I Have Returned with News of My Wanderings

I guess by now it’s clear that if I don’t post for five months it’s because I have been head-down-and-go on yet another “final” draft of this novel I’ve been working on. I still can’t write “my novel” without wincing internally—I can’t claim ownership of the thing that contains every ounce of my inner life for the last seven years. Who would put all their spiritual eggs in one basket like that? Just who do I think I am?

I feel like I’ve just shat out the digital equivalent of an overstuffed drug balloon (switching metaphors, sorry), I’ve been hiding in the handicap stall of an airport restroom and after five months I’ve managed to coax this massive thing out of my most shameful orifice and then watch it sink to the bottom of an unfamiliar toilet bowl. Relieved, I now pull up my pants (i.e., start blogging again) and stare at it wondering if I should fish it out and try to sell it to someone so they can possibly enjoy or benefit from the drugs contained therein (i.e., email it to my agent), or if I should just flush it away so I won’t embarrass myself further. Would you like some butt drug? Knowing that it may be so weak you can barely feel its effects, or so good it will give you a high that will last for days and you’ll think about it the rest of your life. That’s all—a modest goal, that’s what I’m shooting for, to provide a life-changing transformation for you, triggered by the thing that fell out of my butt and into the hands of a literary agent who will slit open the balloon, put a little bit on her pinkie and, I hope, say, Hmm, yeah. We can make a lot of money off of this.

LET’S GO BACK IN TIME, SHALL WE?

January happened and we got to February and I stopped noveling long enough to attend the Santa Barbara Film Festival. My friend is a stringer for one of those celebrity grocery-store magazines and she makes decent money covering red-carpet events, but she wasn’t available for part of the festival so she asked me if I could do it.

The magazine sent me the event schedule for the weekend they needed me: Rami Malek (Friday), Glenn Close (Saturday), Melissa McCarthy (Sunday), all of whom were accepting awards for standing out in their fields. I had to DuckDuckGo Rami Malek (I am old enough to be his mother), and immediately thought, Oh no. I hadn’t seen his movie, the Freddy Mercury thing, and I couldn’t figure out a way to make that happen before the event. So I looked at some stills from the movie, wondering what I could possibly ask him that would be relevant. Here are some sample questions I came up with:

  1. Were the fake teeth uncomfortable?

  2. Did you like the way you looked in the fake teeth?

  3. Did they let you keep the fake teeth?

  4. etc.

Glenn Close I was a bit more relaxed about. I hadn’t seen her most recent movie, either, but I have, in fact, seen Glenn Close movies. My Glenn Close questions were going to be:

  1. What are you reading these days?

  2. Kindle or hardcover?

  3. Blah blah, comfortable shoes and general DGAF stuff, just between us pre-elderly gals

Sadly, the celebrity magazine gave Glenn Close a hard pass, because of the usual ageist bullshit. And my friend would be back in time to take care of Melissa McCarthy. So I put on my giant Trapper John coat on a rainy winter night to wait on the other side of a metal crowd-control fence hopefully until Rami Malek walked by so I could shout the questions that the magazine wanted me to ask:

  1. Have you tried the keto diet?

  2. What’s your skin care regime?

  3. Who do you think is going to win The Bachelor this season?

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Fortunately for me, Rami Malek ignored me completely (possibly because of the usual ageist bullshit, or possibly because I was dressed like Elliott Gould) and chose to talk to the adorable reporter from the UCSB Daily Nexus who was standing next to me. So I just stuck out my phone and recorded their entire conversation, figuring celebrity magazine could use those quotes if they wanted to. But that wasn’t the end of it. Next I went into the Arlington Theatre (and got grilled by the Daily Nexus girl about how I got the sweet gig reporting for celebrity magazine) and discreetly held my phone to record Mr. Malek being interviewed by a film festival guy about his entire life from birth to the Golden Globes, and then went home and transcribed everything so celebrity magazine writers could have every audible word by six o’clock the following morning.

The interview was interesting, and I came away with respect for Mr. Malek and the work he’s put in to get this far. But I have never cursed a job so much or as often as the three-and-a-half hours it took me to transcribe his one-hour-and-ten-minutes of talking. I finally got to bed around two-thirty a.m. after eight hours of this nonsense, and you know what I mainly learned? There’s no glamour on this side of the camera.

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That photo on the left? That was the red carpet, the whole thing. It was duct tape and klieg lights and tired venue managers and some anxious reporters for local news web sites who came an hour early just in case. I was fortunate to be standing next to a photographer (above, right) who was willing to chat to pass the time. When he told me his name was Rod Rolle, I was all, Like Esther Rolle? And he gave me this look, like, You remember Esther Rolle? And he said she was one of his cousins and I yelled, NO WAY! startling the gen-Zers all around me who did not share my fond cultural memories of Good Times and Maude. That was the most glamorous thing that happened to me that night, meeting Esther Rolle’s cousin. That and Lucy Boynton’s gorgeous peacock dress and Chinese-opera eye makeup. Thank you, Lucy, for bringing your A game to our little duct-taped award ceremony. And thanks also to this guy:

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Joe Mazzello played the bass player in the Freddy Mercury movie and none of the reporters was making much of a fuss over him, but I got a bit giddy when the actors started showing up and I yelled, “Nice shoes!” at him, and he perked up and said, “Thanks! I don’t know what kind they are. The suit is Top Man, that’s all I know.” I pretended to write that down, and then I asked him if I could take a picture of his shoes and he was fine with that. The light was terrible but we both acted like that was also fine, and I was relieved to have had at least one low-stress conversation with an actor that night, because this whole celebrity thing drives me a little bit nuts. I get uncontrollably star-struck, mostly when in the presence of writers I admire, but I found myself getting super anxious as Rami Malek got closer and fans started screaming his name. It’s an important practice for all of us but for me in particular to remind myself that people, if you’ll forgive me, all have the same share of cosmic divinity. I mean, as an American I know we’re all equal in theory, but it’s never really true, and I often involuntarily elevate some and denigrate others. There’s a wonderful Buddhist story about an old, venerated monk coming to visit a small temple, and all the temple monks lined up to greet him, but one monk noticed that his thoughts about this visitor were making him anxious, so he went away and meditated for twelve years until he realized that even a venerated person is still just a human being.

So if I don’t post for another twelve years, you’ll know that’s what I’m doing.

LINKS OVER TROUBLED WATER

Here’s a music video by the guy who directed Chernobyl! It’s a little bare-bones, visually, but the tune has been embedded in my mind for a week and caused me to follow two Deee-Lite-themed playlists on Spotify.

I have a bunch of interesting links to share with you but they deserve more than to be tacked onto the end of an already too-long post.

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