Good Writing Day

Today was a good writing day. I was very fortunate to suddenly -yes!- getting immersed. Most important was a transition where the emotional weight of one chapter empowered the next, a chapter where there was next to no set up, almost entirely dependent on dialogue, and yet, the feeling had been set. I was sad for this poor girl…and I was almost happy about that.

I don’t know if this is such a great blog, but there is only so much you can say about a good writing day without sounding like an ass. And so I will fill it out by adding pictures of three interesting animals, all of which are briefly mentioned in the book:

Caracal, Kalahari Desert

Red-footed Booby, Genovese Island

Babirusa, Sulawesi

One Month After Sandy – Closed for Business

It’s one month after Hurricane Sandy, and much of downtown Manhattan seems to be getting back to normal…except for the stores near the East River. The water damage has yet to be resolved for many of the businesses on the last three blocks of Maiden Lane (below Gold Street). Some of the signs are professionally printed.

Flowers of the World

Others are not.

First Republic Bank

Others have no sign at all…but the message is still clear.

Au Bon Pain

One business is open because of major external support.It is a little sad with so much shut down like this. Hopefully the city will do what it can to get things back to normal.

Holiday Star at the Federal Reserve.

At least that’s a start.

How many ‘Suddenlys’ are too many ‘Suddenlys’?

I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve developed an obsession with ‘suddenly’. There’s too much suddenly happening in the book: He turned too suddenly. She moved across the room suddenly.  It was suddenly dark. Suddenly, I realized. I felt that very suddenly. It’s a good word and everything – it really is – but my relationship with it has degenerated into something rather unhealthy. It’s a dependency, a crutch. And so I’ve put myself through a mini-intervention, used the dreaded search function and deleted and replaced. Now I’m suddenly down – damn it! – just down to, just down – no suddenly! – down to 21 for the book. I think that’s a good number. I mean, how many suddenlys do I really need? I suppose I could get it down to 15 or even 10, but what’s the point? It’s not like I have to go cold turkey on this. Right? (It suddenly got very quiet.)

Prius and the Wolf

The Wolf of Wall Street has arrived at Maiden Lane. The film, directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, moved dressing rooms and trucks onto Maiden Lane early Tuesday morning.

Wolf of Wall Street trailers on Maiden Lane.

This spelled doom for the Prius – documented in my previous blogs – which has been parked on Maiden Lane at Pearl Street since Hurricane Sandy.

Prius staying close to curb, November 27 – four weeks after Hurricane Sandy

And yet…it remains. Did the Wolf of Wall Street production crew take mercy on the smashed-up vehicle? Or did they adapt to the fact that the exterior generators are also still there and just move their trailers up the block? Or did Mr. Scorsese say, “You know what? I like that car there! Leave it! It’s perfect!” And everyone else agreed.

State Birds and Naked Ladies

The writing has moved along today: 17 pages and maybe another 10 tonight. I spent a good deal of time tweaking a conversation in which state birds are discussed:

“California’s state bird.”

“That’s the Meadowlark, isn’t it?”

“California Quail.”

“I should have known that.” He opened the door. “You know Maine’s?”

“I know Rhode Island is the chicken.”

”The Rhode Island Red Chicken.” He placed Apollo’s cage beside the bed.

…and another scene in which Dee, only 11 years old, discovers a Playboy magazine hidden at her uncle’s house:There was a magazine on top with a picture of a woman standing in a white see-through top. She had thick blond hair, long legs and silvery high heels; she looked at me over her shoulder. I opened it to the center; she was completely naked there, shiny brown skin and crazy big breasts. I couldn’t understand how she was like that, standing there so naked. 

I also got rid of a ‘crazy-legged’ bird and changed a sweater into a pink hoodie from Las Vegas.Onward! Ho!

Blogging Interference

There might be those of you who are wondering, “What exactly is this damn blog about?” While I may have titled this “a writer’s blog”, I seem to be blogging on everything – music, films, sports, Hurricane Sandy – but the actual writing.

Tatzu Nishi’s “Discovering Columbus”

The idea of this blog is to document my writing process, and that process does come through moments – cultural, disastrous and otherwise. I believe that it can be very effective to focus on what is in these moments – the details and nuances – and build them toward something else related directly to the writing process, along the lines of what might be coming out of the “Prius” posts.

Prius on Maiden: 26 days after Hurricane Sandy

However I have also come to realize that a blog takes on a life of its own. It has certain demands, such as its daily appetite for something new – like now – and this has shifted my focus from my writing to writing for my blog. (I should blog about that. Oh, I guess I already am.)

Flower bulbs ready for November plant

I must also admit to using the blog to get out of the work of writing my book. The drafting process is a slippery one, full of detours and excuses, and I’m pretty good at using them all. This blog is probably the best.

Nick Cave artwork

But that’s about to come to an end. I have given myself eight days to finish my fourth draft. Yes, eight days. I will allow myself to blog, but I can’t blog instead of writing.

Wall Street subway

The writing has to be first and the blogging second. I have to set that straight. Right now. No more blogging. I’m getting back to the book. I am. I mean it. The clock is on.

Primate Exhibit, American History Museum

Okay, that’s it. I’m done. Really. I am.

Sufjan Stevens on Christmas Tour

Sufjan Stevens began his month-long Christmas tour last night at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia.The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant On Ice is a night of scattered merriment, featuring a Wheel of Fortune style carousel of songs – “The Wheel of Christmas!” – for audience sing-a-longs and a haphazardly wardrobed Yuletide band. While much of the performance had a wild and unrehearsed aspect, Sufjan Steven’s musical talent remains a wonder to behold. Sufjan Stevens might claim to be just goofing around on stage – “How much more stupid can I look?” He asked when he strapped a unicorn horn to his head. – but once he settled into a ‘serious’ song, his prodigious talent hypnotized the boisterous audience again and again. His voice fragile, his notes tenuous, almost lost, he sounds like he is calling us from another world.

Sufjan Stevens concludes his tour in New York on December 21 & 22. Tickets go on sale two days before the performance to avoid ticket brokers from taking advantage of the $20 ticket price. I hope to get back in.

Prius on Maiden – The Wolf Approaches

Biba and I returned to check on the Prius  last night on Maiden Lane

24 days after Hurricane Sandy  – November 22 (Thanksgiving evening)

Yes, it is still there, getting dustier and sadder. And now there is a notice on the lamp post right beside it. The time is coming. Only four days until The Wolf of Wall Street arrives. And the odds are heavily against them using the Prius for any chase scenes.

Movie Endings: The Good and Much Worse

(Warning: This entire blog is a spoiler alert.)

Movie endings are sadly predictable. No matter the genre – Drama, Comedy, Romance or Action/Thriller – the tendency is toward that moment of understanding, that smile of recognition that we’re all in this together, as seen in so many films such as Casablanca, Dumb and Dumber, When Harry Met Sally and Avatar. But there are those few that stand out – for better and much worse. At the head of the Much Worse would have to be Super 8  (Abrams, 2011), a misguided combination of E.T.  and Close Encounters. Absolutely everything is resolved at the end: all characters touch and understand each other.They also all understand the alien which has terrorized their town and watch in loving awe as he departs to his distant world. (No, I am not exaggerating.) The Grey (Carnahan, 2011) is a close and terrible second. After watching the wolves terrorize and kill everyone else in his group lost in the woods, the audience tenses in anticipation as Liam Neeson finally straps all that broken glass to his knuckles to battle the mother of all wolves…and the film cuts to the credits. And not only that, the film actually cuts back to the scene, after the epic battle, both Neeson and the mother of all wolves dying in the snow. Other disastrously bad endings include Melancholia (Von Trier, 2011) – a giant planet crushes all life on Earth – A.I.  (Spielberg, 2001) you think it’s finally over, and a title card appears “2,000 Years Later” – and Angel Heart (Parker, 1987) – when Mickey Rourke finally realizes that he’s the murderer he’s been chasing all along. (Not a few films have fallen into this self-made trap.) It’s not easy ending well, but there are certainly a chosen few worth mentioning. It is truly heart-wrenching to watch the final shot in Bicycle Thieves (De Sica, 1948) when the boy forgives his father for trying to steal and takes his hand. And it’s hard not to choke up in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Hughes, 1987) when Neal (Steve Martin) discovers Del (John Candy) alone at the train station and takes him home for Thanksgiving. The Deer Hunter (Cimino, 1978), too, has a gut-wrenching conclusion when the cast gathers for a funeral and sings God Bless America, despite the hell they have been put through with the Vietnam War. Another film that oddly stands out for me is Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (Hough, 1974). An obvious derivative of Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967), the film chronicles a pair of wild thieves who, when they seem to have finally outrun the law, are suddenly crushed by a freight train. The end. One of the greatest Hollywood endings almost never happened.  Being There (Ashby, 1978) is the story of Chance (Peter Sellers) who has lived in isolation as a simpleton only to be thrown into the world and become an adviser to the President and perhaps will be a leader himself. The final image is of Chance walking on water. We don’t know if this is because he is Chosen or he just doesn’t know any better, but it is a riveting moment. The producers hated the idea and told Hal Ashby to re-cut the film, which he promised to do…and instead actually delivered the film personally – with the ending intact – to the theaters for opening night. It was only after the positive audience response to this ending that the producers relented. This story itself has to be one of the best endings I have ever heard.

Hurricane Sandy in The Hamptons

Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects have been well documented in New York City and the surrounding environs. The New York Times published a fascinating map on the flooded areas just today. But Hurricane Sandy’s damage is even more far-reaching, as it goes all across Long Island, to the Hamptons and beyond.

Flying Point Beach, Southampton, October 13, 2012 (Two weeks before Hurricane Sandy)

Flying Point Beach in Southampton, shown above, had been some 40-50 yards wide, all of it long and flat. It has since been pushed back at least 30 of those yards, right up into the dunes in parts. It has torn out fencing and grassroots, leaving behind a dark black residue. And while the ocean still breaks at the same edge, the water now flows across a wide shallows where there once was sand. There are also hundreds of trees down all over the region There is a certain beauty to all of this, even if it’s broken scattered, or just detritus. But even if it isn’t appreciated by all, as they say, life does go on.