Monday, October 27, 2008

They Can’t All Be Winners

I try, people, I really do. Call myself Amy The Writer, and at the very least of what I should be doing is coming up with witty thoughtful posts about God, me, my daily devotionals, and how God speaks to me in fabulous glorious ways, and every entry should just positively dripping with insight that would make a reader smack their head and go “Eureka! She said it, and so now I understand it!”

But instead, I’m gonna talk about Georgia the dog and the Mission Hills corn maze.

(in all honesty, I’m working like a madman on a rewrite of a play I’m doing a staged reading of in two weeks. All fabulous insight is currently being channeled into writing about Munchkins and blind devotion in worship. It makes sense in context, I promise.)

Here’s Miss Georgia. She belongs to Stella and Wella, and this is the first they’re hearing about this, as they were away this weekend volunteering at the brain tumor camp that I helped out with last year. Ooooooooh, I can't WAIT for that email! This is what you get, Stella and Wella! You promised me we were gonna go drinking, and then you up and leave for a brain tumor camp! Get ready for a story about what your DOG did!

They’re neighbors with Norman and Nellie, so they’re watching Georgia for the weekend. And I had to be in Norman’s living room at the unfortunate hour of 9am on a Saturday morning, so you know I’m looking for any distraction other than the nonprofit board meeting at hand.

Georgia may not look it, but she’s something like 13 years old, which means she’s practically dead in dog years. She’s obviously cute and adorable, but also, as Norman pointed out,subtle and evil. (Okay fine, Norman just said she was subtle and passive aggressive. I added the evil part.) She’s like the Grandma who beats Sylvester with an umbrella in the Loony Tunes cartoon, then when the policeman turns around, instantly assumes the Innocent Grandma act, whistling, and rocking back and forth, why no, I did NOT just do anything. Except in Georgia’s case, it’s, I’m gonna hang out right by your feet and you’re gonna think I’m innocent, and the second one of the other dogs comes up, I’m gonna turn into a snarling freakazoid and attack the other dog for daring to enter my space.

Georgia is also the only dog I’ve ever seen who literally shook herself off a chair. She was sitting on the chair next to me, she decided to do one of those full body shakes that all dogs do. But the cushion slipped underneath her, and she saves herself by leaping into thin air. And I caught her. I caught the evil passive aggressive almost dead in dog years dog.

She has bad breath too. And one bottom tooth that sticks out of her mouth at all times, like a saber tooth tiger. But still is cute.

On Sunday, I went with a group of friends to the Forneris Farms corn maze in Mission Hills. This is the first time I’ve ever done something like this, and you would think a farm with a corn maze, tractor rides, a farmer’s market and kettle corn would be in a cute little remote area, maybe by a lake or something. Nope, it’s smack in the middle of Mission Hills, in between a high school and a cemetery.

The maze was rated E for Easy, but I and my group are dum dum chuckleheads, and got lost plenty of times. Yeah, they all laughed at me for eating my roasted corn on the cob before we got in the maze, they laughed as I double fisted my bottles of water. But that corn is DRY, man. Walking among row after row after row of tall tall corn stalks dehydrates you just by looking at them. I had to keep hydrated so I could mock up Children Of The Corn pictures with Maxine.

And yeah, there’s probably a metaphor there about how wandering around in a corn maze is like Moses and the Israelites wandering around the dessert for 40 years (we were in there for 40 minutes.) And how you shouldn’t just blindly follow the person in front of you (who was Nadine), but maybe look down at the map (or up at God) and stop and take stock of your life, I mean, where you think you are on the map. But that metaphor is for another time.

I did get us through the Democrat donkey legs. Yeah, the part where there’s only one way to go, I ROCKED that part. Heh.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sooooooooo tired.

Worked all day yesterday on a short I wrote. They're still going for two more days, while I go back to my job. They're much better people than I am.

I'm so tired I haven't even had a chance to acknowledge that my housesitting gig is over, and I don't have to walk dogs twice a day.

Sooooooooo tired.

More coherent post later this week. Maybe.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tummy Rubs For Everyone

My monthly prayer group meeting was last night, and in between prayers for the nation (because some members think we’re heading towards the End Times, and you all would’ve been so proud of me, I didn’t say a THING. Not even that my Kundalini Yoga instructor thought we were in the End Times based on a stray swarm of locusts report, and that was back in 2002), and in between prayers for famous people to not be afraid of living like Christians (one of them actually prayed for Bono to be MORE obvious in living like a Christian, and he’s a fairly big faith-on-his-sleeve guy) we prayed for joy for me.

I didn’t ask for those prayers. I don’t generally ask for anything for me in my monthly or weekly prayer groups. I’m not a big believer in making a laundry list of Stuff for AMY, and it’s hard to say that in these situations when everyone else is asking for Stuff, or else you make them feel bad. I’m all about praying for other people, sure, why not, not necessarily stuff, but for those lovely intangibles like patience, peace, discernment, la la la.

But no, I’m not praying for Pink Piggy to get into Sundance, or Slamdance, or whatever festival it’s being submitted to. Pink Piggy is going to go where it goes, and it’s going to get there regardless of what prayers are or are not offered. It’s not that I don’t have faith in God. And it’s not that I don’t have faith in the film. But I refuse to believe that a film gets into a festival because enough people prayed for it to happen. Because that smells suspiciously like God Is Your Personal Genie In A Bottle, or If Enough People Clap Their Hands, Tinkerbell LIVES. Sorry, Pink Piggy Producers.

Other people in the group were praying for their film to do well in whatever festival it was going to, and that the right people in the form of managers and agents and buyers would be there to see their film and jump start their career. So they all prayed for that, and I prayed instead that the person would get miles and miles of patience no matter what the outcome.

Last month and last night, despite my No Stuff Rule, the group prays for Joy For Amy. It’s an intangible, I guess I’ll let it slide. It didn’t necessarily work (because they didn’t mean it, HA!) I’ve been in a funk for awhile now, and it’s exacerbated by literally being displaced by this housesitting gig. Fifi and Winston have to be walked twice a day, and they take FOREVER to complete one loop around the block, which gives me a lot of time to talk to God about why do I feel so bummed out so much of the time (one of the group members last night prayed that I would be mindful of any symptoms that might present themselves as low grade depression.)

I’m working on three things right now. Striped Tiger, Purple Monkey (three years and still going), and Polka Dotted Platypus. There is pressure the likes of which I’ve not experienced before, which must mean I’m on my way to being a professional writer, ho ho ho.

There’s enormous expectations for whatever I churn out next to be great. Great like my last script (which got produced) was, like my last play was (which was a commercial success and got nifty reviews.) It’s not just the pressure I put on myself, it’s the unconscious pressure from other people. There’s also a time crunch going on. Striped Tiger has to be ready by the time we anticipate Pink Piggy to make a splash at the film festivals. Polka Dotted Platypus has to be ready for its staged reading next month, and it’d better be great, because we’re gonna produce it next year. Purple Monkey was supposed to be ready a year and a half ago, and it’s only a matter of time before someone else thinks of its big hook, blah blah blah.

I’m not one of these writers who don’t like to write. I don’t understand those people, frankly. I don’t mind writing, the clickety clack of the keys is the sound of my brain waves buzzing, if I can make myself laugh with my jokes, it’s awesome.

But these days, my writing is tempered with this undercurrent of not good enough, not good enough, not good enough. You can do better, you can do better, you can do better. You’ve done better before, do better now, now, now, now.

My jokes aren’t funny enough. My plots aren’t logical enough. My characters aren’t consistent to their motivations (when they have motivations.)

Do you guys know what the very best line of dialogue is? It’s the first line of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The beginning of the Baby Herman cartoon, where Baby Herman’s mom says to Baby Herman:

Mommy's going to the beauty parlor, darling. But I'm leaving you with your favorite friend, Roger. He's going to take very, very good care of you... (voice turns ominous)...cause if he doesn't, he's going back to the science lab!

That’s brilliant on so many levels. It explains not only what the cartoon is gonna be about, but the stakes, why a babysitter is a rabbit, and why a rabbit can talk. And the whole damn thing is funny as hell.

That’s the standard I hold myself to. The standard I’m not hitting lately.

It’s the pressure, I know it. But I don’t know how to make it go away, because time is running out. I’m not blocked, I’m writing, just a steady stream of blegh.

How to make Blegh into Brilliant when I’m Bummed. Right.

At least the dogs are better. Fifi and I are best buddies now. She sleeps on the bed with me at night (Winston does his own thing 24/7.) Fifi is seriously adorable, she makes writing hard because she sits by my feet and looks up at me with adorable eyes.

She wants me to give her Tummy Rubs all the time (Blogger won't let me rotate the picture the right way.) She’ll be running, she’ll look back to see how close you are, and then when you’re almost on top of her, she’ll drop to Tummy Rub position, complete with Modesty Tail. Funniest damn thing I’ve seen in awhile. Funnier than anything I’m writing, ho ho ho.

Joy is a Tummy Rub. Maybe that’s what I need. A Tummy Rub. Would rather have a Shoulder Massage, all things considered.

Monday, October 06, 2008

So it's new, don't freak out about it.

Say hello to the new dogs I'm dogsitting. This is Fifi. I hope I'm not giving anything away here by saying she's a touch neurotic. What, is it the ears? The ears? The fact I'm sitting on a table next to a candelabra and crystal vase and therefore I look like a women's accessory to her purse? Is THAT it?

Fifi's sibling is Winston, The Elder Statesman. And when I say Elder, I mean 14 or so. I'm terrified that he's gonna die on me, since this gig is two weeks long, and my first time dogsitting for these critters, because that would be my luck.

There's always a period of adjustment when dealing with any new element. Fifi and Winston have decided to deal by pouting and otherwise ignoring me. I don't think they understand that they're stuck with me for two weeks.

And then I have to remind myself that the first few times I dogsat for Basil Diva Dog, he was none too thrilled to have me around either. Matter of fact, he only really warmed up to me after the one two shock of moving to a new place, and the onset of Ginger Puppy into his life, wrecking the furniture and taking up all the attention.

So yes, it is a little bizarre to wander through this new house, and not have the dogs follow me from room to room as Basil and Ginger Puppy do. But it's just a period of adjustment, right? Right?

I got an email from My Mother, The Phone Harpy, Whom I Love Very Very Much, wishing me Happy L.A. Anniversary. The first few years I was out here, she and My Dad, The Great Stoic Wonder, would send me cards in the mail, marking the day I moved out to L.A. The cards would always say “You can move back whenever you want.” But I think they’re starting to get the idea that I’m staying out here.

But you can make somewhat of a nifty metaphor – me moving to L.A., and me in a new housesitting house with new housesitting dogs. So while Winston snoozed on a couch, and Fifi pouted in the closet, I decided to go look up in my journal to see what I had to say about moving out to L.A. X years ago (no, I’m not saying how many.)

I’ve journaled at least a page a day ever day since I was 16 (there may be a few lost days when I was on benders in college, but no big deal.) I have my entire college experienced documented. I have every single day I ever worked for the Big Theme Park Corporation documented. Every crappy date I’ve ever been on, every great date I’ve ever been on, every time my heart’s been broken, it’s all written down in my journals (and occasionally on my computer when a lot of stuff happened that day.)

First off, My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much is mistaken on the date of the anniversary. She put me on a plane on October 2, not 5. Quelle horror! I am not mistaken on anniversary dates!

Gack, I’m getting anxious just re-reading the journal entries. Mom loves to tell the story of how she put me on a plane to L.A. with a one-way ticket, two suitcases and a computer. What she probably doesn’t remember is that we ran into friends of hers at the airport (My mother knows everyone in town. We can’t go anywhere, the grocery store, the airport, the gas station, without her running into someone she knows.) Mom’s friends were off to visit their daughter in Cancun, and very nicely helped me carry my stuff to my connecting flight when we landed in Memphis.

From the journal entry: “Lots of luck” they said. Everyone seems to say that. The guy sitting next to me on the plane to L.A. says it. Lots of luck. As if going to L.A. is some impossible dream, and I’ll need a lucky rabbit foot while I’m at it...

...and once I woke up as we were about to descend, I saw the brown haze covering, the large large, larger than anything I could possibly imagine city, and I started to freak internally. Shit, what’ve I done? How could I possibly get to know my way around here? (...) It’s like I’ve hit this dead end, and I can only go upwards towards success, or down towards despair and ruin, but I can’t turn around and go back.

You guys know how I hate flying back to L.A. and not have somebody there to pick me up? I think it all stems from this very first flight into L.A. I came in on a Wednesday, the guys I was going to crash with had fed-exed me a set of keys to their place, as they were both working and couldn’t come get me. (I also needed a rental car until I could buy one later.)

So it’s me, stepping off a plane with my two suitcases, one computer, and navigating my way to some car rental place and getting a tiny blue rental car that I swore was made of plastic, and figuring out how to use the 405 to the 101, and then finding the place where I ended up staying for four months or so.

I was so scared. I was scared, because I was alone. My best friends had declined to make the trip out with me. Almost like they were using me as a guinea pig, “Let Amy go first and figure out how to live out there, then we’ll follow her and she can tell us everything.”

Some people dig change. Some people hate it. I’m one of those types that are initially apprehensive about it, but recognize that it’s for the best, and yes, I will get used to it, so I kinda grit my teeth and tiptoe through it.

So I found the place where I was gonna be staying, and tiptoed through it. I was gonna be sleeping on a couch. Using a milk crate as a desk for my computer, and the floor as a chair, because there was no kitchen table or chairs, because these were guys I was living with, and they ate all their meals on the couch (my bed) in front of the TV.

From the journal entry: I call Mom, tell her I’m O.K. and what I’m looking at. She says it’s okay if I find a place of my own.

Just like I’m tiptoeing through Fifi and Winston’s place. Obviously much nicer than a two bedroom in Valley Village with two guys. But it’s new to me, and I don’t know where things are, and Fifi’s pouting in the closet, and Winston looks like he’s got arthritis, and there’s so many windows! I feel exposed!

My circle of college acquaintances helped me in so many ways. They let me crash on their couch, they gave me job leads, they took me to movies and bars. But they were acquaintances, not best friends, and so I spent more than a few months scared out of my mind and not really being able to confide in anyone. It all worked itself out, eventually, just like I’m sure Fifi’s going to come out of the closet eventually, and I’ll be able to find a washcloth for my face, and figure out what I can cook on the grill outside.

From the journal entry: How am I gonna get through this? You have to. There is no other option.

Sounds pretty harsh now. But it worked, didn’t it.