Recent gigs I’ve had. Like, being paid to travel the world and write stories and take photos. Little girl me in little town Nevada who just wanted to see the world is seriously freaking out.
I removed the option to add “comments” or “likes” on this blog because www.eringranat.com is my digital heart. The forum for my self-expression. Free from the electric sting of a numerical scale that indicates relevance and worthiness.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE feedback on my blog. It makes me purr and want to hug you cat-on-cat like this photo. But if you feel called to leave me a comment or a like, I want to actually engage with you in a non-public facing way. An old-fashioned conversation, between two people (but via email (laughing emoji) which is why you’ll see my email is in the About section). This is the same reason why I’ve left up every embarrassing angsty post since I started this blog 8 years ago. And why I don’t have visible the number of followers this blog has (which is a respectable number I’m very proud of).
Really, this is about QUALITY not QUANTITY. And being vulnerable. Because vulnerability is the source of true strength. Note: I removed comments and likes for all posts moving forward, if someone knows how to mass remove on past posts hook it up!
Lately, I feel grumpy. It’s July, which means days are long and hot. Pool parties. The beach. Short shorts. Blah fucking blah. In other words, a constant reminder that despite my best intentions, somewhere along the line I sold out and became an adult.
I feel nostalgia for the summer of my youth so heavy I can’t breathe. Growing up in the tiny ranch town of Gardnerville, Nevada meant summers were like a country music video on repeat. Especially the sweet spot between ages fifteen and seventeen, when we were old enough to drive but too young to go anywhere.
The launch of summer was Carson Valley Days, the town parade and carnival at Lampe Park. Everyone came and everyone rode the same five rides we’d been riding since we were kids. We spent summer days at Lake Tahoe and summer nights at the river. Cheap beer was usually involved. We rode in the back of pickup trucks, driving too fast down county lanes, nothing but the stars above and our uncertain futures ahead.
The lack of options is what created the bliss. Gardnerville had one movie theater and lots of empty Earth. Social life meant seeing the same movie for the fifth time, or circling up around a bonfire in the desert or the woods, drinking our parents’ purloined liquor and blasting Country Grammar (I know I just seriously dated myself, but Nelly’s debut album was really tight).
I marvel at how we found these bonfire spots. Before Waze, before texting. I guess we called each other on land lines and wrote down the directions?
I could devote an entire book to growing up Gardnerville, and I still might. But for now the last thing I’ll mention here is the scent — summer nights in the ‘Ville are the aroma of hay fields, fresh unpolluted oxygen, cows, wholesome American dreams. I know I’m waxing poetic, we always look back on our youth with a rose-colored lens.
But no matter how many cities I visit, or fancy Hollywood events I attend, nothing feels as great as being seventeen on a summer night, surrounded by my gang of friends, parked at the river, singing Garth Brooks into the night.
So much to process right now, words about to rip out of me. Been a big month, you could say. Have a lot to share. But not ready to. Instead, going to write about rejection.
I recently received what I consider “positive” rejections from Short of the Week and Tin House, and it got me thinking. I’m good friends with rejection. We’ve met each other many, many times. In fact, rejection might be the most helpful feedback one can get on the path of art and life, depending how you receive it.
Short of the Week wrote they mulled over my film quite a bit, were very close to accepting it but ultimately felt it wasn’t what they were looking for. Considering this was the darkest and most edgy film work I’ve ever written/acted in/produced, I was nervous as hell to put it out into the world. Terrified of being judged as a psycho pervert, aka terrified of being rejected. The pass from SOTW felt like a win, because apparently they rarely give more than a “thanks but no thanks.”
“This was a really tough call for us. Considering the film is about such an intensely unlikable and awful character, it’s undeniably compelling. The lead performance is fantastic and the unconventional, yet strong shot choices help convey a sense of unease, unsettling the viewer. You really do capture the “seedy underbelly” of LA.”
Tin House, illustrious gatekeepers of literary merit, also rejected me. A much briefer “this doesn’t work for us, but please know we welcome reading your future work.” I’ve never been so excited to be rejected! Hooray! It means 1.) They actually read it, and 2.) As one of my mentors Colette pointed out “This is a definitely a good rejection, especially from Tin House. Believe me, they get scads of submissions. They only send “send agains” to people whose work genuinely impresses them.”
So what it does mean, getting close to acceptance but swallowing rejection? How many other times has this happened? The novel I wrote that almost got published, then didn’t. The original pilot I wrote/acted in that almost got picked up, then didn’t. Am I good, but not good enough? The guys I’ve liked who didn’t like me back. The jobs I’ve wanted but they hired someone else. For all my work ethic, commitment, continual work on my spiritual/emotional/physical self, maybe I’m good enough, but not “right” enough. In that moment. For that opportunity/person/acknowledgement.
Maybe I suck. But that’s not for me to know. For now, I’m keeping a note card on my desk where I keep a hash mark for every rejection I get on my current project (a new pilot). I look at it like wanting to rack up rejections, because it’s a numbers game, and eventually I’ll get the YES. And it only takes one yes.
And because not trying is the same thing as being told “no.”
And here’s a brain dump from my mind:
I saw an owl at the Renaissance Faire. He had fire eyes like the red flowers on the pomegranate trees in my yard. Looking at my face and seeing it get older. The shooting star I saw Saturday night. That time we gathered to watch the blood moon eclipse and it was foggy so we drank cactus instead and laughed and I ended up in a suite at the W Hotel. The loves I’ve had. The friend I’m not going to see for a long time. Lady Fluff’s cat kisses. Realizing she’s a feline Kathy Bates. My own near misses. Hiding from the lust demon, not eating sugar or dairy or starch for a month like a real LA girl. My former Reno self is embarrassed. But it helps me think straight.
I just found an old hard drive from 2009. There’s a lot of writing on it, a lot of stories that were started but never finished. I’m going to post two of the starts here, because where can you let unfinished work exist but on a blog? Maybe they were deemed not good enough, by a workshop or more likely, myself. They say in writing you have to “kill your babies.” I’ve always dreamed of starting a website, mydeadbabies.com, where writers can post sections that didn’t make it into the final draft, but aren’t half bad. Maybe this could be my first entry.
UNFINISHED BEGINNING #1
New York was hot and stickier than a honey jar. I wasn’t used to the humidity, the way it made my clothes cling, my hair curl. I took to wearing short skirts, and I was wearing a skirt the shade of celery green the night I met the Irishman. I wore the same skirt in Vegas a few years later, when a retiree in a Hawaiian shirt at the blackjack table called me his lucky charm and gave me a hundred dollars in chips, just because I was sitting next to him. I will come to call this small item of clothing, no longer than twenty-two inches, my lucky skirt.
UNFINISHED BEGINNING #2
My mom never wanted me to compete in pageants. I remember being in the grocery store as a kid and seeing a flyer for a Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageant. I begged my mom to enter me—the little girl on the flyer was so pretty in her grass skirt and lipstick and mascara! Mom refused. She thought pageants were creepy, weird, exploitative. In the case of Little Miss Hawaiian Tropic, predecessor to the G-strings and silicone of the sunscreen brand’s pageant for young women—she was right. I never had any family members or friends growing up who competed in pageants, nor did I ever really watch pageants on TV. I was into skiing, then horses, then dance, then soccer, then boys, then boys AND soccer, then boys, soccer, and a stint trying to save the world in which I started a chapter of Amnesty International (I guess I really did want world peace), then partying on the weekends and boys, and then finally a trio of interests that has more or less stuck: writing, partying, and boys. So I think I surprised both my mother and myself one evening my senior year of high school when I handed her the permission slip for the Miss Lake Tahoe pageant and declared, “I’m entering.”
Her reaction was simple: “You? You?” It was the first time someone was surprised by my pageant ambitions, but certainly not the last. I took the surprise as a compliment (Uhh, what else am I supposed to do, right?). I was glad I did’t fit into the fake smile, catty stereotype—and I’m also glad I got to learn first-hand that’s exactly what it is: a stereotype.
The end. Or as close to the end as these stories will ever be.
Yesterday I drove home from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe and cried the whole way.
Countless times I’ve done that 8 hour drive, since I was a kid and we’d go to LA several times a year from Tahoe to visit family. “Scenic 395” runs through Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous U.S., then through all the cute/weird little Old West towns that dot the journey from California into Nevada like Lone Pine, Bishop and Bridgeport. You transition from a desert landscape into the snow, passing Mammoth Mountain and the bizarre tufa formations of Mono Lake. The scents along the drive are: sagebrush, cows, crisp mountain air, exhaust, pine trees.
I was driving home for a joyous occasion, the birth of my new nephew, and my emotions were close at hand. I’d wanted to be at his delivery (I was honored my sister and brother-in-law even asked me to be there!), but he came two days early and as I packed my bag in LA he was already taking his first breaths in this world.
I was feeling down I’d missed such an important moment (though I kept shouting at myself “You’re not what’s important here! A healthy baby was brought into this world. Check your ego. He’s all that matters!”). Add in the LA malaise of traffic, helicopters, whatamIdoingwithmylife and amIevergoingtomakeitasawriteractressetcblahblah, and I was a total basket case. I cried what felt like ancient tears. But I didn’t necessarily feel sad, I just felt.
And I remembered another time I did that drive and wept like a heartbroken teenager. I was driving south on 395 that time, 5 years earlier, my big move to Los Angeles. I’d been planning to move to LA with my best friend Beth since we were 15, but now that it was happening I suddenly had a lot of reasons to stay put. I was leaving behind a life that allowed me to write prolifically, a cool cheap apartment, a job I liked, lots of friends, a boyfriend I was in love with. I had my two cats in the car with me, Chairman Meow and King Alobar, and I was all turned upside down. I listened to Fiona Apple that entire drive, sobbing and doubting and growing up by the second.
What punched me in the gut driving yesterday was how tremendously time passes. Lightning fast, yet full of life. Was that just 5 years ago that my life had an entirely different shape? The people in it were a different cast of characters. Now I have a whole new community of friends. I’ve had jobs and opportunities I couldn’t have known existed (although that’s why I was going, I didn’t know the details ahead, but I knew fortune favors the bold). Now I’m in a different relationship, a new boyfriend to love. Even the cats are different. Chairman passed away and Alobar found a different home. Now I have Lady Fluff and Kitten Coyote. But I’m still listening to Fiona Apple.
Driving toward home, toward welcoming a new life into my family, I felt gobsmacked by how much we change. Every year, every moment. I don’t know if it’s any sort of answer, but something feels connected in this: they named the baby Quest.
I had a cold desert Christmas. I visited my dad in his new home of Flagstaff, Arizona, and was amazed by the majesty of the land. We had Christmas dinner at the Grand Canyon. It was my first visit, and the site took my breath away (because the Canyon is awe-inspiring, and because it was really fucking cold).”We” was me, my dad, and John, the wonderful human I get to call my boyfriend. I’ve spent many holidays back home in Tahoe as the weird single LA artist cat lady, so being somewhere new with someone to call my own felt like Christmas morning all week long.
In addition to the Grand Canyon, we also explored the Wupataki ruins, the Sunset volcano crater, the mystical rock formations in Sedona, and drank in the stars via telescope at the Lowell Observatory. One word kept connecting these different experiences: perspective. I’d been needing a dose of the stuff. Lately, I’ve been trapped in the petty grievances of my lower mind.
It was fascinating to read about the natives who called Wupataki home, how they were in a constant struggle to survive against the elements yet thrived for centuries. Pottery has been found there but not the tools to make it, which suggests it came from elsewhere, which suggests trading between tribes occurred at Wupataki. The Sunset crater wasn’t much to look at from the base, but the lava flows around it were cool, and I was gobsmacked to read the placard calling the volcano a “geographic infant” because it erupted a mere 1,000 years ago. Telescoping the night sky at the Lowell Observatory (where Pluto was discovered!), we saw a “stellar nursery” located within Orion’s belt, which is literally where stars are born. Add in that poor Pluto isn’t even considered a planet anymore, and all this perspective made me feel one thing: grief.
Grief for all the times I’ve felt less than amazed to be alive. Grief that I spend a lot of my days without perspective. The perspective that this Earth is magnificent and I’m lucky to inhabit it for a speck of time.
So my perspective going into 2015: I’m grateful I have a healthy father, a car to take me to places like the Grand Canyon, and a witty handsome boyfriend to be my co-pilot. Here are some pics!
I just got home from my writer’s group holiday party. Normally we bring pages from whatever we’re working on, but since this was a party and we intended to get drunk, we brought in pages from our old diaries to read. This was an excellent idea, if you ask me. Which you are, because you’re reading my blog. Half the fun was looking through my old journals, which was no small feat. I was a prolific diarist, especially the last few years of high school. One pink diary in particular chronicles many milestones, and things got real juicy around the time I started partying. A few excerpts for your entertainment:
“I hope I’m not in trouble, I came home last night with three Zima’s in my jacket pocket. I had so much freedom for once, me and Renee went to Reno to Kick’s and went dancing! It’s this new awesome 18 and older dance club, we passed back a fake ID to make us 18. We didn’t even have to be home until 12:30! Also I did well on my finals! I won the Key Club vice-presidency and I got new skis! Yet I’m getting in trouble a lot. Mom got a call from the same cop my sister got a call from when she was a junior, telling her I’ve been seen smoking pot! It’s just so weird. I’ve never heard of that happening, getting a call like that!”
It’s difficult to believe I fell for this, but my mom did in fact tell me a cop saw me smoking pot and called her as a warning. Pretty clever on my mom’s behalf, as it scared the daylights out of me. Could’ve been true I suppose, we lived in a really small town. But considering my sister had gotten the same “call” I think it was a set-up.
“I think I’ve lost myself a little. I don’t really have passions stirring inside. Friday night my dad took me and Beth to a Matchbox Twenty concert! Rob Thomas was so sexy in black leather pants! Then Beth stayed the night, we had an awesome talk. She informed me people think I’m a ditz. I figured out I’m selling myself short. It’s stopping. I might be forgetful, but I’m not exaggerating it anymore. We stayed up until 1:45am, which was stupid because we had PSAT’s at 8:00am! They were hard and intimidating! Oh and I went to haunted house with Charlie*. He has a fake ID so he bought us beer. We held hands! He was such a badass, smoking cigarettes. We were waiting for our friends and had the best talk. We talked about how I’m a virgin and he’s not, it was cool. He’s so deep. One thing led to another and we made out! He has his tongue pierced! It was so cool. He told me to come over today to watch Braveheart. But I got there and all his skater friends were there. Whatever. Maybe it was just a one time thing?”
Gawd. I could go on forever. Instead I’ll leave you with two poems from zee pink diary. My teenage self is mortified, but I’m going to share them anyway.
“Enemy” // I am my own worse enemy. I think too much, drink too much, wear my heart on my sleeve for all the world to see. // I’m a walking contradiction, or so I’ve been told. I don’t agree but if you persist I’m sold, sold, sold. // Shut up and be happy, you have no right to complain. But I do because I know who I want to be, but instead I quest for fame. // I’ll just keep on smiling instead, you would say this isn’t important, these are just the contents of my head. // You think you know me, pass me off as fake and dumb. Well, you don’t know me. I would think you’d understand we’re all just people, with different ideas of fun. // Just give me a break, and I’ll give you one too. Maybe things will work out. Maybe I’ll have the courage to be new.
“Summertime” // Whispers floating on the breeze, thoughts lost with such ease, a giggle, a smirk, the summertime dirt. // Take me there, to the months of carefree, take me there, where I can be me. // Not a show, or unending fights, just freedom, and those warm lazy nights. // Just the hot sun and days at the river, asking a boy you like to come hither. // When you fight over ice cream and whose lips are number, you go quiet a moment and realize it’s summer.
I love my writer’s group. I love the holidays. I love WriteGirl, which has been so inspirational lately. The girls write the most descriptive, powerful poems and stories. I feel connected to my younger self through them.
*Charlie is a fake name, used to protect the guilty.
I feel far from myself. And I know why. I’m not in my creative work routine. I often wonder if the secret to success is as easy as having a routine. A few factors are contributing to this distraction. Year-end duties like figuring out new car insurance, health insurance, possibly moving to a new place. But I know I can always write and post something, even if it’s a few lines. I get caught up in thinking it needs to be something really awesome to be worth posting. But maybe the mundane is the most interesting stuff we can offer each other in the blogosphere. So, my mundane:
–I’m considering moving out of my apartment. I’ve been here 5 years and it’s time for a change. But I keep running up against memories. Just now making chicken on my George Foreman grill, I remembered agonizing if I should get the grill with removable plates or not. It was $20 more, but would be so much easier to clean. Which got me thinking about how much I’ve changed in the five years I’ve lived here. I moved in poor as a pauper, $20 might have been $2000. I’ve gone through a lot here–breakups, hookups, surgery, dance parties, Koreatown Cabarets, tears and fighting, first kisses and last goodbyes. I have done a LOT of writing here. I wrote a novel here for fuck’s sake. I’m an eyelash away from leaving, but that also means leaving that all behind. Which I don’t feel totally ready to do.
–This year has been a rollercoaster for the creative projects. Had my series Johnny and the Scams picked up by a big studio, then dropped when the executive left the company. I started a new vlog and finished writing a thriller feature and co-writing an hour long pilot. Yet I feel totally unsatisfied. Soooooooooooooo many stories in my mind, battling to be told. Yeah, that many “o’s” on the “so.”
–I’ve started volunteering with WriteGirl, a rad non-profit that does creative writing programs for teen girls. I’ve been working with the in-schools part of the program, and every Tuesday we go to a girl’s academy in south LA and do poetry, journaling, goal-setting, this sort of thing with the girls. I’m endlessly humbled, especially with how smart and talented the girls are. Some of them write prolifically. I remember being that age, feeling like I had more emotions than I could possibly express.
–I feel like I don’t want to party anymore. I turn to wine and other mind alterers when I’m not writing. Because I wish I was writing so much I need to blast all thoughts out of me. So why don’t I just write? Bukowski, Hemingway, any ideas?
–I might get a kitten!
Those are a few mundanes things of my current life. Hope it slightly intrigued you, if just in a mundane way. Good bye.
Last night was the final night of my short story writing class. It was through UCLA Extension and thus on the UCLA campus, and all summer I greatly enjoyed traipsing about the brick buildings pretending I was still in college. There were some excellent writers in my class and the instructor Colette Sartor was phenomenal, she gave excellent feedback and is a lit star herself. Writing fiction prose again after the last few years of screenwriting was like taking a long bath after…hmm…shit I need help finishing the analogy. A post about writing and I can’t even write. Irony. An attempt to redeem myself with the first paragraph of a story I wrote for class:
My uncle Jack lived in a tiny stone house in the beach town of Trancoso, Brazil. The house sat between two extra tall palm trees, and on the afternoon the medics delivered me to his house, Jack was waiting outside, leaning against one of the trees, smoking a cigar, shirtless and as broad-shouldered as my father had been. He’d set up a corner of his house for me, with a reclining chair to accommodate my injuries. Jack helped me get comfortable, offered to make me an avocado milkshake then realized he was out of avocadoes, then sat down across from me and blew a few smoke rings into the air as he said: “I’m glad you’re here, Silver. It’s been too quiet since Matilda died. Look at you, Silver, a grown woman. Guess I wasn’t expecting that. She was my bird. Matilda, I mean.” My uncle Jack smiled at me then, tears shining in his honey brown eyes. It was the first time we’d ever met.
In the last week I also did a photo shoot with the radical b4flight in downtown LA. I love downtown. All the street art and little cafes, skid row and cool architecture. I greatly enjoyed traipsing about those brick buildings, pretending I was an urban hustler, or at least a famous Instagram model.
Really though, prose and screenwriters, help me finish the analogy?
Found these words I wrote in a red leather journal in the trunk beside my bed. The trunk is ancient and rusted, brought over from Norway by my great-great-grandmother Helen Marr (the ‘HM’ of my middle name). I wonder if she too grappled with existential angst.
Knock, knock, knocking on some kind of door. Wish I was a 90s angst singer, vague and flannel. Or a 60s guitar legend, wild and drunk. Instead I’m a happy person of life. Deeply sad. Artsy. Powerful creations on my path to the sun. Accept my star-gazing self. Shine bright up there in the dark air. Honor my river pace. My natural high. The artist need only create. Deep yearning to be in love, to be in light. Control the gaze into space. Manage my time, don’t have to run the race. Fiona Apple dreaming. Kisses on foreheads and fun for all. Life can get so heavy. Who pulled the trigger? Questions to ask before giving my heart away. The art or die. Make this before meeting HIM and starting THAT. The candle and the cat. The music, the bowler hat.
Lately I’ve been listening to Chet Faker, reading about detachment, and trying to buy a car. Five months in Los Angeles sans vehicle has been 90% bliss (no parking tickets! snoozing on the bus/train/Uber/Lyft!) but it’s getting impractical. My heart wants an ’84 Wagoneer or ’78 Mercedes but living in Koreatown has seeped into my blood so I’ll probably get a Hyundai.
Tuesday I had a very good call with the studio that’s developing one of my projects (more on that soon) so I celebrated by doing my laundry then smoking some Maui Kush then journeying to the Last Bookstore in downtown for an impromptu photo shoot with a muse in the labyrinth of books upstairs (literally a labyrinth/maze of books…go there). Then I ate steak.
Yesterday I took myself on a writing date in Los Feliz. I worked on the rewrite of Johnny and the Scams and sent producer-y emails about the new pilot I co-wrote with the director Kris Krainock, called Fantasy Inn. It’s a creepy role for me and will probably freak you out. I ate an ahi tuna wrap at Fred 66 and then an entire plate of sweet potato fries. I sat in the same booth as the first time I went there, for my first meeting with my first literary manager when I first got to LA. I remember I wore a black blazer from Ross and pointy red shoes.
I went to Skylight Books next and became instantly devastated at all I haven’t written and all I haven’t read. I purchased Tom Robbins’ new memoir Tibetan Peach Pie then dreamed about writing a blog post about purchasing it, which you’re reading now. A quick look-a-roo in a vintage store uncovered a reversible sheepskin vest/purple jacket thing for $34 that’s so radical I just broke my oath to never blog about clothes.
As I took a Lyft over to Machete’s I thought about Paije’s dearly departed cat Zaazu, wondered if my grandma made it back to the gym this week, and fought an urge to travel somewhere internationally. Just clean your room, Erin. Then you won’t feel so restless. I got to Machete’s and hugged her for the first time since Lightning in a Bottle, which was an otherworldly swirl in the electro-hippie lake bed dreamland that crushed so hard it deserves it’s own post (my favorite sets were GoldRush, Pumpkin, Little Dragon, Quest Crew, Tokimonsta, Gaslamp Killer, sunrise Random Rab and our camp Bok Choy which for those lovely LIB nights was the most fun party on the planet). I’ll try to write that post. Yet I find, as always, trying to write about a festival experience is like (you know I want to say “catching lightning in a bottle”)…really hard.
Machete saw the vintage-purple-vest-jacket-thing and freaked because she’d almost got it herself for LIB! Now we can share it. We watched the rough cut of a short film she directed, then took her dogs on a walk. As Dexter (the puggle) did his bizness and Ninja (the min-pin) sniffed a flower, Machete commented that recently she’d stopped rushing around so much, and found she felt much more at peace. In my head I sang the lyric from the 2003 Nelly song “Pimp Juice” You ain’t from Russia, so bitch why you rushin’. But I didn’t say sing it out loud because it’s kinda weird I remember it. Instead I breathed the warm, perfectly breezy night air of Los Angeles in June, and said “You and me, we’re going places.”
Last night I was up til 5am on a spiritual journey, the details of which I cannot reveal. The lessons were large, the wisdom at times overwhelming. So to take a breath I’d like to share a few small things that have been on my mind:
- I recently did an apartment redesign and put oil lamp sconces up on my living room to create a wall of light. I was imagining how cool and dramatic this would look, but now that they’re up, the shadows from the scones are the most interesting part about the design, dancing along the walls like dark birds…because sometimes in life the shadows are as beautiful as the light, ya dig?
- I feel like if I met her, Beyonce would be my friend.
- Last week I paid WordPress $3o for the No Ad Upgrade, so there won’t be advertisements on my blog. This is my forum for expression, and I’m not going to commodify it so someone else can make a few bucks.
- Lately I’ve been putting into action several self-improvement desires I had at the new year. All’s going well, except I wonder what I will face when all my excuses are removed?
- From one of my favorite books, A Survival Guide for Landlocked Mermaids: “Duality dwells at the heart of all truth, so dance with your inner paradox” … “Yearnings are the navigated states of the visionary and precede the sojourn to fulfillment” … “An open heart is seldom lonely”
- This is my living room redesign, and the red heart hug pillow I got at IKEA. I like that the friendly squishy hug is the first thing I see when I come home. A few times when I’m lonely I’ve put the pillow arms around me and it was just as good as a human hug.
Happy Monday, star seeds.
I had an inspiring weekend…spent Friday night watching an artist I admire paint a massive mural on a wall. We hung out til 3am in an empty parking light under a street light, goofing around, doing improv spoken word and trading ideas. You could hear the bass and trap from a busy stretch of bars just a few blocks away. I felt happy that I’ve finally figured out I’m more content being weird with the artists than I am getting drunk with the masses. Maturity: 1 point. Here are some Artgasms, to get your week started right.
The beginning of a short story I’m writing:
We held the event on Wednesdays. The day started around 2pm, when we’d wake up and not get out of bed. I’d reach for my velvet money clip into which was pinched three hand-rolled cigarettes. I’d look at Jett and say “The sun is up, buttercup.” We’d smoke and share a watermelon juice, then fuck til 4pm.
I’d get up and sweep our apartment, while Jett stayed in bed. He’d begin choosing who got the invite based on a system of social credit only he understood, then he started making calls. In between calls I could hear him scribbling in a notebook, and I knew he was revising the rules.
I loved listening to Jett, the way he spoke, tough-guy twang coated with a cadence all his own. I didn’t always agree with the rules. I thought guests should be allowed to just observe the first time, but Jett was adamant everyone partake. “Go deep or go home,” he liked to say. I think that rule prevented some worthy people from getting involved. But I didn’t have much time to think about it. Our wait-list was already four weeks long, full of philosophers and candy kids, scientists and celebrities. Psychedelic warriors all of them, brave in their quest to lift the veil.
A music video I love … “Retrograde” by James Blake … the video is eerie and abstract, song is insanely beautiful:
Hope you have a good week, everyone! What’s inspiring you these days?
I am prone to romance and whimsy. A good example might be the recent Friday evening when Beth, me, and my roommate Ardalan were sitting on my green couch and the subject of yearbooks came up. Ardalan is from Iran, he said they don’t have yearbooks there, in fact he had no idea what we were talking about. Beth and I gasped! Yearbooks are the quintessential artifact of the American high school experience!
Since we’re both hams, we jumped up and began acting out the scenario of having your yearbook signed. “Hiiii Bethy, would you like, sign my yearbook?” “Sure, Eriny, we had a killer time in Honors English!” Ardalan laughed, but I wasn’t satisfied, so I went to the bookshelf where I keep every yearbook since the 7th grade and grabbed one for each of us.
We enjoyed the silly (“I signed your crack” ((you know where you write in the book binding?)), the obscure (“I hope you have found nature in your concrete home”), the sincere (“Erin–You’re the only person in Amnesty International who’s doing it for spiritual fulfillment, not for a college application, you have a good soul”).
A page of my junior yearbook stopped me in my tracks. Someone had sketched me a mermaid, a lovely piece done in pencil, with the caption “Remember: Pinball’s not that bad compared to a raw ass-kicking.” (???) They signed a name and left a phone number, but I can’t read the name. Who had sketched me my favorite mythical creature? Years before I claimed the brazen sea goddess as my talisman, before I got a tattoo of a mermaid while being reckless in NYC? As I said, I’m prone to romance and whimsy…soooo…I called the number.
The phone rang 5, 6, 7 times. I was very nervous. Beth and Ardalan were holding their breath. In my heart of hearts, my soulmate was on the other line. A boy I’d briefly known in high school, but who’d seen the real me. He’d answer the phone (in my fantasy he’d bought the house from his parents, and kept the number in case I found his yearbook sketch and called him). It was the most epic meet-cute of all time! I was naming our third cat when the phone clicked. “Hello?” A man’s voice.
“Hi…Did you graduate from Douglas High School?”
Disappointment. “Do you have a son? Anyone at this phone number who might’ve drawn me a mermaid in my yearbook?”
“You’re a maid service?”
I explained the whole situation to the man, that I’d found the sketch and was looking for my possible long lost love. We talked for twenty minutes. He suggested I put an ad in the newspaper or post fliers around town. His name was Frank. He wished me good luck and we said good-bye.
Beth and Ardalan pounced the second I hung up. What did he say?? I relayed the dead end, then sat lost in melodramatic thought. Mermaid sketch artist, are you out there? Tell me something good…
Over the last few years, I wrote my first novel. It’s about a 24 year-old girl named Holly Fricklesnap who lives with her wacky family on a Christmas tree farm. We meet Holly just as she’s been promoted to head fortune writer at the Good Luck fortune cookie factory, the same week she’s realized her best guy friend AJ will never love her back, and her family will drive her crazy if she lives with them any longer. Should she stay, should she go, or is it all just a Delusion of Glamour?
It was hot the night Moonflower won $14,987 playing blackjack at the Shooting Gun—the Night Everything Changed. I was with AJ in his basement apartment, painting my nails while he tripped on acid. I remember we had the rectangular windows propped open to cool down the stuffy basement. On summer nights the city is dry and smells of sagebrush. This sharp tang floated into the basement, mixing with my Fire Red polish, creating an earth/chemical smell that AJ declared was the scent that perfectly described the 21st century, if only we could find a way to bottle it.
If I knew, sprawled on AJ’s musty orange couch, that across town Moonflower had just become thousands of dollars richer, I might have been there when she arrived home, excitement coloring her cheeks. Excitement that belied the usual stoicism of her gray eyes—that damned pietà expression of hers. I might have been there to persuade her that the money mattered to other people, mattered to me. That I could use it for all sorts of things. But this is a fantasy, an ideal fiction. Because after twenty-four years with Moonflower, I know nothing can sway the conviction of my mother.
So instead, I spent the evening on that orange couch, smoking a joint while waiting for coats of polish to dry. AJ sat facing me, in a striped beach chair with holes in it. Sometimes he’d get up and pace the basement. He’d look through his records, or at a stack of old photos in a corner. There was one photo of us as ten year-olds, we’re down by the river and he’s holding out a frog and I’m shrieking and giggling at the same time. He shows me the photo and says, “This was a moment of truth, Holly. Before the falsehoods of our adult life.” Then he begins laughing, and he can’t stop. He laughs and laughs, because the LSD has silenced the part of his brain that tells him public displays of joy are embarrassing. And I start laughing too, because I’m pretty stoned, and because seeing other people happy makes me happy.
I wanted to post the first page in honor of NaNoWriMo, that crazy November challenge to write a novel in 30 days. Delusions of Glamour was born during NaNo, and I absolutely recommend the experience to all writers. If for nothing more, than to know you can in fact write 1,667 words a day, equaling 50,000 words in a month, equaling one whole novel. It makes you move past your excuses. Your bullshit. My mess of words and ideas after the 30 days (and a few months cleaning it up), got me a manager and an agent. And then the real work began.
I also wanted to post the first page because I’m currently not working on Delusions, even though it’s finished, even though it was good enough to get representation, because I’ve changed so much as a writer and a person that I worry it’s a pile of crap, how do authors stand by their work over the course of years?, and this summer had a vision I should burn it, but I also worked so hard and so long and still really love Holly and her unconventional life that I just can’t give up on it, and last year I left a copy in Bali on a shrine with flower petals in hopes it would infuse it with spirits or something, and in my heart of hearts I want to be a traditionally published novelist, but hey self-publishing is pretty damn cool and I’m all about art-to-audience with little or no interference, but mostly I just wanted to share the first page here. And endorse NaNo. Because I do believe humans can do anything. Even write a novel in 30 days.
You might judge me for posting this. What follows is an email I wrote to Beth while applying for food stamps. It was a very low point for me, inside my mind, my heart, my wallet. I legitimately needed assistance, but my decisions alone had led me there. When I decided to leave my nice steady job doing social media for a non-profit so I could lead the “artist’s life,” (write a book, write a movie, film that movie), I wasn’t truly prepared for what I’d done to myself. Financial instability is normal in your early 20s, forgivable in your mid-20s, and bordering on pathetic in your late-20s. At any point I could cash in my college degree and get a big-kid job, but I’m stubborn. I dream big. They say “You can’t do that” I hear “Prove to us you can.” The three or four less-than-part-time jobs I juggle that cobble together a less-than-livable income means I have freedom and time. Sweet time, the essential ingredient in any creative output. For my writing, I’ve forsaken security, “success,” and at times, sanity. I doubt myself daily. “I might be in the gutter but I’m looking at the stars” is on repeat in my mind. Maybe I’m just an entitled child of the Nineties. I don’t propose an answer, I’m just offering a glimpse at my reality. Maybe I should amend the question: How far is TOO far for your art?
Hello Beth….I am writing you this from the food stamps office of Los Angeles social services, Glendale branch, where all signs are written in English, Armenian, Spanish and Cantonese. I love the diversity of L.A., that never wears off. Im sitting here eating my humble pie and feeling more amongst my peers–the down and out surviving day to day real folk of this city–than I did at the indie music fest i worked over the weekend with the faux dirty hipsters with their complicated haircuts, practiced air of indifference, overdosing on urban outfitters and drunk on smart phones.
I am so relieved something like social services exists…I came straight from a credit counseling appointment in which i was informed i can’t afford credit counseling. Ha! Irony! I am in an income drought and the bar job i killed myself over bounced both their paychecks to me. I have $40 for the next 5 days, which makes it a good week. So i do legitimately need these food stamps. But i was given every advantage a person could want in this life, a happy home, college education, my health. Does it make me an asshole to now be needing this help, or strong for facing my truth and reaching out? i can’t/won’t ask my dad for help. I can’t/won’t go on dates for dinner, because that’s just casual prostitution, trading my sparkle for filet mignon.
The most positive outcome of these last few months in the hard scrabble is I’ve come to view the entertainment industry in a new way. Those nights i would come home from the bar, depressed and exhausted, i found the only relief from my thoughts to be in watching movies. And i didn’t want complicated, artsy fartsy high-minded narratives, but to laugh and be entertained.
I look around this social services lobby and see my audience. I don’t want to make movies for privileged white kids living in fashionable disrepair, for art school graduates and their 10 friends, for snarky internet critics and their need to produce content (negativity sells).
I want to uplift and engage these souls here at social services, not because being poor is noble, but because they deserve relief from the misery that is modern life. You know me, id love to have them over to my place, make them a snack and roll them a joint, but i can’t do that (not enough parking at my apartment/too broke for weed)…but i can plot stories for them, let them live inside magical kingdoms and see the shores of foreign lands. We need to remember THAT’S the power of making films: moving images delivered to those who would otherwise never see/feel/experience what we caught on camera.
When Hollywood makes schlock, slasher flicks, super heroes, video games come to life, they’re making it for these souls. But “entertaining” doesn’t need to mean “dumbed down.” High-concept doesn’t need to be low-soul. Lets strike the balance, make stuff for the film school students AND the immigrant mom of 5 sitting next to me, wrangling her kids in 2 languages.
And lets get ourselves some vegetables at the store, because hopefully Im going to have food stamps when i walk outta here, and I’ll be dammed if i use them on processed meat, refined sugar and the other fake foods I’ve been eating for years, which has kept me contained as an American robot, another cog in the happy meal wheel.
And need to go be in nature, where nothing is rushed, and the moon waxes and wanes, because perfection is the harmony of both darkness and light.
This is my writing:
This is a photo I took:
“Death by Disco”
Los Angeles 2013, feat. Bianca
Feeling caught between my electronic daily life and the dandelion desires of my soul. I 100% want to build an online audience for my words, my movies, my me. I 100% want to stare at trees and drink the ocean, feel the moon. That’s a 200% contradiction. I love communicating, sharing, instatweetbooking my latest photo/feeling/idea. But I belong in wildflowers.
Creating “The Girl Behind the Glass” videos I shoot while inside the glass box at the Standard has been a revelation. Just me and the camera. I get to direct, edit and market myself, no middleman, just me straight to the viewer. It’s a practice in trusting my creative instincts, no second guessing myself.
But the challenge of getting the videos seen is like building a mountain one pebble at a time. But this is the norm of the 21st century performer. We’re our own muses, managers, and marketing machines. I am NOT complaining, don’t get me wrong. It’s an incredible opportunity to be emerging in the entertainment industry at this point in time, getting discovered could be as close as the nearest smartphone. But it’s overwhelming as fuck.
I don’t know why social media marketing myself and being in touch with my earthy soul feel mutually exclusive, but they do. Running off into the woods pulls my focus, and once I’m there I never want to come back. So I’ve decided to become the master of my 10’x10′ Koreatown front lawn. If that’s the nature I have in my care, than I shall be a good steward and revel in it everyday. I drink my coffee in the sun when I can, touch the velvet leaves on the bougainvillea and tell Mother Earth she’s looking damn sexy. I close my eyes and hope she’ll infuse me with life, taking in the helicopters overhead and the homeless lady rummaging through my trash, thanking them for contributing to the symphony of my life. We’re in this together after all. Balance is something worth “liking.”
My garden, my bougainvillea, my dream: