----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: April 2005

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Bizarro Craigslist

I think Craigslist is a genius idea. Almost anything you want — a new job, a used car, furniture, a sexual liaison, an apartment for rent, a forum for ranting — can be found in one of its categories. I sold a couch on Craigslist, and I found my current job that way, too. I now peruse the “gigs” listings in a search for freelance writing assignments and/or acting auditions. Most of the listings are bogus, of course — they want you to write for free or take your clothes off (EZ work for good pay) — but I did find one reliable freelance client. And sometimes, Craiglist’s value lies solely in the entertainment that can be had from reading the postings made by the clearly delusional. Yeah, okay, you wannabe actor. I am sure that a legitimate agent is going to read your posting about your desperate need for representation and bring you in without ever having seen your headshot or resume. They’re not already deluged with submissions — they have plenty of time to browse the Internet and read crackpot postings by people who can’t even spell.

Yesterday, however, I found a posting that made me wonder if darker forces were at work on Craigslist. I will reproduce the posting for you in its entirety, complete with odd capitalization:

Highly Motivated Creative “Tomboy” wanted ASAP

Youngish female student type wanting to work and learn trades, art, living and survival skills…must be drug free and nonsmoking. Ability to get up early and stay up late. Work and learn in a highly Artistic environment. Learn many skills and real world survival. Work Exchange for room and board with additional pay at $10 per hour…part time basis. Must like animals, can be loner type, be able to handle physical activity and challenges, not afraid to get hands dirty. Can start immediately.

All right, perhaps this posting is perfectly innocent. Perhaps the poster is just seeking assistance on his farm. But let’s speculate a bit. What are these “survival skills” that are being offered? Sure, maybe it’s just something like how to create an earthquake-preparedness kit, but I think it sounds more ominous than that. It could be something like how to create your own terrorist cell and live off the land while on the run from the Feds. I mean, come on. “Can be loner type”? “Not afraid to get hands dirty”? I think this guy is looking for a young, naïve female runaway with no friends that he can recruit into his crazy anti-government cult. Why else would he want someone to live there? And why is it that he specifically wants a female who is “able to handle physical activity and challenges”? So she can breed strong children for his militia, that’s why! The get up early and stay up late thing is suspicious, too. Everyone knows that sleep deprivation is a widely-used tactic for breaking down one’s defenses. Highly artistic environment? Well, sure, I guess blood spatter patterns could be artistic.

Call me crazy if you want, but I think I’m on to something here. I’m open-minded, though. If anyone would like to provide a reasonable alternate explanation for this truly bizarre help wanted ad, I want to hear it. Otherwise, I might be forced to alert the authorities.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


Today I had to call around and try to collect information on various construction projects. At one organization, I asked for the facilities department and after some confusion on the part of the receptionist, I was transferred.

The man who answered said “Plant Maintenance.” I said, “Hi, I’m calling to get some information about your upcoming expansion project,” and he said, “Aww, girl, I don’t know nothing 'bout that, and the boss-man isn’t here.”

I swear to God, that is a verbatim reproduction of what he said. It's not quite as good without the dialect, but you'll just have to imagine. It’s such fun to call other parts of the country. It kind of made my day. Thank you, Ohio!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

April in Carneros

The problem with going wine tasting is that there are no free tastes anymore. It seems that every winery charges at least $5, or even $10 for a "reserve tasting." And I heard that Rutherford Hill was charging $20 for just one taste of its new ultra-premim red blend. That's why April in Carneros is such a fabulous event. Here's how it works: For $25, you buy a glass at any participating winery. Then, you use that glass as your ticket for tastings and other goodies at any of the 18 wineries that took part in the festivities this year.

The catch? It's good for one weekend only. So, participants must scurry from winery to winery, imbibing all the wine they can between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It makes the roads a bit treacherous...we saw one really bad accident, and one really big jackass. The accident required paramedics. The jackass was just a jackass. He came whipping around us into a lane of oncoming on a narrow, curvy road, only to slam on his brakes because we had a car in front of us! He then turned in at the same winery we were to visit, and when one my companions suggested he be careful out there, the buffoon loudly proclaimed that only people who were drinking had to be careful. Everyone else, he said, should drive more than 35. He then proceeded to drink. And later, he got behind the wheel. Apparently, he was magical enough not to be subject to the perils of drunk driving. We, on the other hand, did the prudent thing and hired my 19-year-old brother to chauffer us through the Carneros region.

But enough unpleasantness. Some really good wines can be sampled during April in Carneros. We had a lovely Chenin Blanc at Roche. Cline was an absolute madhouse, probably because in addition to their tasting, they offered free sausage sandwiches, which were very tasty, and a lively outdoor band. We tasted a very good chardonnay there, but their Red Truck table wine was nothing special. Still, it was a beautiful day and they have beautiful grounds.

The Larson Family Winery offered drinkable wines, a llama, a bocci ball court, a play area for children, a friendly dog and plates of barbecued oysters for $5. It was all charming, but I don't like oysters. But there was more free food to be had at Homewood Winery (a variety of salads) and they had a good Mt. Veeder zinfandel, plus a ruby port that could be sampled with slivers of dark chocolate. Nothing compares to the chocolate-covered blueberries at Rutherford Hill, though.

Schug was all right, but they had a much better atmosphere last year, when guests could walk through their caves out onto a back lawn, where the tasting and an art show took place. It was a much more low-key affair this year. We didn't go to Viansa--too touristy. We did venture off the beaten path to Adastra, though. I wanted to go just because I liked the name, which I thought was taken from my favorite Latin motto, Ad astra per aspera, or "to the stars through difficulty." The wine was good enough, but the tasting was somewhat disorganized. It took place in a very funky, falling-down old barn, much like the old bard we have on our property. Ours is full of bats, though. Theirs might be, too, I suppose. Don't bats only come out at night?

We ended our tour at Artesa, which offers delicious wine and clean, modern grounds and artwork that my husband loved. They wer a little bit of killjoys, though. At precisely four o'clock, the bottles came off the tables and there were no more tastes to be had. So, we wended our way out of the Carneros regioun and up the Silverado Trail to Steltzner, where my brother was working. He didn't give us tastes, but he did give us a bottle of Duckhorn, which we are saving for a special occasion. Then he made my dad take us all out to dinner. All in all, a most satisfying day, even if we did only manage to make it to seven wineries.

A side note: Is it odd that I find my parents to be such good company? They really are quite amusing these days. Last weekend, for example, we had a family dinner that turned into a rather raucous affair. At one point, my brother accused my mom of thinking his ex-girlfriend was a whore, and she responded by saying, "Oh, honey, I know they're called 'hos.'" We laughed and laughed. I just hope that they don't become totally batty when they reach old age.

So Undisciplined!

Dear readers, I cannot believe how long it's been since I last posted. I have not had the discipline to continue my more frequent postings of previous months. But it's not for lack of adventures. It's more because said adventures have tired me out to the point that I just want to come home and fling myself onto the couch at the end of a long workday. That, and I'm beginning to develop a touch of carpal tunnel syndrome--how unglamorous!

The good news is that I have had two auditions in the past two weeks. Well, both have been more like go-sees, really, but at least I am getting out there. One was for a print advertisement for Proctor & Gamble, which I did not book, and the other was for a regional commericial for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which I am still waiting to hear about. But as my mom keeps telling me, it's all a numbers game, and I shouldn't really expect to book anything until I've gone on a hundred auditions. She's so sweet.

In other news, there has been drama and upheaval at work! When I was hired, one of the big selling points was, oh, what a stable company it was and how in five years, only one person had left. Well, within the past two weeks, one person has been fired and another has quit. There's dissension in the ranks. Unfortunately, the person who quit was one of my allies. One of the longtime employees who remains is an enemy. But I sense that said person may not get away with his shenanigans for much longer.

Now, read on for a review of a faaaahbulous event in the wine country. Plan ahead for next year!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Mystery Solved

I found out who in my neighborhood drives the gold car with the snakeskin steering wheel cover! I thought it was so odd, that someone in my quiet town would drive such a 1970s-esque rockin' car. I saw it as a sign of subtle rebellion.

Now the mystery is solved! The car belongs to the mailman who lives across the street. Is it the one vibrant outlet in his sad, sad life? Or is carrying the mail just something he does to pass the time since he retired from his glory days as a drummer in a hair band? Perhaps I'll never know. But I'm proud to have a neighbor who, in the words of my boss during my few ill-fated days of work at an entertainment PR agency in Los Angeles, "knows how to rock that fresh look hard."

How to Merge

Apparently, some drivers out there are unclear on the concept of merging (that is, incorporating one's car and one's self into an existing stream of traffic)on. Thus, I offer this tutorial.

  1. When merging onto the freeway, you must accelerate to the prevailing speed. I don't care if you are only going one exit up--if everyone else is going 70, you shouldn't be going 35. Conversely, if traffic is inching along like a snail, don't barrel down the onramp and expect to cut in on traffic at the last possible second.
  2. On surface streets, merges are generally signaled by big yellow signs reading, "Lane Ends, Merge Right" and "Do Not Pass." These signs are not a joke. Their simple declarative sentences indicate that the instructions are an order.
  3. Merging does not mean driving alongside another car. Merging means that you either accelerate in front of the car or you brake and get behind it. If there is no room in front of said car, then put on your brakes and drop back. Remember that "Do Not Pass" sign?
  4. When your lane ends, the onus is on you to merge. You must yield to the cars in the lane that does not end.

Why am I offering up this helpful guide on how to merge? Well may you ask. Yesterday, on my way home from work, I was nearly run over by someone who clearly did not know how to merge correctly. Since I drive this particular road every day, I am well-acquainted with its quirks. It is a two-lane road, but before one stoplight, there are signs warning people that the lane ends and they must merge left. The lane does not actually end until after the stoplight, though, so one would think that drivers in the right-hand lane would have plenty of warning to begin merging. One would be wrong.

Yesterday, traffic was fairly heavy. I was driving along in the left-hand lane, keeping a safe distance from the car in front of me, but there was by no means room for another car to cut in. On my right was a white van. The white van drove next to and slightly behind me, even after the signs warned "Lane Ends, Merge Left" and "Do Not Pass." Perhaps this person could not read. He certainly did not obey. He continued driving next to and slightly behind me until his lane ended. Then, even though he had nowhere to go, he neither slowed down nor sped up. He just stayed there, driving in the bike lane. I thought that if I slowed down, he would sideswipe me, so I just kept driving. The only thing that saved us from a fiery collision was the appearance of the left-turn lane that would take me onto my street. I got into the left turn lane, he finally got over into a driving lane, and then he honked vociferously and yelled out his window at me.

People. Merging takes effort. It does not just magically happen. And if there is a car right next to you, you must take action to incorporate yourself into the flow of traffic. You, as the merger, do not have the right-of-way! And white van man, I'll be watching out for you. My husband says you did the same thing to him. So it's on. Oh, it's on.