Sunday, February 22, 2009

In case of A LOVE AFFAIR

I remember the first time I watched the Academy Awards on television.

We were living in Herndon, VA, and Billy Crystal was hosting that year.  I remember his opening monologue, which included a hilarious version of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme.  I remember Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who were young faces then, accepting a screenwriting award for a little movie they’d written and directed and acted in themselves.  That was the year Celine Dion sang “My Heart Will Go On.”  That was the year Titanic won everything.  It was 1998.

And that – those precious hours, right then – that was when I fell madly in love with Oscar.

And I hadn’t even seen Titanic.

First off, though, let’s get this much on the record:  I don’t necessarily place an absolute faith in the value of the Academy Awards.  I know that sometimes the winners don’t deserve it – not as much as some of the other nominees and not as much, even, as some people who didn’t get nominated.  I know that Oscars are political symbols, politically given.  So I’m not na├»ve about that. 

And I don’t always like the “celebrity” aspect of the awards either.  I almost never watch all that red carpet stuff beforehand, when everybody analyzes each other’s clothes and jewelry and hairstyles.

But what I love, LOVE, is the heart of the matter. 

What I love is that whenever I watch the Oscars, I feel like I’m hanging out with a bunch of my old friends.  Because these people love movies.  And I LOVE MOVIES, TOO!  It’s like I finally get see the faces of people – just like me – who want to devote their lives to the silver screen.  I know why they do what they do.  I know that, deep down, we all know how beautiful and poignant movies have made our lives.  And every year that there are more, that there is new beauty and poignancy brought into the world, that year is a year worth celebrating.  CELEBRATE CREATION!

So I have now spent over a decade watching the Academy Awards on TV.  I have seen Roberto Benigni climb exultantly across the tops of the chairs at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and I have seen Adrien Brody passionately kiss Halle Berry right on the lips.  I’ve seen the creation of an award for animation, watched the Awards move permanently into the Kodak Theater, and nervously hung onto my precious Oscars as they barely survived the WGA strike.  I’ve even spotted a member of the Secret Society of Seat Sitters!

And last year I got to stand on the stage and look out across that sea of empty chairs and imagine what the theater would look like if they were full. 

And tonight I get to watch the whole production for the twelfth amazing year.  So Happy Anniversary, Oscar!  I hope we stay together for twelve more years. 

Heck.  I hope we stay together forever. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

In case of GROUP THERAPY

Hi, I’m Tricia.  And I’m a wedding addict.

(mumble mumble)

Hi, Tricia.

It has been…four minutes since my last geek out. 

(weak applause)

For most of my life, I didn’t care about weddings.  They were always the same awful things:  stuffy, boring, cheesy.  They were copies of copies of copies.  Tradition.  Formality.  They required uncomfortable clothes and uncomfortable conversations with distant relatives.

But then, in September, my sister got engaged.  And she started to plan.  That’s when I geeked out for the first time.  She sent me this link: www.stylemepretty.com.  And she told me that she was thinking of getting married in a barn.  A barn!  Good grief that’s cute, I thought.  So I clicked on the link and I saw that weddings could be beautiful.  Tradition?  Formality?  No.  Weddings could be classy.  Weddings could be THE GREATEST THING EVER.

Since then I’ve been geeking out every day.  My sister created this wedding blog of her own (http://writtenbliss.blogspot.com).  And now I pretty much live there.  She’s got all these pictures of up the adorable little brown paper envelopes she’s going to send her invitations in, and some really wonderful stories about guestbook conversations, and two perfectly GORGEOUS inspiration boards. 

Plus, I’m totally IN this wedding.  It’s not even that I’m going.  I’m the freaking MAID OF HONOR.  Which means that I get to stand there next to my beautiful sister in her good-grief-that’s-cute barn and hold a bouquet and everything.  And everybody – but everybody – we know and love is going to be there.  And since I realized that?  I’ve started geeking out at least once an hour.

I’m kind of ashamed to admit it.  But I can’t help it!  She designed this whole incredible monogram for the invitations and she bought this dress and now she’s sending me links with more amazing wedding blogs, like www.eluckyme.com and www.weddingbee.com, plus a whole host of other links for photography and cakes and decorations.  So what am I supposed to do? I’m wedding obsessed!  It’s all I want to talk about weddings to everyone!  All the time!

And the worst part?  I don’t even want to quit.  At all.

(shocked murmurs)

That’s right.  I’m not going to quit.

I've gotta go geek out.

Excuse me.  (leaves the podium)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In case of MENTAL VACATIONS

Here are two of my favorite places.  The first place is one I’ve always known and loved.  It’s called – and why not – TriciaLand.

TriciaLand is full of Ferris wheels and carousels and sheep.  I’m not sure why there are sheep, but there are.  There are SO MANY sheep. 

TriciaLand is outdoors, obviously.  The terrain is lush and hilly.  It’s always daytime and always summer.  If I had to place TriciaLand in the physical world, I’d say that it’s in Ohio.  It’s sparkly, full of bright colors, and things going in circles.  The Ferris wheels and carousels have discovered somehow the secret of perpetual motion.  If they play music, they all play the same song.  And if you want to ride on one, you have to jump onto it with a flying leap.  Same thing getting off.

The sheep are friendly.  They’re wonderful companions and they’re never annoying.  They’re not cartoon sheep, though.  They don’t talk.  They don’t make expressions.  They’re real, honest-to-goodness, farm-style sheep.  And, again, there are SO MANY.  And, again, I’m not sure why.  But I like them.

Meanwhile, half a world away, there’s another cool place.  I just discovered it last night.  It’s called Michaelville. 

Michaelville, as suggested by the name, is considerably less outdoorsy than TriciaLand.  Michaelville is a room – sort of a hang out – with cool chairs everywhere.  Prominently featured is a large, glass display case, which is subdivided into compartments of various sizes.  In one compartment rests the perfect pair of headphones.  In another, the perfect umbrella.  Other compartments feature photographs of important people.  (And, yes, there’s one of me!) 

In Michaelville, there’s an iPod that always plays The Beatles.  There’s a TV that alternatively shows The Muppets and Mr. Bean.  There’s also an open window through which a cool breeze blows.

But most of all, it’s full of Michaels.  Michaels of all shapes and sizes!  Michael Jordan hangs out there.  Michael Douglas.  Michael W. Smith.  Michael Mouse (better known to his friends as Mickey).  And of course, my favorite of all these men, Michael Pickering.  And what do these Michaels do, you ask?  Naturally, they hang out together, talk, laugh, and eat tomato and cheese sandwiches.

And, until very recently, these two places have been very far apart.  But if you were to visit TriciaLand today, you might hear all the carousels and Ferris wheels playing the same song: “All My Lovin'” by The Beatles.

And if you went to Michaelville right now…chances are you’d bump into a sheep.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

In case of OLD TRUNKS

When Bobby and I broke up, I took back Disneyland.

Disneyland was our thing – one of our many things.  And, of course, you know what I mean.  Couples (relationships of all types, really) collect distinguishing marks and memories.  A date here, a movie there, a song.  You keep and horde these things, set them on the shelves of your heart, and revisit them with sacred awe.  You polish them.  You listen to them.  You pull them out and drink of them together.  You keep them, like trophies, on the mantle. 

But when relationships go wrong, you trash them.

These things – restaurants you ate in, music you love, quirks and passions held dear – they’re suddenly ugly.  And those things not made ugly are, at the very least, painful.  And so you kill them, smash them up.  At the very least…you put them away.

But when Bobby and I broke up, I took back Disneyland.

He couldn’t have it.  It was too much fun!  It was too precious.  No!

So I embarked on a wild fling and took the New Boy there with me.  We stood in lines with our arms around each other and had our photo taken on the Mark Twain.  We kissed on rides.  I wrenched Disneyland, which was fast sinking into the quicksand of my breakup, back up into a safe place in my heart. 

But there are things in this world that are lost and gone.  Probably forever.  I couldn’t save them.  Or I didn’t want to save them.  Natalie Cole.  The Nightmare Before Christmas.  That little Italian restaurant in Pasadena.  The rock of Gibralter.  Glass.  Red tide.  (These are my memorials.)

And last night, I went back and listened to Michael Buble.  And I realized that his music, too, is gone from me.  I love Michael Buble!  But I don’t have anything else to tie that music to.  So it’s gone.

But.  Okay.   

Here’s the good part.

There are infinite number of things in the world.

There are always more songs, more places to go, more discoveries to make.  There are new memories in store.  There are new things that we can call ours.  Ours! 

And I don’t forget the old things…I just put them away.  It’s like cleaning out the trunks of your childhood.  You have to move all your old toys and books to make way for your new clothes.  Your new books.  All the NEWNESS that life wants to hand you.  Fill up the shelves of your heart again!  Put new golden memories upon your mantle!

And even if you have to, at some point, again throw the new things out and again put the new things away…there will be newness.  NEW newness! There will be new things even then.

As Oggy always says,  “This is how it goes.  We are human.  If we were robots it would be different, but not as nice.”

Life.  Newness.  This is how it goes.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In case of MARMEE

I like to fight.

When I see some injustice, some wrong in the world, I want to fix it.  I want to make the people who did it PAY.  I want to crush the offenders utterly – by verbally steamrolling them, psychologically tormenting them, or physically beaming them with my American Lit. book.

In my life, I have actually said these words:  “I will never forgive him for that.”

And I’ve meant it. 

The problem is that I DON’T correct injustices.  I often can’t.  And so these things, these (perceived) wrongs, build up inside of me.  They eat at me like acid.  And the perpetrators grow large in my mind, they become monsters, and I will carry a sword against them forever. 

I will never – NEVER – forgive him for that.

There’s this scene in Little Women.  Amy (Kirsten Dunst) comes home from school one day with her hand bruised.  Her teacher has struck her for some petty misbehavior.  Her mother, Marmee (Susan Sarandon), is furious.  Marmee writes a vicious letter to Amy’s teacher that goes something like this:

“Mr. Davis – If you hit and humiliate a child, the only lesson she will learn is to hit and humiliate.”

Meanwhile, Amy’s sister Jo (Winona Ryder) wants to “beat the tar out of Mr. Davis.”

Marmee sharply reprimands her, “Jo!  We must not embrace violence.”

This, by the way, is a scene that unfolds with fair regularity in our apartment between Beth and I.

Because, apparently, we must not embrace violence.  That drives me wild, but I think it’s fundamentally true.  I think Jesus thought so.  So I kinda have to think so.  Even though watching Fight Club totally turns me on. 

I am not a pacifist.  Maybe someday I will be.  But there must be a way to do this, to not lie down and take things, to not violently rise up against things with anger and wrath, but to take the middle road of reason and faith.  Yes, there are things that cannot – should not – be endured.  But our response must be a better one.  Must be more mature.  Must be born out of a desire to actually fix things.  We cannot simply set about bashing perpetrators to correct their wrong-DOING.  We must set about correcting their wrong-THINKING. 

Later in the movie, Jo sits awake, writing a story.  Her sister Beth (Claire Danes) wants to know what will happen next.  Jo smiles sadly.

“I don’t know.  It’s all madness and gore.  Damsels in distress…

Oh, Beth, truly.  I don’t know if I could ever be good, like Marmee.  I rather crave violence.  I wish I could be like Father and go to war.  And stand up against the lions of injustice.”

Beth lays her head on Jo’s arm.  “And so Marmee does in her own way.”


And so here, in the quiet of this moment, I’m sorry.

To anyone out there I’ve fought.  That I’ve hated.  That I've privately, in the depths of my imagintion, beamed with my American Lit. book.  Tomorrow I’ll want to stand up and fight the lions of injustice again.  But tonight?  I just don’t.  Tonight I’m too tired to fight anymore.  Tonight I want to write a thousand letters to the Mr. Davises of the world.

Tonight I want to forgive.  

I want to forgive.


Monday, February 2, 2009

In case of STARS

On January 19, I interviewed for a job at a commercial photography studio here in Monrovia.  

The position?  Marketing and Operations Coordinator.  

And what is that, you ask?  Well, it’s a real person’s job.  It’s half marketing and half running the studio on a day-to-day basis.  It’s something that involves business cards and travel and interactions with other real people.  In short, it’s a job for which I wasn’t remotely qualified.  I couldn’t imagine why they’d called me in for it and I didn’t feel like I interviewed very well.  But, surprisingly, they called me in for a second interview that Friday.

On January 26, they offered me the job.  I took it.

And I’ve been running to catch up ever since. 

Full-time work means that I can pay my bills.  It means food in the cupboard, savings in the bank, student loans dwindling month by month.  It means that I can settle into a routine, work during the day, come home, and write on my screenplay, industriously pursuing what I really want to be.  It means that I can put “Marketing and Operations Coordinator” on my resume and go from here anywhere that I want. 

And if that were all, it would be more than enough.

But, in this case, it also means that I can walk to work.  It means that I have the freedom to do my job independently, listening to music, without a hard ass boss breathing down my neck.  It means that I can take long lunches in the sunshine as long as I get my work done.  It means measurable progress, feeling fulfilled as I watch the company grow, and strategizing for myself a plan to make it grow even further.  It means that I get to spend my time with a crazy Bulgarian, a wonderful man that makes me laugh, a man that is thrilled to let me take vacations.

It means I get to go to Australia to see Michael.

Oh, life! 

And it’s not perfect; nothing is perfect.  Some days will be hard and I’ll come home tired or unhappy or both.  And this job won’t make me rich. 

But it will sustain me.  It’s a gift from God, after EIGHT INTERMINABLE MONTHS of silence, of scrambling around in the dark without coins enough even to buy a cup of coffee.  I feel stunned and smitten by this new chapter in my book.  I don’t – can’t – understand God’s overflowing blessings, the immeasurable grace that has followed me so long.

When I wake up now in the mornings, I have somewhere to go.  I have something to do.  I have someone to be.

God help me, I’m seeing stars.