Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Cantaloupe, The Heat, And My Mom

My mom and I sometimes had a cantankerous relationship. Because she was a cantankerous lady. And I am a cantankerous lady. She was also a bad-ass broad, and she tried to teach my sisters and I to be bad-ass broads, too. I am hoping that she succeeded, at least a little bit.

I thought of my mom this morning, because when I woke up, I could tell the day was going to be very hot (108 degrees, baby); and when I came down the stairs, I could smell the ripe cantaloupe on my kitchen counter. My mom's kitchen always smelled like ripe cantaloupe on hot summer days, because cantaloupe was one of her favorite fruits to buy in the summertime.

And I loved summertime at my mom and dad's house. There was no school and -- being that my mom was not "into" signing my sisters and I up for activities (the exception to this rule being swimming lessons, because my mom was a bad-ass life guard in her youth) -- summer was always very relaxing. My sisters and I would eat cantaloupe and watch the soaps with my Nana (who lived across the street) and read books and walk our dog and clean the house once a week. My mom was a stickler about having us clean the house once a week, which was quite fair and all, as we really didn't have to do much else, as far as chores went. We did clear the table, but we weren't allowed to load the dishwasher, because -- according to my mom -- we would inevitably do it wrong. We also washed the dog and cat bowls after they ate. And we would put our laundry away after my mom folded it and laid it out on the kitchen table for us. We weren't allowed to do our laundry, either, because my mom said that we would inevitably overflow the drain field (there were no sewers where we lived), and she was probably right about that. We were also expected to keep our stuff cleaned up, as my mom was very tidy. All in all, a pretty light amount of chores, I'd say. So, summer was very relaxing.

And that was so AWESOME, because I am a rather high-strung person in my nervous system, and I HATED school. I just HATED it. I went to Catholic school, where none of the teachers knew how to teach math, because they were all humanities majors. So, I sucked at math. Both because the teachers had no clue as to how to teach it and also because I had no natural talent in that area. I finally started to understand math when I was about 12 years old, but that was A LOT of years in which I suffered through the whole thing at Catholic school. I also sucked at science, probably also because the teachers were all humanities majors and didn't really understand science, themselves, let alone know how to teach it. In high school, I did well in both math and science, but it was a public school, where the teachers had actually majored in the subjects they taught (mostly, anyway). I also hated Catholic school because we had to wear wool skirts, no matter how goddam hot it was. And there was no air conditioning, or even fans, because -- in those days -- Catholic schools had no $$$. Now, Catholic schools charge people like a gazillion dollars a year, so I take it that maybe they can afford air conditioning (or fans, at least.) Maybe they can even afford teachers who know how to teach science and math. I bet Catholic schools still kind of suck, though, especially for people like me. I am an INFJ, and Catholic schools and INFJ's don't really go that well together, I don't think. Also, in the winter, it was goddam freezing in that school, because the boiler was always broken and my parents couldn't afford the "official" uniform sweater, so I wasn't allowed to wear my regular sweater (which was even the right color), even though there was no heat and it was goddam freezing in that school. I would be all shivering, with goose bumps, but did the humanities major teachers allow me to wear my regular sweater (which was even the right color)??? No. No, they did not. Because it was against the rules. And in Catholic schools, the rules are fucking EVERYTHING. I was so happy to go to a public high school, where I was treated in an actual Christian fashion by my secular humanist teachers. Thank God for secular humanist teachers. (Okay. To be fair, many of my public high school teachers were religious, but very few of them were Catholic. Thanks be to God.)

So, as you can see, summertime at home with virtually no activities and attire composed of shorts (which my mother sewed for us) and halter tops (which my mother also sewed for us) and cantaloupe eating and swimming in bikinis (which my mother allowed us to wear) were actually Heaven to me and my rather high-strung personality.

One of my favorite activities in the summertime was playing with the Barbie swimming pool. This was a lovely and relaxing game for me and my high-strung personality, because it was so mindless and involved Barbie, who I could always relate to. Why could I relate to Barbie? Not so much because of her magnificent boobs, but because she was -- in those days -- also bad at math. SO relatable for me. I actually thought that when I became a teenager, I would grow boobs like Barbie, so that ended up being kind of a disappointment to me, but those are the valuable lessons that childhood games teach us.

Anyway... Back to the Barbie swimming pool game.

When I was a little girl, my dad built a little deck/patio in our back yard. And when it was sweltering hot, my sisters and I ate some cantaloupe for a snack after our swimming lesson, and then we were allowed to fill the Barbie swimming pool with the hose and have our Barbies go for a swim. We weren't allowed to fill the Barbie swimming pool with actual water in the wintertime, because... Well, duh... Wintertime. But, when the thermometer went over 90 or 100 degrees in the summer, we were allowed to use actual water. And we had great fun having swimming games with our Barbies. One of my favorite games was to pretend that one of the Barbies was drowning and having another Barbie rescue her. We thought up this game after observing the life guard at swimming lessons.

Another wonderful Barbie game (that could be played in any season, because it was an indoor game, not involving water) was "Earthquake." My sisters and I would devise a makeshift townhouse in one of our baby buggies. This baby buggy would not be mine, of course, because I was the oldest and knew that this game was not really good for our buggies. My youngest sister didn't allow her buggy to be used for this purpose, either, because she was wise beyond her years. That left the townhouse to be devised in the buggy of our oft-abused middle sister, who was really nice about it. She is actually probably the brightest of the three of us, but is also the most generous. After devising the makeshift townhouse in our oft-abused middle sister's ill-fated buggy, we would arrange our Barbies in it and pretend they were hanging out at home, unaware that tragedy was about to strike. Then we would shake the buggy back-and-forth and up-and-down and scream and yell, pretending the "Big One" had hit. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we were always hearing about the "Big One," and it seemed like an idea that would make an amazing Barbie game. And it did. Eventually, the middle Argenti sister's buggy would sway back and forth every time it was pushed, even when it was being pushed in a simple linear fashion. My sister didn't really like this development, but -- being that I was kind of a douchy older sister -- I think I convinced her that it was actually really cool that the buggy swayed like that.

So, as you can see, summer was AWESOME at my house, when I was a kid. It was fun and relaxing and SO incredibly un-demanding. I wish more kids had the opportunity to experience this kind of summer. I hated it when school started again. And I have my mom to thank for this. Thank-you mom for all of those wonderful summers. I am so grateful that the bright sun in the sky this morning and the smell of the ripe cantaloupe in my kitchen reminded me of this gift. I hope you are having a great time up in Heaven, partying it up with Chris Bruno's mom.

Oh, and here is one more cool thing my mom would do in the summer. She always read her book after lunch, and she would read it aloud to us, if we wanted to hang out in the living room and listen. These were "grown-up" books, and I so much enjoyed hearing them. One of them was Rose Kennedy's autobiography, which is so much fun! If you haven't read it, you should, even though it is old and doesn't talk about Joe and Jack's affairs. I am quite sure Rose knew about them, because she was the farthest thing from an idiot, but she told her story sans all the crap. And it is delightful! I actually had my kids read this book when they were growing up, and I think they all enjoyed it. And they learned a lot, too. Because -- after all -- there really is more to the Kennedy family than Joe and Jack's inability to keep it zipped. And those good things need to be remembered. And Rose was a DELIGHTFUL story-teller. I bet Rose and my mom and Nancy Bruno are all up in Heaven, partying together, as a matter of fact. Another book that I remember my mother reading aloud to us was "The Making Of A Surgeon." This was a book written by a surgeon, and the title is fairly self-explanatory. I found it all so fascinating and actually thought about becoming a surgeon, myself. Which I didn't, because it involved WAY to much math and physics. Even though I was a biology major and was, actually, fairly proficient in math because of my non-Catholic high school teachers, physics was never really my bag. But, the story this guy told about his journey to becoming a surgeon was incredible, and I so much enjoyed it. So, the lesson here is that you should read books to your kids that aren't necessarily kids' books or even the classics. Pop-culture stories can be quite educational and memorable for children.

Rest in peace, Mom. And thanks a million times over for everything!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My "Animal Kingdom" Story

Well... That title is, admittedly, a bit of an exaggeration. ;-)


You may have noticed on my social media that I am a fan of the TV show entitled "Animal Kingdom." It airs on Tuesday nights at 9:00 on TNT. Tonight is the Season 1 finale, and you should definitely tune in. Or, if you are hopelessly behind, you can catch up on episodes online.

"Animal Kingdom" is not for the faint-of-heart. You have been warned. But, it is a fantastic story!

Now, back to the title of this post and what it means.

"Animal Kingdom" films on location in Oceanside; and one day, there was a casting call for local background actors. I found out about this casting call from my friend, Sharon. She posted it on Facebook, because (I think) she knew I was interested in the show. So, being that I am the rather odd duck that I am, I decided to show up for it (even though I am a simple suburban housewife). I have always kind of had this "actor fantasy," because playing pretend is a ton of fun.

And lo and behold, Bridget and I found ourselves on the set of "Animal Kingdom" as it was shot in and around the Oceanside Pier. It was a great and fantastic day! So much fun! I feel SO blessed!!!

We arrived early in the morning and filled out forms. Then we got sent to wardrobe. I had no idea we would get sent to wardrobe, because we were playing "tourists" and were told to wear outfits that typical tourists would wear. I guess we failed in our clothing choices, though, because the production assistant sent us to wardrobe. And -- boy -- did we end up looking like tourists! I have never been dressed by a wardrobe professional before, and it was great fun! The lady and man in charge of costuming people were amazing! They had two giant trailers full of clothes and hats and handbags and accessories -- and they knew where EVERYTHING was. And they quickly sized Bridget and I up -- both literally and figuratively -- and gave each of us two wardrobe changes and told us exactly how to put them on and take them off and carry them around so that we could get ready in public without flashing anybody. (Actually, I think I may have failed once in the goal of not flashing anybody, and I sincerely apologize. Everyone was very polite, though, and acted like they hadn't seen anything. Not that there is anything worth seeing, anyway.)

After our wardrobe adventure, Bridget and I were greeted by Shawn Hatosy, who is one of the lead actors in "Animal Kingdom." Shawn played Sammy Bryant in "SouthLAnd," which is my favorite show of all time. Bridget and I had met Shawn before, because we saw him in a play in Los Angeles, entitled "Reasons To Be Pretty." We had the privilege of meeting him after the play, and he is the utmost of wonderful gentlemen. He knew that we were going to do background work that day, because I communicated my excitement about it to him via social media.  As he was at "base camp" at the same time we were, he came out of his trailer (at least I think that's where he came from) to say hello. I got so excited when I saw him that I threw my arms around him and gave him a big hug, thus breaking my very own rule about not hugging celebrities, unless they initiate it. Shawn was very kind about it, though, and seemed unfazed. He did give me a rather quizzical look, but I think that was because of the "tourist" costume I was wearing, which is not at all the kind of clothes that I usually wear. I looked like a middle-aged, mid-western woman who had come SoCal for vacay and took a rather misplaced stab at wearing SoCal fashion. And it was really the perfect look for the part I was playing -- the part of "tourist," which basically implies that you are not local and, thus, might be rather clueless about local customs and fashions. Shawn quickly recovered himself, though, and chatted briefly with Bridget and I before we went on our way. I actually wasn't really expecting to see Shawn, so it was a special and incredible treat to encounter him.

And now that I have dragged middle-aged, midwestern women, I will continue with my story... (Mea culpa, middle-aged, midwestern women. Mea culpa.)

After our Shawn encounter, Bridget and I were directed to board a van with a bunch of other actors and surfboards, and were driven down to the pier. (The show is about hot robber guys who surf and their nefarious, yet hot, middle-aged mom, so that is why there were surfboards in the van.) We offered to walk, because it wasn't very far, but the production assistant seemed to be very much afraid that we would get lost. And -- if you know me -- you will know that his fear was probably quite justified. So, into the van we got. One of the stars of the show was in the van with us. His name is Jake Weary. I didn't know that he was one of the stars of the show, but I did notice that he shone with wondrous beauty. If you ever meet a lead actor in a TV show or movie, you will see that they all shine with wondrous beauty. They are all naturally stunning creatures to begin with and then they are worked on by all the finest beauty people in the world -- and they just gleam. And -- believe me -- Jake Weary gleams like the star that he is. He was sitting in the seat in front of me in the van, and was very humble and nice. Live long and prosper, Jake. ;-) I was sitting next to one of the make-up artists in the van. She was really awesome and fun. She even sprayed me down with sunscreen when we got to the set. So, now I can say that I have been worked on by a professional Hollywood make-up artist.

Bridget and I were in two scenes filmed on and around the pier. During one of the scenes, we had to stroll down and around the end of the pier and then sit down on one of the cement bench-type things that are under the pier and pretend to have a chat. We were directed by one of the assistant directors, while the principal director directed the main actors in their scene on the beach. Unfortunately, Bridget and I did not have that scene make it into the final cut of the show, which was probably my fault. During one of the takes, I misunderstood the assistant director, and started to walk before I was supposed to. I quickly realized this, and turned around to walk back to my "mark," but in the meantime the action started. So, I wheeled around and started walking again, as I was supposed to for the "action." Bridget was pretty much doubled up laughing at her mum. But, anyway, that scene did not make it into the show. I don't know why, though, we looked pretty dang "touristy." ;D

Our second scene was up on the main part of the pier. We walked along the pier to the rear of the principal actress who plays Alexa.  In the scene, Alexa is going to meet the nefarious lady cop, who is pumping her for information about the criminal, yet very hot, Cody boys. The nefarious cop is not at all impressed with the hotness of the Cody boys, and just wants to see them all put behind bars for the rest of their lives. Alexa is her key to the putting away of the Cody boys, but if you want to find out why, you need to watch the show. I am NOT going to tell you. And just so you know, the lady who plays Alexa is tall and slender and beautiful. Bridget was afraid that we would look fat walking behind her in the scene. And this scene did, in fact, make it into the final cut of the show. And Bridget, upon seeing it, said, "Wow! We don't look fat, AT ALL." Anyway, when you watch the show and you see Alexa striding all tall and slender and beautiful -- though nervously, because she is going to meet up with the nefarious lady cop -- down the Oceanside pier, you will see Bridget and I behind her, dressed in our outstandingly put-together tourist costumes.

And this leaves me with one final tale from our day on the set of "Animal Kingdom." As those of you who know her will attest, Bridget loves to be barefoot. It is a struggle to get her into shoes. I really don't even try, anymore, being that she is all grown up. Anyway, she was shoeless up there on the Oceanside Pier. During the second scene we participated in, we were walking on the wooden portion of the pier. The assistant director noticed Bridget had no shoes on and sent her back to the beach base camp area to get them (as that is where she left them), because he was afraid she would get splinters in her feet. (They are very protective of you when you work on TV shows. They don't want you getting sunburned or injured, and they are really careful with you. And it is SO lovely.) Bridget was afraid to miss out on doing the scene, so she ran as fast as she could down the pier, toward the beach. The above-mentioned Jake Weary (principal actor and star) happened to be jogging along in front of her, back to the same place. As Bridget tells it, Jake spotted her, looked a bit alarmed, and started running faster. He kept checking over his shoulder to see if she was still running towards him, looking more and more alarmed. Finally, he shouted to her, VERY POLITELY, that he was going to the trailer (or something like that). She then realized that he thought she was some crazy female fan in hot pursuit of his hotness, so she told him that she was a background person and the AD had sent her back to get her shoes. This made everything okay. All was well, and Bridget -- with shoes on her feet -- managed to get back to the pier on time for the scene.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this post. Bridget and I so much enjoyed our day as background peeps on "Animal Kingdom." We will never forget it. And thinking about it will always make us smile. :-)