Saturday, June 29, 2013

NY Times 1999

I think it’s a great idea to contact someone you admire, but I also think it’s possibly the worst idea you’ll ever have in your life. How could it be anything but disappointing? Still, as soon as I say that, I think: There’s a chance it will be amazing. I seem to be oddly attracted to this way of thinking. In my head, “This will end in tears” and “Let’s go!” sit on the same shelf together, ready to jump at a moment’s notice. I liked reading that Wes Anderson, someone who seems very deliberate and thoughtful, has those same impulses. Whether or not you like him as a film-maker, there’s no denying this guy has big balls. Here’s something to read:

FILM; My Private Screening With Pauline Kael
Published: January 31, 1999
Wes Anderson, the director and co-writer of the new offbeat comedy ''Rushmore,'' is a lifelong fan of the New Yorker magazine film critic Pauline Kael, who is now retired. Wanting to show her his film, he tracked her down last fall at her home in the Berkshire Mountains. The following account of his visit is from the introduction to his ''Rushmore'' screenplay, to be published on Friday by Faber & Faber.
I already had Pauline Kael's phone number because I'd found it when I was looking through somebody's Rolodex a couple of years ago. ''Hello. My name is Wes Anderson. I'm calling for Pauline Kael, please.'' I had immediately recognized her voice (from a tape I have of her on ''The Dick Cavett Show'') when she answered the telephone, but I wanted to give her a chance to introduce herself.
''Who are you?'' she said, suspicious and steely. I paused.
''I'm a filmmaker, and I've just finished a movie called 'Rushmore,' and I was hoping maybe I could . . .''

''How long is it?''
''Ninety minutes.''
''Or slightly less. Ninety-ish,'' I said.
''That's a long 'Rushmore.' ''
I hesitated. I thought she was making a joke, but I didn't get it. I said, ''Well, it's got a pretty quick pace.''
''What'd you do on it?''
''I directed it.''
''Who wrote it?''
''Me and my friend Owen Wilson.''
''Who's in it?''
''Bill Murray.'' This was my trump card. I knew from her reviews that Bill Murray was one of her favorite comedians.
''Which Bill Murray?''
There was a silence. ''The Bill Murray. You know Bill Murray. You love Bill Murray.''
''What was he in?''
My mind drew a blank. ''What was he in?'' I repeated the question. I could only think of one title. '' 'Meatballs,' '' I said.
It didn't ring a bell. ''You'll know him when you see him.''
She laughed uncomfortably and said, ''O.K.'' She asked if ''Rushmore'' was my first film, and I told her no, that I'd directed a movie called ''Bottle Rocket.''
There was another silence.
''Well, lets hope this one's not too thrown together.''
I thought about this. ''How do you mean thrown together?'' I said.
She didn't answer. I waited. She laughed quietly, and then she seemed to warm up all of a sudden: ''O.K., send me the tape,'' she said.
''Actually, to tell you the truth, I'd prefer to screen it for you. Is there a movie theater near you?''
She paused. ''There's the Triplex.''
''Let me show it to you at the Triplex.''
She sounded skeptical. ''How are we going to do that?''
''I'll get the studio to set it up.''
''That could be expensive,'' she said.
''Well. Let's stick it to them,'' I said.
She liked the sound of this. ''O.K., let's stick it to them,'' she said. She told me she didn't drive, and that someone would have to pick her up and take her to the theater.
I said: ''I'll do it myself. How do I get to your house?''
''I don't know,'' she said.
''O.K. I'll figure it out.''
A few weeks later I drove from Cambridge to Ms. Kael's house in Great Barrington, Mass. I brought some cookies with me which I thought I would offer her during the first reel.
Her house is stone and shingle and very large, and I saw a deer duck into the trees at the corner of the yard as I came up the driveway. I knocked on the screen door and she looked out. She was sitting in a wooden chair. ''My God, you're just a kid,'' she said.
She told me to open the door. I tried it. I told her it was locked. She told me the lock had been stiff for 20 years, and that I should just fiddle with it. She said she knew it was 20 years because she'd just finished paying off her mortgage.
I fiddled with the lock for a minute and got the door open. We shook hands and I said: ''It's very nice to meet you. How are you?''
''Old,'' she said.
She was a few inches under 5 feet tall, and she stood shakily with a metal cane that had four legs at the base. We both had on New Balance sneakers.
She has Parkinson's, which makes her shake a little bit and leaves her unsteady. She told me she had been in the hospital with meningitis during the week after we spoke on the telephone, which explained her forgetting who Bill Murray was. She told me I would have to hold her hand and help her get around, and I told her that would be just fine. On the way to the theater she told me she'd invited her friend Dorothy to join us. ''I would've gotten a group together, but I didn't want to have too many people, in case the movie isn't any good.'' I nodded and pulled into the driveway next to the theater. There was a small-town police station there, and I stopped in front of it.
''You can't park here, Wes.''
''Oh, I think we'll be O.K.''
She shook her head. She said that this was proof I was a movie director. No one else would think they could double-park in front of a police station.
We went into the lobby and she introduced me to Dorothy. ''This is Wes Anderson. He's responsible for whatever it is we're about to see.'' Then Ms. Kael told me I should change my name. ''Wes Anderson is a terrible name for a movie director.'' Dorothy agreed.
I ran out to move the car, and then found Ms. Kael and Dorothy sitting near the back of the theater. Ms. Kael explained, ''I like to see the whole screen.'' I offered them some cookies, and Ms. Kael immediately started eating one. ''These don't have butter in them, do they?''
''My guess is they probably do,'' I said.
''I'm not supposed to eat butter,'' she said, but she kept eating. Ms. Kael and Dorothy watched for an hour in total silence. Then Dorothy, who is a real estate agent, got paged and walked out, and that was the last I saw of her. Finally, the movie ended, and I took Ms. Kael's hand and walked with her out of the theater.
''I don't know what you've got here, Wes.''
I nodded.
''Did the people who gave you the money read the script?''
I frowned. ''Yeah. That's kind of their policy.''
We started slowly down the steps. ''Just asking,'' she said. It was a short walk to the car. ''At this point, I would usually tell you not to worry if you have to carry me, since I only weigh 85 pounds. But you look like you don't weigh much more than that, yourself.''
I was a little disappointed by Ms. Kael's reaction to the movie. I started reading her New Yorker reviews in my school library when I was in 10th grade, and her books were always my guide for finding the right movies to watch and learning about filmmakers. I'd gone to great lengths to arrive at this moment. ''I genuinely don't know what to make of this movie,'' she said, and I felt she meant it.
I drove us back to her house. We went inside, and Ms. Kael invited me to sit in her study and talk.
THE house is full of books, and the rooms are large, with lots of windows. She took me to a closet in a room so crammed with tall stacks of boxes that you had to turn sideways to squeeze around them. The closet had extra copies of all her books. She told me I could have any of them I wanted. They were first editions, and I wanted to take a dozen of them, but eventually I just chose two.
I asked her to sign one of them for me, and she said this would take a few minutes. Her Parkinson's makes it difficult for her to write. That's why she quit The New Yorker. I asked her if she'd ever dictated a review, and she said, ''I think I wrote more with my hand than with my brain.'' She said she would never write again.
''Glad to hear it,'' I said, thinking of the review of ''Rushmore'' that she wasn't going to write. She looked up at me. She smiled faintly.
Then we sat for a while talking about movies, and she finished signing my book, and I told her I had to get back on the road. I was headed for New York, and it was already getting dark.
She walked me to the door, and we chatted a little longer. She told me to keep in touch, and we said goodbye. I didn't look at her inscription until I'd checked into my hotel room. It said:
''For Wes Anderson, With affection and a few queries. Pauline Kael.''

Thursday, June 27, 2013

For Daniel Somers: One Positive Thing

It's weird to read something upsetting in the news and then just turn the page or click to the next site, but I do this every day. I don't know what else to do, and even saying that sounds shameful and idiotic and slightly victim-ish.

 Another thing I do every day is wonder about what to write on my blog. I think: "No one wants to read that". "Who cares?" "That's embarrassing!" "That's so self absorbed".  Then I convince myself that it's a good exercise. I convince myself that, well, I like to read other people's stories, maybe this will be interesting , or funny to someone else. And inevitably, at least once a week, I'll hear from someone who says "I like that", or "I get it", or even just "Haha!" And I think: connection!

This morning I read this suicide letter written by a vet from the Iraq War named Daniel Somers. I don't know how to respond to it except to say I think it's a story that should be heard. Please read it too and pass it along. It's not a solution really but maybe just listening is a way of making a connection. Which is one positive thing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Things I Never Do

1. I never get sick. In fact, I believe that saying "I never get sick", might be the main reason I never do. I think with a lot of illnesses, it's a case of mind over matter. And I'm actually putting in the time right now to fortify that belief for the day I really get sick with a fatal disease: Mind over matter. I never get sick! Of course, I say this as I sit here with a temperature over 100 and my body feels the way you feel when you have been strapped into a wheelchair and pushed down a flight of stairs. How did this happen? I still went to work yesterday, still drove a car, went to the bank and had an hour long combative texting exchange with an old boyfriend. I'm fine. I'm good. No prob. (Here's me on the left) After I went to the bank, I walked by this Chinese combination gift shop/herb apothocary/chicken shack and slowed to look through the window. I don't like going to doctors, but for some reason I am fully able to believe in any form of Asian/African/Creole witch doctor/herbalist standing on the street with a cardboard box and a jar filled with twigs and pebbles. How could I not? They've been around for centuries! I went into the store, explained how I was feeling and bought some thick brown tar/syrup for 5 bucks. Done. I felt better already. As soon as I got back to work though, my head was spinning and I had to cover one eye to keep from seeing double.

 2. I never go to yoga. I have nothing against it; in fact I wish I did go, but I just don't. Yoga is like herbal tea for me, I like the idea of it, but it just requires me to turn down my inner volume too much to be consistent about it. I have to clear my head and open my heart and be accepting and I just can't do that every day. Still, again as with tea, I am drawn to it when I'm starting to feel sick and my resistance is low. So on Sunday when I started to feel some congestion in my chest, I had the idea that going to a Bikram yoga class, where the room is 105 degrees, was something I needed to do. That I could sweat all the germs out of my body.

Okay, cut! Cut! Hold it for a second, Deird?
What, I'm talking.
You know that germs and bacteria multiply in heat.
That's why hospitals keep the temperatures low.
Mmmhmm, yeah.
Okay, good, carry on.

So. You know, I'd like to say I did feel great at first. I sweat so much that the towel I was lying on felt like it had been soaking in a tub. Liquid was pouring out of me (does that sound weird?) and I felt a relief. At first. But by Sunday night, again, I felt like this.

To be continued....

Monday, June 24, 2013

What The Moon Does

Last night when I was walking the dogs at around 10 pm I heard, through their open bedroom window, my neighbors having sex, and in that moment I was filled with, I'd say, just about every emotion I've ever felt in my life: joy, anger, curiosity, embarrassment, sadness, longing, grossed-outedness, shame, uncertainty, fear, glee and depression. I almost got down on all fours and started howling right then and there.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Search

I dream about living in a beautiful farm house that has nothing in it except exactly what you need, and although it's unrealistic and maybe even a little bit sterile (in these photos), this place comes pretty close.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Prayer

There's a few reasons that people from other countries spend a few hours praying every day: to reflect, to release, to be grateful, to fuel up. We don't do that here. I want to, but I can never find the time. In fact, saying "I can never find the time" is kind of a little prayer, or I guess, the opposite of a prayer, that  I say all day long. The amount of time I spend wishing I was somewhere else, or with someone else, or in a different  place in my life, is also a good chunk that I could put to better use. I'm not religious, I don't believe in God, I believe in people and spirits and that we are connected somehow. I believe that we need to help each other and that it's important to be giving and honest and un-judgmental. I believe in love and I believe in laying a huge fart after saying something like that. I believe, wholeheartedly, in keeping it real.

Here are some ways that we spend time instead of praying:

getting ready to go
jerking off/watching porn
looking at our hand-held devices
getting coffee
watching TV/movies/netflix/youtube vids

Those are the top 7 anyway. I made that up but I think it's true. I think a new one might be blogging/taking selfies/instagramming/tweeting (again, kind of the opposite of real reflection).

Think about that while you're sitting in traffic this weekend.

ADDENDUM: A friend just wrote and said you can pray while sitting in traffic, or drinking coffee or jerking off! It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

RIP Jimmy G

                              Why was he so seductive? Sad eyes, direct gaze, powerful presence.

I remember the first year that the Sopranos came out was the year that I wrote my first screenplay. It was an adaptation and I wrote it out, longhand, on a yellow pad. Nothing ever came of it, but I did it. I was so inspired by that show because it seemed like the first time I ever saw a character on  TV who was so many things at once. David Chase wrote Tony Soprano as a person who was burdened and dark and unhealthy in almost every possible way, but it was because of James that we loved him. He could shoot someone in the back of the head and stand alone in his yard watching ducks. How was it possible that this mob guy from New Jersey was vulnerable and inflexible, honest and deceitful, physically imperfect (!) and one of the sexiest guys on TV, ever. I have read that James did not want people to think of him as Tony, and I get it, he was more than that; but I know that I always looked for that same complicated and surprising quality in everything else I watched him in, and it was always there.

Here's a quote from Neil Strauss, a writer who worked with him on a TV show called Roadies:

In no particular order, here are some my favorite lessons he
taught me on writing for television:

*The less direct communication, the better.

*Have the characters lie about things, even if it's just
about being late; have conversations that don't go anywhere;
have people who don't say anything and just take things in.

*Never explain anything: the audience should always be
catching up with you.

*Keep it in reality: stick to a straight narrative. Avoid
things like montages over music and voiceovers when possible.

*And his best piece of advice, which I should have heeded
more closely: "Don't let the network push us around or take us
off track or threaten the realness and creativity. Make the show
what we want--interesting, funny, and smart--and if no one likes
it, we make another one. But no matter what, it should be the
show we want and believe in."

And that's another thing I admired about him: His incredible
integrity. He always felt that his acting success was an
accident, yet was ridiculously talented and steadfastly
dedicated to television and film as a medium of art making
a statement on life, religion, politics, society, and the
inner and outer struggles of living in this world today. (He
was intensely critical of television shows that he felt
were light and shallow, which was just about everything
on the air.)

In several of the scenes Gandolfini suggested for the show,
there was always a common theme: Finding a larger peace amidst
the everyday chaos of working to survive.

"Let's put in a scene," he said at one of our last meetings,
"where everyone wakes up and the bus is stopped. And the roadies
are standing outside and looking at the sunset in the Mojave
Desert." He paused and went there in his mind, and a half-
smile spread across his face. "Sometimes people just need quiet
and space--and the feeling of being free."

So wherever he is now, I take solace in the fact that he is

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No Room

One time my sisters and I took my Dad to get frozen yogurt in the middle of the day and he started telling us about having sex with someone in the back of his car. I think as soon as it became clear that he really was talking about what he was talking about, we all eyed each other for a second, the way you do when you're about to back out of a room with a skunk or a hand grenade in the middle of the floor, and then something weird happened: we all became our child selves. One sister closed her ears and started singing, the other one got up and left the table, and I tried to change the subject. "This yogurt is really... cold" and when that didn't work, I made comments to myself out loud, "Isn't this the sort of thing you talk about with your buddies?"

What is it that makes this sort of conversation with your parents so not cool. Is it the visual? Is it the vulnerable? Is it the visual/vulnerable combo? I'd like to think, yeah whatever, I'm cool, good for him! But as soon as I get there I think No, I can't. All I know is that I have room for a lot of things in my imagination, but my Dad's sex life is not one of them.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday Morning Inspiration

I needed to hear this today, and yes, this version. Sometimes you just have to listen to your inner DJ.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Happy Friday

Good Morning Everyone,

   It's been a busy week, but I promise I'll be back on Monday with something new. Find a sunny spot this weekend and do something fun.
Or if you have to go to a kid's party, consider this:


Most kids' parties are the same. There's a clown or a storm trooper or a princess or a bouncey or bowling. There is one parent in charge running around like a car spinning out at the Daytona 500. There are the hoverers who want to stay and get involved and show everyone how they really have a handle on the parenting thing. They go on the bouncey (Come on!) or they try to make some spectacular artistic creation at the craft table that's better than any 7 year old's can hope to be. There's other parents who sit on a couch and text the whole time. There are others who just drop their kids off, driving away with a skid before the back door has even closed. After the first activity, there's pizza and soda, hot dogs and hamburgers or (if the host is a new parent) carrots with dip and salad. Then everyone watches the magician. Then everyone sings. Then there's a sugar injection overdose (or worse, a sugar-free, gluten-free, all organic straight from farm to table pile of cat-turd) and gift bags filled with more sugar or crappy plastic things that you'll later find under your sofa or stuck down the back seat of the car. Then everyone is asked to get the hell out. Done.

Last week though, I went to one and the first thing I notice, is an entire table covered with shot glasses of vodka. Before I go on I have to mention that the family hosting the party was Russian. Of course. All Russians drink vodka all day long. 
Still, not only was there a table covered with shot glasses of vodka, but Gramps of the party child was standing there offering them as you walked by.
Oh no, no thanks. That's so nice, no.
"Why not?" It pissed him off a little, but he wanted to understand.
It's 12 o'clock?..I only drink once or twice a year?.. I have to drive later? Each response I gave was more confusing to him. He shook his head like there was a gnat flying around him. He held the glass out. "Come on. Have".
Then I thought, he's right!  Why not? What could be wrong with shots of alcohol at a kids party in the hot late morning sun? At the beach?
I took the glass and took a tiny sip, like an elf or a butterfly, and instantly the hair on my arms stood up, my head shook and I had to kick out my left leg. Oh!
I wish I could tell you I had a few, and met some of the parents and had a good talk and a laugh with my head thrown back. And we ate caviar and smoked and discussed adult things like chess and Dostoyevsky. Then we all took off our clothes and had a big orgy under the boardwalk while the kids, some of them whimpering and frightened, others fearless and giddy, wandered through the crowded pier by themselves. But I didn't. I dumped the remainder of the glass in the sand and sat on a bench watching Harry and his friends play, checking my watch, waiting for 2 o'clock and the gift bag of plastic toys and candy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

My Periphery

When I lived in New York in the 90s, I worked in Tribeca at a place called Bubby's that was a few doors down from the building where JFK Jr lived. Every day at least 3 photographers, and sometimes as many as 20, stood outside in the street waiting like dirty sick pigeons for a crumb. When the door opened, no matter who it was, they'd start yelling John, John, John.

---except they were not funny. John knew some of their names and occasionally he would say hello, but usually he just walked past with his head down.

I saw him enough that we recognized each other when we passed in the street, enough to nod, half smile and keep walking. He had an unspoken signal that said Don't Talk To Me, but so did most New Yorkers. Once we stood next to each other waiting at a juice bar. He was sipping wheat grass juice and I asked him how he could stand the taste of that stuff. He laughed and said yeah it's pretty nasty. It's one of those weird meaningless exchanges that drops into my head at random times. Now, horribly, it's attached to the image of a plane going down near Martha's Vineyard, then to Jackie scrambling up the back of the convertible to grab part of her husband's head, then to plane crashing into the towers, then to a weird GQ image of John and then back to Bubby's: one of those weird pinwheels of silent movie clips.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sketch For A Story

His nickname was Bird. I guess they called him that because there was something graceful about him when he was working. Maybe it had something to do with the way he swooped in quietly to clear someone’s plate or fill a wine glass. I never knew the real reason. He didn’t talk much, but when he did, he’d turn his head and speak over his shoulder, like someone about to take a hit. In a conversation, he knew how to appear as though he was listening: direct eye contact, chin up, head tilted, but it was hard to tell if he really was. Something was missing.

He had studied to be a priest but for some reason had dropped out. Some people said it was because he met a girl he wanted to marry and though nothing ever came of that, I liked imagining that it could have. It was also said that he played tennis, that he could have been a champion. But now he was a full-time busboy. He worked at one restaurant during the day from 6 to 4 and then he drove down the road in his undershirt, black pants and slip-proof shoes to the place where we worked with him from 5 to 12. When he arrived he’d carry in a clean white shirt on a hanger.

“Bird!” some of us would say without looking up. He’d shuffle past, nodding, staring straight ahead and half-smiling. He was 42. This was November 2001, four months after I'd had a baby, three months after my husband left me, and two months after 9/11...

The night Bird snapped and punched a rude customer in the face, we all went home feeling a little better about the world. We had our faith restored. And that is no small thing.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Posting an Oldie: I Won In Vegas

Since it's getting close to my sister's birthday, I am remembering the time I danced at a Vegas nightclub.

Yes. I am officially an old lady. I went to see the Chippendales for my sister’s birthday on Friday night. It was also my first time ever to Las Vegas and I realized that the expression, “Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, is not a winking reference to the secret naughty experiences you have when you go there, but a literal explanation. Nothing you do there makes sense any place else.

From the moment we walked into the hotel, there was loud music pumping into every room, elevator and alleyway; you are not even conscious that all thought and ability to reflect floats out of you, it just does. Lights flash, bells go off, people walk around in bikinis, sparkling ball-gowns, sweat suits, tuxedos, feathered headgear, pinky rings, chaps, and everyone is smoking and drinking. Everyone, everywhere, even granddad with the oxygen tank and tubes up his nose, has a cigarette or a cocktail or is looking for one. I saw a midget in a diaper and a T-shirt and I didn’t think “Oh my god there’s a midget in a diaper”, I thought, ”Hmm I wonder where he got that, it might come in handy if I have a run at the tables” (I just said run at the tables. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS).

Even though there are lights everywhere, you feel like you are in a cave because everything is dim or flashing. It doesn’t just serve to disorient you, it makes everyone look better. Everyone who works there, from the doorman to the security guard to the dealer to the waitress in the restaurant, looks beautiful and perfect and like they will rip their clothes off and twirl around a pole at any given moment. All you want to do is smoke, drink, win money and have sex.

Which brings me to the Chippendales. Maybe I don’t need to mention this, but there isn't much sexy about them; basically they are football players in thongs, greased up and hairless. But WHO CARES? They are dancing and gyrating and smiling and perfect and gorgeous. We were screaming and laughing and holding on to each other just watching the slideshow before they even came on stage. By the time they got to the part in the show where one dancer fully makes love to a big bed in the middle of the stage, I mean flourishing thrusts to the mattress, my throat hurt from screaming.

There’s a part in the show when they pick 3 people from the audience and bring them up on stage. As soon as they started walking towards the crowd, women's hands shot up in the air. I didn't even notice that they were heading right towards ME. For a second I had a thought of “No. No Way”, but then my feet were walking and all I could think was Yes, I must do this. I was in a trance, which was a good thing because the first thing they did was tell me I had to give one guy a lap dance by myself, on a stage in Las Vegas, in front of 300 people. I thought of my children, my mother, my grandmothers, all the women in the world who have been humiliated and demeaned and I said, Should I take off my clothes? My sisters screamed. Who knew it would be so easy for me to do a lap dance? I've never even watched a porno. When it came time for the announcer to ask the audience to applaud each contestant, I won by a mile.


Which meant that I got to sit in the center of the stage in a chair shaped like the palm of a hand while 5 of the Chips danced on, around and over me. I looked out into the audience and both of my sisters were crying they were laughing so hard. It was amazing. Maybe even a highlight of my life, which is sad because I think there’s a chance it may not have even happened. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cheers, New Orleans!

I could probably post another photo from New Orleans that is a better representation of my visit, but this particular tag, which has been sprayed all over the city, got stuck in my head. How could you not love the person who thinks this way? It's not a typical slogan, but it's much more to the point than The Big Easy, which was a term musicians used to call a place that was easy to get work. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it combines tragedy with comedy, devastation with comfort, doom with perseverance,  and that, more than anything else, is the spirit of the place. Tennessee Williams would be proud.

Sorry, I know this song has been beaten with a stick from overplaying, but no one sings it better than this guy.