May 30, 2009

Adventure is out there!

It's no surprise that I found an animated movie about an old guy who flies his house to Venezuela by a bunch of helium balloons appealing.

But the story of a lost love and a dream deferred was truly heartbreaking. The kid next to me - who was squirming in her seat enough to star in a version of The Rocking Horse Winner - kept looking at my tear-streaked face illuminated by the movie screen and whispering to her mom. I tried not to pay attention and suspend my disbelief.

There's just something about a movie like this - or, likewise, the first act of WALL-E - that brings immediate tears to my eyes, even before anything happens or anyone says anything.

I could have done without the pack of talking dogs but I suppose the studio needed an extra element to appease the squirming kids. The ratings system warns of "peril" and boy, is that right. Even I was scared.

Here's a relatively tame clip from the movie (courtesy of Apple) that shows the gorgeous landscape and beautiful colors. Go see it in the theater for the 3-D experience.

On Desire

I sat in a bar last night surrounded by three guys I've made out with at some point in history. No recognition of that fact from any of them.

One was with his girlfriend, who he was dating the first time he kissed me two years ago.

One was sitting around the corner, staring at me out of one eye but refusing to talk to me, or to explain why I haven't heard a peep from him since.

One was talking to me about everything else in the world.

To be honest, I'm not really interested in any of them, but I would rather fight off their desire than wonder how it had been quelled.

May 29, 2009

Roosevelt Island Smallpox Hospital Stabilization Project

Construction on this site had already started last fall, when I rattled the chainlink fence that had been erected around it and caught the attention of a security guard who gave me the evil eye. I liked standing on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island all alone, surrounded on both sides by the Manhattan skyline and Queens "vistas." But even though I couldn't get into the hospital ruins by that time (maybe if I had tried a year before, before the north wall collapsed), my only wish was for its stabilization.

Glad to see that wish coming true.

Further info:
Old Smallpox Hospital Transforms into Island Park - NY1

May 28, 2009

This Is Why I'm Single

"Now, this is why you're single..."

A guy got kicked out of a bar for telling me that. It helps that he was pretty drunk.

The "this" he was referring to was the fact that I didn't swoon at his aggressive advances, that I didn't immediately give him my phone number and accept his invitations for lunch, dinner, drinks, a sleepover, and anything else he had in mind.

So is he postulating that by not succumbing to every drunk hit-on that comes my way, I'm closing myself off to true love? There was a time when I did succumb to every advance, and I still was single then. Even when I thought I was dating someone, it turns out I was still single, even THEN.

The nature of my single status is the age-old question that has plagued me since puberty. Actually it started during puberty when my Aunt Betty and Uncle Glenn would call and the first thing they would ask was, "Do you have a boyfriend yet?" When the answer was always a guilty "No...", the question evolved into, "Why are you single?" And then it seemed like everyone was asking it.

For a long time, I could blame my circumstances: my parents lock me in a tower, Colgate is a hook-up school not a dating school, I just moved to NYC, I'm working too hard...But when you start to realize that you have enough time and you are interested in a relationship and you have lived here long enough to socialize with a lot of people, you also realize: everyone around you is taken.

So by age 33, I've tried a few times to make it work, mostly with musicians and DJs and other music biz folks that didn't want to be a boyfriend (and then married the next girl they dated) or didn't have any money or were too obsessed with their own lives to think of anyone else. But now all those guys have someone else. Some of them even have babies.

Does that mean I've missed the boat?

At this point, when people ask me why I'm single, it sounds like an accusation. My cable guy spent a long time telling me what I need to do to attract a man. The drunk guy in the bar last weekend saw himself as Everyman, so that if I was turning him down, I must turn down every guy that comes my way, therefore putting me in a self-inflicted mode of perpetual singlehood. Others think I just must be too picky or looking for someone in the wrong places. Everybody's got advice.

But when you're approaching your mid-30s and you have never had a serious relationship (at least one that was serious on both sides of it), your friends try to be supportive and tell you that you're too good for most guys, too smart, too pretty, too successful, too intimidating. And although it's meant to be encouraging, it still sounds like a criticism. What's wrong with me is that I'm too much of a catch. Can that be right? There must be some guy out there that's as amazing as I am. Or some guy who's somewhat less amazing but brave enough to make up for the difference. Or how about some guy who's even more amazing and doesn't mind slumming it a bit?

Quite frankly, the reason I'm single right now is again circumstantial. My year-long existential crisis has eclipsed my need for nookie. My Peace Corps recruiter warned me against getting into a serious relationship before being shipped off to Central Asia. And, given the stresses I've been under, I've preferred sitting alone in a bar with a nice bottle glass of wine than talking to drunk dudes who try to take me home and then never call.

The moment I found out that Peace Corps didn't accept me in the final rounds of the application process, I kind of thought, "Huh, well at least I can try to date again." But now I've booked a trip to spend the summer in Joshua Tree, CA, and something tells me I won't find my prince in the next two weeks before I leave.

Will I find him out West? Maybe. As my friend John says, I need an adventurer. I haven't come across many of those in the Northeast.

Jeffrey Eugenides Live at B&N

If you know anything about me, you know that I hate being read to.

But this clip of Jeffrey Eugenides reading from his novel The Virgin Suicides, one of my favorite books, is a must-see, must-listen. He even sings.

Why do I love this book so much, so much that I'm willing to have it read to me? Maybe I always identified with those Lisbon girls who were locked in their house, and lepers at school. No, my parents never burned or threw out my LPs. But I too could express my feelings only through song, not yet having developed a vocabulary for the hell I too was going through at home, at school, everywhere.

The idea of a young schoolgirl being suicidal sounds too absurd, but when I was about eight years old, I understood that I wanted to die. In a fit of crying rage in the basement one day, I actually was able to tell my mother that I wanted to die. And she didn't believe me. After that, it didn't seem worth doing anything about it, because it seemed like no one would care if I did.

It was the first but not the last time I thought about dying. Thoughts of death have been so present in my life that I'm not afraid of it. But - much to the relief of my friends and therapist - many times along my strange and winding life, I've been glad I'm still alive. And baffled as to how I actually survived, feeling the way I did at such a young, visceral, unreasonable and inconsolable age.

The movie, although very good, doesn't do The Virgin Suicides justice. Go read the book.

May 24, 2009

Facing My Fears

Ubehebe Crater
This whole existential crisis I'm in now really started about a year ago, when I took a weekend for myself - by myself - in Death Valley after a business trip brought me to Las Vegas. The only desert I'd ever visited before was Las Vegas and the nearby Valley of Fire. I didn't know what I was in for.

I was a little scared in Death Valley. Maybe it was the name. Maybe it was all the signs that warn you of having enough water and not overheating. Maybe it was being the only car on the road for miles, with no rangers in sight. Or, maybe it was the sign on top of a huge volcanic crater that showed a man falling into it, with no railing or anyone around me to prevent me from meeting that same fate.

I drove a little too fast in Death Valley, hypermiling in my rented Prius, coasting 80 mph down a huge hill across a dried, salt flat riverbed. Sometimes I would take a bend around the Panamint Mountains a little too fast and scare the crap out of myself. And when I slept in the Panamint Springs Resort, a couple of ghosts - real or imagined - did the scaring for me.

But I conquered a lot of fears in Death Valley. It's not that I wasn't afraid anymore - at the time, my life was terrifying - but I was able to move past the fear. I came back to the real world and stood up for myself at work, and faced the consquences of retaliation. Four months later when I went to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, I even drove in the desert at night, something I refused to do in Death Valley.

Sometimes I think that the things that scare you the most are those that are most worth doing. I'm not talking skydiving, though I've done that too. I mean taking a real leap, like quitting a job to reclaim your sanity and sense of self, and giving yourself over to the universe.

Things have gone pretty well since I left my job in January, and whereas last year I sought solace in the desert, I now am drawn to it for inspiration. My trip to Joshua Tree in February has given me the opportunity to return there for the summer and be inspired further, to once again feel small, as I did at Badwater in Death Valley. It's the lowest point in North America and my visit there immediately preceded the lowest point in my life. But it's good to see the bottom, so you know how far away from it you are once you're not there anymore.

May 06, 2009

What I Learned from "Felicity"

During the recovery from my gum surgery, I decided to plow my way through Season Four episodes of Felicity, the NYU-based TV show that was part of the WB teen drama heyday. I figured it would be comforting.

Throughout the four seasons of the show, Felicity would be constantly faced with the metaphor of a "drawer," presented by her guidance counselor. She was badgered with "So what's in the drawer?" in order to face the question of the unknown. By the fourth and final season [SPOILER ALERT], Felicity had cheated on her true love Ben by consummating her longtime attraction to Noel, the devoted and puppy-dog-eyed best friend. When she confessed it to her counselor, Felicity was once again asked, "So what's in the drawer?" and she finally responded, "I know you think it's Noel." The counselor retorts, "Oh, so now it's a who?"

Yesterday I was watching an interview with Felicity creator J.J. Abrams on Charlie Rose, promoting his new Star Trek movie, and he refused to reveal any details of the final season of LOST by saying, "Why do you want to know what's in the box? Isn't it better to not know?" But I don't think he meant it's better to never know, only that it's better to let the answer be revealed to you in due time.

The lesson? Don't rush it. Let the answer run its course and come to you when it's ready (not when you think you're ready).

Felicity's freshman year roommate Meghan had a mysterious box, literally. She would rebuff anyone who asked her about it, looked at it, or dared think of touching it. When we finally found out what was actually in the box [SPOILER ALERT], it was kind of disappointing, but freaky in a way that foreshadowed J.J. Abrams' future career: the "Twilight Zone" episode revealed that Meghan actually kept Felicity, Ben, and Noel in the box and was orchestrating their every move like a puppetmaster.

Sometimes it's better to not know what's in the box.

All of this reminds me of how I don't like figuring movies out, and never try. I get mad when I do figure it out before the big shocking ending. I'm watching LOST with baited breath but I don't read the blogs or the conspiracy theories that supposedly help you figure the show out. I just watch every week, continuously baffled, and will do so until the big f-ing disappointing ending next season.

Right now in my own life, outside of the TV world, there's a drawer (or a box) with something (or someone) in it and I don't know what (or who) it is. But I'm not really trying to figure it out, either. I'm just trying to get from month to month, make enough money to live on, and try to take advantage of every opportunity as it comes. It's unsettling not to have a long-term plan but I've probably never been so free.

One day I'll get to look inside the box, and maybe I'll be disappointed with what's inside. For now, it's more fun to imagine what it might be.

May 05, 2009

You Will Definitely See Me

I kinda thought that when I quit my job, I would make my acting dreams or my writing dreams come true. That I could immediately make up for 12 years of failure by releasing myself from the shackles of a dayjob. That I would immediately get an agent (talent or literary) and suddenly everything would start moving forward.

That was always kind of the plan anyway: to make enough money in a real career to give me enough of a cushion that I could quit and then pursue acting, unlike the dozens of waiters and bartenders I know who spend all their time working and sleeping rather than doing the acting jobs they really want.

It hasn't exactly worked out that way, but I did just book an acting gig, based purely on my resume and headshot. I didn't even have to audition.

For the first time in my acting "career," I got a paying job as a "featured background" performer, and shot a scene which I'm pretty sure will make it to the final cut and in which you'll definitely see me.

You can kind of see me in the Will Smith movie Hitch, but you have to know to look for me. And, as the word "background" accurately describes, I'm pretty fuzzy in the background.

This time I shot two scenes for the IFC comedy TV series Z Rock. And not only can you see me, but I'm sharing a scene with Marky Ramone, the drummer for The Ramones. He's not much of an actor, but of course, he's a legend. When the other extra said to him, "Man, big fan of the music," Marky retorted, "Yeah, who isn't?"

Of course, when you're an extra, nobody really cares about you. You try to introduce yourself to the other actors, but they either ignore you or stare at you blankly. You get encouraging comments that are so over-the-top you realize they're actually just condescending. And because you have no lines to say, you realize any idiot could probably pantomime their way through a scene.

But not everyone does. And not everyone is persistent enough to stick around long enough to get cast in a role that people will actually see you in.

What's even weirder for me is that I left my role as head of marketing for the #1 kids' music series in the country partially because I didn't want to work in kids' music anymore, and the whole concept of Z Rock is about a rock band who plays kids' birthday parties during the day to make money. I guess in a way it was the perfect show for me to be cast in.

The new season of Z Rock starts in early June. Hopefully a clip coming soon.