Tag Archives: divorce

Carry On

3 Aug

Cover

Back in New Jersey for a week, riding the 6:05 bus into Manhattan, once again experiencing a feeling that I’m glad I’ve put behind me – that of being a loser crammed in with other losers, forced to share a soul-numbing commute.

Sometimes, especially lately, with one setback after another, I’ve thought of returning to New Jersey, settling into being a house owner, telecommuting to work and in general preparing for the so-called autumn of my years. I guess New Jersey occupies my mind as a relief station against the years of knocking my head against the wall.

But being in New Jersey, especially taking that morning ride into Manhattan, I’m inspired to work even harder once I return to LA. Maybe it was the guy insisting on an aisle seat, a bolt of sunshine illuminating the nest of hairs in his ear; or maybe it was the snoring man; the woman with the cane; the surly bus driver using the brake to control his speed. All the while a vent shot hot air in my face as outside, beautiful nimbus clouds raced against a blue sky. This is how the day starts for so many – in utter defeat.

I don’t want to creep back into my New Jersey home, plucking cat hair from in between my lips, stuck in with the same dull neighbors, unrelentingly white and Republican.

I don’t want to limp out of the game.

Especially if it’s the last game of the season.

I’d rather they carry me out on a stretcher.

(2006)

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The Raft

31 Jul

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The last day before I was due to return to LA, I’d promised Devon I’d help him retrieve an old Army issue raft he’d found in the river. I’d enjoyed hearing his stories of getting a few friends together and poling the raft out of eddies, making their way as far downriver as they could. Devon hatched a plan to pole the raft a couple of miles down to the Old Bridge in Stillwater, where I could park and the two of us could drag the raft out of the water and tie it on the roof of the Corolla. I dropped him off in the woods with his cell phone and asked him to call me once he got to the bridge. I should have been paying closer attention to the sky. All afternoon I’d been hearing weather reports of an approaching thunderstorm.

Back home, it didn’t take seconds for Ann to douse me with reality. “That’s crazy – a storm is coming!”

I called Devon on his cell phone but he hadn’t turned it on – he was expecting to call me, not vice versa.

Ann asked me to please go look for him. As I drove to the bridge the sky turned yellow and thunder boomed and big drops of rain splashed across the windshield. All I could think of was flash floods and the conversation I’d had with Devon yesterday, him telling me about his need for independence and adventure. If he knew I was waiting for him, he might be even more stubborn than usual, refusing to make for shore. The river was narrow – not much more than a creek – but I’d almost drowned in a creek when I was a kid, when I took a rowboat for a foolish ride down rain-swollen rapids. It didn’t help that Devon didn’t have a paddle – he told me he’d use a tree branch to guide his way downriver.

I parked near the bridge and grabbed fifty feet of rope from the back of the car. Walking through the rain, hustling down to the riverbank, I peered upriver through the rain where the river forked, hoping I’d see Devon appear. I could imagine him waving to me and the whole thing being over. The current was nothing frightening – but I was getting really worried as the rain worsened and the wind picked up.

I pulled a wooden realtor’s stake out of the ground and tied the rope around it, so I’d have some weight if I had to throw the rope across his bow. The river widened on the other side of the bridge and I didn’t want to see him get past me and disappear down the current.

The raindrops trickled over the front and back of my glasses, clouding my vision, making my eyes sting with sweat.

I heard a voice behind me on the bridge – a guy in his sixties. “You waiting for a kid in a raft?’

“Yeah.”

“I saw him upriver. He told me he was all right – he was coming down river to meet his dad.”

“I hope he has sense to get out of the river.”

The old guy was true blue. “I’ll drive back and see if I can find him.”

The rain got heavier. I tried to call Ann, but my cell phone went beep, beep beep: “No Service.”

Twenty minutes later the old guy came back and told me he couldn’t see Devon on the river. He asked if I wanted him to stay.

I said, “No, that’s all right.”

Leaving, he shot back, “They grow up and take care of us some day.”

Standing in the rain, my vision blurred, I wondered at my fatal desire to please, trying to please Devon to such an extent that I’d ignored the imminent storm. I worried about an excess of bravado on his part, his innocence. No one flows on top of a raging river – they’re trapped against debris, crushed and pushed underwater.

Straining to see his raft come around the bend, I was imagining so many horrible things.

I stood there in the rain for two hours.

Then the rain stopped.

Looking at the dripping trees and the gentle river, I felt a blessing. I’m not religious, but I felt grateful, as though God had showed me how fragile everything was. He wasn’t going to make me suffer like Abraham or Job – he’d put me through the paces I could withstand.

The sky lightened and the sun appeared; a silver oval between swift clouds.

Birds began singing.

I was still worried; Devon was out there somewhere.

Then a call from Ann finally got through on my cell – Devon was home. He’d ditched the raft at the first sign of lightning, showing the kind of sense I’d hoped for, but wasn’t sure he had.

(2006)

Burning Bright

13 Jun

xxxx

Driving down the 10 in the rain, putting my son on a plane to New Jersey, wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. Living alone – my wife in Jersey too afraid to venture west. My son, at 15, becoming a sullen teenager – still sweet underneath, but looking stricken with depression and misery half the time. I’m missing whole months of my son’s life while I make my charge in Hollywood.

I stop into Ralph’s supermarket to pick up some groceries and on impulse buy some Grecian Formula – even though I’ve given myself numerous pep talks that it’s basically a lie to color your hair – that you’re not fooling anybody.

Coming home to an empty apartment, I wonder why I don’t miss my wife more. Years ago she transmuted into another, less appealing person. During Devon’s visit we watched Falling Down with Michael Douglas. Robert Duvall plays a cop who is saddled with a neurotic wife played by Tuesday Weld. She was the spitting image of Ann – a beauty who caved into becoming a complaining, self-centered burden.

And me, I’m trying to crack the Hollywood scene. Not as a player, but as a writer. But am I good enough? Or a shade deficient?

My life has become a series of capitulations, accommodations, apologies, and understanding head nods.

With all that’s going on, the truth is, I may be a textbook case of arrested development. How else explain the absurdity of a guy coloring his hair in the afternoon, while his son flies east to face his teenage years without his father?

I sit in a dark apartment watching A River Runs Through It.

Makes me wonder about death and burning bright.

 

(2006)

 

Full-Court Press

4 Apr

Splash -Culture-Bigaud

What a day. Having an ugly fight on the phone with Ann while I’m sitting in my car in a parking garage. Her blaming me for everything, all our financial woes.

Me finally saying “Fuck you.”

And her saying “I hate you!” and hanging up.

Then it’s back to the magazine for a few hours of work, feeling shaky, wondering how I’ll deal with the freeze on my account – numerous calls to the lawyer on the case go unanswered.

I don’t blame Ann for being close to hysterical. The court order that finally arrived (after they froze my account) cites all the things they can do, such as seizing our cars and walking into our house and taking anything of value. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with it together, Ann reverted to type. If we were on a lifeboat at sea she would have pushed me overboard.

In the afternoon, I flee work early and head into LA, for an appointment with Eriq LaSalle’s company about the Les Miserables project. This is a big deal – he’s heard the report on the pitch from his people and he wants to see us.

I get there early and find a parking place on a side street. I make a call on my cell and finally get the lawyer. Surprise, surprise, he’s a human being and we sketch out a payment plan. I may only have fifteen bucks in my wallet, but at least Ann and Devon won’t be going through the trauma of having sheriffs appear at the door.

Michael, Tom and I meet at Hamburger Hamlet an hour before the meeting to go over the pitch. Tom is in one of his sulky, passive aggressive moods.

Later, when Michael calls him on it, Tom says, “I like to be quiet before a pitch.”

My immediate thought is, ‘Why agree to a pre-pitch meeting if you don’t want to talk?’

Eriq LaSalle has a rep of having no patience for fools. The skinny on Eriq is he once stopped a writer in mid-pitch, saying, “I know you’re not an actor, but can’t you do any better than this?” Then LaSalle thought about what he’d just said and blurted, “Fuck this” and walked out.

Our pitch goes really well. LaSalle was really engaged, offering penetrating comments when we were done, even siding with us against one of his execs on a story point.

Michael and Tom are both six five. I’m five nine on a good day. On the way out, after some banter about LaSalle’s basketball movie, Rebound, Tom says. “And Mark here played in the NBA.”

I look at my shoes, feeling like Chaplin, and mumble, “It was a tough couple of years.”

(2006)

The Seed

16 Mar

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Just blew into LA after back-to-back trips to Puerto Rico and Panama. I’ve only been in LA for five months but already it feels like home. I love stepping outside the Arrivals Terminal at LAX and getting that first taste of LA air – simultaneously balmy and crisp. Very strange that LA feels more like home than Sussex County, New Jersey ever did. What does that tell me? That I feel more at home living alone in a sublet in Koreatown than I do in my house on a lake, surrounded by my family and pets.

Ann and I have only talked twice on the phone in 30 days, No e-mails to speak of – only the barest dispatches covering economics and child-rearing. Her last e-mail was a humorous account of a bat terrorizing her and Devon in the middle of the night. The disturbing part was realizing it was an e-mail sent out to her list of contacts, without the slightest attempt to personalize it for me.

There are some seeds that spring into life after years and years of waiting for water. Then there are other seeds that transmute into hard bits of mineral that no amount of water and sunlight could cause to germinate.

My marriage is somewhere in-between the two.

(2006)

Broken Suitcase

16 Jan

 

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“It frequently happens that women who do not really love their husbands are jealous and destroy their friendships. They want their husbands to belong entirely to them because they themselves do not belong to him. The kernel of all jealousy is lack of love.”

 

Memories, Dreams, Reflections

C.G. Jung

 

 

Near the end of my Thanksgiving trip back east, I was feeling light-hearted, thinking of returning to California. This felt weird…creepy – but it was undeniable. Things were bad with Ann and nothing would be solved going round and round in a whirlpool effect. As I got closer to leaving, Ann told me that Devon would be crushed if I didn’t get home to Jersey for Christmas.

Being broke, I had to be creative flying coast to coast. For Thanksgiving I flew from LA to Puerto Rico to attend a press event and then had them fly me to Jersey. Getting back to California, I flew to Jamaica for a travel agent award event and was then flown to LA. If I were to make it home for Christmas I’d have to finesse a similar hitchhiking scheme.

Because of my childhood, I’ve struggled with Christmas all my life. With the birth of Devon, I’ve learned to enjoy aspects of Christmas. I don’t feel good during this holiday. I feel physically ill in the hours leading up to decorating the Christmas tree, and I have to drag myself out of bed on Christmas morning.

Back in LA, I managed to arrange a flight – although it sucked. I flew en route to Martinique in mid-December – with a midnight to dawn stopover in JFK – sitting up all night in a coffee shop with a truly soul-sickened group of people. Then I flew on to Martinique in the morning for a week or so and then back to JFK. Ann was too frightened to pick me up at JFK so I made my way to Jersey on my own.

I got home at three in the morning. Instead of breakfast with me, Ann went out for breakfast with a friend.

This kind of set the tone for the next eight days. Suppressed anger, hurt silences and Christmas jim-jams. Money was super-tight. The house was a mess. Ann had started a new job so I spent the days trying to straighten up the place so I didn’t feel like a white trash loser from Cops – the kind of wild-eyed drunk they push aside to get in the front door, to then shine a light on his completely squalid surroundings.

For eight nights Ann and I lay side by side in bed, without any sex at all – not even touching.

I realized how bad it was when I innocently walked in on Ann when she was naked, dressing for work. She let out a frightened scream and I backed out of the bedroom. Neither one of us said a word – not even blasting out a stupid joke. Only silence as I stood in the hall and then walked downstairs.

To get back to California I had to fly to Tobago for a week – time I couldn’t really spare – and then fly back to LA. Even though it was a morning flight, Ann was too nervous to drop me off at LaGuardia in Queens. Instead she got me as far as Manhattan and then I had to catch a taxi and pay $30 bucks to get to the airport.

(2006)

Tomahawk

2 Sep

As we drive west on I-20, Devon cracks open a book I recommended, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Crossing.” It’s the perfect moment for him to read it, crossing West Texas, with immense vistas surrounding us.

I put on the soundtrack from Michael Mann’s Last of the Mohicans. Heroic music that had bolstered me through many a commute home. As I drive I think about Ann and how I want to be the kind of lover Hawkeye was in the film. Nothing would stop him – nothing could deter him.

In my mind our family becomes a flaming triangle. We have it. The world doesn’t make it easy to keep it – but today – we have it.

(2005)

Rabbit Warren

13 Jul

June 13, 2005: Fifty days until I head west to LA. I still don’t know if my magazine will appoint me the West Coast editor. We have a new publisher – the third in twelve months. The magazine would be foolish not to give me the position, but they’ve made plenty of foolish decisions in the past.

Even if I don’t have the cushion of a lateral move, I still have to go. My life is a joke if I don’t. I’m not on this world to be the caretaker of a mortgage and I won’t be a martyr to the materialism of the family. I’ll fight like an animal to protect Ann andDevon- but that doesn’t mean I’ll transmute any remaining soul I have left into a false responsibility to material things. I wouldn’t do it for a piece of furniture, I wouldn’t do it for a car and I won’t do it for a house.

If Ann wants to come along for the ride – fine.

But don’t ask me to tremble inside the rabbit warren.

(2005)

Overload

8 Jul

So much is happening:

Athenaeum wants to come on board with Umzumbe Boys; they’re also reading African.  Rebie digs African, she had a few criticisms but was especially moved by the long Greenland section.

Thierry was begging to get back on African but his option has expired. He was pleading with Michael, “I have a very inter-escent development – but I can’t tell you what it is. Give me a letter of extension and I’ll tell you.”

Michael told him to come up with the money promised the writers on exercise of the option, $10K each, and he’d get his extension.

Thierry froze.

It’s another piddy-paddling diversion from Thierry – I’m glad he’s gone.

 

This week, Tom marched into a totally overwrought ROTC officer- in-training role, trying to whip Michael and I into an arbitrary shape of his own devising. We had it out and he apologized.

Michael showed Tom’s e-mail to one of a therapist he knows and she said, “What? Is this guy your boss?”

Tom implies that he’s the success behind Umzumbe Boys– that our scripts need his expertise to become saleable. Umzumbe Boys was a terrific three-way writing experience – we were all invaluable. To characterize it as anything else is intellectually dishonest.

It doesn’t bode well for the survival of our three-way partnership. I think we’ll be evaluating it on a project-by-project basis. Most likely we’ll write Drum together. If we learn to value each other, maybe we’ll tackle other projects further on down the road.

 

Ann came full-circle. I think she’s decided to love me faults and all. We had a long conversation about California, with Ann talking enthusiastically about moving for the first time ever. Figuring out how we’ll sell our house in Jersey, the kind of spiritual experiences she’ll seek in California, the casita she sees in her mind that we’ll live in, light and airy. It was a pretty amazing change.

Getting a $5K check from Ground Zero didn’t hurt either.

 

Gene Burton told Michael they’re going to work together, “But your scripts are all period pieces – I want to see you tackle a big, contemporary story.”

Michael told me this yesterday. I can feel he’s wrestling with whether or not he should fly solo on a gene Burton project. It would be a big payday – maybe $600 K. That would be a nice check to have all to oneself – a sole writing credit can’t hurt either. I would understand totally if he decided to go it alone on this one.

I also think he values what I bring to a project. So who knows? The best thing to do is ask him outright if he wants to tackle this one alone.

(2005

 

Blood on the Floor

6 Jul

Another weekend with daggers drawn.  Ann angry over a friendship I have with a woman named Holly, who I met traveling. Ann has a legitimate gripe. During a Curacao family press trip, with our kids tucked away at the resort, the PR people brought the journalist/parents out to dinner. Over coffee, they said they had a surprise for us and brought us to Curacao’s island whorehouse, a converted army barracks called Allegro Campo.  During the night I impulsively bought a $1 lap dance for Holly. Holly wrote about it in an article. Ann read the article online. All hell broke loose.

I told Ann that I could understand how she felt, but I couldn’t guarantee I’d never do something like that again. In my travels I’ve bungee jumped off Victoria Falls, zip-lined through a Jamaica forest, white-water rafted in New Zealand, visited cathedrals, museums and writers’ homes throughout the world. I’ve watched belly-dancers in Istanbul and talked with streetwalkers in Lisbon. I’ve walked through neighborhoods where the danger was palpable. I’ve done hundreds of things. Going to Allegro Campo was one of them.

This led Ann to angrily characterize me as a selfish, bullying alcoholic, a person who doesn’t have any friends in the town where we live, a sleazeball. Someone incapable of having custody of Devon if we ever divorced. A whole litany of insults.

I had to stop myself from responding with a similar warped portrait.

I asked, “If you really believe this about me, why would you ever want to stay married?”

Her reply was she was staying with me for Devon’s sake – that Devon needed the stability.

(2005)