Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Sept. 15, 2007

It’s Saturday morning and Mulan is still asleep. Yeah! My theory is that the reason kids sleep more hours than adults is that the ones who didn’t were…well, basically killed off my annoyed parents before they could reproduce themselves – and over the eons children who slept longer… lived. And then reproduced, making more kids who slept longer than their parents. My favorite part of this cock-eyed theory is teaching Mulan about evolution using this example. Ha. Okay, before you write in, I don’t really do that. At any rate, this is truly the sacred time of day – actually of the week -- because I don’t have to harangue Mulan to get up for school.

I am also happy because yesterday I turned in my outline for the TV pilot I’m writing. This is only step one, I turned it in to the producer I’m working with and not even the studio, so it’s just a small first step on this project, but still, I feel good. In any case, I cannot go forward until I get notes from my producer so that makes me free, free, free!… – to confront all the other things I have to do in the meantime. The schedule really worked – me turning off the phone and the Internet, not playing music, having three or four full hours to concentrate. Next week I will attack the book. Oh people, you have no idea how this book – GAWD, ARGH, MNNNPH! ERRRRRGH. I am giving myself two months to see if I can pull this book together – just see if I have the potential to pull this book together, just to feel positive that this book is potentially able to be born. I have hundreds of pages sitting around, most of it junk, old notes from a previous editor, my notes in various notebooks, a zillion disorganized entries on my computer. If I were killed today and someone went through my stuff they would think I was insane. I am leaving the door open to junk it altogether, to just move on. But my schedule is so-far purposefully clear in order to do this. I mean, aside from everything else. Like, finishing the pilot, doing ten shows, parenting, organizing my pen drawer (which screams to me to be organized like a hopeful child drowning whenever I write – my closet needs desperately to be organized too when I write, especially my shoes – each shoe sobs at the placement it’s been forced to take and they all cry out, mouths open, like little fishes at the top of a fish tank who are starving: “Organize me! Organize me!” This is the soundtrack that plays in the background when I am trying to write something… something… big.)

Okay, what is more tedious than reading out someone else’s struggle to write? Nothing, my friends. And so for now, I will stop.

I don’t know what I have to say this week. The highlight of my week was Thursday night when I took Mulan to the Hollywood Bowl to see the L.A. Philharmonic. I was going to be going with Jill Sobule, I had a babysitter and everything, and then Jill found out from her manager that she was flying out for a gig, to Wisconsin, a day earlier than she thought she was and she had to cancel. It was sort of last minute, so I called off the babysitter and took Mulan. We packed a haphazard picnic: leftover Pad Thai in a thermos, two apples and a hunk of parmesan, two diet Dr. Pepper’s, carrots and hummus. I thought she would start complaining as soon as the music started, but she did not, she was mesmerized and she remembered meeting the harpist last year when I did my thing at the Hollywood Bowl, and the instruments seemed much more individual to her than they had in the past. We watched this amazing cellist Lynn Harrell play a cello concerto by Dvorak. He is older, white hair and beard, and he played with such mastery, his fingers were so deft, we were both so caught up in the sound and his hand movements over the cello, like a ballerina at her peak dancing on a familiar wood floor. I said to Mulan, “That takes a lifetime of concentration to play like that, that is a lifetime of practice, that is what mastery is.” Of course she just liked the sound, and being outside, and sitting next to me, and eating while she listened - but for me, after spending a week really struggling to write and then spitting out some very small outline, to watch someone show the culmination of their life’s work like Lynn Harrell did for us, what must be a zillion hours of applied direction and refinement of skill, it was inspiring. Exhilarating, actually.

Then, I made us leave at the intermission. Mulan protested but it was a school night and we had to go.

What else happened this week? I saw, “No End In Site” – a documentary about the war in Iraq and the bungling of the reconstruction. I recommend it. Everyone should see it. It was so deeply upsetting, for obvious reasons. I am so hopeful that this country can withstand what it’s done to itself, what we have done to ourselves, what we have done to this world. Lately I’ve been thinking of us, the U.S., like an organism, a unified living being, and we have a virus – or maybe this is better: a cancer growing inside of us, and it’s partly back luck, but mostly it’s because we were doing unhealthy things with our body, we weren’t taking care, we weren’t restraining ourselves when we should have, we partied too long, we smoked and drank, we participated in dangerous sports, we didn’t exercise and eat our vegetables, we got no roughage at all and then we were terribly unlucky to boot. And now here we are with this cancer. Will it kill us? Do we have the stamina and strength to survive the chemo that we need to douse ourselves with to get rid of it? Or can we live with the cancer? I mean lots of organisms live a long time with cancer. Not forever. Not as long as they might have.

Okay, I’m running that analogy into the ground now, but that is how I am thinking of this administration and what we have done and what it will take to make ourselves healthy again.

Maybe I’m thinking this way because I just finished, “The World Without Us” – this wonderful book by Alan Weisman. Go to www. and just watch the opening animation – it is awesome! Anyway, the book is a thought experiment – about what would happen to our world if people were suddenly gone from it, just exactly how “nature” would recover or forget about us – I say “nature” in quotes because of course we are nature. I am always saying to people, “You don’t go out into nature, you are nature!”

But anyway, it’s very disturbing, this book. I downloaded it on audible, and I’ve listened to it twice – then I bought the actual book – that’s how much I loved it. I find it frightening, as frightening as anything I’ve read, and at the same time I find it – well, spiritual. That’s the only word I can come up with right now. And it’s causing me to look at my house in this new way. The book starts with the author getting you to think about how much effort you currently take to just keep “nature” out of your own dwelling place. How much it wants in: water leaks, etc. It quotes someone saying, “Do you know how to tear down a barn? Cut an 18 inch square hole in the roof and then just stand back.” Anyway, there is a small little green something – a vine – or really a green shoot of something growing and it’s coming out near my dishwasher, on the floor, from under my house! And normally I would just pull something like that immediately – and I will, today probably. But for this week, I just left it there – this little reminder to myself when I empty the dishwasher that nature is all around, creeping in, wanting into my house, getting into my house, and eventually it will win – or maybe I will lose or whatever way you want to look at it – in the long run, those green shoots will have the upper hand.

Get this book! It is so awesome.

Wow. Mulan is still asleep. What’s up with that? It’s after eight. Tonight I think I am going to take her to the L.A. County Art Museum to see “South Pacific.” She loves “The Sound of Music” so much, so I started telling her all about Rodgers and Hammerstein. Last night, which we did not attend, they showed “Carousel” – it’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein extravaganza there at the museum apparently. Did you know that Nora Ephron’s mother wrote the script for it? For “Carousel,” the movie version? I did not know that until yesterday.

Mulan told me she wants to have seven children and name them all the same names as the children in “The Sound Of Music” (Brigitta, Louisa, Kurt, Gretle, Frederich, Marta, etc.) but then she won’t let them see the “Sound of Music” because then they would know they were named after some people in a movie. I think that’s so funny because everywhere we go, people say to Mulan, “Oh Mulan, like after the movie?” And Mulan is always so annoyed by that. Maybe she thinks you have to have this burden of being named after a character in a movie and then hate it your whole life and this is her way of protecting her own imagined kids from it. Anyway, that made me laugh.

“South Pacific” was the very first play I was in. I was in the chorus of my high school production. I sang, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” and my little brother, Jim, who is ten years younger than me, played a “native” boy and we slathered him with dark make up all over his body and he walked around the stage – god that was so funny.

Okay, this is a very chattery blog entry. Time to start the day. Laundry. Cooking. Food shopping. Exercise. Not in that order.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday Morning September 8, 2007

Well, last night Mulan had her best friend sleep over and they are still asleep. I am up, I actually got up at 5:30 and couldn’t sleep another wink. I have coffee made, and NPR on, and the dishwasher is filled and the kitchen counters wiped down. This is my favorite time of the day. I often think that after about noon, it’s all just downhill for me. This has been difficult as I often work in a late night world: SNL, comedy clubs, nightclubs, theatre. It’s all against my natural inclinations. Even when I was on SNL I still got up early in the morning, even when I’d gone to bed early in the morning. Then I would take a nap later. Oh… a nap. I might be able to take a nap today. Sweet.

The highlight of this week was on Wednesday night when I attended a small dinner party in honor of Phyllis Diller and her recent 90th birthday milestone. It was at an opulent house is Beverly Hills and I would say there were about 25 to 30 people there for dinner. She was delightful: funny and articulate. Of course I love that she seems to love me so much, because I am a big fan of hers. She has been an outspoken atheist for…EVER. She was an outspoken atheist when you could have your name put on lists for it and you could be watched by the CIA for it. When I got to the party, she immediately sat me beside her and held my hand and told me how much bunk religion is and how could anyone for even one second take it seriously? Of course I agree and disagree. It’s true, that once I looked into the myths that religion is based on, and looked objectively at the architecture of religion, it was obvious that it was bunk. But I also understand that if you are raised to rely on religion, and it’s worked for you to reduce stress or make sense of the world, and the rituals have some positive associations, and don’t look into it deeply, it’s easy to see why people believe. In any case, I was flattered and thrilled to be with Phyllis and her friends. She was bawdy and funny and loved being the center of all the attention and love.

Bernie Brillstein was there and we had a nice conversation about SNL and Lorne Michaels. He was so sweet and gracious to me and I really appreciated it. Tommy Smothers was there as well as Betty White. It was wild to be with them. I have met the Smothers brothers many times, and last summer did a show at the Hollywood Bowl with them. I think a lot of people think of the Smothers Bros. and maybe even Phyllis Diller as kind of hokey, but to me they are heroes. When I was a kid, the Smothers Brothers were doing really edgy counter-culture stuff and it eventually led to their show’s cancellation. The Smothers Brothers Show was the first time I was aware of artists in conflict with a network, and particularly over political material. Tommy got up and toasted Phyllis and told stories about being backstage at the Purple Onion, a club they performed at in San Francisco. He had a funny bit about Phyllis being inadvertently naked backstage and it reminded me of Kathy Griffin being naked backstage at the Groundlings.

Other than that highlight, this week has been relatively calm. I am on a new writing schedule where, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., I turn off the phone, refuse to answer the call of the Internet connection, and I write. I am writing a pilot for Sony and I have to deliver an outline by next Friday. So far this method has proved successful. It might not seem like much time, three hours, but it is a Herculean effort to stay focused for that amount of time for me. If I can keep this up and keep those hours sacred, I think I can accomplish a lot. My aim is to write this pilot and then finish my “Beautiful Loss Of Faith Story” book which has been dogging me for years.

Wow, now it’s almost seven and the girls are still asleep. Do I organize my bathroom or my closet? It may seem silly, but I am giddy at the thought that I have that autonomy at this moment.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Okay, here’s my stab at getting back to blogging. It’s early morning and it’s Mulan’s first day of second grade today. She is nervous and excited about it. I am not nervous, but REALLY EXCITED. Oh, this was a long summer. Oh, I really know now what parents feel like when school starts. Oh, oh, oh, do I need school to start. Yes, yes, I do. It will be hard not to go buy a bottle of champagne on the way home.

We went away on vacation for over a month – nearly five weeks. It was fun, it was interesting, it was somewhat educational and enlightening for Mulan, and it wiped me out like never before. What was I thinking? How did I think this trip was going to be restful? But, in any case, it had great moments and now I am remembering those more than I am remembering all the waiting in airports and the whining and all of that. We went to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, Seattle, Spokane, N. Idaho to a lake cabin with my family, then to England – to Manchester and then London – and then to Morocco, to Marrakesh, Essaouira (the best part of the trip was there, in my opinion) and in the Atlas mountains for a few nights at a little hotel made for adults to rest and chill and I had a child who wanted to do cartwheels and jump in the pool and do it all with me every minute non-stop.

I think the best part of the trip, for me, was the last five days since we’ve been back in the country. We headed to Chicago first, where my fiancĂ© lives (wow, it’s still so weird to say that) and since we were on European time we were up and wandering around his house at four in the morning. So we all drove to the beach on Lake Michigan and watched the sun come up. Then, Mulan and I headed back here to L.A. and we have been getting up every morning around five fifteen and going to Runyon Canyon while it’s still dark and there are stars out, and then watching the city light up as we ascend the hill. Our dog, Arden, is in heaven with this turn of events. In fact, right now, since it is the very time we have been doing these sojourns, he is sitting at my feet, whimpering and gazing out the door, because he must think it’s time to go, go, go to Runyon Canyon.

But I let Mulan sleep this morning since it’s the first day of school. Oh! The first day of school! Oh Dear Lord In Heaven Who Isn’t There: Thank you! Thank You! I bow down before you in praise and thanks for Sept. 5th to arrive! I sing glad tidings and offer gifts of thanks that the time this time of the year has come!!!

So. I drop Mulan off at school today and immediately go the post-production house to watch the final-final cut of the movie. Before I left we basically finished everything but the end credits. And now we are watching the whole movie. And then, it is DONE.

I don’t know what the future of the movie will be. We are submitting it to Sundance, and in the meantime we will be conferring with representatives and so forth about what is possible to do. I will keep you posted.

Also, at some point today or tomorrow, I will post the performances I have scheduled for the fall. I’m in Chicago in October, Bothell, Washington in October, and New Jersey and Connecticut in November. Also, Jill Sobule and I are doing shows here in L.A. at Largo in November, and we are going to put our song on our websites soon, very soon.

So, even though this isn’t much of a post, I thought I would start the SCHOOL YEAR OFF, with a blog/forum entry. Oh! It’s so lovely to write that: The School Year Begins! Oh! Oh! Oh!