Your Server's Other Job: Tobias Jelinek Talks The Nickel Diner, Point Break Live, Carnie Sideshows and Buddhist Monks
Squid Ink met up with Tobias in the converted laundromat he calls home. While juicing carrots, apples, ginger and lemons for a breakfast cocktail in a kitchen created from a rise in the uneven concrete floor, the stream-of-consciousness interview circumnavigated such subjects as:
Tobias has worked at The Nickel Diner as a server for eight months.
What he loves about it:
"It reminds me of Conrad's Heart of Darkness; the kitchen is like the center of the unconscious; it's where the sweat and language break down and where the creative process takes place. As you move further out into the customers it's where the goods are traded...Kristen [Trattner - one of The Nickel's proprietors] describes it as a Ferris Wheel and the guy who's running it has disappeared and you don't know when you're gonna get off."
What he loves about Downtown L.A.:
"It reflects this weird mosh of poverty and Skidrow and up and comers. You get crack heads comin' in with twenty dollars I don't know where they got it, "Gimme a double cheeseburger with extra onion rings!" It's utter madness. I [freaking] love it."
ON POINT BREAK LIVE
Point Break Live is exactly what it sounds like - Point Break, the movie, live. There are two distinct differences: One-- it's live. And two-- the character Johnny Utah, as played by Keanu Reeves, is hand-picked by the audience. Having run now for over two years, the show is still selling out to packed houses.
On what happens when someone lands the Keanu role:
"Whoever lands the role of Keanu is from the audience and there's this vicarious attachment because they chose him, he's one of them. We never know what the lead character is going to do. You have to adapt every single night."
On his favorite show:
"There are these sketch brothers called The Ponce Brothers, and one of them has Downs Syndrome. They do a series called, 'The Retarded Policeman' and 'Hey Bro', and they came to the show and Ponce got up - the one who has Downs Syndrome - and the audience voted him in and he killed it."
What does the show mean to him?
"My favorite description ever is, 'The show is as if five and six year-olds just watched Point Break and decided to re-enact it.'"
Tobias spent the first seven years of his life as a nomad, traveling around the country with his parents chasing carnivals. He attended Bennington College and studied experimental theatre and film and then moved to L.A. His most recent creative collaboration has been a rigorous collage-like column for H Magazine.
On becoming an actor:
"I started acting because my parents were traveling with carnivals. My father was a photographer and he and my mother set up the old west photo booths. They'd have me dress as an Indian or a cowboy...then we moved to some communes in Ojai and when we ran out of money we went and stayed with my grandparents in Minnesota. Eventually we ended up in Santa Barbara when I was seven with a bunch of well-to-do bohemians who wanted to start their own Waldorf School. It had been all five of us [Tobias, his mother, father, younger brother and sister] living in a room in Sacramento and all of sudden we're on a hundred acre ranch up in Santa Inez. There was never any TV, it was just all about hiking with my dog, fairytales and lots of dress up."
On becoming a writer:
"Writing makes me think things through. I love the immersion."
On H Magazine:
"My section is called Detour Journals and the idea it 'Get me out of my day-to-day'. It's a chance for me to explore. Like I loved crashing with Two-Headed Horse [the group he profiled in the December issue on stands now]. Their whole style, they're very conscientious, they really see their vision thru."
What's up next:
"From January 7th to the 17th, I go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I wanna find out what happens when I turn off technology. I'm so addicted to my Blackberry. Then I wanna check out this Buddhist monk who lives in a temple on Crenshaw and there's a spot downtown, 118 Winston, that's an art gallery where they do meditation and yoga...I don't know how it's all gonna come together. I just love the process and I feel really lucky to have a platform in which to print it."