On my recent trip to New York, I stayed with a friend I’ve known since the 4th grade. Our friendship has survived junior high, college, family emergencies, boyfriends, and traveling together. Now, 25 years later, we come and go in each other’s lives, sometimes going long spells without talking, but always fitting like a puzzle piece back into our reserved spots.
Upon my arrival in NY she gave me an extra set of keys to her apartment and a blow up bed in her room. Most of my days were spent wandering either alone or with other friends, meeting with her after she got off work.
And I was reminded of how much I still love the once taken for granted sleepover. As a child it was a ritual built mostly around parent’s schedules and lack of one’s own transportation. Then, after everyone had a car, the sleepover became less necessary unless some form of curfew evasion was needed, in which case it remained quite useful! Now, as an adult, I find that I covet the extra time with friends that comes between brushing teeth and falling asleep or waking and drinking coffee. Inevitably we find ourselves saying good night and then laying in the dark, talking late into the night about the day and life. Or waking and combining our morning routines, letting each other in on the small rituals that are so easily glossed over on the phone or at dinner, but which make up such a large portion of our lives. I feel very fortunate to have had not only friends for so long, but ones who I can lie in the dark talking to, like back when we were ten.
I just returned from a quick and delicious weekend in Manhattan and Brooklyn… Almost two years since my last visit, I was craving a quick jolt of the energy only that city can provide.
While packing I realized my normal season for visiting is autumn, and scarves, sweaters, and boots are all I want to wear there. But, instead I tried to pack for hot, humid, dirty urban, which meant black skirts, dark tanks, and the sturdiest sandals I own. Though sandals in the subway just seem wrong.
I spent my days wandering, eating, and drinking with friends, agenda and plan free. Some highlights included Bryant Park iced tea drinking discussions, Le Labo Tubereuse, donuts on the lower east side, great black squid ink pasta with king crab and lemon, and a quick walk on the Highline.
For the first two days, a cool breeze blew as the sun shone, with a sticky humidity holding off until Sunday. Though to my parched desert skin, even that felt great.
As a child, New York was the only city I wanted to live in. The anonymity it allows people appealed to me, along with its inherent attitude and style. But now, as I watch my friends navigate lives and careers in the city, I realize that for me, it may only ever be a place to visit, to read about, and to soak up, once a year.
It’s 102 outside…what to do?
I can’t remember the last time I was off in the summer, must have been before college, before summer jobs became the norm. Back when long, hot days stretched on for three empty months and my sister and I entertained ourselves with board games, books, and running through the sprinklers.
At some point in high school, summer restaurant jobs began, followed by year round restaurant jobs in college and summer break became about saving money rather than lounging in the heat. The past decade has been no different as producers love to shoot their movies in the summer, after the spring winds die down and the days are long. But, here I am, for the first time in over 15 years, with time to…
Check out the rodeo
Ride the Ferris wheel
Make gazpacho to eat outside with friends
Take a road trip
Lie in a hammock
Read a pile of magazines
Read a pile of books
And so on.
For those of us in the film industry, getting fired is something that usually happens several times a year. Unless you’re on a really long show, in which case it may only happen once a year. It’s not as dramatic, personal, or bad as it sounds and is just what happens when a show comes to its natural end. For those who like to know when and where their next paycheck will come from or what they will be doing a year from now, this is not the life for you.
It’s a world caught somewhere between freelancing and self employment with the added security of being the member of a union. Though a production may find my name by looking at the union roster, much more frequently I get hired by word of mouth and called by people who know people I’ve worked with. And it is then up to me to accept the job or not. It frequently ends up feeling like a big chess game, trying to make moves that will be personally beneficial without burning any bridges which could be useful in the future.
The key is then to be able to enjoy the time off that naturally occurs between jobs. I know many people who jump from job to job because the in between time is too uncomfortable and others who are never really able to enjoy it because they are too worried about when they’ll be employed again. I understand both of these but do my best to both take time off and to enjoy it. It’s the only way I’m able to balance the crazy.
It’s been years since I’ve been able to see down the road for any length of time and think I knew what lay ahead. I’ve chosen a life full of curves but maybe that’s a blessing, causing me to live more in the present than I otherwise might. After all, who ever really knows what lies ahead, even when the road appears straight?
In a way I think it’s all a big exercise in faith. Faith that if you’re on the right road it will all work out, the calls will come, the jobs will follow and in the meantime, why not visit some friends, landscape your yard, and take a nap?
I love the smell of sawdust and fresh paint because of visits to your job sites through the years. I love the sound of an egg beater because it reminds me of waking up to crepes on Sundays. I love your bus because it makes you happy. I love that you taught me and my sister how to dance. I love that you decided to learn a new language and did it. I love that you make friends everywhere you go. I love watching you be a grandfather to my nephew. I love that I grew up in houses that you built and that once again I am living in a house designed and built (mostly) by you. I love that you were the first follower of my blog. I love you babbo.
Happy Father’s Day!
Over Memorial Day weekend I realized I’d forgotten how to cook. For the past three months I’d been making do with hotel room microwaves, room service, and, most frequently, catering and craft service at work, and, as I stared blankly at my open cupboard, I couldn’t think of a thing to cook. I proceeded to feed myself as an eight year old, left home alone for the first time, might. Granola, a Popsicle, cheese, more cereal, toast, an apple, and finally a steamed artichoke with half a bottle of wine. Now, you might think an artichoke is too much for an eight year old, but the fact that I let the water boil away and managed to burn it, demonstrated some very amateur cooking skills.
And, as I sat eating my slightly smoky artichoke, I wondered… Would I remember how to arrive places on time, without a call sheet or a map? Would I know how to schedule my life without a movie schedule doing it for me? I obviously didn’t remember how to feed myself without a catering truck and Jaime’s smiling face asking what I wanted, so what else had I forgotten? It wasn’t the first time I’d wondered these things after finishing a job, but as the light at the end of the tunnel loomed brighter, it illuminated many things I’d spent the past few months ignoring. Fortunately, cooking is always one of the things I find most grounding and I have no doubt that after a few days of staring blankly at the cupboard, it will begin to come back to me again.
No Mist Lasts Forever
Another movie has wrapped, another cast, crew, and group of friends has scattered the way they always do, and the sun of “real life” has burned through the nine week mist of my most recent job. As the years go by, this inevitable ending has become both easier and harder to handle. On the one hand I know our paths will cross again as they always do, but on the other, I know that we have been on an adventure that is nearly impossible to convey to those who weren’t involved and that the small patterns and routines we developed in those nine weeks, now have nowhere to go but memory.
I think that “real life” might be the wrong term, for isn’t it all real? It might seem slightly fantastical that my real life could include hanging with super heroes and aliens while working on “The Avengers”, horses and trains while on “The Lone Ranger”, and crazy frontier women on “The Homesman”, but the truth is that for months on end, those were my realities. There really is a mist that envelopes the cast and crew of a film set and if you’re lucky, it is an amazingly beautiful one, filled with creativity, laughter, and people working exceedingly long hours together, towards a common vision and goal.
The trick is to then somehow blend that world with the one that is made up of your home, city, family, friends, and all that makes you who you are when you aren’t on that film set, doing that job. It is easier said than done as neighbors watch your house, mail piles up, and friend’s calls go unreturned for weeks. After ten years in the business, it is a balance I am still trying to perfect but which has become a bit easier over the years.
When I was younger I went to great lengths to separate these two sides of my life, for what reason I’m not sure. I felt that movies were my job and that was all and I didn’t want them taking over my “real life”, which turned out to be an impossible thing to ask of an industry where 80 hour weeks are normal. Eventually I began to accept this insane, gypsy lifestyle filled with other amazing movie gypsies, as a very real and large part of my life, and only then did the two sides of myself have a chance to work together to create a whole, happy, and fulfilling “real life”.
As this job ends and the inevitable weeks of mail opening, sleeping, and phone calling begin, I feel nothing but gratitude for the path I have stumbled upon. I look forward to when my path crosses with those of dear friends somewhere down the road, on a misty morning, probably outside of the catering tent on day 1 of shooting.
The taxi beeped once outside my house and off I went. With just enough time to empty the suitcase of cold weather clothes and replace with shorts and cotton blouses, I was on the road again. From the windy, chilly, dry prairies of northern NM to the green lushness of SW Georgia, I am in another small town, in another new hotel. The humidity is a welcome relief, already healing chapped skin and plumping hair follicles, though we’ll see how working in it feels on Monday. The air smells softer and heavier, people speak differently, and I’m reminded again of why this life suits me. I find an odd comfort in traveling as part of a movie crew, a temporary family, rolling into a new town, state, or country and having it feel both familiar and foreign simultaneously.