Mischief

Okay, so it turns out the weekend was a good idea. I managed to quell any sense of impending disaster for most of the weekend, and headed off to work yesterday feeling – dare I say it – fairly positive and energetic. I’ll check in with ya’all after I’ve been back in the mill for a few days, but right now the odds of my survival seem high.

Mischief & I got up Saturday morning and headed out. We had the only truly disappointing meal I’ve ever experienced at Hugo’s (stick with the pancakes, I guess…?), and then cruised up the coast. Allison diverted us along the way to take me to an old, abandoned oil refinery which we wandered around for a good while.

I have a serious fetish for decay and dilapidation; the structure is stunning. I could have happily wandered that place for hours, and I desperately want to shoot something there, even if I have to steal it. Our explorations ended when we climbed through a broken window into a building filled with documents being stored and an alarm went off.

Mischief’s face as she came bolting back around the corner was priceless. She would make an abysmal thief.

We spent the evening at a show featuring Beware of Safety, one of her favorite bands. There were three other bands playing, the first of which – The Victor Ship – was really good. The show was a haphazard affair held at the utility room of a tiny church, and had the members of the other bands not hung around to watch, I think the audience would have totaled 9 people.

Which is a shame because the 5 guys who make up Beware of Safety are truly remarkable musicians. It’s a post-rock band, which, to me, is simply a modern rock-instrumental version of program music. This lengthy dissertation on the nature and origins of post-rock doesn’t draw that distinction, but I’m not bothered. The guys in BoS are able to produce live music that is every bit as structured, intricate and layered as a small-scale orchestra. It was amazing.

The next day we drove up to Cambria, prowled through town and stopped outside Nit Wit Ridge, an interesting house built entirely from found materials. Unfortunately, we were 15 minutes late for the tour, and the fascist hippie that runs the tours wouldn’t take us through.

We stopped to eat Italian food that was only matched in its blandness by its mediocrity. Then we drove up to take the tour of Hearst Castle, which I had been to, but never in. I hate to admit it, but it was fairly breathtaking. It’s only regrettable that Hearst’s mansion is in California, which is the world paragon of poor museum science, presentation & preservation. If it were in France or the UK, it would be a real experience.

As it is, if you can forget being herded like cattle and treated like children, it is a really remarkable collection of antiques and artwork.

As we rode down the hill, our discussion – Mischief & I talk all the time, about anything and everything – turned to the shape and nature of our relationship. As I’ve written about, she’s had a rough time with a few previous guys, particularly the last one. There are a lot of trust issues, and we’re both wrestling with her residual neediness and occasional paranoia.

More than anything, this girl just wants someone to put his initials on her and let it rest at that, but getting to that point for her both of us is a process not unlike threading the winding hilltop roads near the coast… sometimes there aren’t signs; you just have to follow your nose.

I’m currently sitting at the entrance to an enormous furniture warehouse filled with stuff I couldn’t even begin to afford. At the far end, Ben is taking stills of Monique Alexander on a $4,600 sofa, which she’s going to get fucked on for Naughty America. Everyone is taking a beating in this economy, and the owners of this high-dollar store are happy to get a few extra hundred for giving us the location.

I was going to post an in-depth review of Inception, which is, without doubt, one of the most spectacular and original movies I’ve seen in my lifetime. I would fuck that movie if I could. But I’m far too distracted by the knot in my gut.

Instead, I’m writing as therapy, trying to relieve the mounting stress of an increasingly ridiculous life. As I take on more and more work, consistently making less for doing more, watching the bills pile up as the income dwindles, I wonder when I will finally crack. I’m not being melodramatic. This isn’t a growing panic but rather an idle concern, like guilt over not going to the dentist.

I’m trying to pay attention to the band playing Nearer My God to Thee as I rearrange the deck chairs.

Last week I worked four of the hardest days I can remember for Burning Angel, shooting and gaffing Joanna’s Angels 3 for Joanna and James Deen. 2 16-hour days, an 18-hour day and a 20-hour day, and practically every minute of it, I was on my feet and running around. I didn’t just feel old when we wrapped, I felt ancient.

To make matters worse, I’ve agreed to edit the movie. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that I haven’t finished cutting Kiss of the Strangler, which is turning out great, but taking far too long. Hot Video have been very understanding about it, but for how long? JA3 has a rigid due date in a little over 2 weeks, so it’s going to demand every moment I can devote to it.

Except that I’m going to Florida for four days to shoot Tristan Taormino’s documentary right in the middle of that 2 weeks.

Oh, and I still have to work my NA job, just to keep body and soul together.

Okay, instead of relieving my stress, putting this in black-and-white has sharpened it to a keen edge. Bad idea.

I’m fucked.

Well, as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough go fishing, so I’m having a last gasp attempt at recreation this weekend. Tomorrow, Mischief & I are going up the coast to see a band she loves in Santa Barbara, staying overnight, and then banging around the coast until Sunday evening. We planned this over a month ago. If I had any sense I would have canceled. As it is, I’ll be curious to see if I can even pretend to relax.

Afterwards, I’m essentially going to have to tell her – and everyone else in my life – to forget that I exist for a few weeks and try to dig myself out of the hole I’m in.

Either that, or pull it in after me.

Obviously, things have not been sparkly of late. Friday just put a fine point on the feelings of utter defeat and despair I’ve been struggling with since the spring. Or perhaps I should say an even finer point. Every single man who is at or near my age will understand when I say there is a strong desire in me to sell everything I own (and perhaps a pile of stuff I don’t own), and vanish into the Great Unknown, never to be heard from again by a single human I currently know.

Of course, this is a purely romantic notion. Right? I still have five little furry monsters I have to feed. Six, if you count Mischief.

On the topic of the Goth Biscuit, last weekend, she fell while attending Anime Expo and jacked up her right arm pretty successfully. Emergency room and doctor visits ensued, and we’ve discovered it isn’t broken. Just a major contusion and probably some muscle and tendon damage.

Kids.

She’s been fairly gimpy as a result, and I’ve learned to do things I never imagined, like how to properly brush and wash hair. For the first half of the week, she was pretty dependent, and I felt like a responsible adult. It was creepy. But it did net a great doctor’s office story.

However, since I enjoy telling stories backwards, let me drop a few details about this most recent weekend first. Having spent most of Friday crying my eyes out and trying to function, I was looking forward to being über-geek on Saturday night, playing Magic (I know, I know) with my friends Jim, John and Brusta, decompressing, distracted.

I hadn’t seen Allison for a few days, so I was thrilled when she arrived at my loft on Saturday night, looking great and equally happy to see me. I was even happier when she proudly slid my hand down her ass to find the butt plug she’d been wearing for the last several hours. She takes her homework very seriously, this girl.

You can infer the rest from there. I mean, I have an issue with being completely rude, so I excused myself from the game for a few rounds to indulge in an office & closet quickie. In my world, you just don’t waste a soaking-wet 26-year-old with a butt plug in her ass. But, eventually, I did return to my “guests.”

On Sunday, we slept in, completely failed to get out of bed about three times by my count, and then finally hauled our asses up to start the day. Mischief made herself extremely cute, and I did my best with jeans that no longer fit (I’ve lost a lot of weight this year) and a shirt I know she likes.

We made our way down to Venice beach to wander and people-watch. Personally, unless I’m in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic or somewhere equally resort-ish, I’m not a really “beachy” guy. As an abstract concept I love the beach, but in L.A., the beaches are cold, dirty, bum-infested and crowded. As a result, I haven’t been to Venice in, oh, five years?

We had a great time. We looked at clothes, books, art both good and bad. I copy-edited shop signs (including the hand-carved wooden sign which advertises clothing imported from “Katmandu,” wherever that is). We ate, snarked each other and argued about precisely how crazy Allison is (I’m gonna vote for somewhere between “Special Olympics” and “Batshit Crazy,” but well shy of “Nurse Ratched Will See You Now.”)

We stood for a long while at the drum circle, both trying to “get it,” but failing on some mutual lack of chemical alteration and/or spiritual depth. We watched a rumored former Solid Gold dancer do some amazing moves on roller skates, which only made me more disdainful of the small flotilla of self-important punks on skateboards whom Mischief was quite enamored with.

Ah, youth. Sadly, none of them seriously injured himself while we watched. (Hey you kids! Off of my lawn! GET OFF OF MY LAWN!)

We ended the day with Allison buying us dinner at a terrific Lebanese place where only one of the women truly looked like Jamie Farr. Over dinner, we continued a discussion about my personal brand of applied psychology and social anthropology, and the way I “read” people from a distance. Mischief is fascinated by this, and we’d been discussing how she presents herself in different situations.

On Wednesday, with her right arm still more-or-less completely KIA, I picked Mischief up from work and took her to see her orthapædist. This doctor’s office is in a very conservative part of the very conservative Orange County.

Since I probably haven’t mentioned it, overt PDA is one of Mischief’s favorite pastimes. Inappropriate PDA, even moreso.

Sitting in the OC waiting room were a thin, young, gay Asian sales rep for a software firm, a 40-something blonde real estate agent trying too hard to hit that “vaguely sexy but completely bland” look right in the center of the bullseye, and a burly, red-faced mid-40s contractor waiting for his wife; a guy you just know was climbing into a white F-250 with a crew cab and a bedliner when they left.

The main receptionist was a surly, sour-faced, Christian, Republican, 43-year-old single mother of four who was every inch the female version of the contractor in the waiting room. She stood about 5’ 11’ and had to be three bills. If you picture the feminized John Lithgow in World According to Garp you’re right on target.

Just seeing a man her age (and aren’t all fucking men just the fucking same!) with a girl Mischief’s age turned her bitter blood to cold vitriol, and if looks were daggers I would have left in a basket. Naturally, Allison took this as the signal that she should climb all over me in the waiting room. At one point, she even decided to sit in my lap. If it wouldn’t have led to police involvement and defeating the purpose of the trip (by getting kicked out), I’m sure she would have tried to blow me.

The realtor was scandalized. The contractor tried not to be envious. The salesman was oblivious.

Ms. Lithgow seethed hatred from behind the counter.

In a quiet attempt to keep Allison from alienating her doctor (I was imaging some first-generation Indian immigrant who can’t look a white woman in a bikini in the eye), I stayed in the waiting room while she went inside. At one point I caught the realtor’s eye, and I realized she wasn’t seeing me; she was seeing her husband, who coaches the girls’ volleyball team, and her imagination was running rampant.

When Allison returned from the bowels of the building, I joined her at the counter for checkout. She spent a few moments harassing the desk flunkies about details, doctor’s notes and appointments, and then asked the nurse, standing next to Ms. Lithgow, to clarify what she could and couldn’t do.

“No typing, no writing, no repetitive arm movements.”

“Oh, good,” said Mischief. “So I can still use my mouth.”

They’ll be scrubbing Ms. Lithgow’s brains off that wall for a week.

Christ, I’m exhausted.

For the last several days, I’ve been watching eight years of life together disintegrate slowly into boxes and piles as The Ex-Box and the Souvenir get on with the process of packing to move out. No matter how stoic you are (and I’m pretty fucking  stoic, Sunny Jim), there’s a hollow, echoing noise that sounds in your chest when you go to reach for something and find it gone, only to realize it’s been packed in a box to move on as part of another life.

Thank Bob for Amazon. They should have a section designed specifically for men trying to reassemble their lives after a break-up. “All the niggling little shit you’ve forgotten about, but need anyway, in one place!  Oven mitts! Kitchen shears! Paper towel holders!”

 This is a whole specific circle of Hell Dante must have missed. “Here in circle 4.2 are people who need to replace their cutlery drawer organizers because they’ve been dumped.”

On Sunday, Mischief took me away from the chaos on a day trip to Lake Arrowhead. Apart from the fact that California really doesn’t want you anywhere near the actual lake unless you’re a home/boat owner or a member of the fucking yacht club, and our disagreement over the standup comedian she loves that I… didn’t…, it was really nice.

We prowled through the shops, snickered our way through several terrible art galleries (and one very good one), ate the world’s worst excuse for a Belgian waffle ever, and had a generally terrific time. As we drove through around the mountain looking at some of the great old A-frames, she tried to convince me she really did like Corruption.

I don’t buy it.

We stopped at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse on the way home, and I discovered that the steakhouse of the same name I know from Arizona pre-dates the oldest California restaurant by a decade, and is apparently unaffiliated. I suspect it must have been at some point.

Today has been largely dedicated to chores, arranging the pickup of various pieces of furniture from myriad locations around the Valley, and going to pick up more furniture from CraigsList. After carrying a fullsize sofabed/couch solo on my back to get it to the truck, I’m a wee bit knackered.

Hopefully, tomorrow, I will be able to find a, eye of quiet in the ongoing hurricane to appease the monkey which clings eternally to my back and edit.

Last night, Mischief & I ordered Chinese and watched Corruption. It was her idea, not mine, so don’t imagine I’m forcing the girl to sit through my oeuvre and tell me how brilliant I am. In fact, I have no idea what she thought. There was a lot of heavy silence, so my guess is she was less than impressed.

I’m not surprised. A few days ago, I showed her – without telling her I was responsible – a Cock Diesel music video I directed as a cross-promotion for ICON, and she hated it. Not knowing it for what it was, not being able to recognize the location or the roof or Kylie or Hillary (largely because we were watching it in Ultra-Shitty-Scope on YouTube) gave her permission to express, and boy did she.

I don’t mind. Her opinion was so heartfelt and honestly delivered, I can’t take it personally. Besides, there’s a lot going on; the age difference, the different cultural references, the fact that she was, to an extent, comparing a video shot for free in 4 hours to a $460,000 Fatboy Slim video (Weapon of Choice directed by Spike Jonze) that was shot over six days, the incredibly bad YouTube encoding, etc.

None of which changes the fact that she hated it, and I’m okay with that. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m proud of it, either. We’re learning that we have very different taste in media. But it was useful to compare her reaction to Corruption and gauge her distaste by all she didn’t say.

I suspect she hated it as well. And that’s okay, too.

The most curious part of the evening was how it brought crashing back into my consciousness something I know, but often forget. A subtle reminder of why it’s so often pointless to put real effort into porn films.

No one takes a critical eye towards a cheesy Brady Bunch parody. But for those who care, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we work, we just can’t compete. To the average viewer, movies like Corruption that come close to looking and feeling like “real” movies get compared to those same mainstream films, and that’s a contest we simply cannot win.

Compare my little political drama with its crew of 11 and its 10-day shooting schedule to even a single episode of West Wing, whose catering cost more than my entire budget, and we’re just not going to shine very brightly. Like Icarus (in my new favorite poem), having flown too close to the sun, we come to the end of our triumph. I suppose that’s the very definition of hubris.

But, like a proud parent ignoring his child’s faults, it is so very easy to forget. I don’t take it to heart, but I have to admit, the whole enterprise has made me somewhat melancholy and reflective about the hopelessness of my life’s ambition.

I have a close friend who is in his final weeks of pre-production on a mainstream film. At one time, I was to have a small role in it, essentially playing Helms from Corruption. When that looked untenable I asked if I could at least audition for the part, simply to be seen by a real casting director. I asked for a job on the movie, even as a P.A., just to get back on a real set, just to get the taste for blood, the hunger back in my mouth.

I have essentially offered to work for free. Apparently, I am too tainted by my current career to pursue my vocation even as an avocation. Free, it seems, is too high a price for a broken-down old pornographer to venture back into mainstream.

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