Like most kids who grow up in the suburbs, when I was a kid, I fetishized the mall, like just so deeply and badly needed to get a ride there so I could get my cartilage pierced at Claires or eat a cookie the size of my face or just walk through racks of low-rise pants that didn’t fit me. It’s not my favorite thing about myself, but I am somehow calmed by rows and shelves of Things, organized neatly by color and size. Since I fixated on Malls so much when I was young, I am really disturbed by the fact that they are now dying, so much so that there is now a term for the abandoned or nearly abandoned spaces, ‘dead mall.’ There’s even a term for the abandoned large hub of the mall, the JCPenney’s or Dillards or Sears: that gaping pit emptiness is called a ‘ghostbox.’ There needs to be a word for what I’m feeling — this sense that I am inside of slowly changing world — a world that is moving so fast I barely notice the changes — but every now and then, when I pause, I glimpse the change and it makes my skin buzz and my stomach sink. What is this feeling? Futuresense? Changefeel? DEADMALL?
I’m in the middle of re-working a movie I wrote a few years ago. Rewriting pulls out the lose threads of my brain and makes everything, my Face, my Self, the World, feel unstable and wrong. WERE I TO SELECT AN IMAGE, IT IN FACT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE THIS:
Imagine each piece of yarn is either a character or moment or my own self-loathing and doubt or a TIGHT FRENCH BRAID OF ALL OF IT. The goal, of course, after a certain amount of wading through and tripping over and choking on the mess, is this:
And then naturally, this.
So for weeks there’s been weird stuff going on with my left eye that has finally morphed into a sty monster of sorts. And for all of these weeks, I have been pretty much completely ignoring the accumulating symptoms, other than occasionally noting them to Morrison. Instead I have been worrying and obsessing about much grander things. I am so consumed by thoughts about large things that are basically out of my control that I neglect to notice something happening right in front of me, or rather, on my face. I’m using my eyes to take in data that I turn into worry and stress and I don’t even stop for a moment to take stock of the faulty equipment. I’m sure that Buddha or Gwyneth Paltrow has some fine reflective phrase about this. Probably something like: take care of your physical self so that you’re able to face (or even SEE) the storms ahead of you, imagined or otherwise.
I would just like to formally apologize to every actor who came to callbacks for The Cake last night for how much I was frantically writing during every read. If I were you, I would of course assume that I was making a long list of everything that was annoying about my body and voice and just me as a human, in general. But actually, when a playwright sits in on auditions for their play, suddenly all of the emotional holes in the scenes become clear, and the playwright must frantically write these holes downs along with any ideas re: how to fix them before they escape. Unfortunately sometimes this must happen while an actor is beautifully emoting. Basically La La Land is a documentary, and sometimes, I AM THE VILLAIN IN THE ROOM I’M SORRY.
One of my favorite things about going to another country for the first time is seeing what the houses are like. I like to watch people coming in and out of them, sitting outside of them, listening to the radio, shucking corn, living their lives, and I especially like to look away really fast when I make eye contact with one of these people, like I wasn’t just turning the poor person into a poem. Obviously in every country there are big cities with fancy parts, and basically all of those people live in condos with lobbies and farmers sinks and walk in closets and flat screen TVs. But when you step outside of the big cities, you can really get a sense of what’s unique about the country and its homes. Here’s a piece of the outskirts of Cusco, from the window of a bus:
What was most striking to me about Peruvian houses was the fact that a lot of them are constantly in progress, being built upon. You see them and think, oh, no one is living in that house, it’s a construction site, there are bricks and tarps. A lot of the roofs have these metal rods sticking out of them which I finally realized (by which I mean, Julien explained) that it’s prep for a second story of the house. I think in America we’re obsessed with presentation, with things being Done and looking a certain way. But in Peru, and certainly other parts of the world that I have yet to see, a house is a thing that is built over the years while you live inside of it.
1.) Research place.
2.) Purchase tickets.
3.) RESEARCH EVERY POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD GO WRONG IN SAID PLACE, OR JUST IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY IN GENERAL, AND THOROUGHLY CONVINCE YOURSELF THAT EACH OF THESE THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU AS IF YOUR LIFE IS ACTUALLY A MOVIE WRITTEN BY AN GRADUATE SCREENWRITING STUDENT WHO BELIEVES THAT SOMETHING TERRIBLE MUST HAPPEN ON EVERY PAGE BUT WHO ALSO HAS A KEEN SENSE OF IRONY AND SO THE CHARACTER GOES INTO THE SITUATION BELIEVING THAT EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE BUT THEN BAM THEY ARE PUNISHED FOR THEIR IGNORANCE VIA LOST PASSPORTS AND FLOODS!
4. Hey, take a breath. Remember you are lucky to go at all, and that this is what life is for. Experiencing another culture broadens your understanding of humans and
5. REMIND YOURSELF NOT TO RE-APPROPRIATE OTHER PEOPLES’ CULTURES FOR YOUR OWN GROWTH
6. Buy an absurd amount of gum as if gum does not exist in other countries.
7. GO ON YOUR TRIP, PSYCHO.
I woke up REALLY needing to find a picture of the book I learned words from as a kid, and HERE IT BE:
I think this was all of elementary school, opening this owl and shoving its contents into my head. I was always good at memorizing, not so much internalizing. And so when my vocabulary sort of froze at the age, of, what, 24? Is that when the brain stops growing? I ended up with a moderate but far from impressive collection of words. I know no fancy synonyms for moderate or impressive. For a writer, my arsenal is limited. When I read I do so with Dictionary. But every now and then, I meet a word that I like, and it sticks in my head like gum I can’t see. And so I try and trot it out, and it’s usually awkward like trying to make a friend as a grown up, HOW IS YOUR LIFE TODAY, PERSON? But if I persevere (a word that I know ONLY because I have a cousin named Perseverance) I can normalize it and stop saying it surrounded by question marks, like I’m on stage at a spelling bee. And so today, I declare to you, I will use my new words with alacrity, which is just a sharp and beautiful little word that I always say in my normal life, by which I mean, with willingness and cheerfulness.
SEE WHAT I DID THERE?! Sure hope you did because I’m going to be doing it pretty much non stop, cause the short I wrote for Morrison that our friends Alexis and Rick directed and DP (also a married couple, feel free to vom into your hand) is headed to the 2017 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL!!! THREE CHEERS FOR PROJECTS BORN FROM LOVE! HERE’S A BUNCH OF PICTURES THAT LEGITIMIZE OUR CREATIVE ENDEAVORS!
There are plays you read in undergrad and grad school and watch scenes from and do scenes from, to the point where watching the play actually staged feels like a very long, hazy moment of deja vu. O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is definitely one of those plays, and I even though I spent a summer at the O’Neill conference, did a three-night long, all playwright reading of it, visited the very house in which the play was set — I did not actually see the play until last night, at the Geffen (staring Alfred Molina and Jane Kaczmarek, who were both magnificent.) Even though I’ve read it so many times, last night it revealed itself to me as something new — not a play about brothers, about fathers, about grudges you can’t let go of — but a play about a very poetic addiction. It’s really Mary Tyrone’s play, the mother’s play. It’s actually about her withdrawing from and indulging in morphine, hiding it from her family. When she’s on morphine, she just talks and talks and talks, and says the saddest and most beautiful things:
None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.
The past is the present. It’s the future, too.
Her addiction allows the playwright to speak through her. We have things we want our characters to say. They are the things that we want to say, but can’t. But you can’t just insert the things into the mouth of a character. You have to give them some profound reason to say them, a reason that ideally creates a story. This is something I already knew, but must be reminded of, every time I write a scene. A character is not a robot for your poetry. A character is a human being who must be cared for, who must be motivated, who is usually based on your mom (not really.) (but sometimes.) (HI MOM!)
Very pleased to announce that we have graduated from crappy, flammable Ikea furniture to sturdy, maybe slightly less flammable, moderately priced CB2 furniture. I am also proud to announce that the bookshelf contains a great many old issues of the Babysitter’s Club, and that Morrison plays video games on the TV. ARE WE GROWN UPS YET?