Celluloid Dreams


The journey continues.

Amidst dreams fueled by my own shameless desire for fame (at least I’m honest) and those who lovingly feed those delusions (maybe, maybe not) that Off the Leash will eventually become a best seller, then a screenplay, and then of course an Oscar nominated film, where I’ll stride the red carpet confidently thinner and face lifted, somewhere amongst that fantasy lies the snow-turned-to-charcoal-slush mounds of the perilous here and now.

The way things have been going lately, a perp walk is more likely than red carpet. Let me tell you why.

In the past few weeks, as I’ve been notably negligent of all things related to my literary trajectory, I’ve been working like a fiend to dig myself out of the financial abyss of going off the leash some twenty months ago to write a book.

The risk continues.

And one could argue, on a sane, sunny day like today, so does the hilarity. With paychecks finally lining up, like so many airplanes stacked up atop a fog shrouded runway, legions of antsy passengers clamoring to deposit or withdraw, it is now, with fourteen day’s hindsight, easy to be breezy about the rigors of near poverty. Wasn’t so funny when I was standing in the lobby of a uptown hotel in Boston a couple of weeks ago, checking in, late at night, facing an early morning call time to field produce a video shoot with a fascinating multi-millionaire, (and I mean that in the nicest way) when what to my wondering dismay should appear but a handsome Hispanic gentlemen telling me there was simply nothing he could do to check me into my room. Alas, the client had not paid for my hotel in advance as she’d promised and alas, the meager but sufficient deposit I had made from the first of my planes to land had not been credited to my account. I had a whopping $8.92 in my checking account. This is problematic.

Secretaries in client offices who could authorize a credit card payment over the phone, had long clocked out for the night. Just about the time I was about to inquire as to the closest Salvation Army, my daughter in Memphis proved to be my salvation through the magic of instant transfer and with one more swipe, (well, actually two: my bank card at the desk and my key card in the door) I was in safe and warm, overlooking the luxe Boston skyline.

But I was whipped. It had already been a banner week, highlighted by process servers from our good friends at Chase-You-Down-Bank and Who’s-Stealing-Your-Wallet. These are minor, minor balances, I tell you truly, but even minimum payments fall by the wayside when one has fallen and it’s taken a while to get back up. Then the backhoe got me down. Seems the water company attempted (that being the operative, or inoperative word) to cut my water off, only to discover that the property this old house sits on is SO old that there’s no stop cock.

For all of you who are, like I was, eleven years ago hydrologically language challenged, (until I had a realtor and a plumber explain to me what a stop cock was as they searched in vain for the water vein in my yard) the stop cock is the thing they cut off when they want to cut off your water. To this day, they have never been able to find one of my property. So I’ve always secretly known that they were rattling their sabers with plastic swords, as I would diligently, albeit frequently tardily, get caught up on my water bill. This past week’s tactics were more like water boarding. The friendly folks at Mo’ Water sent a survey crew out, and invited all the other utility henchman to join in, populating my yard with a virtual rainbow of flags, so much as to make it look like the starting gate of a gay pride 5K. The backhoe is a ho’ nother story. Even though, my dear friends, I paid the Mo’ Water company in full, they continued to threaten to excavate my yard in order to find the stop cock for the NEXT time I’m late on my water bill. So far, I’ve held the bulldozers at bay.

Which brings me to the movies.  What with this being Oscar night and all, it’s a timely theme.  Time and again in my life, I come back to two signature films, not necessarily stand-outs in the annals of Hollywood blockbusters, nor on most people’s Top Ten list, but each of them for different reasons, have become emblematic to my life.

As I’ve oft cited in the past, one of my all time favorite movie scenes comes from THE LAST DETAIL. 

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It’s the bar scene, in which Jack Nicholson, on indeed his last detail before he retires as an MP, has stirred up a barroom brawl, while trying to show a neophyte, numb nuts sailor, Randy Quaid, a good time en route to brig. Our buddy Jack, spoiling for a fight, starts one, and is warned to simmer down lest the bar keep call the shore patrol.

Of course, we all know that line know,  (recite it with me here)

“I am the mother fuckin’ shore patrol.”

Words to live by. Come and get me, all you phone, gas, electric, water MPs! Catch me if you can. I gleefully engaged in a little utility disobedience on trash day (you guys can come after me too…) by pulling up all the yard markers which have now been blowing in the wind for ten days, no backhoe in site.

I understand that this is immature. I realize this is irresponsible, but every once in a while, a girl just gets a belly full. I still am the mother fuckin’ shore patrol! That girl, yes, girl, because when I am in touch with my bedrock truest self, mirror be damned, I find that part of me which refuses to succumb. Some day I should probably grow out of this, but in the meantime, there is power (well, maybe not electricity) in this emotion. Oh if we could just somehow harness it. These are our lives we’re talking about here.  There should be no higher authority, above our own, at least not human or militarily. Spiritually, well okay, I humbly check to that power, but free will reigns supreme and I supremely, emphatically refuse to succumb, refuse to give in, refuse to take no for an answer when it comes to continuing to plod down the path of dreams yet achieved. It is rarely the beaten one.

Which leads me to scrambled eggs. And the next movie citation du jour. I’m a fan of dreamers who get back up and keep on keepin’ on. Who can’t relate to that guy? One of my all time favorite cinematic moments is the closing scene from THE BIG NIGHT

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about two Italian brothers, facing foreclosure on their restaurant, gamble everything they’ve got (and then some) on one, big night, when a legendary Italian crooner Louis Prima, will come to dinner. His visit will be leaked to the press and the paparazzi with show and champagne will flow and Paradise, the struggling restaurant, will indeed be found. Well…suffice it to say misadventures ensue, the whole thing boils out of control, and the next morning, the alternately warring then loving brothers get up, not knowing if they’ve saved their restaurant or not, shuffle to the kitchen and make some eggs.

It is this simple act of making some eggs that gets to me. It’s what we do. We get up and make some eggs. We understand that in civilized society, whether we like it or not, conventions, restrictions, regulations and sometimes utility tyrants with heavy equipment throw mountains of baking soda on our fiery passions. We have obligations. People and pets are depending on us. They make our lives more meaningful. When stuff blows up, we sit down, have some food with the people we love and figure out what’s next.

Make some money. Make some eggs. Don’t let the world extinguish our dreams. The journey is worth it and so is the risk.


About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Benny/Sue brown says:

    You go girl, we’ll be at the Oscars when you are! Love Sue

  2. Rose Hemlock says:

    Fabulous post, I thoroughly relate. Thank you for reminding us not to forget to be who we are (backhoes be damned).

  3. David Allen says:

    Ettore Bugatti, the famous eccentric and brilliant automobile creator, had his financial ups and downs also. After having his electricity to his factory shut off for non-payment for yet another time, he invited a high level official from the French power company out to his factory. After apologizing for his company’s tardiness in paying its electric bills, he proceeded to lead his guest to a new building that had recently been built. He then presented his new power generating station to the gentleman and politely informed him that his company’s electrical services would no longer be needed.
    After you sign your movie deal, have a well drilled and tell Mo water to bugger off.