Thursday, July 29, 2010

And Now, For Our Next Trick...

Last night was the world premiere of The Hot Seat, our 48 Hour Film Project movie for 2010. If you want the scoop on what went down during the weekend, go here, but bring a snack and something to rehydrate you.

For the first time in San Diego 48 Hour history, our intrepid organizers Duane and Jeff (they are really lovely) created a true Hollywood spectacle for us non-industry slobs, including a red carpet (I touched it! It was fuzzy!) and one of those backdrops with the sponsors names all over it for us to pose in our couture. Well, I thought that's what it was for; turns out we were supposed to stand there and get interviewed by a gal they'd hired, which was fine and all, but hello! No one yelled out "Who are you wearing?" or "Let's see the back!" (I showed them anyway.)

We started with a pre-party at the All-American Grill, which is right upstairs from the theater, enabling me to get completely sloshed on a very large mojito and not very much food (too nervous) with impunity. We also had the after-party there, if you can call it an "after-party" when they kept following us around to say "You can't sit there!" and there wasn't so much as a lousy potato chip for free. (I'm not sure I'll be returning to the AA Grill anytime soon, but not for the aforementioned reasons: as we were finishing up a rather tasty apple pie thing-o, a roach skittered across the tablecloth and down onto my side of the booth. Good as the food is, this gives me pause.)

Many of us were dressed to the nines, the women in stilettos (even those among us who are already crazy-tall and don't strictly need them to look dressed up) and somehow Kacie, our Dr. Rita Hernandez, and I were both wearing black dresses with glittery silver bits all over. Weird. We were joined at dinner by Greg, our star from last year (Detective Maxwell Jones, I presume!) and that made me pleasantly nostalgic from the outset. I don't think anyone from our team missed the festivities, which just goes to show what a tight team we are.

The addition of the red carpet hoopla was not the only change from last year; there was also the mayhem. The theater was sold out--every seat--and the red carpet scene was really more of a mob. The biggest focus-puller was a large man dressed as some sort of armor-sporting alien (whom we later learned had a name: Darbo) and his extremely colorful teammates, and already I was smelling an audience-award winner. We got our picture taken--a lot--and blew kisses at our various and sundry fans (or at least I did) and when the time came, we joined the wall of people crashing into the theater. Poor Robyn, who was trying to get in early and save us seats, got shoved about for her troubles, and a totally remorseless couple sat in our section and refused to move. Ultimately, we didn't get all the Cane Toads into one section, but we could sense each others' aura all over the theater nevertheless.

So, you're thinking...SAM! Stop all this blither-blather and get to the film! WHAT HAPPENED? Well, Readers, I'm not going to sugarcoat it: things were not looking so rosy for the Cane Toads this year. Last year, we knew we had a massive crowd-pleaser (saucy innuendo! cheerleaders! bunny heads!) and this year, we had a "dark" comedy (the quotation marks are there for Calvin, who doesn't think it ended up very dark) that was very talky and not very location-y. We also ended up in a TOUGH screening group, where most of the films were tight and almost slick in their execution, with not one obvious "We heard about this contest last week and decided to throw something together on our Mac" entry. I was in serious need of a Zanax (or at least a quarter of a Zanax) for the twelve (!) films that preceded ours (we were last!) but then was quite thrilled to hear consistent laughter for the duration. It wasn't uproarious, but it was there, unmistakably. Many of the films we'd seen had involved blood and violence, so even though ours wasn't exactly about fluffy fairies, it was something of a respite.

At any rate, we were in fine spirits back at the AA Grill, hanging out in the little corner we were banished to, and I was absolutely convinced that Darbo was a shoe-in (in addition to his metallic bad self, there were also scantily clad women and a Speedo-wearing "sex slave," which seemed sort of unbeatable) though not many agreed with me. And then Duane and Jeff were entering the room with the results, and we rushed over and...

Readers, we didn't win. Neither did Darbo. A melodrama about schizophrenia and friendship beyond the grave called Empty Chair won. I was surprised at that one, until several of my teammates admitted they voted for it (everyone gets to vote for three.) All I could distinctly remember about it was that the dead friend had the most gorgeous teeth, not just white but beautifully shaped, gleaming in the sunlight. Which is sort of ironic, because two of the other films were specifically about teeth.

Here's the happy news, though: WE CAME IN SECOND! Oh, yes we did! And doing it the year after we took first seemed like a mighty victory to me. Seriously, I was thrilled. I mean, there's no certificate for second, but we have bragging rights, and I plan to make use of those credentials. I am proud. The audience voted for us and our talky little beige comedy.

Which I sat there watching on the big screen with 400 people, giggling, and thinking We kind of rock. The first audience fave goes directly to the Best of San Diego without passing Go, but now we have to wait, nibbling our nails, until the end of the weekend before we find out if we're moving on. Still, it was a beautiful night: a big shout-out to all the Cane Toads for collectively making it possible.

Think good thoughts. And go to to watch our movie!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

700th Post

Hard to believe I've been writing in this space for nearly five years now. In blog years, I think that's more like 50. I'm a tenacious little scamp. You have to grant me that.

The last time I took stock of the blog was my 500th post, and the blogosphere seems to have undergone a change since then. Specifically, I'm not sure people are blogging and checking blogs quite as much as they used to, now that Facebook is so ubiquitous. That's my theory, anyway. I know that I am on Facebook so much, and do so much commenting there, that I wear myself out before making the blog rounds. Oh, sure, I'm still reading all the blogs I used to, but I haven't added any in a long time.

One reason for that is I used to add blogs to my reader each time someone new stopped by and visited mine. I don't think that's happening as much. Everyone's focus is pulled in the direction of Facebook and Twitter and who-knows-what-all. Or, I could be making excuses. Maybe people have BTDT on my blog and just want a fresh fix elsewhere. I can understand that. I don't like it, but I can understand it.

My comments have dwindled massively in the past six months. Maybe it's been a year and I wasn't quite paying attention at first. It used to be that within an hour of publishing a new post, someone would stop by and comment. Now it's often a day before that happens. I'm starting to adjust, as I have adjusted to all the other massive change in the past five years. Resistant as I am to change, it has to be done.

What about you, Readers? What are your thoughts on the blogosphere these days? Have you noticed any changes? I'd be very interested to hear about it. Plus it's a way to trick you into commenting. Oooh, I'm a crafty one.

In other news, I have finally updated my "secret theater blog" with a new post. If you once had an invitation, it's still good. Check it out. I promise it's not crazy-long.

And Wednesday night is the world premiere of our 48 Hour Film Project movie, The Hot Seat. Speaking of Facebook, you can like us on the Bridge of Hands Therapy Center page. And of course the Cane Toads (that's our team) would love to see you on the red carpet at UltraStar Mission Valley, screening at 8:00 p.m. Come out and vote for us, y'all.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Con Is On

David and I went to Comic-Con Thursday. Back in the day--before Jarrah, and before the whole thing exploded into a Hollywood red carpet event--we went every year, sometimes multiple days. In those innocent salad days of our relationship, we could just wander in, and attend any panel that didn't conflict with something else. Our only dilemma was whether to get a decent dinner in the Gaslamp, or subsist on gelatinous pizza in the convention center. Decisions, decisions.

Now you have to register a year in advance. And, as we learned, just being there doesn't guarantee your admission to anything. Don't get me wrong--it's still exciting and fun. But it's not footloose and fancy-free anymore by a long shot.

The Great and Powerful Oz

The one thing we're focused on is seeing Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and all-around Geek God Extraordinaire. I am ecstatic that his visit to the Con coincides with the only day we were able to register. David warns me that it's going to be tough, because he's in the dreaded "Hall H." More on Hall H later.

Because we're apparently not very bright, we drive downtown instead of taking the trolley, and end up forking over $25 (!) to park by Petco. We're instantly besieged by pedicabs, but we decide to walk. We're joined on our pilgrimage by hundreds (thousands?) of other faithful. You can feel the buzz in downtown. Several very tall buildings are partially blanketed in billboards for upcoming movies (which I read cost the studios in the millions) and there's an unimpressive (to me) black car parked near the trolley stop surrounded by buxom lasses dressed as leprechauns which has something to do with The Green Hornet. Flashbulbs are popping as they pose. "So...they're here because guys want cars and boobs together?" I ask David. "Yep," he agrees. "Cars and boobs." In general, we see a lot more Booth Babes in many guises than I ever remember seeing before. Seems like a decent gig (if you have the boobs) though you have to stand around in stilettos all day.

As we pass the trolley station, I notice that the official signage has been replaced with new ones--in Klingon. How completely awesome. There's a sign up explaining: "This MTS station has been taken over by Klingons. Please offer your cooperation during this friendly takeover." Good thing they explained it was friendly.

White Lines (Get Higher, Baby)

There's a long line to get into the convention center, but it moves quickly because everyone is preregistered in this day and age. We get tags and lanyards and ginormous recyclable bags which David jokes are so tall I don't have the height to wear one. I start scouting for famous people moonlighting as Con-going schlubs for the day (once upon a time, Seth Green stood in line behind us) but you know what? Never see a one. The closest we come to a celebrity sighting is a guy David knows from Mythbusters, and that's much later on. All around us, though, are Stormtroopers pushing strollers and the requisite extremely curvy women in fishnets and boots who are showing a little more of their derrieres than seems ideal.

We Like-A The Zombies

Our first panel is Chris Gore, who David knows from an early movie 'zine called Film Threat. Instinctively, I don't like him, and my impression does not really improve. He just seems so arrogant. The one saving grace is that the Q&A is "moderated" by "his biggest fan," a Japanese schoolgirl named Kimoko, sporting a hot pink wig. She does a spot-on Japanese-English accent (I know because I taught Japanese students conversational English for four years) but is suspiciously self-aware and, well, just freakin' hilarious, often turning wide-eyed to Chris to say "This is VERY important ques-tchon she asking!" I tell David that she is definitely a plant in the first minute of her "moderation." Sure enough, Chris re-introduces her as "comedian Mary Forrest" when the panel ends.

Gentlemen, Sheathe Your Weapons

We have a little window of time before the next panel, so we head to the terrace out back to eat our packed lunch. We are sooo smart to have brought it, because we get yummy pastrami sandwiches, raspberries with cinnamon sugar and molasses cookies instead of the aforementioned gelatinous pizza that costs about $20. While we eat, we notice battle lines being drawn--literally--behind us: a group of knights and ladies wield their swords and shields and whack at each other crazily until everyone falls down. You hear this mad metallic din for about 30 seconds and then silence while--I guess--they tally who has been killed, and then they start again. Moments like this are what make the Con so uniquely special. We step gingerly around them as we head back into the hall.


Time for a stroll through the exhibition floor, always good costume sighting. The room is acres long and jammed with revelers, and I am reminded of one of the disadvantages of being 5'4" and claustrophobic: I'm down beneath the capes, helmets and feathers and--at times--almost smothered by them. Also, another minus of being this close to the Comic-Con masses: apparently a lot of them have no use for mortals like dentists. A cloud of bad breath seems to hang over the entire room. I wish I had my own cape, for burying my nose in.

Southern Gothic

Our next panel is Charlaine Harris, who wrote the Sookie Stackhouse novels upon which True Blood is based, and she is a delight. She cheerfully tells us, in a lilting Southern twang, that she wondered if anyone would show up to see her since she's competing with Angelina Jolie over at the Salt panel, "but my agent tells me our audiences are a bit different." ("And she's talking about--horrors!--BOOKS!" I tell David.) She really gives good Q&A, and tells us lots of juicy stuff, like how she didn't realize how hard "Sookie Stackhouse" would be to say with fangs, and how the actors playing Andy and Pam are exactly how she imagined them but "Sookie is just a much curvier girl than Anna Paquin, bless her heart." I enjoy listening to her so much but Convention Center Malaise (a real hazard) overcomes me and I fall asleep for the second half. There's just something about being in that climate-controlled environment that does it to me every time. David says he hears me snoring a little bit. In any case, I feel refreshed after my power nap and ready to tackle the next thing. Which turns out to be the line for Starbucks, where they have you crammed in a little pen waiting for the drinks to be made. "It's like Starbucks steerage," I rhapsodize. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to drink caffeine..."

Hopefully No WMDs

We decide it's time to hit the line for The Dreaded Hall H. David has explained that it's dreaded because--with the biggest capacity at 5,000--it's the location of all the big studio panels, and hence, the hardest to get in. Also, its position in the convention center means the lines are outside, only partially shaded by tents. David's co-worker Brian usually just stays in Hall H for the entire day. That is not how I want to live. Now it's 90 minutes before Joss as we join the line (and a word about Con lines: some of the most orderly in the world, as far as I can tell. Tens of thousands of people around us all day, and no one pushes, cuts or forgets to say "I beg your pardon!" when their backpack full of swag touches me. Edited to add: a day after I wrote this, David tells me that someone in Hall H is stabbed in the eye over a seat skirmish--with a pen) We move immediately, but then stay in the spot we move to for an hour. Luckily, it's in full shade and very roomy, so we're comfy. We get chatted up by a severely nerdy young man from Minnesota who is lugging a duffel bag. I accidentally trip on it at one point, and it seems to be crammed with solid steel. I wonder aloud to David why Comic-Con has no security bag check, like other events with, oh, 160,000 participants under one roof. Hmmm. Just before the panel is set to start, the lines start moving, and we make it into Hall H with moments to spare.

Joss Whedon...Eeeeeee!

Oh, Joss has lost a bunch more hair since we last saw him. But J.J. Abrams, whom he's appearing with, looks amazing. He's my sister's PT client right now, and she says he's really nice. He's also hilarious, which for some reason I didn't expect. His florid style kind of eclipses Joss sometimes, who is more deadpan, less showy. David finds it blasphemy when I suggest J.J. might have been funnier, though. Joss does completely crack me up when the conversation turns to "3-D: A Good Thing, Or No?" He speaks of a recent horror film he produced, The Cabin In The Woods, which is in 3-D, and which he suggested they make in 2-D just to be contrary. "I said, we can have the tag line: 'Cabin In The Woods! It's Painterly!'" Joss is just so smart. Ultimately, it's a lot of fun to see them play off each other (and the Lost questions are kept to a minimum.) It would be a perfect panel if not for the teenage girls eating hot dogs two inches from my nose. I like hot dogs, but for some reason my mouth goes all dry and I am close to gagging while they eat. I end up having to plunge my nose into the bag of molasses cookies and breathe heavily until they leave, which does not embarrass David at ALL.

"Choose Carefully. Much Depends On Your Answer."

We have a quandary now. We can stay in Hall H and sit through the panel for The Expendables (which from having seen a preview, I know will consist of people yelling "I'm shooting you with this giant gun!" "I'm shooting you back!" "No, me!" "No, MEEEEE!") and then be in position to catch Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but we'll miss the Showtime panel (Weeds, Dexter, Nurse Jackie and Californication) in Ballroom 20 and totally miss a window to get dinner. What to do? We decide to head to Ballroom 20. There is a really long line even though that panel is already starting, and we decide it's not going to happen. Time to revise.

"Come And Party Like The Hit Show Eureka!"

We head into the Gaslamp, looking for a quick dinner before a 6:00 panel about "all the bad science in science fiction." David says it sounds fun and won't have a big crowd (cue the drumbeats of doom here.) I am all about trying Basic Pizza or The Cowboy Star because I've read about them both and we hardly ever get to the Gaslamp, but David thinks it will take too long. We end up at the outdoor lounge at Soleil @ K, which is having a happy hour. We order some sliders (strangely overcooked) flat bread with heirloom tomatoes (those are some damn good yellow tomatoes) and a couple of cocktails because what the hell? My Cosmo is white. That is just not correct. The bar dude says it's because they use White Cranberry. Which they totally should not do. It's too sweet. The sun is out, the breeze is blowing over our little couch perch, and we have perfect sidewalk viewing of the passing freak parade. We make it back in plenty of time.

Our Quest Ends Here

Or so we thought. There's a big line in the hallway, which amazes us. It moves, gradually, but when we are within 20 people of the door, they announce that it's at capacity. What? This can't be. We wait anyway, figuring some people will leave, but it doesn't seem to happen. I am incensed on David's behalf that he can't get into a truly geeky panel with no celebrities to speak of, and determined we will storm the gates. I wrestle with myself about whether to speak to the frolicking staff who aren't regularly checking to see if people are leaving through the back door. Myself finally wins. Maddeningly, they say things like "Oh, there's only 20 minutes left." I bite my tongue to keep from saying "Yes, 20 minutes we could be IN THERE instead of STANDING HERE." It doesn't turn into a smackdown, surprisingly enough, but we still don't get in. They assure us it's standing room only. Who books these ridiculous small rooms? If only I'd drunk my Cosmo a little faster...

Who Needs Aftershocks?

Now that we're jaded, we know that we better dash to the line for the Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog Sing-a-Long (mellifluous name, that) and sure enough, it's already sing-a-LONG. We start outside on a sunset-y terrace; wish we could have stayed a while. A little boy hears me grousing about how hard it is to get into events now, and pipes up "Have you tried Wonder-Con in San Francisco? That's my home town. Lots to see, no lines." "Famous people?" I ask. "A few of them," he assures me. He seems about nine but preternaturally adult-like. I want more info but we lose him when the line starts moving. It takes a half-hour to get into the room and it's packed to the gills. The guy next to me is in Full Con Nerd Mode: Long, stringy hair, stubble, wrinkled black clothing, backpack full of first-edition comics and B-starlet signatures, complete recall of every note of Dr. Horrible's. Bad for me, since I'm practically in his lap, and again with the icky breath.

A group called the Brown Coats (David later explained to me that they started as Firefly revivers and have moved on to actual charity work) sponsors the sing a long, and distributes lovely booklets with lyrics and cues for shout-outs. David and I both find the shout-outs a bit cringe-worthy. Joss, they're not. But it's fun to watch the blog with a thousand people all shouting at the screen; I'd forgotten how hilarious it is. I'm eagerly awaiting a raft of special guests (in a day that's been light on them) but alas, there are none. We marvel that the entire room shakes quite dramatically when everyone drums their feet in time with the "Bad Horse" interludes. When it's over, it's time for us to turn back into pumpkins.

Total Recall

David has a theory that they need to initiate something akin to what Disneyland does with their Fast-Pass. Meaning, you can decide at the beginning of the day (or even before--on-line) the three things you absolutely don't want to miss, and get little admission tickets printed out in advance. When events reach capacity through this system, then they do, but no one has to wait in line regardless. "Grass roots change," I murmur in assent. I think he's on to something. Comic-Con people? Are you listening?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Play's The Thing

Thanks to everyone who braved my 48 Hours set diary in the last post. Even my own husband hasn't made it through. To paraphrase the script: "Not enough coffee in the WORLD..."

David and I were at Comic-Con yesterday and I have a juicy post brewing for that glorious annual event, but I'm feeling sad and discouraged right now and wanted to use my blog for a bit of kvetching before I take a nap.

A lot of you know that the last show I was in, Sylvia, went up in May. Since September 2008, I've more or less consistently been involved in something at that sweet little theater in Point Loma, and it's really added to my quality of life. Sylvia was my sixth show in a year and a half.

So I've been waiting less than patiently for summer shows to be announced.

Two Mondays ago, I auditioned for The Glass Menagerie. I almost didn't go. There are only two women in that play, and neither is in my age range, if the director is casting it accurately. Speaking of the director, he was new to me, and the whole night ended up being new to me: when I opened that familiar door, I saw about 40 people--most of them strangers--in their Sunday best, clutching head shots, and immediately knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. The evening was intense--I felt like I was on high alert for three and a half hours, though I actually only read twice. I enjoyed my second reading especially--the guy reading for Tom (who was actually named Tom) was not just good, he's what's known in the biz as a "generous" partner, who gave me lots of feedback during the scene. I didn't think I was terrible. But I knew I wouldn't be cast. It's still pretty weird to me that not only didn't I make callbacks, I don't even KNOW who was cast. The whole thing is still that secret.

So I felt sort of sad about all that. But slightly cheered because the same night I found out there would be auditions one week later for the "on the green" version of Twelfth Night. I was in the "on the green" Moliere last summer, as you may remember. I worried that there would be scads of professional strangers stuffing the room again, but I worried for naught. There were about 10 of us auditioning, if that. I only knew a couple of people. Hannah is directing again, and I feel so comfortable and safe with her. By the time we were doing scenes and monologues, I felt great. After all, these were cold readings of material I've known forever. I was exhausted from finishing the film the night before, but I got a second wind from the fun.

I got to read for all three of the female parts, and then for whatever reason, Hannah asked me to read for Sir Toby Belch, the town drunk. And I just went for it. I was staggering around, poking and pushing people, slurring my words, laughing on cue but I wasn't faking it. I was just having that much of a good time. Everyone had nice things to say. I wondered if I was going to get cast in this male part, and I figured what the hell. Bring it on! It will be more fun than the women anyway.

She said she'd let us know by Friday, and it's Friday now. I just got home from the gym and there was an e-mail from Hannah. Not the news I wanted. No, not terrible news for me personally. But that's how it seems right now. Because I was really craving that stage. And the whole process of getting the show to that stage. And she's decided there just weren't enough people and she's not going to do it. Sure, there's going to be some sort of Shakespeare workshop in its place, which will probably be interesting, but no actual shows. I want the shows.

Of course, I'm managing to read this as a personal thing, anyway. Oh, if I'd just done a better audition, I think--she wouldn't feel the need to cancel the whole thing. I didn't give her anything to work with. But I probably can't make this one all about me, much as I might try.

But I'm sad. Have a sort of sick, bereft feeling in my belly. And in my heart. I wanted to be out there, performing for the people. Now I'll have to wait, and I have no idea for how long.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Seventh Wave

Seven years! Aren't you supposed to get some sort of itch? Well, the only itch I have is to do it again, and again. Now I have to wait, because 48 Hour Film Project 2010 is DONE. Read on, if you dare.



Restless. Anxious. Can't nap, like I've been ordered to (so I can stay up all night writing.) Just too amped. I bake oatmeal cookies for the team, sweating. Is there some sort of universal truth that a weekend in possession of a 48 Hour Film Project must be in want of a 90-degree heat wave?


Pick up Jarrah from camp and drive her to UTC, where we have the hand-off with Paul and Joy. It bears repeating that David and I could not hurl ourselves so majestically into this pit of masochism if it weren't for Mary and Paul and Joy, whom Jarrah is so excited to spend the weekend with she forgets to hug her Mama goodbye. I forlornly hit the highway. Off to Hazard Center (could it be more aptly named?) for the kick-off.

6:00 p.m.

David and I are waiting at the starting line with Robyn, Mark, Eva, George, Calvin, John and Kacie. Very nervous and sweating like the lead singer in a rhumba band. What if, what if, what if? We cheer like mad when Duane and Jeff take the podium to announce it's almost time. Months of auditions, meetings, Facebook messages and three-hour phone discussions with Calvin come down to this moment...

6:30 p.m.

...when Calvin (as our youngest member and esteemed director) steps up to the hat and pulls: FILM NOIR! Ugh!!!! Calvin and I rarely agree on anything, but this we have: we're not doing Film Noir two years in a row. We can't top ourselves.

6:45 p.m.

Furious team negotiations ensue. Are we really up for the Wild Card draw for the FIRST TIME IN CANE TOAD HISTORY? The Wild Cards are harder: Period Piece. Foreign Film. Doppelganger. Eek. We decide to go for it. I am suddenly aware that a stranger's big video camera has been in our faces during the whole discussion.

7:00 p.m.

We draw a Wild Card and it is...Dark Comedy! The three elements required of every team in San Diego:

Character: Dr. Rita or Rick Hernandez
Prop: A chair
Line of Dialogue: "I'm trying my best!"

We are off to Coco's to meet up with the rest of the team.

7:15 p.m.

In the car, I call Robyn, and do a lot of frenetic yelling about the meaning of Dark Comedy. I can't remember what I was on about.

7:30 p.m.

I swoop into the back room and forget to greet everyone, screaming and swearing a blue streak. Eventually, Robyn leans across the table and whispers: "We aren't alone in here." I suddenly notice the room is filled with grannies and children trying to eat their dinner. Oops. Perhaps they don't want to hear "It should have a total 'What the f@$%&*' quality!'" while they enjoy their chicken-fried steak. Our group has been rounded out by Shelley, Caleb, Barry, George, Eric (our new editor) and forgive me if I've left you out.

8:30 p.m.

I'm really too excited to eat. But we go around the table and everyone presents their ideas. This is more or less orderly. Let's just say that some tensions are brewing between veterans and newbies. And that this is probably my fault. I mention all my ideas for "organic group scenarios," since we have a lot of actors. Group therapy seems to stick, and George has a fun idea about a court-ordered alcohol support group where they are totally remorseless, getting high and drinking during the meeting, with lots of insane rules. Or in which everyone lies for sport. I'm loving it. Some people think it's not dark enough. This darkness thing is a thorn in my side all weekend.

9:00 p.m.

We're all trying to decide if people have to die horribly in order for our movie to be considered Dark Comedy. I go to the bathroom at one point and when I come back, David is saying "So they're carrying the body through the woods, but all you can see is their feet, and we have no idea whose body it is and what happened..." and I'm like "Um, I am not writing that, no matter whose body it is." There's another suggestion in which people have Hefty bags full of limbs that they're carrying around. A lot of ideas seem to feature spectacular deaths at the end, and I keep saying "But where's the comedy part?"

9:30 p.m.

We split into smaller groups to flesh out (ha!) ideas. Our group is Eva, me, George and John. Let's just say we butt heads, shall we? And that I find it cute that Eva and I both order cherry pie, "hot, no ice cream." I remember that our idea involves someone picking up whores at Mt. Soledad, chicken pot pie, gay sex and drunk cops. I think I heard the word "outrageous" at one point and decided to run with it.

10:00 p.m.

We share our ideas at the big table. Eric has a "true story" in which a woman spontaneously grows hair on her face and becomes a lesbian. Why this is cause-and-effect I didn't catch. I start feeling like it's time to let our actors rest and cull the group down to a more manageable size.

10:30 p.m.

I knew Robyn and I (and probably Mark and Calvin) would meet up at our place after Coco's closes, but Eva agrees to come, too, and Lisa calls that she is off work and up for brainstorming. So (with David) we are a merry band of seven in our living room, drinking bottled Starbucks and getting wilder by the hour. The group therapy idea is sticking, and I suddenly remember an acting class I took where the teacher used to frantically squirt participants in the face with a water gun and yell "BO-RING!" which was hideously hilarious unless it was being done to you. This seems sufficiently disturbing to everyone, and sates our collective jones for guns to make an appearance in our film, sans actual maiming. We begin to build on this. What if this therapy group used all kinds of aggressive tactics to "help" people dig deeper into their psyches?


12:00 a.m.

We're getting a little silly. I announce that I'd love to see "some sort of dance number at the end, with flowing dresses and fields of tulips." When people look confused, I say "People love that stuff. They eat it up. Trust me." Weirdly, no one argues with that logic, and before too much longer it's a done deal that we're going to be dancing in tulips over our credits. I'm glad I didn't insist on the ritual sacrifice of a goat over our credits. Who knew I had such power? (I should point out that the actual dance contains not one measly tulip, so perhaps I should shut up now.)

1:00 a.m.

Eva and Lisa are FB-ing long lists of instructions and props to the rest of the team. My phone is lighting up with texts from George with stuff like "How about the Seven Dwarfs, but as murderers???" to which I reply "George, go to bed." I message Shelley: "Bring a change of clothes. You will be getting wet." My vagueness delights me.

2:00 a.m.

I'm not even tired. I could freakin' think of brilliant stuff for another week without shutting my eyes. David heads to bed. Lisa and Eva take off. I hunker down at the table with Robyn over the lap top, with Mark and Calvin on the sidelines for moral support.

3:00 a.m.

Or so it seemed. We are at a stalemate. Here's the problem: I am not a careful writer. I am a careful editor. By which I mean, I'm happy to write page after page of crapcake without even looking at it. Doesn't intimidate me at all. I will then fix it later. I'll fix the hell out of it. But Robyn doesn't work this way. Last year, when she was our pinch hitter, she was excellent at finessing the first draft because she didn't have to worry about how it got there. Now we're looking at a blank screen and every time I suggest a line, she and Calvin both moan "Nooooo. Not funny. Too funny. Too silly. Not dark. Too Sam." (That's a big one--I get that a lot.) Calvin is micromanaging, telling me he doesn't want any puns. "Puns? I've never written a @#$%&* pun in my life!" Suddenly, I'm in a petulant tantrum. "You do it!" I say, pushing the laptop at Robyn and stomping out of the room.

3:30 a.m.

This doesn't last long. I come back. We regroup. I say I am going to put my head down and type some crappy stuff while they talk amongst themselves and then they can fix it. I do this, for about 20 minutes. Then I read it to them. They laugh. They laugh! Uh, okay. We have an outline and bare-bones dialogue for the entire thing. Must be time to call it a night.

4:00 a.m.

"Are you sleeping?" I whisper as I get into bed. "Not at all," David says sadly. We whisper a bit until I remember no one else is in the house. Weird to be there without Jarrah. I think we're about to fall asleep when David yelps, "No one better wear stripes tomorrow! The lens doesn't like it!" "Better put it on FB," I say. He's out of bed like a shot.

5:30 a.m.

My heart finally stops pounding like an incoming bullet train and I slip into sleep.

7:00 a.m.

DAMN! Why didn't my alarm go off? Oh, I set it for PM. That was clever. I shower but don't have time to eat. I do remember my "flowy white and pastel garments" for the dance sequence, my laptop, my charger and a basket of coffee supplies. It's not a long drive to our first location--a beautiful house in Kensington owned by some friends of George's--but I manage to get lost anyway because my brain isn't quite keeping up with the accelerator.

8:00 a.m.

Wow, this is a nice house. Can't believe these people are letting us tramp all over it at the crack of dawn while they sleep (!) It's hotter n' blazes already. The backyard is grassy and woodsy, just right for our purposes. Calvin and David are very efficient and no sooner have we all draped ourselves in gauzy finery but we are loping around as they film, to the ethereal strains of "Boom Boom Pow." Someone has the bright idea to have us repeatedly climb some very steep stone steps out of the woods, while holding hands, dancing and grinning like maniacs. I trip over the rocks every take. I have hunger pangs and sweat sliding into my cleavage, and a sneaking suspicion that this is my punishment for forcing all these good people to dance around a May pole for no reason. I teach everyone a few moves from the Nia routine "Miracle." I later worry that I'm going to look like an idiot, but when I finally see the footage, we actually look great.

9:00 a.m.

Robyn and I are back to the script, on orders from Calvin. They're filming some other stuff in the backyard but we're not invited because our director is such a slave driver. Mark posts a pic of us on Facebook, typing away at someone's kitchen table, surrounded by piles of neatly folded underwear. We're in the groove now, working well together.

10:00 a.m.

Tons of texts from Nina, who is coming from the Union-Tribune to interview us on set. Cane Toad Productions has been chosen to represent the 48 Hour Film Project in a feature. Whee! Unfortunately, the set keeps shifting, so she's having trouble pinning us down. I finally determine that we should be in OB by 11:30 for the next part of our shoot. She is probably sorry she agreed to these shenanigans.

11:00. a.m.

Script is done! I think! Seems so much shorter than other years--less than four pages. Of course, the final product ends up just shy of eight minutes, just like every year. I don't traffic in short movies. We are off to Ocean Beach (OB) where Shelley has secured keys to a vacant Iyengar yoga studio. She's even found us a private parking lot, because she's just that awesome and organized.

12:00 p.m.

Our photog is waiting outside with us for the last yoga class of the day to finish. Nina arrives soon after. It's a bee in my bonnet that we have no Craft Services table, plus are not allowed to eat in the studio. I feel like the only stuff that gets eaten for the rest of the day is what's on top of the pile. No time to worry about it. The studio is nice and sunny, and the Iyengar ropes on the wall look pleasingly like a row of nooses. Our scanty crew goes to work setting up lights, sound, camera. The only chairs in the room are metal and man, do they squeak. "Is it causing noise artifacting?" I ask David. I just really like saying that.

1:00 p.m.

I think first we do a read-through of the script with the actors in a circle, because a photo of that ends up in the paper. A word about our actors: they rock. I'm so proud of them, and proud of myself for putting little stars next to their names (at least the ones we hired from the auditions) after seeing them perform for one minute. Can I spot talent or what? The three of them--Kacie, Caleb and Barry--have very different styles but are total pros. And NICE people. Of our other actors, Shelley, George and Lisa are PLAW and there's nothing we can ask of them that they won't instantly make happen. What champs. Marie rounds out the group of seven--she's our mascot each year, making an appearance somewhere. This year, her line "Oh, me, too!" has me collapsing in giggles and practically ruining takes.

2:00 p.m.

We've started doing some exploratory takes, checking for sound and picture, and letting the actors get familiar with their lines. I am desperate to swoop in and guide them: suggest, reassure, prompt for loudness...whatever. But it's making Calvin crazy. And I am soooo frustrated. I wrote the script; I want to direct the script. But that's not what we agreed. I feel bad about this. Robyn tells me privately to cut it out. I'm in agony. It takes me HOURS to get used to not butting in, and I'm not sure I ever really do. It's more likely that Calvin just gets used to me being annoying. Who am I kidding? He's already used to that.

3:00 p.m.

The next few hours are about shooting scenes. I get a little frustrated because the need for lots of close-ups means we're not really getting the group interaction, since the camera is not on all of them very much. I'm used to theater and didn't quite plan for that. Plus the repetition is eye-rollingly boring. Hopefully we won't go too late, and no need for re-shoots in the morning. A girl can dream.

4:00 p.m.

A lot of hilarity breaks out around our props, which are a collection of water pistols. Specifically, Lisa is supposed to be drenched before the movie begins, so a series of helpful volunteers keep leading her outside to be blasted with the Super-Soaker. She's even described in the script as "Wet Lisa." Eva rubs black mascara all over her eyes and her beautiful long hair is sodden and stringy around her dripping face. George is extra-careful to keep spraying her decolletage. She is re-wet many times over the course of eight hours, because the hot lights dry her like a minute in Palm Springs. Every time I look at her, I want to laugh because she looks like Eponine from Les Miz. Of course, she never complains once.

6:00 p.m.

Mark has gallantly offered to drive data up to CineForm (David's company) in Solana Beach, but once he gets there, realizes he has no key. He drives all the way back, picking up our pizza on the way, and then goes back AGAIN. Caleb works for a gourmet pizza place, Pizzacoto, and has donated a bunch of pies to our crew. What a doll. It's good, too. But he can't get any because we are torturing him. The very last line of the scene--our required line--is "I'm trying my best!" And for about an hour he kills in his scene, then forgets this last line, blowing the take every time. The last time, he starts berating himself with a stream of profanity that is so funny, I wish we could put it in. As a Jewish mother, I keep murmuring to David and Calvin that we need to feed him; he's been working hard for ten hours and this is a lot of scrutiny; let's just let him take a break and come back to it. As non-Jewish non-mothers, they are like "He can bite me. We're getting a perfect take if we all starve first." Sheesh.

7:30 p.m.

The sun is going down over the OB pier. I can just see the perfect orange orb if I crane out the window. Sigh. We won't see much daylight this weekend. We're working on the "money shot" where everyone in the group points their water guns at Caleb at the same moment. Filming it from different angles. David is standing on a bench up near the ceiling. Because that's what happens when you're already 6'2" and then you stand on a bench.

9:00 p.m.

Marie is leaving. George tells me he has been excused. "Um, WHAT???" I yelp. "We haven't filmed any wide shots of the last scene. And Caleb hasn't gotten wet. Hello!" I start freaking out. Eva is on it, sprinting across the street to nab Marie. Grabs her just in time. We actually have two more hours of shooting, as it turns out. I am all agitated because clearly no one has been keeping track of what shots we have vs. what shots we need. I think that was originally Shelley's job, but she's been on camera the entire day so things have changed. That's the way with this contest. Things. Have. Changed. Secretly (not so secretly?) I'm pretty proud of myself for saving the day.

10:00 p.m.

Robyn is receiving frantic texts from Mark, who's at CineForm, data-wrangling and--as it happens--Eric-wrangling. Our new editor is not a self-starter with the software, and has no idea what to do without someone guiding him through the shots. "If 48 Hours is a rainbow," I say to anyone who will listen, "Tyler [last year's editor] was on one end, and Eric is way on the other." And what I mean by this inelegant analogy is that this year we are @#$%&*ed, editing-wise.

11:00 p.m.

It's a wrap! Primary camerawork is done. As it happens, we have another Cane Toad first: NO SUNDAY RESHOOTS. Even last year we had a few. Now it's time to clean the Silly String (don't ask) off of every surface in the yoga studio and pack up all our gear and food. This takes less time than I expected. The place looks great when we leave. Some people are headed home for the night, and all actors are on 30-minute call Sunday. Some of us are headed to Solana Beach. I have a tantrum when I realize that people have helpfully shoved about 80 Costco cartons in my car and I can't see out my rear window. "@#$%&&!" I say. And "*&%$#@!" Robyn bears the brunt of that, since she's driving with me. "Isn't it enough that I have to drive to freakin' Solana Beach on an hour of sleep and sixteen hours of work? Without my vision impaired? ISN'T IT ENOUGH?" Robyn doesn't answer. I think she thinks it's enough. I feel much better after my tantrum. All the way up there, I try to pretend that the lights and lines are not blurry.


12:00 a.m.

We're at CineForm. I happily set up a real Craft Services table at last. Everyone is shutting themselves into rooms for hush-hush negotiations--David, Eric and Mark on data transfer, Calvin and Eva on shot review. Robyn, Lisa and I bounce on the exercise balls that fill my husband's office (they don't believe in desk chairs) and vaguely wonder what we're doing there. Still, we're giddy with the success of the shoot and not yet terrified of being late, so it feels good just to be silly for an hour or so.

1:30 a.m.

Since no one has acknowledged us, it also feels good to say goodnight and head home for a few precious hours of sleep. "I don't think I'll be able to shut my eyes," I say. "I haven't been alone in the house without David or Jarrah in five years." "Somehow I don't think it will be a problem," Mark says. He's right.

2:30 a.m.

After a long, hot shower in which I spend 10 minutes scrubbing the dirt socks off my feet, I pass out like I'm drugged until I hear the phone.

7:00 a.m.

It's Shelley. We're in the Union-Tribune! Cute picture of David with the camera on the front page of the Region section! Time for some coffee, some Advil and texting. Who needs food, coffee at CineForm? No one, apparently. David says Calvin and Eric have been editing all night and are now "passed out." That seems like a good sign.

8:30 a.m.

I head to Einstein Bagels even though no one asked me to. See above under "Jewish mother."

9:30 a.m.

I arrive at CineForm. Robyn is there, David is hard at work. Eric seems to be gone (uh...what?) but Calvin is up and shuffling around like a curmudgeonly old man--bed-headed and scowling. I think he may be playing to the camera, though, because he seems in a suspiciously good mood for someone who just slept on the floor for three hours after editing all night. Oh, to be 20 again.

10:00 a.m.

Lisa arrives! Surprise! She was supposed to work, but got out of it. She's such a ray of sunshine. Very soon, she and I are busy compiling the credits (in keeping with our theme, everyone is some kind of "whore") and checking documents. Robyn is editing the "commercial" at the end of our movie, which is going to be hilarious. I can see Robyn editing the whole freakin' thing in another year. I keep saying "Where's Eric? Where's Eric?" but David and Calvin are sanguine. Let the guy sleep. Harumph. Sleep is for losers.

11:00 a.m.

Lots of texting. I'm telling Kacie we need to reshoot her but that turns out not to be true. She, George and Caleb come in together around noon and bring us lunch from Fidel's. I love them--they are the cheerleaders of this year's edition. They spend the whole day bouncing on the giant balls in the center of the action, providing moral support and anything else we need.

12:00 p.m.

Calvin actually asks me to help him. I'm so surprised I almost swallow my gum. Up to now, he's been a typical editor, head down, brow furrowed, no use for social intercourse. Of course, he's not actually an editor, but is teaching himself on the job, and already has the demeanor down. I sit with him for a couple hours, choosing shots for the Caleb scene. It's fun. All around us, people are getting things done. Nice thing about the PLAW crew--they don't need to be told what to do. They find something.

12:30 p.m.

I have questions about Eric. Such as, Where the @#$%&* is he? I keep saying "It's not called "START A FILM in 48 Hours!" I am completely amazed that someone would take on this job and then just bail without explanation. But David and Calvin are not amazed. They don't even want me to call him. "He knows he's needed," says David serenely. "If he's not coming in, he's making a choice." Yeah, a CHOICE to derail our hard work. I demand satisfaction...of some kind. "Call Jake," I say desperately. "Maybe he can be convinced." Jake is David's co-worker, and our former editor. He's very good, and fast. David agrees. He tells me after that when Jake picks up he hears hysterical laughing in the background...he's with another co-worker, doing some 48 Hour damage control over there. He agrees to come in at 2:00. It's like a miracle.

1:30 p.m.

In the mean time, a weird thing is happening. The movie is getting edited without an editor. Or rather, with a lot of little editor elves. David (who's a great editor but perfectionist-slow) is speedier today. Robyn is figuring out the program on her own and doing great. And Calvin has learned enough from Eric during the night to get it done, too. The thing is coming together as though we've had a visit from Disney Cinderella's band of forest friends. Rather than everyone going to 11 on the freak-out meter, we somehow seem better off than usual. Huh.

2:00 p.m.

Now I want answers about Marie, our composer. Where is she? She's decided to work from home. I worry about this, since I can't yell at her, but maybe this is exactly why she's working from home. And she's been composing right to the rough cut in an efficient way, so the music is actually going in incrementally, which I can't remember happening before. It's good stuff, too. The "Bridge of Hands Club Re-mix" is definitely going viral on YouTube. I can't get it out of my head. Seriously. It's, like, glued in there.

2:30 p.m.

Jake is here, along with his wife, Gretchen, and their dog, Clover. Clover does not contribute, but he's cute. Jake swoops in and we all clap and bow, which seems to please him. He sequesters with Calvin and they fix some things, and then with David, too. Amazingly, whatever he needs to fix takes less than a couple hours. Before I know it, they're on their way again, and we--can it be?--have a rough cut...

4:30 p.m. 4:30! Sure, sure, the music isn't totally in, and there's been no color correction or sound level adjustment, and there are still a couple transitions that are bothering me, but...if we had to turn something in right now, we could. Hmmm. Calvin said we were going to be more efficient this year. I didn't believe him.

5:30 p.m.

We're all getting a bit silly. There are stories, and laughing, and Caleb breaks a chair and we all fear for his life. We eat a lot of chocolate and Red Vines (a tradition.) Mark makes us a Facebook page for "Bridge of Hands Therapy Center" (like us!) I start yelling about the completion documents, and they are quickly handled. We determine we have five (!) missing release forms, and the appropriate people are found and punished, erm, I mean, they deal with it. I keep telling George, Caleb and Kacie, "We're pretty calm now, but soon you'll see some yelling and running. It gets scary intense." They look a little worried and thrilled simultaneously.

6:00 p.m.

But you know what? It never happens. The closest we come is when David yells at me because I've pointed out that some newly added music is drowning out the audio in three places. He says he can only deal with one at a time. I say fair enough. He says we won't have time to render with all my complaints. I say how about more fixing, less yelling. He yells a bit more for good measure. This is a moment that happens in every 48 Hours and everyone who happens to be in the room looks at the floor discreetly until it's over. There's probably a reason you don't see many husband-wife teams in this competition.

6:30 p.m.

Time to render. David always yells a lot that this is going to take 30 minutes, but I've gotten wise to him: it takes about ten. I'm not sure if he's remembering the good ol' days or just trying to scare us, but shhhhh. Let's not mention it; let him have his little fun. There's some discussion of who is going to the finish line--we really want to send two search parties, but might only have time to render one version. What to do? I know! Let's yell about it some more! That's always a good time!

7:00 p.m.

There aren't many people left. It's down to me, David, Robyn, Mark, Calvin, Lisa and Eva. Robyn says it's her year to cross the finish line, and Eva and Lisa quickly volunteer to be the back-ups. I scream and high-five and "hooray!" them to the elevators but then I'm quickly sorry to be left with just the menfolk. Those stoic, reserved menfolk. Sigh. The three guys silently stomp around, packing up equipment and cables, and I slink off to start cleaning. Well, this is anti-climactic. Rats. I clutch my phone, waiting for updates...

7:19 p.m.

...and one comes! It's Robyn, and all three of them are in line! Eleven minutes early! WHAT? This is unprecedented. I do some yelling, but it's just me. Mark has left and David and Calvin are too tired to talk. What am I saying? Neither of them talk much anyway.

7:45 p.m.

Cleaning up. Contemplating all the food that didn't get eaten. Shelley texts: "Got movie?" I text back "Hell, yeah, we do." Only I don't actually say that. I say some gushy stuff about how happy I am, which is what I say to everyone else I text that evening. I always feel like I love the whole world when we finish the @#$%&* movie on time.

8:15 p.m.

This year, Mary and Paul have given us a special gift: they're bringing Jarrah to our house, so I don't need to go pick her up. Soooo nice. I am shooting down the highway, smiling from ear to ear, screaming the lyrics to The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary." I'm a-goin' home and we DID IT, baby. On time is the only prize right now, and we got it. Soon: a shower, pajamas, toast, couch and reality shows--then about a week of sleep, and I'll be right as rain. Until next year.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Feel the Force

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a small band of rebels fought the evil Empire of Time in their quest to write, shoot, edit and cross the finish line in 48 hours with a precious and coveted cargo: a truly stellar short film.

That was seven years ago, Dear Readers, and our rebels have become stronger. They've expanded their ranks with The Force--otherwise known as Creative Talent--and grown wise as they faced down the Terrible Trials of Film, including but not limited to Corruption, Lost Audio, Un-Sync, Script Gigantism, Intergalactic Warring and Creeping Red Vine Sickness. And lo, they have prevailed. Except when they didn't prevail, and lo, they were disqualified for Lateness.

But have they given up, Readers? Turned their star destroyers around and slunk back to the Planet of Low Adrenalin? No, Readers. That is not the way with our rebels. The Force is strong with them, and though they have every bit as much chance of suffering grave perils this year, they are bravely facing battle once again. As a very wise little green person once said, "Try? There is no try. Only do."

In these seven years, we've lost some warriors along the way (Matt Archer, we salute you. Hope you're enjoying married life.) We've shed some tears. (All from the ducts of This Fearless Writer.) We've had lows. (Two disqualifications.) And oh, we've had highs. (Nearly all of them last year, when audiences embraced us and we bagged 10 percent of the gross.)

It should tell you something about our dedication to the cause that rereading my own set diary from last year gave me a burning throat and tears struggling to be set free. And that I haven't slept well in weeks, so convinced am I that this will be the year I'll search the wide expanse of my brain for a perfect script and it will be as dusty and barren as Tatooine.

In a new development, our band has attracted the attention of dignitaries from other planets, and we will be shadowed by a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune during shooting on Saturday, eager to uncover the secrets to our mission, hopefully not to sell them to The Empire or other teams. You, Dear Readers, I know to be scrupulous supporters, so do check us out in this Sunday's Arts and Currents section.

And by all means, come out and see us on the big screen at the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas on Wednesday, July 28th at 8:00 p.m. This year we've been promised a red carpet premiere with paparazzi and all (hopefully, not a trap--we rebels don't want to be undone by our vanity.)

And if you feel so moved to break free from the crowd and passionately shout "I love you!" you can be sure we will respond...

"I know."

Monday, July 12, 2010

There's A New Kid In Town

Yesterday afternoon the three of us went to a "Kindergarten Meet n' Greet" for Jarrah's new school. The sun was out (after weeks and weeks of gray, this made us all a bit blinky) and the park (how nice that the school has a neighborhood park attached!) was hoppin' with name-tagged kids and their parents. (I wore a name tag, too, even though David said it was goofy.)

We were greeted by one of the teachers, who seemed very nice; somehow we didn't meet the others. The best moment was when the the principal, who seems very young and hip, extended his hand for Jarrah to shake and she high-fived him so violently that he looked like it'd been burned. He probably went straight to the office and put a little note in her file: "This one's on notice. Aggressive tendencies."

Jarrah was especially enamored of the tire swing, and enjoyed several nausea-promoting spins with various and sundry children. I was pleased to see that some of them were bigger, and some were smaller. You could kind of tell the ones who weren't quite five yet; they looked a bit more uncertain about the the whole enterprise and sometimes hid behind their parents. Jarrah had no use for us other than swing pushes and occasional demands for water. She was in full cotillion mode the whole time.

After we'd been there a while, she figured out that a few of her preschool friends were out in the field, and after that, they formed a posse. I did notice some others drifting in and out of their ranks. While I knew that Addison, Jacob and Sophia from her class would be joining her at the new school, I hadn't known that a DIFFERENT Jacob friend (from her after-school classes) would be there, and the two of them are clearly tight. In short order, Jarrah had everybody playing "blood-sucking vampires," and I cringed lightly waiting for someone's parents to speak to me about her viewing choices. Anyway, new Jacob's mom, Melissa, is an absolute delight, and an elementary school teacher and former theater major so we had lots to discuss. Turns out she was also a student in Muir Writing at UCSD when I was TEACHING it, which initially made me think I was about 20 years older than her (I'm not--I always forget I was a baby myself when I was doing that.)

It was so weird (in a good way) to say goodbye to her and realize that it wasn't really goodbye, that I might actually be seeing her daily for another six years. Wow. I guess we are launched. But I definitely have to get over my shyness--on the way home, it occurred to me that I hadn't introduced myself to a single new parent, and David had met several. I'll never get elected to the P.T.A. if I behave like that.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Collect All These Exciting New Set

To get us in a patriotic mood, we decided to do a little retail therapy on the morning of July 4th. I was pining for new socks, so naturally my thoughts turned to Kobey's Swap Meet. I've been buying my socks there for 15 years--it's an American tradition.

In addition to old junk, Kobey's has a slightly varying array of new goods, mostly of the sock, cell phone and sunglasses ilk, with the occasional flip-flop and knock-off purse. It's the kind of place you can spend a couple of hours but only 17 dollars, and walk away with that new banana clip you've been craving. I love it, and occasionally need my fix.

Jarrah was not in a compliant mood when we arrived at Kobey's. In general, she's been a bit teenage-esque in her eye-rolling and feet-dragging these days. She picked up a lion Beanie Baby and demanded that we purchase it. "Um...six dollars. That looks like a lot of things you already have. So no."

That did not go over well. She said she hated the swap meet and wanted to leave immediately. She was only slightly mollified when I said she might be able to get something else later on.

Later on turned out to be in about five minutes. We strolled by a wall of hot pink toy sets, which if you squinted, looked like stuff you'd find in Target. Your Barbies, your Bratz, your Lil Pet Shops. Upon closer inspection, however, it became clear that this loot came from The Land of Misfit Toys, and spent a lot of time playing cards and smoking cigars instead of making it onto the sleigh. Everything was some sort of off-brand, masquerading as a well-known toy. It was like getting Nicki Hilton to show up at your event when you really wanted Paris.

Jarrah homed right in on the set you see above. She's been craving a girlie pink cell phone for a while. And this one came with a CD player and (what I assumed) were fake CDs. (Note: the CDs are not fake. They play really high-pitched techno that sounds like attending a rave with Dr. Evil. And the cell phone sings, too, when you press its buttons: "AY YI YI, oh heed a great big pie, AY YI YI, oh heed a great big pie..." It also barks.)

This was just too fabulous to pass up. Because, really, what could be more appealing?

Hey Parents! Worried that your daughter is going to be one of those sullen Goth chicks in ripped fishnets who refuses to do her homework? Concerned that you'll have a "misunderstood" teen who stays in her room and blasts Morrissey around the clock? Eager to avoid an "artistic" young person who pens overblown poetry, reads Kerouac, consorts with a bad element and looks guilty when you open her door?

Then this set is for YOU! If you start now, you can set the stage for fairy-love and precious hair ornaments! Your child will crave ice rink birthday parties, enjoy manicures with Mom, confide her crushes over ice cream sundaes and sigh over Mr. Darcy. IF you act now and purchase this set.


But wait, Readers. You ask if I'm worried about my girl getting any dangerous ideas from Benign Girl? Not in the least. Of this I can be certain: my girl will never be a Benign Girl. They'll have to go peddle benign somewhere else. Though I hope she still confides her crushes and sighs over Mr. Darcy--BELIEVE IT.

I mean, how could she be a Benign Girl, when her mother thought it was a peachy idea to bling out her phone with purple bedazzling on that same trip to Kobey's? Did I consider whether I was too staid and settled for such adornment? Did I flinch when my friend Steph answered the question "Wait, are these only for 15-year-olds?" with "Um, yeah?" Readers, I did not. I wasn't a Benign Girl then, and I'm not about to go there now.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Schooled By Scooby-Doo

Saturday morning gardening conversation:

Jarrah: Mommy, why do roses have thorns?

Sam: To protect them, I guess.

Jarrah: And it really, really hurts when one pokes you, right?

Sam: It really does.

Jarrah: But you don't stop taking care of the roses, because you're brave, right?

Sam: Right. Because I'm brave.

Jarrah: That's what people do. They do things, even when they hurt, because they're brave. They don't give up.

Sam: Right. (pause) Well, it depends. I mean, if it's something really stupid, you wouldn't want to do it. Like, if your friends asked you to jump off a cliff, you wouldn't do that just because you're brave, right?

Jarrah: Right. (pause) Unless I had a parachute. Then it would be fine.

Sam: Um...yeah.

Jarrah: Unless it was over a river filled with crocodiles. That wouldn't be a good idea.


Jarrah: You'd fall in the river, get eaten by crocodiles, and then you'd NEVER have a child.

Sam: I suppose not.

Jarrah: Because that would be the end of you.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Funzilla At The Fair

The title refers to a ride in Kiddieland which is actually called "Quadzilla." I have no idea why. It's a poky sort of car on a track, but Jarrah and Joy really wanted to go on it. "Looks like Boringzilla to me," said Paul. Uncannily, Mary said the same thing about two minutes later, not having heard him (you think they've been married a long time?) But Jarrah said "It's not Boringzilla, it's FUNZILLA!" Thus was our annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Fair.

Yesterday was a double celebration--the return of the three-week fried-food and Ferris wheel extravaganza to Del Mar, and the anniversary of Mary's birth--Happy Birthday, Mary! She was an awfully good sport to celebrate with about eight million people and a whole lotta livestock.

We've made something of a tradition out of visiting the fair with Mary, Paul and Joy the past few years, and each year some things are joyously the same. The barbecue and hay-scented air, the roar of the monster trucks, the hot gooey-ness of cinnamon roll icing on my fingers, the visual-auditory feast of blinking colored lights over the crunching mechanical roar of rides rushing overhead, sights and sounds all the more poignant for seeming so solid and permanent when they will actually vanish in mere days. The dust between my flip-flopped toes and the thump of '80s tunes make me feel 15 again, knowing it's going to be summer forever and Jennifer's mom isn't picking us up until midnight. (No Jennifer in particular--there were a lot of them in those days.)

Now, of course, it's much different--we spend all our money on the 5-year-olds (really, I'm not bitter) and this year we added a new twist which I have a feeling is here to stay: adolescent-like whining in the vein of "I don't WANT to pet cows; I don't WANT to see quilts; I WANT to go on rides NOW!!!" Whither my excitable toddler who thought every sensory morsel of the fair was fab? She's grown weary and jaded, her ennui only sated by the adrenaline rush of flying through the air with a stomach full of fried food.

One fabulous new addition (it's always been there, but it was our first time on it) was an aerial tram ride from the agriculture buildings to the heart of the junior midway, a luxuriously foot-regenerating slow glide above the people and lights with a view of the many stuffed animals children (I assume?) have dropped onto the roofs below. "Someone needs to climb up and get those right away!" Jarrah panicked. "Or their owners are going to miss them forever and ever!"

I also adored commandeering David's fancy new camera for an intensive floribunda photo shoot--I spent a blissful half-hour devising new angles for the competitive roses and dahlias while the rest of the gang learned how easy it would be to have a new hot tub installed on their property, no money down.

I started feeling a bit unsettled in the tum long before I could contemplate some of the much-hyped new foods on offer. The focus-puller this year is Deep-Fried Butter, which I really wanted to see, and--I'll admit--taste a teeny bit. They were also deep-frying Twinkies, Pop Tarts, Klondike bars, S'mores, and a sandwich that is still sounding pretty good after the two years since its introduction: Deep-Fried Chicken with a Krispy Kreme bun. I haven't braved it yet, but don't give up on me. Weirdly, the most delicious thing I ate was the fire-grilled corn on the cob, perfectly crisp and sweet with a smattering of hot pepper and lemon. (The horror--I tossed my side of butter in the trash, unused!)

In the end, the girls got their wish to skip the collections and the bunnies, but we still got to commune with goats and study the gorgeous themed photos in the contest halls--really inspiring, and even the little ones could appreciate the scary cuteness of the puppies and kittens in the mix. I want to say it was a warm, whispery night like San Diego summers are known for, but it was actually chilly and damp and my hair rose higher and higher with each passing hour.

But it was certainly cozy in our happy little fair-going group, and as always, I am looking forward to next year.