When Life Freakily Imitates Art

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It wasn't the first screenplay that I wrote, but it was the first one that I thought had potential. I called it Crimson House - the story of a famous family of psychics who operate out of a gorgeous Italianate mansion in the Victorian Village neighborhood of Memphis. I made so. many. changes to the story over the years, but the opening aways stayed the same - the most powerful psychic of them all - 16 year old Miranda Delacourte - channeled opera diva Maria Callas to the astonishment of her international clientele.

Crimson House is set in a real place - the James Lee House of Memphis. After the home became the first incarnation of what is now the Memphis College of Art, it flourished until the college set up shop in Overton Park. The house sat abandoned for over 50 years. When I was granted a tour some years back, I got to pick my way through the dark, abandoned rooms, stepping over piles of architectural salvage, winding my way up to the top of the fourth story tower, imagining what it would be like if someone had the ability, the money, the clout to save this house before it was too late to salvage. I kept returning to that dusty parlor, imagining my haunted, doomed psychic in the throws of the spirit world, singing until she collapsed.

Last night, I got to see the scene play out for real.

Minus the psychics.

I think.

Opera singer Kallen Esperian performed in that beautifully renovated parlor to the amazement of her guests. There did not appear to be any mediumship on display - not that I know of - but I had serious chills upon chills watching life imitate art in the exact room where I'd pictured it so many years prior. The James Lee House is now a gorgeous B&B, resurrected by Jose and Jennifer Velazquez, and I only hope I didn't overwhelm them with my complete and total fangirldom. I'm thrilled the city of Memphis gets this jewel back in its architectural crown. Maybe now its time it gets a spooky movie out of it, too.

How to Kill Lice and Save your Marriage

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Your child has lice. It is Sunday, because that is when lice permit themselves to be discovered -  in between the window of doctor’s offices being closed for the weekend and school starting the next morning after a long, endless summer. Somehow you survived the 1980s and sleepaway camp with nary a louse, but there it is, a microscopic nasty who is using your precious child’s scalp as their own Air B&B.

You immediately google. You immediately regret it. So. Many. Photos.

But you dive back in.

You have not read such hotly contested mommy battles since the great breast vs formula debates of the 2000s. It is reduced down to this: To lather your child’s sweet, sweet lousy (that word!) head with pesticide or not? Not is defined as apple cider vinegar, regular vinegar, coconut oil, olive oil, kerosene (kerosene?? Please don’t try this at home) rosemary, tea tree oil, face wash, mayonnaise, army-grade buzz clippers. School is tomorrow. And your friend tells you about how she won the battle by slathering her hair with a jar of mayonnaise and suffocating the fuckers inside a shower cap. Overnight. The squuuuuiiiiiissssssh.

You choose the nuclear option and head to Walgreens.

Eeenie, meenie, miney, Nix. You also buy the RobiComb that glows red and purports to kills lice on contact, like a plastic Terminator gunning for lousy John Connors. The cashier rings it up and you say it, you say the words out loud.  My kid has…lice. No shit, her eyes tell you. She’s the one charging your debit card for the $12 terminator comb and $30 in shampoo and hair clips and shower caps but you see her twitch. She scratches her head.

The power. You are scratching your head right now, aren't you? Savor it. It is the only power you will ever have.

At home you marshal your defenses.  Lice shampoo, boiling water, towels, the hilarious, plastic nit comb that came with the shampoo box that is about as effective as asking your toddler to get himself dressed, shower caps, DVDs, and a stiff drink, because you are about to coat the heads of your obedient, sweet seven year old and her three year old brother, who may or may not be the prince of darkness. You promise him cookies.  He promises nothing.

You strip the beds, the stuffed animals, the pillows, anything that was in proximity to louse HQ and shove it all into the washing machine with enough bleach and heat to turn any stowaway critters platinum. You read that stuffed animals are to be bagged and kept in an attic for 2 weeks so that the lice will die screaming, gasping deaths.  You also read that lice can only live away from the scalp for a few hours so this bagging/attic instructions sound like the fetishes of a kidnapper sadist.

You will soon wholeheartedly agree.

You get to work, lathering gunk, washing out gunk, trapping little critters with the worthless piece of shit comb and 45 minutes in, you lose the comb, the gloves, and you are nitpicking – you are officially nitpicking – teeny tiny lice eggs (nits) stuck to tiny individual hairs with a substance that the government wishes it could reproduce in a lab because nothing – except your wicked fingernails – is getting between that egg and its new home.  Oh and that flaky cradle cap on your sweet baby’s head you ignored as those wispy curls grew in as helpful camouflage? It has now morphed into adorable tectonic plates of dandruff and you get to play a super fun new game – Is it a Nit or Is it a Microscopic Flake of Dead Skin Because They Look Exactly Alike! You discover two hours in that you are good at nitpicking. You discover that – gasp – you might actually enjoy it. You fantasize about starting a lice busting business. Nitpickers. Adorable! There will be cute swivel chairs and pickers that go by codenames like Roz and Shasta so if you are spotted out in public later by a former client and she’s all Bubbles! The chick that de-loused my kids’ hair! and you’re all I beg your pardon, ma’am, but my name is Linda. Because I care about your dignity. 

After the third or fourth hour of combing your daughter’s long, long hair that you couldn’t bear to cut because your mother kept your curls so closely cropped that you resembled Pat Nixon well into middle school, you care less about Nitpickers and more about the stabbing pains in your hunched back and the viscous blob that now passes for your vision. Your son – or some blonde with a blob for a face – seriously, your vision is fucked - asks for another cookie. You open up a package of oreos and another bottle of wine. Finally you collapse into beds with damp sheets and shower caps and dream of nothing because even your subconscious has short circuited from the psychosomatic twitching and scratching and OH MY GOD THEY ARE ON YOUR PILLOW. No that's just crumbs because somehow in the past two minutes one of your children decided to eat an oreo right where you lay your face.

For days you will obsessively examine your child’s head, grabbing her in grocery stores and the playground and the kitchen and peering at her scalp as if it might offer up the answer to life. She will obediently freeze as she has learned it’s better if you don’t fight. You will start to feel confident, dare I say, smug, that you tackled the lice infestation in one sitting. Day 7 will arrive when you are supposed to repeat the lice shampoo treatment and because you are smug, you will choose to coat your family’s head in coconut oil because it is kinder to the earth, your child’s scalp, and those now coconut-scented lice.

Because somehow you missed one.
One tiny microscopic nit and suddenly that stuff that you swore was dandruff is now spreading. And naturally, today is Sunday. The afterhours operator at the pediatrician gives you the lowdown: Cetaphil. Like how a virulent strain of food poisoning makes ladies foreheads resemble baby butts, coating your kids hair in generic face wash can end the plague. So it’s back to Walgreens and the refrigerator and liquor cabinet for provisions and your husband opens the oreos this time because he feels like shit that he has to work on another Sunday, leaving you to battle creepy crawly Satan. Before he goes, he submits to a nit check, your fingers running all through his scalp and his dark, dark, hair and you wonder why brunettes had to be your type because you could have lost Jimmy Hoffa in this dark mess, forget about finding a microscopic bug that matches his same exact hair color, and you feel his body relaxing, his body leaning back into yours.

And then it is your turn. He runs his hands through your hair – you assume it’s him, I mean you are completely blind at this point – and you can’t remember the last time you focused this kind of attention on each other. Oh wait -you do!  There was that time when you were dating, long before children, when he actually drew you a bath and washed your hair by candlelight, indulging a Pa from Little Hour on the Prairie fantasy you didn't even know you had - and now he is bitching about your terrible dandruff problem, I mean it's everywhere he is telling you - and he's massaging generic facewash into your scalp, and maybe it’s the wine or the oreos, but this is the best vacation you’ve had since the second child was born. And then he is washing his hands and he's out the door but you suddenly you don’t feel so bad, even when that second child dumps the entire bowl of live lice you scavenged onto the carpet and rolls around in it. 

Second children are adorable. So is that husband.


Friday, September 26, 2014

As we all spread ourselves thinner on social media, I'm finding I'm increasingly forgetting to share my work here. The writing and photography and filming are all interconnected, yet they all have their own separate sites, and I'm thinking I need to do some serious culling down of the landing pages. In the meantime, this is my latest music video for Archer Records, "Rabbit" by Amy Lavere, starring the lovely Harlow Sweazy.

1-240 Construction BINGO!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wherein I detail the highs and lows of navigating the nightmare that is interstate/highway construction at the I-40/240 junction and how the existence of the Zipper Method may have broken my brain. 
In bingo format.

From the photographer at your party

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The two sisters were dancing at the anniversary party. You couldn't help but notice them as they were the only two people dancing in the crowd of seated, largely silver-haired set. I put them in their late forties early fifties, their faces lit up with giddy smiles. Catnip to the lady with the camera.  I snapped a few candids of them dancing, and then approached them with my camera and asked to take their portraits. Their smiles vanished. The older sister said no. No? I repeated. I was confused as she had stopped me not twenty minutes earlier to ask me to photograph her sister. Here they were together. It was the 50th anniversary party for a lovely couple, and it was my job to document the festivities.  The husband had wandered by earlier and looked at me, a bit dazed. "So many people to try and talk to," he mumbled as he passed by. "Not enough time to see them all."

I knew how important it was to the hosts to make sure I capture as many people there as possible. These women were family. So I tried again.

No, the other sister said. My wattle. She pointed to her neck. My hair, the other one said. I look awful. 

And so it was all night. Several generations of women trying to make themselves invisible when I approached, trying to hide body parts they found hideous, calling out to me that their stomachs were too fat, they weren't wearing enough makeup.

I ultimately begged the sisters for a photo. They reluctantly complied. 

I came home from the party sad and deflated, and I wrote a letter. I'm reposting it here.

Dear women,

Please stop telling me you are too ugly to be photographed. Please stop glaring at me when I approach you with my camera so that I can document you at your friend's celebration. Or trot out the standard "You brought the lens that's going to make me look less fat/hideous/jowly, right? - your laundry list of self-hatred that you will say out loud as if to beat me to the punch. I'm sorry I got a little angry at you last night when you told me not to take your picture because of your "wattle" because I hear this every. single. time. And you are hurting my heart. You are at this party because you are loved, because you were deemed important and necessary to make this celebration happen. And I get it - I DO. I'm a woman. I've been told that we are all beautiful and then shown - repeatedly - that beauty is a narrowly defined, specific set of traits helpfully detailed on the cover of magazines and in our media. I flinch if a camera phone comes my way and I wasn't ready with my mask of concealer and mascara. But if I always flinched, if I always gave into that desire to hide my face, I would not exist in photographs with my children. The bride, your father, those friends who chose YOU to celebrate a major milestone in their lives will not be able to look back at those photographs when the memories of that night are all fuzzy and see you celebrating with them. I don't have answers. I don't expect to break hundreds of years of biology and aesthetics and shame with a post on Facebook. But take it from the photographer - there's a tiny fraction of the population who are paid to be photographed. The rest of us? We're just here for the party. Don't be afraid to show us you were here. 


the photographer.


The Department of Signs Teaser Trailer

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The teaser trailer is live! 100% guaranteed teasing.

DEPT. OF SIGNS AND MAGICAL INTERVENTION TRAILER from oddly buoyant productions on Vimeo.

The Baby Psychopath Test

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On days that are challenging with D, I try to take a breath before issuing another time out, to try and make a joke instead of glaring him into submission, to patiently redirect him instead of defaulting to a shouting match. You know, to be more mom and less Vince McMahon negotiating his WWE contract.

On days that I've screamed at my son for the 30th time before breakfast to not hit the dog in the face with Mr. Owl, to not run away while I'm trying to wrestle him into diapers/socks/shirts/shorts/pajamas, to not punch his sister/me/father/cereal, to not eat the battery/quarter/entirebananawhole, to not destroy the bill/artwork/receipt/vip paperwork that was supposed to be stacked in the one place he can't reach, to not rip/empty/destroy/inadvertently open the portal to hell out of pure, undiluted rage, I work on my agent query letter for The Baby Psychopath Test and revise some of the entries.


1. When you greet your child in the morning and lay him/her down on the changing table, your baby:

A) Gives you a playful smile. You are their world. 

B) Gives you a playful smile before punching you in the mouth. You were blocking their view of the overhead fan. Bonus points if they simultaneously kicked the diaper cream out of your hand with their (club)foot

C) Coos

2. It's breakfast time. He or she:

A) Beckons, points, signs or states that he/she would like food.

B) Grabs the refrigerator handles and trembles with Hulk-like rage as they have yet to possess the Hulk-strength to open them. They scream at you to open the door. Scream at you when you do open the door.  Scream at the unfairness of not being tall enough to reach the milk. Scream that the milk has not been placed into a cup and into their hand .08 seconds after they demanded.  And continue screaming.

C) Has fed themselves. They have to get back to their infant SAT prep. 

3. Lights out. It's bedtime. Your baby:

A) Goes to sleep.

B) Cries, stalls like a motherf*cker, but goes to sleep.

C) Goes to sleep. Then wakes back up and laughs manically at the ceiling for two hours straight, causing you to lurk outside their door with your smartphone trying to record audio. They stop laughing every time you hit record, because in addition to being in league with the devil, they generally just enjoy f*ing with you.  You regroup, looking through the baby monitor, scanning for the dead relative hovering over your baby's crib, cracking your baby's shit up. They finally go to sleep around midnight. Naturally they are up at 5:45 AM.

4)Your child hits your sister/mother/glass cabinet/dog/refrigerator/front door again, and when picked up and scolded, he or she:

A) Cries and apologizes. Even though the other guy deserved it.

B) Headbutts whoever was stupid enough to pick them up. I mean, did you not just see them punch a CABINET because they thought it was giving them attitude? They live with cretins.

C) Coos. En Espagnol.

5) You google "baby psychopath" and finding nothing, write a quiz based on your actual interactions. You are:

A) Ambivalent about putting this on the internet. Another quiz suggested he might just be a three year old boy. And he's totally sweet when not tearing apart the house with his bare hands.

B) Posting this shit. Because he might actually be the youngest candidate for boarding school in history, and who are you to stand in the way of your child getting a Guinness World record? Or moving to Latvia?

C) Cooing.