Training

September21

During the Emmys yesterday, I was watching trains go by.

It is Bodhi’s newest obsession: finding crossings of the Pacific Surfliner as it roars through the San Fernando Valley in between Santa Barbara and San Diego. A friend brought him to the Chatsworth crossing – they hiked through dry hills and graffited rocks to lay coins on the tracks and scramble out of the way of the oncoming locomotive.

He went there with his dad before Brad left for Belgrade, Serbia, where he’ll be til Thanksgiving making a long gestating movie with Sir Ben Kingsley. While he’s gone, I’ll be solo parenting, which includes (I guess) accompanying my increasingly testererone fueled boy child to feel the wind of locomotives.

The night before, I drank champagne with Kerry Washington, Kate Walsh, Paul Adelstein and the rest of my compatriots as we gathered before the Emmys. During the Emmys themselves, I was in a dusty corner of the valley, avoiding broken glass and scrambling over rocks, an affront to my newly diagnosed arthritic knees.

For those of you that don’t know LA, Chatsworth is not a fashionable part of town. It lies at the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley, butted up against mountains and the Santa Susana Pass, which leads to Simi Valley. We sat on rocks, waiting for the train as the sun set, splashing pink across the wide plains of the valley and the humpy, female hills that surrounded it. “I like the valley,” I said to Bodhi. “It’s like a cradle.” From where we sat, we could see the shape of the land in a way that is unusual in the second largest city in America. I feel comfortable when I can feel the land. It’s the animal in me.

We waited for the 6:20 from the Simi Valley station. We re-checked the schedule. We felt the breeze that always blows in that area. We talked about the fact that technically we were trespassing and what exactly would happen if the police came. I explained that as I am his guardian and he is a minor, I would get into trouble, not he; the authorities would decide that I wasn’t doing a very good job guarding him. Bodhi seemed to be intrigued by that.

I tried not to check my Twitter feed to see who was winning Emmy awards and what they were wearing when they did so. It was easy not to since every time I attempted to reach for my phone, my son would chastise me. He was right to do so. “You are not paying attention to this moment,” he reminded me. I kid you not. The guy said that.

So I paid attention to the moment. The tracks started humming and the signs shook a bit. “It’s coming,” he said, eyes still wide. (Not a cynic yet, this kid.) I got excited despite myself (anticipation is a drug, after all) and suddenly there it was: a train curling its way through rock and smashing our coins along the way. We were in the Wild West. We were Okies in the Grapes of Wrath. We were refugees from a speedy, Tweety universe, mesmerized by a locomotive as we are mesmerized by wild surf.

After, we sprinted to try and find the coins. (We didn’t,) Then we sprinted down the mountain so the cops wouldn’t find us. (They didn’t.) We were dusty and giddy, like we got away with something, which we had I think.

In another part of the universe, there was a red carpet and corsets and false eyelashes and golden idols. There were also trailblazers like Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Regina King, Gengi Cohen and Jill Solloway – idols to me, all – who were explosively changing the world. There was Viola Davis, who starred with me in a play in Lincoln Center in 1997 and despite her gravitas, is the goofiest, laughingest woman I know. I feel connected to these women and honor their voices and am inspired to my core by them – they are as powerful as locomotive pushing through rock, and as unstoppable.

Later, after reading log and bed, I caught up with the Emmys and felt as proud as I’ve ever been to be associated with my industry. For all the glitz and glitter, it is a mighty platform indeed.

Hey sweet friends…

June24

FB_ProfileSitting in my steamy patio here in Austin. Wanting to write something (remember when I used to write? Back in the winter? Before my NBC pilot?) but my thoughts are all squiggly and unformed. Unruly kindergarten thoughts.
But my heart is filled with gratitude for you, my cyber friends and supporters. For your sweet birthday thoughts, your wild creativity (the videos! the photo collages! the vines!) Please know that I see these things, that they touch my heart over the time differences and the miles and the countries. For all that is written about the overwhelm of social media, this is one of the true benefits.

I will take love in any form these days, in the wake of yet another display of blistering hatred in South Carolina. I will take love in the form of your birthday wishes, in the care of the camera operator who moves gently with his equipment when its close to my face. I will take it in the form of my 10 year old son, shirtless and sleepy, waking at 6 am to wish me Happy Birthday before I left for work on Monday (is there anything more delicious than a 10 year old son’s bare chest?) And I will take it in the form of the families of the South Carolina shooting, forgiving Dylan Roof for all the world to see.

Astounding. That is the way the world is changed. We won’t defeat violent rage with retaliation; an eye for an eye surely does blind the world. And yet to see it in action? This is the real deal. The world trembles before that kind of love.

I will take love in the form of my husband, of course. That is my steady diet of love, making my bones sturdy and strong, my heart pumping with juicy healthy blood. You all have been commenting on us the last few days, and it makes me want to write about THAT. Which I will. In September we will have been married 20 years, together 22. Which, for anyone that knew me back in 1993, a ridiculous proposition. Without going into the nitty-gritty of my pre-Brad life, suffice to say: you would never have bet on me for having a long-term marriage. In Vegas, the odd would have been looooooooong.

And here’s the kicker: it’s gotten better and better, radically better in the last two years. We have begun burying our parents (his beloved father Bob died two years ago of ALS in September.) We welcomed my frail folks for five months into our home this spring. We have a rowdy 10 year old son and a 14 year old special needs daughter who just entered PUBERTY. And against all odds, we produced a pilot for NBC that got picked up for series.

These are stressors indeed.

Yet, weirdly, we are more deeply in love than ever. It’s like the world gave us all these things that could divide us with squabbles and fear, and we said, “You know what, world? We are on the same side. Yes, these are challenges, and they are only going to get more so. But for today’s kickball team? I pick HIM.”

I got asked recently about my marriage, and I realized I have no pat advice, no concept for a book, have no desire to publicize this most private piece of my heart. What can I say? I got lucky. I chose well, of that I am proud. and here’s what I do know ; it takes a while for things to settle. And when it does, things get really, really good.

I’ll take love in any form today, and I send my love to you. As Ed Bacon says, it’s “strength for you journey.” May love make your bones strong today, and your heart beat healthy and true. The world needs us all today. There is much work to do.

Recent Report: Part 1!

May7
Prepare yourselves. The mystery unfolds.

Prepare yourselves. The mystery unfolds.

It’s been a while since I wrote anything coherent, eh? I had such plans for regular writing in 2015, but here the “first quarter” (what am I, a financial analyst?) has come and gone. I wash up on the shores of May sputtering and stunned.

In my business, I never know when I’m going to work. Like any free-lance path, where half the time my work is stoking the fire, when the job comes, it comes suddenly and suddenly it demands every morsel of my psychic energy. That’s what happened mid-January when “Heart Matters” (now “Heartbreaker”) was picked up for production.

The same week my parents came to California for an extended stay.

As all of you know, when these new responsibilities and challenges arise, it’s not like any other responsibilities and challenges are taken away. Just — there’s suddenly more. February and March were an endurance test for me. Waking up at 5:30, getting the kiddos off to school (with all the expected drama therein), spending days on the phone or meeting with the brilliant Jill Gordon – writer of Heartbreaker extraordinaire and my partner in crime. Being a cabbie for my kids in the afternoon, making sure my folks were fed for dinner, then climbing back unto the computer until the wee hours at night.

I’m not telling all you working parents anything you don’t already know.

The thing about producing a pilot is this: at any time, the whole thing can disappear. There is no system yet, no film produced, no track record. There is an idea in my head – fortunately shared by Jill – and if I didn’t keep that idea crystal clear so that I could convinced a whole lot of other folks it was a winning proposition – well, it would’ve simply disappeared. I think of developing projects like gestating children. The first whiff of an idea is so tender – like the first few cells of a fetus. Sometimes that’s as far as it goes and that’s okay. But sometimes if enough people believe in the idea, then the idea gets stronger and stronger and then there’s a heartbeat, and then it has flesh on its bones and then actors are cast and then we are sitting around a table in Vancouver reading a script.

Then the real fun begins as the characters become flesh and bone and alchemically words on a page become speech in the mouth. And then we sit for two weeks in an editorial room – knitting and weaving the bits of film until it makes sense. And I fall in love with each actor, each character. And then we put music under it and then we spend a whole lot more time in post-production doing seemingly tedious things but those are the things that make this baby healthy, strong and unique. Like taking folic acid.

We passed in the pilot yesterday and now await our orders.

This was the first time I produced something I didn’t act in. I loved it. I produced side by side with my husband and I loved that too. We parent humans; we parent projects. The duty is similar: to provide a safe place to play, to guide when needed, to stay out of the way when not. We encouraged and planned and problem-solved. We were a sounding board and sometimes disciplined a bit. Just a bit. Because believe me, the Heartbreaker cast and crew are a whole lot easier to handle than our rowdy children.

As of this writing, the signs look good for Heartbreaker to be on NBC’s fall schedule – but if it doesn’t make it, I never said that. Whatever happens, it’s been an honor to be along for this ride.

Also as of this writing, I am diving back into the luscious waters of “The Leftovers” season 2. Diving back into actor-head, with no producer responsibilities. Thanks to Damon Lindelof, I get to indulge myself in Laurie Garvey – her tragedy, her strength, and her gorgeous badassar-y. I am a lucky girl indeed.

My take-away from the last three months? We never know what’s going to come our way – what people, jobs, challenges and gifts may be plopped without warning into our laps. That is the terror and the joy of being human, eh? Wowsie. It makes for a roller-coaster ride even my thrill-seeking son would love.

Darsan IV: Original Church

January23

For me, the Mona Lisa is a disappointment.

I mean, we’ve seen that poor woman’s visage SO MUCH. We’ve thought about it to death, analyzed her smile, her clothes, and the backdrop. By the time we actually trek through the Louvre to see the original, we’re tired, the way we’re tired of a new acquaintance that all of our other friend have been telling us, for years, that WE’RE GONNA LOVE!

Don’t tell me whom I’m supposed to love. I’m ornery that way.

It didn’t help that we went to the Louvre on Christmas Eve morning, along with the rest of Europe. While we were still suffering from jet lag. Such that we wanted to be in bed sleeping at 9:30 a.m. Not at the Louvre. With the rest of Europe.

We had a great trip, but that morning was our one clusterfuck. I had tried to let my kiddos find their own way in Europe, not museum them to death, not tell them what they were supposed to feel or how grateful they were to be there. And there I was, approaching the Mona Lisa, with not one but two oncoming tantrums, shrieking: “The Mona Lisa is AMAZING! It was painted by Leonardo da Vinci! You are gonna LOVE IT!” My children do not like to be told who or what they are “supposed” to love. The apple does not far from the tree.

I was approaching Stonehenge the same way. I’ve seen too many pictures, I’ve researched it too much, and too many people love it so therefore I will not. Enough with the hype.

But something was different about that day. We drove out of London and onto the Salisbury Plain in frosty drifty air. We were leaving modernity behind. The countryside got more and more impossibly beautiful and still, I tempered my expectations. It’s not going to be as good as the pictures. Calm down, Amy. It’s just a bunch of rocks.

As it has for millennia, it exceeded and defied my expectations. In fact, it left my expectations sputtering in 2015 dust.

In the spirit of seeking darsan, Stonehenge delivered. There is a feeling there, as there has been since 5000 BC. In part it comes from the ingenuity and commitment of the builders (how the f did they…?) in part it comes from the rocks, in part if comes from the spot itself. You simply can’t help but be worshipful and bow down to whatever you call god.

AB_Stonehenge_012415

After learning about all the eras and micro eras that comprise European history – the endless jockeying for power through bloodlines and war, –in which monarchs declared their reign by naming it for themselves, I was struck by the fact that it took (they think) 1500 years to build Stonehenge. 15 centuries. 300 generations. Millions of people decided that this place was worth committing to and that these stones were worth raising. Their collective commitment – beyond sects or bloodline or clan –infuses that spot with stone-age reverence. Beyond language, beyond cult of personality, beyond any one definition of religion. Beyond it all.

We learned that in the Mesolithic period – the Stone Age – folks were buried communally. But when bronze – metal – was discovered, everyone wanted to be buried individually, with his own personal bling. The beginning of velvet ropes at nightclubs, cordoning off those who can afford it. They don’t get to be on the communal dance floor anymore. They may not realize it, but something has been lost.

After the churches in Paris and England – so beautiful yet so politicized – I was grateful to be back at the Original Church, there on the Salisbury Plain. Thanks to my ancestors who raised those beloved rocks. May we modern folks strive to be as committed to the collective as you.

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