Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘daughters’ Category

bradjen.jpg

Four winters ago, toward the end of my Hollywood period, my wife Carol, Leila, and I house-sat for the woman who directed Skipped Parts: the movie. She and her husband had this monster truck of a house that the Welch family of Welches Grape Juice and Jelly built under the Griffith Observatory there in Griffith Park. The Welches planted grapevines all over the mountain that is now an upscale L.A. neighborhood. The house had six marble staircases, a veritable nightmare for a couple with a two-year-old daughter. More than once I called Carol on the cell phone because I couldn’t find her, even though I knew she was somewhere in the house.

Tamra, the director, who is wonderful in every way, is married to a nice guy named Michael Diamond who is in a band called the Beastie Boys. They had some interesting friends, coming in and out of the house. On their son’s birthday, Michael, whose friends call him Mickey D., played disc jockey all afternoon while the kids yelled and ran through the garden and down by the pool. I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs he played. They were all on vinyl record albums.

Normally, it would be bad form for a house-sitter to mention this stuff, but they have since moved, so I think it’s okay now. I enjoyed the winter, in spite of the constant struggle to keep Leila from tumbling down steps. They had a screening room where we watched eight-foot tall Telly Tubbies dance and fall down backwards. Imagine that.

. . telletubs.jpg

But this blog is not about house-sitting; it’s about fan mail. You see, street kids in L.A. stand on the corners of major intersections selling these things called Star Maps. Tourists buy them and drive around Hollywood, looking for the houses where their favorite movie stars live. So far as I know, the Star Map addresses are wrong. For instance, they gave the address where we were staying as belonging to Brad Pitt. This was back when he was still with Jennifer Aniston, so far as anyone knew.

Later, I asked Tamra and neither Brad Pitt nor Jennifer Aniston had ever lived there. Neither had ever visited the house or lived nearby, but this didn’t stop a daily dribble of cars from driving by the front gate while tourists craned their necks and sometimes even touched our mailbox. Once or twice a week, an airplane or helicopter swooped over the pool and some pushy type leaned out to take my daughter’s photograph.

Once we got past the fear of a nutcase fame-chaser climbing over the fence, we weren’t bothered by the gawkers. Heck, we probably would have had tourists anyway, if they’d known it was a Beastie Boy house.

But the thing was — the mail. Brad and Jennifer got a lot of mail. Someone must have posted the address on the internet. It tapered off later, but the first few weeks brought ten or twenty letters a day. I guess if I’d known where Brad lived I could have boxed up his mail and taken it to him. It would have made a nice icebreaker with Jennifer. But I didn’t know and I don’t think they wanted the mail anyway, so I did what any other normal American would do with a pile of unsolicited mail addressed to Brad Pitt — I opened it.

Not all of it, of course. I had better things to do, like watching eight-foot tall Telly Tubbies jump out of holes in artificial turf. But I opened enough to get the general drift.

I used to receive fan mail myself. Nothing like Brad and Jennifer, mind you, but enough to establish a pattern. Very few were scary. Most of the writers said they enjoyed my books and I should keep writing. Sometimes, guys who’d recently lost girlfriends would get drunk and write these two a.m. twelve-page rave-ons, putting down all the pain they would never dump on their friends. A surprising number of girls wrote to tell me how their boyfriends were in bed.

“I don’t much like him and I would break up with him but he’s so good at . . . ” and then they would describe a procedure I’m not sure is physically possible.

A number of letters started out, “I always wanted to write Such-and-So but then he died, so I decided I should write you before you die.” My not dying years ago seems to have gratified many readers.

Very rarely, someone would say, “I’ve had such an interesting life, everyone tells me I should be a writer. How about if I tell you my story and you type it up and we’ll split the money.” These letters tended to come from guys in prison. My theory is Sex and Sunsets was one of the few hardbacks with Sex in the title, so it sold well in prison libraries. Whatever the cause, I used to be the swamp where prison mail went to die.

Nowdays, I don’t get much post office reader mail. It comes in over MySpace or the Timsandlin.com guest book. I enjoy hearing from readers, although the occasional angry person can be trying. I got a message the other day from a man who said he would have been a best-selling author if he lowered himself to writing sex scenes, the way I do. Humorous fiction brings out the hate in people.

But enough about me, let’s get back to Brad Pitt: Before I grew bored and quit reading his mail, I probably opened twenty letters and not one followed the drift that I get in my mail. No one said, “I like your work,” or “Congratulations, Brad!” or even “I wanted to write you before you died…” Every letter to Brad wanted something from him.

They wanted him to read their script. They wanted him to get them a job as a producer. They wanted him to introduce them to Jennifer Lopez. A lot of them started out, “You’ve had luck and I’ve never had luck and I deserve to be as famous as you, therefore you owe me . . .” So on. So forth. A bunch came at once demanding that he stop smoking on screen. It must have been a campaign because those all hit in one week, then stopped. Any number of the letter writers simply wanted money. Postal spare-change artists.

So, here are the morals to my story: First, don’t write Brad Pitt, asking him to do something for you- The address is wrong. Second, don’t write the federal government and tell them I opened Brad’s mail. I will deny it. Third, don’t write me, asking me to stop smoking on screen. I don’t smoke and I’m not on anyone’s screen. Fourth, don’t go looking for any Beastie Boys over by Griffith Park. They moved. Fifth, don’t send me a CD and ask me to forward it to Mickey D. I don’t know him that well. I was his house-sitter, for Chrissake.

I can’t think of a sixth.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A couple years ago Randolph Proust, his lovely wife Chelsey, and their children Lester and Brittania camped at Lava Creek Campground in Yellowstone National Park. One hot afternoon, after lunch, a young cinnamon-colored black bear wandered into the campground and commenced to pop open various bear-proof trash receptacles. Randolph decided he would get a cute photo by smearing Sioux Bear honey across Lester’s lips and chin.

“Think cuddly thoughts,” Lester’s mother said before sending the boy off to bond with nature’s wonder.

The next day, when interviewed by the Jackson Hole News and Guide at the Lake Hotel Hospital, Mr. Proust said, “I didn’t dream the Park Service would allow bears to roam freely if they weren’t tame. My kids were raised on Berenstein Bears, Brother Bear, Bear in the Big Blue House. We came to Yellowstone to watch Yogi and Boo Boo steal picnic baskets.”

Randolph’s daughter clutched a Teddy Bear to her chest and cooed, “Winnie the Pooh bit off Lester’s nose.”

I thought of this story the other day when I ran into Roger Ramsey at Hard Drive Café where we was skimming back and forth across the internet, searching for happy-go-lucky dairy products.

“I know I’ve heard of Mr. Cheddar Curd.” Roger’s teeth gnashed in determination. “I just can’t find him. Look at this. There’s a Japanese anime starring the Tofu Twins. I can use that.”

I ordered a half-caff, extra dry, soy vanilla cappuccino and came back to Roger and his computer. “Why are you Googling anthropomorphic cheese?” I asked.

“Because Maurey rented Finding Nemo for Scarlet and now she refuses to eat fish?”

“Maurey or Scarlet?”

“Scarlet. Maurey never would touch my trout.”

Maurey is Roger’s wife. Scarlet Gilia is their six-year-old daughter. Roger calls her Scarlet and Maurey calls her Gilia. Maurey is an ovo-lacto vegetarian and Roger is a hunting guide. It’s a marriage made on the second ring of hell.

“Maurey did it on purpose. All those cute little fish and crustaceans love their families and friends, and the evil humans want nothing more than to slaughter them. What does she think fish eat if not each other?”

“My theory is Disney characters live on fruit juice and Dove bars.”

“Maurey’s got Scarlet so she won’t eat any food that sings and dances. It began with the stupid pig in Charlotte’s Web. Then Benny the Bull from ‘Dora the Explorer.’ She hasn’t touched lamb since the damn thing followed to Mary to school one day, and don’t even get me started on Bambi.”

This was interesting. I sat beside Roger and watched him fly from cartoon site to site. There were hundreds of them. “So Scarlet won’t eat anything other than vegetables?”

“I nipped that in the bud. Went to the library and checked out a video called “Veggie-Tales.” It’s a bunch of Christian cucumbers and tomatoes and the like, teaching each other values. Scarlet sleeps with an artichoke heart now. She’s been cutting out little velvet skirts and blouses for her carrots.”

“How about apples and oranges?”

“I downloaded a Fruit of the Loom commercial. She’s got nowhere left to turn except macaroni and cheese, and as soon as I find Mr. Cheddar Curd, I can put a stop to that.”

I tried to see the logic in Roger’s logic, but it zipped right over my head. “Why are you trying to starve your daughter to death?”

“I’m not trying to starve Scarlet. I’m showing her those idiot kids’ shows have given everything a personality. I’ll drive her back to Happy Meal burgers, like a normal child. Look at this site.”

Roger stopped on the Boohbah Home Page. Boohbahs appear to be colorful amoebas with deep, creative emotions capable of expressing joy and sadness. “Better not show her that one,” Roger said. “Lord knows what she might swear off.”

He switched to Thomas the Tank Engine, which is a show about selfish, jealous, bitter trains who treat each other like human beings. “It’s not just animals,” Roger said. “There’s a new show on Disney about talking screwdrivers. It’s ripped off a PBS show where a front end loader cries when it doesn’t get its way.”

“Bob the Builder.”

“This baloney didn’t exist when I was a kid. You never saw the Three Stooges worrying about a cream pie’s self-esteem.”

“It’s been going on forever,” I said. “John Ruskin called it the Pathetic Fallacy.”

“Somebody got rich selling pet rocks. I wouldn’t call that pathetic.”

“Back then pathetic didn’t mean politics or sports or anything it’s used for now. It meant empathetic. Ruskin had a peeve against angry clouds or majestic mountains. He said no matter how much it rains, the clouds are never angry. A cloud is nothing but a cloud. The river is not an old man. Tumbleweeds don’t tumble because they are laid back.”

“What’s that got to do with forcing a rare rib eye down Scarlet’s throat. I won’t have a daughter so arrogant as to remove herself from the food chain.”

“Ruskin’s was a worthless complaint. Writers couldn’t write without the Pathetic Fallacy. Humans couldn’t be human. Ancient Greeks thought the sun, the moon, the oceans, even the earth itself were all gods who behaved like dysfunctional families. Even us modern types created God in man’s image.”

“Not the other way around?”

“Everything is personal to humans. That’s what sets us apart from the monkeys.”

Roger yelled, “Eureka!”

“You understand my philosophical treatise?”

“Chuck E. Cheese! She’ll never eat macaroni and cheese again.”

“Isn’t Chuck E. a mouse?”

Roger leaned toward his computer and peered at Chuck. “Oh, yeah. Can’t let her find this one. She already goes hysterical at the sight of D-Con.”

“What if your plan doesn’t work?” I asked Roger. “What if you’re creating an anorexic? Girls today have enough neuroses without thinking their lunch is getting in touch with its inner pasta.”

“I see the light,” Roger said.

“You’ve discovered a way to use your brain?”

“I’ll write a diet book. It’ll make millions of dollars.”

“Are these the same millions you made off of self-cleaning barbecue sauce?”

“Nobody ever lost a dime selling weight loss schemes. I’ll call it the Yellowstone Diet. We’ll turn South Beach into a Trivial Pursuit answer.”

“Or Jeopardy question.”

“Every woman in America will clamor for my DVDs and CD ROMS.”

I finished my cappuccino and dug a finger into the bottom foam. “So, what are you selling exactly?”

“Tapes and movies of happy food groups. Living lunch. Whenever a woman puts anything whatsoever in her mouth, we’ll convince her she’s murdering Tinkerbell.”

“Or whoever.”

Roger grinned. “Whomever.”

P.S. Someone finally explained to me that 🙂 is code for openness to a sexual adventure. I’m going to have to rethink my relationship with a whole bunch of you readers out there.

Read Full Post »

My daughter Leila turned seven last month and she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. For a couple of years, she dreamed of managing a hotel in China, when she grows up. She researched hotel management and knew the track to get there. Then, she moved on to designing clothes. She’s got talent. Lately, she switched to jewelry design.

Sunday night, I mentioned this lack of focus to me wife, Carol. “By the time I was seven I knew writing novels was my calling. I had my entire career mapped out, and I knew what I had to do to get there.”

Carol said, “Yes, but you’re a freak.”

I’m thinking the true freak — me — is the one who doesn’t even know he’s a freak. Self-awareness blows the gig.

I was right around seven when I wrote my first joke. I wrote it for my cousin to tell in the family Christmas Eve talent show. Here it is: “Did you hear about the Cherokee Chief Red Cloud who drank three gallons of Lipton tea. He was found, drowned in his tipi.” I was seven for God’s sake. What do you expect?

At nine, I had my first publication — a poem in either Highlights for Children of Jack and Jill magazine. Sometimes I tell interviewers one and sometimes the other, but the truth is I don’t remember. The poem was entitled “Trees.” There were leaves in it.

Inspired by publication, I wrote basically every day until my second publication — Sex and Sunsets — when I was thirty-seven. S&S stayed in print twenty years, until last summer. There have been six screenplays based on it, but no movies.

The first joke I wrote for public performance came in junior high. My friend Ronny was running for vice-president of the student council and he wanted a laugh to open his speech.

I wrote him this: “If Chad attacks Libya from the rear, do you think Greece will help?”

The first novel I wrote was The Battle of Bitter Creek, and one of the blog readers wrote me to say he has a copy. Amazingly enough. I’m not sure I even have a copy of the manuscript. It’s set in 1888. The spoiled wife of the owner of the railroad tells the residents of Bitter Creek, Wyoming, they must put clothes on their horses, dogs, cats, and chickens, or the railroad will never stop there again. The hero is R.C. Nash, a name I used thirty years later in Honey Don’t, my political farce. There’s another guy named Overbite O’Brien. The book was fairly low end.

Now, fifty years after the tipi joke and thirty-five years after the bad Bitter Creek novel, I have my first cowboy novel coming out next week. For those of you who keep score, it’s my ninth published book. Rowdy in Paris is set in 2004, I think. Rowdy Talbot goes to Paris to retrieve his stolen belt buckle and finds himself ass deep in a plot to destroy both McDonalds and Starbucks.

Riverhead/Putnam is publishing the book and because the other eight weren’t best sellers, they aren’t investing any money in publicity or marketing. No author tour. No free books to Book Sense stores. No co-op.

(Quick lesson in co-op: My friend who writes thrillers told me Barnes and Noble ordered 12,000 of his newest book. I said, “How did you swing that?”
He said, “My publisher is paying three dollars per copy for B&N to stock the book. It’ll go on the New Arrivals shelf.” In radio, this is condemned as payola. In publishing, it’s co-op.)

The only prayer this book has of selling enough copies for me to find a publisher willing to put out the next GroVont book (I’m on page 320) is if something happens to stick Rowdy on Putnam’s radar. To oversimplify, if they think the book will be big, the book will be big.

This can’t happen without you mighty blog readers. You want me to keep writing blogs and books, give me some support. You don’t, that’s okay too. The world won’t be dramatically different without my writing.

But, if you are of a mind to pitch in, there are two possibilities. 1) If you or your college roommate, ex-lover, or the in-law you can’t abide works for big media, tell them you know about a cool book.

Okay, that’s not likely. Second, if Rowdy makes a good run on the Amazon Top Five Million chart, it might get my publisher’s attention. Amazon measures velocity, as opposed to overall numbers. A book that sold 200 in the last hour will rate above a book that sold 20,000 last month. Thusly, when the guy at the New York Times Book Review said Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty sucked because no on wants to read about sex between old people, the book jumped 30,000 slots the next morning. Which is two books, if you’re in six figure-ville, but Jimi was okay to start with. The dynamite review in USA Today gave it an even better kick.

So, in order to make an Amazon run and hit my publisher in the noggin with a stick, you all not only need to buy Rowdy in Paris, you need to buy Rowdy in Paris at the same time.

Let’s say Thursday evening, January 24, at 6 p.m. Pacific time, which is 9 p.m. on the East Coast. You folks in Europe or wherever you are can figure it out. If you have any desire to read Rowdy or more blogs, buy the book between 6 and 7 PDT, the night of January 24. Buy several. They make outstanding gifts for loved ones.

Maybe, we’ll make a difference. Also, order books you have no intention of picking up from the chains. It’ll get me in their computers. Buy the backlist from your local independent bookstore, or go to my web site and buy first editions from Valley Books.

I would love to publish book #10 and it won’t happen without you guys.

p.s. The Chad-Libya-Greece joke is in Rowdy. Nothing is ever lost.

Read Full Post »