Saturday, November 19, 2011
Monday, November 07, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
It is the muscle memory of that last week. My arms remember the weight of his body as I steadied him on his side while my mother and brother changed the sheets on the hospital bed we set up in the back bedroom. I smell the peppermint lotion I rubbed into his legs and feet every day to soothe him and myself, the coolness of his skin under my hands. I hear what they call the death rattle shaking his insides on the last morning of his life. I knew what it meant. We were losing. We lost.
And today, almost eight years later, I am reminded again. My mood shifts and there's a change in me I cannot shake. A sadness I pretend not to understand, that I try to ignore until I realize there's no fighting it. It's not work or school or other obligations getting me down. I know what it is. I remember. And I grieve. Still.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Instead of counting sheep, I make alphabetical lists (authors, actors, books) to quiet my mind. The last time I did this, I started with actors. Astaire, Bridges, Cooper, Day-Lewis...you get the idea. That got me thinking about acting families (or dynasties, depending on how you look at it). Then I started thinking about signature films for each family member. I know, how can this possibly help me sleep? It does. So here's a list of great film families and my favorite movie(s) from each member.
Note: There is nothing even remotely scientific or sanctioned by any Academy or Institute here. These are based on my personal (and occasionally cheesy) taste. Feel free to disagree with me.
Yours, Mine and Ours. He's got ten kids, Lucille Ball is his love interest and she has eight kids. Comedy ensues!
On Golden Pond. "You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it." Tears. Every time.
Nine to Five. "Judy Bernly, please hold. Judy Bernly, please hold. This is Judy Bernly."
Easy Rider. Badass. And he wrote it.
Singles. "Somewhere around 25, bizarre becomes immature." Oh, the 90s.
Cousins. "You've got only one life to live. You can either make it chickenshit or chicken salad."
Airplane. "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines"
The Fabulous Baker Boys. Down on his luck, playing piano and sparring with his brother.
The Contender. The Dude plays the President.
The Last Unicorn. Watched it every time it was on TV. Come on, she's the LAST one!
Some Like it Hot. Still can't decide if I like him better in lady drag or Cary Grant drag.
Bye, Bye Birdie. Because watching her dance with Dick Van Dyke is infinitely less scary than watching her get stabbed to death by Tony Perkins.
Jamie Lee Curtis:
Amazing Grace & Chuck. I know you've never heard of it. It's an 80s movie about a kid who gives up baseball in order to stop the threat of nuclear was. Yes, really.
The Wizard of Oz. Was there ever any doubt on this one?
An American in Paris. Kelly, Caron, Gershwin, Paris. Perfect.
Arthur. When she steals the tie from Bergdorf's and goes off on Chester the store detective? Brilliant.
I know I've got more of these in me. Favorite ensemble pieces, dynamic duos, bad movies I can't stop watching...suggestions are welcome. Making lists plus thinking about movies equals enough brain unscrambling to allow me to get back to the big project feeling somewhat relaxed.
Now...back to work! I've got a packet to finish!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
|Kate & Nicole Gorton|
Her wife, Nicole, is equally fantastic.
Kate's siblings and Nicole's brother joked in their toasts about the brides' constant public displays of affection, the pet names and the giggling they do, but they also agreed these two people are meant to be together.
|Kate and I werqing the dancefloor. |
photo by Kate Taylor
Watching Kate and Nicole take this step, surrounded by people who love and support them, gave me hope and renewed my faith in a lot of things. I cried through the ceremony, the toasts, the first dance. I'm a soft touch anyway, but this was one of those times where my main line was busted. Good thing I brought my hankie. Once I dried my eyes, raised my glass and ate a wedding cupcake, I joined the bridal party, family members and friends on the dance floor and rocked out all night long.
One of the catering staff said it was the happiest wedding she had ever seen. No doubt.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I just got home from my MFA program's summer residency on Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut. My days were spent learning about the craft of writing in morning workshops, attending seminars on everything from the poems of Zbigniew Herbert to what to do after I receive my degree (the short answer: keep writing) and sitting in the chapel after dinner, listening to my professors read from their work. And, yeah, there was some downtime. Bonfires and s'mores, swimming and wiffle ball, fellowship under the stars and a talent show. You know what they say about all work and no play...
Some notes from my Isle of Write:
|Kate, me and the dread pirate Cisco aboard the Argia|
Don't be afraid to ask for you want or need. Whether it's a meal, a mentor or a chance to do something new, don't hesitate. Or, as Kate said to me: "just f'ing take it!"
No matter how much bug spray you use, mosquitoes will get you.
No sign of Chuck Johnson this time around. He's probably going to the Galway residency.
Let your word nerd flag fly. Instead of playing f*%k, kill or marry, think about which literary character you don't want to wake up next to, which fictional party you want to attend and which movie villain you want to kill you...well, not want to kill you.
Gregor from Kafka's Metamorphosis, Holly Golightly's party in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Leon from The Professional. What? Who would you pick?
Sit in the tent for "fellowship" long enough and you'll find out which literary character is the most desirable mate. Mine? Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.
You can learn a lot about a person by asking about literary crushes.
Honor the traditions of those who came before you. Kate and I co-wrote a parody song in honor of the graduating cohort and performed it with A.J. and Erin at the talent show. Writing Queen (yes, as in Dancing Queen by ABBA) was whistled or hummed for the rest of the residency. That is, when people weren't whistling or humming Phil's and Linsey's awesome Mason's Road, the Fairfield University MFA program's version of John Denver's Country Road. Pat O'Connor, we tip our hats to you.
The only way to get more comfortable with public speaking is to do it every chance you get. Not only did I read some of my work in front of my classmates, I had the honor of introducing three of my fellow students at a reading. Brian, Sam B. and Erin, I meant every word I said.
It's back to the day job in the morning, but as I drift off tonight, I'll be thinking of my classmates and the words Phil borrowed from John Denver to make the song his own, our own.
Mason's Road, take me home to the place I belong. Enders Island, Mystic Mama. Take me home, Mason's Road.
Monday, June 13, 2011
I sat on my front stoop on Saturday night, shielded from a light rain and working by streetlight as I tried to remember.
I've written twenty-one pages about losing my father; his illness, deterioration and death, diagnosis to funeral. There's still more to write, more details to include, memories coming back slowly. What I haven't explored is what happened afterward. How I grieved and tried to find my way back.
I sat outside for an hour conjuring those feelings. I wrote in broad strokes all the things that came to mind. Re-reading every sympathy card. Going to the cemetery on the first Father's Day after he died (which, like this coming Father's Day, also falls on my birthday). Sitting in a ladies room stall at work and crying over something that reminded me of him. Telling people who didn't know what had happened that he was gone. The first time I went to a wedding and realized I would never have the father-daughter dance I'd imagined. Five pages in longhand.
I finished, came upstairs and went to bed. I woke up early and went to my neighborhood coffee shop to type it all up, adding these new pages to the previous twenty-one.
I haven't looked at those pages since I came home late Sunday morning. I know I have to go back and fill in some blanks. The editing, adding detail, taking things out, shifting paragraphs, unpacking the work and trying to make it all fit together is the part I enjoy -- well, not enjoy -- but it's the thing I'm learning and when I think I've hit it right, that's enjoyable. What I did over these last two days--remembering and grieving all over again is what got me and I still haven't shaken it. I shouldn't be surprised. I'm glad I was able to start this next section. I know there is going to be some crying and writing along the way, but I do feel good about it, even if it means feeling bad for a couple of days.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
On the next block, I walked by some fresh-faced, peaches and cream blond straight out of a shampoo commercial, her hair bouncing and behaving in the sunlight. My moment of gorgeous slipped away.
"Right, that's what beauty is."
I know what you're going to say. That's not what beauty is anymore. Eye of the beholder and all that. But it still stops me when I see a woman with long, flowy perfect hair, no matter the color. And it's not a "poor ugly me" thing. I think I'm cute. It's being reminded no matter what I do, I'm never going to be Olivia Newton John, the ideal beauty to my six year-old self.
|Olivia as Bad Sandy|
My friends and I used to take turns performing the role of Sandy in our marathon sessions of singing and dancing to the Grease soundtrack. Good Sandy, blond hair swinging as she does the hand jive with Danny in the high school gym. Bad Sandy, working that mass of blond curls as she struts around in those red Candie's and leather jacket. I wanted to be Sandy, a pretty girl with the long blond hair that all the boys wanted to be around. I wasn't.
|Ia and me with our long hai|
My mother had long wavy hair; "good hair." I used to sit behind her on the couch and brush it with a pink handled bristle brush from Avon. I loved parting it down the middle and seeing all the white hair that was coming in underneath the dark waves. My sister was a master with hair. She had Fawcett waves, could do any kind of braid or twist. Her friends would come over on Saturdays and she would do their hair before they all went out. Me? I never got the hang of it. I learned to braid my hair, but I suspect my braids were always crooked. I had bangs in the 80s. You know what I'm talking about, the kind of bangs that look like a claw on the front of your head. Of course, all of this was achieved through the burning magic of relaxer. Every few weeks, that plastic of tub of lye and whatever other chemicals were in there was purchased, cracked open and applied to my shoulder length hair in sections. I knew it was working when my scalp started to burn. Then the chemical was rinsed out, my hair set in giant, purple rollers and I sat under the dryer for hours.
|Thirteen years old with a long bob, a blob|
I cut my hair short before I graduated high school and never went back. In the intervening years, I have had many lengths of short hair, I even had bangs again in the mid 90s, but the back of my neck has not felt a ponytail or braid against it in two decades. Sometimes I dream about brushing my long, dark hair or putting it up in a French twist, but I don't really miss it. OK, I don't miss the hassle. I won't ever have long hair like Sandy or that woman on the street and, most days, I'm OK with it.
|short and sassy, like my momma.|
The next time I see that blond Breck girl walking down the street, I'll remind myself that we're both gorgeous, but I got to sleep in while she was blow drying her hair.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
"No more room for trouble and fuss / Need a change, a positive change / Look it's me writing on the wall"
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I'm at the office from 9am-5pm. Emails, phone calls, meetings, event planning. I'm home by 6pm and allow myself two hours to unwind (reading non-school stuff, a hot shower, a real dinner) before I'm in pajama pants and working at my other job until midnight. Writing, reading, revising. Sometimes I'm just THINKING about writing, reading and revising. Yes, thinking about the writing, reading and revising is a huge part of the process, but I must be careful not to do too much thinking or I freeze up. I'm learning this one slowly.
Thinking about writing has begun to overlap with thinking about work. Here's a sample:
"Don't forget to bring the packets for the board meeting. Remember what Elizabeth said about slowing down when you're working on that scene. Call Brad about that meeting tomorrow. Did I put the office husband's birthday card in my datebook or in my purse? How many pages is too much for submission to a publication? Who gives a shit about what I'm writing?"
Yep, all that before 7:30am. I'm not a morning person and having that much going on in my head before I've had coffee is especially annoying.
I'm exhausted and irritable. So much so that I said I hated the writing and the reading and the revising. OK, what I said was:
"I do hate this whole process, because most days I don't know what the fuck I'm doing, but I love it more because I know what it is doing for me. Stupid character building."
As my dear old (best friend's) Dad says, "No one ever said it was going to be easy." I know it. I knew this would be hard, maybe the hardest thing I've ever done for myself. And that's my real struggle. I'm doing this for myself. I'm doing this because it's what I've always wanted. I love writing. I love reading. I love thinking, talking and learning about writing and reading. And this MFA program is the way to get more of that in my life.
Only took 38 years to figure that one out. I always was a late bloomer.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
|From left: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Gwyneth Paltrow, |
Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, Angela Bassett, Sandra Bullock. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.
Vanity Fair continued to put rising stars (some rising higher than others) on the cover of the Hollywood issue until 2000, when it was time for a Master Class.
|from left: Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Gwyneth Paltrow, Meryl Streep, |
Cate Blanchett, Vanessa Redgrave, Kate Winslet, Chloe Sevigny, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.
This year's cover? It's fine.
A promising group of Young Hollywood stars looking glamorous in an old Hollywood way? Yep. The four most famous of the group under the masthead to get you looking and hopefully buying? Yes. A little skin showing in fold out panel two? Sure. Robert Duvall behind the bar? Wait. What? Why is Robert Duvall behind the bar? The "behind the scenes of the photo shoot" page reveals nothing.
|Scarlett Johannson & Javier Bardem recreating a scene from Rear Window. Photo by Norman Jean Roy|
|Daniel Day-Lewis. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.|
Follow up issues were a mixed bag, but there were still some standouts. The 2006 salute to film noir, entitled Killers Kill and Dead Men Die, and the 2008 tribute to Hitchcock with recreations of scenes from Psycho, North by Northwest and Rear Window.(see photo above) gave the photographers and actors a bit more room to play. In 2010, the scope was smaller and the focus was on collaborators, directors and actors. Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, Lee Daniels with Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe. They were trying something new. This year, I feel like VF didn't try. The 2011 portfolio is much smaller. How small? The 1995 issue had thirty portraits. The 2011 issue has twelve. Twelve. You're telling me Vanity Fair couldn't find enough actors and filmmakers to fill an issue? If you're only going to focus on nominees, fine, but how about ALL of the nominees. The acting categories alone give you twenty people to photograph. Throw in the directors, producers and screenwriters and you easily clear thirty. Something to consider for the 2012 Hollywood Issue.
Oh, and the picture of Christian Bale? Obviously from a red carpet event. Don't you have some of the best photographers in the world on the payroll? You couldn't get Christian Bale in a room with Annie Leibovitz or Bruce Weber? OK.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Daisy, first semester, non-fiction.
Big siblings are the best. Even when they break a foot, they still look out for you.
You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get a hot shower in before breakfast.
Do NOT go near the sea wall.
Chuck Johnson is not who you think he is.
If you have a question, best to ask Mother Hastings.
You can get up at 10:00am to jump in the water on New Year's Day, or you can get up at 10:30am and run down to the water in time to watch your classmates do it.
It is possible to get a nap in somewhere between meals, seminars, workshops and readings.
|Photo by Erin Corriveau|
Writing is a solitary act, but being in an MFA program is not. There is always someone to talk with, confide in, ask questions of and receive answers from, beginning at breakfast and lasting well into the evening social time. When the residency is over and everyone has gone home, we're still encouraging each other.
I'm a writer.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Monday, January 03, 2011
"1/24/10. Change is good when you know what the change is going to be. I still don't know what my big change is going to be, but I sense it coming."
The change I sensed a year ago? It came. It's here. I'm writing this piece from my dorm room at the MFA residency I started seven days ago. Me. In an MFA program. For writing.
I didn't even know I wanted this until E sent me a link to the program on facebook. She gave me the information, answered my questions, arranged for a campus visit. She nudged me as only very few people can nudge me.
I knew I wanted this before I arrived at Enders Island. I submitted my application and transcripts the night before I visited the program in July. Spending a day on the island meeting people and sitting in on classes only made me want it more. I gave myself a month to get recommendations and a portfolio together.
I was scared. The last thing I wanted (or thought I wanted) this badly didn't happen. And it took a long time to get over it. If I failed at this...I didn't want to think about it. But I got it.
The first couple of days were overwhelming. There are all these people. All these writers. I felt like a phony. At least I had my big sis and E. After some seminars and workshops I began to feel better. I've made some friends. I've started to participate. I've read some of my work in front of faculty and students. Here's the most important thing I've learned so far: I'm a writer. I'm part of a community of writers. I'm not alone.
The residency ends on Thursday, but this is my beginning. I'm ready to do the work.