Monday, December 20, 2010

Electric Problem

I just got an electric bill for a little under $300 a few days ago.

Up to this point, I'd been paying about $60 a month. According to my bills, I'd used around 180 kilowatt-hours a month. This time, my bill says I've used 1,170 kWh in the last 34 days.

Let me give you a picture of my electricity use. I use an electric oven, refrigerator, and hot water heater. I have about five ceiling lights, the two I use most often are CFL bulbs. I have a laptop, printer, speaker, external hard drive and cell phone charger all plugged into a power strip, which I switch off when I'm not using any of the devices. I have two halogen reading lamps I use sparingly.

There was only one thing I thought could change my bill this much: electric heaters.

True, I had used electric heaters once or twice, about half an hour every couple of days. At first I assumed that must be the culprit. They're big power drainers.

But after running around to make sure they were all unplugged, I stopped to think for a second. According to these bills, they would be responsible for roughly 1,000 kilowatt hours. Now lets do some math and physics.

One kilowatt hour is equal to 1000 watts times one hour. For example, a 100 watt bulb switched on for ten hours.

My heaters are rated at 1,500 watts each. That means it takes one 40 minutes to burn through one kilowatt hour. To make the math easier, lets say I had them on for 40 minutes at a time instead of 20 or 30. In fact, lets say I had them on for that long every day for the last thirty days. That would put an additional 30 kWh on my bill.

My usage didn't increase by 30 kWh. It increased by 1,000 kWh.

I talked to my friends. One told me that the highest bill they ever had was in the middle of the summer when they had two air conditioners running roughly twenty hours a day every day. They used something around 350 kWh. Another set of friends has electric heaters on most hours of the day, plus two computers and countless electronic devices always on. Their last bill was for 300 kWh.

So I thought the reading must have been a mistake. Maybe I'd used 170 instead of 1,170. I called my apartment super and asked him to take a look. He just did.

Not only was the meter reading correct on my bill, but in the five days since it was taken, my apartment has apparently burned through almost 50 more kWh. I wasn't even home most of that time.

Something is seriously wrong here.

When he took the reading, we had switched off all the circuit breakers in my apartment. The meter wasn't moving. I'm leaving for Seattle tomorrow, and on my way out, I'm going to switch them all off again. He's going to take another reading tomorrow, then yet another when I get back on New Years Eve.

Either someone is stealing my electricity, or starting mid November there is now something very, very wrong with my wiring.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Santa Claus Army

I've been a in a few places where crowds of people have drunkenly started to sing their national anthem for no apparent reason. This weekend was the first time I'd seen it happen in my own country.

There was something strangely appropriate about it. It was inside of a packed bar in Greenwich Village, New York City. About 90% of the people inside were dressed as Santa Claus. Most of them were highly inebriated. The bar was about as big as the pizza shop pictured to the left, only with about 90+ more people inside. A random dozen decided this was the perfect moment to start singing The Star Spangled Banner. Most of the rest joined in.

It was a bunch of young Americans getting terrifically drunk off of cheap light beer in America's most trendy neighborhoods in its biggest city dressed as the non-religious image of the biggest holiday in American culture, and coincidentally the biggest corporate spending and consuming season. All in the spirit of goodwill towards all. With a slight hint of irony, because, after all, this is New York, and Williamsburg (aka Hipstertown, USA) is only four stops away on the L train. Does it get more American than that?

Well, yes, probably, but only because "American" is such a fluid term these days.

The cause of all this? Santacon 2010. As organizers describe it, "non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason."

If you were anywhere in the West Village after about 2:30pm yesterday, you could not have tossed a candy cane without hitting someone in a Santa outfit. Sometimes they had beards. Sometimes they had dresses. I'm pretty sure I saw at least one with both. I even saw two Jewish Santas, one in a blue Santa outfit with a star of David pendant at least two feet across, the other in a completely normal Santa costume, except for instead of the normal hat, he was wearing a huge, red, hasidic-style shtreimel. Most Santas around town were drinking, and occasionally making out with Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer, and other Santas. Also smoking. There's something really funny about watching a dude in a Santa outfit light up a cigarette.

While I accept that this sort of event happens in many other places aside from New York City, I don't know of any place else where, the very next day, on my way to work I would end up running into two city blocks shut down for a Shiite celebration of Ashura. The Santas were hilarious, but the Shiia gave me free pizza. Shoukran and Salaam Alekum, folks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good Morning

You know what's really comfortable? Sleeping under a white goose feather down comforter. A nice big one.

My brother sent me one as an early Christmas present. He read what I said here about my apartment building not having a central heating unit, and decided I could use something like that. I brought it home from the post office yesterday. A certain generous, highly intelligent, and attractive writer had given me her old futon the day before. I put away the leaky air mattress and the frame I saved from the trash heap, and set up my new bed.

I may be barely making my rent with my meager hours in my multiple day jobs, but that does mean I have a great deal of time on my hands. I'm pretty insistent on getting eight hours of sleep every night. I'm not behind. I thought I'd just get that again when I went to bed a little before midnight.

I woke up again well after 11am. That was a good night's sleep.

I rolled around and stretched, feeling like a happy, warm cat. Then I reached for my phone. I'd just been redesigning my sister's website and had found out very late last night that through a miscommunication, we'd cut off her new email. I wanted to see how urgent it was. I'd told her to call if it was, but with that comforter, I thought there was probably a good chance she'd called and I had slept right through it.

No missed calls. I flipped open my email. Tons of new messages. Naturally. Three got my attention right away, they were all from Actor's Access, my main platform for getting auditions. I submit a headshot and resume, and if the casting director likes me, they send me a message via something called "Cmail." The three messages' subject lines each read as follows:

3:03am- Cmail Notification
6:03am- Cmail Reminder
9:03am- Cmail- Final Reminder

I still can't believe how often showbiz expects you to check and respond to all messages. I followed the link from Email to Cmail and found an audition invitation. SAG short film agreement pending. They want me to read for the lead. Wow, fantastic. The catch? This lead character is a high school senior.

I vividly remember watching Back to the Future for the first time, and assuming the Michael J. Fox was playing the dad. When I realized he was supposed to be a high school kid, I was stunned, and almost offended. He looked thirty.

When I was sixteen, some friends of friends once mistook me for "somebody's dad or something." Now, I'm twenty-four. Dark hair and sensitive pale skin have given me a semi-permanent five-o-clock shadow. Leaving even my collar shirt button open often prompts other guys to joke pretend I'm challenging them to a chest hair competition. They usually lose. When I told the calculus student I tutor (an actual high school senior) today that these people want me to read for the part of a  seventeen year old, she nearly fell on the floor laughing.

So, potentially, I might be following in some very famous footsteps. They just happen to be footsteps I once treated with disbelief and mild derision. Well, if they think I can act like a convincing high school senior next week, I'll be a high school senior again for them. Either way, I'll just have fun with this reading.

That's next week. Before that, tomorrow, I've got a callback with the Independent Actors Theater. After lunch with an old college friend, before a holiday party at Edge Studio, a birthday party for another college friend, and maybe a cast party for a hilarious stage adaptation of Tommy Wisseau's The Room. Life's still pretty good out here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Level Up

A couple months ago I came out here with a sublet, a bunch of college credits on my resume, a black and white photo taken by the father of a friend for my headshot (see the little one in the above?), and no job.

You are looking at my new acting headshot photo, to the left. I now have that, a professional acting credit on my resume from a New York theater in the middle of the Broadway theater district, a gig blogging for the most important entertainment industry publication in the city if not the country, four part time jobs that pay me and a fifth that compensates me in voiceover training, an agent that's interested in representing me, and my own one-bedroom apartment.

Cue giant nerdiness: I used to play a lot of video games where you would run around the first level doing tasks, fighting enemies etc until there'd be a little flash and you'd see the words "Level up!" and then a little summary about how all of your attributes have improved, and maybe you've developed some new skills, enabling you to progress further into the game. That's kinda what's happened here. I have levelled up from "Aspiring Actor" to "Beginning Professional Actor."

So. Next steps. My potential agent wants me to get some commercial credits or training on my resume, and will then feel comfortable sending me in for commercial auditions. I may stick with her-- the agency just moved here from Philly and is open about the fact that they'd be sending us back there for most of their auditions. Fine, except we have to foot the bill for travel expenses. I'm thinking I might be able to do better-- I haven't actually put any effort into finding an agent, these people just happened to get my resume from the showbiz expo thing I went to. So if I actually start marketing myself...

My one room apartment is actually the same sublet, only now it's in my name. It's actually grown on me a lot since I last wrote about it. With any luck I'll soon be sleeping on a full-size futon soon, instead of the air mattress plus frame found in the garbage pile. My jobs are all picking up so I think I'll soon be making more than I spend on rent and food, which is exciting. I've got a list tacked next to my desk of things to buy when I start making more than that. Probably half of it is furniture. Oh and I've got two little electric fan heaters from Target that heat the place up quickly and efficiently, plus my brother is giving me an early birthday present of a down comforter, so I'll be plenty warm at home this winter.

I'll complete my voiceover training and soon be able to submit myself with a professionally produced demo for jobs in that front. It's almost as competitive as general acting, but the pay is a lot better. So ideally someday I'll be able to support my "real" acting with my voice acting. In the meantime I'm tutoring a few students in calculus and physics, serving banquets, occasionally moving furniture, and soon, catering.

And as for acting, I just need to keep hitting up Actors Access, Backstage, and Mandy for breakdowns and auditions. And one of these days I'll saunter over to the equity cattle calls for kicks while I'm at it. I've got two different crews who told me before thanksgiving that they wanted me to audition in December, so I'm waiting to hear back from them. So a lot of waiting around, really. Submitting photos and waiting and hoping.

In the meantime, I'll just keep having fun in the city.