Thursday, June 5, 2008

That's mighty neighborly of You...

(sorry this is so long...go get a snack and a flair gun and send one up if you get lost)

Well its official. I live in a complex full of Asshats. I have officially pissed off two neighbors by merely smiling and asking politely for a few common courtesy things, and one for smiling and apologizing profusely for something that really wasn't even an offense worthy an apology.

First, there was the lovely young lady who was walking her adorable schnauzer in the grass directly beside my front door. A beautiful black girl in her mid twenties, dressed for a trip to the gym perhaps but looking cute and sweet and chatting on her cell phone. In hindsight, I should have paid attention to the fact that she was wearing more make up than Mimi on the Drew Carey Show (and the same color eye shadow at that) and that the tone she was using in her conversation was a bit on the snide end of the spectrum. Now, from day one the grass in this area has been completely covered in shit. People all over the complex do not pick up after their animals, and this stretch of lawn right by my front door and along the fence by my patio is the worst. The hot sun bakes it into a lovely festering pile of stink about mid afternoon, and it makes sitting on the patio unbearable and the simple act of walking from my car to my front door a nostril burning experience in noxious fumes.

So I smile at her and say "excuse me" and she puts her caller on hold and gives me a "wtf do you want" look. I should have just smiled and said "I love your dog, can I pet her?" but no, I ignored the warning signs flashing beneath that bright blue hooker paint and plodded right along.

Me: (smiling sweetly, and looking appropriately embarrassed and trying to appear as though I felt bad for even asking:)
"I would really appreciate it if you would please pick up after your dog when she goes over here. I have to walk my 2 year old past all these piles of dog poop and it's kinda gross."
Her: (one painted eyebrow cocked a la Scarlett O'Whore-a) "She never goes over here, she always goes back over there" (points vaguely West)

Me: (sensing an epic conflict on the sunset-colored horizons of this plantation, I decide to concede)"OH! Ok, well, thanks. I'm just asking all dog walkers I see over here to pick up after their pets, so, that's cool if she never goes here, then no worries. Thanks again!" (I smile)

She gives me one of those fake grimace-like smiles that means "great, now get the bleep out of my face you bleepity bleep bleep bleeeeeeeeeeeep" and I walk on, sure I have only narrowly missed a Springer-esque moment.

First encounter with neighbors: me: zilch, bitchy stripper chick: one.

But never fear! The next opportunity I had to meet my fellow tenants was not far away! We have assigned parking here, sort of. Each apartment is assigned one covered parking spot. Our assigned spot has been occupied by a vehicle that has NEVER moved since the day we got here, and we don't really care that much because it is next to a wall which makes it literally impossible to exit our car when parked there. I would have to climb out through the passenger side to get out, assuming no car is parked in the adjacent spot, in which case I would be trapped until I lost enough weight to slide through a 4 inch opening. So we watched to see which spots are typically vacant and parked there. We got a few notes under our wipers stating that this or that spot were assigned and we have not parked in any of those since. But we found one that was apparently available and used it for several days in a row.

These spots are pretty narrow, and I am admittedly TERRIBLE at parking my car since it is one of those luxury sedans with an oddly short front end that slopes steeply down, so it is deceptive when it comes to judging how close one is to an object. But I take my time and do my best. One night I came home pretty late, and I was very tired and I parked a little crooked. Mind you I was INSIDE the lines by a good three or four inches, but yes, it was crooked, technically.

So I come out to my car the next day and find a balding middle aged fat man contemplating my car, mouth agape in codfish-style. I think to myself: "Uh oh! I'm in his spot! I will apologize and never park there again!"

Me: (smiling) I'm so sorry am I in your spot? I will move.
Him: (thick accent, maybe Armenian? Sounds a lot like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld) This is you?
Me: Yes, I'm so sorry we don't exactly have...
Him: (interrupting) Look how you park.
Me: Oh! wow! I am crooked! I'm sorry (still smiling apologetically) I have trouble parking...
Him: (interrupting again) Which apartment you live?
Me: Um. wow. I don't really feel comfortable telling you..
Him: Because you no live here!
Me: I beg your pardon? I most certainly...
Him: NO! (yelling) You no have sticker! I call management and they tow you car!
Me: Well we just moved in and I haven't gotten around to...

Sadly, this continued to escalate with him yelling ever more ferociously and me too flabbergasted to respond appropriately for at least 3 solid minutes while I try to smile sweetly and pacify and explain. I finally realized he was just an abusive asshole and I was letting him ream me for no good reason and I let my inner Better-Than-You Bitch come out to play. She so rarely gets a good airing.

The conversation deteriorated pretty quickly from that point as you can imagine, and apparently he wants to have intimate relations with my mother. I couldn't resist telling him I was surprised he had had the pleasure of meeting my mother, and despite her being a lovely woman I didn't think she would be interested in HIM...I seem to recall perhaps a below the belt attack on my part in reference to his foreign status here as well, and maybe a comment on the state of his waist size...I dunno, I get a little crazy when people talk about having sex with my Momma and ask where I live in a menacing way.

Me: still nada, Friendly Neighbors: 2

Now, after that kind of welcoming committee duo, I suppose I should have seen the next few things coming. The car was broken into and the company laptop stolen. (Thanks a million 24 hour Front Gate Security Desk!) Then the same bright security officers managed to return a UPS package the day AFTER it was delivered, claiming it had been there more than 10 days. Normally not a big deal, except I had paid good money to overnight my head shot prints for a big audition that weekend and had no other options at that point.

At this point, I believe the score is Me: aught, Them: 4

Which brings me to today's visit to the pool. The Fairy Princess and I have been almost daily visitors to the pool since it got warm enough to shiver in. There is a posted sign at the big pool by the office that prohibits kids under 13 from being there without an adult. At the little pool by our unit, the sign only says "should not" but the message is clear, and to me, it is common sense. Kids should be supervised at a public pool. And more importantly, I don't want to be responsible for watching your child when I do not know you. If something happens to your kid, and I am the only adult around, that makes me liable for his safety. Excuuuuuuse me for not wanting to deal with THAT can of worms.

So a cute little kid comes into the pool area and I ask him how old he is. He is ten. I tell him I'm sorry but you need to have a parent or someone with you to be here. That's the rule. He leaves and 2 minutes later here comes Asshat Daddy.

Him: Is there a problem with my kid swimming at the pool?
Me: (smiling apologetically) No, not at all! I just told him he needs a parent here since he is under 13.
Him: blah blah blah
Me: Well, I'm really sorry but if he is here alone that makes ME the liable adult responsible for him and I'm not comfortable with that. It is illegal for a kid his age to be unsupervised at the pool.
Him: Who ARE you?
Me: (still optimistic, because I am an idiot) I'm Cortney. Nice to meet you.
Him: And how long have you lived here? Do you even live here?
Me: (at least he didn't ask me WHERE I live) We've been here about a month.
Him: Well we have lived here for 2 years and...blah blah blah (apparently he has been letting his kid swim alone since he was 8. And the father of the year award goes to...)

He mentioned something about his office window is right there, blahbity blah...and I just smiled and repeated that it is against the rules for his kid to be there without him, that I don't want to be the adult responsible for HIS kid if anything happens, and that I really am very s...

Him: (waving me silent) How long are you gonna be at the pool?
Me: (acquiescing) Not long. 30 minutes, maybe.
Him: Good.

He leaves, comes back in his undershirt with his kid and his smokes and tells me as he walks past "You sure are gonna have a lot of friends here."

Again, I am speechless by how rude and just plain mean people can be to perfect strangers. I mean, for all he knows, my young son was killed in a tragic swimming accident or something. Or MAYBE I'm just covering my ass and FOLLOWING THE DAMN RULES!?

This really got to me. I know I should just shake this kind of thing off, but the truth is I had envisioned making new friends and meeting new people at this new location. I hoped to have people that would stop by for a beer or offer to watch Gwen for an hour while I ran to the gym. Or even better, maybe a girlfriend who would like to go to the gym with me! I hear that some people actually make friends in new places. I, apparently inspire rancor and deserve to literally be shat upon.

At one point he says: "I have to run in to use the restroom don't call the cops on me."

So I stay just long enough to not create a scene with my toddler who is used to swimming at least an hour, then right before we leave I approach him and deliver the following acceptance speech that I didn't even have prepared:

"You are right. People have been so very warm and welcoming here. There was the lovely young lady who resented being asked to pick up after her dog when it shits beside my front door. Then there was the kind old man that cussed me out for parking crookedly, despite my repeated efforts to apologize. Our car has been broken into. An important overnight delivery was carelessly handled by the gate guards. And now you are rude and inconsiderate by disregarding the rules that are put there for YOUR child's safety and MY legal protection. I sure am glad I moved here!"

He then explained that he could see the pool from his office window and that he knew the people that lived near the pool and everyone lends a hand to watch out for the kids...yada yada yada...he was a former military rescue swimmer...blah blah blah...he studied law, so when people start throwing around the word "illegal" wank wank wank...and he apologized, eventually, after about 18 excuses as to why he was an asshole to me, none of which were along the lines of "wow, I really overreacted like an asshole."

I told him that if he could in fact see the pool from his window that I was fine with that, and it seemed reasonable, and I didn't feel like it was an imposition upon me in that case. I assured him I didn't mean to be a bitch, that I was just trying to follow the rules at a new place while I felt it all out. I said that all he really needed to have done, was to assure me his kid was an excellent swimmer, tell me he could see him from the window and that he didn't expect me to watch him. Maybe even smile and introduce himself and his son to me so that it didn't feel like some dead beat dad was sending his unwanted child to the pool to get him out of his hair. I told him that I was a former lifeguard and that in actuality he could trust that his kid was exceedingly safe with me around and I would be happy to be an adult presence if the circumstances were friendly.

I left the pool with his apology not only for himself but for all the other Asshats I had encountered, and I sort of felt better. Sort of. I guess I'm now 1 for 4. But am I completely MENTAL or living in some kind of alternate universe from the rest of the world? Do people just automatically respond to polite requests with rudeness and profanity if it is a request that happens to inconvenience them in their self absorbed little lives? Should I just put blinders on and ignore the dog shit I wipe from my two-year-old's white Dora the Explorer sandals? Should I stand quietly and let an angry old man accost me with foul language just to avoid pissing him off any further? Should I assume responsibility and basically provide free baby sitting to any child sent to the pool alone?

Whenever any altercation occurs in my life, i always try to learn from it by reviewing the conversation in my head and mentally editing my responses to alter the outcome. I almost always fall short in one way or another with a poorly chosen word or a meaner-than necessary tone. And these instances were no exception. I could have changed a few things I said in order to feel better about my role in the conflict. However, I can honestly say that the only way to have changed the outcomes of each of these instances for the better, would have been to not say anything at all. I should have ignored the dog owner and silently hoped she felt a sense of civil duty to clean up after her dog now that someone lives here. I should have repeated my apology to the fat man, gotten in my car and driven away. And apparently I should have just kept my mouth shut and watched the 10 year old while I was at the pool. That's what most people would have done. Why can't I just be like everyone else, and avoid the unpleasant issues of living in a community of other people by complaining about them to the management who will do exactly NOTHING and go on living my merry little conflict free life?

I need a drink.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

real as life...head shots and retouching

Once again, I find myself in true awe of the lengths to which we all will go in order to appear beautiful. That said, I know I'm a pretty girl, basically. I have been blessed with many attributes of which I am proud and more importantly, many people in my life and family that have told me on a daily basis how beautiful I am. These same people would have thought me lovely and told me so even if I had looked like a female version of Quasimodo with eczema, but that is precisely WHY they are wonderful people. They loved me for my inner beauty first.

Now, all the heartwarming PC bull crap out of the way, I can get down to the shallow skin-deep issues that really matter.

As an artist/singer/actor type, you need a little something called a head shot. A photo of only your face/head (and perhaps shoulders) that accurately represents your current (operative word here) visage. It is traditionally in black and white, which I believe has more to do with old printing constraints than the whole "I am a blank canvas, paint me as you want me" BS they tell you in college audition classes, but whatever. Everyone looks better in black and white, and I am fine with that.

Now, anyone with half a brain can see while flipping through a playbill that many artists choose to keep their glamourfied-retouched-soft-focus-shots of 15 years ago as their professional image. I can't blame them for wishful thinking, but personally I find this repugnant. Your face and body is a big part of your product as a performer and the consumer (i.e. casting agents and directors) has a right to an accurate representation of what you ACTUALLY look like.

For example, THIS was my headshot from 2002-ish, taken by a friend (thanks ROB!) at a living room shoot.

This was taken with some homemade lighting and backdrops and a 35mm camera. I scanned the original 4x6 and used it to order 8x10s from Walgreens. It worked.

Now fast forward to 2007 and I felt it no longer looked the way I look, so I took my little point and shoot hand me down digital out on my porch and took a few hold-out-the-arm-and-click shots and THIS is what I came up with:

Despite the fact that my glasses are a teensy bit crooked (which drives me INSANE and I really don't want to talk about it), I felt that this was good enough to use after a little creative photoshopping on my part.

Now, before I show you what all I did, lets take a look at what photoshopping can REALLY do. Go to this retoucher's website and check out the before and afters. I will wait...


OK. if you are like me, and fascinated by this stuff, then you may have noticed little infuriating things like the erasure of ab muscles (yes, MUSCLES) on women, to give them a flatter stomach, or the smoothing of veins in feet to give a more plastic look, or the highly common plumping and rounding of breasts in EVERY shot, including changing the neckline of a blouse to accommodate said faux boob job. This guy makes me out to be the amateur that I truly am, but hey, I just wanted to soften things a bit, not suggest that I am, in fact, Theater Barbie.

So, the first thing I did, was play with making a crazy colorwarp pic for my myspace page. This is completely irrelevant to this blog, but cool, so here it is:

Now, if I had liked the way this was going, I would have fixed the whites of my eyes so they didn't look purple and a few other things, but it started to bore me, so I moved on.

I went ahead and changed it to a black and white photo. Piece o' cake.

I also added the name, number and email down there. An essential part of any audition-related head shot. Now, in this smaller version on the web, you can't actually see the issues I had with this photo as well as you can when the entire GIMONGOUS file with a really high resolution is printed out in 8x10 format. Similar to one of those evil lighted magnifying mirrors old women use to spackle their faces, it reveals things that aren't even visible in real life. Typically, I destroy this sort of evidence that proves I am indeed human and flawed, but in the interest of protesting the unrealistic expectations our image industry has forced on us all, I will now swallow my pride and show you in ACTUAL VIEW what one small part of this photo looks like in 8x10 size.

Drumroll, please............

Ok, so maybe you STILL can't see the crap that irritates me, but I see every pore the size of a Crater Lake, and tiny blonde usually invisible hairs looking like a hormone problem. It was pretty obvious in the first prints I made. So, a few filters and a smudge tool or two later, I got this:

Again, I find in checking out the preview that you can't really tell what it is that was done, but my point is: GOOD! There should be an element of realism in head shots. I could have done soooooo much more to this photo to make it "better" but I figured I would probably look like this when I handed the audition panel the actual photo, and I for one did not want to endure the sniggers that would inevitably come with any plasticky over-retouched job I handed them. I mean, my lips are NOT glistening in the sun, My hair is a mess and probably will be in the audition. My glasses are crooked and to be honest, they are always crooked thanks to my habit of falling asleep in them.

In reviewing this post I find it is longer and more boring than I had expected, so I will just stop. My point is made with the link above. Perhaps I should have just posted that link and said WTF? I'm pretty sure that no matter what I say, no one will believe this is a real picture of me...right?