Saturday, January 30, 2016

Gratitude Saturdays: of lies and con artists.... #60-68

Saturday, January 30th, 2016.

Yours truly, a particular fan of tales of con artistry, is listening to "The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It... Every Time" by Maria Konnikova on Audible, as read by the author. I'm only about two chapters in (one hour and 40 minutes or so) and I'm impressed but not surprised by the statistics on how much the average human lies. Everything I just wrote is true. But it put my morning yoga class in an interesting context. I was posing my way through a level 3 Hatha Yoga class at Yoga Works laughing at myself. I have never really followed the rules of taking yoga at certain levels in certain orders. It's been 20 years of my jumping in and out of everything from super easy classes to insanely difficult classes. I just do what they tell me to do to the best of my ability. But I wondered if I was lying to myself about my skill level, when I noticed it was a Level 3 class online and thought, "no problem?" (answer: no, I basically could do most of the poses in this class EXCEPT the hand stands. I can only do hand stands by jumping into them.)

My mind then started wandering to con artistry and the psychological traits of most con artists- sociopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. I don't believe I have any of those, but I said that once to a former friend and musical collaborator, and he said, seriously, "spoken like a true sociopath." I looked at him askew and said, "I'm not. I've actually dated a sociopathic narcissist and had to really go through intense work to understand that I was being manipulated." To that, he replied, incredibly honestly and earnestly, "you're definitely a narcissist." I was hurt. I don't believe it is the truth, by the way. But I'll tell you one thing: I never worked with that guy again!

Anyhow, it made me think about all the different situations in my life where I feel I *have* encountered a con artist, either in love, entertainment, or in general... and it put my gratitude list in an interesting context.

Continuing from where I left off last week:

60. Stories of con artists and stories of the con. I LOVE "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," and "The Sting." I also like "The Great Muppet Caper." I am not particularly snobby, necessarily, about the quality of the con. But I do like to study the real people!


61. I wonder if I've really escaped unscathed from con artistry. But I'm grateful for the time I spent dating a certain sociopath because it taught me that life is NOT fair and there is no such thing as a free lunch and if you marry for money, you earn every penny. Of course nothing is absolutely true in this world of relativity... that is true which never changes... but I am grateful for the tough life lessons that later made me savvier about people in Hollywood, let alone in my life.


62. Yoga! I went into yoga very ashamed. No big deal, just my neighbor came by to ask me to please stop slamming the door because it was waking up her baby because the baby's room is just above our door. I felt so bad. I had NO IDEA I was slamming the door- I was in a mad rush just to get everything done and get to yoga on time! And because I DO like to do the right thing, sometimes that can parlay into a feeling of shame and embarrassment when I have done the wrong thing, even unwittingly. And YOGA CLASS today helped me DETOX that emotion right out of my system and just be okay with the fact that I made a mistake. Whoopsite!


63. Meditation


64. Saturdays


65. Cuddly puppy dogs that like to curl up on your lap.


66. Pink lipstick



67. Cabaret! Last night I saw an acquaintance of mine do a VERY funny one woman show at "The Gardenia," a supper club venue here in Los Angeles. Supper Clubs are not very common these days, and even this room, with its peach walls and big martini glasses, is like a room from another era. I hope this artform gets a really BIG revival  in the next few days....


and NOW, I must bid this list a farewell for a week, as my sweet writing partner (who also happens to be my GUY) and I have an appointment for a pitch. Here's hoping that I add


68. Success in my writing and film career


next week.....

Friday, January 29, 2016

FICTION FRIDAYS: My Life as a Phone Psychic, The Novel, V. NYC2012, Part One, Chapters 5 and 6

Haven't read Chapter Four? Go there now. 

 
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Chapter Five
            Jones gently places Lily’s bike in the trunk of his brand new Prius. Lily stares at it dumbly. She wonders why he got rid of the Audi. He’s so delicate with her bike, practically tender, the way he’s stroking the frame and adjusting the wheel… just…so. It’s downright poetic and she wants to crawl inside the trunk with it. She wishes, suddenly, she were the wheel of the bike and the wheel of the car, the wheel of the sun and the wheel of time… only one job, and that is to turn. Then she thinks to herself, I am already the wheel. I am turning, ever. Do the wheels of my bike feel like this? Leave it to her to anthropomorphize sporting equipment and automobiles in times of sorrow. Anyway. They’re both impressed when it fits. She gets into the front seat of the car, wiping away the last of her tears.
            “When’d you get the Prius?” she asks as she gets in.
            Jones looks at her strangely.
            “I’ve had it since I’ve known you,” he answers.
            “Really? You didn’t have an Audi before?” Lily grabs her head. The world is spinning. She feels nauseous.
            “I never had an Audi.” Jones sighs.
            Lily breathes to center herself, if not the world. She is confused. And yet not... this happens from time to time… time crunches, she calls them. She experiences strange shifts in people’s possessions as the universe is constantly organizing and reorganizing and falling into entropy, the beautiful bloom and shudder of the myriad mysteries of nature. Still, it’s not always pleasant when it happens with other people in such an obvious way.
            At least it was okay with Jones. He seems sort of normalized to this. He’s giving her a funny look, anyway, though…
            “What?” Lily asks.
            “What year is it?” he asks.
            “You think I had a stroke?” she responds.
            “Just checking.”
Lily sighs. She realizes she has jumped realities again. Perhaps the experience with Freddy caused everyone within a three-block radius to fall into entropy and then reorganize. If the other people jumped anywhere near Jones, who went from an Audi to a Prius, in her experience, that implies some sort of increase in human consciousness toward the social betterment of society. That’s her personal judgment, of course, about the environment. She’s okay with that judgment. She thinks people should be more aware of emissions, because that’s the best human science has discovered about their perilous balance on earth…
The jumping realities thing, the time crunching thing…. well. This sort of thing happens from time to time. Most recently it happened with one of her neighbors. Tony’s dryer wasn’t working and, in her experience of the situation, he had complained about it for weeks. Finally, after the fifty-millionth time he complained, Lily had hit her tolerance level.
“Why don’t you get it fixed? You’ve been talking about it for weeks!”
“What?” Tony had responded, sounding confused, “What are you talking about? It just started this morning.” Lily argued with him for a moment before realizing… Time crunch. She said nothing after that.
Most recently, and most frighteningly to Lily’s ego, it happened while she was visiting her mother during the stroke. Another rude awakening reality shift occurred. She had been sure- she would have sworn before a judge and before, well anyone…. I swear to you, swear to you, swear to you…. that the family car growing up was an old Dodge Caravan mini van. She would swear to god for years and years and years that there was a picture above the fireplace mantle of her, her mother, her father, and Roscoe the dog in front of the minivan. But last week, while grabbing her mother’s books from the living room to bring them to the hospital, she walked by the photo… and the car in the photo was a Jeep.
Lily called Victoria on the cell phone to make sure she had everything that she would need for a few days, and casually slipped in a question, was the family car a jeep? Growing up? Or… had it been a minivan?
“Oh, honey,” Victoria said, “I can’t remember. There’s that photo on the mantle above the fireplace… remember? Right before we went camping near Big Bear? Check that out.”
Lily had laughed.
“Good idea,” she answered.
Looking at the Menu, but He just can’t Eat
            Finally, Jones is driving away from West Hollywood.  Lily has been lost in thought and suddenly seems to be coming to. He has been watching her, asking searching questions to make sure she, well... Well… What? He doesn’t really know what. But somehow it helps him feel calmer, thinking about her, asking her things, trying to figure out… what he could figure out… Really, this chick’s already kind of psycho, in the best of ways. He has always like a little craziness. Breaks up the monotony of life. But she’s really been out of it the last hour. Understandably. She seems to be realizing they are leaving Hollywood and getting into Los Feliz. He is taking her to his house.
            “Are we going to your house?” she asks. She looks suddenly very small and helpless.
            “You’re upset…” he doesn’t look at her but pretends to be very preoccupied with the lineup of traffic on Los Feliz Boulevard. “I can help you there.”
            “I’m feeling much better…” Jones is surprised at her level of timidity and feels a fatherly surge. He can feel her nervousness. Finally they get to a stoplight and he turns to her. He takes her hand and kisses it. Then he presses it against his heart.
            “I want to take care of you.”
            She looks like she is about to melt. He looks away and continues talking.
            “Look. There’s a lot to talk about. Really cool stuff coming up for our careers. But you gotta relax, calm down. I’m gonna make us some lunch. My mom’s special recipe. You’ll love it.” Jones loves to talk about his Italian Mother and Lily is one of the only people who will sit and listen. Sometimes he wants to ask her if she will channel his momma for him but he’s too scared, not really sure that’s a good idea. Lily had entered his last name once into an “Italian Last Name” search engine in front of her and found nothing. She told him then that she suspected it was phony, his name, but then again, according to her, his first name can’t possibly be Jones. She’ll never know… no matter how psychic she is… no matter what happens between them. So he says.
            “Okay,” she says, settling back into her seat and watching the trees sway as they drive by.
Sometimes this Dream Just Goes On
            Lily collapses on the sofa and look around. Jones’s place is a mess. It’s cluttered with magazines and art and computers and boxes of stuff. Lily has the feeling, and is not sure Jones would disagree, that he is a man who never had a family and he’s filling his life with stuff instead.
            Well, I resemble that comment, Lily thinks to herself, reflecting on her mountains of books and yoga DVDs. Of course, she’s still young. But to Jones, so is he. There is always still time. That’s how you know you’re alive… as long as there’s a reason to get out of bed, something to do. Even if that something is die. As long as you have some reason to live, big or small, you’re young.
            “Jones,” she asks, feeling that the time is right to ask the question that goes round and round in her head, and that she knows the answer to so she doesn’t know quite why she asks herself so constantly. At the last minute though, she changes her mind, asks him something else. “Are you psychic?”
            To that, she knows the answer. She knows the real answer. And she knows that although she has asked him a thousand times, and the answer is yes, he’s going to avoid the question.
            “How are you feeling?” he asks, walking into his kitchen. “I’m gonna start some tea for us. I’ve got some croissants, want one?”
            “Getting pretty good, Papaducci,” she says, rolling with his blatant subject change. “Croissants.” He knows her weaknesses now.
            Time for some new weaknesses, then, Lily thinks, but already his thoughtfulness coupled with his avoidance is striking some nerve within her. She wants to light that nerve on fire, pour gasoline on it and strike a match, take it all the way to the end of the fibers and watch the fireworks display. She walks over to wear he stands, holding out a croissant. She tears a corner off, leaving him holding the rest of it.
            “Why do you run a psychic phone line?”
            “Lily. Don’t you need some food?”
            Jones’ place is small, and the kitchen is more like a long hallway lined with kitchen appliances.
            “Yeah, although you know how I feel about croissants.” She savors the bite as it goes down. “Your mom’s caramelized onion thing.”
            “Yup,” he says, pulling out a frying pan and a sauce pan.
I’m the dangerous one, Lily realizes. She hoists herself up onto the countertop next to where he begins to chop thick slices of onions. Her eyes tear from the onions. She like how thick he keeps the slices, how the little fibers of onions tear away at the pungent juice. She is sitting very close to Jones and she watches the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathes. She is surprised to see lines on his face. Well, he is in his fifties. She always thinks of him as her age, somehow. She does not yet have much by way of wrinkles. Just a few crinkles at the eyes.
            Jones tosses the onions into the frying pan, covers them in oil, turns the heat to low.
            “Lily, I’ve been approached by a Reality TV Production Company.” He pours cold water from the tap into the sauce pan.  “They’re looking for psychics for a new show and I wanna pitch our company. I want to use you.”
            “Did you respond to a Craigslist ad?” she slips her shoes off and pokes his leg with her toe.
            He puts himself directly in front of her, never taking his eyes off of hers as he reaches around her with both arms, gently brushing her as he takes out a box of spaghetti. An erotic charge runs through her body.
            Today? Is it gonna happen today? She wonders. For all her psychic ability, she can never see this kind of thing, not really, not for herself. She lets herself take in the moment fully. The kitchen is hot. She feels a bead of sweat run down her forehead and is not surprised at it. She relishes it. She brushes it with the back of her hand.
            Jones is still looking her right in the eye. They have not lost contact.
            “Spaghetti?” he asks, quietly.
            “Please.”
            He looks away, then, nodding. Here is the part where it is delicate.
            “So I was thinking we could do a photo shoot.” He turns the burner on under the water and throws in a dash of salt. He pulls out a container of garlic flakes.
            “We talked about that before,” Lily says, suddenly uncomfortable… not with the intimacy they just lost, or rather, he seems to have let go of, but with the change from intimacy to this talk of business. It doesn’t feel right.
            What am I doing here?
            Little fizzes of bubbles begin to rise up in the saucepan.
            The oil and the onions are sizzling now.
            He tosses garlic flakes into the frying pan.
            “This is a cool opportunity. We could grow the company from a hundred to thousands. You could go on speaking tours.” Jones puts the pasta in the boiling water. “Maybe you might want to be a partner of some kind in the company.”
            “Remember how you got me to work for your phone lines in the first place?” she asks.
            “Yeah. Anonymity.”
            Lily watches as he turns the onions and garlic with a spoon. He pulls out a jar of sun dried tomatoes in vinegar out of the refrigerator and tosses them in. Then he adds some olives. He sighs.
            “Okay,” she acquiesces. “What do we need to do?”
            His eyes widen. Hers, too.
            Who said that!? she wonders. She is as surprised as Jones to hear those words coming out of her mouth, almost as if she hadn’t spoken them, but the eternal source, which speaks through her to her clients on the phone lines, had spoken them.
            Shit, she thinks. Am I ready for this?
            And yet it feels familiar, like it was always going to happen.
            Jones smiles.
            “Good… I’m gonna have the guy call in to the lines today or tomorrow and get a reading.”
            “Okay,” she says. Jones stops cooking for a moment and comes back to her. He puts his hands on her shoulders. Lily feels her heart beating rapidly, a sweet pain beginning to blossom within it. She centers into herself by taking a deep breath and look for his heartbeat. She feels love, and confusion, and sex, and fear, and… excitement… and hope… for the future, which almost makes her laugh out loud, because a future is something she doesn’t even believe in. What? And yet again, and yet again. And she’s not sure if it’s coming from him or from her. She never knows, any of it. She just goes with it. And she will go with it- and…
She feels seared open, on fire, from her toes to her head, as if an orgasm and wasabi and hot peppers were all pulsing through all her veins... he is still staring into her eyes.
             She sees him now as he is seeing himself now. He is thinking of himself as an animal as well as a man, virile, lit on fire from deep within, able to pick up this girl in front of him and carry her to the bed and take her and make her feel good.
He checks himself and blinks.
Lily blinks, too, and in an instant the energy is gone. But he’s handsome, and he has amazing eyes.
            “Stop that,” he says.
            “Stop what?”
            “You know.”
            “It’s not just me,” she says quietly. Jones hasn’t moved. He is still standing right in front of her, where she sits at the counter, and her legs are falling to either side of him. It takes everything in her not to wrap her legs around him. She is as still as a mountain, except for the hormones releasing throughout her body. Internally, she is a hurricane. And still waters run deep.
            “I actually told them we could meet with them, after they called, secretly, of course, but at least you know they’ll be calling,” Jones says, still not moving. “And they want to schedule a photo shoot with you, like a test thing, to see how you are in front of the camera… I told them how beautiful you were.”
            Jones is suddenly shy at this admission.
            But now Lily is lost in her own thinking of another part of the equation… he’s not just here, standing here, wooing her for sex or love or some shadowy ground between the two. She knows... he needs her to make this deal happen. Her heart almost leaps out of her body as she smells him, as she smells what he smells. He smells money, possibility with money. He doesn’t care about love. He’s had love. He’s setting himself up for retirement.
            That’s not true, she admonishes herself. Maybe.
            Lily wants to cry, and hide her face in shame, and take her bike and ride it home in a blind fury. Jones remains in front of her. In fact, if it’s possible, it almost feels as if he’s closer to her. She feels trapped and she has fully broken out into a sweat.
            I am so stupid. Why can I read everyone but me? And anyone I attach to? I suddenly see Jones, cold, clear, see him. He’s a man. Not a bad man, not a great man. A man. He’s just trying to make is way in the world and set up his life. He’s got a couple lady friends he takes to movies, once in a while he gets laid, that’s about as much emotional commitment as he really wants to handle until the next psycho bitch… but I’m not a psycho.
Lily moves her leg.
No, she thinks. I’m a psychic.
            The water boils over in the pot.
            “Oh, shit!”
            And with that, Jones runs to the stove to take care of the mess.
            “Hot in here,” Lily says, jumping off the counter. She walks to the back patio door and opens it, looking out onto his little grove of avocado trees. The breeze rushes into the house and is cold against her wet skin.

















Chapter Six
            Lily, home, sits on her sofa. It’s stiff and cream colored. She used to have a very plush, dark ruby-colored sofa that sucked her into every time she sat on it… and she would fall asleep practically the moment she would lean her head back against it. Once she started working from home as a phone psychic, she saw the perils of falling asleep that often. So she bought a slightly uncomfortable sofa instead. In a channel, it never really matters. But just in case…
What the hell was that with Jones?
She picks up a throw pillow and smashes it against her face, breathing in.
What the hell am I doing?
In the back of her mind, bells are ringing: Alert! Alert! Do not continue this line of insane thinking! Of course, she decides to ignore the bells. No, wait. She decides to listen to them. No... Then: Am I the one ringing them? Oh, god. She goes for the phone, addiction pattern at play, and scrolls through her contact list to find “Mom.”
“Hello, you have reached the voice mail for Victoria Moore…”
Click.
            Oh, no! She realizes her mother is still in the hospital. She feels a wave of remorse that she didn’t call yet today.
            “University Hospital,” answers a random voice. Lily feels his detachment and busy-ness as a way to remove his emotional self from the chaos of sickness and dying people. He ignores the humanity in exchange for the great lie of the flush and swell of keeping up.
            “Room 4316, please, Victoria Moore’s room.”
            No response but a beep. Electronically robotically.
It’s a miracle, really. Through tubes and fibers and ones and zeros, the empirical makeup of human existence, there is really no difference between humanity and some conjoined pieces of rubber tubing, between the receptionist and fiber optics, between this body here and cellular waves, between the idea of a body here and a radio wave, between the vessel an the channel and the shell and the soul and the hidden viral curves of illness that create so much suffering within the human mind. And through ALL of this, in ones and zeroes, Lily will connect with her mother who is sitting 200 miles away.
            “Hello?” Victoria Moore, normally very alert, is very tired.
            “Hey, Mom,” Lily replies, “Did I wake you?”
            “Oh, no, my sweetheart,” she responds. Tender. “Well, I was napping but I’d rather talk to you.”
            “How are you feeling?”
            Lily props her feet up on the top of the sofa and leans backward, extending over the cushions, her head touching the ground just before the glass coffee table.
            “Oh, fine. They can’t find anything wrong with me but they’re insisting on keeping me. I’m just exhausted, and we all know it.”
Lily feels the disconnection between her mother’s energy and her talking head.
            “Yeah. What are you going to do about that?”
            “I’m going home tomorrow morning.” Big sigh. “Larry and I are going to Esalen for the weekend and, then, I think we will talk about his sabbatical to Asia, and me going with. I need a break, I guess.”
            Crushing disappointment.
            Why does she hold herself to such impossible standards? Lily wonders.
            “I know what you’re thinking,” Victoria says, like clockwork. “And I just wish I were stronger.  I just can’t believe I’m not and it’s just the way I am and that’s all there is to that.”
            “Do you want me to come get you from the hospital?” Lily doesn’t really want to go. She prays her mother says no.
            “Oh, no, no. You’re busy, I know, with… being a phone psychic.”
            Uh, oh.
            “Well, actually, Mom, I have a meeting about a business opportunity. They want to create a TV show about me. But I would reschedule for you.”
            Check.
            Opera singers rarely speak when they are singing a lot. For Lily’s mother, that’s most of her life. There have been months when she wouldn’t have any real conversations with Lily because, well, she couldn’t. And as a girl, Lily was, or at least, to Victoria, always seemed fine, keeping to herself, playing with her imaginary friends. Lily knew. She had been trained. It wasn’t personal. Singers must preserve their voices for performing.
            Victoria Moore, soprano, was known for her voice of stunning clarity.
            “What sort of opportunity?” she asks, suddenly very fully, bodily awake and engaged.
            Pitch perfect.
            And mate.
            Lily gathers her wits. She is, honestly, never a match for her mother when she is like this, all Victoria Moore. Victoria Moore is observant and sharp with the eye of Medusa and the voice of a church bell.
            “Well, actually, Jones, you know, my boss, he met some reality TV people and wants to pitch me to their show, so we’re doing a photo shoot to get promotional pictures and I will be doing psychic readings for the casting people and the executives and all that…”
            Lily listens to herself ramble on about this great “opportunity.” She prays it truly is… She feels at once ashamed at the idea of it as well as she feels excited... and a bit defiant. Something is electric in her, and something else is coming in to tame that live wire, defray it and return sensibility to the picture. Of course, Lily’s mother isn’t sensible. She’s an opera singer who married a magic trick performing physicist who was attempting to study time travel and parallel realities. But, her mother is an artist who has dedicated her life to one of the most complex and cultured art forms in the world, at least in her mind. And compared to her parenthood, Lily’s legacy looks very plebeian. If only she knew the truth… or… if only she would admit the possibility…
There is a phlegmy thickness between them for a moment, and in that moment, Lily actually agrees with her mother’s lowered opinion of the opportunity. It may be the symptom of being psychic, of being able to fall into everyone else’s life energy. It takes precision to be able to separate out who is feeling what. But this is also her mother. She achieved- and continues to achieve- greatness. So did Lily’s father. He had dedicated his life to an expansive and complex science.
And me? I’m a phone psychic. Lily wants to elevate her position, but she worries that’s not possible. She caters mostly to lonely people who look for the lottery numbers in the back of tabloids, who believe the license plates on cars on the highways are delivering them messages from dead family members, who want to know when love and joy and happiness are finally coming their way after so many years of heartache.
            But what if the winning lottery numbers ARE in the back of Star? And what if their dead loved ones ARE reaching out to them through license plates? And what if… there is a way to help people get out of their suffering? Even if it’s just as a phone psychic?...
            “Oh, Lily.” Victoria is about to deliver her aria. Big breath.
            Lily beats her to the punch. It’s not time for pontificating. It’s time for a duet.
            “Oh, mother,” Lily responds, heaving her own big sigh.
            “It’s just that you… look. You could always come back to San Luis Obispo and finish your degree. You could get a degree in literature and become a professor. You could still work with Larry and get a degree in physics and do research. You could get married and have children. You could do anything. ANYTHING. You are SO SMART, Lily. And you need to start looking for a partner, a man your own age. It’s unnatural for a woman in her early thirties not to want something like that, don’t you think? I… I just don’t understand why you insist on this bizarre way of life.”
            Lily sits in silence, very still.
            Victoria sits in silence, now too. It rings loud and clear in both their ears.
            And as they sit in this silence, Lily slowly allows the thoughts to peel away petal by petal.
            When people call the psychic phone lines and want a psychic reading, at least the first time they call, it’s usually because they can’t deal with their troubles anymore. They already know the answers they are looking for, which rarely match the reality of their lives. It is better not to want anything, Lily has learned, but to be open to what life presents… and yet… and yet…
Lily hears her mother’s breath in her ear.
            “Mom,” Lily says softly, “I love you.”
            She hears the smile through the phone.
            “I love you too, Bean.”
            “You haven’t called me Bean in a while.”
            “My little spring bean.”
            “Do you want me to come pick you up from the hospital? I would love to.”
            “No, honey, Larry will do it.” Victoria’s voice has completely softened, for now.
            “Do you want me to come take care of you? Be there?”
            “No, sweetie.  Mom’s fine. I do want you to come visit, but maybe when you’re not so busy.”
Lily sighs. She yearns for the comfort of her mother. She wonders if there will be an end to her existential brain meltdowns. She wishes she could just get it, whatever it is, or be so dumb she just doesn’t care, not this awful in between place where most of humanity seems to reside. And then her mind really begins to screw her over with its insatiable dreams. She wishes, just once more, that she could crawl into her father’s arms, smell that mix of soap and cologne and sweat, feel his heart beating beneath his sweaters, feel that love… but her father is dead and she’s a grown woman. She wants to get on the road and drive and drive and drive and not be in this little apartment and meet someone and yet she wants to shoot herself and be done with it already and yet she wants to be happy and she doesn’t know what that means or how that would look so… all this in one breath… and finally after all this explosion of roller coaster thought patterns in the course of five seconds, all she can do is say:
            “Okay, Mom. I’ll call you tomorrow. Call me if you need anything, ‘kay?”
And then they hang up and she opens the window and listens to the traffic and when there is no traffic she listens to the breeze rustling through the trees.

Go on to Chapter 7.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

GRATITUDE SATURDAYS! #48-59: Serendipity, writing, magic, full moons, chinese food, and pictures of my dog.

Happy Full Wolf Moon, everyone!

It's Saturday, and that means it's a day for GRATITUDE!

I just finished writing a short-fiction piece as a meditation for today's Full Wolf Moon, and I feel oddly far more settled than LAST week, but you know, I love keeping my commitments, and so, as I am only 47 items into a list that is supposed to eventually amass 2016 things, it's time to explore some more things for which I am grateful, even if its original intended purpose, calming my heart and mind, isn't entirely necessary in this moment.

As Aristotle said, and I am paraphrasing, "brilliance is not an act but a habit."



48. Being a writer.

I know that I waxed rhapsodic on this in the first installment of said gratitude list, more or less, but today has a different meaning.

See, today, originally, I had scheduled an intense strength training workout at the Nike store nearby and then cancelled it, then I replaced it by scheduling a ballet class which I then cancelled, then I was going to schedule a massage or a spa moment for myself or something, something, something/ anything/ is this thing on/ just something, God Almighty, to satisfy my monkey mind, but then, as I do for many important decisions, I tossed a coin. Heads, I go to the spa. Tails, I don't. Tails!

Huh. Okay.

So.

Instead, I sat down at my computer and then- suddenly- a rush- an impulse of energy from a picture my friend Louie posted on Facebook of a howling wolf- and that blended in my mind with my love of a wintry woodsy walk such as I engaged in so many years of my youth- and- suddenly- a story was born.

And so I see now, after the dream, why I needed to not fill up every moment of my day with work or pampering. Of COURSE I will hit the gym, this girl's got some goals. And eventually, of COURSE I will get to the spa. My legs have needs. But being a writer called out to me, fought the odds, and won.

Is the story any good? I don't know, and guess what... I only care a teeny tincy little bit, in that, I care that I dedicate my life to mastery, but I don't know if I have any ability to say yes, good, no, not good. I just keep growing. And writing.



49. When timing works out better than your own mind that thinks it is so smart

See number 48.

I mean, I tried everything... not everything... I tried a LOT of things to keep myself from writing today.  Granted, I did not know that I was trying to keep myself from writing. In my mind, I was just trying to figure out how I really wanted to spend my day. I have these fitness goals for a creative project- the web series I am creating... and I have these pampering needs and a sore back and crazy tight legs. But everything my CONSCIOUS mind kept trying to check off its list? None of it felt right.

None of it resonated with the rhythm of my heart, beating anaHAta, anaHAta, anaHAta.

And so I just let time and space guide me and

I had a beautiful morning.



50. Planning concerts

I was on the phone with a friend sharing my set list, and I got so excited I was laughing and mixing up my letters. (I called Shirley Horn- Hirley Shorn. Ha!) When I mix up my letters, you KNOW I'm excited.

The set list for March 11th is freaking awesome. I hope it works out to live stream it so people from other lands can watch if they so desire.



51. The internet

Connects me with people all over the world. I have "met" people from Argentina, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indiana, etc. Just still really neat.




52. The Princess Bride Special Edition DVD with commentary by William Goldman.




53. Cake

I meant the dessert, but you could extend that to the band, if you wanted.



54. Genghis Cohen

Yes, I am promoting my gig March 11th. BUT I stopped by last night to drop off posters and picked up some AWESOME FOOD. Lemon Chicken with Steamed Broccoli. Just great.



55. Shopping lists you forget at home



56. Extra heads of lettuce



57. Henry Monster the Muppet

This little guy is my best friend.

He is snoozing as I write this.





58. Tina's Nails on West 3rd

This is where I get my mani pedi done, when I do. I don't get to as often as I'd like, but, I love these people. They are so nice. This week: PINK!



59. Henry was he was a tiny muppet.




SHORT SHORT FICTION FOR THE FULL WOLF MOON

Full Wolf Moon

 

Winter.

The deep silence of an empty woods, insulated by snow.

Twilight, which by the human clock is merely late afternoon.

My feet crunch along the pathway where a fresh layer of snow has erased my old footsteps. Although it is the end of light, there is still enough that I can see my breath and I stop to watch it escape in wisps. Quiet.

A tree groans in the distance.

I am walking with intention but without direction. I am walking for the woods, and for the trees; for the winter and the sound of nothingness that brings a complete focus of my attention to my own life.
My heart is beating. I am breathing, I am moving. My body is creating miracles without my conscious awareness in the cycles of life and death. I am one with nature, whether I regard it or not, and even though the green of this forest lies dormant, life is still happening in secret, underneath the veneer of immovable cold.

I reach a clearing where on summer days there is a pond, vibrant with frogs and crickets singing, and tall cattails and ferns and the periodic lily pad. Those days, the water is sludgy with algae and I must be careful not to go at dawn without my mosquito netting. Today, though, there is just a broken sheath of ice and-

My attention hones in on a steam rising above the pond. How is that, now? But this pond, and all its creatures, they are all sleeping. I know it, for I have walked these woods come spring, come summer, come autumn, come winter, all my life, and I know how the pond slumbers deeply until beauty awakes it in spring.

Then the steam is gone, and I give pause to my walk to listen, to look. Something washes over me, something that mortal words cannot quite describe, but I am changed, for I watched the pond breathe.

I chuckle to myself, imagining that it must be much like listening to someone snore from another room in a guest house.

The sun is leaving the horizon soon and it is time to turn back toward home. There is a solace in these woods, though, and I miss them as soon as I begin to even think of leaving them, but to freeze out in the night air? There is no pleasure waiting for me in that experience, and so I turn, and even begin to hurry now, my footsteps disappearing into a hush. I think of home, and of the fire I will light, and an evening spent by the fire with poets and storytellers in the yellowed pages of books, and-

I stop, for in front of me, there, in the middle of the path, stands a wolf.

Blue eyes, mirroring mine, and it is too late to look away. I want to run, but I cannot move. I find myself breathing slower now, I feel my lower abdomen pulling tight and the insides of my arms tense as I search my periphery for anything- a branch- a-

The wolf steps toward me, slowly, then another step, and another. Eyes so light I am lost in them. Fear leaves my body, replaced by awe. She is lean, and she is wise. She has stopped me in nature. She plucks me out of reverie and into this moment with her, her, here in the woods.

I shiver. I am cold.

I blink, and she is gone.

She is gone, and the light is descending rapidly now, and I want desperately to see her again, to look into her eyes, to understand something. Was she trying to tell me something? Surely she was, but nothing human, nothing in words, certainly nothing I can quite translate, and when I tell people at home, later tonight, when I call someone on the phone, or the next day at work try to relate the story, will I be true to it? Will it lose something in the words?

But I walk home, and the silent full moon rises, and as I linger at my door, off in the distance I hear a glorious, singular howl.


by Erin

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fiction Fridays: The Novel: MY LIFE AS A PHONE PSYCHIC, version NYC2012. Part One, Chapter Four

 Haven't read Chapter Three? GO THERE NOW:

Or, continue with Chapter Four!
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Chapter Four
            Lily rides her bike to meet Jones at the tea shop. He’s going to try and talk her into doing this weird photo shoot he always asks her about. Again and again… It’s probably fine, it’s probably not weird, but probably because he wants to promote me as the face of his psychic business. I guess it’s a compliment. He has about a hundred phone psychics throughout the country, and a few in Canada, but Lily is one of the only ones he knows face to face, and, according to him, the only one he hangs out with.
“Out beyond any ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there,” she says under her breath.
Lily made the choice early on in her gig with Jones that she would pay attention to how the whole thing works, not just to her own play in the game. There are a lot of lost people out there, who she knows she can help. And so she studied Jones because she wanted it to be worth her time financially as well as in terms of integrity. Oh, who’s to say what’s for real? She knows full well there are no guarantees and she doesn’t wish to blame anyone for anything. Even phony psychics are coming from somewhere. And only hurt people hurt people.  But still.
As a person, and as a friend, Lily genuinely love Jones and thinks, well, mostly, he’s a good man. He just believes that a person has to deal with darkness in life whether one likes it or not, and so he sort of lets a shadow fall over his own engagement with darkness… And yet, Lily believe, there is ultimately no darkness that permeates, just places to bring more light, and the more Jones lies to himself about it, well… There is this tiny part of her that thinks she can help him. Just as there is this slightly bigger part of Jones that thinks he can help her. And really? They do help each other.
And then there is the rest of it.
But as for lying to oneself, well. She has a theory and she has been working it out in her mind so that someday, she can tell it to Jones:
We all do that. I do it. I know I do, because every other human person I have ever met, except for maybe the Dalai Lama but I wouldn’t know because honestly I never actually met him, does it. Since I’m human, logic would dictate that I hide shitty negative beliefs about life all around my personal universe, too. I look forward to my growing awareness in which I can see them, and like a video game, shoot them down in blazes of white light that take this energy to heaven for recycling. That’s how it goes down in my fantasies and meditations, anyway.
She’s getting it together. It’s one thing to channel for other people. It’s another thing to try and concoct a seemingly natural conversation that is fully contrived to inspire Jones to… do something different. Change his life. Change her life. Something.
             And here she is, riding her bike down Melrose Avenue, feeling bold and sassy. It’s rather dare-devil of her. Drivers in Los Angeles actually disregard the fact that bikers are on the road. For some, they just cannot believe that bikers would actually dare to tie up traffic… but for most people, they are just checked out. She wonders if that’s why there are such terrible traffic jams, because people are too unaware while driving and it is god’s way of keeping the death toll relatively low for such dense energy.
            She crosses La Cienega, the last busy road she has to cross before getting to the tea shop. She rarely sees homeless people but right here on the corner in front of Urth CafĂ©, the organic food restaurant where people rubberneck to see if celebrities are gonna show up, is Freddy! Her Freddy! She has never, ever seen him over here before. Just barely a mile from her apartment, the cops sweep any wandering homeless out of this neighborhood bright and early. It’s part of the difference between LA Proper, where she lives, and West Hollywood.
            She slows her pedaling as she nears him. There’s a little crowd gathered around him and she feels a searing shock of anxiety. She reads the crowd’s energy, and senses that the individuals of this crowd are subjugating their wills to a mob mentality. That is rarely a good thing. She is highly aware of Freddy’s paranoia, and currently feels barely a shred of the soul she knows as Freddy in tact, hidden beneath layers of schizoid personalities which are coming forth in an effort to protect him. However he ended up over here? She has no idea, and she’s worried. It’s not safe for homeless people here. They are too subject to a strange society of culture and manners that will not permit their freedom of movement… not for people like Freddy. Freddy is like a wounded tiger with a crowd of gawkers coming nearer and nearer… and a wounded tiger will strike out when the crowd gets too close…
            Lily jumps off her bike, leaving it to rest against the high stoned wall of the restaurant. She walks with authority to the attraction. She feels a deep pull from the center of her chest, as if it is her heart being drawn to Freddy. He needs her help. Something within him senses a kindred spirit through the cacophony of a thousand shouting voices.  Oh, god… she feels this sweet, aching pain in her heart and solar plexus. She might almost describe it as that moment before orgasm, a sweet searching agony, except in no way is it sexual. Her forehead burns. Her vision enters a hyper white tunnel, and for a moment she realizes she is in public and is entering a channel without the safety of her own four walls…
            But Freddy needs me.
            And then, a laser like energy cuts through to her heart. Something is interrupting her connection to Freddy. She turns as a man walks past her. She stops to gasp. Is he gasping, too? He is looking at her. There is a light behind his eyes. He is intellectually unaware of his connection to her on a psychic level, although she feels his attraction and curiosity and… fear…
            And in a moment she could be swept into him… a tall man, dark hair sitting in a mop atop his head, light green eyes, a dimple… a bit unshaven but well kept despite that… hands in his pockets.
            Lily!
            She hears Freddy call her name.
Oh, no, Freddy! How long have you been calling for me? She feels a worry, a guilt like that of an errant mother.
Again her heart burns, and then there is a fiery eruption throughout her body. It is an amazing feeling, this entering, this vision, and when it is so strong like this, at the beginning of the vision, it’s all she wants. Bliss, this endless bliss, only she has no control over how long it will last or where it will take her. And yet, this…  bliss and bliss and bliss… and sometimes it leads to nothingness and sometimes to the overwhelming presence of god at which point it is too overwhelming and she remembers her mere humanity and catapults back into her body, jolted with a stroke of what is far too crushing for her ego to survive and, well, she is not ready to be absorbed into the immensity of everything… her mind calls her back into this corporeal intellectual vision of who she is and what she is and is not, Lily Moore. Pisces.  Grown woman, single child of a dead college physics professor father and a living vocal coach and opera singing mother. Survivor of unexplained seizures. Aspiring yogi and philosopher. Phone psychic.
            Freddy is talking crazy, to the outside observer, that is. He snarls at people who get too close, and then he sings between the shouts. He surprises the mob with a fine operatic tenor. It would be tragic, if one believed in tragedy, that he did not fulfill on such a God-Given gift of a voice.
            The crowd consists of primarily Young 30s Hollywood types. Yogis who mean well even though they lie about their age by 5 years. Girls in yoga pants with small dogs in their huge purses, guys in tee shirts and flip flops. And there are business people in sports jackets, and there are some girls in tiny dresses. There are a few guys in sweat suits. Healthy looking.
            Freddy sings “E Lucevan le stelle” from Tosca. A secret about Lily: she loves opera. As a girl she pretended not to because of her mother, of course, but she always knew the truth, she thinks, deep down. Now, she loves it. And she knows this opera really well because her mother sang Tosca three times during her childhood. Three! That’s pretty impressive. Now she’s a vocal coach and music professor at Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, where her father was a physics professor before dying seven years ago. Lily’s mother, well, she’s remarried to her father’s former friend and colleague, Larry Fondell. Honestly, Lily is happy about this. Larry’s a great guy and he makes her mother happy, and relaxed in a way she has never seen her mother before. She likes smart, quiet guys who get loud and rambunctious when they drink too much wine. He’s one of them, but more… peaceful. 
“E lucevan le stele.” Lily knows immediately that Freddy sings this song in a psychotic cry for help. This is a song about finally being truly alive, just as the singer is dying. There are no accidents in human expression. What people say exposes everything, no matter what words they are actually saying. One needs only listen to the secret code inside the words. It’s there, the secret code of true intention, inside every word and every movement and every silence.
            Now, standing in front of Freddy, a burning light sears Lily’s head and her body right down the center, so it seems, and she perceives herself to be in a strange reality just inside the reality of this earth-bound Los Angeles experience, and her soul-shadow-body emerges from the physical density of her body, meeting Freddy at a place in between the two.
            “Freddy,” she calls out.
            “Lily.” He smiles at her, oh so sweetly. “It’s not that I’m crazy. I just really understand. Like really. Like really, really, understand. I’m on the inside of sane. Insane. Ha-ha!”
            “I know… “
            “I get something about human life no one else gets.”
            “What is it?” Lily truly wants to know. What if this is true? And inside his words, on the inside of what he is saying, it is true.
            “The futility of trying.” Freddy speaks now from a place of surrender, but still there is a lie in his voice.
            “But you’ve given up on life altogether.”
            “No I ain’t. I’m still breathing.”
            “E lucevan le stelle?”
            “You know it?”
            “My mother sang Tosca. And that’s a song about dying, Freddy.”
            “Who was your mother? Anyone I’d know?”
            “Victoria Moore. She used to be Victoria Pregnolata until she married my father.”
            The light is changing, and Lily begins floating back into her body. She shivers.
            “Lily, there’s not much time.” Freddy is retreating into his body, and Lily witnesses the flashing of different schizoid personalities cycle through him. “I’m going to leave earth soon.”
            “Are you scared?”
            “I am.”
            And suddenly it is as if their hearts are blending. Lily consciously wraps her love, the deepest love she can muster, all around him, and begins to absorb his fear, praying to remember her intention to transcend it. It fills her heart with dread and vomitous mess shit crap fuck damn dead being oh god arh arh arh arh hah ahaha h
            lightning sears her brain
            bright lights


Freddy’s Last Rites
            “Lily,” Freddy says. He thinks she is such a lovely woman. So sad, what we did to her. He looks down upon himself. I’m no charmed expression of our culture, either. I’m filthy. But Lily, she’s so sweet. She looks like she has been sleeping for ages, sleeping beauty. But she’s snapping awake just now.
Dreaming these thoughts, Lily wakes up.
“Were those your thoughts?” she whispers to Freddy.  She sees herself and him, in the middle of the crowd; she’s suddenly not in her body again, and then again she is. She’s holding old Freddy, cradling him in her arms. Like a mother, like the mother Freddy wants to remember, like the mother he made up, the Madonna and the Good Samaritan, rocking him like a wee little child at her breast, him, Freddy, a literally filthy man 30 years her senior. She touches her palm to his face. He is so happy it’s Lily here, now, at this time.
Thank god it’s Lily. Oh, Jesus, thank you. And I’m sorry. And in a way, since it is Lily, I wish I had had the chance to take a shower at the shelter and have a good shave. I wish I smelled cleaner for this sweet angel of death.
            “My Freddy,” she says, so sweetly. She is presently whole and in her body, now, only it is her and it isn’t her. 
            “It’s you,” Freddy says, “it’s you.”
Freddy smiles and closes his eyes. He put his dirt-covered hand over Lily’s. He is safe. He can sleep now.
Running of the Bulls
            Jones runs toward the crowd. He has had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach all morning and he just has this terrible ominous feeling about Lily. And there she is, he sees her. She’s holding some homeless guy. He doesn’t look very alive.
“Call 911,” Lily shouts, “Didn’t any of you call 911?” Jones pulls out his phone as he pushes past the crowd of stunned people. No one appears to be doing anything, except Lily…
Yet already the sirens are coming closer, and now the paramedics are here but they are far too late to do any good for the homeless man. He is dead. Jones finds himself crouching right next to them but he’s not sure Lily realizes it’s him. She holds the man as if it were her child. She’s cradling him and shaking her head, “no,” when the EMT asks if she is related.  She holds him still as they pull out the stretcher.
Police have pushed away the crowd but Jones talk the police into letting him stay with Lily by telling them he’s family. She looks right through him and it scares him. Where is Lily? Where has she gone? Some other something is in her, taking care of a man who has died in her arms. Jones wants to ask if she knows the homeless man but it just doesn’t matter, she is the one who caught him in his last breaths, and so she knows that shock of death and as witness she now knows him intimately.
Jones knows that personally. He was there when his mother died. He cradled her, watched her spasm and sputter out, and then felt that strange shadow as she left her body like a fleshy suit of clothes behind and disappeared into… god only knows what, where.
 Now the paramedics are pulling Lily away from the man, and they are loading the body onto a stretcher and covering him. Lily is telling them she doesn’t know him, she just happened to feel bad for the obviously homeless man who was having a psychotic episode and probably some kind of stroke or heart attack or…. something. Jones pulls Lily up as the paramedics take the body away… to the morgue… or somewhere.
Lily looks up at Jones now, seeing it’s him who gathers her into his arms. She weeps while gently he rocks her, whispering, “shh, shh, shh….”
“Where did you come from?” Lily says quietly. Her voice is so small and sad, like a child’s, and Jones pulls back from the embrace, feeling very fatherly toward her.
“We should all be asking you the same thing,” he answers.
The police ask Lily to make a statement, and it is very short. No, she says, and Jones is really wondering about the truth of that, she didn’t know him. He was a homeless man who called out for help and no one else was helping so she did. No, she did not know anything about any next of kin, or his last name, even. She didn’t really know anything about him, not where he stayed at night, even, probably no one did, and at that she cries again at her lack of awareness over this man and his plight.
And then the police leave, and yet the remainders of the crowd wait still in silence, and Lily and Jones are standing on the corner. He assesses as fast as he can and decides they are getting out of there. He walks her to her bike and the crowd watches her in wonder. People are actually pointing. It’s interesting. She’s somehow as fascinating as the homeless guy that just died. Died. Dead. In her arms. And still no one moves.
She knows now they are wondering who she is, this strange girl in yoga pants and a tank top and flip flops. They want to know things about her but don’t know how to communicate with her, not because of her but because of what happened.
Jones doesn’t know what the hell to say either. No one knows how to communicate very well with one another anymore. And yet the crowd, he can practically read their thoughts. They want to know: Did she know him? Is she homeless? (She can’t be, can she be?)  How could she speak to him? Is she a social worker? Is she a yoga teacher? Is she an actress?
Jones almost laughs because, it is LA. Everyone’s an actress.
He wonders if anyone is wondering about Freddy, and feels only a small twinge of sadness and remorse. It’s not that people didn’t care.  It’s not that he didn’t care. He cares about Lily right now, though. This girl’s a little heap of a mess as they unlock her bike. And the crowd? They just didn’t know what to do, or how to feel, about watching a man melt into his demise in front of them.
            “Jones,” Lily begins to say, but the tears roll again. He gathers her up into his arms again. She smells like soap and coffee and sweat. It smells really good to him. He lets himself enjoy his confusion with her, his feelings varying between father figure energy and sexual energy. They don’t have clear boundaries, and he doesn’t really want them, either. Suddenly he desperately wants to take her home now and make love to her. He feels it coming from her, the sexual energy, really strong. She’s reaching up and leaning in as he holds her far too long. Something about her sexual desire is erasing any sadness and fear over watching Freddy die. The thought of sex becomes like a white light heat searing between her legs, and soon Jones’ legs. It’s almost painful, this yearning… and yet he still wants to hold her until the tears stop, even if they never do.
Finally, embarrassed by her sobbing, the crowd disperses.
David
            A young man walks away slowly.  He wants to inquire. He wants to be part of this scene. He wants to help this beautiful young woman but is scared to intrude.
He has a shock of dark hair that curls up at the ends, little grays on the sides here and there. He’s been graying since he was 17, so he tells people, even though now he’s 34. His hazel eyes are deep and soulful and when he smiles, dimples pop up in a frenzy, and he exposes one slightly crooked incisor. He is tall and well built although, in recent years, a bit soft in the belly.
“Table for one?” the host inquires, pulling the young man out of his daydream. Damn it. He loves daydreaming and imagining his life as a movie, thinking about his actions in a near constant narrative. It helps him get through the day as he is not currently actively working on his dream, to write the next great American screenplay... Especially because his life keeps being filled with these anxious moments of curiosity that he wants to put into various characters, all filtered through heroes of varying degrees of goodness and badness. None of his characters are all good because that doesn’t exist. Some of his characters are all bad because that definitely does exist.
“No,” he answers, “I’m meeting someone.” That someone is his potential new employer, his former stepfather, his friend, and the reality show producer, Phil Cutler. He’s a pal. And he’s a stepfather. He never mentions it, and neither does Phil, but every year on his birthday Phil still sends birthday cards with baseball themes as if he were still 12 years old. Good old Phil. He was married to his mother for three years in the 80s, just at the end of her career as an actress.
            “David!”
            David nods to Phil and decide to forget about the girl and her… was that her father? boyfriend?
            “What a crazy scene! That homeless guy! I mean, what the hell happened!?” Phil says, slapping David on the back. Phil’s not a bad guy. Getting a little fat, but no one will never say a word about it. Especially David, who knows how sensitive Phil can be about that sort of thing.
            David shrugs, give a sort of sad smirk.
            “He was singing opera, and then suddenly he passed out and there was that girl and she just, was there, like, out of nowhere, and she caught him in her arms even though he was huge and she was so small! And then, I guess, he just- died.”
            “Unbelievable. We’ll have to check the news online later and see what the deal was.”
            Phil moves back toward his seat, gesturing to David to have a seat.
            “Well, I heard what happened with the game show, and I’m sorry, David. But you gotta be willing to work with people once in a while.”
            Those motherfuckers took a brilliant idea and wanted to make it amenable for the mass populace, whom they don’t trust, nor do they respect…
            “I know you, David,” Phil says, “I know what you’re thinking. That it was too lowbrow for you. Well maybe it was. But you have GOT to learn to make concessions on this stuff. How are you going to work in this town? Pretty soon no one will care how great your ideas are.”
            David tips his chair back, looks back over his shoulder at no one, runs his hand through his hair, cross his arms. Sighs.
            “I’m willing to work with people. I’m not willing to lie for people. I’m not willing to perpetuate a lie. I’m not willing to insult the American public.”
            A waiter walks by with water and leaves it on the table.
            “Well, look. Reality TV. Here’s a shot for you, kid.” Phil is leaning in. Intense. He really cares about David. David finds himself wondering if Phil ever looks through photos of the two of them at baseball games like David does.
            “Of course. But I don’t need to do anything against my moral code either.” David takes a sip of water.
            Phil bursts out laughing.
            “David. Oh, god. Kid, I know that is not the problem at all. You’re no saint. You’re a stubborn kid. You just don’t want to change your vision. It’s just fucking TV, kid. You gotta relax.” He slaps him on the shoulder, leans back.
            “Yeah…” David crosses his legs and leans in to Phil, now.
            “You still wanna work in this business?” Phil asks sincerely.
            “Phil, you know I do. I guess, I wanted to write shows that made people think. You know. Bring back really good shows. And then movies. I’m sick of this crap.” he finally looks directly into Phil’s eyes for the first time.
            “There are a lot of good shows on,” Phil says.
            David laughs.
            “Yeah… okay. Maybe there are a couple. But it’s mostly bullshit.”
            “Well, kid, look. I know you’re all artsy so I thought of you when this show idea came up. Seems one of our executives, his wife, she loves fucking psychics.”
            “Psychics?” David’s stomach begins to turn.
            “Yeah. I mean she fucking loves them, not she loves fucking them.”
David laughs. Shit. This is making me nervous. Psychics.
            “I got it,” he says.
            The waiter returns.
            “Can I take your order?” he asks, not really looking at either of them but sort of staring ahead into the street and periodically turning his head to check and see whom else may just have walked in.
            “Uh, give us a few minutes, thanks,” says Phil. “What a rubbernecker,” he says.
            “So. What’s the deal with the psychic show?” David asks with a sigh.
            “So, we don’t really know, we just know that everyone’s all into Sylvia Browne and Wayne Dyer so we wanna do a show with psychics.” Phil opens his menu. “I don’t know why I bother looking, I’m gonna get the Cobb Salad. I always get the Cobb Salad.”
            “Wayne Dyer’s not a psychic.” David doesn’t open his menu.
            “What, not hungry?” Phil asks.
            David acquiesces and opens his menu, making a mental note of the first thing that jumps out at him. Grilled portabella focaccia.
            “What’s the angle?” he asks, closing his menu.
            “I get the same thing all the time, I always get the Cobb salad.”
            “That’s what you said. Salad? Really, Phil?” he nods his head in approval. Unlike Phil, David has always been a healthy eater. Even when he was a kid and Phil would take him to Dodgers games, he always refused to eat the hotdogs. He’d insist on bringing apples and hiding them in the pockets of his Dodgers windbreaker.
            “Getting a little fat,” says Phil, jiggling his belly.
            The waiter returns.
            “Cobb salad,” says Phil.
            “Grilled portabella focaccia,” David says.
            The waiter sighs.
            “Anything to drink with that?”
            “Water.”
            “Water.”
            “Two waters. Right. Thanks.”
            “So,” David continues, since there’s no point in really doing the small talk thing. “What do you want me to do for the psychic show?”

Calinda
            On the side of the road outside the cafe, the crowd has dispersed.
            A solitary figure sits on the curb, head in hands.
            She raises her head slowly, stretching her neck from side to side, feeling the sorrow and the glory of her long blonde curls falling around her sun-leathered face. She touches her face and is surprised it is not smooth and wet with tears, but is instead, grizzled with stubble. This cannot do. Not at all. She searches her shopping cart for lipstick and finds a new one, one she has found in the dumpster behind the Rite Aid at Sunset and Fairfax, perfectly good, in fine condition. She smears the lipstick across her delicate lips and worries over the stubble. She will have to get a shave soon. This will not do. It reminds her still that she has still a man’s body despite her true self, her womanly grace. She sighs. She is a lady in mourning at any rate. She looks to the left, where Freddy’s body once lay. Her heart is heavy. Her soul cries out to the sun.
            Some police men walk toward her. She pretends she does not see them but, out of a sort of defense of her own dignity, takes her time getting up and walking away with her cart, headed east.
            “I’m off to find Sir Gregory, Sir Gregory,” she sings. “He will know what to do about the girl.”


GO ON TO CHAPTERS 5 & 6.