Wednesday, February 3, 2010
But it didn't do much for me.
Conversely, my daughter and I watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs last Friday. She's just getting to the age where she "gets" movies. She gets jokes that are set up twenty minutes earlier. If she asks a question, it's about nuances in plot, not "Why is that pancake so big?" We laughed in most of the same places. When it was over, we looked at each other and smiled. As usual, I almost started crying because I knew that look in her eye. It was the look I get in my eye when I see a movie that totally blisses me out. After we'd spent several minutes going over the high points of the movie, she asked if we owned the DVD. I explained that we had rented it through Netflix.
After she went to sleep, I bought it on Amazon.
So here's the guy whose knowledge of zombie flicks was once second only to Max Brooks. Here's the guy with a vampire western in development. And here's the guy who prefers a PG animated movie to a hard-R horror film any day.
So. Very. Weird.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
When my wife and I divorced, the potential impact on my relationship with my daughter terrified me. Even when we were a complete family, she'd always been mommy's girl, so when I left our family home last January, I took with me my clothes, my Mac, my Clint Eastwood DVDs and an irrational fear I'd soon become nothing but a footnote in this little girl's life.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I hope you're having a great Christmas or whatever else you celebrate!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It's another one of those weird situations where someone else interviews me instead of the other way around. Rex was really great. I actually learned a few things about myself during our time together.
And, yes, you can make fun of me for my "creative baby."
Let me know what you think.
Monday, November 16, 2009
As I write this, the end credits to Fred Claus are rolling across the television behind me. There could be no more of a typical Hollywood movie. It's the heartwarming tale of Santa's misunderstood older brother Fred, played by Vince Vaughn, who gets one, last chance to prove that he's as good a man as his famous brother.
So, there ya go.
There is a me who mocks movies like this, who laughs with his writing buddies over the by-the-numbers structure and the "uplifting" Israel Kamakawiwo'ole version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the "heartfelt" conclusion." I was not that me tonight.
Like all Hollywood movies, Fred Claus can be boiled down to a simple theme. It's about a guy who's been smacked down by life. He feel betrayed by the people he thought loved him. But in the end, he realizes that it's not the people around you who define you. Rather, it's your actions that do that defining.
It sounds sappy just writing it, but in truth, it's a fairly common theme. You'll find it in all kinds of arthouse and foreign films, the only difference being that in those movies, Fred Claus might need to be gunned down to learn that truth. Or maybe, in the final reel, he'll learn that's not the case and that he's actually just an awful person. Or, more often than not, he'll realize that life is a hideous cycle of pain with a complete lack of justice and therefore his actions are meaningless.
I didn't need that kind of ending tonight because, as I come up on the one year anniversary of being escorted out my my previous life, things are a little shaky. I question how the story will end every day. I did, however, need to be reminded of the importance of inner strength and the fact that, in spite of every unthinking punch or petty swipe that comes your way, you gotta keep standing.
So I surrendered to Fred Claus; I'm sure that very few people have emoted to a Vince Vaughn vehicle the way I just did. I sobbed, which is nothing new for me, but we're talking five hankies plus here. Then I laughed so loud I almost woke my daughter in the next room. Then I sobbed some more. And I did this knowing that the writers (Jessie Nelson and Dan Fogelman - that's right I'm giving props to the scribes, not the helmer) would not pull the rug out from under me, that everything was going to be okay when the credits rolled. To gain the wisdom, I needed that safety.
And when the movie was over, I felt better.
As much as I tear down some of these films, I sometimes thing people who continually mock Hollywood are more shallow than the films they trash. I'm dead certain I'm not the only person on earth who saw Fred Claus at just the right time and for whom an hour and fifty-five minutes of Vince Vaughn riffs proved just the right tonic for a broken... well, for whatever ailed them.
Sure, movies should make you think, but sometimes, if they help you heal, that's even better.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I mentioned a while back that Bruce Joel Rubin invited me to meditate with him. I took him up on his offer several weeks ago but it's taken this long for me to process it.
Because I was new to the practice, I showed up a early so Bruce could explain how it worked. He was twice as cool in person as he was on the phone. We chatted as he ate peanut butter on toast. I guess I wanted to impress him, so I mentioned a book I'm reading, The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh, which discusses the concept of mindfulness - the idea that a person should do one thing at a time and give it their full attention, get full enjoyment out of it, almost as a form of constant meditation. Then I suggested that maybe he'd like to eat his breakfast in peace. "Bullshit," he snorted. "I'm enjoying my toast and I'm enjoying talking to you at the same time. That's all that matters."
I liked him all the more.
After my briefing, we went to his mediation room. Here, I sat with about twenty other people, all facing a small platform. Bruce, who learned this particular practice from a well-known guru named Rudy, sat on the platform. For the next hour, we sat and stared at him as he took turns staring back at us. He mentioned a special breathing technique beforehand, then suggested I not worry about it. Just sit there and let my brain do what it wants to do.
I don't know if you've ever stared at someone (you weren't madly in love with) for an hour without talking or being talked at, but it's incredibly confronting. There's no danger of your mind wandering anywhere because it's too busy coping with the increasing metaphysical breakdown of the face before it. It's kind of like when you say the word "fish" over and over fifty times, it starts to lose it's meaning and become abstract. Try it. Fish. Fish. Fish.
So, about forty-five minutes into the practice (I'm guessing), things were getting plenty abstract indeed. Then Bruce turned his gaze to me. By now, Bruce's face was no longer Bruce's face. It was just this fleshy, psychedelic blob of energy. When our eyes met, all that energy just shot right between my eyes. I honestly thought my head was going to explode, like some transcendental version of Scanners. It was all I could do not to look away.
I know this sounds really weird -- that's probably because it was. I've been searching for transcendence all my life. I've even almost found it a few times. Once with a Buddhist monk in a tiny village in Nepal. Once seeing the sun shine through the stained glass windows at Sacre Coeur in Paris. And one mood-enhanced day on a beach in Australia with Sandie. But nothing like this. This had serous follow-through potential. If I could keep the practice up, this is where I'd find my answers.
When it was over, Bruce hugged me and said he hoped I came back. I thanked him and said I needed to process it a little. "Don't process," he insisted. "Just be."
I don't think I'm going back. Not for now, at least. As I fly towards the one year anniversary of being told I was no longer wanted after 17 years with the same person, my clarity is intense. I've experienced pain and grief and joy and confusion and rapture in ways I never thought possible. I'm a big, tumbling ball of emotion. Sometimes, when I hear just the wrong "guess what so-and-so did this time" story, I want to scream until my lungs bleed. Other times, when the sun shines through my private Sacre Coeur just right, the air smells sweet and, for a moment or two, I actually feel unapologetic for being the nut job that I am.
Meditating with Bruce again could, I believe, wipe that messy slate clean. I could find a peaceful place. I'd be that much closer to Zen. I'd probably sleep much better. But I don't know if I want that yet. I'm too fascinated by this plane of existence to move any closer to the next. It would almost feel like selling a car before checking the trunk to make sure you're not leaving anything personal behind.
I am, the best that I know how, just being. So, in a way, I'm doing exactly what Bruce told me to do, just without the staring.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I loved the television show The Man from Atlantis when I was a kid, but I don't remember much about it. All I recall is that Patrick Duffy played the eponymous man, that he had webbed fingers, and that he needed to get in the ocean every so often to survive. Also, in one episode, he was jonesin' for his saltwater fix, so he stuck his hand in a fish tank.
There was about a ten-year gap between the time I saw that episode and the first time I touched the ocean, but it's always struck me as applicable my own life. The night we arrived in California, my dad took us down to Laguna Beach and I ran into the surf with all my clothes on. It just made sense. Since then, whenever I'm down, saltwater therapy almost always revives me. I'm The Man from Atlantis with my hand in the fish tank.
Last Thursday night, I felt down. I don't know why. It'd been a good day. I'd done a ton of work and, hopefully, put the finishing touches on a new spec script. I'd just watched a great movie called Rocket Science. Yet, I just felt off. I figured it might be because I missed the kid.
I decided to go for a walk on the beach -- my saltwater fix. Once I got there, I stuck my hand in the surf. It felt good. I walked on the sand for a while. Around Avenue G, I stumbled on a couple screwing on the lifeguard tower. I've always thought that would be a fun thing to do, titillating maybe. It was anything but. The woman, whose loud moans alerted me of their fornication, was hidden behind the white, bobbing ass of the guy. It was primal and slightly gross, kind of like the time Bruce the Dog found a rotting marlin carcass at Malaga Cove about 10 seconds before I did. Primal and slightly gross.
I got home 30 minutes later, still unsettled but distracted enough to sleep.
This weekend, I had the kid. It was a Golden Ticket two days, much of which was spent biking on the Strand. At dusk on Sunday we came across a bikini photo shoot -- weirdly enough, at that same lifeguard tower I witnessed the humpers. Drawn to the allure of high fashion, my daughter asked me to watch the bikes as she strolled down to the shoreline to observe. After ten minutes, I trusted the bikes to fate and trudged down after her, where I had to negotiate my five-year-old away from a group of gorgeous, oiled-up Asian women in bikinis. In any -- ANY -- other circumstance, I would have killed to be there, but my Daddy side and my get-close-to-gorgeous-oiled-up-Asian-women-in-bikinis side aren't really overlapping yet, so I just felt kind of awkward, old and overdressed.
Once the kid had gone to bed that night, I sat down on the couch and, much to my surprise, felt down again. It surprised me. Usually, weekends like this with the kid are enough to yank me out of any blue state, but not this time.
As I re-read this post, I notice a sexual undercurrent. Who am I kidding, it's a damn sexual tidal wave, so it's logical to assume that my uneasiness might have something to do with loneliness. This isn't the case. It's just melancholy. I've had it my whole life.
I know three things about it. First, sometimes it gets too big for the hand in the fishbowl to fix. Second, the more I try to fight it, the bigger it gets. Third, it was an integral part of why my marriage fell apart.
And there's a fourth thing I suspect, but don't know for sure; it's never going to go away completely, so I better make damn sure that, from now on, everyone in my inner circle -- family, friends, lovers, wife -- is willing to accept it.
And while accepting it in myself doesn't exactly fill me with joy, it's still as liberating as a million hands in the fish tank.