Sunday, November 27, 2011

Being Alone on Black Holidays

My Thanksgiving feast - thanks Trader Joe's!

Did you survive Black Friday?  I know, it is hilarious to think there is a holiday about libraries being closed where you then you have to go shopping and spend money on silly things that won’t give you half the experience of reading a good free book.  I just got done reading Paul Mooney’s Black is the New White, and am now enjoying Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood by Emily Leider, which was put on the hold shelf just in time for the long holiday weekend.  I read it while wearing $42 feather earrings that I got for $2, which is about all that trend is worth.

In addition to Black Friday, I also celebrated Black Thanksgiving, since I spent the holiday absolutely alone for the first time in ten years.  Instead of being depressed at the thought of being away from my family or having any LA friends to extend me an invitation, I used the day to do holiday activities that made me smile.  I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in my PJs, cooked a full Thanksgiving feast thanks to Trader Joe’s having easy to heat pre-made side dishes, then headed to The Grove to see The Muppets, afterward sneaking into Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (the only way to really make the film worth it.)  I even popped in one of the few stores that were open, Forever 21, and found a pair of black sequin heels for $6, which I then wore while eating leftovers and watching Lady Gaga’s Thanksgiving Special.  Exactly what the Pilgrims and Indians (Native Americans) had in mind back at the Plymouth Plantation.

Traditions are nice but sometimes being alone to create new ones is nicer.  Or your only option when you don’t drink alcohol, especially when last year’s festivities included living with a bi-polar roommate who at first invited me to remain in the apartment to take part in her Thanksgiving dinner (“What?  You are going to be in your room?  I guess you can come, as long as you move your boxes out of the hallway and don’t eat too much of our food.”), then threw me out when I found other plans (“I’ve thrown your stuff in the yard.  How could you erase the Barbra Streisand/Oprah episode on the DVR?  Don’t you know the whole world was waiting for that?”)  This year, I was just grateful not have a yard or any of my stuff on it.  True ‘Peace on Earth.’

I say being alone is a great time to spend with yourself, hopefully exploring the mysteries and excitement of whatever that day will bring, which may include cleaning your apartment or making new friends who might invite you to Thanksgiving next year!  Think about what you enjoy doing and go do it, with or without an entourage.  One of my most recent solo adventures was sleeping overnight waiting for the H&M/Versace clothing line.  I had nothing but a beach towel and some books to read, however my new friends in line gave me blankets, a sandwich, and hours of hysterical conversation.  It became less about the clothes and more about the experience of waiting to get those clothes…well, until those friends knocked me out of the way when the doors finally opened. 

The point is, the next time you feel alone on Thanksgiving, or the rest of the year if you live in Los Angeles, don’t wait for an invitation, just create your own tradition and then don’t invite anybody!  Also remember to be thankful when things don’t work out.  They weren’t supposed to because those people are crazy.  Barbara on Oprah?  Please, like only half of the world even have TVs.  Well before Black Friday, anyway.  Now two people own all of them! 

At The Grove on Thanksgiving.
Holidays are what you make them!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankful for the Light, the Tunnel, & Valet Attendants

"Remember the light at the end of the tunnel may be you."
"Amazing" by Aerosmith

So even with the “fame” that comes with being in the LA Times, I am back to parking cars.  Last night I was running around in a very dark and wet Bel Air neighborhood, hoping the speeding cars down Beverly Glen would see my small frame in between the endless rain drops plopping down on their fancy windshields.  I was freezing.  My jeans and puffy white coat featuring the valet company logo on the back offered little protection.  For safety, I had a blinking glow stick hanging from my belt loop that I had gotten free two years ago for changing my oil.  I was happy to see the thing still worked and prayed it generated some attention to passing cars that I was not a ghost but female valet attendant for fancy private house party.

After parking the cars for the guests attending the party, I was left to stand for two hours in the dimly lit driveway, which resembled some covered bridge the headless horseman might gallop through on his way to collect skulls.  I tried to pass the time through conversations with my co-workers or wandering in and out of the covered bridge to admire the beauty of the landscaping. 

On one side of the bridge were the huge double doors closing off the property from the street and any curious onlookers.  With the doors closed, it was probably difficult to see through the vines and foliage that was obviously constructed for privacy.  A colonial-style lamp hung from the center of the bridge providing some light, but the rain still clouded any real chances of viewing.  In walking through the tunnel of the bridge to the other side, you were greeted with a stone walkway leading up to the front door and glowing windows filled with beautiful objects inside. 

It suddenly seemed so easy to walk those few steps through the tunnel of darkness into this new world full of so much light that I stood there for a few minutes forgetting that the rain was damping my hair and soaking my shoes.  I tried to enjoy the few moments of light knowing shortly I would have to return to the dark.  I wasn’t sad though.  I was just thankful I still had the energy and interest to make the walk.  There is usually some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, but the question is whether you want to continue making the effort in trying to see it.

In honor of Thanksgiving this week, I want to thank all of the people over the past year who have closed their doors to me in one way or another.  The cliché (about hope) says the light is at the end of the tunnel, but I think the brightest light is within us.  While I may be knocking on your door looking for an opportunity to shine, I am well aware that there is a whole neighborhood full of other houses that I can walk to.  Slamming your door in my face or cowardly hiding behind it and not answering doesn’t stop me.  It just prevents you from having fun people at your party.

Oh, and the next New World just might be discovered by a bored valet attendant, so you better be thankful with more than just turkey, stuffing, and some cranberry sauce.  I would say throw in at least a twenty if she used your Rolls Royce…

Happy Thanksgiving!
Driving my first Rolls Royce through Beverly Hills.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Touring the Occupy LA Library

...We appreciate your patience, please be assured that your call will receive the time and attention it deserves when we return to the line…

“Hello? May I help you?”

“Yes, hello, my name is Meredith Myers and I received a letter in the mail saying that I’m released from my temporary position of Library Page at the West Hollywood Public Library, now there is no reason given for why I am let go, are you able to share that information with me?”


“To release somebody from a job without giving them any warnings or write ups, or anything?  I am blown away to be honest, I don’t know what the problem is, and it would really help me move forward with my life if I knew what the problem was.”

“Well, they usually coach the employee and if the coaching didn’t make an impression than we don’t continue because you are hourly and we just move on the next person.”

“But basically I wasn’t coached.  I had nothing but positive feedback from day one until the last day I worked, I really don’t know what went wrong.  So that’s what I am asking you.  What is your advice?”

“This is our procedure.  This is our policy.  According to civil service rules, we do not need to give a reason.  You are an ‘at-will’ employee and we release employees when their services are no longer needed.”

“Don’t you think this is a little cold?  We are in a tough economy right now, and this is the field that I have spent 6 years trying to work in, a field that I love, and if I was doing something wrong I just wish somebody would tell me so I could fix the problem so it would never happen again.  Please ma'am, it would really help me if you could tell me what I did...”

“Hmmm, no, I can’t.”

 Stand-up Librarian Meredith Myers joins her friend Lila for a tour of the Occupy LA Library and learns that Brian the Librarian wears glasses.

Occupy LA Declaration of Occupation:

“As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.”

“To the people of the world,
We, the Los Angeles General Assembly occupying City Hall Park in Downtown Los Angeles urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Release" This: Stand Up and Stop Booing!

With Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez after our interview.
The first time I met Steve Lopez, Robert Downey, Jr. was playing him in a film.  It was March 19, 2008 and I was on the set of The Soloist, a movie based on Steve’s columns and book.  I was a background actor in the film and after two days of sitting around in a ball gown, they didn’t even use me.  Out of 300 extras in a scene where Steve receives an award, the film crew thought my big head was in the way of the camera, so I was “released” to go stand in the hallway.  I was fine with it.  I had a paper to write for my history of libraries class.

In leaving the ballroom where we were shooting, I ran into Robert, who was practicing his lines to himself.  As extras, we are never supposed to speak to the lead actors but of course, I spoke to him like it was the most normal thing in the world.  “You were awesome in Natural Born Killers.  Really f'n awesome.”  He laughed, smiled, and said thanks.  I kept walking.  I didn’t care that he was Robert Downey, Jr.  I just thought he was a good actor.

Almost four years later, and I am speaking with the real Steve Lopez, and once again, it is because of my big head.  Yet again, I was “released” from a job for being in the way, for standing out, for saying I liked something.  Apparently, like background actors, library pages aren’t supposed to be seen or heard either.  Without even trying, I had become “the soloist” all right, and thanks to losing my job, was now left to perform alone.  So here goes…

Steve’s Los Angeles Times column on November 2nd, leads with the phrase “Comedian Meredith Myers is basically booed by the library she loves.”  Listen folks, just because I was booed doesn’t mean I stop performing.  Being booed just means the material wasn’t right for that particular audience.  So as a performer, I’ve got two choices.  I can rewrite the jokes to fit the audience or just get a whole new audience.

Or, I’d like to think that maybe there is a third choice.  JUST STOP BOOING.  Comedians, like librarians, are a diverse group.  Those that enjoy Larry the Cable Guy might not be fans of Margaret Cho or George Carlin. Regardless of what you think is funny, all comics do what they do in the hopes of making audiences laugh, and laughing sure feels good in a world that seems to suck right now as a result of this poor economy.  And for that, I think all comedians are pretty important just for putting themselves on a stage where some audiences only want to judge them. 

Librarians are providing just as important a service.  They are sharing information with a public that requests it.  So would you really want the same librarian performing all the time?  Of course not.  Librarians are a direct reflection of their library collections, and I don't think anybody wants a library with all poetry or all self-help.  So let’s stand up for the uniqueness of each and every librarian and stop the booing! 

As a result of this LA Times piece, I have been getting countless emails from people sharing their support, outrage, advice, and many still looking for answers on why the whole thing even happened.  Like most things in life, I don’t think this situation has a black and white answer.  Plus if the people involved don’t communicate with each other, then we are never going to reach a sufficient solution.

Communication.  The key to public relations.  Let’s talk about that for a second.  It is no secret that I have a background in PR.  The secret is that I don't enjoy doing it.  For me to do it for free is unheard of.  (A client once paid me in trade - a latex catsuit - because she ran out of money.  Don’t ask.  It is still hanging in my closet.  Unworn.)  So the fact that I was doing free PR was for one reason and one reason only: I loved the library and I wanted the whole world to love it too.

It upsets me that a field I walked away from FOR the library profession, seems to also be the reason I was “released.”  And that term is just as stupid.  Released.  An orgasm is a release and I’m sorry, losing my job didn’t feel like that at all.  (Now see, somebody out there is thinking that I just went too far with the orgasm joke.  Get over it.  I cursed to Robert Downey, Jr. and he laughed, so should you.) 

The part that bothers me with this whole thing is how people keep congratulating me on this story.  We should not be celebrating this, people.  It was a lose/lose situation for me and the library that could have been a win/win if we had communicated better with each other.  Do you really think I wanted a story in the press about being fired?  Or that I was working as a library page?  Do you think I want people angry at the library?  At my co-workers?  Absolutely not. 

Originally, the Times was doing a positive piece about my journey into becoming a librarian and having a fun blog promoting libraries.  My love for the new library was the even-happier ending.  A love so strong that after months of volunteering, I was finally getting the chance to work there.  Hooray!  Good press for the library too.  “Off the record,” as they say, I had also just applied for a Librarian 1 position with the north county and had gotten my vendor ID number so I could do paid programs in the library.  Things I would never jeopardize as a library page or for a story in the paper.  And guess what?  All of those opportunities are now gone.  All because a few people who didn’t even know me or work with me, just couldn’t communicate with me.  Now we are all losing because so many people are mad at the library too.

I’m not one to live in the past, so while I am still very disappointed at what has happened, I am not defeated.  A decision was made and as they have yet to want to make it right, I am moving on knowing I have not wasted a second on what went wrong.  I already know I did everything right.  I was kind, helpful, happy, and 100% myself.  I will not be ashamed that I am colorful, funny, or dress fashionably.  I am also smart, dedicated, and obviously, incredibly strong.  Even now as I feel like most of the people I have worked with have yet to reach out to me (out of fear of losing their jobs too), it didn’t stop me from writing emails to each and every person telling them how important they were to me.  How I learned from them.  How I am better librarian because of simply knowing them.

And THAT is how we should be communicating with each other.  Not in judgment through boos and firings but in support of each other’s differences.  And THAT is what makes a great library collection.  And THAT is what makes a fun night at a comedy club.  Nobody wants to see the same thing all the time, so stand up for individuality and diversity.

Finally, I am so grateful to have met Steve Lopez, a writer and columnist I have admired since 2008 thanks to Robert Downey, Jr. in that empty hallway on The Soloist.  What I hope all of you learn from my story is that when bad stuff happens, it is not the end of the performance.  There is this incredible encore just waiting to be heard, so get ready to stand.  We need to keep standing up for libraries…even when they don't seem to be standing up for us.

And Robert?  Email me.  I have this great idea for a script and I think you would be just perfect.

Standing out in the hallway on the set of The Soloist, March 2008.

Steve's book display at the West Hollywood Library Opening, October 2011.
The Los Angeles Times, November 2011.