— My new nephew is now here among us on earth, and I haven’t met him yet, but I have seen pictures and have received no less than 152 texts in the last four days from my brother to all of us on the East Coast. We love our new family member very much and we are very glad he is here! I can’t wait to meet him and hold him. I wish I could teleport myself to California. The situation is rather amusing, because now it is my sister’s turn to give birth, any day now, the clock ticking down. The due dates were only a week apart. So as of next week, there will be another teeny new member of our family here with us! It’s like checking off a checklist: NEXT. It’s exciting and emotional. And, my goodness, we can’t forget that my other sister Jean had a baby in December, the glorious Pearl. So as of next week, there will be THREE new little beings in our family. I am proud of my siblings and I love my family.

— Had a meeting on Monday at the offices of the Criterion Collection. It is just as beautiful and inspiring a place as one would imagine. Here’s the main lobby area. HEAVEN.


— It is now a year since I got diagnosed. I can hardly believe it. It’s weird, last year feels like a lost year in some ways. I keep thinking of events in 2012 as “last year”. But that’s just because 2013, with all of the great things that happened (Roger Ebert hiring me, for one), was about getting better. I am proud of myself for facing that Dragon, or being forced to face it. It’s hard work, staying well, but I have tons of help. I need it. I have been afraid that getting healthy would somehow dim my intensity, which I honestly don’t know how I could live without. I’ve been this intense my whole life. But no, that has not happened. I am still intense. I just get more sleep. Ironically, getting more sleep makes it feel like there are MORE hours in the day.

— My awesome cousin Emma has a cameo role on Girls this week. Tune in! I’ve written about Emma before. She’s wonderful. I can’t keep up with her, but I’m super proud. She’s a great person. But then, she’s always been a great person. She deserves all good things.

— Tearing my way through Mark Helprin’s latest novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow. It’s a monster of a book, 800 pages long, but it’s going quite quickly. It’s no Winter’s Tale, but then again, what is. It is still engaging and thought-provoking, and often laugh out loud funny (which it really needs). His prose is so superb, so unabashedly romantic and specific. Nobody like him. There’s a four-chapter-long flashback to Harry’s experiences as a paratrooper in WWII and at first I resented what felt like a digression, but then, as I realized that this was not just a flashback but an enormous section of the book, I settled into it. It’s some AWESOME war writing. Strategies, realities, the horror of it, the strange beauty of some of it. At one point, 200 pages in to this “flashback”, Harry is transported to a makeshift camp where the soldiers are given hot showers and a full meal. The description of what it felt like to have hot water pouring over your body was so luscious and life-affirming that you realized just how well Helprin had immersed you in the cold deprivation of warfare during wintertime. He brings me to tears often. It’s a wonderful book.

— I saw Blue Jasmine finally. Not my favorite Woody Allen, but Cate Blanchett is quite good. I am not a fan of hers, but she is excellent in the role. You understand why this woman, a fantasist, really, would crack up when the illusion of her life shattered. But I can’t help but compare her to Gena Rowlands. Gena would have made the film positively unbearable (in the best sense) if she had played that role. It is an unfair comparison, but whatever, life is unfair. When the bar for madness has been set as high as Gena Rowlands set it, you don’t soon forget it. I thought Andrew Dice Clay was great. (If you had told me last year I would ever say that sentence, I would have thought you were nuts.) And Bobby Cannavale was superb (no surprise there). His breakdown in the grocery store was visceral, it came from a very real place. Alec Baldwin was great, too. One of his best scenes was a purely reactive scene, when he basically comes clean about his affair with the au pair, and Blanchett loses it. Her panic and temper tantrum is so extreme it takes over the film, and watching him deal with it, watching it unfold, helplessly, was really good support-staff playing. Most of it takes place in a one-shot, so you are actually watching them deal with one another, without the interruption of editing. It’s a great scene. I also loved where Blanchett placed her voice. It’s phony. It’s perfect. This woman is a construction, not an organic human being. There is no “self” there. It’s all made up. Which, of course, is perfect. Like I said, I have some issues with her work in general, but I thought she was excellent.

— It’s a cold windy day. I have writing to do and I’m going to take a run. Get to bed early. More work tomorrow. And a busy weekend of writing. The only way I can keep up the pace is by keeping on with the sleep regimen as well as the exercise regimen. Writing so much is invigorating but it is also solitary and stationary. Balance! Getting out there and getting the blood pumping, the muscles working, the sweat going … all of that is an essential partner in living what is mainly a cerebral life. At least that’s been my experience.

— For some reason, there was a thread on FB yesterday about euphemisms for private behavior, like going to the bathroom or masturbating. People were sharing their own euphemisms and it was hilarious. My euphemism for the second one is “dialing zero”, which I have always thought was hysterical. I picked it up from M., the crazy black-haired tough-guy boyfriend who used to climb through my window just to say Hi. He’d say, “So when you’re dialing zero, do you think about me?” So stupid. Once he realized it made me laugh, he’d throw it into conversation left and right. Because he loved to make me laugh. I realize the euphemism dates me, since it requires knowledge of rotary phones to even get it.

— The other day, on my run, I came across a group of people waiting for the bus. In that moment, I realized I had been watching far too much Supernatural because I looked at what was a totally benign scene, and thought, “Damn. They look like Reapers.”


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11 Responses to Snapshots

  1. Helena says:

    //“Damn. They look like Reapers.”//

    Damn. You know – the thing is, in the right light, everybody does.

  2. Helena says:

    Not creepy at all!

  3. Helena says:

    And now, Criterion. Wow, to continue the SPN theme, was it like being in the Beautiful Room?

    • sheila says:

      I was a kid in a candy store. I got the tour. I even saw a guy in a dark room working on a film, cleaning it up. It was amazing!! I so admire the company and what they do there.

  4. I’m your twin today (even though I’m a 70 year old man). I’m about to go on a run. Then I’ll return and work on Chapter 35.

    • sheila says:

      I love having twins who are 70 year old men! :)

      Good luck with your writing, Steve!! I know it can be a lonely grind – but well worth it.

  5. Jennchez says:

    Isn’t it amazing getting a correct diagnosis and then having someone that actually helps you and does not throw a bunch of platitudes your way. I obviously don’t know your journey, but it sounds similar to mine. What amazed me the most was what it felt like to feel good. I’m not sure I ever was “100 percent”. I also was afraid it would affect my creativity and drive, but it actually has enhanced it. I’m very happy for you, I know all too well what the dark place feels like and it sucks.

    That Criterion wall is amazing, I can only imagine what the rest of the building was like!

    Wishing you a happy, healthy and productive New Year!!

    • sheila says:

      // What amazed me the most was what it felt like to feel good. //

      I know. It’s so hard to describe to people who don’t know what it’s like. My baseline was always so low. It was always static in the background, sometimes a roar taking over everything, but always there.

      I feel good. I hate that it takes so much work to feel good – but I actually feel good – MOST of the time. This is a tricky time of year – because of the time change and the lengthening of the days. Some folks with my diagnosis really struggle. I’m only a year in to this thing, so I’m just trying to go into the time-change aware that it might be a problem, and pay attention to the red flags (if they show up).

      And in re: Criterion. I know!! It was like my version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Or the Emerald City. Movies EVERYWHERE. The art department – where they put together those amazing posters and DVD covers – the different dark rooms where people work on the films, restoring them, cleaning them up – It was just so great to get a peek behind the curtain at where those amazing Criterion editions come from.

      Wishing you a healthy productive New Year as well!!

  6. Kate F. says:

    I sometimes have little fantasies of what I would throw money at if I “won the lottery” and Criterion Collection is tops. I soooo love what they do. Also, I am on a listserve with people who share health issues I’ve been dealing with for years and I recently posted some lab results to which someone replied “you must feel really awful” and all I could think was “I just feel like I’ve always felt.” Also glad to have a new normal. Congrats on all the babies in your life – they make everything better!

    • sheila says:

      New normal is great.

      And so are new babies!! They’re the best! So in a 3-month span, we have three new babies, which is just so Irish I can’t even stand it. I grew up with a lot of cousins, and I am so happy for our new generation that they will have the same experience.

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