31 August 2007

... but only a teensy tiny smidge

A day or two ago I got good word re: The Nicholl Fellowships, which meant (as I always knew that it would) somewhere the cosmic pendulum was already swinging the other way to counter-balance things and keep All Thing From Turning Good.

Today I get another contest notice, and this time I find Lilya: Queen of the Sky dinked out in the Second Round of the Austin Film Festival contest, just as it did in the two previous tries (at least they are consistent, unlike those Nicholl folks...). That's a Top 10% finish in Austin, and good enough to rate me a discount on my conference badge in October, and also good enough to get me entrance into some cool and semi-exclusive panels, but it's not quite as cool as, say, a Semi-Final advance might have been.

(This is me being whiny and keeping the ego in check. There is no charge for this service: I perform this chore as a service to all.)

So, I guess you win some, you lose some. Some days are advance, some days are dinks.


29 August 2007

OK -- so the suckage has diminished a teensy smidge

So I plodded to the mailbox fully expecting to receive some form of dinkage from teh Austin Film Festival today.

No word from Austin. Instead, I found a letter with this:

"Dear Brett,

Congratulations! You have advanced into the Semifinal Round of the 2007 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. In so doing, yours is one of only 108 entries to survive the Quarterfinal Round."


I think I shall avail myself of a celebratory beverage or three this fine evening.

doubt sucks

There are people out there who likely get a rush from the unknown.

I am not one of those people.

I much prefer to have an idea of what's going on (and why), and what's likely to come next (and why), and what to look forward to and what to fear (and in both cases, why).

And today I seem poised on the cusp of a great many unknowns, and it's all just making my ass hurt.

Nicholl Fellowship? Well, I somehow made the quarter-finals (with the exact same script which dinked in the first round the previous two years), but now sit here unsure as I hear that the semi-finalists are being notified (and dinkable quarter-finalists are being quarter-dinked).

Austin Film Fest contest? I managed a second-round advance each of the past two years, and announcements are apparently en route to alert this year's advancers and dinksters, but for now I sit here wondering.

LILYA? Somehow I managed to get that script in to fancy-pants types at a major prodco and major agency (both in surprisingly easy fashion), but I'm in that awkward phase now where it's still a little early to call and annoy but increasingly aggravating to sit and know nothing.

Oft-reffed online project? Sometimes it seems like we're already almost achieved orbital velocity, and then other times it feels like the countdown has again been delayed and we're sealed in the capsule like Gordo Cooper, anxious unsure and badly needing to pee.

Horror-comedy? Finished the first draft earlier in the summer, but then Life Got Seriously Crazy and I've had almost no real time to work on it since, so now it feels almost like someone else's script project—I'll need to do a page-one read-through just to remember what the hell I wrote.

Western-horror? Had some momentum once upon a time, and vaguely recall thinking I saw a path through the wilderness, but now have no clear idea of how to steer that thing between the Scylla of the Spaghetti Western form and the Charybdis of the monster movie form. Suffice to say "there are structural incompatibilities yet to be resolved." In other words, I don't know what I am doing.

A slew of good friends have suddenly gone aloof and distant, and I'm suddenly wondering if I perhaps need to step up the the 48-hour protection of maximum strength Mitchum.

Son's football team suddenly seems headed up by adult-sized 13 year old boys who lack the skill and interest to communicate with full-grown humans.

The school lost the year's worth of schedule requests for the gym use by our Cub Scout pack, so we may or may not actually have a place for our monthly pack meetings.

Six weeks ago I pulled a muscle in my right elbow during a trivial bit of labor and the damned thing has not stopped hurting yet, and I fear there might be some actual issue there (no—really).

In short, there's just a butt-load of issues out there in totally unresolved states, and it's all starting to frustrate me badly, as I feel stuck in a bit of a holding pattern until some of these things start to clarify and congeal and coagulate.

[insert whine here]

Doubt just sucks.

24 August 2007

hellbent.. hellbent for leather

Funny how so many of life's great themes and moments often seem summed up by a Judas Priest song....

T'is another asstacularly bejumbled pile of competing events and obligations 'round Brett's Fascinating Life. One the one side of the ledger I am scrambling like mad, playing Producer Guy on the oft-mentioned never-fully-described "weird online thing" project, with all sorts of phone calls and emails and chats and such happening (often at the same time) as I continue to find what seem to be more cool pieces of a puzzle whose final shape and form seems not at all clear, but which (again, for reasons I shall for now elect to not describe or divulge) is pretty clearly seems A Very Cool Thing.

As part of that, I've already flown to LA once recently to hook up for a meeting, and it seems increasingly likely that a return trip shall become imperative at some date in the not overly distant future (within the next 4 or 5 weeks, most likely). Given all the OTHER stuff I am dealing with, that seems an absurd proposition.

But my faithful readers (both) know that we specialize in the absurd and excel at the impossible. Ordinary challenges are best left for ordinary men, while it takes a weird man to rise to the weird challenge.

And weird I rise often, me bruthers.

School is about to start again 'round here, which means the Four Children of the Apocalypse shall soon daily wave "good day, Father!" as they trudge onto their respective school busses ("bussi"?) and head off to have their tiny craniums filled with the inane blather that the local school district deems "educational." (Another rant for another day...) The upside to that daily pilgrimage is the promise (oh, the heavenly glorious surely hallucinated promise...) of A Quiet House In Which To Work. Summertime hereabouts often seems kinda like a barfight in that cantina in Mos Eisley: strange voices, unfathomable disagreements, weird music, and severed arms littering the floor as patrons sit casual and disinterested in their booths, sipping odd fluids and munching on God knows what.

The Wife still works nights, and I've spent this summer doing the usual boring at-home parent things: leading troops of 50 scouts on snorkeling trips to Pacific Islands... trekking to Hollywood to jam with producers... slow dancing with stingrays and bleeding into school of barracudas... wearing giant plumed pirate hats while exhorting other people's kids to blow boats down raingutters in a public park... designing and installing a new offensive scheme based upon single-wing principles but run from an offset-I formation... serving as drill sergeant for a boot camp for 10 year olds... driving pregnant strangers in a golf cart to get snowcones in a rainstorm... you know—the usual.

Somewhere in there I'm also trying to get three different screenplay projects rewritten, and I've also lately managed to get my epic war drama script in front of a few name talent reps and prodcos.

And, dammit, I did it while cooking pasta carbonara in under 20 minutes using no groceries and one skillet.

"Eat my ass, Martha Stuart."

This weekend? Football league opening ceremonies in two hours, two football scrimmages in the morning, a birthday party in the afternoon, Cub Scout meeting after that, then on Sunday we have a football team pre-season swim gathering and a post-season tournament baseball team party at the same time, The Wife goes to work, and I prep the kids for Day One of the new school year.

I've slept 9 hours in the past 3 days, my throwing elbow hurts, my backyard is a jungle, and I'm wearing a Viking helmet and sunglasses.

Hit it.
Joliet B

19 August 2007

california squirmin' -- the tail of the tale

PART 2 — weird scenes inside the gold mine

"There are moments—rare but real and wonderful—when the cacophonous absurdity of my own existence suddenly swirls into a symphony of impossible inevitability."

Of course, there are those other moments, too—when that cacophony just stays cacophonous. Rowdy and ragged, loud and weird. I tend to smile at those moments, too, cuz let's be honest: what the hell other choice is there?

When a guy like me finds himself in a damned Japanese tea room, fumbling to find "Nestea over ice" in a menu of some 453 different frou-frou imported teas, as windchimes tinkle and patchouli wafts and a Windham Hill riff moans pointlessly somewhere in the background of my hearing like a peaceful soothing mosquito burrowing into my brain, all I can do is shrug, clap and rub my hands together expectantly and ask the Universe "is that really all you got for me?".

It's 10:30 am and I'm in some hilariously affected and arch place on a stretch of Melrose so damned cool that it hurts to even think about it, sucking on a 5 dollar glass of something somewhat like iced tea as I mosey into a traditional Japanese garden and crunch across the carefully raked gravel and past the tranquil burbling fountain to a cozy table behind a stand of peaceful free-range carbon-free bamboo, and two of my three co-producers are in tow, and we meet our producer contact.

And let me tell you, friends and neighbors, your intrepid narrator again accessed little known reserves of patience and restraint, as what I wanted to do was just make a royal and total ass of myself to point up what seemed to me (and me alone) the hilarious preciousness of the locale.

Instead, I was calm. I maintained. I was, in a word, a total fuckin pro.

The meeting? Oh, we rocked the Casbah, baybee. By the end of the meeting our pro contact was hopping up and down with excitement over the potential for the idea we were suggesting, and he was clearly now On The Team, eager to get us to commit to another round of meetings. At the end of the allotted two hours, we were all smiles, and pro contact hurries to another meeting on Melrose, and as we members of the team turn the corner to head to the car, we have one of those sadly caucasian moments where we turn, smile and jump up and down a bit and maybe high five like middle aged white folk are sometimes prone to do when confronted by a giggly urge. It was all very "Miller time," but we recovered and hopped into the rental (my white four door Chevy Carbuncle) and at some point someone hands me a cellphone and I hear Terry Rossio saying "So, how was the meeting?"

Now, yes, it's a bit of shameless name-dropping to ref Rossio, but his inclusion in this tale is relevant as he very much relates to the title. Rossio is, as most anyone wasting time on a wannabee screenwriter's blog surely knows, half of the Rossio and Elliott writing team responsible for a few little movies you make have heard of: Pirates of the Caribbean, Shrek, Zorro, Aladdin, Road to El Dorado, Godzilla, ad nauseum. He's Money, baybee. yet he also has long been, for whatever odd reason, suspicously tolerant and encouraging and supportive of yours truly.

Rossio and I met a few years back at the Austin Film Festival, and in one of those oddly fun twists, he and I have stayed in touch. Given that I do not live in Hollywood, am neither some fancy-pants writer nor a moneyed connected producer (nor a busty bikini model type...), his interest in my is always a bit amusing given that I make it a point to treat Terry with absolute seething hostile abusive contempt whenever I see him or talk to him. Part of me suspects that such treatment is so unusual in his world—that he is so used to and inured to ass-kissery and fawning—that my hostility is somehow amusing or even refreshing. Or perhaps he plays with me for much the same reason that the cat plays with the mouse.


The point is, Rossio is on the phone and invites us up to see his new digs in Topanga Canyon. And like the man said, "Ray, when someone asks you if you are a god, the answer... is... YES!"

So off to Topanga we go.

It's a beautiful area—one that reminds me absolutely of the central Texas region where I and my family always go rafting and toobing every year, except instead of ramshackle tin-roofed cabins these hills are spritzed with hilariously overpriced little villas and compounds and dreamhomes. Rossio's chunk of heaven is a collection of Spanish mission styled buildings centered around a cool tower-topped white stucco hacienda home overlooking the canyon. Insanely cool place with a view worth, well, more money than I can ever imagine spending on a home on ten acres, but in Hollywood terms he got the place for a steal.

We park next to a battered VM van that looks like the real life model for the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, wander through the garden and bang once before heading in the back door. Rossio pads around the corner into the kitchen and smiles, looking every bit the part of the absurdly successful Hollywood writer: barefoot, rumpled, in sweatpants and t-shirt. "The Dude" from Lebowski would be only slightly more relaxed and casual.

Rossio gives us the 2-dollar tour of the place, and it's obvious he's both insanely excited by and proud of this house, and it's easy to understand why. You labor for years as a writer, trying to push a greased boulder up an insanely steep incline, and then one day you look up and realize that You Have Made It. At that stage you either become an insufferable ass in your fancy home with your fancy car and fancy clothes, or you giggle at the absurdity of it all. Rossio stands in his bare feet on a second floor patio, admiring the view from his ping pong area, and laughs "it still makes me smile to come up here and say 'it's all mine! It's really all mine!'."

After the walkaround, and then the drive-around in "The Ladybuy," his four-man golfcart seemingly stolen from the old Logan's Run set, he says anyone else hungry?", and again I remember Winston Zedemore's advice (re: "are you a god"), so we all pile into Rossio's vanagon (yes, that's the ride of one of the most highly-compensated writers in Hollywood...) and rumble back down the canyon to some crazy biker joint in the heart of absolutely nowhere. I loved the place at once, at is absolutely reeked of no attitude. The outside tables were battered 10-dollar plastic patio furniture, and the menus were one page photocopies on cardstock, with ketchup stains and crayon doodles from a hundred previous kids. Terry springs for BLTs for all, two of my partners in this endeavor realize they have to bail early to get back to Hollywood to cut loose their babysitter, so they grab my rental and head back to Reality, leaving me and my other partner with TR, on a patio, under the oaks, as we debate and discuss favorite movies for an hour.

Rossio finally hauls us back to his place, where he pulls out a draft for a new Wordplay column and reads it to me so that he can (get this!) hear what I think about it, and then he and I go back to talking movies and shit for another hour or so. And here's the most truly weird and wonderful part of the entire trip for me: none of this seemed or felt even the tiniest bit odd or surreal. Yeah, Terry is Mr. Fuckin Hollywood these days, the kind of screenwriter you dream of becoming one day when you finally announce to yourself "I wanna be a screenwriter, and an audience with him should feel like an audience with the friggin' Pope (and do not ask me why I now think of His Holiness as "the friggin Pope" whenever I think of him), and when I get back and relate this tale (as I know even then I surely shall, and as we see now I surely have), I know the loopiness of it all will finally hit me with delayed intensity, but in that moment—at that specific singular instant—there's nothing even the slightest bit strange or unusual going on. He's not some hugely connected and successful writer, and I'm not some sniveling desperate pre-pro. Instead, we're two guys giggling and laughing and going "Yeah! Right! That's it!" when we are discussing favorite movie scenes and moments and memories.

Eventually the afternoon winds down, and we have to start back toward LA proper, and Terry walks us to the door and waves as he turns back to resume doing... well, whatever it is that he does. Down the canyon, out toward PCH (we were giving a lift to some vague mutual friend who happened to be up at Rancho Rossio, using TR's studio as a writing space), then south down the coast toward Santa Monica and then Hollywood.

"So, you seemed to be having a good time," says my producing partner as she drives. You two seemed to be having a fun convo.

"Yeah, Terry's good people." I explain needlessly.

We roll down a lazy mountainside highway on yet another gorgeous SoCal afternoon. To my right is a perfect California beach, where I later learn they shot the bulk of the old BAYWATCH series. Behind lies a good friend who happens to be a gazillionaire screenwriter. Ahead?

Hollywood, baybee. Hollywood.
navel of the Universe B

12 August 2007

hill country hippie

Sorry, kids, but you'll need to look elsewhere for cosmic guidance and restaurant-quality snark for at lkeast the next few days. Your intrepid narrator is packing the van and rolling off to the Texas Hill Country (somewhere near Wimberley) to splash in the Blanco River and watch the kids ride tubes and to drink beer and listen to cicadas and to pretty not do a damned thing til I get back on Thursday.

Oh, sure—I'll take a pair of screenplays to mark up for ongoing re-writes, and I have a pair of books I am looking at with an eye to figuring out how they might be twisted into original stories, and I'll take a football and work on basic offensive sets with the two sons both now in league practice, and I'll continue to brainstorm for possible cool angles to play to maximize my tiny bit of Nicholl steam (and pray that the steam is still there when I get back and that I've not already been dinked for whatever next round looms), and I've got the small matter of a phone conference with co-producers on Wednesday afternoon to discuss pushing forward with our odd little... "idea", and late late Friday I was stunned by a very happy and cool development relating to a query I sent out for the Lilya story (that Nicholl script), so I hope to maybe hear some more good (GREAT!) news on that front, and other queries are out there and arriving on targets even as we speak—but aside from that I'm not doing anything.

So deal with the sad fact that you'll not have me to ignore for at least a few days.

But come Thursday, stand ready to not give a damn.

As you were.
westbound and down B

10 August 2007

unusual but effective query letters?

Still banging forehead on the wall in a largely unsuccessful attempt to come up wiuth a pitch-query which both clearly describes the dramatic project being pimped but also gives a clearer idea of my personality and sensibility. It's a tricky balance to aim for, and one I've not (yet) figured out, but what I need is something slightly bit off-kilter yet not dangerously so, which makes it clear that I am in control and competent, but at the same time coming from a singular unique place...

If anyone has any examples of slightly oddball queries which they have used with success, I would surely love to get a peek.
lost in the woods B

09 August 2007

'scuse me while I piss and moan

The one part of the screenwriting game which I hate—abhor, detest, loath, wish to hell I never had to mess with again—is that cold-calling phase. That "approach a total stranger and try to make it clear than you have intelligence, creativity, passion, integrity, and one hell of a great story idea all in three brief paragraphs and for god's sake don't do anything to offend."

'Cuz that ain't me, kids.

I'm more of a "barrel on in without much concern and then trust that nothing there is big and bad enough to do much much real harm" kind of guy.

Except, when you're talking about a stillborn career where you might have one lucky chance to try and win some stranger's attention or else wind up pissing them off so badly that they hire someone to ignore you full-time on their behalf so they don't even have to worry about it, that approach seems less wise to employ.

The crumpled paper virtual snowballs of trashed attempts at query letters fill my virtual office to armpit depth, and I feel no closer to a winning letter now than when I started this damned foo exercise earlier this week.

I might just go beat a small tree with a baseball bat.
frustrated B

08 August 2007

california squirmin' -- the tail of the tale

PART 1 — people-watching at Peet's in Larchmont

Despite the fact that Los Angeles seems just slightly less huge than Trantor (oh, just Google it, fer chrissakes...), every time I slide west to do a Hollywood Shuffle it seems as if I wind up touching base with a few familiar locations or businesses.

LAX is a rather predictable such touchstone, and then there's Enterprise Rental (which I like as they are always cheaper than other majors and always seem to upgrade me for no reason I have ever figured out). The oft-referenced Lucy's El Adobe always winds up in my itinerary whether I mean for it to or not. Starbucks always seems to show up twice a day, no matter what, and I refuse to accept that there are truly that many damned franchises of this place. (My personal theory is there are perhaps three different Starbuck's in the entire universe, and that they are all accessed by storefront wormholes which instantly transport you from wherever you enter too one of these three always overcrowded coffeeslopperies.)

Like any tourist, I often seem to wind up at Third and Fairfax, doing at least an hour or two at The Grove and/or The Farmers Market. It's a convenient place to hang out with/for Hollywood pals, plus they have a Starbucks wormhole, so that's comforting.

Another LA haunt which seems to show up in every set of my travel notes is the Larchmont Village, blas´ shopping district over in Hollywood. Tucked between Paramount Studios and the cool residential area of Hancock Park, Larchmont Village looks like a little slice of Mayberry dropped down into LA. Five or six blocks of quaint little brick stores and stalls facing a treelined boulevard lined with angled nose-in parking.

You see the typical Hollywood bohemian riffraff—those freshly tattooed sorts working their shabby chic ethos so damned hard that you fear they might pull a muscle and require a third weekly reflexology appointment.

You see the Hancock Nannies—stoic Central American looking matrons pushing blonde-eyed blue-haired (whatever) moppets in expensive Swiss-made titanium and carbon fiber strollers, glad to be away from the overpriced home where The Lady of The House likely is working the phones to set-up a pilates class and a breast implant tune-up.

You see the Old Guard—aging septuagenarian and octogenarian characters who usually wear long sleeves and hats for no discernible reason and who usually sport a slightly pissed off look about them, like they really really wished they'd opted to take that bran-fueled bowel movement back at the house before setting off on this daily three-block visionquest to stand and stare aimlessly at travel posters in the Carlson Wagonlit office.

There's also a Peet's Coffee & Tea shop there, which is no huge miracle as there are Peet's lots of places, but in LA sometimes it's somehow comforting to get an overpriced cup of joe from somewhere not under the damned Starbuck's mermaid/goddess/whatever logo. I like this Peet's especially for the fact that there is almost always an open table or bench out front along that aforementioned sycamore-shaded boulevard, helping make this one of the more truly relaxing places to just hang out and get centered before diving back into yet another day of LA Bullshit.

Shocking though it may be to hear, I was never what you might call an "overly studious type" in college. Some folks needed (or understood) to really hit the books hard and study their asses off, and remain ever-organized and alert and aware of all things at all times. I was always one of those slacker-prone types who knew (perhaps too well) that natural intelligence, mass, inertia, and the pity of others would almost always to at least survive whatever the hell "responsibility" was trying to chap my ass at any given moment. ("Huh? We have a seven page comparative lit project due tomorrow? Cool. I'll get right on that as soon as I finish watching 'Riptide'...")

In other words, I've never been one of those to prep muchly before important events and dates and meetings.

Until I decided to sincerely pursue the notion of professional screenwriting. Suddenly, for reasons I do not even try to fathom, I started Getting Serious. When I have meetings or networking opportunities, I always wake way earlier than needed, I shower and shave and eat sensibly and check my attire and show up way early to lurk somewhere nearby where I can sort through carefully compiled notes and intell for the meeting about to happen.

And that's another reason I love this Peet's. Larchmont Village has a nice well-hidden parking garage where I can drop my car for two hours for just a buck or two as I kick back in some very un-LA feeling place which is still no more than 15 minutes away from pretty much anywhere in Hollywood. So I sat there, sipping my damned four dollar latté and going over the demo script we had polished and tweaked the night before, and I re-visited all of the various comments and hints this producer had made around me in previous meetings which had led me to set up this meeting between him and me and a small team of co-producers hoping to get a strange "alternative distribution" project cobbled together for a pitch to a specific major Hollywood mega-player.

And the nannies strolled past, and the hipsters fought to seem blasé, and the oldsters grimaced and seemed confused, and I smiled at being where I was, when I was, doing what I was for the reasons I was.

There are moments—rare but real and wonderful—when the cacophonous absurdity of my own existence suddenly swirls into a symphony of impossible inevitability.

I grab my rental and head for Melrose, where a producer awaits.

(to be continued)
in the belly of the beast B

06 August 2007

meme: 10 things

So I was tagged this week both by Julie O and Jen to take part in the "Ten Things" meme:

Once you’ve been tagged, you must write a blog with ten weird, random things, little-known facts or habits about yourself. At the end, choose at least 5 people to be tagged, list their names and why you picked them. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you’ve been tagged” and tell them to read your latest blog.

Now, I dunno if I'm going to tag 5 more schmucks, errr, friends, but I'll go ahead and post random noise about me me glorious wonderful me all damned day.

[1] I'm a fairly decent baseball switch hitter. Once upon a time (long long ago in a galaxy far far away...) I did something to my right shoulder. By "something" i mean I separated it or tore it out of socket or tore some cartilage and ligaments or something. I've never really discovered what the damage was, as I never told anyone about the injury (actually, injuries) which led to the problem, but due to a body surfing wipeout in Acapulco and then an awkward fall in a cow pasture football game, my right shoulder hangs about 2 inches low and makes a suspicious crunchy sound when it goes through a full range of motion. I fully recovered over the course of the next year, but that fall I found I had to bat left handed to avoid a nasty pain, so I wound up learning to bat as a switch hitter. It has never really had much value, except for the occasional 'sons versus dads" baseball game in the summer, when the dads are all told to bat left handed. I do and usually crank a few homers. No big whoop.

[2] In high school, I received "Best In The District" awards for Science, History, *and* Math—the first and to-date only ever such "triple-dip" in my high school's history. Interestingly enough, I did not win the English award, as one of my teachers disliked me intensely (due to some "less that artful" stories I submitted as assignments) and was fond of telling everyone that I had no talent for writing. I giggle that I've now been a paid professional writer for some 20 years, and when I finally hit a big payday for writing, I might track her down so that I can mail her a well rolled copy of the news release of my success, and a small tube of KY so that she can more easily shove the news of my success up her tightly-puckered ass.

[3] I have an enormous head. In fitted baseball caps, I usually have to special order either a 7-3/4 or sometimes even a 7-7/8. I tell people that this is due to my three-lobed brain: I have an extra "middle hemisphere" which deals purely with spite and bitterness.

[4] At one point in school, most of my friends were convinced that I'd wind up a comic book artist or perhaps an illustrator for MAD magazine. I'm actually pretty good with pen and paint and such, but I've never really enjoyed it well enough to consider ever trying it as a professional gig.

[5] I've never water skiied. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but it's one of those things I somehow missed and have never really thought about except for when people seem stunned and say "What? You've never water skiied!?!"

[6] My family came very close to moving to New Zealand in 1973. Dad worked for a pipeline supply and engineering company and there was some huge project in that region, and his company, a multinational headquartered in Belgium (I think) was looking for US workers to volunteer to set up shop in Wellington. If my parents had not been fighting like cats and dogs (and headed towards a divorce a few years later), I might now be an obnoxious Kiwi.

[7] I've never smoked anything, and have never used or consumed any illegal substances. Among professional writer types, this seems even more unusual.

[8] I can do the best bellyflop of anyone I know. I used to be able to do them onto bare ground, in fact, but I now weigh a bit more than in my prime, so I am reluctant to test my form in such a manner these days. I can however still smack the water so that pretty much every point on my body hits the surface at the same moment, creating a loud and scary looking smack without any great discomfort or pain. As with many of my talents, it has no real useful value.

[9] Once upon a time I was a very good racquetball player, and actually could serve hard enough to sometimes explode the ball during the serve. It only happened maybe four or five times ever, but it was always a fun and impressive moment to serve and see fragments of blue rubber flying all around the forecourt area.

[10] I've worked (professionally) as a ditch digger, construction worker, math tutor, copywriter, janitor, stagehand, ice cream dipper, cabinet maker, delivery driver, physics tutor, deli counterman, designer, pump monkey (full service gasoline attendant and repairman), and postal worker. I prefer writing to all those gigs.

Fascinating, huh?

And now, given that I am supposed to tag fine more suckers, err, I mean participants to continue this damned fool exercise in auto-erotic self-fluffery, I reach into the either and tag the following:

Scott the Reader, 'cuz he's a quiet guy who likely has some cool and or scary unknown factoids lurking behind his innocuous smile ("#3-- I quite enjoy the taste of human flesh...")

Steve "SoCal" Barr, 'cuz he is good at secrets, being the leader of an ancient secret society that he loves to talk about, and 'cuz he has nothing else going on in his sad empty soul crushing life of masturbation and video games.

Will Dixon, 'cuz he likes PREDATOR and has some cool bloggery going and needs to be dragged into the harsh gray light of dawn.

Dante Kleinberg 'cuz he has a fun name to say and cuz he's not yet been tagged and such folks are very hard to find this late in the meme

Ryan Rasmussen, 'cuz he posts way too much non-self-absorbed stuff in a form/genre/medium clearly intended for self-absorbed stuff and therefore needs to have his slack ass dragged back onto the farm.

02 August 2007

california squirmin' -- the middle bit of the tale


One of the odd side effects of a week spent snorkeling and hiking and mountain biking and tromping over hill and dale in a dusty scout camp and then sleeping on a rusty saggy creaky military cot in a camp filled with at least five scout leaders who should seriously consider trying out for the US Olympic Snoring team is you end that week exhausted.

I mean, dog tired, bone tired, that kind of tired where you ache too much even to hurt.

The excitement/drama/insanity of our Extraction Day out of Catalina and back to LAX only added to the mental and physical exhaustion for me. I was one of two leaders on this trip charged with the planning and execution, and my specific charge was the transportation issue. In other words, it was my ass on the hook to arrange and coordinate a very tight travel schedule for 52 scouts which included pre-paid reserved travel via boat, bus, and plane.

It all went off without a major hitch (oh, sure: the bus company did send a 49 passenger bus rather than the 55-seater we'd reserved and double confirmed, and that meant many of us were riding in other people's laps, or had dirty smelly duffel bags of funked-out laundry in our laps), and I got everyone on the plane, and then I changed into civilian garb and motored to Sherman Oaks and had a beer (God Be Praised) and had a fun dinner and another beer or two (God Really Be Praised), but then it came time to sleep.

And I'm here to tell you, brothers and sisters, I slept.

Ten hours of rack time and I wakened in exactly the same position as when I'd dozed off the night before. Given that I average something like four and a half hours of sleep per night normally, sleeping for ten hours straight is analogous to a normal person sleeping for, oh... I dunno, let's say "a week."

I padded around Deb's home, looking as perky and pleasant as I ever do when I first waken (note: for those playing along in the home version, understand that for the first 40 or so minutes after waking, I would gladly devour my own children if they were to bother me with such offenses as "conversation" or "loud glances."). I sucked back two cups of what might have been coffee, and as conscious sanity was finally starting to bleed back into my braincase, Deb wanders past.

"Wanna catch a Dodgers game?"

"Well, I dunno. I mean... (garble garble garble)."

"It's free."

"Oh. Let's go, then."

Turns out that Warren Leonard, late of The Screenwriting Life blog (allegedly soon returning to an internet near you), is connected in no way worth explaining fully to the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, as in "he has an office and a nameplate and everything." Warren is Good People, and he and I have tried a few times to hook up on my recent fly-bys of LA, so this time he'd offered comp passes to club level seats out in Chavez Ravine.

It was one of the gloriously beautiful days which only happens 320 or so times a year in SoCal, the Mets were in town so there was a packed crowd, the seats were fun, Warren's office is right across the hall from Tommy Lasorda's (which says something, I think, about any "honor" associated with being in the presence of such bombast that The New Guy gets sentenced to endure such), and Warren remains a hopelessly decent and smart guy. Deb and I sat and caught up with Warren, harassed him a bit for letting his blog lapse, talked about where we were all hoping to go, career-wise, talked about various projects in the works and on the boards... all in all, it was a Very Good Day.

Trying to look and act like real Angelenos, Deb and I refused to pay much attention to the game and made sure to leave at least a full inning early to avoid the traffic. We thanked Warren again as he ducked back into his office to do some more writing, we headed to her place, then I quickly sponged off, gathered my gear and headed down to Hollywood to do a working dinner sort of meeting with my producing partners on this odd new... thing.


We all met at Kip and Deb's home which is located approximately zero-point-nine blocks from Lucy's El Adobe.

"Ooooo... we have this great old school Mexican food place we'd love to take you, Brett!"

"They're closed."


"Lucy's. They're closed on Sundays."

"Oh. Wait-- you've been to Lucy's?"

"Not in the last 18 hours, no."

We wound up at El Compadre, another classic Hollywood beans and rice place down on W. Sunset. Dark, old school, kinda retro kitschy funky in that "this must be what a Mexican food place looked like in the Eisenhower administration" sort of way. Food: passable. Drinks: very nice (hard to much screw up a top shelf 'rita with a float of Grand Marnier). Atmosphere: quite nice (I think 40% of the female guests there either have been or soon will be featured in some magazine in some various stage of undress. Yowza.).

After feasting a bit, we headed back to Chateau Kip & Deb and worked til midnight on our pitch for the next day's meeting. They (Kip and Deb and Tina) also insisted that we work on our bios for the leave-behind doc we intended to (wait for it...) leave behind, and asking me to get serious about my own biography is kinda like asking an 8 year old boy to NOT jump in that great big pile of leaves you just raked up in the yard.


My version of my bio included such pertinent factoids as "graduate and founder of the University of Ron (Ron, France)" and "unable to visit Louisiana under his real name" or maybe "Brett was raised by wild storks until found my wandering Methodists," so the rest of the crew had to do some heavy lifting in order to get anything useful onto that section of the page next to my name.

We all liked the demo script I'd sent the night before leaving for Catalina. (The "night before"? Try "two hours before I'd intended to wake, except I never actually slept that last night as I was crazy busy and wracked by paranoid fears of forgetting something."). We punched it up a bit, worked out a lot of talking points for the impending meeting with a producer, and left around midnight feeling pretty good about the next day's get-together.


Even after a long day filled with LA images and attitude, I was still not ready to avert my gaze, so I opted for longer route back to Deb's, rolling past Paramount through Hollywood up to Highland so as to take in more scenery.

West Hollywood round midnight remains a surreal place for me: it somehow always comes off as slightly less authentic than a Universal Studios tour version of West Hollywood round midnight. Everything garish is a little too garish, the squalor a little too squalorous, the freaks a little too freakish. You pass a dozen familiar corners and landmarks, and immediately remember moments from three dozen movies or TV shows, and then snap to the weird fact that this is not some show—this is real, and the movie you are watching is your life—and suddenly you begin to realize that there is no fantasy too wild—no pipedream too ridiculous—to not make some sense in this insane world of neon and make believe.

It's Hollywood, baybee.