I am on the “Joey” set at Warner Brothers. I am stuck in my dressing room waiting to shoot my scene. I have my computer and I should be returning e-mail or writing my book or organizing myself, but I am writing this blog instead. Forgive me in advance if it’s meandering and overly long. It’s embarrassing because at TED a woman came up to me and said, “I read your blog. You need an editor.” Eeek. And yet, here I am blathering away again. I will have a crisis about why I write my blog tomorrow, for today, I’m going to write about what I’m thinking about.
I am having a great week on this show. I really like everyone, and Matt LeBlanc is hilarious. I guess I should have expected him to be funny, but I’ve met lots of comic actors who aren’t really funny individuals. They just have a certain way, a certain type of funny character that they are particularly good at. And then, conversely, a lot of dramatic writers I know who never even write comedy are hilarious. So, you never know. In any case, LeBlanc is funny – really funny - and extremely professional and he’s even helping me with my part and he’s always trying to make the scene better. My part is small – one scene of several pages. And I play a woman in prison. Matt and I end up holding hands at the end of the scene – it’s funny and weirdly sweet. There’s a moment in the script that calls for a reaction from me – I look at Drea De Matteo – and I didn’t know what kind of reaction I was supposed to have. Matt said, “How about this.” And he did this look, and then he said, “I think that’s stock reaction number 43. You could also go for this.” And then he did another look. “That’s reaction 45, which, if you think about it, is really just the evolution of reaction 43.” That anecdote might seem not all that hilarious but the way he delivered it was funny to me. It reminded me of something Phil Hartman would have said. And then that made me miss Phil Hartman so much.
I haven’t even watched this show – I haven’t even seen “Friends” really – maybe about six or seven episodes over the whole ten years. I liked it a lot, but for some reason I just never watched it regularly. In any case, I hope this show, “Joey,” continues. Everyone is waiting to find out if it’s picked up for another season. Working on this little teeny part makes me want to do a sit com for real someday.
The woman who did my make up today also did my make up when I did an interview for the Candace Bergen talk show a few years ago. I was on the show with Patty Heaton – I was talking about being an atheist and she was talking about being a Christian. It was a nice interview, and everyone was warm and friendly. In any case, the make up woman reminded me how much fun that was. And how much I love that about working in show business, you always meet someone you worked with – even if it’s just in a small way – on something else. Maybe this is true for all professions. But it’s something about being in Hollywood that I really love.
This is one of those weeks where I think it’s impossible for me to move to Spokane. I love working in Hollywood. I love walking onto the set, I even love driving onto the studio lot. So many wonderful things shot here! Lots of great memories for me, personally. When I first moved to Hollywood, my first job was as an accountant right here. This was when the lot was called TBS, short for: The Burbank Studios. Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. shared the lot. The accounting office was just off the lot, but I came over here for lunch all the time and walked all over this lot – I know it pretty well. And jeez, that was over twenty years ago! That’s a long time. Also, I can’t not think of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” when I’m on this lot, because of all the scenes shot here, just around and in between the stages.
Oh! I read some of the comments to my last blog entry. And, yes, I’m adding the question mark to the title of the show. I think it’s fine, makes it slightly more ambiguous, without out and out changing the title.
Late yesterday afternoon, even though I have so much work to do, it was plain irresponsible; I went and saw the movie, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.” It was so good! I think it’s one of the best movies of this year. I cried my eyes out. I had mascara running down my cheeks when I glanced in the rear view mirror on the way home. That movie is like a Faulkner/ Peckinpah, myth and redemption road movie. And Tommy Lee Jones is just wonderful. How come this movie didn’t get Best Picture? It’s just a masterpiece. I would see it again. I am trying really hard to see one movie a week in a theater. It was so nice to absolutely love a movie, everything about it. I was replaying it in my head all night long. The entire movie theater’s audience consisted of me, and two gray haired ladies in the back. Wait! I’ve got gray hair too. Jeez. I’m one of those ladies now. Shit! Me and my popcorn, out for a nice late afternoon matinee. Is this liberation or a tragedy? I’m not sure.
Speaking of tragedies, I can’t stop getting all welled up over Dana Reeves death – the widow of Christopher – and she just died of lung cancer. I didn’t know her – well, I met her once at a Reeves Foundation benefit party. Anyway, while I was on the stair master at the gym, watching TV, I saw some footage of Dana & Chris together towards the end of Chris’s life. The look of love on Christopher Reeves face – just looking at his wife -- was profoundly moving to me. Actually, come to think about it, he wasn’t even looking right at her – he was seated in a wheel chair and she was talking behind him. So he was sort of glancing up, listening to her, but smiling with such sweet, appreciative intimacy. I think she was squeezing his shoulder. Oh, gawd. So tragic. I am so sad for her kids.
But the footage they had on TV felt more than tragic, it was haunting somehow. It was as if they were sharing an in-joke with each other even though they were in this interview and even though they were also totally in whatever discussion they were having. They looked at each other like, “Can you believe how weird our lives turned out?” Or “Is this some crazy dream we’re having? I’m so glad I’m with you while I’m having it.” Like that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a look like that between a husband and wife – so genuine, so trying to be casual, but so filled with love and appreciation and humor – on both sides -- without being smarmy or falsely intense. And then, I just can’t believe she got cancer right after he died.
She must have wanted to tell him about it so much. I’m sure she knew he would have wanted to be with her through her ordeal. There must have been so many eerie, familiar hospital moments she probably wished she could tell him about. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to make heaven real, just for them to be together. How could it just be that they’ll never have that last laugh together? Oh, man. It’s like she really died of a broken heart and the only way her body could figure out how to do it was to get lung cancer. She must have thought, “Wow, my grief probably is making me sick, maybe even making the cancer grow. And then you want the grief to have it’s fair due – it is enormous. It is so big it could kill you. It almost becomes like if you don’t let it kill you, you’re dishonoring your grief. But then, I want to live! I have so much to live for. Or maybe it’s just this freak accident, here I am with lung cancer – and I never smoked. Think about it, lung cancer. My body can’t breathe anymore.”
And in the end, she died. Oh.
After my brother Mike died, and then I had to go through cancer treatment, there were so many things I wanted to tell him. That was the most excruciating part of it – wanting to tell Mike about the snippy nurse or the stuttering doctor. Or just wanting to be able to look up at Mike and widen my eyes with someone who so totally knew how humiliating and discombobulating everything was at the hospital. But he was gone. Of course at that time, I had a vague idea that Mike was with me, in some spirit-y know-it-all-way. And I did have some dear friends with me all the time. But, I swear, it’s nearly impossible to go through something like that and not let yourself think that the other person is watching you somehow, some way. But they aren’t. And seeing Christopher Reeves’ wife on that television clip – well, what a terrible tragedy. I bet Christopher Reeves thought, “After I’m dead, she’s so wonderful, she’s get over this terrible ordeal I’ve had and marry someone great who’s not paralyzed.” At least that’s what I would imagine what he probably felt. And yet – no. She just died, too. Their own story is so much more filled with super-heroism, love and triumph and tragedy than anything that he ever did in movies.
Life is so fucking precarious. And then, even as we are alive and healthy, how much of it do we truly appreciate anyway? Yesterday I was reading this Buddhist quarterly, “Triangle,” and there was a sentence in one of the articles that I have been turning over and over in my mind. I can’t remember the phrase exactly, but it was some comment about how we almost never have a direct experience with reality (even the reality we are capable of experiencing) because we are so intent on projecting our preconceived egos onto everything and every situation we encounter. We are constantly spinning everything that happens through the filter that supports the ego we absolutely must protect.
Obviously, I have thought of that before and read about that before – it’s not a new idea for me by any means. But reading it this time, it really took hold of me. I was aware as I was doing this myself during the day, like my mind has it’s own P.R. department and everything has to go through that department first. I’m sure this is the way our minds have evolved – otherwise we’d be like babies and every experience would take enormous mental energy to digest. But even while it makes things much more efficient for us, it robs us of a certain visceral authenticity. We become that type of parent who we already know what they’re going to say about this or that, even before we tell them about it. And so what’s the point of telling them anything?
I think this is why meditation is so important. I mean, for me, at least. I’m not making any proclamations for everybody else. The kind of meditation I was trained to do, the one I get the most out of, is all about body awareness. It’s a mindfulness style of meditation with the use of breath and body awareness to focus the attention. It has been really helpful to me to concentrate on what something feels like. Say, I feel sad – if I just stop and let myself have that feeling of sadness, it dissolves so much faster. I can visualize it: this sensation of something getting poured into the pit of my stomach; this doomy liquid sadness that I can almost put my finger in: my heart physically feels heavier, my breathing is shallower. Anyway, it’s helpful to concentrate on this, it actually distracts me from what I’m feeling low about in the first place. Then I remind myself: life includes a lot of sadness. Happiness is probably not even what we were evolved to feel all that much of the time. And I don’t try to push the feeling away, I just try to let myself feel it. And remember that I will eventually not feel this way.
AGH. Why I am writing this? It’s like I’m writing it to myself, I guess, to reinforce these ideas to myself. My personal strategies for dealing with natural or rather, typical daily mood shifts. Sometimes I don’t even want the highs of the day to be so high because I know my body will make a subtle compensatory shift later – not dramatic in my case, I’m not bi-polar or anything, just what seems right. Like a muscle got taxed and now another muscle will soon be sore, one I didn’t even think might be compensating for the over-taxed muscle.
I think what I’m saying to myself is that I need to start meditating again. But when? Just finding the time to meditate is stressful. The meditating just relieves the stress of finding the time to meditate. It’s like years ago when I saw a therapist in West L.A. and the traffic was so bad that every time I got there I spent most of my time talking about how horrible the traffic in L.A. was. Then it occurred to me that I could stop going and I would not have anything to complain about anymore.
Oh, here’s another thing I’ve been thinking about. New Scientist Magazine, which I’ve also been reading this week, has several articles about belief and the advantages of belief. They talk about type one errors and type two errors that pattern seeking humans make. A type one error is in seeing a pattern that does not really exist. A type two error is in NOT seeing a pattern that does exist. Michael Shermer writes a lot about this in “How We Believe.” But I swear, I need to be hit with a concept about twenty times before it really, really sinks in. In any case, type two errors are potentially much costlier than type one errors. A type one error might be, “When I’m angry, the tigers run after me.” And if someone gets angry and the tiger doesn’t jump out of the bushes, so what? It’s better to be extra vigilant than dead. But a type two error might be in NOT seeing that when someone gets angry, the tigers rush after them. The cost of not seeing that pattern is death. So it’s makes sense that we tend towards more pattern seeking than might be accurate.
So where do I do this in areas other than religious areas? This is what I’m wondering about today.