Radio Silence

I suppose this is what happens when I don’t write in too long.

There’s too much to talk about.

I found a job, may have “beaten” a “system”, saw a great play and a great film, met Jia Zhangke a couple times.

And found out my sister is currently a fugitive from the New York State Justice system.

Perhaps I shouldn’t elaborate on that one for legal reasons.

But the effect of having so much happen to you at once is that you don’t know where to start to tell the story, don’t know which bits to elide, how to compress.

Eva told me that the reason she likes my blog is that I always lend a “narrative arc” to the happenings of my own life here, to which I responded by giving her a quotation from my old screenwriting teacher, Amos Poe.

I was in his class when someone asked him about how to structure a story, in a class that often functioned more on the visceral aspects of screenwriting than the story “meat”.

Prof. Poe, with his frequent bowler hat and detached late-70s ‘tude replied with non-chalance to the student.

“Try not telling a story.” He told them. “It isn’t as easy as it sounds.”

Still, even given that, while it can be hard not to tell a story, it can be difficult to figure out where to start.

I guess at my job.

***

So after weeks of complaining, of self-pitying and endless fruitless searching, I was hired somewhere.

Where, you might ask?

The very place I was working at already.

My most recent internship, my sixth or seventh depending on the count, had been recently improving.

It started out being stuck in an office with two people who didn’t even know how to open video editing software let alone use it.

But through complaining, intense self-loathing, having a nervous breakdown (unrelated) and nearly quitting twice, I made it through.

And, as all promotions happen in the film industry, I outlasted everyone else and won my promotion through sheer attrition.

Now, I’m my own boss, to a degree, and there’s a remarkable level of autonomy in what I do.

Not only that, but I’ve found that, as far as I can tell, I’m doing it fairly well.

I spoke on the phone with my boss this afternoon for a much dreaded afternoon call, only to hear that his concerns had mostly been met and that was it.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, great!” I said, a little too happily.

And then before I could give him pause to think:

“Talk to you later!”

And hung up the phone.

As part of my job, I have to list what I’ve accomplished each day at the end of it and layout what needs to be done for the day to come.

While this might be seen to some as tedious (and to me it sometimes is), it gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day, that I can tally up my works like gold stars and delineate what there is left to do.

Not only that, but I’m training my first intern tomorrow.

In whatever strange and small and underpaid way, I’ve found myself doing a real job on a real film.

I think.

Maybe.

Maybe it’s too early to call and maybe I’m being overeager. Maybe I shouldn’t be talking about any of this right now.

Suddenly, there is an onus on me to “be professional”.

But sometimes you have to talk about somethings.

So that you don’t have to talk about others.

***

“Have I gained any weight?”

A strange question to ask a therapist, but I figured I was paying her for honesty.

“Excuse me?” She replied.

“Well, I went to my favorite Indian place–”

“What’s you favorite Indian place?”

“Baluchi’s. But it’s not my favorite Indian place, it’s the neighborhood Indian place. And it’s not that good, it’s fine. It’s just they have this take-out special where you get enough food for a good dinner and then a good breakfast. Leftovers for the next day. Dinner leftovers make the best breakfast. And otherwise I hate breakfast. It’s like the rest of the day you have all of this palette of flavors to choose from, all these out there.”

I gestured toward the window, as if the flavors were out there.

“But at breakfast, it’s like your palette is reduced to so few flavors. Buttery. Or Eggy. Or Milky. Or Bread. Blah. It just feels so limiting.”

“You know, when you talk like this,” My therapist replied. “It makes me think you could be a food critic.”

“You know, I do some of that stuff. I write my blog. I used to–but you know, where’s the job?”

I gestured toward the window again.

“Also, I’m a poultritarian, which people don’t respect.”

“I didn’t know that.” My therapist replied.

“Yeah, it’s like someone told me fish was a vegetable. But I don’t eat fish that often. I’m traumatized by the tunafish from my childhood. The memory of the smell stays with me. But I’ve had some Red Snapper cooked well a few times, it was buttery and good.”

“I was going to ask if you ate fish.” She informed me.

“Sometimes. No pork, no shellfish, no beef or lamb or any of that stuff.”

“Because you’re Jewish?”

“Because why not. But anyway, no respect. And the guy at the Indian restaurant tells me I’ve gained weight, like in some friendly way, like I’ve become prominent. And he’s a nice guy. But I can’t find a way to tell him that that’s not a compliment in this country. And the thing is, I feel like he would know that.”

She nods silent.

“So.” I follow.

“The weight.” She acknowledges. “No, if anything I’ve felt like you lost weight, you seem to be shrinking, to be falling in to yourself.”

“Well, I’ve finally given up checking the message boards or the festival dates or any of that stuff about my film.”

“It must hurt, but at the same time, you just kept killing yourself over it. You seem more alive today than I’ve seen you in weeks.”

“Yeah, you know.” I replied. “But I don’t pay you to talk about restaurants every week.”

“Nor would I expect you to.”

***

I didn’t answer the latest email from the administration, though it came as a surprise.

The emails in my “war” over my school’s film festival had gone long and acrimoniously. There had been pleas to change the festival, arguments over money, over the judging process over the screening room and over the designations made.

I had found myself, after what I thought was a rather moderate email to my teachers and peers asking for some feedback, becoming something of a figurehead in this “war”.

Maybe it was out of self-aggrandizement, but I’d like to think it was more about a sort of bossy responsibility that I inherited my mom: that once I recognized a problem I thought I could fix, I needed to make sure I was the one who fixed, lest it not get done right.

That does sound like a sort of self-righteousness and perhaps it is, to which I can only say that I come by it honestly and genetically.

Anyway, the latest email was different than other ones.

It was from the chair of Undergrad Film and it was addressed to the Dean… and to me. The rest of my peers were cc’ed.

In it, the chair told those whose films hadn’t been selected and those who had together that the judging process was unfortunate and that he had heard our complaints.

The films would play together, in the same theater, on the same days. There wouldn’t even be a mention in the schedule on the website about the difference between the two.

This was much different from the basement screenings three weeks later we were originally offered.

In reality, it was probably the greatest success I could have hoped for in a situation I had already deemed over and foolish to have started on.

In the days following, I received kudos from some of my peers, some of them asking me why I hadn’t written.

I even heard tale of a sympathetic teacher rallying his students in one of my old film classes about how “Do you Nick Feitel” and “it was student who rose up and changed the system”.

I laughed when I heard that stuff.

But the real reason I never answered was that it still felt like a defeat to me.

After all those years, after all those people looking at me as I claimed ownership over the 10th and 11th and sometimes the 8th and 9th floors of 721 Broadway, how could I turn to them as someone unselected, unrecognized by his own school.

I was the king of the losers, I thought. Somewhat appropriate, given the title of my film.

I can’t say I feel much differently now.

I am grateful to the chair, who was always kind to me personally while I was at school.

But somehow, just as I met him by barging in his office when he had an open door, I didn’t feel like I had that access, the audacity to speak anymore.

In the situation’s resolution, my purpose had passed again. I was no longer a leader.

Just like when I finished directing my thesis, my crew went home and I did too, alone.

I’ll say that in writing it all, it feels a little better. It’s what I always talk about hear, the mastery of one’s own story through writing.

But I still haven’t answered his email.

And I’m not sure when I will.

***

A note before I leave, even though I thought I wouldn’t bring it up.

My sister escaped yesterday, ran away when she was being transferred between court-ordered rehabilitation programs.

As of this morning, there’s a warrant for her arrest.

She’s probably out there somewhere, with her douchebag boyfriend, the one who inspired me to such ire that I originally came to therapy.

I posted on my wall that anyone I know should not abet her, that she needed to go back, or else the consequences would be more and more severe.

On Friday, when I talked to my mother, she worried about this very process, the transfer between programs.

She had asked me for coffee in her office and I wanted to tell her about the email and the job offer and Eva and my life.

But she was mired in phone calls and couldn’t talk. On the phone with social workers and case workers and administrators. Trying to arrange safe passage for my sister.

I called my mom tonight to tell her about the intern I was getting and the funny conversation I had with my therapist and, well, most of the things I talked about here.

But she told me that my sister had deleted her from her Facebook and had erased my mother’s pleas for her to contact my parents or her friends or seek help.

I listened and I nodded.

Nothing.

It was a while before we could move on with the conversation.

***

BALUCHI’S

Take-out Dinner/Breakfast Special: One Appetizer and One Entree to go w/naan and rice: $14.95 before tax

Spring St bet. Thompson and Sullivan Sts.

CE to Spring St

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One Response to Radio Silence

  1. Lisa says:

    First of all, I love you and I’m sorry. There is nothing I would rather do than talk to you about everything and anything that is happening with you. That is why I invited you to lunch, not at Baluchi, but at Tamarind. Where we had fun. If you remember. I wish you had mentioned it here because 1. you could have referenced it in addition to baluchi’s and 2. it makes me wonder. It has been an extraordinarily traumatic week for our family. You asked me if you could stop by for coffee and I said of course, but that I was extremely busy at work. While you were with me I did receive many phone calls and wish I hadn’t. My time with you is always precious to me. I wonder how someone with your sensitivities and insight sees it instead as a choice I made not to be available to you. I love you, your writing, this blog entry. Keep writing.
    TAMARIND
    Executive Lunch special: one appetizer, two mains, one dessert with naan and mint chutney: $24.07 before tax.
    East 22nd Street between Broadway and Park Avenue.
    N, R to 23rd St

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