Amy Brenneman
Amy Brenneman

September 21, 2015


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.