I’ve been emailing this morning with Heather and Jessica about how I’ve always wanted to change the letters on the HOLLYWOOD sign to read HURRYUPANDWAIT.
That’s what this past week has been about. Waiting, in all its various forms. Waiting to see if I have a new job, waiting between meetings, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting in line, waiting backstage, waiting, waiting, waiting. The week felt one month long.
But wait, this is a blog, and I am a woman. Aren’t I supposed to be writing about my cats?
When we got back from the holidays we noticed one of the cats was flooding the litter box. I’ll let you imagine what that means. Then I saw Taylor hanging out in his water bowl.
My childhood cat, Nutso, was living in his water bowl the year I left for college. My dad saw this while he was giving himself an insulin shot. He took one look at my cat and went, “Buddy, I know exactly what you’re feeling.” That’s when Nutso got diagnosed with diabetes. He died less than a year later.
Needless to say, I was distraught all Sunday night, knowing what was up ahead. stee held my hand and calmed me down and pointed out that Taylor was acting the same, looked the same, and appeared to be healthy. He was just really thirsty. It might be a bladder infection, or a kidney infection, or maybe he eats way too much of the wool blanket he’s addicted to chewing.
Our mild-mannered vet kept Taylor for the day to administer tests. Other than the nights Weldon and Martinique lived with Taylor and Cal before flying them to Los Angeles, I’ve never left Taylor somewhere before. I stayed by the phone all Monday afternoon waiting for the call that never came. Eventually I went down there and sprung the cat myself.
During all of this, stee is trying to buy a car to replace the stolen one that’s never going to be found (but that doesn’t mean I don’t constantly look for it, all the time, everywhere), and I was taking meetings, often on the other side of the city.
A feature meeting is like getting set up on a blind date. I say that having never been on a blind date, but this is what I imagine it’s like. My agent calls and tells me about this fantastic person who works with such-and-such company and he or she heard great things about me (from my agent), and he’s interested in sitting down and getting to know me a bit better. I put on clothes and drive to a building I’ve never been to before, drink water and do the Pam Shuffle, which involves saying the following:
1. I moved around a lot. Thirteen schools. No, not military. My Dad was a hotel manager.
2. Thank you. That’s my first script. Yes, she’s based on my grandmother. Yes, I have other scripts. Here’s what they’re about. Please buy one. No? Okay.
3. I live in Eagle Rock. Eagle Rock. It’s near Silverlake?… Yes, it’s also near Glendale. The 2. The 2. Yes, it’s a real highway. Okay, it isn’t.
4. From Austin. Yes, hook ’em. Thanks. Yes, great game. No, I went to high school in Katy? Right, where Renee Zellweger’s from.
5. My husband’s a writer, too. Yep, that’s him. Oh, thanks. I’ll tell him.
6. No, I spent much of the past year writing in television. I do like the pace better, yes. But of course I like writing features, too. No, I haven’t written one in a while. Yes, I’m working on one. No, I don’t know what it’s about yet.
7. Sure, yes, I’ll take a look at that article/book/script. Thanks. Oh, thank you. Yes, I’ll get back to you.
The really good ones get you in and out of there in exactly 59 minutes. I don’t know how they do it.
I don’t dread the feature meetings. I really enjoy them, as it’s always good to get out of the house, and these people are good at having conversations. Sometimes you meet someone you’d enjoy working with every day for a long time, and if she feels the same way about you, a job could come out of that. Tiny little dates, tiny little job interviews. This week I was handed an article written by someone I sort of know, which is bizarre.
But here’s how it goes. Say I like the article/book/script I was handed. I tell my agent. She tells the person I just met (it’s still kind of like a blind date, see?). Then maybe we get in touch with each other. My job is then to listen to what they’re looking for, and then write up how I’d do it. In about a month or so I’d go to their offices and pitch my idea. Then it could go in a number of directions. If it’s already set up somewhere, then I have to take notes and re-pitch until they’re happy with the pitch, when I go pitch the person in charge of hiring the writer. That could take months. If it’s not set up somewhere, then we all work together to get the pitch in a shape everyone likes, and then we find people willing to hear the pitch, and then we go around pitching, hoping someone likes it enough to let us pitch it again to someone higher up, until eventually someone says no. Then we keep doing that until everybody says no. Then, for free, I might write the script. This whole process can take upwards of a year. Two years. I did one treatment-to-pitch adaptation for two years. We did not sell that project.
So, do I like television’s pace better? Let me put it this way. I’m waiting on a phone call that I thought I’d get on Friday. Maybe I’ll get it today. Maybe tomorrow. If I get the job I start work, most likely, this week. Last year, when I was in Toronto, I got the call for the Mencia show. “You start tomorrow,” they said. “I’m in Canada,” I said. “When can you not be in Canada? Because you start tomorrow.”
Don’t think I haven’t hurried up and waited on this job, either. It’s just there’s (kind of) a start date, and I know what the job is (mostly), and who I’ll be working for (probably) and (some of) who I’ll be working with, and this is still fewer unknowns than trying to hustle a feature job. In television the big unknowns are: How long will this last? Will everyone else I work with be complete dicks? How much will they pay me? and: Will everyone figure out I have no idea what I’m doing?
I like writing screenplays, and I like writing them for money. It’s the art of hustling that job that becomes incredibly exhausting. I can write a script in the time it takes to pitch it around town. This is also because I haven’t proven myself in the slightest in the feature world. I don’t have a credit. From what I understand, it can get easier if you’ve already written a movie people can, you know, see.
So, Tuesday. I’m driving home from another one of these meetings when I get the call from the mild-mannered vet. Taylor has diabetes. So now we have to be all, “Drink your juice, Shelby.”
We take him to the vet for all of the stuff that goes into having a druggie cat. We learn how to give shots. Twice a day, for the rest of his life, I’ve got to shoot up my cat. It was pretty daunting at first. Anybody who knows Taylor knows that he’s not the cat in our home you’d pick to jam something sharp into. But surprisingly he’s been a real trooper about it, and I never say the word “trooper.” I think he might know the medicine makes him feel better. I learned this is why his back legs have been a little weak, and lately he’s been jumping around on the counter when we’re not in the room again, so he must be starting to feel better. It’s surprisingly not that much of a chore to give him the shots, as we pretend we’re heroin junkies with syringes in our mouths. It’s very Sid and Nancy, except with… a cat. And a spreadsheet. Nutso died because he accidentally got his meds twice one morning. This is my biggest fear with Taylor’s new lifestyle. We have a spreadsheet and we’re being careful. It’s just another chore. No big deal. He’s going to be fine. I hope.
In another week we take him back to the vet to see how his sugar levels are doing, if we need to modify his meds. Until then, we’re just waiting.
Meanwhile, I’ve got my cell phone in my lap, waiting for it to ring. I’m not supposed to let you know that, probably. I’m supposed to be cooler than this. Act like you don’t need nor want the job. I mean, whatever. I’ve got lots to do, anyway. Tha’s cool, baby.
So this weekend I performed in a live Trapped in the Closet, because what else am I going to do while I wait other than memorize Gwendolyn’s lines from six of the twelve chapters?
One thing we’re not waiting on anymore is for Colby to come home from the hospital to his parents. It made for a stressful end of the year, waiting every day on news of this little boy who arrived quite a few weeks ahead of schedule. He’s home, happy, and growing bigger every day.
So many times the waiting ends with disappointment, a lack of a definitive answer, or — worse — more questions. Then there’s Colby, reminding you that at the end of waiting, some of the best stuff happens.