Monday, May 28, 2007

Talking, But Not Asking

Ethel Update: She lives! Ethel Lives! Ethel is now up and about and zooming around Los Angeles like she always was. Turns out the gas sensor was stuck, so when the dial was reading that I had a sliver’s worth of gas left, enough to get me to the nearest gas station, it actually was that I had ZERO gas. Stella’s Wella is the most awesomest mechanic around, and I owe him my firstborn (nobody tell him that I’m not having kids, ha ha ha.)

So I was reading this book, 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You: (But Can't, Because He Needs the Job) a few weeks ago, because I’m a sucker for a Grab Me Title like that, and because the Los Angeles Public Library system is the best thing for people who don’t have the money or the space in their room to buy book after book.

This book is rather slight, though, barely a hundred pages, and while there are some topics that they don’t go into in depth as they could (such as The Role Of Women In The Church, which our own awesome chick pastor Dulcina covered much better a few weeks ago), and some topics that I think just COULDN’T be that easy to answer and thus will require more research on my part when I have time in, oh, mid 2009 (such as the Easy Peasy Presto answer that when the Bible talks about homosexuality, they’re using the Greek word for pedophilia.)

But there was one interesting thing I gleaned from it, which was the topic of prayer. The author defines prayer as (paraphrasing here) “A conversation with God, not simply a list of requests.”

And oh dear me, I am first in the line of offenders of Praying A Laundry List O’ Requests. Of course I am. I know SO many people whose moms are suffering from different forms of cancer. I know SO many people who’re trying to claw themselves out of the pit of depression and would love an Almighty Assist. And that’s before we get to my own personal prayers (which are short and simple: would like a better job, would like to sell a script, would like to love and be loved, please o please o please o please amen.)

But could I actually have a conversation with God where I wasn’t asking for anything? Well, that would be interesting to try. Ha, look at me. “That’d be interesting to try.” That’s probably what He’s been wanting THIS ENTIRE TIME.

Of course it’s difficult. I’d be chatting with God about my day, and thanking Him for the things that I do have (I have clothes on my back, I live in a house with a washer and dryer, I get to occasionally housesit in a mansion in Los Feliz, my car has come back from the dead)

But, as I am wont to do when I think I’m being all lofty and introspective, I ponder the issues that loom in the future (what’s gonna happen after this short term gig is over in another week, maybe I should switch temp agencies in the hopes of landing better jobs, I need to get my act together because I haven’t done any significant writing in at least two weeks, what the hell do I think I’m doing attempting to write a zombie graphic novel when I’ve never written for graphic novels before) I found myself sliding into Ask Speak again.

So I’d start off like this:

I dunno God, it seems pretty silly to try and write a graphic novel, like trying to start a TV writing career when you’re not in your 20s, and where do I start researching in the graphic novel world when I don’t wanna write for an established superhero, is this REALLY what I’m supposed to be doing?

Uh oh. You just asked a question.

…and it makes me wonder if this is what I’m supposed to be doing, writing an epic zombie graphic novel. THAT’S what you want me to do?

DING! Another question.

…I wonder if that’s what you want me to do, and when I say “I wonder” I mean I wonder in the non-question sense of the word. Because, honestly, could you give me a sign…


I mean…MAN, it sure would be nice to have a sign from somewhere, wouldn’t it?


I mean…it would be nice to have a sign if someone who just happened to be listening to me was in the mood to send such signs. And uh, well, no biggie if not. Just chatting here. Just shooting the breeze and all that.

So I’m sure God got a few chuckles out of it.

But seriously, what does it mean to have a conversation with God? Talking to someone who already knows everything you know, everything you’re thinking, and to make matters REALLY sticky, He knows what’s coming next. And yet you should forget that, try very hard not to ask him what’s coming next, and chat like a giddy schoolgirl over Starbucks frappuccinos. Did you SEE that hottie at the barbecue yesterday? Cut off his hair and slap a better shirt on him and MAN would he be good to go!

Then there’s a part of my brain that’s more than happy to trot out James 4, second half of verse 2, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” so I AM supposed to ask?

And hey, let’s include verse three, before someone with itchy Comment fingers calls me on it, “3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

So I AM allowed to ask, as long as it’s in the context of “Is this what you want me to be doing, because if it isn’t, please send a Mack Truck to knock me off course before I really get too deep and waste too much time on zombies, if in fact I’m supposed to be writing about puppies instead.” (I suppose I could always throw a dog into the zombie idea. Since, by all accounts, zombies don’t give a hoot about a dog. Seriously, being a dog during a zombie attack is golden. Like being a fish during a flood.)

I dare you all to try it. Try talking to God without asking him for anything. It’s really hard.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #41 – The Big Gay Jeep

Behold: The Big Gay Jeep, my transportation for the past week, and possibly longer if Ethel refuses to submit to the tender administrations of Wella.

The Big Gay Jeep has saved my ass, as this new job has me driving all over creation, including twice to the tony neighborhoods of Bel Air. Once again, my life is taking unexpected turns, which I don’t mind so much. It’s not like you could PLAN meeting in a superrich home twice in one week to discuss parking passes for a charity event.

But The Big Gay Jeep has been through it all with me, and it has a CD player, which I know is standard now in most every single car (actually, maybe the CD player is already obsolete, maybe now it’s all about satellite radio, or a place for your Ipod player), but Ethel is so old that she missed that boat. Maybe that’s why she’s throwing this fit. Maybe she got sick and tired of the other cars on the block making fun of her shortcomings in the audio department. Maybe she’s on strike until I install an Ipod dock.

Since most of my music is all digital based, and since I have an Ipod, the need for mix CDs is not as pressing as it used to be, so I’ve been taking trips down memory lane with CDs I haphazardly grab from the towering piles that are collecting dust in my room as I trot out to the Big Gay Jeep.

One of them happened to be Paul Westerberg’s Eventually, and this song accompanied my long long drive up and down Bel Air:

These are the days, no one sees.
They run together for company.
I am the day no one needs
There'll never come another one like me

It’s a bouncy little tune, reminds me of anywhere other than L.A., and I can most certainly identify with the blend of self-pity and confident arrogance. HA!

Dear God thank you for the Big Gay Jeep. Thank you for Mella, who’s let me borrow it for the week. Thank you that it runs, thank you that it has a CD player, thank you for long ago forgotten songs that surprise me when they float out of the speakers. Thank you for friends who continue to come to my rescue, thank you for arranging the details behind the scenes, and thank you for Paul Westerberg, who doesn’t know me, but still affects me to this day. Thank you thank you thank you. Amen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

God Was Here

Okay, okay, okay, I’m sorry, I know I’m really late. I do, however, have a pretty good reason. But first, there is a preface.

One of the reasons that I’m as much of a cranky Christian as I am is because I get really annoyed when I hear blissed out people talking about how God is working and moving so prominently and obviously in their lives. You know the type I’m talking about. The ones that are SO blissed out, wide eyed, moony beamy faces, you’re waiting for someone to slap a cup of Kool-Aid in their hand and they’ll gulp it down and blissfully stretch themselves out on the altar and go off to meet their maker and the quicky made-for-TV-movie about their cult lands on CBS staring Dean Cain, Lea Thompson, or Markie Post in three months.

But just as obviously, a large part of my annoyance is centered in envy. Why is God working so prominently in THEIR lives? Has He forgotten about me? No. So where is He? Is it one of those things where I have to stop being cranky and THEN He’ll show up? Because it’s chicken and the egg, stop being cranky, God will show. But when God doesn’t show, I get cranky. God very well knows my crankiness, and if He’s truly sovereign, he wouldn’t need me to be all beamy before He shows up. And yet, I listen to these monologues about how God really did provide for me to get pregnant, for me to get a better job, for me to get a cash money offer on my house, and I simply want to puke.

Frankly with this kind of attitude, I can’t believe God bothers with me in the first place.

See, now I gotta backtrack. It’s not like He’s never around. He is, of course, of course. But the way He usually works is that things’ll get really rough, I’ll scream up some desperate prayers, and about two weeks later, things’ll start happening. That’s what happened with the finances, and the job situation recently. That two week interim truly blows, where I’m trying so hard to be patient, to be faithful, to believe that He’s tinkering around with the details and will pull off the drop cover in just another 10 days or so, unveiling some solution that once again gets my head above water (there’s a whole other blog entry to be done about how I’m wishing I could get more than my head above water. God is there to help me sustain, but damn it all if I wish I could do BETTER than sustain. If I could THRIVE, that’d be awesome.)

But it usually takes two weeks or so for the Holy Drop Cloth to be unveiled.

So here we are last Saturday night. It was a day chock full of events, of me running around from one meeting to another, from this group to that group, helping out here, taking notes there, blah blah blah. The end of the evening is me attending Curly Sue’s birthday party, and for a split second, I was almost not going to go, because running all over Los Angeles all day long had left me pretty wiped, and I wanted to take a dip in the hottub in Basil and Ginger Puppy’s backyard. But people were pleading with me to go, because my crankiness is sooooooooo sparkling and crowd pleasing, so I jump back in the car and head out to the bar.

And the car decides to die.

Ethel the car is getting on in years, and she doesn’t get a bath as much as she should, and there was the time two months ago that someone tried to steal her and she wouldn’t give them the time of day, so they stole my eyeglasses as punishment (which costs me $300 to get a new pair, thanks.) But she hadn’t been doing anything weird to the point where I was thinking, uh-oh. Ethel’s heading for a breakdown.

And yet here we are, on the side of Fountain Avenue, between Gardner and Curson, and Ethel has given up the ghost.

I don’t throw a fit. This isn’t as surprising as I’d like it to be. Maybe it’s the result of getting older, but letting go of useless anger is simple, (and it’s being replaced by useless melancholy, ha ha ha.) Getting angry isn’t going to kick Ethel in gear. It’s time to get logical and rational, and to form a plan about who do I call, who do I call who’s nearby, who do I call who’s nearby and sober.

And, true to form, the people who I do call who are nearby send a complete stranger who’s sober, because they are not. The complete stranger is pleasant and helpful and waits with me for the tow truck, and I’m touched.

But it’s just one of a series of events that secular people would call Serendipity.

1. At one of the Saturday events (before Ethel kicked off), I spoke with a friend, Stella, and good naturedly laid a guilt trip on her to meet me at church the next day, because nothing gets people to church like GUILT.

2. After towing Ethel back to my house, I jump in Roomie Jekyll’s car, who just happens to be out of town, so I can get back to Basil and Ginger Puppy in Los Feliz for the night.

3. On Sunday morning, realizing that I have to get Roomie Jekyll’s car back to the house before Roomie Jekyll comes home from Canada at noon, I email Stella and say I’m not gonna make it to church because Ethel croaked and I gotta figure out how I’m gonna rent a car and get Ethel to a mechanic on a Sunday when no mechanics work.

4. As I quickly try to do as many errands as possible before giving back Roomie Jekyll’s car, Stella calls on my cell, saying it’s my lucky day, her husband Wella used to be a car mechanic, and better yet, his brother owns the same type of car I do, so Wella will be stopping by this afternoon to check Ethel out and see what he can see.

5. Wella does indeed stop by that afternoon and Ethel has never had so much male attention in her life. If she were alive, she’d be beaming like the aforementioned cult member.

6. Wella ends up taking engine parts home with him to do some testing and says he can get back to me on Friday. As I steel myself for a week worth of walking, my friend Mella emails me and says I can borrow his car, he’ll use his roommate’s car, who’s out of town. “You’d let me do that?” “Honey, I’d give you a kidney. What’s a car in the cosmic scheme of things?”

So here I am. Ethel is still dead in the driveway, and I’m tooling around in a Big Gay Jeep. Seriously. Check back for a picture.

So some people would say it’s Serendipity. But I know it’s God. I’m humbled. I’m red faced with embarrassment and gratitude.

I’m stunned. Not just at how quickly my friends stepped up to help me (do you know it’s easier to get someone to lend you their car in Los Angeles than it is to get someone to read your script?) But how quickly God stepped up to help. No two-week delay here. No shouted up prayers of desperation, when it would’ve been warranted on Fountain Avenue on a Saturday night. You know how every other blog entry on here is me bouncing around on my head going “Where’s God? Where’s God? WHERE’S GOD!?”

Here was God. God was here. God was here for the Cranky Christian, and I'm still tearing up just thinking about it.

Here was God. God was here. Amen.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #40 – Cocktail Hour On the Housesitting Guest House Roof

As soon as I came back from Orlando, I jumped in the car and drove up to Basil and Ginger Puppy’s house for a week long housesitting gig. There’s been massive amounts of construction in the backyard as they’ve put in a pool, a hottub, a guesthouse, and a puzzling statue of a giant abstract bunny.

So every day this week Basil, Ginger Puppy, and myself have had cocktail hour on the guesthouse roof when I get home from work. It’s been nonalcoholic so far – a pudding up here, a Diet Coke there – ‘cause the dogs are trying to cut back. HA!

But it’s been lovely to take thirty to forty minutes out of the day to simply look out over this part of Los Angeles and talk to God. Or attempt to. More on that later.

Dear God thank you for this life. Thank you for this generous opportunity that I have with Basil and Ginger Puppy and the housesitting house. Thank you that it is possible to create space in the day to sit (well stand) and think. No matter how crazy life gets, you help me create space for myself. Thank you for giving me discipline, thank you for giving me dedication. Thank you for helping me give myself space. Thank you for helping me give myself THIS space. Thank you thank you thank you. Amen.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fighting the forces of EVIL

Why should I type about how the weekend went when I can let the pictures do it for me, with slight commentary, eh?

We were in Orlando, celebrating Bug’s fifth birthday. Silly me, I thought this weekend was going to be relaxing. Instead, we were fighting the forces of EVIL. For as you will see, Bug has been possessed by a demon, and it was only by the grace of God we got out with our LIVES.

Here she is before the madness took old, a happy little now five year old.

And here she is, trying to choke the Big Fat Beagle Rolo.

(Rolo herself looks strangely like Brer Fox from Song Of The South.

Maybe Bug is getting messages from her toys. Here, we see a Satanic Snow White. Her red eyes give everything away.

When we told the other toys (who collectively look like a group of wanna-be Heathers) there was a demon in their midst, they promptly formed a prayer circle and chanted “In the name of Jesus Christ, I cast you OUT SATAN!” It worked so well it took out a topiary Minnie Mouse and Jasmine from Aladdin.

But we weren’t taking any chances, and decided to get Bug cleansed by resort pool (featuring subliminal restorative powers!) She seemed to sense what was up, and tried to lean away.

Then she tried to kick God out of the water.

Finally she submitted, (though she thought she was standing on a water spout.)

Her final act of defiance was to turn into Wonder Woman (via a costume supplied by me for her birthday)

But at last, salvation appeared in the form of alcohol. And she’s all better now. HA!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #39 – Getting Out Of Los Angeles

I’m in Orlando for the weekend, as my Bug niece is turning five. I always like going somewhere better than coming back. The start of a possible adventure rather than the end. There is nothing NOTHING more depressing than flying back to Los Angeles, though that may possibly be because I have the world’s worst luck in ever getting someone to pick me up from the airport. BUT! We’re not at that moment yet, and I did get someone to drop me off this morning (thank you, sir) so hopefully it’s a sign that this weekend is going to be filled with fluffy bunnies and rainbows and cupcakes and happiness and joy joy joy all around.

Dear God, thank you for airplanes. Thank you for reasons to leave Los Angeles. Thank you for birthdays, for my family, for this laptop, for this minute, thank you for this second. Yes, we’re literally taking it second by second these days. So thank you for that one. And this one. And this one. And this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The phone call

Okay, I’m gonna be drop dead honest, and some of you will want to throttle me for not being specifically honest with the individual you, but them’s the breaks, and I will maybe explain later when you buy me lots of alcohol (or maybe not.)

For the past two weeks I’ve driven to work every morning and had huge crying fits in the parking garage. I sob. I create mountains of used Kleenex. And I pray. I pray, I beg, I plead to God to please please please DO SOMETHING HERE. Fix my life. I hand it over, it’s Yours, please get me out of these circumstances.

The thing about being a screenwriter, aspiring or not, is that a lot of your life revolves around the lottery phone call. The one call from out of the blue where so and so that you worked with once, or so and so that you sent a script to once has FINALLY read the script and loved it, or FINALLY got the financing together and hey boys and girls, we’re making a MOVIE in the backyard!

And I realized during the last fit last week that I’m expecting the same thing from God. I send up the flotilla of prayers, and I’m expecting him to deliver the metaphorical lottery phone call that will save me from my life. I’m expecting it INSTANTLY. When the reality is, God aint your Genie in a lamp. He’ll deliver you in His time, not yours. And it’s never instantaneously.

Which isn’t to say it doesn’t happen. Because He did send a phone call, in the form of a short term job, a different job, one that starts later this week. My way out of this particular Boring Circle Of Hell. And there’s nothing to guarantee I won’t exit into another antechamber of hell, a different kind of hell. But at least it won’t be here.

And for that, it’s a Praise God indeed.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #38 – Don Music on Sesame Street

Here’s the tricky thing about memory, just when you’re absolutely positive you remember something from your childhood, after some searching about on Google and Youtube, you’ll discover that you were wrong on one crucial detail that scotches the whole thing.

All these years, I thought for SURE that it was the Sesame Street Muppet and game-host-with-the-most-Guy Smiley who would bang his head repeatedly into the piano wailing “Oh, I’ll NEVER get it, I’ll NEVER get it!” Never once did it occur to me that it’s a little out of character for our ever excited Guy Smiley, who normally wields a microphone and doles out prizes to Cookie Monster and presides over game shows like What’s My Part to do something like surrender to a fit of mopeyness, nope, nope, I was positive that it was him.

And yet, I am drop dead wrong. It is not Guy Smiley It is Don Music.

I can be forgiven a bit. It’s basically Guy Smiley’s face, an early prototype of eyeglasses that would eventually morph into what Scooter wears on The Muppet Show, and hair that looks like what Whitney Houston was sporting in her crack binges at the fleabag motel days.

There’s longer clips on Youtube of different songs that Don Music composes himself (The Alphabet Song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Declaration Of Independence) yet this one encapsulates everything that cracks me up about Don Music. The seriousness of the task ahead (composing Mary Had A Little Lamb) the I-Am-Doing-Something-EXTREMELY-Important-And-Have-No-Idea-How-Ridiculous-I-Am composure (much like that puffbag James Lipton on Inside The Actor’s Studio) And the Woe Is Me The World Is OVER I Tell You Panic when Don can’t find the rhyming word that causes him to eat the keyboard with his forehead.

It makes me laugh and laugh and laugh. I hope it comes through here on the clip I’m attempting to embed.

Dear God, thank you for Don Music. Thank you for the late, brilliant Richard Hunt, his Muppeteer. Thank you for Jim Henson and the rest of the Muppet crew, for giving us such a wonderful world that has never been equaled since. Thank you for Youtube. I know I enter dangerous territory here, since there’s all sorts of legal issues and stuff, but honestly, if it wasn’t for youtube, I never would’ve figured out how my memory has been so faulty all these years, so thank you that it’s still up and still free, for however long it lasts.

And God, we both know how my head works. So if we play the recently neglected game of I’m Me, Where’s God In This Scenario, then I’m Don Music, trying to craft my life (song), failing to see the obvious next step (note), and there You (Kermit) are, carefully observing the situation, removed enough to frustrate me, and only stepping in to suggest the winning phrase after I throw a fit, give up completely, and embed all 88 keys across my face. Sure is funny. To YOU. Kidding! Thank you for laughter, thank you that You are present, even if You seem frustratingly remote. I know You’re there, somewhere. Lose the microphone, though. HA!