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How long does it take to go from It Girl to on the dole?
TV producer Rebecca Cole has seen better days. Like the day her cartoon creation, Esme, made her a hit and scored her a promotion. That was a good day. But now that her roommate has decided to heed her therapist and appreciate the simpler things in life — outside of New York City — and a corporate takeover at her network has left Rebecca jobless, this food snob has to find a way to afford her rent and her penchant for fine...
How long does it take to go from It Girl to on the dole?
TV producer Rebecca Cole has seen better days. Like the day her cartoon creation, Esme, made her a hit and scored her a promotion. That was a good day. But now that her roommate has decided to heed her therapist and appreciate the simpler things in life — outside of New York City — and a corporate takeover at her network has left Rebecca jobless, this food snob has to find a way to afford her rent and her penchant for fine dining. Oh, and she really should start saying no to the break-up sex with her ex.
Surely Rebecca will be able to draw herself out of this mess, and maybe even find a way to eat well in the process?
Author Biography: Ariella Papa is 29 1/2 years old (for real). She finally found a pair of glasses that she likes. Her severance agreement prevents her from revealing the real reasons she no longer has a staff job. She currently lives, writes and eats in the city with the best restaurants — New York.
Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
I like to think of money in terms of the rock shrimp tempura at Nobu Next Door. When I take a cab, I think that's about a third of a plate of tempura. So I prefer the subway. Sometimes, I don't buy clothes because that's usually two to four plates' worth. I try not to think about my rent in those terms. That might make a girl lose her appetite.
New York City is filled with food. Everything from the beef-cheek ravioli at Babbo to the handmade hand-glazed all natural doughnuts at Doughnut Plant. Don't even get me started on the loads of possibilities opening up to me every week in the "Dining In/Dining Out" section of the New York Times. It's almost too overwhelming for this foodie to bear.
So every two weeks I invite a friend out for rock shrimp tempura, always with the spicy, creamy sauce. It just sort of keeps things in perspective. In a city full of savory, tempting substances, there's got to be one thing that's familiar.
But let me back up a bit. I was your typical working girl struggling to make ends meet and pay off my credit card and student loans. Next thing I knew, On the Verge magazine named Esme, the character I had created and animated, a feminist icon for the tween generation.
Esme's Enlightenments was just a bunch of "interstitials," which were like short films that advertised Explore! Family, the channel where I worked. It is an upstart channel trying to make its way in the tough world of kids' TV. Unfortunately, the channel had no animated series at the time, but as soon as Esme got on the radar (and who would think anyone even read On the Verge magazine?), Hackett, the head of Programming, called me into his office and set unbelievable deadlines for me to get a legit episode produced. He wanted me to turn my sixty-second shorts into an actual TV show!
I loved my character, Esme. She may have been a bespectacled smart-aleck twelve-year-old, a glorified imaginary friend, but she was my baby. She was comfortable with herself and her smarts.
So, while I adored her, I couldn't believe other people liked Esme so much. And then I began to like her for more than what she represented. I liked her for fast-forwarding my career. Overnight I got a staff, a promotion, a fat raise and a haircut. I busted my ass to get the first twenty-two-minute episode of Esme's Enlightenments ready for the Upfront, where all the advertisers gathered for a presentation in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria. It was pomp and circumstance thinly disguising sales pitches. This is where the ad execs would lay their money down for the following season.
And boy did they lay their money down! Esme was a huge success. The network ordered a full season. The licensing department worked up all these plush Esme dolls and created an Esme board game and the advertisers spent their money as if there was no tomorrow. Hackett gave an inspiring speech about how Esme was going to help shape the future of the network. Even though she was a girl, she had tested well with boys, who thought she was a techhead. I felt tears coming to my contacts when he talked about how Esme had tons of possibilities, and it was all thanks to one young woman who believed. Me.
I stood up at my front table when Hackett pointed to me. The spotlight shone on me and the camera plastered my smiling face on all the screens for even the back tables to see. I prayed I didn't have spinach in my teeth from the so-so chicken Florentine they had served at the luncheon. I got a huge round of applause. If my life were the movie I often wish it were, the credits could have rolled right then. Well, maybe after Tommy, my recently exed boyfriend (whom I still find time to have stress-relieving fantastic sex with), would have run down the aisle through the balloons and lifted me up into a freeze-frame, just like in Dirty Dancing. Then my movie audience could have left with the feel-good smiles that commercial blockbusters aim for. (Like many people who work in TV, I'm obsessed with movies.)
But Tommy didn't come and the credits didn't roll . . . even though it was a really great feeling. I still had to produce thirteen episodes of Esme's Enlightenments in a matter of months and I barely had time to breathe, much less properly blow out my new haircut.
The first few episodes of the series got exceptional ratings and press, but my work wasn't done. Another season was ordered. Now we are constantly rolling out new episodes, and that means late nights and ignoring some of the people I care about the most. And believe me, all the delivery food I can order in to my office doesn't exactly satisfy this food addict's jones.
But I am an adult and these are adult responsibilities and I have to deal, right?
So, I'm out for an every-other-week dinner at Nobu with my roommate, Lauryn. I barely see Lauryn with the hours I keep. When I arrive, she has already ordered a mango martini for me. We kiss hello and I take a bite of the dried piece of mango that comes with the drink.
"You seem very happy," I say. Since Lauryn realized her marriage to Jordan was really only a starter marriage and his ideas about commitment involved spending her money and sleeping with other women, she had become very bitter. It was nice to see her smile and not mention that I was twenty-five minutes late.
"Well, Rebecca, it's finally over."
"My D-I-V-0-R-C-E became final today," she sings.
"Wow! That's great," I say. I'm not sure I really think so. I mean, we're barely twenty-seven and she is divorced, but I guess it's cool because she is happy and Jordan is a dick. I hold up my martini glass and clink it into hers and a little bit of our drinks spills.
We get more drinks. I'm exhausted, but kind of enjoying just listening to Lauryn chatter about her day after going to her lawyer. She is telling me about all the birds in Central Park and how she had always been a closet birder.
Suddenly, I realize that Lauryn is telling me something big.
"Wait a second! What?"
"I'm quitting my job and going to study the feeding habits of piping plovers on Martha's Vineyard this summer. I'm also applying to get a Ph.D. in ecology in Boston."
"But, what about our apartment? Your apartment?"
"You can have it, if you want. I just figured you're never there and the lease is up in June, and you're probably moving back in with Tommy soon, anyway."
"Why? I'm not dating him anymore."
"But you're still sleeping with him."
"Three times!" I say, holding up my fingers. "Three times in five months. And they were all after extremely stressful days!"
"This city is full of stress," Lauryn says suddenly, strangely seeming at complete peace with herself. "That's why I'm moving out. Anyway, I think you're forgetting a few drunk dials."
"They were stressed-out drunk dials." She smiles at me. She has been more cheerful since starting therapy.
"You can keep it if you want. I bet you can afford it now with your promotion." The waitress sets my tempura down in front of me. For the first time ever, I'm not hungry for it. There is no way I can afford $2,100 a month and ever expect to see this plate in front of me again.
The next sip of my drink tastes more like vodka than mango and only one thought occurs to me: What if this were my last plate of rock shrimp tempura ever?
Lauryn refused to say much more about what she planned to do. Back home, I questioned her about it as we were brushing our teeth in the bathroom, but she shook her head and said, "Listen, Rebecca. I know what you're going to say. I talked about it all with my therapist. We knew you'd have issues with me doing what's healthiest."
"I don't want to have a conflict after we've both been drinking. I've come to a resolution that I feel is healthy and we can dialogue about it at a later date. Good night." She kissed me on the forehead and left the bathroom.
I liked her much better before she had started seeing her therapist. It was easier to deal with the bitter Lauryn than the Lauryn who started every sentence with "My therapist says . . ."
Lauryn's therapist lets her get away with a lot. She did seem happier tonight, though. Weird and slightly off the deep end, but happier.
She and I have known each other since first grade. We went to college within an hour of each other in Massachusetts. Jordan went to my college and was Tommy's best friend. I had introduced the now ex Mr. and Mrs. at a kegger. At their wedding, I reminded everyone of that in a drunken toast. Of course, when things went sour, I hoped Lauryn would forget that I was responsible.
Lauryn used to be this incredibly funny girl before the marriage. She is tall and extremely thin. She could be a graceful Audrey Hepburn type, yet she has a way of scrunching up her face and using her body in hysterical ways. I haven't seen that side of her in a long time. Throughout her whole separation from Jordan, I never could tell what mood Lauryn was going to be in, but it was rarely a good mood. I missed her. I missed laughing so hard that my stomach hurt hours later.
It's midnight. I want to call Kathy or Beth to tell them Lauryn's moving out, but I'm exhausted from the week. It's only Wednesday. Kathy's probably already in bed with her fiancé, Ron. They've had five-minute sex and conked out. Beth is most likely with some of her music-industry friends dancing at a spot I haven't even heard of yet. She's got her cell phone on vibrate, so she won't miss the call from other VIPs. I'm not sure if I rank as a person she would answer a call for.
On the other hand, if I reach everyone, I'll be on the phone for hours. I need sleep. I decide to leave them what we like to call "a caffeine greeting" on their work voice mails: "You are not going to believe what the shrink has Lauryn doing this time. Call me in the a.m. and I'll give you the dirt."
I get into bed and try to imagine tomorrow. With all this production going on, I am starting to lose touch with Esme. I created her, but now my staff has had to take over. Janice and John are animating her and Jeri has asked if she could write a couple of scripts. Tomorrow, I want to spend the day coming up with the concepts for the last five episodes of the season.
I think teen girls rule the world. When you think about it, they create all the trends. When you're a teenage girl, you're just forming, mentally and physically, and everything makes you who you are. I really want Esme to be the kind of girl you'd want to have for a best friend. The kind who's tough enough not to give a shit about the dumb things guys say and the kind you can trust with anything.
I wish I were more like Esme and not desperate to bust on Lauryn with my pals. I just need to get their take on it. I won't psychoanalyze too much.
Tomorrow I will spend some time with you, Esme. I will strive to be like you, I promise.
Two hours later I wish I had called the girls. Insomnia is something that started right around the time Esme Enlightenments was made into a show. Now I spend my nights wondering about Esme's ratings and how to keep her plots interesting. I also rehash what the critics have to say when they pick apart my program. I don't get a lot of beauty sleep.
This whole year (since I found out last April that I had to produce episodes for the show) has flown by. I barely got a chance to lift my head up from my computer terminal.
When I finally pulled my nose up from the grindstone, there was the slightest change in my relationship with my friends. Sometimes everything was normal and I couldn't feel it, but other times it seemed we were all moving in different directions. When we moved to New York after college, we spent all this time together. We didn't really have any family around. The fact that we wound up in our group was one of those things that was either fate or an amazing and fortunate coincidence. I think friendship works like that -- people just get pulled in.
Beth was my roommate in college. Thanks to Beth, I met Tommy, her brother and my ex-boyfriend. I introduced Beth to Lauryn. Kathy was Beth's cousin's roommate who looked up Lauryn when she moved to the city. We all just clicked and felt like we discovered this city together after college.
We each brought something to the group. Lauryn brought her funny physicality, Beth motivated the group to try new things -- to go forth into the city as if we owned it -- and Kathy was the practical one, the stylish one and the one who seemed to believe all of us were going somewhere.
I can't pinpoint the exact moment things changed and I can't say it was all because of how much time I spent at work. Maybe it was Lauryn, who had held us together all along. When she started spending days in her pajamas, crying over Jordan, we started hanging out less. Or maybe it was Kathy, going completely crazy over her fiancé, Ron. She kind of settled in with him, moved to the suburbs and decided her reason for being was to be the most beautiful bride in the tri-state area. None of us could have predicted that the girl who got all the best clothes at sample sales would be asking us to try on pewter bridesmaid dresses. But maybe we stopped hanging out as much when we stopped being able to keep up with Beth.
Beth didn't have to worry about insomnia. Most nights she passed out drunk, unless she had taken something to keep her up and partying all night. She had plenty of people to go with her to the hottest clubs now that she worked at the music studio. I found her new friends wild and intimidating. Although I think the changes in my relationship with Beth had a lot to do with Tommy and me breaking up.
We should have broken up a lot sooner. Part of the reason we stayed together so long was that we lived together. It's a sick joke that couples stay together in New York a lot longer than they should because of apartments. It sucks to find an apartment here. You overpay for spaces the size of closets.
The other part of the reason I stayed with Tommy so long was that I loved him. And I still kind of do. As hard as it is to find an apartment in New York, for me it's even harder to find a guy who gets me. Tommy got me. All my quirks and all my food addictions he enjoyed. He even managed to indulge me and talk about Esme like she was a real twelve-year-old.
But Tommy is also very immature. Dating an overgrown boy can be fun when you want to brainstorm about kids' TV but difficult when you want him to stop planning his life around sporting events and video games and start spending quality time with you.
In the end Tommy and I agreed to be friends and I moved in with Lauryn, and now I was going to have to either find a new roommate or start the search again. Part of me can't quite give up on Tommy and me getting back together. And as soon as we agreed to be just friends we started having the sex we had stopped having in our relationship. Something about not really being together made it better. Is that sick? We always said each time would be the last time, but did it again anyway. It's as if neither of us can truly cut the cord. I still rely on him so much. I wish that moving back in with him wasn't one of the first things that came to mind when Lauryn said she was moving to Massachusetts.
I also wish Beth could be as okay about our breakup as Tommy and I pretend to be. I know she is protective of her brother, but I care about him, too, and she would never understand that.
Ugh. I hate insomnia. It forces you to think about all the things you try to avoid during the day. I don't want to put work into my relationships; I just want them to be normal.
I can't do this. It's almost 4:00 a.m. I need sleep. I will count sheep backward until it comes.
The radio is on. My favorite way to get up -- listening to 1010 WINS. I can rely on them for weather and news and a slight (very slight) cynicism. No matter how loud I turn it up I always sleep right through it. It's 9:35. Not too bad. Most people in the business roll in way after ten. But, I am trying to go in early and set an example for my team. I don't want them to think that we can slack off now that the ratings are high. But at this rate, there is no way I am going to make it in early, much less take a shower.
I brush my teeth really quick, put my hair in a clip and pull on a comfy pair of jeans and a thin black sweater. There are dark circles under my eyes as usual, but I don't have time to do anything about it.
Copyright © 2003 Ariella Papa
Posted December 13, 2012
This is my first Ariella Papa book and I have two additional Red Dress Ink titles by this author buried in my to be read pile.
Up & Out centers around a young woman named Rebecca, whose life is made up of working at a television network, eating out at as many restaurants as her wallet will allow her and the occasional sexual encounter with her ex boyfriend. Rebecca's life takes a sudden and unexpected turn when she is terminated from her job after the network is taken over by a bank. Left to make ends meet and facing homelessness, Rebecca moves back in with her boyfriend to figure out what direction her life will take her next.
If this was all the story entailed, I would have given up on this book as a waste of time. Fortunately, this story is rich in characters. Surrounding Rebecca are her three best friends, all of whom are going through their own trials and tribulations. I was often left wondering if the stress and anxieties these women were experiencing would bring them closer together as friends or drive them apart.
Rebecca comes off stronger than I initially was led to believe and though some of her choices are not choices I would have made, she manages to land on her feet and better off than where she started. I especially liked that I was surprised at one of her choices where her ex-boyfriend was concerned and they both turned out to be not at all what I was expecting.
Though there is a "boy meets girl" twist in this story, it comes from a very unexpected place and made the story so much more enjoyable. If you like the unexpected and enjoy being surprised, give this one a go.
Posted April 22, 2006
This is one of my favorite books! I love the charater, Rebecca, she is so real! The book is funny and fun to read. You really get to know all the characters. I would definitely recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 14, 2004
So Good. I could not put this book down. I loved it. The character, Rebecca, comes alive. The author, Papa, did a fantastic job on all the girls. I could relate completely.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2004
Needless to say, I received hoardes of attention with this book in Starbucks. I'm not certain if it was my laughter or the bright pink cover. Either way... it's a must read!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 31, 2003
In New York City, ¿On the Verge¿ magazine names the cartoon Esme¿s Enlightenments a family icon. Not long afterward, the Family Channel orders cartoonist Rebecca Cole to develop a season¿s worth of Esme animation. Rebecca gives up much of her social life except her gourmand¿s delights to change from sixty second shorts to a feature length series for kids TV.<P> As her roommate leaves for Massachusetts, Indiana Mutual takes over the Family Channel. They decide to cut back on costs by letting excess folks go. Thus they fire Rebecca at the height of her success as they believe anyone can write and draw a child¿s cartoon. There also remains her ex boyfriend who serves an intermediate sexual purpose, but also that blocks her from seeking something more meaningful (then sex?).<P> UP & OUT is a fun character driven look at the single life of a yuppie artist as she struggles with the 4 Fs (female style) - fame, firing, food, and friends, not in any order. The story line is lighthearted yet insightful because Rebecca carries it off with wit and intelligence. The support cast enables the audience to understand what makes the heroine and tick as Ariella Papa seems ON THE VERGE of stardom.<P> Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.