Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Year of Truthiness (As I See It)...

I am drafting a document-- still to be determined in length-- that can act as my abbreviated memoirs. It is full of tidbits you may have already heard, as I often take anecdotes and pepper other articles with them. However, I just want to warn you now that I might feel the need to share parts of it here with you (consider it a sneak peak). I do have a tendency to ramble when I talk about myself, and I apologize now if what’s forthcoming is not interesting at all to you. A part of me just feels I should put it all out there, in the unending universe that is cyberspace, to move on from it; I tend to dwell and keep things bottled up to an unhealthy point. Sometimes just exhaling can remove some of those toxins. So expect a lot of more personal entries… at least in the beginning of the New Year. Of course, I still plan to write my usual pop culture ramblings about whatever story might touch a nerve at any given time, so don’t tune out just because you might not care about my own life :)

And to prove to you that I haven't given up on the lighter stuff, please view the most genius round-up I've seen in a long time:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

All Pinocchio Needs Is A Little Rhinoplasty...

My heartbeat felt like a baby was deep inside my chest, pounding with premature fists to let it out. My lungs, then, were the baby’s lungs: shrunken, shriveled, wheezing desperately, as they pushed to expand. My ears and cheeks burned, pulsing with swollen fire. My eyes were just as red, streaked, and sore. My light-brown hair was chin-length and stuck to my cheeks and neck, matted down with slimy tears.

I stood over the sink in bare feet, the cool tile almost hissing with the steam radiating from my body. The mirror was right in front of my face, but I couldn’t bring myself to raise my eyes—to gaze at my own reflection. I know now that I never would have recognized myself if I had.

The old pipes seemed to scream as they spit out gobs of water into the sink. My hands shook slightly. My right knee started to buckle. I let out a long gush of air as I fell forward, bracing myself on the ledge of the sink. I pressed my hips into the ledge to hold me up. My mind forced my body to do things I didn’t know I could.

It felt like I floated over my body for a brief moment. I could hear sniffles, mixed with an occasional keen, as I choked on my own saliva, but it was distant. I stopped feeling the sting of the salty water stream out from my eyes. I forgot about the cool silver feeling in between my pointer and middle finger of my right hand. Then all at once, I looked down at my palms and reentered my body.

I turned the small art-razor over in my hand. The edge caught a fraction of light, shooting a white line into my eye. I took a deep breath. My senses seemed heightened. Again I thought of a baby-- one I would deny even the dream of existence by taking this action.

I slowly inched the razor closer to my left hand. I closed my eyes. A red line shot through the darkness behind my eyelids as I felt the contact. Reflexively, my fingers uncurled, leaving nail marks in my palm, and I heard the clatter as the razor fell into the sink. My eyes banged open. The water still poured. For a moment in my mind, I saw red dissipating-- swirling with the clear liquid, snaking its way down the drain and into oblivion—pink, but in reality there was none.

Obviously I missed.

Okay, none of that actually happened, but it was a story I told to win a couple of hundred dollars toward a college scholarship in high school. In fact, I told a lot of lies growing up just to get ahead. I was a pretty deceptive kid, and I think it all started because in elementary school all of my friends’ mothers were helping them with their schoolwork, and my own parents had me do it all on my own. They claim they wanted me to really learn, but I think they just didn’t want to be bothered. It always felt like my friends and I were in deep competition with each other to get the highest grades, the most stickers on the progress chart, and to be the head of the class. There were times when I felt I didn’t match up, even though I, too, was getting 99% on all of the standardized reading and math tests.

So, this morning when I heard about the little girl in Texas who wrote an essay saying her dad died in Iraq this year just to win Hannah Montana concert tickets, I had quite a few choice words floating through my head. She is six years old, and presumably in first grade, and that's a pretty heavy-handed topic for such a young'un! Part of me couldn't help but wonder if her mother wrote the essay for her, just like all of those circa mid-nineties P.S.185 mothers! After all, there's no way a six year old could be deceptive enough to realize that biggest sob story will win those coveted tickets and use that to her advantage... is there?

Well, starting in second grade, on the occasion I would receive a less-than-favorable grade (and that occurred more and more as the years went on), I would often doctor my tests to make it look like I had erased the wrong answer I had actually circled, but I just didn’t do a good enough job of it so the teacher must have made a mistake and thought that was the answer I was actually choosing (which it was, but which I was now claiming it wasn’t). Simple, right? I don’t know whether or not my teachers bought it, because they usually raised an eyebrow at me, but they never called me out on it.

Natch., that little girl won those tickets, much to the envy and anger of all of her pigtail-sporting, toothless, pink sneaker-wearing friends, I'm sure. This time, however, someone is calling her on it, and that someone is TMZ. They have reported that the essay she wrote was fictional. When asked about it, the mother stressed that the contest didn't say it had to be a true story, and that she and her daughter write essays for school all of the time, but now the news media is saying she might have to return those tickets. So now my question is this: does that mean I have to return my diplomas?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Year Without Christmas?...

For many families this holiday season, the pile of presents under the tree will be smaller than in years past. This is partially due to the high gas prices, partially because the stock market has been plummeting, and partially because (especially if you live in Southern California), the economy of this country is very dependent on the film and television industry. If you are a child of a striking writer or any Below The Line crew member who has been temporarily laid-off during this tumultuous time, you may think Santa and his elves, too, went on strike. That is why I present you with this little clip; if you can ignore his shameless self-promotion, nepotism, and the subtle advocation of utilizing non-union writers to generate new material just to get some people back to work, then you may find this funny:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ah, To Be Young Again...

So Britney Spears’ little sister is pregnant, and what can you say? I guess I should rethink all of those “at least the little one’s normal” comments I have made in the past, though then again, teenage pregnancy is much more common nowadays than the average person might realize. So, whatever. I mean, I'd say I'm surprised, but I'm really not. For one thing "you can take the girl out of the trailer park..." and all that, and for another, teenage pregnancy is much more common nowadays than the average person might realize. The only thing surprising in this case is the way in which Jamie Lynn is handling the news. Before I get to that, though, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the rag that is TMZ has already put up a poll asking “Who’s Fault Is It?” with the leader coming out the parents, Jamie Lynn following closely behind, and Britney herself trailing distantly with about only ten percent. I personally voted for Jamie Lynn because it was she, and only she, who got into bed with her nineteen-year-old boyfriend, whether or not they thought ahead enough to try to be safe. Just like how you can't punish the child for the sins of the parent, it needs to work the other way around as well.

Lynne is not blind; she knows if teenagers want to have sex or do drugs or drink or whatever, they will find a way to. Yes, she allows her sixteen-year-old to live with her boyfriend, but by giving Jamie Lynn her blessing to be with this guy (even if it may be illegal), she is reducing the risk of her sneaking around in shady places. It's like that metaphor with the the scoop of sand: if you squeeze too tightly, it leaks out through your fingers; you have to cup it in your palm loosely. Maybe in some ways she was trying to be more "breezy" with Jamie Lynn because the suppression of Britney clearly backfired (remember, when Britney was sixteen, she had somehow been coerced by her record label into playing the 'chaste' pop star and claiming to be a True Love Waits member when that was clearly a very painful lie for her).

Ironically, Lynne was working on a book about parenting for a Christian publisher, and once the story leaked, her deal got "delayed." It's not surprising; she is a Southern Christian woman, and they take their morality very seriously. Their own kids may have babies on their hips when they still have braces in their mouths, and they may never turn in their meth-brewing neighbors or mind hosting the Klan for a nice Sunday barbecue, but for some reason those Bible thumpers still get up in arms whenever someone they plaster on their wall or watch on television gets "in trouble." Nickelodeon, for their credit, though hasn't completely flipped out (at least not at the time of this printing). While there's no word on the status of Zoey 101's future, that is partially due to the strike and is not entirely dependent upon the amount of Jamie Lynn's weight gain. I actually like her show; it’s much more interesting (not to mention far less hokey) than the crap they put on the Disney Channel, and if the uber-Republican Walt Disney Company can look past Vanessa Hudgens’ discretions to see the dollar signs they’ll continue to make from her if they keep her around, I have to figure the more liberal Nick would do the same.

Of course, there is already backlash for the way in which Jamie Lynn decided to announce her pregnancy: by giving a six-page exclusive to OK! magazine, but even in that, I feel they took the right approach. The story was going to come out to the media one way or another-- back in July the National Enquirer was already speculating of such a thing when they got wind of the teen star's living situation-- and at least this way, she got to say what she wanted. She did it on her own terms, when she was ready, without a "bump watch" making the announcement completely unnecessary (ahem, J.Lo!). Jamie Lynn also told her friends and family first and presumably went to them for guidance with how to handle the situation. It's nice to see she could be so open, honest, and unafraid, something which in part goes back to what I was saying the other day. Most teen pregnancies don't become "a problem" because the girls "take care of" the situation on their own. Now, I'm not advocating one or the other, mind you; I believe babies are blessings but not everyone does, and if a woman falls into the latter group, she needs to have options. And sure, Jamie Lynn did profit from selling her story to OK!, but why not? They certainly get enough out of her family just going to a gas station, and she'll need the money for diapers!

While a baby at sixteen is certainly not an ideal situation, I have to give Jamie Lynn a lot of credit for the mature way in which she is handling herself now. I only hope she doesn't just pawn the kid off on Mama Spears or a bunch of nannies or something and can be an example to other young girls: you learn from your experiences and even your mistakes. You grow from them; you make the best out of them; you become a better person. She is not the first (or even the youngest), nor will she be the last, Teen Mom, but because she's in the public eye, she will be made an example of. Let's just hope it's a success story, unlike that of her big sister.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Again, I Love Indie Films...

I don't care what you may say, Wisegirls was solid, and I'm excited for this.
Coming Winter 2008

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Let's Talk About...

I wasn’t the little girl who spent hours talking to her mother about everything from grades to boys to fights with friends. It was quite the opposite, really: it always felt like my mother was nagging to know the intimate details of my life. Perhaps that’s because by the time I got older enough to actually have a life, too many years of her defecting to me anytime a serious conversation came up had already taken place. When I was in first grade, and a girl in my class brought in one of those “Where Do Babies Come From?” books that featured nude cartoons (which by the way I thought too-closely resembled by own aunt and uncle), my mother bought the same book and attempted to give me “the talk.” I was six, and she shut the door in her bedroom and made me sit with her while she read a book I had already seen when all I wanted to do was watch Tiny Toons. I don’t really remember her trying to explain anything as she read, I just remember getting really bored and uncomfortable and finally telling her I had to pee and then storming out of the room and never going back in. She didn’t press the issue then, and she never brought it up again, even when she probably should have. She gave in.

Needless to say, I don’t know much about my mother, and she doesn’t know much about me. Watching the latest episode of The Real World: Sydney, which dealt with a sort-of-kind-of-but-really-we're-just-jumping-the-gun pregnancy scare, I was amazed at how much information these kids were willing to share with their families. They weren't graphic, and they didn't give all of the intimate details, but it's way more than I would feel comfortable telling my family about, and therefore, I give them a lot of credit and respect. Part of me always wanted that kind of open, close relationship; it's why I so admired Lorelai Gilmore...

Friday, December 14, 2007

L.A. Has Gotten Weird...

Some people say L.A. is full of fakeness and therefore has no character, but I think if you really look for them, L.A. has some of the quirkiest characters you’ll ever find.

Aaron Carter has moved in upstairs. Well, okay, he’s not really Aaron Carter, but he sure looks like him. He has the soft blond chin pubes of the younger Carter; he has the acne-ridden cheeks of the younger Carter; he even has the slightly-falsetto-but-trying-to-be-thuggish voice of… well, of both famous Carters actually. I don’t know if he lives in the two-bedroom loft by himself, with a roommate, or with his mom (my guess is the latter). Actually, I’m not even entirely sure he lives there at all; I’ve only seen him twice thus far, so there’s a big possibility he has just been visiting a friend. Both times he was escorting a girl (though I’m also not certain it was the same girl) and talking about the work they’re doing on the patios, so it sounded like he lives here, though... and it would explain the KIIS-friendly pop music I heard coming from that apartment on the last few Saturday mornings…

Also, let me share with you something I saw on Beverly Blvd the other day... You know how when people buy their Christmas trees they tie them to the roofs of their cars in order to transport them home? Well, I don’t think that’s what this woman was doing; I think this is a seasonal decoration with which she outfits her minivan for exactly eight days every December. I tried to get as clear a picture as I could, but we were going 30mph, and my windshield was dirty. I was also laughing too hard to hold my iPhone steady. Sadly, I don’t think this photo accurately captures the Happy Chanukah message the woman was trying to convey…
P.S. The menorah actually said Happy Chanukah on the base.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tackiest Headline Ever...

From the tabloid that is the NY Post:
Get it? 'Cause he died first. Isn't that witty?

I don't really have anything else to say about Ike's passing because unfortunately I think this headline says it all. He may have been a rock and roll legend (part of the genius behind "Proud Mary"), but much like current music stars, he is much more easily recognized for his personal troubles. He hasn't created good music for years, and though I'm usually always sad when someone loses their life prematurely, I just can't muster up any sympathy in this case.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Merry Mariah Christmas...

I was raised in a predominately Italian Catholic neighborhood by a Jewish mother and an Italian Catholic father; yes folks, I am a pizza bagel. Early on in my life, my parents heard a lot of arguments from either side of the family explaining why I should be raised “their way,” and they just ended up deciding not to raise me in a Church or a Temple at all (I was never baptized, never took Communion, never had a Bat Mitzvah, and yes, folks, I missed out on a lot of presents and parties!). Instead they decided that when I got old enough I could choose the religion I wanted to be… but the only formal training I had in either were the commercial aspects of the holiday. We did the whole lighting of the candles and decorating of the tree, though after placing the Menorah too close on the windowsill to the tree and almost setting the apartment on fire one year, we did switch to electric. Classy, right? To this day, though, I still get giddy inside whenever I hear the bubblegum pop that has become Christmas music-- most notably Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (which I downloaded as a ringtone a few weeks ago and have been playing on my iPhone ever since!). For me, hearing that song officially marks the start of the season, and the day after Thanksgiving I tune my iPod to my Christmas playlist and let it run on a loop until New Years. By the way, if this is sounding redundant, just keep reading because I guarantee what I am about to add is something only I would do…
Through the years, I have determined (for a number of reasons I don’t feel like getting into now) that I am a Christian, though I still don’t go to Church, and I do prefer the “American” aspects of the holidays. Every year I take one of the old stockings from my childhood (usually the green plaid one with the embroidered cartoon Santa on it, though this year I designated that one to Madison) and fill it with presents to myself. I don’t usually have a theme for what I buy myself-- just that everything in the stocking is something other than the DVDs on my Amazon.com Wishlist (because let’s face it, that’s boring). This year, however, ironically or not, the few gifts I got myself were all Mariah Carey related. First there is the Adventures of Mimi DVD I pre-ordered from Best Buy, which of course I popped in right away to see if I could see myself in the audience, as it was the October Anaheim performance I attended that was taped, and my seat was next to one of the camera operators. In case you’re wondering, I couldn’t find myself in the crowd of thousands-- though of course Jai Rodriguez got featured-- but I did have a blast reliving one of the best nights.

I also finally found “I Feel It,” a rare B-Side off “The Emancipation of Mimi” album this past week. I was hoping to add her new album to the stocking, too, but the release date has been pushed to February 2008. But if I can find the rest of the 22 songs she ends up cutting between now and then as easily as I found this mp3, it’ll be worth the wait. Of course, there’s the M gift package I mentioned previously, too…

Finally, and most awesomely, I bought a replica of Mariah’s platinum and diamond butterfly ring. I’ve been looking for one for a while now, after finding the original for $24,000 on Rodeo Drive. Someone who drives a five year-old Honda with a dent in the door can’t afford that… although that kind of expense would explain why I’m still driving a five year-old Honda with a dent in the door… but I do plan to buy hers at auction the way she bought Marilyn Monroe’s old piano (someday)! She wears it at every concert, on every talk show, and at every personal appearance (and most of the time when the paps catch her going to lunch or in or out of a hotel, too). Sure, mine isn’t platinum or diamonds: it’s silver and CZ. And it’s not as pretty as the Van Cleef, with its wings being smaller and symmetrical, but considering it was under $100, I’d say I’ve already had a pretty successful holiday season, and we’re only one week into December!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No, You Don't Know What ANYONE Likes...

I just got home from a test screening of the still-unfinished (no color correction, balanced music cues, or credits) I Know What Boys Like, which up until now has just been called The Untitled Anna Faris Project. The film is a Happy Madison production, so I admit I went in with slightly higher expectations than I should have for a film by Fred Wolf, whose first directorial debut has been delayed almost a year from when it should have been released. That should have been a red flag right there that his auteurship is less than, but I will be honest and tell you that I did laugh. A lot, actually. Upon reflection, however, I feel I was laughing more at the film and all of its stereotypical characters than with it.

I Know What Boys Like feels like it is written, directed, and produced by men for men. However, a quick trip to IMDb shows that actually two accomplished women are given credit for the script, one of which also penned Legally Blonde, which really shouldn't have been such a surprise, given some of the parallels to that much more clever comedy. Even if you put aside the midriff-baring wardrobe and the suggestive car wash scene, I Know What Boys Like still boasts camera work that lingers at navel (or in most cases, tailbone) level, often panning off one girl's body onto the actual scene. It is very stagey in that sense-- from the mindless playing with scarves at the new American Apparel on Hollywood Boulevard clip (when you shoot in real locations in L.A., people are going to be able to tell exactly where you are!) to how Mona (Kat Demmings) ends her Aztec party speech immediately as the camera brings her face into frame... regardless of the fact she hadn't been saying anything at all as it dollied over to her.

Just as Accepted seemed to be a grown-up Camp Nowhere, so is I Know What Boys Like an adult version of Troop Beverly Hills: a materialistic misfit takes on a group of equally outcasted young girls to teach them about the wilderness of life... or at least boys and parties. Anna Faris is really good at playing "blonde," and she does it here again in the character of Shelly, a Playboy bunny who moves into a near-extinction sorority house-- although I admit I was initially put-off because no one resembles Britney Spears more than Faris in the majority of this film. She has a lot of obvious one-liners that grant chuckles, but the story could have used a major overhaul as none of the characters are developed, and a few are completely unnecessary (when Lily isn't in a scene, you don't even notice). The Script Doctor skills of one Tina Fey could have easily fixed this... though unfortunately if they did that, they'd end up with Mean Girls: The College Years. In fact, a good chunk of I Know What Boys Like feels ripped directly from the imagery of Mean Girls, right down to the aftermath of the makeover scene (which by the way comes completely out of the blue; I mean, these girls are so strong and so comfortable with themselves, yet they don't even protest a little when Shelly wants to turn them all into mini-skirt wearing princesses. No; they even paint their porch pink themselves!). When the makeover is complete, the girls of the sorority saunter through the quad-- not unlike how the Plastics stormed the hallway at North Shore, dressed exactly alike. These girls look ridiculous in their overly accessorized tight tank tops and with their overly-bleached hair. Mona might be the worst one, trading a short black jagged cut (not unlike Lizzy Caplan's Janis) and some facial piercings for black and peroxide...straw and the brightest red lips I have ever seen. Joanne (Rumer Willis)'s makeover even leaves her with the pink sweaters and blonde waves under a knit cap of Lindsay Lohan in an L.A. winter. Finally, when Shelly stands up in front of the sororities, fraternities, and the Dean and delivers her speech about true friendship, it feels like a drawn out version of "Share the crown" from Spring Fling.

These girls don't seem to think they look ridiculous at all, and that is just one example of how they are not characters but caricatures-- from rival sorority leader Ashley (Sarah Wright), the perky blonde who wears polo shirts, to the ultra butch Amazon girl who tries to hit on guys by asking where the bathroom is. The one fresh breath of air is Natalie (Emma Stone) who is intelligent but slightly awkward in that "I mean well, but I'm nervous" sort-of way. It's cute and refreshingly relatable. Oliver (Colin Hanks) might be halfway real, too, but he's not in the film enough to really know that for sure. In fact, the whole B-plot romance between him and Shelly feels like an afterthought and is therefore forced and unnecessary. Now, I know you have to let certain things slide in this genre, but after seeing so many similar comedies successfully be funny and tell a sweet and sentimental story, I Know What Boys Like cannot be forgiven for lacking the genuine moments of growth it needed in order for the script just to work. In a film like this, where you know exactly what is going to happen and what the message is supposed to be, what makes it unique is that journey from vapidity to well-roundedness. There was so much going on in I Know What Boys Like, something had to get lost in the shuffle, and unfortunately it was the self-awareness of the characters. There is no progression for any of them; problems hit them out of the blue and get resolved in the next breath. The moment when the sorority girls finally become the “mean girls,” so to speak, there is an angry outburst from one of them but no revelation on any of their faces of how this change occurred or why or what it all means. Suddenly the film just pushes the plot along, hoping no one will notice or care that there was no real clarity in the brief confrontation.

Though the film is not yet rated, it should be PG-13. They only say "fuck" a couple of times in the film; when the girls go out to a bar, whether they're freshmen or not, they make it a point to say they are drinking Virgin whatever cocktail it is; there is no on-screen sex (though there are references to it), drinking, or drugs. It is a watered-down version of what college (especially Greek life) is really like.

I Know What Boys Like tries to do way too much; it tries to be a romantic comedy and a female Old School all at the same time. It glorifies the stereotypical images of female beauty and then preaches that we need to love each other for who they are inside... even though the girls all keep a version of their new styles, ultimately hypocritically proving that conformism is okay in doses. It's "Girl Power" message is half-assed-- almost as if Wolf is taunting the audience by saying "You don't think I really buy into this "women are more than objects" crap, do you?" Just like the soundtrack, the film itself could benefit ten-fold by offering less Avril (attitude) and more P!nk... but it still would come up short.
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By the way, I don't know if I'm breaking any kind of rules by posting this here and now. The film is set to hit theaters this summer, and there's a good chance it will be re-edited before that happens. I didn't have to sign anything in the screening saying I wouldn't write about it, and the woman who ran the focus group at the end seemed to want word of mouth for this film, so that's why I'm doing this. If this suddenly goes missing, know it's because I got a Cease and Desist letter :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

My S.S.B...

For the past few weeks, I have habitually gone through all of my Sex and the City DVDs, re-watching all seven seasons in order (hey HBO, just because you say you’re splitting a season in half, when you release the DVDs in two separate sets, they become two separate seasons; I don’t care if they have Part One and Part Two written on them!), trying to see just what is was about the portrayal of New York that made people want to move there. The reasoning behind my day-long screenings was three-fold: 1) For the nostalgia of it all; 2) Because I’m officially trying to make it as a full-time writer and quite frankly didn’t have anything else to do; and 3) Because I just never understood the appeal of the “fifth girlfriend” and wanted to see it in a new light. Like all good single women of a certain age, I first came to Sex and the City (albeit a bit late) for the portrayal of the girls and their friendship and their respective dating experiences because it was something with which we could laugh, cry, and most importantly, relate. Years later, I came back to recapture those feelings as I spend the majority of my days alone with a puppy. Is it purely coincidental that in these same past weeks Sarah Jessica Parker appeared on Project Runway and the trailer for the movie version has begun circulating-- exciting that collective “we” once again?

Now, being the good ‘single girl in a city’ that I am (even if it isn’t the city anymore), I eagerly ate up all of the paparazzi shots and few official production stills the web had to offer of my favorite gal pals—from the pregnancy-pad-sporting Charlotte (Kristin Davis), which they tell us is just part of a dream sequence, to Project Runway contestant Jack Mackenroth’s cameo. Naturally the news of a trailer circulating should have been enough to give me a tiny orgasm. Unfortunately, though, it falls short. For one thing, the “trailer” is really just a teaser, as it mostly features SJP twirling around in a giant white (wedding) dress-- something the media has been saying for months is just part of another dream sequence. In a way I hope that’s a fake-out to avoid leaking spoilers because the show’s whole appeal was that the girls felt so real (even when exaggerated); they were grounded in who they were and embraced their (and each other’s) flaws. The idea of suddenly having them delving into this wondrous fantasy land makes me sick and is something only the bastardization of the Hollywood studio system would do.

We won’t have those answers until the movie hits theaters this May-- or at least until a proper trailer is released-- but in the meantime, the barrage of imagery (both old and new) has made me take a good, hard look at my own life once again. Almost ten years ago, these four fun, fearless women erased “spinster” from our collective culture, as they showed even the most old-fashioned in middle America that being single can be a gift, not a curse. In Episode 4.13 entitled “The Good Fight,” the girls sit around their usual brunch table and discuss their Secret Single Behavior (or S.S.B., if you will) that they feel they have to hide from their boyfriends but feel perfectly comfortable sharing with their best girlfriends. By hearing (and later seeing) Miranda’s weird moisturizing glove ritual, for example, women all over the country let out a collective sigh of relief and began to smile about their own seemingly odd rituals for when no one’s watching.

Or at least I did. So just like the SATC girls, let me exhale all of my quirks:
1) I take a swig of orange juice straight out of the container every morning when I first wake up and then sit for two hour on the couch, checking email, going on MySpace, and watching Good Day LA and talking back to my girls Dorothy and Jill.
2) More often than not, I end up writing in the shower-- these blogs or bits of more “creative writing,” like dialogue for scripts or pieces of my upcoming novels-- and then scramble out of the tub, dressed in a towel, to stand and drip over my laptop keyboard as I frantically try to type the exact phrasing I came up with in my head.
3) Whenever I order pizza, I eat a cold slice for breakfast the next morning.
4) When I’m cold in my apartment at night I take a scalding bubble bath and read Entertainment Weekly or watch episodes of Gilmore Girls or (coincidentally) SATC while in the tub.
5) I spend one day every two weeks or so in my bathrobe, drinking cups of hot chocolate, watching marathons of reality shows I’ve already seen before on Bravo.

If I really sat here for another twenty minutes, I could fill a few more pages, I’m sure, but hopefully this little chunk of my candidness makes you feel better about your own oddities :) And I encourage you all to write one of your Secret Single Behavior activities in the comment section below; I have a feeling we'll begin to see that our habits are not nearly as embarrassing or strange as we make them out to be when we analyze them to death in the silence of our own apartments.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Remembering Why I Love Indie Films...

By definition, an “independent film” is one that was created and produced independently of the studio system. The project’s raw artistic appeal often draws in big name celebrities as stars, endorsers, and fans, and in more recent years has caused equally big name distribution companies to open their wallets and put it on screens for thousands, if not millions, to see. Because the film was produced solely under the eyes of only it’s writers, producers, and directors (who, at that level, are often the same person), it says exactly what they want it to without interruption from a studio that is only concerned about big box office. It can speak to the audience without “dumbing down” and on a relatable level because the characters are quirky, flawed, and often struggling-- just like real people. Independent films are not all about blowing shit up just for the sake of blowing shit up; there are deep stories there, and a few days ago I had the privilege of catching an advanced screening of one such film: Ten Inch Hero. Written by Betsy Morris and Directed by David MacKay, Ten Inch Hero follows four young employees of a restaurant that sells sub sandwiches by the inch (hence the title). Much like Saved By The Bell (but far less cheesy!), Ten Inch Hero keeps individuals from various walks of life, with diverse styles and opinions, in such close quarters behind the counter of the sub shop, that they are almost forced to look past their different appearances and come together as friends.

Of course there are many laughs along the way, most of which feature the scene-stealing, kilt-wearing, color-changing Mohawked Priestly (Jensen Ackles). Ackles definitely steps outside the “pretty boy” typecast he has been given since his soap opera days-- both in daytime and on WB-turned-CW programming. Ackles plays Priestly just as self-assured and comfortable in his own skin as he does Dean Winchester on Supernatural, but he is more sensitive than snarky, and that is what makes the other characters (not to mention the audience) gravitate toward him immediately… even if they are raising an eyebrow at his ensemble as they do. His tee shirts alone are a character within themselves. Even through the laughter, though, Ten Inch Hero features many serious moments-- something Morris and MacKay probably wouldn’t have been to so seamlessly integrate if they were studio produced, being forced instead to “pick a side” so to speak and compromise their story. Ten Inch Hero teeters between a quippy teen sex flick and a hip PSA on insecurities; it is one big gray area, and it’s better for it.

Hiding behind a computer screen, Jen (Clea Duvall) is almost painfully repressed; there are moments when the expression on her face seems to be screaming, but her meek persona does not allow the voice to be exhaled and heard. Only in the moments after Piper (Elisabeth Harnois) and Tish (Danneel Harris) have succeeded in getting Jen to take a risk does she finally let it all out, and her breakdown is a breathtaking sigh of relief for everyone involved. Piper and Tish naturally come with their own baggage: Piper is an artist whose sketch and paint strokes are loose and free, but she herself can’t move past needing to find the child she gave up for adoption, and her desperation in that action leaves her vulnerable. Tish, on the other hand, is extremely free; she is the stereotypical wild child who turns all of the heads in a room. Unfortunately, though, much like how most in the film don’t care to look past deep enough to find out who she really is, the film itself also focuses on her exterior, putting her in low-cut, tight tops and lingering on her bare skin, instead of exploring the meaning behind her actions. She is the one character who remains an enigma, but considering the film is full of so many interwoven characters, it’s a wonder more don’t get lost in the shuffle.

And then there is their boss, Trucker (John Doe, and yes, that’s really his name; you can look him up here), who despite being an obvious big brother type, seems to have fewer answers than some of his employees. If he is their mentor, it’s really no wonder they’re all still floating. The way Morris weaves all of these personalities together is not only unique but also extremely gratifying in a non-sappy heart-warming way, as they learn from each other, and the audience, in turn, can learn from them.

The cinematography of Ten Inch Hero is unremarkable. In fact, the camera pretty much stays static, in the basic Medium Shot-Reverse-Shot, but because the intensity of the film is carried on the actors’ faces and in their words, that is more than sufficient. The only time it gets a bit repetitive is when they are in the actual restaurant, as each actor has a very specific mark and do not seem to be allowed to stray from it even for a moment. The film does not rely on fancy stunts or elaborate locations, either, but it doesn’t need to. And even though the final moments do paint (excuse the pun) a very vibrant Kodak (excuse the Trademark) picture, if you do as the film preaches and look a little closer, it is easy to notice the glaring issues still going unresolved. They stick out like… well, like Priestly’s Mohawk. But that’s life; it cannot be wrapped up so easily, and even when you are surrounded by those you think make you the happiest, there may still be something lingering in the background that you’ll have to deal with later.A sign on the front of the shop, strategically placed by the Art Department, almost reads like a judgment of the film at face value: “Help Wanted-- Normal People Need Not Apply.” However, after traveling with these characters, on their individual journeys and their collective one, it’s impossible not to notice just how utterly normal they really are, and that’s Ten Inch Hero’s greatest appeal. Regardless of what these people been through along the way, they all want love, and ultimately, acceptance. And in the end, doesn’t that describe us all?

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Strike Can't Stop The Creativity...

Channeling Melissa McCarthy, from Laura Allen and Liz Feldman:


Even though you may be angry with your television right now, please support the writers and all they're fighting for at this dark time (and quite literally when you turn off yet another crappy reality show from Fox). Clearly these are some clever, talented people who want to get their outlet back as much as you want them to. Let's all hope for an end by the new year!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

On The Subject of George Clooney...

Out of the real-life "buddy film" that has become the last few years of Brad Pitt and George Clooney's life, I always found Brad to be the "hot one." He can do the pretty boy thing well (in his relationship to Gwyneth and films like Meet Joe Black), but when he's just being motorcycle-driving, tee-shirt wearing, practical joker Brad, he's a bit more scruffy and rugged (not quite Fight Club but close). He has the whole package.

Many argue George has the whole package, too; friends of mine, in fact have never understood why I didn't agree with his Sexiest Man Alive moniker. It's not that I've always found him unattractive, but he reminds me far too much of one of my childhood friends' dads (physically) for me to swoon. However, after seeing him tie together the majority of the items on my list, I can now concur that this man most certainly is sexy:


For those that care, my "Wannabe" list reads like this:
1) Puts his family first
2) Has a creative and/or artistic streak
3) Sense of humor. Sense of humor. SENSE. OF. HUMOR.
4) Passionate about his work
5) Passionate about political issues/pop culture (agreeing with me on the former is a must, too; I don't want to be in a constant debate in my relationship)
6) Cares about, but doesn't focus on, his appearance

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Headshots...

MADISON CHANDLER
Purebred Shih-Tzu
11 mos; 19" (L), 9" (H -paw to shoulder); 11.8 lbs











Online Reel/Print Experience: "Stars in their Eyes" Book Photo Shoot (2007); Holiday Card Photo Shoot (2007); Van Cleef Parody Photo Shoot (2007)

Also appeared on myfoxla.com and Good Day LA pet photos segment in Summer 2007.

Also appeared on Live With Regis & Kelly (stock photo) in December 2007.


Special Skills: Sitting; Peeing On Command; Cleaning Himself; Lying Down; Fetching; Knowing His Toys By Name; Waiting; Jumping; Giving Hugs & Kisses; Recognizing His Mama; Closing Drawers; Elvis Lip; Saying Nice To Meet You; High Fives; Girl Fight!; Rolling On Back (Belly Rub); Wagging His Tail On Command; Generally Being Adorable!


For Bookings please leave comments.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The One Where She's Up All Night...

For the last few nights, around one a.m. I have been awoken by the sounds of the fire alarm/smoke detector in the hallway outside my bedroom. It beeps once every 55 seconds, as is customary to alert the homeowner (or in my case, renter) that the battery in the unit needs replacing. The first night it happened, I slept through the majority of the beeping, only noticing it around six a.m. when Madison started barking at it. It was time for him to get up and pee anyway, so I didn’t think anything of it. In fact, I walked by the alarm, smacked it hard once in the center, and it shut up.

The second night, however, it beeped incessantly from one-thirty (I know this because this time I woke up at the first beep) until seven-thirty when I finally got up for the day. That night I slept with my bedroom door shut and the covers pulled firmly over my head to drown out the noise, but it didn’t do such a great job, as I’d still awake every hour or so to hear a few beeps and then fall back to sleep. Needless to say, I was Oscar the Grouch in the morning (the old Oscar, before TPTB at Sesame Street decided he was “too mean” for today’s children). Miraculously, though, once again the beeping seemed to stop once morning came.

On the third night, it was perhaps the loudest, and sometime around two a.m. I got up, got out of bed with a sleepy but inquisitive Madison following me, and finally yanked that sucker off the wall. I pulled the old battery out, tried a new one, plugged it back in, and it still beeped. I tried leaving the battery out all together, still it beeped. Finally, I just pulled it off the wall without a battery inside, and it still beeped, though I can’t figure out how since it wasn’t connected to anything. The kicker? The damn thing doesn’t have a reset button!

All is better this morning, though, as I ran out of my apartment, still in my plaid fuzzy PJ pants and before I had the chance to paint on my eyebrows, to find a new 9V. Thank God for the Chevron across the street with the nice old man who had fresh, cold Duracells behind the counter. He also had Holiday Bingo Scratchers, off which I won $10. So I’d say things are looking up. Now I’m off to take a nap since it is finally quiet in my apartment… though I must admit I’m still a bit wary about what may occur tonight. This thing seems to be a night owl; at least it wasn’t the one on my bedroom wall, though (*knock on wood*).

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Whatever Happened To...

MTV’s fake boy band 2ge+her? You remember that one, right? They came together in 2000 following a made-for-tv movie spoofing the popularity of The Backstreet Boys and *NSync and ended up blowing up themselves and releasing two albums within the same year (both can be found on iTunes now, by the way). Now, I'm not sure everyone realized they were supposed to be a parody group at the time of their release, nor do I think everyone got the double entendre of their name ("Together" but also "To Get Her"), especially because their fans were screaming teenage girls who mostly just thought they were hot. That alone was fascinating enough to me to warrant a further look, though I did not have MTV at the time and had to settle for clips I could find on AOL. It's been a long time since I thought of them, but the other day I came across an article on the Top 40 Fake Bands of film and television, in which 2ge+her did not make the cut. They most definitely should have, though, in my humble opinion! Sadly Zack Attack came in only at #27, and both Faith +1 and Hep Alien were left off completely, as were Jesse and the Rippers and California Dreams, too, so clearly the makers of said list did not give it the careful thought this pop culture junkie has. Anyway, it got me to thinking about the guys again...

I already knew Alex Solowitz (Mickey Parke, “The Rebel”) has been steadily working, having seen him earlier in the year in Alpha Dog, but I was immensely saddened to hear that Michael Cuccione (Jason McKnight, “The Cute One” or “QT”—get it?) passed away in 2001 due to complications with Hodgekin’s disease. If the IMDb birthday is right, he was only sixteen years old, making him fourteen when they were shooting the show and recording the album. That’s insanity!

Brothers Brian and Mark Gunn who created the whole fa├žade went on to write Bring It On Again but have pretty much otherwise kept to themselves until recently when Mark made headlines for his divorce with Jenna Fischer. Evan Farmer (Jerry O’Keefe, “The Heartthrob”) has been hosting everything from While You Were Out to The Celebrity Paranormal Project to FreeStyle, on which he is also a Designer. And a quick Google Image search proves that yes, he is still the hottest one of the bunch.

Kevin Farley (Doug Linus, “The Older Brother”) has had cameos, Under Fives, and other bit parts in a huge list of shows since the band broke up, including (obvs) Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Joey (playing two different roles on two different episodes… can we say hello, contract extra who got bumped up?), Monk, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Which brings us to his on-screen little brother, Chad, or Noah Bastian, as he is known in the real world. Noah has clearly grown out of the "Shy One" moniker the band deemed him, as he played Ben on Maybe It’s Me for it’s run and has since guested in a couple of shows and has a film in post right now.

As much of a farce as these guys may have been together, the simple act of consistently getting work since then proves that separately no one is laughing at them anymore but rather, with them. Teaching them to never take themselves too seriously and giving them great comedic, as well as rhythmic, timing, 2ge+her actually may have launched these guys’ careers! Maybe MTV will wise up and release their movie and the subsequent “Making Of” season on DVD soon... or at least give us a reunion special; I know I could use some nostalgic laughs.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I Am A Child Of Television...

You might be saying “Well, duh” after reading some past entries, but hear me out. As much as my parents fought it-- and believe me they fought it; I mean, my parents didn’t want me watching The Simpsons as a kid because they thought it was “too controversial.” Hell, my dad once called my uncle and started screaming and cursing at him because he let me stay up to watch NYPD Blue with him when I was visiting. Okay, sidebar, I have two things about this: One: I was eleven. I had already seen episodes through the slats in my louver doors, from the television in the other room that my dad would stay up and watch when he thought I had already fallen asleep. And Two: his incessant cursing in front of me had to be more damaging than any fictional show. At three years old, I was already repeating: “Asshole!” from my car seat because I heard him say it so many times in traffic. Perhaps he just wanted to spare me from this man's bare ass? And if so, then I guess I can't really hold it against him. Anyway, as much as my parents fought it, I used television as much more than just background noise. It was my babysitter, my friend, my teacher. Yes folks, all I learned about sex and love I learned from something I saw on television. Perhaps that’s something we’ll get into in a later blog, though. Anyway, television introduced me to the two greatest influences on my life, and that’s why I’m so attached to it.

Performers have always inspired me to no end. Creatives are the carefree, “gifted” people with whom I wanted to surround myself. Kathy Griffin would get a kick out of this, but ever since I was in preschool, I was called “gifted” and even placed in the “gifted” program in elementary school, encircled by other “gifted” five and six year olds. I guess we had high IQs or something, but since I grew up in a time when the arts were a luxury in school-- we didn't have music or foreign language education until junior high-- the way our “gifts” were nurtured were through intensive reading, mathematics, and science testing. Not exactly conducive to the artistic lifestyle I desperately wanted to lead.

Growing up I didn’t have anyone in my immediate life to whom I could look up; I didn’t have an older brother or sister or even a big family with a bunch of older cousins or young enough aunts. My family was full of businesspeople anyway, and I already knew I gravitated toward the artistic. Perhaps it was even because it was something I didn’t have that I wanted it even more. When I was five, I wanted to be Ashley Olsen; I wanted to be the adorable little girl with the one-liners that made hundreds of people, her fake-family included, roar in laughter. I even gave myself the middle name of “Michelle” after her Full House character. When I was eight, I wanted to be Tiffani Amber Thiessen… well, I guess more accurately I wanted to be Kelly Kapowski. I wanted to be the pretty, popular, carefree teenager surrounded by jocks, brains, and activists alike. It was a sad day when I finally made it to high school only to learn that things were not at all how they were at Bayside! It went on like that for years; I would find someone (usually an actress) who just sparked motivation in me, and I would try to learn everything I could about them. I was never the kid who took things at face value; I sought out the teeny, tiny, miniscule details about people and things I liked—information that most people would gloss over but for whatever reason I would retain. And this behavior started before the Internet, so let’s just say I had to work pretty hard, buying a lot of Bop and Teen Beat and such to get said info! I think I was trying to dissect whether or not they were actually worthy of my admiration—did we have enough in common that we could be friends should I happen to find myself standing in front of them one day? Did they have enough to offer me? It was the only real studying I ever did. It wasn't enough to get lost in the other worlds I saw on-screen; I was already old enough to distinguish the difference between fiction and reality, and I wanted to get lost in the surreal worlds of those who played others on-screen. I desperately needed an outlet, and I found one in TV.

Oh, and in case you’re still wondering: no, Tiffani and Ashley were not the two influences I referenced earlier. That is a whole blog in and of itself—one which I’m still trying to get right. Coming soon…?

Friday, November 30, 2007

You Must Be Addicted To MySpace If...

Did y’all know that Kathy Griffin found her second assistant on MySpace? This is kind of outdated news, but I was thinking about it last night while watching her new stand-up special Straight To Hell (since their iTunes contract is up, Bravo needs to release a compilation DVD or something!) Anyway she did; her name is Tiffany, and judging from the last season of My Life On The D-List, she is kind of awesome, but still! I would love to hear the inner dialogue that justified that decision; I mean, what made her think she wasn’t a deranged stalker like so many of us… I mean, so many on MySpace?

Plus, I wrote Kathy a part in my show (yes, the woman who shook sh*t hands for her country and who is pictured here, almost mooning her audience during a taping for one of said Bravo specials), and I promote the hell out of it on MySpace, and she still doesn’t respond to my messages! Okay, in all fairness, I think the site I was sending them to ended up being only a fansite, and I don’t technically have the money to shoot the pilot… or a network behind me ready to put it on-air anytime soon... But you better believe that I’ll be waiting for her outside the Kodak Theatre in January, with a fresh-off-the-printers copy of my book in hand, like a crazy inventor on HSN who needs celebrities to endorse my product in order to get a sale. I hope she’ll be flattered; I hope she loves the role. It’s definitely a step up from some of other gigs she gets called for anyway... like helping those crazy inventors sell their sh*t on HSN. I mean... that’s legit, Kathy; it’s awesome :) Okay, I’ll just shut up now, while I haven’t completely offended my God (What? I don’t have an Emmy yet!).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Consumerism Does Not Rule All...

My mother comes to visit every year around Christmastime. Since I moved into my own apartment in the valley while I was a Sophomore/Junior (I did college in only three years, and I still don’t know what to call that middle year where I was kind of in between, taking twenty units a semester, and simultaneously working two internships to try to make connections in this damn industry!), she has flown out in the middle of the month (of December, duh) and stayed through Christmas to the days right before New Years.’ Even though I have been out of school for two years, and I should spend those weeks hard at work, thus far that has not been the case, so I am still able to accommodate her.

This year, my mother is flying out to L.A. on the 15th, and she just informed me she got a call from The Ellen Show regarding tickets for Monday the 17th. I checked their online calendar, and that is smack-dab in the middle of their annual "25 days of Giving" or whatever they call it where they give out expensive sh*t from their sponsors to the audience. Now, as much as I would love a flat-screen television or diamond stud earrings with a matching necklace or even yet another video iPod, I had to stop for a second and think about the consequences of attending such a taping. The Writer’s Strike is still going on, and undoubtedly it will be throughout the holiday season, and quite frankly I don’t feel comfortable crossing a picket line, even for a bunch of free, materialistic stuff.

I have felt very strongly throughout this whole ordeal that Ellen should not only be on hiatus with everyone else, but also she should be walking that picket line herself every morning with a hot cup of coffee and a megaphone. She’s a member of the WGA, and her show employs writers to aid with her daily monologue, as well as to come up with new segments and games to play with guests and audience members alike. On her first day back to work during the strike (which was only a day or two into it, BTW), she said she did not feel comfortable standing on her mark and delivering a monologue, out of respect to her writers who she supports at this difficult time. I respected that, but the next day, she was back delivering the four-minute funny as has become synonymous with the show. My guess is she’s writing her own material, which is technically a violation, since as I mentioned, she is a WGA member. What’s worse, though, is that by still doing her show as usual, she’s virtually saying that her writers are unnecessary. She still gets laughs during her monologue—she may even get more now. She still uses the games that have been banked over the last few years of her shows—games that she did not create on her own. Now, I understand that daytime writers are not striking for the same reason as everyone else: they don’t stand a chance to profit from a raise on DVD residuals or online content right now, as their shows don’t get distributed that way. However, they’re striking on principle: they are standing in solidarity with their brother and sister writers, as you should when you’re a member of a (any) union.

Believe me when I say I understand more than most that the rest of the staff and crew at such shows need to work. I can give Ellen some points for not wanting to put the dozens of others out of work at this expensive time of year. I am a member of Local 871 in Los Angeles (Script Supervisor’s union), and I am out of work, too, because all of the television shows are shutting down, and films are fewer and farther between than usual (okay, I can’t blame that all on the strike; I’d been out of work before it started, and now I’m just using it as a nice crutch for why I can’t find a damn job already. I mean, I joined the union because it would open me up to new production companies and projects, but I didn’t realize there are over 300 other active Script Supervisors, all trying to get the handful of jobs out there at any given time. And it’s not like the Grip or Electric union where you can have twenty guys on a show; no, there’s only one Scripty per show, so I am literally competing with hundreds of other people who have way more years and bigger connections under their belt than I do. I wish someone at the union curbed that sort of thing instead of just greedily taking my five grand plus quarterly dues).

Anyway, luckily for my conscience, my mother had a brain fart when on the phone with the Audience Department Intern, and she admitted she had been to a previous taping (though it was two years ago, and it was under my name since I interned there at the time). The girl promptly informed her that unfortunately due to the high demand during the holiday season, they can only accommodate fans who have never been to the show before. Right. Like no one is lying just to get a year’s subscription to TiVo or a bunch of cashmere sweaters. I’m sure.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meet Madison...

Yes, he really did jump up there on his own.

This is Madison. He came into my life at the very end of March 2007, right at the time I first became unemployed. It was perfect timing, really, since I had all the free time in the world to stay home with him and teach him the important things like how to Sit, not pee on my floor, and give his Mama hugs and kisses, all of which he learned very quickly (among some other things, including the names of all of his toys... so why he still has trouble with "High Five," I don't really understand).

Madison is a star, but as you can see from this photo, he's also really silly. We went to the beach yesterday, and when we first got there it was pretty cloudy and cold outside, so I just wanted to lie in the back seat of my car and finish Pamela Ribon's "Why Girls Are Weird," but he had other plans (Oh, by the way, Madison is a boy. I was fully anticipating getting a girl dog, and I picked out the name long before I saw him, but when I did, he was just too cute to resist, so I figured: He's a dog; he won't be scarred by a feminine name, right? Well, I recently found out that he's a bottom when another little Shih Tzu puppy tried to hump him, and he just laid down and rolled on his back, completely submitting. But those two things can't have anything to do with each other anyway, so I digress...). After whining for a few minutes at the sand and the birds he could see just outside the window, he jumped from the front seat onto me and up to the small area behind the rear seats. The glass was lower than he expected, so he kind of got wedged in, and then he just sat there and stared sadly out at the sand and the birds once more.

Thankfully it warmed up within a few minutes, and I was able to take him outside, where he happily dug for rocks, chased a napkin blowing in the wind, and tried to eat a stick. And eventually he calmed down enough to just sit by my side and let me finish my book. He's the best boy ever!

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Sample Chapter from the Upcoming "Pseudonym," a novel...


momentarily she regressed / going through pictures like a sentimentalist

It was four days into the first term at her magnet junior high school, and Megyn took careful note of that when she passed the calendar that hung on the kitchen wall, sandwiched in between the old corded phone and the refrigerator, that morning on her way out the door. It was exactly one year ago, almost to the day, that she rode the R-train into the city on a mission.

On a normal school morning, Megyn would get up at 7:00 and be out the door by 7:25, at the very latest. She had to take two trains and a bus to get to the other end of Brooklyn, where her specialized junior high school was located. It was quite a trek, but she was given “the gift of time” while utilizing public transportation, her mother liked to point out. Her mother would have sent her to New Jersey or Connecticut if she could, determined to give her the best education no money could buy.

Megyn went through that routine for a year in sixth grade, and she was already sick of it only mere days into seventh grade. She thought the summer off would have alleviated some of the stress that rushing to catch the proper transportation caused, but it hadn’t, so on this particular day, she decided to take a break.

Megyn packed her backpack with her binder, as she always did, but also with a few magazines and the current book she was reading: a biography of Lucille Ball. She also made sure to shove two brand new twenty-dollar bills into her jeans pockets before slipping out the door and into the fresh morning air.

As Megyn walked to the train station, rebelling in open-toed sandals-- knowing today she should have gym class but was not planning to attend-- she was surprised to find the sun already shining, and very few clouds in the sky. She hummed along to the CD in her Discman from the minute she stepped foot outside of her apartment building, through the time she boarded the train and stayed on it even when she reached the stop at which she normally had to cross platforms and switch to the N, and up until the moment the R lurched forward and then slammed to a stop.

“Great,” Megyn groaned, knowing that when the MTA shut down, it could take anywhere from seconds to hours to get up and running again. And she had a strict plan for the day: she was going to stop by Borders to pick up the new Mariah Carey CD and then hit Krispy Kreme for breakfast. Maybe she’d wander into Express and NY & Company, too, before hopping back on the train and heading to Midtown to walk around Fifth Avenue and do some window-shopping. Megyn thought she might even walk by her mother’s office, but now... “At least the lights are still on,” she sighed.

Though they did flicker.

“Uh, ladies and gentlemen, please sit tight,” a voice filled with static came over the speakers usually reserved for automated announcements of arrivals at the individual stations. “It seems there is a momentary closure at Cortlandt. While I don’t know how long we’ll be here, if you are in a hurry to get uptown, you can exit here, and one of many express buses will come through.”

The doors exhaled, and a few people around Megyn grumbled and spilled through them. She sighed again and followed, too, slinging her backpack over her shoulder and turning the volume up in her headphones.

When she climbed the stairs from the train station, there were people everywhere; some were yelling into cell phones, which was not at all uncommon for those Wall Street-adjacent streets; some were taking pictures; others were standing silently in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic, with their hands over their mouths; and others still were crying uncontrollably. All were facing uptown. Megyn followed their collective glance and saw the fire burning a hundred stories over her head.

“Oh, fantastic!” She exclaimed, sarcastically. “How the hell am I going to get there now?”

A blonde woman with mascara staining her cheeks snapped her head toward Megyn: “That’s what you have to say at a time like this?”

Megyn wrinkled her brow, puzzled. She didn’t know how to respond. A fire truck whizzed past her, followed by two squad cars and two more unmarked police sedans.

Megyn fumbled in her backpack for her cell phone as she started to walk northwest. She knew better than to call home; it was before eleven a.m.-- well before-- so her father wouldn’t be even close to awake yet. Her mother’s office was her only bet. “Come on, come on,” she mumbled into the receiver as the phone on the other end rang, interspersed with static.

“Mrs. Alessi’s office. How may I help you?”

“Yeah, hi, Claudia, it’s Megyn. I need to talk to my mother.”

“Good morning, Megyn. She’s stepping into a meeting; can I take a message?”

“Um, no, not really.” Megyn tried not to look at whatever was fluttering down from the buildings-- because to look would be to see what it was.

“Hold on a sec, let me see if she’s around.”

There was a click on the phone, and Megyn yanked it away from her ear to read the small green screen and make sure it hadn’t died on her. It still glowed and still showed two bars.

“Megyn? It’s Claudia again. Sorry, but she just said that it’s the fourth day of school, and you can’t afford to miss any this early in. She said she’ll talk to you when she gets home tonight.”

“Well, tell her I need the car service number. There’s something going on--“ she caught herself before she added “downtown,” knowing full well she wasn’t supposed to be there. “There’s something going on, and the trains are stopped...”

A plane soared overhead, and Megyn tilted her head toward the sky instinctively. A woman in a business suit walking next to her sucked in a sharp breath-- almost one of relief-- but it fizzled out of her mouth in a scraggly exhale as the plane hooked a U-turn in the sky.

Megyn felt the heat on her face even though she stood on a corner a few blocks east of it, and she closed her eyes, fearing she’d be burned. She didn’t even hear the crash over the sounds in the street.

“Oh my God!” The businesswoman cried, sinking to her knees on the asphalt.

A man in track pants and a wife-beater bent and wordlessly grabbed her elbow to help her back up.

Megyn held the phone numbly to her ear. It beeped three times, cutting her off from Claudia, but she didn’t even notice. In the distance, she could hear more sirens.

She could see why that blonde woman was so appalled at her initial reaction. She had been, although unintentionally, really insensitive.

When Megyn finally got home that night, her mother enveloped her wordlessly, tears streaming down her face. She had never seen her mother cry before, except maybe once or twice during a movie, but that didn’t count because those were just tears for a fictional event or person and therefore fictional in and of themselves.

Megyn didn’t cry, though; she stood with her arms listlessly at her sides. After a few minutes, she pulled them up and around her mother to pat her on the back, as if to say: “Please let go now” when her mother wouldn’t release her.

She didn’t tell her mother she had seen the events take place live; she let her mother believe she was sitting in her homeroom classroom when the first plane soared across Manhattan and that she only saw it later, replayed in slow-motion on the news when her Social Studies teacher turned on the small television they usually only wheeled in when a teacher was absent to figure out what was going on. She let her mother believe she sat in lock-down with the rest of the students, some of whom lined up outside the office to call home, and some of whom took out their cell phones in the middle of class, for the first time not fearing getting detention for doing so.

She didn’t tell her mother that she slipped into the herds heading uptown on the Westside Highway and walked, without reason, up to 34th Street before getting that sinking-stomach feeling she usually only got before she had to give an oral report. She glanced up at the Empire State Building quickly and just as promptly turned around. She didn’t tell her mother it took her hours to finally walk back toward and over the Brooklyn Bridge and even longer to find a bus that was running toward her end of Brooklyn.

She didn’t wonder if her friends had asked where she was-- if any of their parents had called her own wondering if she was okay. They obviously hadn’t. Megyn could have slipped into the fog, and no one would have noticed.

Her father was asleep when Megyn got home, and he remained that way when she stripped off her clothes and bundled them into a heap in the corner of the bathroom. She turned on the hot water, and only the hot water, and hopped in the shower for what felt like only a few minutes, but what her mother noted was the better part of an hour. Megyn wondered if he had joined the world long enough that day to even hear what happened.

Megyn left the ball of clothes on the floor until the next morning, when she scooped them up and into a garbage bag and tossed them straight down the incinerator at the other end of her apartment floor hallway. She couldn’t find any visible ash on the surface, but the memories were soaked into the fabric.

Megyn didn’t have to go to school that day, or the next. Her school remained closed for the rest of that week, which was only three days anyway. When the school finally reopened, the students were given the option of taking a Big Yellow Bus that was chartered by the PTA in an effort to minimize the number of students who tried to blame their tardiness on the many public transportation closures and route changes.

On the first day back, Megyn attended a mandatory assembly with the rest of the seventh graders, at which the Principal and Guidance Counselors stood up and offered their support “at this difficult time.” They told the students they were there should any of them need to reach out and talk about how they were feeling. Only a handful that Megyn knew of actually took them up on that offer, which she suspected was just to get out of class for a period or two anyway.

For a little while, the students had to wear their IDs around their neck, and they weren’t allowed outside for lunch, but that only lasted a few weeks. Just as New Yorkers went back to not paying attention to each other, let alone caring for them, things seemed to get back to normal at Megyn’s school, too, which was what those Guidance Counselors said should happen anyway.

“Don’t dwell. Move on. Live your life.”

Megyn still couldn’t comprehend how, though. She sometimes felt like she was moving and everything around her was standing still, like some kind of weird freeze-frame out of the early seasons of Saved By The Bell. But she was no Kelly Kapowski, and there was certainly no Zack Morris in her life.

Sometimes even now, a year after the fact, Megyn still couldn’t let go.