opinions

April 23, 1979

April 23, 1979

 I remember this well – my excitement was so intense it’s still indescribable. All of those times I came so close to my goal and missed taught me to lower my expectations. I didn’t let myself hope for more than another meeting. To learn my spec script had been optioned by a real producer for real money (not a lot, but more than I’d ever made writing before) seemed surreal.

Writing - the dreamPart of me always believed I’d make it as a writer, otherwise I wouldn’t have pursued it – but another part saw a screenwriting career as a dream, out of reach.  One of my high school teachers told me I wouldn’t be a real writer until someone paid me to write and I believed her – so, Steve Friedman optioning the script was validation.

Writing - looks like a vacuum cleaner sitting unattended in the messy background.In my dizzy euphoria, I assumed everything would be different now – my career would come easily. That proved overly optimistic. Steve didn’t make the movie and the option lapsed. The same script would be optioned twice more, by two different producers, and it attracted some top-tier female directors and talent, but as of today it remains unproduced.

Page 1 - 17_edited-1Doesn’t matter. It’s still one of the top ten days of my life.

 

April 21, 2007

April 21, 2007

The Pantages Theater
The Pantages Theater

“Wicked” is the perfect play for female friends (or sisters) to see together. I hadn’t read the novel the first time I saw it, so I knew nothing about the plot. If anything, I didn’t expect to enjoy it because it was a musical and songs rarely grab me the first time I hear them.  

Wicked - 2

What an amazing surprise! It hooked me from the first number, “No One Mourns the Wicked.” I’m not an Oz freak – haven’t read any of the books – but the humor, the sly references to the film, and the complex relationship between the female leads had me spellbound. It features one of the most spectacular act breaks I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d written it.

The spectacular act break.
The spectacular act break.

The Pantages – built in 1929 and art deco to the max – is the perfect venue. No matter what is playing there, its ambience feels primed for “Wicked.” Lori was a relatively new friend; Gail and I go back 48 years. Like any friendship of that duration, we’ve had our ups and downs. No wonder I’m always crying by the time they get to these lyrics from “For Good.”

Gail and I goofing off when we were (relatively) young.
Gail and I goofing off when we were (relatively) young.
Gail and I as somewhat older friends.
Gail and I as somewhat older friends.

And just to clear the air, I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know there’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

And none of it seems to matter anymore

 

 

April18, 1992

April 18, 1992

Happy Birthday John
 
A lot changed between J’s surprise 30th birthday party and this one. When he turned thirty, we both smoked and drank (he quit smoking forever the following day; I didn’t wise up for a few years). By his 40th, neither of us smoked and we hadn’t had a drink for almost seven years.

J with future law partner Jack Denove
J with future law partner Jack Denove

I’m slightly older than J, so I had to face the formidable fortieth birthday first. Birthdays that usher in new decades feel so much more significant than regular birthdays. Gail Sheehy’s Passages, originally written in the 70s but since updated, offers a road map for the stages of adult life broken down by decades. My summary is an extreme simplification of her work.

Me with J's law school pal Anne Kurrasch.
Me with J’s law school pal Anne Kurrasch.

The twenties are about finding your path in life – do you please your parents or please yourself? Typically, people feel the pressure of a deadline in their thirties. They redefine their priorities as well as their expectations.  The early forties frequently bring a sense of stagnation – is that all there is?  It sounds depressing, but opens the door to self-discovery – what Carl Jung would call “individuation.” We are who we are, and that’s okay.

Bennett Traub, another law school pal, in bg.
Bennett Traub, another law school pal, in bg.

Sheehy includes a quote from Willa Cather: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Over the Hill

 

April 14, 1978

April 14, 1978

The house today - it didn't look like this when we lived there.
The house today – it didn’t look like this when we lived there.
Our front yard - it didn't usually look like this, it's decorated for a Halloween party.
Our front yard – it didn’t usually look like this, it’s decorated for a Halloween party.

J and I bought our first house on impulse. I’d seen and rejected thirty houses before we walked into this one and fell in love. The fact it was a little eclectic – or, to put it another way, weird – made it irresistible. It never occurred to us that such an unconventional floor plan, not to mention the fact it was on a flag lot, might make it hard to sell. Of course, we didn’t intend to sell it, ever. Why part with perfect?

Our faux-wood paneled family room, decked out for a prom party.
Our faux-wood paneled family room, decked out for a prom party.

The money part terrified us. Millennials, avert your eyes. These numbers might make you weep. Instead of paying $225 per month for our two-bedroom apartment, we were on the hook for $596 and change in monthly mortgage payments (for a slightly odd but large three-bedroom, two-bath house, half in Glendale, half in La Crescenta.)

Our living room - note adobe walls and weird cabinet built into wall on the left.
Our living room – note adobe walls and weird cabinet built into wall on the left.

Had we gone too far, were we in over our heads? The sum sounded insurmountable when we bought it, but every one of the mostly happy ten years we lived there, our house payments seemed less daunting. Knowing what I know now, if a time machine took me back to 1978, fear wouldn’t slow me down. I’d spend every last cent and then some to snap up real estate at those prices.

Another shot of the family room, like it usually looked. Built-in bar in rear.
Another shot of the family room, like it usually looked. Built-in bar in rear.

 

 

 

April 10, 1970

April 10, 1970_edited-1

Luke and Mary at the beach.
Luke and Mary at the beach.

As the photos suggest, Mary and Luke were fast friends. Both of them graduated from neighboring Catholic high schools and attended Catholic colleges in northern California before transferring to UCLA. In those days, I didn’t like to drink, but they did, so periodically they partied without me, which worked for all of us.

Luke and Mary at the beach 2

On more than one occasion, Mary told Luke that even if he and I broke up, she wanted to stay friends with him forever. He felt the same way but like so many well-intentioned promises, that didn’t happen.
Friends on the beach

Some friendships, love affairs and rock bands – like the Beatles – seem so solid, it’s easy to believe they’re destined to stay together. Mary and Luke never had a falling out. There was no acrimony, no broken promises. They simply drifted apart, like I’ve done in friendships that deserved better. Always, the dissolution was due to lack of nourishment, never lack of affection. By the time I notice how long it’s been since I talked to someone, they’ve moved or changed their number and I don’t know how to get back in contact.

Vania Brown, where are you?At least, that’s how it used to be. Facebook has solved much of that problem, although a few people remain MIA. Vania Brown, where are you?

 

 

 

April 8, 1967

April 8, 1967

Villa Montalvo is a historical landmark built in 1912 by James Duval Phelan. Phelan, was a three-term mayor of San Francisco, and went on to become California's first popularly-elected U.S. Senator. The estate was his beloved country home until his death in 1930.
Villa Montalvo is a historical landmark built in 1912 by James Duval Phelan. Phelan, was a three-term mayor of San Francisco, and went on to become California’s first popularly-elected U.S. Senator. The estate was his beloved country home until his death in 1930.

When I was sixteen, I rarely conversed with “old” people, aside from my grandparents. I didn’t have anything against them, we just didn’t move in the same circles. I suspect most millennials don’t spend a lot of time with people in their seventies, either. That’s why this encounter rated space in my diary. Seventy-five probably sounded prehistoric. Clearly, I assumed she was moments away from death.

Me at Villa Montalvo, around this time.
Me at Villa Montalvo, around this time.

When I was sixteen, “don’t trust anyone over thirty” was a popular sentiment. I couldn’t imagine myself so ancient. Like Simon and Garfunkel famously sang, “How terribly strange to be seventy” – forget seventy-five.

The grounds of the villa now encompass 175 acres, more than the original 160 acres purchased by Phelan. The estate boasts several large structures as well as gardens and untouched natural areas. Montalvo includes two theaters, an art gallery, the historic Villa Montalvo, an artist residency complex, hiking trails and gardens in Saratoga, CA.
The grounds of the villa now encompass 175 acres, more than the original 160 acres purchased by Phelan. The estate boasts several large structures as well as gardens and untouched natural areas. Montalvo includes two theaters, an art gallery, the historic Villa Montalvo, an artist residency complex, hiking trails and gardens in Saratoga, CA.

Yet, here I am – closer to seventy-five than seventeen but I don’t feel elderly. Aside from the creak in my joints after too many hours hunched over my laptop, I picture myself as a fit early forties. Okay, fifties. For sure, it’ll feel terribly strange to be seventy.

Old Friends

 

April 4, 1995

April 4, 1995 Diary

My Cub Scout, A
My Cub Scout, A

In retrospect, it’s ironic my youngest son “vanished” the day after Vanished aired on NBC. (I wrote the teleplay, based on the Danielle Steele novel.) It’s about “a man and woman faced with an almost unthinkable tragedy – the mysterious abduction of their son.”


Vanished 1

My fascination with kidnapped children began with a Reader’s Digest condensed book, Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case by George Waller.  Half a century later, I’ve read almost every book on the subject (and there are a lot).  IMHO, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was innocent, but we’ll never know for sure. That enduring mystery is one of the reasons the case still captivates. Kidnappers Leopold and Loeb also inspired their share of films and books but in their case, the mystery wasn’t who did it, but why.  More recently, the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann is a hot case and the subject of a new Netflix documentary.

I didn't know this until today, but this version of the DVD lists me as the director and the director as the writer.
I didn’t know this until today, but this version of the DVD lists me as the director and the director as the writer.

Missing children – in fiction as well as true crime – capture public imagination because the stories speak to a primal parental fear. I suspect most parents survive at least one heart-stopping moment where their child appears to vanish and the previously unimaginable is agonizingly imminent. In a moment of clarity, you understand that one mistake – an instant of distraction – can shatter everything. Since all of us are human, all of us make mistakes. I made several. All my children terrified me with at least one disappearing act. Luckily, none of them were gone very long.

A, again.
A, again.

 

 

April 1, 1966

April 1, 1966

Believe it or not - there is a Snow Cone Emoji - so I guess people are still craving them.
Believe it or not – there is a Snow Cone Emoji – so I guess people are still craving them.

Funny, how the only test I identified – mechanical reasoning – was the one I tanked. It’s a safe bet my high scores were in English or another humanities/social science subject where vocabulary and reading skills can conceal a vast lack of knowledge. On the other hand, since mechanical reasoning didn’t appear in Santa Clara Unified’s 6th grade curriculum, perhaps they were testing something other than what we learned in school. Who knows what areas they were testing and why?  And – half a century later – does it really matter?

My family circa 1966
My family circa 1966

The phrasing in this entry – “I remember back in the fifth grade” – makes it sound as if this happened eons ago, not a year and a half.  Eighteen months was a lifetime, then. A moment, now. I haven’t been to Santa Clara – or driven down the El Camino Real – in at least a decade. Is it still a street or is it an expressway? Is the Moonlite Center still there?

The Moonlight Center as I remember it with the big iconic "M" sign.
The Moonlight Center as I remember it with the big iconic “M” sign.

Is April Fool’s Day still a big deal?

All dressed up - but not going to the Jr. Prom
All dressed up – but not going to the Jr. Prom

 

March 30, 1986

March 30, 1986

With my always above and beyond the call of duty parents
With my always above and beyond the call of duty parents

“I feel a little guilty – like I manipulated her” – seriously? Is there a manipulative tactic I didn’t employ? Easter was my father’s favorite holiday and one of the busiest days of his year.  Monday was his day off and I stole this one without a second thought.

Two arms full of love
Two arms full of love

That said, part of me doesn’t feel guilty – because every minute my children spent with their grandparents was blessed – and I’m pretty sure my parents treasured those times too. They were young grandparents, age. I’m not sure I was ready to be a grandparent when I was their age.

Special moments with their grandchildren
Special moments with their grandchildren

However, more than a decade later, I am so ready I have baby fever. Facebook friends post adorable pictures of their grandchildren and I ache and think, “I want that!” I see cute babies in restaurants and think, “I want that!” I have quite the opposite reaction on airplanes, when an infant breaks the sound barrier for the entire flight. When that happens, I shudder and think, “Thank God that’s not my problem.”

At the end of the day
At the end of the day

But I kind of secretly wish it was.

So nice having a baby
How nice it would be!

March 28, 2007

March 28, 2007

I began planning my funeral when I was young enough to believe it would never actually happen. When I picture it – which, fortunately, happens rarely – I imagine myself hovering near the ceiling, observing my turn-out, noting who really misses me and who’s just going through the motions. Ultimately, it’s about assessing what impact – if any – I had on the people in my world. I’d like them to play “Old and Wise.”

Old and Wise

Old

Unfortunately, I won’t have much control over my funeral. Most likely, I won’t even get to watch it – which seems terribly unfair – who among us wouldn’t love to be a silent observer at their own wake? Who isn’t curious about what people will say? But, maybe Alan Parsons got it right.
And oh, when I'm old and wise


WISE

 

 

 

 

 

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