how was your saturday?
ours was delicious.
we wrote the column for Los Angeles, I’m Yours (it’s about gelato, the Valley and Mr. Pierce Brosnan’s son’s former tutor-turned-entrepreneur) and sent it off via email (so Modern) to our Editor.
yes, you’re right.
due to the Americans celebrating their Independence from the British Colonial Rule *looksironicallytocamera* the column was on Hiatus (almost a small summer holiday in effect) since the last one here.
then we had Planned to see the latest Mr. Terence Stamp film (we adore Terence) but Forgot that it was a Saturday and all the other people in the world had decided to go-to-the-beach and there was not ONE parking space to be found.
so we kept driving and went back to where-we-used-to-live to do some more background ‘research’* for the new Novel.
*research being writing-in-cafes, watching people reading-the-actual-newspaper, lurking inside secondhand bookshops (more on That later – a Find Indeed), walking in the shady bits on 2nd st looking for Yard Sales – always illuminating and Vidiots (we shall explain, keep reading – get some coffee if you haven’t already – we’ll wait).
so we’re a bit stuck with the new Novel for a few reasons.
1. our first book doesn’t come until Feb 14th 2014 which means we sort of have to hold off publishing anything else until then considering they paid an Advance and will be doing all sorts of Publicity on the fact it’s our first-book.
2. our Literary agent (such a delicious set of words flowing together) hasn’t sold Emerald or The House on Church Row (yet) anyway
3. we probably need to get a proper job when summer’s over (which would be OK – human interaction, and all that, but we’d Rather Stay Consulting – because it’s just more Fun)
having said that, we spent the day in Ocean Park (which we called Donal Bay for the screenplay and the Novel) and suddenly all of the characters started talking again.
Goddess of Donal Bay
INT. HALLWAY OF APARTMENT BUILDING – MOMENTS LATER John is putting his key in his apartment door opposite.
I’m finding thirty-five a bit of a comedown to be honest.
Have you actually told anyone you are thirty-five?
No way. Did you?
Of course. I don’t see the point of lying about my age.
You really aren’t cut out for the cut and thrust of life in Los Angeles are you?
Livy opens her front door. Calliope is standing there with a manuscript in her arms, smiling. Livy cannot see her.
Want to split a pizza?
I haven’t eaten carbs for a decade.
Since when did straight men diet?
Since they moved en masse to Los Angeles to work in entertainment.
INT. LIVY’S KITCHEN – MOMENTS LATER
Livy sits down at the small kitchen table opposite Calliope and starts to make pencil notes on the manuscript.
Is it a play?
Better watch another episode, just to check I’m on the right page.
Livy grabs the remote and turns on the kitchen television. A sitcom is on. Calliope looks at the television with interest as if she hasn’t seen one before. Livy laughs at an on-screen gag and makes another note on her manuscript.
You write for the machine?
and then we realized – we wrote TWO pieces that swirled around the idea of Turning-35 (yup, which we were about to do Then or perhaps we had just done – who remembers actual dates, darlings) because we probably picked up both Dante and Carl Jung (books – *coughs* we’re being Cerebral over here, love) in several secondhand bookshops (we shall return to this Theme) and became Intrigued by 35 (midway on life’s path – Dante) and the Psychology Of the Afternoon (Jung)
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself/In dark woods, the right road lost.
Violet Ryan and the Placing of Angels
Alistair winced slightly and strolled off down the long hardwood floor corridor to his room overlooking the courtyard. Thirty-five, thirty-five, how he wished he could remember what he was doing when he was thirty-five. Then he looked at the row of hardback books on his shelves, a considerable body of work for someone who could not recall any of the late seventies and barely string memories of nights let alone days until the mid-eighties. He smiled with satisfaction. Who cares what he did at thirty-five. Alistair lit some jasmine incense and picked up a racy magazine.
In the living room Violet realized she was still wide-awake. This was annoying, she really needed to sleep, especially as she vaguely remembered a deadline, or two, was looming. She sighed and walked off to the end of the long corridor. Her room was overlooked by the tall apartment buildings on Franklin Avenue, built for East Coast starlets in the Twenties who came for Hollywood screen-tests and never left. A few lights were still on. And at several windows there sat writers, staring at screens, or out of the windows, a single studio light and piles of papers by their sides.
and just as we drifted down main street in ocean park and Thought about this “coincidence” (are there really Any coincidences?) we stopped dead (figure of speech – not literally) outside a secondhand bookshop and there it was.
the scripts of thirtysomething with commentary by the Writers of the episodes they Wrote.
yes, we bought it.
and yes we read the Whole Thing this morning.
so here’s where we’re going with this.
picture the scene:
1988: University of London (yes, London, England)
two 19 year olds – one from New York, the other from Brighton – make popcorn and watch (Avidly) thirtysomething on a weekly basis (we’re the British one, of course – the other one had her own apartment in the Town near University – we lived in Halls of Residence).
suddenly a Future opens up.
the American wanted to be the character Hope or Nancy (married, baby, Life, Love, creative, kind)
we wanted to be (depending on the week) Michael (writer turned ad exec), Elliot (creative turned creative ad exec), Miles (the creepy but extremely well-shod Agency Boss who goes to Japan when Nobody got to go to Japan apart from rock stars), Ellyn (independent woman, in business, Great Voice – husky and like a 1940s Bacall) or Melissa (neurotic but had her own photography business, took younger lovers, sometimes actually managed to make them a set of keys to her apartment, just before they broke up).
but the Most important thing about thirtysomething (for us, in 1988) was that we were Nineteen and so thirtysomething was a Long Way Off but due to the TV series – we felt Prepared – life was going to be messy but big, there were going to be compromises but creativity
and perhaps, just perhaps, we might get to write about it between working for people like Miles
and now we’re the other side (well, strictly speaking who-we-are-in-RL is now 44)
there’s something so touching about reading the Scripts (quotes below) and remembering EXACTLY how it FELT to watch thirtysomething each week.
the most important feeling was the Longing we had to be in America.
and to Write.
even the younger lovers (*coughs* they had keys only when we were Abroad though), photography business, great business-lady-executive wardrobe, sounded like Ellyn when still smoking-and-had-the-Flu, worked for a creative agency, met a few Miles characters along the way, even shared an office with someone who looked Exactly like Elliot – it All Happened…..just like on thirtysomething (and nope, we never made it to the status of Hope or Nancy – and sadly, the last time we heard, neither did our American friend)
but we also recall wondering what it would be Like to be perhaps “half-way-through” – to have had the struggle and the teen years end and the wilderness of the 20 something Climb and unknowing and strangeness and then be in the Middle of thirtysomething – hopefully achieved Something but in no way There (wherever There is – although Malibu just beyond cross creek looks awfully like it might be it).
and that’s what we’re Trying to do with the Goddess of Donal Bay (and perhaps Violet Ryan and the Placing of Angels but that one needs a Massive re-write and we just don’t feel strong enough to tackle some of Those themes, quite yet) – to talk about being in the middle (not midlife – that’s a foreign concept now with baby boomers still working for-like-ever) but looking forward to What’s Next.
one of the Writers who worked on thirtysomething is Joseph Dougherty and he talks (in the preface to his script “Michael Writes A Story”) about what is it to Write:
And there are prizes greater than an audience. You learn to write by writing, and in television you write day and night, inspired and blocked, on rainy winter days and on crisp October afternoons when you know you’d have Disneyland to yourself. The more you write, the less you censor, and the more comfortable you become trusting your instincts. You learn to get out of your own way, and start to experience that sense of spirit-writing where scenes create themselves and characters find their own voices.
here’s our favo(u)rite bit from that script: michael writes a story
ELLIOT: You wrote a novel?
MICHAEL: Yeah, come on. Let’s go.
ELLIOT: First we raid the larder for cookies with lots of preservatives.
He heads into the kitchen. Michael takes the title page from Gary.
GARY: I remember when you were writing this back at Penn; drinking too much coffee and smoking Gitanes. You were so dark and moody you didn’t even reflect light.
MICHAEL: God, that was fun.
that was the moment we probably made a mental note to buy Gitanes (and that was a hard image to Quit years later).
alongside watching thirtysomething each week, our American friend from University used to take us to the video rental store – and we saw all the classics we had not hitherto seen – a most useful education.
walking back down the ocean road (yesterday, not in 1988), we saw the sign for Vidiots – do you know it?
it’s probably the last video (yes, they still have VHS) and DVD rental store left on the Planet.
Vidiots was started in 1985 by two women – Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber – who were friends since childhood and always wanted to open a video store.
to say it has an incredible selection would be somewhat Understating the Matter.
it’s Heaven for cinephiles and lovers of TV-re-runs (yes, they have all the episodes of thirtysomething there) and anyone cool in this town (or lukewarm but still lovely) has a Vidiots card (of course we do, darlings) because you never know when you might want to spend an entire night watching something obscure and glorious – and they will have it – or at least you can have a Deeply Informed conversation with the (film-maker-writer-groovy-staff-members) and pick something Else.
Vidiots is actually a lot like the interweb.
the same sort of people hang out there (but with actual bodies instead of behind-a-screen) and talk about the sort of things we all talk about Here. what did we rent?
well – we wanted to cheer up @tjenamoss (due to Jake’s passing to dog heaven) – so we got two choices – a weepy (and a Neil Jordan classic which we’ll be watching today because it’s too hot to go out and play until the evening-hours) and a surprisingly feminist tale of learning-who-you-are before you meet the one-you-want (we watched that one).
and at the end of the evening, as we drove back to teamgloria towers, we marvel(l)ed at how Life has turned out.
especially thinking how lovely it is that we still go over to friend’s houses and watch the Television and sink down into the cushions on the (Danish Modern with vibrant southern-asian-textiles) couch and get Rather mesmerized by the Screen and let it all sink in and inspire us and everything.
so who-we-have-become (thus far) is a direct result of everything that-we-thought and read and saw and experienced and learned.
and we just wanted to say thank you to thirtysomething
because it was seminal for us, in 1988.
back to Mr. Joseph Dougherty for a moment, in the preface to his script for thirtysomething:
Will Michael ever become that kind of writer? I hope so. If he does, he’ll find it was worth the depression and humiliation. He’ll discover something else, too. I believe the most satisfying work a writer does is that for which she or he feels the least conscious responsibility. It simply flows from somewhere. You don’t write it down so much as the paper is there to catch it. Ego is lost and you become transparent, something through which the story is seen and focused.
For a writer, this is a state of grace.