Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Brief Moment in the Life of Fitzgerald

By Risa C. Peris

Dear Zelda:

It has sometimes been said that California has one season. I suppose they are right. In a way. But nothing is ever so simple. There are nuances to everything.

There are endless days here. Times when the sun drowns everything in a wave of white, hot light. Those days are melancholy. Life seems to stretch infinitely. No hint of death. No respite from want or desire. And then the winds come, sowing harvests of fire. The air fills with smoke. I climb on the roof of my home and watch as the flames feed on the chaparral in the hills. And then there are days as clean and crisp as the cracking of ice. Those days wane short and seem fragile as chimney smoke clouds the frosted mountains. And then there are days as warm as a glass of dark rum and the ocean swells and sweeps into shore. And then there are days when the sky rips open and floods the basin with water wrenched from ocean storms. And then there are days hazy with smog and noise and desolation seems to knock at one’s consciousness. And then there are days…so many days. Each one colored by my mood. There is not one season here but a multitude. As if each voice within me has given birth to a weather pattern or a certain slant of light.

I am living in Hollywood again. Nothing seems solid here. Everything is transitory. Like those infamous ten minute careers that blaze through Hollywood and then die down to an ember.

Now is a crucial time for me. I think I can make a name for myself out here. Most are fascinated by writers from the east coast. Perhaps because famous west coast writers are limited in number. But I don’t think so. There is a sense of unlimited possibility out here. People are willing to listen here. In Hollywood. This surprised me. I had imagined five second conversations. Rapid fire story ideas blurted out while walking to the studio or lunch. Instead I have found people to be fascinated by stories. They are welcoming to writers. I feel that if you were not elsewhere that I could make a home here. Amongst palm trees, concrete and possibilities.

When I was a child I remember holding my hand high above me, stretching into the night air. I would open and close my fingers. Watching closely as the stars shifted in and out like an accordion. I used to think that those stars were meant only for me. That those stars only glowed over my patch of land. I named the stars as I would name my own children. I didn’t care what the astronomers called them. Those stars cradled me in their ancient light. It was my ownership of the universe. Those same stars are here, Zelda. The ones that shined down in New York and Connecticut and Paris. If anything they burn brighter here. They are the potential of something hanging between the desert and the shore.

I have fallen in love out here. Not with a man or a woman. But with the way the grapevine in our backyard bulges sweet. Or the way my dog, burying a bone, rustles the poison oleander bushes. Or the way the sun sets red over the long expanse of Sunset Boulevard. Or the way the mountains are the color of pale chocolate. Or the way the tadpoles that the neighbor’s son catches from the ditch quiver in the glass jars on their patio. Or the way there is an undying sense of newness out here. I once wrote: “There is this to be said for the happy ending – that the healthy man goes from love to love.” I think I meant women. But, from a young age, I fell in poetic love with the world around me. Each day was warm with intimacy. That feeling has followed me to Hollywood. No matter what happens. That is my happy ending. It is a Hollywood ending.

Born and raised in Southern California, Risa Peris is a lawyer in Orange County and an English tutor for students with disabilities. She lives in Los Angeles.

Rockville On My Mind


By Rodger Jacobs

Trace wanted to go to Rockville and get drunk at Fitzgerald’s grave but Marcel wouldn’t hear of it.

“The magazine doesn’t have that kind of money,” Marcel said.

“How much is it going to cost? Three hundred dollars? Four? I won’t even need a hotel. I’ll sleep on a park bench. Better yet, I’ll sleep in the cemetery.”

“Why do you want to do this?” Marcel asked. He was skimming Trace’s latest contribution to the leftist journal Kidnap. It was an interview with anti-porn crusader Duke Sebastian that promised to be quite provocative.

“It would make a great story for Kidnap, Marcel.”

“No, there’s more to it than that.” Marcel laid the article aside and slid his reading glasses off his face and clasped his hands on his desk like a benign psychiatrist confronting his patient head-on. “You’re in a melancholy mood today.”

“I’m in a morbid mood.”

Trace reached to the floor for his canvas bag and rummaged around between the books and notepads and pens and assorted cell phones until he found the empty Altoids tin that held his joints.

“Morbid melancholy,” Trace said, firing up a tightly rolled joint. “I think I’ll use that as a title someday.”

“You already did.” Marcel smiled. “That trade magazine piece about people profiting from dead celebrities.”

“Oh right.” He took in a lungful of smoke and passed the joint to Marcel. “I forgot about that one. You’re my biggest fan, aren’t you, Marcel?”

“I keep up with your work,” Marcel replied nonchalantly, bringing the joint to his thin lips. Trace noted that Marcel’s fingers were always stained with indelible red ink from the Sharpee he wielded as an editors tool.

“Am I any good?”

“You’re better than most.”

Trace nodded thoughtfully. Better than most was acceptable.

“What’s really going on, Trace? How’s Lisa?”

“Lisa’s great. I just want to go to Rockville and get -- ”

“Stop with this craziness about dancing on Fitzgerald’s --”

“Not dancing. Drinking. Getting drunk. On Fitzgerald’s grave. In Rockville, Maryland.”

Marcel passed the joint across the desk.

“I met this guy in a bar on Hollywood Boulevard today,” Trace started.

Marcel rolled his eyes.

“What? You can’t meet interesting people in a bar, Marcel? Anyway, I stopped in for a beer and I had a copy of ‘Gatsby’ with me.”

“Do you always bring reading material to bars? Doesn’t that inhibit the social process?”

“Quite the opposite, Marcel. It’s a sure conversation starter. You need to get out more often. So, I’m sitting there having a Red Hook and leafing through ‘Gatsby’, trying to remember what it was old Owl Eyes says at Gatsby’s funeral --”

“Poor sonofabitch,” Marcel quoted from memory. “It was also what Dorothy Parker said when she viewed Fitzgerald’s body.”

“Uh-huh. So there’s a guy sitting there, kind of a nondescript fellow, around thirty maybe, and we start talking about Fitzgerald and it turns out this guy went to Richard Montgomery High School, which is in Rockville, Maryland, right off a major road called Rockville Pike.”

“Wasn’t there a novel called ‘Rockville Pike’?”

“Yes, by Susan Coll. Am I going to get through this pitch without interruption? Christ, Marcel.”

“I’m sorry, Trace. Go ahead.”

Trace fumbled in his bag until he found his wirebound memo book and leafed through it manically until he found the tattered pages carrying his hastily-drawn notes.

“On one side of the pike there’s the high school campus, this guy tells me. If you walk up the campus and cross the pike, there's a very small church on a very, very small hill.” He checked his notes for a moment before proceeding. “To the left of the church there’s a small graveyard on the hill. It's not protected by any gates or stone wall or anything. You can just walk up in it. All the grave stones are small, he tells me, except for one towards the back center. It towers above all the others, and that's Fitzgerald's. The headstone stands up in the traditional upside down u-shape, and then a slab of stone lays flat with an inscription from ‘Gatsby’. Scott and Zelda's names are on the headstone.”

Trace lit the joint again and took another huge toke while studying his notes.

“Here’s the thing, Marcel, here’s the fucking story, okay? His creative writing teacher used to take the class to write by the stone sometimes when the weather was nice. He said all the kids that were into literature were fascinated to have his stone right there; so whenever they passed through the graveyard -- which was pretty often, since the short-cut from the school to the subway station was directly through the graveyard – they would leave a token of esteem, a cigarette or a joint or sometimes they’d plan ahead and get him a bottle of something. He said they assumed other kids took them as they passed as needed, and left their own gifts when they could.”

Marcel accepted the joint and stared at Trace blankly. “I’m sorry. I don’t see the story here.”

“What? Kids leaving joints and bottles of gin on Fitzgerald’s headstone? You don’t see the story?”

“What’s really going on, Trace?”

Trace closed the notebook and slumped in the chair.

“Is everything okay with you and Lisa? Things moved awfully fast you know and sometimes -- ”

“Sometimes what? I’m 47 years old, Marcel. I know what I’m doing. I feel like I’m in love for the first time in my life and I’m excited and --” He bit down on the remainder of the sentence.

“And what?”

Trace’s breath caught in his chest for a moment. “I had to start clearing out Gina’s stuff to make room for Lisa. She’s moving in tomorrow, you know. And I just don’t … how, Marcel? I don’t understand. I need someone to explain to me how two people who presumably were in love with each other could be so toxic to each other. That question has been bothering me. What the fuck happens?”

“If I knew the answer to that question do you think I would be running a third rate leftist journal from a loft in Long Beach?”

Trace reached for a cigar in his bag, lit it, and smiled at Marcel. “I suppose not. So, do you want to send me to Rockville?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Shit.” He took a long pull on the cigar. “Life really fucking sucks sometimes.”

“If that’s how you feel,” Marcel smiled, “I won’t tell you how it ends. You might not like it.”

Rodger Jacobs is an award-winning screenwriter, journalist, author, and feature documentary producer. He lives in Los Angeles.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Enter the competition

‘F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood’ Short Fiction Contest Announced

LOS ANGELES, CA (April 5, 2005) The film production and web publishing company responsible for the petition drive to name the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Hayworth Avenue in honor of the late F. Scott Fitzgerald has announced a short fiction competition to further commemorate the author on the sixty-fifth anniversary of his passing.

At the time of his demise on December 21, 1940, the celebrated author of “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender is the Night” was living at 1443 North Hayworth Avenue in the home of gossip columnist Sheilah Graham.

<>Rodger Jacobs, President of 8763 Wonderland Ltd., is requesting works of original fiction of no more than four hundred words on the subject of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last days in Hollywood.

“The stories can deal with Scott directly or indirectly,” says Jacobs, “just as long as they somehow address F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood.”

<>Entries will be judged on originality and overall style. Prizes will be announced “sometime in the near future,” Jacobs remarked.

“We’re still searching for sponsors,” Jacobs says, indicating that motion picture giant 20th-Century Fox would be “a remarkable tie-in because they are currently shooting an adaptation of ‘Tender is the Night.’”

The deadline for short fiction entries is August 1, 2005. Entries may be e-mailed to fitzgeraldinhollywood@yahoo.com. There is no fee for entrants, though Pay Pal donations are suggested to help defray costs involved in mounting the continuing petition drive.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Memorial Petition can be viewed and electronically signed at http://www.petitiononline.com/Fitz40/petition.html



Rodger Jacobs

818-956-0202, Ext. 585