lextopia

my thoughts . my memories . my family . my projects . my fears
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Archive for October, 2009

Up, Up, And Away!

October 30, 2009 By: admin Category: Filmmaking, Soma Girls, The Film, Video

Everyone, meet Shahana. Shahana, this is everyone:

Soma-Girls-5x7_postcard

Temptation vs Disaster

October 27, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Going Home, Happiness, House, India, Living, Love, Mom

Mom jumped off the bridge once that I know of. A leap of faith. She came to this country on the premise that she’d be staying for the summer, when, really, she was staying forever…

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She said she always admired my courage, the bravery I had about traveling and trying new things. As the generations are different I had no idea what she was talking about until I was much older and saw in those younger than me that which I would never have the courage to do.

Temptation comes along when you least expect it. No… that’s not right… The saying I remember was “LOVE comes along when you least expect it. It comes in,” my teacher said “and fucks up your life.”

I can remember in college what temptation was. It was men and simple, easy sex. There wasn’t any promise there, just fun, and I had a lot of fun. It was only when I began connecting with women that temptation stopped being simple. Maybe it was just flat-out cuz I was gay and the women meant more to me than the men, or that I felt closer to them than men, but the problems began when I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t just fun anymore… it was love. All the time. The ability to be casual died on the spot… and I have been in varying degrees of pain ever since. High-bottom, I know, for someone who’s been to India and seen what my friends there do, but this is the way of things.

The Image

October 19, 2009 By: admin Category: Lumix Pix, The Film, Video

Screen shot 2009-10-19 at 11.41.19 AM

My Director of Photography friend Nikki has me obsessing, recently, over The Image, so when I saw this, I flipped:

Danfung Dennis

My pal & neighbor, Drew, is an amateur photog and sent me this link this morning. It’s a bit early in the day to be crying, but that’s what happened when I saw this. THIS is why I became a filmmaker. We, filmmakers & photojournalists, can make a situation of horror look beautiful and therefore keep viewers’ attention long enough for them to get the message. Holy shit. I just became a HUGE fan of this camera. I also flipped over all the technical answers Danfung gives. Rarely do shooters “divulge [their] secrets” so I’m grateful to read about what he did. Also, his detail regarding setting up his rig to work in a war zone really resonated. This is the line that got me:

“I cut up a Glidecam Body Pod to make it fit with my body armor.”

Having the skills to capture an image and being able to recognize when something is “news,” and will benefit society, will cause you to do crazy things with your body. Sometimes it’s work to remember that you have to plan to protect yourself, and that there may be shots you just shouldn’t try. To be fair, I haven’t been in a war zone, but have done some pretty “crazy” things to get the shot. Probably the craziest isn’t the one that sounds crazy: I was the only videographer during a magazine photo shoot of the U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team as they prepared for the Olympics. I filmed them on the ice for over two hours… in a tee-shirt. When I came off the ice, dragged by the sensitive and kind captain of the team, I was blue. Maybe that doesn’t sound like risking your life, but the importance then was that the network I was working for at the time, Oxygen Media, was trying to put women’s sports on the map so women and girls could have role models other than men. I think that’s “an idea worth spreading.” 😉

This footage reminds me that telling vital stories is why I do this work. There just came a time–at 2:00am in that hotel room in San Francisco in Sept. 2007–when I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any more. If i want to be able to face people every day I have to be profoundly proud of something I’m doing, and this is it: telling stories few others will or will be able to tell, and risking what I have to to get it right. That feeling of “risking” has been growing since my mother died. It’s not a death wish, just a “I don’t have anyone worrying like crazy so I can try a few more things” attitude. So, recently, I’ve been attracted to the idea of going into a conflict area, or at least a “you really don’t want to do that” area–maybe where there’s disease. I don’t know… I get these “goals” ideas every few years. I’ll think of something that I’ll feel I should do before I die and then work hard to get myself there. This “conflict area” thing might be one of them, and may be because Nikki’s got me thinking about The Image and because my favorite photographers are both journalists:

Sebastaio Salgado

James Nachtway

There’s also:

Mary Ellen Mark

So, since the obsession with The Image began my partial great sadness is that so much of my coal film is already shot. If I was just starting it I’d do things differently. For example, I’d take… ahem… a lot more time to actually set up a shot. :( Okay, so I’m a little late to the “pretty image” game but at least now I’m on the field… :)

Holy cow… *buzzing*

Monday’s Girls

October 18, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Happiness, Health, India, Love, Meditation, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking, Video

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You’re all familiar with this photo, I’m sure. It’s the one I use whenever I need an “avatar” or ID pic. It’s one of two that were taken by one of my best friends from college: Andy. She was into photography while we were studying acting and movement at Tisch (NYU), and this one was taken on the NYC subway one morning, too early. Hence, the large cup of coffee. This, I think, is the best candid shot of me ever taken. It’s hard to get me looking natural in shots. I inherited my awkwardness in front of the camera from my mother. It’s okay, though, as there are other gifts I’m grateful for… :)

The other shot from Andy was taken on a trip we made to Boston with another girl we didn’t actually like. See, there was a large group of us from ETW, the Experimental Theatre Wing–a specific school within Tisch that embraced the avant garde and modern dance. We were all very tight, like family, and young and gorgeous and energetic and talented, so I can imagine there was a fair amount of envy from folk who weren’t in the group.

Anyway, so this other woman who came with Andy and me to Boston wasn’t part of crowd and it was strange, but we still managed to have a good time. Andy and I cared for each other a great deal and always just wanted to have fun. The additional strangeness of that trip, though, was that I remember feeling that college was winding down for me. Andy still had two more years, but my ride was ending, and it had been one hell of a ride. I can’t imagine anyone having had a better, more exciting, more fulfilling time in college than I did. Sophomore year I learned about ETW and switched acting studios to join them in Paris for one year. From a year’s sabbatical with my family when I was ten, I knew Paris already like the back of my hand. It was, and is, home. Then, coming back to NYC for my final year, thinner, smarter, older, wiser in a way… was amazing. New York has always “delivered” for me and I will always be grateful.

These memories are coming up today because I found the cassette tapes Andy and others made for me during that time–the title of this post is the title of one of the tapes. A group of my girlfriends from ETW spontaneously got into a habit of going out to dinner every Monday for a few weeks. We’d go to the same place in the Village just off Washington Square Park. An Italian restaurant that had incredible food at student prices, and that catered mostly to older, single gay men. We were so out of place when we went in there that we sort of naturally fit. And, anyway, as there was always an army of us–6 or more every week–it wasn’t like we were going to allow ourselves to be intimidated out.

Looking back at all my experiences brings today’s into relief. Molly recently had a show she called “Metamorphoses” to reflect on all the changes that have gone on her in life recently. I wasn’t at the show, but have noticed that almost everyone around me has been going through massive changes. First and foremost, everyone is breaking up. Between us, Molly and I know about 6 to 7 couples that split in the last 6 months. Add my friend Nikki’s count and the number gets oddly large. So what the hell is happening? I haven’t figured it out yet, but it does make me feel like looking back is okay, now that things in my life have settled down a bit after recent storms.

Meditation class has, I think, had the biggest impact because it gave me the tools to help make my reflection productive. I’ve noticed things in me that are different from when I was in college, but more importantly I’ve noticed the things that are the same. That’s what we’ll be spending the next few weeks staring at people. Ya ready…??? 😉

In the meantime, I’m going to let the joy of a few new events wash over me. I am immensely grateful for the success of “Soma Girls,” and for a few wonderful new people I’ve met who have opened my eyes. :) Here’s to a fabulous Fall, y’all. Thanks for listening. :)

Under Pressure

October 15, 2009 By: admin Category: Uncategorized

So I’m more than a little bit under the gun. I’m in the middle of a “when it rains it pours” cycle and am needing to call on my new meditation skills every minute to keep from driving at high speed into a wall cuz I forgot to take my foot off the gas. As most of you know, I have a freakish skill with time-management, but even I can get overwhelmed and that’s happening today. It’s all good stuff that I have to accomplish, I just have to accomplish all of it before I leave for Chicago on Monday and that’s causing me to flip out a bit so I thought I’d blog about it and give you all a little gift at the same time so we could all laugh together… :) Enjoy. I apologize in advance for the site’s ridiculous background…

Pressure

If I Take A Deep Enough Breath…

October 09, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Meditation, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking

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I’m traveling today. Not far. Just to the Vineyard. The whirlwind last few days have me needing a break with family around, so the pile of us are gathering on the beach. :) I’m bringing my library of book totems: “The Sum of Our Days,” Isabel Allende; “The Journey From Abandonment To Healing,” Susan Anderson; “Turning The Mind Into An Ally,” Sakyong Mipham; and “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior,” Chogyam Trungpa.

Isabel is for memory. Reading her I realize just how Latin I am. I have a feeling I would fold right into the societies of Lima, Buenos Aires, or Santiago. There is a natural rhythm to South America that I know will be familiar even though I’ve never been there. Mom would dance the rhythm, sing it, cook it, and teach it. Passion was her vocabulary. Everything he did was as if for the first time or the last. There was a vitalness to the way she saw things.

The first time I noticed I had a similar quality was a few days before she died. I was in Orlando, Florida, of all places, producing a huge shoot for an educational DVD series. My friend and colleague, Lana, and I took our precious one afternoon off and went to see the giraffe in the “Animal Kingdom.” I had never seen giraffe and when I caught the first glimpse of them as we approached, I broke from Lana and ran to the fence. Before I knew what I was doing I had climbed onto the first rung of the fence and stood there staring, my mouth open wide, like a child. Lana came up behind me and was so taken by my reaction that a couple of days later she bought me a pen in the shape of a giraffe. The following day would be the last time I’d ever see Lana because it was to be the day I made an emergency flight to Boston.

I’m coming into my Latinness, wearing the symbols Mom wore and decorating my house with all her belongings. There was never a discussion amongst my family members about where certain items should go. Dad and Michael seemed to know some things just belonged with me. “You didn’t have enough time with her,” Dad said, years after she died. I didn’t but the day had to come and when it did was as good a time as any. My duty now is to take what I know–the things she taught me about living and passion–and evolve them. She is in me and is counting on my journeys so she can see all the places she’s never been: Egypt, Jordan, the very top of Kilimanjaro. I am her eyes now. It is my responsibility to look.

Genuine Heart of Sadness

October 03, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Meditation, Michael, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking

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In the next book we’re reading in meditation class, the author defines the “genuine heart of sadness.” In a nutshell, it’s our human ability to have an “awakened heart,” a heart that no longer hides from the truth, even if it’s pain. The deal, though, is to be able to identify the feelings that come in through your awakened heart and not be crushed by them. That’s why we meditate, to build up the habit of not letting ourselves get crushed. As you can imagine, it’s not easy…

In last week’s class I had a bit of a breakthrough. I think we all did, actually. The instructors had us do an exercise in which we went back to a recent event when we felt something strongly. Happy, sad, frustrated, angry, whatever. She asked us to really FEEL the feeling again, to let it wash over us completely and not hold back. That was an incredibly painful thing to do if your memory happened to be sad, which mine did. While our eyes were closed I heard a lot of sniffling. People were crying, as was I. Then the instructor told us to “remove the storyline” that was associated with the feeling and just keep the feeling itself. For reasons I can’t explain, I was able to do this. I sat there and just FELT the feeling, held it in my consciousness. Then she asked us very intellectually to look at why we felt that feeling, and to see if we could identify it’s source. Instantly, I was thrown back to the night in the hospital when Michael and Dad were out at Tanglewood and Molly hadn’t yet arrived from California. I was alone with Mom. It was late. Midnight or something. I was headed out, but then something kept me there. The chief intern for Mom came anxiously into the room and started doing some odd tests–pressure point stuff. Then there were more interns. They surrounded Mom’s bed as she lay there, unconscious. I knew enough to know that something had gone wrong–possibly that she had been unintentionally put into a drug-induced coma–and knew that what the interns were trying to do was revive my mother.

The chief intern squeezed Mom’s thumb in a classic pressure point maneuver and in her drugged state Mom lurched up, arching her back and cried out “Ow!” That was all it took. At the top of my lungs I screamed “STOP!!!!!!” It was the most sincere moment of my entire life.

Back in the meditation class I saw clearly the connection between the two incidents. They were connected by the feeling I had experienced, and in that discovery there are answers…

We ALL know what sincerity feels like. We have an experience and then a true feeling will rise up in us, and then… we’ll squash it. That’s our culture. But look at a baby, they don’t squash anything. The theory of my meditation practice style is that it’s better to walk around feeling things than to bottle them up because then you’ll feel more and more sincerity and will just enjoy life a whole lot more because you won’t be taking things so seriously. The realization is that feelings won’t kill you. They CAN’T. They do have some power over your body at times, if you let them get to you, but overall they’re not solid and don’t have the power to kill you.

As a society we’re taught to ignore our feelings and then cover them up with an alternate reality because they’re scary, but the fear is in our head. Feelings aren’t SCARY, they’re just feelings. Scary events are scary, but not feelings, and so we have the power to not let them control and hurt us. The genuine heart of sadness asks that we go ahead and feel everything, but that we teach ourselves to be able to handle how those feelings affect us.

Deep, huh?

After class I was elated. Just freakin’ E-L-A-T-E-D. It’s very, very, very hard to maintain the genuine heart of sadness, but–as the instructor said–that’s why what we do is called “practice.” “It’s not called ‘Master this thing in four weeks.'” 😉

I joined this class the way I’ve always “tried” stuff like this: I go in hoping to find something that works, hoping to find answers. This class and this practice are the first time that’s actually happening. Change IS possible, but you’ve got to want it enough to look at some harsh realities.

I just wrote an email to a friend who, while she’s having trouble at her job doesn’t want to leave it for fear of not being able to find something else afterward. She’s right to do that, even if the job is maddening and soul-crushing. I wrote that no matter where I go this national (maybe international) depression is present. I don’t know anyone who’s happy right now. We’re all just surviving and it’s awful. It makes me wonder if we should consider trying to live another way. We’ve lived with our current social rules and assumptions for a long, long time and they’re not doing so well for us at the moment. Maybe change will happen soon. Something’s got to give: health care reform; troops out of Afghanistan; the building of a coalition to face Iran (and all of us) with the request for nuclear non-proliferation; the passing of a serious climate change bill… I don’t know, but something’s got to give. As the planet evolves so must we.