Welcome Gentle Readers

This blog tends to wander from its main purpose -- updates on my fiction. I do have updates and excerpts of my work. But I also write about my obsessions -- food, friends and pop culture and my weird life in Los Angeles. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sweat Equity, Writing Women and Farewll to Philly

Jon and I spent the week hanging out in a men's room with Craig sniffing chemicals. That wasn't nearly as hip or fun as it sounds. The Archive moved into some unfinished space at Central City Studios. They got a fantastic deal on rent by taking the space 'As Is.' That meant, the denizens of the Archive had to put in a lot of sweat equity to make it habitable. Since Jon and I alerted the Archive to the space in the first place, we volunteered to clean out the restroom for them. The bathroom dates back to the 20s and was largely done in marble. Jon and Craig spent the week stripping and scraping the paint to get to the marble tile while I scrubbed layer upon layer of grime off of everything else. Ralph even put in some time as a plumber. The air was hot, fumey and because of the wildfires, smokey.
Despite the masks and gloves we wore, it was tough going. I still don't know why it is that whenever I'm near a soundstage, I have to deal with toilets. I'm either plunging or cleaning or both – even with honeywagons. I hope that part of my film karma is not ongoing. The end result of a week of hard physical labor is that Jon and are are really jacked up just in time for the holiday. We were so tired at the end of each day that we got nothing done on Blood Oath or the other projects. I'm so glad we have three days to recover. By tomorrow, we should be working at our usual pace.
Anyway, five days in close quarters with Craig is really intense. He is a truly twisted and hysterically funny guy. I don't think I've ever heard Jon laugh that hard. The man seem to have as many nemeses as he does friends. I found this out when he was trying to decide whether or not to contact the safe cracker he knows. There is a large safe in one of the Archive's rooms. To move it, it has to be opened so the bolts holding it to the floor can be removed. I now know at least three people who know safe crackers. I think one of those IS the safe cracker, but I don't want to know. Strangely, two of them are from the East coast and pre-date my time in crazy Los Angeles. I'm beginning to realize that I'm destined to associate with really odd people. Working with Craig made the tough job easier to cope with. The restroom was working and ready for business by mid-day on Friday. We had quite a sense of accomplishment and dish pan hands.
I'm loving the wholesale places open to the public near Central City Studio. There is a restaurant supply warehouse across the street. It's like Costco on steroids. I'll be shopping there next week for sure. And I still have to see the produce and seafood markets. The shopping could easily get out of hand.

Mainlining – Philly Trip Part 3

Twenty years ago, I was mid-way through the Creative Writing Graduate Program at Temple University. I had given up on having writing as a thing I did on the side and embraced the fact that it was something I had to do as a focus in my life. I had been excited about getting into the program. Later, I was thrilled when I learned that I had a full Fellowship to pay my way to a degree. During the first semester, however, I realized that it wouldn't be the nurturing creative environment I had envisioned. The Literature classes were full of serious minded students that understood a lot about Freud but very little about how writers actually think and work (strangely, they found this sort of information irrelevant in studying a writer's work). Many of the professors held similar views. In the Writing Workshops, we spent a lot of time picking at each others work while the professor looks on. To me, the workshops tended to reduce the works offered to a middle ground shared by those sitting around the table. Often the works lost their spark and the writers were more confused than ever about how to continue. My dim view of writing workshops and writing programs was summed up nicely in a recent New Yorker article.

The frustration with the workshop was shared by other female classmates. I'm not saying that the men in the workshops were a problem. Well, yes I am. I have no idea why that was or I perceived it to be that way. At any rate, 20 years ago this summer, a group of us ladies formed our own workshop. We committed to weekly meetings and devoted a lot of time to detailed, constructive critiques of each others stories or chapters. We were disparate in ages and backgrounds and experiences. The mix served us well. There was no professor to impress, so we weren't trying to be clever in the critiques. These were honest and thought provoking encounters. I learned a great deal about writing realistic dialogue from those sessions. And I learned to trust my own, very spare style of writing. Beyond that, something magical happened at those meetings. Being women, we always had food. Being writers, we usually had wine. It was an incredible bonding experience that involved a lot of laughing amidst the frank discussions about our writing. Our Little Group, as Philomena called us, was the best part of attending that writing program. I count it as being responsible for helping me find my voice as a writer.

Thus, I was determined to see as many of the ladies as possible during my latest trip to Philly. It would be a different kind of gathering because of the husbands along, but it was still a marvelous experience. Only Philomena and Sarah were available, but it was a fabulous evening. Phil told us she had moved from her fabulous digs in Bala Cynwyd. She said that she and her hubby were downsizing. Thus, I was surprised that she offered to put us all up for the night after the gathering. We are thus really surprised after winding our way through the Main Line to find Phil's house on a block full of huge mansions. Sarah worries that her humble, slightly dented compact car would get us booted from the area. Of course, Phil's house was a mansion as well. It was built by famed architect Frank Furness. The house was amazing with two dining rooms, a library and I don't know how many bedrooms – some with fireplaces. It was such an amazing place that Jon and I are going to write something to shoot there. And Phil's tremendous flair for hospitality remains unchanged. She and her husband, Steve, put on an elegant and delicous spread of grilled beef tenderloin and wild salmon served on a beautifully set table on one of the two patios. Jon said the table looked like something out of a Food Network show. I was expecting Ina Garten to come bustling out at any moment. Beyond the fabulous food and great wine (of course), we had some really great conversation. It was a real life Salon save for ours had more talk about golf and desserts. I came away from it renewed in my conviction that meeting those women was one of the best things that ever happened to me as a writer. I can't wait to see them again.


Jon and I were on a mission Monday. We had to load up on two precious Philly foods, have a certain neighborhood pizza and beverage and see Jon's parents once more time and spend some time with his sister and brother-in-law. The foods were a dozen Federal Pretzels and Tastykakes. I have no pictures of these goodies as they were consumed shortly after we returned to Los Angeles. It was terribly hot and humid that last day. Fortunately, most of what we had to do in Center City was doable via the underground mall near the train station. We took the train back to Germantown, the section of the city where Jon and I are from (I moved to Mount Airy just before grade school. We were after Germantown style pizza and the terribly lurid Tahitian Treat soda. Jon sister, Judy and Brotehr-in-law, Michael, sprung for the treats. Judy and Michael are a really fun couple especially considering that they don't drink or own a television.. They, like Jon's Mom are Quakers. They live a frugal life that is still very rich in experiences. They just returned from a lengthy jaunt around Europe. They went in their frugal fashion but the photos and stories tell of a really great trip. I like them because they are the religious but not in a preachy sanctimonious way. Their way usually involves prop comedy. I've never met non-film people more into props. They manage to be citizens of the community and of the world and never fail to impress me. We had pizzas and looked at the new kitchen and new photos. Note: the photo to the left are the signs from the gala opening of the new kitchen in which the family dressed up as dysfunctional diner employees at Momma Mike's diner. It makes sense if you know them. Sort of. Before heading back to Dad's, we spent a little more time with the Maw and Paw-in-law. It's always good to see them. They are infinitely interesting people to talk with.

Homeward Bound

It was very hard to leave Philly this time. I really had a great time connecting with everyone. And I feel their absence more keenly. Time with Dad was especially nice. And as he is older, I realize that I have to get in time with him as often as possible. Fortunately, LuvU 4 Ever is shooting just an hour away from all my loved ones there. I will take advantage of the down time to see them at home or have them stay near the shoot. That made coming back a lot easier.


Silly me forgot this week ended in a holiday. Thus, the film finance meetings aren't until mid-week this coming week. Meanwhile, I am in the home stretch with Vincent's cookbook and I've begun outlining the next Soldiers book and Surrender book. I'm not sure when I'll flesh them out, but I thought I should outline while the details were swimming in my head. I have two other pieces to finish before I'd start them. If I have any big news during the week about the films, I'll post an announcement here.

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