Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lawyers, Gourmets & Matrimony

Sunrise, Healdsburg, CA. January 30, 2007

Last night I spent a good amount of time rewriting an essay I posted on a private message board a few months ago. It’s my funny, biting comment on a small slice of The Hollywood Experience. Unfortunately, you won’t be reading it here. After several back-and-forth emails with my lawyer, he gently talked me out of running it.

The thing is the essay was about a particular someone who treated me poorly, treated me in a way that was unprofessional (well unprofessional anywhere but Hollywood) and mean. I didn’t write about how this someone lied to cover their ass with a studio and never apologized when I proved that I’d held up my end of the bargain. Or how at a meeting in a restaurant, this certain someone berated me so harshly, several people interrupted their Power Lunches to gaze at me with pity.

The essay meant to make (and shed) light on the way some people in this industry feel entitled to behave even as many more are successful without being assholes.

My lawyer, who is also a friend, pointed out to me the realities of today’s Internet, that perhaps posting something negative might impact my career. You know that story about the guy who doesn’t get Dream Job because his prospective boss looks him up on the ‘Net and discovers his posted online “interests” are “smokin' blunts'' (cigars hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana), shooting people and obsessive sex, all described in vivid slang.” (NY Times, June 11, 2006 “When A Risque Online Persona Undermines A Chance for a Job

What happens on the 'Net doesn't stay on the 'Net, apparently. I could say I’m not worried about my career but that would be a lie. In Hollywood, perception is everything. The key to being a success in this town is to control what people think of you. I know, I know, it’s impossible. Well, welcome to my world.

I could post the essay without using the certain someone’s name but that felt even more cowardly than not posting it at all. Maybe I'll change my mind in the future, but for now -- three meager posts into my Life As Blogger -- I'm gonna err on the better side of valor.

Speaking of valor, today is my wedding anniversary. Number one, actually, as in One Whole Year. I realize that's not much to reflect on, especially as my parents head blissfully to year number forty-eight. But reflect on it I am.

When I married the first time, I really thought I was doing Forever. The truth is that not five minutes after the reception -- literally in the cab ride to the airport -- a feeling of dread formed in the pit of my stomach. I knew then, although at the time I couldn't give it specific meaning, that I'd made a terrible mistake. Of course, my parents tried to talk me out of it, in their own way. But did I listen?

Still, what doesn't kill you, gives you stuff to write about.

Or someone else to write about better. Here's some lines from the title track to "Leave the Light On" by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Chris Smither. (You can hear the song and also buy the record here. You can also help support Chris and by extension other Americana singer/songwriters who don't get much radio play by checking out this page.)

"If I were young again I’d pay attention
To that little known dimension
The taste of endless time
Just like water it runs right through our fingers
But the flavor of it lingers
Like a rich red wine
In those days we were single
We lived them one by one
Now we hardly see them
- they walk, don’t run
But I got plenty of ‘em left I’ve set my sight on
Don’t wait up, leave the light on
I'll be home soon."

My husband and I lived for more than 10 years in that limbo that is also refered to as Too Old to Leave and to Lazy to Get Hitched in the DSM (which is short for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). You can look it up. (Okay, so it's not really in the DSM, but it should be. My own unofficial survey counts more 60 percent of Los Angeles alone in that category. )

Then one day in late 2005, we started talking seriously about getting married. Okay, so the bill for his health insurance arrived and it was $500 a month, which is a freaking grip, to quote an S.O.L. B.B. (Shyonelung's Best Buds). Nothing like the prospect of paying 6 G's a year for the privilege of going to a doctor who doesn't even accept health insurance to get even the most ardent bachelors and bacherlorettes to tie the knot. We finally did do it, but it was more just the force of gravity that got us on the road one Saturday morning to Vegas, a road that eventually (and quite literally) went through the "world famous" Little White Wedding Chapel Tunnel of Love Drive Thru (I 'll save the gory details for another time).

So here we are a year later. Maybe getting married was a tough decision but deciding how to celebrate it was easy. Up here in Wine Country (where we’re taking a break from the L.A. scene) Good Food is the local religion and the chefs are our high priests and priestesses. Tonight, we dine at the High Church of Foodieville that is The French Laundry. It's not only one of the best restaurants in Northern California, but it's widely considered the best in the entire country.

I can't think of a better place to celebrate for a couple that met over handmade brews and always turned to good, fresh food and wine in good times and bad, to mark important occasions, drown out our sorrows, mend broken hearts (and other things -- more on this later), and to fill out the often crazy, sometimes off-key soundtrack of our life together.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Serena Serena

photo caption: Fishing Dock, Castine, Maine 2002

I’m going to try not to post two sports comments in a row but I couldn’t let last night’s one-sided bombfest go without saying how much I loved watching Girl With Curves crush Skinny Blonde Chick.

I’m speaking of the Australian Open Tennis finals between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, broadcast in beautiful HD from Melbourne, Australia Friday night (thank you ESPN2). Not surprised if any of y’all missed it – it was over in 63 minutes. Well, technically it was over after the first game, when Sharapova the new darling of women’s pro tennis couldn’t get a first service in and Serena was practically licking her lips waiting for that spinning lollypop of a second serve. When Serena started creeping in on the poor girl’s first ball, it was just a matter of time before the massacre was complete. Bomb crosscourt. Point. Bomb up the middle. Point. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Game, set, championship over, baby.

Everybody’s writing today about Serena’s improbable comeback run. Out of the tennis limelight for months with knee problems and personal tragedy, the once Queen of Tennis had even fallen out of the top 100. She entered the Aussie Open unranked and due to a low overall ranking (81st) she had one of the more difficult draws, playing all but one seeded player in her run to the finals. She saved the toughest seed for last in Sharapova, the Russian who has become the signature face of tennis – on the court and off – since stunning Serena back in ’04 to win Wimbledon.

It’s all great stuff but what I loved was watching Serena shine in all that Aussie green and gold, celebrating those curves with flair, gritting and grinding and staring lasers across the net at her opponent. Take no prisoners, baby. And those earrings – big, beautiful loopy things that swung so hard with each swing, I was afraid they’d fly off and soar into space like a UFO. And, seriously, who is calling our girl out of shape? Take another look at those guns.

To be clear, her opponent was no slouch. Her “game” is much more than skin deep and on most days, she’s the best girl on the court by far . But last night, she was brought to tears by the sheer force of will that is Serena. Most of the time when she’s in trouble, she calls on that second gear that sets great champions apart from the rest of us athletically-challenged mortals but last night, second gear, third gear, whatever, just wasn’t enough. No matter what she did, Serena had an answer and it usually involved 80-plus MPH yellow blurs whizzing by far out of her long-armed reach. Through most of the match – in which she won only three games – Sharapova looked like Bambi caught in the Halogen high-beams of a runaway tractor-trailer.

Yes, world, Serena is ba-ack. Bombs away!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm a Hater

photo caption: Breakable

A Kobe hater, I mean. And I’m not talking about the sublime beef you get for $30 an ounce at Cut in Los Angeles. Seriously, who could hate that? I mean the enigmatic shooting guard for the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers. I was working in the biz when both Shaq and Kobe broke into the League. Shaq was always a favorite of mine -- he gave great interview and he was funny and due to a well-traveled but essentially lonely childhood (his stepdad was in the military), had an encyclopedic knowledge of 80's pop songs (Jesse's Girl, anybody?).

In the Lakers locker room, Shaq was the class clown, the Big Leader. It was his team, even as the upstart high school Jordan-wannabe crashed into town unafraid of taking post-season clutch shots that ended up bearly grazing the rim.

Kobe was always the outsider. Old news to anybody who follows this stuff but he was very clear he didn't want to fit in with the boys and so he always kept to himself, a decision that colored his whole career. One person close to the team the last few years told a friend of mine about two bench players who would, when they were on the court together, play "keep away" from Bryant because they knew that passing the ball to him meant it wasn't coming back.

No doubt the kid has skills. No doubt he can pretty much score at will but where is the love and the joy? His game feels so devoid of anything but that Gibraltar-sized chip on his shoulder that's as obvious as Quasimodo’s hump. Remember this is the guy who twice in his career stopped shooting in a game to prove that his teammates couldn’t win without him shooting a lot, to prove that his chucking up shot-after-silly-shot was really team play because so many of those crazy shots actually went through the net. Does anyone but me wonder if those new Adidas "You're not a fool, are you?" ads are not-so-subtle digs on Kobe's game?

This year he’s getting lauded by his one-time critics because he’s taking fewer shots a game (the TNT announcers the other day said it was eight less a game). Sure his numbers are down, but his team is winning. I’ve watched him too, seeing the very unusual sight of him passing to an open teammate. I think that’s just great but does changing his game mean he’s changed his selfish ways? This Hater doesn't think so.

I’ve never seen Kobe bark at so many of his teammates, for example. I mean really get in their face with the “what the fuck were you doing don’t you know how to play the game, man?” shit. If this is his idea of being a leader, I have a feeling it’s going to get real old. Real fast.

Did I tell you my favorite quote of the year? Right after Gilbert Arenas threw down 60 on Kobe and the Lakers (in a game that was tight and went into overtime which means his team needed everyone of those points), the Formerly Known As Ocho says Agent Zero was wrong to take so many “bad” shots. This from the one player in the league that will chuck up a shot from anywhere at any freaking time. I’m not sure if that’s irony, hubris or just plain obtuseness.

Look, most of the time when Kobe gets into his jack up the rock mode, it’s bad for his team. Occasionally, he gets lucky (like Son of Bill’s tip-in the other night against Golden State off a wild shot that saved the game and Kobe’s ass).

What I’m talking about was perfectly illustrated last week when Kobe and Kompany got bitch-slapped by the Mavs, a team that is trying to shed its penchant for being fragile behind the play of Dead-Eye Dirk Nowitzki. Down by double-digits but making a mini-run, Kobe decides he's going to lay a facial on his old buddy (and former teammate) Devean George and he flat-out blows the dunk so bad the ball caroms 50 feet in the air and lands in the hands of the smallest player on the court, Anthony "Pine Rider" Johnson who flushed it home like he's Nate Robinson or something.

Kobe, feeling dissed and abused, then lets loose a long three ball just to show the missed dunk doesn't bother him when in reality jacking up a three with 20 seconds still on the shot clock and a little MO going his team's way says exactly the opposite.

You could hear the CLANK back in Philly. When the Mavs run with the rebound and the German hits a mid-range jumper (a shot he now owns all by himself -- all due respect to Jerry West -- and not just because nobody else takes it anymore) the lead is back to plus-20 and the game is essentially in the ol' ice chest. So what does Mamba do? He dribbles the length of the floor, ignores his teammates as if he's playing one-on-five and heads straight for George, who lets him waltz by for an uncontested dunk. All is well again. Kobe can pump out his chest and pretend he's the man. Yawn.

It was by far the most perfect expression of who Kobe is and always will be, no matter how many fewer shots he takes in a game.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Writer Writes

Photo: Forest Road, Healdsburg, CA January 2007

"For the tale of how we are delighted and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be told. There isn't any other tale to tell; it's the only light we've got in all this darkness." -- James Baldwin, "Sonny's Blues"

Writers are supposed to write, right? Well, I'm a writer and I write and sometimes I even get published and produced but I've never been able to keep a journal. It always feels so forced. But I can't just sit down and get down to the shit first thing every morning so instead, I send emails and I write letters to the editor that I hardly ever send off and I post on a message board or two. It does get the juices flowing but most of the time it feels like I'm talking to a choir of one -- me.

I have a POV of the world that's skewed through the glass of my experiences as a sportswriter, journalist, author, TV writer and Cancer survivor. That's colored by the large shadow of my Cool Ass Parents and my crazy wonderful friends and my time trying to sustain the Hollywood Dream. And more recently from my move out of Los Angeles to a small slice of paradise in Northern California Wine Country, a window to a natural world of wonder and a man-made feast of feasts, and a quiet little room with a view while I write something that means something to me, that warms my soul, that reminds of why I write in the first place.

And, hell, it's easier than writing letters to the editor. Anyway, this is my take on the world of sports and the world in general and whatever else I feel like. And a few photos I've taken or will take that illustrate the things I can't quite say in words.

See ya tomorrow....