Working with yellow wallpaper all around you -- it's impossible.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote her famous story The Yellow Wallpaper based on her own experience -- as a patient suffering the "Rest Cure" and staring at that miserable but supposedly cheerful wallpaper all day -- used the colorful covering as inspiration (if you can call it that) to create her powerful tale about madness, women and creativity. Ever since reading it, I've been fascinated by yellow wallpaper. I notice it everywhere. I even imagine yellow wallpaper.
So after much stress from a simultaneously troublesome and glorious year (thank you, Guy), I felt I needed some sort of well, "Rest Cure" myself, but with the hopes of writing. I holed up in an antique Inn and chose to ... rest. But. I wasn't prepared for the yellow-hued wallpaper. No writing was accomplished -- I never dressed out of my black nightgown those long days, and never wrote a thing. Instead, movies, pictures, masks, crowns, tinsel and noise makers from New Year's Eve were brought out. That was nice. And fun. I actually smiled without caring how freakish my full grin and tangled teeth usually look in photos -- especially and because of that worrisome wallpaper all around me. I fell in love with that winsome wallpaper. But the next day there, I became ill: Yellow wallpaper.
As Perkins wrote:
"It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw -- not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper -- the smell! … The only thing I can think of that it is like, is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."
No, it didn't smell, but it wasn't a soft baby chick, it wasn't a dandelion, it wasn't ... something ... and then it wasn't something else. What was it? It's possible I wanted Gilman's yellow trapped woman to appear. I only hoped it wasn't me. Perhaps it was. The day after obsessively taking these pictures, my eyes are still suffering a severe reaction from, of all things, wrongly prescribed eye drops (Too much staring? I deserve it. I can't produce regular tears ... I want to cry, but they don't flow ... a bizarre, frustrating feelingt). Perfect. An eye sore. No crying. Peeling. Yellow wallpaper. The curious eye issue is slowly getting better. But the doctor says... different drops, heal the ducts, remove the stress. How about some (of course) rest. Yellow wallpaper. (Maybe the wallpaper is actually red.) But, no. Yellow wallpaper.
So, here's the photos. If you look at the last picture presented, multiple images of Jean Arthur appear across my mask. I have no idea how this phantom set of tracers happened. My back was to her as she tried to resist Joel McCrea's charms. Perhaps Jean Arthur's the woman in the yellow wallpaper. A good omen. But I'm not going back to check: Yelllow wallpaper.
Click on lower right side of slide show for full images.
Today in New York City. JFK to Queens to Central Park West. It was late afternoon and I had just gotten my cab from the airport.
I was hungry. I was bleary-eyed. I told my driver I was famished and couldn't wait to get to my hotel.
As you will see, he really wanted me to eat. So he made a pit stop and I deliriously accepted. I was starving. Actually, I was grateful. It was delicious. He was nice.
And so begins my vacation. As they say, only in New York.
I hitchhiked. Once. I was in the seventh grade -- far too young to be exposing myself to the perilous adventures of road-and-thumb. And yet, young enough to believe that the open road could be thrilling, mind expanding, educational -- the way of, as Jack Kerouac said, the “crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way."
I wasn't as sophisticated as Kerouac. I hadn’t read On the Road yet. But I would have glamorized it as such. There had to be a little glamour. I felt the raw and the real and the dark, sometimes with excitement (sometimes with dread) so it was imperative to sprinkle fairy dust in there, somewhere -- even filthy fairy dust. There were too many dingy light bulbs in the world. One had to compensate.
Staring at a long road, cocking your head just the right way, the dirty and the shiny can attain a certain glow. You’ll run into all kinds of broken, gorgeously cinematic sights -- like glimmering colors of shattered glass, curious looking rocks, abandoned cars, abandoned stuffed animals, or most recently for me, abandoned fun parks. My Torino overheating in the hot desert, I pulled my car next to a mysterious building. Spying a fence with a hole big enough to squeeze through I discovered a derelict go-cart/mini-put put golf course complete with a standing lighthouse, its roof perilously close to sliding off, piles of neglected go-carts, and tiny little houses with broken windmills.
Alas, I never saw such a thing when I hitchhiked as a kid. Just candy, creeps and critical elderly folks -- shaking their heads -- bad, stupid girls. I was camping with a friend’s family, stuck somewhere in nowhere-land, Eastern Oregon and we were sick of roughing it. Her parents had us under tent, roasted hot dog, keep-the-watermelon-in-the-stream lockdown. We were itching for action -- innocent action. When we heard about a mini-mart five miles away, we hatched a plan. Not a terribly detailed plan, but a plan, nonetheless. We would walk.Walking the distance for two 12- year-olds ain’t nothing we figured. And besides, licorice, candy bars and an ice cold Coca Cola awaited. And more importantly, we could ditch her annoying parents. But how to get back? And at night? “Let’s thumb it,” we said.
I knew it was a tricky predicament. I’d heard a few stories and rented a lot of movies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hitcher were key don’t-pick-up-the-drifter pictures. My older brother had regaled me with tales from the TV movie Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker the famed (in his eyes) warning of what happens when halter topped, Bundy bait extend their thumb. Through cinema, I understood the dangers of creepy “salesmen” driving from important “conferences,” or thrill kill couples yearning for children, or men fond of goat cheese and slaughterhouses and setting instant photos on fire. They walked among us.
I discussed these various scenarios with my friend, and agreeing we didn’t want to find ourselves next on the Green River Killer’s roster of victims, we came up with some ground rules: No single men (I hadn’t seen Two-Lane Blacktop so...), no young couples, and no groups of guys. We thought (I extended my hands in a cinematic gesture) two words: “Old people.” And trucks. And even better, old people in trucks -- the safest scenario. We’d recline in the vehicle's bed, and if Ma Pa Kettle got any ideas, we’d jump out and head for the woods. But what I pictured looked like something Hank Snow would sing: "I was totin' my pack along the long dusty Winnemucca road, When along came a semi with a high an' canvas-covered load. 'If you're goin' to Winnemucca, Mack, with me you can ride.'"
So after many suspicious pull-overs, all of which we had foreseen (the creepily nice solo guy, the hootin’ and hollerin’ group of men looking for a party, the couples, who probably weren’t all that bad…but I’d heard of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley…), we did indeed score a truck. A truck with not the quaint elderly couple, but an elderly man. A grumpy old man angered that we were hitchhiking in the first place. We sat in the back, munched our Hershey bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and let the wind blow through our hair. And laughed. It was all so hilarious. It was great fun. It was great dumb. We were probably lucky. For dramatic purposes, I'm sorry to say nothing bad happened save for the old guy's condemnation. But we felt like we were in a movie. The good hitchhiking movie. The positive hitchhiking picture.
And one of those good movies was a film I had seen and joked about on our road adventure. Frank Capra’s 1934 screwball It Happened One Night, wherein the sexy hitchhiking tradition of showing a little leg originated with the sassy Claudette Colbert and an amusingly frustrated Clark Gable. I so wanted to show a little leg but a 12-year-old shouldn’t be doing such things. And most certainly when Clark Gable isn’t by your side. Humbert Humbert should not be an option. And Humbert wouldn’t have allowed it either.
But Capra's joyful, sexually charged and whip-smart depression-era movie was on my mind as I stared down the pine-tree lined highway (it should have been Five Easy Pieces). A road movie that’s pure Americana, from the wealthy heiress fleeing her father only to end up on a bus with wise-acre newspaperman Gable, to all the adventures they do and see on the road (charming camping areas, waving to hobos on trains, sleeping on bales of hay and again, hitchhiking) -- this was so beautiful to me. I wanted to crawl into those moments. And I wanted that hitchhiking scene.
I loved it. Gable attempts to teach Colbert the rules of the thumb, while she turns down eating a carrot. Sitting on a split rail fence on the side of a rural road, the classy Colbert allows Gable to pick a piece of hay out of her teeth with a penknife (the raw carrot and hay to penknife always feels so sexy to me), and while he chomps on his carrot, they swap hitchhiking techniques. Gable is full of hitcher braggadocio, even suggesting he intends to write a book entitled: “The Hitchhiker's Hail.” To him there are three ways to hail a car: “It's all in that ol' thumb, see...that ol' thumb never fails. It's all a matter of how you do it, though.” He attempts the varied techniques, but to no success. No one pulls over. “When you get to 100, wake me up,” Colbert quips. After countless cars pass them, she takes charge: “I'll stop a car and I won't use my thumb.”
Out come the gams. Hopping off the fence, she casually walks to the side of the road and oh-so-sexily pulls up her skirt, exposing that famous shapely leg (with garter). Of course, the first approaching car screeches to a halt. While enjoying their ride, away from the dirt and dust, she gloats: “I proved once and for all that the limb is mightier than the thumb.” To which he answers, “Why didn't you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.”
My friend and I didn’t stop forty cars. But we stopped more than we should have. And though this wasn’t depression-era Capra land, we loved the short adventure – an adventure that by then had already died out with rotary phones, communes, LSD movies and Charlene Tilton.
Hitchhiking -- I still yearn to try it again – though I’m sure I never will. But all those cars, all those personalities, all that candy, all those…Tom Neals. At 12, I hadn’t yet seen the Edgar G. Ulmer noir masterpiece Detour, (starring a downtrodden, yet handsome Neal and the brilliant, hard-as-nails Ann Savage), but it would cut a deep impression on me later. Perhaps one of the most fatalist hitchhiking movies ever made (there’s others, but I can’t get to them all), had I viewed it that young, I would have pondered that experience. Tom Neal, a cheap hotel room, and a deadly phone cord. A ride.
I would have hitched with him. But I might not be here to talk about it. After all, as Neal wryly asks: “What kind of dames thumb rides? Sunday school teachers?” No, 12-year-olds. And, maybe, though doubtfully, one day again -- me. As long as Clark Gable’s my Sal Paradise.
I was totin' my pack along the long dusty Winnemucca road...
I love the train. I hate New Year's Eve parties. Love, minus hate, clickety-clack on the tracks, mountains and snow in the black of night turning to sun and ocean in the light of day, lonesome old whistle, what makes a man wander (sings Waylon). Being by myself in a sleeper car and really sleeping. Perfect. That whistle does do something to my brain.
Happy New Year.
Greet the day in the parking lot of a pink motel. Close it out in the parking lot of the Pink Elephant Liquor and Deli. And a car wash in between.
November in Hollywood.
Another day in my neighborhood. Driving around this odd, stretched out, old, new, pretty, ugly, pretty, lather, rinse, repeat, what on earth is that, I've never seen that before city.
Halloween viewing at Hugh Hefner's movie night was quite perfectly, The Exorcist. We will all one day, sing together in the white clouds of heaven or rot in hell, I think quite comfortably, in the wonderfully balmy Grotto. Either way, I think we'll be OK -- everyone was sufficiently terrified and moved by the picture to ensure this will happen.
So...naturally, the act of watching Regan stab her privates with a crucifix turned me back into that nice Catholic girl buried deep inside of me (the Catholic girl barely raised Lutheran, but familiar with the church of excessive, sometimes beautiful guilt). That girl.
That Vidal Sassoon sporting, tannis root wearing, black crib rocking girl who makes me long for ritual.That girl who would never, like Ellen Burstyn, abandon a child, even if he had "his father's eyes."
Roman's girl (that's Castevet, and yes Polanski too) and favorite Catholic -- Rosemary Woodhouse.
With that, Happy Halloween... and with some Rosemary antics at the mansion. (Also, please check out this entire series of photos, in slide-show higher resolution here.) And thank you for your hospitality Mr. Hefner.
And...watch my above mini Max Fischer production in wide-screen here.
And finally, if you like, watch me cuddle in a coffin here. That was somewhere else...
I saw a very early, special screening of Youth in Revolt at The Playboy Mansion a few Sundays ago and all I can say is...good show. Though it's too early to go into it -- I will say, I enjoyed the clever, offbeat, touching movie (directed by Miguel Arteta)-- and the cast is terrific: Michael Cera (in a dual role), M. Emmett Walsh, Mary Kay Place, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Fred Willard, Justin Long, and Jean Smart.
Hugh Hefner (a very gracious host) played the picture for his regular weekend movie night, where guests munch popcorn, hang out in the mansion, and in my case, toured the Grotto (as pictured at the top -- I really wanted to call my ex boyfriend on that phone), the Game Room, the Zoo and more. I love the Game Room.
Again, since the movie opens in January, I'm holding off on an official review, so instead I thought I'd post a look into Hef's Game Room. And a picture with one of Hef's ex's (her bust anyway) Barbie Benton, one of the greatest bunnies of all time.
I also met one of Hef's friends, director Elliot Silverstein (above), who was surprised by my gushing reaction upon meeting him. But come on! The man directed Cat Ballou! Mr. Silverstein's ear was bent by my endless questions regarding Jane Fonda, Nat King Cole and Lee Marvin. And yes, there were sexy girls in attendance too. But Robert Culp? And Elliot Silverstein? And monkeys? All ingredients for a memorable evening.
Lovely time. I saw The African Queen the next week. Beautiful. And check out these classic games:
Please return to my main site, Sunset Gun.
I love the desert. And my car. I used to call my cars my children, but they've since grown up -- fast. For years this Z car was an absolute angel, no problems whatsover, but suddenly, and within the span of one month, all that's changed. Now he's the abusive boyfriend I keep returning to even if he leaves me vulnerable and stranded on the side of the road. But I can't always blame the car. The 105 degree heat of Joshua Tree is not kind to my 1978 Datsun and so he takes it out on me -- a lot. And sometimes I absolutely hate him. In this case, I loved him, thanks to photographer Krissie Gregory and our shoot for my upcoming column in Garage Magazine. Look for it on stands September 1. In the meantime, my car has broken down three times since these pictures were taken.
Nevertheless, here we are, in the desert, in love. Though that little fucker did burn my hand.
What I do for him...
View the entire Desert Z photo set (shot my Krissie Gregory ) here.
And please return to my main site, Sunset Gun.