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The Big Bounce
By Julia Ruchman

For months now, I've been having this falling dream. It's nothing suicidal. I'm not about to jump off a bridge or a tall building or anything. I just start falling. But, usually -- no, always -- I end up in New York. First, I'll be sitting in my office on Santa Monica Boulevard and I'll just fall through my chair, through the floor, through Mr. and Mrs. Benson's apartment, into the parking garage, through the ground, through the underground infrastructure of pipes and wires and then all of a sudden I'll be standing in the middle of Union Square and some homeless guy will hit me up for subway fare. That's my falling dream. I guess you could say I miss New York.

I was recently asked to write my bio for this theatre group I joined. Just a couple lines that could go in the program. This is what I wrote:

"Julia left New York against her better judgment to pursue a writing career. She now lives in Los Angeles where she regularly ignores questions like 'Who's your agent?'and 'Are those real?'"

I am not yet fond of LA.

I shared these feelings with a friend of mine. She thought I might be suffering from a cosmic imbalance, and recommended I see her spiritual herbalist. Inexplicably, I did. His name was Dr. Moo.

Dr. Moo used to own a wellness center in Sunset Plaza, which later got bought out by Frankie's Tacos. Then he moved to Laurel Canyon, but a gypsy stole his chi and he never got it back. After that, he turned down a bungalow in Venice because the ocean air was too silty. The silt gets into the air and aggravates your chakras. You have to drink turtle piss to flush them out. It's a really big problem. Dr. Moo is a complex man.

Because of his traumatic experiences with bad chi, Dr. Moo became a hermit. Which is totally easy to do in LA. All you have to do is sell your car. Everyone will think you're really deep and pay you lots of money to analyze their shame cycles.

Now he lives in the Valley, which means you have to drive by lots of "Super Cuts" and porno shops to get to his temple of peace. At my first visit, Dr. Moo made me sit on these bamboo mats that smelled like soggy beef tenderloin. They're organic. He rubbed tea tree oil on my temples and told me to focus on something positive. I told him that the reason I'd come to see him was that I COULDN'T focus on something positive. He just shook his head and chanted "La, La, La, Shanti, La".

I closed my eyes and went way, way back to the oldest, purest thing I could remember. When I was a little girl, I used to feed the chickadees outside my Mom's kitchen window. For those of you who don't know, chickadees are completely amazing bouncers. They bounce in this disturbingly innocent way, like if you scooped one up and flung it to the ground it would just ricochet and come back for more. Boing, boing, boing, all over the front yard.

Then, one day, I saw one get eaten by a snake. The chickadee bounced onto the pavement with a big nasty thud and then just sat there. I still don't know why. It didn't bounce away. It didn't even try. Not even when it saw the snake out of the corner of its eye. It was almost like the chickadee was accepting its fate. The snake didn't care. It snapped the thing up and just glug, glug, glugged it all the way down. I imagined the chickadee sliding into the snake's dark, smooth, liquidy belly before disappearing into nothing. That's when I realized that Dr. Moo was still chanting and that this was NOT a positive image. I was a big, fat failure at constructive visualization.

I explained all this to Dr. Moo and he told me that my inner sense of self and my outer sense of self were playing each other in a spirited game of table tennis. The only problem was that it had turned violent and both selves were now bashing each other on the heads. Or bashing themselves on the heads. They're confused about who's who. Dr. Moo said it's my personal paradox and that I should meditate about it. This displeased me.

The image of the poor, sweet, fluffy chickadee being brutally digested by the snake is not an easy one to forget. It was stuck with me now. Even worse, it got me thinking about mortality. Which is really the last thing you need when you're living in LA and you'd really, really rather not be. In Los Angeles, you need a top agent to get you into the really good cemeteries. My last agent couldn't even get me a meeting at the Oxygen network.

That night, I had my falling dream again. Except this time I didn't end up in New York. I ended up in a snake pit. I slid down into a snake's dark, smooth, liquidy belly before disappearing into nothing. I woke up shaking. My hair was sticking to my sweaty cheeks and my head was pounding. "Where the hell am I, and what the fuck am I doing here?"

These are the perfect feelings to be having right before you walk into a job interview, which is exactly where I was going in the morning. It was an interview for a job writing for a crappy new TV show on a crappy new network. In LA, these kinds of interviews are called "meetings" to take some of the pressure off and make it OK for you to wear jeans. I grew up on the East Coast where a job interview is a job interview and never, ever involves jeans. I wore a blazer, skirt and heels. They were all from Ralph Lauren. Like I said -- East Coast.

The "meeting" was at the producer's house, which was inside a gated community, inside another gated community up near the Hollywood sign. I have no idea why he felt he needed all these gates. Any burglar stupid enough to rob a producer's house (I mean, really, he'd never work in this town again), would also be too stupid to find the place. The Mapquest directions were eight pages long. And, trust me, there was nothing worth stealing. I mean, who would want a log carved with a chainsaw to look like a cockatoo? That thought occurred to me right before I heard the baby screaming in the next room.

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