Archive for December, 2010

Rumblestrips #5

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

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

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

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?


Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

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

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

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

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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.            


Sunday, December 5th, 2010

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….)

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

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.