Thursday, January 16, 2014
I've been working on this one blog post since September. Sorry if it's confusing or badly formatted. I just need to let all of this stuff go.
There's only one hour and forty-four minutes left of 2013. It's been a crazy fucking year. I think I wrote more this year than I ever have before. Libby is also in great health, I like my job, I got to see my mom for the first time in many years, I watched a shit ton of Star Trek, I traveled a little bit and I became friends with a lot of awesome people. Sounds fantastic, right? Well, yeah, but I can't say that 2013 was full of peaches and rose petals.
The truth is, it's been a really rough year checkered with some amazing events. I'm sad most of the time and seem to cry almost everyday. But it's okay to feel sad, right? I've become an expert at dealing with sadness. Sometimes it destroys me and makes me stay in bed all day, but, mostly, I kick its ass by staying focused and trying to be positive. Before I get into why I'm sad all the time, here are a few of the reasons I keep trying to thrive:
- I interviewed John Hyams for Mubi. Writing for them was one of my dreams and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to interview Mr. Hyams.
- My 27th birthday was a great deal of fun. My husband, Jake, surprised me with a spa day and a bottle of my favorite perfume. Best birthday ever.
- I saw Tony Scott's Deja Vu for the first time.
- I made my Andy Kaufman/Mighty Mouse video.
- I conceived of The Vulgar Cinema while washing dishes one cold afternoon and promptly Facebook messaged my favorite dudes about the idea. We've sent almost 5000 messages now. Maybe we'll publish them someday. Becoming friends with them was definitely one of the very best parts of my year.
- Libby celebrated her 16th birthday!
- The Vulgar Cinema's first series was posted. We wrote letters to John McTiernan in prison. Here's my letter.
- Baseball season started!
- The Vulgar Cinema ran its Farrelly Brothers series. I wrote about Fever Pitch. We received a lot of nice feedback on this one.
- Saw Furious 6 opening day and took pictures with the big-ass billboard for the movie in Brno.
- A bird pooped on my boobs.
- I visited Edgar G. Ulmer's childhood home in Olomouc.
- I saw Furious 6 again.
- I watched Johnnie To's Drug War.
- Bought a new computer, but it's now busted and need to take it in to be repaired.
- Went to a few BBQs with some Czech pals.
- Made some new friends because of all the Vulgar Auteurism hubbub.
- Hung out with Meghan and Sweets in Brno and Prague.
- Met up with Mr. Matt Hannigan in Vienna for a whirlwind 24 hours.
- Visited Fritz Lang's childhood home while I was there.
- Celebrated being in the Czech Republic for one whole year.
- Watched a shitload of Sylvester Stallone movies.
- Wrote about and made a silly video for Dwayne Johnson at The Vulgar Cinema.
- Interviewed Outlaw Vern for The Vulgar Cinema.
- Picked my mom up at the Prague airport.
- Was mentioned in an article for the Roger Ebert website by Steven Erickson. That was cool because my mom and grandparents actually know who Roger Ebert was.
- I finished watching Star Trek: TNG.
- I started watching Star Trek: DS9.
- Took my mom to the Marilyn Monroe exhibit at Prague Castle on her last day of vacation. Cried like a baby when she left.
- Football season started.
- Celebrated my 9th anniversary with the Jakester.
- I interviewed Jake about his videos for the Incite Film Journal. Still waiting for it to be published.
- Watched oodles of horror movies and had a horror movie night with my best pal, Maggie.
- Dressed as Lt. Melanie Ballard from Ghosts of Mars for Halloween.
- Shaved my head.
- Saw Jerry Lewis' Smorgasbord on 35mm at Vienna's film museum.
- Colored my hair purple.
- Finished our Carpenter series for The Vulgar Cinema. I wrote about The Ward and interviewed Sandy King Carpenter and John Carpenter.
- My essay about Brian De Palma's Passion was published in La Furia Umana's online edition.
- I listed twelve of my favorite filmmakers for The Experimental Film Society.
- The Packers beat the Chicago Bears! They're now the NFC North Champions.
+ Jake made seventy videos this year. Super proud of him.
Here's a sample of what the rest of my year was like behind the scenes:
I don't feel well today, but I'm going to teach two classes later this evening. Tuesdays have become the worst day of the week in my home. My husband, Jake, has come to fear his Tuesday classes. He starts teaching at 7:30 in the morning and finishes around 6 in the evening. I don't know if he consciously does it or not, but he tends to wake me up 2-3 times in the morning while he's preparing to leave. Sometimes he wants me to acknowledge his fear and try to make him feel better. Other times he wants me to be a silent symbol of strength and goodness - something to look forward to when he finishes his long day. Wednesdays were the bad day last semester. Our 9th anniversary is this Saturday.
Sometimes I get jealous of people. I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn't been the first person in my immediate family to go to college. I wonder what life would have been like if I'd had a real wedding, one with family and friends close by. I wonder what life would be like if my husband didn't have bipolar disorder. I wonder what it would be like not to be married to an artist. I wonder what life would be like to be alone.
My husband told me three times this week that he was either going to kill himself soon or was actually already in the process of dying. The pain he feels is so visceral, overwhelming, and consistent. Extremely consistent. Sometimes he walks down the street and feels like screaming or crying because of the noise. Sometimes he can't get out of bed because being alive is so stressful. I'm the only one, and I mean the only one, who has seen what this monster is really like.
But, ya know, I'm sick to death of talking about my husband. I'm sick of hearing him talk about his endless brilliant projects, how he's dealing with being mentally ill, all of it. I love him more than anything else in the world, but I wish he would stop talking about himself sometimes. Being self-absorbed is both a trait of being an artist and a symptom of bipolar disorder, so he was dealt a double dose of that when he was born. I know I'm the only one he has to talk to, but he's also the only one I have to talk to. He talks so much that I don't want to talk anymore. His disorder and his artistry have almost completely taken over my life. I'm interviewing him about his work for a magazine, I'm submitting his movies to festivals, I listen to his pain, suffering and poetic detailed descriptions of his videos every fucking day. I can't handle working, taking care of a senior dog and mentally ill husband, being a video artist's secretary AND somehow work on my own projects at the same time. I'm too worn out, mentally and physically.
I have a great work ethic. I guess I get it from my mother. I skipped work at Whole Foods as often as I could because I was miserable there, but I've only missed one day of teaching since I moved to the CR because of illness. However, I'd say that once a week or so, I go to work and everyone looks at me and says something like "you look so tired, Sara!" I tell them I don't feel well. I use that phrase a lot because it encompasses many feelings. It could mean I have a cold, a headache, cramps, whatever. I usually use it when I don't feel well emotionally.
Libby is curled up next to me because she knows I had a bad day. A really bad day.
I'm so bored talking about all of this crap, though. Who cares about my miserable feelings and bipolar husband.
I feel like talking about something positive. I need more positivity in my life.
I recently started teaching an eight year old boy named Adam. I usually hate children, but this kid is awesome. He could barely count to ten or tell me his name when I started teaching him a month or so ago. Now we're working on simple present question forms. He learns very quickly. I teach him twice a week for forty-five minutes at a time. He usually comes to our lessons straight from school where he's been sitting and learning for 8 hours. The Czech school system sucks the life out of children. They never do anything fun; just memorize facts and write down everything the teacher says. The teachers hardly ever directly talks to the students. When Adam's in my class, though, he acts like a real kid. We talk about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Avengers and hot wheel cars. I want to get him something cool for Christmas. It's such a relief to act a little like a kid when I'm teaching Adam. Life feels light for a little while.
"If our bosses cared about me, they would fire me. If you cared about me, you would leave me. If my parents cared about me, they would have drowned me when I was born."
I think I'm alone in the apartment. Jake woke me up today to ask if I needed to use the bathroom because he was going to work in the hallway and needed total darkness to do it. He seemed uneasy and anxious, but not horrible. I said no, but regretted what I said ten minutes later. I rushed in to use the bathroom and he was annoyed. Ten minutes later he came in and started having an episode. He left because he didn't want to hurt me with his words. Ten minutes later he came back in and started punching himself. He left again, I followed. I discovered he had ripped his favorite t-shirt off his body into a few pieces. He was sobbing and asked me to leave his office. I did. He came back in, started talking about his desperation and I said all the wrong things. I feel like a monster. I don't know where he is.
We were supposed to go to the ballet tonight.
It's January now and the first two weeks of 2014 haven't been very nice. Jake almost died last week. I pulled a razor out of his hand and watched him whip himself with a belt. He jumped in front of some speedy cars and regretted it at the last second. He took a shower with me for the first time in years today. Sometimes things feel like they used to, which scares me because I know I'll be punished for feeling happy sooner or later. Things are either wonderful or god fucking awful now.
It's 2:00 right now and I'm on the verge of having a panic attack because I don't know if I'm a person anymore. I think I'm just a blob of sorrow.
Friday, September 27, 2013
|"Zig Zag Hat"|
Madge Gill was an outsider artist who died in 1961. Like so many artists, she only had a couple of exhibitions and was regarded as nutty and absolutely weird during her lifetime. My husband just about keeled over when he discovered her work because he thinks I might be her reincarnation. I think I might be, too.
I’d like to tell you something I’ve hardly told anyone else before:
I love to draw.
Love, love, love to draw.
My drawings are primal, unsophisticated and full of strange monsters and peculiarly-shaped women. I like using inky black pens, permanent markers and maybe a few colored markers to make them. Drawing has been a great source of comfort and expression for me since I was a child, but it’s something I’ve often been ashamed of, too. Ever since the boy I liked mocked my Halloween drawing in front of the whole 3rd grade art class, eventually mangling my beloved Halloween bats to make it look like they were peeing on the jack-o-lanterns. What an asshole, right? At the time, I was also embarrassed that my dogs, cats and cannibal monster creations lacked the soft and feminine style of the other girls in class. I was incapable of drawing a daisy without giving it fangs or at least a sinister air.
Now I embrace my drawing, no matter who likes it or not.
|"After the War"|
Madge Gill and I seem to be cut from the same bizarre piece of cloth. We draw the same types of things in extremely similar ways with similar implements. There are some differences, of course, but I think it’s safe to say our souls come from the same place in the cosmos. When I saw her drawings for the first time, I felt almost like an orphan who had finally found her birth mother. I instantly knew that we were connected on an other-worldly level and it brought me a level of comfort and reassurance I didn’t even know I needed.
I really like the idea of trying to communicate with the dead through art. I think it might be the best way to connect with ethereal beings.
I now consider Madge Gill to be my phantom mother. I might try and say hello through a sketch soon.
To be honest, my summer wasn’t as creative as I wanted it to be. My brain felt mostly lethargic and longed for some good old fashioned inspiration. As much as I enjoy the temperatures of spring and summer, autumn has always been my favorite season. There’s something truly beautiful about autumn’s decay. It’s the beginning of life after death. I’ve always been haunted by the energies and vibes of the environment around me. I don’t believe in heaven or hell and am not religious by any means, but I believe in spirits and ghosts. I walk around and feel the different types of life bits and memories of the people who used to live in houses and become overwhelmed sometimes. These feelings have only intensified after moving to Brno because so many of the houses and buildings are incredibly old and full of history. I feel like every place we live always keeps a part of us in its heart, almost like a personal tapestry or a family tree. I can look around my flat and almost see the people who lived here before, feel the happiness they left behind before they moved onto the next adventure.
It’s true that spring brings new life full of babies, flowers and sunshine-y days, but I’ve never been inspired by that time of the year because of just that reason. Everything is new. I love autumn because we can see death occurring all around us, actually giving birth to the next stage of our existence. Lately I’ve been entertaining the idea that when we die (people, animals, what have you) our spirits find their way to the roots of trees and become housed inside the wood. Perhaps sharing the round rings, the age of the tree, with the souls. Eventually the souls work their way up to the branches of the tree, finally extending and becoming brand new leaves, living a whole life again in the span of a few seasons and dying once the weather turns cold and withering to a final crispy red, yellow and brown beauty. When the leafy spirits fall, they are given a chance to explore the world again, drifting with the wind as far as it will take them until they start to become part of the ground once more. Maybe this is the stage where the bits and pieces of leafy spirits find their way to the decaying or decayed bodies of those who have passed and reincarnation happens again, just in a different, more mobile form.
That’s what I’ve been thinking of lately, anyway.
On that note, I’ll leave you with a thought by Nathaniel Hawthorne from the intro of his book, The House of the Seven Gables:
“I sha’nt have the story ready by November,” he explained to his publisher on the 1stof October, “for I am never good at anything in the literary way till after the first autumnal frost, which has somewhat such an effect on my imagination that it does on the foliage here about me-multiplying it and brightening its hues.”
Darn tootin’, Mr. Hawthorne.
*I don't have a scanner, but I'll try to upload some of my drawings soon. All images and Madge Gill biographical info are from her official website - MadgeGill.com.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Saturday, July 6, 2013
I’ve lived in the Czech Republic for nearly a year and my life has honestly never been better. I love my job, my city and the people I interact with every day, both online and in life. I love the sensations of my daily routine. When I walk to school in the morning, the air smells like an intoxicating blend of firewood being burned in an old woodstove, probably being poked at and cared for by an old Czech lady in her little black loafers and pantyhose, and summer flowers, the kind that smell sweet and fresh at the same time. The air is warm right now and the breeze is drifting in through the windows. I can hear teenagers laughing in the park at the foot of the castle. I often hear them late at night. During the day, I hear the Brno philharmonic orchestra and the singers at the opera house rehearsing. They’re right across the street from one another. Down the street I hear sneakers squeaking on a gym floor because a group of dudes play basketball inside an old church nearly every day. They tape the games for Czech television. I hear the ding ding of the trolley as it scoots by my flat a few times an hour. There are many sounds I’ve come to enjoy on my walk to and from work.
My favorite thing, though, are the Czech acquaintances I’ve made since I’ve been here. I know it’s very American of me, but I greet the waitresses, baristas and shop assistants I see almost daily like they’re old friends. It begins with a wave to the baristas at Café Mezzanine early in the morning when I walk Libby and often ends with hugs and big smiles at one of the restaurants I frequent. All of the waitresses know what I like to eat and usually place the order without me even having to ask for it. My favorite person is a gay Middle Eastern waiter who likes to sing with me and hold Libby while he’s working.
For many of these people, I’m the first American they’ve ever really talked to for more than ten minutes. I’ve come to realize both through teaching Czech students and interacting with Czech people in social settings how curious and entranced they are by American culture and living. I’m frequently asked “What’s America really like?” “Do people smile all the time there or is that a myth?” Things like that. They think I’m crazy for moving to the Czech Republic. And as odd as it may be considering my reasons for leaving, I feel an unusual obligation to speak well of America and to positively represent my homeland through my actions. I wouldn’t want my students or acquaintances to think all Americans are assholes just because I happen to accidentally be rude to someone when ordering a coffee or teaching the present continuous tense. I might not have been very happy there and might disagree with many of the country’s decisions about certain things, but I’m still very lucky to have been born in the same country that jazz music, baseball and the Freed unit came from.
“Are you waving the flag at me?” I guess I am.
"No chopped chicken livers! No garlic pickles!"
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Our Dancing Daughters is the movie that made Joan Crawford a movie star. She plays a flapper named Diana Medford, a gal who likes to dance, have fun and marry for love. Though it has a reputation for being full of jazz-age shenanigans, the film is actually a fairly serious examination of femininity and that old narrative chestnut of what it means to be a "good" woman. There are three main female characters: Crawford's Diana, who remains virginal and pure despite being society's brightest young thing, Dorothy Sebastien's Beatrice who is generally a good girl except for that one time she went a little too far with a fella in the Hampton's and Anita Page's wicked, manipulative Ann who pretends to be innocent in order to snatch and marry Crawford's millionaire beau, Ben Blaine. It's also an early take on the "three girls" formula that the '50s capitalized on with movies like The Best of Everything (with Crawford) and Three Coins in the Fountain.
Buuuuttt, I'm more interested in the movie because of what it means to Joan Crawford's career and character history. I honestly can't imagine a better movie for her to cut her teeth on and it's amazing to see what signature ticks and gestures she had already developed by this time. Here are a few I noticed:
Sad Joan. After the fury died and the love probably faded, Crawford used those puppy dog eyes and that thin mouth to cry tragic tears and quiver with sorrow.
The kicker? This is the end of Our Dancing Daughters and I couldn't have chosen a better way for Crawford's characters/narratives to transition into the women's pictures we all know and love today. If nothing else, a Crawford dame always worked hard for her precious furs, jewels and the right to be furious.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Wait in a queue when you can make an appointment over the phone!!!
- Your Friendly Bureau :-)
Attention: We warn you that according to valid legislation, it is forbidden to provide, offer or promise officials gratuities or other benefits including any GIFTS (confectionery, flowers, etc.)In order to deal with the overwhelming stress of the situation and monotony of waiting for three hours in a tiny room, I wrote a diary entry about my experience at the foreign police this past Tuesday morning. The words quoted above are from signs hanging all over the place.
Any such actions will always be considered as behavior constituting the crime of bribery under the provision of section 332 of Act No. 40/2009.
I am currently sitting in the waiting room of the foreign police. There are ten people ahead of me in line. I am in the "good" section of the foreign police because I am American. I pity the Russian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese citizens who have to wait upstairs. This room is small and smells very musty. It rained earlier today and it's fairly humid, which doesn't add anything pleasant to a room where twelve people are sharing the same air. The woman next to me smells like old, stale cigarettes. She's young, but smells like an old woman. I think she's Canadian because the friend she is with has a Canadian passport. She's reading an easy reader of Wuthering Heights. There's a young man sitting across from me with a terrible haircut. He keeps sneezing and coughing in my direction. He has a smaller chin than William Powell.
I think I'll bathe in a tub of hand sanitizer tonight.
All of the chairs in the waiting room are blue. They're hard plastic and keep sticking to my arms in the same way the vinyl seats in my mom's old station wagon used to on a hot day. It's interesting to see where everyone keeps their oh-so-important visa documents. Mine are in a black faux leather case with a picture of Katharine Hepburn glued to the back flap. It used to be what I kept my film writing/project stuff in. Now it's busting with quite possibly a hundred government papers - business license papers, residency papers, social security papers, insurance papers, the list goes on and on. The black case is in my black and white polk-a-dot Betsey Johnson bag that's falling apart. I would love to buy a new bag. At least I'm not using a a plastic bag like half the people here are.
The fella with the terrible haircut and no chin is storing his documents in a nice computer bag. Looking at him reminds me of what Hannibal Lecter says to Clarice Starling during their first meeting in Silence of the Lambs:
"You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste."
This guy doesn't make much sense. I wonder what his story is. The gal next to me is writing something in Spanish in her notebook. A Canadian-Spaniard? What the hell. Yo la tengo al melo...
Chinoy... That's all I can see.
Oh! The line moved. I have to teach at 2:00 and need to be back to the school by 1:30 to make copies. There are are only three people working in the foreign police office today. All dudes. Only two are working right now because one is on his lunch break. When I was here last time, a nice blonde lady helped me. She was perhaps the nicest person to help me so far in all of my dealings with Czech government offices. She was dressed all in purple, even her eyeshadow was purple. I trust blondes dressed in purple. I hope these fellas are just as nice.
They're sitting in cubicles that remind me of my dad's first prison in Sheridan, Oregon. For the first year of his incarceration, he was in a medium security facility and I could only talk to him through a glass wall on the phone when I visited him. I hated being there. I remember when they wouldn't let me see him because my Grandma took me instead of my mother. How I cried.
An old woman with a brown tortoise shell cane just came in. She's wearing a purple shirt with flowers on it. I'll bet she's nice. I think she's Czech. I wonder why she's here. It's cute how older Czech ladies still wear pantyhose underneath their slacks. She has little black loafers on. I'm wearing boots. Everyone else is in sneakers. God, I hate sneakers.
Someone opened the front door of the building and I got a whiff of fresh air from the outside world. It feels so nice. Down to eight people, no wait, seven! Holy Toledo.
I had to move and it wasn't convenient to write anymore. I waited approximately one more hour and talked to a dude for ten-fifteen minutes, gave him some papers and hit the road.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
I feel young.
That's something I never thought I'd say or think.
A few weeks ago, I woke up and just felt like dancing. Dancing for no reason at all. I am a terrible dancer and can't move my hips without moving my entire upper body, but my entire being ached to move until I was out of breath. So I danced. It was one of the most wonderful sensations I've ever experienced. My body has practically begged me to keep on dancing, to move and groove in ways I never have before that morning.
It feels like my body is coming out of a coma.
My mind was the first part of me to wake up after moving overseas and it's slowly yawning and stretching to an upright position. But I've always been able to remember what an active mind feels like. That was part of the terror of my depression - knowing and yearning for the fog to clear so I could think clearly again.
My body, however, has never felt this way, not even when I was really young. I guess that's because I've never felt all that connected to my physical self. I have very long limbs, especially my legs, and am naturally just a stiff person. To describe my physicality as doll-like wouldn't be much of a stretch. There's a reason I played Barbie in the talent show at school. I am honestly never completely comfortable and fidget almost constantly because I am always trying to find some level of ease in my body. I've always envied dancers for their fluid bodies and graceful statures.
But now my body feels alive. I suddenly don't care if I can actually dance - it just feels good to boogie. I feel as fluid as I can be. I want to go on adventures. I want to be spontaneous. I don't want to hurry home after work and hide from the world - I want to explore and jiggy at a jukebox until dawn. I want to run to Spain and fall asleep on a beach somewhere, waking up with even lighter blonde hair and sand in my shirt. I want to go on picnics, spin in short dresses with flouncy skirts, feel the sun penetrate every goddamn pore on my body, maybe even jump in a fountain. I want to feel light and be the light.
We'll see what happens.