Authors: Judy Greer
The miraculous thing was that eventually I sort of forgot
about how embarrassed it all made me. I had my own car, so anyone who made fun could suck it. I think my friends knew if they wanted to borrow it or needed a ride to the airport, they’d better keep their mouths shut about my star—and they did. One day I drove past my friend JP walking in Wicker Park. I honked my horn and waved at him, and he yelled out, “Hey!! It’s the Star 2 B!!!!!” I remember being totally embarrassed, but I couldn’t stop laughing anyway. For as long as I can remember, my father seemed to be the only person who had faith in my future STARmeter (that’s the thing on
that tells you how famous you are at that moment. It is horrible and I am sure has driven many people to drink). My father was beyond confident that I would someday be a star … of some kind. Did he think, all those years ago, that I would be a movie star? Maybe? Probably. My father has loved me more unselfishly than any other human male I have ever known, and seems to have never-ending faith in my career and abilities, and even though I think the plate should be changed to read “Co
2 B,” I know my father would tell you he painted it right the first time.
My dad taught me to drive the day it was legally possible to do so. I was fifteen years old, and in Michigan you could sign up for drivers’ ed on your fifteenth birthday. So I did. I took the class, did the driving part, got my permit, and hit the road. It was very important to my dad that I have a lot of driving practice before I went out solo. And I did. My parents were really into road trips, so I drove them all over the Midwest. I drove when we went to visit family in Ohio, I drove to downtown Detroit to Red Wings games, I drove anywhere and everywhere. I learned to drive in our Lincoln Town Car, and to this day that is my dream car. I ride in them often now for work, since they are the go-to car for car
services that get hired to drive actors around because we can’t be trusted to get places on time. And every time I ride in one, I secretly wish I was driving it. It was a lovely car to drive. It was giant. It was comfortable, like driving around your living room, and trust me, if you can parallel park a Town Car, you can pretty much parallel park anything. Once I moved to L.A. with the
2 B and got some decent-paying acting jobs, I was urged to lease a car for the write-off. I leased a Ford Explorer (still brand loyal) and decided to donate my fuchsia Escort to a charity. I was going to go with the Red Cross, but a friend told me I should choose a charity that could really use the donation, and people donated millions to the Red Cross every year. Why not choose a local charity that was overlooked? I chose a shelter for battered women in downtown Los Angeles. It seemed like a good one, it was local to L.A., was a great cause, and could, no doubt, use the donation. Well, it turned out it did need the donation, but it also needed someone to figure out what to do with that kind of donation, and unfortunately all I had to offer was the car itself. A man came to my apartment to pick up my car and do the paperwork. I gave him all the papers I could find that said “Escort” on them, signed some of his papers, and that was that.
A few months passed, and one afternoon a police officer knocked on my door asking if I was the owner of a hot-pink Ford Escort. I could finally say no to that question! Well, it turned out I was lying to the cop because I was still, legally, the owner of that car. The people at the local charity of my choice hadn’t done their part and transferred the title; instead, they left it parked outside somewhere, and it had collected enough unpaid parking tickets that I now had a warrant out for my arrest. It now seems like a miracle that I got that officer to go away that afternoon without me in handcuffs. I explained to him what I had done and produced the documents that showed I had donated the car (another
miracle that I still had those papers and could find them). I still believe in donating money and stuff to small local charities that really need it, but maybe make sure there is an infrastructure to support the donation as it comes in. I found out after I followed up that the
2 B was ultimately sold to a junkyard for parts, and it really depressed me. Still does. It makes me sad for two reasons. One, that the car was just basically wasted. My friend JP moved to L.A. later that year, and I could have just given him the car. He didn’t have one, and you kind of need a car in L.A. And two, that I was so embarrassed of my car that I felt I needed a new one for my new life. But the truth is that that car
my life. It was representative of who I was, where I came from, and how much I was loved by my parents. But I wanted to start over. I was in Hollywood, I was an actress, and I thought I was better than that car. Fifteen years later I finally learned that no one is better, especially me, than a hot-pink Escort and a vanity plate painted with love.
VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE THE KIND OF WOMAN
who traveled by herself. I loved reading books about adventurous women who would just travel somewhere, anywhere they were curious about, with or without a travel companion, just because they felt like it. Those women were independent, confident, mysterious, sexy, and interesting. They had great stories to tell, could appreciate art and architecture, had friends all over the world, and the coolest clothes purchased at international flea markets. OK, maybe the last reason was number one on my mental list. If I heard one more girl respond to a compliment on a skirt or jacket with “I got it in a flea market in Paris,” I was going to scream.
wanted to be the flea-market-in-Paris girl. But the other stuff was important too. I wanted to learn about all the things that I didn’t get to in college because I was acting all the time. I had made a promise to myself when I realized what a conservatory was and that I was in one that I would self-educate when I graduated, and what better way to boost my intellect (and wardrobe) than international travel? Instead of just reading about history, why not
go see it for myself? I was an only child. I was used to spending time by myself. I had traveled a little already for work, I mean to Phoenix, Casa Grande, and Kenosha, but still, I was adventurous. I moved to L.A. by myself … that’s something, right? So I decided that if I wanted to be that kind of woman, I should just do it. People traveled alone all the time—so why not me? If you want to do something, just do it, right, Nike? So I did it!
I decided to go to Spain—Barcelona, to be exact, and spend a week and a half there. I didn’t know anything about Spain, I didn’t speak Spanish, but I chose Barcelona anyway for a few reasons: (1) my friend Martin had gone there alone the summer before and said it was beautiful and safe and everyone was nice and spoke English; (2) I loved the movie
by Whit Stillman; (3) I knew a guy from high school who was living there, so I had a local emergency contact.
The first thing I learned about myself, minutes after deplaning, was that I am not one of those people who should travel by herself. I don’t like it. I didn’t like walking through the airport. I didn’t like trying to get a taxi. I didn’t like riding in the taxi to my hotel, and I
didn’t like it when I got to my hotel. You see, the night before there was a riot in the neighborhood where I was staying, so the streets were deserted and all the storefronts were vandalized. There was spray painting everywhere, not that I could read it, but I’m pretty sure whatever words were spray painted under the Chanel store sign weren’t words of social encouragement and positivity. Many windows were broken and boarded up, and there was still glass and garbage littering the streets and sidewalks. I’m not sure if I would have been any better off had things been totally normal, but my trip was off to a rocky start, and I can’t say that I ever fully recovered from my immediate conviction that this was a bad idea for me.
The daytime was better. I enjoyed being alone in parks, deciding
how much time to spend in museums, where I wanted to go, where and when I wanted to shop, and how late to sleep in. It was all up to me. And I did love that. I figured out how to get around (kind of). But when the sun went down, it sucked. It was dark, I was alone, I was scared, and it seemed to cancel out whatever strides I’d made in my independence during the day. When I was back at my hotel with only my thoughts and the same six Euro MTV videos on a loop to keep me company, I always found myself wondering, why did I do this again?
I was nervous to do pretty much anything at night, even walk around. The city looked different to me when it was dark. I was scared to use a map because I thought I would be a target for possible rapists, thieves, or even a group of rambunctious teenagers. I guess I wasn’t the savvy traveler I thought I was because I was always making a wrong turn and winding up on a quiet, empty street. I knew there had to be people out eating, drinking, and having fun, obviously this was happening somewhere, I just couldn’t find where, and I felt left out. I used the Internet cafés, sometimes I pretended I was in a Bourne movie and that I was undercover, I would type really loud and fast, eyes clocking all the exits. That was fun for about thirty minutes. I finally e-mailed my friend Martin, the one who had been to Barcelona and had the best time by himself (liar), and was like, “WHAT THE FUCK? What do I do here? You said everyone would want to talk to me. No one does. You said everyone spoke English. No one does. You said I would meet people, I haven’t met anyone. I’m sad and lonely and I think I hate you. Why am I so lame?”
The night before had been my breaking point. I’d hid in my room the majority of the evenings so far, only really venturing out to go to a nearby Thai restaurant (pad Thai is still a real comfort food for me). While I was out wandering around (read: getting lost) that day, I passed a cool-looking restaurant. It was tucked
into a charming courtyard, and the food people were eating for lunch looked amazing. So that night, I was going to be brave—ready or not. I was going to embrace the woman who, for some reason, thought she’d like to be the kind who traveled by herself. I hailed a taxi at my hotel and told the driver the address. And to my delight, he was excited that I was American!
It turns out he had been working on his English and wanted to have a conversation with me. Of course, the first thing he asked me was if I was meeting my husband at dinner. No.