All posts by Jeannette

My Life as a Mash-Up XI

Well, here we go again.

I’m going to take a minute to throw a number out there, and that number is 36.

“36 what, Jeannie?” (that’s you). 36 is the number of times that I’ve moved that I can remember. Guess what I’ve decided to do in a few weeks? Oh yeah, MOVE- again.

Since this month’s mash-ups are leading up to the big scary Halloween day, I’ve decided that I’m going to let you all in to my personal nightmare: it includes lots of boxes, some tape, a shit-load of dust, and some seriously well-placed puns…

The Shining-meets-The Muppet Movie

I’m not really sure how to start this epic adventure that is my life, but that’s okay because the first few big moves I can’t remember. Sort of like little Danny in The Shining: blissfully ignorant in a family dynamic that is less-than-ordinary, but in tune to (and about to witness) something that will no doubt have an enormous impact on him later in life.

Imagine the Kubrick-ian opening credits as a massive metaphor for my life, only replace the little car with an old Studebaker, and the drivers with muppets: Bear right, frog left.

My first big move was a little like this current one- as in, away from New Mexico. The fam’ moved to upstate New York for some years. Then we moved to Florida. Then we moved to Vermont. Then I took over from there: Gainesville, Fl; Portland, OR; Nashville, TN; Austin, TX; Savannah, GA; Galway, Ireland; Albuquerque, NM. There was a lot of bouncing back to Austin in between most of those moves, but you get the idea… I don’t sit still long.

The Muppet Movie was all about following a dream, right? You’ve got Hollywood lust, musicians on tour, and the constant chase of the corporate world to turn Kermit (me) in to a spokes-frog for something he doesn’t support (Deep breath: the-settle-down-and-get-a-real-job-already-black-hole-of-creative-stagnation-and-life-long-regret/disillusionment-for-not-following-your-own-dream)… Forever, and ever…

So, the comedian and the actor/writer keep “moving right along” from one end of the country to the other in search of said dream. How easy is it to just toss your shit in the back of a car and go elsewhere? Too easy. You just do it, then you go. As Grover says: Near… Far.

Here’s the thing though- the nightmare part: Wherever you land, there you freakin’ are. Whatever ghosts you had haunting you in the last town, well they travel light and are liable to come bursting through your bathroom door with an axe yelling “Here’s Johnny!” while you cower uselessly against the wall. In fact, it seems, the MORE you move, the more those ghosts become tangible items that you haul around in a box and label “baggage”. It’s lonely out there in the Overlook mid-winter, and all you’ve got sometimes are yourself and your ghosts.

The Redrum Connection?

The secondary issue with having this “shining” (or: the propensity to move at the drop of Dr. Teeth’s hat) is that, once you do land somewhere, the figurative walls start closing in on you. This happens everywhere- it’s not just subject to small towns, lily pads, or monolithic hotels. Once the elevator doors begin to spill blood down Main Street, the itch demands to be scratched, and the Snowcat/Studebaker starts a-callin’ yer name. At some point (30) you hit the wall and start screaming at the top of your lungs: “Why are you doing this??!!”

What’s possibly kept me from going completely bonkers (aside from having better things to write than “all work and no play…”) is the fact that I really don’t know any different. Kermit knew nothing of being not-a-frog, right? Well, here I am: insert whatever terminology there is these days for American Traveler here.

Luckily, apart from finding my own Fozzie Bear who is equally as non-geographically-committed as I am (or, as we call it, “geographically challenged”), I seem to find myself narrowing down the landing strips. My “shining” is beginning to fade with age, as in the desire to add to the mileage. I know there probably isn’t a “the-standard-rich-and-famous” contract for me (and, sadly, it will not be handed over by Orson Welles), but I’m coming close to finding my way out of the topiary maze and depending less on frightening bartenders- so, hey, that’s something!

This current move is, what else, temporary- it’ll be back to the East Coast next Fall. But I’m going in like I always do: Edith Piaf blasting away “Non, je ne Regrette Rien” from the factory stock speakers in my wagon. Maybe the path seems longer these days, but the distance is certainly shorter, and the ghosts are waning- hopefully a few can be put to rest here in Albuquerque.

I guess it’s all part of livin’ the dream… or is that a myth? A what? A MYTH: MYTH!

Yes?
Jeannie

My Life as a Mash-Up X

Yay October: A month where we get to watch and think of all things scary.

What’s scarier than scary to me? Past relationships of course! Haunting, chilling, hand-covering-the-mount-or-eyes-in-disbelief-and-fright: oh yeah, it’s October-rifficy-goodness.

The Blob-meets-Dirty Dancing

The beauty of this mash-up is that it really doesn’t have to represent anyone in particular- EVERYONE knows this guy (or gal). The beginning of this relationship is 100% Dirty Dancing. He’s hot, muscle-y, and wants to take you dancing so you can finally master the ‘lift’ (innuendo?) where you’re twirled around in what seems like the only moments of grace your awkward body will ever feel (innuendo.). He’s brash and charming, not necessarily lacking in a sense of humor, just a little on the serious side (‘cause he’s a workin’ man, right?). Oh the lusty-goodness of the beginning of this relationship is so sweet- but, then, something starts a-bubbling. Small at first, but… then…

The scariest thing about The Blob was how slow- PAINFULLY SLOW- it moved. When I watched this movie as a child it seemed like there was NO WAY the oozy-gooey-big-bad could catch up to and kill any of the innocent teenagers in it’s path. But it grows- and it consumes.

Now, if you think about Mr. Blob sitting on your couch for the 8th consecutive week in a row, bitching about how the summer season is over at Kellerman’s and his particular ‘field’ is less than desirable in this faulty economy, it becomes that much more scary. The slow-moving, all-consuming terrors of his personality (and eating habits) begin to gnaw away at your very life-force- which, by the way, has been slowly disintegrating since you took that THIRD JOB in order to pay rent on your apartment that has now become the dank and musky lair of the-thing-what-crawls.

Oh Baby- it’s true, nobody puts you in the corner- but Johnny Castle’s idea of liberation means he gets to fondle the remote while you’re out working at Sally’s Beauty Supply contemplating the many ways one could hurt themselves on the job with activator and home perm kits. Where does this end?

The sad truth of these types of relationships is that the two-fold disposition of a well-meaning woman will enable blob behavior if there’s ‘art’ at stake. On one hand, you see the potential in blobby-boy to be a real man- if only the world could just give him a chance (and we’ve all felt this way). On the other hand, no one understands and supports him like you do- especially when it comes to his writing/music/painting/wood-sculpting/acting/film-making/dancing/etc. etc. etc… What’s important to remember here is that the behavior of a blob never changes- and with every human it consumes, its blobbiness just grows.

The only escape from the indescribable, indestructible (nothing can stop it!) relationship is to remember “The Time of Your Life” was had in the first month- and it’s all gone downhill from there. When muscles are flexed to ‘get the girl’ you’re darn right it’s gonna be good. Even the most disgusting creatures can pass themselves off as Patrick Swayze in the battle for a hard-working lady-friend, especially if they have a really cool car and can manipulate your daddy issues to a tee. If, however, cool-guy-slacker hasn’t got a job that pays real money by the time he starts saying things like “Can we do laundry soon?”-and by “we” he means “you”- then it’s time to kill the thing what oozes so you can eventually run off in to the sunrise with Steve McQueen.

As the classic taught us all, the only way to defeat the Blob is with the cold. Nothing short of an airlift to the North Pole could eliminate the perpetual suck-dom that was inhabiting every faucet of my life then, so there was no other option but to turn on the fire-extinguishers- full f-ing blast. I became the bitch I never thought I could.

It’s amazing how empowering the words “Get your shit out of my apartment, NOW” can be- sort of like watching something huge (ego) shrivel up and cower in a corner (not an innuendo). This is true liberation, not the Dirty Dancing kind that has Baby passed from one all-controlling man to another with anger issues (Right? He was pretty violent, wasn’t he? Wonder how that turned out…).

The point of this, the ‘lesson’ I suppose, is to never fall for the Johnny Castle bullshit. If there is no progress in the potential, no motivation behind the ‘art’, screw ‘em. But leave it at that.

Somewhere there’s a Steve McQueen waiting for us all, and I’m pretty sure he’s worked/working his way up to whatever-it-is that will make him truly self-satisfied. The non-blob-art-guys that are the real deal would rather starve than have you supporting them with three crap-tastic jobs because they understand you’ve got your OWN passion to follow. The oozing pink lazy-asses (ew) will selfishly prey on your kindness, until they’ve sucked you dry.

So: Go McQueen.

The End…
?
-Jeannie

My Life as a Mash-Up IX

So I’ve already made the decision to sort of “theme it up” a bit and include at least one horror movie in every post I make for October.

Why not start a little early?

Let’s talk about cocktail waitressing. It sets the tone so perfectly for a horror flick of all sorts: running, screaming, periods of incoherence, and strange men chasing you up stairs to demand something from you that will, of course, result in more running.

Funny though, I don’t think of ‘chaser films’ when I think about my job(s). This is what comes to mind:

Dawn of the Dead-meets-Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

FYI: That’s the original, 1978, Dawn of the Dead. This entry is zombie-baby free (although, for the record, I miss Joe Dubois).

In case any of you are considering an illustrious career as a cocktailer, here is the short list of things you must possess to handle this job:

1. The ability to look like you’re happy when, in fact, you want to tear people limb from limb. See: Romero Zombie 101, or, Pee-wee vs. Francis Burton.
2. Quick thinking in potentially violent and/or lucrative situations. See: The Zombie Survival Guide (thank you Max Brooks), or, THIS.

AND possibly the most important of all:
3. The constitution to maintain some semblance of faith (or sense of humor) in the human race after seeing them at their absolute worst, night after night, year after year. See: Peter’s suicide contemplation (but not follow through!) in Dawn, or, I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I??!!

Basically it’s this: bar patrons=zombies. Not just any zombies, DAWN OF THE DEAD zombies. Somehow, somewhere in the deep recesses of the mushy zombie-brain, there is a compulsion to return again and again to the same place you were the night before, do the same things you did last night, and drink (human blood/body parts=booze in this analogy) until you pass out or get killed looking for more.

Have you figured out where the basement in the Alamo figures in? PAY-OFF. Where Dawn didn’t exactly fail to deliver an uplifting ending (helicopter pun!) of escape, Pee-wee got fame and fortune out of his adventures in to the surreal. AND he got his bike back. AND he got to ride off in to the sunset with a bicycle mechanic (which, speaking from experience, rocks).

See, cocktailing sucks about as bad as the zombification of America, but hell, the tips are great. If you want a truly brain-numbing job, work in retail. Be one of the first-to-go in the mall-o-dooms-day- not from being devoured by walking dead, but from your own head-first spiral down the rabbit hole of human-and-self-loathing. Let’s put this to a test, shall we?

In one of the more memorable lectures I’ve ever attended I got to ask Max Brooks what the psychological implications were of the “Quislings” in his novel ‘World War Z’. Quislings were people that hadn’t been turned by zombies, but just couldn’t deal with the zombie apocalypse, so they had a mental breakdown and began to act just like the undead did. Interesting thought, if you apply that to retail. Here’s why:

For 39.9 hours a week (because full-time-with-benefits is about as mythical as a studio executive offering you loads of money to buy the rights to your life story) you can make minimum wage selling people who make more than you do shit they don’t need. After your first two-cent raise (so, after you’ve worked the same register for 2 years), you start to think to yourself “How are these people any better than I am?” To make yourself feel better, or, you know, not the world’s most insignificant peon, you take advantage of your 3% store discount and start buying all the same shit those people with loads of money buy. Now you’re the same! You all own a bunch of shit you don’t need!

Conversely, cocktail waitressing produces a very different effect. After the first few months of hit-or-miss nights, the ‘hit’ nights sending you home after 5 hours with $400 cash-money in your pocket, you start to LOATH the people that come in for a ‘party’. Not your regulars, mind you- they generally know how to drink and tip. The ‘party people’ are the assholes that think ‘bar’ translates roughly in to ‘leave all morality and human decency at the door’. They do things like take their shirts off and holler “Jager Bomb Yo!” at the top of their lungs. Does this make you want to join them? Nay. You run, far away, back to your books and dvd collection for some specifically non-sweaty non-physical-contact-y goodness.

Who wins in this situation? The fucking cocktail waitress who knows how to run her ass off on a slippery floor in heels. Archery? Can’t be that difficult if you’re coming from a place where you have to balance 9 kamikazes and eleven-teen pints of Bud Light on a tiny tray. Let’s face it: Dodging drunks is about 99% zombie avoidance technique. I will survive.

So all seriousness and human carnage aside, let’s go back to the most important rule: a sense of humor. Until that day comes where drunks actually ARE undead, blood hungry threats, we can’t go attacking with shovels. Yet. Which leads me toooooo: TEQUILA!

It’s safe to say I dance my way through work nightly. Not in a booty-shakin’-too-sexy-for-this-apron kind of way, but in a mental, this-is-the-only-way-I’ll-get-out-of-here-alive, way. If Pee-wee could dance his way out of hangin’, tattooin’, killin’ ordeals, I sure as hell can, too.
So watch out bikers! My tequila dance is to the Robot Chicken ‘ba-bac bac bac’ and involves many, many inexplicable pies.

Keeps a smile on my face though. And that, my friends, pays the rent…

Tip me or I’ll get the shovel,
Jeannie

My Life as a Mash-Up VIII

There is something people like to tell you when you talk about of college, and it’s this:

“The longer you wait, the harder it is to go back.”

It’s one of those things that everyone’s heard a thousand times, and just accepts as fact. So, when you’re older, and you start obsessing about this thing you meant to do because you don’t really want to be a cocktail waitress for the rest of your life, people vomit the words that sit idly by on the back of their collective tongues for such occasions, much like the term “It is what it is.”, the latter being my least favorite of all.

Side note: “It is what it is.” is a nonsensical term that is said when there’s nothing else to say about something, but someone feels the need to have either A: the last word or B: a moment of condescension about some topic they really don’t know much about. “It is what it is.” is the equivalent of saying nothing. Tip: Saying nothing will make you sound smarter than saying “It is what it is”. Trust me.

I think I can safely divide people on the outside of ‘going back to school’ in to three categories. There are the “longer you wait…” people, who went to college and finished it in one go, or dropped out and have no plans to go back. That’s cool- I get school isn’t for everyone, and some people are just good at it fresh out of high school. It still doesn’t make that statement entirely true.

The second tier of peripheral ‘friends’ are the non-believers. Fact: These people suck. They get really defensive when you start talking about returning to a higher education, and usually answer your ponderings with “Why?” They’re the ones who’ll cite people that didn’t go to college in an example like this: “Well, Picasso didn’t go to college, and he was, like, a famous painter, ya know?” Or this: “Just get a book on it, man, and like, teach yourself.”

The third, generally minority, group of people are the supporters. These are friends. They say things like “That’s awesome. Do it, you’ll rock at it.” Or, even better: “If you need help with that, I’m totally here for you.” We like these people because they recognize that ‘back-to-school’ doesn’t mean you’re setting out to be smarter than THEM, but better than YOU WERE. Hey, non-believers, take note…

My Fair Lady-meets-O Brother Where Art Thou?

When I left film school in 2000 I set off on a fabulous adventure across the country every-which-way-I-could. My odyssey spanned the Brit Pop nights in Gainesville, Florida; public transportation-al wonders of Portland, Oregon; and the music scenes, respectively, of Nashville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas.

Out of the chain-gang-dom of (what I believed was) high-school-extended-college I was freed, and the epic journey to find a mythical fortune lay ahead of me across the glorious mountains and plains of the good ol’ U-S-of-A.

Though I started off as naïve as Eliza Doolittle, I was perfectly happy not sitting absolutely still- for seven years. Instead of longing to work in a real flower shop, pulled up from the dregs of lowly ‘flower girl’, I was happy working my way up from cocktail waitress to bartender, all the while scribbling away melodrama in stacks of composition notebooks. It took seven years of bar work, doing the ‘read a book on it’ writerly-education, to realize that I might be able to pass myself off as a Duchess (writer) to some people, but I never would believe it for myself.

After years of Henry Higgins (my uber-supportive mom) incessantly suggesting “The Rain In Spain” (go back to school), I started to actually listen. Then, one day, sitting in a house in East Nashville watching the naturally talented ex play guitar with confidence, I realized that school wasn’t something that I needed- it was something I WANTED. A well-choreographed musical number followed, with my mom dancing around in a smoking jacket singing “By George I think she’s got it!”

So that’s when My Fair Lady transformed to the stages of Ulysses Everett McGill. Or, rather, poetically speaking: And then came the flood…

This is when I discovered the triple breakdown of ‘friends’ I mentioned above. There were blind men speaking in theological codes (i.e. the “Why” rhetoric), attempted robberies (“You can’t.”), and many efforts to catch a train I just wasn’t ready or fast enough to hop on. But then there was a baptism of sorts (with a little bit ‘o luck): I got accepted.

Which was I, at that point: Eliza, or Everett? I think I was both. On the one hand, Eliza leaves a young suitor for her teacher, and I suppose that’s what eventually happened to me (metaphorically, mind you). But on the other hand, I was returning to something I had a falling out with. My education was like a relationship that had grown too demanding, too limiting for my liking, but after years of stubborn arrogance I found that I was really just working my way back to it.

Once I was in it- really finding my way (ego)- the masks came off and the real musicians were reveled. I was fucking GOOD. Not great, not the best, but GOOD- and what I got from going back was real confidence. Bona fide, even.

Now school is not without its own struggles. Lord of the Lake Rings happened again and again, rewrite after rewrite, but the biggest asset I had going in was perspective- not just seven years on most students, but of the adventure that got me there.

So the answer is not “The longer you wait, the harder it is to go back.” That can be partially true, if you get kidnapped by sirens or betrayed by kin (which, I suppose, can loosely be translated in to corporate underemployment-black-holes or mythic societal obligations). What’s really true is that, as long as you’re paying attention to what you’re experiencing on the road, everything is an asset when you get where you’re going. The longer you wait, the more shit you have to draw from. It IS a relationship, you and school: like dating, the more you do it, the more you know what you definitely don’t want. Eventually, through process of elimination, you’ll figure out what will you do.

From one enormous chair,
Jeannie

My Life as a Mash-Up VII

Oh disillusionment, I have heard you call my name- and how.

So, this isn’t exactly about writing. It’s more about getting a degree in writing. I don’t want it to be like a big WARNING sign- I’ve found that us people who have to do this crap really HAVE TO do it. Sort of like heroin, or crossword puzzles- once you start, you can’t stop without therapy (unless the newspaper company cuts you off because you’re not paying your bill, which you never actually signed up for in the first place).

By saying “getting a degree” I mean what happens directly afterwards. In my case I moved back to Austin, Texas- my self-proclaimed “home” (when you’ve moved as much as I have you get to do that).

I left my college with a 3.94 GPA. I graduated Suma Cum Laude. I majored in Writing. One of these things is probably not ideal.

Reality Bites-meets-The Purple Rose of Cairo

To be fair, I wasn’t early-twenties Wynona Rider smokin’ weed and being all pop-cultural on a rooftop after graduation. It took me seven years to go back to college from my “adventure-time off”, so I was 28 when I finished my degree in Dramatic Writing. Though I’ll have to exchange the personalities of one Cecilia (Mia Farrow) with Lelaina Pierce (Ms. Rider), the ‘clumsy waitress’ thing and burgeoning Depression depression in Purple Rose is dead on post-graduation ME.

You can glean the basis of this depression from the over-all plot of Reality Bites:
Girl graduates at the top of her class only to find the idealistic ethics surrounding her work will get her nowhere in the “real world” of filmmaking (or any other media outlet). Sadly it wasn’t even my ethics that stood in the way of making any headway out in the ‘world’- a lot of it had/has to do with the economy. Enter the 1930’s Purple Rose of Cairo backdrop.

2009-present: What a fantastically dreary time in American history to be graduating from college. Between religious zealots attempting to rewrite the Constitution, banks and multi-million-dollar corporations rewriting Morality, and the literal embodiment of “change” and “hope” being reduced to little more than a hall monitor for the aforementioned bullies, the bleak outlook on life wasn’t centered just around me, but the whole damn country.

So what was there to do? Movies.

Let me tell you about something that exists in Austin, Texas that should be in every town and city across the WORLD. It’s a little something called the Alamo Drafthouse, and when I call Texas my home, I really mean a seat somewhere in one of the cool, dark theaters of the South Lamar cinema with a cold pint and a plate of green chili mac-and-cheese in front of me. There’s no place like it (except for the other locations they have in Texas and, apparently, now Virginia).

So when Tom Baxter breaks the fourth wall and climbs down to comfort Cecilia, he’s really 90’s-indie-band-front-man Troy Dyer who’s “this close” to a degree in Philosophy. When she falls in love with him (Ethan Hawk), despite the attraction of the Hollywood producer who’s aptly played by Ben Stiller, she offers half of her chocolate malt (with the little candy-covered sunflower seeds), while clinging desperately to the hope that her career, as well as the economic and ethical standards in the country they live in, HAS TO get better. All this with eyes glued on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse.

I spent the better part of a year avoiding the uber-corporate world and committing various acts of escapism all over Austin (yes, while waitressing), until I realized the alternative ending to both Reality Bites and The Purple Rose of Cairo: leave the country. Sadly things didn’t get better when I was away (sigh: worse) but that doesn’t mean that after I get ANOTHER writing degree they won’t pan out (right? Right?!!).

Perhaps a sane person would stop going to school for writing. Maybe Lelaina Pierce really had it right, recording every single moment of her Gen X life with a camcorder, blinded by her faith in constant indecision and struggles for identity. Don’t they eventually make a bigger picture with a very solid decision and identity? Isn’t that my generation?

But what does she do with it, in the end? We know she moves in to a swanky new apartment- but they couldn’t possibly have done that all on one gas card (could they?). Something gave somewhere- Troy went to work at Whole Foods or Lelaina finally figured out the definition of irony (something I wish she’d share with a younger generation). Reality Bites took the tone of a hip Michael Moore film at the end there- no answers, just a funny, sarcastic (depressing) view of “how things are”.

As for poor Cecilia, at least she got rid of the abusive husband. She goes back to the theater (I went back to the learnin’)- but then, what the hell happened to her? Don’t get me wrong, that ending was the ONLY ending Purple Rose could have had, and it was brilliant, but then… where does that leave me? Will I be one of those fat people that has to get skin grafts because I’ve bonded to a reclining chair in the Alamo- desperate for good news, albeit fantasy, so much so that I’ve started identifying with Michael Bay characters?

Sans the Woody Allen cadence, Cecilia and Lelaina talk a similar talk: their souls are ‘saved’ by their obsessions. I guess the trick is to hold on to some part of you that really means something- a documentary, a love of adventure, the need to write… Then, at some point, you decide what kind of life you can live with. Do you get lost in the love of it (stay poor longer), or do you give in to the pressure of the Vast Machine (work so much you don’t notice you’re poor)?

Ah yes, the disillusionment conundrum. It will last my entire life, I know it. But if I can just squeeze out two more years of writing, it’ll all be worth it- so here’s to an MFA…

Remembering the Alamo,
Jeannie

My Life as a Mash-Up VI

It is the summer of 2008 and I’m sitting in a bar in Brooklyn contemplating the man that has asked me out for drinks.

“Why?”

That is what I’m asking myself.

After a quick escape (through my own cunning abilities and my bartenders help), I return to the same bar, alone, and have what I will forever refer to as my “New York Epiphany”. Be forewarned: this is about babies.

Let me back up about a month. I had been in a relationship for four years that ended not-abruptly with a conversation, over the phone, which went a lot like this:

“So, d’you wanna get married or what?”
“What?”
“D’you wanna get married or what? Because we gotta get married or break up- I’m sick of this shit.”

As I drew a bath and “uh-huh-ed” my way through the break-up, something started happening inside my 27-year-old self that I was completely unaware of. A little ‘other-me’ was freaking-the-hell-out because this ‘other-me’ had done something many women do when they’re in four-year relationships: planned.

Bridget Jones’s Diary-meets-Labyrinth: The New York Epiphany.

Contrary to the opening “All By Myself” sequence of Bridget Jones’s Diary, my alcohol infused moment of self-deprecation was spent sitting quietly on a bar stool, while the lyrics to “Suburban Home” by the Descendents filtered on fast-forward through my brain. As I searched the dirty dive for Colin Firth in a Christmas jumper, I realized what I was really looking for: a baby.

Enter Jennifer Connolly: Through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered… I have fought my way here, beyond the goblin city- to a dive bar in North Brooklyn, to get knocked up so I can feed in to a societal standard that I don’t even agree with??!! Wait wait wait wait. Brakes on, NOW. Is THAT what I’m doing?

And, like the forgotten lines of a fairy tale, the epiphany smacked me across the face just at the right moment, nearly knocking me off my bar stool and in to the arms of Jareth in spandex pants playing with his, er, balls. Though it’s hazy, I can almost guarantee that this moment also brought about some ill advised, albeit much needed, shots of Jameson and enough narcissistic self-reflection to make me an official, card carrying, struggling screenwriter in New York City.

Putting my Jones-esque fantasies of Manhattan-ite womanizers on hold, I realized that these “Why?” moments of dating were a direct result of unfortunate planning that my subconscious had been doing- leading up to an approximated date of ‘impact’ that resulted in a little-me. LUDO!! I hadn’t even realized how serious I was about having kids until the prospect of meeting someone I could tolerate for a minimum of 18 years, dating a respectable amount of time, getting married, and makin’-the-baby presented itself by way of mental spreadsheet and timetable. Holy crap, I was in Trouble.

So, imagine me with the little cartoon angel and devil on either shoulder- but replace them with Bridget Jones and Sarah Williams. The teenager is histrionically pleading with me to wish away this nonsense by calling on the goblin king, while mid-thirties Jones pathetically notates the necessary steps for catching and “landing” this hypothetical-future-daddy. I feel sick, and it’s not the whiskey.

Suddenly a massive weight that I had been feeling since ‘the break up’ presented itself as these two characters and their respective journeys. It’s a conundrum I can’t explain, just like I can’t explain the chemical/hormonal yearning to grow a little person inside my belly. I’m not going back to the song and dance of pre-pubescent confusion and fantasy, but I’ll be damned if I quite drinking and start exercising (especially at that moment). So, this is what I did:

I skipped to the ending(s).

On the one hand, Bridget Jones stood out in the street kissing a man in her underwear- but that wasn’t really the point, was it? Ye olde British movie lesson was that all she had to be was herself, and the rest would come to her. Darcy buys her a new journal, to start fresh from the ridiculous adventures of self-analyzing and, IMO, torture that she thought would get-the-guy (take note, Sex in the City). I needed no one (though I would take Colin Firth) telling me I was fine “just as you are”, especially not the men I was finding (or were finding me) in New York. I needed to believe I was good, as me, for this hypothetical-future-baby (not daddy). Step one: be better.

On the other hand, little Sarah didn’t learn a lesson in men when she got to the end of the labyrinth. She learned a lesson in independence and self-trust. Who is this Goblin King, anyway, and why is he trying to woo the submission of a 15-year-old? Could he be the embodiment of a societal standard that says women need a man to tell them where to go, what to do, and find the baby? Hmmm- yeah, no, I don’t want that at all, and neither did she. Step two: You have no power over me.

So this was the fantastic ending (hung-over hindsight) to my epiphany: I’ll just have a baby. Mom had me at 31, so there’s something to shoot for- and, instead of wasting my time and self-esteem pouting on the subway looking for ‘daddy’, I’ll spend the next few years getting myself to a place where single-mom-dom could make mental and financial sense (in a non-conformist, non-struggling, cool kind of way).

You see, I was looking at things all wrong. Instead of an accidental pregnancy with a guy that might be decent enough to pay child support, I needed an accidental relationship that happened while I was on my way to making myself awesome mom-material. A Mark Darcy in the tomb of helping hands- a fellow writer in the bog-of-eternal-bartending that happens while you’re working towards that fabled ‘big break’.

In a Jim Henson way, with a David Bowie soundtrack, that’s totally working out.

From the Muppet-filled labyrinth,
J

My Life as a Mash-Up V

I took off to Ireland last year to earn a Master’s degree in Screenwriting. While there I encountered a fascinating gaggle of fellow screenwriters who, as it seems, will remain life-long friends and I cannot wait to get over to this side of the pond (and industry- who really needs public funding for films? Sigh…).

This particular mash-up, sadly, is not about them. Rest assured there will be a Dead Poets Society-meets-Something Equally as Cool bit of writing in the future, but the most haunting episode of my Irish experience (negative, albeit inspirational) can only be capture by the following:

Eraserhead-meets-Misery: the story of my former roommate.

Erasery

It all started off innocent enough. I lived below a sweet, young girl who came down to my flat for tea and the occasional rant-about-life. We froze together that winter, then, as a result of shotty electrics and abysmal heating, we decided we should team up in a swanky new apartment downtown…

This is when Kathy Bates started informing me that she was my number one fan. Also about the time she dyed her hair to look like mine, started calling all my friends and having them by for tea, and constantly found reasons to be in the exact place I was.

An aside: When you’re Skyping someone from the supposed comforts of your own bedroom, and the person you’re speaking to (in Texas) can hear your roommate in the next room giggling about your conversation, then yes, that is an invasion of privacy.

Okay okay, back up a second because the Lynch side of this isn’t making any sense. No, wait, scratch that- it’s making perfect sense. You see, I felt a large amount of empathy for my roomy back then- I really put myself out there to be the one to help her with anything I could- you know, like a friend would. Sure we had the normal roommate confrontations that happen when you’re trying to figure out each other’s routines, but they always ended with a hug and a hot whiskey. So, then, one day, in the throws of final examination time (because, remember, I was earning a Masters), I get a phone call from our rental company. Apparently Miss-Bates-in-the-radiator tap danced her way to our letting agency and canceled our lease- leaving me homeless and without the deposit I put down for my cushy home. Not only that- but she pretty much informed the entire town of Galway that I was abusive. Abusive. Interesting…

Now, I have been accused of a lot of things in my life. Like many writers I know, I have a tendency to lock myself away for periods of time, get a little preoccupied with my own stories, drink too much, rant about things that maybe aren’t necessarily important (like my aversion to the word ‘moist’). But abusive? I’m not the world’s biggest practicing pacifist, but I’m not a cruel bitch who preys on someone just because I can and/or it makes me feel good. Again: I’m a writer. Unless there was an angry letter involved (and “We need TP”, as far as I know, isn’t filled with untapped aggression), then this girl was not talking about me.

So, about writers. There are some things that happened in Misery that I regard as good, old fashioned, fiction.

For starters, Paul Sheldon wouldn’t have resisted writing the resurrection of Misery Chastain. At least, if he were any of the writers I know, he wouldn’t have. If it were me the schmoozing and ass-kissing of the homicidal nutter-butter lady would have begun from the first moment she lost her shit on me and started in on the crazy eyes. No bones about it, I’m not going to sacrifice my life for some sanctimonious mantra involving my “writerly ethics” and what’s been paying the bills or made me end up with Lauren Bacall as an agent. No no- let’s write Twilight 12, by all means.

Second: Ol’ Paul refuses to write a book about his experience at the end of the movie. Ha! No. Psychotic roommates, erm, captors are too good. That’s a wealth of inspiration right there that no writer can pass up writing about. Even if he didn’t want to write a non-fiction account, Annie Wilkes would still be there, in everything he writes after. She’d haunt even his most banal children’s book like she’d haunt him in the shower every morning, reliving the same scenes over and over trying to make sense of them.

What it really comes down to, and what I think most people concede when they become Eraserhead fans, is that you can’t explain it. Reference it, sure- say you were there, that you witnessed… whatever that was- absolutely. But explain it? No. It’s inspirational, yes, though maybe not in the best way (ask any film school professor with students that love David Lynch). Lynch films really tell you a lot about people. They show you who your friends are- and, follow me here, so did Annie Wilkes. Like a fleeting Richard Farnsworth role there are dependable people who will laugh in the face of something like “She said I was abusive”- because the laughter means they have no idea what the hell that means. I like those people- honest people.

Am I haunted by my roomy-gone-gone experience? You bet. Like most writers I operate under the assumption that most human behavior can be explained (over-analyzed) by a series of events- actions, reactions, crap luck, over-coddling, etc.. When I experience something that seemingly has no explanation, no grounding in reality, then it sticks with me- like the images of a baby-monster-thing having its bandages unwrapped and exploding the world. What? Exactly.

So here’s the last bit of Paul-Sheldon-isn’t-me wit for this mash-up: I’d do it again. Knowing what I know now, going back, reliving the same disaster and financial hardship in a country far far away- hell yeah, let’s see if I can’t figure it out on a second go (or third, or fourth). There was something missing from Misery, something us writer-folk know all too well (and that keeps us going back to Eraserhead time and time again): We’re gluttons for self-punishment. Sheldon wouldn’t have distanced himself from the torture- he would have bought the damn farmhouse and fixed the typewriter he used to bash Annie’s brains in. See, no one in their right mind wants to be a writer- it’s painful, hard, and about 90% of the time you’re questioning your own sanity because the voices you make up might be ones just floating around in your head that have yet to tell you to do anything worthwhile. Yet. So the job, in itself, is torture. What’s a little more?

So I guess that’s a “Thank You”, right? I mean, given the choice I’d limit my unexplainable “Blink. Blink.” encounters to one, but if it happened again then my writing can only get better. It’s the beauty of channeling Misery in to something useful, or, at the very least, therapeutic. I have a feeling William Goldman would agree…

-J

My Life as a Mash-Up IV

Ahhh High School. Like: “Ahhh!”, not the satisfying sigh “ahhh.”

That 4 years of my life are thankfully far behind me. It’s true what “they” say: it gets better- especially when you’re being educated at the bottom. See, that’s a double entendre in that I was both in Florida (bottom) and that they had the worst public education system in the country at the time (bottom, teehee).

High school for me was in the 90’s. Fresh on the heels of Kurt Cobain’s death, deep within the apathetic musical influences of Seattle Grunge, and say-what-you-will-about-when-it-died, there was, at least, the ol’ fashioned punk rock.

For anyone too young to know about this, before the early ot’s there were no tattooed freaky kids working at Whole Foods or Starbucks. Vibrant colored hair and band t-shirts with questionable messages were viewed much like people who walk around with a loaded pistol, waving it in the air: fear them, arrest them, etc. etc.

So yeah- blah blah blah, boo hoo, life was really hard and you had to work to hammer those studs into your black leather belts, but what did that mean for us poor, unfortunate souls (non-conformists) who went to high school in a pre-Dr.-Phil-acceptance universe?

Pump Up The Volume, meet Bring It On.

Imagine, if you will, high school with Christian Slater. Alas, not Heathers, though I’m sure it was just a matter of time in my little-pink-houses town, but the aka Happy Harry Hard-on husky-voiced pirate (DJ) of suburban-town Arizona. Say you’re Nora (Samantha Mathis) in this plot, and the mysterious, quiet type in your high school starts showing an interest, while creating civic unrest with the popular and smart kids. Oohh, this plot is just getting good…

PEP RALLY TIME! GET ON YOUR SCHOOL COLORS!

I wish life hadn’t been this way for me. I wish I felt no ill will toward anyone in my high school days, no less at people who were, let’s face it, way more physically active than I was. To be clear, I currently have nothing against cheerleaders, former cheerleaders, or sporty people in general. I have a huge grudge, however, against the SW Florida School System and their (not emphasis, but) blatant bias towards a small fraction of the student body.

The rules were simple: Dress for, attend, and participate in school spirit-y sports events or get detention or suspended. The favoritism was not harmless: “it” canceled every elective within the school (ceramics, photography, portfolio classes, anything-music-that-wasn’t-marching-band) to provide the funds to refinish the gym floor with a giant Triton and outfit the weight-lifting room with equipment. I wish I were exaggerating.

This mash-up is basically the equivalent of the A Clockwork Orange Ludvico technique, only replace ultra-violence with ultra-CHEER and you’ve got my Florida high school experience. As the cool aspects of story advance, so too does the impending neuropathy of “Let’s Go Tritons, Let’s Go”, and with that well placed pep everyone forgets about the thing that they were doing (like fighting the increasing corruption and omni-present Christian rhetoric that seems to plague Florida public school systems) and takes a seat on the risers to dump silver and black glitter all over each other giggling like, well, like high-school girls.

Gag.

Here’s something else missing from Bring It On that Pump Up The Volume had in spades: fear! I guess it’s done differently in pretend-land California (or maybe the 10 year difference in release dates gave people enough time to calm down from ((cave in to)) Tipper Gore-dom), but in MY high-school cheerleaders practiced on more of a gang mentality. Dollhouse Eliza Dushku aside, Kirstin Dundst would have kicked my ass. After frequent suspensions for wearing jeans with holes in them to class (while, you guessed it, the cheery-folk walked around with forgotten-pants-syndrome), it was recommended to me that I drop out and get my GED. “Maybe this just isn’t the right place for you, right now” my ‘counselor’ actually said with a straight face. No Shit?

The beauty of this combo is the ending. System-buckers Mark (Christian-hard-Harry-Slater) and Nora are arrested, and the cheerleaders go on to take second place in nationals- with a new appreciation for these African-American folks (also cheerleaders) who they knew were better than them at cheering the whole time. Cheerleaders dance to Mickey-Mickey-you’re-so-fine, and the pirates get to answer to not just the FCC, but now probably a battery of psychologists and Homeland Security. Michael Moore might just do a movie about them in 20 years, but they’ll be so hard from prison-life (i.e. perpetual high school) that they’ll only speak in Gene Kelly songs and cry when they hear Beethoven.

So, basically, this mash-up is mostly Bring It On, with the ending of Pump Up The Volume happening in the first 10 minutes, and our heroes watching from a jail cell screaming at Kirstin Dundst for not knowing who The Clash is (but appreciating the reference).

Maybe Payton Reed and Allan Moyle should combine forces and give high school movies another go. Something set in the not-too-distant future, where the Breakfast Clubbers are fighting for the rights of the “special” kids who wont grow in to “coordination” until they graduate. Maybe in this film politicians are required to teach in Public Schools for a year, and have to struggle with overcrowded classrooms, standardized tests, and the constant manipulation of school funds to provide for the few, not the total sum. I wonder what kind of fantasy film that would be…

Just a thought,
J

My Life as a Mash-Up III

I didn’t post last Tuesday because I was off gallivanting around Savannah, Georgia.

This statement is mostly true.

By “gallivanting” I really mean looking for any excuse to move back, and by “Savannah” I mean my so-very-appropriate subject for this week’s (late, but hey- here) mash-up, a.k.a. a town I lived in while going to school, a.k.a. “Oh, wow- I hear that town is sooo pretty”.

So I’m no expert on the in’s and out’s of Savannah- it’s history, it’s rise-to-pretty… I do know a few facts I could drone on about but this is my narcissistic-ego-parade and I’ll describe Savannah the best way I can, as it relates to me (me! ME!). So here goes entry three, home of Paula Dean, bench ala Forest Gump- birthplace of the Girl Scouts.

Savannah = Waitress-meets-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

To clarify, first off, I mean the Tim Burton Charlie, not the Mel Stuart Willy Wonka- though the 1971 film was awesome, it just wasn’t, oh, I dunno- creepy enough? I chose Burton’s re-imagining for three reasons: 1. It’s a re-imagining. If Savannah were what it was, then, I’d be mashing Gone With the Wind and Devine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood or something, but this is a city NOW that is strange, colorful, and, well yeah- creepy. 2. Ever watch a movie and feel like you weren’t quite getting something? That was CATCF for me. Also see: Savannah, Georgia with the living there. Also see: Most Tim Burton films with the watching them. 3. It’s basically Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, right? I mean, if the Oompa-Lumpa’s had southern accents. And Johnny Depp were a teeny bit more like Lady Chablis.

Why, you ask yourself, are there no “true” southern bumpkin films in this mash-up? What about Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias? Well, I’ll tell you, Savannah just ain’t that kind of south. It’s a real live people kind of town, with big buildings and some colleges and people that do more than quibble over hair styles, horses, or who Jeb-John is going to knock up next. Though surrounded on three sides, Savannah is not rural-dirt-road territory- it is, however, a touristy mecca, so read and learn how you, too, can win the golden ticket to the Promise Land.

The best thing about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in my opinion, are the kids. What a fabulous dichotomy of the population of Savannah. I, of course, am Charlie in this analogy, but replace him with Jenna from Waitress (sans abusive husband and unexpected pregnancy ((knock on wood))). I know my pies and dish out to the “children” of Savannah from, appropriately, a chocolate bar downtown. Who are these children?

Amidst the Oompa-Loompa tourists are an array of Mike Teavees- all in the form of military on-leave-ers looking for mass quantities of booze and a fight. Let’s face it, if Mike wasn’t given proper therapy for his aggression they totally had a place for him in the Army, and if not there then perhaps one of the many University Fraternity houses that find River Street the best-ever place to get nuts and puke on/in/around during Spring Break and other collar-popping vacation times.

Veruca Salt is Savannah’s lovely bourgeois aristocrats who are not without their own I-me-mines, with heaps and heaps of dough spilling from sticky fingers screaming out to servers up to their eyeballs in tourists and inane questions like “Why don’t you have non-sweet tea?” (the answer to this is to point north towards the Mason-Dixon line). Meanwhile, Augustus is standing under the feeble mist pouring out from the eaves of Lady and Sons waiting for a seat at the buffet table, and you just want to plead with him to maybe try the vegan brunch down at the Sentient Bean instead of a cheeseburger surrounded by Krispy Kream doughnuts (you can’t make this up). Violet’s gum smacking can be heard anywhere on Broughton street as she crosses back and forth in a haze of “I am the center of the universe”, relatively certain that no one actually lives in this town and may need to get to/from work/school in any amount of time- or, at least, they can stop and wait for her to shuffle slowly by in 7 inch stiletto’s and a dress with no bottom (forgotten pants syndrome is alive and well in Georgia).

Oh, but then there’s Willie Wonka, here to guide you through about eleventeen thousand ghost tours of the city, where no doubt you will get the creepy crawlies if not just by walking the creepy old squares surrounded by creepy old houses, but by realizing (maybe too late) that the crime rate in Savannah is a little high for it’s population, and why is this man drooling on me with his hand out (that’s code for “got a cigarette?”, so you know).

I sound all sorts of cynical about Savannah, but the fact is most those Wonka-ites don’t even live there. They just sort of appear, drink loudly, toss their trash around the city and then go home to the Burton-less monotony of tracked housing and McMansions elsewhere. The best times in Savannah are when no one’s there- and the squares are on-their-own creepy, spangers know you, and Lady and Son’s is just something you pass on your way to The Rail Pub for peanuts and a 40 served in a paper bag.

I think the “Kerri Russel me” lived here very happily, and is expecting to move back sometime in the near future. Though I doubt Dr. Nathan Fillion will be waiting there with a moon pie in hand (though Stephen the Conquistadork will get his PhD, *shudder*), Lulu’s is still there with a bakery case full of chocolate wonders, and, one can hope, a bartending position for me to fill with my acute knowledge of what alcoholic beverages sooth the soul…

Till then Savannah,
J

My Life as a Mash-Up II

So here’s something cool, possibly the coolest mash-up I’ll do: I have a brother. Six years younger than me, and infinitely more awesome, he is currently touring around Europe with his band Lemuria, playing to hundreds of adoring fans and doing such cool things as sleeping in a tent in a park in Munich.

I am less cool. I am sitting at home, on my laptop, trying to solve the mystery of why my 3 month old Jack Russell Terrier won’t sleep through the night. Oh, I did make brownies. Such a rebel…

Anyway, a bit about my brother and me: we both spent ‘formative’ years in a shit-hole called Cape Coral, Florida. I was a teenager: he was in elementary school. I was drinking and exploring the seemingly unending supply of pharmaceuticals a depressing/depressed sub-suburban town in Southwest Florida has to offer, and he was tagging along, apparently taking in all the “cool” vibes the meager punk scene of Fort Myers had to offer. Then we moved to Vermont- the maple syrup capitol of America, complete with the most caring, liberal, and honest people you’ll ever meet. I was too far-gone: he could thrive. Where I became the anti-hero in the Sunshine State, my brother became the uber-awesome in the Green Mountains.

My mash-up this week is dedicated to my rock-star kid brother, who will hopefully get me a festival job this coming November- where I will no doubt be bartending while he (as production manager) will be doing things like guitar tech-ing for Billy Bragg (oh right- that two years ago), or hanging out with The Descendents (nope, that was LAST YEAR).

The films: Say Anything-meets-Wild at Heart

Muh snake skin jacket!

This was by far the hardest mash-up to create, because there are so many movies that would feature the awkward older sister. Almost Famous came to mind almost immediately, and was up-front in the running, had it not been for Lester Bangs repeating “you are not cool” to the little William Miller. Big sis Anita was totally me- gone for the majority of the teenage years, found wearing too much make-up and with parental issues. But, alas, I had to go with the (other) Cameron Crowe standby, Say Anything, for the glorious character of Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack)- ladies get your swoon on now, that’s pretty much my brother. His older sister Constance, played by Joan Cusack, pretty much supports Lloyds eccentricities, and their relationship is about a dead-on replica of ours.

So you all know the story (if not go rent the damn movie now, you’re missing out). Quiet, against-the-norm guy (Lloyd Dobler) falls in love with smart, nerdy girl (Diane Court) who must ultimately chose between trusting her dubious father (with good intentions) and her new boyfriend (kick-boxing, broken glass-clearing, ‘In Your Eyes’-playing, cool guy in a trench coat). Now, kindly replace the duster with a snake-skin jacket, make Ione Skye a little more rock-and-roll (i.e. slutty, so not Ione Skye), and add mobsters chasing this quaint couple across the country with a contract hit for Lloyd put out by Diane’s mother- and you’ve got the cool plot to go with my cool brother.

Can we make a mash-up of Nicolas Cage and John Cusack? Yes we can, and he’ll look a little like Tom Hanks (circa Big) with the musical knowledge of Rob Gordon in High Fidelity and the wardrobe of Michael Cera in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Okay, any Michael Cera film, but he’s a bass player in that one so it seemed more appropriate.

It’s hard to accurately pin-point “cool” in a person, and if I only get two films to do it I suppose those will do. Of course Lloyd Dobler has a place in my heart from my childhood, and, though I’m sure most men hate to be called “sensitive”, his demeanor is accurately played out in the real life version of, you guessed, my brother. Though Sailor may not be the deepest thinker in Wild at Heart, he sure is different on a massive scale, and the “individuality and belief in personal freedom” embodied in one jacket reflects not just his character, but his willingness to dispense of the ordinary for declarations of love, life, and any other sort of expression.

So, Cameron Crowe and your endearing, sentimental teen-dramas, meet the weird and quirky David Lynch. Ya’ll have a sit down and discuss how this kid came to be, and while you’re at it find him a lady friend- maybe someone like Alabama from True Romance (i.e. The-Other-Wild-at-Heart)- so she can say the words that Phillip Seymour Hoffman got wrong: “You’re so cool, you’re so cool…”

Xo

J