Monday, March 31, 2008
Bonnie and Elijah are in front of me, she with the lemon-infused seltzer. I accepted the refreshment and sunk onto my stoop, hung up on Time Warner Cable and smiled. She sunk down next to me. We chatted about the stressors of moving, and she shared my pain with Time Warner Cable, too. I remember that she seemed so calm and peaceful. I, on the other hand, felt like such an all-over-the-place disaster, but it didn’t seem to matter to her. I felt safe.
Later that afternoon I met her son Zaq. That evening he asked me to sponsor him in his John Adams Middle School (JAMS) jog-a-thon to raise money for LCD projectors in every classroom. It was about 100 hours after I’d asked his Mom to sponsor me.
So I gleefully accepted sponsoring Zaq in the jog-a-thon. It was taking place the following morning. Now this was something worth sponsoring! Much better, I thought, than what Bonnie had accepted sponsoring me for.
When I awoke the next day, I lay in bed with that weird feeling of knowing that I had something to do. How could I have something to do? I didn’t have any friends in LA, and I hadn’t yet begun working.
I zipped out of bed and rifled through the closet for my puffy, goose down coat, again, olive green, designed by J-Lo. Half way over to the school I rethought the coat. Not the right look, I thought. I didn’t want to embarrass Zaq with some weird, ghetto coat from NYC.
I left it in the car and decided to just shiver.
That morning I called Bonnie and pumped the address of the school into my new Garmin. The woman inside the Garmin GPS started talking to me. Seven minutes later I arrived to find Zaq clutching a yellow sheet of paper that was to serve as a parking permit for me. Opps. Shoot. I had forgotten to comb my hair. I hope I wasn’t going to embarrass him with the rats nest at the back of my head.
Whew! He didn’t seem to notice.
Moments later I was shouting and shooting.
I don’t know how else to say it except just plainly: I love Zaq. He’s just … the best! I decided to offer him a job as my script assistant…
TO BE CONTINUED…
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Whatever. It kind of felt real at the time.
I’ll miss you, she whispered, pushing out a pouting lower lip. I’ll miss you, too, he replied. He then grabbed her in a big bear hug, and they told each other a “honey-I’m-going-off-to-war” parting goodbye — over and over again. Finally she broke free, rolling her smart, black — but beat up — overnight bag and throwing it in the back of her beige and green, two-toned Pinto and sputtered off. He waved at her.
My eyes begin to sting with fatigue or tears at the memory.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Well, I guess we should start at the beginning.
A day or so after I moved into my house in what the Internet ad defined as the “Architectural District” of Santa Monica, I got a little frightened. What had I possibly been thinking? Moving to LA? Question: Why didn’t it seem like such a shocking idea at the time? Moving 3,000 thousand miles at the ripe old age of 40? Had I gone mad? Perhaps.
OK. Kate. Buck up! You moved to Santa Monica. Let’s make it work.
Camera pans forward 72 hours. I find myself pacing up and down the sidewalk in my olive-green cargo shorts, Ugg clogs, Mickey Mouse tie-dye T-shirt and a bad funckin’ attitude. As I shouted into my mobile at a customer service rep from the local high-speed Internet company (to no avail, by the way), I heard a pit bull bark and looked up to see my neighbor from eight doors down, Bonnie.
The pit bull I heard was Ricky’s, from across the street. Baby had had 13 pups the night prior. Bonnie, on the other hand, was clutching the hand of her youngest son, Elijah. She smiled and offered me a seltzer infused with lemon. As I sunk down — squatting, actually — onto the bricks of my stoop, I saw Bonnie and Elijah, backlit by the afternoon sun.
I remember thinking at the time that she looked like an angel. I later found that out to be true …
TO BE CONTINUED …
Thursday, March 20, 2008
In Florida, my interactions with the neighbors became even more isolated and anonymous. After nearly four months of renting a townhouse on the beach just north of Fort Lauderdale, a retired couple moved into the unit next door. The only thing we ever discussed was on one occasion when we kvetched about the shoddy plumbing and whether or not we’d see a hurricane by the end of “the season.”
Camera pans forward to just three weeks ago, and I find myself surrounded in this big hug of an actual neighborhood. The ice cream truck lurks around blaring its tinkering music, kids play pick-up basketball in the street and there is a taco shack on the corner with the best fish burritos I have ever tasted.
Just a few hours after moving into my house on a little street off Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, I met the godfather on the block. His name is Ricky, and his lust for life is only overshadowed by his love for animals. Less than a day after the now empty United Moving 18-wheeler pulled away from the curb, I was introduced to Ricky’s 9-foot snake. A few days later, I made the acquaintance of his 13 newborn Blue Tip pit bull puppies.
Ricky is the self-appointed “Neighborhood Watch;” he knows everyone and sees all. He’s helped me navigate from which taco shack to imbibe to where to get a parking permit — and how to parallel park on this narrow street! (“Girlfriend, get out!” he told me cheerfully on my second day. “Get out. If I stand here and instruct you on how to park that darn car, we’re going to one, be here all day, and two, get a darn ticket from the cops. Get out, girl. Get out. I’ll do it!”)
UP NEXT: Stay tuned for Saturday’s blog when I introduce you to the Bennetts down the block. After looking up one afternoon to see a strawberry blonde lady clutching the hand of her young son Elijah waving me over for a handshake and a smile, I found myself, the following morning, at the John Adams Middle School Jog-a-thon where I was able to watch her son Zack raise money for new LCD screens for the classrooms.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Jim, my guy from United Movers, had been a delight to work with. At one point, he and his partner Carlos went to lift up a marble dresser and he yelped in pain and grabbed his back. “Don’t worry,” I told him. “There’s a bottle of bourbon in the bottom drawer.” Jim smiled a Cheshire Cat grin and kept going.
You see, I thought I would feel relieved when the truck left the curb. Instead I felt nauseous. Nothing prepared me for the sense of powerlessness I felt in the following days. What if the truck fell into the Intracoastal or got caught in a tornado in Texas? Oh well, I thought, it’s in the lap of the Gods. Isn’t everything?
Camera pans forward eight days. Jim bounced out of the front of the truck blurting out: “Hey, one day early!” He was racing back to Colorado to make his daughter’s 15th birthday. We proceeded to spend the day unloading the truck. Around sunset, again, I saw the truck pulling away from the curb. Okay, now I felt that cherished sense of relief that we all seek when we’re feeing vulnerable.
Guess what? I learned a very important lesson. That feeling of relief and peace — it was false. I now know it is much easier to move out of a house than to move into one.
Check out these before and after shots! It may look like an easy transformation, but there are hours of manual labor behind these photos.
Up Next: Stay tuned for a full report on my neighbor Zack, a 6th grader, who participated in a Jog-a-Thon at the John Adams Middle School to raise money for new LCD projectors in the classrooms.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
I hate crowds so I chose “Michael Clayton.” This was my thinking: It’s a movie that has been out for more than a bit – and disappointed at the Academy Awards. Good sign, I thought. I was encouraged even more when the pony-tailed blond with creamy sky-blue-eye-shadow working the ticket counter told me with a smile: “Honey, the theater’s empty.”
I bought a ticket and hunkered down with my Sugar-Free Red Bull.
“Michael Clayton,” the movie, I loved it. The theater was horrible … freezing; I felt like I was trapped in the factory warehouse in “Rocky.” And the plot? The stratagem was maudlin and dull. I had seen it umpteen times before.
But Ahh! The performances! The performances! Clooney, Pollack, Wilkinson and Swinton. Suddenly, I realized how much this film benefited from its serendipitous casting. Switch out those four muses, and the energy and tension might have just evaporated. But it didn’t – not for me.
Tilda Swinton, whom I had not seen before was as cold and clinical as the picture needed her to be. In one pivotal scene, Swinton can be seen rehearsing the lies she will give in an interview to which Sidney Pollack needs her “step-up.” First-time director Tony Gilroy helps blur the line between fiction and fact by interspersing her practiced speech with the actual media cross-examination. It's one of those crisp interactions Gilroy uses throughout the film to wring deeper meaning out of what could have been a simple scene. Swinton won the 2008 “Best Supporting Actress” Academy Award for her performance. No surprise, there.
The plot itself centers around Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson,) a treasured friend of Clayton’s, a bipolar victim who has stopped taking his pills and now glows with reckless zeal and conviction. Edens is by far the most brilliant lawyer in the firm; he is the lead attorney in the $3 billion class-action suit filed against U/North -- the company that is being sued by salt-of-the-earth farmers because of a germ killer U/North used despite knowing it was hazardous to people's health. The issue … or “challenge” as Clayton espouses, is that the brilliant Edens simply cannot stay on his meds. If it were only that simple.
Let’s just say the story is about the lawsuit without really being about the lawsuit, if that makes sense. The picture, after all, isn't titled U/North, correct?
The bottom line is that the real tension in the film comes from Clayton’s zeal to go toe to toe with U/North's steely in-house chief counsel (Swinton) and his race against the clock to pull together the unraveling threads of a massive conglomerate's tapestry of lies.
"Clayton" is a resonant throwback with deep roots in the political thrillers of the 1970s: slick, smart and saturated in dramatic paranoia. A brainy pastiche of set-ups, pay-offs, company malfeasance and revenge in absorbing shades of grey.
Finally a film that doesn’t just make you think; it makes you feel.