----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: August 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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


I am lucky. My friend who lives in New Orleans evacuated safely to Charleston. She's lucky, too--she had somewhere to go and a way to get there. But what about the hundreds of thousands of others who aren't so lucky? What about the people who have lost everything, who have no food and no clean water to drink?

This is devastation on a grand scale, and I hope the country will pull together for these victims as we did for the tsunami victims and the 9/11 survivors. I want to do something, but I almost don't know what to do. I guess a donation to the Red Cross would be a good place to start. I have a bunch of clothes that I was going to donate to the Goodwill, but they might do more good in Louisiana or Mississippi right now than they would here in my affluent suburb. But it might be hard to get clothes to the right people, so I think a monetary donation would be best.

How do you feel? What can we do to help?

Stop the Spammers!

I have been getting random spam comments on my blog, so I turned on the word verification tool. I am sorry to add an extra step to the process for those who want to comment, but I really don't want call center and MLS solicitations on my blog. Don't let word verification stop you from speaking out, dear blog readers!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Part of the Problem

I have a dirty little secret to confess. Last Monday, I took my beloved blue Prius into the shop to repair the damage done by the Silent Assassin, aka Oblivious Parking Lot Collider, aka Bad Driver. ("Oh, I didn't think I hit your car"...yeah, right. Luckily, her insurance has accepted liability.)

Anyway, after dropping my car off, I needed a mode of transportation because I was scheduled to do some on-site work for a client, so I arranged to rent a car from Hertz. I specifically requested a compact car. I am not very tall and I am somewhat spacially challenged, so I need a car that I can maneuver easily. So what did they give me? A Hyundai Santa Fe! It was almost enough to make me sign up for the damage liability waiver, but I reminded myself that those things are basically a scam, and I did not need to spend an extra $15 a day on the off chance that I would be involved in yet another accident.

I took the car, but I was so embarrassed to be driving around in an SUV, and not even a good SUV, at that. The stupid thing was a big, hard-to-steer, gas-guzzling hunk of metal. Unfortunately, I did not realize just how gas-guzzling it was until I had to fill up the car before turning it in. I only had it for four days...I wasn't going to pay Hertz an exorbitant sum in advance for a full tank of gas, just for the convenience of not having to fill it up myself. Of course, gas prices being what they are, I still had to pay an exorbitant sum. The car was full when I got it. I probably drove about 200 miles in the four days I had it. That burned half a tank of gas. And that car has a big tank. I had to put nearly 11 gallons in it, which cost me $31! Now, my Prius has a tank that only holds 11.9 gallons, and the little light comes on when there are about 10 gallons left. By that time, I've been able to drive nearly 450 miles. I figure the Santa Fe got about 18 miles to the gallon, whereas my Prius gets 45. Quite a difference!

I am sorry for burning so much gas in just four days. And I am very, very glad to have my Prius back. So much easier to drive! So much less pollution! So much less expensive! And best of all, my "clean air" stickers arrived from the DMV this weekend, so I am now authorized to drive solo in the carpool lane! I can't wait to test it out tomorrow. It will probably shave minutes off my commute. (I can't get my hopes up too much.)

I realize that there are some legitimate reasons for driving an SUV. My family even has one for towing our boat. But if you just think that SUVs are cool...well, I think you deserve the high gas prices you're paying. And yes, for those of you in the ridiculous H2s--that's me pointing and laughing as I go whizzing by (relatively speaking) in the carpool lane.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The First Crush

Over the weekend, Mr. Pink and I went exploring, and we came upon a quaint store filled with antiquities, called the Summer Cottage. It smelled musty, like decaying papers, rather like my grandmother's old back room. It was full of old lace, Bakelite buttons, blue willow china and vintage bed jackets. And then I came upon the Little Golden Books.

I loved Little Golden Books as a child. Right there, on the top of the pile, was one of my favorites. Peter Pan! Now, here is a little-known fact about me. My first crush was not on some boy in my kindergarten class or even a TV idol. No, my first crush was on a fictional character in literature...Peter Pan. Yes, I am a total geek.

When I was about 6 years old, my parents took us down to Los Angeles to visit relatives and to see a stage production of Peter Pan. I was entranced. That night, I laid awake on the Aquaman sheets on my cousin's bunk bed and waited and hoped that Peter Pan would appear at my window to take me away to Never-Never Land. He didn't, of course. And it wasn't until I was much older that I learned that Peter Pan was played by a girl.

Still, falling in love with Peter Pan was a seminal experience for me. I found myself falling for the same Peter Pan type over and over throughout the years...boys who refused to grow up, and who, in general, preferred to hang out with their Lost Boys rather than develop any sort of meaningful adult relationship. You can see how this would bring me a lot of heartache over the years. But eventually, I found a man with a sense of childhood fun that welcomed me into his Never Never-Land. And although sometimes I tire of reminding Mr. Pink over and over to do simple household chores or take on simple adult responsibilities, like paying the bills on time, I love him because like Peter, he brings delight with him. And he always makes me laugh.

I bought the Little Golden Book. I want to read it to my little girl someday. I may caution her against falling for characters in works of literature, however. But sometimes, wanting to be Wendy Darling, swept away to a magical place by a fun-loving imp--well, it isn't the worst thing in the world.

Miss Congeniality

The other night, I decided to relax after a stressful day by watching a completely mindless movie..."Miss Congeniality 2." The first one was somewhat humorous, so I thought I might get a few laughs out of the sequel. And I did. A very few laughs. In fact, one of the best lines came from William Shatner. While trying to convince his kidnappers not to kill him, he says, "Please! I am a Shakespearean actor! I played Iago in Twelfth Night." How I laughed. And then, immediately, I wondered how many other people would get that joke. You get it, of course, dear readers. You are an erudite and literate lot. But how many other people who watched the movie got it? Or is it terribly snobbish of me to even wonder?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More Shopping News

It's just a retail-themed evening! After I waxed on rhapsodically about Macy's, I visited MediaBistro and scrolled through some of the current events posts. There is this woman who posts on there from time to time, and apparently, she has a real axe to grind with Wal-Mart. She is not a very good writer, but she has posted some very interesting links about Wal-Mart's practices, so I thought I would post her blog link and let you all know that I think Wal-Mart is a retailer to be avoided at all costs. Granted, not everyone can afford to shop at my beloved Macy's, but Wal-Mart is good for no one.

Here's her blog. Ignore her sometimes-incomprehensible ramblings and instead click on some of the news links she's provided:


This article from Fast Company is also worth reading:

And here's a link about Wal-Mart's policy of locking in its workers overnight. (It's just an abstract...if you want the whole thing, you'll have to buy it from the New York Times archives.)

Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America also has a good chapter about the author's experience working at Wal-Mart. Check it out at www.nickelanddimed.net.

Anyway, I'm sure some of you are thinking that there's nothing wrong with Wal-Mart. After all, it has good prices. And hey, I love a good deal as much as the next person. But I have problems shopping at a store that discriminates against women, offers appallingly low wages and nearly non-existent benefits (full-time workers are eligible after six months, part-timers after two years, but employees are expected to shoulder so much of the burden that it is still unaffordable for most), exploits Third-World laborers, ships jobs overseas and is generally a blight in the community. That's just me, though. I'd rather pay more for my cleaning supplies and household goods than support such a ruthless entity. And although at times I regret choosing to live in a county where the median home price is $900,000 (home ownership is an elusive dream), at least I know there will never be a Wal-Mart here.

So there you go. That's my political activism for the day. Don't shop at Wal-Mart. Because as much as Wal-Mart tries to wrap itself up in a pretty patriotic flag, it's really bad for America and our economy. And if you do shop at Wal-Mart, I don't want to hear about it. Try shopping at Target instead.

Macy's For Life

Up until about a year and a half ago, I only shopped at Macy's occasionally. In fact, I didn't tend to shop at any big department stores, preferring instead stores like Express, The Limited and Rampage. Now, however, I shop almost exclusively at Macy's.

What happened? It all began when my then-fiance and I decided to register for our wedding at Macy's. We have dissimilar tastes, and yet we found china, crystal and bedding that we both liked. (Wedgwood Blue Fin Lustreware with dragonfly accent plates, Waterford Merrill crystal and Calvin Klein Bamboo Flower bedding, if you're curious. And the big thick fluffy Hotel towels.) But what really got me shopping there was the fact that Macy's was offering an incentive program where we would get 5 percent back from anything our guests bought from our registry and 10 percent back from anything that we purchased. The catch was just that we had to open a Macy's charge account. But I'm not one to pass up a deal, so I signed right up.

My mom saw an advantage. She decided to use my Macy's card instead of her own to buy all sorts of pricey items, like wedding presents, luggage and jewelry, so that I could benefit from the 10 percent back. And when it came time to "complete" our registry after the wedding, we had hundreds of dollars in store credit to use.

Now, Macy's continues to draw me in. It seems that every weekend, there's a sale, and if there's not a sale, I get some $25 loyalty certificate or an exclusive 10 percent off card in the mail. They know how to keep me coming back. And because my mom charged so much before our wedding, I am an elite Macy's customer, entitled to all sorts of "Star Rewards," like special sales and free shipping.

So why this paean to Macy's? Well, I recently shopped at another store (the Gap, if you must know), and I realized that it's not just the coupons and the deals that will keep me returning to Macy's. I also appreciate their consistency in sizing. I generally wear a size 4 petite or maybe a 2 petite if the item is not too fitted in the hips. (Thanks for those Greek genes--love my full hips. Ha!) But at the Gap, all sizing went out the window. I tried on two size 4 skirts that were huge, as was one pair of size 4 jeans. Even a size 2 skirt was a little roomy. But then another pair of size 4 jeans were too tight. I do not understand this at all. I would expect sizes to vary more widely at Macy's, because they carry all sorts of different lines of clothing. But all the clothes at the Gap are Gap brand, so shouldn't they have some consistency?

I also realized that I really like the traditional department store way of displaying clothes. Macy's doesn't have a big wall of folded jeans that you have to scale to find your size. And why does Gap insist on putting their smallest size jeans at the top of the wall? Don't they realize that usually, the women who wear the smaller sizes will tend to be shorter? Unless the store is catering to supermodels and freaks of nature, that is. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years. I can never reach my size, and of course all the little Gap-lings are too busy with their folding boards to help an actual customer, so I have to sort of climb up myself if I want to get a pair of jeans to try on. And then the neatly folded stacks have an unfortunate tendency to tumble down on my head, and I must leave the store in disgrace. Sure, I could ask someone for help, but usually, they're all congregated in the dressing room, handing out those plastic numbers to make sure you don't smuggle in more than six items, so it's faster to try and get the jeans myself.

Anyway, it's not that the customer service at Macy's is wonderful. They aren't as good as Nordstrom, of course. But what I like about Macy's is that they'll give you the hangers for all the stuff you buy. It's so much easier to put the clothes away when they're already on hangers. And I have too many clothes, so I never have extra hangers. Plus, department stores have good hangers, not the cheap wire kind you end up with from the dry cleaners.

I am sure that I will shop at other stores from time to time. But I'll still do the bulk of my shopping at Macy's. I even buy clothes for my husband there, and he is hard to shop for. So keep those coupons coming, Macy's. And I'm on to your little trick with the constant sales--if everything is on sale all the time, then it's not really a sale. But I convince myself I'm saving money anyway, and it makes me feel better. I also like it when the sales associate circles how much I've saved at the bottom of the receipt and draws a little smiley face. And the free hangers clinch it.

This weekend, I have a 15 percent off pass to use. Yeah, I'll be at Macy's.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Everything was going so well after my birthday. We had a wonderful relaxing weekend in Truckee...I even swam (briefly) in Lake Tahoe. We found a warm spot--the water was probably a whole 63 degrees!

Today, however, tragedy struck. I decided to enjoy the benefits of working from home by meeting Mr. Pink for lunch. Then I swung by Trader Joe's to pick up a few items. I was only in the store for maybe 15 minutes, but in that short time, I was a victim of a hit-and-run. My cute blue Prius sustained serious scrapes and denting to the driver's side door, and there were no witnesses to the crime.

I really thought things would be different with my Prius. My previous car, a 1997 Toyota Camry, had such an affinity for accidents that it seemed almost cursed. (Some of the accidents were my fault, though. The car was too big for me and I have some problems with depth perception, which led to a number of scrapes and scratches, particularly while trying to park.) Anyway, two days after I got the Camry, the car was struck by a speeding driver. A few years later, I was rear-ended. But what goes around comes around, because then I rear-ended someone. And of course, there was the cosmetic damage from the aforementioned parking problems. But with the Prius, everything was fine. I've had it for nearly three months now, and it remained unblemished, until today.

I couldn't believe that the driver who hit me hadn't left a note. I called Mr. Pink and I called the police and I called the insurance company, who told me I'd have to pay my $500 deductible to fix the damage. Then I decided to do some detective work. My car had green paint on it, so that narrowed it down right there. After one false start--a green Honda Accord whose owner swore she wasn't the culprit--I located the car. It was a green Taurus with a freshly scraped bumper and blue paint on it. As luck would have it, the driver, an older woman was just coming out of the store.

I said, "Excuse me, ma'am, someone hit my parked car, and I noticed that your bumper is scraped up and has some blue paint on it." She admitted fault immediately, so I was able to get her insurance information and call my insurance company back. "Oh," she said, "I did feel something, but I didn't notice any damage to my car, so I thought everything was fine." Obviously, she didn't look hard enough! Her not leaving a note really irked me, especially because there was a time long ago when I was first learning to parallel park, that I scraped another car. It was the middle of the night and no one was around, but I still left a note. It's the right thing to do!

At least I won't be out the $500 deductible. And now, even when I'm in a hurry, or when I'm just running into the store for a few minutes, I will always look for a protected end spot. I want to try and keep this car nice. It's much easier to park, so I hope I won't have any "operator error" scratches on it. And I will do my best to protect it from the other poor parkers out there. New car owners, what do you do? Are you fanatical about parking in the end spaces or far away from other cars, or do you have a more lackadasical attitude and figure that the door ding fairies will get you one way or the other?

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Yesterday was my husband's birthday, and today is my birthday. It's time to celebrate!

My husband, Mr. Pink, usually doesn't like his birthday. He doesn't like Christmas or Halloween or any other holidays that much, either. I think it's because his parents got divorced when he was young, and so until his mom got remarried, he never had happy fun family holidays. But I am doing my best to change that! I baked him cookies and delivered them to his office along with a balloon and a CD. I made sure to keep his present a surprise. I counseled his parents and my parents on what gifts he would like. I baked him cupcakes and decorated them with candles that spelled out "Happy Birthday." And I took him out to dinner at a fabulous restaurant where he could have ahi, his favorite.

There were a few hiccups, however. For instance, I special-ordered him a bike for his birthday (the Rat Rod, by Electra). I told the shop over and over when I needed it, and I impressed upon them that it was a super-secret birthday surprise. So what happened when I went to pick it up? It wasn't ready! They asked me to come back later, but I had already driven out of my way, so I insisted that they finish while I wait. Luckily, it didn't take too much longer. Then, we were supposed to have dinner at the very hip and hard-to-get-a-reservation-at A16 in San Francisco. It recently made San Francisco magazine's list of top 50 restaurants. We were on the road in plenty of time, but for some reason, traffic screeched to a halt, just like it was morning rush hour. We were going to miss our reservation, and we figured that they'd make us wait forever if we showed up late, so we cancelled our hard-won spot and ended up at E&O Trading Company, a Pan-Asian place in Larkspur. They were swamped, but we had a very nice meal. Then when we got home, my family came over and we all sang happy birthday and ate Funfetti cupcakes.

Today was my turn to celebrate. I slept in and then went down to have a spray-on tan, which I normally never do, but it turned out well. My brother, Esquire, called me all the way from his vacation in Greece to say happy birthday. And I got birthday cards, phone calls and emails from many other friends, too. Even my agent sent me a card! I had lunch with Mr. Pink and I got to have chocolate-covered cheesecake for dessert. Then I luxuriated by having a manicure and pedicure. And then Mr. Pink came home from work and gave me my present--a bike by Electra! Great minds think alike, I guess. And mine is so cool. It's the Tiki model, and it has pink flowers on it and a cool tiki seat. I love it. We just rode around the cul-de-sac like we were kids again. Although we are not. This is the last year of my 20s, and Mr. Pink has been in his 30s for a few years now. Ah, well.

Now, I must hurry and pack, for we are headed up to Truckee for the weekend. We're going to stop and have dinner at P.F. Chang's. Even though it's a chain, I love it. We ate there frequently when we lived in L.A., but the closest one to us now is in Sacramento. It's on the way to Truckee, though, so it works out well. And there is more celebrating to come--we'll be doing something with my family this weekend. Yay! I love birthdays!