Talking as fast as i can, p.1
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       Talking as Fast as I Can, p.1

           Lauren Graham
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Talking as Fast as I Can

  Copyright © 2016 by Lauren Graham

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  BALLANTINE and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:

  Alfred Music and Hal Leonard LLC: Excerpt from “Slap that Bass” (from Shall We Dance), music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, copyright © 1936 (renewed) Nokawi Music, Ira Gershwin Music, and Frankie G. Songs. All rights for Nokawi Music administered by Imagem Sounds. All rights for Ira Gershwin Music administered by WB Music Corp. All rights for Frankie G. Sons administered by Songs Music Publishing. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Alfred Music and Hal Leonard LLC.

  Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC: Excerpt from “The Trolley Song” written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, copyright © 1943 EMI Feist Catalog Inc. All rights administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 424 Church Street, Suite 1200, Nashville, TN 37219. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

  ISBN 9780425285176

  Ebook ISBN 9780425285183

  Book design by Caroline Cunningham, adapted for ebook

  Cover design: Cameron Shepherd at meat and potatoes, inc.

  Cover photograph: © Andrew Eccles





  Title Page



  Fast Forward

  Sweat Equity

  You Can’t Be Vegan Just for Ellen

  There Is Only One Betty White, or: Paper Towels, a Love Story

  What It Was Like, Part One

  Before My REI Card

  Labor Days

  Judge Not, Lest Ye Be a Judge on Project Runway

  Someday, Someday, Maybe You’ll Believe My Novel Wasn’t Completely Autobiographical

  Kitchen Timer

  Parenthood Is the Best Neighborhood

  Look Up!

  What It Was Like, Part Two



  Also by Lauren Graham

  About the Author

  If you’d asked me back at the beginning of my career to guess which character I was most likely to return to, fifteen years after I’d played her for the first time, there would have been only one answer. Even back then I knew, from the very first time I read the script, that I had been given the opportunity to play someone very special. In fact, if you’d asked me to bet money on this guess, I would have bet every one of my pennies. Because even though I’ve been lucky enough to play many memorable ladies, and have true and deep affection for each and every person I’ve ever pretended to be, there’s really only one with whom I have the most special kind of connection. In acting, as in life, you try to pretend you don’t have favorites, but usually you do, and usually everyone else can see it too. I wrote this book because, luckily for me, my favorite was also a character beloved by fans and, in my opinion, represents the time I felt I was at my absolute best as an actor.

  I think we can all agree I was never better, and the audience was never more impressed, than when I got the chance to inhabit this popular character:

  The critics called me—well, I’m not sure we had a theater critic at Langley High School in the late 1980s. But I think it’s undisputed that my performance as Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! was indeed adored by fans, or, as I like to call them, my grandmother. I believe I’m quoting her verbatim, in fact, when I tell you she raved that my Dolly had “an impressive number of costume changes.” And, not to brag, but my father also deemed my performance: “Wow, that hat sure has a lot of feathers.” So I think I pretty much nailed everything there was to nail as an actress back in my junior year of high school. Which is why it’s baffling that no one has yet called to invite me to reprise that role on Broadway, or even at the obvious next best place, the Langley High School auditorium. In fact—and I don’t mean to sound like a diva here—I’m pretty upset about it. The People (my dad) DESERVE to see me again, years later, with (perhaps only slightly less) age makeup crayoned onto my face! Somebody get Ben Brantley on the phone! Watch your back, Carol Channing, I’m coming to get you!

  But seriously.

  I really wrote this book because getting to play fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore again made me reflect on what it had been like to play her the first time, and that made me reflect on how I even got there at all, and some of the ways my life had changed in between the first and second incarnations. So this book is about the past, and also the (almost) present, since I’ll share with you some of the diary I kept while filming Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

  In this book, I will also see into the future and report my findings to you and to select heads of state. These findings will be lies, as I cannot actually see into the future, but who can stop me saying whatever I want here? It’s my book! I’m drunk with power!

  This book is about growing up, starting out, and the time I was asked to audition with my butt. It’s about all the odd jobs I had on the way to pursuing my dream, some of the bad fashion choices I made, and the eleventy million diets I’ve tried. I’ll tell you how I learned to be a more efficient writer, how I discovered that I’m a terrible judge, and how I realized that meeting guys at awards shows was perhaps not the best way to start a successful relationship.

  I wondered what it would be like to put someone I loved so much down for eight years and then pick her up again. I wondered if rebooting Gilmore Girls could be as gratifying as doing the series was the first time, if the show would feel as fresh and quirky and smart and speedy as it had been, if returning to Stars Hollow after all those years would be as wonderful as I’d dreamed it would be.

  Spoiler alert: it was.

  Some of the most exciting things that happened in my life took place before I turned six years old. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, which is awesome right there, but three weeks later, before I even had time to work on my tan, we moved to Japan. JAPAN. The home of my most favorite food ever: mashed peas. Well, that was probably my favorite food back then; what a waste, since I could have been eating spicy tuna rolls with extra wasabi. Damn you, Baby Lauren, and your infantile palate! Well, to be fair, you were an infant. Sorry I yelled.

  In Tokyo, we lived with my grandmother for a while, and I had a Japanese nanny, or uba—which, incidentally, translates to “milk mother,” something I just found out by looking it up. (Hold, please, while I call my therapist.) Her name was Sato-san, and I loved her, and as a result, my first word was in Japanese. It was o-heso. You might think that’s Japanese for “mommy” or “daddy,” but no, o-heso is Japanese for “belly button,” which I think already proves I am a very unusual, deep, and contemplative person and there’s really nothing left to say, thank you for buying this book, the end.

  Wait, a few more things. My mother, the daughter of missionaries, had grown up in Japan and spoke fluent Japanese. She was also incredibly smart and beautiful, a combination that led to this:

  That’s my grandmother holding me while we watch my mother, who is on television! Back when there were just three channels in America, and maybe even fewer in Tokyo, and an air of mystery surrounding the whole thing—not like today, when the statistical probability of not at some point stumbling onto your own reality show is inconceivably low. Television had only recently been invented then, and there she was actually on it, and I was so little I was probably just thinking about mashed peas again. Or, more likely, my favorite subject: bel
ly buttons.

  In related news, apparently on some GikiWoogle-type page of mine, I am quoted as saying, “Belly buttons are important.” Which, while obviously sort of true, medically speaking, taking into account the life-giving properties of the umbilical cord, was also clearly a joke. Yet I can’t tell you how many times during an interview a journalist gets that somber I’m-going-in-for-the-kill look I love so much and asks me, with knitted-brow faux sincerity: “Do you really think belly buttons are important?” Let me clear the air once and for all: um, no, I do not. Although this book isn’t very long yet and I’ve already talked about belly buttons quite a bit. Damn you, tabloid journalists! You wise Truth Uncoverers! Again, sorry—the yelling must stop.

  So, anyway, there she was, my mother, on the largest television available at the time, which was roughly the size of a Rubik’s cube. Also, check out her dope sixties Priscilla Presley look! Her ability to speak the language as a non-native was so unusual at the time that she was asked to appear on a Japanese daytime talk show.

  My parents weren’t together very long. They hadn’t known each other well when they decided to get married, and then they had me right away, when they were both just twenty-two years old, and—well, that about sums it up. They were very, very young. At the time, my mom was also trying to pursue a career as a singer, and it was decided I should stay with my dad. They parted as friends, and my father made the obvious next choice, something we’d all probably do in this situation: he moved us to the Virgin Islands, where we lived on a houseboat. I slept in a bunk-bed-type thing that was also the kitchen. I was picked up for nursery school by the bus, which was actually a motorboat. We moved there because…You know what? I don’t remember exactly. Let’s call my dad and ask him. He probably won’t pick up because he’s on the East Coast, and it’s a Saturday in the springtime, so unless it’s pouring down rain, he’s out playing golf. But I’ll give you a visual just in case, so you too can play Call My Dad at home!

  I know, isn’t it a shame we look nothing alike? Okay, let’s see if he’s home.

  Ring, ring, ring, ring.

  I told you. He’s probably not—

  DAD: Hello?

  ME: Oh, hi! I didn’t think you’d be home.

  DAD: It’s raining here.

  ME: Well, then, that explains it. Hey, remind me—why did we live on a houseboat that time?

  DAD: Who is this?

  ME: You have other children you lived on a houseboat with?

  DAD: No, I have other children who call me more.

  ME: Dad, please. I call you all the time. So this is for the book, and—

  DAD: Is this going to be another befuddled father character, like in your last book?

  ME: Dad, I wouldn’t call that character befuddled in general. He’s just a little befuddled by technology.

  DAD: Wait—what did you say? I couldn’t hear you. I just hit one of these dumb phone buttons wrong.

  ME: Um, yeah. I was just saying that the father character in my first novel—the New York Times bestseller Someday, Someday, Maybe, published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, and now available in paperback—is not exactly befuddled, and anyway, he’s only a little bit you.

  DAD: Why are you talking like that?

  ME: Like what? I was just thinking about how Christmas is right around the corner, but no matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays, books in general make great gifts!

  DAD: Like that. Like you’re selling things to an audience. Are you on Ellen right now?

  ME: Dad, I wouldn’t be calling you from the set of Ellen.

  DAD: Oh, oh, I’m fancy, I live in Hollywood, where people aren’t allowed to call their fathers from the set of the Ellen show.

  ME: Dad, please. Why did we live on the houseboat again?

  DAD: Well, I was working for that congressman, and the hours were long, and I’d drop you off in the morning and not see you until after 6:00 p.m., and I felt bad about that. I wasn’t sure I was on the right career path anyway. Also, I was sort of seeing this girl—you remember the one who owned the horse? Well, she lived there off and on, and I thought I’d go there too, and write, and…

  I’m going to interrupt my father here (well, actually, he’s still talking, so shhh—don’t tell him). But I have to explain to you that, as a kid, I thought my father never dated anyone at all until he met and married my stepmother. It wasn’t until years later that I figured out the young ladies who sometimes came around may have been a wee bit more than the “cat sitter,” that “nice woman I play tennis with,” and the “girl who owned the horse.” And I don’t blame them. I mean, who wouldn’t want to “cat-sit” for this guy?

  By the way, can we talk about the unnecessary thickness of children’s belts of the 1970s? I mean look at the— Oops, my dad’s still on the phone!

  DAD: …and anyway, she knew these people at the marina in St. Thomas.

  ME: So did we, like, sail around the island and stuff?

  DAD: Oh, no. The engine didn’t work on the boat.

  ME: The engine didn’t…? We lived on a giant floating bathtub that went nowhere?

  DAD: It was a strange place, I’ll admit, that marina—but friendly. Very bohemian. Everybody there was sort of dropping out from society, which we were too, in a way—for weeks after we’d left D.C., I’m pretty sure my mother still thought I worked on Capitol Hill. But I got to spend more time with you, which was the goal. It was beautiful there. We drove around a lot and went to the beach. It probably seems strange to you now, but it was a 1970s thing to do, I guess. And we had fun.

  (A pause as we both reminisce.)

  ME: You did a lot for me, Dad. I love you.

  DAD: I love you too, kid.

  (Another pause.)

  DAD: Who is this again?

  When I was about five years old, we moved to Southampton, New York, presumably to live in a house you couldn’t dive off of, and I started kindergarten. One day, during my first few weeks of school, the teacher left the room (leaving youngsters alone with open jars of paste was also very 1970s), and when she came back, she found me reading a book to the class. At first she thought maybe I’d memorized it from having it read to me at home, but after I wowed them with a cold read of another one—take that, Green Eggs and Ham!—they had to admit I could actually read. My father had read to me every night for as long as I could remember, and at some point, I guess, I just sort of got it. But this confused the teacher and the school, because I’d unintentionally undermined their entire plan for the year. If I wasn’t in kindergarten to be taught to read, could they really justify sharing and finger painting as a comprehensive year-long curriculum? If not, what were they supposed to do with me?

  I was sent to the office of a groovy guy named Mike. I don’t know what Mike’s actual job at the school was, but I remember sitting in his office drawing pictures of my feelings or whatever (the seventies!), while he leaned back in his chair with his feet up on the desk, which is how I knew he was groovy in the first place. This went on for days. Mike kept asking me if I was bored in kindergarten. Not really, Mike—have you seen the awesome books they have in there? And that’s about all I remember. But by the end of the week, I had apparently convinced Mike that making chains out of construction paper for an entire year would be beneath me intellectually, and he sent me on to first grade.

  During my first day in the new class, the teacher held a mock election and asked each student to come up and mark on the blackboard whom they’d vote for in the upcoming presidential election: McGovern or Nixon (the seventies!). McGovern won by a landslide (not in real life but, weirdly, in this class), and I was one of very few kids who voted for Nixon. This gave me an uneasy feeling. Even though I had no idea who either of the candidates was, or even what the word “candidate” meant, I knew that in not being part of the majority, I’d somehow made the wrong choice. Also, how could the entire room not vote for a guy named Nixon, because seriously, how cool was it to have the letter x in your name? T
hat this distinguishing feature didn’t similarly blow everyone else’s mind the way it did mine was my first indication that I was in over my head.

  Initially, skipping a grade seemed like an accomplishment of some sort, but what I remember most was how totally baffled and uncomfortable I felt, especially for the first few weeks. I’d never really had trouble fitting in before, and now, instead of feeling special or gifted, I just felt awkward and out of place. Suddenly this thing that had made me stand out and had impressed some people now made me feel like an oddball.

  But skipping a grade also gave me the sense, throughout my entire childhood, that I’d been given an “extra” year. It floated around in my head like a lucky coin, something I wanted to hold on to as long as I could, until the day I really needed to use it. I don’t know why exactly, but somehow I got the idea that life was just a massive competition to get to some sort of finish line, like one long extended season of The Amazing Race. In skipping a grade, I’d been given the ultimate Fast Forward. This would ensure I’d be able to skip over whatever the life equivalent is of the shemozzle race in New Zealand, beating out even the most awesome teams like the Twinnies or the Afghanimals, then arrive first and be met by an adorable gnome, an oversized cardboard check for a million dollars from Phil, and a trip from Travelocity.

  There were a few years in there where I mostly forgot about the whole skipping-a-grade thing. In elementary and middle school I spent time riding horses every weekend, sometimes working in a barn after school, and having birthday slumber parties during which we’d sneak out in the middle of the night to go pajama streaking. (We’re running! Around the block! In our pajamas! The excitement!) I also enjoyed such sophisticated pastimes as toilet-papering people’s houses (this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in my group of friends—in fact, it was a good sign if people cared enough to TP your house; I remember praying I’d be TP’d more), acting out elaborate soap operas involving my troll dolls, making horse blankets for my thirty-seven Breyer horses, and recording Judy Garland movies off the television with my red plastic Radio Shack tape recorder. I’d stay up late, listening to my cassette tapes over and over, which is why I’m happy to announce I can still perform “The Trolley Song” for you right now!

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