Mar 30, 2010

Treatment Suffocation? [Sick Day]

I worked all weekend on the treatment for Sick Day, but I only made it slightly into the second act. Starting yesterday afternoon, after I made dinner, the exhaustive detail of the thing started to weigh on me. I took a nap and felt exhausted by the size of it. It will be a thirty-page scriptment at this rate, and I simply don't know whether that is for the best or not.

Moving backward through time, Unpredictable had a full treatment, but it was so overlong, plot-wise, that it was vastly and explosively revised as I wrote the screenplay. By the end, the script and the treatment has diverged in very serious ways. That was okay. The only problem was, the script was also okay. Nothing more. I can't afford to do that again.

With Gravedigger's Son, I'd written and re-written that treatment a hundred times, several times from scratch. I'd tried writing it as a novel. I'd started on the script as many as three times before realizing that I'd missed the boat once again. And this is all after three and a half revisions of the complete screenplay that was Storybook Park. It was a daunting, multi-year process. I can't afford to do that again.

Prior to that, ignoring Hell Froze Over, and some fits and starts and failed attempts on other titles, was Zaniness Ensues. As I remember it, I made an index-card outline on my corkboard, and then wrote without a treatment. I wrote 5 pages a day for a month, straight through. Of course, I had a short-script that I'd worked on relentlessly prior to it. Also, let's not forget, the feature screenplay underwent a number of structural revisions at the script stage, which was difficult - but effective.

Perhaps I'm over-writing this treatment. Perhaps I'm over-planning it. Perhaps I'm suffocating it by solving every plotting and practical puzzle, right down to the blocking.

Maybe, instead, I should produce a beat-sheet of scenes, each answering Mamet's three question:


And also the boring, practical:


In short, maybe I should be answering more sub-textual questions, more questions of flow and meaning and drama, and leave the carpentry of blocking, timing, efficiency, and gag-angles, to the scripting stage.

After all, frequently, the angle of the gags comes from the opposition of the character goals in the scene, and if I have the gag-angle out of sync with the character goals, I'll find myself wasting time on dialogue that I only later realize is fake and limp. I remember that happening very clearly in Unpredictable: I had good dialogue and gags planned out in the treatment, but they weren't supporting the desires of the characters in that moment, and so, I had to start again from scratch.

Inscrutable Déjà Vu Traffic

Left 7:13 AM | Arrived 7:38 AM
This morning the 405 flew, and I arrived about the same time I always do.

I can't explain either part of that statement.

The ease of travel may have been due to a six-car pile-up, just north of my entrance, that choked back the usual overflow passing through the Galleria corridor. It may have been due to increasing amounts of spring break being observed by colleges in the area. It may have been because Passover begins tonight at sundown, according to my calendar, but not according to my Jewish friends.

I'm not sure.

As to how I arrived at the same time, despite traffic being non-existent? I can't even begin to guess. Like advanced branches of quantum theory, Los Angeles traffic will never make intuitive sense to the human mind. Our species simply wasn't evolved to interact with systems this foreign and complex. Even with mathematics and metaphors, we can barely bridge the gap. We can't predict it. We can't explain why it happened. And apparently, we can't even know how bad it is when we're inside it. Unless you can think in 12 or more dimensions, it doesn't make any sense at all.
Déjà Vu
On the fast but slow drive to Norm's, I thought about whether déjà vu was anything more than a misfire in the brain, a misfire triggering the sensation of familiarity, or maybe the sensation we associate with the replay of a memory.

I tried to remember how many occasions there have been when I experienced déjà vu so strongly that I actually predicted the remainder of the "déjà moment" before it played out.

It seems to me, there were maybe four, five, maybe half-a-dozen incidents where I'm pretty confident I predicted things accurately and aloud.

The problem is, I can't reliably say that I couldn't have predicted those same things based purely on context alone, from simple common sense, or from a pretty solid grasp of where the conversation was going. Plus, how strict was I with myself on those occasions? How accurately do I remember my accuracy? And were these moments just dreams?

They may have been dreams, everybody.

Could the sensation of déjà vu be triggered by direct electrical stimulation? Or magnets outside the temple, like in the experiments where they tamper with a person's morality with little more than a strong magnet and a cleverly constructed puzzle? Could someone have a disorder that gave them the sensation frequently? Would they think themselves an oracle? A psychic? A Groundhog Day victim?
Everyone is Inscrutable
Last night, while jogging the dog, I wondered whether I've spent so much of my life focused on developing skills to better predict people, to better decode personalities, to better decipher characters, to better speculate about what people are thinking or feeling - because, as a child, I found my father so inscrutable? Was his frequent silence and unpredictability (at least to young me) the cause of this life-defining habit?

And what does it mean that, while I can remember him telling stories (usually to other people, stories that I only overheard), while I can remember stories about things like an ambulance accident he was in, or the body they carried out of a building once - while I can remember these stories - I can remember him saying very little else that was sincerely personal? What does it say that those stories were the times I understood him most vividly, when I was young? And now I spend my life on stories.

I was thinking about this, and Big Fish, and why Stirling likes it and Aram doesn't, and whether I will be inscrutable with my children, and whether I am inscrutable, even when I don't wish to be, right now.

Sometimes, I like to be inscrutable. It denies people an easy handle, frustrates attempts to pass cheap judgments or assign rigid stereotypes. Yet, I firmly believe, if you take an accounting of my actions, you really do know what's going on in my mind, even if you're foolishly plumbing for more.

Everyone we know exists as a character we've constructed in our minds. If we are wise, we build that character based on the person's actions, their habits, what they do frequently; not on what they claim about themselves, and certainly not what is claimed about them; not on what we'd like to believe, or what we fear to believe; only on what they consistently do. We have to work out the puzzle of a person over time, careful never to blindly confirm our biases, ready always to take on a whole new understanding and recast the role entirely, if the story demands it.

I think, we must be careful how we think about characters; if we are shallowly judgmental with them, we will be the same with real people in our lives, because the brain little minds the difference.

Also, I like the word inscrutable.

I love that 30 Rock used it in a dis of Tracy Jordan's vanity plate.

"She called my vanity license plate inscrutable!"

Mar 29, 2010

Excesses and Shortages

I am back at Grounded Cafe.

It is 10:15 AM, and I just dropped my dog Bacon off at a new groomer, not too far from my apartment. It's called Mr. & Mrs. Dog. The woman there seemed very nice, but her accent was a rare form that I absolutely could not place or penetrate.

I followed her almost entirely by making guesses about the meanings of her gestures and by constructing my replies such that they could have sprung entirely from personal inspiration, not strict response. When she said "vaccinations?" I asked her to repeat it three times, the third time by softly saying, "I don't understand what you're saying," because "vaccinations" started with an "O," and only had three syllables. "Ossendens" is the best transcription I can make.

I'm not making fun; I'm simply describing how hopeless I felt.

In any case, Bacon won't notice, and she seemed optimistic despite my warning: he won't let me clip his nails or trim his hair at all. He gets crazy nasty. To this, she said the one thing I understood, "Dey eye much personality."

I'm going to start using that as a euphemism for human pains-in-the-ass. "He has an abundance of personality." In fact, "She has a dire excess of personality." If nothing else, it makes me feel better about having a mild shortage of personality.

A tall, skinny young man with long blond hair, glasses, and brand-new too-tight black-denim trousers, says into his phone, while waiting in line: "I'm still high after last night. I can't help it. There's nothing to debate."

Meanwhile, a man in a tweed jacket with a fedora hat marches, leaning forward, down the opposite side of Ventura Blvd. He carries a yellow envelope and jabs the air just slighty with it, never really raising his arm. He's saying something to himself, perhaps rehearsing the talking-to he'll give the recipient of that envelope. I wonder without substance whether he's heading to the bank.

And now I'm the only one here, aside from the employees. It's awkwardly quiet.

"It's slow today because it's Spring Break, I think. A lot of kids don't have classes," He says to She. Then they speak too quietly for me to hear. They have Spanish accents.

Perhaps I should've sat outside. There are new, richly coral-colored, almost red, umbrellas. Small in circumference, like the tables, but casting sufficient shade. And it's a beautiful day. 71 F degrees, yellow-touched white sunshine, 15% humidity and a barely present northerly breeze.

It's a Los Angeles day out there, and I'm sitting in a Northampton coffee house, with a dire shortage of personality.

Mar 27, 2010

Silver Morning

Left 7:09 | Arrived 7:39
It's overcast and silver-lit outside. It's the first time that the sun hasn't been rising, blazing in my window as I drove in, peering over my shoulder as I sit here. I rather like it. It brings a timeless quality to the morning.

It could be anytime on a cloudy day.

A slick-haired Hispanic businessman, wearing a goatee, a pink shirt, and a neck brace, just asked me if I was sitting here yesterday.

I told him "Close. I was right up there. But yeah."

He nodded silently and stepped away.

I ordered only fruit and coffee. As usual, the fruit is cantaloupe and some sort of greenish-yellowish melon. I cut them into little pieces.

This will cost me about $4 or $5, but I will tip at least $3. I want to establish the point that the staff gets the same, no matter what I order.

Mar 26, 2010

Angles of the Sun

Left 7:06 AM | Arrived 7:37 AM
The angle of the sun is changing. Earlier everyday, the sun blazes through the windows of Norm's, laying itself across the whole restaurant. If I sit with my back to it, I can block its glare from my screen with my body, but it is orange-gold and blinding.

Today I will have two eggs, over easy, with sourdough toast and a side of fruit rather than hashbrowns. Let's see how that makes me feel. Then again, I really prefer scrambled to over easy. . . EOE or ES.

I'm wondering if the immense increase in morning coffee consumption is adding to the inflamed taste buds in my mouth, or to the sore growing on the inside of my cheek.

Meanwhile, allergy season has amped up to 9 or 10 out of 12 on the daily pollen reports, and the inside of my nose is dry and bloody, stinging and burning. Pressing the tip of my nose can squeeze a tear from my eye, like a tear dispenser. Daily running and walking is making my legs, knees, and upper-ass ache. I'm tired. I would imagine I was getting sick, but I'm pretty sure it's simple revolt against this three months of habit changes.

And yet, change is the only thing that keeps me sharp and sane.

Man, I told the waiter I needed a moment, and it's been many moments now. I'm not complaining; I'm amazed how hungry it's making me feel. I'm starting to fantasize about what I'll get, rather than reluctantly decide. Scrambled I think. Scrambled.

Here's an amazing conversation that I just overheard (boiled down to its essense):

"All these TV stations. Too many. It's just like the races, you know."

"Yeah . . ."

"There are too many now! It's over-kill. They ain't special no more. There used to be 8 run a-day, now it's over-kill, it's over-kill."

"It used to be simple. That's what you're trying to say. It used to be simple."

"Too much like a job, trying to pick horses, now."

"Too much like a job."

Long pause.

"You think people still watch them game shows?"

Mar 23, 2010

Frustrated With This Wonderful Computer

Left 7:06 AM | Arrived 7:42 AM
mac-keyboard I was stupid and lazy last night and neglected to plug in my Asus Linux netbook, and so I'm on this vastly over-sized Apple laptop, which reduces my focus and - still, after almost a year of using it almost daily - feels like I'm typing with my thumbs tied to my wrist.

Let's be honest here, folks, Apple spaces their keyboard keys too far apart, and their text navigation hot-keys are insufficient for intense writing and revision. There's no question that their keyboards look good. The question is, why don't they type good? Why must I suffer?

My roommate has a new Apple laptop, and the keys are spaced so far apart that I can't rest my fingers comfortably on all the home-keys at once - and I have relatively longish fingers.

I have similar feelings about the operating system itself. I find it clumsy in many complicated multitasking situations, particular with any software that utilizes multiple windows. In particular, it is vastly over-reliant on the mouse. And please, don't smugly tell me to learn the hot-keys - I have, I know them, and I find them to be lacking.

On the other hand, I have experienced remarkable stability from the system. But, I don't know if it's been worth the straight-jacket I'm resigned to wear while visiting their ecosystem. Every time I want to perform a small task outside the software package assigned to me, I am inevitably frustrated. Everything of quality in the Apple software universe is profit-based and over-priced. PIC2003221745132143Then, when you download it, you learn that it's also feature-crippled; they've sacrificed customization and fine-grain functionality for simplicity and big, unwieldy visual-metaphor-oriented mouse interfaces. When I want to get something done, I want a drop-down full of fine-grain options, thank you, not a cute "tray" where I "drag" "clippings" and "turn" "knobs," or some similar too-cute physical-world metaphor.

And don't get me started on how sick I am of having the same window decorations after all this time. Let me customize the thing without having to pay out the nose or rely on hacking, please! Let me change the computer's appearance in substantial ways; I have to look at it every day, for hours at a time. I can't stand the shiny bubbles any any longer!

But, I am grateful that it works. I am grateful that it cost me nothing. I am grateful for new battery, which I bought at discount, which lasts almost three hours. And I am grateful that this frustration is one of my frustrations, rather than disease, war, and death. I am grateful to hate, hate, hate those shiny bubbles.

Mar 22, 2010

Coffee Shops

click for full color, full size It's Sunday. It's almost 1 PM, and I'm out at Grounded Cafe, a coffee shop and internet cafe on Ventura Blvd. I found it with the Yelp application on my cell-a-ma-phone, and I decided to give it a try. There is another place with free wifi and pay coffee recommended by the program: it's called Crave. I drove past it. It looks very busy and bohemian, and there wasn't any street parking within five blocks. So, maybe next weekend. Maybe never.

I am trying to reduce the cost of these writing expeditions by making them coffee-only, or snack-only, instead of full-meal. Perhaps I could do that at Norm's, but it feels wrong. It feels like I'm taking up a profitable booth. This is likely ridiculous, since the booths are rarely even close to filled. But coffee shops are places where you are supposed to do this sort of work.

click for full color, full size I guess this is who I've become. My binary opposite. Someone who writes in public.

Necessity makes for strange bedfellows, even when we're sleeping alone.

The coffee-shop man just offered me the wifi password, which was very nice. That means, at least in my weird psychology, that he doesn't mind me using my own computer, rather than renting his by the hour.

I also really like my high seat and high desk, over by the window. Crave may have a hard time competing with that. Oh, and the coffee is good; intensely sweet mocha.

Sprinkled throughout this post are some pictures from my visit. Can you guess who the celebrity is, in the painting? I can't! But I know it's a celebrity! They said so!

groundcafe4Yesterday, writing-wise, I made an unusual sprint forward. Unexpected, and so out-of-the-subconscious, I honestly can't remember much of what I came up with. Good thing it's all written down.

There I was, doing my usual tinkering around the edges, when my mind turned around, made a dash - straight for the wall - and rather than smashing into it, it ran up it. Right up it, and then right off, leaping from rooftop to rooftop.

I don't know what that was all about, or how long that stuff had been brewing, waiting to come crashing, boiling-over. but there it was, and those are the moments I've been missing.

Clearly, they only happen when I'm running at that wall every stinking day.

Similarly, I was cooking dinner last night, and I'd just finished warming the cassarole dish to put the chicken in, as per the recipe. I took the dish out of the oven, and turned toward the counter-top. I could put it down on the countertop, you see, because it wasn't all that hot.
click for full color, full size I touched the dish to the countertop surface, and I remember a small hiss, and then an instantaneous crack, and then, the dish completely exploded. Shards of glass flew in every direction. all with surprising force, and several of those directions were precisely where I was standing.

The glass was cool enough for a countertop, but counters and people are made of considerably different materials. A short length of glass landed on the back of my hand, and I have a red shadow-image of it burned there now. I was fortunate that none of the glass found my face and eyes to be a welcoming destination.

There were invisible, tiny shavings and slivers of glass everywhere.

Luckily, no one was hurt. Alli didn't really bother to look up from her Facebook game. Barb remained completely asleep. And I was able to finish the meal by working around the mess. The food came out pretty well.

However, the suddenness of that explosion, and the power of it, really stays with me. It came to mind when I was reflecting on the sensation that I had yesterday, when story started creating itself, starting sorting points out, and all I had to do was hold on with my oven mitt. A hiss, a crack, and an explosion.

Now I'm going to go read it over.

Who wants to start a betting pool regarding how disappointed I'll be?

Mar 21, 2010

Ren & Stimpy: Terror & Silliness

user106129_pic7202_1235570279The term "space madness" keeps coming up while I'm working on Sick day. It first appeared because, at 8 AM, I couldn't remember the phrase "cabin fever." And then I remembered the episode of Ren & Stimpy. And that's why I capitalized it.
Space Madness.

I don't know how universal an experience Ren & Stimpy was. I remember vividly watching the first seasons as they aired, sometimes with groups other boys at a friend's house. I was 11 or 12. A few years later, they were off the air. People younger than I was may have missed them entirely.

Research, and the memory of a friend who was a few years older in 1991, and thus more savvy to how these things worked, reveals that Nickelodeon fired the creator John K after the second season. By coincidence, reviewing the episode summaries, I only recall episodes from seasons one and two, which are where all the classics reside. Anyone who saw seasons after those would've had a completely different, and completely inferior, experience with Ren & Stimpy.
Having gone back and watched the Space Madness episode, it's a bigger part of my subconscious than I suspected. Every line was crisply familiar, probably from having repeated it aloud relentlessly as a kid. And more importantly: it's almost a perfect template for the script I'm presently writing.

BillWray - space A duo are trapped in a closed environment. They are soon overwhelmed with free time and try to spend "quality time" together. But it leads to boredom, irritation, and rage. They see one another as hideous, and then they try to kill each other. It is . . . amazing.

Then, I watched the other episode I remembered, the one with "Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence." That one is called Sven Hoek, and it was even MORE familiar.
It's about Stimpy, and his new friend Sven, who is Ren's idiotic cousin. They sit at home, trapped by a rainy day, bored, getting into trouble. The patience and visual ridiculousness in this episode is absolutely perfect. Viewer discomfort rises steadily at the sheer weirdness of it all, broken by delightfully strange moments, such as Sven and Stimpy smashing their faces gleefully against a piece of glass.

REN_AND_STIMPY2-01 Then, when Ren returns home to see what they've done to the house, he gives them the most hilariously tense and protracted series of threats I've ever seen. Here, we have Ren & Stimpy's perfectly encapsulated: a balance between real danger and childish glee.
It is an amazing work of comedy.

There's another episode where a man screams a joke, veins pulsing in his neck, his body huge and threatening.  He says in a creepy, evil voice: "Why did they bury the fireman... behind... the hill...?" Long pause – then - screamed in an explosion of rage: "BECAUSE HE WAS DEAD!!!" This is followed by insane laughter, laughter that the listeners do not share. It is another perfect summation of the show's universe, carefully located between fear and ridiculousness.

In short, I returned to something that I loved when I was 11, and it held up perfectly. It was improved, in fact. Sure, it is full of juvenile jokes about boogers and farts, but so is the script I'm writing now, it turns out.

It's all about how it's handled, and in the early Ren & Stimpy, it's all handled with artful insanity, with perfect control of tone and delivery. Every moment is pure comedic style, full of surprises and risks, discovering new ways to create tension and then release it.

The series clearly shaped my idea of what makes for good comedy. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to realize this at the age 30, but I'm not. A big part of my sensibility about what makes for a risky, smart, original comedy - leads back to those greatest episodes of Ren & Stimpy.

9021 - Ren Ren_And_Stimpy Spumco ren_hoekCheck them out on YouTube; several episodes are illegally available there in HD.
Seasons one and two are available on DVD as a boxed set, about $32.
Avoid the later seasons, which are basically rote copies of the earlier seasons, with much of the terror stripped out.
But also avoid John K's later "lost episodes," which add too much openly adult humor, robbing the show of its tense surrealism. The simple addition of naked breasts and curse-words push these episodes into the frat-boy arena, knocking it wholly off its nervous-energy-charged perch between violence and silliness.
A reminder: greatness is precarious. It's in the details.

Mar 20, 2010

Weekend Writing Experiment

5821345I am at the Lamplighter on Van Nuys blvd, about two or three miles from my house. It is Saturday, and it  is 11AM. That's about two hours before I usually get up on weekends, and 2 hours after my alarm clock started going off.

In any case, I am here, and my laptop is open. I have one hour before I need to pick up Beezie at the airport. Then, I suspect I will be taking her to her place to take care of the cats, and then taking her to various dealerships to look at used cars, since hers was destroyed in an accident about two weeks ago.

I'm not feeling nearly as motivated at this hour of the day. Perhaps I'm just feeling less mentally sharp. Perhaps it's because the text messages and emails and conversations with my people, my mother, my roommate, my girlfriend, have already begun, and my mind is unable to focus on fiction and storytelling. Once again, I have this nagging emotional tug telling me that people are needing my attention.

Perhaps, on the weekends, this would work better at night. I should check out the closing hours on my way out.

The waitress just said, "That trips me out. I'm tripping," regarding someone's new haircut.

The biggest problem with this writing method is becoming clear: it may be too expensive. The bill is $8.97. With tip, that will be $12 or $13. It's a good motivator, sure: I've come all this way, subjected myself to feeling unwelcome, and spent the money - I had better write.

But is it sustainable at this price?

Also, I'm going to get fat.

Mar 19, 2010

Why Writers are Loners

Left 7:03 AM | Arrived 7:34 AM
Can I pause here to mention how deeply I wish I could just stay here at Norm's, hour after hour, writing, researching on the internet, and being a writer - rather than scurrying off to the vortex of distraction that is my paid employment?

Can I pause here to mention how much this strange, difficult, and expensive exercise has reminded me that I actually enjoy coming up with stories? As it turns out, I just don't enjoy doing so in competition with the demands of the world, with everything vying for my attention.

Mar 17, 2010

I Am Exhaustion

Left 7:03 AM | Arrived 7:39 AM
I'm not a morning person. I'm not even an afternoon person. Getting up at 6 AM these last three days has slowly replaced my blood with thick, bitter syrup.

The problem is, being a night owl, even if I've been up since 6 AM, I can't find my way to Sleepytown until well after midnight. And Sleepytown is a dump now, full of industrial pollution, strip malls, and like three Applebee's. And, you know what, everyone? Strip malls? They'd be much less reviled if they actually had strippers.

Last night, as I drifted off, I could feel how terribly tired I'd be today, and some part of my brain floated the idea of skipping a day of writing to sleep in. I'll call the part of my brain who floated that idea "Tommy."

Tommy was promptly taunted, tackled, and beaten within an inch of his life by every other part of my brain. The rest of my brain is composed of a 20-man team of really angry mixed martial artists.

I don't know why I rejected the idea so completely, but I did. So I had better figure out a way to make use of this time.

I'm a bit concerned that Tommy may have been the writing part of my brain, though...

Splitting Posts

I like to imagine that people read this blog, and I like to imagine that they have two different reasons for doing so.

Screenwriting Journal
One group is interested in watching stories take shape. They're interested in the creative process. They want to contribute, offer support, provide thoughtful criticism. Unfortunately, these readers have not figured out how to use the comment function yet, and instead, are speaking directly to their computer screens. Nonetheless, I have faith that they exist, and that they will eventually overcome this confusion, and we will all be enriched by it.

Personal Blog
Another group wants to keep up with me, Wilder. They want to read anecdotes, personal reflections, and the odd flotsam of opinion that constitutes the majority party in the Blogosphere Congress. These people are sick of picking through mountains of impenetrable screenwriting stone to find a few personal gems. For a while, I've been cross-posting the traditional-blog elements to misplacedwilder.livejournal.com, to keep the declassified information free and available to the world. But the number of posts available for that venue were reduced by flagrant cross-breeding between personal and professional talk.

Be It Resolved!
From here on out, I'm going to clearly separate my traditional-blog entries from my screenwriter-journal entries. They will likely be written in concert, as they have always been, and then separated into two posts, published in sequence.

Furthermore, you can find all the traditional-blog entries by clicking on the topic Personal, at the right. And you can find all of the screenwriting-journal entries by clicking on the project title in question, such as Sick Day.

I hope this helps everyone focus in on whatever they enjoy most.

I like to imagine that someone is enjoying something.

Mar 16, 2010

Dying Battery Metaphor

Left 7:11 AM | Arrived 7:54 AM
Heavy traffic today on the 405 south; taking the Burbank on-ramp was a mistake. In any case, even leaving an hour earlier, it's still the same dreary picture out there.

My mind spins imagining 3+ hours of this same endless gridlock, lane after lane, packed solid and crawling, every morning, every evening, day after day after day. How can it be permitted?

I'm frustrated this morning because my laptop battery is about to die.

This is not a metaphor, dammit.

Somehow, after plugging this sucker in at my bedside last night, the plug managed to pull completely out of the socket again. I would like to blame the earthquake, but had come unplugged at 4AM, it would have some life in it, instead of the 7% it charged while I got ready this morning.

I am disappointed.

As I mentioned, there was an earthquake last night at around 4AM, around 4.5 on the relevent scale. It set off the usual rolling wave of posts on Facebook, but I slept right through it - as I always do. Most earthquakes are indistinguishable from the dog scratching at the foot of the bed (or a fat person walking by you, or a big truck passing near the building), so I've learned to filter that sort of motion out of my consciousness. I'm puzzled by LA natives who are awoken by a tremble. It seems ... maladaptive.

Too Expensive . . .
I had two eggs, scrambled. She offered cheese, and I took it. I was disappointed to discover, it cost me extra. I had some cantaloupe and honeydew. And some sourdough toast. This was all part of a package, and it cost me exactly as much as my meal yesterday. Not okay.

Tomorrow: just fruit and coffee.

The Wrong Eggs . . .

Left home: 7:05 AM | Arrived at Norm's: 7:40 AM
My first day at Norm's, writing before work.

I just screwed up my waitress by taking my eggs over-easy, despite having ordered them scrambled. These were someone else's eggs. I'm eating the eggs of a girl with curly damp hair.

The short-order cook and the waitress are bickering loudly, now, and it's all my fault. I may not be able to follow my scheme and stay here a full hour...

They pressured me into getting the full bargain breakfast, which is two of everything, and is like seven bucks, all said. That was not the plan.

I'm gonna nibble on my hash-browns. They are my wall against needing to vacate this booth. They're my ASTRO-SMASH energy-shield, and I'm slowly shooting it from the underside.

For this metaphor to play out, the staff of NORM'S would need to be periodically eating my hash-browns from the other side.

The sign says they have free wifi here, but it appears to be password locked. Perhaps tomorrow, I'll ask for the password; certainly not today, when I've caused the waitress and the cook to bicker.

One Colorful Collar-full . . .
There's a wifi access point called "Free Public Wifi." It doesn't work. It never will.

The likelihood of me asking for the password has decreased to approximately 15%: the waitress just said to another customer, "I don't know what's wrong with the cook today." She took away my pancake plate and filled my bitter coffee. Tomorrow, I will order just two scrambled eggs.

It's 8:12 AM, the day after clocks jumped ahead one hour, and I feel like they want me to leave. This is crazy talk. Head down. Keep typing on your little powder-blue Muppet-baby laptop, friend.

"Free Public Wifi" has vanished again, leaving only "Norms Westwood." The chances of me asking for a password have increased to approximately 35%.

If the cashier smiles, I will ask.

The cook has a round face and in wearing a chef's hat and a white plastic bib apron. I can see the colorful collar of a Hawaiian shirt.

Hawaiiian has an amazing run of vowels. Especially when you add too many i's.

Feeling Unwelcome . . .
It's 8:30. I'm thinking, I get up at 8:45. I pay my bill. I go.

They've stopped topping off my coffee.

Am I ballsy enough to do this day after day?

Coffee Refill . . .
They refilled my coffee and inexplicably said, "Thank you." It seemed like they couldn't think of anything else to say.

The Time Hath Come . . .
Okay. I'm going to finish this cup of coffee, pay my bill, and go home.

And by home, I mean, to work.

I got the password.

Mar 14, 2010

New, All Over Again

35368-bigthumbnail I haven't written because I've been waning.

And you'd better believe, when I'm waning, I'm whining, if I'm writing at all. And thus, I thought I'd spare myself the sight of myself being so sloppy and dire. I'm in partial recovery now, but I warn you, I'm not symptom-free.

After all these years, you might wonder why I haven't found some way to avoid the seasons of mope. Similarly, you might wonder why, after all these years, humans haven't found some way to make it constantly daylight all over Earth. 

Well, it's because shit doesn't work that way. Shit is a force of nature. The moon slips into shadow, and lunacy dims. Then, there comes a period of sanity - dismal, doubtful, shining, stark sanity - a cool, porcelain sanity – a sanity that, it never fails, I fear may never break.

Yes, each time, I wonder if I'll write again. And yes, similarly, each night, I wonder if the sun will rise again. So, okay, fine. Clearly, everybody's got some flaws in their understanding of the solar system. But, according to a thing I heard this one time, the skies are like clockwork; they  keep doing the same things, over and over, for better or worse, and my creative cycle is basically like that.

When the moon is in shadow, it's easy to see things like a sane person would. 

It's easy to see that my arbitrary deadlines are arbitrary.

It's easy to see that I have no real audience waiting for my writing.

It's easy to see that this whole expedition is a tactical disaster, that it's time to cut my losses and save what little is salvageable.

It's easy to see that this writing-and-movies bullshit snake-oil-show has been an embarrassing waste of the only lifetime I'm likely to receive.

It's easy to go out to dinner, it's easy to sit in bed and read, it's easy to watch a movie on streaming, it's easy to drive somewhere I've never been, it's easy to play a game on my phone, it's easy to enjoy TV on DVD, to walk the dog, to clean the kitchen.

When the moon is in shadow, it's hard to find the urgency I felt when I was an idiot child.

It's hard to imagine myself like I once imagined I would become, as the head of a production team, as the master of a creative machine, as an award-winner, as a trend setter, as someone to study and admire.

It's hard to dream stupid dreams and be unashamed of them.

It's hard to keep doing what I've done a thousand, thousand, thousand times before, and still continue expecting different results.

When the moon is in shadow, it's hard to be crazy enough to do all this.

I suspect that everyone who struggles to prove themselves needs a healthy dose of lunacy.

How can a comedian, or a musician, or an actor, how can anyone, face a half-empty, disinterested house, and still perform?

They need madness.

How can a writer lay awake in bed, or sit alone at the keyboard, struggling to find a better idea, struggling to find a better phrase, struggling to make a better scene, when no one will read it or see it performed?

The only answer readily available - is madness.

I suspect that everyone who struggles to prove themselves wishes, in some small corner of their heart, that they were mad. If they were mad, they too could believe six impossible things before breakfast, even when the moon is tediously failing to be as full as it should.

And now I'm thinking -

Isn't it interesting, when the moon is called new, it's so very new - that it's not there at all?