Sunday, June 03, 2007

Courage, friends, it's a long entry

Okay, let’s see if I can make this puppy fly tonight. It’s gonna be a long one, I can tell already.

A disclaimer: I’ve been reading again. Actual books, which is unlike me. Even though every writer worth their salt should ALWAYS be reading books. Since it’s summer, and we’re officially done with TV shows until Fall, I have time to read books. And since too many people recommended it, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love . But I could be reading anything good, and be struck with the same realization that I need to be MORE of a writer. I need to string a florid phrase, I need to describe a situation with just the right words, I need to inspire feeling in those to read me, just like I’m inspired by reading Elizabeth Gilbert. Hence, I will do my very very best to inhabit the shoes of a Writer, and the fact I just used two “very”s automatically means we’re doomed. We’re hosed, people. I apologize in advance.

Our entry tonight actually starts yesterday, as the Unnamed Charity Event that I had been helping the Event Planner for the past three weeks finally happened. I had taken this short gig in order to escape the Pay TV division of the Unnamed Movie Studio. I knew it was going to be a nightmare, yet I knowingly and willingly made the choice to do it, knowing it was the right choice to make (anything would be better than Pay TV), but I landed in yet another miserable situation. Which begs the question of whether my life has devolved to a series of one miserable circumstance after another, only varying in degree of intensity. Not a lower level of Hell, but an antechamber, with new horrors in colors of orange, purple, and yellow, and vendors who haven’t invoiced us yet, and fax machines that don’t have ink, and delivering parking instructions to all the major agencies who will someday kill to rep me, I tell myself so I don’t shoot myself right there on the Wilshire corridor.

But let’s not wallow.

The Unnamed Charity Event yesterday was a music and arts and crafts festival for kids (or rather, industry kids, whose moms and dads are shakers and movers in the industry and can afford $1500 a package.) So there were plenty of arts and crafts booths for the tiny tots to knock themselves out on. Balloon drums, Necklace Making, Dress Like A Rock Star, Custom Spray Paint Your Uggs Boots, and then…the tattoo booth. Not real tattoos of course, but spray paint ones, administered by a very jolly Tattoo Man and his staff of five. They last three to five days, and everyone wanted one.

I had been in close correspondence with Jolly Tattoo Man, as we worked to get his issues taken care of (we’re working three hours, no wait, we’re working four hours, unload your equipment here, then park HERE, not there, HERE.) And he wanted me to make sure I stopped by the booth to say hi, having spent hours and hours on the phone.

So when I got my break from the Check In Table, and after eating two Churros and one Fudgesicle (everything’s FREE), I headed over to say hi. And Jolly Tattoo Man is so jolly that he INSISTS I get a tattoo, I HAVE to, he’ll take care of me PERSONALLY, he’s having such a great time at this event.

I just have to pick a design.

This is a kid’s event, so no peeing Calvin and Hobbes tats here. There’s shimmering hearts, suns, moons, stars, astrology symbols, and Chinese characters indicating lovely states o’ being, like Good, Luck, Dream.

It’s here that I remember I’m supposed to read Scripture at church Sunday. And I think it would be funny if I waltzed up in front of the congregation with a tat winking out from the inside of my wrist. Not that we’re an uptight conservative bunch. We’re not even a congregation so much as a loose collective. But it would make me laugh. On the inside.

There aren’t any God tattoos, however, nor are there any Spiritually Seeking, Relentlessly Questioning, Overall Befuddled tattoos. I’m looking at the choices of the Chinese characters: Love, Wish, Awesome, Courage.

Courage. I pick Courage.

I pick Courage, not because there’s a zinging feeling through my soul of YES! THIS IS THE TATTOO YOU MUST HAVE, but because it’s the best of an awkward bunch, and it’s still an awkward choice, but I think that Courage is a good quality to have, and maybe imprinting it on my wrist will, I dunno, remind me that I need to be brave?

About what, though, about what? I wonder to myself as Jolly Tattoo Man gently takes my wrist and applies the design (bigger than I thought it would be, but again COURAGE, Amy, COURAGE.) he does a nifty shadow effect, and highlighting detail, but I stop him from using the glitter spray, since I am not five years old.

So now I am the proud owner of a 3 to 5 day Courage tattoo, and I have to take their word for it that it means Courage, and not Easily Duped American.

Driving home after the event ended, I find myself thinking about Courage. Courage. I hear the Cowardly Lion now, and his song that always meant time to take a nap or get another Coke from the kitchen when I would watch Wizard Of Oz on the CBS broadcast (brought to you by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese!)

What does courage mean? Let’s get an official ruling from

cour·age [kur-ij, kuhr-]–noun
1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

What am I fearing in my life right now that my Courage tattoo could chase away? I’m on the verge of tears at any given moment these days, those tears come from someplace inside me that’s that’s what, grief? Depression? FEAR!? A-HA! I FOUND YOU, FEAR! NAME IT AND CLAIM IT SO I CAN FLASH MY COURAGE TATTOO AND BANISH IT!

I’m scared I’m not a good writer. I’m scared I’ll never sell a script. I’m scared that I don’t have a plan. I used to have a plan, I had goals, and steps and progress reports and charts and deadlines and everything. And those goals, those steps, those reports, have not worked. It’s not an isolated incident. I’ve taken writing sabbaticals, sometimes by choice, sometimes by jobs being ripped out from under me, and nothing has produced a piece of material that sold. Yes, there have been plays I’ve written that I’ve co-produced, and rapturous response followed, but the last one of note was two years ago. The pressure to beautifully yak up another fully formed masterpiece to once again sound the trumpets that AMY! IS A GREAT WRITER! ALL THAT TIME SHE DIDN’T SHOW YOU ANYTHING WAS MERELY HER COOKING UP THIS WORK O’ ART IN HER LAB! Is enough to make me want to carve up this 3 to 5 day Courage Tattoo because the stuff I’m working on now people don’t LIKE, they liked the OTHER draft better, go BACK, no, DO THIS, no, DO THAT, no DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, THAN THIS DRAFT YOU GAVE US BECAUSE IT BLOWS!

But let’s not wallow.

This morning, I read Scripture in church, and it’s not until I get there, and huddle with Pastor Bernard about the proper way to pronounce “Denarius” (Bernard’s response is “Up to you, I’m saying “Day’s worth of wages””) that it hits me that maybe Courage is supposed to get me through my two minute bout of public speaking. I don’t necessarily hate public speaking, but I do hate people looking at me. But it’s not like I have to have the thing memorized, I can read it from the sheet, so all I’ll be seeing is this, and my Courage Tattoo egging me on.

Then, about five minutes before I’m supposed to go on, I get the brilliant idea that I should take my camera up there with me and take a picture. Why not!? Because church isn’t about you and what you want. But it’ll be great for the blog! My Mom hasn’t seen the new digs we moved into! It’s proof that I did it! No other Scripture Reader has gone up there and taken a picture! I’ll be unique! It’s uniquely me! It’s not about you. It’ll take, like, two seconds tops.

There’s three seconds worth of terror as I fly by the seat of my pants and juggle the microphone, the camera and my script, but I asked everyone to smile, and as you can see, most everyone gamely did so (When I showed Roomie Heckle the picture, he said, “Nobody’s sitting in the front row.” Nobody ever sits in the front row of our Loose Collective. Nobody. It’s a thing with us. Roomie Heckle also said I was going to hell for taking a picture from the pulpit. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we don’t actually HAVE a pulpit. But the question of whether I’m going to hell is still up for grabs. I notice Pastor Bernard’s wife, Bernice, is not looking especially thrilled.)

I got through the Parable of The Vineyard And The Workers without further incident. It was so frightfully easy that Courage wasn’t even a factor, so this Scripture Reading Avec Camera, while fun, couldn’t be the reason I needed a Courage tattoo, right?

Late in the afternoon, I decide I’m going to LACMA. I can’t stay in the house, I’ll be swallowed up by the Your Life Sucks So PANIC Tornado. I shove the camera, Roomie Jekyll’s LACMA card, my Ipod, Eat Pray and Love in a bag and take off on foot.

LACMA’s a bit of a bust, since two floors are closed for renovation. I say hi to my boyfriend briefly (he’s upset that nobody stops to pay attention to him,) and decide that maybe I’ll head over to Callender’s to have a glass of chardonnay, and read Elizabeth Gilbert at the bar and pretend I’m in Rome eating authentic pizza and learning Italian. That seems like a plan. A PLAN.

So I start meandering, and I’m talking to God and trying not to ask questions, and the conversation is going something like it’s just that I don’t know what Your plan for me is, and I would very much like to know, so I can get it in gear and be in Your will and make life all sorts of happy and beautiful, so if You feel at all like sending a sign, go for it.

That’s when a guy suddenly falls into step with me. “Hello,” he says in accented English, “Did you enjoy the concert?” He’s around 50, fat, coke bottle glasses, loud obnoxious blue shirt. He came up from behind me, which must mean Amy’s Amazing Ass once again cast its unstoppable powers of attraction without asking permission.

I remain remotely polite, saying I didn’t go to the concert, but he doesn’t let up, and doesn’t go away. His name is Eddie, he’s originally from Havana, been in Los Angeles since 1997, blah blah blah, go away, Eddie, go away. Take the hint that I’m not looking at you as a sign and go away.

A sign. A part of me is thinking This is my sign? Creepo Random Eddie is a sign? NOOOOOO! I don’t wanna talk to him! He’s EXTREMELY friendly, and I’m getting weirded out. He is not my sign. He is not my plan. He’s NOT.

We’re out of the park by now, and I don’t want him following me to Callender’s, so I say I’m going the other way and say goodbye. I’m now walking towards my house, so the question becomes do I bag the Callender’s idea all together for fear that Eddie will make his way there and I’ll look like a moron if I walk in the door and he’s at the bar? Or do I damn it all and plow forward, intent on creating my idyllic alcoholic literary scenario?

I actually stop and ask God. What’s the plan? What do you want me to do?

And then I realize it. The fear. It would take more courage to NOT go home and to go to Callender’s, braving any Creepo Random Guys past or future, in order to create my idyllic alcoholic scenario. Creepo Random Eddie was not a sign, but I think he was a test. And I look down at my wrist to see El Courago Tatto-O smiling up at me. Yeah? Yeah? Yeah?

Off I go on an extremely roundabout route back to Callender’s. I stake a place at the bar, order a lovely glass of Chardonnay recommended by Jimmy the bartender and finish the Italy chapter of Eat Pray Love while the rest of the gentlemen in the bar are pissed that the cable’s out and they can’t watch the Red Sox versus the Yankees on the TV.

And I’m enjoying a lovely buzz, since the glasses they pour are quite sizeable, and the obligatory piano bar player is playing the NOT obligatory piano version of Engima’s “Principles of Lust Part B: Find Love.” Most folks just listen to “Principles of Lust Part A: Sadeness.” You’ve gotta be REALLY dedicated to get to Part B. That makes me smile. I am so lucky I had the Courage to get to here tonight.


Allison said...

What else were you "cooking in your lab"? Sorry, but you made that one really easy. :)

And I read this entire post. When you said it was long, I scrolled down to see exactly how long it was going to be, and... it's a good thing I was sitting. But as I got farther into it, I had to keep going. Not because I felt obligated or I was dying to know what was going on in your life (okay, a little bit of the latter, but not the same way as Creepo Eddie). But mostly because I had to know the end of the story.

So unless your zombies bear no resemblence to your boyfriend, take heart! You have readers, and I'm sure when the time is right, you'll have viewers, too. (Again, not in the same way as Creepo Eddie.)

Carlen said...

I read this, plus the whole link to your BOYFRIEND, in one smooth, easy shot. Must be good writing. Not too long for me...
And thank God for your wisdom. My Act One peeps are giving me the goods lately - thank you for your encouragement and not being an "a,b, and c" kind of person.

Allison said...

Darn it! I hate it when I don't say exactly what I mean.

So here's attempt number 2:

When I first looked at the post, it was long. It was stinkin' long. It was so long I was certain I'd have to come back today to finish it.

But you hooked me and you kept it moving. And I seriously had to keep reading.

So I mostly was right the first time, but I just want to be clear that when I said I had to see the end, I didn't mean that the rest of it was boring. It was long the way MI3 was long -- but I watched it twice in theaters and bought it.

Okay, I'm done backtracking. And you probably knew what I meant all along.