Mountains crumble to the sea

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Thank you, technology/”the future”. I’ve woken up in the middle of the early morning and been able to talk to one of my best friends, who lives in Normandy. And this makes me grateful, too, for all the lives I’ve lived, for those who’ve seen and see me as I am. Gawd – as grateful as I also am not to have “come of age” with the internet, I recognize its value and ability to vanquish the isolation we can easily feel.

In other news, i am finally caught up on the episodes of Downton Abbey. What brilliance. I crave the company of those characters in a way I hope readers of my “novel” will crave the company of those whom I create. As I do. This is why I’ve decided to dive back in; I’ve missed the characters.

Blech – insomnia. I was so happy to be tired and fall asleep. Back to Chapter Three, which I re-read and realized should be broken into Chapters Three and Four. 

In other news, I’ve just planned a trip out west to visit my family and some of my dearest friends. So necessary to have plans. 

There’s a brand new dance but I don’t know its name

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This is a photo of my parents taken when they attended the 1970 Superbowl in New Orleans; it appeared in the local paper, which I think was called the New Orleans Gazette. I love the caption. Mr. B actually still owns this elegant knit cap; it lives in a basket in their mudroom in the Berkshires. 

I’ve been doing some research into American fashion of 1970 (bit of an extended oxymoron, perhaps), as it bears relevance to one of the characters in my novel. I’ve always loved research of this sort – I did some for my Chicago article and learned a bit more about the Great Fire of 1872 and the curse of the Billygoat Tavern. It was one of my favorite aspects of school, going to the library to check out stacks of books on a topic, or Xeroxing articles, or lever-pulling through Microfiche. I imagine the current generation of paper-writers does their research on line, as I now do. It is so much easier, obviously, though there is no quality filter. 

I spoke today with one of my writing mentors, a gentleman who has been at it a lot longer than I have. He validated my writer’s insecurity and procrastination techniques, agreeing that there are many, many things to do other than write. I also heard from a college friend (Hi, JCS!) who has been reading this blahg and who wrote encouraging words about my ability to finish my ****ing novel. 

Knowing that people read my words makes me want to keep writing and to keep getting better at it. 

A dear friend who, incidentally, “married well”, used to say that he fears his epitaph will read, “He married well.” He’s since become a much more productive and successful person than he felt he was at the time. So that my epitaph will read more than, “She started a lot of projects”, I am determined to see this one through. 

With each new page I write or edit for the novel, I make tiny changes that require me to go back to previous chapters and change accordingly. It’s an exhaustive process, and I’m not certain I used “exhaustive” correctly. I have been reading lots of advice from writers on the process and the basic rule is to just keep writing. And to get a draft out without worrying about editing or polishing. I have a very hard time with this – I am an editor and I spare myself no mercy. But I understand this advice – and so off I go again, back to Chapter Three. 

Thanks for reading. 

 

And I’m giving you a longing look

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Holy shite was Chapter Two hard to write. After an auspicious start to the year I came down with a debilitating case of writer’s block – or writer’s insecurity. Some days it’s all I want to do and some days it’s a struggle. Some days I think I’m a fantastic writer and some days I can’t believe I ever thought I knew how to write. But I did it. I found notes from a story I wrote sometime in 2013 and incorporated them and voila, I have Chapter Two. I’ve written a tremendous amount in the past several years and finished very little. If I could put it all together and add some filler I’d have quite a tome. It wouldn’t be terribly linear, but it would be long. 

I struggled through my Travel Writing assignment last week and turned it in late – the assignment was to write about an annual event in a destination and to highlight said destination as well, so I wrote about Riot Fest in Chicago, which we attended last year and will attend this year. When I relaxed into it it was actually fun to write. It came out far better than I’d anticipated, with ample room for improvement. This class is intimidating – filled with really smart professional writers and editors, some of whom have had travel pieces published already. It’s an intermediate-level class and a lot of work, thank God. I’ve needed “a lot of work” and between these two courses I’ve certainly found it. Next semester my goal is to have a fully formed screenplay idea and to take a workshop that makes me write it on schedule. This goal presumes that I’ll have a draft of my novel written. 

I will also be taking an advanced French class starting next week, parce que je voudrais améliorer mon français. The best I ever spoke it was when I studied there; my first night back in the states I had a hard time ordering a glass of water in English. I’d love to gain back that fluidity. 

Alors … Chapter Three awaits. I am so good at procrastinating writing that, since writing that last sentence, I’ve checked my email and read a few Facebook status updates. 

Procrastination stops … now …

(did someone just Tweet something witty? I’d better check.)

 

I believe in you

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Today I found one of my journals from five(ish) years ago, and it contained this list of New Year’s resolutions:

  • Go to gym more
  • Drink less
  • Clean/organize
  • Finish novel
  • Finish play
  • Take vitamins
  • Stop spending time with people who bring you down

Vitamins?!

I don’t spend a lot of time with people who bring me down these days, but that’s pretty much the only small victory I can claim in this scenario. I’d venture to say I go to the gym more and drink less than I did then, but there’s ample room for improvement on both fronts. And the reason I found this notebook is because I am attempting to clean-slash-organize … a long, long overdue gift to myself.

In so doing I’ve found some very valuable things. I’ve also found that I’ve kept absurd amounts of insignificant papers over the years, and I’ve begun the great purge. How liberating it is. How delightfully blasmephous to throw away wedding invitations and Christmas cards and photos of babies whom I no longer recognize.

Today I found a stack of papers that my Granny sent me in August 2000, almost exactly one year before she died. (She died on 8/10/01, 11 years to the day after my Papa, her husband). These were her best efforts to create a family tree, something my aunt encouraged her to do. She tells the story of my Papa’s family, from Shanghai, and her own, from western Germany. In the list of relatives on her side there are two people whose names are followed by ” – Killed by the Nazis”. 

Of course I knew that my Granny was German-Jewish (though, like me, her mother was not Jewish and so neither was she). And intellectually I probably gathered that this had happened. But I come from a nuclear family who never discussed such things, who still doesn’t, and so seeing those words on paper is sobering even now, 13 years after I first read them.

We saw “Monuments Men” today. An imperfect film with noble intent about incredible subject matter.

I don’t know why I felt the need to share this, but I did.

To those whom we lost. L’chaim. 

 

Fare thee well

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I was awake from 2AM until a bit past 4 this morning and so am moving through molasses today. Not sure what woke me, but soon after Louie wanted to go for a walk and we did. We like walking in the snow – he loves it, and it’s about as tranquil as this city gets, the wee small hours in inclement weather. We walked around the block, and around again, and then when we came back up I was wide awake and so I worked a bit on my novel. I’m really excited about the prospect of finishing a draft in the relatively near future. The feedback I’ve gotten from my class and from my carefully selected readers has been incredibly helpful and I wish I could just take the next two weeks and work on this nonstop . But things get in the way or take precedence – so I am pacing myself more than I’d hoped to. 

I’ve spent several years biting off less than I can chew; it’s time I do the opposite, and between these two classes and a couple of other endeavors, this is my goal, manifesting. 

There’ve been two very sad deaths in the past couple of days, one man I knew personally and one I didn’t. The latter is the great Philip Seymour Hoffman. What an exquisite talent he was, and what a tragic loss. Social media is trying to blame Hollywood for “letting him” get to the place where he was. This is not how it works, people. It doesn’t matter how successful one is or how much potential one has or whatever – that which fuels addiction pays no attention to such platitudes. Self-doubt is self-doubt no matter who the doubter is, and perceived weakness is the same. Heroin – addiction of any sort – can take hold and keep it regardless of what the outside world seems to offer. He was a brilliant actor – I’ve had the great fortune of seeing him on stage, off-Broadway, as well as on screen. He clearly had people who loved him and children who relied on him and all of those things that “should” give a man reason to stay healthy. That’s not how addiction works. Regardless of the details, let us just stop with the blame and the accusation and the judgment and let us acknowledge that a beautiful soul and an exquisite talent has died. Rest in peace, dear man. You were a talent like no other.

The other person who’s left us is someone I did know, Neil Bagg, a longtime agent with my father’s company in LA. He was a South African gentleman, smart, witty, generous, and by all accounts, an excellent agent. He worked for the company for over a decade, but because he was based in LA I didn’t know him well. Some years ago, at the suggestion of someone on the east coast, I contacted him for advice about a project I was working on. I was out of my element and worried that it would be very obvious — this was back in the days when I felt the need to try to “fake it”, versus admitting when I was out of my element. Neil was incredibly helpful and patient and kind, and we struck up a friendship that took the form of emails and occasional check-ins by phone. He remembered my birthday and called to wish me a happy one. He never made me feel like the outsider I so often felt like then. I knew he’d been ill for the past couple of years but I did not realize until I learned the news that he was nearing the end of this life. 

A toast to you, Neil – may you rest in peace and know that you made an enormous difference in so many lives. I am very saddened by your loss and I am grateful to have known you.

Until we meet again.