Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Don't Believe in Santa Claus

I'm not Christian, so a fat guy delivering presents for Jesus was alway a difficult concept to wrap my head around as a kid. What's the deal with the North Pole? Jesus was from the Middle East. There were no reindeer in any of the manger pictures or lawn displays I'd see. Is the flying sled motorized? Christmas spirit? So Christians are only good in December when they're worried about some list that involves getting coal? What? What!

None of the kids I asked seemed to have answers to my questions that sounded at all reasonable.

I sat on Santa's lap only once when I was five. I pretty much decided he was bogus when I had to wait in line for 40 minutes to talk to him and he then didn't make good on my requests for a pony or a talking dog.

As an adult, I do believe that I have a friend in Jesus, but the whole Naughty or Nice secular aspect of the holiday continues to bug me. Is there any wonder why Christians continue to behave horribly if Santa's punishment for being bad is coal and onion-filled socks? If that's all there is to having no Christmas Spirit then I say bring it on, fat guy.

Bring it.

Recently, I discovered the joys of adult pen pals. I have sent books, Star Trek figurines and a pocket guide to the mercury content in common sushi fish to several people who I've met through my internet travels. In return, I've received Bakelite buttons, trash-picked yarn and a vintage sink from people who would be strangers to me were it not for our shared love of saving the planet from an over-packaged consumerist culture.

Today I'm sending the entire series of SISTER WENDY'S STORY OF PAINTING on videocassette to my pal in Bakersfield. For those of you who don't know who Sister Wendy is, she's a Consecrated Virgin (as opposed to all those nuns who are, apparently, getting action), who also happens to be a brilliant art critic. The two hours every day that she doesn't spend in monastic solitude and prayer, are spent enthusiastically lisping through her English bucked teeth (I know, "English bucked teeth" is redundant) about such things as "the wonderfully fluffy pubic hair" in one of Stanley Spencer's paintings.

I heart Sister Wendy.

My pal in Bakersfield is loyal to her VCR. She doesn't own a DVD player. She's also, by her own description, a "conservative Christian." It's these two reasons why I think SISTER WENDY is the perfect surprise gift for her. She really is a nice, Christian lady who is devoted to her grandkids and her church. But we really are very different. If I'd met her on the street, I doubt that we'd be friends. So I'm glad we didn't meet there. In cyber space we were able to put aside our generation gap, our religious differences, and our politics and have great conversations about environmental issues every day. So I think it's only appropriate, that on Black Monday, retail's biggest internet shopping day of the year, that I send my friend a not-so-secret Santa gift of lightly used videos. She's got Christmas Spirit year around.

NOVEMBER 30, 2009

I just got a thank you email for my pal in Bakersfield for the SISTER WENDY videos that arrived today! Those guys at the post office are on it. Unfortunately, her VCR now appears to be broken so she won't be able to watch the videos. And because she's a nice person and a good environmentalist, she asks if it is okay to send the videos to a friend with a VCR.

Of course this is okay. But I also happen to have an extra VCR in my house which I immediately offer to mail to her. And because she's a nice person, she insists on paying for my old, unused VCR. I flat out refuse. "Don't be ridiculous," I write back, "It's my treat." She refuses to back down. "Let me pay for the postage then. I INSIST." She fires back.

I'm sure the all caps is not a typo and this is my pal putting her foot down. Which I imagine makes a satisfying clacking noise as she stomps her sensible, low-heeled church shoes that I'm certain she wears.

Luckily, we're communicating via email so she doesn't notice the odd pause in the conversation while I contemplate her footwear and have the following tweaker conversation with myself:

TWEAKER SELF: "Well, if I let her pay for the postage for the VCR then that really does negate the whole point of the not-so-secret Santa gift of the SISTER WENDY videos. It's not a gift is she has to pay for it. "

TWEAKER SELF: "But if she feels guilty that I'm spending too much money on her, then it really takes the fun out of the gift too. Why does she have to be such a nice Christian lady?"

TWEAKER SELF: "Also she wrote "I INSIST" in all caps which means that arguing with her will also negate the gift so it will no longer be a nice gesture to her, but an annoying one.

TWEAKER SELF: "Why does my mental image of her include a red pant suit and white patent shoes? She's not Mrs. Clause. Or James Brown."

TWEAKER SELF: "At least the phrase "Conservative Christian" still evokes for me an image of Tammy Faye Baker and not Sarah Palin. What was I just thinking about? Oh yeah, the VCR."

TWEAKER SELF: "I can't count the not-so-secret Santa gift of the videos as a nice gesture because her nice gesture back to me about the VCR makes my nice gesture not so nice."

TWEAKER SELF: "I can't believe I just had that thought. Just having that thought means the videos don't count as my nice act of yesterday because I'm arguing with my pal just so I can still count it. That's so lame.

I email my pal in Bakersfield back and tell her that I'm going to mail her the VCR and have no idea what the postage will cost until I get to the post office (which is true). So, she will just have to wait until the package arrives to see how much she owes for postage, even though she totally does not have to reimburse me. Or anything.

I'm hoping at the post office they'll have a way of franking the package so it's impossible to tell how much the postage cost.

Is it still nice if I have to resort to devious ways of ensuring that I'm not out-niced?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

There Are Three Kinds Of Life Experiences...

1. Good experiences
2. Bad experiences
3. Screenplay material

I have been struggling with one of our projects. I've carried the script around with me for months. To the club. On vacation. If this script were a traveller, it would have enough frequent flyer points to go to Uranus.

(Insert childish snickering here).

I've been carrying the script around with me, as if proximity to the 3-hole punch paper would somehow impart, kabbalah-like, some hidden set of brilliant notes that would fix every problem I can't seem to crack.

Alas, even Jewish mysticism has failed to help me come up with a way to make the jewel thief protagonist a more sympathetic character in the first act.

And now I'm in trouble. Because the writer is back in town, after being conveniently out of the country all summer long, and I still don't know what to tell him about the latest draft, other than his script needs a major overhaul and we don't have the development fund to pay him for a rewrite.


I meet with the writer for coffee, fully prepared to admit that I am the loser producer who can only complain about all the faults in a script, and offer no helpful suggestions whatsoever. For the first 40 minutes of the meeting we talk about Barcelona in the summertime and how expensive the coffee is at Intelligentsia Coffee.

I try and stall the inevitable conversation about the script by asking him what he thinks about the 700 billion dollar bailout. He's angry about it and points to a "Bank Owned" sign on a house across the street from the cafe. "They could have bailed out that guy for a lot less money."

And that's exactly when I figure out how to fix the script.

The jewel thief in the script, isn't stealing because he's trying to achieve the American Dream, he's stealing because he needs to save the family home! (OMG). The writer goes crazy for the idea, spending the next twenty minutes vamping on what else could happen that would drive his now likable hero into a life of crime.

In thirty minutes we figure out how to solve every character and plot problem that have dogged me for the past four months.

I get a creative bailout due to the failing market. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Napoleon and Josephine and Josephine

I met Josephine in a supremely American fashion: she bought stuff from me at a garage sale.

She happened to be jogging by our sale and stopped in just to look around. She bought a vintage silk dress and my grandmother's red, white and blue Skyway luggage set. She told us that the set looked just like what her childhood Barbie doll had carried. We talked for two hours while standing in my neighbor's driveway. She was just this cool girl who was in town to edit her documentary about bisexuality. I had her over for dinner and invited her to all our parties.

Do I have to mention that my guy friends could not get enough of her? Hmmm...I wonder why.

Then she moved to New York City.

Last year, when my computer crashed, I lost all her contact information.

Today I spent an entire afternoon google stalking her across the internet. I was inspired to find her because I unpacked a spare set of luggage keys and an extra organizer pocket for one of the suitcases and, as an OCD tweaker, God forbid I just throw those away. Josephine paid good money ($20) for that three-piece luggage set! Let's just say that the words "Josephine" and "Bisexual" and "Documentary" bring up many more movie titles than you'd expect. Most of them involve Pompadour wigs and tag lines like "Watch Josephine Eat Napoleons! XXX!"

Why do so many roads in my life lead to porn?

I called her as she was leaving La Guardia and we talked all the way until she reached Union Station. Her documentary is done and she's got a distribution deal with LOGO. She's coming back to LA soon so we made plans to hang out.

She loves her luggage and was surprised that I'd tracked her down over spare suitcase parts.

Friendships can be forged out of the smallest moments in life. I love that.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Get a Free Lunch on Me (cough) I Mean Kinkos

It's official. I have now been cleaning my office for an entire month. And it's still not done. I thought that I'd been good at getting rid of old documents that I no longer needed, but somehow, every year I find another check register from 1996 and another stack of inter-office memos from a company that I haven't worked for in over a decade.


I also have a big stack of business cards from people and companies whose names I don't recognize that I pulled from various files.

Here's what I just learned about myself:

Apparently, I'm friendly or competent looking enough that people give me their business cards. And, I am bad at following up with them...

At my friendly neighborhood Kinko's where I spend all my hard earned cash making script copies, there that fishbowl by the front door with a sign that says, "Drop in your business card for a chance at a free lunch!"

Today I dropped 20 random business cards into the fishbowl.

Maybe someone I don't remember meeting will get lucky.

Friday, November 14, 2008

That Sinking Feeling: 2

My friend the Prop Master came over today to replace my disgusting kitchen sink with the vintage sink that Ellen found for me. I was prepared to pay him our agreed "Mate Rate" of $20 an hour, but when he arrived at my house he told me that he would install the sink free of charge because I'd let him stay in my second bedroom rent free during his last commercial job.

Oh how I love traded labor. Especially traded labor that involves me doing nothing but giving my friend a house key.

Did I mention that I have the original, impossible to match 1930's deco tile counters in my kitchen? Did I mention that the porcelain-on-cast iron sink weighs 60 pounds?

Even knowing this horrific combination of facts, the sink replacement was still much worse than anticipated. If the Prop Master were not my friend, I would have had to pay a carpenter, a tile mason and a plumber to get that sink installed. It would have cost me over $1000 and would have taken several days to complete the job instead of merely eight hours.

After the first four hours of grueling labor (during which time the Prop Master built a winch out of some rope, scrap lumber and a shovel he found in my garage which he used to swap the sinks out from the underside of the counter), I took the Prop Master to lunch (At this point I'd offered repeatedly to pay him for his work, but he refused each time).

I was only too thrilled to discover that the Prop Master's fiancee was in need of a television, because I happened to have an extra one that I could offer up to him for free as a tip for all his hard work.

He was super happy to give his fiancee an even better T.V. than she was looking at new.

I was super happy that I didn't have to feel guilty that I was torturing my friend and I got a huge appliance out of my house.

Nice is a much better currency than money.

PS: Not one vintage tile was damaged during the sink installation! The Prop Master = Handiest Man Ever.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gifts in the Mail

I recently sent some of my online buddies gifts for no good reason. For example, yesterday I sent a chart that shows mercury levels in fish to one of my online pen pals who's been eating a lot of fish recently for health reasons.

Imagine my surprise today when I arrived home to find a large box of trash picked yarn from one of them, which will be used to finish my afghan that I'm making for a veteran who lost his or her legs in combat, and a box of vintage red buttons from another online buddy that I'll use to make a Christmas wreath for the Foxyinlaws.

Wow! How nice is that?


Today, as my nice gesture of the day, I referred my genius travel agent to two film makers who are flying all over the place to promote their new movie. I think I get extra nice points considering that they just passed on one of my projects.

Since I can't afford to travel anywhere this year for New Years, I've been living vicariously through my friends who can. "Oooh! Send me pictures from Thailand!" "I'd love to go to India. You're so lucky! You'll have to tell me all about it when you get back!" "Let me refer you to my excellent travel agent!"

Why am I doing this? I know that I'm going to be so jealous of them when I hear all their stories and see all the pictures.

Not being able to afford to travel is starting to really get to me. Last night I had a dream where I was giving a tour of the Mahon, Menorca harbor to my parents who complained the entire time. Then I dreamt that I was hiding in an English manor house from George Clooney who was trying to cut my fingers off with tin snips.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Minion of the Devil Doll

My friend Devil Doll is going on tour next Wednesday. She called me today about doing some prep work for her tour. And by prep work I mean washing all of her dishes because she currently has no clean silverware and picking up her leather pants from the dry cleaner. Ah, the joys of running a record label out of your house. It's almost as simple and easy as running a home-based film production company. Since I'm too busy running my entertainment empire out of my spare bedroom, I referred my friend Kate for the job. Hopefully this arrangement will work out well for both of them.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Live Long and Prosper

Do you feel the rift in the Time/Space continuum? You should, because you are reading a blog post from the future.

As I write this it is 8:47 on November 14, 2008. I'm posting what I did today, November 3rd, 2008, from the future so I don't ruin the surprise for my friend The Non-Consumer Advocate, who has been known to read this blog.

Today I sent seven Star Trek action figures to my friend The Non-Consumer Advocate. I had failed to sell the toys at our fancy garage sale over the weekend, even though they were reasonably priced at $20. And, we couldn't sell them on ebay, even though the figurines are a limited edition, highly collectible, very expensive set, not because Mr. Foxypants had opened the original package so he could play with them, but because he had removed all the weapons and accessories and put them into an Altoid tin "for safekeeping."

And then he lost the Altoid tin somewhere in the garage.

I can't believe how well the last two sentences explain my boyfriend.

But back to my gift to the N-CA and why I just didn't sell the Star Trek toys on Craigslist. One thing that I've learned this year is that giving up things of value doesn't bother me at all if that super-fabulous whatever goes to the perfect home. And who could provide a more perfect home to phaserless Star Trek figurines than the Non-Consumer Advocate?

(Yes. I know there is technology that allows me to do some fancy highlighted text that links directly to her blog instead of writing out the entire address to that specific blog entry. And I don't know that technology. But get over it, okay? How many of you have mastered time travel like I clearly have)?

At any rate, yesterday, Wednesday, November the 12th, (for those of you not familiar with screenwriting lingo, this is known as a Flash Forward even though I'm writing about something that's already happened because I'm writing this from the future) I received the following email from The N-CA:

"I got home after a long drive (3-1/2 rainy hours) back from the beach yesterday to find your package.

I took it into the kitchen to cut it open, and had to call the boys to join me when I spied the contents. I had a hard time though, as I was laughing really hard.


My son (the 10-year-old) has them all lined up in front of his fish tank, which looks cool as they're all backlit. He doesn't like that I told him they were mine to share and not just his.

I want to take a picture of him with them for you to show "Mr. Foxypants." So he can see they went to a loving home. They've been added to our "Guinan" and "Picard." So far they're playing nicely with minimal conflict. Although . . . Kirk and Sulu have been having their issues."

See? The perfect home. Now I'm glad I didn't sell them at the garage sale. That $20 would not have been nearly as satisfying as that thank you note.