Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Millennium Dreams

See the hilarious 10-minute play adapdation written for a showcase performance at Theater 150.

As published in the Santa Barbara Independent, circulation 40,000, December, 2004:

Ringing in a New Career
Two thousand zero zero party over oops out of time . . .

The band was doing the obligatory, albeit pathetic, rendition of Prince's '80s essential dance tune. The hotel sold out the "Package of the Millennium" and all of the guests were now clamoring to the dance floor, hideously gyrating to a beat that was clearly more useful to them in their younger days. Middle-aged men with their shirts unbuttoned to reveal decades-old piles of graying chest hair and women stuffed into dresses that fit them better in their 20s bumped and grinded into one another painfully. I sniffled and wiped my dripping nose with my sleeve.

"You got the lights, right?" Hiram shouted over the band leader's impromptu guitar solo, tearing it up miserably.

"Yeah, yeah, I got it, no problem," I hissed, my throat punishing me with every syllable.

Of all nights to be sick, this was definitely the worst. As the hotel's director of guest relations, my prestigious assignment for the night involved being stationed next to a Klieg light tower at the back of the ballroom, running on generator power. Hiram, my boss, the general manager and a Y2K compliant geek, insisted that the western power grid was scheduled to go "off-line" at 11 p.m. PST. When it didn't, Hiram looked deflated; he figured somehow that the time-warp continuum would catch up to us at midnight, so I'd better not leave my post. I surrendered myself to the inevitable and cozied up to my date, Mr. Klieg, and surveyed the crowd of idle rich trust-funders.

When the recruiter called me up six months earlier for "the job of a lifetime," I had no idea he actually meant "the job that will suck the life out of you." But the seduction of salary, title, signing bonus, and relocation assistance grabbed hold and didn't let go. I jumped at the chance, as I did with every other hotel job since college graduation. It was always 24/7/365, full of promises of excitement and glamour and at a pace that would stop an Olympic athlete dead in his tracks. But being starry-eyed and impressionable, it's the career path I consciously chose. Now, years later, staving off pangs of regret, with Prince's wannabe charlatan crooning in my ear, fogged by a cloud of confetti and too much cold medicine, I floated away  into a daydream.

Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 1999 . . .

The music had an undeniable beat that took over my gawky limbs and for once made them move in perfect harmony. My head finally knew what my feet were doing and my arms were fluid, no longer flailing about wildly. At 5'9" and 120 pounds, awkward came naturally, but grace was elusive, if not impossible. I was 15 and mostly looking forward to having my hair permed and getting my braces off soon. Jan hopped and spun across from me and every time her head bobbed, her glasses smacked her on the nose, but that didn't seem to bother her a bit.

Cisco scooted over my way and said, "Hey, we're gonna ... and ... right, Lis?"

"What? I can't hear you!"

He took a deep breath and yelled, "We're gonna all get together and party in 1999, right?"

"Oh, yeah, definitely, we just have to, right Lis?" Jan screamed her allegiance while her hips swiveled and her arms hovered over her head.

Without a moment's hesitation, I nodded in agreement and said, "Yeah, cool, we all have to swear we're gonna get together, no matter what!" And we all high-fived.

Then there was a loud pop; the DJ had just backed into one of the balloons that spelled out "1983" over the stage.

1999, don'tcha wanna go, 1999, don'tcha wanna go ...

A balloon fell into the Klieg light and the heat made it explode over my head. I jumped and Hiram came over and sneered, "Are you okay, didn't you hear me on the radio?"

"Oh, no, sorry, I guess the band was too loud."

"You don't look so good."

No kidding, I'm at death's door. "Oh, yeah, I've got a cold."

"Look, I know you're sick, but I just can't let you go until after the countdown." And with that he immediately turned on his heels and sauntered toward the champagne fountain.

Just then one of the guests stumbled over to me with her boobs pouring out of her dress, waving a broken plastic tiara at me with one hand and sloshing champagne out of a glass with the other. "My tiara broke, I need a new one and I also never got a kazoo, how do you expect me to properly ring in the millennium?"

Oh, honey, don't get me started. "I'm so sorry. I'll get you a new one right away." One of her false eyelashes was making its way down her cheek and it was all I could do to keep from staring, so I grabbed the broken tiara and started off on my new assignment.

As I was walking away, she shouted, "And the kazoo, don't forget the kazoo!"

Across the room, a party of eight looked as though a hurricane hit their table. The centerpiece of Casablanca lilies was torn to shreds and everyone was wearing napkins on their heads and arguing about the meaning of "Auld Lang Syne." One of the men stood up and blew into his kazoo so hard it flew into his half-eaten plate of coq au vin. Seizing the opportunity, I snatched up his plate and said, "Sir, let me clear your plate for you." He didn't even notice me and was already singing, "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never get too drunk," while the others applauded and laughed at him. Since the ladies had donned their napkin chapeaus, I slyly scooped up one of their tiaras off the floor, where chunks of Dauphinaise potatoes and spears of asparagus lay after being catapulted off the table.

I handed the plate to one of the waiters and borrowed a corner of his apron to wipe the slobber off the kazoo as he rolled his eyes at me. I then proudly presented the goods to Liz Taylor's clone.

"It's about time, my gawd, it's nearly midnight already!" Her false eyelash was long gone and the other one was now stuck to her eyebrow.

"So sorry to have kept you waiting. I hope you enjoy your evening." And I hope you wake up with a raging hangover in the morning!

I went back to my post and thought about the path I had chosen. I worked hard in college and graduated with honors. And now, after investing more than 10 years in this business, I was again seriously considering leaving it all behind. Just last week I had been to see a career counselor, and after giving her $150 and enduring test after test, she concluded I was in the wrong business. You don't say? Even I knew I had more to offer than kowtowing to the more fortunate.

It was 10 minutes to midnight. A new millennium. A new chance. A pact with old friends. I glimpsed at my watch nervously. I looked at Hiram, visibly grinding his teeth with anticipation, as if he were in charge of detonating a nuclear warhead. It was then that I resolved to find something better.

I wondered where Cisco and Jan were now. I had just enough time to find out. Liz Taylor was waving at me and teetering her way over. It's now or never.

Behind me was a door. I quickly took the radio off my belt and clipped it to the light tower. I took a deep breath, slipped out the door ... and began my new life.

See the hilarious 10-minute play adapdation written for a showcase performance at Theater 150.