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Fun with Entropy
By Elizabeth Warner

So maybe you don't know fear until you find Suzanne Pleshette standing on your doorstep with a measuring tape in her hand.

But let's say you've been living career-free for the better part of a year, and neither a financial windfall, a Pulitzer Prize or your own network variety program has threatened to appear and change this. And in spite of your black heart and empty life, you do have essentially cheery activities that revolve around one acts, sketch comedy and free red wine, thereby preventing those all -- out Travis Bickle moments. In fact, this despair even has a kind of blasé quality. Because even when failing madly in sunny California it's not like you biologically need something like black tar heroin or the forty grand you owe a bookmaker from a Triple Crown wager gone wrong. Which is why when you're at a dinner party with actors and writers and the occasional Post Production person who does God knows what but uses words like "Post" without explanation, it gets really hard to drum up a sense of My Woes Blow Your Woes Out of the Water. Since everyone's nursing an identical malaise. Even a phone call to your mother, which usually produces at least the telephonic equivalent of warm milk and shake 'n bake, yields only bullet points of "you're the one who had to move out there " and "risky industry, that" and finally, "but do see Bend With Beckham, it's superb."

Then there's a month where you purposely tell everyone the absolute and often unpleasant truth. Partly because you wonder if people engage because you have cigarettes, and partly because you'd always wanted to use and mean the phrase "Let's dispense with the pleasantries, shall we?" Before long you're telling people they're far too old to be wearing baby doll tees, or jeans so petite they appear to be conducting a rape in progress, that improv is dumb, that yoga is dumber, and that people's one person shows -- even your own -- are not "poignant painful journeys of discovery" but whiny me-fests. And then you actually ask each of the cute boys working at Trader Joe's if they're all brand new fathers -- which would be the only justification for their beaming, greenpeaceful smiles. Or you'd tell some guy that even though impossibly handsome, his flagrant quest for success didn't make his stepping on other people's toes any less obvious or clumsy. And that someday maybe he'd realize they'd been soaking in the scented milk bath of mediocrity. Why you weren't instantly bludgeoned and left to bleed out on a ditch remains a mystery. Even your brother didn't buy it, although you never did think you'd get sympathy from someone who'd watched you eat six Milk bones and ten locks of your own hair in order to win a pack of Gator Gum. Plus, this behavior gets old when you realize you better be a little nicer or you're gonna be hunting around for change from Coffee Bean in your couch and watching quirky Hungarian coming-of-age films at the Laemmle -- alone -- until you die. Which is why being free for lunch every day of the year can be its own perverse spoiled lymphoma.

At which point you adopt a different tack and decide to become That Serious NPR Girl, who would speak only of the fallen Howard Dean, Zionism and The Onion -- none of which you know the first thing about. Although at my first outing with my new persona I stumbled miserably as one of my friends had just returned from doing a Merchant Ivory film in England and suddenly I forgot all about socialized medicine because all I wanted to know was whether Kristen Scott Thomas genuinely was Frosty and Chilly. So that was a bust too.

Finally in lieu of success or my own network variety show, I resolved to create a more genuine despair that was somehow more troubling, more afflicted and more noteworthy than other people's. Of course the problem with having friends who are all performers is that they, like you, are so self absorbed that it takes that much longer to focus and notice there's something more wrong with YOU. So between Jambas and hostile moments of reflection at Pinot you learn just exactly how to prove your malaise more better.

Now there are two kinds of malaise people can get away with. The first is a kind of personal affliction where one's despair is visibly marked by weight loss and pallor. Since the only eating disorder I've ever experienced is the inability to stop doing it, and my pink skin gives me all the complexity and mystique of a yellow Labrador, this is not really an option. The second kind of malaise happens when somebody just plain has a deeper sensitivity to world events. My psychotherapist, once a Nurse Ratchett/Judy Dench hybrid who has now morphed into the hate child of Albert Brooks and Leslie Stahl, caught me here in my attempt to cop this. Because I said that I was quite sad and I was sure it was one of those existential angsty things and she said "No its not. You're not any more deeply affected by terrorism or the Iraqi war than anyone else. If you were working in a soup kitchen in Chicago, if you were a social worker in Philadelphia, then it's possible you would be exhibiting a three dimensional feeling. But you're not, so you can't. Nor is this some kind of post traumatic response to 9/11 you've drummed up. You're just worried about rent and the fact that someone you once met got a guest spot on Charmed." And of course she was absolutely right.

So I'm thinking wouldn't it be fun if I had something like an income or a soul and I'm watching my dog, a small feral Jack Russell terrier whom I'm always with in Runyon Canyon …where nice people always say which one is yours and I must invariably respond that he's the one busily fellating theirs. Yet here's an animal with a brain the size of a Smokehouse Almond whose life is completely turned around by a single tennis ball. And I realize maybe I just need my own kind of tennis ball. Which is when I began to tutor. When I started tutoring I was not so naïve as to think that I'd be doing any kind of Dead Poets song and dance, but I was under the erroneous impression that my work would be wildly valuable and groundbreaking, what with melding these young Beverly Hills minds. I learned that when your dealing with privately schooled 17 year olds, boys are easier to tutor than girls, because they have a better capacity to focus. And since I really can't focus when there are shiny things in a room or in these situations, genuine Vermeers and Warhols, it's easier to work with boys.

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