The Creative Artist, Eccentricity, Resilience, and Mental Disturbance: The Journal of a Struggling Actor for Three Months—my Actor/Writer Son
by Jeremy Johnson
by Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D. March, 2013
Introduction to Article 
Where does one draw the line between the creative artist and mental disturbance? Perhaps “eccentricity” and “resilience” are terms that we may use to bridge this gap in certain ways, where I am using the definitions of eccentricity as “deviating from usual or recognized form” and resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or misfortune.” In a 2006 Integral World article and a 2008 Journal of Humanistic Psychology article (Benjamin, 2006, 2008), I discussed what I referred to as an “artistic view of mental disturbance.” I used the term “creative artist” in a very inclusive sense to incorporate multiple kinds of creativity—visual arts, music, writing, theatre, dance, mathematical creativity, social creativity, etc., and I defined a “successful creative artist” as a person who has been able to express his/her creativity constructively in his/her society and has received a favorable response, and who also has been able to make a “satisfactory adjustment” to living day-to-day life in her/his society. I utilized various perspectives and theories from psychology to put this idea of “satisfactory adjustment” into what seemed to me to be a reasonable working perspective, and I then developed what I referred to as the “Artistic Theory of Psychology,” which I summarized as follows, using Abraham Maslow’s (1962) hierarchy of human needs and potential.
1) The successful creative artist resonates with the highest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of human potential.
2) There are some people labeled as mentally ill who have the potential of becoming successful creative artists.
3) A sensitive, understanding, and supportive educational environment may be conducive to enabling a mentally disturbed person with creative artistic potential to significantly develop and actualize this potential in life (Benjamin, 2008).
In the present article I have decided to give a very personal narrative account of how my ideas about the creative artist and mental disturbance are currently being lived out, through the balancing modes of eccentricity and resilience in the lifestyle of my 31-year-old son
Jeremy Benjamin. The personal involvement of the researcher in the research process is an accepted part of doing qualitative research from a number of perspectives that have been steadily growing in popularity in qualitative research over the past few years—in particular through autoethnography (Chang, 2008; Ellis, 2009). Autoethnography has been defined as follows: “Autobiographical and narrative inquiry that self-consciously explores the interplay of introspective, personally engaged self-reflections with cultural descriptions mediated through language, history, and ethnographic explanation” (Chang, 2008, p. 46). As I am making primary use of narrative research through my son Jeremy’s Journal of a Struggling Actor blog entries with my corresponding reflections, the present article can be viewed as my autoethnographic narrative research on the experience of the creative artist in the context of a struggling actor.
Although my son Jeremy is not someone who I consider to be “mentally disturbed,” he falls under the heading of eccentricity with a capital “E.” He moved to Los Angeles nearly a year ago to pursue his lifelong goal of “making it in Hollywood” as an actor. I am going to let Jeremy speak for himself through his blog: The Journal of a Struggling Actor  that he has persistently and conscientiously kept up with every day that he has been in LA. I am including excerpts from my son’s blog entries of his first three months in Los Angeles, for the purpose of vividly illustrating some of the philosophical and psychological ideas that I have described in my above mentioned 2008 article (Benjamin, 2008). I will comment about each of his various blog excerpts that I am including, which I believe shed some amazing insights into his state of mind, perseverance, determination, exceptional creativity, life challenges, eccentricity with a capital “E,” witty and outrageous sense of humor, intensity, high energy, extreme and continuous physical activity and endurance, resourcefulness, extroversion, shyness, mental health challenges and dangers, and most especially—resilience. It is this last quality of resilience that I believe may go a long way in helping the creative artist to withstand the pitfalls of mental disturbance, along with the balancing perspective of both the creative artist and others viewing many of the idiosyncrasies of the creative artist as eccentricities rather than signs of mental disturbance. Although a blog by its very existence conveys that the author has decided to already go public with material that may be quite personal, I have discussed with my son Jeremy the inclusion of such personal material from his blog in this article, and he is very agreeable to me doing this.
Although I do not think my son Jeremy is “mentally disturbed,” I do think that the incredible life challenges he has undertaken in order to pursue his deepest dreams and ambitions in life are sometimes skirting the boundaries of the creative artist and mental disturbance—and therefore I think that portraying some illustrative excerpts from his blog will describe much of my ideas about all of this in a compelling illustrative narrative format. Narrative inquiry is a growing field of research in the social sciences in the context of qualitative research (see for example Camic, Rhodes, & Yardley, 2003; Creswell, 2007; Wertz, 2011), and I believe that letting my son speak for himself in his own narrative voice gives a unique perspective that vividly reinforces what I have previously written about the relationship between the creative artist and mental disturbance (Benjamin, 2008).
In the first few blog excerpts we will see illustrative and colorful revelations of Jeremy’s first month in Los Angeles (cf. ), where the kind of preliminary intensive challenges facing every potential successful creative artist are in full gear. We will also see how my above description of the Artistic Theory of Psychology is being lived out, tenuously to begin with amidst a turmoil of ups and downs, but moving in a preliminary positive direction of emergence into the potential of a successful creative artist. After giving a number of vivid excerpts from Jeremy’s first month in LA to illustrate firsthand the relationships regarding the creative artist, eccentricity, resilience, and mental disturbance, I will choose representative excerpts from the next two months of his blog to describe how his artistic accomplishments, challenges, setbacks, and borderlines between eccentricity and mental disturbance developed as he continued to pursue his dreams and goals of becoming a professional actor for the first three months of his adventure in Los Angeles. This will be followed by a brief experiential assimilation and analysis of what Jeremy’s blog entries have conveyed to me, at this point in time, in regard to the possible relationships that exist regarding the creative artist, eccentricity, resilience, and mental disturbance. If there is sufficient interest, I will submit a follow-up article to Evolutionary Landscapes describing Jeremy’s developing struggling actor experiences as he progresses through his first year in Los Angeles. However, before letting Jeremy speak for himself in his own blog, I want to give a short introduction to how Jeremy’s artistic personality got formed and what led him to move to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a professional actor.
The Journal of a Struggling Actor: Introduction to Jeremy Benjamin
Jeremy’s mother and I got divorced when Jeremy was 4, and I remained a very involved father throughout Jeremy’s childhood, but most especially during his teenage years when he lived with me in Maine. I sent Jeremy to a free-style private school for his three years of middle school, and it was during this time that Jeremy developed his unique creativity, lifelong interest/passion for writing and acting, intensive interest/obsession with working out at the gym, and the beginnings of his outrageous sense of humor. Jeremy grew up with famous horror writer Steven King as his hero, and it was a momentous occasion for Jeremy when we met Stephen King, who lived not too far from us in Maine, at a writing conference at the University of Maine, and when I subsequently gave Stephen King an informal personalized math enrichment lesson—but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that the artistic beginnings of Jeremy’s unique personality was substantially formed in his teenage years living with me in Maine.
Jeremy’s passion was always writing, and he continuously wrote science fiction and horror novels and short stories, some of which he got published in his early twenties .
But gradually Jeremy became more and more interested in acting, as he went to college at the University of Los Angeles (USC) and immediately got himself an agent with the goal of breaking into Hollywood. I can remember how utterly disappointed Jeremy was when he was 15 or 16 and wanted so much to be an extra in a Steven King film for the movies being made right in our neighborhood in Belfast, Maine, but the film director said that they would only use him if his father agreed to play a part that was supposedly perfect for me—a balding “forties something” relatively tall and thin physician. But when I learned that this involved 9 or 10 hours of “hanging out” on the film set during my day-to-day mathematics teaching world, I chose to turn down the offer. I did not understand Jeremy’s deep inner core of how much acting was a part of him, and Jeremy was devastated—but true to his character of genuine good-natured holding no grudge personality, he apparently soon forgave me (I think).
I could go on and on here about how Jeremy’s personality was formed, but let me cut to the chase and just say that after completing three and a half years as an engineering major at the University of Southern California, Jeremy realized that his grades were not high enough to get his engineering degree and that his passion was for writing, and he spent an extra year to successfully obtain his college degree at USC as an English major. Then for practical reasons he worked for a few years as a mechanical draftsman, starting out in New York State and moving to Portland, Oregon in 2006, for reasons related to an intensive romantic relationship he was involved in. It was during this time that acting became more and more of Jeremy’s passion, gradually overtaking writing as his primary creative outlet, and about three or four years ago he decided to devote himself to his Portland life in acting, obtaining flexible work as a gym trainer and aerobics instructor (I will mention here that Jeremy is quite short—about 5’4”; he’s also very muscular and has red hair) which allowed him to be available for various acting gigs at all times of the day and week. Jeremy was relatively successful in terms of being minimally self-sufficient through his work and having continuous acting gigs, including directing some of his own plays. But he also gradually realized that he had gone as far as he could go with his acting goals in Portland, Oregon, and he finally made the big decision to go all out for his dreams with every ounce of determination inside of him, buttressed by a family inheritance that would enable him to survive with minimal income in Los Angeles for about a year, and this brings us to Jeremy’s first blog entry—which describes his first day in LA.
Jeremy’s First Month in LA: The Adventure Begins
On Sunday April 15th I got in my car and bid farewell to Oregon, the state I had made my home for the previous 5 and a half years. On the night of Wednesday April 18th I arrived in the city of Los Angeles. Prior to making the trek, I had answered myriads of ads in attempt to procure opportunities in 3 categories; #1: acting work, #2: employment as a fitness instructor and #3: an affordable—and agreeable—place to live. My efforts in the 3rd category had proved fruitless. My efforts in the first two categories had resulted in more phone calls and emails than I could keep straight in my head….About 20 students were watching with rapt attention as a single student in the front of the room was having an intense conversation with the teacher, a gray-haired man with an exotic accent I couldn’t identify and a powerful presence that filled the room. A cameraman was taping the conversation and it was being projected live onto a large screen in the front of the class. Over the next 3 hours, the teacher—whom I later learned was Martin Donovan, a distinguished filmmaker—had an intense conversation with each student one at a time, developing their characters which would later become the cast of an ensemble television show in the early planning stages. The class ended at 11pm, after which Xavier summoned me into his office wherein he invited me to join the class, which cost around $200 per month, participation in which held the unwritten promise of a television role. I told him I would think about it. Hungry and exhausted by that point, I finally met up with my friend Kate for a midnight dinner at a 24-hour café and then spent the night in her apartment. I was too excited and anxious to sleep, so I stayed up all night.
And so Jeremy is catapulted into LA in a free-whirling style of tumultuous activity that would become his continuous existence for the rest of the year. His next blog entry excerpt gives us an early glimpse of Jeremy’s continuous temporary “highs” that initially looked to him like good experience and possibilities that could eventually lead to success in obtaining professional acting gigs.
Day 5….I set my alarm so that I would be ready for the news from the talent agency at 9:10 a.m. sharp. The news was good news: I was accepted, contingent upon me getting new headshots. So I made an appointment that afternoon to get new headshots. The photographer took my pictures under a freeway overpass, in a spot where the natural light was just right.
He and I quickly became friends; he is also a filmmaker who produces an ongoing comedic webisode show that I dig. This was my first recognizable instance of successful networking—thus I pat myself on the back….That evening I had my first [rehearsal] of sorts. A film student at CSUN had hired me—based on an ad I’d answered—to act in a short scene he was directing for a class project. The scene involved me saying farewell to the corpse of my best friend who had died on my couch from a cocaine overdose and then proceeding to steal his truck.
In Jeremy’s next blog excerpt we see some of the early obstacles and pitfalls that he must learn to overcome in order to pursue his big dream, and which result in many struggling actors giving up on their dreams of “making it in Hollywood,” and going back home. These obstacles are representative of what I have described as “The Reality Argument” that challenges every potential “successful creative artist” (Benjamin, 2008).
Today I suffered my first misfortune in LA: I got a parking ticket because I neglected to notice a sign for street cleaning. This will alarmingly set back my finances….My next stop was the talent agency to review with them my headshots. It unnerved me how rushed they were; I can never talk to my manager there for more than 4 words without her getting interrupted by a phone call she has to take, and then she gets 4 words into that phone conversation when her boss barges in with a more pressing matter, then she returns her attention to me for just long enough to tell me “Bring the prints here tomorrow 1:30 p.m. without your name printed on the border, 8 by 10” and quickly shoos me out the door to process the next client. I guess this is Hollywood….It just occurred to me that I forgot to add a detail to my Day #1 entry. For some reason it came to mind now: at the end of that night, after being awake for 38 hours, I somehow wound up in downtown LA at night singing The Doors tunes with a homeless man. It was one of the more genuine human connections I have had this week.
Jeremy’s obstacles and challenges continue throughout his first week and a half in LA, but he is also starting to show some of the signs of resourcefulness, determination, assertiveness, adaptability, and tremendous physical endurance, that will enable him to persevere through his first year in LA, and which is the crux of what I am referring to as “resilience.”
On other fronts I’m beginning to feel an encroaching sense of futility: the jobs I’ve interviewed for all went well, they all emphatically said they would be in touch, I’ve followed up with most of them via emails and voicemails, and have not heard back from any of them. With acting I’m prepared for rejection, but as regarding fitness employment, I am not accustomed to being ignored, and it is beginning to worry me. In the very least, I need a membership to a commercial big-chain gym so that when things get busy, I can conveniently squeeze in workouts in any given geographical region between auditions and whatever else. I can’t afford a gym membership, nobody’s hiring me and the miscellaneous free trial memberships I’ve been enjoying are on the verge of running out. The clock is ticking…On a more practical note, I’ve learned another rule about this town. Whenever somebody says “I’ll call you,” and particularly if they specify a certain day and time they will call you, they are actually speaking in a code language, and a direct translation of that phrasing is, “I’ll forget you exist in two minutes, and if you want to follow-up on this interview/audition/ correspondence, you will have to bug me relentlessly.” So I set off on a mission to visit a couple of the commercial gyms that I applied to, that said they’d be in touch and have continued to blow me off, I marched right in and talked to the most influential people I could find and pushed my resumé. One of them even gave me a free workout this afternoon, after which I stayed for a delightful yoga class. I’ll be barking at all those doors until one of them opens, or until ten of them open; whichever happens first….
Turned up the heat on my job-hunting endeavors. Did some snooping and found out that the head manager at my current target gym taught a 9:30 a.m. class this morning, so I strategically utilized the last day of my free trial membership there to take his conditioning class and schmooze with him. I naively thought I could beat the traffic if I left home at 6:30 a.m., but the traffic was one step ahead of me, so I ditched my car and bicycled from Sherman Oaks to Century City (11 and a half miles)….I stopped into another big-chain gym on my target list to bug them. After yoga, I biked over to yet another big-chain gym to remind them I exist. Then another 9 and a half miles to my evening acting class. Doing the math, my total mileage today was…28. 28 is my lucky number.
I have included “eccentricity” in the title of this article as a balancing perspective in viewing many of the idiosyncrasies of the creative artist as an alternative to the perspective of mental disturbance, and the following is an early glimpse of why I have characterized Jeremy as “eccentric with a capital E.”
Ever done pushups with a rabbi standing on your back? It was a first for me.
A metaphorical/psychological repenting for my sins, perhaps?….My first morning in my new apartment I was up against a traffic jam that was quite possibly the worst I’ve ever battled. I left plenty of extra time to get to the fitness studio, but still arrived to class 5 minutes late. Nothing infuriates me like being late to a group exercise class. Turned out everybody (the instructor included) was late due to the same traffic jam. Nevertheless, after class I went outside and
performed 50 pushups to atone for the 5 minutes that I was late (10 pushups per minute is my rule). I asked a burly man—a stranger—if he would kindly stand on my back for the first ten pushups and the last ten pushups. Note: this is an effective way of making friends. He handed me his business card and invited me to his synagogue.
As Jeremy begins his third week in Los Angeles, his determination and persistence to find paid work as an aerobics instructor begins to show a preliminary concrete sign of success. This is a very important step in Jeremy’s process of trying to survive in the LA jungle, as it means he is being acknowledged for his aerobics teaching skills and it gives him the motivation to continue to extend his work in the way he wants to, the kind of work which will allow him the freedom and time to pursue his primary goal and dream and reason he made his big move to Los Angeles: to become a professional actor. Thus we see our struggling creative artist making his first concrete dent in The Reality Argument.
Struggling actors in LA are too poor to afford gym memberships yet it is imperative that they stay in tip-top shape, and they can’t work full-time jobs at gyms because they need to be widely available for auditions on short notice, therefore being an aerobics instructor seems to me the only sensible occupation for a struggling actor in LA….I attended a 6 a.m. outdoor boot-camp with a small group of committed people in a public park on Hollywood Blvd atop a hill with a sweeping view of the Hollywood Hills. The leader had asked me to prepare a 10 minute leg workout to lead, as my audition, so to speak. I took them through some variations of squats, hip raises and donkey kicks, similar to my typical routines from the conditioning classes I taught back in Portland. It felt incredibly refreshing to be leading exercise drills. In Portland, I taught 7 days a week, usually 3 to 4 classes per day, and in my moving transition, it was rather disorienting to go so long without teaching. It has been exactly 20 days since I last taught a class. I was on fire this morning, and people dug it! As soon as the class wrapped up, I got offered the job! I’ll now be teaching boot camp every Wednesday at 6 a.m. Hurray!
However, as Jeremy gradually gets acclimated to his new lifestyle in LA, he starts to also get in touch with how much he has given up—he had a rich social life and many friends in Portland, and he misses this very much.
It hit me for the first time how much I truly miss Portland social life; the wild nights of karaoke and dancing and silliness and free expression…Does LA’s nightlife include something comparable? Probably. Will I find it any time soon? I’ll have to earn my fun.
Although for the most part he is not earning money for his acting gigs, Jeremy does experience a growing positive and enthusiastic response to the many acting auditions he arranges for himself, and this kind of acknowledgment and appreciation from his peers is a crucial ingredient in my description of the successful creative artist (Benjamin, 2008). It is especially rewarding for him when he occasionally does get paid a little for his acting gigs.
LA is proving to be a much friendlier environment than I anticipated (with the exception of one pesky parking ticket). Just received notification that I’ve been offered one of the short film roles I auditioned for. I also got a response from one of my theatre auditions; it was a rejection, but a very kind and complimentary one, and they offered me a free ticket to see the show I auditioned for!….They were very pleased with my performance. The next scene we shot was driving down Mulholland Drive with me bound by duct tape in the back seat of their car.
The end result was, I had a great time, made some new friends, made a robust handful of cash, got a terrific scene to add to my reel, and wrapped just in time to get a bite to eat before my midnight call-time for volunteer extra-work. Will sleep through the morning and afternoon and set my alarm for my 5 p.m. rehearsal, and then use the evening to prepare for a big day on Wednesday: teaching my first boot camp at 6 a.m., then I need to find and prepare a monologue for an open casting call at the agency in Venice, then I need to do some character work for my evening acting class. Additionally I need to start learning my lines for the student film I’m doing Thursday. Los Angeles is to my liking.
As Jeremy approaches the end of his first three weeks in LA, we can see how his self-confidence is growing, along with his identity as both an actor and an aerobics instructor, and the high priority he places on his physical “kinetic” artistic creativity as an actor.
This morning had an exhilarating start: taught my first boot camp at 6 a.m., and my style and format resonated fabulously well with this group: 7 attendees, mostly middle-aged professional sorts….I’ve always been very physical in my approach to acting; something about repeating words during physical exertion has a very powerful conditioning effect—that’s my technique for getting in character in a hurry….High intensity physical exertion has a therapeutic effect of clearing the mind, and if harnessed to focus one’s energy on a single thought or ambition, it can bring a singular intent to the forefront of one’s being. That’s what acting is all about, as I see it: focusing on that singular goal, why the character is in the scene, what he needs and how he’s going after his goal, and focusing so intently on that one thing that every atom of my being that is not that character with that need and that goal in that moment ceases to exist.
We continue to see Jeremy’s eccentricities and idiosyncrasies develop in LA, and these kinds of unusual personal characteristics is what I believe can put the creative artist in danger of being perceived as being “mentally disturbed” (Benjamin, 2008). However, Jeremy appears to accept himself for who he is without labeling himself, and refuses to succumb to society’s ways of going about things when it conflicts with his own and when he knows that he is doing no harm and breaking no laws.
I had the pleasure of playing a stern and serious detective in a student film today. On my morning commute I kept a slip of paper in my hand with all my lines of dialog scribbled on it, and rehearsed with myself at every traffic light. In was in that way that I learned my lines….
I locked my bike to the street sign and raced up the staircase and back into the studio and proceeded to hurl my body around the dance floor, letting loose a hundred and ten percent, rocking out to Jimi Hendrix. Before I was aware of what by body was doing, I had gone and made myself the center of attention—how about that. Dancing the night away….I was smart enough to take my bicycle out of my car and lock it to a pole during the shoot, but I was stupid enough to lock my helmet to my bicycle. When I came stumbling out at 5 a.m., my helmet had been stolen, and somebody had jammed my chain into the gears rendering the bike unridable.
Of course all that needed to be done was loosen the wheel to pull the chain out, but in my delirious state of mind I didn’t think to do that and instead rode my bike around all morning by kicking off the ground with my right foot for propulsion, cursing the predicament of the pedals being stuck. New mission: acquire a free helmet ASAP. I’ve already got a lead. New rule: when working overnight in South Central, take bicycle onto set and never let it leave my sight.
One striking aspect to Jeremy’s personality that may very well prove to be one of his primary attributes for his potential success as a professional actor, is the extreme amount of energy that he possesses, constantly juggling myriad amounts of creative activities into each and every day, functioning effectively in spite of being continuously sleep-deprived. And with this blog excerpt we will conclude Jeremy’s first month in LA as a struggling actor.
There are so many projects happening in this town—and I’ve only glimpsed the halo of condensation surrounding the very tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg’s offspring that guards the actual iceberg—that if you blink you miss three opportunities, if you go to the bathroom you miss ten, if you’re driving in traffic and are away from your computer for an hour you miss a hundred, and if you’re on a movie set all day you miss a million and one opportunities to see about other movie sets that might hold pizza in your future. It’s staggering to think of all the auditions that pass you by because you weren’t available to pounce at just the right moment….
Somehow I wound up in 2 different film projects this weekend and they both waited till the very last minute to tell me my call times (causing me to panic that I may have double-booked-excuse me, triple-booked, because I also have an audition to squeeze in tomorrow), and if there is such a thing as a last minute that occurs after the last minute, that would be when I received the scripts. Now in the hour between the fun-filled cardio-dance-fusion class I just took and play rehearsal, I have to learn lines to play a double-agent villain in a farcical short film shooting tonight immediately after rehearsal, and I also have to learn a few phrases in Mandarin Chinese for a film shoot tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I have to learn a monologue for Monday’s acting class, and I have to learn lines for the new scene I’m doing with my new partner….
My next project is getting my part wrapped in time to hop on the freeway and race over to the yoga studio where I’m scheduled for my very first volunteer shift so that I can vacuum the locker rooms and clean sweaty mats once a week in exchange for unlimited free classes. I’m crossing my every bodily appendage that’s crossable I can fit both in!
Jeremy’s Next Two Months in LA:
Accomplishments, Disappointments, and Continual Challenges
Jeremy has survived his first month initiation in LA, and he now begins his second month of striving to become a professional and successful actor/creative artist. Much of the ingredients of Jeremy’s personality that are related to his potential for success as well as to his potential pitfalls of failure as a creative artist and actor have been vividly illustrated in the above excerpts from his first month in LA. For the remainder of his time in LA up to the present time, I will choose a few representative blog excerpts that illustrate significant challenges, accomplishments, disappointments, and dangers in Jeremy achieving his goal, and which relate to the main theme of this article—which is the relationships regarding the creative artist, eccentricity, resilience, and mental disturbance. The first blog excerpt I am including during this time period is one in which Jeremy’s eccentricities are illustrated in a vivid way.
I noticed a peculiar habit of mine. After yoga, I always take eleven sips of water, no more, no less. How long have I been doing that? A week? A month? A year? How many other peculiar habits do I have? I would be so presumptuous as to estimate: more than most people. By the way, I’ve discovered that the standing tree pose has a very obvious practical application to everyday life. This morning every café in my hunting-grounds had an enormously long line for brunch, so I did all of my computing while standing on line, balancing my laptop on my thigh from vrksasana (tree pose) position while answering casting calls, etc. Furthermore, while at the same café I discovered a practical application of zumba: the line—spanning from the register to Ventura Boulevard—stood between my table and the bathroom, a solid wall of people blocking me from my bowel’s destination. I artfully found a gap between two people in line that was just wide enough for me to sashay through without disrupting the flow of the café’s ambiance. Once on the other side of the line, I had to weave in and out of tables without breaking momentum. If not for my zumba practice, my journey to the restroom would have been far clumsier than it was.
We also see the development of Jeremy’s progressive and forceful determination and resilience to bounce back from his continuous rejections of seeking to find work as an aerobics instructor, and his exploration of creative ways to accomplish his goal of becoming a professional and successful actor.
At the free acting class yesterday, the teacher told us some stories of unconventional ways that certain legendary actors broke into the industry. For instance, there was an actor who kept on visiting the agency he submitted to and bugging them for an audition. One day he got tired of waiting and refused to leave the lobby until the agent met with him. The receptionist tried to shoo him out the door and before she could call security, he began belting out his monologue at the top of his lungs. The agent came out of his or her office to investigate the commotion, the actor looked the agent right in the eye and delivered his monologue; that actor landed a major role on a television show….To reiterate the analogy I’ve made before, a traffic jam on the freeway is the perfect visual counterpart to what happens to your resumé in hyper-saturated jobsearch purgatory. The solution? Be aggressive. Get off the freeway, find a shortcut through residential streets, ride a bike; choose your metaphor. Call them. Call the people under them, call every other branch of their franchise until you find yourself speaking to a receptionist who’s having a good day and will accidentally slip and give you a small nugget of information they’re not supposed to give you, find the phone number—or at least the name—of the person above the person with whom you’re not making any headway, bug that higher-up with relentless phone calls until they cry. Snoop around internet social networking media and find out when/where that higher-up is making a public appearance or leading a seminar, drive an hour out of your way to attend and make best friends with them and then after they forget you again bug them even more relentlessly with phone calls and make then cry again….Whoah!
Just checked my email and I got a job offer! Karma? Maybe, I don’t know. What I do know is, persistence is always a better plan than sub-maximal persistence. As of tomorrow, I will be teaching a weekly water aerobics class at UCLA—now THAT is something to celebrate.
As Jeremy nears completion of his second month in Los Angeles, we can see that the borderline between eccentricity and mental disturbance for him is starting to become more blurry, with preliminary warning signs appearing from his self-imposed continuous sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation comes in those classic phases: first it’s the holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-I’m-awake-and-I’ve-got-all-this-stuff-to-do half-grumpy, half-panic mode when you’re still picking crusties off your eyelids, then once you get past the day’s first cluster of tasks and hit that first pocket of downtime, that euphoric wind of giddiness hits you and you’re hyper-aware, energized, ready to tackle the world and the day is one big party ahead of you, then you ride a few more waves of errands/meetings/auditions/workouts/whatever, you start yawning and you enter into the okay-I-can-cope-with-this-but-I’m really-fucking-tired-let’s-just-get-this-day-done-with mode where you’re making compromises with yourself, then you find yourself in class struggling really hard to pay attention, it’s late in the evening, you’re hungry, your eyes are sore from staying open, you’re pissed off about twelve different things that don’t really make any sense and you hit the FUCK-FUCK-DAMN-PISS-FUCKITY-FUCK-FUCK-SHIT-EATING-MOTHERFUCKER mode where you turn into a two-year-old who missed his nap and is inwardly throwing a tantrum.
Jeremy’s continuous sleep deprivation results in various additional obstacles and setbacks that he now needs to deal with and find a way of overcoming, and some of his coping strategies do appear to be skirting the borderlines between eccentricity and mental disturbance.
On my way to my car, the derailer on my bicycle’s gearshift somehow managed to mangle itself in just such as way that the pedals were rendered useless. I stayed on course, powering the bicycle by kicking my right foot off the curb. Made it to my car with not a millisecond to spare….You really do have to earn your sleep in LA, you can’t just assume entitlement.
In practical terms, that would mean earning to rent an apartment in Hollywood instead of living way out in North Hills. I live in a horrible location: I have to drive down the 405 to get anywhere, which is not only notorious for having some of the worst traffic known to mankind, but is under construction this summer and riddled with detours. Note to self: I will need to establish a new game plan of driving to sets the night before and sleeping in my car….One thing I forgot about sleep deprivation; it makes you do strange things….I got in a verbal skirmish with a business owner who was hassling me about where I’d parked, I was in hyper-overdrive mode, chugging caffeine, not wanting to be five minutes late to set, and in a fit of rage I unintentionally tore off the passenger-side door handle of my car as I got in. A couple years ago I had done the exact same thing to the driver’s side door handle; sometimes when adrenalin is pumping, you’re trying to make a rehearsal on time, your body does not process input-data from your surroundings, it only processes two words: MOVE FASTER, and when you perform your habit of tugging on the handle to make sure you’ve locked the door, and at the same time your legs are already in a full sprint because they are not available to move any slower, sometimes you come busting in the door to rehearsal only to look down at your hand and realize that the car-door handle is still clasped in your hand. So for the past couple years I’ve been using the passenger side door every time I get in my car. Now that both door-handles are missing, I will be getting in my car from the trunk from now on. This is a new obstacle that will attempt to slow me down, but will not succeed in doing so because NOTHING slows me down; traffic jams, economic recessions, inclement weather AIN’T GOT NOTHING ON ME!!!!! Three hours of sleep and this hyper redheaded mofo is ready to kick some ass!!!!!
As Jeremy begins his third month in LA, he starts to come to terms with the harsh reality of his financial predicament and tenuous ability to survive and make ends meet with his lifestyle, as The Reality Argument continues to make itself known to him loud and clear. But Jeremy continues in his determination to overcome The Reality Argument, though in his own unique, inimitable, idiosyncratic, eccentric ways.
Had an alarming wake-up call when I checked my bank account the other day and saw how rapidly my savings are diminishing, and have identified two culprits: 1, gas usage from commuting in traffic, and 2, food. Since I’m always on the run, I’ve fallen into the habit of eating out on a far too regular basis and drinking expensive mochas without restraint. Today marks the end of my decadent rock-star-like spending spree. Made a shopping trip and stocked up on nuts, trail mix, beef jerky and energy bars; I will keep that store of food in my backpack from now on and snack on it throughout my days. My new rule for myself—effective tonight after one last coffee indulgence—is as follows: I will allow myself to eat out only on days that I make money, and I can only purchase one meal per paying gig. As for transportation, a similar rule is going into effect: I found a used mountain bike on Craigs List for eighty bucks and drove out to east LA this morning to buy it. The guy who sold it to me happened to be the proprietor of an auto shop, so while there I paid him another thirty bucks to fix my car’s side-mirror that was dangling by a wire after a recent incident in which it has been side-swiped by a truck on the freeway. To top off today’s tab, I bought a new bicycle helmet for fifteen bucks. My new rule is, I will commute by bicycle wherever I have to—or want to—go, no matter how far the distance, with one exception: I will allow myself to drive to paying gigs. That means Wednesdays will be appointed my day of luxury; I can drive between boot camp and UCLA water aerobics and treat myself to lunch. All other days I will abide strictly by my new rules. Thus I strike down my iron fist. Eventually, one of three things will happen (or any combination of two of those three):
A, I’ll make enough money acting, B, I’ll find enough fitness teaching jobs to reach financial equilibrium, or C, I’ll live in a tent somewhere off the grid. Either way, I’m calling myself an actor.
But The Reality Argument in LA seems to be throwing punches and giving Jeremy setbacks in ways that he did not anticipate.
Well, fuck, I never got the memo: the memo that says you have to remove your bicycle seat and take it with you every time you go inside an establishment and take your eye off your bike for two seconds. While I was in acting class last night (on an intimately awkward date with my character’s love-interest), my bicycle seat got stolen. I’ve had this bike for all of four days.
Looks like my quadriceps will be getting an extra workout from biking in a standing position until I find an affordable replacement part. And speaking of workout, turns out it was a misunderstanding with the UCLA rec center: I don’t have access like I thought I did, those first few freebies were a mix-up. Back to vagabond gym-hopping for me….filled out online paperwork to apply for unemployment from Oregon, and defended myself against a trucker who took legal action against me after bumping my car in a freeway traffic jam a month ago. And got another rejection email from one of my gym interviews….To make matters worse, just found out that my car insurance rates are raised due to relocating to California, so I called them up and told them “find a way to lower my rates, or you’re about to lose a customer.”….It’s unlike me to snap at people, but everybody has their breaking point, and LA has a knack for bringing people there quickly….We were all in costume backstage, ready to perform the show when the director walked in, looking displeased, and said, “Everyone come out into the house with me, I want to show you something,” turned up all the lights and the something he showed us was an empty house. No paying audience members were present, so he canceled the show. Earlier in the day, I had a phone conversation with my supervisor at the gym in Oregon that was supposed to transfer me. She said there was nothing she could do; she had no pull on this end, but that they miss me in Portland and sure could use be back there. How incredibly tempting that would be.
However, we also now see Jeremy’s impressively strong quality of resilience rise to the occasion, which is going to repeatedly serve him very well in the continuous challenges he faces to actualize his dreams of becoming a successful Hollywood actor in Los Angeles. But Jeremy realizes that though he is continuously getting various acting gigs, they are almost all non-paying student films and he needs to somehow find a way of getting more professional acting gigs that will pay him something and lead somewhere.
I’m starting to see various friends from acting classes get agents. I need an agent. I must get off my ass and start relentlessly hounding every talent agency in town. Must increase momentum….I’ve already endured more discouragement than many competitors do, and I’m not going anywhere….I just secured a spot in a playwright-showcase event coming up next month, in which a ten-minute excerpt of a play of mine will be performed as a staged reading, amongst several others, taking place in a bookstore….Alas, the big day, my much anticipated television role I’ve been boasting to all my friends and family about….New lesson learned: if a gig is non-paid and the details are vague and you never see a script, that means you are doing extra-work under the false pretense that you had a speaking role….Toward the end of the night, the actress got a phone call from home and I heard a most heartbreaking noise; the voice of a four-year-old who missed her mommy. I realized something upon seeing the look on the actress’s face as she tried to explain to her daughter that she was working and did not know when she would be home to tuck her in; I realized that the acting lifestyle is waaaaay tougher for a lot of people than it is for me. No pay, no sweat….I got an email from the actor I thought I had secured for my upcoming play reading telling me he had to back out because he got a paying gig on some big TV show that conflicted. Now if I could only get a paying gig on some big TV show. That just about brought my blood to boil (and this is post yoga; me at my calmest)….It seems I have a new nickname; people keep addressing me as GetSomeSleepJeremy….I brought a little slice of Portland to LA today: a grassroots sustainability activist group operating out of a recycling center is putting on a campy skit with actors dressed as superheroes demonstrating recycling procedures at the big July 4th parade coming up next week. I auditioned today and got the part of Captain America.
As we approach the last week of Jeremy’s third month in LA, we now come to a pivotal point in Jeremy’s LA adventures; one that will set the stage for the remainder of his time in
Los Angeles up to the present day. Jeremy’s next blog entry speaks for itself.
I’m feeling weightless, for two reasons. One, the yoga studio offered a special workshop on arm-balances today. Two, I’m no longer living way out in North Hills: I now live in a far more convenient location, which is, anywhere I park my car! Found a free zumba class, and tonight got free tickets to a play of some sort; the day is abundant with zero cost recreation. As of noon today, I am relieved to be homeless. That is, I found a way to live efficiently and minimize car commuting through a mixture of couch surfing and car camping. My roommates offered me an affordable deal on storage; $20 a month to keep a heap of my belongings (books, cd’s, movies, appliances, musical instruments and other personal memorabilia) in their closet, and after living with them for two months, I know I can trust them. I set off with a suitcase and frame-pack stuffed full of all my clothes and costumes, and luckily my car is a hatchback that offers ample surface space when the seat is down, so I can spread out on two sleeping bags and a pillow and get a good night’s sleep anywhere where it’s legal, with my bicycle locked outside. At last, I’m free from the burden of being tied down to a single address, and can roam freely without worrying about commuting mileage! Got it all planned out: can brush my teeth at public restrooms and shower at gyms. And with the money I save on rent and gas, I can drink a lot more coffee. In my mind, this is an upgrade to my quality of life, not to mention it’s a prerequisite to being a film actor: as I’m hearing, most A-list Hollywood actors have stories about a period of time spent living in their car when they first came to LA and worked to establish themselves. Got to start gaining credibility by letting go of extraneous comforts. Tonight will begin the real test of my will to persist in being a struggling actor. What am I made of? The morning will tell….Woke up fully energized and rested in my new mobile abode; a triumph of frugal freedom, to no longer fret over traffic: wherever I need to be in the morning, I’ll just drive there the night before and I’m home! Not to mention, I’ll never have to say “oh crap, I forgot this/that costume item or this/that piece of workout equipment, got to drive home to get it” because I will be home wherever I go! I’m amazed I didn’t think of this brilliant solution earlier in life. I even thought of a viable solution for dirty laundry: I’ll keep my sweaty laundry bag under the car, and very carefully drive the back tire over the top of the laundry bag to seal off the opening so that nobody can steal my laundry (as if anyone would want to), and no animals can get in. I’m like an urban hippie without the drugs (or the sex…)[reluctant exclamation point...]. The sleeping bags provided ample warmth and padding, and I had just enough room to recline. Yes, there are some advantages to being short….An old friend of mine emailed me after reading my blog, asking me if I was actually homeless. I replied, “semantics, semantics…I don’t think of it as homeless, I think of it as living logically within my means, and devoting the majority of my time to pursuing my dreams while I’m at it.”
As Jeremy gets seasoned into his routine of car living (together with couch surfing once or twice a week at friends’ houses) his theatre and aerobics life in LA continue full steam ahead, amidst all of its ups and downs, now including his auditioning to be a dancer in a music video and actually getting officially paid for an acting role.
I’m thinking the cosmos may be giving me a message that employment in fitness is no longer the answer for me. I shall gradually phase out my fitness career and look toward other means of acquiring cash….I reference today’s strength-training workout as much-needed because my audition was for a “body builder” role, and I was to be a featured dancer in a music video. This was my first ever dance audition, and I had a blast, showing up sufficiently pumped and showered. It was held at a seaside bar, in a back area with a pool table. The pop music artist—an extraordinarily beautiful female semi-celebrity with a strong fan base—was actually there at the audition, which is highly unusual. She was congenial and told me she enjoyed my dance moves and my energy (they stopped the music right as I was about to start humping the pool table; I like to go to extremes and make creative use of props and furniture in the room—that’s just my auditioning style). Now we’ll just have to see if she liked my dance moves more than that of the hundred some odd men she’s auditioned since…. We nailed the scene on the final take; slowed down, reacted to each other, let the script breathe, really felt it. It was filmed with three cameras simultaneously, and I trust it will be edited together nicely. Afterwards, the professor said, “Before you leave, make sure to sign the forms so you get paid.” I laughed out loud, and then realized that he was not joking. There was an actual invoice and a tax form. I was pleasantly surprised to have earned fifty bucks, and what’s far more significant, for the first time I can officially, legally declare myself an actor. I should probably be excited about that, but I was too exhausted to register it on any emotional level. I suppose that’s what any marker of success will feel like with acting: you’re always so exhausted from the grind that you never have that holy-shit-I-made it moment, whether you’re Tom Cruise or the understudy for Salmon #3 in a community theater production….Nevertheless, the bike ride down the hill from the Pasadena Design College was euphoric, rushing wind and all….note to self: AAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
But as Jeremy continues to make back and forth progress in his acting goals, the reality of his chosen living situation does start to give him additional challenges he needs to deal with.
My mind…is cloudy. Dogs were barking all night….Little things are starting to chip away at my patience….when nosy strangers in coffee shops or backstage peer at my laptop and say, “Whatcha working on, a script?” I am liable to snap at them; clearly my financial position doesn’t afford me privacy, can’t people see the invisible walls of my office?! This is my office, damn it, even if my office is a square of sidewalk that’s just close enough to the coffee shop to pick up wifi and just far enough away from the cigarette smoke to breathe. And who are these people who bang on the doors of gas station bathrooms late at night when I’m in there trying to brush my teeth?! What do they think I’m shooting up or something? I’m an actor, we look like regular people, we walk and talk like the rest of you, we’re just more emotional, LA is full of ‘em, get used to it, people, and get off my freakin’ back. Later today, re-shooting a scene from a spec commercial I did several weeks ago, which will bless my coffee budget with another fifty bucks….I’m gradually getting the hang of the car-living routine, figuring out the subtleties of how to position the sleeping bag and blanket amongst laundry for optimal padding….I still feel like I’m on a perpetual mild drug high.
To say the least, Jeremy’s new living situation is adding an extra dimension of eccentricity to his already quite eccentric personality.
Biked back to the park, found it and did my chin-ups, dips and pushups in the middle of the night. Afterwards I had the itch to work on some writing projects, but my laptop’s battery was empty, so I set off in search of a bathroom, any bathroom that had a power outlet with which I could plug in, write fast and furiously to pump my thoughts out until someone banged on the door and chased me out. Did not find one, but my point is, I tried….and to anyone who thinks I’m being “over the top,” as I’ve said before, kindly GO AND FUCK YOURSELF, I’M AN ACTOR….I rocked out my comical-gym-trainer-pouring-his-heart-out-to-female-aerobics-instructor monologue I developed in that class back when, and it got good reactions. To pump myself up, I biked down to the beach first thing in the morning, stripped half way to naked and grunted through a complete upper body workout on the pull-up bar, parallel bars and rings in the lovely exercise complex next to the Santa Monica pier. There’s something magical about exercising between the sun and the sand. Speaking of dreaming, it occurred to me that
I haven’t had any dreams I could recall since I started sleeping in the car. I wonder what my first remembered dream will be.
One aspect of Jeremy’s personality that we have not yet seen from the blog excerpts I have chosen to include, revolves around his shyness with women. This may seem rather contradictory to how extroverted and continuously energetic he is throughout the staggering number of creative activities he immerses himself in every day, but nonetheless this is also a part of Jeremy’s personality. In my Art and Mental Disturbance article (Benjamin, 2008), I did not include the developmental stages of Erik Erikson (1963) in terms of what many people consider to be “satisfactory adjustment.” However, after teaching a Human Growth & Development course at a university in Maine, I now realize that the Erikson stages is an important model for satisfactory adjustment to include in my description of the successful creative artist. Jeremy is smack in the middle of young adulthood, and according to Erikson (1963) his major life task is involved with successfully navigating through intimate relationships, marriage, and family. It is thus significant to include some of Jeremy’s blog entries that pertain to his realizations that he is very far from attaining these indications of being a “successful” young adult.
After that, had a decent audition in Burbank for a student film in which I read for a man who was hopelessly in love with a robot who could not love him back. Now there’s a serendipitous recurrence I’ve taken note of: lately I keep getting asked to read for slightly older male characters who are pining for a female love interest who is unattainable. I suppose that’s been the story of most of my adult life, although at the moment I’m not in that position, and I can see the sadly pathetic resonance of those characters’ actions. Perhaps the repeated element in these roles is a mirror that’s been handed to me gift-wrapped from above to smack some sense into me….And then I find myself sitting at the bar feeling sorry for myself. It’s after 1 a.m. as I write this from a 24 hour restaurant, and my alarm will wake me up in less than 4 hours to teach boot camp. I think I had planned something interesting to ramble about in today’s post, but I can’t recall what it was….girls at bars selecting which gentlemen they find physically appealing, and voicing their assessments aloud right in front of you as though you’re invisible—and after pushing your ego through a sausage grinder, the sinister forces then inquire of you whether you still want to fight. Do you, punk?
However, amidst all of Jeremy’s growing sleep deprivation and eccentricities, he appears to be making gains in theatre people appreciating his unique personality and creative abilities.
I got invited to be featured in the music video I auditioned for last week—the one where I almost humped a pool table….I’m in love. I’m in looooooove….I think I just located a kindred spirit. Two power yoga classes….In the second class, I almost fainted a couple times.
I bow down to her, the new fitness goddess of my horizons. It came up in conversation that I was preparing to dance in a music video, and she was impressed to hear that; she right away put on some music at the front desk and said, “Dance for me, bust a move.” Later she exalted me on Facebook as a dance-machine. Propelled to today’s gig on a cloud of good energy from my dearest power yogi, one of the actors no-showed, so I got promoted to the lead singer’s comic sidekick in which I was dressed in drag and let around on a leash—it was a hoot! Full makeup, a fluffy pink skirt, the works; everybody was snapping pictures and laughing; I got to be the center of attention all day. In one scene I made one of the female dancers laugh so hard she nearly hyperventilated….A day spent out at a desert ranch dancing and having ridiculous fun, surrounded by beautiful women, what could be better? It does get better; tomorrow the shoot continues!…. Today was an amplified version of yesterday; wild dancing with beautiful women in a variety of settings, some of which was quite sensual, surreal scenes on the ranch, ending in a climatic concert scene at a pool that wrapped late in the evening. I’ve always been one to easily let loose when it comes to dancing and wearing bizarre costumes; I was inhibited as an adolescent—junior high dances petrified me—and then my father started taking me to pagan festivals as a teenager, and I’ve been an ecstatic dancing machine ever since, and this weekend’s experience was me in my usual element times a thousand. So much relentless fun, energy, outlandish costumes (at one point I was dressed as a hybrid of a leprechaun and a pimp), so many new social connections, I feel as though I’ve come out of a shell of sorts, even though I was never exactly in a shell, this was truly monumental. Ended with that feeling of extreme exhaustion and extreme openness, like a drug high without the drugs; lots of photo ops, lots of hugs, lots of compliments. An elderly man ended up giving me an impromptu swing dancing lesson on the porch late at night when everyone was finishing washing their makeup off and packing up, and I could not imagine a better finishing touch to such a surreal weekend. If I were to drive back to Portland tomorrow, my LA excursion would be worth it just for the immense pleasure of having been part of this music video shoot. Tomorrow I suppose it’s back to some semblance to reality.
And day-to-day reality gradually reminds Jeremy that it is still there, complete with not everyone viewing his chosen living-out-of his-car existence in the way that he does.
Woke up, crawled out of the trunk of my car and washed the blue eyeshadow and mascara from my face in a McDonalds bathroom, looked deeply and groggily into my face in the mirror, feeling like the weekend was a vivid and wonderful dream…. In Los Angeles, the question everybody asks is “Where do you live?”….In LA that is the obvious question to ask because the city is so spread out and transportation is a burden, the first thing you want to determine about a person when assessing the potential for any union or collaboration is, “does this individual live near me?” The person could be your soulmate, but if you live in Santa Monica and they live in Pasadena, no phone numbers need be exchanged. When posed with that question, I tell the truth, and sometimes I say it in an indirect, witty fashion. “I live many places.” “I live at my next gig and/or my next audition.” “My place of residence is not so much a place, but more of a…circulatory system.” However I say it, I get one of two reactions: most people nod and say, “Yep, I hear ya, bro, I’ve been there” and proceed to tell me a story about a time they lived in their car for a few months due to whatever circumstances. But then there are the few people who are shocked and say, “Oh, you poor thing, we better find help for you.” Here’s how I see it. Where you “live” is where you…what? It’s your resource for a list of things including—but not limited to—these essentials: 1, a toilet (they have those at fast food restaurants and most gas stations now), 2. a shower (they have those in gym locker rooms), 3, a study or work area (Starbucks is never far away), 4, a bed (a sleeping bag and a contained metal enclosure with glass windows does the trick in a pinch) and 5, a facility to store, prepare and consume food. Hell, if you ask me, 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.
And Jeremy is enjoying his role of Captain America at his recycling gig, though he gets some criticism from one of his supervisors for being “over the top.”
While the crowd was entering the Starlight Bowl, our team of three greeters had a polished routine we delivered to the people in line. One guy would hand them a flier of recycling info and give them a shpeil, and warn them that a quiz was coming up, then I popped them a recycling quiz while the third guy juggled, as pre-show entertainment. I prefaced the quiz with these stakes: “If you answer the question correctly, you win this brown paper compostible bag perfect for collecting all food scraps. If you answer the question wrong, then I will sing for you.” The quiz question was whether certain items belonged in compost, trash, or recycling bins. If they got it wrong, I would say, “Would you like your song in the styling of Billy Joel or Elton John?” The concert was a tribute to those two artists, with dueling Elton John and Billy Joel impersonators at two pianos at stage. I had two parody songs prepared….Made people smile. Once we ran out of the paper compost bags, the recycling master thought it would be funny to offer piggy-back rides up the hill to the entrance as the new prize. Only one person took us up on that offer, and I delivered. That made people smile too. During the show I was wheeling a recycling cart up and down the isle, and my assignment was to get really excited whenever somebody distributed an item to the bin, give them high-fives and dance. Yes, those instructions did include “dance.” They didn’t have to tell me twice. After the show, I manned one of the recycling stations and was instructed to greet everybody as they exited, to wish them a goodnight, to make an impression and connect with every single person and go crazy with it. The other supervisor was on a slightly different page and critiqued me for being too over-the-top for this “conservative crowd.” I love it when two authority figures give conflicting orders; in those cases you can be yourself with impunity.
Finally Jeremy’s sleep deprivation gets the best of him, and he experiences what he without a doubt considers to be the low point of his time thus far in LA, vividly described in this last blog excerpt of Jeremy’s first three months in Los Angeles, and which is also an indication of the serious dangers of The Reality Argument for our struggling actor.
In the blink of an eye, things got incredibly worse. This entry—that I’m writing on Saturday—is falsely labeled Friday, because my computer access has just become limited to scraps of time I can scrounge at public libraries. If the tone in the previous entry was any tipoff of how far from lucidity I’ve regressed due to accumulative sleep deficit, it didn’t hit me until after the damage was done that this…all of this…is not working….I realized how lethally tired I was when I stepped outside into the fresh air of a quiet Silver Lake neighborhood and blinked my eyes, trying to formulate my game plan for the night, but I did not realize the detrimentally self-destructive blunder I made until I was already several miles en route to the highway and brought my car to a screeching halt, spun around and raced back to the venue, screaming profanity at the top of my lungs the whole way there because I had left my backpack on the sidewalk, forgetting to grab it after loading my bicycle into the car. My backpack contained my computer, my wallet, all my personal notebooks, reading materials, CDs I teach with, my electric razor, my portable video camera, and myriads of other small things. When I got there it was gone. Made some frantic phone calls to the facilitators of the events, went and filed a police report, snooped around the neighborhood ransacking every dumpster and every bush in the vicinity. No luck. Down and out. Still emitting hysterical screams of profanity at the top of my lungs, drove to Burbank to park my bedroom in front of the apartment where the next morning’s film shoot was taking place, then I set out to find a public bathroom. Just my luck, every gas station I came upon had an “Out of order” sign on their bathroom, so I set out searching for a vacant back alley in which to take a piss. I ended up finding a bar and urinated like a civilized gentleman. But that moment that I surveyed the neighborhood for alleyways with intent to perform an unrefined action, that moment will forever be concretized in my memory as me at my rock-bottom; homeless, not a dollar or cent on me, no computer, no ID, wandering the streets seeking out the sketchiest looking alley available. If my future should hold any lofty accomplishments such as a role in a network television show—which I firmly believe it does—I will hold the recollection of that moment as a mental reference point from which to measure my progress.
Assimilation and Assessment:
Jeremy’s First Three Months in LA as a Struggling Actor and Creative Artist
What have we learned by the above colorful and illustrative blog excerpts from my son Jeremy’s first three months in Los Angeles as a struggling actor and creative artist? Of course to fully understand the process of the potential creative artist that Jeremy represents here, more time is needed to see how Jeremy’s creative artistic potential develops amidst even more severe challenges for him where The Reality Argument is playing for keeps. But to summarize very briefly, Jeremy does once again demonstrate his impressive quality of resilience as he bounces back from his backpack with his computer and accessories getting stolen, and weathers through a great number of ups and downs for his next eight months in Los Angeles, up to the present time of this writing. At this point in time, Jeremy has now been living out of his car for eight months, and in this way appears to be essentially self-sufficient with his earnings from teaching aerobics; i.e. he is satisfying Maslow’s lowest level basic needs on the needs hierarchy that Maslow (1962) has described. For how much longer does Jeremy have the wherewithal to survive the continuously intensive and challenging ups and downs of the life of a struggling actor in Los Angeles, amidst all the thousands of other struggling young actors competing with each other in the frantic race to obtain those precious few Hollywood roles to remove them out of oblivion? Is Jeremy able to continue walking the delicate and tenuous tightrope and balance his eccentricities in favor of his artistic creativity, continue with his strong and impressive quality of resilience, and avoid the pitfalls of mental disturbance, as more and more of his friends are expressing their concerns about his mental health? Will the comraderie of his growing community of support from fellow actors and artists be enough of a buttressing force to help him overcome the many obstacles that stand in his way of achieving his goal of becoming a successful professional actor and creative artist?
These are all questions whose answers currently remain unknown, but what I can say at this point is that Jeremy has maintained his dedication to his dream and goal for the 11 months that he as been in Los Angeles. My reasons for focusing on my son to illustrate my ideas about the creative artist and mental disturbance are primarily because I think that his wonderfully descriptive experiences are illustrative of my philosophy and psychology of the creative artist, in a striking way that effectively balances out the intellectual descriptions that I have previously given (Benjamin, 2006, 2008). I am in the process of putting together my philosophical and psychological ideas about the creative artist and mental disturbance into a book that will include the intellectual ideas from my above 2008 article, illustrations from my own experiences as a potential successful creative artist—utilizing my creative artistic abilities and accomplishments in the areas of mathematics, music, and philosophy, the inclusion of the mental disturbance side of what I am exploring from the background of my own family heritage, and illustrative excerpts from my son Jeremy’s blog of a struggling actor/creative artist. As much as I would like to put some kind of closure on Jeremy’s struggle to become a successful actor in Los Angeles, I can see that this struggle and Jeremy’s blog is going to be a long-lasting process; I cannot rush this process and there is no end in sight. However, I believe that what I have described thus far through Jeremy’s illustrative portrayals of his first three months as a struggling actor in
Los Angeles speaks for itself, and if there is sufficient interest in Evolutionary Landscapes in seeing more of Jeremy’s struggles and development, I will be submitting follow-up articles.
 For a description of the main thesis of this article based upon the first month of
Jeremy Benjamin’s narrative blog entries, See Elliot Benjamin (2012), The Creative Artist,
Eccentricity, and Mental Disturbance: Part 1: The Journal of a Struggling Actor—
my Actor/Writer Son; www.integralworld.net
 See Jeremy Benjamin (2006), After; and Jeremy Benjamin (2009), If I Catch You
Reading This; publishing information available in the References.
Benjamin, E. (2006). Integral psychology and an artistic view of mental disturbance.
Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
Benjamin, E. (2008). Art and mental disturbance. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48(1),
Benjamin, E. (2012). The creative artist, eccentricity, and mental disturbance: Part 1:
The journal of a struggling actor—My actor/writer son. Retrieved from
Benjamin, J. (2006). After. Richmond, KY: Wings ePress.
Benjamin, J. (2009). If I catch you reading this. Portland, OR. Inkwater Press.
Camic, P. M., Rhodes, J. E., & Yardley, L. (Eds.)(2003). Qualitative research in psychology:
Expanding perspectives in methodology and design. Washington DC:
American Psychological Association.
Chang, H. V. (2008). Autoethnography as method (Developing autoethnographic
inquiry). Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design. London: Sage
Ellis, C. (2009). Revision: Autoethnographic reflections in life and work (Writing lives).
Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
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