Pamela Harris

Posts in the Other Category

In The Hall December 29, 2020

(Above: photo of Dawn at the Oculus by me. Below: Owl Wing is by Julie Zickefoose)

I’m looking out the kitchen window onto deep snow, studying animal paths. You can see what hopped, strode, or scurried out of the woods, through our yard, and onto the street. Their tracks make me think of ancient trade routes, who went where to stock up on urns, dried olives, gold. Studying these animal footprints is my favorite thing to do since it lets my mind roam.

This year, my head hasn’t had a lot of roaming room. Nor have the heads of most of the people I know. Despite this, coming out the other side of this year, there’s been some real grace. And real grief.

My mentor died of COVID. He taught me so much about directing, and got me past my cluelessness over how to work with actors. A large swath of older creative New York City died, too.

The homeless population in NYC exploded. Or, their visibility did. A lot of mental illness has fallen through the widening cracks. The streets have gotten violent.

I still go out after breakfast to feed the birds. No matter what I wear, if I’m late, if I come up a different block, if I hide my hair under a cap, flocks come charging over from half a block away. I have to dump food and run, or the birds follow me home, squawking and dancing, sure I’m holding out on them. From my upstate perch I miss my morning routine, but when we head back to the city I’ll need to rethink my feeding strategy.

Many of our local restaurants closed for good. I go out for my walk and notice the missing delivery guys, busboys, managers and owners hanging around their front doors for a smoke, to get deliveries, to get air. We’d always say hello, how are you, did you see the blah blah? Our two local delis are gone, too. Our old super hung around the deli on the corner, but now that he no longer has a perch, we don’t get to catch up.

The surviving restaurants have taken over a lane in the streets and constructed large outdoor dining structures. They’ve been enclosed for winter, many are heated, some have multiple private pods. The whole visual landscape of New York has changed. The soundscape, too.

The election and the post election tsoris laid my fury bare. I voted early this year. So early, I was on line since 2016.

Last year I mentioned I wanted to write a book. I got earnest in March, and did. The daily process grounded me, rooted me to the chair, gave me a routine. I can’t talk about the book, but not because I’m cryptic; I’m wrapping it up now and don’t yet know how to talk about it. It’s deeply personal and has bones I never, ever considered putting on the page. Actually, this is a good segue into what I’m bringing into the year with me.

Writing this book, I got to see my walls. Where do I keep you out, me in, what old beliefs about myself am I still holding on to. By doing something I thought I’d never do—I got bald on the page—a kind of alchemy happened. It’s like I burned out the dead wood and came out the other side changed.

Every year has a facet of being a ‘deal with my shit’ year, but this one dug up the roots of those old beliefs. My art and writing always has elements of my family dynamic, my past, but this book went straight to the soul of things. I got to see so that’s what I do, that’s how I react, that’s an old knee-jerk. It was freedom, I tell you.

I’m bringing my family, my crew, you, and my work into the new year, but I’m bringing it in with a whole new appreciation for it. That’s what coming out the other side has given me: more gratitude for what I have and less yearning over what I don’t.

I’m also bringing uncertainty into the new year with me, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. Every time I finish a project, I know what’s next. This book has completed a cycle, of what I don’t know. Whatever I do next creatively will be new for me.

Every year I say how much I appreciate the readers of this blog, your emails, and comments. I genuinely mean it. Last year I ended my post hoping this year knocked you sideways, in the best way possible. I’ll imagine over the last twelve months, you got knocked somewhere.

May 2021 set you down on softer ground. The happiest new year to all of you.

Enough Is Enough June 8, 2020

(All photos by Pamela Harris, except Muriel Bowser photo by Reuters.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mother. When the virus hit, I wondered how she would’ve survived it. I don’t mean actually getting the virus. I mean not being able to shop.

Browsing a clothing rack for a bargain was my mother’s lifeblood. Almost every day she hit Syms, TJ Maxx, Loehmann’s, Marshall’s, the flea markets in Florida over the winter, Home Goods—any store that carried a potential designer bargain.

She visited NYC twice after I moved here, and one of those times we window shopped in Soho before any stores were open. It took an hour to walk three blocks. She’d press her nose to the glass and cup her hands around her eyes to shut out the light, to get a better look. “Oooooh,” she’d sing at every window, this particular one a bag store. “Think they have a sale on?”

“We’ll come back,” I answered, knowing that even on sale, even though she could afford it, she’d never spend what those pocketbooks cost.

Last year I passed a store on Wooster Street that had a sign, ‘Sale On Sale.’ I could feel my mother’s ghost twitch and shimmer next to me as she rolled her sleeves, ready to shop. A lot of the mid-priced stores were having out of season sales, private sample sales, Buy One Get One 50 Percent Off. The high end stores such as Balenciaga, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, had full-price merchandise, but the only people I’d see milling in them were sales people and private security guards. I felt like I was witnessing the end of retail.

After the virus hit, a handful of stores boarded their windows or emptied them of merchandise. Would these stores come back? What would our neighborhood look like post-Covid?

(The top photo is our neighborhood at dawn in April. The bottom photos are from today and yesterday. Boarded up, but opening.)

For much of April, every morning I went out and fed the birds, then walked the empty streets through Soho and into the west village. Many restaurants that tried to do take out or delivery closed, since it cost too much to stay open. None emptied, giving hope they’d reopen once the city opened.

Over and over I’d think, the whole world is going through this! What an opportunity to see how alike we all are. I loved how some countries embraced their scientists (ours didn’t), what PM’s and presidents had compassion (ours didn’t), how many women broke out as leaders. Cuomo transformed and became a voice of sanity. I loved seeing countries offer help to others, countries that had never done this in the past. This is a role America always played due to our financial might, our brilliant minds, and our history of humanity and philanthropy. It’s been wildly depressing witnessing how we’ve offered worse than nothing. Rome is burning.

And then the protests began. (There is a huge difference between protesters and looters. There is a huge difference between protesters and looters. I’m saying it twice.)

The message of the protests gives me a moment of hope. The protests have gone global. The world is hearing enough is enough. The only way forward is through change.

My new hero is the Mayor of DC, Muriel Bowser. She’s gracious, smart, and she’s doing it her way with a whole lot of heart. (She oversaw the giant yellow ‘Black Lives Matter’ painted down the middle of a DC street near the White House.) My mother wasn’t interested in politics, but I wonder what she’d think of all this. Would she feel the possibility for change that’s in the air, or would she shrug and keep dancing while Rome burned around her.

We’ve been staying in the city vs going upstate since all of this began. Partly because it’s more comfortable here. Partly because our friends are here, and even though we don’t see them we’re close enough to use cans and string to chat. We’re taking it week by week.

Yesterday we went out for a late morning walk and threw the ball at Ginger’s favorite place on earth. The dog run belongs to the Soho Grand Hotel, and both closed last night.

I’ve been on social media more. Every day something new trends:

DJ D-Nice hosted ‘Club Quarantine’ and thousands of people danced in their own living rooms.

Parents homeschooling their kids post things like, “Wondering how I can get this kid transferred out of my class.”

Jokes about exponential functions and algebra, with captions such as “Like we’ll ever use this crap.”

“Your grandparents were called to fight in world wars. You’re being called to wash your hands and sit on the couch. Don’t fuc! this up.”

“Weekend Travel Plans” shows a map blueprint of an apartment, with footsteps going from kitchen to living room to bedroom.

There’s fake news about dolphins in the canals of Venice, real news about the penguins at Shedd Aquarium being let out to roam through exhibits to look at fish.

There are (rightful) slams on the current administration. Love for Cuomo.

I then hit the wall with all of it and close Instagram (I'm @pamelaharris339). I've had days where I obsessively read news. I've snacked days away, something I've never done. Lately, or finally, I'm getting back to a routine of work and limiting all the aforementioned.

Joe’s back working from home full time. What I really want to do when he’s on a Zoom meeting is to put the oven mitt on and stealthily enter the side of his screen, bite bite biting at the air.

Imagine being a teenager during this?

I’ve become aware of just how much I touch my face. I’ve been a compulsive hand washer since I moved to NYC, so that part of this I have down.

Ginger doesn’t understand why she can’t play with her pals in the rare times we run into them on the street. Joe is still doing all the walks. My knee is great, but not great enough yet to walk her on my own. We all miss that.

The other morning I headed to the river to take a walk. I didn’t see anyone on the way over, then I crossed the West Side Highway and entered Hudson River Park. Families were walking together, little kids were zigzagging on scooters, bikes, skateboards, ricocheting off people. There were tennis games going on, groups walking together. I got off the river fast.

I don’t have fear about the virus. But I am being practical.

What’s emerging for me right now is, the streets outside may be empty, but our hearts aren’t. People in our building left notes offering help to anyone homebound. Online, people are checking in on people, acknowleging the importance of grocery clerks, cashiers, nurses, doctors, all other frontliners. People are donating medical supplies, sewing facemasks, donating to restaurant funds, fostering animals.

The entire world is going through this. I think we will be for a while. It’s a spectacular opportunity to see all the ways we’re alike, not different.

The Kindness of Strangers December 20, 2019

I’m a sucker for a good fart joke. Poop, pratfalls, a pratfall where someone poops - poop fart poop fart fart. I never realized just how many poop and fart jokes "30 Rock" has. So many I’ve spit water all over my keyboard laughing out loud.

I’ve been living on "30 Rock." In October I broke my knee. I was walking down the sidewalk in the rain. Nothing unusual about it. At most intersections in NYC where the sidewalk meets the street there are ADA tactile pads, a composite pad that looks like rubber covered in raised dots. They let the blind know they’re at an intersection and provide a slight slope for those in wheelchairs. I was five blocks from my house and when my sneaker hit the wet pad I went down so fast I didn’t know I was falling. My knee hit one of the raised dots perfectly and broke in two.

The amazing thing about NYC is people came running. A truck stopped and wouldn’t move until I said I was okay. An owner of the Greenwich Sports Tavern came out with an umbrella, cardboard and tape, to keep me dry and make a splint. Two chemical engineering students having lunch helped him and stayed with me. You could see through my pants that my knee was in two pieces, and the pieces had migrated over a finger’s width apart. I kept staring at it, stunned.

In the ER they said I had a displaced transverse fracture. I came home, then six days later I had surgery and my knee was wired together. For a month I couldn’t stand or sit on my own because of a rigid hip to ankle brace. I slept in it, too, or really, laid there and stared at the ceiling.

During the day I’d hobble on crutches to the couch and Ginger would sit near me, staring, confused why I wasn’t walking her but knowing something was wrong. Friends came by, I ate a lot of scones, I researched broken patella obsessively.

Only 1% of bone breaks are broken knee caps. It’s a rare thing. Every surgeon seems to have their own protocol and three weeks in I started PT. My range of movement (ROM) was barely 5 degrees, or straight and stiff, and from here I started the very slow, tediously slow, paint dries faster slow process of pushing my knee to bend to its limit to gain degrees.

I’m a motherf!cker when it comes to focusing my mind and getting done what needs to get done. I have fantastic perseverance. Never in my life, though, have I had to physically take myself to the edge, to spontaneously burst into tears while my PT tries to bend me another degree, to scream out loud as she tries to break up scar tissue by bending to what feels like a bone breaking point. Some sessions I’d get crazy body tremors and turn whiter than white. Or we’d watch my knee grow and swell, or see a bruise bloom across the top of it. Through it all we’d bend. It's a very slow process.

As is seeing how this is bending me. I’ve never had physical pain before, not like this. At first some of my tears were fear my knee would break from the pressure. Then it was other fear, not knowing what my body was capable of. But I’ve come to see it’s more like I’m emptying out or letting go of something I didn’t know I was holding on to. Last week during PT a ripple of terror shot through me, a terror from long ago. I grew up with a sister who constantly threatened to beat the crap out of me and though my head had moved on, there was that fear fresh as day, still lodged in my bones. My whole life I’ve been slightly coiled, tense, something I attributed simply to how I’m built. It’s a shock to discover I’m not.

My PT, Helen, is an assassin I’ve nicknamed Hellbend (I suggested she write a book titled ‘I’ve Been Called Worse”). In between PT sessions she's given me a lot of exercises to build back quad strength and to bend, bend, bend. I’ll do heel slides down the wall or dangle my leg over the side of the bed and push it down with my good leg for twenty minutes, the length of a "30 Rock" episode. I do this three to five times a day. Some days I get dizzy and woozy, but then on 30 Rock Jack Donaghy or Liz Lemon will say something funny and I’ll forget it hurts. I’ll marvel at how Tina Fey writes, produces and stars in a show that never loses momentum.

Which brings me to thinking about writing and painting and the reality that I spend a lot of time in my head. My work demands it, it’s good. But despite how active I am outside of work, it hit me how I’ve never fully inhabited my body. This is shock number two. I don’t mean I’m cut off from the neck down. It’s, being in my body has pushed me into the present more than I’ve ever been. It’s a whole new layer to being alive.

Surgery and post recovery have tinges of the barbaric. At times I feel like an experimental meat stick. When my surgeon was unhappy with my ROM and wanted to do a procedure (some consider controversial) called an MUA, I had to really dig deep into why I didn't want it. My surgeon knows about busted knees and I needed to trust him. Plus, not wanting the procedure wasn’t a good enough reason not to do it. But when I did heavy research into it, my gut said don't do it. Despite my surgeon pushing me to do otherwise, I called off the procedure. I had to trust myself. I’ve been doing PT for six weeks now and am at 50 degrees ROM. Was my decision the right one? Who knows, but it was the right one for me.

The theme here is fear. Going into the next year I can feel I’m going in with less of it. Yowza it feels good.

This was a good writing year. I was a screener for a major film festival, read for a great writing lab, finished writing the feature I took to The Writers Lab and also created a new pilot. With both projects I was selected to apply to fellowships and labs, and found that in the essay portion - I had to write a lot of essays for each application - I rewrote so much that writing became tedious. While bending it hit me what I was really doing was smoothing me out on the page, sometimes writing me off the page. It’s time to slim down the hypercritical voice in my head. My last essay, I banged it out and didn't look back, and writing it was much more fun.

My next writing project is a book. It'll be my first. I’m excited.

Up until two weeks ago Joe had to do everything, including cook, clean, walk the dog, get me on and off the couch, help me stand, sit. The first two weeks I started bending he had to help raise and lower my knee three times a day. He’s still cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, and a host of other things. These last few months have made me so grateful for him, for Ginger, for our small pack.

We love our house, though with PT in the city we won’t make it up there as much over the winter. Here in the city the construction around us has finished, so being here full time is easy. Though there seems to be something going on with our building, either a sale or impending change. It’s in the air, the way the owners are acting.

A lot of this year was about acceptance amid uncertainty. Maybe that’s what it means to be human. To love.

I got a few emails this year asking if I’d be writing an end of year post. Your emails mean so much to me, so please know that. The happiest new year to you. May next year knock you sideways, in the best way possible.

Our New House July 18, 2019

We bought a house.

It’s charming and adorable and a red fox and deer like to sleep at the edge of the yard. They come for the Mulberry trees and stay for the quiet.

We’re at the edge of a small town that sits on the Hudson River, directly across from the town of Hudson. An eight minute walk takes us to an amazing bakery and a quart of milk. With warm chocolate or almond croissants fresh from the oven, what else do I need?

Not much, but the house needs everything. It was built by hand in 1962 and has been in the same family since. They took great care of it—it’s rock solid—but everything needs updating. This week we had a new roof put on, trees got trimmed. Next week new gutters will hopefully be up, and then a new sewer line.

It’s a weekend place, a perfect size for not too much maintenance, and big enough to not be cramped. Our second weekend up the refrigerator died, then the kitchen lights blew. It’s as if the house is happy to know it’ll be lived in, and its leap of joy has shaken things loose.

The photos are of the kitchen cabinets. They’re a little wonky and need shoring up, but for now, they’re kind of perfect.

It’s interesting living in a time warp. The bathroom is wrapped in marbled Formica, the kitchen and sun porch floors have classic fake brick linoleum. The rest of the house has gorgeous oak floors, but it’s the yard I’m nuts for. Half an acre, untouched and wildly overgrown. I’ll spend this summer watching how the light moves through it, what might grow where.

We’ll fix it up slowly, over time. Chances are good the boiler’s going to go. Next up is a new heating system.

Ginger saw her first deer and bolted for the house. She’s still getting grounded. It’s fascinating to see her instincts kick in; she saw deer poop and dropped to roll in it. At night she slowly walks the house, on patrol, and is up at 3:45 when the birds start. She sits and listens, processing the sounds, the smell, the quiet.

That’s the amazing thing about this house. Inside, with the windows closed, it’s stone silent. I haven’t had this in over thirty years. Outside it’s birds and the occasional boat on the river, and the Amtrak train in Hudson pulling out. We hear mowers, and renovators, too. The town we’re in has incredible architecture from the 1800s, and many of the houses are loved and constantly maintained or fixed up.

Our neighbors are close, but not on top of us. At night Joe, myself and the dog walk to the river and sit and watch the action. There’s a large restaurant and hotel, and a ferry from Hudson carries people back and forth to eat, drink, listen to live music. It’s a very cool little town, quirky, arty, classic Hudson Valley. For now it’ll be weekends, but it already feels like home.

Coming and Going December 22, 2018

Photograph by Christopher Payne

On Monday I took the dog for an early walk and babbled to myself like a lunatic the whole time. It was five am and we were out for over an hour. Construction workers are plentiful at that time, but they’re yelling with each other or half asleep in their cars waiting to get a legal parking spot.

I wasn’t yelling or screaming, just quietly blasting profanity onto the sidewalk. I don’t even know what I was falling apart about: the non-stop noise from one construction site that pours concrete at three am and another that grinds garbage at two, that my go to restaurant for meetings closed, the way it feels like the whole world is at the edge of no return.

The day before I had finished writing Joyville. It’s the project I took to The Writers Lab last September. Since then I’ve written and rewritten it, put it down to work on something else then picked it up to try again. It had so many moving parts I wasn’t sure I could get them all facing the same direction.

The story is set in the near future and is about a scientist and her ass of a neighbor who she develops a strange, psychic connection to. This leads her to discover an even more spectacular connection to a trio of wildlife that live in the woods nearby. There’s an ecological and moral collapse occurring the whole while, and the script fundamentally questions whether humans are worth saving.

As I wrote my way through drafts I got closer and closer to the finish, but something was missing. As a woman from the Lab put it, the script wasn’t fully cooked. I did another draft, another woman from the Lab read it and she described it as a beautiful tragedy. That’s what I was going for, but there was still something missing. She casually asked how it was personal, and I surprisingly burst into tears. In that second I knew I was writing about grief.

In the past I’ve felt rage, loss, emptiness, resentment, but all of it was a cover for something deeper. I’d glimpse the grief of finality, I’d have a passing bone-deep sadness, but I never had hopelessness.

It started creeping in a few weeks ago. A hopelessness for not just my future but the squandered potential of humanity. Are we worth saving?

I went back to the Joyville rewrite and knew I had to answer that vs leave it hanging. I let myself really feel the hopelessness, the absolute tragedy of it all. A few days later I came out the other side in a simmering babbling fury. I finally had a fully cooked draft.

Earlier this week I had a breakfast with a good friend and told him about my dog walk rant, how I can’t fully shake this rage. He had an interesting take on it, since he’s been here in the past. He equated it to a fighter in the ring waiting on the bell. It’s exactly how I feel.

This is the year the fight woke in me. I’m bringing it into the new year with me.

With work, I’m done waiting. I’ve always been proactive, but the urgency I have about getting Joyville made is new. Instead of picking off contacts, I’m going wide.

We’re buying a place out of the city this year. We haven’t found a house yet, we have no plans to go see any particular house yet, but I’m making that declaration. I need to feel grass under my feet. No sleep has been brutal, and it’s now within our means to change this.

I want to meditate more this year, develop a practice. When I meditate regularly I’m more grateful, and when I’m more grateful I’m not a lunatic ranting on dog walks. Looked at another way, I’m hopeful.

This last year I’ve rewritten a ton of projects, wrote a new pilot, was invited to Stowe Labs in May with a pilot, and had my short film play all over the festival circuit. It was a great year in terms of expanding my network and making work. I got quite a few gigs consulting and coaching on pilots and a feature being created by really good writers. This year I want to keep the momentum going and write a musical. But I also want to focus more on life. I want to take a class, maybe ceramics or dance. Get back to going to galleries regularly. Try a less rushed rhythm, live a little less hurried.

Joe got a great job this year. Ginger is still the king of her domain, but she’s sleeping less at night. Which means we are, too. Please let this change.

What I’m bringing with me front and center is my community, which includes all of you. I was on Instagram a lot more this year because it’s faster.

Lastly, faith not fear. Bringing the former in, leaving the latter behind.

Thank you all for reading this year. The happiest New Year and holiday to you.

Grand Jury Duty April 24, 2018

In February I got a notice in the mail that I was being called up for jury duty. I’ve lived in NYC a long time and have opened mail with that familiar logo, but this time the notice was different. There was no real option on it for deferral, and it cited that failure to show would result in a subpoena, or something like that.

I went down to the court the date I was supposed to show up, early to avoid the security snarl. There was something more urgent, even somber about the courtroom we were led into. The jury wardens weren’t dicking around with their phones, and clerks were questioning people heavily if they needed to step out of the room.

An hour and a half later it was packed, and that’s when we found out we were called for grand jury duty. It’d be for Manhattan, which meant all of us lived in this borough, and the cases we’d be hearing were for crimes committed here. Our service would last a month and only a doctors note or proof you were a sole caretaker for someone would get you out of it. For any other reason, you’d be allowed to defer once. After that, no matter what you’d serve.

There’d be a morning session and an afternoon session. Almost everyone wanted morning, but it’d all depend when your name was called. I got one of the last morning seats left.

For the rest of that day and the next, we were told what a grand jury is. There’d be 23 of us, 16 needed to be present to hear a case, and 12 needed to vote the same way for a majority. There would be no trials or judge present. It wasn’t about whether someone was guilty or not. We would hear evidence, and then vote on whether there enough presented to suggest a crime was committed. If so, we’d vote to indict. If not, we’d vote not to.

We filed into a small courtroom and each took a seat. We were assigned a number based on where we sat, and that number became our identifier. (We got to know each other’s names and such, but if we’d be late one day or had to miss a day the wardens ID’d us by our number.) Fifteen minutes later, we heard our first case.

The way it worked was, an Assistant DA would present evidence for a new case. Sometimes we’d hear from a witness, either a victim, a cop, a detective, a loss prevention specialist, etc. We’d hear lab results if needed. We might watch video surveillance from a store, a corner, a hallway. I got the sense that we were hearing just enough to make a decision. Some cases would be continued, but they’d always come back before our month was up.

When we voted, everyone left the room except the jury. Most cases were pretty straight forward, but if any jury member wanted or needed to, we’d discuss what we heard. We could call the ADA back in to clarify something, but the only thing they can clarify is the law, not what we heard. For one instance where we couldn’t agree on what we heard, the court stenographer read exactly what was said from the transcript.

At times it was tedious, but it was almost always fascinating. The cases gave me a window into what a month of crime looks like in NYC. (There are quite a few grand juries going on at once, so we only saw a percentage of cases.) What stood out is how much Facebook is used as an investigative tool. A forensic specialist managed to link people in crime through FB pictures despite defendants using fake names, fake numbers, fake everything. I was also surprised at how cameras truly are everywhere. We saw video footage of a suspect exit a store, cross a major intersection, walk up a street, etc. It was all from different cameras, carefully pieced together.

The hardest cases for me were those that dealt with sexual assault. Or violence. A rape case had many of us break down after we indicted. The drug cases - there were a lot - were almost all there because of a dumb mistake on a dealer’s part. And there were two instances where we all burst out laughing at the brashness of a thief. Some days we heard case after case. Other days dragged.

We heard from only one defendant. For this their lawyer was present, as well as other court clerks. My takeaway from it is it isn’t a good move for the defendant to appear.

Our jury was as interesting as the process. The 23 of us were a mix of age, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomics and politics. Lines got drawn, blended, reversed, and altered as the month went on. I walked away from it relieved to feel this part of the process works.

Bringing and Leaving December 31, 2017

I want to post this before the end of the year, which is in a few hours. Right now I’m a little overwhelmed, distracted, because I’m wrapping up a project my head has been deep in for the last few weeks. There’s been very little socializing, lots of pastry and cake and coffee, and in the last few days I’ve realized that I still haven’t figured out how to work and live at the same time. It means the first thing I want to leave behind in 2017 is this urgent obsession I bring to work, since if anything it makes what I’m doing harder, not easier.

I’m writing this without editing. Warts and all are going on the page. That’s what I hope to bring in with me, acceptance of warts in all.

What a year it’s been. The election and the shitshow that followed feels like a culmination of sorts, yet the march and everything Weinstein cracked wide open feels like a new beginning. There’s a sense in all of it of ‘no going back,’ and I want to believe it’s good. I want to think of the current POTUS as the end of something that’s been building for decades. That gives me hope, which I’m definitely bringing into next year. Next year can’t be tougher than this one, right?

Last year I wanted to bring risk in with me. Not the reckless kind, but the capacity to be embarrassed kind. The be who I really am kind. That’s who I was at the Writers Lab. The Lab was a high point for many reasons, but that's a big one.

Last year I wanted to direct something. This year I did. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, I loved doing it. We got into festivals and keep doing so, and seeing it play on a big screen in a theatre with an audience made me want to make a feature. That’s a future goal.

Between the Lab and making that short, I learned that I have a community around me. As a writer of specs - scripts that are written before they’re sold - I’m always reaching out, reaching far past my community. A major shift is happening where I don’t want to do that anymore. From now on I want to only write what I can make or produce. I have a nice body of work that’s ready to sell, but, just for today, writing on spec has zero appeal.

Money. This year I want to make more. Yeah, that may seem obvious, but I’m looking at money differently after this year. It's not that it hasn’t mattered to me in the past, because that’s not true. But money has always been this thing that exists out over there. This year I’ve been looking at how I see money. When I’ve tried to do this in the past white noise takes over. This year I swept my brain clean of that. I want to make more.

We’re still house hunting for a little country place with a tree. This year we put a few offers in, but for one reason or another the sale didn’t happen. May we find a house this year.

Ginger had a pretty good year. She’d like more of Joe’s meatballs and I bet he’ll oblige her. That right there, that’s what I’m definitely bringing in with me. Family and friends are what matter the most, no matter how obsessed I get with work. Some of my happiest nights are simply being on the couch, Ginger curled around Joe’s feet, watching GLOW (the Netflix series).

I say it every year, but the emails and comments I get here mean a lot. As do you. Thank you for all of it.

Change is coming in 2018. Everywhere. Brace yourself, Effie.

Where To Begin October 25, 2017

I've been mulling over a post about the new retail paradigm, how it's all changing.

Then I wanted to write about my experience at the Writers Lab, which was amazing. For real. Life changing in how I see my own work.

But right now I'm stunned, awed, hopeful and anxious over, as Lynda Obst perfectly put it, "a volcanic outrage that has erupted over the charred ground of the (Hollywood/Weinstein) business this week ... A long-suppressed fury has spread throughout the land."

From women joining the conversation with an effective 'Me, too" post on FB or Twitter, to the onslaught of words about it, it's exhilarating to see that fury.

And the unity. That's what the Writers Lab showed me, the power of unity.

Even if the outrage doesn't last - the headlines will be replaced in time - sexual assault and harassment has come out of the dark in a way that it can never go back in. May the effects of now crack foundations everywhere.

The Lawsuit May 22, 2017

(I apologize for the resend. I got the lawsuits backward.)

I think when it began it was friendly. Friendly in the way new neighbors might be toward each other, before they get to know each other.

Back in 2007, a church near us, Our Lady of Vilnius, was shuttered. The supposedly dwindling population who went to that church tried to fight the closing, and lost. Around 2013 the church sold to developers, who then bought the brownstone next to it. The developers flipped both lots to a new owner and in 2015 the church got torn down. The lot sat empty for a year. In the photo above, the building that’s starting to rise is on these two lots.

The empty lot in front of that construction was a parking garage. This parcel sold, and it too may have been flipped, but at this point I can’t keep up. Half our block has sold, including our building. The buying frenzy has been relentless.

The parking lot was going to be a twenty-seven-story residential tower. The church lot was going to be a seventeen-story residential tower. We heard the church group bought air rights from the building next to their lot, which allowed them to build higher. They got a permit from the city to go to twenty-five stories. This meant the higher floors in the parking lot's new building, touted as having 365 degree views, would no longer have those views. So the parking lot group sued the church group, stating a di Blasio lobbyist helped sway the Dept. of Buildings in issuing that permit, air rights or no air rights. Or something like that, since suits are flying and I can't keep up.

These buildings are being sold as high luxury and they need the views to combat the reality that they overlook the Holland Tunnel. You can’t see it in the image above, but the trees in the left of the photo line a side street that is actually blocked off near the white van parked (left) near the middle of the picture. It means whomever buys here can only walk one way when they exit their building. They'll hit a major city street and will have to cross it to get anywhere. Traffic here is bumper to bumper as cars fight to get to the entrance to the tunnel. Drivers won't stop for traffic lights or pedestrians or a local trying to wrangle sweet Ginger to Ginger's favorite poop spot at the height of rush hour. When I have to cross this traffic mess I can out-swear Teamsters.

On another side of our building, the quiet side, the Renzo Piano residential tower is going to be thirty stories. The photo below is where it currently stands, roughly six stories. This tower is luxury squared and supposedly it’s almost sold out. Rumor says most of the buyers are those who want a place to stay in New York City when they visit. Our neighborhood has become so expensive the only people who can afford to live in it are those who won’t.

Between all the sites there is constant chaos, so much so the birds are discombobulated. I hear them singing at 3:30 in the morning. We’ve had a large exodus from our building, the most vacant apartments since September 11th. The new owners are doing major renovations to the empty apartments and are trying to rent them at much higher prices. Our building is decidedly non-luxury, and though the new owners have dropped hints at wanting to make improvements, the only way to make this building nicer is to tear it down and start over.

We don’t know what the new owners plan to do with our building. Chances are they’re waiting to see what happens when all these towers are complete. We’re now looking for a weekend place, since we’ve decided to keep our home here. It means our budget for a house has been slashed. Bring on all fixer-uppers. Kitchen hasn't been touched since 1910? No problem! Rotted joists? To the lumberyard we go!