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A young woman at the gym was remarking snidely about Sarah Hughes' Grammy appearance. Hughes riled her, she said, after everyone was "so mean" to Michelle Kwan. Not everyone roots for the underdog. I guess there are plenty of non-americans that could have told me that. And plenty Bush supporters. So what if Kwan wore sequined gold and skated to "Fields of Gold" in her exhibition encore? The commentators didn't comment. How about that second, silver dress later? Not a word. I guess maybe I would have liked Kwan more if she had prepared a bronze dress just in case.
Due to an array of oddly disparate jobs, I've spent time working in hotel rooms. I'm not fond of hotels with their bustling lifelessness and vain stabs at individuality. Like the "Carol Channing Suite" in one mid-town hotel. Perhaps she stayed there once I guessed. Did anyone care? I noticed the suite's door propped open and heard a loud distinctive female voice within. Later I saw an elderly couple waiting for the elevator. An old stooped man and a woman who looked as she had been dusted in flour wearing enormous sunglasses. Carol Channing lives in the Carol Channing Suite.
I have the bad habit of eating over my computer. As a result I am always dropping crumbs into the keyboard. This morning, while trying to dislodge a crumb from beneath the "O" key I accidentally popped it off. I'm holding the "o" key right now. When I type an "o" I have to touch a little rubberized nub, naked where the key used to be. The key thankfully isn't broken, but damned if I can get it back on. Lllllllllllkkllllokllllll Damn. It doesn't look like it'd be so hard to fix. Maybe I'll get used to the little nub.
You figure that in an evening of eleven 10-minute plays for any good play you see you're bound to see one as bad as that was good. But, given the works were commissioned in the wake of September 11, you have to leave some room for the astonishingly bad. After the first half it was impossible to believe anything could top the gay lover of a 9/11 victim running into his dead lover's homophobic mother with Alzheimer's on the WTC viewing platform. But a poorly-acted/directed/written dark-horse piece about making sandwiches for a dead child somehow surpassed it in true wretchedness.
Since the play closes soon, we decided to go despite the bad aftertaste left from last night's theater experience. I was reading the program when J. hooted, then loudly cleared his throat. I looked up to see a couple graphically making out in the seats in front of us. They were in their forties. The man was thin stoop-shouldered, bespectacled and nebbishy. When not exploring the woman's tonsils he wore a stalker-intense tight-lipped smile, that he pushed into the rusty-haired woman's acne-scarred face. The man wrapped himself tightly to her, petting her hair like she was a small furry animal.
It is a stale kind of pain. Lingering and out-staying its usefulness. I have a hard time remembering when I didn't feel it. It's easy to forget the sensation of not feeling pain, but I know I did once. I fear it's getting worse, have taken to checking how straight my fingers are. But more pain is not the same as new, fresh pain. This is telling me nothing I don't already know. Pain is meant to indicate that something is wrong. Something needs fixing. And if it can't be fixed, it helps you not hold so tightly. To life.
When Josh came back from Australia he announced that he had learned to hypnotize chickens. I don't remember seeing that in the brochure you showed me I said. He was all excited to show us, but as luck would have it, not only did none of us own a chicken, none of us knew anybody else who owned a chicken. We had all but forgotten about it when Josh announced he'd located chickens at a nearby petting zoo so next thing I know we're watching Josh render one chicken catatonic, then another, until some kid told the zookeepers on us.
It's only a matter of time until I get into a fight with a Greenpeace worker. I'm glad they're working for the planet. I am very pro-planet. But I'm so tired of hearing "do you have a moment to talk about Greenpeace?" They're out near my apartment, and coincidentally, in front of my office seven blocks away. In that small area I'm asked that question 4 times daily. To be fair, most are perfectly courteous, but if you hear that question enough, eventually you'll be asked by the guy who implies "you greedy, self-centered fuck" with the same simple question.
I found my ballot for the SAG awards. I'd filled it out but never sent it. J. refused to fill his out on the basis that he hadn't seen all the nominees in any category. For awhile last month I talked my way into free movies with my SAG card, but eventually the tickets sellers realized I wasn't on the nominating committee. As some kind of divine retribution, all but two of the movies I saw for free were really lousy. In the end I didn't send my ballot because it required postage. It wasn't worth 34 cents to me.
Faint crying drifted from the other end of the apartment. "He's calling you," S. says and her husband takes his turn. He sounds different when he cries I said, older somehow. "That's the slight whine." T. came back from the baby's room confirming, "He sat himself up again." It seems the baby has learned to sit up, but hasn't figured out how to lie back down again. Not quite awake he cries until one of his parents solves the problem, finding that elusive prone position for him. I wonder if all the things that make me cry are so easy.
Headline: "New Yorkers remember September 11." Of course they do. "Does the rest of America really think our memories are that short?" "They mean memorialize." I know. I surfed the internet as we watched the John Belushi special (20 years dead). "Did you see they are doing that ‘Towers of Light' tribute?" J. said it was just a proposal, then the local news broke in and showed film of the light towers. You want to go see? After the show is over. We put on our coats and walked the half-block to Mercer, but the lights had been turned off.
Just home, J. called. He was in the neighborhood so he was going to visit a girl who directed some short film he did last year. She said she could show him the film. I've never met her. He'd probably get a drink with her, he said. Okay. I waited dinner and finally he called and said they were going to eat together. Okay. I put on my coat and walked down to Mercer Street again. This time I saw the lights. Alone. Alone like the last time I saw the buildings standing, billowing smoke. I remembered them more east.
Howard Thompson died. I didn't know him, but I knew he existed. I knew his work. He wrote the miniature movie reviews in the television listings for the Times. J. read me the obituary knowing I would care, but I think even he was surprised when I pulled a ragged piece of newspaper from my wallet, It was a boxed blurb that we can only guess was written by Mr. Thompson and it read "THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT Don Knotts. Amusing and a bit sad." I loved to wonder on just what level it was bit sad. And just what isn't?
He really knows how to hurt a guy. J. was typing furiously, taking his own dictation from a tape recorder with earplugs like they do in movies. "I had this really good idea," he said. I ask him a few questions, no doubt getting slightly sharper as I feel more and more threatened and he doesn't really answer. Hey, I'm supposed to be the writer, you're the actor. "Someday you'll get an idea," he says. Later, when I repeat this to him, he tries to make it sound like it was a joke. He hasn't read my writing in months.
"Had babies," she said. Crying in the background, the message was short stating all healthy, but not weights, times or even the date. I hoped today, my mother's birthday. She'd never met another person with her birthday until my first boyfriend, also born on the ides of March. Very poetic to be born on a day with a name, especially such a portentous one. I personally was born in the middle of the longest night of the year. That's what I say, but truth be told, I figure there's two longest nights. One on either side of the shortest day.
Our friend got a promise of a million dollars to direct his own movie. He's not telling many people because this has happened before. J. and I brainstormed casting with him. We love casting questions. Not infrequently we'll recast something we've just seen, "You know who would have been perfect in that part…" We listed a-list, b-list and c-list names who might be interested in the project on a more-or-less pro-bono basis, because obviously, that kind of money doesn't go far with the kind of names that put asses in seats all by themselves. Worst they can say is no.
I know two women who in their youths appeared nude in films. Independently they expressed gratefulness about having been able to do this while they were young. As kind of a remembrance of their bodies before aging, while they still exuded pure potential. Why else would I agree to be in a ballet fitness video? I think about this as my old bones press against the hard studio floor. Mats would be too busy-looking, production-wise. My body has edged past youthfulness, but might as well do this before it gets worse. Do this at home, we laugh, but somewhere softer.
My mother hardly seemed alarmed this time. "We were playing golf," she said. "Dad swung and all of a sudden he couldn't see out of the left side of either of his eyes." So far the CAT scan has come back okay, wonderfully anomalous with every other medical test my father has had in the last year. Something small kept turning into something big. First the cancer, then after not healing well from the cancer surgery, the leukemia. "It might be a burst blood vessel in his neck," she said, "He's in the hospital, for more tests." He's only 58.
We dragged ourselves into the cold rainy night to finally see "Pepe Le Moko" at Film Forum. In less than a week I'll have to defend my two-year title in the Oscar pool and I'm going to a French film from the 1930's. But that Jean Gabin and Lucas Gridoux as Inspector Slimane. Oh la la la la. What a great film. There's one odd, funny moment. Pepe (Gabin) is mourning the death of a friend. He's wearing a light suit and a dark shirt bearing the monogram "JG". We laughed. J often wears his own clothes in films, too.
Shockingly, the first time director is ahead of schedule so they're moving J.'s flight up to require a pre-dawn wake-up. When my schedule requires such a thing, he rolls over and puts in ear-plugs. But then he's much better at sleep than I am. I wind up making him breakfast. He leaves and I can't get back to sleep. Typical. Plans to meet a friend loom over my exhaustion. The sky's been spitting all morning. Reprieve! My friend is sick. (I'm sorry, I say.) For the rest of this day I vow to do nothing I don't want to do.
I slept in the middle of the bed. In the morning I raised the shade in the bedroom just enough to let in light to read by and stayed in bed. J. had called last night, they finished his part already. But it was snowing furiously in Montreal so his flight was delayed. Finally home, he couldn't wait to show the film he made of the dummy head and torso made of him to be blow-up in the film. In the short film, he crouched next to the doppelganger scrunching his face to match the discomfort the plaster had captured.
I can't believe I never saw it referred to as "Bored of the Rings" anywhere. Peter Jackson clearly has no desire or ability to direct actors because they're all left to fend for themselves. So incredibly soulless and heartless for something so beloved. The characters are left ciphers and the story arc and emotional throughline are abandoned in favor of battles and fight scenes. I imagined the actors getting up each morning and asking, "What are we fighting today?" And, unlike most films J auditions for but doesn't get, I went wanting to like it, wanting to be sucked in.
Yesterday, a friend of J.'s called asking him to hang out over the weekend. I suggested they do so on Saturday, but J. had said, no, he wanted to spend the day with me. I was flattered but persisted that he should go out. Again he insisted. How sweet. Today, as I was doing party prep for tomorrow he comes into the kitchen and says he called his friend, he's going to go meet him. And thus he made me feel rejected by doing what I had wanted him to do in the first place. It is a peculiar talent.
I only made one theme-food this year, a gray, brain-shaped jell-O mold in dishonor of "A Beautiful Mind". The party was so low-key with our most opinionated Oscar wagerer having moved to L.A. This year J. auditioned for two of the five films up for best picture, including a couple call-backs for one of them. A third film represented, but not up for best picture has given him truly great "auditioning with a genuine movie-star" anecdotes. A friend says that J. has reached a point where he is allowed to fail at the highest level. (I won the pool again.)
After a long night of drinking and disappointment, there's nothing like meeting with your accountant to discuss your taxes. J.'s taxes actually. Mine aren't that complicated, I do them myself, then arrange his dozens of W-2's and 1099's for him and sigh. "Maybe you could change your exemptions to zero I said. You really should own real estate I say. (Which is a problem, because I own our apartment.) His accountant looks over the spreadsheet and says, "You should consider changing your exemptions to zero." He sighs. "With your income," he says, "You really should look into buying an apartment."
I simply decided that I wasn't going to get sick when I agreed to help. Whatever it was had stripped her of the ability to lift the baby, let alone care for him. What would make me think that I would get it too? Besides, she had claimed that she had never before had the flu, so weren't chances on my side that it would be a strain that I had already had? So even now as I sit here, with my stomach feeling as if it has been on a long bus trip without me, my conviction isn't wavering.
In the vastness of the universe and beyond that vastness, I seems all too possible that this small organism called earth is infected with a virus that cares only for personal gain. The virus destroys its host in its quest for advancement. Is it inevitable that the virus will be destroyed by either a.) destroying its host, or b.) an awakening of the host's immune system which will flush the pests from its sullied system? (illness make me alliterative) Further is it possible that the virus currently being evicted from me has it own version of a thriving arts scene?
Every day I open the apartment door, pick up the paper there and hope for just a second that the suicide bombing reported on the front page is the one from yesterday. How could there possibly be another one? But really I know the
New York Times
doesn't make a habit of reporting old news, not on the front page anyway. Physically I'm feeling better, if a bit peaked. I tell myself I'm going to work, but walk around instead, unable to collect my mind. I stop in Goodwill and watch a young man trying leather belts on his head.
I can't explain. Once when J. was working with an experimental theater company they asked him to bring in random household items to make into ad-hoc puppets. I gave him a plastic birth control pill compact. They keep giving them to me at Planned Parenthood. I find them funny. When J. directed a skit in which an actress had to turn her purse upside-down, I included one there too. You'd have thought it was a used condom by the actress's reaction. It's like W.C. Fields said after a child supposedly playing with him kicked him, "I don't get her funny."
Ching. Ching. Ching. The little girl repeatedly crashed her shopping cart into mine in the most determined and autistic manner as I picked through the tomatoes and her mother, totally absorbed in cantaloupes, ignored her completely. She hit the cart, the cart hit me. I caught her eye and she stared back at me but did not relent. Ching. Ching. She was little, but clearly old enough to understand the concept of personal space. I maneuvered toward the broccoli and saw a smile pull at her cheek. Now, I thought, a child molester would know how to play this game.
You know if there's a –holic at the end it means trouble for somebody. Take for instance, cat-holic. When I think of my total addiction as a child it's easy to believe that the cells in your body live and die in such as way that you literally become an entirely different person eventually. I've worked to deprogram myself. I loved the fairy-tale aspects, hated patriarchal reality that begat them. And now this. J. didn't go to Catholic school as I did, but was an alter boy. In pictures he's heartbreakingly angelic, and yet, went unmolested. Not his priest's type.
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