This friggin’ day

I went to bed last night with high hopes for my Tuesday. The kids went back to school Monday from Christmas break, and I was riding high on my newly rediscovered independence and I had plans. But since it’s winter in Michigan, no plans are ever safe.

The snow day call came in at 6:07 am. Since they usually call around 5:00, I felt that the call that allowed me to sleep until my normal time was a good sign. I was so naïve back then.

snowsucks

Around 8:00 I sat down to make calls to rearrange appointments and plans, only to find out when I opened my laptop that my hard drive had completely crapped out. I panicked, just like any normal writer who isn’t great at backing up her work would do.

Then my darling puppy Bernie stole part of my breakfast. And the kids wanted to play video games. And it was only 8:04.

It was soon time to take the dog outside again, where I promptly slipped on the ice and fell on my back. It took a few seconds of cursing before I could pick myself up off the driveway, but I did it. Mostly because it was too cold to lay there and feel sorry for myself.

gpolar-bear-slipping-on-ice
I looked just like this.

I decided that no matter what I really wanted to keep one of my appointments, so I texted my wonderful sitter who came to over to rescue me. Fast forward a few hours and I had signed a lease on a cooperative work space so I can shift my productivity into high gear. I was feeling great about that when I took my laptop to my husband so he could take it to his guy for repair. Soon after, I received a call that all was not lost. Yay, again!

By the time I was headed home about an hour after I told the sitter I would be back, I was feeling okay about life and unexpected snow days. But then I walked in to learn that Bernie had ripped down a curtain and shredded it while I was away. By that point, all I could do was laugh.

The moral of the story is: my kids are going to school tomorrow whether it’s open or not.

THE NIGHT OF: best miniseries ever

I usually only binge-watch shows that I can use as background noise. You know what I mean. Those shows that we love but don’t require our full attention.

A friend recently recommended the HBO miniseries The Night Of to me, and I went into it with the attitude that it would be a background-binge while I went about my day. Instead, my productivity plummeted this week. But I regret nothing.

The Night Of is about a young Muslim man named Nasir (Riz Ahmed) who meets a beautiful young woman named Andrea (Sofia Black-D’Elia) one night in New York City. They go back to her place, do some drugs, and have sex. When he wakes up from what had started as the best night of his young life, he finds the Andrea stabbed to death in her bed.

The first episode is tough to watch. You know that Nasir is in for a really bad time, and every step he takes that leads to his arrest makes the viewer cringe.

nasir

A bottom-feeding attorney named John Stone, played by the brilliant John Turturro, takes on his case. Stone has chronic eczema and a real desire to do right by Nasir and his family. James Gadolfini was originally cast in this role, but passed away before filming began. I’m certain he would have been proud of Turturro’s performance.

We watch Nasir transform from a boy to a man over the eight episodes. Yet it is no way a coming-of-age story. It is a testament to the maturing effects of trauma, and what that rapid process takes from a young person.

Nasir the son of Pakistani immigrants, and the struggle of his family to deal with the consequences of his arrest is a constant undercurrent. As well as the tensions toward Muslims in post-9/11 New York City.

But the most prominent struggles are of John Stone, who is convinced his client is innocent and goes to perilous lengths to find the truth, and of Nasir, who must learn how to survive in Rikers Penitentiary while awaiting trial.

In a series that is packed with amazing performances, my favorite scenes were those with inmate Freddy Knight (Michael Kenneth Williams). As he did as Omar in The Wire, he commands every scene he’s in. Freddy takes Nasir under his wing in Rikers, helping him navigate the system while offering him protection. The protection, of course, doesn’t come for free.

omar

The Night Of is a miniseries that will stick with you long after the last episode. If you’re a writer, you’ll also have that gnawing in your gut that pushes you to try harder. If there were more shows that were this well-written and perfectly-executed, I’d never get anything done.

All done with news

It’s been important to me for a very long time to practice a life of non-judgement. I only recently realized that I haven’t been doing a good job of that. Though I tend to spare my friends and family from judgement and quickly work to correct myself if I find myself judging a loved one, I am not granting non-judgement to strangers, and I am the one who suffers from this.

judgement-llama
Look at this asshole.

The media is constantly bombarding us with quotes from celebrities and politicians, or reports of their public missteps. The collective outrage gathers on social media, creating a divide and turning friends and acquaintances against one another. And stress is the only thing that follows. Nothing constructive comes from social media debates. We all know this. Yet we are still baited.

political-memes-011-facebook-meme-changed-my-mind

To tell the truth, I’m disgusted with what’s going on in our political system. Over the summer I suffered from insomnia more than I have my entire life. All of the name-calling, bullying, and outright lying are a scathing indictment of our society. But there’s not much I can do about it. I already know how I’m going to vote. There’s no point in torturing myself anymore.

I’m done.

bowtie.jpeg
A cat in a freaking bowtie, you guys!

I haven’t watched any CNN in about a week. And the feeling is glorious. I have decided I will only post ironic memes and cat photos on social media for a while. And I’ll be Zen as hell.

buddha

Peace!

An open letter to boomers with tats

Dear punk-rock heroes,

As I sat in a tattoo parlor on Monday afternoon watching my cousin get more ink, I was so comfortable and happy it could have been a friend’s living room. We listened to great music on Spotify (The Flying Burrito Brothers, Metallica, KISS, Bob Marley: musical shifts that were joyously jarring). The air conditioner was kicking, and everyone there was good company. The venue was Spiral Tattoo in Ann Arbor. I could go on about how wonderful this place is, and how my favorite tattoo artist Jared Leathers is meticulous and brilliant, wears his hair in dreads, and has a smile that makes you feel like you’ve known him your entire life. But this is about something else: those who went before us. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot since Monday.

spiral1
The artist at work and Chris smiling through the pain.

I was still residing in Arkansas when I got my nose pierced 20 years ago. People would stare at me at the grocery store like I had grown a third nostril. My presentation to the world was immediately changed. Tons of people have nose rings now. No one notices mine anymore. I’ve lived both sides of nose ring stigma. But a nose ring can be removed at any time. It’s not the same sort of commitment.

Tattoos have been around for as long as we’ve had written history. I don’t know exactly when tattoos changed from being reserved for prisoners, sailors, and bikers to becoming mainstream. I intend to learn more about that, though, as it seems fascinating.

A few people (mostly my mom) have mentioned to me that my tattoos will look terrible when I get old. I remind those people that my skin will sag regardless of the markings. And tattooed baby boomers are the reason I have absolutely no concern about how my tattoos will look in 20 years.

oldtat
I can’t grow a beard, but you get my point.

When I see you tattooed folks who are older than me, I instantly feel that you have a lot of stories to tell. I know that you probably endured scorn when you first started inking up, especially if you are female. I don’t have to know you to know that I respect you on some level. I don’t have to know you to know that your now-faded tattoos changed the way you were perceived by society. And the respect comes from knowing that you did it anyway.

jeanne
This is my badass friend Jeanne. She got her first tattoo in 1971. She’s about 60% covered now.

The tattoos that are time-worn tell me that you cared more about following your bliss than how others perceived you. Those are the tattoos that allow us to display ink today without real persecution. Sure, some people will tell us they don’t like our tattoos, even though we probably didn’t ask their opinion. And if we get covered in tattoos, we will most likely still be judged by a portion of society. Sleeves might limit our job choices, but nothing like they would have 40 years ago. And if we are discriminated against for our ink, it won’t be blatant and supported by the majority. Tattoos may be somewhat fringe, but they are no longer subversive.

Sometimes we pay a price for self-expression and authenticity. But sometimes someone else already paid that price for us. Thank you for that, my tattooed heroes.

SGSC

Rug burn

The detective glances at me several times during our daughters’ gymnastics class. I don’t know if he only recognizes me from school pick-up, or if he remembers me from the jury. THAT jury.

The trial was almost two years ago, but I’ve only seen the detective around town the last couple of months or so. Maybe he had a schedule change that allows him more time at his child’s activities. Or maybe he changed jobs.

Seeing him is uncomfortable, though he is visually pleasing. He’s sort of broad like he works out a lot, but his face is kind. A walking juxtaposition, like he could kick your ass but would rather not.

The detective walks toward me with his daughter, who I’m guessing is five, in his arms. I think he’s identified me, that he knows I’m one of the 12. But instead he continues past me to the gymnastics instructor to tell her that his daughter fell down and has rug burn on her knee, and that he won’t make her continue today’s lesson if she doesn’t want to. The sympathy and love he feels for his daughter comes off of him in warm waves.

The trial was for a man who abused his baby son. He had thrown his toddler against the wall, but the boy’s body didn’t die. Only his capacities. He would never walk or feed himself. They boy would never go to school. He was trapped in a body that would never do anything but breathe and pump blood.

The man’s wife cried for the man’s freedom, not for her son. They had an older child, too. That boy seemed physically intact. But who knows what emotional injuries he carried.

In deliberations, I argued for third degree child abuse. But two jurors held out for second. They said we didn’t know for certain that the boy hadn’t just been accidentally dropped as the father claimed. Even though we did know. The injuries were inconsistent with the man’s claims. The two jurors were uncomfortable handing down such a sentence, even though a defense witness had once seen the father kill a bee on the baby’s forehead with a flip-flop.

We argued for hours. The room was too small and too hot. We were hungry and thirsty, and not allowed to go to the bathroom without causing a disturbance.

I argued that the mother would not defend the other boy against the father, as it was obvious she was more loyal to her husband than her children. The responsibility to the older boy fell at our feet.

The ten of us eventually conceded and agreed to second degree child abuse. The only reason was to avoid a mistrial.

When the judge handed down our verdict, the mother mouthed “thank you” at us, and I hated her right then more than I’ve ever hated anyone.

The prosecutor and the detective came into the jury room immediately afterward and told us that they weren’t allowed to disclose during the trial that the man had a history of violence. I wept big, ugly tears. I couldn’t stop, even though I was in a tiny room full of strangers. The mother sent the defender back with family photographs for us to view. The juror next to me said, “You don’t have to look at those.” And I didn’t. I refused to pretend they were a happy family. The mother was delusional enough for all of us.

Seeing the detective brings it all back. The shame I felt at relenting, even after I learned the judge gave the man a twenty-year sentence.

The detective’s daughter must have been a baby when he showed up at the man’s apartment to question him about his recently incapacitated toddler. The case must have gutted him. And then we the jurors broke his heart. He undoubtedly suffered many more sleepless nights over the trial than I did.

He’s standing next to me now, and I want to tell him I’m sorry, that I know he was right, and that I still can’t eat Reese’s Pieces because there was a giant bag of them in the jury room the entire three days we were there. So now Reese’s Pieces remind me of child abuse instead of E.T.  I want to tell him that I learned a lot about having courage in my convictions from that experience.

Instead I offer, “I saw her fall. It looked like it hurt.” It’s my apology, because I can’t tell him that I was on that jury and I failed. Because I can’t bring it back to him in case he’s found a way to make peace.  And I really hope he has.

I heart Monday

Dear Monday,

I’m sorry you continue to get such a bad rap. There are constantly hateful jokes about you circulating the internet, and people blame their bad moods on you. Even Garfield hates you, as if that ungrateful asshole has a job. He’s a cat. Cats eat, sleep, and occasionally behead a mouse. Every day is the same.

garfield

But I love you. I love you so hard.

On Monday morning, my husband and kids leave after being home all weekend. Around 7:35 am, the house is quiet for the first time in about 64 hours.

Sometimes I break out in song as soon as the door closes behind my adorable loved ones. I spread my arms and go all Julie Andrews right in my kitchen. Except with kitchen cabinets behind me instead of mountains. And then I cook breakfast without asking anyone else if they want anything.

andres

I sit in a chair and drink coffee without anyone asking me for anything. I drink the entire cup (or three) before it gets cold. It’s warm all the way to the bottom of the cup.

Then I take a shower without anyone walking into the bathroom to ask if I know where his or her socks are. Sometimes I go to the grocery store next, and no one puts cupcakes in the cart when I’m not looking. Then I might go the gym, and I don’t have to bribe my kids to get them through the door.

Do you know what “a case of the Mondays is”, other than a reference to a really good movie? A case of the Mondays is the joy of knowing that I have some time to myself.

mondays.jpg

This week school was out on Monday and Tuesday, so you didn’t really arrive until Wednesday. And that’s fine. You have a life, too. I get that. But I’m not sure about giving you the entire summer off. I think it’s time we renegotiate your terms.

I love my family. I really do. But Monday, you complete me.

Love,

SGSC

One way I’m annoying

My husband and I argued about one of my most annoying habits last week: I talk during TV shows. And movies, too. Though I don’t talk at the movie theater because I’m not a monster.

mst3k-300x169
These guys have my dream job.

I love dissecting a show with a friend, even if we have to pause the show to gather our collective thoughts. I love to talk about how the current episode references previous episodes, where the episode is paying homage to other shows or movies, what other things I’ve seen the actors in. I love to talk about the character arcs, story arcs, inconsistencies, and outright mistakes. But I do stay on-topic. This isn’t random conversation.

pam
Pam from True Blood was one of the snobby pregnant bitches in Romy & Michele. How can I be quiet about that?

My husband prefers to watch TV in silence. His reactions are minimal. If he chuckles a little, I know we’ve found a winner.

Bruno made him chuckle four times, and for-real-laugh twice, so it's obviously HILARIOUS.
Bruno made him chuckle a few times and for-real-laugh at least twice, so it’s obviously HILARIOUS.

If he ever leaves me, my chattiness will be one of the reasons why.

This is the only way I'm quiet.
This is what I look like when I don’t have anyone to talk TV with.

The more I try to be quiet, the more I feel like talking. If you can’t talk about it, you might as well be watching TV by yourself

Cancer scares and tattoos

Last autumn, my cousin and bestie-since-birth Chris had a terrible health scare. And by terrible, I mean TERRIBLE. He dropped thirty pounds in about two months because food became his body’s enemy. There were a lot of tests, and plenty of talk about all the types of cancer it could be. It was terrifying for me. And probably him, too.

It turned out to be celiac disease. While we were still enjoying the warm, glowing relief of finding out that his condition was easily treated, my own health took a strange turn. I was soon on the receiving end of a biopsy.

I, too, turned out to be cancer-free. But anyone who has gone through a cancer scare knows that this process is not quick. You have weeks and sometimes months to wonder if your ending is just around the corner. Or maybe not your ending, but a severely reduced quality of life for the next year or so.  Either way, it’s really freaking scary to not know if your own body is turning against you. And when you’re not sure if you have cancer or not, you  realize how many TV commercials are for cancer treatment centers or cancer drugs.

 

Weeks of pondering Chris’s mortality and then my own changed my perspective on a lot of things. I wondered what I would wish I had done differently if I was about to find out that I was really sick. I realized that either way, mortality was real and applied to me just as much as everyone else.

I knew I would wish I had spent more time with people I enjoy, instead of making plans we eventually cancel.

I knew I would wish I had made a habit of meditating and spent more time practicing yoga, neither because I “should”, but because they enhance my daily life.

I would wish I had spent more time writing, and writing with love for my craft instead of resenting it like something I have to do.

 

I would wish I had watched more movies. Good movies, bad movies, doesn’t matter as long as they tell me a story.

Of course there are more wishes, but you get the idea. Chris and I hopped on one of the wishes right away and got the besties tattoos that we had been considering for ages. And they’re fabulous.

As Chuck Palanhniuk put it, “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

It is human nature to die, my friends. And I have decided to remove regret from my future. It’s liberating to face the realization that we are all dying. Let’s all go out with as few “I wish I hads” as possible.

 

A letter for the soda-yoga-lady

Dear nonconformist,

I don’t really even know what you look like. You have long, dark hair. But I’ve never noticed anything else about your appearance. Here’s why: I can’t get past your Big Gulp.

Okay, it’s not an actual Big Gulp, because it’s from a different gas station. But big gas station cokes are all Big Gulps, right?

Anyway, It’s yoga class. We all have bottles of water, most of them are BPA-free. But not you. You shamelessly walk in to every yoga class with a giant coke.

The first time I saw you with it, I thought maybe you were just having a bad day. Hangovers require giant sodas, and good for you for still making it to class. Or maybe it was water and you just like the aesthetic of big gas station cups with ice.

But you weren’t just having a bad day, you bring one to every class. And it’s not water, because the darkness of the fluid shows through the lid.

I want it to be clear that I’m not judging you. I just feel like I need more information.

Are you one of those people who hates water? Does the taste of nothing offend you to the point that you can’t enjoy water strictly because it’s refreshing? Or are you a conspiracy theorist who believes the government is putting chemicals in our water to give us cancer so the pharmaceutical companies can continue to get rich?

If not water, why not sports drinks? Sport drinks are pretty much the same thing as sodas, but they’re socially acceptable at gyms because of the electrolytes and shit.

Do you drink cokes all day? If so, how do you avoid UTI’s? Or do you constantly have a UTI? How do you do some much yoga with a constant UTI?

To be honest, I hope I never know the answers to these questions. Speculation entertains me. So thank you for that. And thank you for not giving a flying butt-rat about what people think about you. You could conceal the soda in a stainless steel, BPA-free water bottle. But you don’t. Because you don’t give a shit.  Here’s to you, nonconformist-soda-yoga-lady!

Sincerely,

SGSC

The Canyons: lower your expectations, even if they are already low.

Warning: This review is lousy with spoilers, but it’s fine. You’re not going to watch this movie anyway.

First of all, let me say that I sometimes like Bret Easton Ellis’ work. Not always, but I get that he’s satirical and “post-empire” and when he’s not being a self-righteous d-bag, he actually has interesting commentary on society. So I hoped that his screenwriting would be a plus for this film.

Second, Paul Schrader directed The Canyons. Though his directing career hasn’t been epic, he wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. So you’d think he had a handle on this film-making thing.

Third, if I don’t like something, I usually stay quiet out of respect for the artist’s vision and all that. And I know sometimes the story in your head doesn’t end up on paper so I try not to be overly critical. But I just can’t freaking help this one. The Canyons left me with a lot to get off my chest. Maybe because I went into it with the attitude that it couldn’t be that bad. Movies are rarely as awful as the critics claim. But it is that bad, you guys. It really is.

It's not porn because I only show my dong once.
It’s not porn because he only shows his dong once.

The first scene is painfully boring. It’s a conversation between two couples, Christian (James Deen) and Tara (Lindsay Lohan), and Ryan (Nolan Funk) and Gina (Amanda Brooks). Christian is a producer or something and has recently cast Ryan in a film as a favor to his assistant Gina since Ryan is Gina’s boyfriend. And because Tara insisted that Ryan was just perfect for the role. Whatever the hell that role is, or what the movie is, or any of that shit, no one knows because none of that seems to have anything to do with the plot. And this is the scene that sets up the entire film.

This opening snooze-fest conversation centers on Christian announcing to the table that he brings people over to watch him have sex with Tara, and to sometimes to have mini-orgies. Because that’s dinner conversation in the canyons, my friends. There’s lots of time on smartphones, then there’s a close up of a lime being squeezed into a cocktail.

Opening scenes work best when both main characters spend most of it on their phones.
Opening scenes work best when both main characters spend most of it on their phones.

Okay, so Tara is living with Christian who is a spoiled trust-fund baby wanna-be filmmaker who only dabbles in filmmaking to keep his dad off his back so he doesn’t lose his trust fund which allows him to live in ridiculous luxury and debauchery. I guess his dad is some sort of Pablo Escobar type figure. Because art.

We soon learn that Tara is doinking Ryan behind Christian’s back because they used to be in love but she couldn’t take being poor anymore. Bartending and going to auditions was just too taxing for her, so she moved in with a spoiled douchebag who sometimes makes her do it with other dudes and sometimes chicks, but hey, she doesn’t have to hold down a job.

Christian knows something is going on so he constantly interrogates Tara, then tells her he trusts her. And her hair extensions are TERRIBLE.

Then Christian tells a gay producer to tell Ryan his part will be recast unless he sleeps with him. Why? Not sure. I guess to see if Ryan swings both ways, or to see how desperate he is to keep his part. But that question is never really answered, because who really gives a shit by then?

Also, Tara (Lohan) sun bathes a lot but she is as pale as talcum powder. Do they make SPF 1000?

This is how she spends her days. Every single worthless one.

There are lots of shots of abandoned movie theaters. I’m sure it’s supposed to be some metaphor about how films have changed, and to justify Schrader’s Kickstarter campaign to get this festering turd made. But really the abandoned theaters can also be a metaphor for what happens when Lindsay Lohan and James Deen get top billing in movies.

At least they don't have to screen The Canyons.
At least this place doesn’t have to screen The Canyons.

This girl named Cynthia who Christian still has sex with sometimes confronts Tara to tell her that one time Christian roofied her and had her gang-raped on camera. So that’s why they still hang out, I guess.  Also, Cynthia knows that Ryan and Tara used to date, but Christian does not.

It turns out that Cynthia’s story was a lie, because that’s super helpful for rape victims, you dumb bitch. And she did it because she wants Christian back, who really is a waste of resources. I mean, seriously, there’s a water shortage in California. Nobody should be sharing water with Christian.

And then there’s a four-way where Tara turns the power tables on Christian which is supposed to be erotic and important to story development but really it’s just kind of gross. Then we learn that Christian’s dad also requires him to go to therapy in order to keep his trust fund.  His therapist is Gus Van Sant, because WHY NOT? So he tells Gus Van Sant that he didn’t enjoy losing his power during group sex. Boo hoo, pervert.

The disco lights let you know that it's about to get FREAKY!
The disco lights let you know that it’s about to get FREAKY!

Apparently, Christian’s a psychopath or some shit and really needs that therapy because he totally murders Cynthia for lying about him. He goes all stabby-style while she screams, “Christian, NO!” Then Ryan calls Cynthia right after it happens and Christian picks up and says, “I can’t believe what you did to her, dude.” So obviously Ryan drives straight to her house and leaves his mark on the crime scene, instead of doing something crazy like calling the police.

He always looks this confused.
Ryan always looks this confused.

Tara wants to leave Christian. He says she can as long as she provides him with an alibi for the time he spent murdering the yoga mistress. He also says that if she ever sees Ryan (“if you’re ever even in the same room with him again”) he’ll kill Ryan and get away with it. Because, you know, white rich privilege and all.

This dungpile ends with another boring dinner scene. This one with some rando actress telling Tara that she heard about her from Christian, but then she asks Tara how Christian is doing.  Because that makes sense.

By this time, Tara is with some other dude and they just got back from Dubai, where Tara “shopped and laid out” like the slutty sloth she is.

So the rando chick goes to the bathroom at the restaurant and calls someone who we assume is Christian to give the Tara update, but is actually Ryan because the next shot is him staring hauntingly at the camera. Maybe not so much hauntingly as blankly as in “wait, what was I supposed to do here?”

The point it that two men are obsessed with Tara, a woman with bad extensions who chain smokes and shops all day. And really doesn’t seem to do anything else except lots of sexing.

The movie would have been better if instead of Christian murdering just Cynthia, he murdered everyone in the movie and then committed suicide. It would have been fine, because every single character was so underdeveloped that vapid seems to rich a word to describe them.