June 27, 2011

Rahm Emanuel, My New BFF

Rahm and I went to the Lookingglass Theatre last night to see The Last Act of Lilka Kadison. He looked very handsome in a navy blazer, khaki pants and black loafers (no socks), and I was proud to be sitting next to him.
Okay, well I wasn't exactly next to him (there was an aisle between us) and maybe we're not BFFs just yet but I'm sure he wants to be - after all, I did shake his hand in the lobby before the performance. Oh, oops, I forgot to give him my name. Hmmm...that could be an obstacle.
Well, anyway, the play was wonderful. Very sweet story, and beautiful performances by Chance Bone, Usman Ally, Nora Fiffer and Marilyn Dodds Frank.

The Last Act of Lilka Kadison is the story of an old, dying Jewish woman (Frank) and the secrets she has kept. She's being cared for by an in-home aid (Ally - wonderful in the role) and she's at first resistant to having him there, grilling him about his training. She asks where he went to school and, fed up with her interrogation, he says, "The Al Quaida Home School for axe murderers." (Rahm and I laughed at that.)
Later, telling him about her son who married a shiksa and lives in Maine, she says, "What kind of a Jew lives in Maine?" (My BFF and I laughed at that too.)
It's an intelligent and moving story and I was drawn in by the characters (although Frank's character is a little too vibrant and hip for a dying woman).
It's poignant, funny, heart-wrenching and beautifully staged, a lovely way to spend 90 minutes.
Four stars out of five for The Last Act of Lilka Kadison.
I say, go see this lovely and clever production.
What do you say, Rahm? BTW, if you need a writer, or a personal assistant/organizer I can clear my schedule. It's H-O-F-F-M-A-N. Call me.

June 26, 2011

Movie Review: Beginners

This is a very quiet, leisurely-paced film told from the point of view of Oliver (Ewan McGregor) whose father (Christopher Plummer) has recently died and who meets an intriguing new woman, Anna (Melanie Laurent), at a costume party, causing him to reflect on love and relationships, and why he always leaves them.
After having lost his wife, Oliver's father admitted he was gay and set about living the life he'd always suppressed, leaving Oliver with ambivalent feelings about relationships and life; a father who lived with vigor and a mother who accepted the way her life turned out. I loved the quirky mother character, tho if she were my mother I'd have put myself up for adoption.
Laurent is an amazing actor who inhabits her characters with such warmth and appeal. It's easy to understand why Oliver falls in love with her (I actually did, myself) altho not quite so easy to understand it from her point of view. He's a little too sad and serious but of course appealing.
It's a sweet, poignant, sometimes funny film. There's a cute device with a dog who has subtitled thoughts that Oliver understands. Clever, and who can resist a Jack Russel terrier cocking its head at you?
Four stars out of five for Beginners.
(Sorry, Woz, next time I'll see The Tree 0f Life.)

June 24, 2011

A '65 Mustang and Charles Manson

This is one of the pieces I've been working on at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference (SB is a great backdrop for the writing process).


Jennifer came bounding down the stairs long hair flying like a banner, small breasts jiggling beneath the low-cut, silky tank top. Her face was aglow with excitement, or maybe some dewy, tinted moisturizer.
“How do I look?” she asked, twirling, light glinting off her braces as she stood before her parents.
“You look adorable, honey,” Lora said.
Like an adorable hooker, Nick thought.
Jennifer’s eager eyes were on him. “Daddy, what do you think?”
He knew she’d probably worked on her hair for forty-five minutes, coating the bathroom with all that gel and goop, but he wanted to go over and pat it down into something calmer. Something a little more Donna Reed.
“Doesn’t she look cute, honey?” Lora prompted.
“Uh huh,” he said, but disappointment veiled Jennifer’s face and he knew he’d have to do better. He couldn’t point out that her tits were in danger of slipping out of her shirt or that her hair looked like she’d just gotten out of bed so he said, “You look very grown up,” the ultimate compliment, and was rewarded by her pleased smiled.
When the doorbell rang Nick started up out of his chair.
“Stay”, Jennifer said, putting up a hand. “I’ll get it.”
“Okay, but I want to meet him,” he said to her back. He looked at Lora who smiled and patted his knee.
“Calm down, Nick, it’s just a movie. She’ll be back in a few hours. It’ll still be light out. Her virginity will be intact.”
“It better be,” Nick said, tapping his fingers on the arm of the leather sofa, frown lines etching his brow. He picked unseen lint off the black polyester shirt that courageously attempted to camouflage his considerable stomach, and longed for the days when he could run the length of the basketball court; the days when Jennifer lay cradled against his muscular chest, sighing and tweeting like a bird.

She came back, electric with energy, her eyes bright as glass. She held the hand of a skeletal figure in low-slung jeans with tattoos painting one arm starting at his wrist and disappearing beneath the arm of his black T-shirt. Nick’s knuckles whitened. My god, he thought, it’s Charles Manson.
“Mom, Daddy, this is Brady,” Jennifer said looking adoringly at the mass murderer who smiled and put out his hand to Nick.
“Nice to meet you, sir,” he said, but Nick sat dumbly, eyes riveted to four silver studs climbing Brady’s left ear. Brady faltered, as his outstretched hand remained empty.
“Daddy…” Jennifer said. “Hell-o…”
Nick coughed. “Sorry,” he said and got to his feet. He managed a polite, if insincere, smile and gripped Brady’s hand, hard, pleased to note he had a good three inches on the boy.
Brady winced a bit but recovered nicely, turning to Lora. “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Symonds.” He smiled, flashing dimples.
“Thank you, Brady.” Lora said, clearly charmed. Nick looked at the three of them smiling beatifically at each other and thought, give me strength.
“Are you driving them to the movies or do you want me to?” he asked Lora, jingling his keys out of his pocket.
Lora laughed. “We’re not driving them, honey. I’m pretty sure those days are behind us.”
“No need,” Brady said. “I’ve got my car.”
“Your car?” Nick asked as if he’d said his Lear jet was parked out front.
“Yes, sir.”
“How old are you, son?”
“Almost seventeen, sir. I’ve had my license for six months now. I’m a very safe driver.”
Yeah, so is Evil Knievel, Nick thought while Jennifer beamed and Lora nodded.
They all walked out on the front porch and looked at the dark blue 1965 Mustang that sat in front of the house. “Is that yours? The Mustang?” It was said with reverence.
“It is, sir,” Brady said, straightening his spine.
Nick’s face softened with the album of memories paging through his mind. “I had one just like that when I was about your age,” he said. “Same color, even. I loved that car.”
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Brady said.
“What’s under the hood?”
“V-8, 200 horses,” Brady said. “Want to take it for a spin, sir?”
“Brady,” Jennifer said, her hand tapping her leg. “The movie.”
“It’ll just take a minute.” Brady said, touching her lightly on her arm and flipping the keys to Nick.
“Mom, do something,” she said as the two men walked to the car.
“They’ll be right back,” Lora said. “It’s good. It’s a male-bonding thing. Look.” She nodded toward them as they walked to the gleaming car. Brady raised the hood and they gazed into it talking quietly.
Jennifer rolled her eyes. “Oh, great.”
Nick got in behind the wheel and Brady ran around to the passenger side.
Jennifer turned to Lora. “So what do you think of him?”
“He seems nice, honey.”
“Isn’t he cute?”
“Yes, he’s cute. He reminds me of someone.”
“I know, like a cool Justin Bieber, right?”
“No…” Lora said. The engine roared to life and she smiled. “Someone who had a ‘65 Mustang when I met him.”
“Daddy? Oh Mom, get real.”
“I know it’s hard to believe we were ever your age but your father was a fox when we met.” Jennifer chuckled at her mother’s term. “Not that he’s not cute now,” Lora added. “But back then all my girlfriends were hot for him.”
“Hard to imagine,” Jennifer said and then slid her eyes to her mother. “No offense.”
Lora laughed. “Picture him thirty pounds thinner with longish hair and those penetrating eyes,” Lora said. “He just had a way about him that drew you in.”
Jennifer cocked her head and squinted at her father.
“Actually Grandpa was a little afraid of him,” Lora said. “Thought he looked too much like Charles Manson.”
Nick put the '65 Mustang in gear, waved to them, and then peeled out, burning rubber all the way down the block.

June 23, 2011

I Want To Be T.C. Boyle

Well, I don't really want to BE him but I definitely want to write like him. He spoke at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference last night, and read two of his short stories that had the audience mesmerized.
I hate to admit I've never read his work before and unless he read the only two good things he's ever written, I'm in for a plethora of reading happiness since he's written 13 novels and I don't know how many short story collections.

June 22, 2011

Free Spirits of Santa Barbara Part 2

This is Dan with his beautiful dog. Dan's a really nice guy, a songwriter and author who's been living in his van for about 17 years. He told me he recently decided he spent too much time on the internet so he put his laptop on the ground and ran over it several times, back and forth, back and forth, and then threw it in the trash.
Dude, I hope you at least recycled that.










And finally, here's Michael whowas having coffee with his friend Patty Ann on the "stoop" of the van he's been traveling around in for about three years.

Nice meeting you guys!

Free Spirits of Santa Barbara

Wait...what year is this?
I'm so glad I'm a runner - it's one of the best ways to explore a city. I took my camera with me on this morning's run where I'm attending the SB Writer's Conference (and loving it - more about that later).
This morning I met the boys of the beach, the van guys, the free sprits who are doing their thing. I talked to three of them and they were all gracious and welcoming.
I came to Santa Barbara in 2011 but I think I'm now in the 60s.
The video is of a guy who calls himself One Feather, who has the most amazing van (more pictures below), every inch covered with...well, something. He's lived in it for about 17 years. I can't imagine how long it took to decorate his vehicle.
Check it out.


More van guys in my next post.

June 21, 2011

Slaving Away in Santa Barbara

I'm working.
Really.
What could be better than a writing conference in a place as beautiful as Santa Barbara? That's where I am, posting from my hotel overlooking the ocean. The sun's shining and I'm finished with my workshops for the day, having a glass of wine and getting ready to go downtown on the 25 cent trolley (with free transfers), which is very exciting, as witnessed by one of my fellow passenegers (left).
I haven't been to Santa Barbara in more than 30 years and it's just as beautiful as I remember.
When I run in the morning I feel as if I'm in a time warp; the homeless people sitting on the benches look as if they just hitchhiked back from Woodstock and there are vans parked at the beach painted with peace signs in psychedelic colors. Groovy, man.
The first person I met, at the opening night barbeque, is arguably the craziest person at the conference and I've been trying to avoid her ever since. She told me she writes literary erotica (which sounds like an oxymoron to me but what do I know), and said as soon as she gets published she's leaving her husband. Alrighty then. That's a motivating force.
I just got back from a humor workshop taught by Ernie Witham (very funny writer) where people read some amazingly great stuff. And then, after the engaging, funny stuff someone read a piece about special needs kids which broke our hearts but, excuse me, wasn't funny. Why the heck was she reading it in a humor workshop? Another read a piece about getting beat up and biting off part of her tongue and having two broken shoulders. Ha, ha. Right?
But we all have our perspective, we're all children of the universe, the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter is aligning with Mars, and all is well with the world. Groovy, my brothah.

June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

I'm always nostalgic around Father's Day. My dad lived to 90 and I'm so grateful that he was healthy and strong for most of that time, but, damn it, it wasn't long enough. I still miss him so much. When I think about him it isn't what he gave me or what he did for me or what he bought me that comes to mind, it's just how he looked at me with love in his eyes, as if I were a shining star. He was my biggest fan and loved me unconditionally. Not that we always agreed on everything because we surely didn't - we were very different people - but it didn't matter.
Once, toward the end of his life, I was visiting him in Toledo - he was at a residential facility at that time, in the independent-living wing. I was there on Saturday and when I went back the next morning he told me he hadn't slept all night because of the men who were there writing on the walls. I was taken aback. "Really?" I said.
"Yes, look..." and he pointed high up on the walls. "See the writing?"
I told him there was no writing but he insisted.
"Why can't you see it?" he asked me. "It's right there."
Well, that scared the crap out of me, even though he seemed fine otherwise, and I took him to the emergency room. They put him in a bed while we waited for the doctor and I sat with him, and all of a sudden he said, "Oh look at him go!" and he pointed down the hall.
"What do you see?" I said.
"That little boy on the tricycle there. Look! Look at him ride that thing!"
There was no one there.
They told me later it was called "sundowning," a deceptively sweet-sounding term for the fact that your mind is deteriorating and playing cruel tricks on you.
But as we waited I held my dad's hand and we chatted, and I said, "Daddy, do you know how much I love you?"
And he said, "However much that is, I love you a hundred times more."
That was the best present my dad ever gave me, the vastness of his love. You're never too old to revel in that. He was a good, kind man and his memory warms my heart every day.

June 8, 2011

Dear Beach People...

I'm guessing your mom is not at the beach with you, right?
When I run along the lakefront in the morning it's early, before the clean-up crew has had a chance to pick up the heaps of trash that the pigs who frequent the beach have left behind. What's with you people? There are trash cans about every 50 feet (picture at right, just in case you don't know what they look like). Can't you walk over to one?
When I was a little kid it was pretty commonplace for people to just blithely throw garbage out of their car windows and no one thought a thing of it. Do you remember that? Isn't that amazing? Where did people think it was going to go? It wasn't until the late 50s that there were anti-litter campaigns, that people even became aware that it was a problem. Remember the crying Indian ad? That was in 1970 (see it below). If he was crying back then think what he'd do now, seeing that there are people who still don't give a crap (no pun intended).

Oh, and beach people, I'm sure you're the same ones frequenting my movie theaters (mine because you know how much time I spend there), eating massive quantities of food (nachos, industrial-sized vats of soda, Parmesan pretzels...), leaving all the wrappers and cups and crap right at your seat and just walking out. You walk past the damn trash bins when you exit the theater. Clean up after yourself! What's so hard about that?
(That's rhetorical since I'm sure everyone who reads my blog already does that.
And the crying Indian thanks you.)