the importance of video rental stores, secondhand bookshops and thirtysomething

darlings

how was your saturday?

ours was delicious.

and surprising.

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.

what’s that?

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).

nice.

french roast?

*peersthroughtheinterweb*

lovely mug.

ceramics class?

we digress.

*putsonconcentrationface*

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.

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Goddess of Donal Bay

INT. HALLWAY OF APARTMENT BUILDING – MOMENTS LATER John is putting his key in his apartment door opposite.

JOHN
I’m finding thirty-five a bit of a comedown to be honest.

LIVY
Have you actually told anyone you are thirty-five?

JOHN
No way. Did you?

LIVY
Of course. I don’t see the point of lying about my age.

JOHN
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.

LIVY
Want to split a pizza?

JOHN
I haven’t eaten carbs for a decade.

LIVY
Since when did straight men diet?

JOHN
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.

CALLIOPE
Is it a play?

LIVY
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.

CALLIOPE
You write for the machine?

oh GOSH.

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.”

JUNG

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself/In dark woods, the right road lost.

Dante

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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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe scripts of thirtysomething with commentary by the Writers of the episodes they Wrote.

*gasps*

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

*ironiclooktocamera*

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.

*looksaround*

voila.

that Happened.

and to Write.

*smallsmile*

happened too.

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.

JOSEPH DOUGHERTY

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.

yes.

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.

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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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhat 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.

most delicious.

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.

just seminal.

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.

JOSEPH DOUGHERTY

ah, yes.

#grace

quelle glorious solstice of poets and pagans.

darlings

it’s the summer solstice!

our pagan friends have rituals and delights listed here

and Poets dream of Last Summer here

this is the time of year when, if pausing in a cafe, we take up the (android) digital device, select the kindle “app” within and start to read our friend Frances….

All summer the sun strikes the Etruscan wall……directly at dawn…behind the pleasure and fresh beauty of sunrise, I detect an old and primitive response:  the day has come again, no dark god swallowed it during the night. A sun temple seems the most logical kind anyone ever would build.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwe took this picture the other day as the sun dipped behind the Pier and we started to share the first pages of The New Novel
and here’s a little more:

Livy Brennan did not surf. But she did love to sit at the water’s edge with her shoes in her hand, her jeans rolled up to mid calf and watch the sun slip behind the Ferris wheel on the pleasure Pier.

She was so transfixed by the beautiful evening that she did not notice Calliope emerging from the waves. When the sun had finally gone down, Livy picked up her bag and went home to do laundry. Calliope watched her walk up the beach and could not work out why she seemed so familiar. She looked down at her wrist and checked that the emerald bracelet was turned round. This meant she was visible to humans. Livy might not have noticed her, but the lifeguards did. They had been staring for the past half an hour, leaning over the side of the pale blue weathered wood steps that lead up to their lookout station.

One of them decided to walk over and talk to her. “Hey man, where did you spring from?” he said, with a complete lack of self-consciousness. The lifeguards at Donal Bay were gorgeous and used to women (and sometimes men, after dark) falling for them. Calliope raised an eyebrow at him.

“Man?” she said, smoothing her hands over her body to check she was still in female form. Yes, everything was there in perfectly taut lines with suggestive curves. The lifeguard felt faint. Women were rarely so self-possessed in his experience.

“It’s like you just appeared out of thin air,” he said, a bit taken aback. Calliope waved her hand dismissively at him and started walking up the beach.

“The air isn’t thin,” she muttered, “It is multi-dimensional.”

The lifeguard wasn’t going to let her get away. Not when the other more junior lifeguards were watching. He had his reputation to think of.  “Do you want to grab a beer later?”

Calliope kept walking. He could not work out how she covered so much distance in that long flowing gown. He had to walk fast to keep up with her. “Can I have your number?” he said, a bit desperately by now.

“My number?” she said, over her shoulder as she disappeared into the grove of palm trees. “First of the Nine.” And then she lay back against the tree and turned off the emerald bracelet to be invisible again. She had not been to earth for many, many years, and forgot how exhausting it was to interact with humans. Especially male ones who wore tiny white shorts and t-shirts and had the agility of sleek dolphins. Calliope had a very highly developed sense of intuition and she could feel how much the lifeguard desired her. It was overwhelming and quite disconcerting. She slept between the palm trees and tried to remember how to act among humans again. It was strange to be back. But she was also tremendously excited for some reason she could not quite put her finger on.

The next morning the lifeguard contingent had changed and the night shift stripped off their uniforms, carefully slipped into wet suits and hit the dawn waves. Calliope awoke refreshed and watched them for a while, covered in her cloak of invisibility. They had a pure uncontained joy, frolicking in and out of the waves and whooping as the sun came up. It was exhilarating to watch them. She smiled and remained hidden and wandered into town.

The life coach center was open already but only for a dawn break yoga class. Calliope watched them all stretch and OM and peel off shiny all-in-one suits and smile and head out into the day. The instructors gathered for Greek yoghurt and soy smoothies at the café next door and she listened to their conversation for a while.

“Everyone please take a number and wait your turn!” said the receptionist as the lobby filled up with new students for the life coach class.

setting the scene in donal bay….(aka #oceanPark California)

darlings

we went to interview someone for next week’s column in Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and after it was done (and fascinating and lovely an interview it was too) we decided it was going to be too crazy on the freeway (rush hour) so we took a different turning and went to watch the sunset on the beach before heading home……..and took a lot of pictures

mainly because we want You to have a Visual of this fictitious place we called DONAL BAY in the screenplay-being-turned-into-a-novel (in reality, it’s Ocean Park, California and yes, we used to live There)

ready to read?

it’s just a little bit tonight – but a few pictures too, so a cup of tea or something sweet might be nice, depending on your time zone/desire:

we’ll wait……….

*pauses*

you’re back – lovely – here we go.

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There is a place in southern California called Donal Bay. It’s a few miles down the coastal road from Santa Monica on the way to Venice Beach and you would miss it if you did not slow down and turn left just five minutes (in mellow traffic) as soon as you spot the pier on the ocean side.

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There are twinkle lights entwined between all the palm trees down Main Street, an Irish bar, 1940s era eggs and coffee breakfast place and a newsstand with all the Italian and Parisian fashion magazines next to surfing and boating news. There are also several tiny cafes with small round tables in between all the yoga studios and alternative healing emporia.

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Late at night, strange mists of water can be seen at the intersection. As you get closer, you’ll see people in wet suits, just back from the beach, washing the sand off their cars in the outdoor hand car wash. They then gather at the Mexican place and sit at the counter to eat three dollar fish tacos and swig from lurid candy-colored soda bottles.

The homeless men and women in black shuffle into formation to sleep outside the old Carnegie Library, just down the street from the seafood restaurant with fishing nets above the door, a mermaid’s torso and the sound of live fiddle music floating out into the night air.

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If you turn left from the Ocean road and find yourself in Donal Bay, you will probably never want to leave.  Livy Brennan took that turning last year to see about an apartment share and knew she was here for good.

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The apartment was four blocks from the beach and part of a duplex owned by an entertainment attorney called John Mahoney. Several years earlier, John had been visiting a faded rock star client in Malibu who needed yet another divorce, and taken the Ocean road back towards Beverly Hills. He got lost, couldn’t find the I-10 freeway and ended up in Donal Bay. It was exactly the place he had been looking for. He sold his house in Hancock Park and bought the duplex as soon as he could, moving into the first floor apartment on the left and renting out the other units to various creative types who liked to surf.

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Livy Brennan did not surf. But she did love to sit at the water’s edge with her shoes in her hand, her jeans rolled up to mid calf and watch the sun slip behind the Ferris wheel on the pleasure Pier.

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She was so enchanted by the sunset that she did not see Calliope emerge from the waves.

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oh yes – we are Most Excited about writing this one.

bless you for reading along thus far……….more soon.