Back to School (sorta) Blues

So quickly, I took the summer off from a lot of things, mainly creative outlets: writing, photography, and music. We moved to a house that needed a lot of love, to put mildly: it took over seven weeks just to rid the property of weeds. In addition to this was the daunting task of clearing out two sheds and a garage. Did I forget to mention the previous owner was a hoarder with up to seven dogs? Two citrus trees also meant a rodent problem. Picture an environmental mullet of Grey Gardens in the front and Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the back. I devoted the entire summer to help fix up this place, promising to start a new pilot once Hudson returned to school. 

Every shower felt like acid. Mother Nature has a way of attacking us when we try to kill Her, particularly weeds. 

Every shower felt like acid. Mother Nature has a way of attacking us when we try to kill Her, particularly weeds. 

And that's just what I did. After dropping him off I began planning the storyline, and less than three weeks later had the completed draft. Simple as that, folks. It's good to be back :)

Before Ellen There Was Alice

I can't remember the first time I watched The Brady Bunch, but it was definitely before the airing of 1988's A Very Brady Christmas. It's one of those classic Americana sitcoms that pushed the envelope only as far as 1969 would allow: not only did Carol and Mike sleep in the same bed, but it's inferred (through omission) that Carol's first marriage ended in divorce. Perhaps the executives felt Peoria wouldn't accept a woman that abandoned her husband; at least Mr. Brady's wife had the moral decency to simply die on him. It's ironic to think of divorce as too unwholesome for the Bradys' image, considering nearly half its audience had divorced parents by the time the show was cancelled. Imagine how that might have helped heal the psyche of  young viewers to see a maternal icon like Carol Brady bounce back from divorce? They were a modern family tackling the social challenges of the day, but when I think of the strong fiber holding this family together, it's sky-blue and belongs to none other than Alice Nelson: housekeeper, confidant, and closet lesbian.

"Now why didn't I think of this design?" —Mike Brady, every night.

"Now why didn't I think of this design?" —Mike Brady, every night.

When Ann B. Davis died in 2014, the outpouring of grief was palpable. Davis first entertained America as "Schultzy" on The Bob Cummings Show, and her sparkly eyes, quirky ticks, and comedic timing would return to TV a decade later as our lovable Alice. My sisters and I started watching the show after school, along with Diff'rent StrokesFacts of LifeWhat's Happening!!Three's Company, etc. By today's standards most of the shows of the '70s and '80s appear to be on par with say, Leave it to Beaver or Green Acres, and even though my sisters and I were plenty familiar with R-rated movies (our family had the WHT/HBO box), we still had a lot of love for The Brady Bunch, Alice being my favorite. As a queer woman this hardly makes me unique; we usually identify with characters known as "The Other."

While there are far more erudite explanations of this, I'll attempt one: Most of western history is documented through the eyes of wealthy, white Christian men, and their portrayal of women, gays, people of color, the poor, etc., allows them to form a separate, opposing identity for themselves. In other words, these types of men strengthen who they think they are by subjugating and stereotyping these classes of people; why do you think it took so long for women and blacks to vote, drive, own property, or open bank accounts? All four of those actions could result in total autonomy from these types of men. When equality looks like oppression it's because you're been privileged, know what I'm sayin'? 

Can't you picture Ann B. Davis pulling this off?

In that clip Ellen is doing what she does best: dry humor, physical comedy, exuding confidence...and these traits tend to be associated with lesbians, rather than hetero women. My guess is that people (mostly men) are uncomfortable with a woman in a powerful role, like it somehow negates her identity as female, or even worse: it's perceived as a direct challenge to masculinity itself, and I'll bet there are plenty of straight-identified women who can recall when an insecure man called them a "dyke" in response to being on the receiving end of such power. As Patty Hewes from Damages says, "Taking power away from a man is a dangerous thing. Someone always pays." 

Can't you picture Ellen Degeneres pulling this off?

Despite Alice having a boyfriend in Sam the Meatman, their relationship reads more like a friendship than anything else. With his bulbous nose, big ears, and goofy way, Sam seems more likely to play a joke on Alice than to kiss her. Can you picture them in a romantic embrace? I sure can't, and this is why Alice seems "other" to me. I had the same thought when I watched Ellen's early standup back in the day; it just didn't seem to "fit" that there would be a guy on her arm, and while I can't say I *knew* she was gay, I definitely related to that "otherness" about her.

By the time I was 12 it became apparent that my friends would rather sit around and watch the boys play basketball or video games than to facilitate any interests of their own. I was ostracized then, rejected from the Boys Club yet incapable of sitting around with the Girl Spectator crowd. It was a lonely time, and maybe that's what I picked up from Alice, loneliness. You don't have to be an oppressed person to identify with alienation, but you can't deny the hardship of someone being born queer in 1926. It feels speculative, but Ann B. Davis never married or was romantically linked to anyone. Additionally, she spent much of her time supporting the Episcopal Church, and one can't help but wonder if the very community she belonged to prevented her from identifying with who she really was. Talk about shameful irony.

Aptly cast as physical education instructor Ms. Wilson on  The John Forsyth Show . She sure looks at home with that sweatshirt and whistle ;)

Aptly cast as physical education instructor Ms. Wilson on The John Forsyth Show. She sure looks at home with that sweatshirt and whistle ;)

So here's to hoping Ms. Davis had a few "special friends" we didn't know about, women who embraced her and made her feel a love and acceptance that her roles, however endearing, could not provide. Rest in peace, Ann.

ANN B. DAVIS (1926-2014)

 

 

 

  

Is It 1918?!

Summers in New York City can be a brutal, what with its 100% humidity, high temps, and even higher frustrations. The apartments turn into angry ovens, and the streets could fry up a lumberjack breakfast in 3 minutes but who cares because it's too hot to eat. By the time you make it to the subway you're smacked with a hot gust of urine molecules as your train flies past. Minutes tick by as beads of sweat snowball down your skin, and just about everyone thinks to themselves, "Why is there no air-conditioning?!" My sisters and I would have the same thought when we visited our Grandma Lena, who'd stand next to a 425-degree oven during the swampy month of August like she was Mother Theresa in Calcutta, holding court on the latest person to "disgrace the family." She'd sit in her sticky housedress, gossiping away as we struggled to breathe in the heavy air, thick with olive oil and musky perfume. We'd stare longingly at the AC wall unit she never used yet bragged about owning; it might as well have been a styrofoam-based theatre prop (wouldn't be surprised). Maybe being from the G.I. Generation created an ability to accept life's discomforts to a fault? If Lena was born in 1920, then both she and her mother endured life riddled with:

Good thing those days are over! 

***

This has been a pretty terrible flu season, but life on the west coast now means "hidden" seasons, where autumn is more present on a calendar than it is the air. Walking around in September during 90-degree heat can make it easy to forget about cold and flu season all together...unless you have kids. This time of year human children become nothing more than alien pathogen hosts; a mere sneeze can reduce you to a withering ball of uselessness in as little as 24 hours. We're none of us safe!

Time for school, kids!

Time for school, kids!

I used to joke that I avoided parenthood to mitigate my chances of contracting colds and flu, and uh, maybe there's a little bit of truth to this? Doesn't it seem like little kids have absolutely no idea when they're going to hurl? "I don't feel so-" BOOM! Before they could get the words out your clothes/car/bed become a canvas for the revolting spin-art that is vomit. Most of us had plenty of time to learn how to puke with neatness and efficiency during college, a skill Hudson will have to wait to learn. Until then Kiera and I will do our best to keep things as free and clear of germs as possible, but all the hand-washing and disinfecting in the world appears to be no match for this season's radioactive superbugs.  

Back in January Hudson woke us up on a school night at about 3am. Sometimes you can hear him hop off his bed and pitter-patter to our room; other times he seems to just materialize out of nowhere, like something out of Village of the Damned. It doesn't help that he's blonde and translucent in the moonlight, but at least he doesn't have a creepy British schoolboy accent; I'd have to move out otherwise. 

"Mommy? There's someth—" Hudson began.

"—Jesus Christ!" Kiera gasped, heart pounding. She didn't see or hear him until he was inches from her.

"Mommy, there's something in my bed—" he continued.

"-What? What's in your bed?" Kiera asked, confused.

"It's in my bed and smells really bad," he answered.

Oh hey, Hudson...that creepy eye thing still bothering you?

Oh hey, Hudson...that creepy eye thing still bothering you?

My eyes snapped open. I'm one of those people whose brain goes to really dark places if all it has to go on is a vague description. Suddenly his cozy suburban bedroom morphed into opium den full of filth and dying rats covered with plague-infested fleas. I kept this insane thought to myself as Kiera rolled out of bed to inspect the mess. She turned on his lights and cursed: it turns out Hudson vomited up the chocolate birthday cake Kiera made me, soiling his bed, floor, and hair. How this kid slept through it is beyond me, as the slightest bout of nausea can wake me up out of a dead sleep, but I digress. Kiera bagged up and changed his sheets while I took a washcloth and cleaned his face and neck. It was after 4am by the time we returned to bed, earning both Kiera and I headaches upon waking. 

Hudson, however, was in a good little mood and ate his breakfast without incident. We guessed he ate too much cake (sugar) before bed and not much else; he had no fever or body aches. At some point in the early afternoon I took his sheets down to the curb to hose off, attempting not to puke, myself. After a few minutes I tossed everything into the washer machine and contemplated hanging a white sheet from our window...but it turned out my plague joke hit a little closer to home than planned.

If the plague didn't kill you, the sight of its terrifying doctors surely would have. See the doctor in background, beating off the sick, just like Hippocrates said?

If the plague didn't kill you, the sight of its terrifying doctors surely would have. See the doctor in background, beating off the sick, just like Hippocrates said?

Exactly 24 hours after the laundering I was at the gym doing my pathetic little bicep curls when nausea built up; I was convinced it was due to working out on an empty stomach. It's not uncommon for me to experience this, so I sat down to collect myself before returning home without the usual post-workout appetite. By 7pm I was retching  every 15 minutes and would continue to do so for the next 16 hours. It was misery for sure, but overall it could have been much, much worse. In fact, the only time I had the flu as an adult was while watching The Wolf of Wall Street. I sat in the theater with that unmistakably dreadful flu-ache growing stronger with each hour, keeping my nose buried in my sweatshirt to avoid infecting my neighbors (a prime example of my inability to leave a movie before it ends). No, this illness was more like a stomach flu, the kind where there's no fever but plenty of sweating from retching. I even considered going to the ER for fluids if I hit the 24-hour mark with no improvement, but that wasn't the case—whew!

Oddly enough Kiera didn't contract this virus, which leads me to believe a microbe invaded while I rinsed Hudson's sheets. But poor Kiera had to lay next to me while I stumbled back and forth from the bed to the bathroom in an endless loop. By early afternoon I was able to keep down tablespoons of Gatorade, and later, chicken broth. Hours later Kiera was happy to find me healing, while Hudson hopped around the apartment with his iPad, oblivious to how virulent his brief bug turned out to be. 

Good times. 

WHY I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL PART II

WHY I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL PART II

Hey, welcome back! If you haven't already, please read Part 1 to learn how I became interested in filmmaking, as well as my first entry into the film world. The background information provided really helps me shape this journey, and I thank you for your patience, since you still don't know why I went to film school. Read on.

WHY I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL PART I

WHY I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL PART I

Hey, everyone! I had taken some time off for holiday stuff. Hopefully you shared lots of good times and food with the people who mean the most to you...I know I did! :)

I decided to make this is a two-parter, and there are lots of fun links to explore. Enjoy Part I, where you'll learn about my first interest in filmmaking, as well as my first step into the industry.

HUGS, CLAPS, AND KOOL-AID: CULTS CAN BE FUN! PART II

HUGS, CLAPS, AND KOOL-AID: CULTS CAN BE FUN! PART II

Hey there, welcome back! Read Part I to catch up my thoughts on cults, and how I came to join the SGI.

Warning #3: Time is money I’m happy to report that I was never hounded for money, which did help my cynicism. What I did find unnerving was the relentless pressure to give your time to the organization.

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