Does everyone have recurring nightmares, or is it only unproduced screenwriters? I have one where my teeth loosen so much I can yank one out and spit it into an ashtray. My Deeply Concerned Mother believes the teeth represent words, symbolizing my need to dole mine out to the world, whatever the personal cost. There’s another where I’m chewing this huge wad of gum and it grows backward down my throat if I don't keep blowing bubbles. Deeply Concerned, no stranger to the self-help section down at the Umatilla Barnes & Noble, feels certain this one is either about compulsive overeating or writer’s block.
My most frequent nightmare feels almost interactive—like some early Technicolor musical I’m orchestrating from the sidelines on my debut directorial assignment for MGM. I’m back in New Orleans as an undergrad; classes are about to start and I can’t find a place to live. In my desperate journey to find a home, punctuated with rousing song and dance numbers, old college friends pop up like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz to taunt me with their real life successes. One has a husband and kids, the other a Connecticut farm house and a Ph.D. I haven’t discussed the underlying subtext with Deeply Concerned, but I’m guessing she’d say it’s more concrete evidence of my abject failure, over these many years, to land a man, get a job, buy a house and open a 401K.
Ironically, since the big life twister whisked me off to Munchkinland, my little Hollywood bungalow has been the only real constant. While I plan to fight my illegal eviction with all I've got, the city would mandate some handy “relocation" expenses were I to give in now. So I’m figuring some looking around wouldn’t hurt.
Yesterday, I visited what could have been the set of Melrose Place, only rendered in three-quarter scale. The apartment had a half-bath and a third of a kitchen, with a miniature refrigerator you could sit upon with your legs crossed and roll around paddling a broom. The smarmy owner, an "Argentinian film editor," who never said exactly what kind of films so I'm going with soft core porn, informed me he'd be running a criminal check on me. He said I may as well come clean, since he'd already backgrounded my neighbor the former stripper, a fellow evictee, revealing something "not so cool" in her past. He was obviously referencing an old misdemeanor conviction for lewd conduct, connected to her once having unlawfully touched herself during a lapdance. I wonder if the undercover cop she was straddling at the time has trouble securing adequate housing.
I moved on to a vintage building in the heart of Hollywood, near the storied Knickerbocker Hotel and the landmark Capitol Records Building. All very charming, save for the bars on the windows, the junkies in the communal courtyard and the warlock who hexed me for stealing his parking spot. "Don't bother, freak," I told him, jamming nickels in the meter. "It's really redundant at this point."
I went home and happened upon a dream setup on Craigslist, a charming, one-bedroom gate house with a screened-in sleeping porch on a ten-acre Malibu ranch. The rancher, who revealed himself to be a Certain Big Deal Producer managing to get away from it all, said the rent is so low because he's looking for someone who likes to cook and garden and could watch the dogs when he and the wife are in Aspen. "Maybe an emerging screenwriter," I hinted, "whose career you could gently nurture in the quiet of the countryside." I then realized that a film school chum had formerly been his assistant and ran his name past her. Her response, in summary, was that the guy is Satan in a pair of Osh Kosh B'Goshes. The only one of the seven deadly sins he hadn't committed repeatedly upon or in front of her was avarice, and that's only because she's never been exactly sure what that is.
I spent most of today on the phone with the Rent Stabilization Board explaining to the mouth-breathing morons why they might want to enforce state and local law on my behalf. In truth, I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight, knowing it won't be the toothless or the bubble gum dream, but rather the one where I'm homeless and tapdancing for my life. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is when you spend your whole day dreaming about the limitless beauty of what might be, your nights can't help but surrender themselves to the ugly reality of what actually is.