Learning from Mistakes

So, I’m doing this 21-day challenge that a friend invited me to do. It’s like this Deepak Chopra / Oprah Winfrey thing that’s supposed to raise your vibration. Each day there’s a task and a meditation and an inspirational quote. Today’s inspirational quote is:

“Learning from mistakes is a great lesson for growth.”

Which turned out to be extra-appropriate for today, because today, like a dumbass, I left my purse in the back seat of the car when I went to the gym. Less than an hour later, as I was treading on the treadmill, Paul’s phone started blowing up with fraud alerts for one of our credit cards, and then for another.

We left the gym to go home and figure out what was happening. Because my purse was where I’d left it in the back seat of the car, it took a few more minutes for me to realize that the lock had been jimmied, and my wallet removed from my purse!

Thus began a gauntlet afternoon of talking to security, filing police reports and calling banks and credit card companies. One thing I learned today is that several credit card companies, even after you press the option to “report a lost or stolen card” still send you up a tall phone tree. In under an hour, the culprit traveled from spending $2000 at Nordstrom’s at the Grove to Century City Mall to spend an additional $1500 at the Macy’s… possibly while I was on hold waiting to tell Macys to block the card.

Part two of the bureaucratic saga will begin tomorrow, when I set out to replace my driver’s license, global entry card, and yes, my social security card. (I know, I know, despite the fact that it’s clearly sized to keep in a wallet, you should never keep you social security card in a wallet. I did mention I was a dumbass, right?)

So anyway –I guess this is as an amusing time as any to mention that in ten days, I’ll be taking a five-day road trip across the country to start a temporary job in Florida. It might be nice to have a credit card or ATM card on the road. And the only thing they really emphasized at the job was that, in addition to my driver’s license, I would definitely need my social security card to show to Human Resources. (No problem, I thought, I’ll just put it here in my wallet so I don’t forget!)

Learning from mistakes is a great lesson for growth!

(I also went to a screen of Little Women which I enjoyed, as any would-be writer and lover of books would.)

When It Gets Challenging

It’s a tough time of year. The weather is hot, both in the way that August is always hot and the way that portends the ever-nearing climate apocalypse. The autumn is nigh. In the way that August always precedes the too-fast downhill slope into the holidays and the end of the year.

We’re housesitting for a few days in a beautiful house with air-conditioning and a calm, well-behaved dog. An ideal writer’s retreat… but I am not being the ideal writer. It makes me feel ashamed of passing hours lacking in accomplishments, and it’s all too easy to make the mental jump from passing of hours to the passing of ones life.

I have my reasons for minimal output, as maybe writers always do. So far, 2019 has been yet another year of almosts, of promises, of feigned excitement and “contracts on their way from business affairs,” that in the end turn into nothing. Some “untruths” are no doubt innocent, others intentional — they are plentiful enough to have some of each.

So what should I be writing? I have two stories, a feature in need of a rewrite, and three feature outlines all begun, and I find myself in a state of paralysis, unable to make a good dive into any of them.

There is the pervasive Hollywood myth, that I am realizing is much the same as myths perpetuated by abusers everywhere, that there is some right choice, some story, that (if you can execute it in a way that’s transcendent) will make the relationship healthy, will make the abuser act not act like a sociopath. If you can just be GREAT ENOUGH then THIS TIME all the promises will be made good on. THIS TIME you will be pulled from your indentured servitude into the rosy future — if you can pass all the tests and reach it.

I’ve come to recognize this as the psychological fuckery it is, and I don’t believe in it anymore… except when I do. Like a seven-year-old coming to certain conclusions about Santa, I’m still like, “but WHAT IF?” What if he does exist and there are awesome presents that you get because you’re good?

So, there’s still this temptation to place an irrational weight on choosing which project to invest in, because what if one of them has the potential to be a project that CHANGES EVERYTHING and what if I choose wrong? Or, what if NONE of them will change everything, but there’s a project that will at least give me personal satisfaction, but instead I’m choosing to chase promises and pots of gold at ends of rainbows again?

At this point, either my compass is so messed up or — because it’s actually impossible for anyone to predict — I’m having difficulty even choosing what will give personal satisfaction. Which project, a year from now, will be worth the frustration of finishing a draft and realizing I need to tear it down to the bones and build it again and then again?

So here I am at a fork in the road, unable to choose a way forward, waiting for clarity.

At least there’s a pool.




Beth Ann

Beth Ann (not her real name, for privacy) is the homeless lady who lives in our neighborhood. She used to perch on a brick planter near the entrance to the parking lot until the CVS asked her not to sit there as customers didn’t like. Then she moved across the street. And then, when the doctor gave her some “water pills” that make her pee a lot, she crossed another street to a bus stop bench in front of the McDonalds. The bench is probably more comfortable than the planter, but there’s no shade of any kind, so she is in full sun for the entire day.

When I come to see her she says, “Oh hey, darlin,'” and we sit and chat for a few minutes. She tells me a little about her health and doctors’ visits now that she’s approved for Medi-Cal, what the mysterious construction site on the corner is going to be (she knows from making friend with one of the workers) and how she was born in the same hospital as Mayor Garcetti and about the time that Mayor Garcetti got our of his limo to talk to her, telling her she might want to go to a shelter for the night because there was going to be a hard rain. She told him she appreciated the advice but I don’t know where she slept that night.

When I go to visit I take a few bottles of frozen water, and whatever I have on hand for food. Today I had cut melon, a slice of pizza and some thai noodles and a Snicker’s bar. Usually I try to do something more nutritious like eggs or cheese sticks or a salad, so I added three dollars rolled up in a rubber band, and resisted the urge to apologize or make excuses when I handed her the bag.

Before I knew Beth Ann by name, I would sometimes see her reading a book next to her pile of belongings, and I’d think, if I were a homeless person, that would be me. A white woman, off by herself, reading a book. I spoke to her once or twice, maybe offered a dollar, but didn’t engage too much. The reasons seem both obvious, but also are not that easy to articulate. Maybe the responsibility seemed too much — maybe I was worried I would find out things she really needed (like a room in my house!) and I wouldn’t be ready. to go that far and I’d feel guilty. Maybe she was a reminder of the overwhelming problem we have of homeless everywhere you go or look in Los Angeles now, and I didn’t want to think about it.

But then, in the era of the NextDoor app, a woman I’ve never met in our neighborhood posted that she was starting a “Lotsa Helping Hands” calendar for Beth Ann, and that if we got 14 people, everyone could stop by only once every two weeks and we would still cover every day. And that drew me in, even though we only got as high as nine and not every day is covered. I’m really grateful to that neighbor for the rather brave thing she did, courting the ire of the NIMBY’s to make the request. When I see a Beth Ann on the bench, I see “Beth Ann” and not just a problem. Even though I still feel sad for the situation, I feel hope too, that things can get better for her.

The HBO Writers Fellowship

Everybody wants in.  How can you tell? They opened the submission gates this morning, and the portal, WithoutaBox, is completely overwhelmed. I have the submit page open in two browsers and the windows are blank, trying to load, on both. Paul is texting our friend Nikki, and the situation is the same all around.

The reason for the virtual mob scene rushing the portal is that submissions are limited to the first thousand people. While recent programs have required letters of recommendation from people in the industry, this one does not.  Theoretically, anyone with the writing chops–even without connections, even outside the U.S.–could gain a spot in the fellowship program. And unlike most festivals and Fellowships like Nicholl, there isn’t even an entry fee.

From the standpoint of diversity, it’s bold and brilliant to remove money and connections as filters.  From the practical standpoint of limited bandwidth, it’s  like if they’d told all the folks below deck on the Titanic they could try to get on the life boats too.

UPDATE…One hour later.

The page loaded!  And it reads…


The lifeboats have set sail, but sadly neither Paul nor I made it on one.


Was lucky enough to see this article in Deadline containing the news that HBO was going to issue some waivers, by request, allowing some of the  people who had had trouble with the website to upload, up to a new, undisclosed cap.

I sent the email as described but have not heard back yet as to whether I made it in under the cap.  I imagine folks there are scrambling to catch up, so I hope for the best. It made me feel better about the day.:)


The day after… Many people, including yours truly, have not received a response, yay or nay, from their waiver requests.  Anxiety and speculation has spurred a new community:  #WAIVERWATCH on Twitter.


Though I never received a response to my initial request. I wrote a follow-up email yesterday (Friday) and got this congenial response today (Saturday afternoon).

“Thank you for your understanding and patience.  We received 4,000 requests for waivers.  Unfortunately we cannot grant them all so we are afraid we have to say no this time around.  We sincerely hope you will consider applying in the future.”

So that is the end of that.  Interestingly, no news outlets have reported on this for three days, which seems to me like not the best reporting. If you start a story, you might want to devote a few lines to resolving it, no? There was extensive coverage of the launch a week ago, some coverage of the upload debacle three days ago and since then…nothing.  It seems like someone would have wanted to call and ask HBO for a statement, and it seems like HBO would want to make one. saying something along the lines of what they wrote to me to the other 3500 people might go a ways toward re-establishing some goodwill.  It also seems like a no-brainer to post something similar on their fellowship landing page.

I have two theories about the absence of coverage:

1) They have a PR department and this was their advice.  There is a ton of just “clamping-down” on information in this town as a problem-solving mechanism, and this was just more of it. I’m always amazed by how pervasive the No-response-is-a-valid-response attitude is in this town.

2) People higher up had the “vision” but no one with power was really engaged on the ground. Thus the lower-downs had to “execute,” and there wasn’t a lot of thought as to what kind of extra training and support that might require.

Maybe I’m just projecting this because yesterday, at my academic day job I had 160 applicants (students to a grad program) to reject.  For various reasons there’s no method to do this en masse; each rejection  has to be entered individually.  I hoped to get everyone’s done in a single day to prevent anxiety and speculation on some chat board that might exist, but somehow, by the time my co-worker and I dealt with a catering order that didn’t come, the unhoused kid having a psychotic break in the courtyard, urgent travel arrangements for some impromptu guests and a few other things—only applicants with names beginning with A thru F got rejected. The others won’t get their news until Monday, or maybe later. Not ideal. But when you have to choose between a) sending an email to some poor schlub you’re never going to see who’s probably guessed what’s up anyway; and b) preventing missteps that might piss off the important person who signs your performance reviews and your paychecks, guess who wins?  So I’m figuring the folks tasked with those 4000 waiver requests are my counterparts…only at HBO?

Hollywood and Highland, Friday Night

The short Hispanic woman selling blinking plastic light-sticks from a shopping cart offers a collegial fist bump to the guy in the wheel chair selling bunches of roses from his lap, then continues down the block.

A black man, so thin he swims in his all black shirt and trousers, break dances next to an oversize speaker. Popping, locking, giving it his all, beads of sweat on his bald head when he takes off his top hat with sequined, Shamrock-green band.

At the end of the song, no one puts money in his jar. No one buys roses, or light-sticks–not that I see.

But perhaps the night is still young. Maybe at a later hour, there are buyers on Hollywood Boulevard to complement the sellers.

This all takes place on the sidewalk in front of the America Eagle, with its clean glass storefront underneath the sign that exhort in block letters: LIVE YOUR LIFE.

Next to these words, a ten-foot photo of two women, elegant and gaunt, sylphs haunting a cool green forest. Their shoulder blades jut under loose, summer linen, hinting at wings.

The wheelchair guy moves to try a different spot. The black dancer searches his playlist for a better song.

The 217 bus comes and takes me away.