Off my high horse

Yeah, yeah… It’s an affliction.

So the comment from my dear friend Sheree on my last post made me think. I wonder whether sometimes I simply sound like a blow hard?

I know! I know…shocking as that may sound, work with me here for a moment.

My last post helped me to realize something about taking a stand on things. See…taking a stand–a real, live stand–is something I usually try to avoid. I mean, I have stances on plenty of topics, but I usually keep them to myself or prefer to present them to people and in situations where they won’t offend people. So…I let the blow hards be the blow hards, while I am happy to (usually) remain the jester in the court of public opinion. It’s the Minnesotan in me.

I find myself today wondering what this animal “taking a stand” really means? Was I sounding like one of those blow hards when I spouted off like I did yesterday? Honestly, I don’t know. I can only speak to my intention, which was to demonstrate the series of mental events that are leading me to take some unesxpected actions in my life. It surprises me–and somewhat embarasses me–that the impetus for such action….well, not exactly the impetus…the straw that broke the camel’s back was something as shallow and selfish as feeling like I’m paying too much for gas.

Yet, for some reason, it, in synchronicity with a number of other events in my life, has shed some light on an interesting new path at this point in my journey. For some reason, I’ve begun to not only understand the fragility of the world in intellectual terms, but in real life terms. In very personal ways.

The reason for yesterday’s post is that this strange turn in thinking has compelled me to something I had previously avoided…action. …And it feels strange and wonderful and scary all at the same time. I don’t know exactly where it’s leading me–the way is still obscurred–but I feel it’s the right one.

For now, I am having lunch sometime next week with my new friend Rod at Messiah Lutheran Church to see what I can possibly contribute to their mission to help out the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis. In the and/or department, I also realize that this is a good time to take up my Catholic mantle again and pay a visit to St. Pat’s parish in St. Paul. It’s pretty poor–the Catholic version of Messiah, though maybe not quite as destitute. Perhaps that’s another place to explore.

…And, yes…I am riding my bike.

So…all that said, I still wonder… I think about guys evangelizing on street corners. Or people making impassioned speeches of any kind. When they make me feel uncomfortable, is it them being blow hards, or is it me being a dunderhead because I just don’t get it yet. …Or worse…I DO get it, but I don’t want to admit that the guy’s probably right.

Man…I’m going back to ridiculous pictures and corny captions. This other stuff is too damned heavy.

The fallacy of $2.00 per gallon

If life was a movie, this whole $2.00 plus a gallon for gas would be some great, big conspiracy. You know, throw the gullible public some “minor” problem to mask the greater and more insidious machinations of a corrupt government. It would be the surface peel of an onion that is very rotten–quite pungent–with each successive layer our hero would pry away.

Or…the whole thing would be some form of mind control. You know, get the masses to move beyond some psycholigical barrier–like $2.00 for a gallon of gas. Once you get them to accept that, who knows what they’ll buy, eh? You’re home free.

Then again…this isn’t a movie we’re in…is it?

I was listening to NPR in the car yesterday. They had some guy on from some non-partisan Washington think tank (no pun intended) that focuses on energy resources. The guy confirmed what I knew all along. The reason why our gas prices are so high is that the companies that pull it out of the ground and the companies that refine it are making more money per gallon of gas created (representing over $1.40 of the price of a gallon of gas that costs $2.00) than they did in years past. In a nutshell, they are enjoying record profits.

All of this, while the poor guys who pumps the stuff are making no more than 5 to 10 cents on each gallon sold. No wonder why they stock everything else in their stores. Gas is definitely a loss leader! And these margins are being squeezed even tighter. Further, we, the gas-buying public, experience our sticker shock at the retail outlet–not the oil well or the refinery–so we blame the guys pumping the gas for our fiscal misfortune.

It isn’t, however, all the oil guys’ fault. Studies show that, in spite of record-high gas prices, people are still buying gas-guzzling cars and actually driving MORE. One needs to ask, my fellow Americans, what’s up with that? Back in the 1970s, didn’t we call something kinda like this an energy crisis?

Think about it. Do you want your pocket book–and more, so much more–to be held hostage by oil companies, refineries, OPEC, et al., whose pockets are bulging with more and more of the fruits of your labor? I certainly hope not.

A week or so ago, I heard about a gas boycott that was supposedly going on. I guess it was perhaps on the news, but I didn’t hear about it. Luckily, someone mentioned it to me while I was standing in line at the grocery store. I had taken my bike there…whew! So…I decided regardless of whether the guy was right or wrong, I would go ahead and leave the Jeep and the Saturn in the driveway that day.

I’m thinking that another one of those days would be good soon. Maybe a week. Other countries do it–go on some sort of strike our boycott to show solidarity for a cause. Why not us? Is it because we don’t want to give up our creature comforts, even if it means sacrifice a little of our own flesh every time we fail to take action against some governmental or corporate injustice that is being perpetrated against us? Of course…when we start talking about stuff like that, we’re not just talking about gas anymore, are we? One might be tempted to ask, at this moment, do we live in a democracy or a consumerocracy.

And don’t think I’m acting the pot calling the kettle black. I’m right there with you folks. I’m the worst of the worst when it comes to standing up and being counted. Hell, I’m sitting here writing this thing IN MY FREAKIN’ RECLINER! Geeze!

For my part, though, I think I’m gonna get up out of the recliner. Start remembering what two great presidents–one real, one ficticious–said:

JFK — “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

Andrew Sheperd (THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT) — “Everybody knows (being) American isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight.”

Soon as I can, I’m getting me one of those hybrid cars. Yikes. And I am BIKING to Dunn Bros. today.

…Then there’s this little thing about some war in Iraq.

…And then there’s the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis.

Hmm….

On Golden (Cyber)Pond

Sunday morning… Ah..! Quiet.

You remember in the movie ON GOLDEN POND…oh, hell, just about any movie or TV show when some folks head up to some cabin way out in the boonies. It’s one of their favorite places in the world, but over the weeks or months or even years, life has intervened. As a result, they haven’t been there forever, and the place has laid dormant, ignored, and subject to the harsh will of entropy.

The car drives up. The people, all chatting and happy to be “going home” get out. Then the anvil hits them in the head. They look at the place; then they look at each other. No words need to be shared because their eyes say it all. “Holy shit! This place is an absolute dump!”

Unless the movie’s a horror movie, which in that case means that 80% of the people who just got out of the car are going to very soon die horrible, painful, gory, and very creative (if not improbable) deaths, then there is likely to be some quick montage showing these good people all pitching in to return the place to ship shape before some grand dinner (replete with free-flowing wine or other TRUE-th serum to loosen lips and pump up the presumed and underlying interpersonal tension).

They’ll sweep, they’ll mop. If there isn’t the obligatory clearing of cobwebs scene, the movie’s not worth its salt. And of course, there needs to be some happy, slapstick accident–a pail of water falls off a step ladder as one character is washing a grimy, old ceiling fan and douses a pretty girl, or some succh nonsense. And, of course, no clean up montage would be complete without the moment where everyne who pitched in stands in front of their masterpiece. It sparkles. It shines. It looks like a whole new place.

Coming back here (with the exception of the occasional drive-by) feels somewhat like getting out of that car and seeing how broken down some place of my fondest memories has gotten. Here I am, opening the door and sweeping the cobwebs out of my way, and I’m saying to myself, “Holy shit! This place is an absolute dump!”

So, there’s only one thing I can do. That’s to roll up my sleeves, get out the proverbial buckets and mops (read iBook having launched TypePad), and start putting the place back together again. …’Specially as I plan on staying for a while. This place is a GREAT place to write.

Mostly, I notice that the Exhibit G and M corners need work. A lot of it. Then, I’m not quite sure what to do about that Exhibit A area. This whole damned “iTunes revolution” thing has changed the way that I listen to music (crap! I sound like a commerical!) because I find myself NOT listening to “albums” so much anymore. Well, I’ll clean it up, anyway. It might come in handy later (especially if this thing turns out to be a horror movie. Music calms the savage beast, and all). Then, there’s a few improvements I’ve been thinking on for a time. Who knows? Maybe I’ll work on those, too.

So, dear reader, stand by for the montage. In the meantime, I will try to keep up the voice over, which in the movies is always in the form of some story that, of course, hints at some underlying conflict in the main character’s life. Not certain whether that’s what mine will do, but then again, this is TRUE LIFE.

Later, gators…

FADE OUT.

No bones about it, these two words are hands down a screenwriter’s favorite.

It’s an odd thing. We swear up and down that doing this is something we can’t live without, yet in the same breath say it’s one of most gut-wrenching and painful experiences in our lives.

The guy that will direct RUNAWAY BOYS, Tim McCann, who has been described as one of the “best pedigreed” indie film directors in the country, told Indiewire magazine that “writing a script is like cutting pieces of your skin off.” The only reason he wrote his own screenplays in the past is because he couldn’t find any others he liked. Aside from loving our script (for which we are thankful), he told us last summer as we met in our producers’ offices that one of the things he was glad about for being involved with the RUNAWAY BOYS movie project was the fact that he didn’t have to write the thing for once.

Even Robert McKee, arguably the most popular screenwriting guru out there today (remember Brian Cox’s excellent portrayal of him in ADAPTATION? Yep, he’s a real guy), said in a recent interview that “professional writers do not love to write…because they know how terribly dangerous and difficult it is to write.”

The only word I can think of to adequately sum all of this up? Paradoxical.

We run the race, and we run it to win. Yet, we know that–like anything truly worth it–it will not be easy. Far from it, as a matter of fact. We can only hope, in the end, that it will be worth it.

Today at 12:22 PM CDT, I typed those two wonderful, magical words. After months of toil, after far too many large mochas with no whipped cream and veggie medley sandwiches at Dunn Bros. Coffee. I hit that period key, saved the document, and quit out of Final Draft. Then I closed my computer, stuck it in my bag, and beat the hell out of Dunn Bros. because I didn’t want to break out in tears right there in front of all the other people trying to enjoy their coffee and goodies and conversation.

Then I called Lynn, and then I called Action Jackson. Then I called Debi. Then I called Jim Jorgensen, who was balsy enough to ask the author of this great novel to let me adapt it a screenplay. And I thanked them all for various and personal reasons. Then I printed the damn thing out and took Lynn out to lunch at Big Bowl to celebrate. Then I took a nap because I was exhausted: physically, mentally, spiritually.

Then I wrote this…because I miss all of you, and I miss this blog. And I knew after all this time and all this waiting, that (in the immortal words of Jerry McGuire) “it wasn’t complete, wasn’t nearly close to being in the same vicinity as complete, because I couldn’t share it with you.” Well, I am sharing it you.

I did it. I did it. I did it!

And, I have to be perfectly honest…there were times when I had my doubts I could.

And further, the oddest thing about this feeling is that as great and relieved as I feel at this moment, I know that I am not at the end, but merely at the beginning. Tomorrow, I get to read the thing through and see whether or not it sucks. Once over that hump…the real work begins.

Thanks for your patience, folks. It feels good to be back in TRUE LIFE.

See you tomorrow.