Moxie on Wire

Back in January, I watched Man on Wire, the documentary about how Philippe Petit fulfilled his dream to walk a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center.  In 2009 this film won the Oscar for Best Feature Length Documentary – and with good reason. It’s a compelling story about dreaming big and not being afraid to fall – figuratively and literally.

The story seems simple yet so ridiculous: in the early 1970s, a rebellious young man with a love of heights sets his sights on the then-tallest building(s) in the world, the World Trade Center in New York City, as the location for his next high-wire act. With the help of his friends and an “inside man”, he manages to sneak up to the roof, get his equipment set up and actually crosses back and forth between the towers for 45 minutes. He’s 1,350 feet up in the air, without a net. Just typing that last sentence makes my heart race.

While the entire movie was incredibly captivating, there was one scene in particular that stood out. It’s right when Petit is preparing to go out on the wire and he is having a crisis of faith. It isn’t until he gets out to the middle of the wire – did I mention it’s 1,350 feet up IN THE AIR? – that Petit begins to smile. He ends up walking – nay, dancing – between the two buildings for nearly 45 minutes. While there’s no video footage of the event from the aerialist’s perspective, the still photos show the incredible rapture and joy Petit felt as he finally achieved his dream.

After watching this film I sat for a while, just thinking about the courage involved in making this walk happen. Not only did Petit have to be fully committed to doing this, he had to have buy-in from his partners in crime, as it were. One close friend had to bow out of the mission, it was that intense.

How many of us are not taking that chance to step out on that wire, to go beyond the feats of derring-do already accomplished? Yes, it is scary, and there’s no guarantee it will end well. But just as Philippe had a support team helping him achieve his dream, we all have people who are ready to help us create that path to success, even if that path is narrow and treacherous. I’ve learned this firsthand over the last couple of years.

When I first started writing this post back in February, I knew it was time to step out on that wire and I was scared shitless. It was high time to leave LA, but where to go and what to do was unclear, at least to me.

And then the answer came. In late March, while I was in meditation at my favorite place in Los Angeles County, the answer came. And the answers kept coming…in the form of a place to live up north, in the form of friends and strangers and opportunities.

To put it simply, I’m here to tell stories. My stories, others’ stories. And by sharing these stories I help myself – and others – process and heal and move forward.

As my first step in honoring this path, I applied to attend the Tomales Bay Writers’ Workshop this October. It’s run by Pam Houston, an amazing writer who also happens to be the director of the creative writing program at UC Davis. I’d never tried to get into a workshop before, as I always thought my writing wasn’t good enough. But this time, with the help of a great friend who read a piece I’ve been working on and gave me unwavering support, I stepped out on the wire and applied.

And I got in. Holy cannoli, I GOT IN.

Now comes the bigger challenge: paying for this shindig. I applied for a fellowship, but with only one per genre (fiction, nonfiction and poetry) there was a slim chance I’d get it. So I have to look for other funding, which is where you, dearly devoted blog reader, come in.

T-Wizzle advised me that I put a PayPal link for donations here on the blog. “You never know what people are willing to do to help,” she said. And while that’s another big step forward, I keep finding, over and over again, that she’s right: you never do know what people are willing to do to help.

With that, I’m taking another step forward on the wire and telling the world:  I want to go to this workshop and I need $1550.00 before July 15 in order to attend. The Donate button is in the right-hand column.

The more I think about how far I’ve come, as a writer and as a person, I wonder if I’m truly ready for the next step. But like Petit, I know I have prepared myself. I have set my sights on other goals and achieved them. So I’m going forward with my own high-wire act. I don’t know if I will reach the other side safely, but I’ve gotten this far, dammit, and turning around now would just piss me off. And more and more I have this sneaking suspicion that, like Petit, I will reach the middle and realize just how effortless it is to reach the other side.

man on wire 2

To me, it’s really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge. Then you will live your life on the tightrope.

– Philippe Petit

With Friends, Failure Is Not an Option

wonderful life flickEarlier this week, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time. I actually owned a VHS copy of the movie at one point, but never got around to watching it. Now I think I know why: I wasn’t ready to hear – or believe – its message.

I admit to having some issues with the film’s structure – blame it on studying screenwriting and being an avid film watcher. The back story on George Bailey took way too long and I wanted to choke Uncle Billy. Didn’t George’s father know it’s rarely a good idea to go into business with family members, especially one as daft as Billy? Shouldn’t the string tied around nearly every damn finger be your first clue that this guy should not be allowed to handle money?

What required no suspension of disbelief, however, was the message of not being a failure if you have friends. I have learned the truth of that lesson over the last two years – more than any other time in my life. Starting in December 2006 through now, I have struggled with some heavy issues: being fired, having a boyfriend who turned out to be absolutely horrible, having my car repo’ed, finding a job only to be laid off less than a year later, losing my grandfather and my mom in the same year.

But in 2006 I started making friends for real…and I continued to make friends in 2007. Anyone who’s lived in a major metropolitan area for any length of time knows how difficult it can be to meet people and make friends. If it wasn’t for T-Wizzle encouraging me to join Meetup, I would have never met my current circle of friends – and I wouldn’t know the blessing that comes from being part of such a warm, loving community.

Over the last two years these friendships have grown stronger, even when I thought I wasn’t being the best friend I could be. These are the people who have risen up to meet me where I am at, in ways I did not expect. When I have felt lost, they have found me. When I have felt down, they have lifted me up. When I needed to sit and be sad, they let me do that. And when I was being an absolute pill, they forced me to buck up.

It took a visit from an angel to teach George Bailey the value of his community, but it took me a couple hours with a classic film to fully appreciate my amazing friends.

And if you’re reading this, yes, I’m talking about you.

Pre-Oscar Buzz

I’ve been working on the details for an Oscar party. Nah, nothing like the Governor’s Ball or Vanity Fair’s big blowout at Morton’s. But it’s a pretty big deal for those of us that have been planning it for the last few months. We have a private room in a local restaurant, and tons of prizes we’re raffling off throughout the Academy Awards. Now all we need is the people to show up, so say a little prayer for us, will ya? Thanks.

This year’s Oscar races are quite interesting. With a lot of very strong performances, it’s hard to predict who will win. What makes this year even more interesting is that Mercury is retrograde.

As we already know, Mercury is a trickster. He loves to play jokes and quite frequently, his sense of humor is not that funny, especially to those people who have their cars break down on the freeway. (Yep, Mercury rules automobile trips.)

Mercury was retrograde during last year’s Oscars as well, and look what happened: everyone thought Brokeback Mountain was a lock for Best Picture, and instead Crash won. And remember how many plot points in Crash were focused on cars? Good one, Merc, you had us all fooled. We should have known better.

So based on this, I’m going to predict the following wins: Babel for Best Picture, since it’s all about being able to communicate (and Mercury rules communication), and Cars for Best Animated Feature, for obvious reasons. In a few hours, we’ll see if I’m right.

Isn’t It Romantical: Moxie’s Top 10 V.D. Movie Picks

Let me preface this list by saying that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day, which is why I refer to it as V.D. It is similar to a social disease in that the feeling of “Oh crap, I gotta get something for my girlfriend/wife,” reaches pandemic proportions in the days before February 14. No one should ever feel pressured to be romantic or sentimental, if only because the gifts and platitudes born of guilt are never that satisfying to give, nor to receive. Love is a perennial verb, not a one-day-a-year emotion.

That being said, at this time of year I can’t help but think of some of my favorite romantic scenes from movies. Happy V.D., lovers.

10. Moulin Rouge – I don’t need to talk about how I obsessed over this movie for a very long time. What I do need to talk about is the scene near the end, where Satine (Nicole Kidman) starts singing the song “Come What May” as Christian (Ewan MacGregor) is walking away from the stage. Written as a way for the secret lovers to communicate with each other, the song and Satine’s pleading delivery stops Christian in his tracks and he rushes back to the stage, singing the entire time. A hot man singing to you? Lord have mercy.

9. 10 Things I Hate About You – We already know how I feel about a good-looking man that can sing, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that my favorite scene in this movie is when Patrick (Heath Ledger) gets on the PA system and sings “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to Kat (Julia Stiles). It gets even better once the school marching band kicks in after the first verse. It totally won her over and it did for me, too.

8. Bridget Jones’ Diary – It’s the final scene where Darcy (Colin Firth) leaves Bridget’s (Renee Zellweger) apartment that gets me. Why? Because he’s gone to buy her a new diary. I love office supplies, so any scene that involves a man buying paper goods for his beloved is bound to make me weep with joy.

7. Say Anything – Yes, the scene where Lloyd (John Cusack) holds up the boom box playing their song “In Your Eyes” is very romantical. But I always remember the scene where his best girl buddy Corey (Lili Taylor) tells him, “The world is full of guys. Be a man.” Telling someone you care about to step up to the plate is a very loving thing to do.

6. The Wedding Singer – Again, my favorite scene involves a man singing. This is the one where Robbie (Adam Sandler) is singing “Grow Old with You” to Julia (Drew Barrymore) on the plane, with the help of Billy Idol and a couple flight attendants. Sing to me about your feelings for me and I’ll even forgive you for having bad 80’s hair.

5. Notting Hill – The scene where Anna (Julia Roberts) admits the depth of her feelings to William (Hugh Grant) is very real to me. Saying to someone, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,” as she did, takes a lot of courage.

4. Monsoon Wedding – While the main story is about the arranged marriage, it’s the love story between the hired help, P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz) and Alice (Tilotama Shome), that is the most compelling and beautiful. My favorite scene is Dubey going to see Alice after he is embarrassed by his colleagues in front of her. He goes to her door, lingers a moment, then walks away. She comes outside and finds him kneeling on the grass with candles lit behind him and holding a heart made of marigolds, a traditional Indian wedding decoration. Makes me cry every time.

3. The Full Monty – Great film that shows that even men struggle with self-acceptance and body image issues. My favorite romantic scene is when Dave (Mark Addy) , the token fat guy, tells his wife Jean (Lesley Sharp) that he’s been working on a striptease routine with his mates. “Who would want to see someone like me strip?” he says, his voice full of pain. “Me, Dave,” she says. “I would.” That’s love, man.

2. When Harry Met Sally – Another all-time Moxie favorite. The most romantic is the scene where Harry (Billy Crystal) tracks down Sally (Meg Ryan) at a New Year’s Eve party and tells her he loves her: “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

1. Like Water for Chocolate – This is, by far, my all-time favorite romantic film. (I love the book, too.) As such, I can’t pick one scene. The heroine, Tita (Lumi Cavazos), can barely contain her love for Pedro (Marco Leonardi), but because he’s been forced to marry her older sister, she can only show her feelings through her cooking. Seeing the effects of her culinary masterpieces on her family and friends is humorous and fascinating. And the chemistry between Tita and Pedro is so intense, the screen just sizzles. Read the book, watch the movie, then go eat something fantastic with someone you love.

The Name is Moxie…The Girl with Moxie

I’m not quite sure when my love of James Bond films started. When I was in junior high, I remember going to C.’s house and she was watching the end of Thunderball. I was fascinated by the fact that James Bond was dangling in midair and was holding on to an attractive girl, who looked rather happy with the situation. I would hope so, considering the alternatives. Add to this the fact that I was a big fan of the New Wave band Duran Duran, who styled many of their videos after Bond films. That peaked my interest more. I watched Octopussy at my friend A.’s birthday party and argued with her over which girl was married to bassist John Taylor.

I have yet to buy any Bond DVDs, and I still haven’t seen all the films. But every time there’s a Bondathon on SpikeTV or TNT, I am glued to the TV, watching Diamonds Are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun, and Moonraker. It doesn’t matter how bad the plot is, how terrible the acting – if it’s a Bond movie, I will watch it, over and over again. I love the gadgets, the girls, the ridiculous action sequences. I love Bond’s witticisms. And I love the way he always triumphs in the end with 7 seconds to spare.

And the villains, lord, the villains. They are the most fun. Goldfinger, Scaramanga, Dr. No, Blofeld: the more psychotic they are, the better. When there’s a James Bond marathon, I have a game I play with my black longhair cat, Mossimo. I tell him, “Look, kitty, Blofeld is on! Time to play Evil Genius and His Cat!” And Mossimo gets on my lap and purrs while I pet him and say things like, “This laser is so powerful that it will cut you in two, Mr. Bond,” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”, and “Very soon, SPECTRE will take over the world!” Mossimo loves this game.

When all this talk started about finding a new actor to replace Pierce Brosnan as Bond, I was confused. Pierce was great as Bond: he was sexy and fierce and funny. He seemed to really enjoy himself. But the idea of having Clive Owen or Hugh Jackman in the role, dressed in a snazzy tux and tossing back martinis, got me all ferhoodled. As the ZZTop song says, every girl’s crazy about a sharp-dressed man, and your girl Moxie is no exception.

When the producers gave Daniel Craig the role, I was disappointed that my favorite hotties didn’t make the cut, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because when I really think about what I love about James Bond films, I realize it’s the franchise I love. Each movie is a slice of James Bond’s life – aside from recurring characters, none of the films share a connective thread. Each movie asks you to suspend your disbelief for a couple hours and join Bond on a fantastic adventure. And I like adventures, especially when it means I don’t have to wear a sports bra in order to participate.

Last weekend, as you may have already guessed, I went and saw Casino Royale. I’d been following the film’s production via entertainment magazines and gossip blogs, so I was eager to see how Craig was in the role. Would Craig, and the film itself, pass Moxie’s muster?

Yes, yes, and yes. In that order. The plot was engaging and the film was very good, although it could have been edited a bit more in the middle, and I felt like a vital scene was missing. Not only does this film ask you to suspend your disbelief, it also asks you to drop all of your stories about who James Bond is and what makes him tick. We find out how the shaken martini got its start, how Bond got double-0 status, and a suggestion as to why he doesn’t have any Bond Girl babymamas running around. (Think about it: he’s bagged a lot of babes and yet there isn’t even one child? Apparently he’s not a sharpshooter in the sack.)

More importantly, Daniel Craig is excellent as Bond. He didn’t imitate anyone, and he didn’t contort himself. He captured the essence of Bond, loaded it into his Walther PPK, and shot it all over the screen. All I can say is, Ohhh, James.

Making It So: Manifestation, the Magician, and the Movies


Last night I went to see The Prestige with some friends from my Tarot Meetup group. If you haven’t heard about this film, it’s about the rivalry between 2 magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and the lengths they will go to in order to be the better, more successful magician. Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, and David Bowie also have roles in the film.

Having just come from a meeting on Tarot, I watched this movie thinking about The Magician card. It’s part of the major arcana, which consists of 22 cards that represent archetypes. The major arcana also represent situations and psychological states of being. One of the most well-known cards in the major arcana is the Death card, which symbolizes transition, transformation, and letting go of the old so that the new can come forth.

The Magician card in Tarot represents manifestation. It’s about applying your will to a situation and calling forth what you want. In many Tarot decks, the Magician card shows a man standing in front of a table that has several tools on it. He’s got one hand raised to the heavens and one hand pointing downward, as if to say “As above, so below.” Whenever this card comes up in a Tarot reading, it’s an indication that you have the tools at your disposal to create whatever you want – you just have to make the choice as to what you desire, ask the universe or God for it, and then allow it to unfold. There’s a shadow side to this card, though: you can also use magic and manifesting to manipulate or trick others. If you lack confidence in your ability to actively create what you experience, you may end up in situations that are less than ideal.

The movie illustrated both the light and the shadow side of the Magician card. The desire to be the greatest magician was so strong for Jackman’s character, Robert Angier, that he could not listen to reason. While he was loved, talented, and well-respected, Angier was so consumed with knowing how his rival, Alfred Borden (played by Bale), performed a certain illusion, that he manipulated and tricked others into helping him find out Borden’s secret. In the end, he learned the secret, but not without first manifesting a lot of pain and suffering for himself and those around him. While Borden wasn’t exactly a saint either, he released his desire to be better and focused instead on making a better life for his child.

Michael Caine’s character, Cutter, stated the 3 parts of a magic trick at the beginning and the end of the film:

The first act is called the pledge. The magician shows you something
ordinary—but of course, it probably isn’t.
The second act is called the turn. The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it.
That’s why there’s a third act called the prestige. This is the part with twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before.

When I relate this structure to the Magician card, I think the 3 parts go like this:

The pledge is the vow you make. You want to create something new, better, or different in your life.
The turn is where you turn over the pledge to a higher power and say “If this is for my greatest good, make it so.”
The prestige is the part where your pledge is made manifest. Be careful what you wish for, though, because the vow will be taken very literally, and if you leave out important pieces, the prestige may not turn out exactly as you had pictured it.

I can tell you from personal experience that this method works. Try it out yourself with something small, like getting a great parking spot at the grocery store or shopping mall, and see what happens. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.