So Long, Dear Friend

The death of Valerie Harper this week got me to thinking about TV characters and the people who love them.

This is Us.

You see what I did there.  Even in writing about television a TV reference sneaks in.

For those too young to remember, Valerie Harper played Rhoda Morgenstern, Mary Richards’s talky, funny, Jewish best friend forever neighbor on the famed Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s.  She was so popular she was later spun off as the star of her own show, Rhoda, where she was given a fuller life, less catastrophic dates and, finally, a hunky man who became her husband in one of the highest rated episodes on TV at the time.

Picture Perfect

Of course, television being what it was/is, she eventually had to get divorced (Note: for no good reason, in my opinion) so the whole cycle of jovial unhappiness could begin again.

I grew up with Rhoda and she meant a lot to me, mostly because I knew her.  In the seventies there were 0.0 young Jewish New Yorkers on hit television shows and certainly none as instantly recognizable and human as Rhoda.  We all not only knew her, we were her on any given day.

And who wouldn’t want to be?

The head scarves alone!

Rhoda joked about her life being a mess but she wore vibrant colors, had perfect one-liners for every occasion and was smart.  Moreover, she was a survivor.  You always knew Rhoda would be okay and even if you couldn’t literally be her or have her physically in your life you wanted her to at least be in your living room or bedroom or wherever you watched television, with you, whenever possible.

Much of this was due to Valerie Harper’s ability to embody a well-written sitcom role, take her beyond the laughs and make her feel real.  It was just impossible to believe that in real-life she wasn’t Jewish, didn’t speak with a trace of a New York accent and had never appeared in a TV comedy before she became Rhoda.  But she wasn’t, she didn’t and she never had.

Yes way! #acting

Certainly, you don’t have to be a Jewish New Yorker to play one but back in the 1970s, and even now, many performers become so obsessed with playing us that they get the accent and the mannerisms exactly right to the point where they are not playing anything else.   They (nee we) become wawking, tawking hand-waving neurotics ready to mow down anything and anyone that gets in our way.

Okay, sure, we are all of that.  (Note: See Larry David on any given day, even though he long ago transplanted to L.A.).  But there are times when we also do color outside our given lines.  Rhoda always did that and without a very special episode where a beloved relative gets hit by a car and she has to deal with it seriously.  Or one where she’s chastised by everyone around her for making a bad joke about the accident. (Note: See Larry David again).

See? Relatable.

Of course, this phenomenon stretches across all ethnic, sexual and religious lines.  As a gay man I’ve cringed, ranted and left the room numerous times over the years as some straight actor badly pretended he was a certain type of homosexual male and then went on to win an award for said performance.

What? Who? #shade

Name your minority group and I bet you could, too.

Meaning, we all need our Rhodas.

Luckily times have changed and, with it, the level of writing, especially on what is now broadly considered to be contemporary television.   Given where cable and streaming series have taken us, it is not unusual in these times for many actors to transcend their actual selves and portray believable niche characters that bear little relation to whom they truly are in real life.

But they exist in a 2019 world where the roles are a lot deeper and niche is the new…Black? Asian? Jewish? Gay? Hispanic?

…or if you’re Andre Braugher: Black, Gay, and a Police Captain for the NYPD

It is also a world where, ironically, the brilliant work Valerie Harper did might today almost be required to be done by a New York, Jewish actress.  See if that gets you to thinking a whole host of non-PC as well as PC thoughts.

This is exactly the point where, for me, television comes in handy.  Every time things get too heavy or confusing in my life I know l can feel comfort in being able to wander onto the couch – or if it’s really bad, a bed – and spend minutes or hours with a whole host of non-existent people who, in those moments, are as real to me as anyone I’ve ever met.  By my count over the years:

Lucy Ricardo’s determination made show business not seem all that bad.

 Murphy Brown allowed me to hold out hope that in the end journalism would get the last  laugh, and word.

Let’s just not talk about the reboot, OK?

 Olivia Benson on the street reinforced to me that on balance there is someone to protect those of us who somehow managed to survive against all odds.

 Don Draper shamed me back to the gym for fear we (or the actor playing him) happen to meet on a busy NYC street (or preferably empty stuck elevator) during one of my yearly trips.

working on my time machine right now

Walter White scared me into always protecting myself by reminding me there can still be great danger around the corner because anyone could break bad.  

Liz Lemon made me feel sane and well adjusted, by comparison.

Jack Pearson helped me imagine a world where I really did want to spend time with every member of my extended family, and

Midge Maisel made me laugh, cringe and sometimes cry at seeing all of my dead relatives and their friends on the small screen in ways that I could never have imagined in the days when I first met Rhoda.

What is it about funny ladies in good headwear?

RIP good friend.

I will still miss you even though I can see you tomorrow and every day of the week for the rest of my life.

Rhoda Opening / Closing Credits Season 1 

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Notes from the Emmys

Unlike the presidency, the Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote, joked host Stephen Colbert in his opening monologue.

That was pretty funny with just the right patina of tragedy – which, of course, is exactly what comedy should be.

Still, I much preferred the cold open musical number where he joined a bunch of handmaids in long, unflattering robes and white bonnets, dancing their way onto the stage and an audience of industry stars, only to then whip off their garments and turn into the Radio City Rockettes right before our eyes – still wearing their bonnets, of course.

How am I just noticing that some of the Handmaids are Handmen?? #stillfunny

It occurred to me that if Trump had his druthers he just might like certain Rockettes to be wearing those bonnets at a Christmas show in the White House – as he sexually harassed them and more – since this could hide some of the faces that displeased him. Sure, they all might be #UnderHisEye, but it is He that always gets to choose exactly what he sees – and how much.

Okay, I digress. Or do I?

When TV and real life come crashing together. It’s already happening.

For as Colbert wisely stated, Donald Trump is indeed the biggest television star in the world right now and who could argue with that?   On one hand, that gives him the ultimate TV Q – a worldwide face known by everyone. On the other, it makes him the ultimate target of each and every one of us. So let’s just say what pleased me most about Sunday night’s ceremonies were the numerous bullseyes scored right into the center of his, um…Q.

Donald Glover won two Emmys for starring in and directing his FX comedy series Atlanta (the first Black director to do so in this category) and only semi-satirically thanked Trump for making Black people #1 on the most oppressed list. This was not only a poison dart of a joke but a not so subtle acknowledgement that were we not actually living the lopsided reality of Trumpmania he (Glover) would likely not have won at all.

Bonus points for looking so good while doing it #purplesuitALLDAY

Of course, we’ll never know. Though one would like to think our Electoral POTUS could at least bring some smidgen of good to the world.   Though – well… maybe not.

One thing IS for certain — the vast majority of the best series Emmys went to shows that directly, or quite unsubtly and purposefully, dealt with what our Electoral POTUS has wrought on the country.

The best dramatic series – Hulu’s Handmaid’s Taleis the futuristic yet seemingly barely exaggerated stasis of life in America under a Trump-like extreme right wing of religious crazies.

… and Offred went GOLDEN #LizzieMoss #YASSS

The best comedy series – HBO’s Veep paints a barely exaggerated picture of what it’s like in the Oval office, for women in politics and for the rest of us who are left to follow along either helplessly in lock step or just plain confused.

The best variety sketch series – NBC’s Saturday Night Livewas the ultimate pop culture touchstone of all things Trump-related, be it arch nemesis Hillary/Kate Mckinnon’s win as supporting actress; Melissa McCarthy’s guest comedy actress win for playing now former press secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer; or Alec Baldwin’s win as best supporting actor for playing, well…you know.

Making TV Great Again

The best variety/talk show – HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – spent most of its half hours in total intellectual outrage chronicling the many blatant lies told by Electoral POTUS with solid research to disprove them. Too bad most of his voters and he himself will never see and process the evidence. (Note: Still, Trump did once tweet that host and fellow nominee Colbert was a no talent guy during the eligibility period so one supposes that’s something).

Also kudos to John Oliver for bringing this into our lives #Drumpf4ever

This says nothing of all the other winners and their Trump-related themes. The oppression of one woman – and by proxy a group of women – by a very tall powerful white man in best limited series Big Little Lies; the dystopian world in best television movie Black Mirror, whose Emmy winning creator admitted has been likened to one long never-ending look at 2017 madness; not to mention the many awards to the largest group of non-white and sometimes non-heterosexual men and women the Emmys has EVER seen. (Note: Including Lena Waithe, the first Black woman EVER to win a comedy series writing award).

Move over Donald Glover, THIS is a THE emmy suit! #GoLena

That is not to say each and every one of the above didn’t earn the accolades. Only to acknowledge that awards have mostly to do with the intersection of talent, timing and luck and nothing makes the #resistance happier than to finally be feeling #woke enough to acknowledge all those who somehow managed to slip though the cracks in a pre-Trumpian world forcefully pried our eyes permanently (well hopefully) wide open.

And yes – California and we here in Los Angeles (the capital of show business awards giving) are at the heart of the #resistance. Though I, for one, don’t think of myself as #elite. There is nothing #elite about any of this because we non-Trump voters are now a mere minority power in national governance despite actually being in the #majority.

… and I have a lot of shoes

So how is it that we’re leading a mere #resistance? Well, ask any woman who has ever wondered why, if they handily outnumber the men in populace, it has been for centuries that mostly men are in power.

As they say in Facebook statuses (and probably by more than a few Russian bots): It’s complicated.

The Chair’s Worst Emmy Moment: Colbert joking with the real former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, who rode out in a fake podium spouting more untruths we’re now somehow supposed to laugh at while simultaneously normalizing him. #NeverForget

Yeah… I’m not sure about this Sean. #gohome #goaway

The Chair’s Best Emmy Joke: Colbert’s quip that Donald Trump is Walter Much Whiter – in a nod to Breaking Bad’s crazed and tragically iconic lead Walter White.

Now that was not only funny, with a patina of tragedy, but very appropriate. After all, the fictional Walter White’s most memorable line – delivered in equal tones of indignation and outrage at not being listened to and adored– was:

I am not in danger. I AM the danger.  A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!

Lesley Gore – “You Don’t Own Me” (from “Offred (Pilot)”)

All of Them Witches!

We’re going to talk about evil.

Happy long Holiday weekend and beyond, everyone!!

Well, I see evil all around me a lot these days. No, I’m not ONLY speaking of ELECTORAL POTUS, though God knows he and Jared and Mike and Steve would make a nifty quadrangle of Marvel super villains.

That sounds precious!

Anyone want to do the casting?

Or shall we just make it the next drinking game to get us through all of this. Chug if you like Jimmy Fallon for Jared more than Ryan Gosling!!!

You can’t escape evil, even if you try. Correction – especially if you try. It seems that cardinal rule of opposites attracting is particularly potent in the heroes and villains game.   Cain vs. Abel? Luke vs. Darth Vader? U.S. vs. DJT? Too soon? Or not soon enough?

Melania vs. Tiny Hands #GURLYES

I made an executive decision this week to simply embrace evil. To bring it on. I mean, if I am going to be inundated with news like:

  • Jared has talked secretly to the Russians as far back as a year ago (during the campaign!) and is a person of interest in 2, 3, or 4 (?) federal government investigations.
  • Electoral Potus has taken to shoving the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way in order to get front and center in a photo op (Note: What exactly DID his parents do to him? Or not do?)

ahem

  • Montana voters electing another enraged white man to Congress less than 24 hours AFTER he body slammed/choked a nerdy journalist who merely asked him about health care – and then had his staff lie about it and blame the journalist – only to be refuted by an EYEWITNESS Fox News reporter – at which point he was charged with misdemeanor assault –

Then ––

Well, you can see how I’d like to be prepared.

K See ya later everybody! #theendisnear

See for me, it’s never been the existence of evil that has particularly scared me. I knew from an early age there was awfulness in the world. How? Well, that’s the subject of another discussion and of years of psychotherapy. Suffice it to say, we all learn at our own pace. Even Electoral Potus voters. Hopefully.

So in keeping to this theme, I decided to look around me and see what was playing on TV and at the movies this week that could help immerse me in that world. Okay, full confession: I didn’t look around. I actually watched the two shows that were THE most popular among my friends this week – things they wouldn’t STOP talking about. And wouldn’t you know it – EVIL – that’s what I found. PURE. EVIL. And who says popular art does not reflect the times we live in?

Don’t you forget about meeeeee

Well, a significant part of middle America don’t believe it because they’re constantly criticizing – or worse, not even sampling – shows like these. Which would mean…. Hmmm, let’s not go there. Yet.

Netflix’s The Keepers is a seven-hour, seven-part documentary series that is about pure evil. The 1970 unsolved brutal murder of a Sister Cathy – by all accounts a nun of pure goodness – the abuse of scores of young women in a Baltimore neighborhood Catholic School where she taught that she likely knew about, and the once again attempts by a very powerful Catholic archdioceses to stall investigations into obvious connections between the murders (oh, yes, there was a second) and the abuse, and shift around priests to different parishes in an attempt to do so.

Oh… so not that kind of show?

Sound familiar? Well, This story makes Spotlight look tame, partly because the crimes are still unsolved and justice has not been handed down. Life is not an episode of Law and Order, which should tell you something about why that series (Note: Juggernaut? Holy Scrolls?) has endured all these decades and will be around far longer than you or I. We humans like to watch EVIL brought to justice (Nee ORDER) as often as possible since it too often doesn’t happen in real life.

As if I had to tell you that.

The second was the return of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks as a 10-episode limited Showtime series. Yes, Lynch directed every episode and if the two-hour premiere is any indication, it is as confoundedly EVIL and CONFUSING and RIVETING as anything he’s ever done.

RIP Log Lady

No one does evil as the just below the surface underbelly of good as well as Mr. Lynch. The best of his work – the original Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive – defy description and plot analyses. Let’s just say Kyle McLaughlin returns as dual FBI Agents Dale Cooper – one whose body is literally inhabited by EVIL Bob as it blithely pops off victim after victim – and the other who is stuck in a series of zig zag floored rooms with a talking arm/tree and various dead people speaking to him in slurred, 16 rpm speech as if they were sort of alive. Which, well, they still just might be. Though I doubt it.

Confused yet?

Lynch’s evil is riveting to watch precisely because it’s so strange – with images and ideas you’ve never quite seen before – if you can imagine it – which you can’t – that it becomes frighteningly haunting. Or to put it another way, it challenges you to wonder if the lamp in your room won’t one day soon come alive and kill you or if the spouse you’ve lived with all your life, or even in the past year or two, doesn’t indeed have a secret number of hours where you’re not watching where he/she carves up innocent suburban ladies in modest middle American cut rate American apartment complexes with names like Alpine Village (Note: I was forced to live in one of those in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley for almost a year when I was 14 – hence my use of that real name. Look it up. It was in Tarzana).

Yes, I do feel as if watching these two shows prepared me for another week of news in what has become the Other America. I would also add it also prepared me for the next episode of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale series – which this week revealed to us more of just how Trump America wound up being transformed into the religious conservative right wing hell of Gilead – a place where women and gays are hung alive in the town square unless they bear children, submit to the males who control them or/and turn straight.

Again, I view these shows to be prepared.

My daily mantra

I finally wrapped up the week by watching the Oscar winning Hungarian film, Son of Saul – a Holocaust themed movie I’ve always wanted to see but managed to avoid for the last two years because I was warned it was difficult to sit through. And this was by multiple friends who already knew my taste for what we’ll now generously call the darkness.

Though it was different this time. I saw it as preparation for a possible future. How else could I, a patriotic gay Jewish American liberal, view a movie that chronicles a day and a half in the life of a gay Jewish guy in Auschwitz who works in the concentration camp crematorium scooping up dead bodies and scrubbing the “shower” floors following each hellish murdering aftermath.

Cheery Saturday Night plans chairy!

(Note: It is worth noting that though it is a fictional composite, Son of Saul is actually based on diaries of Auschwitz survivors entitled, The Scrolls of Auschwitz).

Okay, of course, I’m exaggerating me preparing for the future just a little in my desire to watch it. I guess all that evil I exposed myself to before it this week just reassured me I’d finally be able to tolerate it. And I did.

It’s amazing what one can tolerate once our senses get inured to this kind of stuff.

Evil Ways – Santana

Life and Death

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 2.15.52 PM

Important note before reading this week’s entry:

Brittany Maynard, one of the two subjects of this blog, chose to end her life on Saturday at her home in Portland.  Little did I know that the day I was writing this entry, she was taking the very action she had fought so publicly for.  Rather than edit  what I have written to focus on her death, I think the better way to honor Brittany’s bravery is to leave the words intact and focus on the positive examples both Brittany and Nurse Kaci Hickox, still alive and well in Maine, are providing to the world – not to mention our 24/7 news cycle.

Ok – now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

No one wants to get Ebola because no one wants to die. Well, most of us that is. But on the opposite ends of the country two very different yet quite similar young women this week helped lead the way in our continuing understanding of life, death and all of the messy stuff in between.

In Maine, we have a 32-year-old nurse named Kaci Hickox and in Portland, Oregon, at least for now, there is 29-year-old newlywed Brittany Maynard. Both want to continue their lives the way they choose. It’s just that in the case of Brittany, who has advanced Stage Four brain cancer, that means having the freedom to decide when to die. And with Kaci, who recently returned from West Africa after caring for a 10-year-old girl dying alone of Ebola, it’s simply about the freedom to ride her bike in the woods rather than endure quarantine in a makeshift New Jersey medical tent sans plumbing or at an undisclosed government chosen hospital somewhere inside the Pine Tree state.

I know a good place to hide away

I know a good place to hide away

I refer to each of these young women by their first names. Which only seems fair since they have also chosen to let us get to know them in unusually intimate ways. Also, since it makes them feel more like real people rather than merely names in the news, and being I admire them both greatly, well – I figured it’s the least I could do.

Ebola, ebola, ebola, ebola, ebola. Something about the way it sounds even feels dangerous, doesn’t it? Or at the very least exotic or unknown. Which most certainly makes it scary. Well, any disease that can kill you is frightening, especially when you didn’t ask for it or even put yourself at risk for it. Not that the latter matters. Or does it? I mean, no one made Kaci go to Eboland, right? Why should the rest of us have to suffer for her nobility?

so-whats-your-point-meme_zpsa4e7e48d

Let’s get something straight about science – medical, environmental or otherwise. It is, all of it, based on facts as we know them at the time. For instance, I could have told you with all certainly that the world was flat several thousand years ago and pretty much you would have taken it for granted as true. However, all these centuries later it has been proven time and again that we live in a round world so what is true changed based on research. Is it then possible 500 years from now science will shift and prove the world is really shaped like a question mark? Well, of course anything is POSSIBLE but it hardly seems likely based on what we have learned over the last 2500 years. Although given the popularity of absolutist thinking lately, I do fear for the extinction of question marks of any kind.

The overwhelming consensus in the scientific community at the moment on Ebola is that it is a virus that is transmitted from one human to another through direct contact (broken skin/eyes, nose or mouth) with bloody or bodily fluids (urine, saliva, sweat, vomit, feces, breast milk, semen) with a person who is actively sick or through objects like syringes and needles. It is not airborne unless a current Ebola patient who is actively ill and who has a fever pries open your mouth and spits (or does worse) directly into it.

Ewwwww

Ewwwww

Many Republican conservatives have voiced the perils of those with the Ebola virus riding the subway or bus systems and randomly infecting the rest of us innocents just because they were too careless to stay home. Certainly, that is even what the scared, poor old bleeding heart liberal me at first thought until I took off my hypochondria hat and considered – when was the last time anyone threw up, bled or deposited their semen directly into my nose or mouth on the bus or subway? I suppose they could sneeze into my mouth or nose if I didn’t watch myself but they’d have to be actively sick and sweating with a high fever and I don’t tend to sit or even stand directly next to those people in public places, given the kind of weirdo I am. Plus, there is always Purell.

I really don't look good in yellow

I really don’t look good in yellow

Unfortunately, I remember this type of panic exactly three decades ago around a disease called AIDS. I also recall as if it were yesterday the now 20 plus years dead but then 13 year old boy named Ryan White who was thrown out of his school by alarmists for being HIV positive even as he lived six more years to infect no one. Not to mention Conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. going on TV at the time and suggesting young dying gay men and IV drug users in New York, and presumably very young boys like Ryan White elsewhere, be tattooed and quarantined – sort of the way they were in Nazi Germany 40 years before that. Lovely.

If that sounds as if I’m being unfair, I am not. Yes, of course I am biased. But in this case, I am simply reporting on the facts at that time. Just like you can’t un-infect yourself from a virus you can’t change the reality of the past three or ten decades later simply because it is embarrassing. Of course, you can cure a virus with knowledge the scientific community has uncovered. Much in the way you can re-educate yourself and change your way of thinking to something a bit more rational and factual. That is if you choose to do so.

Which brings us to Brittany Maynard.

Happier times

Happier times

Here is a vibrant young California woman who was just married and by all accounts smart, happy and active, diagnosed in the late stages of a lethal brain tumor that will end her life with a barrage of unrelenting headaches, a loss of motor skills and certain death in less than a year. Numerous doctors told her that her case is accelerating rapidly and that not only is there no cure but little respite they can promise her from an extremely painful and severely mentally debilitating decline.

After some thought and consultation with her doctors and loved ones, Brittany made the decision that was right for her and she and her husband moved to Oregon where euthanasia is legal. What that means is a doctor can legally prescribe Brittany a small lethal dose of pills and, if she choses to take them, can end her life in a manner of minutes privately and painlessly.   Now that wouldn’t seem to be all that controversial, would it?

Well, it turns out that it is and that even with a debilitating brain tumor Brittany was smart enough to be one step ahead of all the protestors. So she decided to post an online video explaining her decision at some length, which, to her and everyone else’s surprise, quickly went viral and has now received over 6 million hits. Wow. That’s a lot of interest. Makes you even think some of those people actually realize that they too, like Brittany, just might be faced with a similar end of life decision at some point in their lives where they just might want to explore a similar option.

Well, that would be quite cowardly, or at least not brave, according to a 30 year-old man with a brain tumor named Phillip Johnson. A Catholic seminarian from the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C. who six years ago was diagnosed with a similar though not entirely identical brain tumor, Phillip came out quite vehemently and quite publicly against Brittany’s own end of life choices in a widely read though not quite as viral article 10 days ago. Here are just a few excerpts:

Suffering is not worthless, and our lives are not our own to take.  As humans we are relational – we relate to one another and the actions of one person affects others.  Sadly, the concept of “redemptive suffering” – that human suffering united to the suffering of Jesus on the Cross for our salvation can benefit others – has often been ignored or lost in modern times. 

There is a card on Brittany’s website asking for signatures “to support her bravery in this very tough time.”  I agree that her time is tough, but her decision is anything but brave.  I do feel for her and understand her difficult situation, but no diagnosis warrants suicide.

I will continue to pray for Brittany as she deals with her illness, as I know exactly what she is going through.

Gee Phil, and I thought only God himself (or herself) can only really know all the true experiences of all the men, women and beasts in the world.

1295123564347_3491092

I try not to write much about religion unless it has to do with fundamentalists who are determined to bring their way of thinking into the mainstream and that is only because they leave no room for any dissenting thought. Whether it’s done for selfish dogmatic reasons or in the name of a loving God whose word you are determined to spread because part of your religion, you believe, makes it your mission, it’s never proper to order others to adhere to your way of life en masse or judge them harshly as long as they are not hurting anyone else. Still, it does puzzle me why anyone would go out of their way to so publicly object to how a terminally ill patient chooses to end their life and why that anyone would do it in the name of God. As a NY Jew who for 27 years has lived with an Italian Catholic who did quite well as a boy in Catholic school, I’m here to tell you that even God wouldn’t like it. To wit: here’s the one Bible passage my former altar boy taught me that I can actually remember.

John 8:7: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

In the name of Brittany, take that, Phil. Not that she needs my help – at least not on that score.

As for me, I choose to think about it this way. I’m not going to use Kaci for a blood transfusion or a bedmate but I would be happy to hug her in thanks for the selfless way she chose to fight a deadly virus at its source. Not to mention, if she were in town I’d happily invite her over to my home for dinner and an evening of crazy 8s. I’d do the same for Brittany if she were well enough to travel or had the strength to have me over. Though perhaps I would give her a blood transfusion if she needed it. Which might not happen since because of AIDS gay men are still forbidden from donating blood to non-family members and most certainly to those we don’t know. We are all, each and every one of us gay guys, in the high-risk category despite our HIV statuses. Yup, there are some things we as a society still just don’t grow from. But perhaps one day we will. In time. How fortunate for those of us who still have that luxury, and for those who decide to fight for it.

Future Perfect

fortuneteller-animation-dre

If there were a sheet of paper you could take a peek at that would tell you the future, what would you do?  Oh, of course you’d take a peek.  You couldn’t help yourself.  Don’t say you wouldn’t.  You would.

The future is on the minds of college students at this time of year – the end of a semester – especially those about to graduate.  Smart or lazy (which is the opposite of smart), mellow or tightly wound, they often wonder one basic question – WHAT. WILL. BECOME. OF. ME??????

Of course, this is a question many of us all ask ourselves periodically – as if a single answer exists or one answer would ever be adequate.  We don’t know what the years will bring and, aside from being scary, that’s the great thing about it.  Literally anything can and will happen – and often hanging on the slightest moment.  Which is what makes the future something not to dread but to embrace.  Especially since there is no way to forestall getting some horrible disease or being hit dead by a drunk driver if you happen to be walking or even standing in the wrong place at the right time.  Yes, I went there.

Since life is a big question mark in general, one’s career and creative existence should certainly follow suit.  Yet many of us, myself included, often don’t see it this way.  We act as though there should be some guarantees – or that we are at least owed or entitled to them.   Something along the lines of Apple Care in case things go terribly wrong.

And then some things are beyond Apple Care

And then some things are beyond Apple Care

Students are terrified to take the wrong step, accept the wrong opportunity, write about the wrong thing – not make the wisest choice that will get them the farthest.  I suffered from this myself until I grew weary of worrying and, well, just got too mature (old?) to spend as much time worrying anymore.  I mean, at some point, if you’re very lucky, you get to the place where the amount of time ahead of you is less than the amount of time behind you – and you realize – there is no point in beating myself or anyone else up about the small stuff.  There is only time to embrace the future and the unknowns – both good and bad – that it holds.

And yet – who doesn’t worry?  These students, me, you, our friends?  One dear diehard movie fan friend of mine truly worries if The Wolf on Wall Street will live up to the hype, and even fears backlash against the already award-winning American Hustle. Personally, I just don’t want to be disappointed by Saving Mr. Banks even though I know it can’t live up to the expectations of this lifelong Mary Poppins fan (yes, I did sit with my Dad at the movies in the Bronx as a little boy, riveted to the screen as I watched MP in wonderment, and then went home and played the record over and over again in my room as I sang along to every song – get over it!!!).

I'm counting on you Tommy!

I’m counting on you Tommy!

I’m also concerned for Jon Hamm not ever winning an Emmy award for being Mad Men’s Don Draper (and not even being nominated for a Golden Globe this past week).  Truly.  Not in the same fashion I fear a loved one of mine could get a cancer recurrence or that I myself will have to one day go through the tooth extraction I managed to dodge last week when only a mere root canal and crown were in order.  Of course, there are even far deeper levels of concern.  We are only beginning to scratch my surface here.  No use continuing on into a downward dog from which I can’t guarantee we will ever emerge – especially in L.A.

Still – and to look on the bright side – I (and hopefully you) don’t worry anymore that Pres. Obama will be shot or that either Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin will assume any real leadership role in our country’s foreseeable future.  Those ships have sailed.   Though do not take this to mean I am not also sure that the world has gone crazy and that one day I will be only one of the handful of sane people engaged in pubic discourse left standing…and that, quite quickly, I will become overrun.  Long ago I realized there is a difference between worrying about the future and simply accepting a certain fatalism in life.

I attempted to explain a toned down version of all of this recently to one angst-ridden student in my office. This young person is non-white and couldn’t help but fear racial discrimination in the future from the Hollywood establishment based on some dealings they had observed in various workplaces over the past four months.   I listened. Nothing exactly solid had happened but enough had occurred not to be discounted.  To boil it all down, this student’s question eventually became this:  How does one avoid being treated as “the other” when, in some people’s minds, one is, and will always be, the other?  Or, to put it another way – An Outsider?

Not just a kitschy SJP 80s sitcom

Not just a kitschy SJP 80s sitcom

Hmmm.  Excellent question.  And certainly one for the ages.  Especially our ages.

I tried to take the adult line and explain that progress in these areas happen at a snail’s pace but, eventually, does occur for the better.   And that you can’t worry about stuff that can happen, only deal with things as they do happen.

For instance, I argued, as a young gay man I couldn’t even conceive of a future with gay marriage.  I mean, there wasn’t even a word for what is occurring now in the not so distant era I grew up in.  Also, the fact that I, a teacher, could even be open with a student about my life in this way these days was certainly progress.  But then I remembered and shared what happened more than 25 years ago on a movie I worked on in the late eighties.  And, as we know, movie stories are so much more resonant to people than any real life experience or observation.

I was employed as a publicist on a film that was produced by a very large company headed by a very-well known producer in Hollywood  – someone who is still quite well known and who very publicly campaigned for and supported the then very conservative U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan.  The production coordinator of this movie, a Mercedes-driving middle-aged woman who came to work each day wearing very expensive jewelry and an extremely superior attitude – saw me in the office one Monday with a tan and personage that, I can only assume, was reeking of homosexuality.  Because looking at my tan and somehow knowing that the Annual Gay Pride Parade had been held outside the day before in the very hot West Hollywood sun, I caught this woman snidely winking at her friend and then nodding in my direction, as she bellowed from her desk across the room, sweet as pie but in a somewhat accusatory manner to me and my overly suntanned face:

“SO…STEVE….where were YOU this weekend.  I’ll bet it was at some sort of (another wink wink to her friend) ….PARADE?????”

Say what now?

Say what now?

Trust me, I am no Martin Luther Queen.  But this was the eighties, I had just received news that a dear friend of mine in NY had AIDS and my face was on fire because, as you may or may not know, I have a very, very pale Jewish complexion that does not do well in the harsh daylight and my skin was beginning to blister. In short, this was no time for Diamond Lil to fuck with me.

Uh, yes, I was at the parade this weekend, I bellowed back.  Is there a problem with that? Or, more specifically– do you have a problem with that?

I was steely outside but inside was shaking with fear and rage.  What was I thinking?  As much as I found this woman and everything and everyone in this office at the moment sickening and disgusting, I needed this job. But then — suddenly, the office got very quiet.  The friend she winked at turned away.  Copy machines stopped. Overweight teamsters, some of whom I found out later had borne the wrath of Diamond L’il herself, stood stationary.  I spied from the side a quite young gay intern who, I was quite sure, had just turned pink.

No, DL said in a clipped tone, I just don’t see why THEY  (or was it THOSE PEOPLE) need to be treated special.  They’re not anything special.  Why do they (or did she mean ME?) get a parade??

I will spare you Gay 101 from 1987. And my telling her I was one of Them (like she didn’t know).  Needless to say, the farthest I got with her was some continued grumbling that they still don’t deserve to be treated special and be a spectacle.   Along with some very nasty glares.   At which point she averted her eyes away from me – then and forever more.

Move along, lady

Move along, lady

Some days went by and, as I suspected, I was reported for insubordination to all of my bosses and she attempted to get me fired.  But my direct female superior had a gay best friend and mentor ten years older than me who at the time was actually dying of AIDS – so that didn’t get her very far.  Though I did get a thank you from the gay intern who said he admired how I handled Diamond L’il  (not her real name).  Plus the bonus reward of a smile from almost everyone I greeted in the production office for the rest of the shoot of one of the dumbest 1980s studio movies ever made.

These types of altercations still do occur today in some places but it is highly unlikely anyone will ever encounter them again in the production office of a major studio film. Nor the remarks I once heard in the later eighties in the offices at another major studio.  This time from a development executive with a Mexican last name who informed me in front of his staff at a meeting that the Mexican families living in the poor neighborhood I wrote about in a spec script he liked were just plain stupid people who didn’t have the brains to get organized in the way I had written about even though the events in my script were based on real individuals in an actual Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Yes, one could argue a few ignoramuses continue to think this way but they are quite rare and, most certainly, they would not feel safe to act out in this fashion in today’s Hollywood.   Which, one supposes, is some progress in itself.  In any event, certainly both stories were enough to make my student smile just a bit and then proceed out of my office and into the world with the notion that the future can hold all kinds of unforeseen changes for the better and shifts in opportunities one could not have imagined.

How the student left my office... I imagine.

How the student left my office… I imagine.

Speaking of the future, I’m reminded of one last story of a wonderful young woman I met some years after Diamond L’il – someone who is now a quite famous producer on her own but at the time was a junior executive at a major company who set up a meeting with me through my agent because she was a fan of my writing work.  (Note: It was a good meeting though it was more of a general meeting – the kind I later realized that you go on with either new material in mind or a carefully honed pitch rather than with the agenda of getting your ego stroked by people who like your work and who you perceive will then automatically give you a job).

In any event, this woman and I had a great talk – actually a fantastic talk about a script of mine she really liked – and about movies, her company’s films, and the state of the biz in the nineties.  She shared honestly about her company and the Oscar winning producer/director she worked for while I asked her questions about several movies they had produced that I admired.  One film, in particular, was my style and something akin to what I’d like to write.  At this point this woman turned to me and told me something I never did quite forget.

I’m going to be honest with you and say something that you probably don’t want to hear,” she said.

Okay, I replied, go ahead – I can take it.  Honestly.

It’s just that – the film you mentioned, and the kind of script it was – the kind of scripts that you want to do – nobody cares about that kind of writing anymore.

Oh, you mean those small, sensitive, coming of age, love/friendship stories, I thought.  But I said nothing and sat there in stunned silence.

I don’t mean to say I don’t admire and appreciate them, she continued. I’m just being brutally honest about where the business is going.  Where the studios are.  And if you tell anybody I said this, I’d probably deny it publicly. I just wanted to tell you.

Sort of tongue-tied I looked at her and lied – Well, I really appreciate your honesty.

Don't mind the clothespins!

Don’t mind the clothespins!

I couldn’t tell you what happened at any point after she said that because for all intents and purposes the meeting was over.  I blanketly rejected in my mind what she was saying about the future.  Surely, studios and everyone else will always find a place for sensitive, well-written scripts, I reasoned.  She’s just been burned – or is getting burnt out.  I know that doesn’t apply to me and the kind of work that I want to do.

Well, who knew I was in a meeting with an Oracle who would turn out to be so right – though not entirely correct.  She left out the future world of cable television, independent movies and the emergence of the Internet and social media.  Still, she saw the writing on the wall and I didn’t want (refused?) to believe her future.  I feared it and tried to deny it, rather than embrace and accept it.

I didn’t share this last story with my student because I didn’t remember it until the student had left.  And there is no use scaring someone so young with a brutalized version of the truth when merely an evenhanded version of its entirety will more than adequately do.

But that evenhanded version it’s always worth knowing, considering and recognizing.   Regardless of age, point of view or position in life.

A Bad, Bad Binge

WARNING: VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD… will not impact any future bingers. I PROMISE!

Breaking-Bad-Week-Logo

I always thought that I was too much of a hypochondriac and a coward to ever be a drug addict.  But Breaking Bad has turned me into what I thought I’d never be.  I’m a full-on joneser, bitch – and this show is my drug.

I know it’s overdone but I can’t stop saying it, bitch.

Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The secret word is.....

The secret word is…..

What is it about this show?

Okay, now that it’s over – now that my time for mainlining a new hit of BB has come to an end (and not by choice mind you, merely out of the fact that there will never be a new episode again) – I’m going to have to take inventory and start at the beginning.  Because then and only then can I deal with a future that holds no more stories about the adventures of Walt and Jesse.  Sorry to disappoint the women in my life, but I could deal with a future that didn’t include Skyler.  But more on that later.  (Note: She grows on you).

Almost six years went by before I ever tuned in.  Well, I’m nothing if not opinionated.  I tried watching part of an episode once.  Eh.  It was later in season one and it was a combination of boring and over-the-top.  Of course it was.  I didn’t know what the hell was going on.

But now that we’re in the 2010s and can instantly view almost any television series of our choice from the beginning thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, DVRs and well, uh, other more illegal means (Note:  This IS a show about crystal meth makers), I, and anyone else with these kind of first world problems, have the option of changing their tune.  Why did I change?  Between my students, my family, my friends and the weird combination of BB celebrity tweets from the likes of James L. Brooks, Samuel Jackson, Aisha Taylor, Patton Oswalt and Melissa Gilbert (Half Pint from Little House on the Prairie??!!)  I eventually had to give in.  That and the fact that I can’t bear to be the guy that’s left out, especially from a cultural conversation (Note: This could have something to do with always being the next to last person chosen in gym class before I wised up in my senior year of high school and volunteered to be attendance monitor.  But I’m not sure).

Breaking Bad fan, bitches.

Breaking Bad fan, bitches.

Still, how do you catch up and get with the program when there’s only 8 days remaining before the cultural conversation about the program you’re missing changes, the final episode airs and you’ve missed it all and can never get it back again?  Well, it’s no different from taking a final when you’ve never done the reading; or writing a new story or screenplay on a deadline when you’ve procrastinated to the point of absolute terror.  You cram.

Of course, there’s a kinder word for what we TV watchers do:  BINGE.

 Here is my story.

 

Pre Day One

Stretch it out!

Stretch it out!

 If one more person posts anything about Breaking Bad or brings it up in a conversation I will literally buy a gun.  Seriously.  I talk to my sister, who binged in 2-3 weeks this summer in order to watch all of the final season with everyone else in real time this fall and ask her if she thought it was possible for me to do it in one week’s time for the final episode.  I mean, she’s seemed happier than she’s been in months – a tense, hyped up kind of happy but still…  I figured – we do have some of the same genes.  So there could be hope for me.  Maybe I should and could try this???

She was very encouraging and said, knowing me, it was probably doable – though like all good sisters, she did worry I might push myself too hard.

As were my students, many of who had been watching it for years or had binged months or years ago on their own.  But when we factored in the dates and my desire to join the party with them in time for the finale 8 days later – and with the current total number of one hour episodes I’d have to watch at 61 (!) – I saw the grave doubt in their eyes.  A person this old (Meaning ANYONE over 40) could NEVER pull this off.  Especially one who has to spend part of their days teaching them and reading their work.   Hah!!  They don’t know me very well.  They don’t realize I used to cover film festivals and once, when I was an aspiring TV writer in the 80s, watched six full seasons of Kate and Allie on a VCR before the days of DVRs in preparation for a pitch meeting.  (Note:  One that, incidentally, never even took place!)  I knew that I could do it.  What I didn’t know, however, and what they did know, was what I had in store.

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Breaking Bad is a show about a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer, fears leaving his family destitute from exorbitant medical bills and decides he could provide a tidy little nest egg for them if he uses his vast scientific skills to be a cooker of crystal meth.  This gives nothing away since it is pretty much all covered in Season One, Episode One.  But this is also not a proper summary of what the show is really about.

It’s really about the dissolution of the middle class American dream, about greed, about liars being rewarded, villains who are really heroes and vice versa.  It’s about the destruction of the nuclear family in great part due to the times we live in and the people we choose to live with.  It’s about fathers and sons, husbands and wives, the burdens and joys of being in a family and the very idea of what or whom constitutes family.  Moreover, it’s about drugs, sex and a little bit of rock ‘n roll – well, the current version of it, anyway.  Hell, if I had only known that I might have begun watching six years ago.  Which might not have been that good for me. Not in a show that mixes all of the former with drug lords, car chases, shootings, knifings, poisonings, twenty feet wide beds of cash, sleazy lawyers, corruption behind every bit of cactus in Albuquerque, NM, and drug montages set to some of my favorite forgotten hit songs of the sixties – Crystal Blue Persuasion and Windy. As Carrie Fisher famously wrote, instant gratification takes too long – especially in a story like this one.  I don’t think I could’ve been strung along over that big of a period of real time with this kind of story.  I experienced that once with one very destructive love relationship I had in the early eighties and vowed to NeVeR AgAiN (BB Fans:  Note the typeface there?) put myself in that position.

Or, to phrase it another way: If anyone tries to make a case to you that binge watching an entire series in a matter of days is improper viewing because it doesn’t give you the necessary breathing room television episodes are supposed to have, tell them this – I wish I could have done it in 61 straight hours. #ChannellthatBitch!

Day One – Friday, 7pm

Day-1-Calendar

Note:  I hate the wife.  I’m drawn to the 16 year-old kid with cerebral palsy for reasons I don’t want to examine (Uh, not what you think. Or is it?).  I feel bad for Walter White, even though he’s a straight, middle-aged white man who by his very birth has enjoyed an odd type of superior status in the world.  He’s smart and moral but has had a lot of bad luck.  Plus, now he got cancer.  Even before this his wife treated him like a child.

Walter’s idea to cook meth with his former failed chemistry student Jesse is misguided but sort of brilliant.  I’ve met Jesse and so have you – he’s Sean Penn’s Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High if Spicoli had lived in the desert and graduated from pot into a full on drug dealing meth head.  Jesse might seem stupid but he’s not dumb.  And he has a good heart.  He reminds me of the cool guys I let cheat off my tests in high school.

I’m partial to family dramas but I’m finding myself much more drawn to the drugs and suspense.  My heart is racing a little.  Wow – there are an awful lot of drugs.  And a gun or two.  Or three.  But the money’s coming in and there are an awful lot of lies starting.  Hmm, this can’t end well.   I feel for Walt when he has to shave his head from chemo and I do like his badass new black hat.

breakingbad

But unlike Jesse I was a very good student, even in subjects like chemistry that I wasn’t interested in.  In fact, I remember the name Heisenberg.  He was a famous scientist.  Actually physicist.  I google him.  Oh, right – also a Jew who managed to live and work in Germany during the Nazi regime.  Uh, oh.  This is CANNOT end well.  For me or for Walter – who now likes to call himself Heisenberg when he’s wearing the black hat.  Yes, that’s right, it’s a BLACK HAT (get it???).  As for me, it’s 3 in the morning and I’m done with all seven episodes of season one.  Clearly, there’s trouble ahead.

Day Two – Saturday, 2pm

icon

I’ve got work to do and plans tonight so I’m just gonna watch a few.  Poor Jesse.  He’s the dangerous screw up in high school and college who was always nice to me when he didn’t have to be.  I want to reach out and help him.  I wanna hang out and have him teach me a few things.  Like – how do you come up with those cool expressions? (Note:  Do NOT say writers).  How can you be so fearless?  How are you able to cry at the drop of a hat and yet, shoot guns or shoot drugs a second later?  Plus, he’s got the hair I will never have.  I love him and sort of hate him all at the same time.  Young Blue Eyes.

Then there’s Jane.  Whenever I meet a girl whose hair and makeup is that jet black – a gal who is also artistic and sober after what clearly must have been a debauched adolescence – I’m frightened.  In both a good and a bad, bad way.  Jesse, of course, evokes no such thing.  Which is part of the reason we (I?) love him.

As for Walter, he’s beginning to scare me.  I wish I had the nerve to shave my head.  Actually, I don’t.  He’s twice my size so it won’t look nearly as good on me.  We’re talking macho vs. sickly, skinny guy with a nasty attitude.  If I were Jesse it could work.  But clearly I’m not.  And I’m beginning to be happy about that.

Omigod – it’s 6:45 pm and I’m not showered and I have a dinner date half an hour away in 45 minutes.  I’ve got to stop.  WW J & W do?  They’d take the five extra minutes and finish episode six.

I do.  And I’m not sorry.

netflix_all_day

11:15 pm

I’m home.  And it’s on.  Oh – it’s soooo on.  I’m beginning to understand where Skyler is coming from.  Walt’s got a bit of an ego, doesn’t he?  Well, okay, who doesn’t.  Plus, he has CANCER.  Still, when your spouse lies to you – when the trust is evaporating – all bets are off.  I remember the guy from the eighties and that crappy relationship I was in and suddenly I’m with her.

Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen the actor Giancarlo Esposito since Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.  Well, he’s certainly different – all suits and buttoned down shirts, y’all.  And is he playing this guy gay?  Nah, it must be my imagination.  Neat and fastidious is not necessarily a code word for gay anymore.  Still, I don’t mind it.   The character is one of the biggest drug dealers in country, works in a straight man’s world and has managed to outsmart and outlive everyone else.  Kudos to him.  Plus, he reads Walt Whitman.  Which makes him erudite.  And I guess is also a big clue about who he is.  Duh.  It’s now 3:30 am and I have three episodes left to the end of season 2.  Fine.  I’ll go to bed.  But I’m not sleeping all day tomorrow.  I mean, Today.

Day Three – Sunday, 8:30 am

Day-3

Why is my dog BARKING!!  That little rat!!!  I mean…I love my dog.  I have to find out what’s wrong.  I mean…I hope she’s okay.

Wait – she’s a BITCH!  I should have known.

Noon

I posted my blog and dozed for 15 minutes but really, I can’t sleep the day away.  Maybe I’ll just turn on the TV for some company.  Oh look – Netflix is still on.  I forgot to put it back to regular TV.  Oh well, might as well continue before I go to the gym.

Is Jesse and Jane sort of supposed to sound like Jesse James, the badass outlaw?  Perhaps not.  I think I’m pushing the metaphor.  Thank God Bob Odenkirk has been added for comic relief.  I remember when he used to date Janeane Garofalo, and this was before she had tattoos.  Boy, am I getting old.  I’m much more of a Walter than a Jesse, I think – at least age wise.  How did that happen?  And who has all of my drug money?  And why aren’t I the head of something bigger than this blog?  Walter’s doing it and he’s sick.  And tired.  I’m just the latter.  Plus, I’m beginning to have trouble breathing.

Lord that's a bad suit

Lord that’s a bad suit

One thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is to stay away from gay guys like Esposito’s Gus.  Yes, I’ve met a few.  They usually have slightly better suits but, then again, most of these guys lived in New York and L.A.  There is a difference.  Sorry to my friends who are in the fly over or under states.

Meanwhile, I think Walter has crossed a line.  In fact, now that season 2 is over, I’m sure he has.  This series is very anti-drugs.  In fact, it should be shown in high schools.  Why isn’t anyone writing about that?  And seriously, what world do I live in?  High schools?  In 2013 America?  I don’t think so.  It’s not the seventies anymore.  I’m off to the gym.

8:30 pm

I pulled a stomach and I think groin muscle after 2 hours at the gym trying to work off all of this tension.  Damn it.  Well, I guess there are worse things.  I can walk and I’m only a bit twisted inside.  Maybe I’ll turn on the TV for some therapy.  I’ve earned it.

I’m on season 3 and I’ve got 13 of them episodes ahead of me.  And I’m injured.  I guess I have to take it easy and relax.  Click.

I’m beginning to like some of these lines.  Things like:

I trust the hole in the desert I’d leave you in!!

My favorites, though, are the Jesse-isms.  For those who don’t watch (or skipped what I’ve written so far and started at this part)  he likes to use Yo and Bitch a lot.  In one of these episodes he’s lamenting about cleaning up the meth lab and dreams of having assistants to not only handle all the dirt but to wait on him hand and foot.  Imagining what it would be like, he fantasizes lines like these:

tumblr_m7fpefZvVr1qztmnoo1_500

Is it any wonder that I love this guy?  Even when I hate, and have always hated, the taste of Gatorade?

It’s 2:30 am again but it doesn’t matter.  I’m on Season 3 and, as they say in the old country, this shit’s getting’ real.  Blood is being mopped.  It’s very Sweeny Todd without Johnny Depp, Angela Lansbury or even a whiff of show music.  Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they do eventually go there.

Oh, and P.S. – I’ll never look at an ATM machine the same way again.

Day Four – Monday, Sometime in the afternoon

DayZDay720_4

I’m in more pain than I thought and wish I had some meth.  No, not really.  It’s just a fantasy.  But speaking of fantasy – Click.

Oh God – Gus, Gus, Gus, Gus.  I’d still choose a gay villain over Sean Hayes.  Because I don’t think I want to live in the world that Sean has saved.  At least with Gus there’s a chance I could still get to read and understand Walt Whitman, eat fried chicken and wear clothes that don’t come from J Crew.  Though I’m not quite partial to jewel tones so I might have to think about the latter.

In any event, Walter’s new lab is ONE COOL CRIB.  It sort of reminds me of Frank N. Furter’s science fantasy place in Rocky Horror Picture Show.  In fact, Walter’s new lab assistant, Gale, could be the before version of Eddie in Rocky Horror.

A resemblance?

A resemblance? Or am I going bleery-eyed?

Leading a double life is not easy but Walter’s getting the hang of it.  He’s even staring down cancer.  But does he wonder where his son is disappearing to when he says he’s with a friend?  Nah, too busy.  I’m hoping Walter, Jr. (now Flinn) is getting laid.  Though I’m not sure we’ll ever find out.  And truly, it’s not our business anyway.

The White family is in a shambles but as a child of divorce I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.  It does get better when the fighting stops.  But only IF the fighting stops.  Which doesn’t seem likely here.  Suddenly, younger children have entered the mix and there are more meth heads than you can shake a stick at.  I can’t bear to look at any more rotting teeth.  Which begs the question of why Jesse’s are so always so pearly white.  Whatever.  It’s a fantasy.  And it’s Jesse.

Uh, I spoke too soon.  Holy mother of whomever – I’m not sure I’m liking Hank, the DEA brother-in-law anymore.  He thinks he can do what to Jesse?

My stomach hurts really bad – not so much from the gym injury but the bald and built TWIN (actually, they’re just brothers but they do dress alike) MEXICAN ASSASSINS.  They are sort of like post millennium Terminators without the Austrian accent.   Actually, they don’t speak at all.  Well, barely.  Which makes them even scarier.

I’m afraid to look at what time it is but I know it’s dark and everyone else in my house is asleep.   Season 3 is over and it’s a cliffhanger.  I don’t teach till tomorrow night so I usually go in the office later.  I can prepare and do my readings…whenever I get to them.  IF I CHOOSE TO GET TO THEM!

No one has ever died from binge watching a series – good or bad – though there is a cult movie from 1935 called Murder By Television (starring Bela Lugosi) that posits it is possible.  Though not so much from the content of what’s onscreen but more the rays being emitted.

And then of course, you could go the way of Carol Ann...

And then of course, you could go the way of Carol Ann…

I’m not too far gone to realize BB has taken over my life but I am too far gone to stop watching.  This was my choice.  No one forced me to do the drugs.  And NO ONE is going to force me to stop doing them.

Damn it – I have to moderate a panel of former students who are working at cool jobs in the entertainment industry to educate current students about to get into the entertainment industry.  I know how I will get through it.  I’m a Ginsberg.  That’s close enough to a Heisenberg.  I’m the best cook around and I know they’ll be buying what I’m serving up.  Click. Pause.

Day Five/Six – Sometime that night after 10pm and before 2:30 am Tuesday morning

Television Prison scroll

Television Prison scroll

I’m not sure where I am.  Here’s what I do know.

  1. I don’t want to live in Albuquerque.
  2. My partner downstairs doesn’t take kindly to me calling him bitch.
  3. I’d better be nicer to my partner downstairs because he tells me he can get me the missing  first 3 episodes of Season 5, Part 2 that are not on Netflix and are not scheduled to be rerun on AMC until Sunday.  Since I already have the final five episodes after those this will ensure I have what I need to keep me fully wired through Friday night and meet my deadline of the one week binge.  Being nice is a small price to pay.  Though it’s no longer in my nature to be nice.  Still, like Heisenberg, I can fake it.

Walter is great even as he’s reinforcing the old cliché: Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely.  He’s turned Jesse into something he was never meant to be and he’s turned himself into someone he was always meant to be, as we’re beginning to find out.  After a lifetime of working in show business the one thing I’ve learned is that rarely is the person who is rising up to be the most rich and powerful among us also the warmest and fuzziest.

I’m scared.  I’m very scared.  Yeah yo, I am. To quote Skyler, who I’m beginning to have some sympathy for:

Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.

10:30pm

I taught my Day Five, I mean, Wednesday night class.  Luckily one of those bitches didn’t show up so I got home a bit earlier.  Pass the pipe.  Er, I mean the remote.

Day Six – The Late Morning.  I think?

day6_web

If I can’t kill you, you’ll sure as shit wish you were dead. – A Jesse-ism

A guy opens the door and you’re afraid I’LL get shot??  No, I AM THE DANGER!   – A  Walt/Heisenberg-ism

Jesse has crossed the line and even I can’t make any excuses for him.  Except…well, never mind.  I’m trying to avoid spoilers.  And…I have a really bad headache.

Like all great criminals, Walt reveals more of himself than he should because of his own ego.  But I don’t assume this will sink him because there are two more seasons left and because Sen. Ted Cruz is still standing.  (Note:  Show business and politics will always be extremely inter-related).

Plus, there’s the old mute drug lord at the senior citizens home who can only communicate by dinging a little bell at the top of the arm of his wheelchair.  Not to mention…well, a lot of other stuff.

I have all day to do this and I will.  There is tuna in a can downstairs, bread and water.  That’s all the time I can spare right now.  All I need.  All I deserve.

Wait, this isn’t day six.  I’m quoting what happened last night, which is really early this morning.  Everything I just said on Day Six really happened on Day Five.  Or Four.   And I soooooo don’t care.

What I do care about is that I have 2 three-hour classes to teach today and I haven’t read any of their outlines.  Pass the six pack of Diet Coke.

How I'm staying awake

How I’m staying awake

Yeah.  Right.  That’s what the label says on the outside.  On the inside – I’m not telling.  But – you know.

11:00 pm

Wow, that went better than I thought.  Kudos to Diet Coke. (heh, heh).  Still, now that I’m home – me and the significant other, we usually watch Project Runway on Thursday nights.  Walter and Skyler’s equivalent was probably bowling before all this started.  Luckily, like all good long-term marriages, my partner and I have our own stuff to do this particular night.  He’s busy working on an honest to goodness book and asked not to be disturbed.  Like I planned to.

Suddenly, I’m not tired.  I mean,  At. All.  Click.

It is so in keeping with who I am that the final episode of Season 4, which was voted the best episode of television in any number of publications that year, was among my least favorite.  As I tell myself and I sometimes tell my students:

It doesn’t pay to look too forward to anything, especially anything in movies or on television.  You’ll inevitably be disappointed.

Not that many parts of the whole thing weren’t great.  There’s a seminal moment that was very cool and lots of stuff gets resolved.  Not my addiction, though.  Never my addiction.  I have to see what happens in just the first episode of Season 5, Part 1, Episode 1.   Okay, maybe Episode 2.

I do this and I am treated to one of my favorite Jesse lines of the series:

magnet-meme

Plus, somewhere along the line I find the first few missing episodes of Season 5, Part II on the table near the TV in a teeny, tiny package marked BITCH!. Presents like this will often magically appear in BB world.  Though they also always carry a price.  Hmm, I’m not gonna think about that now.  I’m excited and tired at the same time.  And I have a big cook ahead of me tomorrow.

THE LAST DAY

lastday-e1355275064915

The rest of season 5, Part 1 and all of Season 5, Part II, except for the final episode, which will be broadcast Sunday night.  Together that’s almost 12 hours of television.  Hmmph, it’ll be child’s play to hit all of that up.  Like – seriously –  me not being able to hit it up is akin to chances of me trying to keep up with Robert Downey, Jr. on any sort of drug binge 20 years ago.  That was a time long before he got sober and long before I needed to.

Something happens when you know you’re in the home stretch of something you so, so worked for and are about to get.  There’s an…exhilaration?  And some sadness.  But no time to reflect.  Not now.  Not ever.  Well, at least for now.

Walter White is the smartest person in the room.  And he isn’t interested in money so much as he is in BUILDING AN EMPIRE!!!

He’s turned into a non-ethnic, southwestern version of Don Corleone.  The major difference is that instead of hearing the Tarantella we finally get to enjoy Tommy James and Shondells’ version of Crystal Blue Persuasion as he cooks the blue-tinted drug he invented that is now being fetishized by users round the world.  My question:  Why did it take them so long to use this song and why didn’t I ever see it coming?

Some time after the song stops, or perhaps it was a long time after, something I know all too well  suddenly comes out of nowhere and hits me over the head.  No, it’s not the significant other, though that would be justified.  It’s that the first rule of drama is: If you introduce a gun or anything else that threatening in the beginning of your story you know it’s going to have to be fired or explode in the end.   I’m beginning to see the totality of what Walt and Jesse and Skyler and the rest of the family are up against.  And up to.   Not to mention some of the other morally questionable drug enablers I’ve grown to love this week.  It’s getting Shakespearean, yo!  Did you see the end of Hamlet, Macbeth or even Romeo and Juliet?

I have no idea that is what will happen.  In fact, I have NO idea what will happen.  I only know that I can’t eat, my stomach is in knots and if one more person leaves a message on my cell phone or machine I am going full Luddite.

Sometime later that evening

I can see the end in sight because I just watched the last episode before the final episode pass behind me.  I’m done.  Caught up, I mean.  Yes, it’s really early the morning of the eighth day but I wouldn’t advise you challenging me on that just now.  Not after what I’ve gone through.  Not just yet.

SUNDAY NIGHT:  One episode remaining.  One hit left.

i-funcking-love-u1

It was beautiful. Every last millisecond.  It was sooo worth it.    All of it.

And I ain’t sayin’ any more than that.  Bitch.

Pass the pipe.  Er,  the remote.

#Binger2TheBone