22 July 2011

Groundhog Day ... L.A. Style

Tobolowsky and Murray nail Ned Ryerson the Insurance agent cold.  Bing!!!
To help reduce this rather large man gut I seem to be wearing these days, I've taken to the trails in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.  There are some steep trails, but mostly I stick to about two miles on the streets and a mile in the rather flat trails.  So far, after three months or so, I'm on a daily routine.  (I hope to be running or swimming again just as soon as I feel I'm in shape enough to put that stress on my lower back.  I know, I know -- old men and their troubles.)

When one goes out on one's hike/walk (or, if you'd rather go Victorian on me, one's constitutional), you routinely  run into the same morning crowd or afternoon folks as they make their way with their dogs on their leads and doggie bags in their hands.  Everyone does the usual head nod or "hello's" and "how are ya's," except for a few folks with other things on their minds, or iPods blasting with earbuds firmly in place.

There are two that I run into regularly, who are just the most interesting of people.  The first is a septuagenarian (or thereabouts), who for an early 70-something is in terrific shape.  Here's the thing: each time (2x a week) I run into this gentleman, he's being trailed (and I mean literally) by his doppelganger son about 3 or 4 feet back.  And his son is none too happy about this Sisyphean task he must undertake each day just before dusk, escorting dear old dad.  The expression on son's face is painfully priceless.

Here's me:  "Good evening.  How are you?"

Here's them:  (older gentleman)  Smiles and nods. (son, a few feet back, like pulling teeth) "Hello," he says.

Both of them are wearing, and always wear, matching baseball caps of some entertainment company.  The first time I met them on my way (the wayfarer in me knows its good juju to greet warmly those I meet on the way), I asked them about the caps.  The father, of whom I suspect speaks only/mostly Farsi, keeps smiling and walking and the son is left to turn and walk backwards still trailing dad, looking at me (still rather glumly) and raise his shoulders in that universal sign of "I have no idea what company this is, and why the hell are you bothering us."  You've seen that shrug before, am I right, Dear Reader?  And so now I am tempted to cross the road each time I see these two, the smiling/stern father/son perambulators, but I resist and so remain "smiling John" on my way to losing 25 pounds with my own nod and my own earbuds firmly in place with Steely Dan on Pandora giving my New Balance a lift.

The next character to appear in our fair story hails from Germany originally (actually, as she says, "Western Pomerania near the Baltic Sea").  She's just shy of 80, and is a remarkable looking woman, stern, with skin that tans easily, blonde hair, and daily walking routine of three times up and down the main street that leads into our little community.  Her name is Krista, and she for the past three months has not once recognized me.  As a result of the many conversations we've shared I know her address (she's told me twice), that she has a nephew who lives near us, a brother who lives in Riverside and a sweet sister who passed away about ten years ago.  Krista has lived in our neighborhood for 30 years.  Worked for Bank of America for the same stretch and is now some five years retired -- she's got the gold ring to show for her troubles that she has shown me 10 times at least.  Her sister came over to the states as a maid to work in her late teens when World War II was enveloping all of Europe.

The family had a wonderful farm (very successful), and they had just lost their mother.  The German government began taking over large farms, and her dad had heard of many resistant farmers being shot for taking offense to the state taking over their businesses.  After her sister landed in Malibu (where she would live almost 60 years), she sent for Krista who made it in her early teens.  Think of it.  Leaving it all behind to a land you know nothing about, no one except your teenage sister to care for you, to start all from scratch.  Her dad died not soon after, and they were immediately joined by their brother who barely made it out of Germany because he was of fighting age, but was given permission because of their family situation.  Nice of those Nazi bastards to let Jan join his sibs in Malibu.

And, there it is, my own very personal Groundhog Day.  Two or three days a week.  Jg. and Krista having a chat.  Me already knowing many (many) interesting details about her life, and she telling me about her career and not marrying and her house and her affection for Pomerania, still said in thick Teutonic accent, which I find to be just odd after a half-century of SoCal valley speak all around her.  Like I said, strong woman she.   Btw, I don't for one second believe that she has dementia or Alzheimer's of any form.  I just think that at a certain age, new folks don't register as they might have before.  I take zero offense by how little of an impression I've made on dear Krista, but am now tempted to cross the street each time I see her coming my way.   Just joshing ... had you there for a second.  But, I do feel like Bill Murray a bit in that classic movie when I run into her.  It's Nietzsche's "eternal recurrence" writ ever so small in SoCal.

I actually love the film Groundhog Day, especially the scene near the very end when Murray's character realizes that life isn't about him, and he makes lemonade out of lemons and he realizes that every second and moment and day in our life is a present and gift and opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, and to impact those around us.  And, darn it if each of us doesn't have that chance also.  Every morning, I say "thank you" to God for our chance also, Dear Reader.

You know, there's a cute little scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry's mentor "Dicky Fox" tells Jerry how each day he wakes up, how he claps his hands and is grateful for a new day!  Remember that scene?  Well, that (non-professional) actor is Jared Jusim, a leading attorney at Sony Pictures that I've consulted with off and on over the last ten years or so.  Jared is a class act; a real old school cat who did that picture with Cameron Crowe and has some interesting things to share about his experience in front of the camera on that shoot.  Anyway, throw a rock in L.A. and you will hit a reference to some movie or actor or tv show.  We're ridiculous like that.

See you all tomorrow morning at 6:00 am when Groundhog Day repeats itself (remember the clock slowly tumbling over from 5:59), and we can all hail a collective clap and hit the ground running with Krista, Jg., "Dicky Fox," and "Ned Ryerson."


12 July 2011

beautiful things ...

2010 Academy Award  Nominees, Best Screenplay
These men are doing what they love.  They write.  They write and are paid for it.  Did I mention they write well?  My definition of a beautiful thing: doing what you love and making a living (a good living, well at least a living wage!) while you're at it, gulldernit.

I mean look .. would you look at those faces? They all seem to be pretty content, no?  That's a beautiful thing.  Seeing someone skilled at what they do best, and just crushing it.  Really giving it the beans, you know?  Makes me smile and be happy for them.  Bastards all.
Brit Marling
This week or next I am going to tell you of a young, beautiful, incredibly talented woman who will blow you away with her competence, and amazing timing, and, I'm sure, a measure of luck.  Sometimes we make our own luck.  The luck that's defined as being persistent and passionate and predisposed to not taking no for an answer.  She's a writer and an actress and a producer.  Triple threat who scored the trifecta a few months back.  Meant to write a piece on her, but have just been swamped.  Promise, it's worth it, the wait.  She was featured at Sundance, and on a major TV show, and just happened to have one of her films picked-up that she directed, produced, wrote and starred in ... all in the same week!  Not a bad day's work for someone just out of film school.

S. Glau
Beautiful things sometimes come in obvious packages.  That's Summer Glau above, btw.  I've seen her around town.  Mind you, she didn't look like this when I saw her, but she took your breath away all the same.  But, when we really look, when we take that extra moment, we see the beauty we're supposed to and meant to see, and not just olive-skinned, brunettes either.

In the midst of the city, or a busy airport, or whilst driving our car on PCH, upset to be in traffic again, we can still find beauty.  When we stop, and really put our minds and spirit in God's hands and ask Him for a respite, a moment's break from the total shite, we'll notice the family of foreign tourists stopping to take a photo in front of the setting sun as it dips below the Pacific Ocean and the stranger in his wet-suit asking if they'd like him to snap the pic for them.  It's beautiful, in a pay-it-forward sort of way.  And, I noticed it because, (1) Summer Glau wasn't riding her beach cruiser on Pacific Coast Highway right next to me in her tights (again! ... kidding), and (2) because I didn't make myself the center of the world for just a scintilla of a moment.  For that minute, I loved that surfer punk and his wet hair and his beat-up VW van and his little dog running around all crazy and that family on vacation loving their moment in the sun.  Basking in their happiness.
E. Spalding
Music is beautiful, and sometimes made by drop-dead gorgeous divas.  I listen to it when I write my screenplays to put me in a frame of mind.  My boys and I listen to wonderful CCM when we're going to church on Sunday mornings to help prepare our hearts. And, then we listen to alt-rock when we're heading back home afterwards, cranked up to "11" to embrace the rest of the day of rest (nod to Spinal Tap re: the 11 on the dial).  I know I've written (and other blogger friends have featured) Esperanza Spalding before, but she's representative of really great music that's not very well known.  I love the jazz standards, like (Click the orange for a listen, btw!) In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington w/ John Coltrane) or the rarely listened to Manoir de Mes Reves (Django Reinhardt), and, well, insert here your fave.  I know this isn't a stretch, but here's one for you:  go to a concert this summer.  Make the time.  Go to a concert in the park.  See your local orchestra.  Bring some good wine and a picnic basket and just take a moment to listen and to be ... in the moment with your loved ones.  Beautiful, baby.

05 July 2011

The Terminal ... perfect metaphor for hell

Sitting at American at LAX waiting to fly out to Austin.  As a semi-frequent flier, you'd think I'd be used to getting bumped from a flight every now and then, and that it wouldn't bother me.  But, i'm not and it does.  Well, a quick clarification.  It bothers me not a little when I'm treated like some fungible commodity or airline detritus to be bumped and tossed aside and into the great (and getting greater) pissed-off queue where quite a few American Airlines fliers have been going these days.

Sitting with me today is Owen Wilson; he just walked into the Gate 45 area and sat down directly across from me.  Hmmm.   Not sure why he's not up in the Admiral's Club (or whatever they're calling it these days), but he's rockin' his Reebok gym bag, and no one's recognizing him or bothering him.

Now, here's the odd thing:  my brother-in-law was the founding drummer of Black Flag, the early punk band.  This morning (oh, about 7 hours ago!), Henry Rollins, the former lead singer of Black Flag (after my brother-in-law left the band) was sitting in the EXACT same chair as Owen Wlson.  Too funny.  And, because I'm in Terminal Hell, I was alive and well to witness one of entertainment's minor concidences.  Btw, these two alums (Mr. Rollins and my sister's hubby) from what is arguably the greatest or most punkiest band of all time just met at the NAMM show this year.  Too school for cool, as I always say to my boys.

Sending you all bon voyage and good traveler wishes (journey mercies!), Dear Reader, so that you don't have domestic peregrinations keeping you from your destinations.  Mine's Austin ... and I'll be there about 9 hours late.  Fat, sausage-like fingers crossed that my luggage is waiting for me in Austin!