Tuesday, August 31, 2010

She works hard for the money...


Since moving to New York I haven't done much of what could be constituted as a hard day's work.

I appreciate this is unlikely to endear me to anyone reading, so I'll come straight in with the defence that I only recently got my U.S. work permit. Well fairly recently. Two months ago to be exact. I had planned to hide it down the back of the sofa but The American got to it first.

"Honnnneee you can get a proper job now!" he trills, waving the card excitedly around like it's the Wonka Golden ticket .

"I have a job! I am a Journalist."

"Honnnneee. I know you are a journalist, but you kind of have to work as one, not just, like, be one."

"Fuck off and make your own pasta."

To further my defence it's not like I've sat on my arse watching Maury and General Hospital for the last year, instead life has been it's own real life soap opera to which I've become the reluctant producer. I've been pretty busy with a whole lot of something and a fair bit of nothing.

There have been paid jobs here and there, some radio, some writing, a few small TV jobs, but nothing that would pay the rent- and when you live in a bijoux box in the West Village, ain't nutin' going on the but the rent.

I had been trying to avoid going back into tele, for the reasons that I am rather fond of having a life and not so fond of cultivating new deep set frown lines.

But the TV demons want what the TV demons want, so when I get my called by a former colleague and offered a month's work as a New York 'fixer' for a high end Natural history programme I am back in the game again. I have to admit it feels good to be a whore for the money get hired again.


I take the job even though 'fixer' sounds like a someone who goes in and cleans up after a grisly murder in a Tarantino film. As it turns out, it means everything from location and casting manager to producer, NYC restaurant expert and coffee runner.

Before the crew arrive for 8 days of filming I spend the several weeks beforehand researching and finding people and places to film. Turns out I am pretty good at scouting locations, seems my year of doing a whole lot of something and nothing has given me a finely honed sense of this Island.


The crew arrive on a dull, humid Tuesday night. Within 20 minutes of meeting them at their hotel there's a TV crisis, some sandbags are missing for an essential piece of kit. For the majority of you fortunate enough to not work in the industry, let me explain a TV crisis; It is the very worse kind of crisis. It starts as quickly as it is over, but for it's lifetime it's all pervading, encompassing and really, reeeeeally serious. This particular one find us all in a sport's shop at 8p.m. buying 200 lb of weights and then working how we get them out of the shop and back to the crew's hotel.

That's just the entrée. Over the following 8 days there are many more real-life TV dramas and surreal moments.


There is extortion from the locals in Chinatown, there are rats and their catchers, there are angry honeybees on a show stopping rooftops in Queens. There are 6 a.m starts, midnight finishes, a soundman with suspected martini poisoning and a night out that ends with a cameraman riding a mechanical bull in a Lower East side bar.


There is a fight in another bar that has hundreds of women's bras hanging from the ceiling (not involving any of us crew I would like to point out), there is the panic stricken 5 minutes when we think we've locked some contributors on a 7th floor balcony and there is getting chased down by some graffiti artists in Long Island City.


Then there is the weather. After a glorious NYC summer, it is stubbornly grey when all we need to film is golden sunshine.

The American is patient while I work day and night, although really I suspect he just enjoys playing a lot of x box unhindered. While I am gone our apartment goes to shit: laundry sits in the basket, nothing gets picked up from where it was dropped and a cure for cancer grows in the sink. The American does not do any of these household chores because he has a penis and is busy killing Nazis.


I don't have time to write or see my friends or do anything else I love. I am out every night having dinner with the crew and this means booze becomes my major food group.

I also don't go to the gym which means I get grumpier by the day, although I do lug lots of camera equipment around up endless flights of stairs and carry a lot of waters and coffees. Me and the driver find ourselves doing a lot of drinks runs actually- on one of them we work out we have a combined age of 65 and three degrees and a postgrad between us-which we think might make us the most well educated pair of coffee runners in town. We laugh about a lot about that. No really, we're in total stitches.

On the last day, with the words "it's a wrap" ringing joyfully in my ear I wave goodbye to the director as she heads off for Newark.

I bounce down 27th street, feeling the satisfaction of a hard month's work. Just that old fashioned buzz of a job well done and bringing home the bacon. Feels good. I had forgotten how good. I want to go crazy, pay some bills! Do a food shop! Mail a rent cheque!

The euphoria lasts until the next morning when I get sick. A raging sore throat, a thumping headache I can't shift and a lethargy. Tele hangover. I swear I will not do another TV job again, even though I know I will, especially when I add up what I've earned. This causes my fingers to disconnect from my brain and make their own way to my laptop to buy some new stuff for the apartment and an ipod and that perfect pair of summer wedges without the ankle straps that make your legs look fat.

Then I take to my bed in dramatic Victorian fashion and dispatch The American to Duane Reade to buy me Theraflu and tissues that don't make your nose go red. I tell him I think that maybe TV work does not agree with me. He says I should rest and not worry about another job until I'm better.

I tell him I suspect it will be a long recovery.

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You can ring my Liberty Bell...


New York and I need a break.

My Welsh alien ship has been stranded for too long in Manhattan. The wheels are rusty. Just like any relationship, I know my love will be renewed after some time apart.

This is what finds me on the Bolt Bus bound for a postcard pretty suburb of Philadelphia. My plan is enforced solitude so I can work. I need to escape the city's whoreish pull on me, it's murky and delicious temptations that lurk on every corner. To achieve calm in the countryside. To see butterflies. To not have my groceries thrown at me. To remember what manners sound like.


I am going to house and pet sit in Bala Cynwydd, a former Welsh colony. I wasn't aware my forefathers were at it either. No longer can us Welsh claim a moral superiority over our English cousins and their voracious appetites for stealing lands that didn't belong to them. We likely did it with less panache though-brandishing daffodils and shouting "Alright' butt' I'll take this land now. Ta."

When I arrive I can see what the appeal was-the place even looks like Wales with lots of greenery and trees. I meet my charge-an 80 pound 14 month old golden retriever- who's described as '"Frisky". He's apparently partial to toilet roll and kitchens, having already eaten his way through an entire one. 80 pounds is a lot of a dog, almost as big as some humans. It's roughly the same size as Nicole Richie in her partying with Paris days.


From the start, Montana-who shall be known as Slobadan on account of his highly productive dribble producing jaws- follows me everywhere, only leaving my side occasionally to try and destroy something. When I shower he sits outside the cubicle, when I am on the loo he opens the bathroom door with his paws and sits next to me. When I eat, he thinks it's dinner for two. When I try and work he soaks the keyboard with drool. When I turn my back on him he tries to mount me.

By the end of the first day the items I have retrieved from his mouth include (but are not limited to); my pen, two notepads, several books, something unidentifiable from the bathroom, my vintage scarf, most of my lunch and two toilet rolls.


Everytime he does something bad he looks up at me panting, his pink tongue lolling like a giant slice of deli ham, his soft golden face framed by long sandy eyelashes. Yes, he has doggy eyelashes. I am putty in his paws.


That night I sit drinking wine on the porch, looking out at the trees and flowers and listening to the sweet sound of nothing but crickets and and birds saying 'coup coup' in the trees. Fireflies are darting in and out of the hedges. Slobadan wants to play ball. It is nearly 10 p.m.


On day two I discover that-as warned- nothing here is in walking distance aside from lots more trees. I will need to use the car. I have slight qualms about this due to the fact that I haven't driven in a year/have limited experience on the wrong right side of the road/have always thus far refused to operate an automatic. So, that's actually quite a few qualms, but I have never been one to let logic lead me off my destined path.

I set off to buy my groceries for the week, arriving in one piece at the retail park, happy there is little to distract me in sleepy Bala Cynwydd.

That's when I discover the local Lord and Taylor sitting right next to the supermarket. I have never even set foot in The New York branch, imagining it to be one of the less exciting, more old lady department stores. In this setting though, it gleams like Tutankhamun's tomb. It is consumer Atlantis.


Inside, my retail radar leads me to the clearance section. The rails aren't anywhere near as plundered like they would be in New York, even though a sign informs me there is another 40% off all the lowest marked prices. When I get to the till the assistant tells me there is further 20% discount. Game changing, some dribble escapes from the side of my mouth. I go skittering back off into the rails and find a classic navy Ralph Lauren cardigan for $20 and a floral BCBG Max Azria dress for $50. I feel a little faint with excitement, but I put them both down and force myself to leave, exercising my If-you-are-still-thinking-about-them-tomorrow-you-should-buy-them-policy.

The next day I pull back the curtains to hear birds tweeting and see a butterfly float past the window... I can think about nothing but the Lord and Taylor clearance racks. I take the dog for a long walk to distract myself, through the 19th century graveyard nearby, where I see the grandoise resting places of the area's former brewery owners.


My crypt's-bigger-than-your-crypt was apparently a popular game in Philadelphia at the turn of the century-some of them are more spacious than my Manhattan apartment.


I breathe in the air, it's clean and there is absolute quiet and austerity...Then a little voice says "I wonder if that BCBG dress is still there?"

It's no good, I have to go back. Montana asks if he can come, but I tell him bargain hunting is a dog-eat-dog game and he may not be safe in the crush. Of course, he knows there will be no crush and cocks his head to the side and demands an extra cheese string as guilt payment.

I return and regretably discover a whole other floor with lingerie and sports wear on and some more clearance racks, including the shoes. I leave with a bag almost as heavy as the feeling of disappointment in myself for being so easily distracted.

The next few days drift by- I write while sitting on the porch in the sunshine, read a book called The Sex Lives of Cannibals, watch movies, work, sunbathe, work some more. I take lengthy morning dog walks in the abundance of local cemeteries and take pictures of the Welshies' headstones.


I wrestle my bra, more toilet rolls, People magazine and a punnet of Blueberries from the Jaws of Slobby. I get covered in giant mosquito bites, I try to figure out how to get a train into town, but they only seem to run every 5 hours. I clean dog slobber off everything I own. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the Lord and Taylor clearance rack.


On the last day, after a week of perfect weather, I am trying to even up my tan in the garden when the skies darken and I hear a rumble in the near distance. Within minutes it's like a monsoon hit. I run inside with Montana, who growls every time the thunder does. We sit inside and I tell him not to be scared, that it'll pass. He just pants at me, which seems to be his standard response to everything.

I go out on to the porch for a few minutes to drink in the drama. Rain batters the trees and the brook outside races furiously. The prettiness is destroyed, everything is imperfect, mud sloshes on the lawn. Nature is a bit pissed off. It's a truly entertaining, real kind of beauty.

And just like that, I am ready to go back to New York.

More blogs at http://www.welshalien.blogspot.com/

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Look who's celebrity stalking...


As if I needed further evidence never to leave the house without a camera in New York, I recently bumped into Helena Christensen in Rite Aid.

This is no euphemism, we actually ran into each other at the end of an aisle. She smiled-as technically it was her fault-she was coming around the corner and not paying attention. When we clashed there was skin touching, the brushing of arms as I recall. Which means I have-by association- touched skin with Linda, Christy and Claudia et al. It also means I am just one degree of separation from rolling around on a beach with Chris Isaak:

This sighting of a legendary supermodel-turned photographer and humanitarian- is surprising for several reasons:

1) Rite Aid is the most ghetto pharmacy ever. Even though I spotted her in the West Village branch, it doesn't stop them selling two packs of cakes for 99c and having the deodorants under alarmed casing. There is only ever one person serving and there's always a line. Which leads me to point number 2.

2) Helena was actually queuing. After our clash of skin, I spazzed out a bit and ran round and around the shop, shameful of the 99c 'Freeze at home!' ice lollies I was carrying around, that Helena may or may not have seen. Then I went to the till to find myself behind her in line. This gave me adequate time to memorise her outfit; (black boho cotton dress with white tree pattern, black flip flops and a neutral straw bag), the tattoo on the back of her neck (black, small, some kind of symbol) and her hair (twisty up, messy chic up-do) as well as wondering how many pounds I would have to shed to look even vaguely Helena like (rather a lot).

3) She was buying Vitamins. I would imagine a former supermodel turned photographer and humanitarian would have a specific 'Vitamin doc' for such purposes. Actually, they could have been painkillers, I can't be sure, but either way you would imagine a specialist for any matters pertaining to a supermodel body? Her purchase total came to $14.85. A mere $14.85 people, how attainable is that? You or I could have the same total if we were to go into a Rite Aid and buy the same things.

4) I had already seen Helena just days previously at the Bonsignour cafe in the West Village. I was outside on a bench watching the football on their specially erected T.V. and I nearly choked on my lemonade. She was with her son Mingus, who is like the successful result of an Arian superace experiment. Helena eats at the same place as me. Unfortunately our weight is not in the same place, not even the same zip code. Maybe she just drinks the coffee and doesn't hoof the cakes?

Two sightings of the same supermodel in close proximity can only mean thus: she lives in my hood. This is enough to send my fickle sensibilities crashing into reasoning overdrive that we should no longer move to Brooklyn for more space and sanity, but stay in our overpriced bijoux box in the West Village. How can I now move from my Manhattan knowing that a supermodel and childhood idol lives a mere amble away?

Oh Helena, what a wicked game you play, to make me feel this way.

More blogs at http://www.welshalien.blogspot.com/

Even more ramblings at http://twitter.com/WelshAlienNYC