Hi everyone!

I celebrated my first anniversary in LA on January 17, 2009.

It has definitely been an interesting year but it seems that the craziness of LA life has abated. Unfortunately. I blame that on a fixed schedule. (Random thought: maybe the onset of middle age has more to do with a fixed schedule than anything else . . . not that I'm aging, of course . . .)

1. The Biz

One short film down and three to go! For the last 8 months, my acting class has been working on a film project. We finally completed it this month. Everything really fell into place. We had a great director of photography who (even though he's a bit of a princess) really did outstanding work. We have several musicians DYING to GIVE us music. We have a top notch sound designer. AND . . . (drum roll) . . . we have an editor in New York who worked on Requiem for a Dream. Film festivals here we come!!

The second short is a mocumentary about polygamy. I play a reporter who's interviewing a newly-polygamous family. (Thanks for the book, Jan. I've done my research now.)

Strangely, the third is about a woman who has two husbands . . . but they don't know about each other. This one has the possibility of being turned into a feature but I'm not holding my breath. I think that might be too much work for the producers . . . but it would be nice, wouldn't it?

And the fourth film is another collaboration with the super talented Carlo "Long Take" Pangalangan of Filmmakers Alliance fame.

2. The People

After wrapping the acting class shoot, Berda and her friend Tim ate dinner at a great veggie Thai restaurant called Bulan (http://www.bulanthai.com). It was about 10pm. As Berda drove down a dark street on her way to take Tim home, a woman rushed out in front of the car. She was barefoot and waving her arms wildly. Berda stopped immediately, ready to make a 911 call at the slightest hint of distress or danger.

(Berda anxiously rolls her window down.)

Berda:  Yes??!!

Woman: Hi!  Do you happen to have a cigarette?

Berda: (beat) NO!

Tim: Wow. She must really need a fix if she's running out into the street with no shoes on.

Also, I've really begun to notice how much of an inferiority complex this city has about New York. I can't tell you the number of times I've told someone I moved from New York only to have them launch into full-on attack . . . I had the following conversation on Sunday night. Kenny invited me to see a remarkable production of Athol Fugard's The Island at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center (www.lucyflorence.com) starring Lovensky Jean-Baptiste and Tony Todd who are both on the show 24. As I was waiting for Kenny to reset the stage (he was the stage manager), I got into a conversation with the man who was selling wine at the reception:

Wine seller: So where are you from?

Berda: I moved from New York a year ago.

Wine seller: You know, I've been to Paris, London, New York, Berlin, Madrid, everywhere! And all those places can kiss my ass! There's no place like Los Angeles.

Berda: (groan) Well, that's certainly true . . . I understand what you mean, though. I feel that way about New York.

Wine seller: No, no, no. Living in New York is about just being in New York. It's not about anything else. Here it's about working in the arts.

Berda: Well, that's almost true. This is definitely a one horse town. If you want to do certain things you should be here but if you want actual culture you have to go somewhere else like New York, London, and Paris.

Wine seller: There's culture here! It's called the weather! The sun! The beach! The mountains! Here you have middle-eastern women throwing off their barmas (I think he meant "burkas") and running around on the beach!

Berda: Uh . . . okaaaaay. If you want to find people who read, don't come to LA.

Wine seller: People read here . . . they just hide it.

3. Driving

Li'l E got her check-up last week. She's doing very well . . . except that her back breaks need replacing soon because . . . yes, I did . . . I drove with the emergency break on. I've also learned that, as a woman, the safest, most reliable place to take Li'l E for a check-up is a dealership. It's more expensive but after the Evil Washington Tire fiasco I'd rather pay a little more than deal with other slimy mechanics.

4. The Oscars

Because of the economic downturn, the Governor's Ball was much less lavish this year. The planners chose a Japanese theme which (due to it's sparse aesthetic) lent itself wonderfully to the pared down budget. The music was terrible. I don't remember who was playing but after one of the singers massacred "Wanna Be Starting Something" I stopped listening. The desserts, however, were incredible! The kitchen made a white chocolate bento box that had a tiny chocolate Oscar on the top. Each box opened into three compartments that were filled with more scrumptious chocolates. Overall, this year was much better organized than last year. I didn't feel like I'd been run over by a truck at the end of the night but . . . maybe this is the jaded server in me talking . . . serving food is still serving food. It doesn't really matter where you serve it, to whom, or on what occasion. When I finally accept my Oscar, I'm going dedicate it to everyone in the service industry . . . and to my wonderful parents, of course.

5. The Catch

Peter "Catch" Z. invited me to a screening of The International starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. It's really good. See it. Before the film started, someone came out with "swag" (see definition and explanation below) and began throwing it into the audience. Since I like to sit in the back, I didnt' think that any of the items would make it to us. The swag guy announced that he was out of black fedoras but had one scarf left. With a mighty toss, he threw it frisbee-style into the audience. When it reached the middle of the theater, it began to arc toward us. Peter's arm shot up, he effortlessly plucked the sailing scarf out of the air, handed it to me with a flourish, and announced, "When it hit the middle of the theater, I knew it was mine." When I asked if he played professional baseball during an earlier chapter of his life, he said no. Or perhaps he's just shy about his Ultimate Frisbee Championship trophies . . . anyway, I'm now the proud owner of my first piece of swag. There's even a label sewn onto the bottom of the scarf that says The International and because the scarf is black and grey it matches everything in my closet . . . see you can take the girl out of New York but . . .

(Interestingly, I had just listened to a piece on NPR about "swag" . . . or "shwag" as they pronounce it in Hollywood. Swag, according to definition three in the Urban Dictioary means the following:

"Promotional merchandise for a band, record label, or other entity in the music business, usually distributed at concerts . . . The chief difference between swag and regular merchandise is that its purpose is not to make a profit, but to promote the band/label, and reward its supporters by giving them something cool and unique."

This, apparently, holds true for the movie industry as well.) 


6. Conclusion

I'm staying . . . I don't love LA but I don't hate it either. "Catch" said very smartly over tea beside the Avalon Hotel pool . . . yes, it was February and we were sitting outside by the pool . . .

"We ask two things of LA. We ask for good weather and to be able to do the things that we came here to do."

Honestly, the endless sunshine bores me a little bit . . .  I know all of you are playing tiny violins for me at this moment . . . but I'm finding it easier to be an actor here. There are more opportunities. Not only are there more opportunities but it's easier to create your own opportunities here than it is anywhere else. You do, however, have to be more careful about who you link up with because there are more talkers and more scammers.

So there you have it. The "vacation" is going to be extended indefinitely!  

So come visit . . . just like Jan and Sheila and Ken! Great to see you guys! Had a blast!

Please e-mail me and let me know what's going on in your lives!


 Woo hoo! Photograph courtesy of Carrie Syme in New York

 Downtown LA at Christmas

 Tanja at Christams

 New Year's Eve at Little Bar

 Tory and friends, New Year's Eve

 Celebrating the Year of the Ox in Chinatown


 Bull . . .

 Jan and her lovely Mom in Santa Monica

 Happy belated New Year everyone!