Jan. 2, 2008. My kitchen table.

“It’s just nice to get away from it all, really, for even a few days. Of course, I don’t have much to be getting away from,” she says. “Thanks for putting me up for a while.”

“It’s no problem at all,” I say. “Sometimes you need a vacation from unemployment. It can be very depressing.”

“And it’s not that I haven’t had work. I have. But it’s the prospect of having no new work for months that frightens me. Staring right into the abyss. An abyss filled with microwave mac and cheese and Costco-sized tubs of Tang.”

“No, I understand. I just saw your episode last night, by the way. You were brilliant, of course. But that show sucks.”

“Well thanks. I mean it. But it certainly wasn’t my best effort – I’m just so new to the whole thing. I couldn’t ever really just focus on the work because I had all of these other things to worry about: where to stand, where to hit my light, where to aim the gun so that the camera could get my eyes and the gun barrel all in the same shot. It was terrifying, and I’m sure they kept saying to themselves, God, this girl doesn’t know what she’s doing and she’s wasting our time.”

“I’m sure they didn’t think that. After all, Hollywood people put up with a lot, and I’m sure you were the most polite person they’d ever come across. Everyone has to start somewhere. They should be pleased that you started out playing their Rape Victim before moving on to superstardom.”

“Hah. Hardly. It’s just such bad timing after all,” she says. “Here I am, wanting to be an actress all of my life, going to four years of theater school in Los Angeles, finally graduating and praying for work, and the strike hits. Now no one’s working. Not to say that it would have been easy in any event, but at least in the normal cutthroatery of this world you have a chance. People do succeed. And of course I’m all about supporting the writers. But now there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Do you know that Mary started working at Barnes and Noble? She hates it. Do you know that out of the 14 people in my class, only two have booked any work since graduating?”

“Including or excluding that girl who looked like Princess Jasmine who worked as … ah … Princess Jasmine at Disneyland?” I ask.

“Including.”

“But you had another job, right? That just finished?”

“Yeah, it just finished. I shot for two days on this TV movie up in the desert outside of Los Angeles, a western. I play this pioneer woman who’s attacked by these cowboy outlaws, and because of how they treat me, one of the bad guys turns good and helps save the town. You know, after they rape me…”

“You’re raped again? Jesus!”

“And then they kill me.”

“Wow. You’ve, um, really cornered the rape market, haven’t you?”

“Not funny! I’d never died on camera before … it was crazy.”

“Wait until your parents see this. They’ll love seeing their daughter brutalized in two consecutive televised dramas.”

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The chance to act … I mean, when or if we ever come out of this, I’ll never take another job for granted again.”

Here’s to the writers, actors, directors and all the other artists who are back at work. Here’s to all of our friends, with their stories big and small, who get to chase the dream once again.