My Crazy Night, Part 2

23 Jan

After the talk, I was nervous. During the Q and A, I’d heard Mr. Abrams discuss JJ and how he hadn’t actually encouraged him to be in the business. Wow, I’m so glad JJ actually went ahead and became the mega-branded triple threat (producer, writer, director) he is today.

Part of me wanted to ask a question but I thought in person would be better. I was mustering up the courage. It was weird because I haven’t gotten this starstruck in a really long time. My mind went back to that time when my best friend chased Owen Wilson down the street and I chastised her for it. Okay, I wouldn’t be that girl. When the Abrams’ finally emerged from the theater, I was hovering near the table with the fruit skewers and the cookies and I had a cute little box of chinese chicken salad that I was trying to down.

“Okay, we’re going over, right?” I asked Cara. But I was scared. I thought I needed her to go first. I kept telling myself that they were only people. We walked closer. I looked into Mr. Abrams eyes, shook his hand and said,

“I’m Melissa. I have to tell you I really love your son’s work. It’s been highly influential to me.” He smiled and mentioned that he was just working with JJ earlier on a trailer for his next project, “Super 8” (with Steven Spielberg as producer, starring Elle Fanning and my favorite, Kyle Chandler, from “Friday Night Lights”).

I realized later I only had a limited time with him, but somehow I started rambling on about “Felicity” and how it was on my first year of college and how I had come to LA from Chicago and could totally relate.

“Oh, with Keri, yes,” Mr. Abrams recalled.

“The thing with that show was that they were always saying “I’m sorry” for everything,” he said. I agreed. Somehow he got distracted and started talking to someone else.

Meanwhile, Cara was talking to Mrs. Abrams. I eagerly introduced myself and told her the same thing about how her son’s work meant the world to me. We talked about passions and she said that JJ loves what he does. And if one day he stopped loving it, she would want him to find what else he loves and do that. We talked about starting with something we thought we loved but feeling freedom to change to something else. She encouraged Cara and I to love what we do because, “you only have today!”. She was very down-to-earth and nice. I was appreciative. When we finished talking to her, she patted my arm in a sweet way and shook Cara’s hand.

I was floating on air. I should have given them my card, but I didn’t care. I had made a huge step and I had conversations with the parents of someone whose work I’d been following and loved since the early 90s. In retrospect if I would have told them about my weekly “Alias” gatherings or “Farewell to the WB” party, that might have been over the top. So I’m glad I kept mum.

I had the courage, after that, to network. I suddenly loved Penn State alumni functions more than USC’s. I talked to another panelist about what hot spec scripts to write and what it was like to be a producer in Hollywood. I even asked the University PR guy about the piece I’d heard on “This American Life” about Penn State being the #1 party school and found out that he was the one who had permitted Ira and the gang to come! (He had wanted to admit the problem of alcohol abuse and try to have people see that it was a problem at all schools, not just Penn State. If you can, you should listen. It’s a good one!). I talked to an architect grad and found maybe the only other person at the event who went to USC and not Penn State. Overall, a successful night of putting myself out there.

The night only got better when Cara and I drove to Bergamont Station to see our friend, Grace, who works with a publication called Slake. They were having a party over there and several of our friends were a part of it. The crowd at Slake was way different. Overly artsy, some hipster, and definitely more pretentious than the Penn State gang, the crowd browsed art and sipped the free signature cocktail of the evening. We mostly caught up with some friends and then I adjourned to the next room to talk with my friend about the JJ parent meeting.

Soon after that, Cara wanted to go to another gallery to see some more art. The art itself was somewhat disturbing. I can’t explain why, but I felt this strange vibe after walking around that gallery. That’s where I saw the lady with grass coming out of her hair and everyone in that gallery was dressed in loud outfits. We didn’t stay long. The best part was what happened when we came out.

There it was: The Grilled Cheese Truck. I’d heard about this truck and always wanted to try the food. As I approached the line, I realized it was probably cash only. NOOOOOO! I had just given my roommate my $20 that I’d been carrying around for emergencies like this one! I read the menu. Did you know that the Grilled Cheese Truck has a grilled cheese with MACARONI AND CHEESE in the middle of the sandwich? I know. I didn’t know either. I LOVE macaroni and cheese. Like LOVE it. It’s one of my joys in this world and I often get made fun of by friends and family for it. Cara and I started talking about what I was going to do. I dug through my purse and found a checkbook and $1.25. Enough to buy a side condiment.

“Maybe I can write one of these people a check and they will spot me?,” I wondered aloud.

A creepy guy with a nub of a ponytail heard me. I did not make eye contact. How badly did I really want a grilled cheese? I tried to be nice to him, but I decided I wasn’t going to ask him. That would just be weird. Good choice because he kept staring at me and Cara was about to tell him to take a picture because it would last longer. A couple next to me needed a menu. I got it for them. We discussed the Cheesy Melt, as it was called. I was hoping that maybe there would be a credit card machine in that truck. Suddenly before I could make my decision about what to do, the guy from the couple handed me seven dollars. I couldn’t believe it. WHAT?! No way. LA was just voted the rudest city in America? Clearly this guy wasn’t included in that poll. I was amazed. I was so happy. This was the best night ever. After giving me the $7 he walked off into the crowd and I couldn’t even thank him properly.

NOTE: If there’s anything I love more than macaroni and cheese it’s FREE food. I raid Costco for the samples. I hit groceries on Friday. I clip coupons. I love free food.

I gave the girl in the truck $1 of my free money. Pay it forward? HECK YES! As soon as I had ordered, they closed the truck! I was the last person to get a grilled cheese that night! NO WAY. You can imagine how grateful I was.  JJ’s parents, free grilled cheese with macaroni inside? WOW. Night to remember. Thank you, Lord, for such an amazing experience! I found joy last night in unexpected ways. WHOO HOO. Keep it coming!

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