Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Travels and such

I’m now back in town and not going anywhere for five weeks. (Until Comic-Con!)

I was in Omaha, NE from May 24 through June 2nd having an absolutely great time once again at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. I taught a couple of workshops, served as a panelist reviewing several plays, and saw several very, very good plays. And did things like go in and out of Iowa five times in one night (and morning) with some friends, but that’s a separate story.

I also got to sample one of the local 24 Hour Fitness centers. When I joined 24 Hour Fitness last December, I bought the nation-wide option so I could use a club wherever I was. Here’s what I’ve started to learn:  They’re highly similar, but oddly different. (Kind of like the Earth-1 and Earth-2 DC heroes. Google it.) Their hours are the same — 24 hours a day, which works with my schedule — but slight differences add up. In this case, I went equipped with everything I’d need:  workout clothes, swimsuit, Dopp kit stuffed with grooming items, lock and key, workout regimens from my trainer. But when I signed in they didn’t offer me a towel. I said, “Towel?” The girl and the guy working the counter looked at me funny, then the guy said, “You want paper towels?” Turns out that this 24 Hour Fitness doesn’t give you a towel. How was I to know that? The ones in LA do. My only recourse:  They would sell me a towel, about the size of a large dishrag and helpfully embroidered with 24 HOUR FITNESS, for eight bucks. I bought one. This being Omaha, they must store them with the cattle, because it had a definite bovine aroma to it. I was still glad to have it, and glad for the workouts I got at this gym while I was there.

From Omaha, I was supposed to head East — to see family and friends in southern New Jersey, spend a day in Philadelphia with friends and clients, and go to New York to meet with some people and see a couple of shows. But my dog had a mishap that required surgery, so I flew back to care for her through her recovery. We all know I love this dog. If you’ve ever wondered what price you can put on such love, perhaps this will help:  I love her more than $2500. Mind you, I would love to have that $2500 as well. But that wasn’t possible. She had better be really really grateful for the rest of her dog days.

With the Eastern trip canceled, and my 21-year-old son unexpectedly in town, I threw an impromptu dinner party. He and I and two of my friends had dinner, then watched “American Pickers” (a show I’ve developed an odd interest in), then watched “To Have and to Have Not.” The latter was surprisingly dull; I’m definitely of the “Have Not” school. Whatever charms Bogart theoretically brought to the screen, I didn’t see them showing up here, and I was less enchanted with Bacall than history would have me be. (I did think that Walter Brennan was great; he steals every scene.) The script was lackluster and the action plodding. I remember the Hemingway novel far more fondly than this movie; online research reveals that the film’s story is greatly changed from that of the book and, besides, the movie doesn’t give you Hemingway’s prose. (Which is the reason I’ve had zero interest in seeing the latest film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby,” a story that demands to be read.)

I also took a night and went to see “The Iceman,” an independent film starring Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder, about a well-known hitman from New Jersey. (Well, his story is well-known in New Jersey. And probably not so unusual.) My son and I were running a little late (more like on-time), so we charged up to the box office, where I said, “Did ‘The Iceman’ starteth?” Not much of a response from the ticketing guy, which surprised me, this being an upscale independent film house (owned by Robert Redford, so you know it’s smart and classy) that tends to hire introspective intellectuals with middling customer-service skills. I made another lame pun and then finally said, ” ‘The Iceman’ — ‘The Iceman Cometh’ ?” No acknowledgement from him or from my son. I guess winning three Pulitzer prizes and the Nobel prize for literature doesn’t get you much in the way of lasting fame.

I also went to see my own show a couple of times, and went into my office off and on, where everything was humming along nicely without me (although my partner says one of our clients asked, “Does Lee still work here?”), and then the past four days I was down in San Diego and Carlsbad for a business conference. The last two nights I stayed at the resort spa where the conference was held; the night before the start of the event, I stayed in downtown San Diego at one of the hotels my friends and I frequent for Comic-Con stays. During Comic-Con, we jam seven of us into this suite and split the cost. (More money for comic books this way. And drinks.) The suite probably runs… $279 a night? More? Here’s what I got it for off-Comic-Con season, using an app called Hotel Tonight:  76 bucks, tax included, out the door. So there I was, with a two-room suite, no six other guys I’d have to step over, paying about what my share would be if they were there. I felt like calling every one of them and saying, “Guess where I am? OK — guess how much I’m paying?!?!?!”

The next morning I got what I think is one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had, from a girl named Crystal at the Floyd’s 99 in downtown San Diego. She asked what I did for a living, and I told her I own a marketing firm, and just when I was getting ready to say that maybe from here on out I’d be driving down to San Diego every month for my haircut, she hit me up for a job. Turns out she’s always wanted to work in marketing. Which, of course, is why she’s cutting hair. And not just cutting hair — doing a fabulous job of it, and being only the latest in four generations of barbers in her family. Clearly, haircutting is in her blood — but no, she wants to come learn how to write copy. She asked if I’d look at her resume, and I said sure — but it’s been four days and she still hasn’t emailed me, so it’s a fair bet she’ll still be cutting hair for a while.

Re the conference, which was great fun and greatly useful, I thought I’d share this line, from one of the speakers:  ” ‘Awfulizing’ is imagining the worst from things that haven’t even happened — and then suffering the consequences.”

So don’t awfulize.

Good night.

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