Posts

Featured Post

That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

Image
I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

#11 BEACH MUSIC: A time of tans, blonds and hot pants

Image
IT WAS A TIME OF TANS, BLONDS AND HOT PANTS, WHEN THE ENDLESS SUMMER WAS JUST A SHORT WALK DOWN A HOT SIDEWALK
Beach Music, an On the Street Where I Livestories is really a tale of two cities; San Juan, Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California. It was originally published in the LA Times Sunday Magazine.



Beach Music We came to California from Canada, with a detour to Puerto Rico that lasted one endless summer of a year. A year in which I turned 15, and my hair turned blond from living in the sun. “Psst,” the boys and men would call after me in the blue-cobbled streets of San Juan. “Psst! Hey, blondie. Psst! Hey, cutie pie.” I was devastated when my parents said we had to go, that it was time to leave the island so that my older brother, Russell, could get a first rate education. The plan was to drive cross country from Miami and settle in San Francisco so that my brother could finish high school before going on to UC Berkeley. But, once we got there in the fall of 1968, we found that …

Preston, North of England Way

Image
My dad could always make us kids laugh when he put on a Liverpudlian accent, pretending to be one of the Beatles. While Liverpool was only forty odd miles to the south of his hometown of Preston, Lancs, the Liverpool dialect was slightly different from the way he grew up speaking. These days they know Liverpudlian as 'scouse', a dialect influenced by the Scandinavian as well as an Irish and Scots influx of workers via the Liverpool seaport. My dad didn't have that terminology; he just called it 'thick'. Thick it is, almost like you've got a cold or something nasty stuck in your throat. 

He had left home at seventeen, left England even, escaped to Egypt. Time and distance, and a bit of a determined effort on his part to sound more cosmopolitan had softened the way he spoke, erased his broad north country accent, replaced it with something more elegantly BBC-ish British. 

Now, our dad warned in a long-distance phone call, when my sister and I, at sixteen and twenty…

We'll Always Have Nobu : Robert De Niro

Image
Reposting on the occasion of Robert De Niro’s 75th birthday. I guess you know you're old when all your crushes have turned into old men! Anyway ... here’s the one about the time ...

I put down the phone, hoping no one could see my hand was literally shaking. Bob's assistant, Elena, was calling from New York, wanting to see if I could organize some lunch for her boss. Her boss Bob. Bob as in Bob De Niro. Oh, that Bob. The actor was going to be in LA and planned on squeezing in a quick meeting with Rowdy Herrington, the director shooting the next episode of Tales from the Crypt. As the APOC at Tales, it fell to me to take on the task. 

An APOC—Assistant Production Office Coordinator to the uninitiated—is nothing more than an overworked secretary to about 150 people. Twelve hour days minimum. No overtime. My job meant inputting every single one of those names, phone numbers and addresses into the Crew List data base and keeping it updated. I generated the cast list which included t…

That Thing We Did: We’re ready for our close-up, Mr. Hanks

Image
My boy and me on the set of That Thing You Do with Tom Everett Scott, 1995





“What size?” the wardrobe assistant asked, rifling through a garment rack full of pointy white cotton bras and silky slips, a measuring tape hanging from her neck. I was suddenly acutely aware of the line of women behind me, waiting to pick up their own period-perfect brassieres for the filming of Tom Hank’s directorial debut, That Thing You Do. I briefly debated tying that tape tightly around the wardrobe woman’s neck.

“34?” It came out as barely a squeak. Even with the additional plumpness that comes with motherhood, my breasts would never be called knockers.

She gave me a quick glance, and without asking my cup size, handed me something white and institutional looking — they were all white and institutional looking—the kind of serviceable bra I would have worn myself when I was a teenager in the sixties. 

“I don’t want to wear someone else’s bra. Can’t we just wear our own stuff?” a young brunette behind me in l…

Cruisin’ It : Meeting Tom Cruise

Image
Updated 6/22/2017
Originally published 9/8/16 
I've just read an excerpt from actor Curtis Armstrong's new autobiography. Armstrong is probably best remembered for his work on Moonlighting but he also worked with Tom Cruise on Risky Business. The chapter "My Summer with Tom Cruise" is fun reading if you like reading about stars before they were stars. It reminded me I have a Tom Cruise story to tell, albeit a tiny one, but since it's #ThrowbackThursday, I'm indulging myself.


Call me crazy but I'm a Tom Cruise fan. I'm not cuckoo about him, I don't have a fan page or anything so extreme but I tend to like his movies. He's got charisma, a ton of onscreen charm; I loved the first Jack Reacher adaptation and I'm actually excited about the next one coming out at the end of October. I gave his movie The Edge of Tomorrowa glowing review on my book-to-movie site. He is after all, despite—or some might say, because of — his association with Scientolog…

If a tree falls in the forest ... should it be used to make the paper for my novel?

Image
I’ve been working on a novel for the past year and a half, a process which has made doing any kind of creative writing here in this space more and more difficult. I’ve kept up with my book-to-movie blog at Chapter1-Take1.com but that’s a very different kind of writing. When giving out factual information, I don’t require inspiration. 

Now I’ve finished the book and I’ve begun reaching out, searching for an agent. An easy sentence to write, a horrifying, intimidating, paralyzing process to undertake. The first chapter, one I was happy with before, now strikes me as sophomoric, tedious, garbage and any number of cliche criticisms. Is it? Or is that my fear talking? I don’t know. I’m in a place where I can’t imagine my novel is worth the paper it’s written on—about 1/3 of your typical paper-suitable tree. Which is why I still can’t find the energy to get back to memoir pieces. My writing brain needs a break. 

So in lieu of a writerly post, I’m posting photos instead. If you follow me on In…

A + for The A-Word: The most authentic look at Autism on screen.

Image
I worked for several years with a succession of autistic children—which mostly means boys—kids who were mainstreamed in regular education classrooms, with a classroom aide assigned to shadow them. That was me, the shadow. 

We also lived next door to a family who had an autistic son who became one of our son’s closest playmates, until we moved away at the end of elementary school. Chris, with his funny idiosyncrasies is the source of some very sweet memories, as well as moments of high drama. That’s what you get with autism, children who can be deeply involved when their needs and passions are directed and shared but who can sometimes find it frustrating when those needs are brushed aside. 

It’s typical for an autistic child to want to talk about dinosaurs—or whatever the passion is—and be frustrated while the rest of the kids have moved on to another topic. The autistic child is focused on that stegasaurus and exactly how cool it is, just not quite getting that the others don't shar…

Marching for THEIR Lives in Santa Monica

Image
So proud to march with my husband & my family in Santa MonicaWow! What an amazing moment in our country’s history. Just got home from the March for Our Lives event in Santa Monica and turned on the TV to see the massive numbers of people who marched in Washington—as many as a million—and millions more who marched around the country and the world. Including my sister in law Susan and her husband Dave, marching in Riverside. Not exactly the liberal bastion Santa Monica is. A question for the politicians: Can you count the votes?

I love Eva’s sign “Arms are for Hugging’’While there was a much larger march planned for downtown Los Angeles we chose to go to the smaller community of Santa Monica because it’s where my brother, sister and I went to high school. No matter where else I live, it’s the city I’ll always consider home. 

Thousands marched in Santa MonicaWe met my brother Russ & my sister in law Eva at their place—they’re lucky enough to still live in Santa Monica, just blocks …

What to do about Harry

An old hippie type, Harry could be someone I dated in high school or college. He’s tall, quite a bit over six feet. Like me, he came of age in the 1960’s, his hair is now a silvery grey, long, pulled back into a ponytail, much like my husband’s. He has wire-rimmed glasses, a mustache, a short beard. A brown plaid shirt, dark jeans, hiking boots, he looks like he could be the owner of a record store, maybe a bookshop. 

We see him sitting on the tree-shaded steps of an apartment building near ours. In summer it’s cool and comfortable, in the California usually mild-wintertime, his spot is sheltered from the wind. He’s usually reading, novels by the same kind of writers my husband likes, John Sandford, Lee Childs, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy. Sometimes he’s listening to the radio, an honest to God transistor radio, a wire leading to his ear. What did they call earbuds before they were earbuds? If it’s fall, it’s football, his favorite. If it’s summertime, a baseball game might be on. Otherwis…