Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Geography of Love

I was deep asleep, at home, nestled in my king-sized bed. It was 8:30 AM. I heard Sofia my granddaughter's voice: that lilting, chirpy sound of happiness and exploration. I didn't hear words, just the distinct vocal register. But I knew it was her, wide awake and eager for the new day.

I waited for her to come down the steps to the basement apartment where my wife and I were sleeping, loudly shouting her usual 8:30 AM announcement: "Gammy...Grandpa...time to get uuuup." And after a pause: "Gaaammmy! Grandpaaa!" I waited and waited...another pause. This was too long. The incongruity woke me.

Where was she? More importantly: where was I? It dawned on me. I was no longer in the basement at my daughter's and son-in-law's house in Washington, DC, but back in California, away from our Granddaughter Sofia, away from the The Thanksgiving holiday. My wife and I were at our home.

My wife was downstairs, making breakfast.

My wife lets me sleep an extra 15 minutes every morning while she makes breakfast for us both. When I arrive in the breakfast room, she also allows me to read the front page before she does. It is her sweet way to maintain the illusion that I am important and worth preparing breakfast for. We both know it is a lie; but happiness--and love--is often the ability to maintain a kindly self-deception for one another.

I started to put on my robe. The chirpy voice had been only in my head, in my dream, in my reverie. I was sad. The two weeks with Sofia were over...the rituals, the cuddling against my chest, the monster games (we took turns being the designated monster), the book reading--especially "Dora" and "Clifford the Big Red Dog". Also over were my pathetic attempts at understanding her words, softened by her inordinate patience, waiting as I figured out her sound and syntax peculiarities.

"Teach me rrrsddds!" she said one day. "What?" I said. "Teach me rrrsdds"! "What?" "Teach me..." "I don't understand," I said, a little frustrated, befuddled and apologetic. She looked at me like the fool I was; "Teach me rrrsddds!!!"and finally, the dawn: "You mean WORDS...teach you WORDS?" I asked. She nodded, smiled that most beatific smile that princesses reserved for their clowns and fools in their court, and nodded, and handed me her book that spelled out words to be learned. And we sat and read.

I remembered later, after the reading, her laughing, and me being the cause of it; tickling her and blowing hot loud air through my lips and mouth against her belly...and her laughing and saying 'no, no, no' but meaning 'yes, yes, yes' as she lifted up her pullover shirt, and giggled, and pushed me away to seduce me to tickle her more.

When we finished, and she hugged me, she said: "Why are you so big, Grandpa?" (I am six-foot five) "I just am," I said. She was not satisfied. "Why are you big," Grandpa? I had no better answer. "I just am." Then: "But someday soon, you will grow bigger and I will grow smaller. I promise you. I will shrink as you get older." She absorbed this; then: "But why are you so big?" she repeated. "I just am," with the despairing finality of a Grandpa without an simple answer. She frowned, decided to postpone her need for a logic until some time later.

"Why do you have that?" she asked me the next day, pointing to the hair above my upper lip. "It's my moustache," I said proudly. "Take it off!" Like the child I am, I said: "No. I like it." "Take it off!" she ordered. "No!" I said. And I rubbed it against her belly as I blew more hot air and she howled in delight.

On the sad last day of our vacation, while she was in her Mama's arms, fighting the flu (including fever and earache combined; she was 'sickie', as she phraese it), I felt like Benedict Arnold as I put on my coat to head for the airport. "Why do you have to go to California?" she said quietly and somberly. I said nothing. She repeated: "Why do you have to go to California?" I had no good answer to that question either; except: "That's where I live." "But why do you have to go to California?" she said, with the exact same intonation as she often does when given an inadequate answer. "I have to go home," It was not enough. "But why?" I said: "I have to go back to work. To teach." "But why?" she reiterated. I paused, feeling stupid under the weight of my non-fulfilling answers. "I just have to," I said finally, hoping the futility of my response as reflected in my face would satisfy her. She looked at me through feverish eyes...and thought...and then, quite simply: "Why?"

The taxi arrived. A final kiss, a hug. Oh, that hug!...It was so unfulfilling!! Peremptory...not truthful. The truth was: I wanted to hug her forever.

Back home in California, when I heard her chirping voice in my sleep, high-pitched yet full-throated, and I awoke to discover she was not there. I was very, very, very sad. Ironically, my wife would experience the exact same feeling fourteen hours later, when I came to bed that night, when she asked me: "Where are we?" And I said, "We are home, in California." She nodded. Vacantly. And went back to dreaming.

Love's geography is mapped in the heart. The United States is very wide (2500 miles from California to Washington DC...DC is the capital of our nation, and the city where Sofia and her beloved Mommy and Poppie live). But the distance between Sofia and her 'Gammy and Grandpa', cannot--and will never-- be measured in 2500 miles...or 2500 light years. Love's distance can only be measured in heartbeats; and sighs and dreams of longing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Show me a person who's interested; I'll show you a person who's interesting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Diversity and Niche Marketing...and My Old Screenwriter Friends

My older writer friends can't figure out why they can't sell...and other writers (mostly younger) whom they consider inferior--or boring--CAN sell. A possible reason: the writers in the past (my old friends) are looking for and writing about universal themes...ideas and feelings and forms that will resonate with a mass audience.

Today, there is no mass market; no audience seeking general depth and consensus and agreement. Today's audience has accepted..and are seeking...only their specific small group certainty.

Consider it the Balkanization of culture. Successful writers...and more importantly the producers and executives who fund them...are filming stories to please only primarily niche markets. Same in television. No more ABC, CBS and NBC able to dominate the market...they are losing viewers daily. On the other hand, look at the options in today's TV Guide: the History Channel, the Cooking Channel, Turner Movie Classics, ESPN...niche channels appealing to isolated and diverse markets.

Deconstruction has dominated the culture...there is no longer one truth...there are many truths...it's all according to your point of view. There is no more general public. Polarization in politics is nothing compared to multi-polarization in culture...and audiences.'

Successful niche marketing today preaches to the choir...not a general US choir, but to the choir(s) of a multiplicity of social and political churches.

Preaching to the choir appeals to prejudice. It does not to seek general affirmation of consensus. There is no new universal knowledge to be sought; just 'my opinion/truth' vying with 'your opinion/truth'; to separate congregations--separate audiences--generally all nodding in silent self-contented assent.

Little wonder that films today seem repetitious...or absolutely confusing...to my old writer friends; filled with story/character cliches (a cliche is a truth so known and accepted that it seems superficial and mind-numbingly obvious). I remember I remember the great writer/director Billy Wilder telling me, late in his career, about a meeting he had had with a young movie producer who was kindly listening to Billy's new script ideas. Suddenly Billy arose and said: "Never mind, Thank you for your time." the producer stopped him: "Please, Mr. Wilder. Continue." "No, Billy said, "I don't think you want to hear what I have to say. And, more to the point, I don't want to say what you want to hear."

Perhaps my old friends can't write (or appreciate) OR SUCCEED in today's niche choir affirming film script market because they shoot too high. They...and their scripts...are coming of age too late; their creative minds/ideas were fashioned in a time when there was a belief in the search for THE TRUTH, some universal theme that resonated beyond the limitations of gender, politics, race, age...like the earlier age of Einstein, when everyone sought a Unified Field Theory.

Today, the search for one truth is passe. It is old fashioned. Today the predominant cultural cry is for post-modern subjectivity and diversity: all opinions are valid...and niche marketable. Today's audience just wants a safe and slow balloon ride confirming their successful and necessary point of view downward toward earth; and my silly friends want to dangerously and excitingly shoot-the-moon into thematic heaven-knows-where in a rocket fueled by one truth.

No wonder they fail.


Right after I wrote the above article, I was surfing through my e-mail and came across this report on Levine Breaking News.

NEW BUCHANAN BOOK DECLARES 'END OF AMERICA': "America is coming apart, decomposing, and...the likelihood of her survival as one nation...is improbable -- and impossible if America continues on her current course," declares Pat Buchanan. "For we are on a path to national suicide." The best-selling author and former presidential candidate is on the eve of launching his new epic book, according to The Drudge Report: DAY OF RECKONING: HOW HUBRIS, IDEOLOGY AND GREED ARE TEARING AMERICA APART. This time, Buchanan goes all the way: "America is in an existential crisis from which the nation may not survive." The U.S. Army is breaking and is too small to meet America's global commitments. The dollar has sunk to historic lows and is being abandoned by foreign governments. U.S. manufacturing is being hollowed out. The greatest invasion in history, from the Third World, is swamping the ethno-cultural core of the country, leading to Balkanization and the loss of the Southwest to Mexico. The culture is collapsing and the nation is being deconstructed along the lines of race and class. A fiscal crisis looms as the unfunded mandates of Social Security and Medicare remain unaddressed. All these crises are hitting America at once -- a perfect storm of crises."

Pat Buchanan and I are poles apart politically...or so I thought...but...(and I swear I wrote mine before I read this)...it makes me wonder...


I was reading the newspaper today. Does the term 'the Press' and depression have a common language source?

The Present is Dead (or rather, On the Phone)

Walk down any street, when you are on the cell phone, look around, think: Do you know anyone is alive? Does anyone know you're alive? The answer to both questions is probably no.

We are all on the all-important, can't live without, cell phone, in our own time/space bubble. Everyone is somewhere else, geographically/electronically projecting themselves into someone else's life...all living in some in a universe of electronic 'otherness'. Einstein's consummate example of the relativity of time and space.

It makes me think of a new film. The central character does not live in the present. He is somewhere else, probably on the phone, in the future; only realizing his present when the past catches up to him...when it is too late to do anything about it! (When his phone goes dead?)

Due to the new cell-phone realty, any real sense we might have had of the importance of space/time living-today-in-the-present reality is gone, in the garbage dump of our personal history. We will soon only be able to determine who and and what we are (or, for that matter, WHERE we are) by sorting through the refuse of our life (voice mail?). We will no longer be cognizant (present in) the here and now. We will only understand (be aware of) the present by searching through the past refuse of our lives. Only in our life's garbage dump, lying next to our disposed cell-phone, will we be aware of yesterday, its possibilities and actualities.

Are we alive today? I don't know. Call me; we'll chat about it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

To Lovers

A la Kahil Gilbran, LOVE is:

Two oaks, each separate and distinct; but as they grow, their leaves intertwine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Youthful Surprise

I went into the market on Chestnut Street in the Marina District of San Francisco, across from the Presidio movie theater. It was dark, near closing time. The check-out man, young with a sweet but haggard face, was seemingly tired. I approached the counter with my box of bran cereal, two apples, two bananas and a 20 oz. bottle of diet Seven-up...my usual purchase when I visit SF to conduct a seminar. He indirectly glanced up at me, then stared down at my items, mechanically began to swipe them across the computer window. I said: "How are you tonight?" He looked up at me, startled. After a long beat and a slight smile, he said: "You're feeling good tonight." "Yes," I said. "I am."

I registered how his whole being turned startled, surprised almost.

'Maybe he knew me,' I thought? I decided 'no'. I had not seen him before. His reaction was something else. Perhaps he assumed in his indirect, bare glance up at me that I was another typical old man; grumpy; perhaps needy and demanding? Old people in that increasingly youngish neighborhood had gotten quieter and quieter, I noticed, almost apologetic, deferential, obsequious when dealing with youth. Perhas it was the source of their grumpiness and aloofness. Was my full-voiced, positive greeting startlingly and pleasantly fresh?

"Thank you," I said.

"Thank you," he said. He smiled at me. I exited. I didn't look back. I knew he was looking after me.

The night air felt particularly good. A bounce evidenced itself in my step. I felt I belonged in the neighborhood; happy to be alive.

Monday, November 19, 2007

According to Leah

She wrote: "depression is merely anger without enthusiasm - anonymous"

Very funny. Another, albeit less whimsical: "Depression is anger turned inward."

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The old bull and the young bull were standing on top of the mountain. Below them were a herd of attractive cows...and protective cowboys. The bulls waited for the cowboys to leave; then after the cowboys left, the young bull said eagerly to the old bull: "Let's run down and fuck a couple". The old bull said: "Let's walk down...and fuck 'em all".

All history is geography writ human.

Why settle for less; when life itself is less (SEE death).

To constantly refer to your past successes is like reading your obituary in public.

A testament

If you seek to know me, know this: I will not be common; in thought, in deed nor in fact.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Grandmother. Grandfather. Grandchildren. Grandson. Granddaughter.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Chauvinist Musings

He asked me: "Is there any correlation between the woman's movement and the fact that network news (including CNN and FOX) sounds increasingly like gossip? Or, immediately after 9/11 occurred George Bush exhorted a nervous, anxiety-ridden nation to shop?"

Her life was all motion; no movement.

Anxiety is born where desire meets fear.

Friday, November 09, 2007

You can't even be cynical anymore; reality is too corrupt.

There is no greater pleasure--nor source of danger--than loving.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Use of Awareness

Oscar Wilde observed (I paraphrase; and I concur): "To become a spectator of one's own life is to escape the suffering of life."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

For some men the greatest aphrodisiac is a woman's need.


Halloween is no longer for kids.

300,000 adults paraded in a Halloween parade and party in W. Hollywood, CA this year. And don't tell me they were gays who just love to dress up.

I was told of a story about 50 adults who were trick or treating in one neighborhood in California, and were offended when they knocked at doors and were refused candy because "the candy is for kids". They pouted as they walked away.

There all no more adults.

Everyone is a kid. Oh, there are some kids who want to play at being grown up (check what kids are wearing lately); but, more insidiously, the grown-ups all want to stay kids (check what THEY'RE wearing--or not wearing--lately.) Face lifts. Liposuction. Belly-buttons sticking out. Be 'buddies' with your kids; not parents. Never even mention the 'p'-word!

It makes me wonder: Is today's yearning for perpetual 'kid-dom' some sort of overwhelming delayed adolescence? The product of a few generations that didn't get enough kid time when they were young? Too busy from the age of four to sixteen playing in organized soccer leagues and doing homework to ever satisfy their intrinsic--and healthy AT THAT AGE--need to be kids?

Maybe none of us believe we are going to heaven anymore so we've got to extend the pleasures of life. We want to stay young forever because age equals eventual nothingness/death.

Or maybe everyone today hates their work. There is no fulfillment in it. So: Play, play, play...whenever you can. Never work.

The manager of my favorite pub, when I attended on Halloween for a glass of wine with a friend, commented on the scores of adults in full costumed regalia: "Everyone likes to dress up and pretend they're someone else." My first thought: "What? Nobody likes to be themselves anymore?" My second thought was: "Okay. But...Pooh Bear? A witch? Spider man?"

Halloween is a $5 billion industry. Now there's a trick and treat...for the corporations!

When I was a kid in my (perhaps perverse) neighborhood, on Halloween, we didn't trick or treat; we just tricked--we hung people's front gates hung on telephone poles, filled our mother's nylons with talcum powder and smashed them against people's clothes, suck straight pins in doorbells, especially in the bells of fifth floor tenants who'd then have to walk all the way down five flights of stairs to remove them...and...we'd stand across the street at a safe distance and watch and laugh at their florid faces filled with chagrin before we ran away.

We saved treating for Thanksgiving...before and after the football game: on that brisk Fall day we'd (some of us in costume) take our mother's brown shopping bags and knock on doors (some of them the very same people we took off their gates on Halloween!) and, with cherubic faces, asked: "Anything for Thanksgiving?". And 99% of the time we were rewarded with candy, cookies, apples and walnuts...Halloween tricks were over; Thanksgiving-Halloween treats were on.

I miss those good old days (is it the perpetual kid in me?). When kids were kids, adults were adults, and tricking and treating, Halloween and Thanksgiving were separate days and distinct occasions in people's lives.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Quote from Nelson Mandela

I duplicate this from my blog, 'Cliff Osmond on Acting':

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are adequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, talented and fabulous?' Actually who are you not to be? Your playing small and self-accusatory doesn't serve the world."


To live 'according to our code' implies our living and acting with personal integrity. And 'code' is a computer programing term as well: the manner in which the computer software logic has been organized to consistently respond to input. Perhaps that's what a personal code does: it writes a 'values software' pattern deep in our inner neural system by which our choices can be automatically--and logically--generated...consistent with achieving our integrity.