Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If you don't know, I -- like so many jet-setters -- have been splitting my time between Winnipeg and New York City. Lately the whirlwind travel has started to damage my internal systems and honestly, my doctor, my bartender and my boyfriend are all suggesting that I start thinking about settling somewhere quiet.

So we're looking for an apartment in New York. This is first in a series.

If you want deeper insight into this situation, please watch the following, in reverse:



New York, New York, Part 1

Penn Station is teeming. There are so many people, it's like Grand Central Station. I make this joke every time I'm there, and I always have to wait for the laugh. I'm still waiting. The MennoKnight doesn't even roll his eyes this time.

Maybe it's the heat. We get in line at a taxi stand that is four miles long. A man behind me is talking loudly into his cell about demolition. There's a toddler in a stroller chewing on a dog toy. At least I think it's a dog toy since it's a piece of rubber bacon. At least I think it's rubber.

The elderly lady in front of me is telling her husband that she's sorry she brought so many bags but she didn't know what shoes to bring. I sympathize. The city smells like cigars and popcorn.
It's 88 degrees in September, a wet, soggy heat that comes up from the pavement, from the buildings all around us, and from above.

I love this place.

It took us five long frantic days to find short-term lodging for the ten days that we'll be apartment hunting. We tried Roomarama, airbnb, and Craigslist. I used the bed bug theory to explain the dearth of accommodations. The MennoKnight said I was paranoid, right up until the last couple of days when we were a train ride away from a box in Central Park.

"Tell them we're Canadian. Everyone knows how clean and polite Canadians are," I said.
We finally find a place on Craigslist and jump into the abyss, which in this case is someone's bedroom on the Upper East Side with a good address and no view.

I didn't actually catch our hostess's complicated name, but no matter. We get up to the apartment and she had a bit of a surprise for us. A 13 month old baby who she says is very quiet. 'Cause babies are.

I like kids. But this makes it a little hard to imagine stumbling home at 3 am after one of those New York kind of nights, but that's okay too, my liver could use the rest, and dagnabbit, we're here to find an apartment. And I have a meeting with my agent in two hours. Time is of the essence. It's all about time right now. Strike while the recession is hot. It's all about the Now.

So I meet my girlfriend in SoHo to do a little shopping.

SoHo is teeming. I'm waiting on the corner for her, and I think I see the guy who is Samantha's boyfriend in the Sex and the City movie, the first one. Even if it isn't, I don't care, I just realize that he completes me. There's no time to follow him, since my friend shows up even as the crowd eats him alive.

My girlfriend shows up with her boyfriend, the TV Writer. He looks David Duchovny. She Could Be a Guess Model. I realize we could get a seriously good table if we went for lunch. So we do.
TV Writer and CBGM and I go to this little hippy cafe in NoHo, which is SoHo's chubby sister. It reminds me a little of home except that the huge bowl of fruit I order, with melon, apple, grapes, three kinds of berries, toasted almonds and yellow currants on a cloud of wet muesli that tastes like pudding -- with coffee --comes to about six bucks when we get the check.

You gotta love a free market.

We shop too long. And I'm late for my agent meeting. But so is he. I blame the trains, he blames the phone.

You gotta love New York time.

Agent meeting is exciting and fast-paced, just the way he talks. I drink too much coffee, but the bathroom at The B ____ is beautiful and very Mad Men, so I don't mind. Walking back to reality from the restroom I pretend I'm Joan and let everything swing a little as I move.

Agent says blah blah blah and pays for everything. Just the way I like it. I head back to the UES because we have choices to make. Places to see. We have to get this pony expressing.

We have needs, and options. We've ruled out the places we can't afford: anything in Manhattan except for Washington Heights and Harlem. We've ruled out Brooklyn because the MennoKnight has a weird anti-Brooklyn thing that I can't figure out. To me Brooklyn looks just like Canada. Also nothing further than Jackson Heights.

It's pretty much narrowed down to Queens. Or maybe Queens.

When our short term rental is up in the UES, we shift ourselves over to Astoria, which is our old neighbourhood. Now we're going to start looking in earnest! Right after we go immediately back into the city to meet our favourite friends, G & D for dinner on the Upper West Side.

I love G & D, not only because they have a dog, but also because they have introduced me to my new great passion: Judaism. After having spent a significant amount of time with the lovely and talented G & D they have convinced me that I was probably of the faith in either another life, or maybe even this one, historically. At any rate, even if I'm not actually a Jew, I'm certainly "Jew-ish."

(That joke never gets old.)

G & D are living the NY dream. Jobs in the city, a house in the country, no kids at home, and a dog named Abby. After dinner we walk back to their apartment for a dog fix and then we go up top, for wine on the rooftop terrace, overlooking the Hudson with a view of the Jersey side.
When I can't peel my eyes away, The MennoKnight says he's not living in Jersey and I should stop staring.

I make a roofie joke. 'Cause we're on the roof.

From the roof of G & D's apartment, you can see at least dozen water towers on the tops of the other buildings. New York is a city of water towers. The MennoKnight explains that after a big fire at the turn of the century, the city made the tanks mandatory.

There's something quaint and old world about them, something very human. During the blackout in 2003, most of those buildings had water for as long as there was some in the tower. Gravity is unimpeachable.

I don't know why, but the water towers in the dark make me a little sad, whether because they are such an obvious last hold out for an analog world, or because I think you can see one from my grandma's balcony at home, I don't know.

Then we see a photographer taking salacious photos on another roof top and we're all momentarily distracted from nostalgia and home. I make the brown-chickie brown-cow joke.
We have a lot of apartment hunting to do the next day, so we leave G & D fully intending to head back and get some sleep.

Except NY is kind of small and everyone seems to be in town this weekend.

We go over to The W___ B___ for a couple night caps. We meet the TV Writer and CBGM there. When they arrive, we realize that CBGM and I are wearing the same pants -- bought in SoHo that day. We think this is hysterically funny. That might be the libations. She looks a little better in hers, but I wear mine with a certain elan that cannot be ignored. We think the word 'elan' is hysterically funny.

Later we're joined by an old friend from Winnipeg. He's in town for a few days and the five of us toast Canada. The bartender tells us a Canadian joke.

"How do you get a bunch of drunk Canadians out of your pool?" he asks. "Say, 'can you guys get out of the pool, please?" We know this joke but we give it to him anyway and laugh. We hope for free pour. It doesn't happen.

The W___ B___ was established in 1978 and has a lot of dark wood and glossy surfaces. It's a good looking place and right across the street from a theatre that did one of the MennoKnight's plays. It's stately and impressive.

By 1:30 the bathroom smells like urine and I see for the first time that the tp dispenser is broken, there's a long veiny crack in the wall over the facilities. Plus the auto-tap is demonic and comes on when I come out of the bathroom and then again when I'm drying my hands. Wash them again, it seems to say. Wash your hands you dirty, dirty girl. I assume the bathroom is haunted.

Time to move on. Big day coming up. Apartments don't rent themselves. So therefore we must head over to Mc___ 's in Hell's Kitchen for a nightcap.

We meet some theatre friends of the MennoKnight's, the Ingenue and the Dancing Guy. The Ingenue has been on two CSIs. Dancing Guy played a lead in the MennoKnight's last hit, a big deal and they're all very theatre-emotional about it. I try to fit in without hugging. Lots of Off Broadway-level wise-cracking ensues. My face hurts from laughing.

Then suddenly, it's after 3 am. We walk while we decide whether to cab it or take the train. We take the train.

The subway is teeming. This surprises me. What really surprises me is how many people are still playing their A-game, with nice hair, fresh make up. I feel wrinkled and soiled, and terribly, happily contented.

We don't have to sneak in past a baby, and this makes me happy, too.

Big day tomorrow. Apartment hunting. I fall asleep thinking that this will be my city soon. That my son, my dog and all the shoes I had to leave behind, will be here and I'll call this home.

Queens, where Archie Bunker lived.
I like Queens. I love New York.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Catskill Mountains, sing this song, do-da, do-da!


I've been in the beautiful Catskill Mountains in New York State for twelve days now. I've watched the leaves go from green to yellow and now they're turning orange and red. It's stunning here, and I've seen it from the land and the water, on foot, by car, train and canoe. This has to be my country fix, since we're heading to NYC in a week and will be there for another two weeks before I head home to the city and batten down for a few months without traveling at all.

It's calming and serene and zen and mystic and mythic and windy and rainy sunny cold warm hot wet and hippylicious, not quite what I expected. It was more like visiting a foreign country and finding out it's just your grandma's house, than going away. Well, my grandma's house, anyway. I'm rested and relieved, slightly hung over. I'm also suddenly, remarkably, surprisingly, enlightened.

It turns out that the Catskills is the perfect place for an epiphany, so I figured, what the hell, I'll just go and ahead and have one.

Webster's defines epiphany as, "a perception of reality by means of a sudden, intuitive realization." Like say for your whole life, you just hated turnips but couldn't really say why, and then one day it occurred to you that turnips taste like feet. You would go, "Aha!" which is the word that comes after an epiphany.

I guess it's the fresh air. Or the long stretches of time without a siren in the background. Or the HUGE ground hog that lives in the shed behind the house. Seriously, this thing is HUGE. Like a Buick. They call him Cazzo, which is A VERY BAD WORD in Italian. DON'T SAY THIS WORD TO AN ITALIAN.

So as you can see, there are many things in the Catskills which might be the catalyst for an epiphany. So here's sort of how it went:

The last ten years -- omfg TEN years -- have been an odd assortment of lessons and punishments, banishments and humblings and paranoia and minor and major heart break. Through this, I have produced a great deal of bad work, some very good work, and a lot of treading water work, like the FIVE television options that I have dicked around with in the last five years, a total waste of my time, but semi-lucrative and I did get to learn that I never ever ever want to create and write a television series, unless someone asks me to and then I bet I would. (That was not my epiphany).

So yes, dicked around, wasted time, blah blah ...

I had this realization not too long ago. I realized that my life had sort of come full circle from where it had started out. I realized that 25 years ago, I was a single mother, living in 600+ square feet with a kid and a dog, writing stuff. Now I'm a single mother, living in 600+ square feet with a slightly older kid and a dog -- and a cat. But there you go, a circle, and truly, I think it is a circle of something. That was my epiphany: the circle of something.

I was walking to town a couple of days ago and I passed by a little blue house that is just so hypnotically attractive and I thought, I like it because it's small, and all my houses have been small ... That started a chain of thoughts, each a new revelation.

20 years ago I decided I was going to write a novel. I did. It took a long time, but I did write it, it wasn't very good, but it WAS a whole novel, completed and that in itself was an accomplishment of some order. And it made believe that I could do it again, maybe write a better one. And I did. I wrote Bastion Falls, which was published in 1995 and did quite well for me.

Bastion Falls was a little bit better than my first book. Then I wrote another one, a few years later, A Dry Spell. And it was quite successful, selling all over the world, and making me a lot of money. It was a bit better than Bastion Falls. Then I wrote The Dwelling, which was a bit better than A Dry Spell, and what I think of as my best work ... so far.

Then I wrote The Thirteen, my novel that will be in stores next spring/summer. It's not what I think of as my best book. I've had my struggles with The Work in general in the last five years, and after my humbling experience editing The Thirteen with my talented and wonderful Random House editor, I realized that I had learned more editing that novel, than I did writing all four of them. Five if you count the very first, unpublishable novel.

I have a novel on deck. It's going to be a fun book to write, with a lot of the elements that made me want to be a writer in the first place. I got to soothing myself with this fact after engaging in a downward spiral on that long walk to town that day that I had the epiphany. I thought well, The Thirteen is okay. The new book will be a little bit better, and then the book I write after that will be a little bit better ...

And just like that: Epiphany.

My life is exactly the way it was when I started writing novels, when I had that love lust in my heart for the work of it, the pleasure of the keyboard, desk lamp, dog at the feet, cat on the lap. I'm exactly where I was, physically, spiritually and in my heart. In a kind of universal sort of hippylicious way, I am being given a second chance.

OMG it's so BLOODY OBVIOUS. It's like God is SNICKERING behind my BACK for the last YEAR and poking Buddha and going SHE'S LIKE GOING TO TRIP OVER IT and maybe they're making book on how long it's going to take me to figure it out and Mohammad and The Creator are all DUDE SHE'S LIKE BLIND and my grandma is shaking her head and putting ten bucks on September 14, in the Catskills in the late, gold light of afternoon on a road to town, going past a little tiny house. Grandma knows me best.

The important thing is, here I am, at the beginning of the best part, the journey to being the kind of write I know I am. I wrote a simple book, the next one will be a little bit better, and then the one after that will be a little bit better and I hope, I can do this right up until I die without God/Buddha/Grandma having to take me back to the beginning of anything again because let me tell you, as hippylicious as an epiphany is, the shit leading up to it sucked. Like Cazzo, Dude.

Pretty Blue House Photo by Pretty Red Holli Moncrieff

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Road of Excess ...

My one-lines (or as they say, loglines) for the new film:

"A wife discovers that her husband is having an affair with the dead girl that haunts their new house."

Or:

"A malevolent ghost seduces a woman's husband, to make him her mate ... forever."

Or:

"A wife discovers that the biggest threat to her marriage is not the swing-club they've joined, but the dead girl haunting their house."

I'm trying to work the phrase "dead sexy" in there somewhere, if just for cheese purposes.

Which one would you go see?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweet Salvation.

Apparently Jupiter is in Your Anus or something and this is making the universe all drunk and horny and she's peering around the world one-eyed and giggling, handing out favours like ... well like a horny drunk.

So, the long-awaited opportunity has arrived and I am being PAID to write the screenplay adaptation of my favourite novel, "The Dwelling."

I'm on my knees for that drunken universe, and absolutely I mean I'm on my knees. Whatever you want, baby, I'm your bitch.

This isn't the first time I've offered the Universe a deep-throat for some kind of break in the dismal clouds that were my horizon over the last five years. I've been on my knees at the slightest glance for a long time. Now she's turned her drunken-coyote-ugly face my way and I'm grateful in a way that no sex-metaphor can really cover, although I'll try to think of some.

And this break has been years in coming. I started talking to the producer about The Dwelling no less than four years ago. Now? Now? How about now? I'll point out that Million Dollar Baby was ten years in development. I'm winning.

The Dwelling, for all its under-rated status in the pulp fiction world, is a very good book. It got great reviews for the most part, and there are some folks out there who have put it on some very nice lists. It's frankly my best work. I hope it won't always be, that there's more where that came from, and I like to think that this next step is proof of that, that the Fickle Bitch who decides these things from whatever casino is serving free appletinis in the sky, has decided that I can take a couple of steps forward for a change.

I'm going to write an AWESOME movie. Let me tell you, I have to.

I haven't felt so much like a writer in the last five years as I have felt like a ping-pong ball bouncing from one bad idea to the next. I was listening to the bad side. Not the happy-drunk-let's-go-dancing guy, but the angry-drunken-let's-cut-our-own-hair-and-eat-Doritos-call-up-old-boyfriends guy.

New phase starts now.

I also don't know why I'm comparing all of this to sex, but there's something very sexy about winning and I have a feeling the MennoKnight might be walking funny this week.

I'm taking 10,000 steps forward this week. It's gotta take a long time to go backwards from that. Even for me.

I'm your bitch, Universe. Be kind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It is, after all, New York

I'm in New York these days, spending some time with my MennoKnight. New York's amazing, not just for the street dogs and bagels, or the cheap wine at the corner store, but also because you see the odd famous face. It's like being in a moovie.

I read this thing once when I was doing a little research for my haunted house novel, "The Dwelling." I read that ghosts will often make their presence known in a mirror. The book was written and published and I don't think I even used the mirror thing, but I never forgot it and I don't look in the mirror in the middle of the night when I get up to use the facilities.

Call me careful.

So last night I woke up in the night and stumbled to the bathroom to powder my nose, right? When I was washing my hands I accidentally, for the first time ever, glanced in the mirror, in the dark ...

First thought: ACK! Followed by a quick look away.
Second thought: Hey, what if it's someone famous?

Still wasn't enough to make me look.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

  • "A Dry Spell" has been optioned by Los Angeles company, Affirmative Entertainment. Cool fact: the producer is the same guy who acquired it for Cruise-Wagner, back in the day.
  • "The Dwelling" has been optioned by Eagle Vision in Canada. Cool fact: I'm writing the first draft of the screenplay. Fools.
  • My new novel, a witch-thing, will be available in Canada in spring 2011, from Random House. A US date is not yet set, but keep eating. Cool fact: My boyfriend named it.
  • I am writing 13, one-minute bits on animals and creatures for a new kids' show, shooting in July. The star attached is world famous, wildly talented, heart-throb Michael Moloney. Cool fact: Michael Moloney is my son.









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