Peach? I think he liked peach.
I am surrounded by every kind of fake flower in every kind of fake color there is at Hobby Lobby.
Peach was the color picked last time. It turned out pretty good. I’ll just go with peach. This decision should not be this difficult...
I haven’t visited my dad in 6 years and 12 days, which is terrible I know. I drive from Norman to south OKC, only a 15 minute drive, making me feel even worse. I decided not to tell my mom or sister about my visit. Not that I didn’t want them there. I just didn’t want anyone there.
I park my car and make my way to where I think he is. He is NOT where I thought he was. I do, however, find my Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Pat and Uncle Able. Basically everyone else in my family.
I remember now that he is up on the little hill away from the others. I start crying before I even approach his grave. I was somewhat expecting this, but not to this degree. Someone had already brought him flowers. My mom and sister, of course.
I get all my stuff out (flowers, scissors for trimming, a foam ball, a trash bag, and tissues). I sit down next to him. This makes me feel extremely dramatic, but I can’t help it. I cry and apologize. I apologize for not coming sooner. I apologize for not being stronger. I apologize for not calling my mom more often and a lot of other things. I then start to fill him in on the other things that are going on. I tell him about the Spartan Race I had just done, my crazy food cleanse I did, my unfulfilling job...etc. I also tell him about how I now have a little pseudo family of my own and about how I am a stepmom. I wished that he could have met Michael and Hunter. I said how Hunter is playing baseball and that I tell him the tips and tricks that my dad had taught me when I played ball. I tell him how I have grown into a strong and independent woman, just like he and my mom taught me to be, and that I think he would be proud.
I am pretty sure at this point I have no more tears left. I have spent the last 20 minutes telling my dad all the things I am sorry for and all the things that I think matter. But I know that none of it really matters. I didn’t have to come here to say any of this. He sees me, he watches over me, he probably rolls his eyes and shakes his head at me. (A lot). But it feels nice to be close to him for a tiny bit. I place a kiss on his headstone and leave my bouncy ball and promise to not be such a stranger from now on.
Bouncy Ball # 142 - Al
I look out at the road with an emotionless face, vacant eyes staring ahead at the curves of the 101 Freeway South toward home.
I suppose I shouldn't be driving. I'm not drunk, but I ate a marijuana edible about three hours earlier, thinking by now it would've made its way through my system. I'm not driving recklessly or acting strange, but inside I'm panicking about a tightness in my chest, my heart pounding its way to a what I believe is a certain heart attack.
That's the real reason I'm regretting my decision to drive. Because I'm freaking out, and I'm not alone. I have a passenger, a 22-year-old guy named Al, who was at my friend's birthday party in North Hollywood. I'd offered him a ride, and while that's a very small event, it counts for today as my bouncy ball thing.
Really, I don't know if this is the most interesting thing that's happened to me today. Probably not - I did a lot of other random things. I went to breakfast with a couple of old Oklahoma comic friends. I drove one of them back to Irvine, a two hour trip in the middle of the afternoon. I cleaned my house and completed my arm challenge, squat challenge, and plank challenge for the day. I held a python to finish up last week's bouncy ball tasks. I went to Target to buy some stuff for my superhero costume, but they didn't have what I needed. I headlined a comedy show my roommate put on in our garage. And finally, I went to a bar in North Hollywood for my friend's 22nd birthday.
Any of the things I've done today had potential to become a bouncy ball story. Any one of them. Because as I'm starting to gather, none of what I do matters unless I make it matter, and it's really up to me to find the meaning in the moments that I live.
"So you write a lot of standup?" Al asks.
I keep my eyes forward. "Well, yeah, I do that. And I also write other stuff."
"Like what kind of stuff?"
"Um, well, I guess memoir-type things?"
"That's cool," he says. "What about?"
I sigh. Here we go. "Well, right now, I'm writing a book based on bouncy balls."
"Oh really? What do you mean?"
I ease my grip on the steering wheel while I exit off the freeway. "Well, I think that bouncy balls are magic. Because I always find them. So I feel like finding them is a sign from the Universe." I laugh at how ridiculous that sounds.
"Huh," he says. "You know, I always find dimes that are heads up."
"You know," I say, "my friend Erin told me one time that she always sees one shoe off to the side of the road."
Al laughs. "That's a cool one."
"Yeah," I say, but I'm wondering now if there are lots of people in the world who encounter one silly thing over and over again throughout their lives, one thing that sticks out, one thing that they always notice.
Bouncy Ball # 143 - Pupuseria in Grand Central Market
"Wow," Katie says, taking a small sip of her cocktail. "I'm really sorry that happened to you."
"Well, thank you." I stir the ice in my own drink with my straw. "But I think I'm okay, you know? I'm mostly just mad that I can't say anything."
"Why can't you?"
I shrug. "Because it would end up hurting other people if they knew."
Katie shakes her head. "Well so what though? You can't talk about it?"
"What would I even say?"
"Maybe you could write about it," she says. "That seems to be the way you usually talk about things."
"True," I say. "I guess I could." But I know I'm not gonna write about it. Some things, I'd like to try and keep to myself.
I actually only told Katie the story because she'd shared something with me about her past, and I could tell she felt a little exposed, just leaving such a big, impactful detail of her life hanging out there in the open like that. I felt the least I could do is share something from my past with her.
Katie and I had stopped in this bar to have a drink and take a break during our Adventure Walk. She'd agreed to go with me on one of the adventures in the cards Sosa and I won a few months back, and it led us downtown to something called the Broadway Historic Theatre District.
So earlier today, for the first time, I ate a pupusa - pork and cheese inside a flat, soft tortilla. It was incredible. I sat next to Katie at a crowded counter amidst the hectic atmosphere of the market, and I had my first experience eating this delicious Salvadoran staple.
When I left the bouncy ball on the counter at the pupuseria, Katie snapped a picture of me without me even realizing.
Is it enough? Even though we're here today, it's not exactly how I'd planned. I was supposed to have my superhero costume complete. I was supposed to have a mask that covers up the bump on the bridge of my nose and a black cape that Meredith made, which would billow out behind me while I stood proud, my head tilted to the side, my arms out wide and resting on my hips.
But instead, I'm just me. I'm wearing worn out jeans and a faded purple tank top. I'm full now, but since eating that pupusa, I haven't changed in any significant way. I haven't forgotten the things that happened to me in the past. In fact, it only takes a strong drink to get me to share my secrets, tell all my business, live everything out in the open, wear my heart on my sleeve, completely transparent.
There's no costume that can hide you when you write your whole life honestly.
"Hey," John says, walking up to my front steps, where I'm standing to greet him. He's here to support The Workout Room, the comedy show my friends and I started running from my garage after Dangerfield's 3 shut down. "So tell me, are you making yourself into a superhero?" He laughs.
"Oh yeah," I say. "Is it too obvious? It's too obvious, isn't it?"
"Well, there's some pretty strong foreshadowing. Have you seen the documentary about real life superheroes? It's on Netflix."
"What? No. There's a documentary about it?"
"Yeah, it's a really great story. You should check it out, especially if you're going that route with your story."
"But wait, it's the same thing? Real people who turn themselves into superheroes?"
John looks concerned. "Wait, you know that's a thing people do, right?"
I shrug, stepping down into the gravel of my front yard. "Well, I think I knew that it's been done before, but I didn't realize it was a big thing. It's a big thing?"
John's eyes get wide. "Somebody's got some Googling to do."
I sigh. "I told you I don't know things. You know that." John is the producer of the podcast I co-host, called "People We Know." It's about fictional characters, half of whom I've never heard of. I'd say I spend 90% of our recording sessions either asking questions like, "Now, I'm sorry, who is the Undertaker?" or staring off into space while the host Andy and our guest of the day nerd out about that one scene in that one film that only the two of them saw.
I never know anything about anything. That's kind of my thing. And the only thing I know about superheroes really is that I'd like to be one.
"Well I still think you should do it," John says, "if that was your plan."
"But is it unoriginal now?"
"It depends on what you're going to do with it."
"Well, I wasn't gonna go fight crime," I say. "I was just gonna do silly things. It's more about not caring what people think of me."
John nods. "Really, you should still do it," he says. "That's different." I can tell he feels bad for deflating my big ending, but I've already started deflating it myself. I've already started to doubt the validity of what I've foreshadowed.
Bouncy Ball # 144 - Jeremy
Sunday at the Silverlake Lounge, and Mario lines up a row of whiskey shots, gesturing for me to take one. James and I grab a shot glass, Mario grabs one, and a guy who'd been sitting at the opposite end of the bar slides down toward us. "Let me get one of those, too," he says. Mario pours, slides it over to him.
The new guy clears his throat and delivers some eloquent rhyming toast like he's rehearsed it several times. We clink glasses, throw the shots back. I don't even flinch.
"My name's Jeremy," the guy says, reaching out to shake my hand. Within a minute, he's telling me about the screenplay he plans to write: a half Mexican half Caucasian man can't find a job, so he decides to run for President of the United States.
He tells me about last week, when he wrote some amazing script coverage that his boss took credit for. "They'll respect it more if it comes from me," his boss had said. "It'll look better professionally, and it'll be good for you in the long run."
"What a dick," I say. I shake my head. "You can't get caught up in that. He'll just keep doing it."
"No, he won't," Jeremy says. "Because I quit."
"Oh awesome!" I give him a high five. "Good for you to stick up for yourself like that."
"Yeah, I feel pretty good about it," he says. "And I'm thinking I'll have more time now to really start working on what I want to do."
"Oh, yeah," I say, "for sure." But I'm thinking about a month from now, when money gets tight for Jeremy. I wonder if he'll regret his decision, or at the very least, look back on the moment that forced him to make the decision and try and avoid that moment in the first place.
Maybe not. Maybe it's good enough for him to know he did the right thing, no matter what kind of mess it's caused in his life.
I give Jeremy a bouncy ball. The next day, Jeremy, my newest Facebook friend, comments on my post: "A certain bouncing ball almost got me arrested."
Apparently, he'd played with it like a hacky sack, then kicked it into oncoming traffic. A cop car pulled up to him, and inside, there were "two hot police women." He'd said, "Wow, LA has some fine looking police officers," one of them told him he needed to work on his game, and they drove away.
Later, he found the ball in a pile of trash.
I keep reading the post and thinking, "I am the cause of that chain of events."
"Man," I say to Jonathan, who's sprawled out on my couch staring at his phone while he waits for The Workout Room show to start. "Have you ever heard of people in real life turning themselves into superheroes?"
"I mean, you know those people in real life that get dressed up like superheroes and go out into the world?"
"Ugh, oh yeah," he says.
"What do you think of that?"
He rolls his eyes. "I think it's the extreme end result of the quirky hipster movement where everyone's just trying to be ironic all the time, and they're like, 'Hey, look at me. I'm wearing a costume.'"
"Huh," I say. "Because I was gonna do that."
"Oh," he says. "Well, uh, I mean, you should."
"I have to," I say. "I've been hinting at it for like three weeks now." I sigh, smack my forehead with my hand. "Man! Everyone's gonna think I'm so stupid."
Bouncy Ball # 145 - Greg
I made a trade with a my friend Greg. I gave him a bouncy ball, and he drew me a picture of a three-legged dog. "Because I think people should go through life like a three-legged dog," he'd said. "Whatever happens, you just keep going. Like that dog. He lost his leg, but he keeps going."
I chose a superhero name.
That's a fucking badass name. Don't act like it's not. I would've tried to make it my nickname, only I know from experience that if you try to give yourself a nickname, all your friends will resist it and make fun of you mercilessly for thinking it was a cool name in the first place. Haters.
I've loved that name since I first heard it, on the first movie of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy - it's the first name given to the character who will later be known as Lord Aragorn II. (I feel like I should get points for even knowing that detail, since I know so few things about nerd stuff.)
I Google the name one day, but the definition isn't surprising: "a person who walks rapidly with long steps." Even that in itself is appropriate, I think. I'm one of those people who is always rushing to get to the next place, even when in reality, I have all the time in the world. Even when most of the time, I'm just rushing to wait, missing all the beautiful things that you can only notice when you take your time to get somewhere.
Bouncy Ball # 146 - Written by my friend, LA comedian Megan Rice
There are a lot of things that freak me out. If I had to pick a top three it would be: heights (I am afraid that I might jump off a tall building. I don’t want to kill myself, but I’m scared of what’s keeping me from doing it. Nothing weird about that.), scary monsters (I don’t actually believe in monsters, but I do have to sleep with my feet covered up out of fear one will eat my toes. No, there is nothing weird about that either.), and singing in public. When Leah asked me to do something for the Bouncy Ball Project, I knew exactly what I had to do. Since I am way too afraid of heights to do anything involving that, and it would be almost impossible to find a scary monster, I had only one option: Karaoke.
I know that seems weird to a lot of people. But let me explain. I have a terrible voice. It’s that simple. I understand that issue doesn’t stop most people from singing into a microphone in front of a bunch of hammed ladies and gentlemen, but I have an exceptionally terrible voice. I know this because my best friend's mom told me I ruined Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” for her after I sang it ONCE in the car at seven years old. I now invite you into the 6-week process that was me performing karaoke for this first time.
My first order of business to fulfill this awful nightmare was to get a buddy. I needed someone who would laugh at me, lie to me about this being a good idea and have no idea just how bad my voice is. I picked my friend Wendi. The following is an account of our first two failed attempts.
Attempt #1: Wendi told me there was a pretty good karaoke bar by her house that had cheap drinks (necessary) and loads of weirdos. That sounded perfect. So over to her house I went. I arrived around 6pm. We drank a whole bottle of Pumpkin Spice vodka (not recommended), ate an extra large pizza/chicken wings/kimchi and were asleep by 10:30pm. Needless to say we never left her apartment, and karaoke did not happen. I fully admit that I was fine with this. I wasn’t ready. I needed more time. And more pizza.
Attempt #2: This time we were serious. We decided on Happy Endings because I figured that would be the most stereotypical karaoke scenario I could find in Hollywood. I was mentally prepared and ready to do this. I got there about ten minutes before Wendi and noticed through the window a lot of bodies jumping around in strange ways I did not understand.
Fuck. It was line-dancing night. Wendi got there, and we considered finding a different place. But, Dude, we stumbled upon LINE-DANCING. This was a beautiful gift we could not walk away from. I don’t want to take away from the point of this story and bore you with tales of jean-kini (a girl line-dancing in a bikini made of – you guessed it – jean), the fact that everyone just instinctively knew every dance, or that Wendi and I joined in. (We basically hamboned the entire time. Turns out we’re real good at that. Not so much at following line-dancing directions.)
Okay. Now that we’re covered the failures, let’s get to the meat of this thing. My success? I feel uncomfortable calling it success, because there was nothing successful about it.
I left Workout Room last Wednesday and headed to the Smog Cutter. If you haven’t been, you’re dumb. It’s an amazing bar with bartenders who are so annoyed to get you a beer, I think they would rather you just not pay them and leave. Wendi was supposed to come meet me, but got booked on a show, so my friend Rick kindly stepped into the role of karaoke buddy.
The last time I was there on a Wednesday night the place was packed. I mean sardine can packed. Which I thought might make it easier for me. A busy place, loads of people talking, no one paying attention to me.
We walked in, and there were roughly ten people inside. TEN!!! Ha! Perhaps the good folks at Smog Cutter were warned I was on my way. There was no hiding behind a crowd here. I’d already had more than a few beers at Workout Room, but that was nowhere near enough. I grabbed the giant songbook, ordered a shot and a beer and got to work.
The selection was not as great as I had hoped for. They didn’t have a single No Doubt song. Are you kidding me?! Plan B: Song # 1101-08. Ace of Base “I Saw The Sign.” I forced Rick to put his name on the list before me, figuring it would be a nice gesture to the patrons of the bar to hear an actual good song done well before I ruined everyone’s night. We sat back for a few songs. Unfortunately, no one was embarrassingly bad. That really pissed me off. Didn’t they know how big of a deal this was for me? I needed someone to shit the bed before I did.
Alas, it never happened. It was all perfectly mediocre karaoke. Rick’s name was called and up he went. Bob Seger was an excellent choice, and the other ten people at the bar seemed to agree. As the song ended I stood up and got ready to ruin all these nice people’s evenings. Apparently the rest of the bar could sense what they were in for, and over half went out for a cigarette as soon as I grabbed the mic. Dicks.
You’ll notice that the story of my first time singing isn’t all that exciting. Or interesting. That’s because it wasn’t. The song started. I sang. It was over, and I walked off stage. Just like most things in life, it was entirely anti-climatic. I didn’t ruin the song for anyone; Ace of Base already did that 20 years ago. I did badly, but so what? I didn’t jump off the roof of a tall building or lose my toes to a scary monster.
One fear down, two to go.
Back when I first moved to L.A., I ran into a friend of mine who'd moved here from Oklahoma a couple years before I did. He was standing behind me in a Coffee Bean on Sunset Blvd. He'd tapped my shoulder, and I turned around, my mind blown, trapped in that moment when you know the person in front of you, but can't make sense of seeing them in this new environment.
We stood on the sidewalk catching up, drinking our coffee. Mostly, he just tried to calm my panic from not having any real prospects, not knowing anyone, not feeling financially stable. I told him that I felt better because I just got a job at the California Pizza Kitchen. It's not my dream job, but it's something.
"I've been reading your stuff on okc.net," he'd said, referencing the website I used to write for.
"Aw, thanks! Wow, you read them?"
"Oh yeah," he said. "One day I read a bunch in a row. Not only are they written well, but I think you should know, you as a character are fascinating."
"No, really," he said. "You just have the best intentions all the time, and you try to do these things that seem like they should work out. And they only end up spiraling into a worse situation."
And I'd laughed and agreed and thanked him for reading. And later that day, I realized that while I was standing on the sidewalk talking to him, I was supposed to be bringing my social security card in to California Pizza Kitchen and signing some new hire paperwork.
And the very next morning, I got fired from the job I desperately needed even before I started working there.
"Oh my God," I say. "I don't even want to tell you what it said. It's seriously so embarrassing."
"Now you have to tell me," Sosa says. "It's too good not to."
"Okay. But I mean, it's really so embarrassing."
"Okay, well she told me once that felt like a can of soup on a shelf. Like she was just sitting there, you know? And it didn't matter. So I made her a thing..." I throw my head in my hands. "Oh my God, it's so embarrassing!"
I'm having this meltdown in the passenger's seat of Sosa's car. I'm not supposed to be talking to him since we broke up and I wrote about it and posted it online for everyone I know to see, but who else am I gonna call to pick me up in the middle of the night because I ate too much of a weed cookie, and I can't drive home? Who else would I call that wouldn't be annoying or judgmental about it?
Right now, I'm relaying the horrifying story of what I did today. In an attempt to make things right with a friend of mine, I'd written her a three page apology letter and made her a ridiculous almost-collage in a cheap black picture frame. For what offense, you might ask? For inviting her to come with my friends and I on a trip and then politely telling her I changed my mind, and I'd rather she didn't come.
I know. That's a mean thing to do. I had my reasons for doing it, and I maintain that it was actually the right thing to do in the situation (though the more right thing would've been not to invite her in the first place).
"Just tell me!" Sosa says.
I pull my hands away from my face. "Okay," I say. "I put a picture of a can of soup. And at the top of it, I put the words, 'You are not this...'"
"Okay," he says. "That's not too bad."
"Oh, there's more," I say. "At the bottom, I put the words, 'You will always be this...'"
He smiles. "And did you put a picture there?"
"And what was it a picture of?"
I sigh. "The sunset."
I see him cringe. "Oh man! Why? Why, Leah? Why would you do that?"
"I don't know!" I say. "It's so corny! Why did I have to say anything?"
He shakes his head. "Because you didn't want her to think you're a bad person."
"I know, but really in this situation, I was a bad person. And I just made it worse." I clap my hands over my face again while Sosa laughs.
"A sunset? Really? Oh, it hurts."
"I can't just let things be," I say. "Why can't I just let things be how they are?"
Bouncy Ball Project Progress Report
Days left before my birthday: 23
Bouncy Balls left to distribute: 43
Friends who owe me bouncy ball stories: 18
30 Day Arm Challenge: on Day 15 - halfway there
30 Day Squat Challenge: on Day 15 - halfway there
30 Day Plank Challenge: on Day 15 - halfway there
Days in a row without contact with Sosa: 14
Progress on learning to Moonwalk: Don't even ask.
Fears left to face: 3 (what other people think of me, failure, and heights)
Number of times I've wished I could quit this shit and just go back to being some guy's secretary who also does standup: 300,000