Sunday, March 2, 2014

Running AMOK

So, I've been in L.A. about a month. I know very few people and spend a lot of time being scared and lonely.

Then Misha Collins (of Supernatural) announced a flash mob for his Annual Melee of Kindness (AMOK) with his charity, Random Acts. In downtown L.A. Not far from where I live. He asked people to bring bags to hand out to the homeless in that area.

So I went to the dollar store and the Target, bought a lot of hygeine stuff (bandaids, tissues, anti-bacterial sanitizer, etc) and filled little plastic bags with it all. Must have been about thirty or so in all. I felt like it was such a small contribution, but being newly arrived and unemployed, it was all I could do.

I started smiling the second I saw a large crowd of people on the corner we were all to meet on. I knew exactly none of those people, but I felt like I was walking towards my dear friends. Supernatural fans never got it more right than when we called ourselves a Family.

So, I arrived and stood around waiting for instructions. My t-shirt was well-admired and I started talking to people. Eventually I met Mia and Leigh. Noting we'd all come alone, we decided to glom together. We talked about our love for the show and Misha. Time ticked on, past the appointed meeting time. People came over and we started handing things out to them. We were just saying it would be funny if everyone had passed out everything before Misha even got there, when I looked over Mia's shoulder.

"Um, turn around, ladies," I said, beaming and waving at the camera Misha was holding. Turns out we were all hanging out under a No Loitering sign as we waited. Misha (and his beautiful family) crossed the street and I felt a fluttering in my heart. There was Misha Collins, the man behind GISHWHES (and my gefilte fish aversion), one third of the main cast of Supernatural, standing close enough to touch (I refrained, but man was I tempted).

With a direction chosen, we all followed Misha, handing out our bags to people who were grateful to get them. We answered what organization we were with (Random Acts) and if someone wanted something specific, we played Telephone to find someone who had it (socks and jackets were the most popular). I eventually ended up near Vickie, Misha's wife, who is an amazing writer. I fangirled all over her and cooed at her daughter as Maison waved a flower in my face. West spent most of the time on his father's shoulder, looking confused at the large group of people his dad had assembled like Random Acts Avengers.

I'd been separated from Mia and Leigh by this time, but I found them and followed the grouping they were with. I'd learned two names already, I wasn't about to shy away from social interaction now. I caught up with them and stuck preety close to one or the other of them for the rest of the time.

When I ran out of things to give, I felt...restless. I wanted to give more, help more. Mia, Leigh and I started talking about what we could do with ourselves now. Mostly we all followed Misha and watched him interacting with the people we met. I knew Misha was crazy, I knew he was silly, I knew he was talented. But I got to see how damn genuinely kind he is. If he hadn't organized this, I'd never have made friends or stopped feeling alone or stopped thinking of myself over the course of a morning. I will always be grateful to him because of this. For all the lives he enriched today through organizing this, mine stands low among them.

After a sweet speech thanking us for our work, Misha headed back to his car with his family. We'd all been in 'follow Misha' mode up to this point, so we followed until we got to the same intersection we'd first gathered at. I suggested lunch because I didn't want to stop hanging out with the two awesome girls I'd met, so Mia, Leigh and I went to Chipotle.

The funny thing is, while we were eating lunch, Mia, Leigh and myself all mentioned having second thoughts before we showed up. We were nervous, we were tired, we didn't have to show up. I am so glad they did and I did. It was the kind of thing that doesn't leave you, but instead settles deep into you.

Thank you, Misha. Thank you, Random Acts.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I Am Gonna Make It Through This Year if it Kills Me

First of all, find the song "This Year" by The Mountain Goats and listen to it. Better yet, crank it up full blast and dance around to it, then return to this post. I'll wait.

Now if you know me, you know this year is going to be a helluva ride. I'm moving to Los Angeles within the next few weeks to really give acting a job as a profession. Truth be told, I'm not sure I could hold any job other than actress. It's just so deep in my blood.

So this is the year: the year of taking risks, the year of no longer being afraid to look stupid or do something silly, the year that I am going to make it through if it kills me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Supernatural Family

Posted as part of a Supernatural Family lovefest:

Supernatural came into my life when I was nineteen, through a friend who kept suggesting I watch the show. She showed me part of the Pilot and I thought it seemed a good show: Dean was funny and cute, Sam adorable and earnest. Then she plopped down her computer and showed me the last few minutes of the most recent episode "Yellow Fever" (mid-season 4).

Jensen Ackles. Dancing on a car. Lip-synching "Eye of the Tiger".

I was in love. Then came the gag reels and I was in LOVE.

I started watching Supernatural because I was so in love with the fun the cast and crew were having. And when I finally sat down and watched the show proper, it was... amazing. Scary and funny and the boys are so damn sexy and goofy at the same time.

I watch and like a lot of shows, but I only really LOVE a few.
My love was cemented when, about a month after my first foray into the lives of the Winchesters, Kim Manners died. For the first time, I wandered into other fans' messages of farewell and found that they LOVE the show the same way I do, all the way down to the cast and crew, they mourned as hard as I (harder because they'd loved longer). Every year when the crew does the Cancer Ride in his honor, I donate what I can.

Supernatural could have a cutesy name for our fandom, but we are Family. Because of how deep we love and respect this show and every person who helps make it and all of us who enjoy it. We bicker sometimes, we snub, we take things too seriously, but at the end of the day no matter where we come from, how old we are, what we look like or which season we started watching in: we're all Winchesters at heart. Disparate though we are, we're the Supernatural Family because as Eric Kripke so eloquently put it through the mouth of Bobby Singer: "Family don't end in blood, boy."

(P.S. A proper post about ATX TV Festival is coming as soon as I stop petting the picture I have of myself with Scott Porter)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Thank You Letter To Ben Edlund

This is my contributition to the Open Letter of Appreciation to Ben Edlund located at the Winchester Family Business website here:

If you are a Supernatural fan and would like to add your gratitude to the thread, I fully suggest you do so. Mr. Edlund wrote some of the best episodes of the show and he is leaving to work on Revolution (I suspect Eric Kripke tempted him with either blackmail, buckets of money, or...whatever you tempt writers and a new Mac I expect).

Dear Ben Edlund,

Thank you. Thank you for your brilliant writing. Thank you for making us laugh in the middle of a tense and heartbreaking series of heavy, emotional episodes. Thank you for breaking our hearts in the best ways. Thank you for knowing these characters so well that the words you put in their mouths are natural (because Dean would so ask Sam to be his Valentine with a real human heart because he's a dork at heart). Thank you for having Sam lose his shoe, for Dean becoming a PA on a film set, for helping gay love pierce the veil of death, for putting Dean in lederhosen, for showing us how dark Dean got in Hell, for the boys naming a baby Bobby John, for Jo and Ellen going out fighting with a 'kick it in the ass', for The French Mistake...just that entire episode, matter of fact the entirety of Everybody Hates Hitler as well, for giving us Castiel's point of view. Thank you for these moments and so many more over the years of the show.

Thank you, sir.

Love and Best Wishes, Beth

P.S. Really, thank you for putting Dean in lederhosen. Thank. You.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Nerves of Steel and the Gaining of Them

There was a time when I wasn't tough.

There was actually a very long time when I wasn't tough, but let's not turn this into a commencement address, shall we?

I grew up in a middle class family, my father had (still has) a very good job and when I was twelve, mom went to work as well: I got (most of) what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, my glorious mother had a policy that if my brother and I could behave in a store we could have one treat (needless to say we were very well-behaved), when the Scholastic Book Fair came to school (and mom wasn't working it), we were given a blank check and told we could buy one computer game, but as many books as we fancied.

I could be accused of being spoiled. If I hadn't had the mother I had, who recognized how easily her kids could turn spoiled and always kept us a couple steps from that line or pulled us back when we did wander over it, I would have been. I'll tell ya'll the American Girl story sometime, promise. I didn't need to be tough. Until I did.

I'm lucky in that when my Trigeminal Neuralgia arrived, I was already being toughened up. I left home and lived on my own, learning to budget what money I had, make my own decisions about what to eat and when, be responsible to get to all my classes on time and pay bills. I felt in control and learned I'm smart to live on my own and not rely on other people to make sure I do what I need to. This intensified in Portland, living across the country from basically everyone I knew. Suddenly, I needed to sell old clothes if I wanted to buy a new dress. I had to schlep two totes bags full of books a dozen blocks to Powell's if I wanted to buy one new book. This made me very critical about buying only what I knew would see plenty of use, instead of whatever I wanted at first glance. I picked up odd jobs as I could get them, never able to stay at them long. I cried when I told my mother I had applied for food stamps and then refused her offer of help (she doesn't have much to give). If I was going to fail here, I was failing on my own. Suddenly, I felt strong, strong enough to let my pride go and admit I could get help I needed.

I was told time and time again that I was brave to move all the way to Portland, where I knew practically nobody. This came mostly from people after my savings dwindled far enough that I had to move home. I sure didn't feel brave, I was scared as hell.

Then came the Trigeminal Neuralgia: The Revenge (I'd had a bad spell in Portland, but nothing like my current pain level. 7 as compared to 12). It is well-accepted to be the most painful condition to have. Which I can attest to wholeheartedly. I'm a rare case having had no trauma to set it off beside being decades too young. A nerve (possibly two) in the right side of my jaw have been compressed by something and so it sends pain signals to my brain whenever the lightest touch (even a breeze) triggers the affected area of my face. And oh what pain signals it sends. At its worst, my TN has literally driven me to the floor, made me draw blood from my arms as I dig my fingers in trying to send off other pain signals (this doesn't work), makes me cry and scream my voice away. It is the only thing that has ever made me completely serious about ending my life.

Trigeminal Neuralgia is called 'the suicide disease' because the pain is so excruciating, many sufferers offed themselves to get away from it. I have TN and let me tell you, my lieblings, its nickname is well-earned. I had to ask a couple of my People (Mark, who knew what to do and Mimi, who knew where everything was) to take away all my sharp pointies and long cords. Fare thee well, jump rope and house keys. But I got past it. I got past being admitted to the hospital because I couldn't eat and could barely drink anything. It's still there and my two best bets right now is brain surgery (though a very small one) that should keep it away from decades, possibly for the rest of my life. I'm scared to death, but I know I can do what it takes. I'm tough now.

I attribute all the strength I've cobbled together to my friends, real and fictional. The real ones (this includes my amazing mom and perfect grandma) showed me by example how to be tough even while being generous with what little they had. They were always there for a late night call when I was in my Dark Room to reach out a hand and pull me back over the threshold, even if they didn't know they were doing it. The fictional ones, the ones on my TV and in my favourite films, songs and books, did much the same. They made me a Torchwood agent, an honorary Winchester, a Mockingjay, a Companion (this applies to two fandoms), a Nerdfighter, a Newsie. By making me believe I could be like them...I was. I could say 'yes' to things that scared me, I could talk my way into and out of bad situations, I learned princesses can fight and witches can be good, I could face the worse pain I'd ever felt.

Breathe through it and ride it out, I've gotten through it before and will again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

On Non-Homemade Cookies

I am not Danish.

This is remarkable because between my mother's and father's families, I can claim relatives from nearly every corner of Europe. This melting pot attitude contributes to the mishmash of holiday traditions we indulge in every year. German Stollen for breakfast in the week leading up to Christmas, sour cream takes the place of cream of mushroom soup in the green bean casserole, Christmas crackers and paper crowns, we talk to animals on Epiphany (I still do anyway), an almond is stashed into porridge and there's more food than even thirty odd family members can devour at once. We make Christmas cookies starting a few days before Christmas, all homemade, no exceptions.

Save one. Danish butter cookies. This tasty little morsels arrive in a tin (that will next year be used to pack pecan fingers), nestled in white paper. They last long into January. One a night is the hard and fast rule. Gorge on brownies and spice cookies covered in buttercream frosting, but the Danish butter cookies are to be savoured. Cherished.

Maybe because we're not Danish and thus do not have a yellowing recipe card that divulges the secrets of these perfect treats are they so loved. The cuteness of the pretzel one, the crunch of the sugar-encrusted rectangle, the ridged one's sweetness, the fun of looking through the rough circle's hole at the others seated around the table, and lastly my favourite, the one with just the subtlest hint of cocoa.

Gl├Ždelig jul!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We Provided... Leverage

If it hadn't been for Leverage, the last two years of my life would have been vastly different. Leverage allowed me to move to Portland and gave me the dear friends I made there (including Kat, without whom my moving to Portland would have been impossible and to whom I will be forever grateful). Leverage was the catalyst that made me focus on what I love (acting) and helped me make contacts that enabled me to do amazing things. The two Leverage conventions helped me make even more friends and learn amazing things about what fans can do when they really love something.

Christian's concerts taught me that letting myself really let go is the best feeling in the world and listening to a CD (while awesome) isn't the same thing. Aldis Hodge taught me to be effortlessly hilarious and appreciate a man's biceps (because dayum!). Beth Riesgraf taught me that enthusiasm is contagious. Gina Bellman taught me it's a helluva lot of work to be able to master accents and make it look easy. Tim Hutton taught me that even a big, fancy award doesn't mean you're a big, serious actor who doesn't know how to have fun. And Drew Powell (who was the guest star on the episode I loved working on the most: The Boy's Night Out Job) taught me how awesome he truly is (which is very very awesome indeed). The PAs and Extra Wranglers taught me that some people really do have infinite patience.

Leverage also taught me how TV works behind the scenes: how many people actually work so hard to make one hour-long episode; how things can go wrong a hundred times, but the one time they work it's magic; how watching actors on TV isn't nearly as fun as watching them play Segueway Football or make everyone fall about laughing; how producers are not money-grubbers who care about nothing but ratings, but hilarious, warm people who care about the show and the fans.

On the surface, the show is about Robin Hoods, about making things right. But it's also about making family out of friends and my fellow Grifters became a family for me when I was far away from my own.

Leverage made me not only a Grifter but part Hacker, Hitter, Thief, and Mastermind as well. I will always be a Leverage fan. Always.