Carry The Curse

You know what they say about deals with the Devil?  Well they’re right.  The Devil always wins.

I knew who he was.  I can’t claim ignorance or even that he conned me. 

I knew. 

I did it anyway.

Maybe I had a choice, maybe not.  In the end I couldn’t see any other way.  Lu knows everyone’s Achilles heel otherwise he wouldn’t have a single signed contract.  Mine was Delia.  Sweet, sunny Delia…my little sister.  She was standing at a crossroads as so many teens do and that sonuvbitch was about to tip the scales with my sister on the losing side.  I also knew this wasn’t about Delia…it was about me.  He wanted me either in his pocket or out of the game entirely.  I had already told him he could fuck his pocket.  So that only left getting me out of the game. 

My Granny told me long ago my ego would lead me straight to hell and she was right.  But she also said it would give the Devil a black eye if I had the guts to carry the weight. 

So I here I sit, staring at the Bullet on the table and the Gun across the room.  I can feel the curse twisting towards me, stopping just short of my skin.  Gotta have my permission first.  That’s the way Lu works.  He’ll back your ass into a corner with a knife at someone else’s throat and then smile saying, “It’s all up to you, yes or no?”

I took a deep breath and looked at the beautiful golden-haired man straight in his pale blue icy eyes.

“It’s very simple Michaela, you carry the Bullet, I carry the Gun.  I leave your family alone as long as you carry the Bullet and after you ask for the Gun, well, it won’t matter to you what I do by then.  If you drop the Bullet you will be in breach of contract and Delia, as well as any others I so choose from your bloodline are forfeit.”

I chuckled as I looked up at him. 

“Oh Lu I am looking forward to the day when you have to explain to Him why I am still walking the earth.  Because you will have to explain you know?  I won’t drop the Bullet and I won’t ask for the Gun.  He, and the entire Heavenly Host, will forgive you long before I lose my resolve.  I will carry this curse to the end of time and beyond if necessary.”

With that I grabbed the Bullet and gritted my teeth against a scream as the curse burned and twisted its way into my soul.  I fell to the floor as the convulsions started.  I have no idea how long it went on but Lu was sitting on the bed with a glass of whiskey in his hand when I came out of the seizures.  I had vomited and pissed myself and I was pretty sure every tooth in my head was loose, but I still had that damn bullet in my hand.

“Micky, Micky, Micky, let go and I can make everything right again.” 

I laid there and worked on remembering how to breathe.  Then I slowly stood up, swaying only a little.  The weight was…unbelievable.  I could feel it pulling on my organs, but worse than that, I could feel it pulling on my mind.  The ice in his glass clinked as our eyes met over the rim of the cut crystal.  He smirked.

“Heavy isn’t it?’

“Yes.”  My voice sounded like rusted chain on concrete.

“Let go.”

“No.”  I put the bullet in my pocket and staggered to the door.

“It will only get worse Micky.”

I turned my head to look at him over my shoulder, snarling, “I’m counting on it.  That way I’ll always have a new level of hatred for you to keep me going.”

I stumbled out into the hallway and down the stairs into the hot, wet New Orleans night.  I knew I had to get as far from the Gun as I could.  It would ease a bit with distance.  A bit was all I needed.

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I Want To Tell You A Story

I want to tell you a story.

I don’t know what that story is

But I know what I want it to do.

I want it to snag you out of your every day

I want it to make you pause, and wonder

I want it to transport so thoroughly you forget where you left your coffee

I want it to have characters so true and fascinating and flawed

That you want to hang out with them even once the story is done.

I want it to make your heart pound with fear and excitement

I want it to catch your breath and not give it back

I want it to raise your blood pressure, make your skin itchy and your hair stand on end,

I want it to say something important, but not preachy or pretentious

But I also want it to change the world

By which I mean, I want it to change you and me.

I want to tell you a story.

And I still don’t what that story is,

But I most certainly know what I want it to do.

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Alana

Back in late 2002 my friend Alana and I were chatting (via ICU instant messenger magic of the early aughts) about writing.  I was wanting to do more creative writing but I was struggling to do it.  She told me about this new online journaling thing people were doing called Blogging.  She suggested that maybe a new format with an audience as big or as small as the growing internet might inspire me.  She helped me set up my first blog which was probably on Blogger or some other very generic easy template sort of program.  This was the beginning of a very important part of my life.  I didn’t know it at the time.  That seems to always be the way, right?  We only know that a time period is important in retrospect.  A whole new world of bloggers opened up to me.  It was a pretty small world back then and I was blessed with finding some really amazing people during what we now amusingly call The Golden Age of Blogging.  What I was hoping for happened, though not in exactly the way I thought it would, but nonetheless…I started writing.  Writing on a regular basis.  I met other writer in the blogging world.  I made friends in the blogging world.  Good friends.  People I went on to meet in real life and am blessed to still be friends with to this day.  Alana always encouraged me to keep on writing.  She was an early participant in my yearly writing adventure every October (Writober).  When she was doing stand up we’d sometimes write jokes together either though IM or email.  She always had positive suggestions for me when I would get frustrated with myself for my chronic procrastination.  If those didn’t help she would make fun of me in the best possible way so that I would laugh and stop taking it all so damn seriously.  There were years when she would do tarot readings for me over the phone and I swear every single time I would ask some question about what I should be doing or if it was time to change jobs or how I could solve money problems it would always end up right back at Alana saying, “yeeeeaaahh ya know it seems like you should be writing”.  Over the years, Alana and I discussed everything at some point or other.  We talked about relationships, sex, politics, staying flexible both physically and emotionally, annoying co-workers, cats, puppy dog noses, and writing. 

When Alana got diagnosed with Stage Four Cancer two years ago I felt my heart break.  But, as Patrick Rothfuss wrote, “broken isn’t shattered.”

Last Monday it became clear that Alana had fought all she could and was slowly leaving her body.  That same day I got a notice from a professional writer that that I am fond of that she was teaching an online novel writing class.  I’ve never taken a writing class of any kind.  Not even in college, though heaven knows I should have.  I clicked over to the website for the class and read about how the whole thing worked, only 8 people in a class, 8 weeks long, must submit writing twice over the 8 weeks for crit and must do crit for other classmates writing.  I clicked to her specific class and saw it was starting THAT DAY…and there were two spots open. 

I thought about Alana.  About how she spent the last two years fighting that fucking disease and doing it with so much humor and grace and creativity.  She made a goddamned short film in the last year that is currently showing up in film festivals all over the country, while fighting fucking cancer.  I knew if I could ask her about taking the class she would have said, “Yes, you should…right now.”  So I paid the money and signed up.

At 7:20 this morning my sweet funny friend Alana left this world. 

Her name will be forever carved into my heart.

And I am writing.

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SO Hollywood…sigh

Sigh.  I apologize, I know I rant about this often.  I know I write about it almost every single Writober at some point, if not multiple times.  But honestly it’s only because of the amount of bullshit that gets slung at my city.  Look I get it.  LA/Hollywood is an industry town and that industry involves obscene amounts of money.  Money makes people weird.  The potential for money makes people weird.  Fame makes people weird.  The potential for fame makes people weird.  But I get really tired of the relentless claims that “Hollywood is SO shallow”, “You know everyone there is SO Hollywood”, “He’s a great guy, not Hollywood at all”, “You can’t even have a conversation with her she’s just WAY too Hollywood”…and on and on.  Hollywood is where my friend Sienna grew up.  Living in a sweet neighborhood on a street above Franklin Blvd. just a little west of Western.  Hollywood is where my friend Stacy grew up.  Living on Franklin Blvd. a bit west of Vermont.  She went to high school at Immaculate Heart on Los Feliz Blvd.  Hollywood is where my friend Alix lives in a sweet two bedroom apartment in what used to be a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.  She’s lived there for almost two decades now.  She shops at the local supermarket.  She has dinner at the restaurants a couple of blocks from her street.  She has a great Halloween party every year that we always try to attend.  Hollywood is where I lived in my early 20’s and I lovedlovedlovedloved it.  I played pool at one of the oldest pool halls in Los Angeles which was just one block down and one block over from my apartment.  I walked to the Baskin and Robbins ice cream shop on the corner of my street.  On nights at the beginning of spring I would walk along Franklin Blvd. following the scent of pink jasmine floating through the air until I met up with my friend at Birds, a bar that had decent coffee along with the usual bar drinks.  Hollywood is a place where people live and work and love and play and fuck up and hate.  But it’s just a city, a city that some people grow up in, they go to elementary school there, they are in the PTA, they open their shops in the morning and hope they do enough business to pay their rent, they go to jobs working for the MTA and Ralph’s and law firms and hospitals and Veterinary offices.  Yeah some of them work in the entertainment industry, even a lot of them do…but for those of us who have lived in Los Angeles our whole lives it’s such a slap in the face to dismiss all the other people who live and work and make this city such a wonder to live in.  Hollywood is so much more than one industry and so much less than most people’s dreams. 

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Inspired by a song…

Song: Before The Eyes of Storytelling Girls by Anais Mitchell

We are here in the midst of this chaos we did not create, we do not condone and we can’t seem to contain.  We have tried, over and over, in all the different ways at our disposal.  We teach with fairy tales and metaphors, we show through the example of how we treat others, we comfort and guide and still it never seems to be enough to change the path.  We have been gentle, we have been fierce, we have laid down our bodies and our souls, we resisted, we surrendered, we have raged and been serene, we picked up weapons and we have walked as pacifists through the battles and still, over and over, we find ourselves here.  I guess no matter what the center will not hold and eventually everything falls, leaving only fragments of our fairy tales, broken pieces of cell phones and a glass bead or two.

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Writober 2018

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

So it’s almost time for yet another Writober.  I’ve been revisiting some old Writobers and I have to say it’s been quite funny.  Over the years there have been, at times, only a couple of us writing and other times quite a few of us from all over the world writing.  There are a few of us who have been doing this for many years now.  If you don’t know, Writober is a group writing exercise in a way.  We agree to write something, anything really, three times a week and send it to everyone on the email list.  The goal is to simply write with some regularity in the company of others who are doing the same thing.  

I have written complete nonsense.  I have written things I had no idea I was going to write.  I have surprised myself with what I have written.  I have felt irrationally irritated that I have to write something but I try to do it anyway.  I have totally forgotten to write.  I have been obsessed with an idea and been unable to get it written.  I have been just blithering something out because it’s a Monday or Wednesday or Friday and suddenly it turns into something enchanting.  No matter what, Writober always does exactly what I hoped it would do when I first started it…it gets me to write words.  What happens from there is always surprising.

So I hope that all who join me this Writober get some words written and I wish us all some surprising, irritating, and enchanting writing at the end of it.

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Swirling Thoughts

So much swirling around in my head today.

My good friend Patricia managed to turn my old blog posts into a Word Doc that isn’t filled with all the coding info which is so damn cool. It’s pretty mind blowing to read what I was thinking and writing 15 years ago. The document is roughly 800 pages long and spans from 2003 to 2014.  What is most interesting to me is how regularly I was writing back then. That was the purpose of the blog, so it did its job. Every post wasn’t brilliant but some of them, upon review, I really like.  I wrote some funny stuff, some serious stuff and a whole lot of political stuff (no wonder it’s hard for me to write much of that now). Mostly I keep coming across bits of observation that I find amusing such as this, “But anyway, back to the older men at my gym. The ones that are minding their own business are kind of interesting. They are often reading a paper while they are using the cardio equipment. There are a couple of guys that look like they were all made from the same mold. They have gray hair and reading glasses that they sort of perch on the bridge of their noses…not like regular glasses that are firmly in place, these are glasses that seem to only be visiting their face, soon to leave. They seem a little annoyed at the need for physical exercise, so their reading seems to be an attempt to not be wasting valuable time. I assume they are business men, I have noticed that they are often reading The Wall Street Journal, but they could be school teachers or truck drivers or who knows what. I don’t really know why but I find them to be just the teensiest bit mysterious.”

I realize it’s rather meta to post part of a prior blog post inside a current blog post but that is just the crazy kind of world we are living in these days.

Next swirly thought…I started listening to the audiobook version of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born To Run”. Bruce is the narrator which was a very good choice. His voice, both his literal voice and his voice as a writer, is so distinct and specific it would have been jarring to have someone else do the recording. He is a storytelling musician and he is brilliant at connecting his very specific, personal experiences to a wider communal experience so that when you listen to his songs you immediately and easily place yourself inside the narrative of the song.  Whether you are the guy racing in the streets or the girl being coaxed out for some illicit fun running around on a summer night…it doesn’t matter that you’ve never been to New Jersey, it doesn’t matter that your name isn’t Rosie, those songs are about you in some way.  His gift is in the way he imbues those stories/songs with universal emotions, the specifics give you a way in, the emotions give you a way to make the story/song yours.  I’ve only just started the book but he has a muscular relationship with words.  There is something demanding about the language he uses, mostly I think it’s because he thinks in poetry, as though he is most comfortable speaking in lyrics.  It makes sense, he doesn’t lose the narrative, but you have to listen along a beautiful and winding verbal path sometimes, then, suddenly, he’ll get to the emotional point in three short words.

It’s wonderful.

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How About A Safety Line…

There’s a new version of A Star Is Born coming out with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.  The trailer looks pretty damn good and it’s very likely there will be some exceptionally good songs that will come out of this film.  It amazes me how we never tire of this story.  There have been THREE previous versions of this film (regardless of what CNN’s Entertainment reporter wrote, Judy Garland and James Mason did a version in 1954 that is perhaps the most famous of all the iterations).  It’s a great story but it’s also deeply sad how ingrained it is that we know we will lose a percentage of our artists to crippling insecurity, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction and all the various forms that suicide can take. I think the heartbreak of that is why we keep telling this story, it’s almost as though we hope the ending will get different, but it hasn’t so far.  The story resonates with us, there is truth to it that we see all around us.  But I have to confess it pisses me off.  We don’t have enough great artists for this to be our society’s overall view and expectation for artists.  I realize that any given individual will have whatever internal issues they will have…but this story shouldn’t be expected, this horrible looming fate.  It also shouldn’t be a part of how artists see themselves because that just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and despair and death.  At the same time I don’t deny that artists lean towards some of the darker corners of the heart and soul to draw out whatever it is they create.  I just wish that we would add a safety line to our societal story about artists…you know like rock climbers use…a safety line that would keep them linked to the rest of us, linked to a safe haven, a piece of stable ground, a safety line to help them find their way back from those dark corners.  A few years back Jeff Bridges was in a film called Crazy Heart.  That film is also about an artist descending into those dark places and the exceedingly high price for that descent…but he makes it out.  I don’t mind a dark story but I’m tired of all our great artists ending up dead at the end of them…I want more stories where we make it out alive.

Elizabeth Gilbert did a Ted Talk that speaks to this problem, I like her solution.

 

 

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I’m Feeling Pretty Damn Lucky

So I’ve been going back and forth about writing this blog post for a week now but I’ve decided to go on and write it.  My only hesitation is that some of my friends are about to find out something that happened to me recently via the internet/FB as a result of posting this and I generally think that is kind of shitty.  I am blessed with LOTS of friends who are scattered all over the world.  Friends from when I was a kid, from high school, from college, from all my years working in theatre, from my years blogging on the internet back in the early 2000’s, from writers groups on FB and so on and so on.  When something big happens it can be difficult to get everyone notified.  Hell it can be hard to get everyone you see/talk to on weekly basis notified as I have recently discovered.  But I am going to proceed because I think it’s important to get this information out to anyone who might actually read.  So to those of you who I love and who love me but are finding out about this event here, I apologize.  It all happened kinda fast and I did the best I could with the notifications.

So I recently (as in last week) turned 54.  Most of us here in the States know that it is generally recommended that you get your first colonoscopy done when you turn 50.  I put mine off.  Mostly because I didn’t have the co-pay when I turned 50.  It’s considered out patient surgery and thus my insurance at that time had a $500 co-pay.  Something I’ve discovered since then is that part of the ACA is that all co-pays are waived for cancer screening colonoscopies.  They did that because people like me put them off due to a high co-pay.  But if you don’t KNOW that it will be waived, if you are like me and instead of checking you just put it off…well you can’t find out about this very useful aspect of the ACA so you can proceed to use this brilliant medical test we have available to us.

So I got my first colonoscopy this past February on the 26th.  No big deal, everything went perfectly.  Until the GI Doc called and wanted me to come in to discuss my results.  We all know what THAT means.  Sure enough I go in and the Doc tells me they removed two polyps and one of them had cancer cells.  Now the way this works is if the polyp has cancer cells that are NOT up against the wall of your intestine then the removal of the polyp is the end of the event.  All good.  BUT if the cancer cells are found right up against the wall then that makes everyone a bit more nervous.  It’s possible the cancer cells have migrated into the wall of the intestine or possibly through the wall into the lymph nodes that are scattered along the outside of your intestines.  (Did you know there were lymph nodes scattered outside your intestines just hanging out in your abdominal area?  I didn’t.  The More You Know eh?)  Of course the polyp removed from my large intestine had cancer cells right up against the wall.  The GI Doc explained that he felt quite certain he had gotten everything but no one wants to take chances with this and as such the next step was surgery.  So that’s what we did.

The surgery was March 27th and included a laparoscopic procedure that involved removing about six to eight inches of my large intestine (the beginning section of large intestine that runs up the right side of your abdomen) reconnecting my small intestine to the remaining portion of large intestine (we all really have miles and miles of it so not a big loss at the end of the day), and removing a bunch of lymph nodes to test.  The surgery went perfectly and I spent a few days in the hospital recovering and getting my digestive system to wake up after the surgery.

Just yesterday I got confirmation from my Doc that the pathology report came back clear of cancer cells in the removed section of large intestine and clear of cancer cells in all the lymph nodes.  Best news ever.

Now if they had found any I would have done some chemo and by all accounts that would have taken care of it pretty quickly.  I’m grateful I don’t have to do that but again, I’m also grateful that this is one of the most successfully treated cancers humans can get.

So here’s the public service portion of this post.

Please, PLEASE GET YOUR CANCER SCREENINGS DONE!!

I have no way of knowing if it would have been better or worse if I had gotten my colonoscopy done when I was 50.  But I do know that if I had waited three more years this would have been a much different story I’d be telling today.  I’m very aware of the short comings of the medical world and how it deals with people at the same time I am a HUGE fan of modern medicine and science and I want to make sure I use it to my best advantage.  Because the truth is things like this are a straight up miracle compared to what was available to my grandparents.

That’s my story today…I’m feeling lucky that my incisions are itchy and annoying because they are healing up.  I’m feeling lucky that I have a husband who showed up every day calm and loving and funny through what has turned out to be a small health bump rather than a terrifying mountain.  I’m feeling lucky to have family that was loving and calm and supportive.  I’m feeling lucky to have an employer who has been so supportive and allowed me to work from home last week and this week.  I’m feeling lucky to have so many good friends who sent me their love and support.  I’m feeling really, really lucky.

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