Freakishly smart people aren’t as smart as less educated people – sometimes.

Albert Einstein in shorts and sandals.
When his swimsuit modeling career failed to launch, Einstein turned to science and math instead.

“Hi! Dr. Phillips, right?” I said recognizing a woman at the grocery self check-out. Growing up with a forgettable name, (and face for that matter) I’ve always been good with remembering other people’s names. I had met Dr. Phillips a couple of months ago at a local event.  She’s a prestigious forensics expert or something.

“Ever notice how really smart people have no common sense?” Dr. Phillips said, apparently in the middle of a conversation with herself.

“I think I read Einstein sometimes forgot to put on his pants. But that could have been fake news.” I said laughing, but inwardly cringing as she put a six pack of Dr. Pepper on top of her bread.

“I’m sure it’s true. Take my husband for instance. He’s a rocket scientist but he has no-” She was saying as she attempted to swipe her driver’s license through the credit card reader.

“That’s your driver’s lice-” I began, but she caught her mistake and began swiping the credit card, upside down at first, before flipping it right.

“So, Dave is really a rocket scientist?” I asked starting to scan my groceries at the next checkout. “I thought that was just a joke.”

“What’s funny about being a rocket scientist?” She asked seriously.

“Well, nothing if you are one. I just thought it was, you know, one of those kinds of jokes where you say you’re something you’re not.”

“That’s not how jokes work.” She said looking at me like I was a complete idiot. “There are rules of comedy. Just like there are rules of science. To laugh is to cry.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that somewhere.” I agreed.

“I read it in your blog.”

“Oh, you read my blog?” I asked, flattered.

“I was told it was going to be funny.” She responded irritably.

“My comedy writing is rather tragic.” I said hoping she would throw me a bone of encouragement.

“You should try ESL stories. Those don’t have to be good.” She suggested instead.

“What were you saying about your husband not having common sense?” I said innocently bringing her back to the original conversation.

“Must not have been important. I try only to remember useful information. Goodbye.” She said taking her receipt and pushing her empty cart towards the exit, her groceries still at the checkout.

I couldn’t believe it.  She didn’t remember what knuckle headed thing her husband had done, but she remembered something I’d written in a blog!  I walked out of the store encouraged that my education as a college drop out had gleaned me common sense and an ability to write memorable content. At least until I got to my car and realized I left my purse at the checkout.

Dad at school crossing with genius son that forgot his shirt, shoes and one sock.
Lord, couldn’t we trade some of that IQ for a little common sense?

Lies and Deception are no Reason to Hate Christmas

I get that the holidays are hard for some people.  Especially for people that have lost loved ones, or are going through illness or divorce.  But I don’t understand why people who have no obvious reason, claim to hate Christmas.

Like my friend Cheryl.  She’s loud and proud about not celebrating Christmas.

“It’s just a holiday created by greedy corporations.” She proclaimed one afternoon while we were baking cookies for school.

“I doubt there were corporate marketers at the birth of Christ.” I said decked out in my Christmas sweater, twinkling light necklace , my face painted to look like Rudolph.

“Who do you think the wise men were?  They came bearing gifts with the expectation you would buy the rest of the stuff in their camel bags.”

“Well, I love Christmas.” I said wistfully.  “The decorating, Christmas movies, caroling. Well, not caroling so much; have you ever heard me sing?  Oh, and we have a tradition that every Christmas we watch Holiday Inn.”

“That’s disgusting.” She said. “I bet you have one of those Elf on a Shelf’s too.”

“We do!” I said excited, then remembered this would probably be the last year of magic.  “It was a lot of fun when the kids were little. But our youngest was so devastated when we told her there was no Easter Bunny, no St. Patrick’s Day Leprechaun, no Flag Day Fairy-“

“Flag Day Fairy?” she asked cutting me off.

“Yeah, you know, he goes around putting flags in the ground to honor all the soldiers that don’t have someone to remember them.”

Cheryl stopped her assault on the Christmas tree cookies that had so much frosting they looked like Abominable Snowmen that had molded.

“Where did you grow up?” she asked cautiously.

“I’m an army brat, I grew up all over.”

“That explains it.  Wait, isn’t your daughter like sixteen?  And she still believes –”

“Jiminy Christmas!” I yelled before she could blurt out something about Santa. It worked, but had the added effect of her squirting frosting across the kitchen which landed on my little dog’s head.  Fortunately, my big dog quickly lick his head like an ice cream cone.

“She’s fifteen. And we’re going to tell her right after Christmas.” I whispered.   “Next year.” Cheryl started to say something, but instead switched to putting mouths on the Santa cookies.

I assume she intended to make them look like they were saying “ho ho ho” but they looked more like Mrs. Clause and the Surprise Emoji had a baby.

Baby It’s Cold Outside came on the radio sending Cheryl into another Christmas fit.

“There’s a song that should be outlawed.”

“It’s cute.” I said defensively.

“Have you ever listened to the words?”

We stopped talking and listened to the song a moment.

So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)                  
The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)

“The guy’s a letch!  She’s trying to leave and he’s slipping drugs into her drink!”

“What? No!” I said, but remembered my kids had said the same thing since they were in preschool.  How could I have missed that growing up?

For the next fifteen minutes we worked absorbed in our own thoughts. Cheryl probably worrying about my rose colored glasses when it comes to Christmas.  For me, I realized Cheryl must have suffered some traumatic Christmas experience like Neil in “The Santa Claus” who didn’t get his Weenie Whistle when he was three.  What terrible injustice did Cheryl experience that could reverberate well into her forties?

It was going to take some detective work, but I was determined to help turn her into a Christmas lover.  That didn’t come out right, but you know what I mean.

It seems Cheryl had an agenda of her own.  After she left I found our boy and girl Elf on a Shelf embracing each other on top of the Menorah holding each others butts.

 

Mystery Whine and Dine

Two women at a dinner table, one has a bunch of French fries sticking out of her mouth.
Is it rude to talk when your mouth is full, if someone asks you a question, while your mouth is full?

My friend, Carmen got a part time job over the holidays for some extra Christmas cash.

“I thought it would be fun.” She began, and I knew I was in for a whine and dine.  Thankfully, she only had a thirty minute lunch break, so it couldn’t drag on too long.

“The teenagers are the worst, always calling me ma’am.” She continued.

“How disrespectful.” I said sarcastically.

“I know, right?” she responded, missing the sarcasm completely.  “Hey, you remember my son’s third grade teacher?”

“The one who told you she didn’t like your son at Meet the Teacher day?” I asked.

“I can’t believe you remembered that! She-”

“Who could forget that?  Her name was, wait, don’t tell me.  It’s Miller – no, Milner.  Wait, that’s not right. But it does start with an M.”

“L.” she corrected.

“L? Are you sure? I could have sworn it was an ‘m.’”

“It’s-“

“No!  Don’t tell me. I know this.” I continued, trying to solve the mystery. “Lester. Little. Lemer. Lettuce.”

“Shay.” She cut in.

“No! I got this! Lor –i-ta-nem.” I said sounding out possibilities.

Carmen rolled her eyes.

“Okay, give me a hint.  But don’t tell me.” I said to appease her.

“It rhymes with ‘cotton.’”

“Cotton?  Are you sure we’re talking about the same person?” I asked doubtfully.

“Yes!  Mrs.  Lau-”

“Don’t say it!” I yelled, covering my ears so I wouldn’t hear. “La-la-la-la.”

“What are you doing?”  she asked trying to hide her face as other people in the deli looked over at us.

“Just give me a second.” I said, taking my hands from my ears confident she wasn’t going to give away the answer.  “Okay, what do we know?  It was your son’s third grade teacher.  She told you she didn’t like him.  And, her name starts with the letter ‘L.’”

Carmen said nothing and shoved half a drumstick in her mouth.  Which meant she was either annoyed or very hungry.  Another mystery, but I didn’t want to split my focus, so I put it from my mind.

“Oh, AND, it rhymes with cotton.  Although, I’m not sure that part is right.” I said, to which Carmen may have rolled her eyes again.  I couldn’t be sure because I was focusing hard on my mind’s eye.  Or is it, “in” my mind’s eye? Ah, curses, another mystery to solve!

“I’ve got it! Larson.” I proudly proclaimed.

“No.”

“Marson? Parson? Tarson?” I fired off as she continued shaking her head and chewing.

“Those don’t even start with an ‘L.’” she pointed out.

“Okay, give me another hint.”

“It sounds like Daughton.” She offered, finishing off her lunch.

“Sounds like Daughton, but begins with an L.” I repeated slowly.

Carmen’s contact must have come out, because she banged her forehead on the table several times looking for it. Which surprisingly enough, worked because they seemed to be in her eyes now.

“I gotta get going.” She said gathering her trash onto the tray.

“Alright.  Just tell me.” I said giving in.

“Laughton.”

“Oh, Mrs. Laughton! Yeah, I remember her. She was so nice.” I said with a smile remembering her craggy old face.

I realized I hadn’t even started eating, but didn’t feel like I should languish since Carmen had to get back to work.  I tossed my hamburger in my purse and shoved most of the fries in my mouth, throwing the rest on her tray of trash.

“Wha’ abow’ her?” I managed to ask, spewing a marginal amount of French fries in the process.

“She just dinged your car in the parking lot.” She said.  “Happy holidays!”

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How to keep your wallet. Keep your friends. And keep your distance.

Cartoon little girl in Sherlock Holmes hat imagining a teenager is an alien, a body builder has a snake, and an old woman has a gun in her purse.
Shay didn’t have imaginary friends, she had imaginary identities of real people.

As a kid, I played make believe a lot. But it often involved people that didn’t know they were playing.  What I mean is, I would watch people and create scenarios of who they really were and what they were doing.  For instance, if I saw a man in a hat and long jacket, I would assume he was a jewel thief.  I would follow him around the mall so I could catch him in the act.

I never caught a crook, but I did become tuned into body language.  I even took an on-line course on body language.  It wasn’t so much a course as it was a blog.  But, it was pretty fascinating.   Here are a few things I deduced which you might want to think about.

The handshake:

  1. Limp – a) afraid of you, b) don’t like you or c) don’t like themselves;
  2. Firm – a) confident, b) friendly, glad to see/meet you c) may even think you’re hot;
  3. Painful – a) domineering, b) desire to destroy you, or c) overcompensating for something.

The hug:

  1. firm – love and affection;
  2. groping – pervert;
  3. loose – same as limp handshake, or your deodorant isn’t working.

The Eye Contact :

  1. Normal Human– Makes appropriate amount of eye contact;
  2. Serial Killer – Never looks away or blinks;
  3. Liar – won’t make eye contact at all;
  4. Pervert – looks at you – but not in the eye;
  5. And the most confusing one:  rapid blinking often combined with open mouth emitting no sound, which means they have an eyelash in their eye.

These are just the basics.  The most important things to be wary of when people watching are: fidgety people ready to pick your pocket; people clutching their stomach ready to puke; and the random naked person.

Milestones, Murder and Marriage

Four photo booth pictures of Jon Schwartz and Sheilia "Shay" Thurmon being silly.
The writing team of Schwartz and Thurmon at a fundraiser for Atlanta Workshop Players. November 2017

I started my professional writing career by accident. First, I was mistaken for an actress and got hired to act in a murder mystery. Then I was hired by another company to write mysteries. Soon after I met, Jon Schwartz, and we would begin writing and producing our own murder mysteries for corporate events mostly under Bacchus Mystery Theatre.  But the first mystery we wrote together  was for Seven Course Theatre, 25 years ago!

It was the spring of 1992 and we wrote a 1920 mob murder mystery called “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Gun.” We had dancing girls, a jazz singer, comedians Rob Cleveland and Kenny Raskin, a cute entertainer named Dan.  Dan was hired to do his one man show within our mystery.  Well, sort of.  You see, every time Dan got on stage and proclaimed he was an entertainer and started doing his act, Jon would shoot him and inform him he was a “bus boy.”  We actually had a film company squib him, so his shirt would explode and a blood pack would splatter from it!  We called Dan’s character “Lucky.”

I never set out to write live murder mysteries, but it was a lot of fun and I learned to “kill my darlings” as William Faulkner and Stephen King have said.  It means editing out the unnecessary and unimportant.  Writing is rewriting and that requires cutting out the fat, keeping it tight and moving the story forward.

Jon and I loved the dénouement of that first mystery.  It lasted 20 minutes, had about 20 actors and eight guns firing at the same time.  It was LOUD, chaotic and WAY over done.

It was just hours before the show, but the first chance we had to run it with the whole cast and the blank guns.  The client was understandably concerned and panicked, asked the Producer if there was something she could do to get us to change the ending.  (Did they really thing we would refuse?)  By the time our Producer made her way over to us, we had cut it down to 5 minutes and two gun shots.  We rewrote the ending with two elderly star-crossed lovers/mobsters getting shot and moving in slow motion across the room to each other, with a variety of incidents happening before falling into each others arms.  It was much quieter, more satisfying and way funnier.

I learned early on not to be “married to my writing.”  I can love a scene, love a line, even love a character, but I will cut it in a heartbeat to make the script better.

I did, however, fall in love and marry that cute Dan Thurmon. We will celebrate 25 years of marriage next year!  I’d say I’m the lucky one!

Sheilia and Dan Thurmon pose for a photo in a house.
July 1992 Sheilia and “that cute Dan Thurmon.” The next year they would marry.

 

Idiosyncrasies comes from the Greek word for idiot, right?

A woman as a drug stiffing dog sniffs luggage while a police man holds her leash.
Utilizing her super human sense of smell, Shay successfully acquired a job as a drug sniffing dog. Unfortunately, it paid in dog bones.

Most people aren’t aware of their idiosyncrasies.  (Most people can’t even spell it.  Thankfully Siri can or I’d still be looking it up.)  But me, I’m different.   I’m actually aware of my differences compared to most of the population.

For instance, I twirl my hair when I’m thinking. Back in the old days people would fiddle with worry beads.  Now people use fidget spinners.  So, twirling my hair shouldn’t seem so weird, but people judge. Like the guy on the airport train. Granted we were crammed in there like sardines so as I twirled my hair it was actually hitting the side of his face.  But still, it was only for thirty seconds or less.  Yeesh.

Another thing is I have a super human sense of smell.  Seriously.  I have actually smelled the smoke of a cigarette from a person five cars and two lanes away, with my windows rolled up!

I can tell when a baby has a poopy diaper before the person holding them realizes it.

I’m also really tuned into the physiology of my body.  I can literally feel a vitamin dissolving in my stomach.  I felt the egg stuck in my tube during an ectopic pregnancy, at four weeks post ovulation, even though the doctor insisted no one can feel it under eight weeks.  Two weeks later it ruptured and I felt THAT like a silver bullet! Sometimes it sucks being right.

There are a few other things, one might consider idiosyncrasies, but they’re probably things you do too like:

*putting Fritos in my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches;

*lifting my feet when riding over a railroad track – (which can be tricky when you’re the one driving);

*practice saying “hello” four or five times before making a call;

*turning around three times before using the bathroom;

*talking baby talk to my dogs – even when it’s a picture of them on my phone;

*saying “yellow one” every time I see a yellow car;

*sticking my chewing gum on the bathroom mirror at night before brushing my teeth in case I’ll want it in the morning (I may have accidentally left some in a few hotels);

*using a foreign accent when making dinner reservations; and

*seeing a penny on the ground, picking it up, making a wish then setting it back in the same spot.

The point is, we all have harmless little idiosyncrasies that can make us endearing or annoying.  I may or may not, do some or all of the above idiosyncratic things.  Subscribe to my blog anyway.

 

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Networking 1 Oh! 1

Three business men in glasses hold money in hand while a woman's leg in fishnet stockings and high heel is seen in the foreground with a stripper pole.
It never occurred to Bob that the only ones benefiting from their “networking meetings” at the Cheetah were the dancers.

I like people.  And I like meeting new people.  But I don’t think that’s the same thing as networking. I was talking with a friend of mine at lunch before leaving for a conference involving “networking.”

“The fact that it has the word ‘work’ in it, is an indication, it’s not supposed to be fun.  Am I right, or am I right?” I asked.

“Oh, you’re right, girl. But you gotta know how to work it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked.

“I’m just saying, networking is about gettin’ out there and meetin’ the right people.”

“I can network, I just don’t like to.” I said defensively.

“Hmm-humm.” She said with one of those “Girl, you are lying through your teeth” side smirks that involves a half cocked eyebrow.

“I can! I’m actually pretty good at it.” I said lying through my teeth.

Now, a polite friend would have let it drop there, both of us knowing it wasn’t true, but Evette is not one of those friends.  She’s the friend you go to when you REALLY want to know the truth, because she can lay it out like a chemistry teacher breaking down the periodic chart with scientific truths and charged chemical reactions!

“Tell me about one of your networking successes.” She demanded.

Ten minutes later I finally blurted out “I talked to Carol Burnette!

“You did not!” she began.

“I did too.  Remember, it was at the Fox Theatre ten years ago and a few of us talked to her after her program…” I continued with revisionist history firmly in place.

I could see the gears spinning as she tried to recall what I told her all those years ago.

“You’re talking ‘bout the time she took questions from the audience and you were up in the second dress circle?”

“It may have been.  I don’t remember.” I said standing to search for the waiter.

“And you yelled out a question while she was still talking?”

“I didn’t- it – the microphone wasn’t working!” I explained.

“Oh that’s right.” She agreed and proceeded to laugh loudly as she retold the story.  “That’s why you started yelling!  And, the security thought you were a heckler and tried to have you removed!”

I gave up looking for the waiter and sat down, hoping her laugh fest would soon pass.

“I think I know what your problem is.” She said seriously.  “You don’t know what networking means.”

“Networking means talking to people you don’t know, so you can sell them something they don’t want, while trying not to be boring or intoxicated.” I said, confidently regurgitating a networking 101 blog I read.

For some reason she thought this was hysterical and fell into another fit of laughter, drawing the attention of a friend of ours entering the restaurant.

“Evette!  Shay!  Hi.  What’s so funny?” Kimberly asked coming over to join us.

“It’s nothing.” I said, spotting the waiter coming from the kitchen and waived profusely.

“Shay thinks yelling at someone on stage is networking.” Evette said laughing.

“Like when you heckled Carol Burnett?” Kimberly asked, trying to understand.

“What? No! She’s just – she’s joking. See how she’s laughing?  How’s Benjamin?” I asked Kimberly, trying to change the subject.

“I don’t know. I just don’t think this long distance romance is going to work.” She said thoughtfully.

“Long distance? I thought you lived together.” I said.

“We do.”

Evette stopped laughing and we both looked at Kimberly confused.

“It’s the long distance romance, that’s the problem.” She reiterated.  When we continued to look dumbfounded, she whispered “We’re only having sex once a month. Don’t you think that’s a pretty long distance in between?”

Evette and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.  If networking were as easy as getting together with friends and laughing at each other, I’d do it all the time.

 

Epilogue: My networking skills failed once again while at the Austin Film Festival when I only managed to network with a homeless man that wandered in and a call girl looking to get “discovered.”

Smile Lines and Changing Times

A female crossing guard with sunglasses and orange vest poses with stop sign overhead in a dance move.
Shay studied at the Saturday Night Fever School for Crossing Guards earning a Disco Ball and Spandex Certificate of Excellence.

I offered to do some volunteer work with a friend of mine the other day when our conversation took a hard turn.  (On a side note, next time I’ll do the driving because riding with her took ten years off my life and not in a good way.)

“Do I look alright to you?” I asked.

“What do you mean?  Like if I was a lesbian?” she asked beginning to check me out.

“No. I mean, do I look weird?”

“You look like you always do.” She shrugged.

“You mean I’ve always looked hideous?”

While she slammed on the gas to merge into traffic I flipped down the visor to look in the mirror.

“Have I always had that vein in my temple?  And that scar on my lip?  What are these lines around my eyes?  I think I have a skin condition.” I said in rapid succession.

“Those are smile lines.” She said, trying to sound positive.

“Oh my God, do I smile that much?  That’s it, I have to stop watching comedies.  Wait a minute, smile lines?  That’s code for crows feet, isn’t it?” I said accusingly.  “What’s next? Double chins?”

I flipped the visor back up, stretched my neck and began slapping my chin.

“What are you doing?” she asked swerving back into her lane.

“It’s supposed to keep the double chins away. I think.” I said, starting to flinch at the pain.

“You’re just making your neck red.”

Flipping down the visor mirror again, I confirmed she was right and I looked more hideous than ever.

“I guess I’m going to have to convert.” I said sadly.  Flipping the visor up again.

“Convert?  Girl, what are you talking about?”

“I’m going to become a Muslim so I can wear a burqa.” I explained.

“First of all, you are the most devout Christian I know.  Granted, that’s not saying much since most of my friends are Jews or Atheists, but I don’t see you giving up your faith.”

“You’re right.  I love Jesus.  Do you think He would mind if I had plastic surgery?” I asked seriously.

She stared at me for a very long time, which was terrifying because she was doing 70 mph on the interstate.

“What?” I asked when she continued taking our lives in her blind hands.

“Girl.” She said, which really meant “You are too stupid for more words.”

We exited the freeway and I breathed a sigh of relief, beginning to believe we would actually get to our destination without an accident.

“I wish I was black.” I said wistfully.

She gave me that look, which said “girrrr-l” but with a question mark on it, which means “what they hell are you talking about?”

“Black people don’t age.  Look at Will Smith.  He looks the same now as when he was the Fresh Prince.  And Samuel L. Jackson.  And Denzel Washington.” I continued.

“Those are all black men.” She pointed out.

“Well… Beyonce’ then.  She looks like she’s only about thirty-five.”

“She’s thirty-six.” She advised.

“Oh, I said.

“Beyonce’ at eighty would be an improvement for you though.” She said only half joking.

“That’s what I’m saying.” I agreed.

“You know what your problem is?” she said, parking the car. It was a rhetorical question, so I didn’t try to guess at which problem she was referring to.  “You don’t know what you got, ‘til it’s gone.”

“That’s not-“ I began to argue, because if there’s one thing I am good at, it’s appreciating the who’s and what’s in my life.

“Let me finish.” She said holding up the quiet finger. “Have you ever looked back at photos and thought “Hey, I didn’t look half bad then.” but at the time you thought you looked terrible?”

A light switch flipped in my brain and I understood what she was saying.  “You think you look bad now, just wait a few years.”

With those words of wisdom, I slipped my big sunglasses on, tossed my hair over my shoulder and buttoned my vest snug across my chest.  Then, stepping from the car, I strutted across the street like John Travolta taking the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever.

To the kids at the elementary school, I may have looked like an old lady with big glasses who was hearing voices, but to me, I was a volunteer crossing guard with a few good years still ahead of her.

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What’s in a name?

Several times recently the subject of names has come up.  That got me to thinking about how we are sometimes defined by our name.  Think about famous people: Hilton, Kardashian, Clinton or Trump.  People know the name and make judgements.  But, what’s in a Name? A person? A job? A legacy?

When I was young I was married for a brief time.  Sometimes people referred to it as a “practice marriage.”  I hate that label, but I have to admit he was practicing infidelity.

When I divorced him, I went back to my maiden name. I didn’t want to have to explain: “I’m not Italian, I’m divorced.”

Weather man in front of map showing 2 hurricanes off the coast.
“As Hurricane Damn-it barrels down on North Carolina, O’#hit is quickly moving in to dump a load on Aruba.”

But names aren’t just applicable to people, think about hurricanes. For years hurricanes only had female names.  Then they started alternating between male and female. But there’s still the possibility someone is going to feel left out that their name hasn’t been used.

To me, it seems to make more sense to use cuss words as names for hurricanes.

Another thing we define people by is their jobs titles: Banker, Lawyer, Drug Dealer. But some people have really obscure jobs that don’t necessarily have titles.  Like what do you call the person that records the sound of a golfers swing at the PGA Tournaments? Whack! It’s someone’s job to do that!  If you didn’t hear that “whack” think how boring golf would be to watch…

And what about the people that do the ropes and pulleys for plays that require actors to “fly” like “Peter Pan?”  There’s the person that hooks him before he flies: the Hooker. And the guy that pulls the rope so he flies: the Peter Puller.  These are important jobs that take skill to make “flying” effortless. Shouldn’t they have important names?

Movies have crews with names like “Best Boy” and “Key Grip.”  I don’t know what they do, but I’m sure it’s important or they wouldn’t be “Key” and “Best.”  In fact, those are better names than, girlfriend or boyfriend for someone that is supposedly a serious romantic relationship.

I guess the moral of the story is, don’t judge people by their names, or their titles.  Judge them by what they do. Then label them accordingly!

 

The Pitch – Rocaberti Retreat at Marouatte Castle

A woman with a big candy inside her right cheek.
The never ending gobstopper dilemma.

I had a screenwriter’s nightmare while at the Rocaberti Retreat in France at Marouatte Castle.  I dreamed it was my turn to pitch, but I couldn’t remember my screenplay, so I had to make up a new one  on the spot.

Just an FYI for those of you not familiar with the term “meets.” Meets is the term used to describe the genre and feel of your script using well known films.  You might describe Snow White and the Huntsman as Snow White meets Lord of the Rings. (This is different than a “meet-cute” which I won’t get into.)

“It’s You’ve Got Mail meets Teletubbies.” I begin.  My three judges, (Joan, Kathy and Golan) have no idea what that means, and neither do I.  Then my logline comes out of nowhere:  “A woman who has a child through artificial insemination, begins to notice her ten year old son looks just like the mail man.”

“Think Bruce Willis played by Ashton Kutcher.” Which doesn’t even make sense! “And she starts following the mailman on his route and discovers all her neighbors are Teletubbies.” I continue, dying with every word.

Golan’s looking disappointed. Kathy, like she’s about to witness a train wreck, but can’t look away. And Joan is flat out horrified.

Horror.  That’s it! Horror doesn’t have to make sense, I’ll go with that.

“Then he suddenly pops up in the back seat of her car, like a Twilight Zone episode, and whispers in a chilling voice ‘You don’t have proper postage!’” I say trying to sound mysterious.

Golan looks like he’s considering putting me out of his misery.  Kathy, having witnessed the train wreck looks down at her notebook.  Joan still horrified, but in a bad way.

And because it’s a dream, weird things start to happen.  Like, now I’ve got a huge gob stopper in my mouth and I don’t know what to do with it.  I try to hide it in my cheek, which I know they can see, plus, I can’t talk.  So, I pretend to cough so I can spit it in my hand, but then there’s another one in my mouth and another.  And I’m thinking, this isn’t possible!

As I’m trying to make sense of the never-ending gobstopper, I notice that Golan has turned into Tom Hanks and I don’t know if I’m excited or more scared.

Before I can decide, I’m suddenly on the outside looking in and it’s just Kathy and Joan left and they are conspiring with each other to destroy the world, but they’re not Kathy and Joan now, they are Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton!

I wake up, trembling at the nightmare.  Then, seeing the silhouette of two ghostly figures floating around the seven hundred year old castle bedroom, I lie back, relieved the pitch was only a dream.

 

Epilogue: My actual pitch went slightly better, but I found it hard to talk clearly with braces on my teeth. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have worn the headgear.