Friday, April 24, 2009

I Want Ainsley Hayes.....and Muriel Pritchett...and Celine

I'm tempted to state that I don't know what I was thinking. Looking through the personals on Craigslist, that might well be true. But at the time, I had found the barren Facebook listing of a girl who had deeply impressed me when I was 7 years old, whom I knew throughout all the years I had lived in Casselberry, Florida (so close to Orlando that my parents and I (and later my sister) had annual passes to Walt Disney World that we used every weekend and sometimes during the week just for dinner), and who I think might have been the perfect one had I remained in Casselberry, instead of moving to South Florida and then Southern California (not my choice, though, at a young age). But I wonder if I might be idealizing her today based on a few experiences where I couldn't believe that a girl, any girl, could be this playful, this daring, this fun. I admit to being a relatively reserved person. I'm not uptight, I'm not repressed, but I'm usually quiet, sometimes introverted. Not so introverted as to be shy or self-centered, but if it's just me, I'm ok with that. Anyone who has great personality, flamboyancy, playfulness as Kelli did back then, always makes an impression. I want to get to know that person more. I don't know if it's a matter of wanting that person's energy to rub off on me because in conversation, I'm a sociable talker. With Kelli, it might have been yin-and-yang. I found aspects of her personality that I wanted in my life and I might have hoped that she found things in my personality that she would want in her life.

So what happened? Well, moving puts a damper on a lot of that. There was at least one time she and her parents visited my family and I in South Florida. I remember spilled soda at a table at a buffet restaurant that I didn't dare help clean up, and I don't know why back then. Today I still don't know. But as I recall, she still had that gleam. Not only in her eye, but it was all around her, like Tinkerbell had gotten drunk and went on a pixie-dust bender. I don't mean like that scene in "Wayne's World" where Wayne sees sparkles all around Cassandra, but that energy Kelli had was still there.

Comes the end of 12th grade and the approach of Grad Nite at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and for some reason, my dad was on the phone with Kelli's mom and somehow, I got word that she liked me. Liked me. I'd never known that any girl might like me. But apparently, she did. We talked on the phone, and I expressed my hope that she might be able to spend time with me at Grad Nite, since her dad worked at the theme parks, and there must have been a way that he could have gotten her there, even though she wasn't with any of the schools that would be at the park.

The day of Grad Nite, while standing near the buses, I called Kelli and her mom answered, saying that Kelli didn't feel well and wouldn't be able to join me there. Disappointment? You bet. Questions? A few, but none that bother a writer with many theories. The one that stands out the most is that maybe she didn't want to go through with it for whatever reason. But I'd prefer to believe that she was genuinely ill. Nothing further after that, no contact, but imagine yourself 7 years old and this bold, vivacious girl comes into your life. I was never one of those boys who, when young, believed that girls were icky. I knew there were lots of things different between the sexes and I was interested. But her, well, I've never forgotten her, not even up to the past few weeks where I've come upon that Facebook profile that isn't even a profile. More like links to send her a message if so inclined, or add her as a friend. No profile to be found after sending a message because she hasn't built one yet, and seems not to have logged into her account in so long. Yet I've sent 5 messages over the past two-and-a-half weeks. Hope, I suppose. Maybe she'll log into her account one day and find me again. I'm always on Facebook. I've built up my profile enough that I could never leave. Everything in it is me.

I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. For now, just to re-connect, to page through our separate lives over the years if she wants. Maybe to get a different vantage point of me when I was 7. I know what I was like, but I do wonder how I looked to someone else.

So why the personal ads on Craigslist? Stupid to begin with, since 80% of them are crap, but that wasn't my intention. Especially since my family and I hope to leave the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California and move to Las Vegas. That is, if the Clark County School District begins to hire teachers again, most importantly my dad, who teaches business education, and being that Las Vegas is a cluster of service industries, it seems natural.

After I had sent my latest collection of thoughts to Kelli (just stories about what's been happening in Southern California, and observations about the time spent here), I was curious about what stood for personal ads around the Internet. Now, I haven't dated since the 7th grade. I can sense lots of adjectives being pulled out right now: "Pathetic" comes to mind, followed by "male spinster," but I've never really had the taste or skill for it. I looked through these ads and it didn't feel right. Not that I was cheating on my past, but, I don't know, maybe it's that I've never really opened up. I even found two ads that looked interesting and wrote to them, but even when I was writing them, I felt foreign to the experience, like I shouldn't be doing it. I never got an answer from either of those women, but that's just as well.

Do I really want to do this? Do I really want to date and go through all that's necessary in relationships? To be honest, I hear about it requiring effort and more effort, and patience, and lots of other kinds of work to make a go of it (and I've lived through 23 years of my parents' 26-year marriage), and I blanch at the thought of all of that. I've already got enough work. I'm planning to take online courses soon from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in professional aeronautics. I don't know what I want to do yet for a career, but I know so far that I want to work at an airport. I'm also co-writing a book with a good friend and fellow film critic, one that's guaranteed to be published because of this friend's contract with a publishing company that specializes in Hollywood biographies and other books about movies and television. There's already enough work to be had from those.

But, I'm looking in from the outside, from the fog of inexperience. What do I know anyway? And I also tend to overthink things. When I was taking driving lessons, the instructor told me that I overthink what I have to do while driving. When my friend asked if I'd like to be the co-author of his book, I freaked out about the research and overthought how to do it. Once I got into it properly, and began deciding which actors I wanted to write about, then it became more clear. Not necessarily easier, but easier to handle.

I don't know if I want a relationship. I feel better as myself, with myself, working for myself. When I was in 7th and 8th grade at Silver Trail Middle School in Pembroke Pines, Florida, I hated when teachers wanted us students to work in groups on something. I always felt I could do it better and get it done faster by myself. In fact, my favorite hours for writing are 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., when there's no one awake, when I have the entire world to myself, when I can claim ownership of the trees in my neighborhood or the clouds in the sky and no one objects. I can play connect-the-dots with the stars with no regard for constellations. I can listen to the loud snoring of my portly neighbor next door and wonder what he could be dreaming about. For the past few weeks, I've also watched a pair of ducks sleeping in the community pool, which is not yet open to residents for the season (our large patio faces the community pool). I love all this. I live for all this. I don't know if I'd want to share this with anyone else. My eyes, my brain, are trained on all that's around me in the dark. Isn't that enough?

I don't wonder that based on society's trends. I wonder that for myself. Even though it sounds like I'm fairly confident that I make a perfect couple on my own, I do wonder. It stems from my genes. My mother is a romantic, even though my father has tried that aspect of her for decades. I've always thought my father to be indifferent to such things. So my genes have it out on these matters.

But if I did want to date, if I didn't feel strange about it, what would I want?

I would want someone like Kelli, if not Kelli.

And that still stands today. On "The West Wing," there was Ainsley Hayes, a Republican lawyer played by Emily Procter. But in the episode "Bartlet's Third State of the Union," she's seen dancing to "Blame it On the Bossa Nova" in a white bathrobe in her office in the basement of the White House (in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue, as it's called), since she accidentally sat on a wet-paint bench and is awaiting a new set of clothes. Just how she dances, how she's so free about it, how, when Sam Seaborn asks her, "Why are you moving like that?", she answers, "I'm blaming it on the bossa nova," and how she says that is what catches me completely.

I would want someone like Ainsley Hayes.

There's also Muriel Pritchett, which Geena Davis won an Oscar for in "The Accidental Tourist." She also isn't concerned about how her sense of fashion might be perceived. She wears comically long nails, and she's not averse to looking at pictures in houses or rooting through things, even though someone's standing right nearby. I love her curiosity, I love her look, I love how she remains so strong even with the illness that plagues her son.

I would want someone like Muriel Pritchett.

And Celine in "Before Sunrise" and, to a degree, "Before Sunset." Passionate, uninhibited in talking about what she believes, and plainly beautiful. In the scene next to the end of "Before Sunrise," when she hugs Jesse tightly, I've lost count of how many times I've rewatched that scene on DVD. But the one scene that gets me is after they've had sex, when the sun is gradually rising and they're walking together, holding hands, and she has her hair in long pigtails. They spot, through a window, a man playing the harpsichord, and they dance slowly, not wanting that moment, or the moments that have already happened, to ever end. In "Before Sunset," it's how she fervently holds onto her beliefs, how she describes her experiences over the past nine years, and that ending that makes me want another sequel, which I hope Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and writer/director Richard Linklater are gradually working on. It's needed.

I would want someone like Celine.

In fact, I would want a girl that's all three of these women. Now, I know this is all television and movies, but I've never forgotten Kelli. I know vivacity exists. My heart knows it too. It flutters whenever I watch Ainsley tell Sam why she's moving like that, and when Muriel waggles her gloved fingers goodbye at Macon (William Hurt) after the weekly dog-training lesson, and when Jesse and Celine are dancing briefly.

But I don't know if I want it. Maybe there's no concrete answer. I actually debated whether to write this entry, and my memories of Kelli won out.

Or maybe it's just how dating is looked upon today. All those websites for people to find the right person. I can't stand going through ads like a menu. It feels so impersonal to me. If anything, I'd love just to bump into that special woman, and for once, be confident enough to say hello. I think I'd like to count on her energy to carry the introduction. I wouldn't mind the woman saying hello first.

I'll give it more time. I'll write my half of that book, I'll take those aviation-centered courses, and then I'll see if I am where I want to be and if there's anything else I want for my life. For as long as I'm alive, I've got time.