8.11.2005

Bitter from the Sweet

When a door closes, a window opens. That's the way it was supposed to go, anyway. But somehow, although I used to be a Big Deal Foreign Correspondent, I've ended up Another Struggling Screenwriter, the weakest link on the The Big Hollywood Food Chain. It's no wonder all those Well-Meaning Housewives At My Sister's Dinner Parties ask why I don't cut my losses and return to travel writing. "That would have been my dream job," one after another will inevitably sigh, opening another juice box for Little Maximillian.

Yo lady, what about my dreams? She'll look at me like I'm speaking some odd foreign tongue she does not care to pick up. This is when I'm left with no choice but to leap on the table and break into a round of I've Never Been To Me, that lame song from the eighties about a globe-hopping whore who'd wanted so much less for herself and finally managed to get it.


Oh, I've been to Nice and the isle of Greece,
where I sipped champagne on a yacht.
I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo
and showed them what I've got.
I've been undressed by kings
and I've seen some things that a woman ain't s'posed to see.
I've been to paradise but I've never been to me...

Though initally vaguely offensive, at least from a Women's Studies perspective—I really think this dimwitted broad who goes by the simple, unassuming name "Charlene," if memory serves me, does a lot to explain how a girl might choose to give it all up in exchange for the daily humiliation of a smaller and far more pointless existence. The heart wants what it wants. Hers wanted to change poopy diapers. Mine wanted to write Quirky Little Screenplays nobody wants to read, let alone make.

I should also probably explain that although I enjoyed a busy career on the road, I wasn't exactly out there writing The Sun Also Rises. I discovered early on that National Geographic Traveler doesn't invite your true thoughts on a given destination unless you happen to be a Deposed Playwright returning home to assume her rightful place on its throne. "Evita Re-Visits The Casa Rosada!" now that's a cover story.

One of my most memorable assignments, conversely, was compiling his and her packing hints for the honeymoon section of Elegant Bride. For a travel agents' magazine, I had the tedious chore of updating the monthly Events! Attractions! Tours! sidebar, which is basically the obituaries section of the travel world. I wrote cruise line spa menus. Hotel snack menus. Guest directions to the nearest exit in case of fire.

Admittedly, I was wined, dined, buffed, polished and pampered along the way—all free of charge. I did manage to land some Significant Features, too—complete with original photography. But then I'd come home bursting with thoughts on some great world capital—Jerusalem, Bangkok, Rome—only to be handed a list of cheesy advertisers on which I was to focus exclusively. I'd be left with no choice but to recount another semi-fictitious Discount Senior's Tour Through The Land of Milk And Honey. I was chastised with a letter from the Anti-Defamation League for glibly subtitling the aforementioned story, "Such A Deal." Everyone's a critic.

Based in Miami, I became a known expert on the Caribbean and The Bahamas—specifically Nassau, Montego Bay and San Juan, plus Cruising To Nowhere, Cruising The Virgins, and Cruising The Lesser Antilles. I enjoyed having so many Fetching European Waiters to pick from onboard, and once even married one. I suppose I could have sold one of those juicy Cosmo stories, "I Married My Maitre D'!," but I didn't get the irony at the time. A more regrettable part of my inadvertent specialty was the fact that I've never been a big fan of the sun. I don't get all the fuss about beaches, either. Everyone knows oil and water don't work, why go throwing salt and sand into the mix and calling it fun?

I freely admit that I miss the typical Club Level Resort Suite With Sweeping Ocean View, though not nearly as much as that of your Grande European Hotel overlooking a piazza or Famed Inland Waterway. I miss being treated with respect and dignity—hell, getting my butt globally kissed, I'll admit it. I miss the Complimentary Lavendar Shiatsu Massages. I miss people who are so happy to see me coming they leave a cheese basket and a note on engraved linen stationery laid out in my sun-filled rooms. I miss nice sheets that get changed every day by someone who isn't me. I miss excellent wine, a new one with every course. Most of all, in a town where nobody knows your name, I miss monogrammed matchbooks. And I don't even smoke any more, it's not allowed in L.A.

My deepest secret is that some days I'd go back if I only could.

But then, another little detail they'll definitely leave out in film school is how there is no turning back once you've left it all behind. I ran away, after all. Alice didn't live there any more. It'd be like trying to return to life as a Space Shuttle Astronaut after publicly declining a mission—there's always Some Eager Prick ready to strap his own ass into your seat the next time around. Some days, though, I still manage to forget all this nonsense about Finding My Authentic Voice.

I picture myself digging out the old passport, cashing it all in for a scant few Euros and hopping a First Class Flight as far as it'll take me away from all this. But then I remember how very badly I wanted to make up my own stories, not just re-hash the brochure from a faraway place that was never really mine to explain in the first place. Even on my worst day, some small part of me clings to the dream—my dream, the one on which I bet the whole wide world—that something I have to say might actually find its way to a theater near you. Maybe the door is closed for good, but I still have hope for that window.


CHARLENE:

Hey, you know what paradise is?
It's a lie,
a fantasy we created about people and places
as we like them to be.
But you know what truth is?
It's that little baby you're holding,
and it's that man you fought with this morning,
the same one you are gonna make love to tonight.
That's truth, that's love.


ALTOGETHER NOW:
Sometimes I've been to crying for unborn children
that might have made me complete.
But I took the sweet life,
and never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet.
I spent my life exploring the subtle whoring
that costs too much to be free.
Hey lady I've been to paradise
but I've never been to me...

2 comments:

  1. It's getting to the point where I never tell anyone that I am an aspiring screenwriter/filmmaker anymore. I get either a look that says, "You're thirty one and expecting a child, you really should be a little more responsible." Or I have to hear about some cousin or friend that is also a screenwriter. No one takes it seriously so I don't even bother.

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  2. Well, you can always leave out the word "aspiring." In which case, they'll be like, oh yeah? What have you written? And you can be like, oh I recently worked on a little flick called "Herbie: Fully Loaded." They won't know whether to be impressed or horrified.

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