Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Good Reason to Go See Bad Movies Anyway.

In the screenplay I'm writing, one of the characters, a photographer, is obsessed with something called the golden ratio, which is also called phi, or sometimes the golden mean and other names. Though it is endlessly fascinating, I won't even explain what it is, because, well, I discovered this afternoon, when I was doing some research, that the golden ratio is what The Da Vinci Code is based on!


Okay, I will explain a little of it, only because it's so interesting. The golden ratio is the ratio where the relationship of the smaller portion to the bigger portion is the same as the relationship of the bigger portion to the whole. It is an irrational number (1.618 and on and on forever). But not only is it an irrational number, it is the most irrational number possible. It is the irrational number that is farthest away from a rational number.

And it appears over and over in nature; in the way seeds arrange themselves in a flower, the pattern of leaves on a stem, the way stalks of celery grow, the spiral of a snail shell, the chronology of rabbit offspring. Because of this, people in many cultures and religions have regarded it as a sacred and powerful number, close to the source of life. All kinds of religious symbols are based on it, from Vesica Pisces (the Christian fish) to the Flower of Life (a pattern made of interlocking circles which contains all the Platonic solids, and the Tree of Life, which is used in Kabbalah.

Renaissance artists were very into phi. It's used as a compositional device in paintings, sculptures, and buildings by Leonardo, Michelangelo, and others. Which I guess is why it figures in The Da Vinci Code. I didn't read the book, didn't see the movie. Wasn't interested.

It's good I found out now, before I'm too attached to it in my story. (I was a little attached.) I spent most of the rest of afternoon researching something else for my photographer character to be obsessed with. I think I have something better than phi. Well, not better than phi, but better for the character to be obsessed with.

The thing about phi is that the photographer was going to be covered with all these great tattoos of the various geometric symbols. There's an amazing 5-pointed star criss-crossed with hundreds of lines making it look like a crystal. Damn.


There were beets in our box from Johnson's Farm again this week. Last time, J. juiced them. From time to time, he gets out the juicer and makes carrot, ginger, beet, whatever juice. I can't drink it. I can eat almost anything, but there's something about beet juice that makes me feel like I'm going to retch.

On the other hand, I made a great beet salad for dinner tonight. We had some red beets and some Chioggias (the pretty striped ones). I boiled and peeled them, then sliced and tossed them with a sliced apple, toasted pecans, and feta cheese, in a red wine vinaigrette with sweet onions. The beets stained everything bright pink. Beautiful and delicious.


J. and I were walking somewhere the other night. Oh, yeah, to see a movie at the Alamo, but it was a special Austin Film Society screening, cash only, and we didn't have cash or enough time before the movie to get cash, except at the ATM right outside the theater, which charged $4, so we went and had fish tacos and beers instead.

The movie was Fish Kill Flea, a documentary somehow related to the upstate New York town of Fishkill, which is where the Fresh Air Fund camps for poor kids from New York City are located. I worked as a counselor there the summer before I moved to New York, when I was 20.

Anyway, it's the walk I wanted to write about, not the film. Walks in our neighborhood often spur discussion of gentrification; there are so many houses being built or restored, moved or torn down in the blocks around us. It's an exciting time to live here, while this neighborhood changes. Of course, gentrification is good and bad, usually depending on where you sit class-wise, but there's a lot of effort in city government to plan sensibly, to manage the growth of Austin so it's sustainable. We'll see. J. and I could easily be displaced. The house we live in is pretty run down, but the lot under it is probably worth a truckload of money. I don't know the economics of it, but at some point it will probably be more lucrative for our landlord to sell the house than to keep renting it.

As we walked down a block on which every house has been razed and new, much bigger houses are being built, I was telling J. that Z.'s parents have been trying to sell him on the idea of buying a house in Austin. I guess that's something a lot of parents do: try to get their kids to buy a house, so they have something secure for the future.

I like the idea of owning the home I live in, having something stable. It's an appealing thought after a lifetime of renting and being at the mercy of landlords, some benevolent, some not so. But it's hard for me to buy the security argument when I look at what's happening in our neighborhood. People who have owned their homes for decades and have paid off their mortgages suddenly can't afford to live in them anymore because the property taxes have gone up. What kind of security is that?

J. has talked on and off about his desire to buy a home. He has thought about buying a house; lately he's been thinking more along the lines of a condo. There are several big condo developments going up around us. Some of them are actually not bad: mixed-use high-density developments. J. asked me if, were he to buy something that was big enough for us to share, I would be willing to pay half his mortgage payment as rent.

I came to Austin to live with J. I love Austin, I love living here, but I don't think I'd be here if he weren't here. I want to live with him. He's my family. So, yes, I would share a home with him if he wanted to buy a home.

I worry sometimes that this attitude of mine puts pressure on J. I asked him if he saw himself, in the future, possibly meeting someone, becoming involved in a relationship, wanting to set up housekeeping with this person, and asking me to leave. The conversation took many turns as we walked, and I don't think J. ever gave a direct answer to my question. I didn't expect one. Because really, who ever knows that stuff?

There's no category where J.'s and my relationship fits. It falls somewhere in the space where long-time friends, married couples, college roommates, and spinster aunts overlap. I can't imagine a more ideal domestic situation. I have the benefits of companionship, emotional support, without the expectations and hurt feelings of a romantic relationship. I can ask for attention if I need it, but my feelings are not hurt by a shut door.

It's also a bit like an artists colony here, because we inspire and motivate each other and leave each other alone to work.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Baby Will Be Fine.

Z. is in San Francisco. He left this morning, and he'll be there for 4 or 5 days, a long weekend. We were together Tuesday night, didn't do much. I walked to his house, we went to Freebird for burritos, he bought me a malt at Amy's, then back to his place and watched Practical Magic. Well, we didn't really watch it. Perfect date.

He asked me when we were saying goodnight if he would see me before he left, and I said I didn't think so because I had rehearsals Wednesday and Friday. I didn't say I have plans Thursday, but I didn't say I didn't. In fact, I had plans to not have plans.

He really seems fine with my lack of urgency, but every once in a while he'll say something like, "I'm really getting used to you." Things which make me want to say, "Don't do that, please."

He called me when he got to San Francisco this morning, to let me know he got there. It was so sweet of him, and it was nice to listen to his message. But I don't have any desire to call him back, or to talk to him before he gets back.

I go back and forth between feeling sometimes very guilty that I am being manipulative and other times telling myself I am not being dishonest and that there's nothing wrong with him and me having different attitudes about this, as long as we're enjoying ourselves.

When I don't return his calls for a couple days, when I make him wait, it's like the episode of Mad About You, when Paul and Jamie's baby was colicky and they had to let her cry all night without going to pick her up so she would learn that she won't always get attention when she cries. And they both spend the entire night right in front of the baby's bedroom door, listening to the baby cry, not sleeping. J. and I just sobbed watching that episode.

We were very attached to that fictional couple for a spell.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Perfect Life.

I said last night to J. that if I had more money, I would probably drink a lot more. I was saying that my idea of a perfect life would be to have enough income that I could get up in the morning, read the paper, putter around until noon, then spend the afternoon writing. At about 5, have a beer or a glass of wine and start cooking dinner. Eat at 7 or so. Then maybe a few nights a week, I'd go to the pub on the corner and find out what everyone else has been doing all day.

So, more or less, not including the underlying financial anxiety, I'm leading my ideal life right now. The only thing I don't really do is go down to the pub. Because there is no pub. And even if there were, I wouldn't have the cash. Maybe it's good I'm so broke all the time, because I would eventually just become a fat drunk. And I would start sleeping all morning. And go straight from reading the paper to cooking and drinking, skipping the writing part of the day entirely.

Thank god for poverty.


J. and I took a free 2-hour screenwriting class given by the Austin Film Society. The woman who teaches the class offers a much longer class where students work on original scripts over several weeks -- this was just sort of an introduction and sales pitch for her particular method.

She takes the traditional 3-act structure and breaks if down further into 8 sequences. She also stresses specific relationships among the protagonist's flaw, the first act "event," and the nature of the crisis at the end of the second act. It was interesting. I actually came home and made a couple small changes in the script I wrote last year, based on her method. And it gave me some things to think about in the script I'm drafting right now.

Experienced screenwriters will tell you that every screenplay fits into a very neat structure based on Aristotle's Poetics. And it's pretty much true.

I go back and forth in my opinion about where in the process it's useful to start thinking about this theory. It's useful to have something to hang the story on. Strict rules can stimulate the imagination, like in poetry. On the other hand, when it's early in the process, expecting elements of the story to conform to specific narrative demands may have a way of shutting down the imagination. I suspect, when I'm watching a movie and the story feels forced, it's because the writer pushed the formula onto the story too hard, too early.

But it's hard to argue with something proven to work for over two millenia.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Shit or get off the pot.

I think I first heard that expression from my mother.

It seems that there is a point, in dating, where most people expect the relationship to develop into something new (more serious), and, if not, then it's time to move on. I get the feeling Z. and I have reached that point. The thing is, I kind of like it the way it is. I don't have any interest in spending more time together, in saying, "I love you," or meeting his family, or anything. A nice walk, maybe a meal together, make out, talk, look at the stars, once a week. It's enough.

At first, it just happened that we saw each other about once a week. He travels for work, I was doing the drug trial. We'd get together, then two or three days later, one of us would call and we'd make plans to get together again. But now, he consistently calls me the day after we've seen each other, though I usually don't return his call for a few days.

In the last week, I've been writing for several hours a day, and I told Z. that I would be preoccupied with this and might not see him as much. He's patient, he understands. He's not at all demanding. We chatted on line Saturday and made plans to get together Sunday night (last night). I was a little stoned when we chatted, and the idea of cuddling and watching TV sounded really nice, so I said yes.

But when I woke up yesterday, I canceled, because I just wanted to get high, cook, and hang out here with J. all day. Z. was a little miffed. Mainly because I emailed but didn't call and he didn't get the email until after the time we said we'd get together. I had my phone turned off all day. I hate the phone.

Just the fact that this is even a thing is more than I want to deal with. I try to keep my life simple. Maybe I should say that right up front when I meet people. "I'm going to keep things simple, okay, so don't get all complicated on me."

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Christmas in April.

J. just said that it feels like Christmas today, and I was thinking the same thing. It's a Jesus holiday, and it's cold as hell outside. Well, it's warming up -- now it's about 45 degrees. I took the wrapping off the tomatoes and the Meyer lemon.

I got a craving for scones this morning, so after I read the paper I made cheddar and scallion scones (with the scallions from the CSA farm). I also put a chopped jalapeƱo in them. J. suggested they'd be good with poached eggs, so when the scones came out of the oven I put on water for poaching. But then I decided what would be really good would be some roasted potatoes. So I cut up some red potatoes and tossed them in olive oil and salt and pepper and garlic and they're in the oven roasting now.

Cold outside, stuff in the oven = Christmas. Plus, for breakfast we had sweet potato pie. I think that's what really made it feel like a winter holiday.

Yesterday when we went to the Longbranch for banana pudding, the woman behind the counter said, "Do you like sweet potato pie?" The question didn't even register with either of us for a moment. Is that a question that has more than one possible answer? With our banana pudding, she threw in half a sweet potato pie for free! The edges of the crust were a little too brown, so I guess she couldn't sell it.