chose to cut the zipper part into the half I will use for the yoga bag to give me a generous seam allowance. But will trim it off later.

Save the other leg, you’ll use that fabric for creating the strap and drawstring for your yoga bag.

Step 3: Put the yoga bag in the pants (in the waist down) and trim the leg from the bottom. Pinch the top of the tube to get an idea of how much you will need for it to close. Cut the bag about 3″ past the mat.

Save the leg that you cut off to make the bottom of the bag. If it’s too short to make the bottom of the bag, but you should have enough fabric on the other leg to make a bottom.

Step 4: Sew a giant tube that will accommodate the yoga mat.

Turn your leg inside out. Use pins and mark off a straight line from the top of the waist that meets the inside seam of the pants. Sew from the top of your pants to meet the existing leg tube. Save the fabric you cut off to create the bottom of the yoga bag.

Because of the way pants are cut, the fabric may have a curve to it, or will not match the other side evenly. So you will have to pin and sew your tube so it will have a few ripples in it. These ripples are very unnoticeable once your bag is done.

After you have created the tube, trim off the excess fabric and turn the tube inside out.

Step 5: Create the strap for the yoga bag by using the other pant leg and cut a long rectangle about 4″ wide and as long as your pants length.

This will need to be a long strip, so I recommend cutting along the backside of the pants, not the seam. You will end up with part of the back pocket of the pants.

Step 6: Fold over the fabric, ugly side out, and sew along one side, then turn it inside out, save it for later.

Step 7: Create the drawstring for the yoga bag by cutting a 3″ wide and approx 25″ long rectangle, fold along one side, sew it, then flip it inside out. Save it for later.

Because this narrow tube is going to be tricky to turn inside out, I recommend using part of the pants that are not seamed. The fabric in the front of your pants before the pockets is ideal.

Step 8: Cut the bottom of your bag.

I used a plate that had a slightly larger circumference than the hole at the bottom to draw a perfect circle.

(In hindsight, I realized I should have used a square shape since circles are difficult to sew for beginning sewers like me)

Step 9: Pin the circle into the opening. Also pin the back strap in (it should be inside the tube) since you will sew this in also. Sew your bottom and strap in.

Remember, the back pocket of the pants will actually be used in the front of the yoga bag, so you need to align the strap so that it covers the front pocket of the pants. Also align it so that you will not later sew the top of the strap over a belt loop.

Trim the excess fabric and turn your tube inside out!

Step 10: Hand sew the top of the strap to the waistline to become another belt loop.

Some sewing machines can handle a lot of layers of fabric, but mine couldn’t. So if you are able to get your machine to sew this, all the better. I sewed where my pins lay.

Step 11: Sew front pocket closed.

I used little asterisk stitches to keep the front pocket closed. Sewing the front pocket closed prevents the strap and weight of the mat from constantly pulling the pocket open.

Step 12: Weave your drawstring through the belt loops. Tie it closed! You have a yoga mat bag! Namaste!

Now let your mat and new mat bag collect dust while you avoid yoga class for several years like I have!


Category: buy nothing year, clothing reconstruction, crafty, sex is unnecessary when you have yarn.

Carless in LA, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles #12: Cash for Clunkers?

July 28th, 2009

Watch out world! I’m throwing down 62 clams in the month of August to buy my first LA Metro bus pass. I’m thinking I’ll wear it around my neck in a plastic laminated necklace like the abuelitas do and push my granny cart filled with groceries up and down Sunset Blvd. I actually don’t know that I ride the bus enough to warrant owning a bus pass. I have to ride the bus 49 times next month to make the “bus ride buffet” ticket worthwhile but I’m home for a full month (for once) so I thought I’d live it up.

Things are getting super busy here very fast. Summers tend to be “downtime” for me. I’m seeing crazy things happen in my line of work. I was in talks with New World Theater at UMass Amherst to bring Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 2010. Then just a month later, New World Theater had their funding completely cut off by the university! This is pretty ugly as this institution has been around for 30+ years.

I did get a very huge break a few months ago with a MAPFUND grant to develop my new “CAT LADY” show but I haven’t been able to secure a premiere venue or NPN co-commissioner. It’s not that the interest isn’t there, it’s just that every theater on earth is watching their budget. There’s a definite and palpable slowdown in the arts.

So I’ve decided that rather than wail and flail in panic, I’m going to use the money that I had set aside for a car to invest in a new computer and a video camera. And I’m thinking of turning part of the living room in my new Silverlake House into a set that I can shoot different shows in. I’m long overdue for a tech upgrade, I’ve been using the same laptop for five years! And it’s really hot and slow. So look out world, not only will this lady be rocking a bus pass but also a video blog!

I will admit that I’ve been looking at ads for cars. It’s really tempting to buy one. To be able to get to West LA in one hour as opposed to two. These ads are misleading though… this “Cash for Clunkers” thing is so dumb. How is it a 5 year old car can qualify as a clunker but my Mercedes that caught on fire on the 405 couldn’t? Bleh, forget it.

Quite a few of my creative friends are complaining about going broke this summer and I’ve mentioned several times in my blogs how it’s hard to not get sucked into poverty mentality when the news and all your friends are dragging the sky down around you. I find myself having days where I’m like, “Oh god! It’s over! I give up!”

I’m losing sympathy for my friends going who complain of being broke. Their standards of broke are “first world broke.” I have a friend who is a sex worker and says she’s having “survival sex” for money and yet owns a laptop, cell phone, and car. I have another friend who owes me $500 and he’s had months to pay me back, and he calls me from his cell phone to tell me he has run off to New York City (for a vacation).

If you are broke, suck it up, grow up, and deal with it. Because nobody with an IPhone is a victim of anything.

People keep asking me for help with getting money to do their art. The requests were at first flattering because it really felt as if they regard me as successful. But now theses requests have become kind of irritating, like I’m some kind of magic fairy that can say three things to make things happen. If you go way back into my very first blogs, you’ll know, I’ve been at this game for YEARS and only started to make a full time living at it in the last four years. And if you know me well enough, you know it was REALLY REALLY UGLY when I was first at this.

I see people I haven’t seen in a while and the first thing they say is, “Hi Kristina! Can you help me get grant money?”

(“Yeah. Nice to see you too.”)

Is there a sign on my head that says: “My name is Kristina Wong and I can show you how easy it is to get money because I have nothing better to do?” I mean I try to be supportive of people but I feel like that generosity gets taken advantage of.

People asking me to lead them to “magic grant money” irritates me one three levels:

First, I spend 20 hours (if not more) a week doing work related to generating income for my art (that is not my actual art) and most people aren’t willing to put up the BS of arts admin. Even when I’ve taken the time to explain to people how it all works, they either don’t apply for the grant that I just walked them through or ask me to repeat the information to them as if the explanation will become somehow easier. My biggest pet peeve is when they ask me to send copies of my grants so they can play mad libs with them, as if we weren’t doing completely different projects.

Second, I probably make the same amount as many of my artist friends “who are always broke”– the difference is that I manage my finances differently. A lot of my broke friends would not be broke if they just learned to not spend money on stuff they don’t need or buy so much stuff on credit. So it’s not that I have more money than other people, I just allocate my money differently when I get it.

And third, there is no “magic grant money.” Like any other thing that’s earned in this world. Money for your art is also earned, not thrown around to random people like a sweepstakes prize.

So my artist friends going broke but texting away on your iphone… do you need a bail out? Here it is!

NINE Cash for Clunkers Tips for Creatives going Broke who keep asking me to help them with money:

1. Run Away
If you can’t get a job and your career is not going anywhere, sublet your place, give up your apartment, sell your things, and run off to an artist’s retreat where you can live for free. Unfortunately, most of them don’t pay you to be there or accommodate kids. If you can’t get into an artist’s retreat, move in with your parents and be their “loser” 30-something kid who writes screenplays in the basement. Nobody will judge you if they can’t see you! Yay! You just freed up $400-1000 a month in rent!

2. Get someone to burn you a bootleg copy of The Secret and watch it over and over again until you sound possessed.
I am critical of The Secret (ie “The Unofficial Orientation Video for New Angelinos”) because it does place much too much emphasis on material wealth. But hey, it’s Metaphysics for Dummies! There is a critical third step to the process of the Secret that people often forget– ACTION. So stop complaining that nobody sent you $100 after you watched The Secret and start taking action. (And taking action does asking me to lead you through the short cut to money. Because I only know the long route.)

3. Sell your car and get a bus pass.
If you really need money that badly, get over your “I need my car” bullshit and get rid of your car. Cancel your insurance. Cancel your AAA membership. Cancel your gym membership (because the city streets just turned into your gym). Yay! You just freed up $500 a month plus whatever you got for your car.

4. Find something less expensive to replace your drug habit.
Get money. Get stoned. Can’t remember where your money went. Get money. Get stoned. Can’t remember where your money went. Why do broke people still have money for pot? Here’s a suggestion of how to get high instead. Put on a Bob Marley cd, then run around really fast backwards in the hot sun without water, then try to recite poetry, then get a friend to say “whoa, that’s brilliant” at every line. Yay! You just freed up $50-300 a month.

5. Don’t be a bottom feeder.
If you ever done movie background work, you’ve probably met “background lifers.” The people who only talk about doing extra work and getting more extra work, and yet, still think this will lead to something bigger. If you get too obsessed with the stones lining the walkway, you’ll never get to see the inside of the house. Sometimes the “hunting and gathering” way of the artist life prevents us from thinking about the big picture. So think from the top down. Think beyond survival.

6. Drop your $$$ scene study class and take creative classes at TeAda Camp instead. I’m teaching and am a student in at TeAda’s summer camp for adults that’s super affordable for creative people who want to expand their skillset on a budget. You can take classes in movement, voice, acting, improv, yoga and writing for as low as $10 a class. They are drop-in classes so you don’t have to commit to months and months of training. The classes are cheap as hell and a good alternative to that overpriced overhyped stuff offered all over LA. Yay! You just freed up $200-400 a month (depending on what pyramid scheme acting school you were previously enrolled in.)

7. Kick the deadbeat to the curb. (Several times in the head if necessary.)
Are you in a shitty relationship and giving the guy/girl money/ free rent/ food on top of it? Say good- bye! This one is especially for my creative lady friends who are with men who can’t take care of themselves and freeload off your generosity. You deserve a partner who can take care of him or herself and therefore, can support you when you need it. You are not a rescuer. You are not a social worker. You will find better. I’ve kicked a few deadbeats to the curb myself and never looked back. Yay! You’ve just freed up 200 lbs of dead weight!

8. Manage your money between several different checking accounts.
If you are an artist working for yourself, the worst financial thing you can do is pile up all your income into one checking account. You should not pay your rent and your director out of the same account. You should not deposit your big grant check in the same account that you pay for food. I recommend two accounts– a business account and personal account. And have two separate credit cards for business and personal expenses.

Figure out what your personal budget is each month to live. This amount should be your salary and every month write yourself a check from the business account to the personal account in this amount. Even if this means you have several checking accounts with a $0 balance, you will at least get into the habit of managing your money and treating the work you do as a professional.

Ideally, you should have several accounts. (This is something I am still trying to organize in my own life.) You should have a business account, a personal account, an education account (for paying for things to further your learning and growth), a splurge account, an investments fund. There are other methods for breaking these accounts up. When you get money, get in the habit of dividing money in each of these accounts. Yay! You are saving towards retirement!

9. Stop buying shit.
Use the library, wear things twice, make new things out of old things. Make presents for your friends. Our economy is a mess and we’re told to save money by not buying things, but the only way the economy will move is if we buy things. What gives? Run away from the need to buy stuff that can be borrowed, bartered or made! I was going to buy a VHS to DVD converter to convert my analog archives to 0′s and 1′s but found out there was one I could use at the SAG Foundation for free. Yay! I just saved $150!

Presents I made for my friends’ kids.

There! Now stop asking me to help you get money. Or at least have a real conversation with me before you ask. I just helped you get lots of money. If you need more help, I’ll be at the bus stop waiting for you to give me a ride to the next big thing!


Category: artist life., kristina is so bitchy this week, losing my mind in los angeles, property mogul, the secret, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles, veggie oil car, vision

Carless in Los Angeles, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles #11: Face it. You’re home.

July 21st, 2009

I’m back in Los Angeles, which means I must face my problems.

I must deal with getting around this car-dependent city without a car.

In a few weeks, on August 14, I hit my one year mark of being a carless person in Los Angeles. That’s right. A year ago, I was on the side of the road watching my pink biodiesel car disintegrate into 50 foot flames. Why it caught on fire, I’ll never know. Traumatized by car ownership, I decided in that moment to see if it was possible to have a fulfilling life in Los Angeles without a car.

Yes, I can afford to buy a car. It’s not an issue of money. And I have been tempted by some of the deals to lease a car. But I think of slow money drain of cars… insurance, gas, MAINTENENCE, the carbon footprint, the exhaust from a tailpipe on a hot summer day… bleh. I think of the stress of tickets, of wondering if my car will be broken into, of the nicks and dents that accumulate over time, of will I get this car off the freeway before it catches on fire…. and I much prefer thinking about the money set aside for a new car growing interest in my savings account.

Admittedly, not having a car lit a fire under my ass to tour more and leave for residencies (like the recent three week stint in Florida). Because when I wasn’t in LA– I didn’t have to deal with the carless in LA thing. But now I’m home for almost three months. And I need to face the music. The bus music that is.

So far I’ve gotten around by bike, foot, bus, taxi, renting, borrowing, and catching rides. The biggest struggles are the mental hurdles of the Valley. Burbank and Glendale send shivers down my spine. Pomona? FORGET IT!

But I vowed to maintain a good quality of life and find ways to get around despite not owning a two ton car. I did an 8-week project in the Valley and got up and back every week without owning a car. I’ve also gotten myself to and from the airport, dated (yes, this cat lady gets hers), and moved across town without actually owning a vehicle.

I never even got to chronicle how freaking hard it was to move to Silverlake without a car. Just doing things like getting boxes to move was such an episode. I moved boxes over by hitching rides across town and borrowing my cousin’s car. This difficulty was compounded by the fact that I had to sort through 8+ years of stuff in the move which wasn’t very well organized to begin with. You know all those boxes you shove away deep in your closet to deal with “one day”? Yep, the month of June was that “one day.” Moving became a full-time job last month. Here in Silverlake, I’m still surrounded by boxes. But for the most part, I’m home.

I’m still trying to decide if I’m better as a carless person in Silverlake than in West LA.

The cons of being carless in Silverlake vs carless in West LA.
1. My bank is US Bank and there isn’t one for MILES. In West LA it was a 15 minute walk. I am holding on to checks now and have no idea when I can deposit them. I’m trying to look at what trips I have scheduled this week in other neighborhoods, and my bank is not near any of those locales either. The post office is far too. Does Silverlake even have a post office? Because I’ve had to walk to Echo Park or Los Feliz. And it’s such an epic walk. And lots of whistles from truck drivers (and other cars) the whole way.

2. It’s SO FREAKING HOT here in the summer. Like really really disgustingly hot. No West LA breeze out here. When I got back from my walk today there was steam coming out from my shorts.

3. The nearest grocery stores are carnicerias, and most conveniently, the 7-11. Not that I don’t mind carnicerias (In my West LA carlessness I’d buy fresh produce off of produce trucks) but a few weeks ago when I was buying ingredients for lumpia, some of the produce was actually rotten on the shelves! Major grocery chains are over one mile away. I guess I can use delivery in a pinch or catch rides.

4. I still don’t know how I feel about having so many neighbors who were born into this echelon of cool. If there are two American Apparels in walking distance of your home, what does this say? I walked into one today. Rags with zippers. Clothes for women without nipples. Are you working out or doing a kiddy porn? I don’t get American Apparel. It’s shit I could sew with my beginning sewing skills. And the biggest crime of all– they are selling gold pleather scrunchies for $6! Who is falling for this? My neighbors are. Apparently.

5. Still getting used to the available bus lines. There is a bus that goes to my place in West LA (the 704/ 4) which is going to be the major bus line I’ll use. I miss lines like the Santa Monica 10 which went straight from West LA on the freeway to downtown! So unbelievably convenient. And fast!

6. A little too hilly for my Toys R Us bike. I’m going to need to get a better bike to ride around here.

7. No Zipcar (Zipcrap?) carshare out here. So if I need a last minute car, I need to figure out someone to borrow one from, or rent one for the day. I am closer to the $6.99 rent-a-car now.

Pros of Carlessness in Silverlake vs Carlessness in West LA.
1. It is nice though strange to live in a walking neighborhood with people my age. It’s pathetic folks, but Silverlake and Echo Park is the closest that LA will get to having a taste of Brooklyn.

2. Because there are people here and so much walking culture, I can actually start taking advantage of Happy Hour deals. And there are quite a few…

3. The streets are my gymnasium. The hills and extra walking is great for giving me hipster bony legs so that I too can wear $40 American Apparel leggings with pre-cut holes in them (wtf?!).

4. New stuff to look at and explore. I’ve definitely spent time in Silverlake before but living here is a whole new angle at LA living. I feel like I’m starting all over in Hollywood again, but in a good fresh start way. I never realized it until now, but it does matter where you live. All my friends are much more receptive to hanging out now that I live in the same neighborhood. And my manager was like, “Good! Now you can be closer to your audience.” So weird.

One thing that I’m still trying to get over is the cabin fever of carlessness. I always worked at home, but even if I used the car less than once every few days, at least I left the house. I haven’t left the house as much since going carless. It’s also a testament to the economy. Auditions and productions have slowed WAY down for everyone. And I hate to admit it, but a lot of venues that have presented me in the past are at risk of closing down because of budget cuts, which has reduced how much I tour. So now I’m left at home trying to keep busy and get things going here… which means… trying to also figure out how to get around.

The most overwhelming part of being carless is the mental hurdle. Oh my god! It’s impossible to get around! You miss out on so much! It’s such a pain to have no car. But it can be done. There are plenty people in this town who don’t have cars and thrive. And I want to be one of them.

I guess while I have had to tighten up in the recession, not having a car has given me a lot of financial breathing space. I filled out a survey today about artists in the recession and while I’ve lost gigs, I haven’t fallen into debt or lost my home. If I still had that money suck vegetable oil car, it might be a different story.

I opened a “vacation fund” at B of A today. I used the money from the yard sale and will keep purging and put the money in there. They have a deal where you open a checking acct and make a few transactions and they give you $75. Then I’m thinking of moving that money into a Capital One Savings acct where I can get a slightly higher interest rate and get airline miles for the money that’s there each month. Then I will move it into a CD. Then one day, I’ll go on vacation! Yay!

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Category: The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles


July 17th, 2009

The trails of Space Shuttle Endeavor as seen from New Smyrna Beach.

It’s my last full day at this three-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and it’s been a full and idea-filled three weeks but I must say, I am ready to go home.

I’m bug eaten, 10 pounds heavier, attempted to watch the shuttle launch twice before a real lift-off, and I’ve not gotten much of my own creative work done. I’ve seen so much craziness that if I don’t get a grip on reality soon, I may start smoking crack. I also randomly started work on a screenplay… which is kind of in a swirl now but if I get the time to keep working on it, it should look pretty good.

Everyone here is running around with cameras, projectors, or big messy props… and I found myself focused inward and just focusing on getting writing done. This particular residency is very active and distracting because we’re made up of solo performers and performance artists (very needy and need attention), video artists (very nerdy and need space), and experimental composers (very noisy and need noise).

I think I said the best line this week is when I asked the master artist-in-residence, experimental composer Mark Applebaum: “So when reviewing work samples, how do you distinguish bad experimental composition from VERY bad experimental compostion?”

(Relax folks, he laughed.)

It’s a group that knows no conventions or rules. And there’s trash everywhere that people are using for their projects. I have just relinquished my hoarding ways in this move to Silverlake, so it’s hard to watch so many of these artists accumulate so much crap for use in their work. A few artists drove from across the country so they could have their cars handy to drive to stores to buy things for projects and drag the stuff they make back home. The thrift stores here are insane (imagine how many retirees are dropping dead every second in Florida and the stuff they leave behind). I don’t want to become a walking Sanford and Son again, so now when I travel, I purposely pack small carry-on sized bags to prevent accumulation.

One of the locals agrees to be a kitschy prop for my photo.

Tonight, we’re putting on a showing of our works-in-progress for what will probably be about 30 residents in the local community and it’s turning into a full on carnival of video projections and walk through performances. Chaos everywhere and I’m not sure how many of the artists (including myself) will get to see each others’ work. I’ve opted to do something I never do in performance situations– scale the f*ck down. I’m doing a five minute character based scene that I’ll perform alone. With no props, no projections, no audience interaction, and no signature overhead projector. For the first time in my entire life, I feel like the most simple and conventional artist of the entire lot. Next thing you know I’ll be doing hokey one person multi-character shows where I educate people about diversity and how we’re all the same inside. (“There’s only one race folks. Human.”)

My project tonight is modest. I am having folks audition to be “the pick up artist” and I’ll possibly use the footage to be part of my development for CAT LADY. I have scripts from pick-up artist instruction manuals that people will read on-camera like audition sides. Just borrowing a camera, tripod, etc is becoming a ridiculous ordeal. There are some people here who know how to sodder machines together to make movement sensitive lights. I can’t even find a freaking tripod for my fake audition.

Last night Brian Feldman (Think of him as Orlando, FL’s balder, broker, and more brilliant version of David Blaine, if David Blaine didn’t actually have magic powers but just an intense need to put himself in strange situations for long stretches of time) started yet another project here. He decided to jump for 24 straight hours in the amphitheater. Mind you, it’s Florida in the Summer so the amphitheater is full of bugs, very humid, and lonely.

Why would someone do something so seemingly organ-failure inducing?

Well, duh, because he was trying to enact the situation from an obscure film created by an Italian filmmaker who was in residence here 10 years ago. In that obscure film, the artist describes jumping up and down for 24 hours straight. He didn’t actually do this in real life, but for the plot of the film, he does. So Brian thought he’d reference it using the same area of the compound as the Italian artist.

It seemed very amusing and like it might be fun to watch Brian hopping up and down at 4am. But I guess we (well, mostly he he) did not factor in that staying up 24 hours straight causes delirium and for even the most motivated of artists, is a task that is not actually physically possible. Even with breaks (especially if you have not slept the night before), it’s completely and totally physically dangerous and could cause death.

At lunch before Brian started, I became concerned. Brian was carbing up with wet noodles and bread. Add to all of this… Brian is a vegan too– yes, that’s right, a vegan jumping non-stop for 24 hrs (Eat your heart out drunk guy who lost his arm when he went swimming in a swamp of alligators) ! Brian was eating with his bare hands. He was shaking and his eyes were flittering back and forth– he hadn’t slept the night before because he was working so hard on preparing for this piece.

I normally am so embroiled in my nutsy productions that I can’t help do production for other people, but I found myself saying to him, “Ok, please dude, let me help you. ” I bought him VHS tapes at Walmart so he could document the jumping on this old camcorder for two hours at a time. Mind you, I just shed dozens of new VHS tapes at last month’s yard sale, so having to buy more was heartbreaking. Brian had no money, so I just bought them for him, and now he says I have full rights to the work. (Yay, I’m rich?)

PTA Mom of performance art, I also helped Dawn Weleski sew her costume. She’s another one of the artists who is doing 6 million things while she is here. Her project is her going around dressed as Dr. Andrew Turnbull, the founder of New Smyrna Beach, FL and doing historical re-enactments of his journey in public areas around the city. She got kicked out of the Publix but for some reason, the people at the local pub took to her quite well.

Here’s Dawn as Dr. Turnbull at a bar telling the locals about her contributions to New Smyrna Beach.

When we returned to the compound at 1am, I became very concerned about Brian who had been jumping for over five hours. He was clutching his stomach saying that he was cramping, and a few times would kneel in ways that looked like he was collapsing. I’d scream, “Brian! Brian!” And he’d get up and say, “Don’t take a picture of this!” And give his minimum jump per minute.

The fans were blowing on either side of him, it was hard for him to hear, plus he was delirious, and he was wearing sunglasses (as the actor does in the film being referenced in the piece). I’d scream, “Brian, you don’t have to do this all night.” And he’d mutter, “No, I can keep doing this” and punctuate it with a very sickly jump.

I imagined us at 4am, someone coming to check on Brian, him collapsed on a pedastal. And us having to explain to the paramedic:

“Ok, so what happened here? He looks exhausted, malnourished and he’s balding.”

“Listen, he wanted to jump up and down for 24 hours straight. I guess he had already been doing it for 7 hours before he collapsed.”

“Why was he jumping up and down so long? Is he mentally ill?”

“No mentally ill people aren’t as theatrically lit and thoroughly self-documented as Brian is. This was art.”

“It was art?”

“You see, he was trying to re-enact this fake performance in the video.”

“You mean like kids who jump out of windows so they can fly like TV superheroes?”

“Yes, but in a post post meta way, yes.”

It was turning very quickly into a bad sitcom. He was smelling of sweat from 25 feet away. He was clutching his stomach in pain. He was wobbling. It was at first amusing to watch, then exhausting, then worrisome.

I pulled Heather aside and said, “We can’t let this continue. This is seriously a lawsuit waiting to happen. I was shaking watching him. He’s going to die. If I have to throw him over my shoulder and tie him into a bed I will.”

And then I thought, hmmm… maybe this is what Brian wanted. It wasn’t art. It was getting women to fetch him fans and water to cool him down, to update his twitter for him, and insist with sweet coddling voices, “Please Brian Feldman, go to bed. Please we need you to go to bed.”

The women gathered round him. And after what was apparently, quite an intervention, and a lot of reasoning that “Yes Brian, it’s still art, even if it wasn’t for 24 full hours,” he was coaxed to bed.

After speculation at lunch that he might be dead, I am happy to report that Brian Feldman is alive and scheming. And he’s planning to resume jumping as people arrive for tonight’s festivities. And next week that crazy SOB plans to stay inside a Vegan restaurant in Orlando (what may be up to five days) until he’s eaten every item off the menu. This means he will be sleeping and passing waste in the same space 600 square feet until he’s eaten every dish they offer.

This can only illuminate the Vegan lifestyle.

Tonight, we are singing a duet of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” as part of his redux of “Under the Covers”… the site-specific cabaret in his room where all the singing is done under the sheets.

And then I get to go home.

Oh! I’m counting down.


Category: artist life., rednecks, road wong

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