Ready…. Aim…. Fire!!

March 2nd, 2014 by Toby

At Wonder Wheel our third feature film is cocked and ready to blare.  Nothing like staring down the barrel of a shiny new production, and this one is poised to be a real blast…..  

Noticing a theme here?  Clever pistol, aren’t you….    Well, yes, our next film is aptly called THE SHOOT.   It’s about some rockers who go to the desert to rob a high-end fashion shoot (a little double-entendre there), and  before you can say “Strike a pose, darling,” bullets are flying, girls (and boys) in bikinis are fleeing, the desert sun is pounding, and the coyotes start hounding.  

Of course it’s also a love story.  Because why not?  When you’ve got the heat hurting, heads spinning, and guns spitting nickel, it’s good to temper it with a little sweet buttery love-brickle.

April is the big month, but along the way we’ll have John’s weekly musical hors d’oeuvres from the wicked score he’s cooking up, served up with stories from the production front.  As with our other films, this will be a family affair — but this time we’re joined by several new (and fantastic) actors and  crewmembers  we cannot wait to work with!  We’re dropping the hammer on this baby and hope you’ll stick around for the new-movie mayhem…..

And…. Cut!

March 26th, 2011 by Toby

Like a cruel joke, the very moment we were pulling into our new campground for a week in the Florida Everglades, an alligator was strolling through.   A pond sits like a black yolk in the middle of the place, and this gator, all smiley smug,  passes right through sites 13 and 14 to go for a dip.  This was about a 6-footer, big  enough to have folks picking up their pooches like they were all Madison Avenue fancy…..  By day 2 there were three gators hanging out, one which had arrived during the night and had everyone’s hackles up– a big 10-12ft whopper that  patrolled the pond with professional menace.  He’d occasionally approach one of the smaller ones, then rudder off with nonchalance to the other end of the pond for an 8 hour nap.  If this is how alligators do their mating dance, let’s just say they are smooth navi-gators.  I guess you could say taking their time is right up their… alley.  Needless to say, our habitual  “Gotta hit the can? Take it outside!” practice took on a whole  new dimension.  (Especially at night:  “Shine the light!  You see anything?  Ok, don’t look… Shine the light!  Don’t loo– SHINE IT!!!”)  

Who knew Florida, the land of tans and tall condos, threw such a heavy wildlife punch?  We didn’t.  But we can’t stop raving about the park system there.  Up north  off the panhandle, we practically had the state parks to ourselves:  Blackwater River (saw cottonmouth),  Grayton Beach (the sweet white sand sings when you walk on it),  Manatee Springs (saw manatees and armadillos), Hillsborough (saw alligators, wild boars).  And then Big Cypress in the Everglades– what a primitive place!  We took some great hikes in Florida, and they all carried a different kind of awareness for all the things that creepeth and crawleth (and swimmeth) on the earth (and in the pond).  Yes, Nature, you have our full respect and attention.  John and the girls saw the biggest rattler they’d ever seen, and supposedly if you drive far enough into the ‘Glades, you can spot big long boas.  We took a crazy gorgeous 15-mile bike ride in Shark Valley, where you get so used to seeing alligators, I stopped counting at 95.   It’s good to know these massive wild places still exist, and that the realm we can visit is just a fraction of it.

Ok, pedaling back a stitch:  Austin, (who doesn’t love Austin?), the Alamo, and time to officially head east.   
 
Louisiana was like walking through gumbo:  great, gooey and peppered with the slow-mo memory of an old life there.  I went to college in New Orleans (Tulane), and revisiting Louisiana 20 years after graduation is still a thrill.  I’m 41, but in New Orleans I will forever be 18.  It’s impossible not to drive down the mansion-crusted St. Charles St, or prowl below the curtain-licked late-night balconies of the French Quarter, or hold your breath past graveyards frozen in their grim stony-molared smiles– and NOT feel like you did when you arrived at 18.  I still swoon.

Things we did on the bayou:  boating on the bayou, eating mudbugs from the bayou, cypress trees in the bayou, holding baby alligators and watching them swim by you on the bayou.   
Things we did in New Orleans:  visited Tulane, former favorite professors and room-mates; slinked through the Quarter in the rain; feasted at K-Paul’s, feasted here, feasted there, feasted feasted everywhere….

 Fairhope, Alabama, is also a place I relish from my college days; a beautiful town on the Mobile Bay.  We stayed with some cousins, Deb and Rick, who showed us a royal time.  We pulled Harvey up in front of their pretty house and lived in style for a few days.  I saw an old friend, a beautiful soul and writer, Ronnie Everett Capps, and it was like seeing a tree you once loved to climb or sit beneath.  Sad and happy all at once.      

While in Florida we cut a brief 3-day page out of our road story to fly up to Washington, DC.  John’s dad, also named John Adams, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (for his dedication to protecting the Environment and founding NRDC) from Barack Obama!  John got to go the White House for the event, and we all got to join in on all the other various celebrations.  It was a big Adams Family event and one to be treasured bigtime.  We also saw my lovable cousins, Lesley, Deb and Don, who charmed the kids while I looked for something to wear that didn’t smell or look like a road bum, which is what I am, thank you very much!

Back in Florida  we bided our time, seeking seashells and pink-orange sunsets, until my mom flew in to visit us.  We hung out with the gators…. ate good Cuban food…. shimmied into Miami where we saw one of my longest-time friends, Patrick, and swam in the warm teal water.  And then my sweet mama arrived.  I could write an entire blog on what a heavenly mom I have, but I’d never finish this one.  So now you know:  I love my mom like air, ocean and bread, all nestled up in one warm bowl of Everything.

We were planted in Ft. Lauderdale for a while, where we also got to visit with one of the coolest people I know:  my Uncle Colonel.  He has a name (Ellis), but to me he is and always will be Uncle Colonel.  His specialty was tanks in World War II, and he was field promoted by General Patton himself.  It was a love fest for him and the girls, and he and John hit it off like wildfire, too.  (I love being married to John; he can talk to anyone  and makes me look good.)

In Orlando we hit a Mardi Gras party my cousins held.  Then I kissed my man and kids, and they wheeled away.   I stayed around to do some VO work and bask in solo time with my lovin’ mom.   We talked and talked over meals with our humorous  relatives and then cuddled up in hotel sheets, eating ice cream….. 
Meanwhile,  John and the girls drove Harvey the RV overnight to Asheville, NC. where they got to see their gorgeous great-grandma Dee.  Her beauty and still, southern poise could move a mountain.  Lulu loved her strong hands; Zelda liked her humor; John loved the words that flowed from her heart.  In NC, they also picked up something very cute, furry, and with razor-edged little teeth:  a puppy!!  Yup.  After 12 years of no-dog apartment rentals and 7 months of RV living, the girls finally got their biggest (and perhaps Lu’s only-ever) wish– a sweetly devilish cup of canine happiness we named Cherokee (“Cherry” for short).  Instant bliss.  And a perfect name, considering Lulu has been teaching herself the Cherokee language (part of John’s maternal lineage) and that our new family member is truly the cherry on top of our 7-month, many-layered cake.

Then: John and the girls ate lightning and Harvey chugged caffeine.  They blazed such a fast path north, they tattooed the Interstate.  Their skid marks screamed “Beaverkill or Bust.”   

And that’s exactly where we are now, in Beaverkill, NY at our homegrown mountain haven.  I’d say it’s a bittersweet stick to chew on– (after all, we’ve been on a freedom fast-track for 7 months.  Daily injections of new roads, new tastes, new knowledge…. Like life, in concentrate:  jam-packed with juicy stories, growth, and crazygood things….)  — But it would be a waste of time to get all maudlin about it.   We love it here in our chunk of Catskill glory.   John is back at his art, which is looking sexy as hell.  I’ll be hopping down to NYC now and then to do the rounds.  There’s home school, new soccer teams, and all the creature comfort that comes with living in one’s own house.  There’s a dog to take on long woodsy walks….. And there’s our film!   Rumblestrips is in need of trimming and shaping and endless hours of sound landscaping, scoring……  It’s looking good, and hopefully in a few months it’ll be able to look you in the eye from its perch on a screen somewhere near you!  But ’til then, there’s serious work to be done.

Wait.  Am I forgetting something?  Maybe… a 30-foot mean-motored house on wheels?   Ahh,  Harvey, Harvey, the guardian of our bones and vandal of our hearts…..   As of now, he is in earned repose on a snowy field nearby.   Strangely frozen in time like a ghost town’s daughter, he still houses all of our stuff inside:  weathered maps, campfire-scented unmated socks, sand dollars and sand from our shoes, feathers and rocks and clothes and books and all the hot fingerprints of happy times….  But Harvey will be resurrected.   We will be here for a while– how long?  Who knows!– but Harvey has not kissed his last horizon.  And neither have we, folks.  Hell no!

Stay tuned.        

    

    

  

            

       

      
    

Keep on Truckin’

January 15th, 2011 by Toby

Where are we?  Texas.  On the Gulf.  We are living as if there were a little umbrella in our glass of tropical repose, or a plastic mermaid in our mixed-emotions margarita……  After several weeks of deep desert, and 4 months of mostly isolated destinations, we have found ourselves in a land of many (people, cars, stores, towns) and constant cell service.  I’m feeling wistful.  It’s pretty on Padre Island, but we can’t help but feel like we’ve crossed over into a different zone.  This has its perks, too– the kids are happy and the timing is good– but I can tell both John and I are accepting the shift with a sentimental sigh.  Even Harvey, at 30ft the beautiful runt in this RV Mecca, looks content to take a nap, as we all seem to want to do.  We have worked really hard lately, especially in West Texas, so perhaps a little classic R&R is good.

Ok, a road recap:

Bisbee, Arizona: one of the coolest towns I’ve ever seen.  It springs upon you out of the desert blue, after miles upon miles of tumbleweeds and happy-trails-to-you.  You’ll be heading Southeast from Phoenix when of course you decide to check out Tombstone, which is such high-fructose tourist candy your eyes ache.  But 30 miles beyond, a tortilla’s width from the Mexican border, is Bisbee.  An old mining town  with the most funky, European vibe, it’s built upon a mountain where the open-aired houses perch in tiers connected by aged iron stairs so steep you’d never follow their lead if you weren’t so damn intrigued.  The tiny town thumps with a laid-back, creative pulse–lots of artists, antique-hounds, and supposedly ex-convicts, migrate to Bisbee.  I even ran into an old friend from NYC who’s there now, living in high style.

In SE Arizona we started to learn a lot about great Apache warriors, like Mangus Coloradas, Cochise and Geronimo, and the weight of their stories really sinks in when you’re roaming the vast, gorgeous land of the Chiricahuas.  The Coronado Forest was just a blank space on our map, but when we drove back into the Chiricahua Mountains, it was like we’d stumbled upon buried treasure: great eagle-nosed cliffs hulking above oak-lined creeks (and the occasional brush-hidden stone relic warning “Explosives!” on its rusty door).  
[It was here that we explored how much we could get away with shooting a night scene with only fire light– that authentic campfire feeling we really wanted to capture on film.  Our deal is that we work with what nature is sending our way– sunlight, moonlight, shadows and fog…. It’s real, it’s gorgeous, and it’s free.  It’s also all we’ve got.  But I’ve begun to think of our so-called limitations as our film’s charm.  We are only four, but we get the job done.  If Wonder Wheel had the budget and crew of kings, I bet you a thousand pennies that I would miss running and gunning as a tiny band of makeshift moviemakers.  The Canon 5D is amazing and flexible, and John is very innovative.  It’s also very satisfying having heavies like Harvey the RV and Mother Nature herself in our cast; they really deliver.]

Next, Silver City, New Mexico and then the unexpected little Stonehenge dopple-ganger, City of Rocks.  They really get right to the point, huh?  But that’s exactly what it is: a burst of low-rise rocks in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.  We shot a fun sequence for the film here using just our shadows; the rocks act like mirrors in a fun-house, our shadows all warped and stretched out like taffy.

I had some VO work in Santa Fe.  Loved it.  New Mexico has the purplest mountains and most beautiful bruised-sunset skies…. What a great state.  While John did a nice long slow dance with the computer, editing up a storm, the girls and I fell for the sweet Adobe charm of Santa Fe.  We went to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, saw a lot of good art, ate lots of chocolate and good food (The Shed!), talked to friendly locals…. We stayed in a residential hotel that gave us a big two-floored loft…. Uh huh.  Santa Fe was good to us.  
Then we drove south and spent one night in a freaky state park called Bottomless Lakes–right out of Twilight Zone, as you might expect an alien’s wink away from Roswell– only to have to have to turn around and head back the next morning to Santa Fe to redo one line for a voice-over I did there.  A four-hour trip turned into thrice that, as we ran into a fearsome blizzard (see Harvey blog) en route.    

Carlsbad Cavern = endless underground wonderground….  You gotta go! — and take the hike down, instead of the elevator.  

And then….. TEXAS.  John and I have a romantic attachment to SW Texas, especially the far-flung splendor of Big Bend National Park and its tiny neighbor, Terlingua.  This is a massive Park, where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the Rio Grande meets the Chisos Mountains.  Big Bend was the first trip John and I ever took together, in 1996, and it was like cement between two bricks; we were bound as lovers and glued to that land.   This, our third visit, was busy:  we shot more than we hiked, and when we hiked, we were shooting.  We knocked out a big chunk of the movie, and still found time for a sweet RV Xmas.  The park was putting on some good wildlife shows, too — coyotes, javalinas… and Harvey almost kissed a big burro in the road one dark dangerous night.  
Terlingua is an old ghost town, now known for its chile cook-off and the bustling Starlight Theatre; a speck of a town and teaming with colorful denizens of the desert.  Marfa, 80 miles to the north, was once known for the mysterious string of lights that some claim to have seen along its night horizon (John and I saw them!), but now it is a chic, artsy oasis.  Lajitas, to the west and inside my favorite corner of Big Bend, is another minuscule gathering spot, and where we jumped into 2011 with spurs on.  
John put his acting hat on in Texas, and he wears it well.  That man’s cup runneth over with do-it-all and do-it-well talents: he shoots, he edits, he records, he composes, and now he acts!  You should see the guy halfway up a cactus-mangled mesa, starting the camera, then running down, jumping agave like OJ in an airport, to meet us on film, then running back up to turn the camera off…. It’s awesome.  But when our shots are together in closer quarters, we all pitch in with the on-offs and boom mike.  The kids love to put on the earphones and take charge of the sound board.  And when we’re driving we found a way to rig the camera with a bungy cord on the dashboard.  He’ll estimate focus then climb on the car hood to peer through and check, and he’ll repeat until he’s got it.  We put mikes everywhere we can, and we’re off to the races!  It’s working well, too.  Having already edited most of our visuals, John is now tackling the sound.  A big job, but he’s making big progress.  Very exciting!    

And so, having hustled hard in the desert, we were ready to take the shooting siesta the Gulf seemed to offer.  But now we are back at it and find ourselves in Austin, in a hotel, where we have started to record some of the additional voice work for the film.  Austin is fun and chockfulla good things.  We head to San Antonio tomorrow to see our good pals, Alex and Olga, then it’s onward East.  We’ll try to finish off the remaining scenes, somewhere quiet, and keep on keepin’ on.  No denying, a film is a mountain of work.  But John and I, and even the girls, look at our 4.5 months of work, and we can’t help but see …. a movie!  We’re making a movie, damnit!  A feature-length, one-of-a-kind Wonder Wheel production, and that feels really, really good. 

 

  
   

             

      

      

Rumblestrips #5

December 30th, 2010 by Toby

John and Toby are picking up rocks to anchor the tripod against the wind.

John:  Keep an eye out for scorpions….
Toby:  (picking up a rock) Nope.  No scorpions.
John:  But there’s a tarantula–look.  (pointing out the tarantula) You have really bad eyes.
Toby:  Well, I was only looking for scorpions. 

Rumblestrips #4

December 25th, 2010 by Toby

Overheard from a conversation between Zelda and a boy she met in the RV park:

Boy:  I keep sending Santa letters and they keep coming back…. It’s just a thing kids like to believe in.

Zelda:  Did you try getting his email?

Harvey

December 21st, 2010 by Toby

30 feet of fiberglass.  6 tons of burning rubber.  B450 Ford motor, and every ounce a lover. 
  
Harvey is the silent hero of our trip.  If Clint Eastwood asked Wonder Woman out on a date, and they revved their engines all night long, Harvey would be their lovechild.  He’s tough, he’s true… plus, he’s got wide hips.  His birth certificate might say Fleetwood Jamboree, but we know the truth:  Harvey is one mean mutha-truckin’ bad ass, and we love him.

Driving north to Santa Fe, NM we found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of snow Hell.  Our general route had been determined by how to AVOID such a thing, and here we were stuck in a bona fide blizzard!  I mean, a real nail biter…..  With John at steady helm, Harvey barreled through the wall of white until we joined a line of cars waiting at the bottom of a long hill.  One by one we watched cars of every ilk attempt the climb up the icy hill.  It was like watching a sitcom directed by evil clowns– you didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or slam shut your eyes as cars dangerously spun out and slid down the slope.  (What did we learn?  Trucks with chains, Suburus and even front-wheel-drive Toyotas had the right stuff; pickup trucks were auditioning for the Ice Capades.)  
After an hour of waiting in at least a foot of snow, a cop wished us luck.  We held our breath, got a running start and….. Well let’s just say Harvey must be an Aries because he charged up that hill like he was born for it.  I smothered Harvey in kisses– no, seriously,  I did– and swore to love him forever.  

Part of Harvey’s charm, of course, is his cheese factor.  He’s a 2004 baby, but he’s definitely got a bit of that Harvey’s Bristol Creme thing going on, with his plush beige ceilings, faux wood surfaces and velvety seats.  I can imagine him in dusty denim bell-bottoms, fat comb in pocket, easin’ on down the road….  There’s a fine Winnebago checking him out, but Harvey plays it cool, offers his faded grin and moves on.  
You see, this isn’t the first time Harvey’s been around the block.  He had 90 thousand miles on him when he first caught our eye– and he wears it with style.  He and the road are like Fred and Ginger; they know the dance.  And when you’re sitting in his cab, feeling the weight of his moves, looking out through his wide, clear windows onto an ever-shifting horizon …. Well, it’s enough to break the hubcap on your heart.                         

Go ahead:  Call me crazy.  Call me a romantic, motor-loving fool.  But Harvey is our home– literally.  I don’t care if his paint is peeling or his pieces cracking.  He is our high class highway hotel.  And when you spend 105 days (and nights) within his safe and steady hold…. I dare you not to fall in love.

That’s right: 105 days.  12,000 miles and $4000 in gas.   Yeah, yeah, yeah…. That’s a lot of dinosaur bones.  But in all other respects Harvey’s middle name is Conservation.  It’s all about the things you reuse and how little water you’ve got to clean it; the rare and rationed luxury of electricity; and the veritable velvet rope at the door.  (What can I say, Harvey is very selective:  “Sorry, minor necessity– you’re cute, but you’ll have to wait your turn.  Big unnecessary thing, you got ID?  Nice try.  Oh, you’re on the list?  Yeah, here it is, under Tough Tire Tracks, honey, You Ain’t Getting In!”)
Actually, Harvey is bigger than our old studio in NY, where John, Lulu and I lived for 4 years.  He’s got a back room with big bed and more closet space than said studio.  He’s got a loft space over the cab for sleeping, too.  (We call it World War III, because it looks like something exploded– dolls, books, miscellaneous kidstuff– and when it’s your turn to sleep up there, you gotta shove it all into the CORNER so your FEET have some ROOM, dammit!)  Then there’s the living area, with a long sofa, a dining booth, and a pretty-much one-cook kitchen.  Voilà!  Of course there are those moments when everyone is ON TOP of each other, but they pass, or you head outside.

Did I forget something?  Maybe….the can? The commode?  The crud bucket, the loo…?  Yeah.  We don’t use it.  Our motto is: Take it outside, or take it to Starbucks!   The WC is where Jesus, our hamster, lives.  We also have a shower. That’s where our shoes live. 

Sometimes we pull into a spot to settle in for the night, and even after hours of driving I’m still not ready to leave my perch in the passenger seat.  My butt has carved its initials there, like sweethearts do on trees, and my eyes aren’t ready to accept a static view.  I’ll sit there in lazy denial, content in Harvey’s mouth…… until it’s time to move.  At which point I open the door, get out, and… by then I am already waxing wide-eyed on “where we get to sleep tonight….”  

And, although he would never ask for credit,  you know exactly who got us there.            

      

 

Rumblestrips #3

December 11th, 2010 by Toby

Chiricahua Mountains, AZ.  At a tiny general store we ran into some cowboys with a big attitude:
John:  Hey!  How’s it going?
Cowboys: (with an Angus-size smirk) … It’s goin’.
John:  Well, all right!

Back in the RV:  
John:  I don’t know why cowboys think they’re so tough.  Look at ’em– They wear  boots with high heels….

A few minutes later:
Lulu (to Toby):  I’m trying to imagine if you married one of those guys with big hats and beards and long black coats….
Toby:  You mean a cowboy?
Lulu:  Naw, one’a those really Jewish guys…..
(my Orthodox rabbi great-grandfather from Lithuania is spinning like a dreidel in his grave.)

A few minutes later:
Zelda (mid-cheeseburger):  I’ll never make it through this burger alive.

This moment in Harvey brought to you by the Adams family.

  

 

Rumblestrips #2

December 5th, 2010 by Toby

Washburne Campground, near Yachats, Oregon.   John, Zelda and I jump out of Harvey late one night to do a little skip-to-the-loo-my-darlin’.  John and Z are up front while I skip off to the back of the RV where it’s dark up against the woods.
Suddenly John whispers: Tobe! There’s some animal behind you…. I say, Huh?  He returns, There’s some kind of animal behind you….  Again, I say, What? (because when you’re mid-wiz with your back to the dark, the only sound you hear is your heartbeat.  Well, that and the sound of your pee hitting the dirt.)  He says, louder, It’s pretty damn big…. and has a long-ass tail….  Well, I guess if I’d been given this kind of information under normal circumstances I might leave a puddle where I stood.  But considering I already had, well… 

Fortunately this case of Crouching Toby, Hidden Mountain Lion had a happy ending.  Maybe he was mesmerized by my pearly moon.  The big perverted pussycat.            

Introducing RUMBLESTRIPS!

December 5th, 2010 by Toby

I wanted to begin writing short posts about some of the funny stuff that happens on our road trip.  Kind of like a comic strip, but without the pictures.  While brewing possible titles in my head, a little bright lightbulb popped up over John’s and he said, “Rumblestrips!”  Good one.  
(For those who haven’t been behind the wheel in a while,  rumblestrips are those bumps put on roads near the center line or edge.  They make a loud rumble when you drive over them– a road’s way of saying “Wake up, dummy– You’re crossing the line!  Get back on the road!”)

On another important note:  this is the new name of our movie!  Rumblestrips.  Perfect symbol for the story we are trying to tell about a slightly wayward single mother taking her rough-and-tumbleweed kids on the road for some good cinematic life lessons.  

Ok, so here it is — Rumblestrips #1:
—————–
 Bisbee, Arizona.    We were hunkered down in Harvey for the night, John and I tucked tight in the backroom bed, when Lulu and Zelda run outside for a goodnight pee.  Lulu comes back in.  Then suddenly Zelda lets out a series of crystal-cracking screams.  John, underwear and all, jumps up, and with fists flying Popeye-style he leaps in front of the door bellowing, “WHO WANTS TO GET FUCKED UP!!!!!!”  I’m right behind him with stone cold back-up.  
  At this point we notice there is actually nobody there… except for Zelda and her poor thumb stuck in the door.  John frees her, and in a flurry she is back in the RV, trembling and loudly chanting “I’m brave! I’m brave! I’m BRAVE…!!”  She sounded kind of like Shirley Temple auditioning for a Vincent Price flick.  Her thumb is bent, but not bloody or broken.  John takes about an hour to decompress to his usual non-Hulk size.  
I love my sweet maniac.  Our hero…..!  
       

10,000 miles (to go before I sleep….)

December 1st, 2010 by Toby

83 days. 10,000 miles.

The fat moon was spiking its rays.  Or maybe drinking away its lonely nights, drooling silver moonshine down upon our dreams…. Because we’d been having some wild ones, when we could sleep at all, that is.  But southern Utah can do that to you– fracture your thoughts and visions, rearrange them to its liking, then blow them all to smithereens all over again.
   
 In Arizona, at the bottom of Canyon de Chelly, I met a Navajo woman named Darlene, and we made the climb back up together.  She stopped at a juniper tree to pick and peel a berry and told me to put it near my child’s bed for good sleeping.  She handed me another and said the Navajo use the seeds to bless “long trips.”  The berries smell like bright sugared gin, their seeds hard and brown.  She didn’t know we’d been traveling for months already, or about our hapless sleep.  But since then Lulu and I have been putting juniperberry seeds under our pillows (zzzzz….) and we’ve got a few wedged into our seats.  (However, this morning Zelda awoke from such a deep sleep she said, “I didn’t even need those nuts!”)

So our sleep has tamed, (our trip has felt charmed from day one) but our vision of the film has tripped over our happiness, fractured its darkly intended direction, and hopefully will rise up with the skinned knees and unscathed resolve of a kid with a new plan.  A really new plan.  “We can rebuild it! ….. Better, stronger, faster (and funnier) than before!”
In other words, the film we’d planned to make– a Western-turned-modern revenge tale/ghost story/road trip movie, and, frankly, stranger and darker than a dirty-denim wearing funeral director — is no longer the film we wanna make.  Blame it on the stars, the mountains, the coast and canyons…. Blame it on the freedom of a big map and a new road.  We are happy as hell, and somehow making a movie that spelled sadness no matter how charming and funny the kids are just wasn’t cutting it.
  You see, it kind of looked like this:  the girls and I meet the handsome stranger (John), and then, through an unfortunate turn of fun-gone-wrong, the girls take their final bow (at least in theory) on this earth.  And John’s character was to do the dirty deeds.  (He started shuffling his feet weeks ago.)  But in Utah, a place we love like a mother, we shot a scene integral to the story– an unexpectedly heavy scene– and that was a beacon for us.  It sent a clear message:  “Turn to the light, fools! …. One hanky will do…. And if there’s any killing to be done, kill ’em with creativity…with color… with the same fierce celebration of life that this trip is for you!”  Or maybe it just said, ” Are you trying to empty every seat in the house, or what?” At any rate, we’ve changed our tune, and I think for the better.  Anything we do is destined to be a bit wicked, wild and slightly deranged, so don’t think we’re getting all Disney on you– ha! Fat chance.  You can always expect the Adams Martini to be stirred with a little blood, butane and butt jokes.  Add a little sugar (Zelda’s chocolate stare) and spice (Lulu’s Irish wit), and we make’a you somethin’ nice….  And now John will get to do what he does best:  love big and have fun.

This is what a normal film day in Harvey the RV looks like:  John is driving.  Lulu is doing Math in the back room. I am in the front seat with a book or dry-erase board; Z is behind me with another.  John says,”Can you hand me the camera?” I do.  “Can you grab the wheel?” I do.  He shoots.  I steer.  Ten seconds later I am back to short a’s and i-before-e.  We drive.  John shoots.  I take the wheel.  We change subjects.  We say “look at that!”  “Yeah, that’s cool.”  We drive some more. Then John gets out, sets up camera down the road somewhere; I get behind the wheel, drive past, la dee da whistling a tune, turn around and do it again.  “Didja get it?” ” Got it!”  He gets back in.  Then on a lonely desert road we see a burned-out car that has an invisible Hello My Name Is Target Practice sticker on its rusty lapel.  We pull over.  John says, “Let’s shoot!”  The kids say, “How long’s it gonna take?” And I get all serious and try to quiet the various voices in my head.  (The producer is wondering if we’re on private property; the writer is cursing at John for shooting out of order, not to mention a totally unwritten scene; the actor just vants to be alooone, please, to get into character, thank you very much;  and the assistant director is telling the actor to get over herself and start attaching the lavalier-mikes, honey.) John speedily sets up the sound, tripod and camera and… Action!  We do a little antagonistic doe-si-doe about what to say and how to shoot it, I usually come to terms with John being the smart one, and in the end we come up with something we are pretty damn proud of.  We say, “Nice job, girls” and Lu says, “How much time did we put in?” and I send a time report to Screen Actors Guild and voila we are making a movie.

Ok, here’s a Greatest Hits of weeks 7-12:
–Mendocino and Sonoma counties are heaven.  I may just want to settle down here in our golden years, in a little house where farm meets ocean and the fog is an old friend….. 
–There are remote beaches off Manchester that look like outposts from Mars– bulbous seaweed rides in on righteous white waves and colonizes the beach in creepy tangles.  Someone has built forts out of driftwood tied with the weeds– it’s like Mad Max Goes to the Beach.  
–In San Francisco we got to see John’s parents, in town to celebrate their book, A Force For Nature; a history of Natural Resources Defense Council.  What a treat:  the girls got to see their  fun, lovable grandparents feted at NRDC’s office, and we all went to the Academy of Science and had great dinners…. (Last week John’s dad received news that he would be honored by President Obama with the Medal of Freedom!) 
–En route to the Sierras:  Murphys is a sweet town.  Killer bakery.
–Yosemite is relatively empty now, which is great.  It was snowing there and Half Dome sparkled.  We hiked, saw a lot of bear shit, and Zelda lost a tooth.
–October 30, Zelda turned 7!  While buying pumpkins at a farm in El Dorado, CA the owner invited us to park overnight in his cow field, home to his 16 “girls”– all of them pregnant.  We shot a cake scene here and were lulled to bed by moos.  This was one of my favorite nights, and Z said it was the coolest birthday ever.
— Spent Halloween in Sacramento with a childhood friend of John’s, artist Andy Cunningham, and his family.  Great folks, and 3 cute, cool boys to keep the girls busy.   Best pizza ever at  One Speed.
–Back to the Mendocino coast then through beautiful wine country and my-kinda-towns like Philo…. and an encore of San Fran, where I did some voice-over work and John got a priceless Final Cut lesson from my college buddy, the one in a million, Jesse Spencer.  Also got to see another favorite Tulane pal, Daniel Hawkins.   We played a fierce soccer game on Cristy Field and visited Dan’s bar/cafe Gestalt in the Mission.  Great German food!  
BEST Puerto Rican food EVER?  Sol Food in San Rafael.  Old friends+ good food+ the Exploratorium (coolest science museum)= happy family.
— Snow from Donner Pass to Reno, NV then on to America’s Loneliest Highway, Route 50.  John and I swore we’d return to explore this barren terrain.  (This is where we found the bullet-ridden burnt-out car.) 
— Torrey, Utah.  Empty, cold and can you say, “We’ll rent the whole cabin, please, because there are two rooms and a nice solid door between them.”  Lulu and Zelda get a TV; Toby and John get laid.
–Capital Reef and the beginning of canyonland nirvana.
–Natural Bridges National Monument– Hallelujah. 
— Gooseneck,Utah– Amen.
–Monument Valley, AZ– Praise the Lord.
–Canyon de Chelly, AZ– Navajo ruins, Darlene and Juniper berries.  Also, the most beautiful stray dogs all over, just begging you to take them in.  The girls begged, too.  Soon, soon, a dog… But not just yet….
— Flagstaff is cool.
— Joshua Tree.  At Jumbo Rocks we ran into some Topanga friends, David and son, Luke!  They, too, are NY transplants.  Dave is a filmmaker and screenwriter, and we were not shy about running our new ideas by him. Great guy, great kid.  Great hiking.  If you find yourself hungry in Joshua Tree, go to the Country Kitchen.  The lovely owner, Mareine, will hook you right up.
— Thanksgiving in Rancho Mirage with the Korades!  What a sweet reunion with our great, generous, lovable Topanga friends…..  John and I communed with Linda and Dave; the girls were just blurs of hi-and-byes as they reconnected with their pals EmK and Jillian.  We love this family.  And we had a good time with Nancy (Desert Doll!) and Oleg, too.
— Salton Sea and the General Patton Memorial Museum. My Uncle “Colonel” (Ellis Robinson) was field promoted by Patton in WWII. 
–Phoenix,AZ : more VO work (It’s happily working out just fine from the road) and now Picacho State Park, where the saguaro cactus reigns and the hikes are hypodermic– ouchee!

The West was wild–and wondrous.   Now we are officially headed East.  John is editing up a storm and writing a great score as we look at what we’ve got and look forward to what’s next– which soon will include his snaggle-toothed mug!  Should be interesting, as we all play musical chairs with the camera.  

Three months have raced by, and we are still pinching ourselves, living this dream.  By now, we are happiest in Harvey, as opposed to a hotel; Harvey feels like home.  The road still beckons, the stars are now familiar, and the girls seem to see their world through sunset-colored glasses.  It’s good.  Really, really good.