21 December 2007

Nicholl Week -- Day the Fourth

Wednesday would be a strange day in many ways. I knew this on some level, as there would finally be that whole "Worlds Colliding" thing which had somehow never happened before.

Here's the thing: It's not as if I live my life like Harry Tasker in TRUE LIES. I don't live a double life totally separate and apart from my family, but there is surely some disconnect between my writing life and my non-writing life. As a writer I have a circle of friends whom I interact with almost exclusively via online means: email, chat, discussion board postings. In a weird way, my "office" is a virtual space where people from Florida and LA and Canada and England and New Zealand and Chile and Tierra Del Wherever all work at adjacent desks, just a tossed paperwad away in virtual space. A great many of these folks I actually have met and played with in real life, so I know them as more than just words and pixels. To me they are every bit as real as my neighbors and local peers.

To The Wife, however, these online friends are somehow slightly different. Suspicious. Suspect.

"How can you claim to be good friends with someone you've never met, or only met once or twice?"

"I dunno. How can you claim to still be good friends with someone you've not heard from in years, or only spoken to for a few minutes once in ten years?"

She doesn't begrudge me my writing friends. She just doesn't really understand who they are or how they can be described as "friends."

Did I mention that Wednesday was the day that The Wife was arriving to join me in Hollywood?

Oh. Yeah. Sorry. It was.


I woke to my alarm at 5 am and did some quickly calculations.

I'd crawled into bed around 2 am after a night spent first drinking and then writing in my underwear in my room.

(Well, I wasn't actually writing IN my underwear -- I was writing WHILE in my underwear. But I digress...)

I'd set my alarm for 5 am in case I decided to follow through on my stated desire to join buddy Ron Moscovitz (2005 Nicholl Fellow and WGA strike captain) on the picket line. I realized that I'd had slightly less than 3 hours sleep, would need to be in shorts and a t-shirt if I was picketing and would then need to proceed directly to WGA offices on Wilshire by 9 am for the photo op where Susanna Grant posed for a grip-n-grin shot in front of a large plastic Oscars™ statue as my Nicholl Finalist certificate was officially awarded, and that meant I'd not be looking as sharp as I'd wanted, and I'd also then need to leave early from that event to pick up The Wife at LAX as her flight arrived at 2:30 pm, so I quickly ran my sums and times my gazintas and decided that Ron could probably handle picket duties just fine without me, so I turned off the alarm and snored for another two and a half hours.

Among the other fun features of the Renaissance Hotel was the "concierge floor" where the Academy put most of us Nicholl folks. In the lounge area just down the hall was a very fine complimentary breakfast every day, and it was always interesting to smile and wave a piece of toast as greeting as one or another fellow Nichollite would pad in, bleary eyed and wearing footy pajamas. I had some more fun convo over coffee and fruit, then showered, dressed and piloted the rockin red Chevy POS 'cross Hollywood to the Academy's board room in their fancier digs on Wilshire.

Dan Petrie, Jr. and Dana Stevens sat in and talked for an hour or so about guild issues and the strike as they relate to writers and aspiring writers in the movie biz. Then a slew of heavy hitters joined us—the Nicholl's final round judges for the year—and we all chatted for a half hour or so about or projects as the judges foisted praise on most all of us.

Another really nice catered lunch was brought in, and we sat around in what amounted to an indoor picnic. The five soon-to-be-crowned Fellows all paired up with the judge who would be making their introduction at Thursday's awards banquet. My new buddies Amy Garcia and Cecelia Contreras, the painfully sweet gals behind Nicholl-winning Amelia Erheart and the Baloney Rainbow Highway, annoyed me hugely by collecting Susanna Grant as their lunch date and script-presenter.

Grant is the first Nicholl winner to come back to head up the Nicholl Committee, and in addition to being annoyingly talented (Oscar nommed, writer of Erin Brockovich and many other cool flicks), annoyingly cute, and annoyingly smart, she's also just a very cool and easy to talk to person. I managed to have maybe fifteen great seconds with Susanna as we posed together for my awards photo, and I was hoping to have a shot to tell her how huge a fan I am, but things got hectic.

I spent the bulk of the after-lunch period chatting with long-time Hollywood player Ron Mardigian. Ron was fun to talk to, and at one point he laughed and congratulated me on being possibly the most bitter and sarcastic young man he'd ever met. "You'll do very well in this business!" he offered as some odd compliment.

While we were all smarming about the room, acting like we knew what the hell we were doing, my cellphone buzzes, and I see I'm catching a message from Terry Rossio (yes, that Terry Rossio, and yes, I'm name-dropping again, so bite me), who wants to know when works best for me and The Wife to come up and see his place in Topanga. For reasons which still seem weird and somehow farcical, Terry and I struck up something like a friendship years back when he was a guest at the Austin Film Festval.

I've been to LA several times since then, and only once have I managed to cross paths with Terry (he's usually busy doing his damned fool movie thing, or off having premieres in two bit truck-stop towns like London or New York or Tokyo or wherever... such a sad tiresome life he leads...). This time, however, we'd swapped emails in advance and both sworn blood oaths (other people's blood, of course) to hook up and o lunch or something. Rossio had even made vague typically Terry-esque offers to possibly be in a mood to host a gathering or something at his place (he loves parties).

I respond, leave a message, and make a note to be sure and work out details with terry to do lunch on Thursday, then have to excuse myself for business elsewhere.

I took a few extra minutes to give Bill Mechanic former head of 20th Century Fox (and now a producer) a chance to kick me in the balls. I asked mechanic for some advice on the best way to present my story about WW2 female ace Lilya Litvyak to studios, and he said "don't bother. It'll never happen. This story will never get picked up."

Thanks, Bill!

I smiled, tossed my paper plate into the trash and headed to LAX to pick up The Wife.

I slide into a parking space maybe 50 feet from the doors to baggage claim, saunter in and find The Wife wandering around the claim carousel, chasing her luggage. I come up from behind and give her a hug from the side, surprising her. She looks up with a start, and then chuckles. "Well, hellooooo, Hollywood! Since when do YOU dress in all-black?"

We kiss. "Workin' it, babe."

I grab her huge suitcase and her hanger bag, ask if that's all, and she says "Yeah, just the two." I make a mental note that she must have packed efficiently, with all her makeup and gear in the big bag rather than in a smaller case as normal.

We load the car and make the drive back across town to the hotel. She smiles as we pull in and the valet guys scramble to assist us, and she smiles at the laughably clich├ęd collection of Hollywood characters we encounter from the driveway to the elevator. As we toss the suitcase onto the bed, she starts screaming profanities.

[Note: while The Wife is many things, shy about hurling some salty language she is not. We share that trait, in fact, as we can both cuss like drunken longshoremen with Tourette's when the mood strikes. I, however, am able to turn it off when the situation demands. The Wife, by contrast, sometimes struggles mightily on this point.]

The cause of her frustration was the aforementioned shortage of luggage.

"I forgot my fucking makeup case! Goddammit!"

Ten minutes of harsh language later and we've determined that she had packed her makeup case—complete with combs and brushes and blow driers and all manner of feminine product, as well as hundreds of dollars of makeup and hair care product—and then left it back home in Texas, sitting at the foot of the bed, waiting to be picked up and put in the car for the drive to the airport.

And we have a black-tie Hollywood banquet to go to the following night—the entire reason she decided to finally follow me to LA for a trip.


I'd already made some plans to meet an LA friend for dinner. Deborah Chesher—yes, she of "Everybody I Shot Is Dead" fame—was going to meet us at Lucy's El Adobe, which has become something of a tradition between me and Deb. I explain to The Wife that LA is a good-sized city where they have malls and stores and shit (yes, this is the way we talk), so we can surely find some place to help re-supply her with spackle and Bondo and varnish and such.

As I said, The Wife is still relatively unaccustomed to the notion of having online friends, so I think it was some great relief to her to actually see one of these names I refer to and prove to her own satisfaction that there is in fact a real living breathing human being associated with the entity known as "Deb." We have a fun little dinner—Deb fills us in on recent news with her promotional efforts for her cool book, we talk about the Nicholl week so far, The Wife talks about the annoyance of leaving her packed overnight case at the foot of the bed back in Texas. We'd called the babysitter who had confirmed "yes, it's just sitting here, ready to go—should I FedEx it?" Given the timing and the logistics, we decided to just try and replace stuff locally—"after all," The Wife explained in her typically female way where my stuff becomes our stuff and her stuff remains her stuff, "we have all that cash for the per diem!"


So we settle the bill at Lucy's, Deb scurries off to some movie preview premiere, and The Wife and I wander across Hollywood looking for someplace to drop coin on makeup she already owns.

We found a Macy's at The Beverly Center, dropped half my freakin' week's worth of per diem to buy duplicate makeup ("Merry Christmas," the suffering artist as husband explained...), then stopped by a 24-hour Walgreens on Hollywood Blvd to pick up all the brushes and combs and tweezers and implements of beautification required for these products. By the time the purchasing was complete, it was almost 10 pm and she was feeling the effects of spending the day traveling, and I was in need of a beer after the effects of spending all night spending, so when we walked through the front doors of the Renaissance and saw Sidney and Amy and Dave hanging out in The World's Worst Hotel Bar, I was morally compelled to pull up a stool and join them.

I assumed The Wife would just flop into bed and get some sleep, but she's a trouper, and she seldom passes on an opportunity to have a beverage and sling the shit (we do have some shared interests, as it turns out...), so she joins in and acquits herself admirably, showing a far greater interest in and understanding of the movie writing business than most spouses of peers seem to suggest. I give her tremendous grief—more in real life than in these blog posts—but in truth she has always been ridiculously supportive and encouraging and tolerant of my crazy dreams of screenwriting fame and glory, so finally having a chance to bring her along and include her in the silliness which passes for my life at these writerly events... well, it was a thrill.

She has once or twice made the observation that I lead somewhat of a double life, as when I am home and playing "Dad," i am committed to one specific set of goals and concerns, yet when I put on my SuperWriter cape and disappear into a week's worth of nights for a writing trip to Austin or LA, I clearly have a totally different mind working. I don;t know that I totally agree with the description, but I can see where she might have that impression, as the world of Hollywood is a million miles removed from the world of (example) Little League Baseball in Katy, Texas, so the idea that I am somehow equally adept and happy in both environments surely stirs some confusion.

Perhaps I am schizo and have multiple personalities running side by side and waiting for their respective turns at the wheel. Whatever. All I now is that I love both those lives, and suffer constant bewilderment that I so often bounce back and forth without much effort or problem.

We end yet one more night giggling at the bizarre way this bar shuts down without warning or explanation far earlier than can be explained, as patrons sit around glancing at their watches trying to figure out what's so special about 12:20 am that a hotel bar must shut down right then.

The Wife and I retire to our room, she collapses into bed, and I sort through email and do some late-night writing as always when on a road trip.

Outside, the spires of downtown LA shine in the hazy distance, and I can see moonlight reflecting off the Pacific west near Santa Monica.

(to be continued...)
very married B


Anonymous said...

An amazing read, as always. Thank you.

The duo Contreras / Garcia is reported to have signed with ICM.



Uhm, Mr. Rossio, no less!!!

MaryAn Batchellor said...


Emily Blake said...

You know they sell makeup at Rite Aid, right? It looks just like the real thing.

aggiebrett said...

Believe me-- I suggested all manner of lower cost short term possible solutions.

I'm lucky to have survived.

Stephen said...

Thanks for sharing the awesomeness. Nice to know this sort of thing happens to real people. (Although I suspect David M may be an alien ringer...) Best of luck in parlaying your windfall up to the next level!

Emily Blake said...

Your wife is a lucky woman to have a man willing to go through all that.

I hope she looked hot at the thing.

Julie O'Hora said...

I think we all know why TR is friends with you, B. Mm-hm.

Unknown said...

Would a been cheaper to Fed Ex the damn stuff!

PJ McIlvaine said...

This is why I never wear makeup.

jj said...

"In a weird way, my "office" is a virtual space where people from Florida and LA and Canada and England and New Zealand and Chile and Tierra Del Wherever..."

And Minneapolis asswipe.

Great story, continued success. Have a great 2008.

I'm off to bleepin' Italy and I will have several beers in your honor.