We Eat What We Like

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were patiently waiting in a long line to get something that hadn’t been readily available in that particular form in our city for a long long time. That something was a staple of the area in which we grew up, and the line itself had nearly a hundred other people willing to wait for the exact same thing. Sure, it was a boring wait, but there was excitement in the air. People discussing for hours on end which items they were most eager to get. And I’m not kidding when I say hours. We waited over 2 hours in this line. “What for” you ask? Well, we waited over 2 hours in a line for the only Dunkin Donuts location in the Los Angeles area. This was the Sunday after it opened, and throughout the week we were hearing of long, hour or two lines from our friends on social media. We still went. Because Dunkin’ hadn’t ever been in Los Angeles, at least not during the period in which we lived there.

Dunkin’ Donuts, like any other regional super-chain, has the kind of cultural following that a band may have. If you move to a new area and the don’t know about Dunkin’ – it becomes this amazing, mythical experience that one cannot simply comprehend unless they’re from there. The fact that it is something so prevalent in Boston and other east-coast or midwestern cities and so non-existent in LA made the fact that the company has finally started opening stores back in the Southern California area that much more exciting.

Now look, I know Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t realistically the best anything. Despite being in the company’s name, the donuts are average but tasty. The coffee is very sweet and has a wide variety of flavors, often expanding during the different seasons. My favorite, and most other people’s favorite product is their coffee, most likely their iced coffee – which in a country increasingly concerned about health and watching what one consumes, may be too sugary and sweet for many people’s tastes. Especially in a very heath-conscious town like Los Angeles. However, as an alternative to the perceived “high class-ness” of chains like Starbucks, Dunkin’ is an anti-everything version of the Starbucks style of coffee shop. It’s barely a coffee shop – more along the lines of a fast food place that provides great-tasting coffee and perfectly fine donuts. And also is probably the best culprit of that particular spelling of the word “doughnut.”

But Dunkin’ Donuts is just one of those things that reminds you of home, and when you move away from your home, especially 3,000 miles away, you seek out those homely comforts on a regular basis. I have been purchasing Dunkin’ ground coffee for home for 5 years, and I had literally just been back to Boston the week before and had a Dunkin coffee in Boston, and yet I still wanted to and had no problem with braving a 2+ hour line to get some in LA.

Some people can’t accept that. When we had waited 2 hours and were about to actually enter the store, when a woman stops by and asks us how long we’ve been waiting. After telling her the approximate among of time, she asks us if we’ve actually every had Dunkin’ Donuts. And before we even get a chance to answer her question, she simply walks away saying “…it’s not worth it.”

This irked me. I joked to the people behind me in line who she was also talking to, that this woman basically said, to our faces, “hey – you guys are all idiots and you’re wasting your time. I’m better than you because I’m not stupid enough to do that.” Who the hell is this woman to tell me how I should spend my time or what is “worth” my time? What is it to her how other people spend their time? Would she walk by the line to a concert or sporting event and be like “have you seen basketball? it’s not worth it.” If I were on a bike driving by her while she was walking down the street, I wouldn’t say – “you’re wasting your time, biking is much better and quicker!” Just keep walking lady, pay no attention to the hundreds of people clearly crazy enough to wait in a line for a thing. We’re not giving you any trouble or inconvenience. Why the hate?

Now, the internet has become a great place not only for long-winded personal rants like this one, but for anonymous critique and negative energy. “Outrage culture,” “trolling,” and all those other negative words that cause a simple event or concept, put a negative spin on it and make it “the worst thing in the world (today).” So it may just be more prevalent in society today for people to outwardly express their discontent on things that don’t necessarily concern them much, they just always feel the need to have an opinion on. But it’s ridiculous. Why does person B have to put down person A for liking a thing? Aren’t we all individuals with individual tastes? Sure, a single Dunkin’ Donuts glazed donut you once had may have not wowed you, and you personally can’t imagine waiting more than 5 minutes for that item. So don’t do it. It was worth it to us hundred people that day, and the thousands that waited in line for similar lengths of time that opening week, and the weeks that followed. So why make a stink about it? Does it really make you feel superior to outwardly express your belief that a large group of people on a city block were wasting their time, and you were a better person for not wasting your time?

I get this as a fan of Professional Wrestling a lot. Yes, I may not have publicly announced that on this site, but it’s all over my social media, and to my close friends and family it’s no secret. But Pro Wrestling fans get this automatic disdain all the time. “You know that stuff is fake, right?” is the common refrain. It’s not real sports, it’s pre-determined, so therefore it can’t be as exciting or entertaining as real sports, because you never know what’s going to happen. Sure, that’s a main draw of real sports – you never know the outcome. And that’s why I also love sports. There’s an excitement in witnessing something unfold before your eyes, and there can be surprises everywhere. That also applies to Pro Wrestling. Sure, SOMEONE knows the outcome, but as a fan viewing the product, I personally don’t know the outcome. So if tomorrow you found out that for the past 50 years, every single NFL game had been pre-determined and it was a huge rouse, would that take away from your prior enjoyment of football? For those fans who have been fortunate enough to see their team win a Superbowl, would that take away from the excitement and glee you felt when the final seconds of the clock wound down as your team secured victory? Of course not. Pro Wrestling at its best, can tap into that glee – when you have a favorite wrestler going through his trials and tribulations in getting to that World Championship. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a thing, because it’s manufactured to tap into that as a fan. The better parts of being a Pro wrestling fan is that you can also analyze the storytelling like a television show; which is also completely fabricated and a small group of people know the outcome in advance. Does that take away from your enjoyment of Breaking Bad? Of course not! That’s ridiculous. By the same token, when you get annoyed by a creative decision or direction of a favorite show, do you not talk to your friends about it and map out what you would have done? Don’t people also do that with sports? “We should have run the ball more, their defense was all over our receivers all game, that’s why we lost.” You as a fan have no control over what you’re watching and enjoying, you’re just along for the ride. Pro Wresting gives fans a chance to loudly voice their opinions about certain characters or storylines while in the arena. We don’t like a guy? “BOOOOOO!!! YOU SUCK!!” We love a guy? “DAN-IEL BRY-AN clap clap clapclapclap!” Pro Wrestling, since it is put on as live entertainment on a weekly basis, is made to cater to the audience in a way that sports can’t and television or other scripted entertainment can’t do directly. That’s the appeal. Sports-themed entertainment we can have a part in. Throughout the history of the industry, countless wrestlers have changed face (to sheepishly use some wrestling terminology) because fans have rejected the position or character being presented to them. You know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? You know how popular and awesome he is right now? When he debuted he was this cartoonish, smiley guy with jheri curls and streamers on his outfit. People did not like it, and eventually boo’ed him so much WWE (WWF at the time) decided to turn him into a bad guy, to fit what the fans thought of him. He eventually used that to create “The Rock” character, someone who fans could boo because they loved to boo, and he was too entertaining not to like.

Yes, that’s the future lead of Hercules.

That’s a very long-winded way of saying that it is awesome being a fan of a thing. I’ve been using the vague term “a thing” because it can apply to anything. You’re a dude and you like My Little Pony? Sure. You’re a die-hard Menudo fan? Why not. You never miss a performance of Shakespeare in the Park? Have at it. Entertainment exists so that the millions (and millions!) of people can find what they like and go enjoy it. I have been working for the past 4 years in Reality Television. I like some of shows and I don’t like other shows. There are people who LOVE every single reality show in existence. There are those who don’t. That’s totally fine. If you’re in the latter category, you don’t have to tell me your disdain for what has been paying my bills and keeping me not homeless for 4 years. Clearly some people like it, which is why it is successful and exists in the first place. You can watch something you like, and don’t worry about stuff you don’t like.

This rant was in part sparked by wrestling fan and popular radio personality, Sam Roberts, in his recent podcast rant about Apple people vs. Not Apple People. As an Apple Person myself, I tend to agree with NotSam. I like Apple and have liked Apple products my whole life because there’s very little complications to them. Things just work and are convenient and easy. I’ve made my consumer decision, so I will stick with that ecosystem for as long as they’ll shell stuff out for me. I like their products, I like the user experience, it’s comfortable and uncomplicated. I don’t think about “the competition.” But the competition seems like all they do is think about Apple. I get that it’s business and consumer products that live or die by competition, however for a non-Apple user to perpetually hate on any and all Apple users for simply being an Apple user is the same principle of that lady telling us that waiting 2 hours in line for something we love isn’t worth it. Of course it’s worth it if you like it. Look at how many people wait for way longer than 2 hours for the launch of the new iPhones last week! Sure we’re all literally buying into a culture of die-hard fandom for products instead of entertainment like sports or wrestling, but if we as humans are inclined to geek-out over something that makes you happy, why discourage that? In the end, it’s all a luxury we’re all too complacent with. We should be thankful we have such “first-world problems” like being able to choose which awesome, amazing, incredibly advanced mini-computer we want to use on a daily basis for communication and entertainment. So let’s just high-five those people waiting in line at Apple Stores across the country, celebrate them expressing their excitement over one of their loves. Let’s flip channels, stop at Monday Night Raw, and instead of roll our eyes at how ridiculous and “fake” the product in the ring looks, and instead appreciate how happy those people in the arena are to just be there. Let’s give kudos to those sports fans who during the World Cup or Olympics, woke up at 4am just to watch their team play live from across the globe. We’re an advanced civilization and fellow humans invented or created all these incredible things we’re going crazy over. That’s something amazing. Just enjoy it.

And just try Dunkin’s iced coffee, even if you prefer Starbucks. I don’t need you to get it, I just need you to try it without judgement. Thanks.

The Many Answers for “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

It’s been a little over a year and a half since I’ve moved out to Los Angeles to pursue the ever-mocked and questioned career in entertainment, and yet I still find myself having to explain “why?” to friends and family. Nothing against any of them who are asking those questions – it is a tough thing for people to grasp, especially when the decision and subsequent move snuck up on a lot of them.

Let’s shift back in time a few years, to when I’m entering college. I decided upon Boston University because they had a great Communications school, and I was looking to study Journalism, because I enjoyed writing. However, the beginning classes in Journalism, and the articles I took it upon myself to write for two school papers quickly made me realize that writing was really the only thing I liked about journalism – not the reporting, not newspaper deadlines and formats. Just writing. I saw columnists like Dave Barry, or in later years Bill Simmons, and saw that they pretty much had carte blanche to write whatever they wanted, and both seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. However, you can’t just become a national syndicated columnist with the green light to write about 90210 or Silly Putty. They had to come up from somewhere, learn the ropes of the industry and work their way up to the top, where they wanted to be.

Again, nothing wrong with that career path, but I realized that I liked writing, and just wanted to write about whatever – my first bouts in writing all were personal memoir-type journal entries and stories, I never had the burning desire to report on school funding and where exactly our large Undergraduate Student Fees really went to. I figured since I was at this great Communications school, which aside from a great Journalism program, had a great Film and TV program, I should focus my writing desires into television, where I could not only write from a more personal level, but I’d have more creativity with it and it was a medium I always enjoyed, and found it incredible that I could study it as a major.

And so, I ventured into the world of entertainment, looking to write for television, and as I took classes at BU, really enjoyed them and knew this is what I wanted to do. Once I found out about BU’s Los Angeles Internship Program, I knew that it would be something I’d benefit from, and it would also give me a taste of what Los Angeles and the real Entertainment Industry would be like. I did the program, liked it, and that pretty much cemented my decision to move out here.

Now, during this time,  I may have only discussed school-related things with friends and family on rare occasions; whether it be family functions or short catch-up sessions during school breaks where we’d talk about how school was going for about 15 minutes, then go back to making dick and fart jokes and reminiscing about high school, realizing that the drama we thought we left at home still existed whenever we came back. We never really delved into what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. Plus, especially with friends, and I’m guilty of this too, college and the work involved is so self-involved that there’s not much time to concern yourself with how your friends are doing in their individual endeavors – you have a big midterm to study for.

This sounds a bit cynical, and I don’t mean for it to be. I’m just commenting on the inherent personal pressures we all face in college, and especially toward the end, when we’re trying to finish school and figure out what’s next, it’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget about the other people in your life.

Anyways, back to present time, where I find that every time I go home and hang out with friends, or see a family member, I have to update them on how things are going, which inevitably means rationalizing the decision to move to LA. Yes, this year has gone a lot better – I’ve found more consistent work at a reputable production company, and have also been getting consistent freelance editing work on the side, but it’s still nowhere near the financial security that a lot of my friends have. Right now, I have jobs lined up for the future, but I am still technically out of work and struggling between jobs. But I am happy, and the work I do is very helpful in learning new things about editing and the post production process, which will definitely help me later on in my career. But despite this, there are still parts of my life I have to rationalize to them – I’ve worked but there are always periods in the industry where work dies down and people have lulls in projects – it’s just the nature of the beast. I’m not going to start out as a CEO of a Production Company or an Agent – I won’t have job security for a few years at least. But I can take this time off to write, to pursue other interests like comedy or photography (which will come once I have money to buy a nice camera). When you just have a desire to create and entertain, everything you do toward that goal is considered progress.

Every now and then I have to think back and ask myself if I could have done anything else with college or my life after college, and I really can’t find a solid answer to that – which probably means I’m either not qualified for anything else, or I picked the right place and industry to be in. In a way, it’s an industry full of ambitious and creative people, who often did not have other options or qualifications; something compelled them to create and focus their ambitions toward entertaining the masses of people who chose more stable and realistic careers – many of whom are the same friends and family who ask “Why LA? Why Entertainment?”

That’s my long answer to the question, but I guess it can be answered in a short way too – “Why Not? What Else should I do?”

I’ve been a non-student for a year…

It took me awhile to figure out how to word the title of this post. I guess it’s still unbelievable to me. This weekend marks the final weekend of the BUinLA program, meaning that a year ago today, I was done with college classes and essentially out of school. I didn’t officially graduate until January 25th, so I guess I really have a little over a month, but I know that month will go by before I know it.

It’s been an interesting year. Last December, I knew I wanted to move back out to Los Angeles, but I was unsure of when. It took me about a month to decide, and then another two weeks to plan the week-long, cross-country trip my father and I took at the end of January. The week’s worth of driving and traveling was a good cushion for me to reflect on the huge life move I was making. Once I got to LA, the Friday night before Superbowl Sunday, it hit me – I’m in Los Angeles, I’m here to get started on the rest of my life. College is over, welcome to the Real World, Josh.

That weekend, things happened quickly. I was staying with my friend Rob on his couch, and as comfortable that situation was, I was really eager to find my own place, so I could settle into this new environment as quickly as possible. I went looking for apartments on craigslist and after viewing the second place I looked at on Sunday afternoon, I took it. I’m still in that place now, despite thinking I may move on a couple occasions throughout the year.

Obviously at this point I’ve settled into the living arrangements, and my general life schedule. I’ve been working the same internship for about seven months now, on and off depending on what other project I’ve been involved with. Despite not having a full-time, or even part-time job, the internship has helped give me experience, a regular weekly schedule and kept me busy three days a week. My off days normally consist of heavy job searching in the morning, a couple hour break in the afternoon at the gym, and the rest of the day working on whatever editing project I’m involved with.

The editing projects, most of which have been visual effects work with After Effects, have also kept me busy and given me great experience in post-production. While the work is also on an unpaid/deferred basis, I don’t mind because I need the practice and eventual footage for a reel.

The production work I did, while not very regular (I’d work as a PA about once every couple months, on average) was also valuable in the fact that I got experience, met some great people, and was able to learn all about things that you just can’t learn in school.

Sure, it’s a bit disappointing and discouraging when most of my friends out here have more substantial jobs than I do, but I made choices about what kind of work I would look for early on and stuck with them throughout the year. I could have gone a different route and probably got a more regular job, but it would have been at something I wasn’t as interested in doing. In that same sentiment, I could have stayed in Boston, lived at home, not be paying rent and working a job that I was even less interested in doing. To me, the whole point of moving out here was to pursue a dream of working in entertainment as a writer (now I’ve revised that goal to include being an editor). Obviously there isn’t one path to get to a goal, especially not in this industry, but a personal goal was to remain happy with what I was doing, and to be honest there are some jobs and paths that I could not see myself being happy in doing, even if I was happy to be getting a regular paycheck at each week’s end.

There’s a balance I do have to address, in that I can’t live off savings forever, and eventually will need some form of income. That may very well end up being a part-time job of some sort, but as long as I can keep writing and editing in my spare time, and as long as I keep pushing toward that career goal and don’t get sidetracked or distracted by other things, I can stay out here and keep at it.

I’m nervous but excited for the “1 year in LA out of school” mark. There are things I’ll have to deal with – do I risk driving around with an expired Massachusetts inspection sticker just to keep my Mass plates and Mass ID, or do I go through the process of registering as a California resident? Up until now, despite living in the state for almost a year, I still don’t consider myself a resident. That may change if my car and my license say I am.

There are also things I’m excited to try out – a few friends and I may begin to take Improv classes, something I have only really done on a very small scale – a class at camp, joking around with friends, etc. I figure as a comedy writer I should flex or at least train my comedy muscles in as many areas of the genre as I can. I even started writing a standup act (although have no real plans to perform just yet).

I’m also writing music again, and with the great decision to bring my electric guitar back to LA with me, there’s more potential to jump back into that arena. Why not? I’ve always considered music to be just a hobby, despite how talented people have said I am, and how much I enjoy it. But why? I’m out in Los Angeles now, pursuing a dream of becoming an entertainer, why would pursuing music be any different?

Ambition is a great thing to have out here, and while I may not be the most ambitious person in the world, or the city, or even among my own friends, I do want to succeed, and I do want to be happy with whatever I’m doing. I’m not sure I needed a whole year to convince myself of that, but hey – we all work at our own pace.

The Greater Los Angeles Area – A Brief Study

One of the perks of being in the entertainment industry is the rare and (usually) great opportunities it brings about. For example, As an intern at FOX last year, I got to work the Simpsons “Treehouse of Horrors” Premiere Party at Universal Studios. After checking in guests, some of them big names like Weird Al Yankovic and Joe Mantegna, we rode the Simpsons ride for free. Pretty cool and exciting for a 21-year-old finishing his last semester of school in Hollywood. Also at FOX, I got to sit in on a table read for the new show “The Cleveland Show.” After the read was over, I stayed in the room with the Network Executives and two Executive Producers of the show as they went through network notes. It was literally the four of them, and me in the back, observing. I shouldn’t even have to mention how amazing it was to be an intern at “The Office,” one of my favorite shows on television. My first day I had lunch with Stanley (Leslie David Baker), and ate free In-N-Out Burger from a truck that came in (it was also my first In-N-Out experience).

These examples kept me in the confines of Los Angeles County. Sometimes, you’ll get to travel outside the immediate area; from exciting places like the beach in Malibu, to not so exciting places like a community college in Azusa. One thing I’ve noticed about traveling to these places (especially going into the surrounding counties), the vistas change very drastically, even once you’re 20 minutes outside of the city. For how wide and spread out LA is, it’s almost jarring how quickly the scenery changes.

Maybe it’s different for me coming from New England, where everything is really close together and everything pretty much looks the same, except for the big cities. There’s just something a bit odd about how you can turn a corner within LA and the neighborhood suddenly changes. Or you can drive away from the city 20 minutes and the hills no longer have houses sprinkled on them, and instead of buildings and cars everywhere, you look to both sides of the freeway and see empty rolling hills or big empty industrial parks. It’s almost like there’s an invisible line drawn around Los Angeles County that keeps all signs of civilization within those borders, and when you venture outside of them you immediately wonder where all the people went. Unless of course if you’re stuck in traffic, then it seems like everyone in LA is in their cars, sitting on the freeway right next to you.

I guess on a more personal note, it’s interesting for me to observe these things about a different area of the country, because up until a year ago, I lived my whole life in New England, and although I did vacation outside of the area on many occasions, never really appreciated the subtle (and not so subtle) differences of each place I went to. I noticed this while driving cross-country, and it was actually pretty amazing to see how much things changed from place to place. It’s a big, diverse, beautiful country out there…hopefully you all get a chance to see as much of it as you can.