Thursday, July 31, 2008

Earthquake! The Blog.

At 11:42 AM, on Tuesday, I was sitting at the front desk at Lakeshore Entertainment when a giant jolt hit the building, rudely interrupting my game of solitaire. It took a split second to register that I was experiencing my first natural disaster. (Not counting that Denise Richards show on E!.)

After realizing that nothing was going to slam down on my head, I calmly walked around my desk as the entire office swayed back and forth for a few more seconds. And then it was over. At least, I thought it was over, but looking at the blinds in the office still rocking back and forth, I realized that it was still happening. And then it stopped, but I couldn’t tell because I was disoriented. It was the same experience I had drinking Jager bombs last Saturday.

The whole thing lasted maybe 15 seconds. Nothing fell of the wall. The power didn’t even go out. I had always heard that earthquakes seem to go on forever. Not this one.

I called Camille to make sure she was all right. She was with a friend who started her car right as the earthquake hit. They thought something was wrong with the car’s engine.

“It was over before I even got outside.” I told her.

“Who is going to answer the phones if you’re outside?” she asked.

That was how (thankfully) anti-climatic my first earthquake was. I didn’t even get so much as a five-minute break out of it.

The news was overstated on the Drudge Report within five minutes: “Earthquake Rocks Los Angeles.” News started filtering in saying that it was stronger than most, a 5.8 in Chino Hills, wherever that is. Apparently, anything above a 5 is newsworthy, and a 5.8 can be devastating in some parts of the world. Here, it rattled some slushy machines in Pomona.

The whole event became disconcerting after I started watching the news on my computer, waiting for aftershocks. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet I learned what a “foreshock” was, a minor earthquake preceding a larger one, like say that earthquake in China that was 4000 times stronger than this earthquake.

I decided to go home for lunch to check on the dogs and make sure my Playstation 3 hadn’t shattered into a million pieces. Both the dogs and Playstation were fine. The pictures on the walls hadn’t so much as shifted. On top of our bookcase, where we keep the board games, all the boxes were still precariously stacked on top of one another.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and responding to text messages my friends sent me, wondering if I was okay, which I appreciate. Although I hope no one is offended if I’m ever trapped in rubble and don’t have the time to text back right away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Voice Over Chronicles

Years ago, I moved to Pittsburgh a year early to get residency for graduate school. Mind you, I hadn’t even been accepted. It was a gamble, but a gamble that would save me half the cost of tuition.

In the meantime, I worked at a video store. One day, soon after finding out that I had in fact been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh’s creative non fiction program, a customer at the video store said to me, “You have a great voice. Are you in school for radio?”

“No. I’m going to school for writing,” I told him.

“Well, that’s a mistake,” he replied.

Tens of thousands of dollars later, I sometimes can’t help but wonder if he was right. But the great thing about school is that you can always go back for more, so a mere two months after actually receiving my MFA, I’ve started taking voice over classes in Burbank.

I’m not giving up on writing by any means, but looking for something to supplement the writing income besides making coffee and answering phones. And since this is Los Angeles, I’ve chosen something just as high-risk and unreliable.

Voice over isn’t the cash cow it used to be. As our instructor told us, “It’s a cool part time job.” It used to be that a few actors got all the jobs and made a ton of money. Now, there’s more work available and a greater diversity of actors get jobs, but there is also more competition.

And then there is the whole issue of whether or not I can actually act. As I immediately learned, this isn’t just about reading some copy off a piece of paper. You have to act like a sandwich from Arby’s is the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted.

Our first exercise was a car commercial. We had to conjure up something that about which we reminisced. Most people thought about an old girlfriend or car. I, naturally, chose Denny’s bar in Pittsburgh. When I got out of class, I even felt like an actor, which in LA means that I can quit my job and hang out at outdoor cafes all day.

Like anything else, voice over takes a lot of time, practice, hard work, and commitment, commitment like the guy in our class who commutes from Las Vegas to Burbank every Saturday; an eight-hour drive, there and back, for a three-hour class.

And even after all that practice, time, and effort, it’s still a gamble that you’ll ever book anything. We’ll see if this one pays off.

P.S. I’m available for voice mail work.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I always get depressed when someone asks me, “If you were a superhero, what power would you have?” I would choose invisibility, but not so I can go into the women’s locker room and spy on naked girls. I would use my power to disappear at work and watch the reaction of people when they walked into Lakeshore Entertainment. “Good God,” they would think, “There is no receptionist!” But this scenario only gets me thinking about how if I really did disappear, it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference anyway, and I’d probably be docked a vacation day. This makes me disheartened.

But the biggest reason I get depressed is because I already do have a superpower, it’s just not very good. No, it’s not flight, super strength, incredible flexibility, or even the ability to summon fire with my bare hands. It’s much more mundane than any of that. I have what dentists refer to as “Teeth of Steel.”
Now, I’ve never actually heard a dentist use this term when referring to my teeth, but I’m pretty sure my super chompers have come up more than once in casual dentist conversation, probably during an all-dentist poker game or something of that ilk. “My patient,” my dentist would say, eyeing his cards, “He’s got teeth like I’ve never seen before. Teeth of Steel, I’d say.”

Like most superheroes, the discovery of my super power was by accident... accidentally not brushing my teeth before bed for over ten years. As soon as I got into college I thought, “Why brush at night when my breath will just smell bad in the morning, and I have to brush my teeth all over again?” I also didn’t floss. I had never flossed, and the thought of picking up something like that when I was well into my late teens seemed like a desperate kowtow to authority. Mouthwash? Forget it.

I didn’t go to the dentist for ten years either. At first, it was because I was lazy. Then it was because I didn’t have insurance. And then it was because I was frightened of getting yelled at by a dentist for not going for so long, and I was afraid of what they may actually find nesting in my mouth. (Remember, I didn’t know I had Teeth of Steel.)

I had some teeth pain during those years, but nothing too major, and my gums only bled if touched. You know how they say plaque is invisible? Well, not after ten years.

Eventually, I decided if anyone was ever going to love me again I needed to get rid of my earrings and get a dentist to clean my teeth.

“Wow,” my dentist told me during my first exam in over a decade, “You only have two small cavities.” Yes, after ten years I only had two small cavities. Sure, my teeth would have eventually fallen out from gum disease, but they would be strong teeth with no fillings, teeth that would last for an eternity. After a nuclear war there will be only cockroaches and my teeth.

Alas, I haven’t saved any lives with my super power. But I’m happy to report that I’ve been brushing my teeth regularly twice a day for the last few years. I even floss nightly. My teeth look good, but I know that somewhere out there is a toothless super villain out to destroy my Teeth of Steel. And until the day we meet and do battle, I’ll continue to disguise myself as plain old Nathan Jordan, mild-mannered receptionist.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hell, Thy Name is Pie

Two 4th of July’s ago, I almost blew my finger clean off. I am admittedly one of those judgmental people who say things like “What kind of inbred moron blows off his own hand with fireworks?” and yet I came inches away from subjecting myself to a lifetime of having to explain my inability to shoot a gun. That 4th I was in Indiana, the state of legal fireworks and 3 AM last calls. Fireworks are not only legal in Indiana, but they are embraced as a means of fundraising. My sister and I loaded up on fireworks at a tent sale that was operated by a local church in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

That afternoon we set off one of those chains of rapid-fire firecrackers. Afterwards, I found one in the yard the still hadn’t been detonated. I lit the thing, not realizing that those kinds of firecrackers have quick fuses. As soon as I tossed it, it exploded one foot from my face.

This year there were no almost-amputations. Some party pooper in the California government thought it best that thousands of square miles of dried vegetation wasn't exposed to flaming projectiles set off by drunk people. Instead, we celebrated with a cook-out and water balloon fight.

And then, this week, I decided to out-American myself and make an honest-to-goodness apple pie from scratch. See, I was involved in a pie baking contest at work, which meant that I got to try 14 pieces of pie over a 15 week period. Unfortunately, this also meant that I had to make a pie myself.

I had never made a pie before. After looking at the short list of ingredients, I decided to go with a simple caramel apple pie. Of course, I didn’t bother to read the actual recipe before starting. It was too long, a fact that a smarter person would have taken as a warning of the complexity of baking a caramel apple pie.

The first thing I noticed as I prepped all of my ingredients was that there were four steps to this thing. I had to make the crust. Then prepare the apples. Then make the caramel. Then get around to baking the damn thing. The second thing that I noticed was that I was home alone. I would be solely responsible for any type of explosion, electrocution, or food poisoning that may take place.

It took five hours to make the fucking thing. First of all, I didn’t realize that I had to peel every single apple. Then, I had to cook sugar and water until it caramelized. That took three attempts. I kept stirring the sugar, waiting for it to turn brown, you know, like caramel. Each time, the water would suddenly cook out of the mixture, leaving me with something resembling crack cocaine. By midnight, Camille was helping me roll out dough in our way-too-small-to-bake-a-mother-fucking-pie kitchen. The baking didn’t even go according to plan. After 50 minutes, the pie was barely hot. Maybe that had something to do with my head also being in the oven. Note: A 350 degree oven is not hot enough to bake a pie or to kill yourself.

After all was said and done, the half-cooked pie was set in the fridge at one in the morning. At this point I didn’t care. I had fulfilled my commitment to my job and to America. And
at least I hadn’t blown my finger off.