SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 38: “Some Make It A Bigger Deal Than It Has To Be”

Jenna – Actress, Humorist, Humble Teacher

I start today at Vista Ford, home of my tragic leasing experience some fifteen years ago. For some reason I am inspired to visit the establishment once again. Don’t know why, but my gut is telling me it is where I need to start my 365 quest today.

I get this internal message loud and clear as I’m traveling East with my friend and driver for the afternoon, Danny. Vista five miles behind us, I question the prompting. Thinking why turn around? Backtrack a route already traveled? Makes no sense?

Committed as I am to 365, there is only one answer; “turn around, re-calculate and head West,” back to the gut inspired Ford dealership.

Back, past ten minutes of already traveled street we find ourselves wandering the car lot, “no one in sight.” A couple more minutes pass, our anticipated salesman approaches, politely sporting a white shirt and extroverted smile.

Not bagging on his effort, I feel no inspiration at all to photograph him. However, honest to the 365 effort, I know that I must invite him. As I assume, he declines the offer, leaving us with zero prospects in sight. It is a very hot summer afternoon. I am not surprised the area is void of people.

We withdraw to the shade of the car to continue our search for today’s 365 friend.

Two mile more to the West, Dan suggests a pit stop in a local shopping center, something about the suggestion feels right. “I wonder if the Vista Ford pit stop is an inspiration to pilot us in a new direction.” A romantic thought, and one that I will own.


Literally, as I am writing this entry, I’m looking across the table at six of my closest friends. Accompanied by their children, it’s Sunday family and social night. I’ve taken my break for the day and with dinner over, have settled into an evening of games, conversation and writing while we play. Everyone is getting used to me working on this blog. So even though they are with me in the journey, all harassment is fair game.

That said, It would be short-changing my friends to not publish their remarks. My friend Pam kicks in, “If you’re dissing us, you better write about me.” She challenges me, “I’m going to start my own blog on a leap year. So I’ll beat you with 366 days… eat that!”

She has started the “give it to Radstone train” and I gladly sport my target face. The whole group steps up to play and are all on a roll in tossing amazingly well though out jabs at me. It’s like a roast and I’m the guest of honor. I keep my focus and through jest after jest dart hitting me like bullets, I do not break stride. Words fly at me faster than I can record, none breaking my typing rhythm. I’m in keyboard nirvana.

Their effort is stellar. My following response is a tribute to their witty contributions of the evening; “zerberts to all and nose to the iPad for me.” I’m telling you, “I’m turning into a 365 writing machine.”

This verbal jousting barrage over, it’s karaoke time, a perfect jumping off point to take my leave in introducing you to today’ friend.

So with the haunting sounds of lounge music behind me, I ask you to welcome at center stage, our friend for the day: Jenna.

Danny and I stroll upon her chatting with friends outside of the Corner Club (a little sports bar) in Woodland Hills. The place is a touch out of my comfort zone, but there is a magnetic energy that inspires us to approach the group. As we arrive, we meet our first challenge, being able to tolerate the bantering from one member of the group. A friendly enough bloke who gives us a bit of a sarcastic hassle. It is obvious that he has no intentions of allowing us to photograph him. We allow him to state all of his input and he quietly retreats to the solace of the bar inside, leaving Jenna and I the privacy to talk.

At first I’m uncertain of where we will go in our conversation. Not knowing exactly how to relate, I jump right in with question #2, “Is there anything you would like to share with my readers?” That’s all it takes. Instantly Jenna and I are deep in discussion. She has a ton to say and all is very relevant. As always, now I know why I am here, at this place, at this time, standing with Jenna.

First off, Jenna has a sweet spirit about her. She begins her council by stating, “Life is tough for everybody, but some make it a bigger deal than it has to be. They forget about each other, overreact and disregard the fact that we are all in this life together.”

A struggling actor, Jenna has experienced the high and lows of being an artist. Yet she is highly optimistic, quoting as piece of advice she picked up from a Martin Scorsese interview, His father’s advice: “Nothing is more tragic than a wasted talent.”

She goes on to tell me that although this has been an incredibly difficult year, she has reached a time in her life where she is no longer fighting for control. And doing so has bought many new opportunities to her. She is honest with me in what is helping to pay her bills, a YouTube spoof on sex advise, telling me that although it is somewhat raunchy, she draws the line at nudity. She takes the hits when people call her a porn star, but that is farthest from her values. I know, for many the line is black and white on the topic. But Jenna is resolute that her show is a means to an end, and she will not compromise in full-scale pornography.

Her stance, “you can only lose your dignity once.” And for Jenna, pornography would be just that.

It is not our place to judge the intent of others. And after spending time chatting with Jenna, I am positive her point-of-view is of good rapport. And you will absolutely see why in a moment.

She comfortably states, “happiness is not about money or status, it’s about self-worth.” A theme that is becoming strong through line in 365. So how does a statement like this balance with smiling off the accusations of being a porn star.

Now I ask you to take off your first impression glasses and read on.

What really peaks my interest in Jenna is her dedication to the future of our youth. Specifically those with special needs. The catalyst for all of her efforts, and compromises, she has made in making income through her acting talents. And I’m sure you realize just how hard it is to survive in the entertainment jungle. Especially for the single folk.

For 18 years Jenna has dedicated her life to teaching special need children, specializing working with kid roughly eleven-years old. An age that somehow seems to fall through the cracks with many taking no interest. A point of view that most would not entertain from a person hanging out at a grungy sports bar. I take careful notes, noticing things like the healthy Peach Yogurt she is carrying, planning on eating it while her comrade’s down other more intoxication beverages.

We are interrupted mid interview, when politely she redirects an aggressive fellow, seemingly not wanting to have the topic at hand polluted by loud distractions.

She goes on to expand that what is important to her is being able to separate her acting decisions from her pursuits in helping special children to build healthy self-esteem. Encouraging them to work hard and not be lazy. When we talk of this aspect of her life, I see great pride and compassion in her continence as she states, “I want them to succeed.”

I can tell by the look on her face that her life has not been easy, and that she is a fighter. We speak of many more things. Too many to write in my allotted word count commitment. Even now I am close to 400 words over my targeted 1000 or less writing rule.

I do so with purpose.

Many of my entries have touched on the topic: “We cannot judge a book by its cover.”

This afternoon as I approached, even interrupted, a group of friends enjoying their weekend leisure, perhaps I am the one to be judged.

To again quote Jenna, “Life is tough for everybody, but some make it a bigger deal than it has to be. They forget about each other, overreact and disregard the fact that we are all in this life together.”

Words to ponder?!