Woody Allen wrote a rebuttal to Dylan Farrow's article, and I'm not sure why I've read it. I've read so much since the Vanity Fair article, even reading some of the transcripts from their legal disputes, that I really don't need to know any more. I told myself not to read it, just avoid the triggers, don't do it.
But I read it. It's all of his old lines, incoherently lined up again, transparently manipulative and mean and full of lies, and maybe because of all of that I'm glad he wrote it and shared it. That's usually the sort of crap you are privy to in emails or letters when you are from a family as broken and abusive as Dylan's, or mine. That's usually the type of letter that is written to grandparents to confuse them a bit, give them some smoke screens to hide behind, give them conflicting accusations to consider. To have it shared in a major newspaper, when it can so easily be shot down, lie after lie? That's horrifying for the family on so many levels, but I'm hoping it's strengthening for Dylan to know that so many people understand and now see those games and defensive posturing, even as it might be brutally disappointing (oh, I totally admit I'm projecting here) that it's looking like he'll never do the right thing and be accountable.
Well, we'll also see who could possibly fall for maneuvers like that. We'll see through comment sections and Facebook conversations who needs to believe what.
We project ourselves all over these stories. Philip Seymour Hoffman, dead. Blog post after status update about addiction, a little about his, a lot about ours. About our state of affairs. About our way of seeing the whole thing. There I go but for the grace, or damned selfish like my ex, or I would never, or his poor children, or something in between. We project ourselves all over these stories like flickering film signalling the end of one reel, like the superimposed photos we used to get back from the Fotomat when the tiny sprockets didn't advance our film all the way to the next spot before we framed a second shot and hit the trigger again.
This is not a critique. This is a hallelujah. There is no other way we could talk like this all week about addiction, abuse, the long dovetailing stories of pain and escape, escape and pain.
We can only talk to ourselves about ourselves so much, and Celebrity Misfortune trumps Awareness Day 20 ribbons to one.
I saw Blue Jasmine. I wanted to watch all of the Oscar films, and I didn't pay for it, somehow that made it feel better, but I know it's not. I know if Dylan were my friend, the detail of what was bought or stolen would not mitigate watching. I know this because of a memory from my childhood I will tell you about in a minute.
Here's one thing about the movie, first, though: A pivotal scene involves domestic violence with a wall phone. Blue Jasmine is not a period piece. It's a contemporary movie with a pivotal scene showing domestic violence hinged on a wall phone call and using the wall phone as a weapon. Woody Allen is so full of shit that really, that's all I want to say. Who has a wall phone and fights about incoming calls? No one. Woody Allen, you are so full of shit.
Here's one of the most haunting physical memories of my father that I have. Well, not most haunting. But it ranks up there in the the top ten I can't shake. I could tell you other things that would, I am certain, make you feel murderous, or at least that's usually the response I've heard, so I wouldn't be surprised it that's what you would say, too. Anyway. Another day. What I mean is, this thing I'm about to tell you won't rank up there for you like other stories would, but it does for me as far as living in my bones.
I was 6 or 7 years old, and we were in the narthex of a large Lutheran church, my parents, my brother and I, walking out of a Sunday service. Our minister approached us and began talking to my father. My father stood behind me and put his large hands on my shoulders, firmly in a tight grip, and steered me to stop and face the minister. He kept his hands there and I listened as the minister praised some work my father had performed for the church, saying how valuable and good my father was, my mother beaming, my father's hands like a cement vice, like the opposite of the dead part of dead weight. I was stuck in the circle of all of them, steered and stuck, and I can't shake that feeling or the memory of wanting to scream about everybody's lies. This of course seems insane on one level, why bother to remember this when compared to so many other things I endured, this is a cakewalk of a memory, a French bon-bon, Easter flowers of a memory? I guess I took everything about that moment in, and the hypocrisy, the lie of it all, including my silence, sealed it with fire.
My life, maybe like yours, maybe the opposite of yours, has been marked by estrangements. I think about broken relationships in the Farrow-Allen situation. I think about Philip Seymour Hoffman's apartment, away from his partner and from his children. I think of my divorces, of family members in rehab or needing it, of times when lines were drawn, of being on all different sides of those different situations.
I recently reunited with my mother after a two-year estrangement, my life since I was 16 marked by several years on and off and on and more off with her. Short story: We're on when I'm strong and can manage it. I haven't seen my brother in about two decades. I recently learned he is in the deepest of mental health struggles and is most likely, this very moment, homeless in San Francisco, if he is alive. My dad, well over three decades, gone but never gone. My grandparents, I was estranged from them for the last years of their lives. Friends, exes, other relatives. Like all deep things, the worse thing you can do to me now is the easiest. Estrangement. Such a beautiful word on the surface, so Latin it begs for a French pronunciation. I say it again and again like poetry, like nonsense, until it loses its meaning and becomes just sounds, whispers.
Projecting is fine. Listening is better, but projecting is a step forward if it helps you show up there.
I think Cate Blanchett's character in Blue Jasmine was Woody Allen in a way he didn't intend. She schemes to recreate a comfortable, prestigious life, stupidly in denial about the major lies and omissions her acceptance is hinged on, including denying her step-child. She almost seals the deal, until it all tumbles down on a street corner. The truth, of course, finds her, and that truth is white light, undeniable and repulsive next to her lie. Woody Allen projects himself all over his films, of course, and I'm projecting quite a bit here, myself, but I can't see how anyone could watch that movie and not hate every single character in it. I mean, I liked Bobby Cannavale's character, except when he was abusive.
I want to think she knew as soon as she could know, and she acted immediately to the best of her abilities. I want to think people are learning every day how to recognize what child abusers say and do to groom victims, to hide their behaviors, to distract from the truth. I'm talking about (Mia, my, me) everyone. I want to believe that is true because I want to think people recognize it soon and act immediately when a child is in danger and dedicate themselves to never letting people forget. It's all around us, you know? That's not a projection, that's a cold, hard fact. It's light flickering on a screen as big as day, it's stars linked into constellations that tell long, dovetailing stories against the night sky.
I can't tell you how many times I think about the amazing Amtrak trip I took last summer. Riding on the California Zephr from Oakland to Chicago was a life list travel item that I've reflected on endlessly since. Watching the gorgeous landscapes, feeling the rhythm of the tracks and of history, waking up to write in my little sleeping car -- all of it broke through to something easy and wonderful the way only good journeys can. That week inspired the work I was able to do on my novel last year and much more.
Riding the Zephyr felt like freedom + possibility.
I love it that Amtrak is specifically interested in conversations with their LGBT travelers, and it is so much fun to work with them on their Ride with Pride microsite. I have a new piece up there as part of that work, check it out!
(Kindly sponsored by Minted.com!)
The time between Christmas and New Year's Eve has to be the sweetest week in the year. I'll be at the beach of some of it, and at home for the rest. My informal to-do list is long (cookies, champagne, books....) and my official to-do is short. Perfect.
I do plan to take some time for a look at my intentions for the new year, though. I love the energy of 1/1, and I plan to make the most of it. What a year I've had, and with Salon LGBTQ gorgeously launching and finishing the first draft of my novel (finally, after all of these years!) I feel like I've broken through something creatively in how I spend my energies. So much good is ahead!
I like to spend next week on a few rituals:
- Making a calendar, and transferring birthdays and other special days to it
- Sending out a few Happy New Year's cards to toast the optimism and excitement of a thrilling new year
- Starting a new journal by collaging a few "vision board" images into the inside of the covers
I started sending New Year's cards a few years ago because they work for all, they land at a less stressful time, and just because I love New Year's Eve and Day. They also are great if you've been too busy for holiday cards--extending the season! Minted has cool New Year's photo cards if you need some.
One of my favorite journals from last year was made by Minted, the design-community sourced printer which has fabulous New Year's cards, art prints, and journals to ring in the new year with beauty and intention. One of my favorite journals last year featured this design:
I think this year I'm going to start with this one, because that little boat breaking through the ice is everything good:
I love the high quality of their paper stock and the diversity of designs their indie community yields. You can enter or vote in their design contests. (That reminds me that one of my goals for the year is to enter a writing competition. I need to write that down!)
Are you picking a word or quote to inspire you in 2014? I love this print--exuberance would be a great word for me for next year!
(Thanks to Minted for their sponsorship of this post.)